This is not a new book; it's from 2012. But somehow I had never heard of it until I pulled a used copy out of a local neighborhood's little free libraThis is not a new book; it's from 2012. But somehow I had never heard of it until I pulled a used copy out of a local neighborhood's little free library and took it home. And it was fabulous! Seriously, this is the BEST book I've read in quite some time. It's just so layered and so clever that I had to keep re-reading parts to catch the subtleties. (And I probably will read the whole thing again to catch even more.)
Basically, Sloan has taken the idea of an epic tale, removed the magic, and written a book set in a modern world but with an epic plot structure. Mysterious group of people dating back hundreds of years? Check. A quest? Check. An old man/mentor who knows far more than he tells? Check. An evil ruler with great power over many? Check. A journey to the Underworld? Check. A protagonist who does not realize his own abilities until they have been tested? Check. Faithful companions who have their own reasons for the quest? Check. A mysterious object? Check. It's all there, people.
Sloan took some real historical figures -- Aldus Manutius, a Venetian printer, and Francesco Griffo, whom Sloan recasts as Griffo Geritzoon, the actual inventor of the italic typefont -- and he creates a mystery surrounding what they did. It's encoded in an ancient book, and Mr. Penumbra's bookstore holds a library of people's attempts to find the message, which supposedly holds the key to eternal life.
Since so many reviews have already been written about this book, I'm going to skip the plot summary and just dive straight into refuting the negative reviews.
Zip Dementia on Amazon claims the characters aren't developed.
"Dementia" may be correct for this reviewer. Clay, Neel, Kat, Igor, Penumbra, Deckle, Corvina -- even the super-minor characters like Tabitha and Daphne -- all have wants, needs, and goals. Each works perfectly into the plot. Seriously, did this reviewer even bother to connect the name Penumbra with its meaning?
Multiple reviewers claim that Clay, the protagonist, has no personality.
Of them I ask, "Did you finish reading the book?" How did you not notice that Clay is humble and believes he's nothing special, even though everyone else can see it? Are you too stupid to grasp a character's personality when the book is told in 1st person POV? Or do you need a 3rd person narrator to tell you everything? Have you ever heard of "show; don't tell"?
Multiple reviewers seem to think there's too much Google in the book.
OK. But the internet takes the place of magic in this tale. And Clay's visits to Google -- the place of wonder, where the employees are all treated incredibly well and where so many brilliant minds work together to do amazing things -- is much like Frodo's visit to Lothlorian, or Lancelot's trip to Camelot, or -- you get the picture.
And Google is the perfect modern method for finding answers, the answers that are escaping the members of our quest.
Maria Korchagin on Amazon says the book is "unresearched."
Really? I suspect it is she who hasn't done her research, especially since she gives not one example of a mistake supposedly made by Sloan. Perhaps if she'd taken the time to look up a few names, she'd have learned how much Sloan put into this tale.
Numerous reviewers refer to this as a mystery.
Um, no. It's a fantasy tale minus the magic. There's no crime. It's a puzzle to solve.
One goodreads reviewer claimed the romance isn't romantic.
Clay, the protagonist, treats his preferred lover Kat with respect, giving her choices and the space to put work first when she needs to do so. Maybe that's not romantic, but it's decent and considerate and feminist. I'll take it.
Several reviewers claim they don't know much about computers, so this book isn't "for" them.
Good heaven, people, I'm an English teacher, and yet I grasped the computer-ish parts of this book just fine! You don't have to know how to code in order to understand what happens here. And remember: the internet and Google are the "magic" in this book. They are the awesome and profound powers that help to provide conflict and resolution in the plot.
This is a fantastic book. It's one I intend to read over and over. Still, it's probably not for everyone.
If you like fantasy stories, this is your book. If you loved role-playing games back in the day when they weren't online, if you know creative people who make things and have vivid imaginations, this is your book.
If you want a mystery, however, or a bodice-ripper, this is NOT your book.
