I haven't really finished it - because of the moving I had to return it to the library. I liked it enough to entertain the thought of picking it up frI haven't really finished it - because of the moving I had to return it to the library. I liked it enough to entertain the thought of picking it up from another library some time in the future and finishing it, and not enough to need to finish it as soon as possible. I moved on, literally and figuratively. But, not a bad book, by all means. If you loved the first one, you'll enjoy this one as well....more
This is the book I was looking forward to love. It had wonderful reviews from people I trust, it had that lovely mash of ingredients I love, it had anThis is the book I was looking forward to love. It had wonderful reviews from people I trust, it had that lovely mash of ingredients I love, it had an interesting magic concept... I read and was underwhelmed, and now, a month and a half later I can hardly remember what it was about. It is a regency novel with magic in it. But it seemed that the regency part and the magic part were too diluted to give space for each other that that the whole book seems too empty. I liked the characters well enough, but they didn't look significantly different or memorable which makes me sad. There are definite allusions to Jane Austen – who else we start thinking about when reading a book set in early 19th century England? But comparison isn't flattering – for all their simplicity, Austen's novels are so rich – in details, in characters, in humour, in inner connections between everything. This story feels like an enchanted mural, an amusing illusion that would dissipate by the nest day, by comparison. But maybe it is supposed to? So we have not-so young Jane, who is plain, but has a great talent for magic and art. And we have her young sister Melody who is very beautiful, but talentless. Both are somewhat resentful of each other and both have formed attachment to one gentleman (don't remember the name). There is also his very young sister, another dashing your officer, a disapproving viscountess with her long-nosed daughter, patient father, silly mother, and the regular assortment of figures one can find in any book set in the era. There is also an artist who is making a glamural for the viscountess and is angry with Jane for prying into his secrets. So we have all this fun ingredients – and nothing fun happens. Oh, the book moves smoothly from one chapter to another, with no loss of momentum, no straying of your attention everywhere, but when you get to the end, nothing much stays with you, either. It is not a bad book. It is not uninteresting book. I probably suffered from my own overblown expectations. But I don't really feel like ever re-reading it....more
1)I loved it. It's probably not a brilliant book, but I don't care – it has that magical quality of pulling me right in and not letting go until the l1)I loved it. It's probably not a brilliant book, but I don't care – it has that magical quality of pulling me right in and not letting go until the last page. Your millage might obviously vary, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I cannot say that I am a huge fan of Elizabethan time and fairies (I love them, but not with passion), which probably helps, since I cannot catch any historical details that might be different from reality. Nothing spoiled my fun. The language is simple and flows perfectly, the story is engaging and stays powerful throughout.
We are introduced to two court in England – the court above, the court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, and the court below London in the Onyx Hall, the court of the Fairy Queen Indiviana. We follow the fortunes of Lune, the lady who lost the favour of the fairy queen and tries to return it – or at least survive. And we follow the fortunes of a young courtier Michael Deven, who seeks fortune at the court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, and - of course – his fortune gets entwined with Lune's.
Love is the main engine for this story, and the straightforwardness of it works very well. There is a fine sense of mystery and wonder, there are intrigues and power play, and friendship and loyalty and pride, all tangled in one fine mess, and in the end, the fae world doesn't look that much different from a human one. Oh, fairies are different enough to be instantly recognizable as such, and they are immortal and cannot abide the mentions of the God and the toll of church bell's, but they are still not alien. The author does a fine job of not really describing them – we can imagine them to our taste, but she does say that the fae we are reading about are close to humans in looks and manners as fairies can. There are others, less human-like, in looks and nature. Maybe we'll see them later. ...more
I have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel uncoI have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel uncomfortable about it, as it failed me even though it didn't owe me anything, but I am still annoyed.
1)a strong sense of deja-vu made me realize that the heroine, Alexia, is a brain twin of Amelia Peabody (of Elizabeth Peters' Egyptology mysteries.) The Britishness, the proud spinsterhood (that don't survive the end of the first book), the sharp mind, the assertiveness, the lack of conventional beauty... I adore Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, but I am not sure how many of her I need for my enjoyment. It has just occurred to me that both Amelia Peabody and Alexia are literary descendants of brilliant Marian Halcombe of Woman in White. Now, that's one lady whose adventures I'd love to follow...
Alexia and Lord Maccon work together as a romantic pair, but they felt to me kind of “meh”. They are probably the homage to Peabody and Emerson, but I feel that they are clones, and I'd rather re-read “Crocodile on the Sandbank” by Elizabeth Peters in the fifth time.
