by Katherine Addison
The first chapter was enough to tell me this one is for world building Fantasy fans, the kind who loved Lord of the Rings. We've got elves, political intrigue and an airship crash that results in a new emperor. I can see why reviews on this one are polarized, as it has some hard to pronounce names and other earmarks of old school Fantasy. Personally, I was hooked by the end of that first chapter. Bring on more!
Maia is half-elf half-goblin, a disregarded fourth son relegated to exile after his mother's death. He might have been forgotten forever, but an airship crash that kills his father and brothers leaves him as next in line to the throne. With his mixed blood and lack of training for court life, there is bound to be adjustment issues at the least.
The story is heavy on political intrigue, but very well done. Maia is a very likable character and I enjoyed watching him rise to the situation and find his strengths, overcoming an abusive childhood. I thought he struck a good balance, seeking advice on protocol from those he could trust and recognizing when courtiers were trying to bully or trick him into doing what they wanted.
The aspect of mystery was good too. Several characters are introduced who might have the sort of ambitions that might have resulted in sabotage of the royal entourage's airship. The story kept my attention and had me wondering which of the more slimy characters might have been behind it, or whether there could have been a conspiracy.
Some other likeable characters arise as well, though I found myself wondering who might have hidden motives, even among the apparent 'good guys'.
One thing that surprised me was the spiritual aspect of Maia's goblin heritage. I find it fascinating that stories about goblins that look into their society are increasingly Shamanic or spiritual in some way. It's an interesting trend.
I did find the book hard to put down in the later chapters, falling asleep late at night but determined to finish one more chapter. In the end the mystery was solved and the book came to a tidy end, but I'm hoping there will be more books in this world. Despite stumbling a little over convoluted names, I really enjoyed the read and may even look into some of the author's other books under her other pen name.
THE MYSTICS OF MILE END
Paperback; 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 13, 2015)
It took a while to "get into" this book. Set in Montreal, Canada in a Jewish neighborhood, the story follows a widowed father with his 2 children as the each deal with what being Jewish means to them.
Even with my slow start, I found myself liking the characters more and more. Sigal Samuel's writing style flows well as she tells first the son's story, then the father, and finally bringing everything and everyone together in the daughter's section. Even the neighbors and friends are developed well. A lot of questions, some answers, and an intimate look at each of the major characters as they look for the meaning in their lives.
“But the heaviest things, I think, are the secrets. They can drown you if you let them.”
― Ally Carter
“Let them think what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank — but that’s not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
― P.T. Barnum
Tragedy and loss are sounds. The slip of waves across rock. The cry of a loon across a dark lake. The patter of rain against midnight windows.
They are water, streaming from here to there, giving life. And taking it away.
His mother, Paulina, circus performer, fortune-teller, magician’s assistant, and mermaid, walked into the water when he was seven. His father soon followed, destroyed by grief. And only Simon, and his baby sister Enola, remain. Simon, a lonely young librarian, who clings to the home he grew up in, which itself clings desperately to the edge of the cliff above the sea, falling to wrack and ruin, a mere memory, a ghost of the warm family home it once was. Simon, who lives alone while his sister, like her mother before her, lives the life of the circus, the carnival, reading the fortunes of the lonely, the lovelorn, the lost.
But then, the book arrives. And time begins to waver, back and forth through time, the past melding with the present through the words of yet another “walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.”* A poor player indeed, who struts and frets across a traveling carnival stage. There is magic here. Magic and pain and loss and death.
Simon’s tale reaches back, back to Hermelius H. Peabody’s Portable Magic and Miracles Traveling Show. Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education. Hermelius H. Peabody, who one day comes upon a real Wild Boy – a Wild Boy who was left in the woods to die, and instead lives – lives, and learns to listen to the water. Learns to vanish.
“The Book of Speculation” is a small miracle. History and mystery, mysticism and the water. Always, always the water. A lost book, a lost soul. A lost history found, beliefs crumpled.
And the water sings, its quiet song of death.
I received “The Book of Speculation” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.