Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls

I’ve been wanting to read Lauren Beukes for a while now but I always thought I’d start with Zoo City, whose description somehow spoke to me the most. Then I listened to the book review and interview with the author on Speculate! and the decision was made. “Time travelling serial killer” sounded too good to be left on the TBR.

shining girlsTHE SHINING GIRLS
by Lauren Beukes

Published by: Harper Collins, 2013
Hardcover: 391 pages

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sports coat.

The girl who wouldn’t die, hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist…A terrifying and original serial-killer thriller from award-winning author, Lauren Beukes. ‘If you’ve got a Gone Girl-shaped hole in your life, try this’ Evening Standard “It’s not my fault. It’s yours. You shouldn’t shine. You shouldn’t make me do this.” Chicago 1931. Harper Curtis, a violent drifter, stumbles on a house with a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature – it opens onto other times. He uses it to stalk his carefully chosen ‘shining girls’ through the decades – and cut the spark out of them. He’s the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. He thinks…Chicago, 1992. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Tell that to Kirby Mazrachi, whose life was shattered after a brutal attempt to murder her. Still struggling to find her attacker, her only ally is Dan, an ex-homicide reporter who covered her case and now might be falling in love with her. As Kirby investigates, she finds the other girls – the ones who didn’t make it. The evidence is …impossible. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn’t mean it didn’t happen…

divider1This book shows beautifully that you can get me to read anything if you just promise me the tiniest speculative fiction element. The idea of a time travelling serial killer immediately appealed to me (in a I-want-to-read-about-it way only, of course) because we’ve all seen movies where the police hunt a serial killer. Usually, these killers fit into a psychological profile, killing their later victims more violently than the first ones, and so on. But Harper travels randomly through time, so nothing about him makes sense to the modern police. It is assumed there are several murderers and some of them are even in prison (with only the readers knowing of their innocence).

The story is told alternately from the points of view of Harper, Kirby, the other victims, Dan, and occasionally a random person who gets involved in Kirby’s hunt. Being the only girl that survived Harper’s attempt to murder her, Kirby carries a lot of scars with her, and not just visible ones. She is almost obsessed with finding her almost-killer and bringing him to justice. After the police didn’t really help her, she starts an internship at a newspaper and works her way through old clippings of murders similar to hers. Her boss Dan, who is kind of falling in love with her, was a wonderful (and sane) counterpart to obsessive Kirby and her relationship with Harper.

We follow both Harper and Kirby’s storylines in a linear way. However, since Harper disocvered his time-travelling house, he jumps wildly in time, popping up in the 1950ies, then again in the 30ies, and then in the 80ies. Lauren Beukes does an excellent job of bringing each of these time periods to life. When Harper sees a television for the first time, he just stands there and watches ads for half an hour. But his goal are and always will be his Shining Girls, whom he sometimes “visits” when they are still young to tell them he’ll come back for them later. Invariably, he returns to kill them when they are in their early twenties.

shining girls 2I have to watch my vocabulary here because saying I enjoyed or liked getting to know Harper’s victims just sounds wrong. I loved that the author gave them a life of their own, a backstory with hopes and dreams, and didn’t just leave them to be pretty corpses on a policeman’s wall. Of course, as soon as we read a chapter about one of the Shining Girls, we know how it is going to end – which makes it all the more tragic that the girls themselves make plans and think about the future. We know there is no future for them. But, and this made me insanely happy, we get to understand why they are Shining Girls – because each of them shines in their own field, be it science, social work, or art, they are talented, promising young women.

I was also impressed by the diversity and range of characters we get to meet. There is a young black mother, working hard to feed her children, a woman working for an (illegal) abortion clinic, a brilliant young scientist, a dancing girl who painted her body so it would glow in the dark, and of course Kirby with her sharp wit and lovable personality, despite the bitter edge whenever someone talks about her scars.

Any novel about a serial killer will have a certain amount of violence in it. Let me say right away that I didn’t feel it was gratuitous at all! Most murders Harper commits aren’t described in detail at all. We get the glimpse of a knife slicing through skin and fiber, a crumpling body, sometimes only a sensation of pain and then darkness. In other cases, we do learn Harper’s preferred mode of killing his victims and, yes, it is gruesome and horrible. But I felt that Lauren Beukes kept it to a minimum and let us know just enough to properly hate Harper.

Apart from the police (or journalist) procedural nature of the book, Kirby’s story was interesting on other levels as well. Her relationship to Dan intrigued me, his careful attempts to make the right steps. How do you treat a girl who has been through something that horrible? Dan grew on me very quickly and I was hoping throughout the novel that Kirby would come to see that she has a true friend and ally in him.

All things considered, I am very impressed, not only because I couldn’t put the book down, but because in addition to a thriller, it offered a glimpse into different periods of the 20th century. The historical aspects, and Kirby’s journey, were at least as gripping as the hunt for Harper. Lauren Beukes is an author to watch out for, and I personally can’t wait to pick up another of her books.

RATING: 8/10  – Excellent!


Lauren Beukes in front of her "murder wall".

Lauren Beukes in front of her “murder wall”.

Sarah Zettel – Dust Girl

I must congratulate myself on my choice of summer reading material. It has been so hot and dry this last week that I find myself desperately wishing for rain to cool down the city. Dust Girl takes place in Kansas which, I admit, may be just a bit dustier and drier than Vienna, but the atmosphere of the book went well with the stifling heat I’m experiencing in real life.

dust girl 2DUST GIRL
by Sarah Zettel

Published by: Random House, 2012
ebook: 304 pages
Series: The American Fairy Trilogy #1

My rating: 6/10

First sentence: Once upon a time, I was a girl called Callie.

