The Root of His Evil by James M. Cain

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

While slinging hash in a diner, a would-be Cinderella meets her Prince Charming.

Carrie Selden is not at all like the woman you’ve read about in the papers. Though she was raised in an orphanage, she isn’t an orphan. She didn’t finish high school until she was nineteen, but that was because she was working as a waitress, not because she was slow. And though she’s very cunning, well, she’s no femme fatale. But her beauty . . . oh yes, her beauty is everything you’ve heard.

At twenty-one, she takes her savings and moves to New York City, landing a job at a diner called Karb’s, at the bottom rung of the restaurant chain’s tall corporate ladder. Though she makes minimum wage, Carrie is savvy, and it isn’t long before she starts to climb. When her coworkers unionize, they choose her as president, and from there, the sky is the limit. But just as the union gets underway, she meets a mysterious intellectual named Grant—who will either help her rise to the top, or drag her straight down to hell.

My impressions:

This beginning-of-the-twentieth- century retelling of the story of Cinderella had it all what it takes to be charming: a heroine with a lot of gumption and brains, a handsome prince with a nearly-fatal flaw, his mother, beautiful but nasty like a viper, and a treacherous friend of our Cindy. The tale starts off where classic fairy tales end – with the marriage.  Carrie Selden, a young New York waitress, meets Grant Harris while serving his drink. One look or two, a short conversation, a walk and a sailing trip and they get married. Only after the marriage Carrie finds out who her husband is: a heir of a railroad billions fortune obsessed with Indians. That man comes along burdened with a snobby family and a possessive, beautiful mother he is besotted with. Soon nobody is giving Carrie any chance to keep him but she is stubborn and wants the man she likes. Still she will have to turn into a princess-warrior in order to conquer the mother-in-law dragoness breathing down her neck.

I liked characterization and some scenes, especially those which featured Carrie dealing with the family of her husband. The first meeting with his sisters was precious! I didn’t like the way Carrie treated Holden and that cover art which shows a hussy, not a waitress. I have to say most of plot twists were quite predictable. Still I enjoyed that story immensely – now I want to read more of this author!

Final verdict:

A novel as charming as its last chapter which I quote below:

“Tomorrow, Grant says, we start a perfectly hellish life, with mosquitoes, snakes, heat and everything else to bother us, and I guess it will be hard. But tonight there will be the Caribbean moon, and as it dances across the water, I shall think of the Modern Cinderella, and pretend that the light on the waves is really the silver slipper falling into her lap.”

Encore!

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Posted in book review, historical, romance, thriller | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Movie review: Queen (2014) by Vikas Bahl

I found out about that one while perusing Tasha/Heidenkind’s excellent blog, Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books – thank you my dear for mentioning it!

Product info:

A young New Delhi woman called Rani (‘Queen’ in English) comes from a very traditional but loving family. She and her entire family are preparing for her wedding when the fiance all of a sudden announces that he doesn’t want to marry after all. He doesn’t even present any viable reason, just says that in his opinion it would be for the best. Devastated Rani sulks for a day or two in her room and then, supported by her grandma, decides to go on a solo

honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, a trip she was dreaming about. Will she manage to overcome her trauma and return to her family happier? How will she deal with the outside world completely on her own?

My impressions:

At first glance this Bollywood comedy/drama had everything you need to spend two satisfying hours in front of your TV set/computer screen, drinking wine and chuckling merrily from time to time. A young ingenue, sweet and sensibly exotic, who slowly gains her independence. A scenic European tour, exposing clashes between European and Indian cultures. An alpha-hole fiance who thinks the Moon and stars revolve around his head and is taught a lesson. All of it was supposed to make me nod or even swing my head and smile most of the time. It left me bored instead, bored and annoyed.

Rani Mehra (Kangana Ranaut), an under-confident daughter of a shopkeeper, is ditched almost at the altar. The whole process should have been like a thunder but it takes almost half an hour in the movie.  I know Indian movies have their own rules and pace but, in my humble opinion, many scenes of this one should have been shortened or cut out completely. I felt as if the director repeated some ideas over and over again because he thought I might be as obtuse as the heroine of this flick. Which directs me toward my biggest complain. Rani.

