Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book and audiobook was provided to me by the publishers. I would like to thankMore reviews @ The BiblioSanctum
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book and audiobook was provided to me by the publishers. I would like to thank the author and the publishers for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.
Simon Watson is a librarian living in a house on the edge of a cliff over the sea, a cliff that is crumbling into the waters threatening to take the house with it. On top of that, the house is structurally unsound after years of neglect partly due to his father never keeping up the house even before his mother’s death and partly by Simon’s own willful ignorance of the upkeep needed to maintain a house in that situation even after his father died. Simon receives a book in the mail from an antiquarian named Martin Churchwarry who tracked Simon down after reading his grandmother’s name in an old carnival ledger he acquired. Simon learns that a strange, tragic trend occurs with the women of his family. They all commit suicide by drowning before the age of thirty on July 24th including his own mother. When Enola, Simon’s estranged sister and tarot reader for a traveling circus comes home, Simon has ten days to solve the mystery surrounding the deaths of the women in his family and break the curse that surrounds them.
This book plays around with the Slavic myth of the Rusalka, a type of water nymph. At one point, the Rusalka was a symbol of fertility, but in later years, they became malevolent in stories. They’re believed to be the result of a woman committing suicide by drowning or being violently murdered by drowning. Since their life was fated to be a full one, they continue their lives as Rusalka, luring men to their deaths. However, this is not their sole way of being created. I did a Google search to get all this information since I love learning about new mythology, but the book does a fair job of painting a portrait of the tragic story of the Rusalka. I would call this fantasy, but it is very light fantasy with the magic realism being much more pronounced throughout the story. Much like Mandel’s Station Eleven, this is one of those books that defies it genre by being moving and poetically written. There’s so much going on with family secrets, betrayals, old pains, and how one’s past can come together to be an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a painful read with so many wins being punctuated by devastating defeats that shapes the history of not only the Watson family but the families that are interconnected with the Watsons.
I probably would’ve rated this book much higher, but I did find it a little hard to connect with the characters, and while this book worked largely on the idea of a thread weaving together many lives, it still felt too coincidental rather than feeling like it smoothly pieced together the many puzzles making up a history that was larger than any of the characters could imagine. I cared more about the story being told about their ancestors than the modern day tale that was unfolding. However, Ari Fliakos was simply amazing. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to like the tone he used for Enola, but as I continued to listen and learned more about the character, that clipped, sarcastic tone he used for her fit the eccentricity of her character well. In fact, he did a wonderful job of making all the characters feel so distinct from Churchwarry’s jolliness to Peabody’s larger than life magnetism to Evangeline’s pensive wistfulness to Frank’s simple straightforwardness. I even loved his southern accents which sounded mostly right and used that softened twang just the way it’s supposed to be. Where I might’ve just rated this 3 stars, Fliakos narration was beautiful and swayed some of my opinion on its rating.
The Book of Speculation is a haunting, poetic story that shows how wants, heartache, and wishes can breathe intent into actions that were done simply out of love, how generations can fall into those same cycles until someone tries to break the “curse.” This book has just the right amount amount of myth, magic, and realism that can cause its readers to ponder the ideas presented, and if I’d had the chance to care a little more about the characters that Swyler introduced me to, this book would’ve definitely been a home-run for me.
Narrator: Ari Fliakos | Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Macmillan Audio (June 23, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Angry Robot via Netgalley. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.
This is very different from its predecessor. The only thing that has stayed the same is the Shadow Master himself. The Shadow Master is far from the Walled City in a place called the Floating City (Venice, basically). The city is being besieged by an enemy that sends monsters in the water who attack the powerful people living in the city, such as the seers who are magicians with immense power. The story begins with the writer Vincenzo who is torn as to whether he should write about the trouble of the city, as he feels led to do, or to do the job he is being paid for which is to write the history of the Montecchi family history, which largely chronicles the adventures of the Montecchi daughters. However, the Montecchi daughters and Vincenzo's urge to write about the troubles of the city begin to converge into a single story. Vincenzo also finds himself sort of a master of events to come when he becomes an accomplice to the Shadow Master who sets certain events into motion.
Cormick has taken the heroines from three of Shakespeare's plays--Disdemona (Desdemona from Othello), Giuletta (Juliet from Romeo and Juliet), and Isabella (Isabella from Measure for Measure)--and essentially have made them sisters in this book along with a few other trappings from their individual stories. I have no problem with that. I enjoy retellings or stories that imagine familiar characters in different ways. I'm a huge Shakespeare fan, so there's a part of me that takes satisfaction in being able to point out things that parallel his stories in these books. Some things followed Shakespeare's plays so closely that you can easily predict certain dialogue and situations if you're familiar with these stories, especially Othello with its inclusion of Otello (Othello) and Ipato (Iago). Sometimes this works for the story and sometimes it doesn't.
I really did like the sisters, though, especially as their roles became clear and their stories started to make a real impact. You also see much more of the Shadow Master and his machinations in this book, which helped in understanding him a bit better than in the last book. Okay, maybe "understand" is a strong choice of words, but there's more to him this time around. There are many characters and many point of views in this book aside from the sisters, and funnily enough, few of these POVs actually end up merging together. What's interesting though is that they do fit together to make an overarching story with Vincenzo acting as the Shakespeare of this story along with the Shadow Master to reshape the story that is taking place. However, so many POVs might be a major turn off for some people who may see it as too overwhelming to follow so many characters, especially some who don't seem that important in the grand scheme of things. This book is very busy, and the reader will ultimately have to decide if these things make much sense to them or not.
I'll admit that I am largely still confused by some of this story. There's still way too much that seemed pointless and just befuddling to me. It's not badly written, and some of the ideas that are set forth are interesting. I'm starting to see these books as Shakespearean retellings that add more magic, political intrigue, and assassins. I'm going to give it three stars for that because I don't feel it's fair to keep giving him question marks when there are things I do like about this overall--especially compared to that last book. I feel like these might be the kind of books that I may need to sit down with one day and reread them with a different way of looking at things, especially now that I am absolutely sure that Cormick means for these to be some type of Shakespearean tragedy with a puppet master pulling the strings. I thought this book was and wasn't much easier to follow than the previous book, but I just... my brain still hurts after reading this. My husband said this aptly describes my face after finishing this book when I just sat there looking off into space while my brain tried to process this.
There were less euphemisms this time around, which I was thankful for. I'm coming to the conclusion that maybe this just isn't the series for me, though. Maybe I'm not smart enough for it. If you're smart enough to understand, please explain it to me. I am lost. I need help....more