Callie LeRoux is choking on dust. It settles on the food in the kitchen. It seeps through the cracks in the hotel that Callie and her mother run in Kansas. It’s slowly filling her lungs. Callie’s begged her mother to leave their town, like their neighbors have already done, but her mother refuses. She’s waiting for Callie’s long-gone father to return.
Just as the biggest dust storm in history sweeps through the Midwest, Callie discovers her mother’s long-kept secret. Callie’s not just mixed race—she’s half fairy, too. Now, Callie’s fairy kin have found where she’s been hidden, and they’re coming for her.
While red dust engulf the prairie, magic unfolds around Callie. Buildings flicker from lush to shabby, and people aren’t what they seem. She catches glimpses of a tail, a wing, dark eyes full of stars. The only person Callie can trust may be Jack, the charming ex-bootlegger she helped break out of jail.
From the despair of the Dust Bowl to the hot jazz of Kansas City, from dance marathons to train yards, to the dangerous beauties of the fairy realm, Sarah Zettel creates a world rooted equally in American history and in magic, where two fairy clans war over a girl marked by prophecy.


Callie LeRoux hast two secrets. The one she knows is that her father is dark-skinned, which is why she isn’t allowed out in the sun too much. Her mother does her best to keep Callie’s skin as pale as possible. The second secret is that Callie is a half-fairy. The story starts out very well with Callie witnessing the biggest sandstorm ever, loses her mother in that storm, and returns to the hotel to find the Hoppers waiting to check into some rooms. That family rivals any thriller writer in creepiness. I guarantee chills down your spines when you read about the Hoppers, especially the children (why is it that children in horror movies are always the scariest things?).

When Callie meets Jack and decides to go and find her mother, he joins her on a journey through Kansas and the dust. They find out about Callie’s heritage as a half-fairy, about fairy politics (and real-world ones) and are on the run from one person or another throughout the rest of the book.

What I loved wdust girlas how several strands of story are set up throughout the beginning, how side characters were introduced that pushed all of my mythology buttons, and how Callie and Jack are portrayed. I did have a huge problem placing them age-wise. Callie behaved like a 12-year-old but was treated more like a girl of 15 or even 16. Jack being described as “no older than Callie” didn’t help either. Goodreads tells me Callie is supposed to be 13 and that’s what I settled for. But it was not apparent through the writing and my brain wasn’t sure whether to picture a little girl or a young woman.

While I enjoyed the ideas and themes in Dust Girl, I was sad that they were left mostly unexplored. As for world-building, the author kind of wrote herself into corners. The magic is never really explained but it seems to follow no rules at all – a matter of taste, surely, but I like boundaries to my magic. Otherwise, the heroine is all-powerful and where’s the fun in reading about someone like that? Callie being mixed race should have had a much deeper impact on her life. After a few days on the run, being exposed to the hot desert sun, Callie’s skin grows visibly darker and she receives sidelong glances. It is mentioned but not really explored. So yes, racism exists, and it existed in the 1930s. But I was hoping for much more than a few throwaway remarks.

Sarah Zettel writes action really well. Callie and Jack stumble from one problem into the next, a repetition I didn’t mind because every time they were being hunted, I was on the edge of my seat, worrying for them and hoping they would get out of it. I expect that young adults will enjoy this book a lot because it is fast-moving and engaging and keeps things simple.

That simplicity is one of my qualms. I realize that, as an adult, this book was not written for me or my age-group. But all the best children’s fiction can be read by adults and enjoyed on a different level. Take Harry Potter or Terry Pratchett’s YA novels – children will mostly read for pure story, adults may choose to look deeper and find what additional levels the author has hidden in what only seems like a simple story. I was missing that element completely in Dust Girl.

Towards the end, I felt like the plot strings and world-building were a big fat mess. Not only does Callie not know whom to trust and what to do with her powers, the readers are left hanging as well. It is clear that this is the set-up for a trilogy or series because 90% of the story arcs introduced are left unresolved. The ending is rounded enough so you don’t want to throw the book against a wall and scream because you want to know what will happen next. But of all the strange things that happened to Callie, of all the things she has found out about herself, the Seelie and Unseelie people, where her mother and absentee father are, we don’t really get any answers.

This sounds a lot more negative than I actually felt about the story while reading it. It is competently written, was very engaging and fantastically creepy at times. For me, the style was a bit too child-like, the story a bit too messy in terms of structure, and while I did enjoy it and read it quickly, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. I will pick up the second book and see where Callie’s story leads me but I’m in no hurry to do so.

THE GOOD: Great ideas, wonderfully creepy, a page-turner. Nicely atmospheric.
THE BAD: Plot strings get tangled, no clear rules for the magic-system, messy world-building. Unresolved ending.
THE VERDICT: Recommended for younger readers (11+) or as a quick read between meatier books. It’s not a highlight, but it was fun enough to keep reading.

RATING:  6/10   Good.


The American Fairy Trilogy:

  1. Dust Girl
  2. Golden Girl

Other reviews:

Terry Pratchett – Nation

So… the blog is a bit Pratchett-heavy lately. The simple explanation is that I have finally discovered the man’s genius and my mood demands his particular mix of hilarious humor, social satire, and seriously clever, thought-provoking themes. There you have it! At this point, I’d read Pratchett’s shopping list, but because it is summer and I have a lot of his novels here (and unread), I went for the one with the prettiest and summeriest cover.

by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Doubleday, 2008
ISBN: 9780385613712
Hardcover: 410 pages

My rating: 9/10

First sentence: Imo set out one day to catch some fish, but there was no sea.

Finding himself alone on a desert island when everything and everyone he knows and loved has been washed away in a huge storm, Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s also completely alone – or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird and gives him a stick which can make fire.
Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot.
As it happens, they are not alone for long. Other survivors start to arrive to take refuge on the island they all call the Nation and then raiders accompanied by murderous mutineers from the Sweet Judy. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things – including how to milk a pig and why spitting in beer is a good thing – and start to forge a new Nation.
As can be expected from Terry Pratchett, the master story-teller, this new children’s novel is both witty and wise, encompassing themes of death and nationhood, while being extremely funny. Mau’s ancestors have something to teach us all. Mau just wishes they would shut up about it and let him get on with saving everyone’s lives!


