oyceter: (angry dieter's fork)
[personal profile] oyceter
The city of Merafi has traditionally been impervious to magic, but lately, the ghost of six-years-dead Valdarrien has been haunting his brother-in-law and best friend Thiercelin. Thiercelin seeks out failed priest-assassin-turned-courtesan Gracielis for help, and soon, they're enmeshed in intrigue and a plot to tear down the city.

This is a terrible summary of the book, which is less plot and more atmosphere and tangled character relationships. The city seems perpetually shrouded with fog and ghosts that people cannot see. Character-wise, Thiercelin is married to Yvelliane, workaholic advisor to the dying queen and sister of the dead Valdarrien; Gracielis is the unwilling tool of Tarnaroqi sorceress Quenfrida; dead Valdarrien is still seeking out his lost love, the Lunedithin Iareth Yscoithi who is currently in Merafi serving the Lunedithin prince Kenan; Iareth is protected by Merafien soldier Joyain.

I loved the prose and the characters and the overall atmosphere of the book. I loved the men who are driven by love and the women who are driven by duty; I loved the tangled politics and intrigue; I loved the feeling of the age of Merafi, of cobblestones and mist off the river and flickering lights; I loved Gracielis and his foppish veneer over his vulnerable core; I loved the ghosts and the weight of the dead and the way history, personal and institutional, oppresses and limits and constrains.

I loathed the ending so much that I chucked the book across the room.

Book-destroying spoilers

I was all right with the book's focus on four men: Gracielis the courtesan, Thiercelin the husband of a politician, Valdarrien the ghost, and Joyain the footsoldier. There were a lot of women in the book, all with varying roles—stateswoman, society's darling as informer, older tradeswoman, sorceress, guard and warrior. I especially liked how Gracielis and Thiercelin are entangled in the action specifically because they lack power; Thiercelin loves his wife but isn't sure she returns the favor, and Gracielis is under the thumb of the sorceress Quenfrida. I was also okay with Quenfrida, whom by the way I love and want fic about, because even though she's the villain, she's incredibly compelling and I'm a big fan of amoral sorceresses.

And then Gracielis realizes he is in love with Thiercelin.

I felt guilty about narrowing my eyes at this; I'm very much for GLBT romances. But it reminded me a lot of slash between sexy guys that ignores the women, so I was hesitant.

And then. AND THEN. First, Sperring kills off Iareth for what I can see as no reason whatsoever, save to give the now-resurrected Valdarrien angst. Iareth, whom, by the way, I liked much better than Valdarrien and felt much more connected to, as we see much more of her POV than Valdarrien's! But then I realized that ghost-Valdarrien was basically given more weight as a character, despite having less page time than Yvelliane and Iareth, of course. And then they realize that the only way for the city to be saved is for Yvelliane to sacrifice herself, which she does. This handily provides more angst for Thiercelin, along with an offer at the end of the book to take her place as a politician. And then Gracielis frees himself from Quenfrida's influence, which I was completely expecting although not looking forward to, with a note that she's finally not sexy to him: he can see the wrinkles in her face and the gilt in her hair. Yes, it's offset by the fact that he has another older lover, but dude. Given that older lover has much less page time, did we really have to get the evil older sorceress with the sexually enthralled younger man thing?

Basically, almost all the awesome women in the book are removed and killed off, with the exception of Miraude and Amalie, both of whom have much less power and much less page time. And I can't shake off the sense that even though Gracielis and Thiercelin do not end up together, it's basically done to free the male characters from their bonds to the women, and I HATE IT. HATE. HATE. Not only that, but when they're killed off, we basically only see the effects the deaths have on the men, even though the women did have tangled relationships with each other. But no!

I mean seriously. Couldn't Sperring just have had the bittersweet ending with Thiercelin and Gracielis without killing off all the women with power?

In conclusion: gorgeous prose and atmosphere, characters I adored, and I cannot recommend it because I am still so mad at it.

(no subject)

Wed, Jul. 1st, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
inkstone: Samurai Deeper Kyo's Yuya sighing over a book, caption: reading is money (reading)
Posted by [personal profile] inkstone
Yeah, I had an ARC of this one and I started reading it because it sounded neat but something about the way it was written (executed?) was setting off my alarms and decided to put the book down. I'm really disappointed to discover my instincts were right!

(no subject)

Wed, Jul. 1st, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
daedala: line drawing of a picture of a bicycle by the awesome Vom Marlowe (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] daedala
Wow. From the beginning of the review, this book would have been perfect for me right now. But no! I am so sad!

(no subject)

Wed, Jul. 1st, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
coffeeandink: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] coffeeandink
OMG I AM SO FRUSTRATED BY THE ENDING AND BY GRACIELIS FALLING IN LOVE WITH THIERRY! Actually, I am really frustrated by Gracielis, who does not work for me as a character at all despite being the protagonist, and I could have dealt with EITHER Iareth or Yvelliane dying but not both. Also, I kind of hated Valdarrien. I don't see why everyone is all torn up over him. I mean, okay, Yvelliane is his big sister, so I am okay with her being broken up over him, but mostly he seems like the kind of charismatic asshole who makes more sense in a movie where he is played by a very pretty and charismatic actor who can make you forget what an ASSHOLE he is.

Also, I am sort of frustrated that Kenan and Quenfrida are so two-dimensional, given the sophistication of the rest of the characterization.

So, I like the atmosphere and characterization and setup, and will check out her next book, but man I hope the next one's about the women.

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 2nd, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] thistleingrey
Yes, I concede that when I posted agreeably about this book, I was ignoring the fact that the ending existed at all because I was so relieved about the worldbuilding. (Kind of the way you said you were trying not to look hard at the worldbuilding/shaping of Silver Phoenix, for a while.) sigh.

I am fine with a 2D Kenan, but the women dying and Valdarrien's swagger did tick me off.

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 2nd, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
buymeaclue: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] buymeaclue
Well. That makes me feel better about sending it back to the library unread!

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 2nd, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
ext_2472: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] radiotelescope.livejournal.com
I never got that wrapped up in the book; I wanted something a lot more like a plot, as it wasn't tuned to my kinks.

However, I was specifically put off by the number of people who got slaughtered to provide offscreen angst. I had, pardon the cliche, Sam Vimes in the back of my head: "Oh, so nobody *important* is dying of the plague? I see."


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