"review" · arc · fiction · series

{book} a new(er) Flavia de Luce

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

A Flavia de Luce Novel, book 7

By Alan Bradley

ARC via NetGalley w/ gratitude to Delacorte Press*

Release Date January 6, 2015.

“Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

“No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.”–Publisher’s Comments

I hadn’t expected another Flavia de Luce novel so soon, if at all. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches (Delacorte 2014) closed the overarching mystery of Flavia’s mother and suggested closure for Flavia’s antics in Bishop Lacey, thus relieving the small English village of more dead bodies. I’m not complaining. In fact, I was quite giddy to see As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust show up on NetGalley. While there was no expectation we would get a glimpse of Flavia’s new situation (as suggested in The Dead), there was a curiosity of how life at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy would go. It goes well…that is, the story goes well.

One of the things I appreciate most about Alan Bradley and this series of his is his consistency of character. Sure, Flavia has grown over the course of several books, she is essentially a self that never fails to saturate the narrative in that lovely singularly dark way of hers. As it is, Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust opens with one of the most delicious Prologues ever. Bradley excels at opening a novel. The atmospheric arrives in the first sentence and settles in for the long haul. Where first person narratives splinter into multiple voices for set descriptions and the like, the de Luce novel never shifts from Flavia’s macabre and chemistry-obsessed point of view—which can be frustrating at times. She gets distracted by life-things instead of focusing solely on the case at hand. Neither is her distraction a complaint. The novels are character driven and if you’ve haven’t a fondness for Flavia near the beginning of the series, you are not going to be reading Chimney Sweepers.

We may think we have an inkling of the how the mystery will be solved, tracing the evidence as Flavia observes (straightforwardly or obliquely), Flavia will eventually withhold a conclusion. You’d think I’d tire of this formula, but I’m much too pleased that Bradley only withholds in a believable way and doesn’t cut corners by resolving the mystery in a leap even too imaginative for the clever heroine he’s constructed. No, much of the mystery of how the case will be solved is in the unpredictable nature of those life-things I mentioned. Flavia has a want to like people and belong. She requires sleep and emotions and the personalities of other characters. Bradley creates some interesting characters in Chimney Sweepers, many of whom are of Flavia’s ilk, defining Flavia’s difference in a newer way. We get a novel launching a query into whom Flavia really is and is to become. How much is she like her elder female relatives? What boundaries will she risk?

How much can one year change?

Bradley leaves some loose ends; relationships are still troubled; uncertainties still linger—some, anyway. What Bradley certainly does do is demonstrate an exhilarating ability maintain a good mystery in his heroine and her adventures. You can leave off at The Dead in their Vaulted Arches if you like and imagine the what-comes-next, or you can extend the anticipation another book, because I wasn’t expecting the way the what-comes-next is framed by this new conclusion in the Flavia de Luce series.

I really am curious: How much will one year change?

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*I received the Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for a fair review and nothing more.

 

"review" · fiction · Lit · mystery · recommend · series · series · young adult lit

{book} the dead in their vaulted arches

>>a spoiler-free review<<

flavia de luceThe Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

(Flavia de Luce Novel #6)

by Alan Bradley

ARC thanks to Delacorte Press and NetGalley

release date: January 2014

“Young chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve the most dastardly crimes the English countryside has to offer and, in the process, comes closer than ever to solving her life’s greatest mystery-her mother’s disappearance…” –publisher’s commentary

Harriet de Luce has been the mystery haunting this Flavia de Luce series and I’ve been holding my breath not since that tantalizing conclusion to Speaking From Among the Bones, but from the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Harriet’s absence has stained everything: the grieving husband and distant father (the Colonel); the competition between motherless daughters (Ophelia, Daphne and Flavia) with the youngest left with only her mothers looks and mind, but no real memory of the woman who birthed her; and then there is an estate (Buckshaw) left with no known Last Will and Testament. Was Harriet a too adventurous young mother, careless of her husband, children, and inheritance when she went off to climb a mountain? Or is there something more to it?

We learn about what really happened—to a lot of people in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. How did the Father and Dogger meet and what is the nature of their relationship? As if I didn’t already love Dogger to pieces. The course of the series has evidenced a deep love between Flavia’s parents: prepare for a terribly moving scene that makes his grief all the more stirring. Will the sisters come to peaceful terms? okay—let’s not be greedy.