When Terry Pratchett says in interviews that he gets better with every book, he is not lying. He seems to pour his heart and soul into his fiction, and while the writing has always been good, it became nothing short of remarkable in these last few books I’ve read. Whatever else you may think of Sir Terry and his sense of humor, nobody can dispute that he is a master storyteller who truly understands people and translates real humans onto the page.

This book starts with a tragedy. Mau is in the middle of his manhood ritual – getting safely back home from the Boy’s Island – when the wave strikes. It is the biggest wave he has ever seen and he only survives because he is in a canoe when it hits him. The Boy’s Island? Gone. Mau returns to his home to find his entire tribe – the Nation – gone. The last survivor of his people, he sends their dead bodies to the sea and grieves. But there is another human on the island. Daphne, whose true name is Ermintrude (but who’d want to be called that?), survived the wave aboard the Sweet Judy, a ship now stranded on the island, and mostly in pieces. Mau and this strange, white ghost girl have to try and build up a new Nation, and new lives for themselves.

The culture clash is expected but deftly handled. Neither Mau’s gods nor Daphne’s prim manners are portrayed in a way that makes them seem superior. They have each grown up in their own culture and now they have to find a way to understand each other and question what they’ve been taught all their lives. For Daphne, it may begin with not wearing 7 layers of clothing and actually showing her naked toes to strangers (gasp), for Mau – ever since the wave wiped out his family – it is the Big Question. Do the gods really exist? And if they do, how could they have let this happen?
As they both struggle to come to terms with their beliefs and their loss, more survivors appear on the island and a new, albeit small, Nation comes alive.

nation pratchett

There is so much beauty on these pages and I am not sure where to begin. Daphne and Mau are wonderful protagonists. Mau’s self-doubt – for he is not a boy but never went through the proper manhood ritual, so he believes himself to have no soul – and Daphne’s keen scientific mind are not really all that different. The themes in this book may be obvious, but the characters are still at the center of the story, and I continued reading as much for Mau and Daphne as I did for the valuable life lessons. Pratchett doesn’t hit you over the head with a hammer of science. In this alternate Pacific Ocean nation (and it is alternate), neither Daphne nor the author find Mau’s culture and belief to be ridiculous or primitive. Yes, Daphne likes proof for the supposed miracles she sees – such as poison turning into beer – but she takes Mau’s gods seriously. This is a wonderful story that shows that different isn’t inferior – and to wrap this message in a wonderful, emotional, and funny story is the best way to deliver it.

The characters are vivid and real, they have gone through something terrible and deal with the aftermath in their own way. Mau thinks about giving himself to the darkness, Daphne tries to act the brave, proper lady. But inside – and the reader knows this – they are hurting and wondering about the future. As they slowly build their lives on the island, ideas start popping up. I loved the protagonists most of all because they enjoy thinking and through that learn more about the world and about themselves.

Someone had to eat the first oyster, you know.
Someone looked at a half shell full of snot and was brave.

Little asides like this may at first strike you as comic relief, a little fun to lighten the serious tone. But the thing that struck me over and over was that, despite being funny, there is so much truth in it as well. That is how people evolve, that is how inventions are made – by somebody doing something seemingly stupid or crazy, being brave, and discovering something new about the world. And in working together, amazing things can be achieved – such as the construction of a new Nation, even if it is different from the one before.

Take one strip of the vine lengthwise and yes, it needs the strength of two men to pull it apart. But weave five strands of it into a rope and a hundred men can’t break it. The more they pull, the more it binds together and the stronger it becomes. That is the Nation

Any book, for me, is carried by its characters and their growth. Both Mau and Daphne go through immense changes, not only because of the wave but out of sheer necessity. Daphne’s courage in the face of tragedy goes to show just how much she has grown. When this young girl with a passion for science performs an amputation, even Mau is surprised.

“[…] Those captives were treated very badly.”
“And you’ve been sawing the bad bits off them?”
“It’s called surgery, thank you so very much! It’s not hard if I can find someone to hold the instruction manual open at the right page.”
“No! No, I don’t think it’s wrong!” said Mau quickly. “It’s just that… it’s you doing it. I thought you hated the sight of blood.”
“That’s why I try to stop it. […]”

I have a fondness for pratical people and maybe that is why Tiffany Aching speaks to me so much. One thing I’ll definitely take away from this is that Terry Pratchett is made of Magic. I hope he will continue to write for many, many years and share his wisdom about humanity with us, in the shape of fantastic stories, peopled by lovable, wonderful characters.

Nation has also been adapted for the stage and while I’ll probably never get to see it, the pictures look beautiful. Of course the actors look much older than I picture the characters but I love how small details have been taken into account. On the right, Daphne – still rather proper in her dress – is wearing the grass skirt the Unknown Woman made for her. And Mau is trying out trousers in order to understand what makes trousermen so excited about them (turns out he’s quite fond of the pockets, if nothing much else).

Terry Pratchett's Nation (stage play)

This is marketed as one of Pratchett’s books for young people and while it definitely can be read by children and young adults, I believe it is even more suited to an adult readership. I remember, as a child, I read books for the pure pleasure of story. I didn’t care about messages, or the exploration of themes, or even world-building. I watched characters I liked do things that were interesting, and on that level, Nation succeeds. But it is the message that form the heart of this novel, it is the encouragement to think for yourself, and to go through the world with open eyes and an open mind.

THE GOOD: Wonderful characters who live through a sad but beautiful story. Brilliant exploration of serious themes with just a pinch of Pratchett’s trademark humor.
THE BAD: Takes a while to get into, some story elements (the Navy plotline) could have been left out.
BONUS: The filthy-mouthed parrot.
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended to Pratchett lovers or newcomers, to scientists and religious people, to those who have suffered through loss and pain, and those who are simply interested in a good story.

