An alt-history Victorian-era detective story, where 'metaphysics' is a daily part of life. Ned and Julian have known each other since boarding schoolAn alt-history Victorian-era detective story, where 'metaphysics' is a daily part of life. Ned and Julian have known each other since boarding school (where they suffered through an excessive amount of bullying). Ned has since qualified as a metaphysician (and bought an expensive practice) while Julian uses a bit of metaphysics for his detecting career (and for illicit pleasure).
The pair have reconnected after a period being out of touch, and are making each other rather unhappy with casual trysts and an unspoken desire for something more - each not quite sure what the other really wants, and not quite willing to talk honestly.
Into this situation comes the father of one of their school day bullies, asking for help, and Ned and Julian find themselves having to weigh how much or little they want to assist someone who caused them so much misery in the past.
It took me a fair while to get into this story - I listened to it over a couple of weeks, never quite drawn into the multiple intersecting investigations until the very end. The audiobook narrator did not help - although a better job than I could do, I found the narration a little unclear. But my interest did pick up eventually and I thought the conclusion good (even though the story was drawn out by the detectives not even thinking about a really blatantly obvious suspect).
However, I also found myself frustrated by this world where magic has been added and nothing else is changed. Women are as weighed down by restrictions as they are in our world (much sympathies to Ned's assistant Miss Frost, who is as qualified as he, but not allowed to practice because female)....more
An impeccably-researched alt-history set late in Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
In this world there are two main points of difference. Elizabeth married anAn impeccably-researched alt-history set late in Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
In this world there are two main points of difference. Elizabeth married and bore two sons, and there is a race of people called "skraylings" who come from Vinland (Newfoundland). Presumably this is a play on 'skraeling', which is what the Norse called Greenland and Vinland's Native Americans, although this book's skraelings are non-humans with fangs and vestigial tails. England has an important alliance with (the main clan of) the skraylings.
The plot revolves around three people. Mal, who has been specifically requested as a bodyguard by the skrayling ambassador. Coby, a girl-dressed-as-a-boy working for a theater company. And Ned, Mal's good friend. Many plots begin revolving around Mal after his appointment, and Coby and Ned are drawn into them in his wake. Things are far more complex than any of them realise.
The story very successfully conjures the uncertainty and powerlessness of the landless and poor during Elizabethan times, and the culmination of the story is quite interesting, but I kept putting the book down and not picking it up, so I guess overall it didn't click with me.
A couple of things which made me a little uncomfortable were the use of an actual-world word for Native Americans for a non-human race, and the general womanlessness of this world. There are quite a few incidental women in the story, but Coby is the only one who matters enough to be a person to the reader (and she's (view spoiler)[basically 'the helpful love interest', while Mal is the person who is the interesting/important one (hide spoiler)]). Even the Queen is off-scene and not directly involved in much of the story.
At any rate, I think this is a solidly-told story, which just didn't click enough with me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
An alt-history tale of Venice, where the city is under attack from a hidden, magical enemy and only an adopted girl, Teodora - with the help of a lotAn alt-history tale of Venice, where the city is under attack from a hidden, magical enemy and only an adopted girl, Teodora - with the help of a lot of mermaids, a prophecy and a boy - can hope to win the day.
The first thing which will hit the reader in this book is the style. It's extremely ornate - a deliberately antique style. There's also the tendency to jump a few days ahead and then backtrack and tell what's gone on in the past few days, rather than just experiencing those days.
The set-up itself is extremely fascinating. Orphan girl, magic book, horrible events witnessed, loving portrait of Venice, mermaids who speak in sailor cant, arrogant boy, a large amount of death. Even though the style wasn't a great fit for me, tending to slow down the pace and undercut the drama, the plot and world should have been candy to keep me coming back for me.
The problem with me was the characters. Many of the characters were outlines without a spark which made them people. Teo's parents, for instance, are scientists and skeptics and over-protective and never for a moment felt like people instead of plot roles. The set-up between Teo (book-loving, non-fashionable, special) and Maria (vain, fashion-seeking, flirtatious [at 11!], foolish) was your basic protagonist v redeemable cheerleader over-the-top comparison. Not only did Maria feel primarily like a mass of negative traits designed to make Teo look good, but her fall and redemption was highly predictable.
But the biggest problem for me was Teo herself, who was endowed with much specialness - photographic memory, two mysterious powers, child of prophecy, pretty without needing fashion - while never managing to make me _like_ her. I was sorry for her situation, which was scary and hard at times, but she went on about Maria's stupidity a few too many times to earn much more than sympathy from me.
I'd recommend readers check out a sample of this book to see how the style sits - old-fashioned, ornate styles can be interesting of themselves - and if you have a particular interest in Venice then you may want to check out this book just for the Venice-info....more
The beginning of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell's friendship, told this time from Holmes' point of view. It makes me want to go back and read the seThe beginning of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell's friendship, told this time from Holmes' point of view. It makes me want to go back and read the series from the beginning once again....more
This was one of the more challenging books for me to write, just because when you start with an alt history of _our_ world you suddenly find yourselfThis was one of the more challenging books for me to write, just because when you start with an alt history of _our_ world you suddenly find yourself with the problem of how complex our world is. So many countries, so many different peoples, so many stories.
It amazed me, doing the research for this book, how much I didn't know about my own world. A million layers of civilisation, most forgotten, or half-remembered, or barely understood. I've read and seen stories about Egyptians all my life, but until I started properly reading about it, I didn't know what mummies were actually _for_. [And even the most knowledgeable Egyptologist can only have an imperfect understanding of a culture lost to sand.] So, anyway, alt history=HARD.
The story itself is going to sit across a dozen genres. Alt history, because I started with Earth. It's steampunk because dirigibles, but it's certainly not Victorian. It's going to read YA or even middle grade to some people, but one of its protagonists is thirty-six. It's science fiction (apparently that's where steampunk sits) and it does amuse itself with a technological impact, but it is, of all my books, the most full of the numinous, the strange and wondrous things that fantasy uses to catch your breath and then turn it to dragons.
There are quite a few dragons.
Anyway, this is a big venture for me - the first time I've embarked on a long series (five books, plus probably some shorts). I hope you all enjoy it!...more