A fantastically imaginative book, about magic (of the fey variety) reawakening in Victorian England. Combines elements of alternative history and of o...moreA fantastically imaginative book, about magic (of the fey variety) reawakening in Victorian England. Combines elements of alternative history and of old-fashioned fairy lore (the dark kind, not the Disney kind). Very compelling all the way through. (less)
I enjoyed this book more than the first "Lord John" story...I thought Lord John really came into his own as a character. The danger and anxiety inhere...moreI enjoyed this book more than the first "Lord John" story...I thought Lord John really came into his own as a character. The danger and anxiety inherent in being a homosexual in his time and place are brought home quite well, and I even found myself more in sympathy with John than with Jamie in their few scenes together. (less)
This is primarily a novel of an alternate history 15th-century mercenary and her company, with some theoretical physics thrown in to explain why the h...moreThis is primarily a novel of an alternate history 15th-century mercenary and her company, with some theoretical physics thrown in to explain why the history is alternate. Things I liked: the amazing level of historical detail and the intricate plotting, and the thoroughly bad-ass nature of Ash herself. Things I was not so fond of: the "modern era" theories and explanations for why Ash experienced history differently than we "know" history today. I would have preferred the Ash text to stand alone...the "modern" (circa 2000) explanatory sections already seem a little dated and cheesy, while the 15th century writing seems much more believable, somehow.
Side note, but holy COW was this a brick of a book to get through, and I say this as someone who loves big books. The 1100+ pages are also paper thin, with teeny print and narrow margins. I feel mildly cheated by the fact that I am only going to get credit for 1 book on my stats list for this one...I feel like I should have added it as the 4 American-edition novellas it was also issued as, just to get the amount of credit I feel I deserve for working my way through this!(less)
I love the Lord John books, I love Jamie, so loving this book was easy! Plus, sneak preview of the next Outlander book, so my brain now has a couple o...moreI love the Lord John books, I love Jamie, so loving this book was easy! Plus, sneak preview of the next Outlander book, so my brain now has a couple of extra bits of information beyond the multiple cliffhangers of the last book to mull over in my spare time. The only thing I felt was lacking was a bit more on Jamie's internal decision to reconcile with John. (less)
The only disappointing thing about this installment was that it was so short. The various iterations of dragon culture around the world continue to be...moreThe only disappointing thing about this installment was that it was so short. The various iterations of dragon culture around the world continue to be fascinating and well-thought-out. (view spoiler)[Although there were some important developments in this book, I almost felt like it was more of a bridge to set up the return to China, in a way. I'm very interested in what will happen there, of course, but part of me can't help but wonder how that, in turn, will set up what seems like an inevitable journey to North America, and then...can the dragons of Antarctica be far behind? Marshalled by massive flocks of sentient penguins who will decide the Napoleonic Wars once and for all? Sorry, I read this while suffering from the flu...it's possible this is the delirium speaking. (hide spoiler)](less)
I enjoyed Willis' excellent writing and the wonderful characters she creates as much as I always do, but this definitely seems like the first bit of o...moreI enjoyed Willis' excellent writing and the wonderful characters she creates as much as I always do, but this definitely seems like the first bit of one book chopped randomly in half, as opposed to the first book in a duology. I will be impatiently awaiting the second half in the fall. (less)
Jane Austen's classic romance PLUS ninjas fighting zombies, all in one book? It's like this was designed for me! I laughed all the way through. A lot...moreJane Austen's classic romance PLUS ninjas fighting zombies, all in one book? It's like this was designed for me! I laughed all the way through. A lot of the original story, with the original language, is left as is. You just have to accept that Elizabeth and her sisters also happen to be martial arts masters, fighting the zombie hoards threatening to overrun England. Mr. Grahame-Smith tends to use a lot of words that do not mean what he thinks they mean in his additions to the story line, but generally there is so much zombie mayhem going on at the time that one can overlook this trifling flaw. This is by far a better addition to your Jane Austen collection than all of those atrocious "this is what happened after Darcy and Elizabeth married" books (which will all suck your brains out faster than any zombie ever could). (less)
Better than the last book in the series, which felt like a clumsy attempt at integrating some of the separate short stories into the series. Now the c...moreBetter than the last book in the series, which felt like a clumsy attempt at integrating some of the separate short stories into the series. Now the characters from those stories are integrated, and the series can move on a bit. I did feel that this book tipped over the edge between "exciting and fast-paced" into "frantic," though. The more characters that are brought into the story, the more we have to spend a little time touching on what each of them are doing, instead of spending more time developing a few characters. I felt like most of the series regulars kind of got the shaft this time around, making a few crucial appearances at the right times, but not really growing or changing. And Rachel herself seemed to spend the whole book in crisis/panic/why me mode, which was only natural since she was at war with EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD the whole time, but got a bit wearing. It will be interesting to see where the next book goes, now that the immediate WAR WITH EVERYBODY is over and some key truces are in place. Some more character development would be nice. (less)
3.5 stars. It's hard to argue with "feudal Japanese steampunk" as a kick-ass story concept, so I won't! The story setting is vividly imagined, and the...more3.5 stars. It's hard to argue with "feudal Japanese steampunk" as a kick-ass story concept, so I won't! The story setting is vividly imagined, and the characters are fascinating and fun to follow. I thought the parallels between the "blood lotus" and "oil" in our modern society were perhaps a little overwrought and obvious, but it's a minor quibble. I'll definitely look forward to the next book. (less)
I generally like this series, but this book's ratio of ass-kicking to emotional self-indulgence was heavily weighted towards the emotional self-indulg...moreI generally like this series, but this book's ratio of ass-kicking to emotional self-indulgence was heavily weighted towards the emotional self-indulgence. I say "self-indulgence" because most of the book seemed to revolve around Rachel feeling sorry for herself and whining about how aloooooone she was because nobody understaaaaands her. The personalities of some other characters seemed to be entirely altered just to advance this agenda. That shift in how certain characters behaved, along with the fact that the plot of this book depends heavily on events that occurred in two separate short stories in two separate short story collections, plus the sudden introduction of a couple heretofore unheard-of facets of witch culture in The Hollows, made this book seem really disjointed and unconnected to the rest of the series.
