aesmael: (just people)

Act 10 – Moon

I’m having increasing difficulty recognising where are the boundaries between these chapters.

Tuxedo Mask / Endymion captured, a portion of the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal absorbed into his body. Surely the stage is set for a bold and dramatic rescue of not only our heroine’s love, but also the aspect of that which she guards that is contained within him.

Fortunately the Dark Kingdom is utterly foiled by whatever ineffable magic is going on here. I would think it is something related to the unity of their hearts, so that though he now holds the active part of the Legendary Silver Crystal’s power within him, and she possesses the crystal which once contained it, the both shall remain inert until brought together again in a moment of romantic honesty.

We shall see how well that bears out.

Cats, travelling a small eternity from the Moon to Earth in little tubes. Seems deathly dull and tedious, can see why Luna might not want to remember that.

All this talk of awakening the characters to their past lives, ‘true selves’, it all seems rather romantisexual. “[H]er awakening happened in a way we didn’t anticipate” - falling for the reincarnation of her past love, mutual self-sacrifice and passionate desire to save one another. Awakening to knowledge and duty, but at the same time to love, and through love Sailor Moon has however inadvertently seized some part of her destiny to herself, away from the plans others would make for her.

Side effects of losing your prince may include becoming Rapunzel.

I like Rei’s eerie pronouncements but the lack of urgency in this part of the story was weird to me. Tuxedo Mask has been captured, but Usagi spends a week crying in her room before realising he needs rescuing? And then they wait however long it further takes for the moon to become full so they can visit the former kingdom and gain information. It’s suggested to be a necessary wait to do what they need to do but it still feels weird.

Was surprised the Moon (normally I might refer to the Moon as Luna, as a proper name instead of a descriptive label for that body. but we have a character named Luna in this story and that might be confusing) looks like its actual self. I was expecting some sort of habitable fantasy place.

Apparently the Four Kings were not revived in the previous chapter? Seems again like only Kunzite remains, and then an unknown time after the trip to the Moon he too is finally defeated back to gem form in their “second time in space”. Their story has grown a lot more tragic with backstory, now that we know their true mission is to serve and guard Endymion, but that they have been co-opted and taken over by Beryl and the Dark Kingdom.

The part where Endymion is revived to act as Beryl’s servant, I remember finding this part of the story annoying in the anime adaptation. But, we shall see. Also, Beryl’s insistence to Metaria that he is still useful alive puts me in mind of Vader to the Emperor about Luke, especially since she then does go and make a servant of him.

aesmael: (transformation)

Act 9 Serenity, Princess

Although from the feel of the narrative it was relatively easy to tell where this chapter began and the last left off, more or less, I still when it came to actually writing these got a bit confused as the title page does not match where the table of contents says the story begins (nor where it feels like the transition is, which is closer to agreeing with the TOC). At first I thought the TOC might be incorrect but it seemed to match with the previous chapters, so my current opinion is that this chapter has an especially long introductory segment before ‘giving away’ its title.

Apparently Makoto / Jupiter plays a large role in discerning the danger this episode and warning the others of it.

-5 points Sailor Moon being saved by Tuxedo Mask again

+ um, I don’t know, 20 points for the look on his face after she kisses him?

A wild title screen appears! But, it’s halfway through the chapter.

Heroic self-sacrifice, enabling the protagonist to recall her identity and powers (to an extent) thanks to the intensity of her grief. I feel sure I have seen that before but apart from Pokemon I am failing to recall where.

The forehead symbol-changing sequence looks unpleasant. I imagine it being accompanied by a wrenching sense of identity-shifting which is perhaps no less painful for Sailor V(enus) than for Usagi / Sailor Moon / Princess Serenity.

Also how this seems to be the culmination of a thread through recent chapters and pages of people, including Usagi herself, wondering how many faces she has to present to the world and how real the person she has been is.

And then we dive into the tragic backstory of the doomed romance between Serenity and Endymion, their long-past lives. Star-crossed lovers, forbidden by the laws of just how things are. So not only was Endymion the Prince of Earth as Serenity is the Princess of the Moon but Beryl was Queen of the Earth, presumably his mother.

