Craig Johnson in Boise

I put off posting this to go along with the blog post for the book. Which I expected to do a month and a half ago. Whoops.

To celebrate the release of his new book in September, Rediscovered Books brought Craig Johnson to town for a reading, signing and whatnot — continuing something they’ve been doing since Johnson first started doing public appearances.

Johnson started off talking about his connection with Rediscovered and the early days of touring and public appearances. Then he sifted into talking about the new book (The Depth of Winter) and some of the preparation work he did for the book — including a snowy trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and a visit to Mexico where his guide kept insisting that he not tell anyone who he was (he’d be too attractive to kidnappers).

He did a little reading from the first chapter of the book — Johnson comes across as a natural at this. No offense to George Guidall, but Johnson would make a great Longmire audiobook narrator. Then he shifted to audience questions — which ranged from some talk about the TV series (maybe too much of that, but that’s probably just me) to the similarities between Vic and Mrs. Johnson to some of the early writing of the series. Johnson quickly and deftly transitioned from an answer to the question to an anecdote along the same lines, giving the audience member what they wanted to know and more. It was really one of the better Q&A sessions that I’ve been present for.

Then the signing kicked off — when my friend and I got close we heard a great story about Grace Slick’s reaction to The Western Star (I’d have paid good money for that story). My friend got in a good question and then it was my turn. And I got a refresher on why I blog instead of doing a podcast or vlog. Aside from one almost clever response to something he said, all I could muster up was 3-4 “Thank You”s to getting the picture, his signature and whatnot. No interesting question, no insightful comment about the series, observation about his work — or even an articulate appreciation for something about his writing. Nope. Just “Thank you,” and a feeling of inadequacy and inarticulateness.

Before the event, while my friend and I were waiting in line to pay for parking, I see a gentleman walk up wearing a large hat. I mutter something to myself about hoping I didn’t get stuck behind this guy, because between that hat and his height, there was no way I’d be able to see Johnson. Actually, given the “Western wear” the guy was sporting, he could almost pass for Johnson, I remember thinking. Except this gentleman was younger than I remembered pictures of Johnson appearing. Naturally, about ten minutes later, we’re talking to people sitting in the same row who talked about riding up in the elevator with Johnson. I said something about talking myself out of thinking he was in line behind us for parking. They replied with something about the green plaid shirt and I felt like the world’s worst fan. Clearly, I care more about a writer’s words than his appearance. On the plus side, not recognizing him spared both of us the opportunity to unleash my eloquence on him earlier.

That aside, it was a great night — Johnson can tell a story in person as well as he can on paper. Sure, the audience was already predisposed to enjoy him — but he kept our attention and rewarded it. If you have a chance, I highly recommend going to one of his public appearances — you’ll have a blast.

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Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson: Walt Goes South of the Border on a Rescue Mission

Spoilers for The Western Star appear below, read at your own risk if you haven’t caught up.

Depth of WinterDepth of Winter

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #14

Hardcover, 292 pg.
Viking, 2018
Read: September 27 – 29, 2018

“I wish we had more weapons.”

I thought about the fact that we pretty much just had the Colt at my back, the FN, and the collection of antique weaponry in the gym bag. “Me, too.”

He lit the cigar and pocketed the lighter. “You know he is going to kill you.”

“I know it’s a possibility.”

He took a deep puff, savoring the tobacco, and then slowly exhaled. “I’d say it’s a probability.”

With just a little adjustment to what happened at the end of The Western Star, Johnson picks up shortly after Walt takes off on the trail of Tomás Bidarte who has arranged for the kidnapping of Cady. It’s a suicide mission and not one with much likelihood of success — but Walt’s convinced he has no choice and is determined he will survive long enough to get Cady freed. He has no plan (that we know of) to keep her safe after he’s dead, but seems to believe he’ll have made her safe beforehand.

To do this, he elicits some help from a maverick-y US Border Patrol agent and some interesting characters from a blind and legless man who serves as Walt’s guide, his nephew, and a former spy turned doctor to help him get to and infiltrate Bidarte’s compound. The most intriguing of Walt’s new allies is a young man named Isidro, a Tarahumara and a sharpshooter that puts Vic to shame. Both his mannerisms and backstory really sold me on him — more than I expected.

