Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The Duchess of the Shallows (The Land of Many Boy Whores)
I'm very torn about this book, because there are things I definitively liked and things I didn't. The world in which Duchess lives is very well planned out and the different sections of the town seem like characters unto themselves. However, the explanations in the beginning bogged down the pacing, so it takes a good chunk of the beginning for the plot of the book to pick up pace. However like most slow burners do, it picks up the pace and gets into very well handled intrigue. Duchess is a fantastically competent character and the authors show how adept she is by the choices she makes and questions she asks--or doesn't. My biggest issue happened near the end and the scene destroyed her character for me.
Trial of the Gray #1: Duchess frolics through her hometown as a different person the moment she gets a certain coin. This apparently is her ticket to something bigger, the Gray, the spy network. So, she ditches the baker she worked for and decides to try her luck with the coin, leading her to Hector's lair. The job he sets out for her is a tricky one though, considering she's just been a baker all these years. Steal a knife from a noble before the big reveal at a party. Not just anyone can get into the Gray, but Duchess doesn't waver.
Trial of the Gray #2: In my opinion, this was the most fascinating part of the book. When she played tiles with Minette to get more information about how to get into the castle, Duchess's smarts are really on display. She proves herself to be quite resourceful and the events leading up to the castle were engaging and compelling. Duchess puts all of her pieces into play while she plots the thievery of the knife, aided by Minette. Once she gets into the castle too, the way she handles the cook in charge, making sure she appears to be competent, but not too competent adds to her character.
Trial of the Gray #3: Duchess ditches Lysander (which upset me greatly) but manages to steal the knife. She travels back to Lysander's place and waits until he comes back. Once he does, only a little roughed up, they try to hang like normal, but the spark of friendship doesn't quite flicker once you've abandoned your friends to the wolves. The scene between Duchess and Uncle Cornelius displays more of why they chose her to be a part of the Gray (that adeptness and ability for manipulation) and Duchess ends the book with the prospect of a new life ahead of her.
One scene soured me and that was when Lysander, her best friend, helps create the distraction. These guards come and threaten to hurt him--horribly--but even though Duchess hears, she makes the conscious choice to leave. This anti-heroic behavior can be worked around for sure, say if she ended up changing her mind and coming back for him, or nabbing the knife and then returning to save him. But instead, she just goes back to his place and waits. He conveniently only gets out of the situation with a couple bruises because some guards stumbled in on him. That being said, if you're someone who doesn't mind their main characters of the anti-hero sort, I'd check the book out. The writing was solid and the story had an abundance of intrigue.
*I received this book for review purposes