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Search tags: Historical-Fantasy
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review 2019-12-09 21:52
The Guinevere Deception / Kiersten White
The Guinevere Deception - Kiersten White

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

 

An excellent re-invention of the King Arthur mythos. Taking a cue from The Mists of Avalon, this version is told from the perspective of Guinevere, a changeling girl sent by Merlin to be King Arthur’s bride.

The big problem is that magic has been banished from Camelot and Guinevere is a manic pixie dream girl! She is looking at the relationship like a job and Arthur is willing to humour her, but as they spend more and more time together, both of them start to think that perhaps they would like to expand that role….now how do they let their desires be known?

White uses some interesting changes in relationships (Mordred isn’t Arthur’s illegitimate son) and some wonderful changes in gender of at least one character to make this a very up-to-date feeling version of the Arthur cycle. By doing so, she freshens up a story that most of us feel that we’re pretty familiar with.

I can hardly wait for the next installment in 2020

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review 2019-11-03 22:28
The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl / Theodora Goss
The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl - Theodora Goss

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club...especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucinda van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

 

Forget the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, because now we have The Athena Club. I guess we could call it the League of Monstrous Gentlewomen. Another of the feminist versions of the Victorian time period with plenty of girl power (although the main characters do get justifiably huffy about being called girls when they are full grown women).

Even the female villains outsmart their male counterparts in this particular volume. The women of the Athena Club may sometimes doubt their abilities, but they pull off the caper (with the help of Ayesha of course). Just like most women, they doubt themselves unnecessarily. Plus, they get to rescue Sherlock Holmes!

I know that this series is technically wrapped up with this third book, but it seems to me that there are enough loose threads and unexplored avenues that further adventures could follow, if the author can persuade the publisher to continue. Fingers crossed that there will eventually be another book about the Athena Club!

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review 2019-11-03 22:26
The Art of Theft / Sherry Thomas
The Art of Theft - Sherry Thomas

As "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
 
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
 
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia's admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake...

 

One of the best aspects of my 2019 summer reading list (The Summer of Sherlock) was the discovery of this charming series, the Lady Sherlock series. I’m really enjoying a lot of these feminist revisionist Victorian adventures! The Victorian age as it should have been.

I love Charlotte Holmes as a character and I relate to her when she would rather be at home with a cup of tea and a pastry than out in the world pursuing criminals! I rather favour coffee and popcorn, but it’s the same idea. I have to laugh at her concept of Maximum Tolerable Chins, which is the point at which she restricts her pastry consumption until her clothing fits more comfortably. Been there, done that, my dear Charlotte!

My only disappointment with this book was that it did not deal with the Treadles’ plot line until the very last pages! I really want to know what happens between Inspector and his wife, but it seems that I must wait for the next book.

In the meanwhile, I have to applaud the author for being able to bring Charlotte and Lord Ingram together and then separate them so skillfully, retaining the romantic pursuit and it’s accompanying plot tension into the fourth book of the series. Of course I am also interested in the Livia and Stephen Marbleton situation, but it is Charlotte & Ash who command my attention in terms of relationships.

Ms. Thomas also uses the Maharani’s character deftly as a way to explore colonialism and to introduce a person of colour into the very white, upper-class world that the main characters inhabit.

All in all, I will be very excited when Book 5 is published, hopefully next year.

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review 2019-10-28 20:35
Blameless / Gail Carriger
Blameless - Gail Carriger

Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto.

 

I can’t believe that I neglected this series for so long! It is such fun! Gail Carriger has a sense of humour that I understand and appreciate. I love her steampunk Victorian world with its werewolves, vampires, and the Soulless, like her main character Alexia. It’s this addition of a new category of supernatural which really gives her an advantage--when you create something new, you can write something original and fresh.

I’m highly disappointed that my city library doesn’t have the remaining two volumes of this series. I’ve placed an interlibrary loan request for the next one, as I know for sure that I want to read it. I’m pleased to note that she has two more related series, Finishing School and The Custard Protocol, which I also look forward to reading.

When I originally began reading steampunk fantasies, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. However, as I encounter more of them that are well done, such as this series, I have been converted. Now they are among my favourites. I think the modern attitudes, juxtaposed with the Victorian sensibility, makes for excellent opportunities for humour.

I’m late to the party, Ms. Carriger, but I’m enjoying myself immensely now and I’ll be staying right until the end!

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review 2019-10-23 22:28
Die on Your Feet / S.G. Wong
Die on Your Feet - S.G. Wong

Lola Starke is a PI with a trust fund. Not that she gets everything she wants—or doesn't want. Like being rid of her Ghost, Aubrey O'Connell, for instance. But in Crescent City, Ghosts are commonplace and Hosts are supposed to be happy about it. So Lola's learned to bide her time. It's served her well as a gwai girl raised in a Chinese city.

When two disparate clients won't take 'no' for an answer, Lola reluctantly agrees to both. She and Aubrey are quickly entangled in a murky puzzle of government officials, drug addicts, angry cops, and the gossamer threads of a dangerous plot. Soon enough, the past comes calling with bad news and worse enemies.

This is the '30s and this is Crescent City, where mah-jongg parlours and film studios hold sway. Where the City's highest official is a Ghost with unimpeachable power and a history with Lola's mother. Where secrets last only as long as it takes money to change hands—or a gun to pry them loose.

 

 

I read this book to fill the Ghost Stories square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

I bought this book at the annual writers & readers conference that I attend because I heard the author speak in several sessions that I attended and I was intrigued by her description of her work. Unfortunately, the fit between my tastes and her writing isn’t the best, but it was still a decent read.

Wong has created an interesting world for her characters to inhabit--she doesn’t exactly specify where it is located, but with it’s mash-up of Asian culture, hard-boiled detective, and paranormal elements, we can assume that it is an alternate version of California. She works very hard to make Lola into a female version of Philip Marlowe. The problem is that it’s really difficult to write anywhere near as elegantly as Raymond Chandler, making the comparison of Lola and Marlowe quite unequal.

This seems to be a California that has been dominated by Asian influence, with Christianity and European culture being minority elements. It gives the Caucasian reader of European background a small taste of what it is like to be a minority group, a salutary experience.

Ghosts feature as major characters, but I found them to be much more limited than what I expected. The majority of ghosts are tied to a human host, although the ghostly Mayor of this fictional city has seemingly found a way to stay vital in the world without such tethering. I guess it is realistic that each ghost would have different abilities, just as each person does.

I’m glad that I finally read this book, which I’ve owned for several years now. I like to support local writers and I’m glad that I liked the book.

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