That’s a big shock. I hadn’t been expecting so close a relationship between them, although I had been wondering what each of their domains were and whether it might be Earth. And apparently Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite are the Earthly counterparts to the Sailor Scouts, the gems of the Earth to match the gems of the heavens. Good thing we got a wave of healing silver crystal energy to revive them after their very abrupt departures earlier.

aesmael: (writing things down)

Act 8 Minako, Sailor V

Ongoing storyyyy!!

It feels a bit unfair to the existing cast to have Minako / Sailor V show up to announce she’s the princess they’ve been assigned to find and protect, and that she’s been keeping a hidden training eye on them the whole time. Especially that she’s already taken care of hiding away the ‘Legendary Silver Crystal’ that’s so important, too. She is gracious and princessly though, taking time to greet our heroes and commend them on their fine achievements so far.

I suppose if Luna was unaware of all this and was directing them sincerely that isn’t so bad. But, it comes across like much of what has happened so far has been misdirected, chasing shadow goals.

Of course I originally read this whole volume on a train ride and what’s actually going on (assuming there isn’t yet another retrospective recasting later) is fairly clear to see. Especially if you already watched some of the old anime adaptation as a child.

But now I am taking some time to dwell on this chapter by itself and I can’t decide. If I had been reading this in its original serialisation as it came out, would I have been bothered by these developments pulling story out from under me? Or would I have been excited at how it twists and turns and promises future adventure and development?

P.S. In looking up for the previous chapter to be sure ‘The Four Kings of Heaven’ was the correct term of reference I found that according to Wikipedia at least ‘Queen Metalia’ is an early mistranslation and officially it should be Queen Metaria[1]. Assuming that is the case I shall strive to use the correct name henceforth; I don’t know why this 2011 translation would preserve an error like that, except perhaps cultural inertia.

[1] What might be more difficult for me is not consistently misspelling this as ‘Materia’.

aesmael: (tricicat)

Act 7: Mamoru Chiba, Tuxedo Mask

Usagi, holding up Tuxedo Mask’s glasses in his room:

"Why didn’t I notice before?"

In fact I could have sworn she had noticed before, except flipping back through the first volume this does not appear to be the case.

And she has fallen for him so haaard. I suppose, narratively speaking, this is the point where the characters reveal and discover the strength of their feelings for each other before circumstances of drama conspire to keep them apart. The long journey before their love can be fully manifested into their lives.

Thinking thoughts about how to construct a romance story and where the tension comes from.

And of course at this point his identity, background and motivations remain still hidden even to himself. Especially because Luna has been keeping information from the protagonists to dole out at whatever time is deemed appropriate.

Queen Metalia! Up to this point, pretty sure I believed Queen Beryl was the apex villain here, answering to no one. So that was a shock.

Bit odd having a queen serving a queen, but I suppose the real world throws up such oddities too? The actual exchange between them puts me in mind of Volyova waking the Captain to consult with him in Revelation Space.

Now that Queen Beryl has been revealed as having a greater evil she serves there is room for her to develop an inner monologue, room for her to contemplate regret and the conflicts of her own desires and perceived destiny.

That this story again continues directly on from the previous one makes me feel like it is finally moving, as if we have gotten beyond the introductory phase and onto more ongoing narrative.

At this point suspicion should be encouraged of any new craze or institution suddenly springing up in the city. It’s also a bit worrying how everything gets worse when Ami tries to analyse the videotape at the game centre. The horde of mind-controlled people is quite scary , although cured and dispersed with the typical ease of the story so far.

Inducement of the general populace to do ill in Sailor Moon seems to be like a fog of the mind, and shine a bright enough light it will disperse quickly, because people for the most part are decent and not willing to serve evil ends.

I had been meaning to remark on how swiftly and easily the Four Kings of Heaven were getting killed off in each of their confrontations, but it has been growing less so on each occasions. In this case he seemed - I did not find the story clear on which this was - he seemed quite tough and unable to be done in by the three who were there to face him. Until of course Sailor Venus shows up to defeat him in a dramatic cliffhanger reveal at the very end, right when she is finally needed.

Plotful in motion!

aesmael: (transformation)

Act 6: Tuxedo Mask

So that’s the whole group now? And Usagi is pleased and surprised to be announced the leader despite that she has been leading them through several chapters now.

