Sherwood Smith continues to amaze me with her fantastic but thorough world-building skills. Every nuance of her stories feel so effortless and yet I wSherwood Smith continues to amaze me with her fantastic but thorough world-building skills. Every nuance of her stories feel so effortless and yet I would guess that it is all meticulously planned out in her head. I can say this feels like truth because there was a sample chapter of A Posse of Princesses in the back. I thought 'what the heck' and re-read my copy of that immediately after finishing this book. There was a beautiful easter egg hidden in a letter that the protagonist writes near the back of that book which mentioned in passing the Imperial Heir and one of the Snow Folk. I found myself grinning when I read that. A Posse of Princesses was published in 2010!
I know there are a lot of little details like the one mentioned above that I know I'm missing out on all over the place but when I do catch one I find myself even more in awe of the magic of her tale-spinning and all the amazing detail that goes into the writing of these stories. It's just incredible.
I know this was a hard book for Ms. Smith to write and all I can say is thank you so much for another amazing read. And thank goodness that it was not full of all the angsty-instalove, grimdark, political, dystopian themes that are so prevalent in YA novels nowadays. A breath of fresh air, as always.
And for anyone out there who wants a book full of "disguises, flying, swashbuckling on land and sea, tree-houses, secrets, telepathy, magical powers and spells, food, good-looking villains as well as heroes, and even some romance" (as said by Ms. Smith herself) please pick up this book!! If you liked it, try out A Posse of Princesses or her most well-known Crown Duel next if you haven't already. It's well worth your time, I promise you.
Sherwood Smith is a chameleon! She so easily adapts to all manner of stories and genres. Danse de la Folie is no different. It is a typical Regency-stSherwood Smith is a chameleon! She so easily adapts to all manner of stories and genres. Danse de la Folie is no different. It is a typical Regency-style romance with four main players: Clarissa, Kitty, Carlisle, and Philip. True to form there are hijinks and misunderstandings and marriage swapping along with a couple of spoiled girls doing their best to get their own way. But also true are the proprieties of the time, which is nice. No first names and heaving bosoms (which always drove me nuts) so I was quite pleased knowing that this would not be the case when I bought it.
I won't delve into the plot but I can say that like all of Ms. Smith's books it is well written and I found myself engaged the entire way through.
My only regret is that I bought it for my Kindle through Amazon.com and not through Book View Cafe as I assume more money would get to Ms. Smith that way. Ah well. Next time!
The scribes have three rules. First Rule: Do not interfere. Second Rule: Keep The Peace. Third Rule: Tell the truth as we see it.
This is what happens wheThe scribes have three rules. First Rule: Do not interfere. Second Rule: Keep The Peace. Third Rule: Tell the truth as we see it.
This is what happens when rules are broken.
We follow the story of Emras, Princess Lasva's personal scribe and the flashbacks she brings up both from her own life and of those around her. However, we, as the reader, already know that something is wrong in that first page:
I can see your ironic faces, those of my judges who know that I began life as a scribe. This, my defense testimony, shall show how I tried not to interfere, that I mean to keep the Peace...
And then the journey begins. You are sucked into Emras's life as she learns to become a scribe, her life with the Princess, the hijinks and flashbacks, the love and loss, and heartache, the upcoming war.
What is interesting to me about this book is how I keep getting flashbacks of Tanith Lee's Biting the Sun. At the very beginning of the book we are treated to Colendi slang and learn of such things as rafalle and melende, though luckily unlike Lee's Biting the Sun vocabulary is explained when introduced in text rather than inferred. In this instance melende seems to be an interesting mix of Japanese wabi sabi meets Italian sprezzatura, odd though that may sound. Kind of like studied nonchalance that you learn all your life to maintain, knowing the transient and turbulent nature of emotions that are held deeply in check. And the higher you are in the social pecking order the more you need to abide by melende so all courtiers of Colend are well-versed in this subject. Well, that's how I seem to define melende, anyway.
Colend very much exemplifies melende and prefers genteel diplomacy masking a more straight-forward nature that other countries have developed, such as Marloven Hesea, known for its rigid martial prowess or Chwahir which relies on brutal strength and domination.
As the narrative progresses we follow Emras and Lasva's journey as they find themselves leaving their home of Colend for Marloven Hesea and adjusting to a land not fully immersed in melende and an ornery king that thinks love a weakness and Colendi people full of ribbon-dancers and weaklings.
