The Lost Child of Lychford

lost-child-of-lychfordBook Review:  The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Lizzie’s first Christmas as St. Martin’s vicar is just around the corner.  Expectations are high.  It’s frustrating for her when her parishioners are less than receptive to the Advent Carol Service and Christingle she planned with such care.  With two weeks still to go, she’s in a foul mood.  In addition to all of the other details she’s trying to get just right, a couple from Swindon want to get married in her church on Christmas Eve.  She’s unrecognizably temperamental.  And that’s before the apparition of a small boy begins visiting her.

Judith and Autumn had some shining moments in this novella, but that’s all that worked for me this time.  I saw what happened to Judith, so I sold on that particular storyline.  But Lizzie and Autumn???  How were they taken over by the dark?  Cornell tells us that they have been but that wasn’t enough for me.  When dark forces tried to manipulate things in the first book, The Witches of Lychford, we saw the how, and that made all the difference, for me at least.  Lizzie’s already deeply controlled when the book opens though — how did that happen?  Especially to someone who can see otherworldly beings for what they are?  And Autumn?  One minute she’s fine, the next minute she’s fixated on a guy to the point of not caring that her best friend is trying to damage her hands or that Judith has been missing for days?  At least show me someone slipping something into her drink.

Disappointing.

 

 

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Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

witches-of-lychfordBook Review:  Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

A supermarket wants to build its newest store in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford.  Some of Lychford’s residents like the idea; some do not.  Judith Mawson knows that the proposed location for the store would be more than bad for the community — it would be catastrophic.  Lychford lies on the boundary between worlds and destroying that border, which the supermarket would do, would open the gateways to beings humans should never encounter.  Unfortunately, she’s not liked by her neighbors.  Normally this doesn’t bother her because she doesn’t like them either, but she needs them to listen to her now.

Lizzie grew up in Lychford and has recently returned to become its new pastor, but a recent tragedy has caused her faith to falter.  Autumn was Lizzie’s friend growing up, despite the fact that she’s always been an atheist and Lizzie has always been religious.  Something happened to her after Lizzie left for her studies, something she still isn’t able to face.

All three women are separate from Lychford while being a part of it:  Judith and Autumn for their notoriety, Lizzie for her time away and her current wall of grief.  Judith will bring them together and together they will fight to save the town.

A quick, light read with an interesting premise.  The heart of this story revolves around the women, each scarred by past choices, past events.  Cornell does an exceptional job creating such intriguing characters, and revealing pertinent details from their pasts at just the right time.  And he does it within a bare 144 pages.

 

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

invisible-libraryBook Review:  The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

In a world of parallel universes, the Library exists in its own space and time, and collects unique books from all realities.  Irene literally grew up in the library and she’s been a librarian for awhile.  She’s accustomed to traveling between universes to retrieve important items.  She’s not accustomed to being sent on missions with students however.  Nothing about this mission is typical:  not the secrecy, not the student partner, not the Chaos-infused alternate London they must infiltrate in order to get the book.

Intriguing.  Steampunk typically isn’t my thing, and there are steampunk elements in this story, but they are simply characteristics of this particular London.  This particular London also features fae and vampires, so it’s definitely a happening place.   While Irene and Kai run into problems with all three, it’s the Chaos that’s the real challenge.  It’s apparently not that uncommon for worlds to be alive with magic and the supernatural but when higher levels of Chaos enter the mix, it throws everything off-kilter.

Lots of action, lots of adventure.  Interesting characters.  This is the first book in the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book, The Masked City.  I’m hoping to learn more about the Library itself.  It’s huge and it’s secretive.  Its librarians actually live inside it — how does that work?

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The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

immortalsWhen people stopped believing in the gods, the gods began to diminish.  They still walk among mortals though.  Artemis now goes by the name Selene DiSilva and she calls Manhattan home.  Her powers may be greatly diminished but she can still handle mortals.  Or can she?  As the story begins and she intervenes to save yet another woman from an abusive man, she finds herself wondering if this is the fight she won’t win.  She does win, but just barely.  Has she finally grown so weak that a mere man can defeat her?  As troubling as that thought is, Selene soon discovers there’s something that frightens her even more.  Someone is trying to resurrect the Eleusinian Mysteries and they are upping the ante by using human sacrifice.  Selene suspects that it’s one of her fellow gods, trying to regain former powers.

This is the first entry in the Olympus Bound series and it’s intriguing.  I liked Brodsky’s interpretation of not only the histories of the Greek gods, but also what they would be like if they were among us today.  And I appreciated Selene’s observations about her fellow gods, particularly Persephone.

The mystery was okay — the gods don’t really hide themselves all that well but why should they bother?  No one believes in them anyway.  I had most of the bad guys figured out but not the main one.  That one caught me by surprise but in a good way.  The tension level was excellent.

The romance, and yes, there is one, sort of — that didn’t really work for me.  Let me amend that.  I felt the romance of Artemis and Orion.  Brodsky sold that very well.  Selene and this guy, not so much.  Aside of the glimpses of her past with Orion, Selene is a pretty icy character.  During her heyday, she may have allowed herself to care about her handmaidens, but these days she keeps everyone at an emotional distance.  She protects women but she doesn’t care about any one of them individually.  I would expect that countless years of only exposing herself to the worst of men would have hardened her against them particularly.  Yet somehow,  while trying to figure out the next move of a fellow immortal intent on sacrificing human lives for godly power, she finds herself drawn to a man she originally suspected of murder?  Over the course of a few books, maybe.  All in the same book though?  Which took place in something like 10 days?  It felt rushed.  Not a deal-breaker though.

The next book in the series, Winter of the Gods, comes out in February.  It’s on my To Read list.

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Footprints to Murder by Marcia Talley

footprints-to-murderBook Review:  Footprints to Murder by Marcia Talley

After meeting up with her former roommate at their college reunion, Hannah agrees to help Susan coordinate the Sasquatch Sesquicentennial in Oregon.  There’s excitement when Big Foot himself seems to wander in front of one of the motion-activated video cameras an attendee has set up near the lodge.  The excitement quickly gives way to shock when the live feed also reveals a still body lying nearby.

This must have been an impulse-grab from the bookshelf; I never intentionally start 15 books into a series.  Sheesh.  That said, this book never really grabbed me, and I don’t think it had anything to do with starting mid-series.  The mystery itself was okay and I enjoyed the newspaper blurbs that introduced each chapter.  I never connected with Hannah though.  She never felt like a real person to me; none of the characters did.

Hannah tells us everything that she notices, whether it’s relevant to the story or not  —  the reunion is only a construct to reconnect the friends during Susan’s time of need — which itself appears only to be a way to conveniently place Hannah somewhere someone is murdered.  Why do I need to know that the new dorm has a dome-covered porthole that changes colors depending upon the energy usage within the building?  Nothing happens at the reunion.  Nothing.  Which begs the question — couldn’t the reunion have been more than an obvious plot device?  Couldn’t it have revealed something deeper about Hannah or her friendship with Susan?  We’re told that they were best of pals, way back when, but their history is skimmed over.  They happily reconnect at the reunion, barely lean on each other at all for emotional support or heck, even safety,  during a conference in which an attendee is murdered, and then go shopping for cowboy boots at the end.  Where’s the depth?  I felt Hannah’s zest for Debbie’s donuts more than I did her friendship with Susan. Even their friendship seems nothing more than a plot device.

That’s probably a harsher review of the book than it deserves.  Maybe.  I was tempted to set the book aside several times but I didn’t, so there’s that.

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Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

serafina-and-the-black-cloakBook Review:  Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Twelve year-old Serafina and her father live in the basement of the Biltmore Estate.  In secret.  In fact, Serafina herself seems to be a secret.  Her pa helped build the mansion and stayed on as its mechanic; people know him, but even the majority of the servants are unaware of Serafina’s existence.  Her pa doesn’t mind her roaming the lower levels of the mansion at night, when most are asleep, but he has expressly warned her against exploring the upper levels where the Vanderbilts and their guests reside.  The few servants who have caught a glimpse of her, here and there, have chosen to look the other away.

One night, she comes across a man in a black cloak, dragging a young girl.  The girl tries to get away and the man’s cloak seems to envelope her.  The girl disappears, but not before she sees Serafina and cries for help.  The man pursues Serafina next and nearly catches her; only her years of exploring the mansion’s lower levels and their hiding places saves her.  She tries to tell her pa about the encounter but he shrugs it off as either a bad dream or an overactive imagination.  She breaks one of his rules and ventures upstairs during the daytime where she comes face to face with the Vanderbilt’s twelve year-old nephew Braedon.  Braedon believes her when she tells him what she witnessed: a girl is missing and she’s not the first to disappear.  Together, the two of them will witness another child taken in the same way.  And they resolve to stop the Man in the Black Cloak.

If you can get past the first few pages during which you’re introduced to Serafina happily hunting and catching rats with her bare hands, this is an enjoyable read.  Beatty handles mystery and suspense well.  Even though I was appalled that Serafina’s pa decided Chief Rat Catcher was the perfect job for a young girl who wanted to earn her keep, my curiosity overcame my revulsion.  Why was her pa keeping her a secret?  Such a secret that he was apparently unwilling to buy her a real doll or clothes of her own.  Wages shouldn’t have been an issue;  as THE GUY who kept the mansion humming with electricity, he was probably paid fairly well, but even paid poorly, they’d been living rent/expense-free in the basement for years.