2)My major gripe is with the soul stuff. The book is called “Soulless”, and I kind of expected more exploration of the matter. What is the soul, what does it mean in that Universe? It is said that Alexia doesn't have a soul, which she was told at 6, and she read Greek philosophers to acquaint herself with the moral implications of that fact. But the thing is – it all falls empty, a tantalizing promise that never gets fulfilled. Alexia has a pronounced effect on supernatural beings, an effect that is attributed to her lack of soul. Except this is the only effect, and I reasonably suspect that either the soul here is something different from I am used to consider it, or the basic theories of her world are wrong, and Alexia does indeed have a soul, and her soulless effect is caused by something else. It might be explored further in the next books, but I was waiting for more soul stuff from the book that is called Soulless. After all, it would have been interesting whether good manners can be a person's moral compass. How love would look like without the soul in that world? What is the soul, anyway? Those are all questions I asked myself when I picked up the book, but I didn't find them – not even the questions themselves there.
3)Reading went much slower than I expected, and at the culmination I was frankly bored. Not a good sign.
4)I love omnipresent point of view and the narrator's voice separate from the author and the characters, being reasonably old-fashioned and raised on 18-19 century novels. I applaud the return of the narrator to modern stories, even if it is done to simulate the old time feel. But. But there is one giant difficulty: I need to love that narrator and don't want to smack it. Here so far it feels too twee, and I mostly grow annoyed. I still hope to befriend it as soon as I get used to the tone.
5)What did I like? I liked the world, the atmosphere, the new and different take on vampires and werewolves, and their effect on human history and politics. I liked the scientific ideas of the supernatural. The world, of course, pretty much didn't exist beyond British Isles and North America, but that goes with the mores of the time, and a topic for the following books, anyway. I wrote previously that I was tired of vampires, and I still am, but I wasn't here. The ecology of supernatural beings among humans was very different and very interesting from what we are used to.
So, when all is said and done, my resume is that it is why it fails for me personally, I can recommend it for my friends, or for any lover of romance and Victorian fantasy. I won't guaranteed that you fall in love with it – I didn't, but it is a glimpse into a curious world. I will be checking out the second book as soon as I dog through my immediate to-read pile.
I was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like theI was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like the characters (this incarnations of them) and the writing, they seem to be behind a glass wall that I couldn't break, and didn’t want to. I cannot start to care – and this feels to be of crucial importance in fiction for me lately. I don’t have to like everybody and everything in a book, but at least something must pull me into – even if it is a description of a sea, or beautiful style, or fancy ideas. Here it was nothing of the sort, and the only thing that elicit emotions was the marginalia on a page splattered with something brownish: “It is blood. Don’t lick it”.
I thought that may be the case is in the legend itself? That I grew disenchanted with Robin Hood and his merry band? I used to love the story and its heroes and heroines. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was always sure about the continuous existence of Robin Hood, Marion, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Gizborne and others in the Sherwood forest and around. They add something to the world, some important tiny bit.
Why not to read a novel about them? I cannot say that the interpretation is too contrary to what I imagine – or any other interpretation, because I just don’t really imagine them at all. I have a vague picture that changes when I change or when my mood change. Robin can be young or grown man, blond or black-haired, bearded or not, asshole or sweetie or both, of gentle birth or of common, just a robber or an idealist – none of it ever sits in stone. Same with Marion (though I like her more when she is not a damsel in distress) and everyone else. I probably have a more definite image of Friar Tuck – he is short and round, good with his staff, optimistic, and the only monastic vow he takes seriously is the one of poverty.
But maybe that was the reason – I prefer my vague image to the detailed and rooted in the time and place version. Plus I always get annoyed when Richard the Lionheart came and resolved the matter. Because he would never do that. But I got even more annoyed when he took all the band with him to Holy Land – even though that's what he would definitely do. But Robin Hood cannot be outside of England! There mere idea of it destroys the Universe as we know it. ...more
So we meet a girl on brink of an adult life, who suddenly learns that she possesses unique strength and skills – and a destiny tI do not regret it. :)
So we meet a girl on brink of an adult life, who suddenly learns that she possesses unique strength and skills – and a destiny to kill vampires. She doesn’t mind killing vampires, but she would rather have a normal life – with balls and entertainments, beautiful gowns and dances, and with handsome men who would want to marry her. Sound familiar? Duh!
