Natalie's Reviews > The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede
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Feb 09, 09

bookshelves: young-adult-books
Read in February, 2009

This book was cumbersome. Again, the authors engaged in the Letter Game, but this time the main characters, Kate and Cecily were side by side, involved in the same plot. It was interesting to see the different points of view with which they approached each event, but the way the story was set up, it was fraught with problems that plagued the plot and made the story drag.
Cousins Kate and Cecy are on their honeymoons – touring Europe with their husbands, who are best of friends. They stumble across international intrigue that suggests someone is trying to use magic to bring Napoleon Bonaparte back to power. Kate writes the events of a day or two in her commonplace book (diary), then we read an excerpt from Cecily’s deposition to the British Ministry of Magic, the War Office, and the Foreign Office, which covers the next day or days. Thus, the characters leapfrog in their explanation of events. It is interesting to note Cecy’s direct development of plot, twists, and forthright telling of events. Kate is much better at creating atmosphere, developing relationships, and adding the personal touch with an occasional and usually humorous ‘note bene’.
Beyond that, the story has problems. If both authors are writing about the same characters in the same rooms, the characters never develop completely. When Cecy’s narrative involves Kate’s husband, Thomas, as it naturally must, we see a different Thomas than the one that Kate writes about. Instead of lending richness to his character, his personality becomes so blurred that he becomes more of a bland pawn of the plot, than the unpredictable rascal with the stinging retorts that we came to love in the first book. The same is true for Cecy’s husband, James when Kate is writing. Each author writes not only about her own character, but tells what the others are saying and doing at any moment, and the essential nuances that help the reader visualize setting and personality are lost.
The plot also suffers. The pace drags. (This book is half again as long as the first book, but develops only one storyline instead of two.) It is clear the authors are not discussing the plot, as the rules of the Letter Game dictate, so each advances the action just so much, then leaves hints for the other to pick up and develop. The hints are sometimes ignored, sometimes dwelt on too deeply, and often lead nowhere important. It was much more interesting in the last book when each character had her own adventure to relate – the other could comment, sympathize, offer advice, but couldn’t actually act in such a way to significantly redirect the plot. Here it seems that each author has an idea about what could happen, but doesn’t want to take the action too far – so as not to overshadow each other. After all, though there are many opportunities for extreme suspense (i.e. James is shot and Cecy nearly blows herself up), the characters recover in a matter of hours or days, all along assuring everyone that they are perfectly fine. It’s as if one author doesn’t dare put the other author’s character into anything resembling real danger. The reader senses this polite restraint, and wishes they would actually do something! When there is actual suspense, in the last sixty pages, I finally couldn’t put the book down.
There are far too many loose ends and sudden character entrances and exits. Why does Lady Sylvia play such a prominent part in the first sections, then suddenly have so little influence in the rest? After all, much is made of her extensive network – why does it really not come to any significant purpose? Are there only a wizards in Britain? Apart from a select few characters, positioned as authorities on the clues they seek, why do our couples not encounter any other normal, magical folk like themselves?
I’m looking forward, with some reservation, to the next book. The dust jacket suggests that the authors return to the successful formula of the first book, in which the characters don’t actually meet during the course of events. That story takes place ten years later – will it be written from the point of view of their daughters?
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Angela "Cumbersome" is a great word for it. I really liked how well you identified the problems created by the non-epistolary version of the letter game. I never had trouble keeping the characters straight in the first book, but in this one I started to have those "wait, who's talking? and, hang on, is James her husband, or the other one?" moments. The loose ends hanging off the plot bothered me as well.

Your thoughts were very insightful, and I really enjoyed reading your opinions. Thanks for a very well-written review.


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