I get it – she was a young, shy, sheltered girl, not especially educated, without any higher interests apart from marriage and, perhaps, cooking. A good girl who loves her family, listens to her teachers, does as she is told, and has a FB profile. It would still be fine if only Rani, while traveling abroad, showed any interest in Europe, French cuisine and/or history, Dutch cuisine and/or history or, in fact, any other related topic. No such luck. For her an exciting experience means getting sozzled in public, preferably while not wearing a bra in a disco, and being almost arrested by a local cop; yes, she loves cooking but French cuisine means just a disgusting bit of raw fish head with a small tomato in its prominent teeth, a ‘dish’ served, allegedly, in the only French restaurant she visited at a whim. Something that made her puke. It was obvious she thought they had it all in New Dehli, only they made it wayyyyy better. She also never bothered with even most superficial research concerning France, Paris, Amsterdam and Europe, even though her FB profile and discussions with her family on Skype suggested she had to have some previous knowledge about the internet and computers.

What interests Rani in Paris the most? La Tour Eiffel of course. What not to like? It’s high, made of metal, widely known, and it sparks in the dark admirably. What interests Rani in Amsterdam the most? A church and the Kink Kong chainstore where she, in all her annoyingly fake innocence, buys gifts for her whole family paying with a visa card of her papa. Funny? Somehow I didn’t smile even once. I simply didn’t buy it and couldn’t believe a girl, even young, shy, sheltered, and living in India can be also that stupid…

I admit I liked the ending the most as, for a change, Rani didn’t find the love of her life but it was a tad too little and a bit too late too.

Final verdict:

After seeing how many prizes this one won I expected something better. Perhaps Bollywood, their sweet-sweet heroines, repetitive music, and simplistic stories are not for me. Plus Paris without catacombs is not the right kind of Paris.

Posted in Bollywood comedy drama, meh, movie review, rating | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Agincourt is one of the epic battles of history. It was fought by two badly matched armies that met in atrocious conditions on St Crispin’s Day 1415, and resulted in an extraordinary victory that was celebrated in England long before Shakespeare immortalised it in Henry V. It has always been held to be the triumph of the longbow against the armoured knight, and of the common man against the feudal aristocrat, but those are history’s myths. Bernard Cornwell, who has long wanted to write this story, depicts the reality behind the myths.

Nicholas Hook is an English archer. He seems born to trouble and, when his lord orders him to London as part of a force sent to quell an expected Lollard uprising, Nick’s headstrong behaviour leads to him being proscribed an outlaw. He finds refuge across the Channel, part of an English mercenary force protecting the town of Soissons against the French. What happened at the Siege of Soissons shocked all Europe, and propels Nick back to England where he is enrolled in the archer companyof the doughty Sir John Cornwaille, a leader of Henry V’s army. The army was superb, but sickness and the unexpected French defiance at Harfleur, reduce it to near-shambolic condition. Henry stubbornly refuses to accept defeat and, in appalling weather, leads his shrunken force to what appears to be inevitable disaster.

My impressions:

I saw this book being recommended by many people so, looking for good his-fic, I decided to give it a chance. It wasn’t a bad novel, far from it, but I got a feeling the author, for a reason or two, stopped mid-way between something mediocre and something truly brilliant.

On the one hand you get Nick Hook, a protagonist which could have been really good – well-rounded, properly complex, defying simple pigeon-holing. Could have been. The idea behind that character was great but then the action overtook all attempts at making Nick an interesting man to follow. Near the end of the book Nick turned into another bland puppet archer who was supposed to take part in the battle at Azincourt and survive it to tell tales. The same can be said about Henry V, his sovereign. There were several moments when I said to myself: “oh, great, the English king will be good!” and then, somehow, that character fizzled out into nothing. It was never explained properly why that king condemned his own subjects, the lollards, to death but was so very valiant facing the people from Harfleur. The author didn’t even try to touch the strange religious devotion of Henry, full of many delightful contradictions definitely worth exploring.

Finally don’t let me even start to carp about Monsieur de Lanfernelle, the gorgeous father of the divine Melisande,  who was just ludicrously artificial, a character composed of most obvious cliches, or the provenience of ‘voices’ Nick heard in his head.

I also have to admit the ending dragged and dragged forever but I have to add that the battle scenes, although gory and gross, were done very well.