I’ve pushed off writing this post because I’m not sure what to say about it. Yes, it was exciting. Yes, there’s a lot of good action — and seeing Walt out of his element, dependent upon others to explain the world around him and for backup is a nice change of pace.

But . . .

It’s not Walt Longmire. Walt’s an honorable man. A man of law and order (I know, I know…he’s also going to make exceptions where Cady is concerned). He’s a guy who figures things out, he’s not a one man (or one man with strong support) vigilante army. That Walt is hard to find in this book, replaced with some sort of not-quite Bryan Mills-level action hero.

Bidarte’s become some sort of super-villain. Some sort of strange mashup of a James Bond villain and the head of a CBS procedural’s Drug Cartel. And that was hard to take. I also have a hard time swallowing the idea of . . . well, I can’t talk about that without spoiling anything. But there’s an auction — and I can’t buy: 1. the idea of it; 2. the number of bidders; 3. how that all played out. If you read/will read the book, you’ll know what I mean.

I am so glad I got to meet Isidro, and I wouldn’t mind more time with The Seer and the doctor and their families — or even the Border Patrol agent (he’d be a lot of fun with Walt’s FBI or State Police friends). But under very different circumstances. The story is exciting — there’s some good chuckles, a couple of great fight scenes, a lot of heart. There’s a lot to commend this book for. But it’s not a Walt Longmire book to me, and that’s its fatal flaw.

Going into this, I feared it’d be Johnson’s equivalent to Parker’s A Catskill Eagle, a book that had Parker’s character act out of character on his mission to save the most important woman in his life. But I hoped that Johnson would be able to avoid the problems that Parker ran into. I don’t think he succeeded, I’m sure that others will disagree. This one just didn’t do much for me, and the more time I think about it, the worse it fares. So I’m going to try to not think about it again for a while.

I do look forward to seeing Walt back in Wyoming, dealing with some/all of the fallout and repercussions of the events of this book. But most of all I look forward to seeing Walt be Walt again.

—–

3 Stars

Some quick thoughts on Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal WhiteLethal White

by Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike, #4

Hardcover, 647 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2018
Read: September 19 – 26, 2018

I just don’t have the patience or energy to give Lethal White the kind of post I want to. So let me be brief — this picks up minutes after the end of Career of Evil and we spend a few pages with Strike and Robin trying to have an actual conversation at her wedding. It almost goes well, but between Matthew, her family, Strike’s drinking . . . yeah, well. It was a good start.

Then eleven months and change fly by and we get to the thick of the novel (pun absolutely not intended, but very fitting), so let’s cut to the Publisher’s Blurb to sum that up.

           “I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott–once his assistant, now a partner in the agency-set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been-Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, Lethal White is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment [sic] in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

If by “most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet,” they mean the longest, well, yeah. That’s certainly the case. Wow, this thing was long — you can argue bloated, even. At the same time — while lamenting the week it took me to get through this — I don’t know what I’d cut if given the opportunity. Everything I’ve thought could be lost, can’t be without ruining something else. It’s real a testament to Galbraith’s skill that there’s really nothing wasted, everything sets up something else.

But man, I wish that wasn’t the case. And, yeah, fill up the comment section with how I’m wrong about that, I’m more than willing to be convinced.

But what makes all of the work worth it? The scenes where Strike and Robin work together, think through things together, or even just talk like friends together. In short — Strike and Robin together. It doesn’t happen enough — and, honestly, there’s some sloppy, soap opera-ish machinations keeping that from happening the way it should (well, okay, the way I want it to). I honestly don’t care one way or the other if they ever get together (as inevitable as it seems) — I just want them working together.

The other great thing is the way that the events of Career of Evil have impacted Robin and the way she’s reacting to that impact. I don’t want to say more, but I loved this.

Lastly, the nature of the murders at the core of the book stand in sharp contrast to some of the murders in earlier Strike novels. Some novelists get stuck in a rut and all the murderers/motives/methods become variations on a theme — each one more extreme than the previous. Galbraith dodges that here, and that pleases me a lot.

There’s a lot more that could be discussed — and I hope others do (or inspire me with a comment to do so). Good mystery, good character development (some well overdue), I enjoyed all of the characters, etc., etc. But I’ll leave it at that — I’m glad we got another book, and am looking forward to the next already. I just hope it’s a little leaner.

