I stumbled on this book entirely by chance when it was free, and ended up tearing through it in two days and loving it! Fairytale retellings as a genrI stumbled on this book entirely by chance when it was free, and ended up tearing through it in two days and loving it! Fairytale retellings as a genre have really grown on me lately—but once I got well into Traitor's Masque, I found myself paying less attention to the retelling aspect and simply enjoying it as a good story. It takes some of the key elements of Cinderella—an unkind stepmother, a prince, an important ball, an errant slipper—and uses them as the jumping-off points for an original story full of intrigue, emotion and suspense.
I suppose one must technically call it fantasy, as it takes place in an imaginary kingdom/world, though there's no actual magic in the story. Had it been set in an imaginary European country I'd call it almost Ruritanian, with its themes of political intrigue—and that's largely what makes it so enjoyable. The kingdom of Andar is simmering with unrest over the issue of succession, with the scandal-plagued eldest prince having been disinherited in favor of his steadier younger brother, Prince Ramsey. The story's heroine, Trystan Colbourne (I admit, the one thing I never could quite get used to was her name; even with the different spelling it seems more like a boy's name to me) is offered a chance at escaping her stepmother's persecution in exchange for performing an apparently simple task: attending a masked ball in disguise to receive a message from an unknown contact. But before the evening is over, Trystan begins to realize that she may be playing a part in something much more sinister than she ever stopped to consider.
Another thing I liked is that the story squarely undercuts the insta-love aspect of the original fairytale by giving the hero and heroine a chance to meet and form a believable friendship early on—and then gives it a twist by making their unawareness of each other's real identity a major part of the plot's conflict later on. Both Trystan and Ramsey are well-developed, relatable characters with struggles of their own to work through—a Cinderella who's more prickly than sweet, and a prince who is seldom called handsome and is certainly not free from care. Elegantly and intelligently written, with sparkling dialogue a strong point; and filled out with a great cast of supporting characters (Kyril and Lizbet were among my favorites), Traitor's Masque is sure to appeal to anyone who loves retellings, suspenseful tales of intrigue in imaginary kingdoms, and subtle but ultimately heartwarming romance....more
3.5 stars. Entertaining, well-written Edwardian-era detective short stories. The main characters aren't too deeply developed, and occasionally a story3.5 stars. Entertaining, well-written Edwardian-era detective short stories. The main characters aren't too deeply developed, and occasionally a story ends abruptly enough to leave you wondering what became of some of the participants after all, but if you enjoy this style of classic mystery they're very pleasant reading. ("The Clever Mrs. Straithwaite" gets points for making me spend five minutes after finishing it going over the complex plot again in my head, trying to figure out exactly what had happened.)...more
I had previously enjoyed the charming 1961 Disney film adaptation of Greyfriars Bobby, and for some reason, I don't know why, I had the notion that thI had previously enjoyed the charming 1961 Disney film adaptation of Greyfriars Bobby, and for some reason, I don't know why, I had the notion that the source novel would be a bit dry and dusty. I was entirely wrong! This is one of those happy instances where the movie is a faithful adaptation, but the book is even better, simply because there's more of it—a little more depth to the characters, more backstory, more incidents that just didn't fit into a screenplay. The story of Bobby, the faithful little Skye terrier who refuses to desert the grave of his chosen master in Greyfriars kirkyard, is sweetly told and beautifully written, peopled with the endearing characters of a miscellaneous group of people whose lives become entwined with the little dog's—sociable restaurant-keeper Mr. Traill, kirkyard caretaker Mr. Brown and his "gude wifie," the waif-like children of the tenements surrounding Greyfriars, the merry schoolboys of the nearby orphans' home, and more. The setting of Victorian-era Edinburgh is described in rich and loving detail, both its beautiful antiquities and dark slums, the nearby harbor, the Castle overhead and the farm countryside surrounding it; and the book's ending, even though the story is a happy one and wholly satisfying, had tears in my eyes. Lovely book, much recommended....more
3.5 stars. This is another one of Tarkington's fluffy humorous confections—very much like Gentle Julia, with its themes of infatuated young suitor and3.5 stars. This is another one of Tarkington's fluffy humorous confections—very much like Gentle Julia, with its themes of infatuated young suitor and mischievous young relative, except that the primary characters are even sillier, if such a thing is possible. Light on plot, but with plenty of irresistibly hilarious moments and passages that made me laugh out loud—perfect for a summer afternoon's reading....more
I think this is the first time an automated Kindle recommendation has scored a hit for me. Picture Miss Seeton is an absolute riot. It's rather like aI think this is the first time an automated Kindle recommendation has scored a hit for me. Picture Miss Seeton is an absolute riot. It's rather like a comedic parody of the Miss Marple type—Miss Seeton is a bit younger and more active, but much less bright spinster, whose gift seems to lie in her odd, metaphoric sketches of people which reveal things she intuitively senses about them. That, and a knack for getting into the wildest of scrapes without realizing she's done anything unusual.
It all begins with Mrs. Seeton poking a rude young man in the back with her umbrella on a dark London street, unaware that she's interrupting a murder in progress. After she's able to make an identifying sketch of the culprit, Scotland Yard determines to keep a protective eye on her in case she's in danger, as the only witness. Miss Seeton heads off to take up residence in her newly-inherited cottage in a quaint country village—where it turns out there are some odd goings-on that just might be connected with the original murder.
This is the clue-hunting romp type of mystery—author Carvic manages to keep a deft balance in tone between some genuinely nasty murders and the hilarity that results from Miss Seeton's being mixed up in them. (I laughed until I cried at the scene where the village rumor-mill gets going on the events by the pond.) The cast of supporting characters is wonderful, particularly a pair of very likable detectives, Superintendent Delphick (a.k.a. the Oracle) and his assistant Sergeant Bob Ranger; and Sir George and Lady Colvedon and their young son Nigel, a delightful family who participate in some of the book's best moments. (Bob and the Colvedons are my favorites in the book.) Also Dr. Knight and his family, who arrive on the scene a little later but do it in style.
There's a few little loose ends—e.g. the fact that (view spoiler)[the big boss of the drug ring is never actually caught; (hide spoiler)] and it does seem a little bit of a cheat that we don't get to see everybody's reaction to the information revealed in the last few paragraphs! But it's not too far out of keeping with the tone of the book to be unsatisfying. I'm already looking forward to the next books in the series!
(I understand there are four more Miss Seeton books by the original author, and that after his death other authors continued the series under his pen name. I'm interested in the rest of the original books, anyway.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a really delightful, original novel. Literature meets Wyoming, in 1948—I mean, that sounds like a book made to order for me. Full review to foThis is a really delightful, original novel. Literature meets Wyoming, in 1948—I mean, that sounds like a book made to order for me. Full review to follow....more