Book Review: Vaour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“But true love will always triumph. Is that not what the novels says?” “Yes, but we are in the land of Romeo and Juliet.” “What a happy thought that is.”

This glamour history eschews the usual Regency England setting for a more exotic locale: Venice after the dissolution of the Republic by Napoleon. Kowal likewise confronts our protagonists with new threats and new antagonists. The story has been compared to Ocean’s 11, but Kowal’s task was more difficult because she maintains a single point of view throughout, where modern swindler-the-swindler stories depend on multiple, rapid shift of POV.

“Allow me to offer one exceedingly simple reason to not remove to Lord Byron’s.” He raised his eyebrows in question. Jane placed a hand to her bosom and sighed over-dramatically. “I fear for my virtue.”

Kowal demonstrates her virtuosity by melding Lord Byron into a story which had not originally included him, but Kowal’s research discovered the notorious poet in residence in Venice at the very time of her plot. Too good a character to shun.

“Times are hard. I shouldn’t have … you used to be a lady, didn’t you?” “Yes.”

Jane and Vincent’s brief excursion into poverty broadens their characters and increases the stakes. In the process they deal with isolation, deceit and a most unconventional convent.

“Prayer provided only the illusion of control, but Jane was too accomplished a glamourist to deny that illusions could provoke emotions. The same perception allowed her to see beyond the curtain of bravery to the fear in her husband’s eyes.”

 

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion (Heirs of Alexandria #1) by Mercedes Lackey et al.

(Five Stars)

“Just as simple as original sin and just as seductive.”

Excellent. Amazingly deep, rich epic fantasy set in an alternate timeline very close to Renaissance northern Italy. The nations, myths, religions, factions and families are close enough to historical that the student of history has a leg up on the fun. Yet Lackey has shifted emphasis, history there, motives somewhere else just enough to create a fascinating new universe.

“There is such a thing as evil in the world, which cannot be persuaded, but only defeated.”

Amazing that Lackey produces such good word so quickly. Nonetheless, there are signs of this story being rushed to print. For example, modern expressions, Continue reading

Book Review: The Bones You Have Cast Down by Jean Huets (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Bones You Have Cast Down by Jean Huets

Four Stars

“A part of me grieved for myself.”

A storytelling treasure. Huets transports the reader into the mind of a young fifteenth century Italian with all the assurance and intimacy which one expects of a modern bard. The sights, smells, feel of Renaissance Italy seep from every pore of the story. The Inquisition lurks in the shadows. Speculative elements are deftly melded into the mix.

“For a more virtuous person, no doubt, friendship would have trumped rage. Not for me.”

The fifteenth century was a seedbed for religious innovation, mostly aimed as real or imagined abuses practiced by the Roman Catholic Church. The Inquisition zealously sought the heretics; usually the civil authorities meted punishment. The contemporaneous history of the Cathars, Waldensians and Hussites underscores Continue reading