Finished another library book and another purchase from Poisoned Pen Press' 99 cent introductory mystery sale.
by Mercedes Lackey
is the latest in her "Collegium Chronicles" series-within-the-Valdemar-series. And it does seem to be intended as an ongoing, rather than the standard trilogy these things used to be, as once again we get slow-burn "development" of Mags and his friends' issues, and some form of progression on the "mysterious foreigners who have it in for the Valdemarans in general and Mags in particular" plot.
Actually, this can be best summed up by a thoroughly ironic passage within the actual book:
Everything else was, oh gods, the same old problems. Nothing had actually been done about them.
Nothing had changed. They were all circling the same stagnant problems, accomplishing nothing. And from the way things looked, they would keep circling the same stagnant problems forever.
Three books in, I totally agree with this assessment, and I freely admit I've been continuing to read the new volumes in the series out of sheer morbid trainwreck curiosity.
This is not to say that the book is a total retread, because while the plots and character points are being drawn out and extended and recycled (and they've even re-invented that polo/volleyball/field hockey game they used in the Alberich books), you do find out some semi-nifty background details, such as the fact that there's a CSI: Haven team out there investigating mysterious causes of death and more of what happened to magic and the knowledge of it between Vanyel's death and Selenay's reign. And there is some actual baby-steps-forward progress on the overarching mysterious assassin/saboteur plot and the characters' personal issues.
But aside from that, the protagonist's continuing use of phonetically-spelt dialect in word and thought is seriously annoying, since he's started talking and thinking and internal-monologuing more, and I just want to club him like I was actually working in a goth club. Bartending. In the dark
Speak proper Valdemaran; I know you can because you made a point of it in one passage. I don't care if you keep up the spoken-word pretense to fool people into thinking that you're dumber and worse-educated than you actually are. But I don't want to see that many needless eliding apostrophes and quaint folksy mispellings in your stupid thoughts, dammit!
Can't recommend, especially as it looks like they're going to keep dragging out the story over even more volumes. But okay for a library read if you're curious about developments to the setting.
& Eric Meyer
's Four for a Boy
in their Istanbul (not Constantinople)
-set "John the Chamberlain" historical mystery series, was quite good.
Though 4th in the series (and they all seem to have conveniently cutesily numbered-theme naming which makes it easier to read in order when the volumes are available), this appears to be chronologically the first, telling a flashback adventure which probably explains how the eunuched John rose to his position of power within the Emperor Justin/future Emperor Justinian's court.
I can never see that first emperor's name without thinking of a passage I read in Pulitzer prize-winner Justin Kaplan
& Anne Bernays
' quasi-academic pop-culture book, The Language of Names: What We Call Ourselves and Why It Matters
, where he writes that until the recent generational surge of popularity, his given name had been an unusual, anomalous choice mainly remembered for having once been a middling-obscure Roman emperor.
With that in mind, I kind of wonder which middling-obscure Roman emperor's name will once again rise the waves of popularity to the top of the naming charts. Probably not Commodus.
Anyway, this was quite well done, with nice research, interesting and well-drawn characters, the sort of usual backstabbing intrigue one gets when getting caught up in Imperial politics, and a rather clever who-ultimately-dunnit which was quite unexpected, though all the clues had been laid in advance and were occasionally even pointed at for the Gentle Reader like me who can't figure out what's right under our noses.
Mind you, the portrayal of the future Empress Theodora seemed a bit one-note, but perhaps she gets more nuance in the other volumes.
Plus it had a glossary of historical terms/notes in the back, which I always like to see.
Strong recommend for historical mystery readers (also a good general read for clever whodunnits, IMHO), especially considering that it's currently a dirt-cheap 99 cents in publisher Poisoned Pen Press' DRM-free introductory sale
. I've already looked up the other books in the library and will be borrowing them once I've finished some other stuff and have more free time (and non-inclement weather).