There is some bow-tying in a book that would solve Harriet’s disappearance. But if you are looking for neat and tidy…  That consistency in the characters and their relationships we have come to love, has and continues to translates into messy feelings and complicated turns. For one, we still have Flavia struggling to find her place in a family where she receives the most affectionate parenting and siblingship from the servants and Dieter. In that audacious manner Flavia has become known for, she is going to attempt a rather grand scheme in The Dead in hopes to win her place once and for all. That is, if she can do something about that pesky and familiarly precocious cousin of hers that has come with Harriet’s return.

Natalya did not care for Undine and I cannot disagree. I find amusement, however, in just how similar in description she is to Flavia. Child-like, genius, sneaky, underestimated… But Undine is not the only distraction for Flavia, all sorts of people are littering the landscape and the mystery, old and new. The novel is no less ambitious than past books, but Bradley injects a turn that wends its way backwards through the series in an effort to fill in niggling details. It works, but will you be happy with where Bradley goes with the de Luce family?

Flavia has softened, become less heartless over the course of the series, and we see this growing-up girl in this finale. I sort of miss the morbid vengeful thing of the earliest books, but her emotional education is an appealing aspect to the story arc.

I read the Advanced Readers, Uncorrected Proof, but I do not imagine the ending will change all that much–which is too bad. I can get excited by the possibilities that raced through my mind with that one, how it translates into the spinning of tales, of futures, I’ve no guarantee of ever seeing. I do like what it all means for Flavia. I like that ending. But it is actually that very final lines that I wish I could get your opinion on, because it isn’t just that it rings a wrong note, it suddenly shifts the center of the Flavia de Luce Novel and that is not a good choice.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches involves a handful of endings, knotting those bows, exiting stage right and left. Leading up to them, we have the chemistry, visit the personalities of Bishop’s Lacy with Gladys to transport us there, Dogger’s well-timed presence, tense family meals, and the high drama of a family grieving what it’s lost and the lies that have perpetrated the crime. At the center of it all, the brilliant and determined Flavia de Luce who will finally come to realize her place–but only after she solves the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance. It shouldn’t surprise you but it is going to be quite a bit heartbreaking and just a bit gruesome.

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recommendations: by this point, you have to read all the previous books as this one responds to the over-arching characterizations and plot. This is a great historical fiction/mystery series for middle-school and up.

my reviews of books: #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 Bones (pending)

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series

{book} path of beasts

Sean expressed surprise that I was reviewing the final installment in a series, that is how infrequent I manage this.

pathofbeasts coverPath of Beasts (Book 3 of the Keepers Trilogy)

by Lian Tanner

Delacorte Press, 2012

hardcover 377 pages

The city of Jewel is in peril once again, as it is held captive by the frightful Fugleman, his band of Blessed Guardians, and an army of merciless mercenaries. There’s no doubt that Goldie and Toadspit want to get their city back, but how can a small group of children fight against such overwhelming forces of evil? And how, as Goldie is determined, can they avoid bloodshed in a war that will set thieves against soldiers, and trickery and deception against a mighty cannon that shoots cannonballs bent on destruction? ~publisher’s copy.

I adore Museum of Thieves and it really is a must for middle graders. It stands alone rather nicely, but then Tanner is so enjoyable the second book is all too tempting. And City of Lies is an adventure of its own imagination and preoccupations, not the typical bridge. Path of Beasts draw both books to a close, and in ways unexpected.

One of the difficulties Goldie must face in the first novel is how, for the sake of “safety”, the adult population of Jewel has given most all of their self-will over to the guidance of The Protector and the Blessed Guardians. Over the course of time, generations have been crippled by this “utopic” culture. The citizenry are a cowed populace, terrified of any hint of wildness. The parental figures, who are doing this out of love, right; not just (ir)rational fear?, have not fared well in the eyes of the reader.  Alongside Goldie and company, the reader would perceive them to be mindless and inept. Not so in Path of Beasts—with some of the parents, at least. Those who are determined to fight back, in sometimes brash but also very quiet subversive ways.