Final verdict:

It could have been a really good book but it is a firm ‘meh’. Pity.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in book review, fantasy, historical | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Movie review: Magellan (2017) directed by Rob York

Product info:

After NASA picks up a trio of mysterious signals from within our own solar system, astronaut Roger Nelson (Brandon Ray Olive) is dispatched on a multi-year solo mission aboard the Magellan spacecraft to investigate the sources.

My impressions:

It wasn’t a bad movie, maybe a tiny bit boring from time to time but not bad at all. Still the whole premise seemed completely unbelievable to me. How come NASA sent just ONE man on a super-important, super-complicated mission, difficult on more than one level, a mission which can be a spectacular success but also a big, fat disaster? One man, even the best professional around, can make a mistake. Something might happen completely beyond his control. What if he falls ill? What if he has a stupid accident? What if, in a moment of weakness, he takes one bad decision too many? He is supposed to spend ten long years in space, most of the time in hibernation. What if the equipment fails? What if, what if…

The fact that the said astronaut has to leave his wife Abigail (Whitney Palmer) behind was, in my humble opinion, another stupid plot device. I know, I know, it was done deliberately to create tension and those lachrymose moments viewers love so much because it is clear from the very beginning that Roger and Abigail love each other very deeply. It goes without saying that a decade is a very long time to stay apart from each other, especially that the odds are against him ever returning safely. As they have no kids I ask: why NASA directors didn’t send them together? After all even the rival Chinese had a crew of three…

Yeah, I know, the answer is another cliche cherished by American cinema (but not only) – people love a lone hero who is saving the town, the country or even the whole planet all on his own. Getting mad in the process because he is all on his own and even the smartest A.I. computer cannot replace human company. I like sci-fi movies but I admit such a solution took a shine out of this one.

Final verdict:

Meh. Just meh. Watch it at home if you cannot help it but you’ve been warned, it is not as clever as it sounds.

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

 

Posted in drama, meh, movie review, rating, sci-fi | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. 

Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown.

But homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can’t catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman’s new supervisor is the love of his life—and also his worst nightmare. And in the cheap hotel where he has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under Landsman’s nose. A way to spend the last months of your peaceful American dream, right?

My impressions:

Have I ever mentioned that I am fully prepared to forgive a book a lot if the narration features the right sense of humour? Well, this is a perfect example.

Apparently the premise of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is anything but original – I am the first to admit it. It starts in a fictional state of Alaska, a temporary home of the Jewish Diaspora, with a murder of a young drug addict committed in a sad, run-down hotel. A heavily drinking, depressed cop staying in the same fleabag hotel is called in. That cop, Meyer Landsman, will try his best to solve the case, perhaps the last case in his career or, indeed, life. He feels he owes that much to the unknown companion of his misery. The investigation will put him in contact with a fundamentalist Jewish mafia boss, a failed Messiah, the so-called tzaddik ha-Dor and his ex-wife, among many others.

Nothing original, right? And yet I couldn’t stop reading and was chuckling every two-three pages, sometimes laughing out loud like a mad hag.

Yes, it is a dystopia with terminally flawed characters and a lot of violence, very noir at times. Yes, the title hardly reflects the content. Yes, the author has an annoying tendency to ask different political questions in the middle of things (like what would happen if Zionists had botched things in Israel and instead found themselves in Alaska, disputing land with Native Americans, dreaming up terrorist plots to win back the holy land?).  Yes, Chabon’s descriptive language and inventive style might distract you sometimes from the plot. No, the book doesn’t pass the Bechdel test although it features some well-rounded, warm-blooded female characters, Bina Gelbfish-Landsman, the ex-wife of our detective and a police officer, among them. Yes, magical/supernatural elements are barely there and I don’t think the novel can be qualified as a sci-fi position, not really. And yet I recommend it wholeheartedly, especially if you need a laugh or two and you appreciate the darker sense of humour.

Final verdict:

Finally: one brilliant book – the first this year I suppose.

