Catch-Up Quick Takes: My Plain Jane; The Rest of Us Just Live Here; The Ables

Here’s another batch of overdue takes on some good audiobooks. I don’t have the time for full-posts, so read the official blurbs if you need more information. Last time I tried one of these, I didn’t do such a good job on the “Quick” part, so I’m being more strict with myself this go-around. To that end: the narrators of these do a very capable job with their texts, but I don’t have a lot to say about their performance (I’d be happy to listen to other books by them, I should add).

My Plain JaneMy Plain Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows,
Fiona Hardingham (Narrator)
Series: The Lady Janies, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 7 min.
HarperAudio, 2018
Read: September 24-28, 2019
(the official blurb)
I was really looking forward to this sequel to My Lady Jane, especially because it would involve a supernatural Jane Eyre retelling with a strong comedic sensibility. It wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, but it was still a lot of fun.

The best part of it was having Charlotte Brontë as a character in the story—as Jane’s best (living) friend. I enjoyed Charlotte’s character enough that I’d willingly read a sequel about her.

And yes, I said, “living” there—Helen, the poor girl from Lowood Institution whose death was so hard for Jane is still around in ghost form. The death was still hard on Jane, but having Helen around as a ghost ended up becoming a different kind of obstacle for her to overcome.

I’d have expected a better link between the Janes—at least a stronger link in the supernatural aspects of the stories—than what we got.

Still, it was a fun listen and I’m definitely coming back for the next installment about Calamity Jane.
3 Stars

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here

by Patrick Ness, James Fouhey (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs., 23 mins
Read: October 7, 2019
(the official blurb)
I loved the idea of exploring the lives of the “regular kids” in a high school characterized by heroes, legends, slayers, etc. Basically, the kids at Sunnyvale High who know that Buffy is saving their skin on a semi-regular basis who aren’t Xander, Willow, Cordelia, etc. While Buffy is fighting vampires and the rest, these kids have family drama, fall in love, get rejected, worry about the future (assuming they don’t get eaten by the Monster of the Week) and all the rest. She may be the hero in general, but they’re the heroes of their own lives.

So Patrick Ness tells the story of one group of these students on the verge of graduation (while the world is being saved from a threat too complicated to talk about).

Great, great concept. The execution was . . . okay. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave me dancing in the aisle or anything. This is only my second Ness, but it didn’t feel like this was really his wheelhouse—maybe I’m wrong, maybe A Monster Calls is that thing that’s out of the norm for him.
3 Stars

The AbelsThe Abels

by Jeremy Scott, Eric Michael Summerer (Narrator)
Series: The Ables, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 14 hrs., 5 mins
Tantor Audio, 2019
Read: October 18-21, 2019
(the official blurb)
The concept behind this was fantastic—seriously. An upper-MG/younger-YA novel about a Special Education class in a Super Hero High School? Genius. You’ve got the kid with telekinesis who was born blind, the teleporter who lost his vision in an accident, a wheelchair-bound telepath (okay, that’s been done before), a kid with Down Syndrome who has the genetic markers for superpowers, but no one’s sure what they are, and so on. These students come together and learn how to work together and become the heroes they dream of being.

This was a blast—think early-Percy Jackson kind of quality. Some solid emotional moments, real character growth, great action. There was one gut-punch of a surprise that I still can’t believe that Scott had the nerve to make—and two big reveals that sealed the deal for me (one that I saw coming for miles, but he executed well enough that I don’t care; and one that I should’ve seen coming, but didn’t).

This one will be enjoyed by readers of all ages, I expect. Recommended.

3.5 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Finally Fall Book Tag


While reading these posts on Bookidote, beforewegoblog, and The Witty & Sarcastic Bookclub, I noticed myself mentally composing this list—so I figure I had to join in the fun. I’d have posted this last week, but my free laborer realized how little he was getting paid and decided to play video games instead of generating my graphic.

Naturally, I only paid half of his fee.

Enough of that, bring on the Autumn! (even if it feels like Winter here in Idaho):

In Fall, the air is crisp and clear. Name a book with a vivid setting.

The Last of the Really Great WhangdoodlesThe Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards

I had a hard time coming up with something for this one, honestly. But Whangdoodleland was so vivid that I can still picture parts of it, despite having read it only once in the last 30+ years.