—–

4 Stars

Wrecked by Joe Ide: Isaiah and Dodson Face Their Most Dangerous Foes Yet

WreckedWrecked

by Joe Ide
Series: IQ, #3

Hardcover, 340 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2018
Read: October 19 – 22, 2018

At the end of Righteous, Isaiah meets a girl — I don’t remember much about it, but there’s something about her that clearly makes an impression on IQ — and his dog. It was enough to give us a little hope for our intrepid hero after everything he’d just gone through as we wrapped up the book. This book starts with the three of them bumping into each other again — this time IQ definitely is attracted to her and his dog and the woman clearly enjoy each other’s company. Which is great for them, but you feel a little bad for Isaiah.

Before long, Grace comes to Isaiah with a case. Her mother disappeared a decade ago — under a cloud, it should be added — and Grace saw her on the street near her home. Can Isaiah find her? She’s a painter trying to get a start and really can’t afford much — but gives him a painting as payment.

The catch is, Isaiah and Dodson have recently become partners and Dodson is determined to make Isaiah’s business legitimate. They’ve got a web presence, a Facebook page, and a strict policy on minimum fees. These fees have to be money. No lawn care services, cooking, et cetera. Dodson has a wife and child to provide for and he is inflexible on this point. Isaiah makes an exception and ignores Dodson’s complaints, once Dodson figures out Isaiah’s motivation to take the case, he acquiesces — like a good friend would.

What makes this case complicated is that Sarah, Grace’s mom, is trying to blackmail some very dangerous people. It takes a long time for us to get all the details behind the blackmailing (it’s absolutely worth the wait, and Ide does a great job revealing things to us in drips), but what’s important isn’t the why — it’s the reaction to the blackmail. Isaiah, Dodson and their clients have been in dangerous and tough spots before — but I promise you, those pale in comparison to this. These people bring a level of danger, a level of callousness, a level of professionalism, that will demand more from Isaiah than he’s used to — and he’ll have to find new ways to approach things to survive.

Meanwhile, there’s another blackmail story afoot. One of the darkest episodes of the partners’ (and Deronda’s) past comes back to bite them — a criminal act that they’ve gotten away with, primarily because no one knew they got away with anything. Somehow, word has gotten out, and someone wants money from them to stop him from going public with what he knows. If the victims of this crime — a couple of notorious drug dealers — find out, it will likely prove fatal. Dodson attempts to take care of this on his own, with a little help from Deronda.

Clearly, the partnership isn’t off to the strongest start.

There is a drink described here — not that anyone you’re supposed to like drinks it — that is possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve read this year, it’s a mix of vodka, Coke, and things that shouldn’t be consumed with each other. There are scenes of physical violence and torture in this book, horrible things really, but it’s Parks Punch that left scars.

Actually, there is something more painful, now that I think of it. Junior, one of the drug dealers that IQ, Dodson, and Deronda stole from before years ago appears frequently. He’s got the right idea — a better vocabulary can be tied to greater success in business and life in general. Sadly, Junior is better at acquiring words than he is using them. Resulting in sentences like:

My domicile has been exfoliated! Excavate the premises!

(when he discovers that his home has been broken into) or

Did you discover anything irrelevant?

(to Isaiah after searching for clues). Say what you will about waterboarding or Parks Punch — for me, those lines hurt (and I gave tame examples).

Well, they make me crack up — but they’re also painful.

The action is taut, the twists don’t stop and you have to hold on tight so the pacing doesn’t throw you from the vehicle in the last few chapters. But not only is this the best suspense that Ide’s given us, we have the some of the best emotional moments and character growth so far in the series. Some real trauma is visited on Isaiah, and it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts him going forward (there’s some indication that ide has something in mind along these lines). Similarly, I don’t think I’ve liked Dodson more than I did in this book and his character keeps growing and maturing — I am eager to see how Ide helps him grow in the future.

Unlike IQ or Righteous, we only have one timeline in Wrecked. This is such an improvement — that worked in IQ seemed a drawback in Righteous — but one timeline allows the reader, the pace and the action to focus on Grace and her case.

