This Week, I Read… (2019 #16)

51 - The Last Necromancer

#51 – The Last Necromancer, by C.J. Archer

  • Read: 4/11/19 – 4/13/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (34/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

Terrible. Maybe even the worst book I’ve finished this year.

Charlie/Charlotte is one of the most inconsistently written heroines I’ve ever encountered, bouncing back and forth from a worldly, tough “boy” from the streets to a shrinking violet who needs constant rescuing from everything and everyone, including her own stupid decisions and her “oh god why is he the love interest” rescuer.

At first Charlie’s cleverness is sort of cute, and I even appreciated early on when I saw her slip out of character, knowing that that would lead to her getting found out. But then it didn’t. She’s surrounded by adults, several of whom are specifically trained to investigate things, yet they all fall for her disguise? Fitzroy even tells her it was perfect, after the fact, when someone else figured it out. Nope, nuh-uh, not buying it. She was screwing up left and right.

Why? Because she was busy trying not to jump into Fitzroy’s pants. Instant attraction is fair, sure, he sounds all tall-dark-handsome and whatever, but she keeps wanting to jump into his pants even after he’s revealed himself to be abusive, manipulative, and downright psychotic. If you hire someone to “scare” a woman, and the guy you hired tries to rape her, guess what, that’s on you for your poor judgment. And when you kill the attacker to stop the rape, that doesn’t make you the good guy, because two wrongs don’t make a right, you unsympathetic lunatic, THE WHOLE SITUATION WAS STILL YOUR FAULT.

Fitzroy is a huge problem even separately from Charlie. In the ministry, Lord Gillingham plays the part of the truly unashamed and unrepentant Worst Man Ever–nothing he ever advocates as a plan of action takes Charlie’s well-being or wishes into account, and at the end, he wants her killed because she’s too dangerous to leave lying around, a weapon for someone else to pick up. So he’s the worst, right? And that’s supposed to make Fitzroy look better, and give him a chance to show how seriously he feels about Charlie’s safety.

But here’s the thing #1–Fitzroy’s not really that much better than Gillingham, he’s just less forthright about how awful he is. And here’s the thing #2–We’ve already got two far more appealing men in the story, Gus and Seth, Fitzroy’s henchman. Yes, they took part in Charlie’s original abduction, so they are by no means “good” guys, but whenever Charlie isn’t remembering to be pissed off at them all about her situation, she’s really friendly to both of them, and they are to her as well. Seth is actually used as a point of jealousy for Fitzroy, because he’s aware Seth has taken a shine to Charlie. (And Gus is ugly, so no one could possibly love him, right?)

I mean, I don’t actually like any of these characters at all, but if offered the same choices, I’d go for Seth in a heartbeat over Mr. Hired Someone To Scare Me Who Tried to Rape Me.

On top of all that, the language was too obviously modern to make me feel like this was really London in 1889; the action writing was clumsy; as piece of Frankenstein fan fiction, I am unimpressed, because it’s the monster that was interesting, not the doctor, so gutting the story to make Dr. Frankenstein into Charlie’s father wasn’t all that true to the spirit of the original work; and as a romance, not only does it glorify abusive behavior, it’s just not good. I didn’t feel any real romantic or sexual tension, it was all angsty and juvenile.

52 - A Natural History of Dragons

#52 – A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

  • Read: 4/13/19 – 4/17/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (35/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

As an avid watcher of nature documentaries, as a one-time potential scholar of biology, as a reader fascinated by the history of science and the progression of “natural history,” it only took the first fifty pages of this story to convince me it was written specifically for me. It wasn’t, of course, but so strong was my interest in it, my connection to it, that I loved it instantly.

Isabella’s dry wit and elderly impatience for propriety and formality were a lovely bonus on top of that.

My romance-loving heart was appeased by the inclusion of a well-characterized marriage, though I appreciate how “romance” wasn’t the point, and how framing the story as a memoir allows Brennan to skip the boring/tedious parts of both Isabella’s courtship and later on, larger swathes of time when nothing important to the story was happening. Most stories use time skips of some kind (and those that don’t, I usually wish did,) but I always have an eye out for when any storytelling technique, no matter how common, is used exceptionally well.

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