Nature is beautiful…but also dying. Name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic, like loss or grief.

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

When I posted about it, I said, “I’m not convinced that this is really all that well-written, technically speaking. But it packs such an emotional wallop, it grabs you, reaches down your throat and seizes your heart and does whatever it wants to with it—so who cares how technically well it’s written? (and, yeah, I do think the two don’t necessarily go together). A couple of weeks from now, I may not look back on this as fondly—but tonight, in the afterglow? Loved this.” I still look back on it as fondly, for the record.


Fall is Back to School Season. Name a Nonfiction Book that Taught You Something.

TimekeepersTimekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time by Simon Garfield

If I’m going to read a non-fiction book, it had better teach me something or I’ll end up ranting about it for days/weeks/months! This one popped to mind, though. In my post about the book, I said: “Did I learn something from the book? Much more than I expected to. The chapter on the French experiments alone probably taught me enough to justify the whole book. I didn’t/couldn’t stick with the details of watch-making (I have a hard time visualizing that kind of detail), but even that was fascinating and informative on the surface. Most topics broadened my understanding and taught me something. Also, the sheer amount of trivia that I picked up was great (the amount of time spent recording the first Beatles LP, why pop music tends to be about 3 minutes long, etc., etc.).”


In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love. Name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d love to be a part of.

Nero Wolfe trioThe Household of Nero Wolfe from the books by Rex Stout

(yeah, that picture is from the A&E TV show, not exactly the books—but in that image in particular, they look just about perfect)

There were many families/groups/households that I could’ve picked for this, but that Brownstone on West 35th Street is near the Platonic ideal for a place to live—I’d love to spend time with Mr. Wolfe, Archie and Fritz (not to mention Saul, Fred, Orrie, Lily, Lon . . .)


The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground. Show us a pile of Autumn-colored spines.


(I thought this was going to be hard, but in the end, I had to not make the pile bigger!)

Also…wow, clearly, I’m not a photographer. It’s a shame I don’t live closer to my pal, Micah Burke, things around here would look much spiffier.


Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside. Share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.

A Plague of GiantsA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

That’s really 90% of the book—a bard telling stories. How he pulls this off, really impressed me.

(Hammered by Kevin Hearne would also qualify, but I liked the storytelling in this one better)


The nights are getting darker. Share a dark, creepy read.

Darkness Take My HandDarkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

This one disturbs me every time I read it (4-6 I think), I still remember having to sleep with the lights on after I stayed up reading it until 2-3 in the morning the first time—I doubt I was a very good employee the next day. (Sacred maybe is creepier, but this is the better book by Lehane)


The days are getting colder. Name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.

WonderWonder by R. J. Palacio

The “short” in the category is the sticky wicket. But this is a quick read (even if the page number is higher than I’d count as “short.” Formulaic? Yup. Predictable? You betcha. Effective? Abso-smurfly. Textbook example of heartwarming.


Fall returns every year. Name an old favorite that you’d like to return to soon.

Magic Kingdom for Sale — SOLD!Magic Kingdom for Sale — SOLD! by Terry Brooks

Ive been thinking about this book a lot since Bookstooge’s Quick Fire Fantasy post. Gotta work this into the 2020 reading schedule.

I’m tagging any blogger who reads this. Play along.

Quick Fire Fantasy Book Tag


I saw this over at Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road, and it seemed like a fun way to revisit some Fantasy Favorites, and indulge in a bit of nostalgia while I was at it.

Play along, will ya?

Rules:

  • Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
  • Link to the creator’s blog (thebookwormdreamer.wordpress.com) in your post
  • Answer the prompts below – all fantasy books!
  • Tag 5 others to take part
  • Enjoy!

 

5 star book

The Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora
I’ve read this at least 4 times and love it more each time. A Con Novel, a Heist Novel, a story of Found Family and vengence gone wrong (and, right, if you think that’s possible). I can’t get enough of Book I of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful, good fight scenes, and characters you want to spend more time with.

