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review 2020-02-16 00:56
"Shadow Of Night - All Souls Trilogy #2" by Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

A low-key, gently entertaining read with an uneven pace and very little tension.

 

 

"Shadow Of Night" was a slightly disappointing book that I'm hoping will make excellent television (my DVD copy of "A Discovery Of Witches Season 2" arrives next month).

 

It starts immediately where the cliff-hanger ending of "A Discovery Of Witches" left off and immediately looses all of the tension, urgency and sense of threat that the first book had built up.

 

Diana and Matthew have walked back in time to the late sixteenth century to avoid the wrath of the Congregation, find Ashmole 782 (the magic manuscript on alchemy that caused all the aggravation in the first book) and find a witch to teach Diana how to use her newly unbound powers. To me, this sounded like the premise for a fast-paced quest, full of tension and threat. It turned out to be the basis for a fairly leisurely meander through Elizabethan London (meeting absolutely everyone you've ever heard of from that time), a trip back to Sept-Tours in France to meet Matthew's father and a visit to the court of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in Prague. 

 

The historical details were interesting and well presented. They were also a little overwhelming. I felt, at times, that I was reading a "Lonely Planet* tourist guide to sixteenth-century London and Prague. It was often a fascinating guided tour but one that took attention away from why Diana and Matthew were there. The Congregation, although often invoked as a threat, never became one. The search for the book and for a witch to train Diana lost focus as time was spent watching Diana and Matthew go native.

 

There were moments of tension, mainly when Diana was having to deal with direct physical threats but these moments took up very little of the twenty-four hours I spent listening to this book.

 

I liked the scenes in Sept-Tour, which built my picture of Matthew's history and were filled with interesting lore and one of the better scenes of physical threat against Diana.

 

Diana's interaction with the witches teaching her was well done, both in terms of the ideas on how magic worked and the way in which the women worked together.

 

I didn't like how passive Diana was until almost that last third of the book. She's a successful female academic who has carved a niche for herself in a male-dominated world. We kept being told that she's an exceptionally talented witch, albeit one whose powers have been hidden until recently. In the last book, she killed a vampire and defied powerful witches. Yet, once she walked back five centuries, she seemed to have lost all agency. 

 

I get that part of that was her adjusting to being in a time where she lacks basic competency while her husband is in familiar territory and being constantly surrounded by absurdly testosterone-charged predatory males but even so, she seemed a bit too soft to survive. She never completely surrenders herself to the will of the men around her but she reacts. she doesn't plan and she doesn't push. She certainly doesn't stay focused on her goals for being in the past. I found this quite frustrating.

 

In the final part of the book, she finally realises that Matthew's temper and easily-triggered violence are no substitute for a plan. She starts to take charge and to collaborate with other women to achieve her goals.

 

I also found myself being irritated by the unconscious privilege that Diana exhibits and her Lady Bountiful way of dabbling with rescuing people from poverty and ignorance, only to abandon them when it comes time to leave. I also became increasingly aware of how centuries of brutally used power and wealth combined with a we-know-best approach to all problems have resulted in the De Clairmonts and Matthew in particular, being widely hated. I began to hate them more than a little myself. This made it hard for me to see why, no matter how many terrible things Diana found out about Matthew, she remained so besotted with him.

 

Overall, I found this to be a low-key, gently entertaining read with an uneven pace and very little tension.

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review 2020-02-15 20:11
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Mori #2 by Natasha Pulley
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow - Natasha Pulley

I enjoyed 'The Watchmaker of Filigree Street', but the plot lacked real stakes as far as I was concerned. There were also some other tics to the story that weren't satisfying. Pulley has delivered something spectacular this time around.

 

Character still comes first, which I found satisfying, but the foundations of the world Thaniel, Six and Mori live in are shaken. Thaniel is having trouble with his lungs and the air choking fog of London will be the end of him, however he receives a new diplomatic posting to Japan in time to go along with Mori as he returns home to fulfill a mission he set into motion ten years earlier. Electro-magnetic experiments, large quantities of owls, and political machinations threaten to undo Mori's work - his ultimate goal remains a secret to reader for most of the novel.