"The Moon Stick is a new item. It is sure to aid you in your battles with the enemy. I’ll teach you how to use it later."

No, Luna. Surely you should teach her how to use it approximately now? That just seems like begging for trouble when something comes up before Usagi has learned to use it.

Intro has shifted from describing Usagi as her regular self to describing the Sailor Scouts as a group. But I suppose this story is also different in following directly on from the previous chapter rather than an indeterminate number of days later like the others had been.

Mamoru Chiba shirtless by a big plate window drinking from a bottle. Reckon that’s meant to be a spot of enjoyment but with the art style doesn’t quite do anything for me (much cuter when he’s calling Usagi bunhead a couple of pages on >__>). A bit weird for Makoto to be teasing her for having an interest in multiple guys when unseriousness in love and lack of monogamous intention was such a hot button for her last chapter.

Found the action and art in this difficult to follow again at the climax. Feels a bit tensed and rushed, maybe? Or maybe I am reflecting my own feelings reading it. And the resolution felt abrupt too, just activate the Moon Stick and the day is saved.

I suppose that is not the real climax, however. The real climax is Tuxedo Mask revealing he knows who Usagi is and then her waking up in his apartment with him as Mamoru Chiba, thereby finally ending the tension of their not knowing each others’ dual identities. I shan’t be missing that.

aesmael: (friendly)

Act 5: Makoto, Sailor Jupiter

So I was right that ominous storm at the end of the previous meant the coming of Sailor Jupiter.

Still with Usagi introducing herself at the beginning of each chapter.

I found the art and story confusing to follow in this one. Had to look hard a few times to be almost sure that was Makoto who pushed Usagi out of traffic, and who Usagi was mooning over right after. And I had no clue until rereading to write this that she also later saved Usagi from a stray baseball.

Am amused by Sailor Moon’s surprise when Makoto turns out to be one of the team. The getting new people pattern has been running strong so far.

Finding Makoto very appealing, like with Rei. So far her only traits are being tall and strong and courageous I suppose, but those are pretty excellent traits to have. Someone I can potentially identify with.

aesmael: (nervous)
I was disappointed in this book, maybe because I expected the wrong things from it. I didn’t realise at first this was a prequel to the main series with different characters. Suspect I was also mistaken about the general premise, that it is not mysteries solved under the direct spiritual guidance of the deceased Aunt Dimity, although since I’ve not read any of the others I don’t know for sure how they normally go.

The mystery wasn’t very interesting partly because it largely felt like it resolved itself. Same for the romance. There were some feel-good moments but that was largely counterbalanced by the class stuff and the way the lead Emma Porter gets pushed into the shape of this story and the destiny chosen for her whether she wants it or not.

I’ve read romances I like more — The Nightingale Sings by Charlotte Bingham — and some I like much less — The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, which I’d rather call something like Masculinity Theatre than romance.

I don’t think I’d read another Aunt Dimity book but I suppose I don’t hugely regret reading this one.
  1. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, first section
  2. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, second section
  3. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, third section
  4. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, fourth section
aesmael: (probably quantum)
11. Good and Valuable Consideration [Jack Reacher vs. Joseph Finder] by Lee Child vs. Nick Heller

Lee Child’s Reacher books were the only ones I’d read any of prior to this anthology and I’d liked them, so I had been looking forward to this story. I suppose it was a little disappointing in that sense, for lacking any grand quest to resolve?

Instead, a constrained little story wherein our heroes meet by chance in a bar and take it upon themselves to help out some hapless soul who’s been selected for violent blackmail. It wasn’t much, but it was okay. I may or may not check out the Finder stories in future.

Also, amusing because Finder and Reacher very much come across as counterparts, cut from a similar mould. It made sense to put them together like that even though I would think normally you want to avoid having two similar characters together.
aesmael: (writing things down)
10. The Devil’s Bones [Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce] by Steve Berry vs. James Rollins

I liked that there had been allusions in the characters’ books previous to this story that they knew each other, so that it played out more like a reunion. Not so much fond of the proliferation of hyper-competent agents of US political will and the agencies that employ them, but one almost cannot get super-spies without some form of imperialist chauvinism, and I do like a good bit of super-spy action.