“If His Honor had said such terrible words to her six months ago, Blessed Guardian Hope would have cowered before him and begged for mercy. But her time in Spoke had changed her.” (181)

Tanner even attends to Blessed Guardian Hope’s progression over the course of the trilogy, moving the simpering figure to one with her own mind and a voice to go with it–to an extent. Hope’s self-discovery is a consequence of the adventures in service to the Fugleman. And hers is one example of how a person can choose to abide their oppressors or rebel against them. Costs are measured, are weighted. And in the end we come to a central theme to Path of Beasts: “Hold to your true self ” (283). And allow it of someone else while you’re at it.

pathofbeasts

We remember that Goldie left the Big Lie (in Book 2) with a passenger. While Bonnie had mastered Princess Frisia’s bow and Toadspit was now a gifted swordsman, Goldie had another person residing inside her—a bloodthirsty one. The military strategy Frisia offers is reason enough to listen to her, but Goldie is not keen to take a life. Her tools are trickery and deception, and truly these are the instruments best suited to retaking the city. Frisia takes over at moments and Goldie fears madness. Tanner writes with the smoothest of transitions in and out of Frisia’s consciousness. She also moves Goldie so close to her boundaries we fear she may be overcome. We are certainly curious how Tanner is going to relieve her heroine.

The publisher’s copy mentions a lone walk of Goldie’s and Toadspit in a duel to the death. This comes late in the book and each protagonist’s challenge is a culmination of all they’d been working toward. Toadspit aka Cautionary is all his names imply when we first meet him and he is downright charming by book 3. Goldie (and the reader) are reminded that for all the risks and all the terrible things she’s endured, she made the right decision.

“They were kind, in a rough sort of way. And after a while, what they did began to seem normal. They gave me another name and I forgot who I was. Kindness can do that to you, quicker than cruelty. (226)”

These are the words of a child turned Slaver. You see the sort of challenges Tanner is unafraid to present to her reader: that kindness could make a person become/do evil things? This makes sense as we, with Pounce, wonder how some of the parents do not fight for their children—sense punctuated by Goldie’s father’s “brave” act. Path of Beasts interrogates self-preservation as well as how are unnatural notions/ways normalized to the detriment of self and/or other.

pathofbeasts brizzle_colourTanner’s imagination, the action and the adventures, the villains and the heroes, all of it is highly entertaining. I tend to go on about the issues that create much of the conflicts because they are so unusual and so incredibly relevant to the audience. Tanner’s children are clever and capable, they are creative and exercise self-control, they have fears, but they have incredible courage—born of a willingness to risk themselves (let alone their discomfort over uncertainties) for someone they love. Someone needs to remind children of this–and their parents.

my review of Museum of Thieves and of City of Lies.

{cover illus. by Jon Foster; interior illus. (2 seen above) by Sebastian Ciaffaglione}

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · Tales

{book} the giant slayer

The Giant Slayer is not your usual juvenile fiction historical novel. Author Iain Lawrence chose the Polio-epidemic of 1940s-50sThen he goes and adds another layer where there be with manticores, gnomes, unicorns, and a swamp witch who has a wretched disposition to go with her frog-like qualities.

The spring of 1955 tests Laurie Valentine’s gifts as a storyteller. After her friend Dickie contracts polio and finds himself confined to an iron lung, Laurie visits him in the hospital. There she meets Carolyn and Chip, two other kids trapped inside the breathing machines. Laurie’s first impulse is to flee, but Dickie begs her to tell them a story. And so Laurie begins her tale of Collosso, a rampaging giant, and Jimmy, a tiny boy whose destiny is to become a slayer of giants.

As Laurie embellishes her tale with gnomes, unicorns, gryphons, and other fanciful creatures, Dickie comes to believe that he is a character in her story. Little by little Carolyn, Chip, and other kids who come to listen, recognize counterparts as well. Laurie’s tale is so powerful that when she’s prevented from continuing it, Dickie, Carolyn, and Chip take turns as narrators. Each helps bring the story of Collosso and Jimmy to an end—changing the lives of those in the polio ward in startling ways.—publisher’s comments.

And there you have it.

You learn early on that “Laurie Valentine had made up stories all her life. She lived in stories that she narrated constantly in her head” (34). She was a lonely (only) child whose father and nanny are very protective of her—so going out to play in the summers like most children was out. And not without good reason. Who knew better the risks of contracting Polio than a father who worked for the March of Dimes as a fund raiser?

