Eddie LaCrosse, in keeping with "noir detective" tradition, is a cynical loner with a tragic past he'd rather forget. Also in keeping with tradition hEddie LaCrosse, in keeping with "noir detective" tradition, is a cynical loner with a tragic past he'd rather forget. Also in keeping with tradition he is forced to confront that past when an old friend asks for his help. In general, it's a promising start to a story attempting to be a Raymond Chandler-meets-Fritz Leiber mash-up; unfortunately what could have been an interesting experiment failed for me because of the exclusionary feeling of the world Bledsoe created.
Bledsoe is a male author writing as a male protagonist, which is all well and good except the world he has created only allows female charcters to exist as defined by the degree of their victimization by, and attractiveness to, men. I struggled with using that description because it is all too easily dismissed as a "feminist rant", but in a book where the female characters are two rape victims, an underage princess on the run from her abusive father, two prostitutes who have been tortured by their pimp, a burn victim who literally lives underground because of her scars, a beautiful amnesiac found naked in the forest, and a bi-sexual goddess who tritely declares "all women are goddesses" (gag!) before having sweaty sex with Eddie, there isn't much room for quibbling. None of the women have any power in their own lives or take any active role in the plot and the only normal, apparently happy woman in the book is married, has five children, and barely any dialogue. Oh, and Eddie is careful to point out that she is still sexually attractive, even after all those kids. In addition, a man guilty of two counts of attempted rape is excused as being a "good man" who is "capable of love" except when he drinks, and the victim takes personal responsibility for his violence because she made the "mistake" of giving him alcohol in the first place. And that doesn't even take into account the incredibly transparent plot setup that forces Eddie to pin a naked, imprisoned woman to a bed and "separate her legs" against her will when a brief conversation might have substituted. Yuck.
Even a single three-dimensional female character could have saved this book from being an all-male club with a "no girls allowed" sign on the door. A character to identify with would have allowed female readers to feel involved in the story but as it is I felt pushed to the side by Bledsoe's refusal to portray a woman as anything other than an accessory to a man's life.
I really hesitated about this review, because I don't think Bledsoe was trying to write a book that only appealed to male readers, but in the end, although there are some very clever moments - such as when Eddie returns to his horse to find a parking ticket tucked under the saddle - my general impression was that the entire book was written by a gifted fifteen year old boy who never had a real conversation with anyone female. ...more
Sometimes a book comes along that seemingly has all the elements of an instant favorite, in the case of The Kingdom of Ohio the elements are: time-traSometimes a book comes along that seemingly has all the elements of an instant favorite, in the case of The Kingdom of Ohio the elements are: time-travel, Victorian-era New York City, a very sweet romance and - at least for me - footnotes. (I am strangely in love with fiction books that use footnotes. Terry Pratchett is my hero).
Nevertheless, despite the presence of some very fine footnotes and the author's ability to describe turn of the century NYC in an enjoyably tangible way, this book failed to really hit home with me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have thought. I think what dropped the book from 4 to 3 stars in my view was the strictly functional nature of the "present day" storyline. While the historical time frame is fleshed out and feels real in many ways, events in the present are narrated in a very perfunctory fashion and it felt as if the historical story were a painting set in the unfinished wood frame of the present day events.
Even so, I have Matthew Flaming on my list of authors to watch and I plan to keep an eye out for his next book. ...more
Although it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of ChAlthough it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of Chattanooga, TN who has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. Eden is a reluctant medium, but when the ghosts of the soldiers who died at the battle of Chickamauga start appearing and attempting to communicate with the living, she is drawn into the mystery.
I found Wings to be a very uneven book; on one hand, in a refreshing change from most "I see dead people" stories, Eden can't simply close her eyes and contact anyone at will. Instead she compares being asked to contact a particular individual with trying to find a living person without any idea where to start looking: "...imagine...that she could be anywhere at all in the entire world. But wherever she is, there aren't any phones, and no matter how loud I shout, she won't hear me."
On the other hand, Priest leaves huge holes in the story as Eden's past is used to drive the plot but never explained, leaving a reader who hasn't read the previous book stumbling along trying to understand important characters and situations without any guidance. It's never easy to play catch up for readers who haven't read previous books, but choosing not to explain anything while still using past events as the catalyst for new situations is nothing but confusing. And because the lack of backstory isn't offset by any new clarification of Eden's character she remains two-dimensional and flat. Reading Wings will not answer such basic questions about the main character as: 'Why is she so angry all the time?', 'Does she know anyone she isn't secretly annoyed with?', and 'What does she do for a living?'. I was left with nothing but questions about Eden and very little attachment to her as a character.
And, on a picky note, Priest's characters have an annoying habit of using a "lifted nostril" to convey their feelings. Huh, what? The first time I came across the phrase I was distracted and spent several minutes trying to figure out how someone can lift a nostril, let alone do it while "dipping [their:] chin to the left". Eventually I decided it was a typo and instead of "nostril" it should have read "eyebrow". Unfortunately the phrase comes up again later in the book, indicating that Priest really expects it to convey meaning to the reader. Is it just me, or is it impossible to "lift a nostril"?
As I said, an uneven book but certainly not a bad one. I would definitely pick up another book by Cherie Priest and give her another try.