I am taking part in this event, hosted by the bloggers at Fiktshun, A Life Bound By Books, Confessions of a Bookaholic, Two Chicks on Books and Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. Visit any of these links to see all the other bloggers taking part.
Today we had a choice for what we would list, and I chose debuts . . . However, it would appear that I have not read many debuts this year, and some of them have not been what I would describe as ‘good’. However, others have been great fun, so here they are, in no particular order:
I have to admit that I spent a great deal of time chuckling whilst I read this book. The name of the series that it begins, The Parasol Protectorate, is indicative of the humor that fills the writing. The author’s turn of phrase is delightfully sharp, although it captures the overly wordy style of writing of the period, which I found it drew me into the world very successfully. Of course, I am British myself, so I may find it easy to associate myself with an Alexia who is not only witty but also has a cutting, sarcastic tone. She is a fearless heroine who fights her own battles: and in a full skirt and corset with a bushel and hat to contend with. She knows that she is not really a part of the High Society that the rest of her family inhabits, but she genuinely doesn’t care and is unashamed of her differences. It is so nice to have a period character who shows some backbone, but is not too anachronistic.
This is Scott Lynch’s debut novel, but you would never know that from his skill with dialogue and descriptive writing. His voice is very engaging and witty, giving us memorable quotes and laugh-out-loud descriptions of events. His characters are well drawn and fully realized. Indeed, we come to love some of them very quickly: there are few ‘throw away’ place fillers in evidence. The setting is expertly drawn and we are given enough detail to leave us wanting more: it is similar to Elizabethan Europe, but different enough to tick all the required Fantasy boxes. The plot has enough originality to keep us off balance and surprised, with bold moves that will have you shouting angrily at the author because you do not want him to do THAT to the characters.
This is not your traditional vamp-ridden urban fantasy, and that is refreshing. Plus, it is nice to have a heroine who is grumpy and paranoid, but has a really good reason to be like that: the assault she endured as a teenager robbed her of her innocence, her mother and her boyfriend, so we can forgive her for being very defensive. It is a little rough around the edges, but I am glad that I stuck with the book as it has great promise and it is her first published novel, so I can cut the author some slack: I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.
When we first meet Flavia she is tied up and locked in a closet. This conveys her relationship with her older sisters very neatly, and also allows us to witness her resourcefulness as she escapes from her predicament. One other aspect of Flavia that I really liked, and actually envied, was her access to a fully equipped laboratory and library of scientific texts: I would have loved to have had this when I was eleven! In short, I fell in love with Flavia and her world, which I found authentic and endearingly eccentric. I thought that her family dynamic worked well, providing her with the freedom that she needed to conduct an investigation unimpeded whilst giving her the fierce determination to protect her father. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a little black humor mixed in with their Christie-style murder-mystery.