Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
March 2012

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
EAN: 9780312641894

It is so incredibly wonderful when a delicious book comes along that you gobble up in less than a day . . . and so disappointing when that book doesn't end.

Cinder was described to me as "Cinderella meets The Fifth Element," so I was on board from page one. Well, to be totally truthful, I was on board from page -4, where the frontispiece listed the titles of the next three books in this series and their release dates (well done, Marissa!). But I have to say, knowing that there are more books in the series should not give a book permission to end without tying up more loose ends than it creates.

Especially if it goes to all the trouble of making you an enormous fan first.

Cinder is set on future Earth (post-World War IV), in New Beijing, China (otherwise known as the Eastern Commonwealth). Androids and cyborgs are commonplace, the humans who populated the moon have developed psychic superpowers, and there is a plague afoot. Linh Cinder is a teenage cyborg, and the best mechanic in the city. Her previous guardian/owner/stepfather passed away some time ago and left her in the care of a selfish and gluttonous guardian/owner/stepmother, who already has two biological daughters (Pearl and Peony) to worry about, and cares not to be bothered by the semi-robotic wretch who nonetheless secures a steady income for the family. Cinder's only friend is Iko, a sweet android girl with a quirky personality chip.

The book opens with Cinder upgrading her too-small preadolescent foot, immediately after which she is interrupted by Crown Prince Kai himself, who has brought her an android she must repair under the radar. There are definite sparks between the two young people, and that foot which appeared in the first act is destined to go off in the third . . . as prescribed by both Raymond Chandler and the Brothers Grimm.

It is so much fun to see how the tale of Cinderella plays out along this fantastic future landscape. The world building is phenomenal, and I'm a huge sucker for both fairy tales and "people who have colonized the moon and evolved magical powers." (There is an evil, murderous queen on the moon who detests mirrors as they interrupt her brainwashing and glamour and she has her own designs on Prince Kai, who will soon be Emperor Kai as a result of his father's failing health at the hands of the plague . . . but I digress.)

I fell in love with these characters the moment they fell in love with each other, and the rest was a pleasant song. Meyer has made some intelligent choices and, coupled with masterful storytelling, I imagine this will be a wildly successful series.

But if you are looking for the Happily Ever After to this tale, I'll warn you right now that you won't get it. What you will get is the urge to toss the book across the room and write the author a fan letter, coupled with that annoying feeling you must put off until the next book comes out. I haven't felt quite this way since the end of Collins's Catching Fire, or McKinley's Pegasus. And as frustrating as it is, I am so glad there's a new author in this world I have to stalk. You should too.

Title: Glamour in Glass
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
EAN: 9780765325570

I've been waiting and waiting to review this book, and finally the day has come! Its official release date is April 2012, so I didn't want to jump the gun too soon. I believe I said it before with Shades of Milk and Honey and I'll say it again for Glamour in Glass: If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you will enjoy the novels of Mary Robinette Kowal without disappointment.

While so many in literature try to resurrect Austen's characters and carry on beyond where her stories end, Kowal breathes life into Austen by donning the clothes she might have worn and writing in words she might have used. Anyone who follows Kowal on a social network knows how much blood, sweat, and research goes into the writing of her novels. She maintains the utmost respect for both the era and the writers who made that era famous.

It's a tad difficult to sum up the plot of this book without giving away a certain spoiler to Shades of Milk and Honey -- I will do my best to be vague, but if you haven't read Shades yet and have the slightest desire to, please do stop here and start there.

Glamour in Glass (which I still sometimes read as "Glamouring Lass," a playful discovery Kowal made when registering the domain) is the further adventures of Jane and Vincent, Britain's foremost glamourists. At the behest of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (a.k.a. "Prinny"), Jane and Vincent travel to the Continent, despite the political unrest of the region that has been stirring since Jane herself was a child. Napoleon may have been exiled, but the Bonapartists still anticipate his return.

Jane and Vincent stay with a fellow glamourist in Binché. While there, they attempt to defy the preconceived notion that glamours can only be performed in a stationary setting . . . which they do. After much hard work they manage to successfully contain a particular glamour in a sphere of glass, only shortly before Jane becomes unable to perform glamour and revolutionaries catch wind of this powerful -- and potentially disastrous -- concept.

Glamour in Glass surpasses its predecessor by providing the reader with elements of romance and adventure that Shades of Milk and Honey could not. There is a deeper, more emotional bond formed with Jane: a woman of a constrained and dignified society now further bound by the inability to perform a glamour, the one act that gives her comfort. It is an easy thing to cheer for Jane, as she faces obstacle after obstacle and conquers them all as Kowal writes, with wit and heart.

I am so happy to be a fan of Kowal's series -- I do hope there are further adventures of Jane and Vincent in our future.

Read more by Alethea Kontis

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