A fantastically imaginative book, about magic (of the fey variety) reawakening in Victorian England. Combines elements of alternative history and of oA 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. ...more
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 inhereI 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. ...more
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 hThis 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!...more
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 oI 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. ...more
The only disappointing thing about this installment was that it was so short. The various iterations of dragon culture around the world continue to beThe 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)]...more
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 oI 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. ...more
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 lotJane 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). ...more
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 cBetter 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. ...more
The word that sums up this book for me is "impatience." I was impatient for the nearly 5 years it took between the last book and this one, with so manThe word that sums up this book for me is "impatience." I was impatient for the nearly 5 years it took between the last book and this one, with so many cliffhangers to fret over from that previous volume. But then, when I got into WIMOHB, I found myself impatient with the story as a whole. Instead of devouring it as quickly as possible, I found myself willingly putting it down and going to do mundane household chores, the kind you avoid and procrastinate over for months, just because I was too irritated to keep reading straight through. Part of it was a sort of "NOW what?" fatigue, as an ever-spiralling set of coincidences and circumstances kept the cliffhangers from the last book from being resolved for what seemed like forever. I've enjoyed the break-neck pacing of events in the previous books in this series, but it seemed a little forced and contrived this time around. Even the romance/sexy parts seemed plugged in by rote, as if there were some formula wherein every certain number of pages, Jamie must make an approving comment about Claire's arse. The sheer weight of coincidence in this story began to beggar belief (I mean, to the extent we are all believing in time travel in the first place, but still...). Time and again, just the right character would wander into just the right place at just the right time to rescue (or expose) one of the other core characters, despite the enormous odds against such a thing, and it just seemed silly after a while.
On the whole, I found the part of the story focusing on Jamie and Claire and the characters in their time and place (Lord John, William, Ian, Fergus & Marsali, etc.) to be more compelling than the Brianna/Roger/Buck part. While full of exhausting levels of action (and coincidence), the American Revolution story at least made a sort of linear sense most of the time. On the other hand, the Bree/Roger/Buck storyline was full of a lot of just plain weird stuff, mostly a lot of never-before-heard-of-in-this-series time travel weirdness and paradox and conspiracies. First, we have Roger and Buck going through the stones in search of Jem, and (view spoiler)[ending up in a much earlier time than they should have - the 1730s, instead of the 1770s. All, apparently, because Roger's SON Jem hadn't actually gone through the stones at all, but Roger's father (of the same name) had in WWII in his plane, and somehow that drew Roger so he could track down his dad and help get him back to his own time (all without letting the father know who he was.) This is strange, because we've never heard of the stones doing anything like this before, but OK, one anomaly, somewhat explained. (hide spoiler)] Then, we have Bree finding a letter from her adoptive father Frank, in a secret drawer of a desk that belonged to Roger's adoptive father. A letter addressed to Bree, by the way. Again, quite a coincidence. But to add to the strained credulity, the letter says that (view spoiler)[there is some kind of ancient Scottish prophecy that says "the last of Lovat's line will rule Scotland," and enclosing a copy of a family tree unearthed from somewhere that indicates some conspiracy theorists think that this means Brianna. (Even Brianna thinks this is kind of nuts, since Jenny had a bunch of kids, who presumably have descendants, and that's not even getting into the fact that William is also Jamie's child, and that the existence of Brianna's kids means she's not the last on that count, either...I guess the point is that the conspiracy theorists have latched onto her, and she needs to be aware of that and so that's the important bit?) So there's another bizarre twist to add to the story - a prophecy, and some previously-unknown conspiracy nuts (whom Frank was apparently hunting and trying to kill off secretly during his lifetime, in addition to being a heart surgeon in Boston, I guess? When did he have time? He seems to have done a lot of digging around into Claire and Jamie's story without letting anyone know about it when he was alive.) Anyway, this adds to Bree's urgency to get back to the past, retrieve Roger, and rejoin her parents, although this would take several trips through stones on different continents. There's a weird moment of panic when she and the kids go in search of Roger, and the kids dash through the stones ahead of her because they "hear" him, and then back out to get her, and she freaks out because now they don't have the protective gems she gave them for one trip through, and has to scramble for more with bad guys breathing down her neck...only, the kids just made TWO trips without her...to the past AND back...and the gems only go one way, which means they probably don't need the gems at all to travel safely (because they are the kids of two time travelers?), so that all seemed like pointless drama. (hide spoiler)]
