The last of the Amelia Peabody mysteries…

Children of the Storm, The Serpent on the Crown, and Tomb of the Golden Bird



by Elizabeth Peters

Published 2003, 2005, 2006

It’s possible (I have no idea, actually) that Peters intended for Children of the Storm to be the final book in the series chronologically.  The next book published was Guardian of the Horizonwhich is set earlier in the Emerson family timeline.  Children of the Storm does definitely wrap up some loose ends, especially concerning the enigmatic Sethos, but I am definitely glad that Peters went on to write The Serpent on the Crown and Tomb of the Golden Bird.  There is a definite sense of finality at the end of The Tomb of the Golden Bird that is satisfying.  While I wish Peters could have continued to write about the Emersons indefinitely, Amelia and Emerson have to be in their 60’s by the end of the series, so it makes sense to leave them still hearty and hale and doing what they love with the ones they love.

I really, really enjoyed this series.  The characters were so well developed throughout – I loved seeing how different characters and relationships grew and changed as the books went on.  While Emerson isn’t someone would like to be married to, the marriage between him and Amelia is great fun – a pair of people who recognize that “equality” does not necessarily mean “the same” – they work together as a team, but a team works best when each is accomplishing the task at which he is best.  The evolution of the character of Sethos was delightful as well, and I loved watching Ramses and Nefret fall more and more in love, even after the birth of their children.

This series covers over 30 years of time, and does it well.  The passage of time, especially throughout the war years, felt realistic.  Peters’s skillful interweaving of actual people and events makes her books very believable.  I actually saw a reference in another book to an event that had occurred in Egypt at this time, and found myself wondering if they were going to mention the Emersons…

All in all, I highly recommend this entire series.  I’m looking forward to reading more of Peters’s books in the future (I do believe that her Vicky Bliss series also involves Egypt, although in a more modern setting).  Good times reading these – I’m super sad to see them end!

The Magicians of Caprona

by Diana Wynne Jones

Published 1980

In this next installment of the loosely-connected “Chrestomanci” series, Jones takes us to an AU Italy:

The World of Chrestomanci is not the same as this one.  It is a world parallel to ours, where magic is as normal as mathematics, and things are generally more old-fashioned.  in Chrestomanci’s world, Italy is still divided into numbers of small States, each with its own Duke and capital city.  In our world, Italy became one united country long ago.

The story, with a Romeo and Juliet undertone, focuses on two great magical families in Caprona:  the Petrocchis and the Montanas.  Generations ago, a rift occurred between these families, and they have been bitter enemies ever since.  With the rise of an evil magic, the two houses must decide whether or not they can set aside their differences.  The great Chrestomanci may be the only one who can make them see how necessary it is for them to work together.

This book’s storyline seemed to hang together much better than some of Jones’s other books I’ve read in the past (or maybe I’m just getting more used to her writing style).  I greatly enjoyed the large and boisterous families.  Excitable, noisy, and fiercely loyal, she wrote about them in a way that easily created a background of a family even larger than the specific individuals of the story’s focus.

Quiet Tonino was immediately lovable as well.

To Tonino, reading a book soon became an enchantment above any spell.  He could never get enough of it.  He ransacked the Casa Montana and the Public Library, and he spent all his pocket money on books. … And the best book would be about the unimaginable situation where there were no spells.  For Tonino preferred fantasy.  In his favorite books, people had wild adventures with no magic to help or hinder them.

Such a simple twist of ideas, a world wherein “fantasy” books mean the characters have no magic, but brilliant.

The villain of this story was honestly quite a bit terrifying to me, someone just so ruthless and cruel.  But that, combined with the fact that Jones actually has no compunctions about killing off anyone and everyone in her stories, added quite a bit of zing to the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Magicians of Caprona.  The Chrestomanci books are shaping up to be some of my favorites of hers, and I am looking forward to reading the rest.  4/5.




by Robin McKinley

Published 2013

First off, Robin McKinley, what the heck are you doing publishing ANY book other than the next installment of Pegasus?!?!?!!?  (Sorry, I realize I rant about this pretty regularly, but I’m still sincerely frustrated that someone would purposely published HALF A BOOK in 2010 and then say that maybe she’ll get around to publishing the SECOND HALF in 2014?!?!!?)

Still, while I’m waiting, I figured I may as well check out whatever book it was that McKinley deemed more important than finishing Pegasus.  Shadows was a solid read.  While I didn’t love it as much as Spindle’s End or Beautyit was still a lot of fun.

Per usual, McKinley does an amazing job with world-building.  What I love about her books is how she rarely bothers to explain what the world is like.  As you read, more and more things fall into place, but it’s through casual reference more than actual explanation.   Some things she never does explain, leaving the reader to put his own interpretation on what is happening.  In this book, we have this sort of alternate universe where magic is a thing, but in New World (read: United States), magic has been outlawed, and, two generations back (from our heroine), everyone who could do magic (it’s a sort of instinctive, natural talent) had that gene removed from their being, so that magic-doers will no longer be born in the New World at all.  What our heroine (whose name I can’t remember… sorry, it’s been over a month since I actually read this book) discovers is that magic is perhaps not as eradicated as the government would like everyone to think.

While I’m not always a fan of first-person narrative, McKinley usually does a good job with that voice (Dragonhaven, for instance …  a book I’m planning to read again if my sister ever returns it HINT HINT), presenting a protagonist who is easy to relate to and isn’t stupidly obnoxious.  I DESPISE reading YA books in first person where the narrator is constantly swearing and thinking about nothing but sex.  I’m not actually interested in everything you’re thinking – I’m interested in the story you’re telling so please TELL IT.  McKinley strikes the balance of keeping her first-person narrator personable without dragging us down into every single emotion that flashes through her being.

Here’s the thing that gets me about McKinley: she basically never does sequels.  (Yet another reason that Pegasus was such a betrayal.)  But this book truly felt like the beginning of a trilogy or something.  The story finished strong and undisappointingly (new word for today), but at the end, it really felt as though she had pulled together a team that was going to be fighting the government, except we just have to imagine how that goes because she’s never going to tell us.  (I also think I read somewhere that she is really against people writing fanfiction about her characters, so there isn’t even that small comfort.)  Far more so than some of her fairy tale books, Shadows left me with a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, simply because I wanted to know what everyone was going to do next.  There were also some nagging unanswered questions about why the government was so against magic and that sort of thing as well.

Still, overall this was a book I had trouble putting down (obviously, since my main complaint is that there isn’t more of it!) and definitely enjoyed.  4/5.