Lawrence did his research, and it may deepen your interest to know that he spoke with a man who was in an iron lung as a child in a ward in a hospital like Dickie’s. It was not the atmosphere the author or I expected, and Lawrence’s faithfulness to his research makes for a delightful (though scary) foray into the time period.

Lawrence captures the pop culture and the language. Yes, he is keen that way. He would transport the reader completely, and not only into the spring of 1955. The story of the giant slayer would absorb the reader on another level and the author spends a great deal of the book in that story.

You get to know most of the “present day” characters when the narrator surfaces for breaks—and the breaks are when you suspend your belief the most—how Laurie’s voice doesn’t tire or fade or make corrections and has such a clear vision is the stuff of written lore.

I enjoyed the read, though it felt slower going than I had anticipated with 284 pages. The story takes some interesting turns and I can’t decide on that ending. The beginning and ending do create a sense of coming together that exists somewhat outside of the hospital (while obviously being influenced by the occurrences within). I really like how the other characters (namely Carolyn) that Laurie interacts with question her story as a coping-device and as being transparent and/or insulting.

The Giant Slayer would be a good choice for reading aloud to mixed audiences of gender and interests. Its a good excuse for a discussion on why we tell even tell stories at all.

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Recommended…for lovers of historical fiction, and adventures and myth; ages 8 & up, any gender.

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The Giant Slayer by Iain Lawrence

Delacorte Press, 2009.

Hardcover, 284 pages.

{borrowed from the Library}

good for Stainless Steel Droppings’ Once Upon a Time Challenge IV

"review" · fiction · Lit · mystery · recommend · Uncategorized

{book} I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

There are a lot of 11-year-old girl heroes with pluck and wit, but Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce stands out. While she is superlative in many ways, her vulnerabilities are of as much value to the plot, and none of it feels contrived; which is key, isn’t it? Even if Flavia survives the latest murder-mystery, she might not emotionally. And that is what a Flavia de Luce novel is about: her character, not just the corpse she inevitably stumbles upon.

Was my life always to be like this? I wondered. Was it going to go, forever, in an instant, from sunshine to shadow? From pandemonium to loneliness? From fierce anger to a fiercer kind of love? (292)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is book 4 in this delectable series about a young girl in 1950 England with a gift for chemistry, and poisons in particular. Since book one, she has discovered an interest in sleuthing as well. Like all the previous books, murder comes to Bishop’s Lacey even as Flavia’s familial dramas continue their own shadowy descent.

It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight. ~publisher’s comments.

[Yes, Agatha Christie’s name surfaces within the pages and not just the mind.] The part not to be lost in the above synopsis is Flavia’s dastardly plan to ensnare Father Christmas.  It isn’t just a cute aside, because really, it is one remnant of childhood she really needs.

Would chemistry put paid to Christmas? Or would I, tomorrow morning, find a fat, infuriated elf caught fast and cursing among the chimney pots?
I must admit that part of me was hoping for the legend.
There were times when I felt as if I were standing astride a cold ocean–one foot in the New World and one foot in the Old. As they drifted relentlessly apart, I was in danger of being torn up the middle. (163)

Bradley is keen on placing Flavia in that tenuous spot between childhood and greater sophistication. He chose a perfect age. Flavia is both capable of both absolute genius and absolute ignorance. Those walls that come up in trying to decipher adult dynamics (read sexual relationships) are ever amusing. What is less amusing is how deft she is at a crime scene and in a laboratory while yet still remaining such a vulnerable figure. She hasn’t a mother, and her father is always just out of reach. Her two older sisters are a source of torment–really, it is painful. I am glad she has Dogger, the servant and friend of her father’s, because she really does need some adult to care for her, and for whom she could show care in return. And not only because she is 11 and human, but because she is becoming worn.

[After placing dry paper too close to the bulb for better light, and after catching her shoes on fire stomping out flames in the cupboard beneath the stairs:]
I was pulling on my singed sweater and scraping the toes of my smoking shoes on the floorboards when the kitchen door opened and Dogger appeared.
He looked at me closely without saying a word.
“Unforeseen chemical reaction,” I said. (228)

Dogger rarely says a word. And he has remained a bit of a mystery. We learn more in book 4; that is, more clues come to light. The relationships between many a person are given greater lighting–and in turn, greater shadow. Mysteries abide. Just who is Dogger, really? How is it the Vicar and the Colonel are friends? A key one: Why do Flavia’s sister’s hater her so vehemently, and how far with their warfare extend?