The weirdest thing, though, is what happens to Buck. (view spoiler)[While traveling with Roger in 1738, he meets his mother, Geillis (more coincidence) and his putative father, Dougal. Only Buck is really sexually attracted to his own mother (they are of similar age at this point), and the last we see of him, Roger has a vision of Buck sleeping with Geillis, disappearing in her arms (to her horror), and reappearing in her womb. What the...is he his own father, then? Or is his spirit waiting inside her to be born eventually with Dougal as his father? I repeat...what the...? None of this makes any sense. (hide spoiler)]
I also found myself dwelling on the paradox of the letters Jamie and Claire left for Brianna. (view spoiler)[She ends up reading them all before she goes back in time again, not least so she knows where to find her parents in the time she is traveling to. Only, given that she travelled back in time to rejoin them...shouldn't the letters mention that? I mean, it will have already happened, right? But there is apparently no hint of that in the letters. And how far into Jamie and Claire's future do the letters go? Does Brianna now know things that will happen to them that haven't happened yet when she goes back into the past, or does her appearance rearrange the whole timeline? It's very confusing. (hide spoiler)] I think the previous books have avoided some of these quandaries by not having quite so much to-ing and fro-ing through the stones...the number of previous trips has been pretty limited, all things considered, but this time around, it's like Grand Central Station in the standing stone circles of the world.
All that said, the book ended in a pretty good place. There is clearly still a great deal of story to be told - not just whatever is coming in the American Revolution, but the multitudes of conspiracies and plots surrounding Brianna as the supposed last of the Lovats, but also the Grey family and whatever Richardson and his crew are planning for them, and also whatever Percy is trying to spin with Fergus and his supposed lineage . But at least this volume didn't end on a series of cliffhangers, like the last one. We know approximately where everyone is and what they intend to be doing, for the moment, at least. I hope I will have regained some of my patience by the time the next volume rolls around. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I generally like this series, but this book's ratio of ass-kicking to emotional self-indulgence was heavily weighted towards the emotional self-indulgI 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. ...more
This book was enjoyable except on one score. The main character, Sarah Tolerance, is interesting and sympathetic...she is a "fallen woman" in the yearThis 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"]>...more
I continue to think that Sarah Tolerance is an interesting and well-written character, and I enjoyed the opportunity this book provided to find out moI continue to think that Sarah Tolerance is an interesting and well-written character, and I enjoyed the opportunity this book provided to find out more about her past and her family. I've mused before, in my reviews of the other books in this series, about the choice the author has made to change some seemingly inexplicable and inconsequential things about the history of the Regency period. I've come to the conclusion that the minor changes to the royal succession process are meant as a signal to the reader/justification for the fact that this history is slightly different from ours in other ways, such as the tradition of "Fallen" women taking obviously fake names that signify their status, and the existence of Sarah Tolerances's mixed-sex club, where she conducts much of her business. I still think that the author hasn't done quite enough with the liberty writing an alternate history should provide. For example, there really isn't much difference between the social positions of "fallen/Fallen" women in either the real or imagined version of this time period. Overwhelmingly, they are reduced either to prostitution or some kind of servitude/penance at the hands of religious zealots. Sarah is the only one we meet who is pursuing a career in any other field. Who are the other women in her mixed sex club? What are their occupations/reasons for joining? Without this kind of world-building, the minor differences in the historical record just seem like a way to shoehorn a female character with more modern sensibilities into a historical setting than like a true alternate history. ...more