It grabbed me and would not let me go until it won me over. In order to provide the last Rating icon with the words "one brilliant book" and a small butterfly on it.argument let me quote one of more delightful dialogues (between Landsman and an Indian doctor examining him):

p.278

‘Are you taking medication?’
‘No, not really.’
‘Not really?’
‘No, I don’t want to.’
‘You don’t want to.’
‘I’m, you know. Afraid I might lose my edge.’
‘That explains the drinking, then,’ the doctor says. His words seem tinged with a sardonic wiff of liquorice. ‘I hear it does wonders for one’s edge.’ He goes to the door, opens it, and an Indian noz comes in to take Landsman away. ‘In my experience, Detective Landsman, if I may,’ the doctor concludes his own jag, ‘the people who worry about losing their edge, often they fail to see they already lost the blade a long time ago.’

Other books by Michael Chabon reviewed on this blog:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

 

Posted in alternate history, book review, contemporary, crime, dystopia, one brilliant book, rating | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The City and the City by China Mieville

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds deadly conspiracies beneath a seemingly routine murder. From the decaying Beszel, he joins detective Qussim Dhatt in rich vibrant Ul Qoma, and both are enmeshed in a sordid underworld. Rabid nationalists are intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists dream of dissolving the two into one.

My impressions:

This one is worth reading just for the fantastically original world-building. Two cities, enveloped around each other and yet divided by more than just a wall or a border – that premise charmed me sufficiently to make me forget about a schematic, noir murder mystery and not especially well-shaped-out characters. After reading the book I am still at a loss: were Beszel and Ul Quoma in the same place but in two different dimensions? Was it the same dimension but two, slightly opposite places? Why the inhabitants were so adamant to preserve that strange status quo? I grant it, they were two separate nations speaking two different languages. They didn’t like each other much, not quite. And yet…imagine seeing, and doing your damnedest to ignore, people from other city walking your streets or streets running parallel to yours, day in day out…you can notice their buildings, their cars, their shops and cafes. You can notice their children and pets. You can even visit as a tourist and then you’ll be faced with even a greater challenge – ignoring streets and people from your own motherland, visible but completely unattainable…

Mieville gives an absolutely brilliant interpretation of segregation, cultural differences, political influence, governmental authority etc. in his creation of that unique world. If only he could populate it with equally fascinating characters…Philosophy aside, I didn’t care much about the murder victim and the perpetrator. What was even stranger, Tyador Borlu, the cool police investigator trying to solve the case, left me lukewarm as well. He was average. He was ordinary. He had two mistresses and that piece of info didn’t make me bat my eyelid because neither of the ladies was present as a character, just as a flavour. To find the killer, Borlu must go to the neighboring city of Ul Qoma and team with Qussim Dhatt of the Murder Squad. Qussim seemed to be Borlu’s alter ego, perhaps a bit harsher and crueler but roughly the same sameness cop template. If it were deliberate I would applaud it but I think it wasn’t.

The concept of the Breach was also flawed a bit. Part police force, part bogey man, the Breach enforce the status quo, keeping people from going back and forth between cities with impunity. Still I had an impression the author himself didn’t think that idea through, leaving plenty of questions unanswered.

Final verdict:

If you love an original world-building above anything else in your fiction it is your book. If you are rather into believable characters you can identify with, The City and the City will bore you. I liked its weirdness well enough but I am not sure Mieville will be becoming my favourite author any time soon.

Posted in book review, contemporary, crime, dystopia, fantasy, philosophical, urban fantasy | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Movie review: Splice (2009) directed by Vincenzo Natali

Product info:

Geneticists Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are young, successful scientists who specialize in creating hybrids of living species. When they propose the use of human DNA, their pharmaceutical company bosses forbid it, forcing them to conduct experiments in secret. The result is Dren, a creature with amazing intelligence and physical attributes. At first, Dren exceeds their wildest dreams, but as she begins to grow at an accelerated rate, she threatens to become their worst nightmare.

My impressions:

A pair of most childish scientists ever are creating something forbidden in a biotech company lab directed by the most lax  managers and with the worst security on Earth. It would be actually funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. Do they think about consequences of their deeds? Of course not, they’re like overgrown children, right? Their efforts, which are nothing more than glamorized supervision of computer processes any teenage biology nerd could have  performed, are crowned with a creature which would make Frankenstein proud. Dren.

She is a demi-human crossbreed who soon makes lives of Clive and Elsa very complicated indeed. Because, surprise, surprise, they hadn’t thought the whole experiment through. They had’t even planned their next step or two, like preparing the right environment for quickly growing Dren outside the lab. Don’t forget that it was an illegal experiment from the very beginning and our pair of geniuses didn’t even ask themselves what would they do with the new creature, where would it sleep and exercise. Honestly, a good pet owner does far more homework before acquiring a new dog or cat than those two.

