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Posted May 8, 2013
Full Disclosure - I got this book as part of the StoryBundle Fantasy bundle. I did not buy it from Barnes and Noble.
I read a lot, and many times give up on books halfway through. Definitely not this one. The authors have invented an intriguing world and a compelling character in Duchess. The world resembles the Florentine Republic with its Machiavellian politics and mores. The most interesting thing about it is the fact that, although magic obviously exists, it does not play an obvious part in this world (yet).
An intriguing and interesting read. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Posted February 25, 2013
If there were half stars, I'd give this 3.5 stars. I'd say on a scale from 1-10, it is a definite 7.
I liked the main character quite a bit. She was interesting and compelling. But I found the whole "steel" and "silk" aspects of her personality a little bit bothersome. I think the author brought that up a little too much and a little over halfway through the book, I felt like I was being beaten over the head with that point.
Some of the minor characters I liked a lot. Especially the Uncle and Minette. Even Noam the baker, who doesn't actually appear in the story, but is just talked about in third person mostly, I found interesting. Not so much with Lysander, which was disappointing. In one review I read before this book, the reviewer loved that character and thought he was the best in the book. Maybe my expectations were too high for him though. I just found him kinda one-dimensional and uninteresting. He was just the buddy willing to help Duchess. I didn't really understand their relationship at all, which was bothersome. Maybe that was the point though.
The heist was fun. But it felt like Duchess was able to get the information about the job a little too easily. Everything fell into place for her during the planning stages way too perfectly.
I quite liked the city the story was set in a lot. I enjoyed visiting the different quarters - especially the foreign quarter. The worldbuilding of this novel was one of the high points.
Overall, it was a good story. I enjoyed it. But there were flaws. Not enough to keep me from liking it, but enough to keep me from really liking it. I'm a hopeful sort when it comes to books, so I'll probably buy the next one in this series and hope the things I liked remain while some of the things I didn't get better.
Posted November 12, 2012
Character-driven, tightly-plotted, and propelled along by an intriguing central mystery, The Duchess of the Shallows is a refreshing addition to the fantasy genre. Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto demonstrate their love for the genre, as well as their talent for creating living, breathing, identifiable characters. By the time the opening chapter is done, you can't help but want to see Duchess succeed, and it doesn't take more than a few chapters more for the likes of Lysander and his fellow ganymedes to endear themselves to the reader.
In many ways, this is a typical fantasy novel, complete with the young protagonist who is destined for greatness. What sets Duchess apart, however, is the well-played mystery of just who she really is, and precisely how she fits into this new world into which she's trying to gain entry. The setting is typical too, a medieval-like city, separated by class, but there's a novelty to the overall cascading design, as well as to the elements within it. The mysterious fog that regularly rolls in, disguising and transforming the town, is a very nice touch, enhanced by Duchess and her connection to it.
The plot had me concerned at first, with things working out a little too conveniently - and coincidentally. Once the story gets going, and new elements begin to be layered upon the opening quest/task, however, McGarry and Ravipinto find their stride and seem to settle into a smarter, more comfortable plot. I quite liked the way the story developed, and the conclusion managed to play to my expectations while somehow managing to surprise me at the same time.
I think what really put it over the top, though, was the intelligence and creativity involved in the dealings, negotiations, and manoeuvrings. This is a world where nothing is free, and no good, no service, and no snippet of information is exchanged without wringing every ounce of value from it. Manipulation is the name of the game, and just about everyone is playing it.
Posted May 1, 2012
The headline pretty much sums up the review. Duchess is a likable and sympathetic character, as are her accomplices. The world the Shallows inhabits is intriguing and mysterious, but also believable and grounded. The pacing of the novel is quite good; the authors manage to walk the fine line of exposition, introducing the reader to Duchess' world without dumping too much information at once, or leaving the reader wondering if anything will make sense.
I definitely recommend this little fantasy full of political intrigue.
Posted February 22, 2012
I loved this book! It had great characters I could really care about, a richly imagined world I could get lost in, and a story that had depth and details that a Tolkein fan like me loves, but that even a more casual reader would enjoy.
And the cover art is gorgeous! Amy Houser, the artist, is amazing!