Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 5 The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This was one of the last two of this series that I had not read yet, although by no means the last in chronological order. Not that that matters very much with this series, but this one was published as volume five, and was the last one I read, and it's odd to think this grew on me so quickly after I had initially not liked one of these volumes when I read it a few years back and so never pursued the series! Now I'm sorry it's over, but I do understand Allison's desire to move on and try something new. I'm just sorry I didn't like what he did next.

In this volume, the author explores Selkies - mythological seal-like creatures that inhabit the ocean, but after casting-off their sealskin cloak, appear as human - and very pretty young girls some of them are, too. Due to Lottie's discovery of one of these cloaks on the beach, and her stuffing it into one of the boys' bags, the Selkie latches onto this boy and pursues him ardently, including enrolling at his school, where she poses a threat to the established swimming champion in the school, who is also threatened by her boyfriend dating one of the girls without telling her he doesn't want to date her any more. But wait, his ex is good-looking, and a great swimmer? What's going on here? Meanwhile the Selkie's dad emerges from the ocean in search of his lost girls and is immediately assumed to be a homeless guy!

Once again I was highly amused by this and I am sorry to see the series come to an end. I commend this as a worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 2 The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the second to last I've read in this series, but the second to be published chronologically. In the story, Mildred wants to win an enchanted pencil at the visiting carnival, so she can draw a dog - which the pencil will make real, and then she can have a pet. Meanwhile toddlers are disappearing, mostly from the baby care centre, and the police don't seem to be doing much about it ("Oh, they'll turn up!"). Meanwhile some sort of creature is lurking in the forest and a crazed animal hunter is called in to track it down.

So once again the boys and the girls are coming at a mystery from two direction and destined to collide, one way or another, in the middle. There's the usual off-kilter humor, and bizarre utterances from Lottie, my favorite character, and overall the story was hilarious and very much appreciated. I fully commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 7 The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Here I go reviewing the last volume before I've read them all. The others are on the way. This one, surprisingly, was actually in a regular comic book format - but slightly smaller. This made for easy reading, but disguised the fact that it was considerably shorter than the others I've read. Whether this was just because it's the closing volume, or this one was written for the print version rather than as a web comic, I do not know.

The story was just about the girls, too - which is fine with me because they've been typically far more interesting than the boys who barely were featured in this story. And by that I mean they were in the story hardly at all - not that they were in the story without any clothes on.

So Charlotte Grote, Mildred Haversham, and Shauna Wickle are on the case - once they discover what the case is, and in this case it's the curious wormhole in a cabinet in the chemistry lab at school, which they go through back to 1960, only to return and discover that the present is screwed-up, so naturally they have to go back and fix it now. Or then. Whatevs.

You know they're still going to screw something up, right?

I loved this story. It might be my favorite, but I still have volumes two and five to go, so we'll see. Meanwhile this gets a worthy!


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 4 The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Another outing for Charlotte, Linton, Jack, Mildred, Shauna, and Sonny, who are now in the second year at Griswold Grammar school and marveling at how tiny and young the new first years look. One new kid, Lem, is decidedly strange. He eats onions like they're apples and suddenly, everyone starts thinking he's a cool guy - including Shauna's previously disparaging friends.

But where are Shauna's compatriots? Why do they all seem utterly preoccupied with other things and uncaring about a "mystery"? Shauna, it seems, will have to go it alone, or recruit new people onto her team, because one by one, it seems, even her closest friends are being won over to Lem's onion-eating circle. What the heck is going on? One way or another, Shauna's going to find out.

After a weird start to this series several years back, and a hiccup several years back minus two, I finally got really into it over the last few days, and now I intend to check out the remaining three volumes.


Bad Machinery Volume 3 The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume one of the graphic novel series for which I reviewed volume six yesterday. The volumes are, in order: The Case of the Team Spirit, The Case of the Good Boy, The Case of the Simple Soul, The Case of the Lonely One, The Case of the Fire Inside, The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor, and The Case of the Forked Road. The publication as print volumes, of the collected web comics began in 2013, and at least one was published every year through 2017. Since that was over two years ago, I'm thinking this series is done now.