Oh, and the fantasy world is pretty cool, too 🙂

(I have a very short post about it here)


Always going to recommend

The Chronicles of PrydainThe Chronicles of Prydain

The Chronicles of Narnia made me a Lewis fan. The Chronicls of Prydain turned me into a Fantasy fan (which is why I had to use the covers I owned as a kid). Yeah, it’s written for what we’d call today a Middle Grade audience, but when I listened to the audiobooks a year or two ago (or when I read them to my kids a decade ago), I thought it was just about as effective as you could hope. A little bit of fun, a dash of romance, a hero quest straight out of Campbell, a decent amount of magic (but not too much), a good mythic basis—and a oracular pig! It’s also probably the series that taught me that you’ll end up having emotional attachments to characters to the extent you may get teary about when they die and/or say good-bye to each other (and, yeah, did as an adult).

(my posts about the audiobook series)


Own it but haven’t read it yet

Bloody RoseBloody Rose

I tried to read this last year, and failed. I’m hoping to read it this year, and am likely to fail. I less-than-three’d Kings of the Wyld (in print and audio) so much, I don’t know why I haven’t made the time for the sequel.


Would read again

The Brothers ThreeThe Brothers Three

The first of The Blackwood Saga is everything I loved about portal fantasies as a kid—but it’s written for adults. Some good characters, a good amount of growth (especially in the later books in the series), good fight scenes and a pretty cool world to explore. This worked for me in ways I didn’t expect—and the sequels have done a good job building on this one. I’ve yet to read the newest in the series, but this one feels like a good comfort-read if I needed one.

(my post about this one)


In another world

The Warlock in Spite of HimselfThe Warlock in Spite of Himself

(I probably would’ve gone with Brooks’ The Magic Kingdom for Sale, but Bookstooge beat me to it in his post).

I honestly remember very little about this novel, despite having read it several times. But the last time was probably in 1990-91. I was able to find a couple of the later novels in the series, too—just not enough for me at the time (I probably could now—yay, Internet). Still, somehow this is what sprang to mind when I thought of a fantasy on another world. A cool combination of SF and fantasy, as I recall.


Back on Earth

The Hum and the ShiverThe Hum and the Shiver

(and the rest of the series, too, but this is good enough—as good as many series hope to be in itself)

A magical people with amazing musical talent in the Smoky Mountains, dealing with modernization, an Iraqi war vet, and a feud going back generations. I’m not a believer in magic, but Bledsoe makes me want to with these books—this is the best of a great series, and thinking about it now has got me thinking it might be time for read #4 of this one.


As for the tagging . . . nah, I’ll just leave this open to all my readers, I’d love to see what you all would put here. (W&S Book Club, here’s another chance to talk about The Dragonlance Chronicles—you’re welcome)

A Few Quick Questions With… Anne Dolleri

Earlier, I posted my thoughts about Anne Dolleri’s debut, Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard. Now, she’s generously agreed to this brief Q&A. I enjoyed her responses to the questions and the opportunity to get to know her a bit better, I hope you do, too.


Tell us about your road to publication—was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I started writing when I was 13 years old. I never really did it with the intention to become a novelist. I was just thrilled about stories, about those beautiful things you could experience in the eternity of your own mind. Even today I consider myself as an amateur. Writing is a beautiful hobby and as weird as it sounds but I never want to make it a day job. I guess that would just rob it of it’s magic. I am a skilled gardener which on the first look might seem like something completely different, but really the fresh air and the hard work inspire me a lot.
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one—what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
I don’t really have a lot of ideas floating around. My ideas are born from the characters that occupy my mind. Nareth was actually my first book character I ever created. The first story I told was his and somehow there was this world growing around him. This sounds quite vague, I know, but sometimes I got the impression that writing is a mystery to the author even more than to the reader.

Well what made me spent that much time with this book? It’s the unbearable feeling of untold stories. It’s the feeling most of us have when our favorite series seasons finale has aired and ended with the worst cliffhanger you can imagine. You’ll just have to keep going until the story is told. I got my people in my head. And they got their story. And the story needs to be told.