She is not the Vampire Slayer, she is the Venator, and she is not the chosen one, though she has the potential to be the best. Her name is Victoria, and she lives in Regency London.
I have to admit, the first pages were like an old game of “find 10 differences in these pictures”. After a while, the story found its stride and sucked me in with its setting and the characters and the mythology.
The setting is so familiar and comfortable for us Regency epoch. Vampires don’t seem to be out of place there, but it is amusing to see how the presence of vampires influences a typical Regency romance. Apparently, it is much harder to hide a stake in a empire dress, and big purses are not yet in fashion, so our heroine has several stakes in different colours that her maid hides in a fancy hairdo. I think it was the blue-colored staked that won me over.
The characters grew on me fast enough – Victoria, her grandmother Eustasia, Marchess Rockley, maid Verbena, gloomy Italian guy Max, mysterious guy Sebastian…
Rockley is that perfect Regency hero that we are used to seeing as the ultimate reward for the heroine. And he really is that good. He is handsome and rich, and brave and generous in spirit… However, he has all the historically appropriate values. How would he react to his chosen bride hunting vampires at night? Hmmm….
Victoria herself is just a product of her time, yet she takes everything that happens to her in the stride. Well, more or less. She is brave, stubborn, reckless, smart, she makes mistakes and learns from them. And she really enjoys dancing.
One more thing I liked about this story is the vampire mythology. Let’s face it, Buffyverse mythology has more holes in it I can count, which I all forgive, because the story works for me on emotional and metaphorical level. This story has much less holes in it. It’s vampire myth is based on some Christian apocrypha, on the legends of Judas, and in this context vampires’ dislike of Christian symbols actually makes sense.
Another thing I liked that Victoria’s strength is a part of a legacy, and as such is in her blood. But when handed this destiny she still can refuse to follow it and forget all about vampires. On the other hand, one can be unrelated by blood, and still to choose the destiny of a Venator....more
The Perilous Gard I loved without reservations, and I cannot find anything there that I wish would be different. It is not the best book ever, but asThe Perilous Gard I loved without reservations, and I cannot find anything there that I wish would be different. It is not the best book ever, but as it is, it is just right.
The language flows smoothly, occasionally reminding us that it happens in XVI century, and not in XX with a certain turn of phrase, or a word naming something we don’t have a use for, but never descending into ElizabethanSpeak. I can – with difficulty –read actual Elizabethan prose, but have no patience for nowadays remakes – even the closest to authentic. Elizabeth Marie Pope sets the time with just enough historical details and just right linguistic means.
The characters – main and secondary – are imperfect, but interesting. The main characters are adorkable and squishy. I mean they made me care about their doings and cheer for them and smack them with the herring in some cases.
The Fairies are interesting and believable. Well, as believable as fairies can possibly be. I loved that Kate is trying to find a reasonable explanations for their doings and I loved even more that her explanation is as close to reasonable as possible. I was in a good kind of shock learning that they really do live in caves and hollows of the hill, not in a magical land or any kind of wonderful palaces. It made sense – as their pride in that way of living. Lady inspires curiosity and awe and animosity and sadness at the same time.
And finally I would like to note the perfect mood in the book – just dark enough with the sparkles and the lightness that is coming from the characters themselves....more
It got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionaryIt got me immediately when the characters started discussing Hegel - and then it was getting better and better: main characters I love, revolutionary underground, mystery and intrigue, Engels (actually as a character in the action), more Hegel with Kant and Hume, and the lovely XIX-century epistolary style.
The genre is impossible to define - it is not fantasy, not really a historical fiction or a philosophy textbook... But then, probably all really good book defy the strict genre definitions.
Reading about Engels - as the regular character - seems kind of strange. They (I rarely can think of him in singular, without Marx attached as a Siamese brain-twin, even though I read each of them separately) feel like an older relative - that you know were young and did what all humans do, but never think about it. they are way too memorial. And this is one of reasons I enjoy seeing Engels there so much.
The main characters (Susan, Kitty, James and Richard) are delightful, and I savor every moment with them, too. They are far from perfect - they have their quirks and vices and secrets, and they can be difficult, but they are never annoying and flat. ...more
I am currently reading it, so it is an interim review. No spoilers, but the book is both fascinating and tiresome. I really want to like it, but I havI am currently reading it, so it is an interim review. No spoilers, but the book is both fascinating and tiresome. I really want to like it, but I have to make myself read and I am not sure whether it's worth it....more