How did Ophelia spend her girlhood? According to Clarke, Polonius was appointed a diplomatic emissary, at which point Ophelia was fostered with her foHow did Ophelia spend her girlhood? According to Clarke, Polonius was appointed a diplomatic emissary, at which point Ophelia was fostered with her former wet nurse's humble family until her parents' return to Denmark. It was a sizeable portion of her youth, and this path was chosen for her with an eye to physical development, with refinement and ladylike manners to be studied later.
Much of the book takes place in this setting, and frankly it's fairly unremarkable. I'll give this portion three stars--neither particularly bad nor particularly good. It seems to have a bit of a tenuous connection with the character we meet in Shakespeare's work.
Once Ophelia is retrieved by her birth mother and returns to Elsinore, however, things start to get interesting. Clarke does a much better job of laying the groundwork that would lead to the events of the play here, and since it begins to involve more characters we recognize it's easier to be interested in the intricacies of their interactions. Four stars for this part.
A classic whodunit: A humongous diamond is looted by a corrupt British soldier from a Hindu temple in India and later bequeathed to his young niece asA classic whodunit: A humongous diamond is looted by a corrupt British soldier from a Hindu temple in India and later bequeathed to his young niece as a birthday present. It is duly presented to her on her eighteenth birthday; she wears it at a dinner party that evening and declares to all and sundry that she will keep it in an unlocked cabinet in her sitting room; to her great surprise and evident distress, the diamond disappears in the night without any sign of a forced entry into the room or any disturbance to alert those nearby. The great Sergeant Cuff of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate, with the assistance of the young lady's cousin and suitor Franklin Blake and the steward Gabriel Betteredge. Add to the mix a trio of Indian conspirators, a maid with a shady history, some paint, a rival for Mr. Blake, a pool of quicksand, Robinson Crusoe, an amnesiac doctor, an overbearing poor relation, and some opium among many other factors, and you've got what is reputed to be the first English detective novel.
And it's fantastic, honestly. It's quite long, but worth the investment of time. The solution is not entirely unexpected, but getting there is an enjoyable journey.
I was also struck by the structure. This is, technically, an epistolary novel--but you almost forget about that for a while. Much of the book is presented as various characters' written accounts of their roles in the business as recorded at the request of Franklin Blake, apparently collecting a complete narrative after everything is said and done. The first narrative is Betteredge's, setting everything up, and it is... what, half the book maybe. Then the action moves outside of his sphere and another narrative picks up. From there, in general each new entry becomes shorter and more informative as we draw closer and closer to solving the mystery. I found it an interesting way to subtly underscore the increasing pace of the plot.
In some ways it's the same old story, starting out: Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire, hunting down supernatural baddies in Chicago with the help of BobIn some ways it's the same old story, starting out: Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire, hunting down supernatural baddies in Chicago with the help of Bob the skull and various other characters, most (if not all) of whom we know reasonably well. Movie monsters are coming off the screen to kill people. Whee! His personal connections are not neglected; Michael Carpenter's oldest, Molly, is going through her teenage rebellious phase with the volume cranked up to eleven and needs Harry's help.
And yet--everything changes. Not all of it here and now; some changes have already begun, and some are hinted at. But there are some pretty remarkable transformations going on in this book.
Of those, I think Charity is my favorite. I think she might be my hero. Kick. Ass. (It should be noted that there are in fact several kick-ass women in this particular book, but Charity... I dunno, I just like her.)
I've had the sense of the books in this series being kind of... monster-of-the-week (well, year). There's some overarching stuff, but it's background, it serves to occasionally inject a plot point here or there. Yeah? I don't mean that in a bad way, just a descriptive one. It's a valid way to write a series. It's been fun. In this book, though--particularly toward the end--I start to really feel things beginning to come together. That's possibly because I think this is the first time All The Things have really been brought together: the war between the White Council and the Red Court, the war between the Fae, the Knights of the Cross, Harry's backstory... There are maybe a couple of elements missing, but not many. Hello big picture!
And hello mystery. I know that there are already seven more books, with at least two more in the works. Rumor has it that Butcher is shooting for twenty. That doesn't feel like a stretch. It feels like something that is bigger and far more complex than I ever would have dreamed from the first few novels, something that I'm only just beginning to discover. Like I hopped into the shallow end of the pool and am edging my way down toward the deep end.
I think that's why I jump to the five-star rating. I've enjoyed the series all the way through, but here it really feels like it's going to the next level. Plausibly and in the best way.
Of course, when you're talking about really long, complex series, there's a lot of room for screwing it up. (I'm looking at you, Robert Jordan.) And I have to admit that I'm a little nervous this might go that direction. Maybe that will happen, maybe it won't, but right now? It's wonderful....more
I'm giving this one three stars because I did enjoy the audiobook quite a bit while I was listening. A few minor things here and there--Mary's constanI'm giving this one three stars because I did enjoy the audiobook quite a bit while I was listening. A few minor things here and there--Mary's constant praise of "my dear lady" does get a bit tiresome--but all in all an entertaining way to spend my commute.
...But as I reflect on it a little more, I find that some of it does put rather a bad taste in my mouth.
Molly herself does not engage me particularly much; she seems distant and falsely cheerful, and perhaps even condescending. There are many times when Molly knows the solution to the mystery and says as much, but then refuses to say any more until some scheme she has set in motion comes to fruition and reveals to Mary, the police, and the audience what Lady Molly already knew--and I kind of hate that in a detective story. It's not suspenseful; it's just annoying.