RATING:  9/10  – Beautiful. Close to perfection.divider1

Second opinions:

Lavie Tidhar – The Bookman

Lavie Tidhar just won a World Fantasy Award for his novel Osama, but I felt more drawn to his steampunk trilogy about the mysterious Bookman. I started reading with high expectations but ended up having to plough through most of the novel due to its lack of depth, interesting language, and – most of all – character development. I am so disappointed I could cry.

by Lavie Tidhar

Published by: Angry Robot, 2010
ISBN: 9780007346615
ebook: 416 pages
Series: The Bookman Histories #1

My rating: 3/10

First sentence: Orphan came down to see the old man by the Thames.

A masked terrorist has brought London to its knees – there are bombs inside books, and nobody knows which ones. On the day of the launch of the first expedition to Mars, by giant cannon, he outdoes himself with an audacious attack. For young poet Orphan, trapped in the screaming audience, it seems his destiny is entwined with that of the shadowy terrorist, but how? Like a steam-powered take on V for Vendetta, rich with satire and slashed through with automatons, giant lizards, pirates, airships and wild adventure, The Bookman is the first of a series.

dividerSometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high or if, by covers alone, I hope to find something in a book that simply isn’t there. In the case of The Bookman, I was disappointed on pretty much every level. The story starts out interesting enough. Alternate London, a young man called Orphan, his friend Gilgamesh, a police inspector called Irene Adler, Prime Minister Moriarty, and the mysterious Bookman. I loved the initial whacky mix of classic literature that seems to have permeated this version of England. But what Jasper Fforde does brilliantly, Lavie Tidhar fails in a rather embarrassing way. It soon becomes apparent that no real world-building has been done. Names are thrown around, mostly so the readers will feel they already know a character and the author doesn’t have to bother actually giving them personality.

Nobody has personality! Orphan is the blandest, most passive, most painfully boring character I’ve read in a long time. The initial plot device – his girlfriend Lucy dying in a terrorist attack staged by the Bookman – is the starting point for his “adventures”. On these adventures, which take him to the mysterious Caliban’s Island, Oxford, the London underworld, a pub, a museum, and tons of other places, Orphan never does anything by himself. He is told to do things, threatened if he doesn’t do things, other people explain why it would be a neat idea to do yet another thing, you get the idea. Most of the time, things happen to him. And the worst thing is: There are certain mysteries (painfully obvious, might I add) that Orphan finds out is told and although they pretty much change every aspect of his life, he just stores them away, never to be mentioned again.

The wonderful Lucy, dead from the beginning, is mentioned a lot in Orphan’s thoughts, but we never get to see why he loves her so much. She is a damsel-in-distress kind of stand-in, so he has something to do  be told to do. As for side characters, don’t even get me started. The handful I remember were there for exposition, info-dumps, and to nudge Orphan along when – again – he’s standing around passively and completely useless.

There is a fair amount of stuff happening, considering this is not an extremely large book. But stuff happening is still not plot, no matter how hard some people try to make us believe that. In fact, everything that happens to Orphan was so disconnected and so badly anchored in this strange, unfinished world, that it is nearly impossible for me to pick out the red thread of what this story was actually about. It’s not about the Bookman, despite its title. It’s not about the world – which would have had so much potention to be something great, what with lizard royalty and conspiracies and Jules Verne saving Orphan in a hot air balloon… none of it was realised.

Whenever there is the chance of a scene becoming thrilling, Orphan being in danger or something being at stake, the scene is cut or ended abruptly by “and then he got out”. Thanks for building up to nothing. To make things worse, the writing in general wasn’t stellar, either. Sentences are mostly short, when there is description, it is unoriginal, and the story and its setting lacked atmosphere.

He crashed into the warm water with a huge explosion. His lungs burned. He had the sense of dark, heavy shapes moving below him. He kicked out and broke back to the surface. He looked at where he was. He was in a large pool of water.

You see, writing like this is okay if it happens only occasionally and to emphasize how quickly something happens. But every school kid learns you don’t start every single sentence with “He”. Sadly, this happens a lot throughout the novel, much to my disappointment. This also shows nicely how Orphan’s “dangerous” adventures don’t really get a chance to become interesting.

The Bookman is crammed full of Stuff – we never get to fully enjoy any one thing, because there have to be Lizards and pirates and a ship voyage, and airships, and bombs and a shuttle to Mars and a secret island and the underworld and automata and Orphan’s secret history and characters that show up so they can tell him something, never to be seen again, and millions of references to other books. I was quite pleased that Princess Irulan’s book In My Father’s House was a real thing in this world. But that’s about it.

It felt like the author had a number of great ideas, threw them all into a pot, stirred lightly and dumped it on a plate, for me to enjoy. Unfortunately, I enjoy good characters, a story that makes sense, set in a world that at least adheres to its own rules. This was such a strange reading experience with only a few fun bits that aren’t enough to be called a silver lining on this drab, colorless, endlessly boring sky of a “story”.

THE GOOD: Some great ideas, incorporating fictional characters into this story’s reality. Great potential for world-building.
THE BAD: Potential completely wasted. Terribly bland, cardboard characters, the plot is all over the place, mediocre writing and, ultimately, nothing in this story makes sense.
THE VERDICT: What a vast disappointment! I won’t be reading the rest of this series (which, btw, is not really steampunk) but I may give Osama a chance. I can’t believe everybody else loves Tidhar so much. This book was in bad need of editing, world-building, tightening of plot, and – most of all! – characters who feel like they are people, not puppets.

RATING: 3/10  – Bad


The Bookman Histories:

  1. The Bookman
  2. Camera Obscura
  3. The Great Gamebookman histories

Mary Robinette Kowal – Glamour in Glass

Why did I read this? I had mostly lukewarm feelings about Shades of Milk and Honey, the first part in this series. But Mary Robinette Kowal is so likable and seems so clever in her interviews and podcasts that I wanted to give her a second chance. If the first novel was – and such a thing is possible, I’ve learned – too much like Jane Austen and read like all the characters were ripped off, this one has its own voice and mood to it. Unfortunately, it was a mood that bored me almost to death.

glamour in glassGLAMOUR IN GLASS
by Mary Robinette Kowal

Published by: Tor, 2012
ISBN: 1429987286
ebook: 213 pages
Series: Glamourist Histories #2

My rating: 6/10

First sentence: There are few things in this world that can simultaneously delight and dismay in the same manner as a formal dinner party.

Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.
In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it. Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.

dividerAfter Shades of Milk and Honey, I was hoping for many things to happen in the second novel. I wished Mary Robinette Kowal would be a little less like Jane Austen (who but Jane Austen can really pull it off, after all?) and more like herself. Check. I was hoping that the characters weren’t such obvious copies or amalgamations of Austen’s own Elizabeth Bennet or the Dashwood sisters. Check. I was hoping that her magic system, Glamour, would be further developed. Check.
Despite all of these good things that were delivered as per my personal order (or so it seems), there was one element this book was missing. Badly. It was drive, it was that thing that makes you go “wow” and get really immersed in a story. Frequently, the five-year-old that I secretly still am on the inside, wanted to shout out “This is BOOOORING” while I was reading. I shushed her and everything, pointed out the nice writing and the depth of research that must have gone into the novel. But five-year-old me didn’t care. She wanted a good story. And that’s where Glamour in Glass was truly lacking.

glamour in glassIt opens on a dinner scene where Jane, who, with Vincent, has just finished a magnificent glamural commissioned by the Prince Regent, describes the dinner conversations, all the rules of propriety that go with such and the separation of the sexes once the whisky and cigars are brought and the discussions start going in a political direction. This may be very interesting from a historical point of view but it lacks any wit that Jane Austen always provided in her work. And the plot (if you can call it that) meanders along in the same manner until the last quarter of the book, when finally something happens that requires action. I am by no means averse to slow-moving books that focus on characters. But let’s take a look at the characters we meet here.

Jane, for the most part, is incredibly sulky and passive throughout the novel. Until said event in the last bit makes her come out of her shell and become pretty awesome. I liked her a great deal in Shades of Milk and Honey, but here I found myself not caring very much about her and actually being annoyed with her a lot of the time. Vincent has lost his brooding mystery and what little we see of him didn’t excite me either. This may be entirely my fault or it may be due to the inconsequential conversations the newlyweds have. I don’t know. It just didn’t grab my attention at all.

What Mary Robinette Kowal does brilliantly is paint a picture of the era. I’m no expert, not even an amateur, in the field, but everything just feels right. The way people behave, the differences between England and France and Belgium, the clothing, the carriages and horse-drawn carts… simply guessing from what I’ve read in her two Glamourist Histories, I would say, Mary has a firm grip on her research. The afterword gives us a clue of how thorough she has been, creating a list of words with all the words Jane Austen used in her works, and eliminating or rephrasing any words Mary used to fit the vocubulary of 1815.

I was also very happy to learn more about Glamour and see Jane come up with new ways to use it. It is like reading steampunk – you read about inventions that could have been made in the past. Only this is glamourpunk. The scenes where Jane and Vincent work on their theory and try to put it into practice were the first ones that got me really hooked and that offer a myriad possibilities for future novels in the series.

What did I think? In the end, the story left me rather cold. The fact that I didn’t particularly like Jane or Vincent for most of the book is surely a large factor in this. The lack of a driving force behind the plot made this, to say it in my five-year-old self’s words, simply boring. I need something to want to read on, be it characters, action, magic or world-building. None of these things were interesting enough to hold my interest. I am somewhat surprised to see this on the Nebula shortlist and I have the strong suspicion that, like with the Hugos, sometimes authors just make it onto that list because they are very present. Or because “it’s kind of their time to get an award”. Mary is a great writer, no doubt, and has a firm grip on her research and craft. But for this second Glamourist History the elevator pitch “Jane Austen with magic” does not work anymore. There may be magic in the shape of Glamour, but there is none of Austen’s wit or clever critique, there are none of her ridiculously funny characters. And so, for me, there wasn’t really much magic at all.

The Good: Well-researched, with perfect French (that made me squee a lot) and an ending that redeems some of the earlier problems I had.

The Bad: Three quarters of the story were painfully boring, except for one scene involving Glamour. Lacks the Austenesque humor and fun characters.

The Verdict: Slow burning historical piece with threads of magic woven into it.

My Rating: 6/10 – Okay


The Glamourist Histories:

Review: Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett – Havemercy

What an unexpected pleasure. This book was completely – and I mean completely – different from what I expected. It’s not really steampunk despite that awesome dragon on the cover, it’s not quite epic fantasy, it’s not too heroic, and there’s very little action altogether. However, it turned out to be a brilliant fantasy of manners, a beautiful romance, and a very original take on dragons.


by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett

Published by: Spectra, 2008
ISBN: 9780553905250
ebook: 448 pages
Series: Metal Dragons #1

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: That morning, I awaited my arrest in Our Lady of a Thousand Fans.

Thanks to its elite Dragon Corps, the capital city of Volstov has all but won the hundred years’ war with its neighboring enemy, the Ke-Han. The renegade airmen who fly the corps’s mechanical, magic-fueled dragons are Volstov’s greatest weapon. But now one of its members is at the center of a scandal that may turn the tide of victory. To counter the threat, four ill-assorted heroes must converge to save their kingdom: an exiled magician, a naive country boy, a young student – and the unpredictable ace who flies the city’s fiercest dragon, Havemercy. But on the eve of battle, these courageous men will face something that could make the most formidable of warriors hesitate, the most powerful of magicians weak, and the most unlikely of men allies in their quest to rise against it.


Gorgeous as it may be, the clockwork dragon on the cover is severly misleading. This story may feature dragons, but they are very much in the background. Instead, the plot revolves around the fate of four viewpoint characters. The exiled magician Royston and the country boy he meets there, a boy named Hal, were my first favorite characters. The way Hal, a tutor to Royston’s nephews and niece, hungers for knowledge and yearns for Royston’s stories from the bustling city of Volstov was more fascinating than any action scene could have been. Our other two viewpoint characters reside in the capital. Thom is a scholar with the unhappy task of rehabilitating the Dragon Corps. The Corps’ most fearsome rider, Rook, has been involved in a  rather large scandal and is not deemed fit to mingle with society. Thom more than struggles trying to get some manners into the impulsive Rook. In the beginning, Rook was my least favorite character, I almost loathed him. It goes to show the writers’ talent that by the end, I came to think of him as a dear friend. After a while, I couldn’t even decide which storyline was my favorite. But Rook and Thom surely made for the most exciting bantering and psychological warfare. Each character is multi-layered and so intricate that I didn’t even care about the side characters, most of whom were left rather flat.