I loved your use of Nareth;s dog and horse. Sure, as with 99% of all books, more of the dog would’ve helped. Was that a conscious choice or just something that happened along the way? [Note: I forgot I asked this question when I wrote about that in my post. I don’t mean to harp on the point, it just happened]
That is a really hard question. As a war horse Alahar has his purpose of course but I can’t recall having planned to create him. The same counts for Revo, who is Nareths dog. I do like having animals in rather descriptive episodes of a book (like journeys) so my character is capable of interacting with something. So you can say in retrospective Revo is a beloved unexpected helper, who does a great job in those scenes. But like Alahar this wasn’t a conscious decision, more a very happy coincidence. Of course I do have a thing for animals, so I guess it would be harder for me to write a book without animals in it.
Similarly, I loved Keni. Without spoiling anything, what can you tell readers about him? Where did the idea to include him come from—not just to include him, but to use him so often?
When Nareth enters Anbatar for the first time I needed someone he could talk to. As a stranger and even more so an enemy to the people of the North it needed to be someone he could risk talking to. Who could be better for that than a boy, who is experiencing the poverty of Anbatar every day while he’s roaming the streets for food. So at first Keni was only planned as Nareths first contact. But the naughty little thief turned out to be a great counterpart for Nareths soldier-like disciplined attitude. And to be honest Nareth grew very fond of the little guy. So he found his way into the story, and turned out to be an awesome character who finds his way from the beginning of the book until the very last chapter.
Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work—you know they’re there)
Of course most of us authors insist on being a unique sparkling unicorn but to be honest the stories of Terry Goodkind (The Sword of Truth), Kristen Britain (The Green Rider Series) and Naomi Novik (Temeraire) had a huge impact on me. What might be seen in my own work from these books is the very character based writing. I am telling my story through the eyes of my main character. And I believe this is what I adapted from the writers above.
What’s next for Anne Dolleri, author (if you know)?
I wish I had an idea. Considering that I am a self-published author and not a native english writer, it’ll definitely take some time until there will be something new to read from me. I had planned to continue Nareth’s story but until it is written, published, translated, edited and published in english, many month will pass I’m afraid.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
Thanks for the interview, thanks for reading it, I am glad you enjoyed your time in Anbatar.

Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard by Anne Dolleri: A Satisfying New Fantasy Adventure

If this one ends up looking intriguing, come back in a little bit to read a Q&A with the author (the link’ll work when it posts) to see if she can convince you to give this a shot.

Anbatar

Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard

by Anne Dolleri

Kindle Edition, 488 pg.
Nina Döllerer, 2019

Read: October 14-15, 2019


Nareth is a Samerier warrior (a super-soldier of sorts, I’m going to stay vague about that), and single-handedly turned the tide against an invading army in a recent war. Haunted by what happened (particularly is role in it), and determined to prevent that needing to happen again, he goes on a secret peace mission to the country that recently invaded his own. His brother, the king, sends a security force and an ambassador, too. But they can’t move as quickly as he can (nor are they as driven).

Nareth arrives in the capitol city, Anbatar, and is stymied on every front—he can’t talk to anyone in the government. The invasion had gone so awry that the king was killed, so by law, the leaders of the nation are behind locked doors for weeks until succession is decided and a new king is crowned. Forced to wear makeup to disguise his darker pigmentation, Nareth familiarizes himself with Anbatar, starts to get a feel for the politics in the city, and makes some contacts that will help when he (and the coming diplomat) have a chance to negotiate a lasting peace.

When the opportunity arises (forced, actually, by Nareth taking a reckless and potentially calamitous step), it comes tied to dangerous tasks — digging out the remnants of a secret police and protecting the daughter of a popular candidate for the monarchy from forces loyal to the slain king’s family.

This books would work pretty well as Exhibit A in an examination of why I rarely DNF things. There were a handful of aspects to this novel that felt like deal-breakers when Dolleri introduced them. If not deal-breakers, harbingers of a disappointing read, anyway. The kind of things that felt things I’ve read in other independently published Fantasy novels that almost never worked out well. For example: the way she kept most of the details about the Samerier warriors from the reader for most of the book; the seemingly irrational feud between Nareth and his ambassador—and the way the two interacted with each other; the way the inevitable romance was introduced. Dolleri didn’t do a bad job with any of them, but at first blush these things (and others) reminded me of a disappointment in another book and made me think that this book would be the same. But at some point, without me noticing, she won me over. Every time that I grumbled about something in my notes, or rolled my eyes at an idea, I eventually got to the point where not only did the thing not bother me, I ended up liking the way she was dealing with things.

I’m not sure I’m being clear there—so let me put it this way: every negative (or potential negative) that I came across, she turned into a positive. That’s skill, that’s a good instinct (even if she didn’t see what I’m complaining about as a negative), she put enough heart, individuality or chutzpah into her story that I couldn’t help but respond positively.

