This is one of the best books I have ever read. The ending is both wistful and sad and inevitable. Penelope repeatedly slips back in time at her famil...moreThis is one of the best books I have ever read. The ending is both wistful and sad and inevitable. Penelope repeatedly slips back in time at her family's ancient country farm, Thackers, to the 1580s and then back to her present, 1906-08. Penelope's ancestors were servants to the Babingtons, who are fundamentally nice people (with a few exceptions). She becomes part of their family, in the 16th century, accepted as a sort of cousin who nobody can quite place and who tends to vanish without notice. The eldest Babington son, Anthony, is deeply involved in a plot to spirit Mary, Queen of Scots out of England to France. Mary is being held prisoner in the farm next to Thackers and Anthony is excavating a tunnel. Penelope knows from the outset that he doesn't succeed, that he eventually dies, but Penelope finds she can't make big changes to history. (This also has the effect of ridding the book of time travel paradoxes.) She can change how people feel about events but not the events themselves. This becomes the true subject of the book: how people feel about history as they are living it, and later looking backward. The reader and Penelope and the Babingtons know how it will end. They hope otherwise, but they know. Anthony knows he is doomed but he tries to save Queen Mary anyway, because he loves her. Penelope knows she can't save them but she keeps returning because she loves the Babingtons. And the house, Thackers, is always there.
Side note: If you love old houses, this ia a book you should read.(less)
"A few centuries (or so) ago there lived a tall, skinny, scraggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you're thinking of, either." If t...more"A few centuries (or so) ago there lived a tall, skinny, scraggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you're thinking of, either." If that doesn't make you want to go on reading, I can't help you. This is John Bellair's only book for adults, and it is excellent. Go read it.(less)
In many ways this was a better book than the first in the series. The first third is a little slow and dreary — after the way the first book ended tha...moreIn many ways this was a better book than the first in the series. The first third is a little slow and dreary — after the way the first book ended that's unsurprising — but then it picked up and never stopped. This was a much FUNNIER book, and I found myself laughing at Ethan's observations about the townspeople.(less)
This was a pretty decent sequel to "The Wizard..." but not as good as the first book. Oona remains as clever as always, which is one of the delights o...moreThis was a pretty decent sequel to "The Wizard..." but not as good as the first book. Oona remains as clever as always, which is one of the delights of this series. Without giving too much away, in this book she shows how vulnerable she is to emotional and other kinds of manipulation, against which her intelligence provides only so much help. The reader is in the position of watching this happen and not being able to do anything about it. (I think this was a realistic choice for the author to make, but it really made me squirm.) At several points I had to stop myself from banging my iPad on my forehead. "Come ON, Oona, you're not going to fall for that tripe?!" But of course she does. I hope she learns from it in the next book.
A thing that really bothered me: Oona considers the possibility freeing Samuligan near the end but immediately seems to reject the idea because she likes him too much to let him go home. I thought that was more than a little ugly. He's essentially a slave, in a time when, on the other side of the iron gates, slaves have recently been freed. Too bad that sentiment didn't make it to Dark Street. Maybe I'm expecting too much insight from such a young character.(less)
This may be my favorite book of the year so far. It's basically a moderate-feminist update of "Prisoner of Zenda." If you like "Princess Bride" (or th...moreThis may be my favorite book of the year so far. It's basically a moderate-feminist update of "Prisoner of Zenda." If you like "Princess Bride" (or the aforementioned "Zenda" of course) then this is something you need to read. Imagine if "Princess Bride" had been narrated by Wesley, if Wesley happened to be a woman named Kim. Kim is just as improbable as Wesley — she's a grad student, a near-Olympic level fencer, ballet dancer, speaks three languages and picks up a fourth on the run, and can see ghosts. She is technically a Mary Sue, but I didn't give a damn since the book was so much fun. She's not perfect though. She makes a lot of snap judgments, trusts people she shouldn't, and doesn't ask some important questions when she should. The book is feminist in the sense that most of the female characters are not passive in the slightest (with one notable exception that I think was intended to underline the point). There are some issues with the way the MALE characters behave toward them, however, and the way Kim just accepted it mostly. Anyway I had so much fun reading this that it's an unqualified RECOMMEND.(less)
I would have liked this book a lot more if it hadn't been the last book in the trilogy [ETA, 12/1/12: apparently Sherwood plans to continue the series...moreI would have liked this book a lot more if it hadn't been the last book in the trilogy [ETA, 12/1/12: apparently Sherwood plans to continue the series so read these ponderings in that light...]. As an intermediate book in a series, this is a lot of fun. My issues with it have more to do with the expectations set up in the prior books which are not ultimately addressed. That seems to be a thing Sherwood Smith is prone to, given it happened repeatedly in the trilogy. (I haven't read any of her other series to cross-check that, however.) The remainder of this review assumes you've read all three books. Spoilers, of course.
(view spoiler)[I adore time travel plots and this is no exception. Sending Kim back in time to rescue Dobrenica works fine, and was foreshadowed by Beka's comments in the last book and Kim's time slip in the Austrian countryside in the first book. (Was she really all the way there? Well, she never found her suitcase and she could drink the water...) In this case, however, Kim travels back only in spirit, which turns out to be a clever choice on Xanpia's part to protect her from aging in the Nasdrafus. I wondered about it because I knew Kim COULD return in body, but I was very satisfied with the answer at the end.
Kim spends the book guiding Aurelie around and coming very close to making a mess of it. ("How would you like to marry a prince?" is NOT a great inducement in the early 19th century. Given Kim's own ambiguity about the public relations duties she'll take on when she marries Alec, I was a little surprised she even tried to sell Aurelie on that!) I don't have a whole lot to say about Kim and Aurelie's adventures, but my attention never drifted and I had fun. Sometimes it ran a little longer than strictly necessary, but I am of the school of reading that feels more book means more pleasure, so no complaints.