Also not liking: saving the Amazonian natives from murderous band of gun-toting villains; another plot of protect + capture Pandora’s flask of death (bioweapon in “Pit Stop”, deadly neurotoxin in this story), although perhaps I shouldn’t fault multiple stories in a collection like this for drawing on the same such trope; conveniently disposed source of super poison so no one has to worry about it showing up in a future story; surprisingly literal use of Chekhov’s Gun to save the day once the box is open.

And yet I liked this story overall and liked the heroes. I’m interested to read more of their adventures but suspect I might miss the way they played off each other here, in their own books.
aesmael: (it would have been a scale model)
8. Pit Stop [Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber] by Raymond Khoury vs. Linwood Barclay

This one was a bit forgettable and I suppose that sums it up fairly well. With Barclay apparently not using series characters these days, and the one he last wrote being of a sort to completely avoid involvement in the scenario presented, we end up with one half of the duo who mainly brings to it the terror of potentially losing one’s rather young daughter, while Sean Reilly of the FBI handles the active parts of the story.

Except he doesn’t, quite, because mainly the day is saved by Garber’s 10-year-old daughter Kelly thinking inventively while held hostage, and Reilly to clean up. So perhaps it is really more a team-up of Sean Reilly and Kelly Garber. Barclay not having a current series character I suppose is excluded from my evaluating “Do I want to read more of this character?” that I’ve been doing, although not-appearing-in-this-story Zack Walker sounds maybe interesting. Can’t really tell from this short whether I’d want to see more of Sean Reilly either.
aesmael: (transformation)

7. Infernal Night [Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack] by Heather Graham vs. F. Paul Wilson

Like “The Laughing Buddha” this story had explicitly supernatural elements, which makes the lack of them in “Gaslighted” more puzzling. And yet I find it weird this continues to bug me, as the story works well for what it is, and it’s hardly as if I am familiar with the source material and thereby bothered by an unfaithfulness.

Anyway, this one was interesting with lone wolf for hire ‘Jack’, “just Jack”, he would say, and every time I could not help thinking of that character from Will & Grace who I never liked - lone wolf for hire “Jack” hired all the way down from New York to New Orleans for a suspiciously simple request by a suspiciously wealthy and loosely moral benefactor.

Suspicions borne out when he manages to avoid a fight with Michael Quinn and conferring they discover they’ve been set against each other. It’s all to do with tremendously perilous ancient artefacts they’ve both had experience with in a way which comes across as tying strongly to the ongoing mythology of both characters. I’m not familiar with either of them, but in this story it feels very well integrated. Quinn is an agent of another (Danni Cafferty) as the muscle protecting people from dangerous magic, and although Jack seems to be mainly in the business of mundane dangers he’s had run-ins with magic too. The tale he tells sounds too specific and significant for me to think it wasn’t covered in one of his prior stories.

This story seems to be weaving Jack’s past into Quinn’s present so well that it makes sense for it to have an ongoing impact on both characters and their future stories. Pretty good on that front then, bringing together two characters and making me feel like of course they would share a setting, of course. Think I’d be interested in checking out both their series.

This is another example of what I was talking about wert “Gaslighted”, New Orleans as the mystic well of America, the place where magic lives and from which white heroes draw fantastical adventures. It also put me in mind of Alastair Reynolds’ stories in his Conjoiner setting, particularly the planet Yellowstone and the character of the Mademoiselle[1]. Makes me wonder if the imagery for that may have been drawn somewhat also from New Orleans.

[1] Apart from having a similar name to Madame de Medici, they are implied to have similar backstories according to my reading of the relevant stories.

aesmael: (tricicat)

6. Rhymes With Prey [Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport] by Jeffrey Deaver vs. John Sandford

This one I also liked from the start, especially being back to detectives working together to solve crimes. Had some fun of ‘thinks like me’ with the way they were considering even unlikely possibilities before deciding which approaches to focus on. That was enjoyable - it seems like actual detective stories are surprisingly rare among crime fiction, or maybe this is more a matter of how it goes in the short form (admittedly these are technically more thrillers than anything else).

I didn’t like the way it felt like BDSM was portrayed as inherently unpleasant, unhealthy thing to engage in. If there must be a villainous BDSM-interested character (not convinced of this), why can’t this be investigated by characters who are non-disgusted or even kinky themselves? Would help to draw a distinction between what people do and abusive or murderous corruptions of that. Reading this, that got to me a bit. I’m increasingly fed up with this sort of portrayal in fiction.