The blurb implies epic battles and a raging war. The war exists, although when we enter the story, it is almost over. Epic battles will not be found within these pages. Instead, we get character studies, amazing relationships and a surprisingly wonderful romance. Discovering who these people are was enough for me but if you’re looking for Epic epic, you won’t find it here. The plot is slow-moving but never boring. Every page offers new tidbits about what made the characters who they are today. They are each thrown into new situations without knowing how to handle them.

havemercy dragon

With magicians and flying clockwork dragons, this book has one foot firmly set in the realms of fantasy. Same as the characters, the world-building takes time to unfold. But the closer I got to the end of the book, the more I realised that the city of Volstov, its politics and its magicians, were quite well fleshed-out and I had no trouble finding my way around this place, understanding the slang and suspending my disbelief. Everything in this book is subtly done (except maybe Rook, but then he is not meant to be subtle). I read along, quite happy to follow these characters around for no better reason than to get to know them better. Towards the end of the book, a sort of mystery comes up that needs urgent solving and brings us some of the action the blurb promises. It wouldn’t even have been necessary but it added a little extra something to an already thrilling book. This is not your avarage fantasy novel. If I had to compare it, I would say it reminds me a little bit of Ellen Kushner’s At Swordspoint. Except this is better.

The one qualm I have about this – and it’s not really a big problem – is that there isn’t a single important female character. The number of women in the entire book can be counted on my hands. A few of them get to say a line or two but women really don’t seem to feature much in this world. That’s okay, not every book has to have strong female characters, but it seemed strange that the only women mentioned were either prostitutes or an important man’s wife. There are two female magicians that I can mention as somewhat redeeming but altogether, this is very much a man’s world.

An original fantasy of manners that didn’t thrill me right at the beginning. But at some point, and I believe it was when Hal first meets Royston, authors Jones and Bennett set their mechanical dragon’s claws into my brain and I was absolutely hooked. It may not be steampunk but it’s sure worth reading.

THE GOOD: Wonderfully layered characters, relationships and character development. A world that is both subtle and intriguing. Plus, a gay romance that will give you butterflies (no matter your sexual orientation).
THE BAD: The beginning is very confusing and takes some pulling through. There’s an abominable lack of women characters!
THE VERDICT: An original fantasy of manners that manages to be epic without shedding gallons of blood on a fictional battlefield. It focuses on characters and their personal growth. Highly recommended.

RATING:  8/10  – Excellent

dividerThe Metal Dragons/Havemercy Series:

  1. Havemercy
  2. Shadow Magic
  3. Dragon Soul
  4. Steel Hands

Second opinions:

Review: Barry Hughart – Bridge of Birds

There are books that you love immediately. Then there are books that have to grow on you first but once you like them, they’ll never let you go. This clearly falls into the latter category. I started out not liking it particularly, only to have it charm the pants off me by the end.

bridge of birdsBRIDGE OF BIRDS
by Barry Hughart

Published by: Del Rey, 1984
ISBN: 0345321383
Paperback: 288 pages
Series: The Chronicles of Master Li
and Number Ten Ox #1

My rating: 8/10

First Sentence: I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.

When the children of his village were struck with a mysterious illness, Number Ten Ox sought a wiseman to save them. He found master Li Kao, a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Together, they set out to find the Great Root of Power, the only possible cure. The quest led them to a host of truly memorable characters, multiple wonders, incredible adventures – and strange coincidences, which were really not coincidences at all. And it involved them in an ancient crime that still perturbed the serenity of Heaven. Simply and charmingly told, this is a wry tale, a sly tale, and a story of wisdom delightfully askew. Once read, its marvels and beauty will not easily fade from the mind.

dividerMy knowledge of Chinese mythology is entirely based on the two-part movie adaptation of Journey to the West (which is hilarious and wonderful and you should watch). Had I not had this very rudimentary basis of how these traditional, classic tales are told, I would have been terribly lost in this book. It is a combination of whimsical – almost silly – and serious, there is more plot than in many 800-page epic fantasies, the characters are strangely alive, and I found myself enjoying it more and more the longer I read.

We are first introduced to Number Ten Ox and his small village, Ku Fu. Within a few pages, all children between the ages of 8 to 13 are struck with a mysterious sickness that leaves them as in a coma. Number Ten Ox sets out to find a wise man who can help them cure the sickness and figure out how a plague can learn how to count. Master Li, who politely states that “there is a slight flaw in his character” joins Ox and they set out on an adventure. It reads very episodically at first and I missed a lot of depth and descriptions. The characters are archetypical but gain more layers throughout the novel.

chronicles of maste rliThis is one of those books that you have to continue to enjoy. The more I read, the more I got sucked in, and the funnier it was. Master Li and Ox meet a lot of characters – who also begin fairly flat. Again, stick to it because there are twists and suprises waiting along the way. As they make their way through labyrinths and enchanted cities, meet the most expensive woman in the entire world and lift ancient curses, I grew to care for the characters. At the end, I was surprised by how much.

The plot is fast-paced and very tongue-in-cheek. Barry Hughart doesn’t only put a spin on ancient Chinese legends and myths, he even mentions “that Russian fellow” Koschei the Deathless. I am sure I’ve missed more than half the references to mythological beings but even with my very limited knowledge in that area, I dare say even without any knowledge, this book is still simply fun. There are moments of wonder, there is action that kept me at the edge of my seat, and magic of some kind or another waits in every new place the protagonists visit.

quotes grey“The supernatural can be very annoying until one finds the key that transforms it into science,” he observed mildly. “I’m probably imagining complications that don’t exist. Come on, Ox, let’s go out and get killed.”