I’ve been a fan of Ide’s writing and this series since the moment I finished chapter 2 of IQ, but this book worked for me more than his previous work. I don’t know if it’s because I appreciate the characters and style more — or if it’s that Ide has grown with his experience and is delivering something better, I’m not sure. (my money is on the latter, but you never know) This is a fantastic entry very strong series that everyone should hop on board with (start at the beginning, it’s only 3 books — you have plenty of time to catch up).

—–

5 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

Marked by Benedict Jacka: Alex Verus takes some of the biggest risks of his life

MarkedMarked

by Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus, #1

Mass Market Paperback, 310 pg.
Ace Books, 2018
Read: July 5 – 9, 2018

“So who was it this time?” Anne asked as I walked over to inspect the device.

“I can see the future not the past.” The bomb was a stack of plastique packed into the gym bag, the wires ending in contacts stuck into the blocks. It was crude but powerful, enough to blow apart the house, the victim, and anyone else unlucky enough to be within thirty feet or so of the front door. “I suppose I could get Sonder or someone to track down whoever it was, but honestly, I don’t think it’s worth it.”

“It feels a little bit strange that you don’t even bother identifying the people trying to kill you anymore.”

“Who has that kind of time?”

This is one of those books that I wait so long for (not that it was delayed, I simply couldn’t wait to read it) and then after reading it, the draft has spent too many days open with out words filling the space. I don’t know why — I had and have many opinions about what transpired here, but can’t seem to get them out. So, let’s start with the publisher’s blurb and see if that helps:

           Mage Alex Verus is hanging on by a thread in the ninth urban fantasy novel from the national bestselling author of Burned.

When Mage Alex Verus ends up with a position on the Light Council, no one is happy, least of all him. But Alex is starting to realize that if he wants to protect his friends, he’ll need to become a power player himself. His first order of business is to track down dangerous magical items unleashed into the world by Dark Mages.

But when the Council decides they need his help in negotiating with the perpetrators, Alex will have to use all his cunning and magic to strike a deal–and stop the rising tension between the Council, the Dark Mages, and the adept community from turning into a bloodbath.

This is not a book for someone to jump into this series with; I guess, technically it could work — but man . . . there’s just so much you wouldn’t get. But for those who’ve dipped their toes in the water — or have fully submerged themselves in the deep end — this is going to scratch that itch.

Typically, there are more balls in the air than you can easily track — there’s all the new political moves and movers that Alex has to contend with, his continuing efforts to prove to former friends and allies that he’s trustworthy (well, that he shouldn’t be intensely distrusted anyway), there’s a rising sense among the adepts that they need to organize — and Alex is dumbfounded that none of the Light mages seem to see this as something worth paying attention to — and then there’s Richard’s continuing efforts to disrupt Alex’s life. And then there’s all the stuff that Alex hasn’t figured out that’s going on around him yet.

Due to the political office (however temporary) that he finds himself in, and the nature of the threats he’s facing down — this is one of the least personal stories in the series. At the same time, Alex is driven to risk more of himself to save his friends and maybe even save a foe.

I don’t know how to talk about this without spoiling much. I can tell you that as nice as it is for Arachne not to have all the answers — I wanted more of her and that the rest of Alex’s friends get to shine in ways they normally don’t. Also, given where things end, I’m already impatient to get my hands on the next one.

So, I don’t have much to say, but it’s good. Alex Verus fans should grab it, and people who aren’t yet, should check into the series and catch up.

—–

4 Stars

True Fiction by Lee Goldberg: A Writer on the Run

True FictionTrue Fiction

by Lee Goldberg
Series: Ian Ludlow Thrillers, #1

Kindle Edition, 248 pg.
Thomas & Mercer, 2018
Read: July 20 – 21, 2018

“Sorry I’m late,” Ian said. “I’ve been on the run all morning.”

It was a line worthy of Clint Straker and Ian knew it. He couldn’t stop being a writer, always thinking of the next line in one of his thrillers. But he was living a thriller now and it was no thrill at all.

This is one of those books that’s super easy to write about — if you like the premise of the book, you’ll like the book. It’s just that simple. The tricky part is finding someone who wouldn’t like this premise.