That being said, I'd give it more than five stars if I could....more
This book was fantastic! Flanders walks the reader from room to room in a Victorian middle class home, enlightening and entertaining as she explains toThis book was fantastic! Flanders walks the reader from room to room in a Victorian middle class home, enlightening and entertaining as she explains topics which vary from why Victorians were so obsessed with covering and draping everything to dealing with annoying solicitors. Her footnotes and research are thorough, widely varied, and useful. If she makes a claim, she backs it up! The book is huge, and yet it is easily readable and flows if it had a plot. I planned to skim it, ended up reading it voraciously, and -- now that it's due back at the library -- will be purchasing my own copy....more
I thoroughly and completely loved Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series, so I was very pleased to see he'd been writing another mystery. I scI thoroughly and completely loved Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series, so I was very pleased to see he'd been writing another mystery. I scarfed up White Magic Five & Dime the second it hit the public library shelves. I was not disappointed. It's freakin' hilarious. (My favorite part is the tarot card reading given by the protagonist, who has no clue what she's doing. Now, I think a lot of tarot cards are very pretty, and I know a little about them, but Hockensmith's description of each card used in the reading scene ought to come with a "swallow first" warning, as the reader will undoubtably spew/choke on anything in her/his mouth while laughing uncontrollably.) This book is billed as a cozy mystery, but I think I'll term it "cozy noir" instead. It's a bit darker than most cozies. The basic plot is that a 36-year-old woman whose real name might possibly be Sophie, but who chose the name Alanis at age 18, arrives in a small town in Arizona because her estranged mother (with whom she's had no contact for 20 years -- and flashback scenes let the reader know why) has been murdered. Alanis has inherited her mother's shop and apartment -- and apparently her teenage apprentice/flunky as well. Alanis' mom has been a con artist for decades, so Alanis isn't at all surprised her mother was murdered. However, she feels the need to find the killer. Naturally, there's a handsome cop involved in this effort. So far it sounds like the average cozy, doesn't it? We have the female protagonist who falls within the correct age-range, the theme or hook (in this case, the tarot shop), a murder, the sexy cop who tries to protect/dissuade the protagonist, and the small town. But, not only is this book funnier than any other cozy I've read before, it has very distinct dark elements. Alanis was with her con-artist mom until she was a teenager; she is not particularly innocent. Her past is dark. She thinks nothing of breaking laws in order to bring about real justice. She does not trust people easily, and therefore, she never falls into the usual cozy scenario of needing to be rescued by the sexy cop or other male figure. I liked this side of the book. Downsides? Well, Clarice's side-plot secrets are incredibly obvious, yet it takes Alanis forever to figure them out, which is annoying. But that's about all I can scrape up. This is a great mystery read: funny, mostly cozy, and just dark enough to break the mold a bit....more
This was probably the most realistic steampunk novel I've ever read. It was like a good crime novel set in an alternate history version of Liverpool. TThis was probably the most realistic steampunk novel I've ever read. It was like a good crime novel set in an alternate history version of Liverpool. The identity of the villain was pretty obvious from the first meeting, but the plot still had plenty of twists at the end that kept me guessing. And the characterization was excellent and layered....more
I must admit that this isn't your ordinary book. For example, if all you read is paranormal romance, this may not be for you. But, if you love awesomeI must admit that this isn't your ordinary book. For example, if all you read is paranormal romance, this may not be for you. But, if you love awesome retro art-deco-ish futuristic artwork or if you love a good choose-your-own-adventure tale or if you love parody, this may well be the book for you. I love the author's website and his art, but I wasn't sure I'd like the book all that much. I was wrong about the latter; I LOVED the book. I had to go through and read all the different parts -- as it's multiple sides to one tale. I'm definitely going to get our school librarian to get a copy of this, too. And it's likely to be on my Christmas shopping list for several people....more
I won an ARC of this book on a goodreads giveaway. However, other than a few minor flaws that I assume were corrected for the "real" book, this was wonI won an ARC of this book on a goodreads giveaway. However, other than a few minor flaws that I assume were corrected for the "real" book, this was wonderful! I am not a film buff, nor did I even know who Lyle Talbot was when I began reading. But the author weaves the history of 20th Century entertainment around her father's life story in a fascinating way. The man was in carnivals, hypnotists shows, traveling theater companies, silent movies, talkies, B-movies (He was in "Plan 9 From Outer Space," the worst movie ever made!), and early sit-coms. Yes, this book is a tribute to a well-loved father, but it's also history. And it's not just about entertainment. Talbot does a good job of covering women's roles, men's roles, alcoholism, organized crime, and attitudes toward sex. I found this book fascinating and plan to buy a few copies to give to family members who will appreciate it....more
This is highly original fantasy, in a world not-quite-like our own. I loved the role changing that HIll uses with characterization here: a strong girlThis is highly original fantasy, in a world not-quite-like our own. I loved the role changing that HIll uses with characterization here: a strong girl and a quiet, thoughtful boy who keeps her calm enough. What a nice change!...more