I was also put off by the later twists and turns in plot development, which seemed to come out of nowhere or to be drawing a very long bow of coincidence and connection. That was also a bit disappointing because it felt like the story just kept going on past when it should have ended, but also as if things were happening to fast (maybe I was in a rush because lunch break?). I also was put off by some tendency to the male to discuss their attraction to their female assistants. It felt very ‘pending romance’, and it felt very male-gazey in terms of appearance and relation focus.

Despite all this, I liked it enough to continue to plan to read Deaver’s novels, and to potentially look into Sandford’s too. I do worry this is some kind of betrayal of principles to continuing reading work by authors when I found this piece objectionable in so many ways that seem like they should be important. But I suppose I can read whatever I want. Assuming I continue to want to.

aesmael: (tricicat)
5. Surfing The Panther [Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper] by Steve Martini vs. Linda Fairstein

This one mostly interested me after a confrontational start - I’ve become rather averse to arguments, so the initial back and forth put me off a little. But once the story itself got underway I was interested the ‘lawyers attempting to uncover the truth of a case’.

The resolution bothered me because near the beginning there were some possibilities I saw, and dismissed on the basis of that didn’t seem to be where the story was going and if the characters weren’t picking up on it I was probably being over-alert for tropes not being invoked here. And yet - you guessed it - turned out what I suspected at the beginning was roughly what was actually being pulled here. This diminished my appreciation because it meant the characters were being unalert at the beginning of the story.

Still liked the part where Madriani and Cooper were cooperating, and somewhat interested in checking out their books in future. But this is still dampened somewhat by how the story overall turned out.
aesmael: (Electric Waves)

4. The Laughing Buddha [Malachai Samuels vs. D.D. Warren] by M.J. Rose vs. Lisa Gardner

I think this story was inherently going to be disappointing for what I wanted out of these. Like the previous story this one was hero vs. villain, not hero teaming up with hero as the first two were. Worse - from my perspective - Samuels is a protagonist villain, ever-slippery evading the grasp of the law, so this is effectively forbidden from being a story in which D.D. Warren gets one over him.

Since I’m not familiar with either character I can’t tell how usual or not this one is for their stories, but here Samuels is not the direct villain. Just someone who gives off villain vibes and would rather get hold of key evidence to satisfy his personal goals.

Ultimately felt unsatisfying, like it was just some stuff that happened without resolution. Seemed particularly not a good recommendation for the Malachai Samuels stories, as I get the impression he is on a quest treadmill and perhaps never quite gets to further his goals. Maybe if I were familiar with and already liked the characters I would have enjoyed seeing them in action again.

aesmael: (haircut)

3. Gaslighted [Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast] by R. L. Stine vs. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I dreaded reading this because I am not a fan of horror. It is a genre I am perhaps oversensitive to, one that lingers with me for days if I am lucky. A couple of years ago, for example, I read a short story by George R. R. Martin, “The Monkey Treatment” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection. That one gave me difficulty sleeping for a few weeks after and some of the imagery still haunts me.

In the case of “Gaslighted” it was not so bad. I was not affected by it like a horror story but still found much of it to be a difficult and unpleasant read because, as the title suggests, Aloysius Pendergast is indeed being gaslighted and that is almost always distressing even when I don’t know the characters concerned.

I was disappointed by this story not being really Aloysius vs. Slappy, in that Slappy’s appearance here is entirely as a figment invented through the true villainous doctor’s experiments in memory manipulation. Although being a horror anti-fan of course I have not read any of the Goosebumps books. Maybe this is true to Slappy’s usual presentation. But I had been looking forward to seeing such an excessively heroic character as Pendergast take on the evil machinations of an actual ventriloquist dummy.

Pendergast’s own exploits recounted here put me in mind of a reel of rejected X-Files plots, perhaps for being too outlandishly extravagant. I could not help but hear his speaking voice as played by David Hyde-Pierce, which I side might be fitting for this urbane, lethal, super strong albino FBI agent from New Orleans. I was a bit curious to read more of his adventures but am wary of how they might shade macabre enough to fall into the horrific. Plus despite a strong sense of adventure showing through it seems like he may just be a bit too perfect to be a satisfying read - this being why the narrative of his series was so plausible as the fantasy trauma retreat it was being presented as.