When I posted the review of volume six yesterday, I couldn't get away from the idea that Bad Machinery was something I'd tangled with before - and I'm not talking about an old motor vehicle! So I looked back in my reviews and discovered that I'd reviewed two of these, one back in 2014 and the other in 2016, the first negative, the second positive, but I'd never got back with any volumes after that.

When I'd read it for the first time, volume 3 (which is this volume) I hadn't rated it very highly and I forgot about it, but now having read it again, I'm forced to change my view. I think maybe I've warmed to the characters and the story-telling in the meantime - or maybe before was a mean time and now isn't? I dunno! But no! This doesn't mean I'm going to return to previously negatively-rated books for the purpose of re-reading and re-rating all of them! Yuk!

When I initially read it, I was trading the thing back and forth with my son (and the format of these books is unwieldy!), each of us reading a section, and neither of us had been very impressed with it. This time I read it on my own and as part of these three volumes I'm reviewing today, so I think maybe I was on a roll.

In this volume, the usual crew, Linton Baxter, Sonny Craven, Jack Finch, Charlotte Grote, Mildred Haversham, and Shauna Wickle come at the same problem - a fire-starter - from different angles, and end-up solving the problem. One issue is a real live troll - who looks like a brawny, neckless human, is living under a bridge. The other issue is that empty barns are being burned down. Of course there are many other issues!

The gang get by with their usual wry and dry take on life, their usual weird situations, and their usual humor. Unlike in late 2014, this amused me this time around and I commend it as a worthy read.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 6 The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This graphic novel amused me from the outset, even more than I had hoped it would from a quick scan of it in the library. This is volume 6, which happened to be the first (and only one) I saw there, so now I've requested the first couple of volumes to start this from the beginning and see if I still like it when I don't arrive at it ass-backwards (or is it arse-backwards, since this is a Brit publication?).

This volume is centered on The Night Creeper, a grinning ghoul who seems to prey on the townsfolk of Tackleford leaving them gaga (in the old fashioned sense - they're not singing "Sh-sh-sha-a-low" or anything like that, understand...). All they're left with is vacant looks and a grin worthy of the amusing 1961 "horror" movie Mr Sardonicus.

This whole thing began as a web comic in 2009, and blossomed from there into over half-a-dozen hefty volumes now. I loved the sly humor - and being British-born, understood most of it despite also being a long-term ex-pat. It was very much my kind of humor though. The only thing I didn't like was the large format of the comic!

It was not only oversized as compared with most graphic novels, it was quite thick and in landscape format to boot, being more akin to a large place mat than a graphic novel, and it had the same lack of rigidity to it, meaning it was quite tiresome to try to hold while reading. You really need a table, a lap, or even a lectern to read one of these things. The struggle was worth it for the humor, though. I commend this as a worthy read.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell


Rating: WORTHY!

This is something of a Cinderella story and it was also another of those audiobooks I seem to have been listening to lately which gets off to a great start, falls flat in the middle, but picks up again towards the end, so overall I consider it a worthy listen, but it had an issue or two here and there along the way. It was read by Bianca Amato who did a good job.

Wilhelmina Silver has had an amazing childhood in Zimbabwe, despite losing her mother at an early age. Her father was still around and she was allowed to run wild, learning all she needed to from her daily adventures and from the extensive library her father had in their ranch. But when he dies unexpectedly and his nurse movies in on the family and starts taking over, Wil suddenly finds herself on the outs and is eventually and summarily packed-off alone to an English boarding school while her home is sold.

To Wil, the people in her school are as cold as the weather and her spirits as dampened as the climate. Wil runs away from school and lives on her own on the streets (and in a zoo!) for a while before finally returning to the school and finding a place there. The novel tells a good and interesting story when it finds its pace, but there are times when it rather drags and you're wanting something to happen which doesn't. I'm not a big fan of school bully and cruelty stories, so I disliked that part. It wasn't so bad, but it was a bit overdone and too black and white for my taste. I found it hard to believe that girls of breeding who attended this school would have been so relentlessly, uniformly, and openly cruel as depicted here. It didn't seem realistic to me.