It was the end of the book that left me feeling a little cheated. The second book, "Blood Spirits," ended with an heartfelt plea from Ruli for Kim to help her walk out in the sun to die if she became a monster. That seemed to me to be the absolute emotional core of that book, that and Ruli's desire for "the peace that passeth all understanding." [*] These things went virtually unaddressed in "Revenant Eve." We do see Ruli, and she's doing well and clearly not a monster, so it's a non-issue, except that Ruli makes Kim affirm her pledge. But if there are no more books after this one, and it seems there will not be, then the end of "Blood Spirits" is devalued.
The issues with the mines and the Consortium are also left mostly unaddressed. Alec begins the book by saying she'll be gathering information about the mines, but this never went anywhere. And if this is the end of the series, it's not going to go anywhere. I find that frustrating, but not as frustrating as the lack of closure for the Ruli storyline. (hide spoiler)]
Conclusions: This has been a review of a book that's been mostly not about the book. It's about the book I expected to see, given the previous two stories. Is that fair? I have no idea. I can only tell you how I felt about things after I finished reading.
[*] A side point left over from "Blood Spirits": The King James Bible quote is actually, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." I thought it was interesting that Sherwood Smith dropped the "of God" in the original quote, despite bringing god up so explicitly throughout the story. I'm not surprised "through Christ Jesus" was dropped, because Dobreni services seem to tend toward the ecumenical, which no doubt makes sense for a fictional country where so many religious traditions have to coexist. I'm an agnostic leaning atheist, but I do think if you're going to bring the subject of god into the conversation, you should go for broke and say what you mean!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** This is basically Twilight if Twilight had plot and a heroine who called Edward on his shit.
The world has four kinds of creatures in...more**spoiler alert** This is basically Twilight if Twilight had plot and a heroine who called Edward on his shit.
The world has four kinds of creatures in it, humans, witches, vampires, and daemons. Our Bella is a witch named Diana. Diana does not like magic because her parents were superduper witches who went off to Africa (they were anthropologists) and got themselves killed by evil spirits or something. So Diana blames magic for their deaths and she doesn't like to use it, even though she is crackling with the stuff. Instead, she's become a slam-bang tenured academic historian specializing in the bridge between science and magic. In practice that means she gets to read a lot of crumbling books in the Bodleian at Oxford, which is where she finds the MacGuffin. She makes a routine request for an under-read alchemical text and finds to her surprise that it's bewitched — the visible text is a spell and underneath there's something else. But being as she hates magic, and being as this is a magic thingumbob, she chooses not to read and sends it back to storage where (apparently) nobody else is capable of borrowing it.
On her way out of the library she Meets Cute. Cute is vampire Matthew who initially cares more for the MacGuffin than the Mary Sue. Matthew is basically an Edward — he sneaks into her apartment looking for the book and COINCIDENTALLY watches Diana sleep. Anyway, Matthew acts all controlling but unlike Bella, Diana calls him on it, and I choose to keep reading. (I did wonder why she keeps seeing him at all once he proves he's a jerk, but the story finesses this by claiming vampires have fantastic mojo.) --
The book kept me turning the pages. It is definitely one to read for the lulz. I kept saying O RLY? O RLY?!! to my empty bedroom. I mean this is a book that takes the kitchen sink approach to fiction writing — we got the Knights Templar, the haunted house (which can make rooms pop out of nowhere when the house anticipates guests are arriving!), the Congregation that keeps nonhumans from human notice but has its own secret agenda (and forbids vamp/witch romances). We got witch-vampire genetics by way of Anne Rice's Taltos books. There is an oubliette! And someone is thrown in it like the Talamasca did in Taltos! The possibility of hybrid vampire-witch children arises. Diana is pretty much the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues. I can't wait for the next book.(less)
I enjoyed "A Wind from the South" but it felt like it needed some work. In particular, I didn't enjoy the first part of the book nearly as much as the...moreI enjoyed "A Wind from the South" but it felt like it needed some work. In particular, I didn't enjoy the first part of the book nearly as much as the second part when Mariarta finally got away from her village and began her adventures. The whole story of the bull just wasn't engaging. The second part was excellent though, and more than made up for it. There are a lot of memorably creepy moments, particularly the scene with Duonna Vrene in the mountain of ice. Artemis, when we finally meet her, has a wicked sense of humor, and clearly has more in mind for Mariarta than Mariarta knows...although I think she suspects. I'm disappointed that we'll never find out how *that* partnership worked out.(less)
The person who said this is basically "The Wicker Man" for kids is not wrong. This was an excellent book, based on many of the same legends that Susan...moreThe person who said this is basically "The Wicker Man" for kids is not wrong. This was an excellent book, based on many of the same legends that Susan Cooper used in "The Dark Is Rising" and "Greenwitch." The book is about the wild hunt legend, in which an antlered man leads a Hunt with demon hounds, and anyone who sees them becomes a quarry. Penelope Lively is a wonderful prose stylist; her word-pictures of Exmoor and the village of Hagworthy (supposedly near Minehead, although I have not found any reference to it on modern maps) make this book worth reading. The plot is much like what Susan Cooper did in The Grey King. A girl named Lucy becomes friends with an outcast boy named Kester as they become entangled in a recreation of the Hunt. The local vicar has revived the Hunt as a tourist attraction based on a few old entries in the parish records, but he does not realize the true purpose of the "Dance" (as he calls it) until he has called up more than he wishes to see.(less)