I read both of the short stories that form the basis for this book's plot, but I can't say I'm wild about an author suddenly going out and making previously unconnected books part of the "canon" of the series, so that people who were not inclined to go and check out the short stories (or were not aware of them) would find themselves totally lost all of a sudden, even if they had read the whole series in order. Most of the short stories I have read by other series authors are careful to stick to plots that, while they may illuminate a bit more about a certain character, do not impinge on the over-arching story of the series. They take place on the margins of the main story; they don't directly INFLUENCE the main story. At most, you might get a throw-away line in a main book that references the events of a short story, but it's never crucial to the plot. So this move by Kim Harrison to suddenly make her previous short stories part of the main plot of the series as a whole really rubs me the wrong way. It strikes me as more of an attempt to force everyone to go out and buy copies of these two short story collections (which contain stories by other authors Harrison's readers may or may not care about) than an organic development of the series. At best, it is an exceedingly clumsy way to advance the story, and this was a pretty clumsy book. (Not only in terms of plotting, but even to the level of basic editing mistakes, like a person being described as having "thin fingers" on one page and "thick fingers" two pages later.) I only hope the next one is better, now that Harrison has shoe-horned all these new elements into the story and at least gotten that out of the way. (less)
This book was enjoyable except on one score. The main character, Sarah Tolerance, is interesting and sympathetic...she is a "fallen woman" in the year...moreThis book was enjoyable except on one score. The main character, Sarah Tolerance, is interesting and sympathetic...she is a "fallen woman" in the year 1810, earning her keep as a private investigator. (The author terms her genre as "hardboiled Regency.") The book is well-written and the plot moves along in a satisfactory way. The fly in the ointment is the fact that the author has chosen to significantly alter the history of the period for no real reason whatsoever. Without giving too much away, the crux of the plot is, at its heart, a political struggle in which the two sides battle for possession of some information which may permit one to discredit the other, and so gain power. The precipitating event of this power struggle, in the book, is that Queen Charlotte, as Regent for George III (???), has fallen ill, and thus it is presumed that a new government will be formed by her heir, whoever that may be, since in this story the Prince of Wales has been disinherited over his Catholic marriage (???), but is now a widower (???), and thus may be reinstated as heir, and everyone wants his favor. Of course, Charlotte was never regent, Wales WAS (hence...the REGENCY period in which this book is set...), and his first Catholic wife was not dead at the time of his eventual remarriage. And the thing is, none of that has any real bearing on the plot of the book. The struggle for power between the opposing parties could have easily been over some actual political issue of the day, or between two competing greengrocers over cornering the market on cabbage, and it would have made no material difference to the actual mystery to be solved. (The resolution of which, may I say, (view spoiler)[ was somewhat disappointing, in that it not only relied on the tired murder mystery Mendellian trope that two blue-eyed parents cannot have a brown-eyed child, but did so anachronistically, since Mendel wasn't even born yet at the time of the book's events. Again, to what purpose? Why base your mystery around one of the most hackneyed "solutions" of all time, and then have the discussions of gene theory be entirely ahistorical as well? (hide spoiler)])
This bizarre authorial choice, to completely alter historical events to no purpose, serves only to make the rest of the slight historical liberties taken (an independent female private detective wearing men's clothing and fencing well enough to defend her honor in the early 19th century) seem much more glaring than they otherwise would to a reader caught up in the excitement of the plot. It's a shame, because I did enjoy the book, but am left dwelling more on why the author chose this course than I am upon the story. ["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I liked this book quite a bit, although the book I ended up reading was not the book I started out reading, in many ways. It starts out as a sort of a...moreI liked this book quite a bit, although the book I ended up reading was not the book I started out reading, in many ways. It starts out as a sort of alternate-universe Pride & Prejudice, and ends up more alternate-universe Northanger Abbey, only the gothic stuff was real and not in anyone's imagination. I did enjoy the world-building, and I'm interested to read the next book in the series. (less)