The worst part about this story is that Wil is presented in the early chapters as fearless, feisty, and indomitable, but in England she seems completely the opposite. Yes, she has some grit and some inventiveness, but she seems like a different character from the one we'd been introduced to earlier, and while I get that being torn from a comfortable and happy home and dropped unkindly into a new life for which they're completely unprepared can knock the stuffing out of a person, it felt a bit like a betrayal of Wil that she was so consistently and so interminably presented as weak and lost. It felt wrong and inauthentic, and did the character a disservice.

That said, she took charge and bounced back and that's where the story improved for me, so while it has its faults, it's not too bad of a story for an age-appropriate audience.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell


Rating: WORTHY!

This is something of a Cinderella story and it was also another of those audiobooks I seem to have been listening to lately which gets off to a great start, falls flat in the middle, but picks up again towards the end, so overall I consider it a worthy listen, but it had an issue or two here and there along the way. It was read by Bianca Amato who did a good job.

Wilhelmina Silver has had an amazing childhood in Zimbabwe, despite losing her mother at an early age. Her father was still around and she was allowed to run wild, learning all she needed to from her daily adventures and from the extensive library her father had in their ranch. But when he dies unexpectedly and his nurse movies in on the family and starts taking over, Wil suddenly finds herself on the outs and is eventually and summarily packed-off alone to an English boarding school while her home is sold.

To Wil, the people in her school are as cold as the weather and her spirits as dampened as the climate. Wil runs away from school and lives on her own on the streets (and in a zoo!) for a while before finally returning to the school and finding a place there. The novel tells a good and interesting story when it finds its pace, but there are times when it rather drags and you're wanting something to happen which doesn't. I'm not a big fan of school bully and cruelty stories, so I disliked that part. It wasn't so bad, but it was a bit overdone and too black and white for my taste. I found it hard to believe that girls of breeding who attended this school would have been so relentlessly, uniformly, and openly cruel as depicted here. It didn't seem realistic to me.

The worst part about this story is that Wil is presented in the early chapters as fearless, feisty, and indomitable, but in England she seems completely the opposite. Yes, she has some grit and some inventiveness, but she seems like a different character from the one we'd been introduced to earlier, and while I get that being torn from a comfortable and happy home and dropped unkindly into a new life for which they're completely unprepared can knock the stuffing out of a person, it felt a bit like a betrayal of Wil that she was so consistently and so interminably presented as weak and lost. It felt wrong and inauthentic, and did the character a disservice.

That said, she took charge and bounced back and that's where the story improved for me, so while it has its faults, it's not too bad of a story for an age-appropriate audience.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Usually on Net Galley, you request a book to read and review and you take your chance as to whether it will be approved. Sometimes books are listed as 'Read Now' which tends to mean the book isn't doing so well or is being undervalued, and the publisher wants it read more widely. Those books are great because I've found many gems among them. There is another option though, which is the 'wish for it' category.

This has also been kind to me because I've found some gems there, too, but since the ones I've wished for have all been granted (to my best recollection), I have to wonder if this category is used because the author or publisher is lacking somewhat in confidence in the book and wants to ensure that it's requested only by those who really want to read it? I don't know. Personally I've tended to enjoy the 'wished-for' books, but I can't say that of this particular one unfortunately.

The blurb for this book makes it all about Charles Hayden, which seems rather genderist since Hayden is only one half of a married couple who travel to Yorkshire in the UK, a place I know and from whence both my parents hailed, but we see very little of Yorkshire. We are confined to an ancient manor house surrounded by a castle-like wall, and it's Erin Hayden's family connections which have led to this inheritance: to this manor isolated in an even more ancient wood. Erin isn't even mentioned in the blurb! Charles may as well have been single.

That said, the story is told from Charles's perspective, thankfully not in first person, but this novel would have been a lot easier to like had either of these two people been themselves remotely likeable. As it was, they were chronic whiners and I was turned off both of them within a few paragraphs of starting to read this.