Because of the light-hearted style and the quick-moving plot, I did feel a little distanced from the story, but it was so refreshing reading a fantasy that is so different from most of the genre. I will continue the trilogy surrounding Master Li and Number Ten Ox without a doubt (I secretly hope that they will meet the Monkey King on their travels) and I can recommend this book wholeheartedly. Don’t expect Tolkienesque descriptions of landscape or George R.R. Martinesque depth of character. Instead, sit down with a nice cup of tea, enter the world of ancient China that never was, and you won’t stop grinning until it’s over.

THE GOOD: A funny, quick, fresh fantasy adventure featuring gods, a wise man with a silght flaw in his character, treasure coves, and flying machines.
THE BAD: It’s not your avarage epic fantasy. Epic in scope, certainly, but journeys are handled within one sentence, and you never get that deep knowledge of the characters that we are used to from modern fantasies.
THE VERDICT: If you’re tired of reading doorstopper novels, if you’re interested in exploring new settings in fantasy, or if you like Journey to the West, this is the book for you. It will make you laugh, it will make you roll your eyes, and it will keep you guessing at its riddles-within-riddles until the very end.

RATING: 8/10  Excellent


The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox:

  1. Bridge of Birds
  2. The Story of the Stone
  3. Eight Skilled Gentlemen

Review: Kate Milford – The Boneshaker

The Book Smugglers count among my favorite book bloggers ever. Not only do they manage to make my TBR grow even faster but their site is also beautifully structured, funny and insightful. I picked up this book entirely on their recommendation. Ana and Thea are my go-to girls when it comes to middle grade fantasy. So far, they haven’t let me down. Thanks for another great tip, you two!

The Boneshaker - Kate Milford

by Kate Milford

Published by: Clarion Books, 2010
Illustrated by: Andrea Offermann
ISBN: 0547487436
ebook: 384 pages
Series: Arcane #1

My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Strange things can happen at a crossroads.

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata – self-operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make Natalie’s half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she discovers a horrible truth and realizes that only she has the power to set things right.
Set in 1914, “The Boneshaker “is a gripping, richly textured novel about family, community, courage, and looking evil directly in the face in order to conquer it.


Despite the misleading title, this is not a steampunk novel. The Boneshaker in question is Natalie Minks’ Chesterlane bicycle, a big bike for a young girl, and Natalie has a lot of trouble riding it – or just keeping it upright, for that matter. But there are other things on her mind once Jake Limberleg’s medicine show arrives in her little town of Arcane, and Dr. Limberleg makes Natalie’s automaton move without winding it up. There is something strange in the air of Arcane and Natalie gets the feeling that people are not what they seem.

This book was just what a good story for children should be. It draws you in quickly, provides us with a wonderful girl protagonist who doesn’t mind to scrape her knees and loves tinkering with clockwork automata, and weaves magical tales into the real world. Natalie loves hearing her mother tell stories, and the best ones are those about people living in her own town. The story of how old Tom Guyot faced the devil is Natalie’s favorite – and I can easily see why. As soon as we get to read that story, Kate Milford had her storyteller’s claws firmly set into my brain.

Ajake limberleg posters we follow Natalie unravel the secrets of her town and especially of that strange caravan full of weird medicine, a machine that tells your future, and panaceas for sale, it becomes obvious that more is at stake than the townspeople having their money taken for nothing more than spiced water. I had a lot of fun figuring out what all the little clues meant, and even though some things were quite obvious (this being a children’s book, I’m sure I couldn’t have guessed as much when I was a kid) the atmosphere kept me interested anyway.

Being a German-speaker comes as somewhat of a disadvantage in the case of this book. Because of a certain name, a character twist that happens around the end was not just easy to guess but a plain fact long before it was revealed. I will not spoil this for you or even mention the name (now don’t you go Googling all the names in this book!) but the big reveal wasn’t a reveal at all to me – which obviously is not the author’s fault, and didn’t make the book any less fun. (On a sidenote: I hear something similar happened with Star Wars in the netherlands because the word “Vader” means father in Dutch – there you go. Although very similar to the German “Vater”, eleven-year-old me did not make that connection. So I guess I had it coming, anyway.)

I must also admit here that I did this book a great injustice. It was one of the first reads I started this year and I took a break right in the middle to read Cat Valente’s amazing Deathless, a book so beautiful I’m still recovering from it. After that, it took me a few chapters to get back into The Boneshaker. Despite my book-hangover, the ending was thoroughly satisfying and believable.

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, The Boneshaker is a fun romp through an atmospheric town filled with magic, best enjoyed on a Chesterlane bicyle.


THE GOOD: Great storytelling, a nice mix of reality and magic, an original idea with a kick-ass heroine.
THE BAD: Not all things are completely revealed in the end.
THE VERDICT: A highly entertaining story unlike anything I can think of. This coming-of-age tale deserves more attention than it’s getting at the moment and I’ll be sure to pick up its  prequel, The Broken Lands.

RATING: 7,5/10  Very good.

Review: Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity

I feel quite useless writing a review about this book. It has garnered nothing but praise and features on so many best-of-the-year lists I can’t remember seeing one without it. And honestly, all I can do here is agree with the rest of the world. This is a superb book!

code name verity otherCODE NAME VERITY
by Elizabeth Wein

Published by: Egmont Press, 2012
ISBN: 1405258217
Paperback: 452 pages

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: I am a coward.

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.


This is another one of those books that have been very much hyped – not so much through marketing efforts by the publisher, blog tours, givaways, and such things. But through glowing reviews all over the place. Naturally, I was suspicious at first. But some of the blogs that I read and count among my most trusted Recommenders of Great Books have agreed with the overall praise. It was settled, I was reading this thing.