At one point (I have to be careful here to not give away anything), it became clear to me what kind of ending she was going for (even if I didn’t have all the details guessed, I could see the trajectory) and it’s not what I expected. Even here, I quickly got behind her choices and was able to enjoy them.

There is a real lack of backstory about this world, about the recently completed war and the ongoing tensions between the two countries (pre-war and after). We get a little bit of information on this, but not much. This is both wonderful—no prolonged infodumps—and frustrating—it’d just be nice to know from time to time. Ultimately, I think this was a smart move (and makes the reading easier), but man…I’m curious.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about this character, but there’s a thief wandering around the city. He can get where he wants, when he wants. His mere presence gets people to give him their money—he’s like Batman would be if he turned. His character alone, plus the impact he has on various points of the story, are real bonuses for me. I’d read a book about him at the drop of a hat.

Typically in Fantasy novels, animals are just part of the background, or they’re invested with some sort of near-magic/supernatural quality. Nothing against the latter, but I’d prefer just some good animals. That’s what we have here—Alahar, Nareth’s horse is a good warhorse—he works well with his rider, but isn’t supernaturally fast, strong or smart animal. Nareth also has a dog, Revo. It seems once or twice that Revo might secretly be supernatural, but in the end, he’s just a good dog. I think he gets short-changed a little in the end (and that’s not just because I’m obsessed with dogs in fiction), but he’s nice to see.

The last character that I want to focus on is Keni. He’s a typical street urchin who does some odd jobs for Nareth and ends up being taken under his wing. There was something infectious and charming about his presence, and I think a lot of the affection I ended up having toward this book is rooted in him. At the very least, Dolleri’s use of him magnified my appreciation for the book.

My last point is this—Dolleri isn’t a native English speaker/writer. Which can be a dicey thing when trying to write/translate fantastical elements. If I didn’t know English was a second language for her, I don’t think I could’ve determined that from the book. Major kudos to her for that—no small feat.

Is this the best Fantasy I’ve read this year? No. But it’s a surprisingly satisfying one. I’m ready to head back to this world, hopefully back to some of the characters. It’s an intriguing setting for some enjoyable characters to have their adventures in with an author that has some pretty solid story-telling chops. I’d get this one if I were in your shoes, folks.


3.5 Stars
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Universal Monster Book Tag


Witty and Sarcastic Book Club tagged me in her little creation—a tag based on Universal’s Classic Movie Monsters. There’s a lot of recency bias in my pics, but oh well—I liked the list. I really need to do more things like this, it was fun.

While trying to come up with the last couple of entries for this, I took a Facebook break and read a couple of posts on a Nero Wolfe fan group, and realized I could fill my blanks from that Corpus. Then it occurred to me that I could do one of these with entries only from the Nero Wolfe series. Or, the Spenser series. Huh. (I’d have trouble with some other series depending how you define “sequel” below). Watch me control the impulse.

bullet Dracula: a book with a charismatic villain
The Silence of the Lambs
My Pick: Gotta go with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, every other charismatic villain I can think of pales in comparison.
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: (yeah, so much for restraint—this was a fun additional challenge) Paul Chapin in The League of Frightened Men (my post about the book)
Bonus Spenser Pick: The Gray Man in Small Vices

bullet The Invisible Man: A book that has more going on than meets the eye
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity
My Pick: The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: Even in the Best Families
Bonus Spenser Pick: Early Autumn

bullet Wolf-Man: A complicated character
Needle Song
My Pick: Doc Slidesmith in Needle Song (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: Can I just use Nero Wolfe? Eh, Orrie Cather in A Family Affair
Bonus Spenser Pick: Patricia Utley in Mortal Stakes

bullet Frankenstein: A book with a misunderstood character
The Unkindest Tide
My Pick: The Luidaeg in The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: Over My Dead Body (my post about the book)
Bonus Spenser Pick: Hawk, A Promised Land

bullet The Bride of Frankenstein: A sequel you enjoyed more than the first book
Stoned Love
My Pick: Stoned Love by Ian Patrick (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: The League of Frightened Men (yeah, that’s the second time this shows up, but it’s the sequel…) (my post about the book)
Bonus Spenser Pick: God Bless the Child

bullet Creature from the Black Lagoon: An incredibly unique book
A Star-Reckoner's Lot

(there’s a better cover now, but this is the first)

My Pick: A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: Some Buried Ceasar (my post about the book)
Bonus Spenser Pick: A Savage Place

bullet The Mummy: A book that wraps up nicely (see what I did there?)
Every Heart a Doorway
My Pick: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (my post about the book)
Bonus Nero Wolfe Pick: This applies to almost every one of them, I’m going to go with The Doorbell Rang
Bonus Spenser Pick: The Judas Goat

I’m not going to tag anyone, but I’d encourage any reader to give it a shot. I’d like to see your lists.