Both were endlessly wallowing in the loss of their daughter Lissa. A mention of this once in a while would have been perfectly understandable, but as it was, it felt like it was every other paragraph and it became a tedious annoyance, drawing me out of the story as I read again and again of how obsessed they were with their 'lost' daughter. A search for the daughter's name produced 156 hits in this novel. A search for 'daughter' produced another 56. It was too much, and it felt like a failure of writing. It's certainly possible to convey deep grief in a character without rabbiting on about it to a nauseating degree, so this felt like a really bad choice to me.

The fact that we're denied any real information about what happened to Lissa didn't help at all, and actually made things worse. Did she disappear? Was she killed? Did she become fatally ill? Who knows? The author doesn't care to share this information, at least not in the portion of this that I read before becoming so frustrated I didn't want to read any more; nor do we learn anything about the affair Charles had - just that he had one.

This affair is related to us as if it were no more important than his remembering he had once stubbed his toe, so even as big of a betrayal as that was, it carries little import because of the way it's so casually tossed out, yet this woman Syrah, is mentioned a further 34 times in the book. It's another thing that Charles is unaccountably obsessed with. No wonder he gets nothing done: his mind is always elsewhere! And this obsession is a continuing betrayal of his wife.

Frankly, these two, Charles and Erin, were so annoying I wanted to shake them and slap them. Not that I would, but the truth is that they were seriously in need of inpatient psychiatric attention and it showed badly, but no one seemed to care. The fact that we're told his wife has a boatload of medications she's taking and Charles doesn't even care made me dislike him even more intensely. He came across as shallow and selfish and quite frankly, a jerk. His wife was painted a little bit better, but neither of them remotely interested me as characters about whom I would ever want to learn anything more or about whose futures I cared.

At first I had thought the story would end with their daughter being returned to them, but then I learned of another child in the story and it seemed pretty obvious what would happen at that point. I don't know if that's what did happen, but if it did, that would have been way too trite and predictable for my taste. It's been done before.

Charles's other obsession, aside from his daughter, the woman he had an affair with, and the woman, Silva at the local historical society with whom he'd like to have an affair, was this book he stole as a child, and which was written by a Victorian relative of Erin's. He thinks he can write a biography of the author, Caedmon Hollow - yes that's the name of the guy, not the name of the mansion! - but it seems like he's much more interested in getting into Silva's panties than ever he is in writing anything. He's been into that book only once in his entire life, but he's into thinking about Silva at the drop of a hat.

The book and the mystery it was attached to should have been central to the story but there was so much stuff tossed in here (I think there was actually a kitchen sink at one point) that the book robbed that purported mystery of any currency it may have had. It became a secondary issue to everything else that was going on.

Since it was that very mystery which had drawn me to the novel in the first place, this felt like a betrayal if not an outright slap in the face and really contributed to my decision to quit reading. It felt like it was going nowhere and taking a heck of a long time to get there, and I had better things to do with my time. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Bad Machinery Volume 1 The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Note that this review is based on an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Bad Machinery is exactly what it says! It's totally bad-ass and hugely hilarious. But let's not confuse the case of team spirit with a case of liquor! These kids are only middle grade after all. This book, one of a series, is set in a Grammar school in England, and it's a locale with which I am intimately familiar having attended one myself. The story is set in Yorkshire, where my parents were born and raised, and I grew up next door, in Derbyshire. Non-Brits may need some remedial assistance on the lingo, but most of it isn't hard to understand. The graphic novel is evidently composed of webcomic dailies.

I adored this story. Every one of the characters is one I wish I had known at my own school, but alas and a lack of them was what plagued me there. Charlotte Grote, Jack Finch, Linton Baxter, Mildred Haversham, Shauna Wickle, and Sonny Craven are the weird, whacky, and charming students dealing with assorted life crises in their own peculiar ways. Sometimes their agendas conflict and other times they align.

The big deal is that a Russian owner of the local soccer club is trying to demolish houses to build a new stadium in their place, but this Russky seems to have pissed-off the mother of all bad luck, as becomes apparent when a satellite crashes onto the football pitch in the middle of a game, and assorted other disasters befall him. Plus Mrs Biscuits is also Russian, but not interested in rushing anywhere. She refuses to move from her home which sits, of course, right in the way of the Russian's plans to raze the land and raise a stadium. Two of the girls decide to make her the subject of a school project.