I also feel a need to mark hesitance regarding this character being from New Orleans. A place regarded in American folkloric and media culture as a source of dark magic and sinister happenings, it is not surprising this deliberately exotic albino FBI agent should hail from there but it is discomfiting. As a trend in fiction, as though that region is having its history washed away and re-purposed into the national mystery zone. Basically, African American culture and others raided for mysticism to fuel the adventures of white characters.

aesmael: (nervous)

2. In The Nick Of Time [John Rebus vs. Roy Grace] by Ian Rankin vs. Peter James

I want to call this a nice little morality play but I’m not sure that’s quite right. Guy’s on his deathbed, insists on making a confession of the time he got away with killing someone back in the sixties during the Mods and Rockers riots.

Well of course you don’t just take someone’s word for that so Rebus has to head down to Brighton and follow up on this with Grace. As it turns out, our confessor got it mixed up and didn’t kill who he thought he had; instead he disabled someone else who is quite eager to make an ID.

The morality play part comes in when they head back up to Edinburgh to get that witness confirmation. The confessor has had a miraculous remission of his cancer and wishes to recant his words to Rebus now that he has a future to lose again. It is of course far too late for that now. As the cops noted earlier, had he confessed the guilt gnawing at him back then he would have served his sentence by now. How much that might have distorted his life away from the now in other details is not touched upon.

I would be tempted to look into the stories of Peter James more except the way Grace’s assistant Norman Potting kept flirting with Rebus’ assistant Siobhan Clarke put me a bit off that idea.

1. Red Eye [Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch] by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly

So far I’ve yet to read anything by Michael Connelly I did not enjoy. Admittedly that is not much - a novel, The Poet, and a short story “Father’s Day” in the collection The Blue Religion. The latter is all I have otherwise read of his main series character Harry Bosch. I’m not previously familiar with Dennis Lehane or his work but this piece worked so well I’m inclined to give him a look.

This was a refreshing, exciting change from what I had been reading but at the moment I seem to have my reading patterns set up well enough to generate that feeling nearly every time I switch from one book / series to the next.

At the point of writing this, having nearly finished the book I can say in retrospect that Red Eye gave me much more of what I had been wanting and hoping for from this book than many of the others in it. My belief continues to be evidenced that anthologising often involves managing reader response by opening and closing with especially strong stories if available.

Red Eye played out in a way I imagine - am led to believe - many superhero crossovers don’t quite manage to do. We have one protagonist pursuing a case into the territory of another, who picks up a separate lead to the same target. They cross paths and … don’t fight. I like a lot the way Bosch and Kenzie came to each other’s attention in a sort of surveillance triangle, each keeping an eye in the house and on this strange guy who also seems to be watching it.

From there it plays out quickly, each having half the puzzle which put together demands they resolve the situation now. The two get to play their roles as the heroic white crime-fighters who really care about justice and will step outside the rules if need be to thwart serial rapist-murderers of young black girls who would otherwise slip through the cracks of judicial apathy.

aesmael: (Electric Waves)
Had a lunch break and then three hours on a train earlier in the week so I managed to read the remaining half of Aunt Dimity and the Duke. Meanwhile I’ve been a lot tired and of correspondingly low mood, and persistently failed to find the time to write anything about it. Trying to fix that now before it fades any further into the past and becomes any more overwritten by the stories I have read since then.

It ended up being a pleasant enough read, which is about what I expected. Precocious, strange children from a tragic background grow on our heroine, who is forced by conversation with others to realise she has been in love with that guy since the moment she saw him. Which surprised me because I was hoping for some sort of relationship to develop.

There’s a lot for me to be dissatisfied with in this book, like the way suspicion of the Duke is built and built but ultimately our protagonists do not actually solve anything. Rather, they get caught in the act of investigating and our supposed villain says some deliberately menacing, misleading things before dragging out the exculpatory revelation scene for a whole chapter. That is, pretending to admit to villainy, then making everyone sit in a drawing room for an entire chapter before commencing to explain non-villainy. Plus a household of independently wealthy servants who are all singular geniuses in their various fields, who continue to servant for the love of it, and a whole village of folk firmly committed to being rustic English country-folk.

