Bits of wit throughout, and a nice construction of a new story on the frame of the classic. I admire the concept. I just wish it had been executed better.
The novel lost me when the heroine rips open the heart of a noblewoman's ninja retainer and eats it. Completely fractured my suspension of disbelief. (if you think about a novel in which zombies are lured into traps by cauliflower, my suspension of disbelief must have been pretty elastic to start!)
Too many elements executed without sufficient subtlety.
Ms. Duerden is the best thing about this book; every character has a distinctive voice, and I can almost pick out on a map of Great Britain where that character was born & educated. Several times I was so fascinated by the accent that I had to skip back to listen to what they were saying. Beyond the regional accents, the voice work made the minor characters individuals.
The underlying text is adequate. I can't quite agree with those who have compared this to Stross' Laundry series or others. Stross manages to convey that the impersonal forces of bureaucracy and institution are just as dreadful as horrors from beyond space, and for some of the same reasons - both are beyond our comprehension, neither have any mercy or interest in our welfare, and the best we can hope for is to remain invisible to either. Mr. O'Malley's book doesn't quite reach that standard. The bureaucracy of the Chequy reminds me more of a squabbling set of middle school children, and the protagonist all too often obtains victory by being the only adult in the room. There are some very good characterizations, I just wish there were more of them, and they were invested more deeply. I wish that the plot emerged more fully from the motivation and understanding of the characters - it feels like the characters are floating on a sea of plot.
If the characters are slightly shallow, the world is correspondingly rich. Mr. O'Malley is at his best when building a creative original world based on historical myth and legend. Too many other authors of modern urban fantasy are derivative, recycling pop culture over and over until it bears no more resemblance to mythology than processed cheese food product does to anything. (I hesitate to put Mr. O'Malley in the category of Urban Fantasy, because "Urban Fantasy" now sees to require a plot of "Heartbreakingly beautiful butt kicking heroine can't choose between the good guy and the bad guy who both love her." - a trope which I am overjoyed to say is missing from Mr. O'Malley's work.)
The plotting was solid, but somewhat obscured by the style of the work. One of the other reviewers commented that the device of "letters to my future self" worked in the beginning of the book, but interfered with the middle/end. I'd have to reluctantly agree; I thought it was a clever stylistic device, but about midway through, when I was getting involved in the plot, something went wrong. I think if I hadn't been distracted, I would have enjoyed the whole book more. The plot is well constructed and complex. I had all the information the main character had (with one exception), and nobody was making progress by behaving stupidly (again with one exception, but that character had a very solid reason to behave stupidly; reasoned, considered foresight would have been out of character for that individual). There were multiple layers, with multiple levels of revelation after the big reveal.
Ultimately I don't think I'd read/listen to the next book in the series (if there were one), but I might very well try again if Mr. O'Malley wrote something different.
And I will search for more works read by Ms. Duerden.
The voice acting on this was fantastic; every character has a distinct and individual voice, and the accents are spot on for the class or origin (as far as I can tell).
The story however contains some fairly serious flaws. I despise stories where the protagonist makes progress only because the antagonist is dumber than a box of rocks. In this case the story makes progress largely because the protagonist makes error after error.
When the main character discovers a dead body, she writes an incriminating note establishing her presence at the scene, then leaves the house to create an alibi that is thinner than onionskin paper.
The book is driven too much by the romantic tropes (in which the only thing that matters to the progress of the novel is the obstacles to our hero's eventual union with the object of her affection) and not enough of the mystery tropes (in which clues, evidence and deduction carry the story). Neither the protagonist nor the antagonist act rationally, which leads to an incoherent and unbelievable mystery. If I'd know it was a romance novel, I'd have chosen something else.
I disliked the plotting, but the writing was good - the dialogue mostly comes off very well, and when the characters motivations aren't hijacked in the service of a commonplace romance plot, the characters are engaging and vivid. I'm particularly fond of the heroine's confidant and old school chum, and of Her Majesty. And the voice performance redeemed quite a few of the rough spots.
This book was a bad choice for me, but could be a good choice for you.
Yet another entry in the "I have power that your mortal minds cannot conceive, but I'll do essentially nothing throughout the book" collection.
I simply can't identify with a protagonist who has no flaws, has awesome power (but does nothing with it). She's so good at everything that she can carve her initials into a man's buttocks with a bullwhip. She's immortal. She's got awesome and dangerous artifacts. How do I connect with that character? She's saving the world from certain doom. How do I connect with that character? Why do I care what happens to her?
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