 

Grace Carrow, now married to Akira Matsumoto and teaching in Tokyo, plays a part in the book as well and is more humane this time around while staying true to her character. The most interesting character is Takiko Pepperharrow, Mori's wife. Pepper, was a close paralell to Thaniel in many ways. She brought herself up from nothing and proudly retains many of her working class mannerisms long after entering higher social circles. After having been rescued by Mori and brought into his life, the broader implications of his clairvoyance trouble her.

 

The novel visits Keita and Takiko's pasts as well as those of the historical Kuroda Kiyotaka. Japan is facing a direct military threat from Russia and from within Japan is still struggling with the changes brought by Western influence and through Meiji reforms.

 

Did I mention ghosts? There are ghosts. The book was a lot of fun to read, it only took me so long to finish because I misplaced the bag it was in for several weeks.

 

Keita Mori

 

Previous: 'The Watchmaker of Filigree Street'

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review 2020-02-15 19:18
Review ~ Disappointing
Cat's Paws and Curses - Nancy Warren

Book source ~ Kindle Unlimited

 

American Lucy Swift is really enjoying running her grandmother’s knitting shop in Oxford. She never thought she would, but here she is. Of course, her grandmother may be dead, but she’s not dead-dead considering she’s a vampire. So Lucy has the benefit of her wisdom as well as that of the whole vampire knitting circle. Lucy has been holding a knitting circle nights right before Christmas so her customers can have a place to knit presents for family. But one evening, when the lights go out and one of the knitters is murdered, the murderer has to be in the same room. One of her knitters is a murderer! What?

 

I love this series because it’s cute, humorous (yes, even with a murder or two), and there’s the paranormal aspect with the knitting vampires and all. Plus, magic because Lucy is also a witch. But this one seemed a tad rushed to me. Maybe because it’s a short story instead of the usual length. It just seemed a bit lacking which is why I dropped the rating down from my usual. However, it’s still a nice mystery and I got to see Rafe and Ian. I wish Lucy would give Ian more of a chance. Rafe is ok, but she seems adamant that she will not be with a vampire, so Ian would be more her speed, even though he’s with law enforcement. Or maybe she needs to meet a witch instead. I’m curious where Lucy’s love life is heading. Looking forward to book 9.

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2020/02/cats-paws-and-curses.html
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review 2020-02-15 02:44
Small Magics
Small Magics - Ilona Andrews

When I saw here on BookLikes that Sweep with Me was out, I went to Ilona Andrew's website to find out more, and noticed the release of a new anthology, published by Subterranean Press.  Yes please!

 

This is a compilation of the short stories Ilona Andrews has written, all previously published elsewhere, and for the first time in print, all the Curren POV's Gordon Andrews has written and posted on their website.  Interspersed are 3? full color illustrations.

 

It's a nice book - not the most impressive I've seen put out by Subterranean, but a good solid book.  I'd read some of the stories before, but enough of them were new to me to make me appreciate having bought it.

 

My only gripe with the book is with the Curran POVs.  As a character, these stories don't always flatter Curran, but that's trivial.  What is really disappointing, though, is the poor copy-editing of the Curran stories.  On the website, they're clear to state that the stories were written for fun, not edited, yada yada.  And that's totally understandable.  But I'd have though when it comes to publishing a limited release, numbered, signed, illustrated edition, the publisher, if not the authors themselves, would have wanted to take the time and make the effort to correct, at the very least, the most glaring omissions and errors (lots of the, a, an articles missing, or misplaced).

 

Ah well, a good collection that might have been great, but still welcome on my shelves.

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review 2020-02-15 01:35
Sweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles Novella)
Sweep with Me - Ilona Andrews

Fun; brief but it packs a punch at the end.  This one is for those who've already read the other Innkeeper Chronicle books, though there's enough 'tell' sprinkled throughout that a first-timer wouldn't be totally confused.  They would be totally spoiled for the others though, as there are spoilers to previous plots in the text.

 

A lot of the secondary cast are 'away' for this story, so Orro gets a bit more attention, and it appears Dina is making new friends.  Not sure if we'll see them again, as this novella has a pretty tidy HEA ending, but they'll be welcome additions to any future Innkeeper books.

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