Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Finally we’re starting to see some plot appearing in the Dresden Files series!
Though I preferred the previous book as the story was more interesting and coherent (more on that later!), the characters in Grave Peril help keep the plot interesting and build it up nicely to make the foundations of a more intriguing series.
For me, the best bit of the entire book was the first encounter we have with a ghost in the beginning chapters. After that (which is to say most of the book), the story is really let down because it just doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. It feels like the series has skipped a few books and has just landed us with this to compensate, so much so that I checked several times to make sure I hadn’t picked up the 4th/5th instalment of the series instead. I’m assuming this is done to make the plot a little meatier and add more weight to the characters we encounter but it just doesn’t work well. It feels far too ambitious and it casts a shadow on the best bits of this book: the characters and the development of a much larger, more interesting plot.
A definite boost for the outlook of the series is that Dresden is almost a likeable character now! Yes, he still spends too much page-time brooding in self-pity and moral dilemmas, but now he has back-up from the comedy relief that is Bob and the loyalty of our newly-introduced character Michael, we can see him in a much more forgiving light.
Unfortunately, this is still let down somewhat by the female characters – why do they all suck so much? It’s like the author has decided he doesn’t understand women therefore he’ll write them as one dimensional as possible and hope that everyone nods along in agreement. The only female characters that are vaguely interesting barely get any attention in this book and it’s a noticeable gap that frankly, tired me out. It’s a letdown, especially after the male characters were such a huge positive in this book and female characters were finally starting to gain some substance in Fool Moon.
Give this a read if you plan on continuing with the Dresden Files – I get the impression that it’d be hard to make sense of the series if you didn’t have this book as a stepping stone but that’s all it is, a stepping stone and an intriguing, albeit slow and irritating, one at that.
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Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an excellent book and Maitland did a brilliant job of bringing the past to life in a way that was realistic without being overwhelming.
In parts the plot pacing was a little shaky as it could often be quite slow but I think this was more than compensated for by the great attention to detail which kept the reader hooked into the plot by all the eccentricities of medieval life. I absolutely loved all of the superstition and religious elements that were included! They’re the main reason I enjoy studying the medieval period and Maitland did a brilliant job of including them without it becoming overbearing or without it seeming out of line with our modern beliefs on what is and isn’t possible (view spoiler). Furthermore, the mysteries were very deftly done and I spent most of the book trying to second-guess what was behind them all. Though some were a bit of a let down, I do think this was more in part to the amount of suspense leading up to them rather than the plot itself – with that much suspense constantly building up throughout a novel most revelations would feel like a let down!
The entire theme of truth throughout the novel was a pretty unique take on a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed how it was explored in most situations. It didn’t delve too far into challenging whether lying was necessarily a bad thing in every scenario but it did raise enough questions to make the book linger in the reader’s mind long after they finished a chapter.
A writing device used in the book I particularly liked was the way Maitland had the characters tell stories and, instead of repeating them to us parrot fashion, she voiced their content through the different reactions of the character’s. This really helped keep my interest up in the story as well as move the plot on very nicely while giving us more information about the characters.
The only criticism I would have of the novel, and a small one at that, is that the characters of Osmond, Adela and Rodrigo would’ve been better with more development. This is particularly the case with Adela as the fact that she was ‘tender-hearted’ was both shown and told to the reader repeatedly but there seemed to be very little else to her and this did get a bit irritating towards the end. A much stronger backstory for all three of those characters would have improved the book tremendously, I’m aware there is some extra material to accompany the novel so I hope I find what I’m looking for in there!
All in all this book was a fantastic read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in either English history and/or myths and legends.
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