What I love about this story is that the characters feel so real and the world-building is top-notch. It is amazing seeing Lasva as she grows up from this serene girl to a love-struck youth to then slowly take on Marlovan attributes with her metal-tipped fans, rather than those she practiced on in her youth with Emras that were wooden cat-tipped. And Emras is growing up as well and making one hard decision after the other about what to say and what to withhold. We, the reader, are slowly realizing how Emras ended up in her prison on that very first page.
As we read on, the noose is tightening further around Emras until suddenly things click together in an interesting magic-filled climax that left openings for a potential second book, though I honestly think that this felt like a one-off. I don't see a direct continuation of this particular story. Maybe something in the not-too-distant future, perhaps, but not a direct continuation. I'm sure Sherwood will revisit this world and perhaps even incorporate some of these characters in the annuls of time, but to be perfectly honest the characters aren't staying very well with me.
That is to say I really, really loved the first half of this book but I think somewhere past that my interest started to wane. Emras, as an elor, which is sort of like someone who is not sexually interested in either sex, does not draw me into her story. I cannot really relate to her world full of platonic love. I want to know more about Lasvas and Ivandred or Birdy or another character. I don't know if Emras being elor takes me emotionally out of the book but I am starting to feel that something is missing for me in this story and that makes me rather sad. I love Sherwood Smith's stories so much but I felt like I was being pushed out of this story.
All in all this was a very well-written book and I enjoyed the world-building immensely, as I tend to in all of her books. The characters are mostly well-fleshed out and I can imagine quite vividly what was happening a lot of the time. It all seemed quite real. I just wish I liked Emras more as the plot progressed. That would have made the story even better....more
I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this book. The first one had me enthralled from page one as I was sucked into this alternate not-exactly-here urI wasn't quite sure what to expect of this book. The first one had me enthralled from page one as I was sucked into this alternate not-exactly-here urban fantasy world taking place mostly in Dobrenica, a microscopic European country that never was with politicking embroilments like you wouldn't believe!
What drew me into the first book was the characterization and the fun hijinks that ensued with a bit of romance and a lot of political entanglements thrown in to spice things up. There was just enough of everything to leave me wanting more and I waited with baited breath for the next installment to come out.
This story takes off after a couple month hiatus when Kim left Dobrenica. She's now teaching French and German at a school in Oklahoma trying to outrun all of the painful memories that she left behind when she fled the country to go back to the US. And now months later - and a brush with a colleague's near-death experience - she has decided to go back and once again face those problems.
I have to admit that I'm only giving this 3 stars though. I'd almost put this at a 3.5 but after mulling it over I have to drop it down from 4 to 3 only because the fun, the fast, the furious, the crazy hijinks and highs and lows were not present like they were in the first book. This was far more of a Dobrenican political book focusing on familial and hierarchical relations within the five royal families. New characters were introduced and names from the first book were fleshed out but the overall characterization and charm was not really there for me.
I still plowed through this book in one-marathon session (which I tend to do with books and authors that I absolutely love) but it pains me to say that this book was a little bit of a let-down. Kim's self-absorbed ways and ridiculous use of "Americanese" started getting on my nerves. I grew up in SoCal - part of that in L.A. - and while I'm in my late (not early) 20's I don't see it necessary to say something like 'for the win' or 'frienimies'. The characters I loved reading about were not really present in this book and there wasn't much interaction with Kim and Alec at all throughout most of the book and the new names introduced fell a bit flat for me. Also, while I loved the meticulous attention to detail the Dobrenican politicking and maneuvering started to get a little overwhelming after a while; I found myself tuning out every now and again when governmental procedures or precedents were mentioned. I just couldn't care enough about the politics to love that aspect of the book.
Also.... vampires. Hrm. Well, not where I expected this book to go at all. I did like the fact Kim generally maintained her tenuous grasp of magic (prism power?) rather that suddenly become amazingly adept all at once but the thing with the vampires... Wow. Um. Well, I knew this was an urban fantasy which was hinted at in the first book but because it was mentioned only in passing I didn't put much stock in the magical aspect of this story. It just seemed a little... off to me. I plowed through that aspect of this book because it did not feel like the important part of this plot.
With all of that said, I still very much enjoyed this book. It was a far darker journey but the writing was top-notch, the characterization was decent, the story kept pace, and I still had to keep turning pages because I needed to know how it was going to end. All in all I don't regret my $10 Amazon purchase so that's the important thing.