DNF @ 47%
Dang, two DNFs in one day (the other was The Sun and the Void)! I got 200 pages in to this and realized I felt like I was just wasting my own time, so I stopped.
This is a book that ten years ago—so a LOT closer to when I actually bought it—I would have probably given it four stars and then read at least the next two books in the series. Instead, I waited a ridiculously long time (this is now one of the top five books I’ve owned the longest without reading, and it will stay that way, for I shall not own it much longer) and as a result, this is a book that is no longer doing it for me. There are too many other better books I could be spending time on, and the whole time I was reading this I was acutely aware of that. It felt very good to just put it down and know that I didn’t have to pick it back up again. Oh my God, why didn’t I start DNFing sooner in my life. I’m still going to rate and review, however, because I got halfway in (and peeked at the ending), so I know what I’m missing, basically.
So this is a book that is two books in one. The frame story follows Eloise, an American academic in London for a year, doing research on the identity of the Pink Carnation, a spy from the Napoleonic era whose secret identity was never revealed (they were in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian, all made up figures, though the SP was made up by a different author a hundred plus years ago now). Anyway, our author is a fan of those adventure stories and decided to add her own voice to the canon. The problem with the frame story is that it’s frivolous and pointless. Eloise finds the path to the identity of the Pink Carnation absurdly easily, and then spends most of the rest of the time reading letters (that we never see) and bickering annoyingly with her love interest. This part of the book should have been cut out entirely if it wasn’t going to actually do anything of note.
The second and most substantial part of the book follows Amy Balcourt, a half-French, half-English young lady who is also obsessed with finding out the identity of the Purple Gentian, but so she can join him in being a spy. We also follow the PG himself. They meet very quickly on a boat and it all just felt so like, come on, get to the good stuff. Well, the good stuff also turned out not to be very interesting to me, so I stopped reading. It’s clear that the author knows a lot about this time period, but the story she was telling in it just did almost nothing for me. If I would have kept going, this would at best have been a three-star read, and that’s nobody’s ideal reading experience.
Again, all of this in a time when I was a less critical reader, and I had read less and knew less about history, and cared less about historical verisimilitude and authorial style, all of this would have gone over pretty well with past me. But I am now me, and now me is a bit of a cow about all that stuff. I shall throw a little funeral for the alternate universe that I don’t get to experience where I read and enjoyed this, and could have the memories of doing that, but we live in this universe and I shall be moving on with my life.
[2.5 stars, rounding up to 3 because I’M NICE]