I was expecting the worst of this book, given so many reviews mentioning Royal's habit of lecturing instead of letting the story tell the setting. SoI was expecting the worst of this book, given so many reviews mentioning Royal's habit of lecturing instead of letting the story tell the setting. So it was I set about reading this one with visions of the two disappointing doherty novels I last read foremost in my mind.
I was surprised to find then that she doesn't suffer this problem at all, at least not as egregiously as Paul Doherty did. She does have a tendancy to lapse into internal monologuing with her characters at times, too often for my taste, but I didn't find it irritating enough to detract from the enjoyment of the story.
There was nothing particularly special about the mystery, but the characters were well characterised and the story entertaining. There was very little subtlety in the story however which diminished from it a bit.
**spoiler alert** I wanted to enjoy this book, really I did. Much in the way I wanted to enjoy "Death of a Salesman" when it was on at a local theatre**spoiler alert** I wanted to enjoy this book, really I did. Much in the way I wanted to enjoy "Death of a Salesman" when it was on at a local theatre. Like that play however, I found this book just drained all the joy out of me and left me depressed and wishing, wishing, wishing it was just over and done. Thankfully, now it is.
Most disappointing to me I think is that there was a thread of a really excellent story hidden in this book. The story of the horologists and the carnivores, the hundred year war, the twin assaults on the chapel in '84 and again in... I want to say 2035, but i'm not 100% sure and having put the book down i've no desire to pick it up and check.
That story was lively, entertaining and imaginative. It pulled you in with its mystery, it was an active story with protagonists working towards a solid goal, and in it's context the otherwise forgettable characters took on a vibrancy that really sang.
Unfortunately, this story thread is _maybe_ 1/4 of the total book, possibly less, and the rest is passive character study. I can appreciate what the author was trying to do - each viewpoint character theoretically makes at least one decision that directly affects the final disposition of the war (except perhaps Brubeck, who despite appearing in several sections and being a viewpoint character in one, did very little to affect the ongoing horologist war story thread... beyond being a camera for us to witness Constantine's examination of Holly's daughter, and a microphone for Holly's great aunt to talk at the reader.).
However, lets be entirely honest. Hugo Lamb is a sociopath who has a (frankly unbelievable) emotional connection to Holly who goes on to make one decision that saves her life. Through him, we also get to see how the Carnivores recruit. To build up to that though, we have to sit through an entire section of the book following his rather unpleasant and detestable life. Brubeck's primary contribution to the story appears to be a bike-ride for a teenage holly, and fathering her child later. For that, we have a whole section of lost children and horrific war reporter stories. Hershey... buggered if I know what he contributed really, beyond that awful Richard Cheeseman set-up.
Honestly, if the overriding theme of having us sit through that was to show us that people suck, it's a fair play, but I can think of far more entertaining things to spend my spare time on.
Finally, we have one section that actually focuses on the only interesting part of the story (the second mission), though even that is interspersed with dull interlogues from the past of one of the horologists. We come to a nice tidy conclusion where the good guys actually win, and there is some small amount of closure.
But wait! There is still one whole semi-epilogue section where we get to see how all of society crumbles some 20 years later on down the track, and everything is horrific dystopia, and little children can't get their insulin, and did we mention yet how much life sucks?
It isn't the darkness that I object to in this story. I have read plenty of dark, horrible dystopias ranging from zombie apocalypses, to nuclear winter post-apocalyptic wastelands, to corporate owned dystopias and quite enjoyed the dynamic, active stories set in them. Even ones with terrible, bittersweet or just bitter endings.
My objection, I think, is to the dullness. If I had one word to describe this story, that would be it. Mitchell makes the 80's dull, war in iraq dull, the near future world dull, and the post-civilization downful dull dull dull. There are few new ideas, and little original is said. There is not, I think, one single likable character, one noble sentiment, one truly heroic act in this entire story - save perhaps the sacrifices made by Esther and some of the other horologists, who get hardly any page time whatsoever.
I had a thought while reading this that really sums up my opinion overall I think: Whenever I read a really good book it always makes me want to write. The one made me want to give up reading. ...more
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book so much, the idea was cool but the idea of swapping all modern conveniences for magical ones just seemedI didn't think I was going to enjoy this book so much, the idea was cool but the idea of swapping all modern conveniences for magical ones just seemed a little trite and silly to me - probably because it is both of those things.
Turtledove, however, is a master of alternate history and he brings all of his game to bear on this fantasy novel. Despite myself, despite a few eye-rolls especially in the beginning, I couldn't help but get sucked in. Silly? Perhaps, but it is also incredibly fun and creative, and finding little puns hidden in the writing was a pleasant chuckle-worthy surprise. (San Andreas' fault!)
Beneath the gimmick however there is a very solid mystery story here as well, full of evil plans, ruthless conspirators and human sacrifice. A wholly enjoyable book!...more
This series continues much as it started. Good plots, great characters, irritatingly unbelievable love affair. That was unfortunate in this particularThis series continues much as it started. Good plots, great characters, irritatingly unbelievable love affair. That was unfortunate in this particular book's case the love affair between Faust and his succubus is one of the primary plot drivers, and it still doesn't feel quite right to me. It happened too quick and too completely to feel realistic - especially when the stakes are abruptly as high as they are in this novel.
That said, the book is definitely saved by the plot, which is a wonderful combination of con and heist novel, multi-layered and full of feints and deceptions. It was highly enjoyable....more
This is an interesting book, hard to guess what to make of it. On the one hand, it has many flaws - the relationship between Faust and the Succubus foThis is an interesting book, hard to guess what to make of it. On the one hand, it has many flaws - the relationship between Faust and the Succubus for instance strains credulity with the speed with which it goes from "help, demon!" to "we will never be parted". Faust tends to wander off conversationally in to what are meant to be deep and meaningfuls, particularly with the succubus or the other mages, that are meant to be character and motivation building but instead come across as stilted and unrealistic. Definite sour notes in the symphony.
That said, it's hard to tell how much of that is due to the writing, and how much is due to the narrator's performance which I don't think does the character justice in many ways.
And on the other hand, the story itself is quite entertaining. None of the characters jump out and make you love them, but the plot is solid, the magical side of the story is interesting - though we don't see much of Faust's supposed prowess in this book, hopefully in future books we'll get to see a bit more of what he can do with those cards.
The overarching plot, involving a ring from Solomon's temple and the Etruscan was fun and mystical enough, and despite its flaws the story was enjoyable enough that I picked up the next two to continue the series. More of the same would be welcome enough, but perhaps it will even improve.
The book seems to end on a bit of a downer until the epilogue. The epilogue, in my opinion, makes up for a lot of the book's flaws in one beautifully written scene - a perfect ending to the story that left me completely satisfied, a rare thing in itself.
Recommended to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, though I doubt it would make any converts to the genre standing on its own....more