My friend over at Tannat Reads reviewed the second book in this series awhile back and it sounded like fun, in spite of the caveats she shared with me.
She was right about the caveats, and it was a fun read.
The story takes place in an alternative universe I kept trying to plop into the UK because so many of the names of towns and characters, and so much of the atmosphere, felt British. I was never really able to get past this, so I found it a bit difficult to imagine this world.
And speaking of this world, the author proves here, by it’s complete absence, that a little info dumping can be a good thing. I spend a third of the book trying to figure out what was going on and it kept me from getting lost in the book until pretty much the last third of the story. It’s alternate-universe fantasy – a little explaining would have been welcome.
So. much. sneezing.
The main character, Jemis Greenwing, has had a rather shitty life, in spite of having all the necessary ingredients for a charmed one. It takes way too long, but eventually you figure out that his father was branded a traitor, then a war hero, though nobody remembers that, and his mother a bigamist who went through her inheritance trying to support her and her son.
Both parents die when he’s still young and he goes to university, falls in love and excels at his studies, only to find out his true love betrayed him and his professor flunks him on his final paper. He ends up in hospital sick with a flu he can’t shake, and the confrontation he and his girlfriend had results in such an uproar, he’s run out of town, and while he’s on a walking tour (hiding), misses his step-father’s death and funeral. He’s back home, trying to hide from everyone who thinks he’s the son of a traitor, and working in a bookshop. His memory is hazy, he loses his train of thought, he’s certain he’s unworthy of any kindness, and omg, so much sneezing.
All of this is pretty much all the information you don’t get until about half way through the book, and only then in dibs and dabs. It made it very difficult for me to click with the main character. He was always unsure of himself, scattered, and, well, moist.
But once Mr. Dart arrived on the scene, and to a lesser extent Violet and Mrs. Etaris, things started picking up. By the halfway mark I was reasonable certain – as much as the plot allowed, which isn’t much – of what was going on. Mr. Dart was all the things Jemis wasn’t and it was a much needed boost to my enjoyment. The repartee between the two life-long friends made me feel like I could eventually like Jemis, and by the last third, I was completely hooked on the characters, if not the plot.
The plot came together all too chaotically and rapidly for my liking. I suppose that’s because Jemis was the MC, and not Mrs. Etaris. Had Mrs. Etaris been the MC of this book everything would have been far clearer, more organised, and events handled far more efficiently.
But in spite of all of that, there was something fun about this book. It was quirky, the dialog was smart and amusing, and interesting things happened at a fairly even pace. So, while I didn’t think I was going to like this book all that much at first, I ended it with a desire to read the second book.
Alls well that ends with another book to read…