As a result Dren lands in an isolated, decrepit farm, almost all on her own (it’s a female until it isn’t, one of few good twists) and, of course, she is hardly impressed. Her two creators soon are losing the last vestiges of control, bickering among themselves bitterly who is to blame for that situation. One blunder is chasing another up to a tragic (but predictable) finale. At that point I was already royally bored and rather disgruntled.

Final verdict:

I grant it: the premise was terrific and the actors did what they could to make it float. Still,  I personally found the movie disappointing. I feel all those good ideas and valid questions concerning such sticky issues like bioethics, abortion, corporate-sponsored science weren’t taken as far as they should. Meh.

Posted in contemporary thriller/horror, horror/comedy, movie review, sci-fi | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Age of Ra (Pantheon 01) by James Lovegrove

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Ancient Egyptian gods have defeated all the other pantheons and claimed dominion over the earth, dividing it into warring factions. Lt. David Westwynter, a British soldier, stumbles into Freegypt, the only place to have remained independent of the gods’ influence. There, he encounters the followers of a humanist leader known as the Lightbringer, who has vowed to rid mankind of gods and their shackles. As the world heads towards an apocalyptic battle, there is far more to this freedom fighter than it seems…

My impressions:

I didn’t have high expectations concerning this one but while reading it I found several features which made me impressed. First of all the author’s knowledge concerning Egyptian gods. I am hardly an expert so perhaps a real Egyptologist would spot a mistake or two; still for a lay person who has just read several books concerning the topic Lovegrove’s take of the Egyptian pantheon was simply spot-on. I don’t only think here about the names and attributes but also about the way of thinking and very human emotions Ra, Set, Nephtys, Osiris and Isis displayed.

The other asset was the weaponry, a clever mixture of old and new technologies, and, overall, the fighting scenes, very dynamic and interesting to read. If only the same could be said about the characters…

Sad but true: neither David Westwynter nor Lightbringer nor Zaphirah could be called three-dimensional or well-rounded. Their development never seemed plausible to me and I found them generally a tad too underwhelming. What’s more, the ending was simply laughable, with a cop-out chasing another cop-out as if Lovegrove couldn’t wait to finish this one. Pity, because at some point, right at the beginning, I was hoping the author would defy at least some cliches. Still the cover art is really good.

Final verdict:

An original idea but the execution I found rather so-so; I would recommend this one mainly to fans of military action who also like ancient history and gods. For me it was, unfortunately, only ‘meh’

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

Posted in adventure, alternate history, book review, fantasy, meh, rating | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri (Inspector Montalbano 11)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Food, love, and murder-Sicilian style-in the gripping eleventh installment of The New York Times bestselling Montalbano mystery series.

Things are not going well for Inspector Salvo Montalbano. His relationship with Livia is once again on the rocks and-acutely aware of his age-he is beginning to grow weary of the endless violence he encounters. Then a young woman is found dead, her face half shot off and only a tattoo of a sphinx moth giving any hint of her identity. The tattoo links her to three similarly marked girls-all victims of the underworld sex trade-who have been rescued from the Mafia night-club circuit by a prominent Catholic charity. The problem is, Montalbano’s inquiries elicit an outcry from the Church and the three other girls are all missing.

My impressions:

I jumped right in the middle of a very long series (this one is the eleventh part and not the last, far from it) and felt immediately at home. Say what you might, Mr. Camilleri knows how to narrate a story, capturing along the way the Italian climate from deep south (Sicily). Still while I liked the protagonist, Salvo Montalbano, and his love life crisis,  the criminal case he had to solve was quite another story.

A mysterious woman, young and pretty, with a butterfly tattoo on her shoulder, was as good a victim as anybody but the treatment her sad remnants got sometimes bordered callousness. I know, I know, all those old policemen are the same, who would care about a young immigrant from Russia even if she was beautiful enough to catch more than one dispassionate glance. But it grated, time and again, especially when confronted with all those descriptions of Mediterranean food and wine consumed on a tessellated patio of a villa. Yes, the Italian police stations might lack gasoline, the courts might have no paper, the hospitals no thermometers but still plenty of hopefuls from different countries think Italy is the garden of Eden. And then they find out to their cost that it is like any other country.

