The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley Received to review via Netgalley
Very late, I know; I have to be in the right mood to read this series, which is the only excuse I can think to offer. Unfortunately, with this book, I couldn’t even get into it when I was in the mood, because it feels like it’s well and truly jumped the shark. It’s always been a bit of a ridiculous series, and I accept that, but this one was just too much. The whole idea Flavia had about resurrecting her mother was just… Flavia is a precocious little thing with some very odd ideas, but it’s beyond believable even for this series that she would think she could bring back someone who was, what, ten years dead? With ATP and thiamine.
Add to that the whole pomposity of the de Luce family spy ring, and the sheer casual callousness of the murder in this book — a plot device, one which wasn’t even really investigated — and the fun has gone out of this for me. I’m not going to read the next book.
I do like this series — and tear through the books — when I get round to reading it, but I don’t particularly feel a pressure to keep up. There’s just something too precious about Flavia, and indeed the whole portrayal of idyllic British country life after the Second World War. My usual pet peeves with this series are firmly in place, in that sense.
But it is nice to just relax into it and enjoy the family’s weirdnesses, the unusual set up for the mystery, the intrepid Famous Five feel you get from Flavia — and the fact that hey, she’s a young girl who is great at chemistry, who deserves and demands respect from the people around her for what she can do. Sometimes she overshoots (and, ah, I think I do recognise myself in that; I was quite a mature kid, but also very aware of it and keen for people to know, which then veers toward being immature again), but mostly she’s quite right that she deserves some respect. I do enjoy her little crush on the inspector, too.
The last line is clearly set up for Things To Change, and I’m quite looking forward to that. There’s a formula now to these books; I hope the next book breaks it, at least somewhat.
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is ‘Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To’. I probably just need to look back at my Netgalley account for this one, ha.
Willful Child, Steven Erikson. A spoof on Star Trek, by Steven Erikson? Yes, please. I had this as an ARC, but… Yeah.
The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley. I’m just hangin’ my head here, guys.
Half a King, Joe Abercrombie. Uh, ditto.
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley. Had an ARC. Am terrible. ’nuff said.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor. I love this series. I think I might be a bit afraid to read the last book.
Landline, Rainbow Rowell. In fairness, I didn’t ‘discover’ Rowell’s work until Landline was already due to come out.
Illusive, Emily Lloyd-Jones. Superpowers! Heists! An ARC I still need to get round to…*
The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. Carey. I think I picked up a library copy of this near the start of 2014. I dread to look.
Of Metal and Wishes, Sarah Fine. I’ve seen some mixed reviews, but I wanted to pick this up just from the cover… I don’t quite know why.
The Falconer, Elizabeth May. I picked this up a few months ago and still haven’t got round to it. Gah.
There’s just too many books, too little time, am I right?
*I should perhaps at this point note that I will get round to every ARC I’ve received, though in many cases I have to order them from libraries or buy them now that they’re no longer available to download.
What have you recently finished reading? The Younger Gods (Michael R. Underwood). I wasn’t really impressed, sadly. Before that I read Venomoid (J.A. Kossler), which was similarly unimpressive. Both books for review, alas.
What are you currently reading? Fair Game (Josh Lanyon), in preparation for reading the sequel for review. I’m at least sure that that’s going to be fun; Josh Lanyon is like my brain’s cheesecake. I’m also reading The Old Ways (Robert Macfarlane), because the title makes me think of The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper), and Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut), because that’s on my list of 101 sci-fi books.
What will you read next?
ARC-wise, I need to catch up with the Flavia de Luce books and review the most recent, so that’ll probably be soon. New book-wise, either Clariel (Garth Nix) or Maplecroft (Cherie Priest), because I’m excited about both. Library-wise, probably The Bone People (Keri Hulme).
Good morning, folks! Shortly after this goes live, I’ll be on the way to Belgium again, whoo. So I’ll be around to check out your posts later than usual. This one is a short one by my usual standards, anyway — just three books to review!
Yep, that really is it. I’ll be buying a few more books for my Kobo before I set off, but I haven’t picked ’em yet, and I don’t have time to add them later. So they’ll be in next week’s post!
Aaand time for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. It’s been a busy week, book-wise. I didn’t think it would be, but then I ended up in an indie bookshop, plus I ordered one book Jo Walton recommended, and have now ended up ordering the whole series. Most of them haven’t arrived yet, though, so I’ll save them for next week’s post!
