Any Old Diamonds

Monday, April 15, 2019

Any Old Diamonds
K.J. Charles, 2019

Premise: Alec and his siblings barely make ends meet after being cut off by their noble father. When he reaches a breaking point, Alec decides to try to get some of their own back by helping a pair of accomplished thieves steal his stepmother’s diamonds. Falling for one of them wasn’t part of the plan.

I read a lot of K.J. Charles’ historical romances. Like, most of them. Most of them I don’t bother to review here. This one, however, was especially delightful.

Alec is full of contradictions: he’s the son of a noble house, but happy to seek work as a freelance illustrator, while he’s also understanding of his siblings who can’t take on “normal” jobs and have any hope of regaining their social standing in Victoria’s England. He makes a choice and is tormented by it. He doesn’t know who to trust or how to solve his problems.

Jerry is a great thief, and one of his skills is the ability to read people. At first he gets close to Alec to ensure that the job will go well, but soon he’s asking probing questions, willing to give up a chance at the treasure to make sure that Alec isn’t making a decision he’ll regret.

The process of getting to the point of the burglary is detailed and lengthy, but the book always pulses with a sense of foreboding that leads inescapably toward the big caper. And then... spoilers.

I know, it’s a romance, how can there be spoilers? But that’s the genius of this book. You think it’s going one way, and then everything turns to show another facet.

It’s a ton of fun, sweet and sexy (the role-playing Jerry encourages to help Alec get back into his father’s good graces long enough to swindle him does not hurt in this regard). The plot is stellar, and it exists in the same world as several of the author's other books, with some light background connections. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

The Blue Sword

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Blue Sword
Robin McKinley, 1982

Premise: Angharad “Harry” Crewe lives with relatives on the edge of the kingdom after her father’s death. She is drawn to the rugged frontier land, but doesn’t think much of the tribes who live outside her civilization until she is chosen by their leader’s second sight.

It’s so funny to read this book for this first time now. I know this (and the prequel, The Hero and the Crown) were seminal fantasy reads for so many people I know. YA before YA was a genre, these books feature brave female protagonists who stand against great evil.

This one also features an abduction that turns into a romance. It’s about as well-handled as the trope can be - the guy is drawn to her because of his innate magic and she is the destined recipient of a magical artifact (the blue sword of the title). Plus they gain each other’s respect as warriors before they admit any romantic attraction. Still, it bugged me a bit.

It skews toward the fairy tale end of the fantasy spectrum with the magic, visions, and unexplained destinies, but there’s a good amount of description of practical weapons training, riding, and camping that I would have loved as a teenager.

I still liked this book, there’s nothing really wrong with it, but the experience of reading it was just good, not great. I think I missed the window.

3 Stars - A Good Book

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, Book 1)

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, Book 1)
N. K. Jemisin, 2015

Hugo Winner - 2016

Premise: The world is ending. The empire which has been controlling the unstable earth has fallen. One woman reveals her forbidden power and leaves her home with only one goal: find the husband who murdered her son and rescue her daughter.

I should know better than to let months go by between finishing a book and writing a review, but sometimes life happens. Besides, what can I say about this book that hasn't been said? It's brilliant.

The triple-stranded narrative gives you multiple perspectives on the world and the society which are each fascinating, and it adds up to one heck of a story. The characters are complicated and intense. The magic and how it connects to the structure of the world is intriguing.

It's just really good.

There is a lot of tragedy in this story, but none of it felt gratuitous or exaggerated. It just felt tragic and true.

There's a reason Jemisin's work has been lauded so completely. This is a masterpiece.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book