Also, I’ve been thinking for awhile I needed to do a re-read of the Spenser series. This post has convinced me I really need to get on that.

Pub-Day Repost: The Princess Beard by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson: An Adventure on the High (and Joke-Filled) Seas of Pell

The Princess Beard

The Princess Beard

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, #3

eARC, 384 pg.
Dell Rey Books, 2019

Read: September 16-21, 2019

Readers of Kill the Farm Boy (the first installment in the Tales of Pell trilogy) may have been wondering about what happened to Princess Aurora/Snow White-esque figure, Princess Harkovitra*. Well, she wakes up, and finds herself in the position she’s always wanted—a chance to start over. She leaves her name and home behind, hitching a ride with our old acquaintance Morvin on his way to start a new life himself.

*Then again, maybe you’re like me, and figured she was like Worstely and that her only purpose was to kick-start the novel and hadn’t thought of her since.

They’re not the only ones looking for a new start. We also meet a swole centaur prone to over-compensation, seeks to reach a mystic temple that will heal him of (what he considers) his emasculating magical abilities. A pariah elf is looking for the opportunity to do something more meaningful than swindle tourists. And we also pick up with one of the newly liberated dryads from No Country for Old Gnomes, who needs a way to get to her chosen law school, Bogtorts.

All of these new starts require the characters to travel somewhere inaccessible to foot/horse/carriage traffic. Enter the Clean Pirate Luc (a.k.a. Filthy Lucre), who happens to be a one-eyed talking parrot. He needs new crew members and is willing to let these travel to their intended destinations in exchange for labor. Even if the result is something incongruous, like a centaur swabbing the decks (thankfully, that’s a funny image—a great thing for a comedic fantasy). Except for Morvin, who has other plans that involve less of the high seas.

The pirate ship ends up being just the thing to take our characters from quick adventure to quick adventure, creating opportunities for bonding and character growth. It’s different enough from the land-based pilgrimages of the past two novels to keep things feeling fresh, while allowing the same kind of vibe to permeate the book. I’m not the biggest fan of pirate/ship-based adventures, but when they’re done well, they are a lot of fun. And who doesn’t like a good Melville-based joke (or several)?

Not just Melville-based jokes, but there’s more than a couple of The Princess Bride riffs (in case the title didn’t tip you off). Which seems timely, given the resurgence in interest in William Goldman’s classic thanks to some nonsense about remaking the movie. I could be wrong, but this seems to be the jokiest of the three (I’m pretty sure my notes/list of great lines is longer than normal). Not that the others were joke-light, but this seems more focused on them and less focused on the story. Which makes it less successful as a novel in my opinion. But that’s in comparison to two really strong and effective novels, so I’m not saying it’s not a good read—it’s just a not-as-good-as-I-wanted read. If this was the first Pell book I’d read, I’d rush out to get the others (particularly, if a charming and insightful blogger had said the others were better than this one). I started chuckling within a page and didn’t finish until the end. Sometimes I did more than chuckle.

I’m not complaining a bit about the number of jokes, the character names alone are hilarious and make the book worth reading. It just takes away some of the impact of the story and the characters—or it distracted the authors from making them as compelling as they could have been. It’s kind of a chicken vs. egg thing.

Each of these characters gets an opportunity to find themselves, find their inner-strength, true desires, real self—whatever you want to call it. It turns out that some of them were right all along, and others just needed the fresh perspective that extreme circumstances can bring.

I didn’t connect with this one as much as I did the ones before, ditto for any of the characters. But I expect that my experience isn’t typical—The Princess Beard will resonate with some more than the others did. Either way, the reader will enjoy the ride. It’s exciting, it’s affirming, it’s a hoot.

I’m going to miss Pell, and hope the authors decide to dip their collective toes back into the land from time to time in the future. If not, at least we get the beginnings for these beautiful friendships.

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


3.5 Stars