A Marvellous Light

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Marvellous Light
Freya Markse, 2021

Premise: Edwin Courcey and Sir Robin Blyth are both men who don't quite fit with their peers. Edwin is a scholarly magician without much magic. Robin has inherited a title but little cash, and he has no interest in living like his late parents the social climbers. When a bureaucratic error brings them together (and to the attention of a dangerous group seeking a mysterious power), sparks fly. 

I've been reading a lot of historical romance-adventures lately where one partner is magic and the other isn't (or is much less so), but this might be the best one so far. 

I loved how complicated the magical society was, realistically including all the same problems and bigotries as non-magicians. I loved that Edwin and Robin's objections to each other felt rooted in their personalities. They had to struggle; there was nothing that was too easily swept aside for the sake of romance, but there also weren't any problems that felt too overly melodramatic. 

Plus the adventure part is top-notch. They're working against time on multiple intertwined problems and mysteries, and both the journey and the solution are so satisfying that I read the whole thing twice. 

This book opens a series, and it looks like it's doing the romance-series thing where each book centers on a different couple. I don't always love that, but the secondary characters in this book and the overall unresolved plot are definitely interesting enough for me to be very sad that I can't read the sequel right now (coming out later this year).

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Blackout/All Clear

Monday, June 6, 2022

Blackout/All Clear
Connie Willis, 2010

Hugo Winner - 2011

Premise: Takes place in the same world as Doomsday Book (my rating: 3), and To Say Nothing of the Dog (my rating: 1). 

Oh joy. Another one of these books. 

Reading this award-winning duology has finally crystalized for me why I find this series so frustrating. I find the very premise so idiotic that I can't stand the characters. Oh no, these historians are trapped in the Blitz and maybe messed up the timeline!

Why were you there, you dummies? I was willing to sort of accept Doomsday Book, assuming that a time traveler could gain some actually meaningful information about that time period that they couldn't gain any other way. But these morons seem just like any pompous grad students studying something "fun" for the heck of it. Observing people suffering and dying like they're on safari, and then freaking out when things go sideways. Why, why, why is this a good use of time travel? If there's even a chance that something could go wrong, why on earth would you send anyone to WWII, much less this group of insufferable, incompetent academics? 

Yes, the historical part of this book is well-researched and beautifully written. But I can't concentrate on the bravery of Londoners during the Blitz because it's constantly being compared to our main characters. Said characters spend most of the time knowing when and where to be to avoid danger (because time travel), but then fall apart emotionally when their plans go awry. Then they finally "learn" the "true" bravery of the people who kept living their lives despite not knowing when the bombs would fall... etc. etc. I've spent the last few hundred pages waiting for you to get your act together, Polly. If you are only learning this now, you are bad at your job. 

Besides which the whole thing is told in these alternating storylines in different times with just enough vague details that you are supposed to be in suspense about what happens to the characters, but I didn't care about these characters, so the fact that it took forever to reveal that one character did that or the other thing was just annoying. 

PLUS it did the one thing that I hoped it wouldn't do and gave the most annoying entitled asshole of a character who was just in the beginning a heroic arc and the girl he wanted. Nope. Just Nope.

The historical stuff is interesting, and it probably deserves at least 3 stars. But I'm reading this as a Hugo winner, and the time travel is inane. Yes, of course I knew what was going to happen, because I read the Pern books when I was a teenager in the 90s. It's just a closed loop. It's not that hard to understand or predict. 

And because of the way it works out, the very existence of the time travelers completely cheapens the actions and bravery of the people actually of the time that the book was trying so hard to champion. 

1 Star - Frustrating throughout.