Being a story set during World War II, there is bound to be some tragedy. Lives are destroyed, people are killed, lovers ripped apart and children taken away. But we focus on a smaller world. In the first part of two, “Verity” confesses how she came to be where she is – being interrogated by the Gestapo and coughing up any facts she can remember about the war. The story she tells is more personal, though. She doesn’t just list places, give away radio code, and sing out names of spies. She tells us how she met her best friend in the world – Maddie.

code name verityIt is hard not to get drawn into the story right away. “Verity” manages to tell her story in a gripping way and despite her terrifying situation, infuse it with a sense of humor that made me love her very quickly. The girls’ first meeting was simply brilliant but I do have one small point of critique. I didn’t quite feel their bond after that initial meeting. They simply don’t spend enough time together or at least we don’t get to see it. And that really put a damper on the entire story for me. Because if that friendship doesn’t feel as strong to me as it obviously does to these two women, then whatever happens won’t touch me as much.

Despite this little misgiving (and it is just a wee little one) I enjoyed this book immensely. When I read a novel about WWII, there are certain things I expect, certain events we all knew happened – but if you can show me something new, and be it a tiny little detail, then I’m already intrigued again. I remember my classmates in school always whining when we talked about WWII because it felt like we always talked about it in a never-ending regurgitation of the past. I believe that there are stories that should be told over and over, and that within the big picture, there is a nearly infinite number of smaller stories that deserve to be told as well. Now this may be fiction – and the author says so in her Debriefing – but there were women pilots and there were a few women spies. I had no idea! This was definitely a story worth being told.

The mix of languages was totally up my alley. Seeing as the three languages used are all ones I speak to some degree, I was thrilled that the narrator sometimes switched back and forth between them. Don’t worry, most of the time, she translates them to English. But this sentence here could have come from my own language-befuddled brain (plus, the French subjunctive is used correctly which made the Grammar Freak in giddy with glee):

quotes greyI shook this treacherous woman’s hand and said coolly, en français pour que l’Hauptsturmführer who doesn’t speak English puisse nous comprendre, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you my name.”

Apart from the great story and the character of “Verity” (she was easily my favorite), this book offered a few things that felt like little gems, put in especially to make me happy. Being somewhat of a Peter Pan nut, I loved the parallels and use of lines and names from the original story. Mrs. Darling, who leaves the windows open, in case her children fly home unexpectedly – what a wonderful image for the mother of a pilot.  There are plenty more but I won’t spoil.

I am expecting this book to win all sorts of awards and they are most deserved. In the end, it wasn’t as much of a hit as I had expected after the rave reviews. The friendship didn’t really feel that close to me until the end. There was admiration between these girls, certainly, but the love of a best friend did not come across through the pages. Still, a very highly recommended read that shows a different perspective on a story we all think we know already.


THE GOOD: Great writing, wonderful characters, very suspenseful until you know what is going on.
THE BAD: I didn’t feel the friendship as much as I think I should have. The first half of the book was much better than the second.
BONUS: Mixed languages.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended book that can be read by people of all ages.

RATING: 8/10  Excellent

Review: Alan Bradley – A Red Herring Without Mustard

Last summer, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Flavia de Luce, child sleuth and chemistry enthusiast. As the first two detective adventures were so much fun and I’m sure by now that with Flavia you can’t go wrong, I dove into our heroine’s third case.

by Alan Bradley

Published by: Doubleday, 2011
ISBN: 0440339863
ebook: 391 pages
Series: Flavia de Luce #3

My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: “You frighten me,” the Gypsy said. “Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness.”

In the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey, the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce had asked a Gypsy woman to tell her fortune—never expecting to later stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned almost to death in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to untangle dark deeds and dangerous secrets.


Here comes a heroine who manages, with the first one-and-a-half pages, to burn down a gypsy’s caravan wagon after being told her fortune. While one may call Flavia de Luce a bit clumsy at times, she is everything but stupid. Her passion for chemistry is unsurpassed and ever since the events of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, she has dabbled in crime-solving. Quite successfully, at that.

Narrating her third adventure, Flavia captured my attention as easily as ever, and didn’t let go until I was finished with the book. This is quite a feat, considering that I wasn’t very impressed with the mystery. Flavia’s voice was enough to keep me interested, her family situation and some dark secrets I’m sure are looming in her past, are engaging enough. Beneath the cold English surface, we get further glimpses of Flavia’s inner turmoil. She covers it well with humor and cynicism but we can tell that she does suffer from never having known her mother, from her family’s cold demeanour, and from her sisters’ cruel japes.

red herring

The first two books in the series each had a theme surrounding the murder case(s). First it was stamps, then it was puppetry, this time it is… fish? Not really. Gypsies, telling the future, crystal balls? Also not quite. Not being a big reader of crime fiction, I sorely missed that overlying theme that taught me new tidbits and gave me an insight into a world otherwise new to me. We get clues to follow from the start, ostentatiously all over the place, seemingly unconnected. Of coures, I was relying on Flavia to help me figure everything out but in the end, the solution wasn’t very satisfying and the clues felt too scattered for me to make up my mind. Then again, maybe I’m still just terrible at guessing.

All things considered, this is a gem of a series, no matter whether each murder case happens to be up my alley or not. Alan Bradley has shown three times now that he is a great writer and highly talented in depicting highly intelligent, young girls who like to spend their free time helping out the local police. What on earth would they do without Flavia de Luce?

THE GOOD: Flavia is as charming and funny as ever, her narration is funny and engaging and she makes for a wonderfully precocious protagonist.
THE BAD: The clues were a bit too loosely tied to each other for my taste. I would have liked a theme connecting them, like in the first two books (stamps, puppetry).
THE VERDICT: For Flavia fans, this is another recommendation. So far, it was my least favorite of the series, at least as far as the mystery goes. But that doesn’t change the fact that these books are beautifully written and very engaging, quick reads.

RATING: 6,5/10  Very good, with some reservations

dividerThe Flavia de Luce series:

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  2. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
  3. A Red Herring Without Mustard
  4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
  5. Speaking From Among the Bones
  6. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches