Silver in the Blood // by Jessica Day George


//published 2015//

So the trend in YA these days definitely seems to be towards trilogies.  And, here’s a confession, trilogies are kind of my least favorite thing.  So often it feels like the author is just draaaagggging things out so she can make a buck by putting one story’s worth of story in three books.  Then there’s the opposite – by the end of the trilogy, there is such a rich, amazing world-build that it seems tragic to end after only three books.  (Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic books immediately leap to mind.  I could read a dozen books set in that world.)

And now we come to Silver in the Blood.  And I got done reading this book and was like…  why isn’t this a trilogy?!  So ironic.  But while I really enjoyed this book, at times it felt like George was jamming a lot of story into one book.  Even a duology would have been nice to allow for some more character development/world building, but instead it frequently felt like the story was hurrying along, which was a shame because the setting is incredibly rich.

It was funny also because I read this on the heels of the Cecelia & Kate books, which were books set in an AU world where magic is real and was about a pair of cousins who had grown up together and were very close and had to write letters to each other… and Silver in the Blood is about a pair of cousins who have grown up together and are very close and have to write letters and are about to discover that magic is quite real.  (It was extra weird just because one of the aunts is Aunt Kate!)

Dacia and Lou have grown up in New York City (in the late 19th century), but our story opens with both of them traveling to visit their family in Romania.  Through a series of circumstances, Dacia is traveling with their Aunt Kate, while Lou is with her parents and brothers along a different route.  The book is told in a mixture of third-person narrative and letters/diary entries from the girls.  I really liked the format (although it never feels necessary to me to use different fonts for different people), and felt like it was a good way to give different perspectives and move the story along.

Things really get interesting when Dacia first meets the matriarch of the family.  Lady Ioana is super creepy.  Up until this point, you can tell that Dacia has been trying to sweep things under the rug as far as “things feel a little weird meeting the ol’ fam,” but Lady Ioana is over-the-top weird, and things get more bizarre from there.

As the reader, it felt like Dacia and Lou were a little slow to see where things were going.  I’m not sure if that’s because they really were a little slow to see where things were going, or (more likely) George was just trying to emphasize how far out of the realm of possibility the concept of shape-shifters would be for two properly brought up Young Ladies of Quality.  But because of that, there were times that the story dragged a bit.

When the big reveal happens, I was frustrated by the sudden complete character swap of Dacia and Lou.  Dacia has always been the headstrong, adventurous one, while Lou was the reserved, quiet one.  But once they realize what is happening with their family, all of a sudden they do a complete role-change.  In some ways, I see what George was trying to accomplish with this, but it also felt kind of unnatural, especially Lou going from 0 to 100mph as far as bossing people around, taking charge, and making major decisions alone.  I could understand Dacia’s horror and fear leading her to be withdrawn and confused for a time, but Lou’s personality shift seemed abrupt and strange to me.

We spend a lot of time building up to a big finale, and then things seemed rushed at the end, which is part of why it felt like this should have been two or three books.  There was a lot of world/character building (which was wasted since the girls completely changed personalities halfway through the story, ah well), and then the action was all smashed into the last few chapters.  While I found the ending mildly satisfying, there still seemed like some loose ends that needed tied up – it was a little too, “Oh yay everything is great now, let’s go on our merry way!” to really feel like a solid conclusion.

In the end, a 3/5 read for me, and recommended for people who enjoy the genre, but there are definitely better ways to jump into YA fantasy if you are just looking for a place to start.

A Prefect’s Uncle // by P.G. Wodehouse


//published 1903//

As I mentioned last month, I am starting to work my way through all of Wodehouse’s books in published order.  It’s a bit challenging not just because there are a billion of them, but because they’ve been published on both sides of the Atlantic, sometimes not at the same time, and frequently under different titles.  WHY.

But I intend to persevere, and the first several are public domain and available as free ebooks, which is especially nice because it’s not always easy to get a hold of a cheap copy of some of these earlier books that weren’t published and republished like Wodehouse’s later (and more popular) novels.

The early end of Wodehouse’s prolific career definitely focuses on “schoolboy tales,” which were frequently published in boys’ magazines as serials.  I skimmed most of his first book, The Pothunters.  There were just too many characters, all with nicknames and other nicknames and all mixed together from different schools and different houses and different cricket teams (so much cricket) and somehow lacking enough of a story for me to want to try and keep it all straight.  Also, there was a lot of cricket.

A Prefect’s Uncle is definitely a step in the right direction.  The plot seems tighter and more focused, so while there were still a lot of boys and a lot of nicknames and a lot (LOT) of cricket, the story was much easier to follow, and I was actually a bit disappointed when everything ended and I had to leave them all behind.

There are a couple of threads to this tale, so here is the summary from Wikipedia:

The action of the novel takes place at the fictional “Beckford College”, a private school for boys; the title alludes to the arrival at the school of a mischievous young boy called Reginald Farnie, who turns out to be the uncle of the older “Bishop” Gethryn, a prefect, cricketer and popular figure in the school. His arrival, along with that of another youngster, Wilson, who becomes fag to Gethryn, leads to much excitement and scandal in the school, and the disruption of some important cricket matches.

And that’s pretty much it.  Once I got my head around the fact that there are multiple cricket teams at the same school, and, more importantly, the same people can be on different cricket teams, the whole story began to make more sense.  (Apparently, there was the team that represents the entire school, but then within the school each house at the school has its own team.  Genius.)  There isn’t a lot of depth to this story, and it’s quite full of slang and “I say, old thing!” and the like, but it was still actually quite a bit of fun, despite the cricket.

I’m not sure that I would have picked this out as a Wodehouse tale if I hadn’t already known he wrote it, but because I was looking for them, there are glimpses of Wodehouse’s droll humor –

He produced a letter from his pocket …  “This was written by an aunt of mine. …  Just look at line four.  You see what she says: ‘A boy is coming to Mr Leicester’s House this term, whom I particularly wish you to befriend. He is the son of a great friend of mine, and is a nice, bright little fellow, very jolly and full of spirits.  …  His name is-‘ ”


“That’s the point.  At this point the manuscript becomes absolutely illegible.  I have conjectured Percy for the first name.  It may be Richard, but I’ll plunge on Percy.  It’s the surname that stumps me.  Personally, I think it’s MacCow, though I trust it isn’t, for the kid’s sake.  I showed the letter to my brother … he swore it was Watson, but, on being pressed, hedged with Sandys. …”

[After reflection, the friend believes the name is Duncan, and they go to ask the matron about it.]

“Miss Jones … have you on your list of new boys a sportsman of the name of MacCow or Watson?  I am also prepared to accept Sandys or Duncan.  The Christian name is either Richard or Percy. …”

“There’s a P.V. Wilson on the list,” said the matron.  …

“That must be the man.”

I also appreciated the sentence, “There seems to be a perfect glut of aunts.”  Wodehouse does indeed love an aunt!

This book is over a hundred years old (and British) so there were words and phrases that gave me pause from time to time, but for the most part I was able to read without problem.  I’ve always enjoyed old books (and British ones), so I already knew some of language issues (like “fag” being the term for a younger boy in the school who does chores/runs errands for an older boy in his house).  Although I will admit that there were still some that left me with some questions marks (and a little scared to look them up).  My personal favorite, that is still making me giggle in that 12-year-old boy way – Bishop, trying to brace himself up for a confrontation:  “Be firm, my moral pecker!”  Oh dear.

On the whole, while I’m not sure that I would recommend A Prefect’s Uncle particularly (unless you like cricket a great deal), it was still a fun story with some likable characters and entertaining moments.  3/5.