Each character has their own cross to bear. Shauna's, for example, is her slightly dysfunctional younger brother whose favorite non-word is BORB. Linton is plagued by his overly attentive mother and his fear that the beautiful new soccer stadium may never materialize. Sonny's father misses his own brutal grammar school days which appear to have been the inspiration for Michael Palin's Ripping Yarns, specifically the episode titled Tomkinson's Schooldays. Jack suffers an older sister who attends the same school and dispenses remarkable advice like, "It's a good idea to shave off your eyebrows" and "be sure to wear eye-shadow for gym." I fell in love with Charlotte though, disgusting as that is, since I'm old enough to be her father, but her sense of humor completely slayed me. She is the queen of bizarre observations and off-the-wall comments such as when she wants to discuss the procedure for extracting mothballs from moths.

The story meanders delightfully and abstrusely towards a satisfying conclusion. The art isn't spectacular, but it's serviceable and it got the job done for me. I haven't read any others in this series, but I fully intend to correct that oversight, first chance I get - which wasn't until 2019! I guess I got really busy with other stuff!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel





Title: Palace of Spies
Author: Sarah Zettel
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: WORTHY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is less detailed so as not to rob the writer of their story, but even so, it will probably still be more in-depth than you'll typically find elsewhere!

Despite the unfortunate initials of this novel's title (PoS!), I loved the title page which said,

Being a true, accurate, and complete account of the scandalous and wholly remarkable adventures of Margaret Preston Fitzroy, counterfeit lady, accused thief, and confidential agent at the court of His Majesty King George 1.
My dearest hope going in was that this novel would live up to that adorable billing in every way (even though the accused thief bit isn't true!).

I'm not a fan of historical romance, which is why I found myself liking this novel. The story is a real pleasure to read. It's not only believable, but gripping, interesting, with a sharp tang of sly humor running through it, and it drew me right in. It moves very quickly, and nothing is wasted. Just when I thought a trope romance guy was going to enter the fray and drag things down into the mud, he was dispatched with admirable expediency: indeed his very fate was essential to the tale to move it along.

I had only one mild issue with it in the first one hundred pages, but with what novel are there no issues? The issue was merely the use of American spellings and idiom, and even having said that, I'm forced to wonder, with regard to idiom, whether modern American English might possess of itself more authenticity than modern English English for a tale such as this, set as it is three hundred years ago. I'll leave that to the experts to resolve because it certainly isn't worth agonizing over in a novel which is as well written as this one has proven itself to be.

Our doubty protagonist, Margaret Fitzroy ("Peggy"), born in the year 1700, is a sixteen-year-old when we meet her, a spirited woman whose father left her family half her lifetime ago, which betrayal subsequently resulted in the deterioration of her mother to the point of death (so we're told - I have some doubts, I confess!). I strongly suspect that we will revisit this incident at a later point in Peggy's history. In the meantime, she was taken in by an uncle who was resentful of it to say the least, and Peggy found herself on easy street, becoming spoiled and not entirely as appreciative of what she had as perhaps she ought to have been.

She grew to be best friends with her cousin Olivia, both girls being well-educated and having rather wild and dramatic imaginations; then it all came crashing down when Peggy was informed that she had been betrothed to Sebastien. This was immediately post-ceded by "the incident" which was beautifully written. Suddenly, Peggy finds her life in ruins. She is quite literally on the street. Fortunately for her circumstances, an unusual encounter with a rather mysterious gentleman at a ball she had attended the night before has provided the only option which remains to her. She avails herself of this opportunity, although she does not see it so at the time, and this is how she becomes a spy in the court of King George 1st under a false name, posing as the Lady Francesca.

What more do you need for me to tell you in order for you to want to go get this novel and start reading immediately?! I blew through the first one hundred pages, expending zero effort in the doing, and fully expected to see off the remaining 262 without having to get up out of my seat.

