Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 4)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2011
A steampunk historical mystery review

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Alexia Tarabotti faces continued assassination attempts on her person with hilarious resignation. Not so when a deranged ghost reports a plot against the queen. Alexia’s investigations lead her headlong into the Kingair plot of the past, the secrets of other women, and oh, yes-her final month of pregnancy.

Firmly back in London, and in control of husband, home, and helping, Alexia’s indomitable spunk and efficiency return this series to the light-hearted antics of Soulless. Heartless allows Alexia to upend supernatural society, even while it delves more deeply into her supporting cast. Biffy, Lyle, and Lord Maccon all hold together and even out the tone of this work so that the deep undertones begun in Blameless continue to support the world and characters of this creamier, more refreshing novel, like a tart on firm, chocolate crust. With plenty of fun and significant revelations, Heartless is an enjoyable rush to a climactic, parasol-dropping crescendo that will have you searching for the last book in Gail Carriger’s series.

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

By: Kaitlin Bevis

(http://kaitlinbevis.com/)

Published by: Euterpe (July 5, 2012)

A young adult fantasy review

 

Persephone suspects she is going crazy.  The wind whispers her name and she often feels she is being watched.  Then her mother tells her she is a goddess, so clearly craziness is catching.  Being attacked by the god of winter and carried off to the Underworld by Hades don’t help Persephone’s day.  Ironically, they do convince her that her family is sane, if different.  Now Persephone’s only obstacles are learning how to be a goddess, the obsession of the lustful god Boreas, ruling as queen of the Underworld, and trying to regain control over her life.  Also, finding oneself in a permanent, political marriage to the god of the Underworld can get tricky.  Hades proves a very different god than Persephone imagined.

I found Persephone fresh, fun, and easy to read.  Bevis modernizes Greek mythology by creating her own history of what changing values and worship systems would do to the deities, rather than simply updating them like Rick Riordan.  Her alterations are engaging and change the stakes so that readers get to encounter well-known myths with fresh eyes.  (Yes, I am using the word “fresh” a lot because it’s about the goddess of spring.)  I can’t wait to find out more about the gods in her world-I wish there’d been a bit more exposition just filling me in.

I enjoyed this heroine.  Persephone’s discovery that she is a goddess is the most authentic, plausible supernatural-acceptance narrative I’ve ever read.  She felt so organic that she came across as a truly strong heroine without it seeming like the author was trying to make her one; she just was.  Her personality grounded the novel and grew in the spotlight, no matter what else was happening.  Plus, Persephone’s practically the only time I’ve seen a short girl in this supernatural role.

Bevis very deliberately leaves no stone unturned in creating a Hades whose character is positive.  His Underworld has a lot to offer and is wonderfully fleshed out.  The supporting cast is compelling, rather than just plotpoints.  There’s enough action to keep the pacing quick.  She does assume enough knowledge of Greek mythology that, while readers won’t be lost, they might not enjoy the novel as much if they aren’t in the know.  The myths Bevis actually retells successfully marry familiar myths with her versions of the characters.  The overarching plot that extends to the sequels is promising.

So basically, as Persephone renews the earth, Persephone renews her story.  What’s not to like about spring?  I recommend it.

 

(Review for the sequel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/daughter-of-earth-and-sky-daughters-of-zeus-2/)

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/694/ (Connections between Greek myth and “The Little Mermaid”)

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/modern-may-queen/ (Katniss as May Queen poem)

Royal Favour (The John Swale Chronicles)

Royal Favour  (The John Swale Chronicles #4)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

This short work tells the next chapter for John and Elizabeth after they return to England.  The friction between the two pulls the book together with its rawness and reality.

Pilling’s tone remains gripping as ever.  There are some time jumps in Royal Favour that could be better defined, particularly in such a short work.  Nevertheless, the historical context is beautiful, the gritty atmosphere engaging, and the protagonists’ perspectives well delivered in this tale of the vagaries of leaders and luck.

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2011
an historical fiction review

Queen Isabella of England prepares to attack her husband Edward II with the aid of her lover, Mortimer.  England’s lords and law keepers scramble to make the most of the weak king’s corrupt reign.  Hugh Despenser the Younger, the king’s favorite, feels his world threatening to crumble.  Hugh’s one loyal night, Sir John Swale, sets out on a simple mission and finds himself caught amidst outlaws, family feuds, and increasingly lethal encounters.  It’s the year 1326 and the law of the land is simple: there is no law, only different masters.

            Folville’s Law takes readers through many different perspectives.  Everyone’s world is narrow, full of their own ambitions and motivations.  David Pilling does an excellent job at keeping his audience abreast of circumstances from the individual to the international while juggling storylines and his characters’ perceptions.  All of the voices Pilling uses to tell his tale are strong, consistent, and eminently human.  No one is concerned with an overarching history more than their own welfare; no one is outside their immediate surroundings and limited knowledge.  Royals, bandits, and widows all show glimpses into different lifestyles, giving Pilling’s book a more up-front and direct feeling of authenticity than many.

          Folville’s Law fights and schemes through its pages, maintaining a quick and exciting reading pace.  The ensemble cast and swiftly switching perspectives draw readers into the history and action of the plot, but also make it difficult to connect to any of the characters.  The many actors and subplots make Pilling’s debut novel engaging, an excellent lead work for a series (now in its seventh book).  Throughout, Pilling wields a distinctive tone, a knack for explaining complications with flair, and a strategically balanced sense of pacing.

In a nutshell, Folville’s Law is a gritty, well-researched adventure without a hero, just an array of humans.  If you’re looking for romance, this is not the book for you.  For historical interest, action, and intrigue, I recommend this work.  It’s always good when I’m left still wanting to know what happens next.

Fortune’s Fool

Fortune’s Fool (sequel to Master of Verona and Voice of the Falconer)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Blixt’s Star-Cross’d series has always been bursting with secrets, additional flavor for the action-filled plots.  Fortune’s Fool, however, allows secrets the place of prominence.  While plenty of incidents occur throughout this novel, the driving force behind this part of Blixt’s story is mystery.  Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s oldest son, finds his mission to the Avignon papacy opposed by a hidden foe.  Antonia Alighieri and Cangrande both face unknown malefactors.  Cesco encounters a mysterious assailant.  In the midst of grappling with religion, politics, and changing relationships, Blixt’s characters must deal with their personal puzzles and endure their separate trials.

This book differs from its predecessors in many ways.  The shift from action to mystery slows the pace, considerably where Pietro is concerned.  The overall isolation of the characters from each other for much of the story changes the personal dynamics not only for them, but for the readers.  The prior two novels highlighted a couple main characters, while this one’s focus is more spread out.  More significantly, this narrative brings a darker, more raw feel to the story.  While sex, malice, and the message that life is pain have always been a part of this story, Fortune’s Fool throws those elements front and center.  It feels like the middle of a story, where things get sticky and difficult to chew.  The discovery that Fortune’s Fool began as the middle of a longer sequel that had to be split up put this book in the frame I was comfortable with.  Blixt fleshed out this novel enough to hold my attention and build my intrigue, but it lacked that special luster I expect from finishing a Blixt book.  Knowing that there’s another installation to come in this arc explains everything.  The second part of any trilogy tends to offer more darkness and less gratification; if it holds up and builds the story then it works.  Fortune’s Fool certainly achieves that!       

This work contains many compelling pieces.  The verbal sparring remains brilliant, more side characters get a chance to shine, and we get a taste of new love.  The writing style is still excellent, if heavier.  The cast don’t get to play off each other as much, but their individual journeys keep them whole and emotionally connected to their audience.  In short, everything in this book works well.  As the second of a three-part installation, it works very well.  It would be even better if there had been something to chase that sticky, hard-to-chew, filling taste.  When you bite into that candy, you want the filling to be there, working with that sweet outer shell of chocolate.  Without that sliver of sweetness to encase it, the taste is missing an element of satisfaction.  Like a good filling, I enjoyed this book very much, but…now I want my chocolate shell.