Bradley proves consistent in using the title and murder-mystery to facilitate the complexities of the greater series plot arcs. How do people actually know each other– what is the basis for their relationship? Where will adoration and/or covetousness get you? How much danger lurks in the not-knowing? While I enjoy trying to detect alongside Flavia, I am completely captured by the heroine’s personal drama: which involves all the above questions as well as the chemistry behind her plot to nail down a legend.

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recommendations: most of these Bradley/de Luce posts will be fan-girl-ish as they continue. I recommend starting with the first book: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and while I think you could pick up any one and enjoy it, the best effect is in its primary arc, Flavia and the development of the characters. The series is a good Historical read, it features great twists and homage to classic mysteries, and the use of language…There is also a dry humor, so do take part if wit is your thing. Young audiences could and should enjoy this series, though I think adults will appreciate them more fully.

of note: I must audibly sigh over the Dogger/Flavia dynamics as well as Flavia/Inspector Hewitt. The very particular word choices that relay Flavia’s sense of the macabre continually delight. And her geeking out over chemistry?–so lovely. Her struggle with her father and her sisters also continues to wound. I really, really love what Bradley does in his Flavia books.

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I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (bk4) A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley. Delacorte Press, 2011. hardcover, 297 pages.

my reviews for: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (bk 1); The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (bk 2); A Red Herring without Mustard (bk 3).

Carl V. at “Stainless Steel Droppings” has excellent reviews of books 1-3, and will have 4, not doubt. Use the “search” box, and go ahead and use a “subscribe” prompt while you are at it.

a sweet, very brief interview via Book Page

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · series

city of lies

City of Lies (Book 2: The Keepers Trilogy)

by Lian Tanner

w/ Illustrations (inside) by Sebastian Ciaffaglione

Delacorte Press (Random House), 2011

Hardcover, 278 pages. Juvenile Fiction

12-year-old Goldie, impulsive and bold, relies on her skills as a liar and a thief to try to rescue her captured friends from the child-stealers running rampant in the City of Spoke.~Publisher’s Summary.

Goldie isn’t the only accomplished Liar and Thief to return in this sequel to Museum of Thieves. We get to experience a whole City of Liars. Shoot, even the City is a Liar. I adore the author of this children’s book series, I really do.

Lian Tanner’s sequel to the brilliant Museum of Thieves is among the better of Book Twos that I have read. In City of Lies Tanner sets us right back down into the City of Jewel and Goldie’s life. It is only a short while after the ending of Museum of Thieves and everyone is still reeling from the effects of Book One. Tanner reminds the reader a bit of the first, but not a great deal. A few interspersed notes by the 3rd person narrator and we are off on this new adventure.  There is a diverting cleverness in bringing the Reader into this new twist swiftly and with such immersion—Tanner needs the Reader to be present in the now of the book. And besides, you’ve read the first book. You have, haven’t you? Because you really should.

The shine of the first story’s victory has taken some tarnish. One, Goldie is unwilling to become the Fifth Keeper of the Museum of Dunt as she is meant to be. Two, Jewel’s parents are still adjusting to having independent children and the absence of the Blessed Guardians. Yes, the change is a good thing, but it is so different from how they were raised. The indoctrinations are not easily shrugged off and when accidents begin to occur a murmuring begins. Three, the Fugleman has returned—and is “a changed man.”

Goldie claims her reason for refusing the appointment as Fifth Keeper is that her parents are sick. And they are. Their time as prisoners of the House of Repentance was traumatic. The parents are also rather clinging (3). Theirs is a chain of a different sort than the first book’s. But they aren’t the only ones holding Goldie back. While their worry is infectious, Goldie herself is a problem—specifically that voice that so infamously led her to triumph in Museum of Thieves.

Goldie has come to believe that the voice only brings her trouble; which isn’t a lie. In part, Goldie longs for a normal childhood, a boring one. This inevitably wars with her more adventurous and independent side that has a daring job to do using her unusual and oft socially unacceptable skill-set. She decides to ignore the voice while undertaking her search for Toadspit and Bonnie in the foreign City of Spoke. In addition to sorting out who she should and will be and whether the voice is worth listening to, Goldie must also navigate a strange city amidst their Festival of Lies where everything is turned inside out and upside down. How does one tell a lie in order to find the truth, and how does one find the already hidden when everything is to be masked?

