Monday, April 6, 2009

A Dangerous Affair by Caro Peacock

Review is based on an ARC.

I love a good mystery; even more, I love a good story. Caro Peacock's A Dangerous Affair is both. As with all good mysteries, the story starts further than halfway along the series of events to get the reader hooked. While the method is sound, the hook in this case is a little weak. The characters mean nothing to the reader as of yet, and we have a hard time caring how they feel about each other and what they think about the events. Fortunately, the story moves along quickly and you need not spend much time fretting about the first few pages. I was quickly drawn into the murder of one of "London's most beautiful dancers" and the whodunit aspect of the story. As time rapidly diminishes, the characters are thrown into a whirlwind of activities, accusations, and discovery of information, speeding toward their hope for justice.

Tracking a victorian music teacher through her investigatory adventures in a mere 300 pages, the reader is confronted with an intriguing political figure, a trashy dancer and her meek, sweet, perfect competition, a country boy with a heart of gold and an ear for all the town's gossip, a childish man of stature, and a surprising variety of other actors, most of whom the reader feels some connection to. I found myself engaged and moved by almost all of the characters, though, surprisingly, not the main two. I felt that the actions and emotions of Ms. Lane and her best friend Daniel necessary to the story, but I was not at all moved by their plight on a deeper level. Rather, I found myself drawn to Mr. Disraeli (incidentally, based upon a real historical figure), Amos Legge, and even Kennedy as the real heart and soul of the story.

I flew through the pages even while surrounded by conversations, and I insisted on finishing the novel once I arrived at work, resigning myself to later hours worked so I could learn all that Peacock could tell me!

Highly recommend to anyone with a taste for mystery. I also note that, while the novel is set in victorian times, it is not weighed down with victorian details.

FOUR of five stars.

The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudson

Review is based on an ARC.

About halfway through the book, I had to stop reading to do laundry. Walking to the laundry room, I caught myself thinking, "How is it so good?" Then my boss called and I was interrupted from my chore for a while. Upon returning to the laundry, I realized that all I could think about was what was happening in the story and what would happen next.

I'd like to congratulate Michelle Knudson on writing an engaging, fast-paced fantasy that is neither overly simplistic nor overly weighed down with unnecessary fantasy lore (which few authors have successfully implemented). I recently found myself straying away from dragon novels because they are too often poorly done. Knudson, however, appears a master at crafting a fantastical creature that readers will want to relate to, without making the dragon too human itself.

The story follows a young "feisty" princess and a mage's apprentice as they attempt to save loved ones, kingdoms, and their world. We are accompanied by a mysterious mage (magician), sisters of all personalities, a completely understandable crush, and evil in numerous forms.

The only criticism I have is a failure to announce the characters' age. While I correctly guessed 14, I felt that putting the characters at the correct age (even approximate age) would have helped the characterization move just a little bit faster (it was finally confirmed on page 125).

All in all, a wonderful, quick read for readers craving a little more fantasy in their lives.

FOUR and a half of five stars