Ian Ludlow, television writer turned thriller novelist, can’t believe his eyes — a terrorist attack in Hawaii went exactly the way that he designed and he’s pretty sure that someone is trying to kill him. Ludlow was part of a group of writers (movie, TV, novelists) that came up with some scenarios for the CIA that terrorists might use, so the CIA could design counter-measures. This is a thing that actually happened (maybe still does) following 9/11, because writers have much better imaginations than government employees do. One of those scenarios is playing out in real life and Ludlow doesn’t know what to do. Clearly someone out there doesn’t want Ludlow spreading the word that he’s the source for this attack.

Before he realizes what’s happening, Ludlow is running for his life and has dragged Margo along with him. Margo’s a dog-sitter, house-sitter, aspiring musician, and occasionally drives authors visiting Seattle to their signings. That’s how this poor girl gets sucked into Ludlow’s mess — she saves his life (and then he returns the favor), dooming her to having to run with him.

Add in some over-the-top villains (I hope, see below), and Goldberg’s signature wit and solid writing, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

This is a fast fun ride featuring about the most unlikely of all thriller protagonists. Ian Ludlow isn’t really in any kind of shape; he has no skills with hand-to-hand combat, cars, or weapons — his people skills are suspect, really; all he has going for him is a pretty agile mind. Margo’s a little better off, but not much. They quickly run to the home of one of Ian’s friends who lives off of the grid and is paranoid enough he’ll believe their story. Which may not really be the strongest of qualifications, but they can’t afford to be choosy. The three of them will have to figure out a way to survive — and possibly stop whoever it was behind the attack.

Does anyone else remember Condorman? The Disney film about a comic book writer/artist who accidentally (very accidentally) becomes a super-spy? I was 7 or 8 when it came out and loved it. Anyway, I had a flash-back to that when Ludlow stumbles his way into taking out one of the many assassins that come after him — one of the many times I had an honest audible response to this book (not a book I recommend reading in an ICU ward, for what it’s worth, people tend not to like noises there).

Now, I called the villains over-the-top. I’m not really sure they are — they seem over the top, but there’s a little part of me wonders how hard it really would be for someone to pull off something like this. John Rogers, of Leverage, frequently talked about how some of their over-the-top bad guys were watered down versions of the real thing (because no one would believe the real thing). Take my word for it, I don’t have time to track him down saying it. Let’s put it this way — they’re perfect for this book, and like just about every thriller villain ever, it’s best that they stay inside the book.

While he’s telling a very fun story, Goldberg takes a little bit of time to satirize thrillers, thriller writings, and thriller heroes — I loved every bit of that. It helps that Goldberg writes and reads the same books he’s satirizing, so you know he does it with love and honesty. Some of the excerpts from Ludlow’s books are just awful, it must’ve been hard to write (but so much fun). Ditto for the TV shows that Ian’s friend Ronnie starred in, I really hope that those are things that Goldberg made up for this book (and fear they aren’t).

This feels like Goldberg and Evanovich’s Fox & O’Hare books, or maybe The Man with the Iron-On Badge (which features a protagonist only slightly more likely than Ian) — not his more serious work like King City. The story moves quickly, deftly and will leave you smiling — I can’t imagine Goldberg writing a disappointing book at this point, I just don’t think he can. Pick this up, you will be entertained.

—–

4 Stars

Pub Day Repost: Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #1
eARC, 384 pg.
Del Rey, 2018

Read: June 5 – 12, 2018
Ugh. I wish the eARC didn’t say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy — or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there’s a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It’s be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One — one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn’t too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

Despite the book’s title, we don’t spend that much time with Worstley — instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero–well, a group of companions. There’s Fia — a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses — and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there’s anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur — she’s basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can’t forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley’s aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

There are no shortage of villains — and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King’s chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there’s Steve. We don’t meet him (I’m betting it’ll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There’s some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that’s pretty clever — but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there’s a little something for everyone — and that you can’t predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them — not just in a “really? they’re trying it again?” sense, either.

For all the comedy — Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There’s a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments — less extreme moments — too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I’m not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could’ve used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren’t going for subtle, or they’d have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts — but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can’t imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro’s backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her — which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing — and this doesn’t have all the problematic passages. I’ve appreciated Dawson’s work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I’m a huge Hearne fan, together they’ve created something unlike what they’ve done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality — that’s there. I cared about these characters — and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars