Friday, August 19, 2022

The Heretic Royal by G.A. Aiken: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

The Heretic Royal is the third book in The Scarred Earth Saga and exactly the kind of bat-sh*t craziness I was hoping for. None of the characters are nice or pleasant, and none of them like each other very much, yet they form a warm—if homicidal—whole. Everything is chaotic, no one’s doing anything proactive to oust the bad queen, and dragons do their best to make things worse.

The book begins where the previous one ended, with the arrival of dragons from Aiken’s earlier series—a cliff-hanger that made it an agonisingly long wait for this book. They instantly amp up the insanity level, and most of the book is about Keeley and her family dealing with them, the war on the background.

There are several point of view charcaters, some of which don’t have much to do. The main ones are (on paper anyway) the fourth eldest sister Ainsley, and Gruff, a centaur warrior asked to guard her. They’re the romantic couple of the book, but the romance is extremely low key among the chaos. It basically takes place during a couple of chapters at the end of the book. Still, I liked them both. They made a good couple and spent most of the book interacting with each other, so the romance didn’t spring out of nowhere.

The rest of the book is spent in crazy antics with seemingly no plot, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. There was a small cliff-hanger (mountain dropper?) at the end, but what will draw me back are the characters that I love one and all. Can’t wait to read the next one.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a retelling of Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail movie with zombies, in an original world of islands, complex mythology, and a wild-west vibe. The movie is one of my all-time favourite romantic comedies, so I had high hopes for this book.

There were some changes with the premise. In the movie, the romantic pair are business rivals. The bigger business eventually forces the smaller to close, a cause for permanent animosity between the pair in real life, while they become close through correspondence without knowing the identity of their friend. The romance hangs on whether she can forgive him for putting her out of business.

In the book, Hart, a marshal keeping a frontier town free of zombies, and Mercy, an owner of a funeral home, don’t have such a logical cause for their dislike. They hate each other at sight for no reason, which makes them rather unlikeable and weakens the premise. They too start corresponding, and find the other a kindred spirit while continuing to dislike each other in real life.

The pivotal moment, the attempt to meet for the first time, is copied from the movie. It doesn’t work as well as the author maybe hoped, and only managed to yank this reader out of the world of the book and remembering the original, which won the comparison. As the premise is different, the consequences of the meeting are different too. The romance basically hangs on whether she can forgive him for lying.

The book was at its best when it relied on its own worldbuilding and original story. For most of the book, the characters had their own stories going on that didn’t really touch. He had an apprentice to teach and needed to get over some trauma of his past, and she had the funeral home to save from a random jerk. She didn’t write to him to ask business advice, for example, like in the original (basically asking him to work against his own company).

Hart and Mercy improved on acquaintance. For the first part of the book, which follows the movie, the romance grew through letters. For the latter part, the romance was a rather run of the mill series of heat and heartache. Mercy handles her business problem with the help of her family. Hart handles the zombie problem with self-sacrifice. The latter brings the romance to a point in a rather forced fashion. It’s tear-inducing, but I didn’t find it terribly romantic.

The book was a mixed bag for me. I liked the world, which was much more complex than the story required. I liked Hart’s storyline, especially the parts with his apprentice, but it didn’t need to be that long. Mercy’s storyline with her family was nice, but much, much too long as well, and it took too long for her business trouble to solve. Put together and added with the romance, the plot was a mess that could’ve used chopping. I would’ve left the movie retelling out and gone with the author’s original story. It worked for the characters and the world best.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.