The Man in the Black Cloak (MBC) is terrifying and he made his appearance in the novel quickly.  Once he made his appearance, I was hooked, and turning pages as quickly as possible.  I did something I never do — take the book into a restaurant with my husband.  Poor guy.  He was stuck with his smartphone for company while we were waiting for our meal; I was that unwilling to set this book down.  And that’s in spite of several flaws.

As excellent as the suspense was, it was easy to see who bad guy was.  I’m okay with that because it was also easy to understand why most of the characters didn’t have a clue; no one other than Serafina and Braedon had actually seen what happened to the children.  All that was known was that children were disappearing during the night.  But why, after the second disappearance, when everyone was afraid that something terrible was afoot, did everyone stay?  Why weren’t they bundling their kiddos up in their carriages and heading home as fast as their horses could take them???  And, backing up a bit, how on earth did MBC lure little Clara into the lower levels of the basement, anyway?  That’s where Serafina encountered them and it seems an unlikely spot for a privileged little girl to be in the middle of the night.

Other plot problems concern the cloak itself.  Spoiler alert:  MBC is not the first to don the cloak.  The man who created the cloak attempted to rid himself of it but couldn’t.  So he threw himself down a well, cloak and all, for the greater good.  Yet, MBC only dons the cloak at night; he is able to remove it at will.  Perhaps the cloak allows this because it knows that MBC isn’t resisting it, only avoiding drawing attention to himself?  However, MBC also retains what he has gained from the cloak, even when he’s not wearing it.  Knowing how the cloak works, this doesn’t seem logical.  And, as much as I love happy endings, I wasn’t sold on this one.  At all.

Despite the problems with the plot, this was an enjoyable read.  Liked the mystery, loved the suspense.  Not sure that I will continue with the series however.

Grades: 5-7

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Books in Brief: Earthsea

Time has gotten away from me.  Because it’s been a few months since I’ve read some of these titles, the reviews will be more about overall impressions rather than detailed analysis.

earthsea-titles

 

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursala Le Guin.  Sparrowhawk had great magical talent but his reckless pride led him to tamper with magic beyond his training and he loosed a terrible shadow upon the world.  The tragic consequences of his actions sober him.  He applies himself to his studies and grows into a wise mage resolved to capture the shadow and send it back to whence it came.

LOVED this book.  A wonderfully told coming of age story.  A believable story of transformation.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursala Le Guin.  Believed to be the reincarnation of the last high priestess, a young girl is taken from her family and consecrated to the service of the Nameless Ones.  She is isolated and taught the dark rituals she is expected to lead.  Ged (Sparrowhawk) comes to the tombs in search of the lost Ring of Erreth-Akbe.  Arha (Tenar) discovers him and traps him, outraged by his sacrilege.  Her anger gives way to curiosity, however, and she begins to question everything she has been taught.

More horrifying than Ged’s coming-of-age story.  While Ged (Sparrowhawk) brought something terrible into the world, Tenar is ripped from her family when she is only 6 years old and indoctrinated into an evil cult.  And yet, despite this, she is still able to question what she has been taught and choose her path.

The Farthest Shore by Ursala Le Guin Magic is fading quickly from the lands of Earthsea and no one knows why.  Songs are being forgotten and people are going mad.  Archmage Ged (Sparrowhawk) chooses a young prince to accompany him as he searches for the cause.

Le Guin adds more detail to her wonderfully developed world of Earthsea.  She continues to introduce interesting characters.  That said, I struggled a bit with this story.  The Big Bad annoyed me — I think I expected someone Bigger and Badder.  And I didn’t quite get some of the motivations.  I didn’t like the ending — not that it should have ended differently, I just didn’t want it to end the way it did.

Tehanu by Ursala Le Guin.   Le Guin revisits the character Tenar, perhaps the only character more haunted than Ged.  It’s been years since she left the Tombs with Ged; she’s now a widow.  She takes in a severely injured child and names her Therru.  And Ged returns.  Immediately following the events of The Farthest Shore, the dragon Kalessin brings him to Gont, unconscious and near death.  Tenar nurses him back to health . . . but not to his former power.  That is gone.

This was an interesting departure for the series.  Ged has no power; his sense of self is shattered.  And he, Tenar, and Therru are targeted by another Big Bad who has ample magic.  The danger feels more threatening this time around.


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