10.29.2014

Review: His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers (Grave Mercy & Dark Triumph)

 

 "In truth, I have never flashed so much as an ankle before, but I am sorely vexed at being treated like a temptress when all I feel is bruised and broken."

~ Robin LaFevers, Grave Mercy


There series premise: three girls from difference backgrounds are deemed daughters of death and taken in to a mysterious convent where they are trained as assassins, called death's handmaidens.  Each is then sent from the convent into the politics of late 1400s Brittany where they find self confidence through love, purpose, and place in society.

The writing: rich period color, first person perspective, strong voice, some graphic violence, modest sex scenes, excellent heroic counterparts, complex politics. Close accepting friendship between girls and women, betrayal by adult role models.



The Review: Grave Mercy


Grave Mercy is about Ismae, an abused peasant girl, for whom a convent is salvation and her devotion to her god, Death, a redemption and a means to self actualization. Her journey is one of faith ~ learning to define faith for herself, to find faith in others, and to have faith in her own abilities and in love.

"Even my own father has not recognized me.
Duval brings his horse closer to mine. “Someone you know?” he murmurs.
“He is no one,” I say, and for the first time I realize it is true."


Ismae is sent into the high politics of the time to unearth betrayal, learning along the way what she must question and who she must become. She is learning about herself as she learns about her world, and what kind of place and path is open to her.

“Is that what my life has been? A series of trials to be passed?”
“You come to us well tempered, my child, and it is not in my nature to be sorry for it.
It is the well-tempered blade that is the strongest.”


Ismae is a gentle almost sweet character, a fish out of water in the best sense, despite her deadly abilities. The romance that develops between her and the man she is supposed to watch is part of her own journey learning to trust not just men but herself: in her heart, in her abilities, and in her judgement.

"And I would find a way to serve both my god and my heart. Surely He does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them."


I adored this book. So much so that I entirely forgave it some initial world building and historical exposition. This was front loaded, once through the beginning chapters (to Ismae's first kill and the introduction of the hero) the pace picks up considerably. I wanted more of the assassin training, because I like the school aspect of most books (well, duh, I wrote a whole series about this) but I can understand why it wasn't there (or was cut out). I enjoyed the journey and the characters (even though I didn't personally relate to them) but I liked them both much more as they are set into motion, on the road and into the city and politics. I thought some of the romance was a little much ~ salvation through sex has never been a trope I latch on to myself. However, I wonder if, LaFevers is playing parody with that trope in her connubial culmination, as Ismae literally saves Duval with her body.

"I am filled with a sense of peace. Yes, I think. Yes. This is what I want to be. An instrument of mercy, not vengeance."


From a writer perspective I admired how LaFevers snuck in details and historical world building without being ham handed about it. She does so in description:

"She is a drab peahen of a woman with sharp, intelligent eyes, and I warm to her immediately." 

"I like that he does not apologize for his looks, that he throws them down like a gauntlet."


Or in the middle of dialogue: 

"I take a pinch of salt from the saltcellar and sprinkle it on my venison."


In fact, in general her powers of description rather amazed me. I mean just read this:

"Beast sends me a number of worried glances, small flickers of concern that prick against my skin."

"Feeling restless and awkward, I pace as I nibble, unable to stand still. It is as if sometime during the night I have outgrown my own skin."


Continue on with the series?


How could I not? In fact, I already did.


The Review: Dark Triumph 


On the flip side from Ismae, Sybella's journey is about closure. This second book Dark Triumph is a much tougher read, and darker than I normally prefer. Sybella, terribly abused and broken, is sent back from the only sanctuary she has ever known into the vipers nest that is the family that nearly destroyed her sanity. Unlike Ismae, she knows she can't trust anyone, ever. Her journey is one of rising above this background and becoming the person she should have been all along, had she not suffered such an abusive childhood.

I tend to prefer my books on the lighter end of the spectrum, so I did find this one hard to read. However, once Sybella escapes (no spoiler there, you know it has to happen) and is out of the oppressive family fold and the romance thread begins, I liked her that much more because of her darkness. Sybella could have been a very unlikeable character, particularly as she is paired with one of the most likeable side characters from the previous book, but the romance and her personality evolution is handled deftly enough to make it plausible. My advise is just to read and don't stop to think about what that kind of abuse would actually do to a girl. I should say it's never graphic, which is how I came to stomach it.

I would understand, however, struggling with this book after the first. They are quite different characters and stories.



On to the Last Book?


Absolutely. I'll be reading this while I travel in November (so long as I get it in time), since next month's book group pick is my own book. (I certain don't need to reread Waistcoats & Weaponry AGAIN!) Heh, it's my book group, I can do that.


So, what's next for the book group?


Waistcoats & Weaponry. It's my book, so I won't be reviewing it, of course (although I may give you some secret thoughts as to how I feel about it). But as soon as I get back from tour I will be around to (sort of) participate in the read along, in so far as you may ask me questions and tender comments and such.

Speaking of which, I've added a new element to the Monthly Chirrup which is sort of like a chatty retrospective on the previous month meets confessional. It's a bit more intimate than here on the blog. Since my blog is public and my newsletter subscription-based, I feel like that forum is better suited to some of my more private thoughts. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are here with voyeuristic intent, the Chirrup might be a bit more voyeuristic. Or something. Sigh.

Now you're just embarrassing yourself, Gail.


{What is Gail's Book Group reading for November? Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1906 salamandra75-tumblr 1906, Edwardian Fashion.

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Contest entry from a while back: Trilby Hat

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
13 fangtastic facts about Dracula

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Awesome Mini-Documentary Celebrating Female Sci-Fi And Fantasy Authors


PROJECT ROUND UP  

Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last Releases November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.

Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First Release date March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! 



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
Over at the Fiction University I blog about the difference I experienced writing and publishing YA versus adult novels.

Quote of the Day:
“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
~ Oscar Wilde

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.


10.27.2014

1811 Slang for Sophronia


1811 Slang for Sophronia
  • Taradiddle ~ A fib, or falsity.
  • Quirks and quillets ~ Tricks and devices.
  • To milk the pigeon ~ To endeavor at impossibilities.
  • Sacheverel ~ The iron door, or blower, to the mouth of a stove.
  • Grumbletonian ~ A discontented person.
  • Jerrycummumble ~ To shake, towzle, or tumble about.
  • Rum ogles ~ Fine eyes.
  • A blowsabella ~ A woman whose hair is disheveled, and hanging about her face.
  • Clanker ~ Big lie
  • Gilflurt ~ A proud minks, a vain capricious woman
~ 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue


“One of the great intelligence services of the nineteenth century in Europe was maintained not by a government but by a private firm, the banking house of Rothschild.”
“It was rumored that some of the Rothschild “scoops” were obtained by the use of carrier pigeons.”
“...one of the Rothschilds, immobilized in Paris when the city was surrounded by Germans in the Franco-German War of 1870, used balloons and possibly also carrier pigeons to communicate with the outside world. The world heard of the armistice ending the war through this means, rather than through conventional news channels.”
~ The Craft of Intelligence: America's Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World by Allen W. Dulles


{What is Gail's Book Group reading for October? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Next month is Waistcoats & Weaponry.}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1905 Travelling Dress  1905  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Wooden Safe Box Inspired by Clock Gears

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Learn to Pick Locks for Fun and an Increased Understanding of Security

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
History of the Quill Pen (video)


PROJECT ROUND UP  
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First  Releases March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! Proof stage.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last. Releases November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming soon: November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
Fan Girl Nation says,
“... Waistcoats & Weaponry keeps the humor of the previous two books, but adds more complex relationships and plotting to the mix.”


Quote of the Day:
 “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
~ P.G. Wodehouse

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.

10.24.2014

9 Burning Questions About Waistcoats & Weaponry ~ Answered!


Before we start, Gentle Reader, you can read an exclusive sneak peek of Waistcoats & Weaponry over on io9.

9 Questions About Waistcoats & Weaponry


1. Will the Finishing School Books be made into a lovely omnibus one day? (@SpottyBlanket via Twitter)
SFBC produced their own edition of E&E but I don't know if they intend an omnibus of all four. I think that would be great, so fingers crossed. Right now, however, the only ones in existence are of the Parasol Protectorate series. These are also the only English language hardbacks of my first series.

 The Parasol Protectorate Omnibuses from SFBC


2. Will the Finishing School Books get a manga adaption like Soulless? (@SpottyBlanket via Twitter)
I don't think so. It was particularly unusual that there was a manga adaptation of my first three books, and the result of a complicated series of serendipitous events. I would love it, but I don't think it likely. 

E&E Japanese cover, how I imagine the manga art

3. How does the Bunsons' knot look in finishing school? (via Araidne)

What an interesting question.  Here is something all about cravats (a little earlier in time but still useful) I was imagining something a little like this:

From: The Art of Tying a Cravat.
Although I could imagine something more complicated like the Eldridge or the Trinity.

Modern Ties: Groom's Website
4. When you burn waistcoats with weaponry, what is the minimum safe distance? (@cirby on Twitter)
Should Lord Akeldama feel insulted or is this a Fahrenheit 451 question?

5. Will it be the last in the series? (@theogany on Twitter)
Nope, there is one more, Manners & Mutiny which I am finishing up right now and which will come out November of next year. I think I read too much Tamora Pierce, for my YA tendencies lean in favor of four book series.

6. Will we see more how it connects to the Parasols Protectorate series? Either through characters or events? (@i_haik on Twitter)
Of course! Much will be revealed in these last two books. I think you will find it most satisfying, yet still a great deal of fun even if you haven't read the other series. Also there are a few thread that connect way into the future as well, to the Custard Protocol books. You know me. I like my Easter Eggs and cookies.

7. Do you know when the book will be available in Audio? Do you know if it will be the same narrator? (via Amanda)

I believe (in the USA) that the audio will drop at the same time with the same narrator. The UK is less reliable. 

8. What happens to a vampire who over-extends his tether? (via Jo)

You will find all about it in the final two Finishing School books, but their are certainly some odd facial hair repercussions.

9. What drew you to the idea of a "finishing school"? (via up coming SfSignal interview)

I've always been fascinated by the idea of girls boarding schools. I blame A Little Princess. However, I realized recently, as I was re-watching the BBC adaptation of Gaskell's North & South, that I think this TV Series may be to blame. There is a line where Mr. Bell says, "Have you meet Miss Latimer? Just returned from Switzerland and very much finished." Or something like. Mr. Bell is a facetious character and I think he is meant to be contemptuously dismissing both the young lady and the very idea of women being made into mere representations of a minimalistic social ideal. But the line has always stuck with me. It made me think about the very idea of sending girls away from home to be finished, and what a powerful thing that could become, were they to learn a whole new set of social skills.


{What is Gail's Book Group reading for October? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1905 end-of-monarchy-tumblr Fashions at the races, Les Modes September 1905. Photo by Ed. Cordonnier.

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Willow Ware Sugarbow

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Calendar

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Author Elizabeth Gaskell's house restored to 'former glory'


PROJECT ROUND UP  
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First:   Releases March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! Proof stage.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last.   Release date November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming soon: November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
This is what signing 500 books looks like.


Quote of the Day:
 “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.”
~ P.G. Wodehouse

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.