As I mentioned in my review for Outlander, I started this series with the fourth book by accident. I was just out of high school, my mom was having health issues and I was the one who was driving her around to her various appointments and spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. So when I saw this book sitting on the new releases shelf in the bookstore, the only thing I cared about what that it looked interesting and it was thick. It would give me hours and hours and hours of reading time. So I got it, started reading, and got to around a quarter of the way through when I realized this was part of an ongoing series. I kept reading though and enjoyed it. It provided exactly what I needed at the time and even got me to go back and read the first three books.
Now, twenty plus years later ... this got annoying. It starts off really slow and rambling. All the books in this series ramble, but it gets worse the longer the series goes on. The first three books at least have obvious plots right off the bat. This one takes over 500 pages to get around to it's main conflict, and up till then it's basically just the four main characters doing stuff. I still really enjoy Claire and Jamie's relationship, but I couldn't give two figs about Briana and Roger's courtship, especially when Roger gets all caveman about it.
I was never a fan of Briana, but wow. For someone so smart, she can be really stupid. Roger's kind of a jerk but he's tolerable. Neither one is prepared for 18th century living, despite both of them being history majors. They not only lie to each other about crucial things, but they make one reckless decision after another. How in the world they survived is beyond me.
Actually, the main conflict isn't exactly what I would call contrived. Considering what Bree's been through and that she just barely met her father, her decisions make sense, even if they're illogical. Given what Lizzy thinks she knows, and what she tells Ian and Jamie, their actions also make sense. What doesn't make sense is
Claire not telling Jamie what Briana told her. She could've done that and kept Bonnet's name out of it.
Also, if you're looking for someone, a physical description usually helps.
Also, both Claire and Briana went by different last names when they went through the stones, so it makes zero sense they wouldn't consider Roger doing the same.
Also, Jamie would've killed Roger based on the info Lizzy told him. But of course he couldn't because the reader - and Bree - wouldn't be able to forgive him if he had.
The Big Misunderstanding required these characters who are usually extremely good with communication to be really bad at it.
And it's just a little ridiculous that these characters are all encountering the same villain no matter where they are in the world.
But once I got through all that nonsense and the characters all started to act like their intelligent, rational selves again, it got way better. The last third of the book is definitely the strongest.
Not enough Lord John though.
I hate that he sleeps with one of the slaves. It's not on page, but it's implied. I guess I can have a smidgeon of consolation that John wouldn't have forced himself on anyone unwilling, and he's a pretty perceptive fellow, so he could probably tell if someone was just pretending to be willing. But still. Don't sleep with slaves, John.
Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention the narration. Davina Porter does her usual stellar job, but she doesn't even attempt an American accent for Briana. I guess she's the UK's answer to Kevin Costner. ;) But since I'd rather listen to a pleasant British accent than a terrible American (much less Bostonian) one, I wasn't bothered by it too much.
Roshaun - 4 stars
When we first met Roshaun, he was an obnoxious prince with very little care about anyone around him. Or so he seemed. While he never really changed much, the more we learned about him and the world he comes from, the easier it was to understand him. And it's kind of hard to hate a guy who loves lollipops that much.
Of the three central characters here, he's the one whose Ordeal we knew nothing about prior to this collection. It was fascinating then to go back to a time prior to when we met him and see what he was like as a kid and how it was like for him to grow up in an environment where daily assassination attempts against the royal family are treated the same as picking up the mail. Unsurprisingly, the Lone Power tempts him with the opportunity to get away from it all, and Roshaun's Ordeal becomes a particularly interesting game of subterfuge.
Mamvish - 2 stars
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, except that Mamvish had been a favorite despite not knowing very much about her. We knew already that the LP never showed up for Mamvish's Ordeal, so I wasn't surprised to see this was the shortest story of the three. I was surprised that instead of telling us the story of Mamvish's Ordeal, we got a mythical telling of Mamvish's birth and youth as she goes on a quest to fix her world after the LP ravaged it.
The world-building here is both extremely imaginative and frustrating. Aside from the gross out factor (the Tuawff are forced into cannibalism to survive the extinction-level event caused by the LP), it just doesn't make a whole lot sense. The mythical style of the tale gets repetitive fast and large chunks of time go by without much of anything happening. Mamvish goes on this epic quest to become the best, strongest, fastest and smartest Tuawff ever so she can fix her planet, and the way the story ends we have no idea if she does or even if she ever attempts it.
Disappointing, disjointed and not very appetizing. I admit, I skimmed quite a bit of this one.
Ronan - 4 stars
In contrast to the other two, we've gotten to know Ronan over several books in this seres and we knew a good deal about his Ordeal already from when he told Nita about it in A Wizard Abroad. This then becomes more about seeing the specific events, including the parts Ronan left out, and how exactly wizardry works differently for Irish wizards. It was a joy to see Ronan have so much fun with the Knowledge as he's first experiencing it, and of course there was the One's Champion and the LP playing an ongoing tug-of-war over Ronan's fate as both tried to influence his choices - and it wasn't always easy to tell who was goading him which way either. ;)
Charlie and Travis are back again with Ma, George and their pet wombat, Nugget. For those of you who don't know, like me, wombats are kind of mini-pig/gopher-looking things:
Also, they're illegal to own as pets, so it's a little weird that didn't become an issue in one of the subplots in this book.
Oh, and they have square poop. Why wasn't this brought up? Of all the things Travis doesn't seem to know about, despite growing up on a Texas ranch, that would be the thing that should've caused a comment but didn't.
Anyway, I'm off topic.
This is a culmination of Charlie's part of the story, and it was nice to see him coming fully out of his shell, learning to communicate with those around him and rely on them. He's got a lot on his plate, but he's really settled into his skin and if he had one more challenge to face, it was learning to stand on his own. While Travis might have helped him to open up, he didn't bring out anything in Charlie that wasn't already there. There was a teensy bit of Big Misunderstanding there that felt on the contrived side that I don't think was even necessary to get Charlie to where he ended up, but eh. YMMV.
The family drama was...unexplained to say the least.
Why did Charlie's dad tell his mom to get rid of her pregnancy? That part was never explained. They already had one kid, after all, so what would've been wrong with having a second one?
That part really needed to be more fleshed out. As it stands right now, the answer seems to boil down to "just cuz." Still, it gave Charlie another part of himself to come to terms with and grow from, and that was neat.
This did start off a little slowly, since Charlie had to feed Nugget every other paragraph, which got repetitive fast. It ended strong though, so despite the fact that the editing is actually getting worse with each installment, this one still gets a four-star rating.
More fun with Tom and Phil as they get wrapped up in yet another murder mystery where everyone around them drops like flies and yet somehow their friends and family don't run for the hills. :P
Although maybe they did, because they sure weren't around for a lot of this book. I was hoping to see more of Mike Novak and get to know him better, and see him and Tom start to forge a relationship together, but nope! There was a sweet scene between Tom and his dad though, so that was nice.
The mystery was as twisted and tongue-in-cheek as you would expect from this series. There were plenty of potential suspects and motivations all around, and a couple of twists on expectations that were nice.
Still hate that cover though. Seriously, it looks like Riptide is marketing this series to pre-teens, and I know they can do better. I don't know who those two blokes on the cover are supposed to be but they're not Tom and Phil, that's for sure.