So Peggy is trained and goes to court where interesting discoveries galore lie in wait for her which I will not share, although I long to! Another rather tropish guy puts in an appearance, but until I finished the novel I chose to reserving judgment upon him. In terms of court life, we're spared too many tedious details. The only thing I found curious there (curious in a bad way) was the mention of Frideric Handel. Given the German origin of the Princess (Caroline) whom Peggy meets, why is he not referred to as Georg Friedrich Händel? Who knows?! Actually there is one other major curiosity: How does Peggy get away with posing as a completely different person? That, I felt was stretching things a bit far, so you have to agree to let that slip by if you want to really enjoy this!

Having just completed the less-than-stellar The Friday Society, I have to say that Zettel walks all over Adrienne Cress in her ability to convey a sense of period, but without using a lot of antiquated or stilted language to do it. If you want to write an historical novel, yet make it truly accessible to today's young audience, take some pages out of Zettel's novel. No, don't do that, she'll sue you for plagiarism. Instead, learn from her, and try to emulate her example with your own original material!

My first real disappointment in this novel came in chapter twelve where we're treated to a paragraph-long description of Peggy's attire. I don’t care what she's wearing unless it has some direct relevance to the plot! I'm not one who is impressed by an author who is proudly dedicated to crowing about how much period research she did. I don’t know this period, so Zettel could slip things by me which I would not catch. Unless she tossed in something really anachronistic, I woudn't notice, and there's no reason why I should. I don’t care. I'm about character and plot, not about frills. Two sentences, if you really insist, to set her attire in place and then let’s go! Please!

But while I'm on this topic, I have a question: why would a woman who lives in that era, who has been raised in that era knowing no other era, make so many remarks about her attire, and in particular, her stays? I don't buy that approach at all. Admittedly I have a really serious problem with first person PoV novels, but that's a whole other essay! Peggy's period in history may well be something new to us as twenty-first century readers of this fiction, but it was nothing to her. She was habituated to it and had no reason to constantly remark upon the peccadilloes of it. The only reason she would do so is because the author wanted to show off, and that turns me off. I found it to be nothing other than a frequent reminder that I was reading historical fiction, which in turn made it more difficult for me to become engaged by the story. Please, if you're going to write historical fiction, stay with the fiction and avoid the friction! This applies especially if you're going to write it from a contemporary perspective, and even more especially if this is a first-person perspective. Write it realistically and not as though our narrator is a twenty-first century visitor to that era! It doesn't work!

I'm not convinced that a woman living in Peggy's era would have thoughts which included phrases along the lines of 'dropped dead', but that's the kind of thing I'm personally willing to let go right on by if it's not combined with other problems in the same small section of the novel! I was rather disappointed, given Peggy's confusion during her Molly's monologue, that she did not think to ask Abbot (now posing as another maid) to explain a few things about Lady Francesca's personal history. Indeed, why were these things not shared with Peggy beforehand? Things like this are far more likely to trip her up than the other material she was taught. Fortunately, Molly seems like she's going to be an ally. This is why Peggy ought to confide in her that she's not exactly compos mentis and needs a little help, which should not come in the form of a poker she picked up as a defensive weapon in the hallway! Why would there be a poker in the hallway? There are no fireplaces in the hallway! Remember, the only water in the forest is the river, hence the River Song….

My second real disappointment also arrived with chapter twelve - that of another trope male romantic figure, Matthew Reade (yes with an 'e'!) who at first glace appeared to be some sort of an artist, but as I mentioned, I was willing to let this go and see how it played out. I was hoping that Zettel would really pull out some magic from that point onwards, otherwise I should perforce be required to dispossess this goodly novel of my favor.

Fortunately for my budding relationship with Zettel, she did pull out some magic. Matthew turned out to be no trope at all, and the story really took off. I thoroughly enjoyed this and was thrilled by how Zettel handled the romance which wasn't really any kind of romance - not yet - which was why I enjoyed it so much. I approve of Matthew. I was happy to read the novel to the end and sad that it ended, but this is to be the start of a series, and I'm definitely on board with it. Notwithstanding my criticisms above, I recommend this novel. The story was engrossing, the characters charming, and the villains realistic. Be prepared for plot twists and double-twists, for fun and durring-do (and don't), but most of all, just sit back and enjoy Peggy - an up-and-coming main character with pluck, loyalty, bravery, and a healthy dose of humor. Can't go wrong. This is a worthy novel!