Characters who are bloody-mindedly committed to acting out their idiom. I think particularly of Nanny Cole, who manages to be a beloved figure in the household despite speaking only to insult or threaten others, and in one crowd scene was responding so to virtually every utterance. That part was quite a chore to read.

The whole thing was such a comedy, I want to say. Both couples get married. Prophecies of love are fulfilled. Children save the day (by the by, I got the impression early that Peter was meant to be the main child, but suspect the author had so much fun with Nell’s peculiarities that she ended up taking centre stage). Everyone is innocent, or contrite unto death, and the wronged party not only forgives her assailant, not only claims to have borne fault in the matter of being assaulted, but even offers to apprentice her assailant. So much so does everything end happily.

It was as a GoodReads review indicated a prequel to the rest of the Aunt Dimity series so I was disappointed to have my suspicions confirmed and the shadow of her living self appear at the end. Bit amusing though that the only direct Dimity appearance comes in the form of prequel to prequel, in the prologue many years prior to the body of this novel.

I’m assuming the protagonists become recurring characters in the Aunt Dimity series - but not themselves leads - because they celebrate by purchasing a house in the village where the series actually takes place. Which is not where this novel happened. It feels a bit weird reading a novel in a series that has a different setting and cast to the rest of the series, and where the character around whose death the series is constructed is not in fact dead.

I suppose I might wonder whether I have really read an Aunt Dimity book after all. Presumably the tonal essence is there. I said above there is a lot for me to be dissatisfied with in this book, and there is, but at least it was drawn so sweetly I don’t feel any personal venom for it. The ride was fun enough, but I doubt I will another of them when there are so many more interesting alternatives in the world.
aesmael: (writing things down)

Chapters 10-13

About half-way through. Still no sign of the promised ghost aunt. Beginning to think she won’t show. Meanwhile our protagonist finds the children growing on her with their quirky damage. Continues to feel like she is being fitted into a narrative she did not ask or want to be moulded to (new dresses appearing in her wardrobe, persuasion that gardening is her true passion, that sort of thing). Sometimes when I am reading this feels almost like a horror narrative.

Also meanwhile, spending time with their handsome, son-of-an-earl father who is still grieving his wife after five years. But he does bring with him the stirrings of mystery plot. Had to remind myself not to scoff at the hint of supernaturalism in the colour-changing stained glass window that doesn’t need restoring, since this is after all a ghost aunt mystery (minus one ghost aunt). Aaand casting suspicion on the Duke’s obsessive quest to enact the ritual of his family’s legend, plus the vast sums of mysteriously obtained money funding this. He’s even built himself a Stepford village! I suspect the resolution of this plot will be to clear the Duke of all suspicion, perhaps with some otherworldly intervention.

Bit of US writer feeling when the kids are served cider at lunch, since in most of the world unqualified cider is an alcoholic beverage (details I latch onto). I was a bit gratified by the protagonist drawing upon her computer expertise to impress others and make helpful mystery-solving suggestions. Mainly because I’ve been worried the fulfilment of this story will involve her casting off her successful computing business to take on the roles of wife and gardener. But not so gratified by the ‘not like other girls’ undertone. Paired with love interest being proud of his shamefully-for-an-earl’s-son practical interests in life. But it does improve my reception of the romancey togetherness.

[sometimes I gotta remind myself I don’t have a policy on spoiler or non-spoiler info, or writing in a recappy or non-recappy style, although if I think it might be something a lot of people would be concerned about spoilers for and not have read maybe I should use a cut]

aesmael: (sudden sailor)

Volume 1, Act 4: Masquerade Dance Party

This is exactly the chapter I needed at this point. Promise of ongoing narrative, characters settling into themselves, Nephrite pledging to revive Jadeite…

Even the recap was changed up enough, and the dossier Luna is building on the computer was cute (especially that they have indeed identified Tuxedo Mask).

Basically, on a first reading I don’t have any complaints.

Oh, wait, there is one! Bit of ‘glasses make you unattractive but if you take them off and shake your hair out you too could be a bombshell’.



September 2017

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