I’m having the hardest time writing this review, but I just need to suck it up and word vomit out something, because I read this back in March.
The problem is, I have no idea how to describe this strange, strange book. And also, not sure how I feel about it? Like, I enjoyed it? I gave it four stars (well, 3.5)? But I also still find it confounding.
By the way, Steven Brust and Emma Bull teaming up to write this somehow led me to thinking FOR YEARS that they were married. But they are not. My brain?? Only married people can write books together? Stop, brain.
Basically, my entire feeling about this book can be summed up in one of my GR status updates: “I am enjoying this so far, but also have no idea what’s actually going on.” That feeling held the whole way through the book.
This is historical fantasy, first of all, and alternate history in almost equal measure. It’s set in England in the 1840s, in a time of political upheaval when the proletariat was busy uprising and stuff, and like, wanting democracy and free speech and fun stuff like that was considered radical. The Wikipedia article on Chartism is the only reason I understood even half of what was going on plot-wise.
Luckily, the prose was so engaging, and the characters so fun that it sort of didn’t matter I didn’t really know what was going on. There’s lots of hijinks here including amnesia, ladies dressing up as men, investigations, kidnappings, revolutionaries doing things, a little bit of romance, and other stuff I’m forgetting. The whole book is told in letters between mostly four main characters, with some others added in every now and then (at one point Marx and Engels, actual characters in this book, get “chapters”). It was good! (I’m fairly sure.) But it’s also not a book you can read fast. I kept having to put it down every few “chapters” and pick something else up. Such a weird book.
I have to say, the cover of this book isn’t doing it any favors. Makes it seem dry and historical (even if revolutionary), and in no way advertises how kooky and funny it can be.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]