In the kind of imaginative turn that I adore with Frances Hardinge’s stories, Lian Tanner creates this marvelous Festival of Lies. Everyone must speak in lies and the City itself participates by telling a few Big Lies to the lucky few. Yes, City of Lies maintains the idea that magical (and metaphoric) possibility exists not only within a person or creature, but within Place as well. Beside the focus of a lie-celebrating City of Spoke, the novel returns us to the strange Museum of Dunt occasionally, a Place that has revealed its own consciousness in Museum of Thieves. As in the first book, the state of unrest is linked to the state of the City and the children—Goldie and Toadspit in particular. The Places externalize anxiety and create a fun sort of tension in the novels. In City of Thieves a terrifying beast in on the loose and on the hunt in the Museum, in the City of Jewel, and in the City of Spoke. There are all sorts of dangers and only the daring need apply.

I read an article recently about leading women in Romantic Comedies and it remarked upon how the flaws the writers must give them are, in actuality, trite. She can’t not be beautiful, so let’s make her a klutz. I don’t think Romantic Comedies have cornered the market on this kind of characterization. If not negligibly flawed, many an Adventure Heroine is formulaic enough to undermine (or even nullify) the conflict. Tension is muted because the flaw is hardly considerable or easily overcome by the perfections. Goldie’s flaws create serious conflict, and ones that are identifiable enough within the Reader that adrenaline and worry surface.

Goldie’s abilities put her at odds with her society. The risks in using her beliefs and skills to create change are significant. Entering the second book, we know that those risks have some reward and consequence, but we feel victorious and that Goldie is capable. She might fumble a bit, but she had come into herself in book one, had she not? But in City of Lies, Tanner creates a separation for the character and Reader. Goldie falters and is somewhat immobilized by responsibilities, distrust of herself, and –let’s face it—weariness. Enter Goldie No One, a reinvention of a self in order to free a self. It is the masked ball, the move to a new city, an opportunity to overcome the limitations pressed upon her by circumstance and expectation—it is a Festival of Lies. Goldie is back to a different kind of beginning, and the conflict of being able to trust who she is still becoming. Should she trust that voice in the back of her head?

Tanner has created a complex character ever in the state of changing, of becoming more. Goldie No One is an aspect this protagonist must address; throwing her into a Festival of Lies is a brilliant move. She has to find her friends, (while without knowing it) find herself, and she has to discern what is mere diversion and what is true and real. Who and what are sincere? Do you create your destiny or do you run blindly along with it—or is there a state in between? How do you interpret the signs?

Who might a young girl become when unencumbered, or, even, encumbered by someone else? Inhabiting the dreams, the adventures of others is a nice move in an Adventure story rife with intrigues. And I enjoy the idea that a person is a place; a museum, a collection of historical fact and figures; that the character might not only inhabit another’s history/adventure, but that they might in turn inhabit the character—whether the character be an actual building or city, or a different plane, or a person or creature. The present can be affected by the past, as well as the lies, in positive and negative ways, tangibly or intangibly. [Those black/white messages of children’s early years become more gray–a lovely lovely shade of gray.]

Despite the disguises, the essence of who someone is appears to remain much the same. This can be infinitely reassuring, or a terrible prickling up the spine. The Lies can be fun, but they can be quite deadly. Little is as it seems, and City of Lies is rife with uncertainty.

City of Lies is everything I want to see as a Book 2 of 3. It bridges to a third and final book with the promise of a great denouement. It also holds an arch of its own: introducing great new characters, providing a mystery to solve, and creating, developing, and gifting a sense of resolution. It doesn’t really stand alone, nor does it apologize for the fact. I am satisfied by good story, by great writing, and I wait longingly for the third book.

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If you like Frances Hardinge or Adrienne Kress, you will like Ms. Tanner’s The Keepers books (and vice versa). For boys and girls alike; ages 9 & up (likely to 12/13); lovers of Utopia/Dystopia fiction and/or of fantasy; and especially for those tired of romances in every book they read.

My review of Museum of Thieves.

Ms. Tanner’s website. Sebastian Ciaffaglione’s blog.