Final verdict:

My feelings are mixed – I was drawn and repulsed by the protagonist in equal measure. Perhaps I am going to try another part of this series to clarify some points.

Posted in book review, contemporary, cozy mystery, crime | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cage of Deceit (Reign of Secrets 01) by Jennifer Anne Davis

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as the royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their country and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

My impressions:

A boring, predictable plot. Cardboard characters. A Mary-Sue Princess with Mary-Sue male friends. Do I have to tell you more? I think I do…a long rant is coming, beware!

Here it comes, my first grievance: if I took a sip of champagne every time somebody in this book requested a private moment with Princess Allyssa or said that he or she had something important to tell her I would get drunk after two-three chapters, perhaps even sooner. Honestly, this one was reading like a Turkish soap opera cum American middle-class coming-to-age saga about happy, happy people being threatened by ugly Russek. By the way that word, Russek, was one of more ingenious tricks of the author. Do you know that in Polish slang Rusek (without doubling the ‘s’ letter) means a Russian man? Ha, ha, I knew you didn’t! So now you understand better why they rape and kill every woman and every child they encounter! They are ugly, unredeemable, brutes! They were born that way, silly devils!

Ok, I had my moment of fun, let’s return to business at hand. We get a sixteen-year-old high school prom queen princess called Allyssa, the only child of a rubber duck emporium CEO empress Rema, the ruler of Emperion (yeah, that’s what her empire is called so you don’t mix it with a kingdom, a duchy, an earldom or, heavens forbid, a state) and Darmik her gung-ho veteran turned gym trainer mil-tech spouse. Allyssa has an unusual hobby – she escapes the palace at night to roam the streets of the capital and catch thieves. Impressive and cute, right? That thrill when you are risking your life and the future of the whole empire just to pursue a common miscreant…But wait…why do you need a princess acting as a thief-catcher? Search me. From my point of view it is the finest proof Allyssa is an airhead and her mom a very poor ruler. If the City Guard are not doing their job properly an empress should react. If a crown princess is risking her life without a very good reason, just because she wants to experience some illegal thrills, an empress should react as well.

But wait, Allyssa is hardly alone. Our lovely princess, like every Mary Sue worth her salt, has no female friends, no ladies-in-waiting or a court. Still she is often in a company of a boy her age called Grevik  (just a friend) and another boy her age called Marek (once again a Polish name and once again, only a friend, no benefits) who  is also the head and, it seems, the only member of the princess’s personal guard (one-person personal guard for a crown princess? My mind boggles).

In the second part hormones fluctuate in the air, kiss, procreate and multiply (cue in Turkish seraglio music and half-naked, nubile odalisques dancing cancan). Plenty of proper princes come sniffing after our girl because she is of a marriageable age and marrying a future empress is always so en vogue. Apart from that nasty Russek barbarians are waiting to conquer and slaughter you if you don’t gain the protection of the empire of Emperion (quite a mouthful, isn’t it?).

After a while arrives prince Odar of Fren – a very handsome, very cocky Gary Stu, dressed according the latest fashion. He and Allyssa will hate each other. His squire Jarvik is even worse: handsome, strong and skilled, blunt to the point of being rude, asking personal questions and requiring private moments with Allyssa more and more often…do you feel the ‘Pauper and the Prince’ vibes? *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. Of course Allyssa hates Jarvik even more than she hates Odar. And then, predictably, she stops. She’ll have to cooperate with the obnoxious prick and kiss him just to see how good she is in kissing-obnoxious-pricks department. Is she good? You bet. The novel ends with the most silly, the most obvious and the most predictable, no-tension cliffhanger I’ve ever seen in YA fantasy romance novels…

Final verdict:

Yes, I read this one so you don’t have to, knowing well it might be not pretty. Thank you very much, dear Bloddeued, for pointing this beauty to me! If you’re asking yourself whether I am planning to acquire the next part my answer is: not even if you paid me and donated a crate of champagne!

Rating icon. A stack of books and the words a total failure and an outline of a skull and bones drawn over them.

Posted in adventure, book review, chicklit, fairy tale, historically-flavoured, romance, urban fantasy, YA | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments