Great book. The plot is excellent -- an epic journey involving three young men hunted by evil, a sorceress who protects them, and her mysterious bodyguard. The little group travels the land, running away from the 'Dark One' and dodging his evil spawn -- trollocks, vampire-like flying creatures, and soulless "half-men." The final battle of good and evil is more imaginative than expected.
However, a warning to the impatient: the first few chapters are distinctly uninteresting -- the author's trying to lay the foundations, and nothing much happens. But wait it out until the village is attacked by trollocks. Then the pace will pick up, and you'll be hooked. I've already downloaded book two.
Well, I never thought I'd say this of a Heyer, but... I was bored by chapter five, and I'm still bored. I'm about three-quarters of the way through the most unengaging of her novels.
The plot in a nutshell: Viscount Sherry, an immature "young blood", marries Hero, the extremely naive little girl who has always adored him. They go to London, and Hero proceeds to fall into various uninteresting scrapes. The story becomes more and more convoluted -- a duel, gaming losses, a horse race, a flight from her husband, an entanglement with another man... On and on it goes. Not having finished the book, I have no idea how it all ends. But I wish it would already.
The characters: neither of the protagonists inspire me with any real interest in their welfare. Hero is silly from start to finish. Her character does not develop at all. Instead, she spends practically the entire book idiotically stumbling from scrape to scrape. Moreover, her adoration of so scatterbrained a husband is contemptible. Then there is the husband himself. Sherry is endowed with none of those qualities that make Heyer's male protagonists so likable. Evenness of temper, a sense of humor, intelligence, or even common sense -- he possesses none of these traits. Instead, he is rash, unreliable and absurdly boyish. Not at all attractive, so the romance falls flat on its face. And the rest of the story is one silly tangle after another. Sherry's three cronies are the best of the lot; but even they detract from the story by hopelessly convoluting matters.
The narration: several reviewers complained that Eve Matheson was unjust to the characters -- but in my opinion, she rendered each exactly right. Sherry sounds obnoxious because he is obnoxious; and Hero's mousy, childish voice is an absolute reflection of her character. It's not Matheson's fault -- it's Heyer.
If you haven't already, listen to "Cotillion" and "Unknown Ajax" -- they contain a much better cast of characters. That's Heyer at her best. "Friday's Child" is most decidedly not.
A modern fantasy involving witches, vampires and demons. The witch is naturally gifted but lacks formal training in her powers. When she stumbles across a secret manuscript, she becomes a target for more powerful witches. The vampire falls in love with her and protects her.
The characters are typical: gorgeous vampire, and a witch with all the "right" habits -- stubborn, independent, career-oriented, wears no make-up, likes to run, whatever... like a million other female protagonists in stories of this kind. In short, slightly annoying, not at all unique, and completely implausible as an object of romantic affection. Nor is the vampire better. He's typically "perfect" in every way -- handsome, virile, mature, sophisticated -- and utterly unmemorable. Nothing sets him apart from the throng of mainstream vampires plaguing teen novels and the big screen.
Despite the bland characterization, the storyline is moderately complex, and interesting enough to stick with, especially if you want to unwind with an easy listen. However, if you're a stickler for quality performance, listen to the sample first, before spending a credit on the book. The reader's British accent is unconvincing, and she often makes the witch protagonist sound whiny.
All in all, fine but not great.
I absolutely adore this book. The dialogue is hilarious and original, and the hero is eminently likeable. I'm also touched at the way Heyer handles the minor characters -- especially one with mental limitations. Such people are often the butt of jokes in novels of this kind, but Heyer displays real sympathy with hers. I think "Cotillion" is the best, funniest, most sparkling and most human of her novels -- and I've read them all.
I tried the series, heartened by comparisons to Terry Pratchett and Jane Austen. After two weary installments, I throw in the towel. I greatly, even passionately disliked this book. Alexia Tarabotti is shallow -- more so than in the first of the series. Her character is flat and her wit often ill-timed and rude. Moreover, the sexual descriptions are unnecessarily detailed and detract from the story. Unfortunately, I often felt that they were the real, the only reason this book was written -- and that the rest of the storyline was just so much padding. Look elsewhere for wit and insight.
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