The Vlad Taltos series is the one that’s dragged me in kicking and, well, not at all complaining, just flailing vaguely to get my book-balance. Enjoying it very much, so far. Will probably have finished Jhereg by the time this post goes live. That’s the plan, anyway. And of course I’m very excited to have My Real Children, though time and Steven Brust are conspiring against me getting round to reading it.
What did you recently finish reading?
The last thing was Ironskin (Tina Connolly), and before that, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley). I’m slowly creeping up on getting my list cleared, even if I keep starting new books a bit too often still…
What are you currently reading? Midnight Robber (Nalo Hopkinson). The Creole narration (I think I’m right in saying it’s Creole, but I found conflicting information when I googled, so correct me if I’m wrong!) is really fascinating; it’s a bit tough for me at first, but the more I read, the easier it becomes. I think Hopkinson was very inventive in transplanting those West African traditions into a SF world. It feels different than pretty much anything else I’ve ever read.
I’m also reading Natural-Born Cyborgs (Andy Clark), which is quite interesting, but begins to lose me whenever he gets too scientific. I need to stop reading it when I’m less than fully alert! And slightly behind that in the queue, there’s Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni, which I should be finishing soon, and Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man. Basically, as usual, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
What do you think you’ll read next?
Once I’ve finished those two, I think I’ll read the next Flavia de Luce book, since I’ve so nearly caught up to the ARC, so that’ll be Speaking from Among the Bones. Then I think I might make an effort to finish Republic of Thieves (Scott Lynch), before me mother and partner both expire waiting. The plan is to work mostly on ARCs I already have in progress, this month, I think. I’m thinking maybe also The Darwin Elevator (Jason M. Hough), etc.
Books acquired: There’s been enough acquired with Christmas money that I think my Stacking the Shelves entry for this week will just have to be edited highlights… Examples are Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (because Carl Sagan!) and Anna Cowan’s Untamed, after reading lots of fascinating reviews about it. It sounds deeply problematic in some ways, but also like it pushes on the boundaries of genre. I like my Regency romances, I confess, though Georgette Heyer can’t be beaten in my view; Untamed sounds like it adds some LGBT issues to the mix. Two words: crossdressing duke. I’m looking forward to getting round to that one.
At this point, I’ve elected not to take these books seriously at all, and just enjoy them for what they are without picking nits. After all, at least it features a curious, resourceful young girl who is interested in chemistry and forensics, who solves murders in a delightfully Blyton-esque way by getting herself all tangled up in them. Of course there’re problems with this… fetishisation of an old British country house and ~British spirit~*, etc, Flavia tampering with crime scenes, the nigh-on abusive behaviour of Flavia’s sisters (although that does seem to be developing, slowly, book by book, and might perhaps become more understandable later on).
No, nitpicking aside, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is fun. How very like Flavia to try and prove the existence of Father Christmas by attempting to more or less glue him to the chimney pots. And there’s a touch more about her Aunt Felicity, and Dogger, which makes both of them more interesting characters. Well, I already found Dogger interesting, but I wasn’t sure what the point of Aunt Felicity was. Now… I think she and Flavia have more in common than we’ve yet seen.
The mystery itself is fairly perfunctory — the murder isn’t discovered until pretty much half-way through! I barely had time to get my head around the suspects before Flavia was getting attacked. It’s really less of a mystery series and more of a quirky detective series, mysteries to some extent optional.
Still, as I say, it’s fun — when I don’t take it seriously.
*British my foot. The De Luces of this series are very, very English, and that’s what Alan Bradley meant them to be. British is unnecessarily inclusive of the Welsh, Scots and Irish. There’s not a trace of any of those nationalities here.
Whoops! Yesterday being Christmas Day, it didn’t “feel” like a Wednesday… Though I doubt anyone missed it.
What did you recently finish reading? He Said, Sidhe Said by Tanya Huff, which I’ve reviewed already. Before that, I’ve been working on my reread of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising; I’m up to The Grey King.
What are you currently reading? Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper is the first book open on my ereader. The second one is I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley; I’ll probably finish both of those tonight.
What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, I’m still working on the epic unfinished list. I think either my next ones will be the rest of the Flavia de Luce books, including the ARC I have of The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, or I might take a break from Flavia and work on some of the books that aren’t in a series. Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop, maybe, or Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni. I’m not sure yet. All my new Christmas books are very, very tempting… *snatches hands away from one of the genetics ones*
Books acquired: Many, many and varied. See this post