November 27th, 2010

reading

Midsummer Night, by Freda Warrington

Review copy provided by Tor.

This is listed as if it was a sequel to Elfland, and I'd had Elfland on my to-read pile for awhile, so when the review copy of Midsummer Night arrived, I pushed Elfland up the queue even though the page of material from the marketing department said it should stand alone. Better safe than sorry, I thought. But the marketing department is entirely correct: there are a few characters minorly in common, and the world is in common, but the two really do stand alone; they don't need each other in the slightest, and I'm not sure I'd recommend a particular order for reading them, even. They are related books rather than a book and its sequel.

The two books clearly have a style in common as well as a setting, though--and more than a style, a type. A level of drama, is I think what I'm trying to say here. They are both highly dramatic books. Midsummer Night is about vengeance, vengeance, and more vengeance. The Count of Monte Cristo has got nothing on this book for vengeance, because The Count of Monte Cristo is just one guy's long, convoluted vengeance, and Midsummer Night is layers and twists of vengeance and vengeance taken for someone else's vengeance and then someone else's vengeance for that, and...uff da. So much vengeyness. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm having trouble imagining reading more than one of these books in a row, since they're a very strong flavor.

While I get tired and bored with some of the ways that the intersection of art and fantasy, particularly urban fantasy, are handled, I think that the major artist characters in this one have somewhat more realistic concerns about whether their art would still be good without the magic influence, how much they can afford to let magic-tinged creations out safely into the world, and so on. They aren't just tripping along singing, "La la, I am magical and artistic, yay!" So that part is good. Also, one of the main characters, Gill, is outside the circle of artists; she has been a highly competitive runner, so that's a bit of a refreshing difference in contemporary fantasy.

I know that some of the readers of this journal are interested in the handling of disability issues in fiction, so I want to flag something right up front: there is something very early in the book, with the handling of a character's injury, that is not nearly as simple as it will seem early on. Watch for it, do not be alarmed. That's all I'll say there.