Mary is a servant. There is never any doubt about her role here. She is not a partner in detection. She has no original ideas about the cases, does not contribute any particular skill, does not uncover much if any evidence, and in general does only what Lady Molly tells her to do. And this is our first-person narrator. Who would like us to know that her Lady is the most perfect person on the face of the earth, which potentially contributes to Molly's lack of interesting features. Perfection in a character is, let's face it, boring, but Mary is never going to tell us what her dear Lady's flaws are.
The final story--well, pair of stories, they run into each other--was perhaps the most engaging. I suspect that's because these stories are intimately concerned with Lady Molly herself and therefore actually give us some glimpse into her character. The shine comes off of her halo just enough to reveal that she is, in fact, a human being. This set also features the most three-dimensional criminal(s). Motivation beyond pure simple greed and characterization beyond "I am a cold greedy [expletive]" is a wonderful thing.
In fact, I think what I would like to see is a novel-length work that has a greater emphasis on Lady Molly's backstory. Also better use of the characters themselves and more depiction of the interaction between them--make this about the people and the decisions they make, not just about rushing through solving the mystery. This is particularly true of the relationship between Molly and Mary, given that they're the two central characters.
It's gotta have a new ending, though, or at the very least a bit more of an examination of what happens. I'm thinking this is very much a product of the time at which it was written; surely someone doing a rewrite of this public-domain work could update it so that (view spoiler)[we get more than, "She has given up her connection with the police. The reason for it has gone with the return of her happiness..." concerning Molly's apparent decision to end her career in law enforcement just because she's now openly a married woman. (hide spoiler)]
It was an enjoyable read the first time through, but I don't think I'll be revisiting it unless with an eye to an adaptation of some sort.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are times when what I really like about this series is its ability to make itself totally ridiculous but somehow pull back after the initial "HAThere are times when what I really like about this series is its ability to make itself totally ridiculous but somehow pull back after the initial "HAHAHAHAHA you have got to be kidding me!" moment so that it juuuuuuust avoids going over the edge.
The climactic battle of this book? Definitely one of those times. (view spoiler)[I mean... zombie T-Rex. Right? (hide spoiler)] Bravo. I think what pulls it back is that we don't lose the sense of urgency and danger. The battle goes on; consequences are weighed and considered; we see how hard it's getting and that this is, in fact, a quite effective action he's taken without being an easy out.
Not a bad adventure, and I am absolutely still hooked, but I keep going back and forth about whether to subtract that fourth star from my rating or not. Why? Let's see if I can do this without rambling:
1. The effort to get all NO REALLY ALL of Harry's go-to support system out of the way quickly was a little too transparent and in some places just didn't ring true to me. (The magical side, I have to admit, mostly worked. The brute force side... not so much.)
2. Harry's condescending brand of sexism is not something that bothers me the way I see other people complaining that it bothers them. I figure it's presented as a character flaw, so if I percieve it as something unpleasant about Harry, then it's working. In this book (and the previous), though, it's starting to push over the line into "just infuriating" territory.
3. Harry and Murphy do just fine thank you as friends and occasional teammates. I don't feel like there was a big need for a conversation about whether he's interested in her that way, and the inclusion of same frankly makes me a little uneasy about what the future holds.
For all that, though, some very important stuff happened, or was continued, or was started here. And annoying as the means of achieving it might have been, it was interesting to see Harry have to make do with whoever and whatever he could scrounge to help him out, and the ways in which that affected him, and the decisions it forced him to make. There are places where I might get annoyed if there aren't consequences down the road, but... hey. For now, I'm good.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Thus ends my very first journey through the entire Anne series. (Well. The novels, at least.)
The main thing to realize about this book, going into it,Thus ends my very first journey through the entire Anne series. (Well. The novels, at least.)
The main thing to realize about this book, going into it, is that it spans the entirety of World War I. Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated not long after the book begins, and the armistice of November 11 is signed just before the novel ends. It was published in 1921; Montgomery was writing from fairly fresh memory of activity on the Canadian homefront. It therefore has quite a different tone than many of the other Anne books, in which terrible things do occasionally happen but are not typically quite so pervasive and intrinsic to the book as a whole. We watch Rilla, the baby of the Blythe family, grow up very quickly as she sees her brothers off to war and pushes herself to "do her part" at home. And we watch Anne grow old. Which is a very strange concept, but war will do terrible things even to those far away from the battlefield.
Do not, in other words, expect a book of light escapades which usually come out all right in the end, occasionally darkened by tragedy. It is a grim book, to some extent, and a heart-rending one. But it's well-written, and it's also a very interesting peek at the WWI homefront. World War II is very popular these days, but I have to confess to not knowing all that much about World War I. At some points the story becomes almost a recitation of military actions, as percieved by the Blythes at home on PEI, but between Montgomery's writing and my own ignorance I found it fairly easy to get caught up in that tension. Will the line hold? I don't know--I know the eventual outcome of the war, but not of this battle. And the characters are all on edge about it, not just for the sake of their loved ones on the front lines but for the sake of the whole world. And thus so am I.
There are places where I could wish for more development of certain characters, certain relationships, certain situations. But in the end I don't feel like that's really what this book is about. It's told mostly through Rilla's eyes, but it's not really about her, or Anne, or the Merediths, or any of the other residents of Glen St. Mary at home or abroad. It's about the whole picture, about capturing what this life was like, during this Great War. And it does that very well.
Now, if you'll pardon me, I seem to have something in my eye... ...more