In addition to my own reading, I'm now doing service as a story reader for my two daughters.
I think I liked this one more than they did because its a...moreIn addition to my own reading, I'm now doing service as a story reader for my two daughters.
I think I liked this one more than they did because its a story that really requires an adult appreciation of art and history to fully get. The story is grows with its reader.
This is a story of colonial America, and the art mimics the colonial American style of folk art wonderfully. The story of the ox-cart man, his family, thier farm, and thier cyclic seasonal labors is told in simple almost poetic language which has a rhythm that seems to pace the passing days.
I love this stories themes of family, what used to be called the Yankee (or Protestant) work ethic, industry and simplicity. The ox-cart man achieves greatness in small things, and that is a very big thing indeed.(less)
I was enjoying this book far more than I wanted to, given the fact that ultimately it was a murder mystery that failed to satisfy in any fashion. Fort...moreI was enjoying this book far more than I wanted to, given the fact that ultimately it was a murder mystery that failed to satisfy in any fashion. Fortunately, the story let go of me before I got to the end.
The reason I was enjoying this book so much is that I'm a sucker for history, and even such well picked over carrion as the final days of the Roman Republic managed to be pretty gripping and interesting for me in the author's hand.
But at the same time, one of my pet peeves in historical fiction is a story which would not be particularly gripping or be deemed particularly well told were it not for the luminous names that the author liberally sprinkles the tale with. In this case, those names are Cicero, Marc Anthony, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and the like - a cast of characters that have already lent themselves to every sort of story good or bad like stock character actors always vying for the best supporting role.
In some cases in this story, the name dropping was particularly bad. I won't actually say which characters were mere name dropping, because I'm striving to give a spoiler free review, but a couple struck me as written into the story for no reason at all. There is to me a certain basic dishonesty in this which is only justifiable if the story is good enough as a story on its own and doesn't lean too heavily on its pretensions of historicity.
The basic problem I had with the story is that it was a murder mystery without a compelling mystery, compelling detective, or compelling villain. The few small twists introduced by the author were entirely predictable and well foreseen, and I was forced to endure following along the trail of sleuth who seems to be of rather less than average cleverness. I find this pretty much unforgivable in a mystery novel.
Still, Saylor is good historian that manages to make his history come alive while resorting to comparitively few anachronisms. So, even though its not that great of a story, I must in honesty confess my weakness and bump my rating up from 'It's ok' to 'I liked it'.(less)
This is one of many books for which I wish there was some greater degree of granularity by which I could rate them. Some comprimise position would be...moreThis is one of many books for which I wish there was some greater degree of granularity by which I could rate them. Some comprimise position would be welcome.
I spent the better part of this book thinking that I would give it two stars, and a portion nearer the end it sank nearly to one star in my estimation. But Hambly is a clever writer, and she avoided all the worst flaws a mystery can have and gave something of a satisfying ending, so I have to say that I liked it with some qualifications.
The setting of the story is New Orleans, circa 1833. Naturally then, most of the book is about the setting, and one feels dragged along to various vista like a tourist in a tour group. Hambly lives in New Orleans part of the year, and she's done her research - though its hard to be convincing when relating out of the ordinary situations. The pacing of the history tour is leisurely, almost sleepy, like tea colored bayou, a summer afternoon, or molasses in January. After a while, I found this tended to put me to sleep (literally, hense the long time reading a short book) and the situation wasn't helped by the great cavalcade of names that steam by. But my biggest worry through this portion, was that the author's somewhat understandable desire to portray the worst of the times was going to subvert the story. For the long time, the only hint of a twist was a wholly unwelcome one, and I found myself thinking, "Please no. Anything would be better than that. A 'Scooby Doo' ending would be better than that."
I was rather much relieved. Granted, the peices of the puzzle fell into place in a most unconvincing manner, one particular twist was simply outrageous, and nothing that the protagonist did and struggled to do really served to solve the mystery until the right theory fell into his lap, but all in all it was fairly satisfying with a sufficient number of clues to leave you thinking, 'Yes, I should have seen that.' Ben January is likable, as broadly talented as one could want and then some, but ultimately hardly the master slueth that earns our admiration.
So, yes, I enjoyed the novel, but with all the qualifications unless I get a recommendation that the series gets better once the setting and character exposition is out of the way, I probably won't pursue it further.(less)