Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Read in May 2015 Part III

What I Read in May 2015 Part III ...

Warrior Princess by Allan Frewin Jones-- Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Warrior Princess (Warrior Princess, #1)
Fifteen-year old medieval Welsh girl Branwyn tries hard to keep up with her older brother Geraint. She can hunt with the best of men and bring down an animal with her trusty slingshot. When Geriant is killed by Saxon raiders in front of her, Branwyn is determined to get revenge. Her whole life changes from that moment on. To keep her safe her parents decide to send her south to Gwent to marry. The roads are not safe so first she must stop at Doeth Palas with Prince LLew and his family. There Branwyn encounters a life unlike any she's ever known. The ladies sit around having their hair done and putting on jewels instead of hunting or riding. Her only friend is a mysterious falcon. At least until the Saxon boy she almost killed and then rescued turns up. A magical encounter in the forest shows Branwyn her destiny but she is determined to forge her own path and avenge her brother's death no matter what the goddess Rhiannon may think.

I tried to like the heroine Branwyn. I sympathized with her free spirit and her anger and I was glad she stood up to bullies but at times she was downright rude to her hosts. She's a bit difficult to like because she's angry all the time and fighting everyone.

I can't pinpoint precisely when this story takes place but somewhere between 643-642 AD or perhaps this story is merely inspired by history. It blends Welsh and British history with Celtic mythology. The plot is fast paced except for lengthy fight sequences and one long gory battle scene. It's like a human version of Redwall except more militant and bloody. It's not as well written as Tamora Pierce's Tortall tales but similar idea. Though I had a hard time putting it down, I don't feel compelled to read the rest of the series.

Rivals in the City (The Agency #4)Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee--Young Adult Historical Mystery

In the last few months Mary Quinn has become a financially independent woman and become engaged to her friendly rival James Easton. Since the Agency has experienced a rift, Mary and James have started their own private detective agency. James is dying to finally marry Mary but she balks at losing her independence. Before they have time to fix upon a wedding date, Mary is called back into service by her mentor Anne Treleaven who needs a favor. Henry Thorold, whom Mary investigated on her first case, is dying in Newgate prison and the Agency believes Mrs. Thorold may return to wring a death bed confession out of her husband, thus clearing her name. Only Mary knows what Mrs. Thorold looks like and is capable of, so she agrees to keep a look out for the dangerous criminal. Mary is also interested in learning more about the Chinese prize fighter "Mr. Ching." Something about him and his fighting style reminds her of someone from her past. Meanwhile, James receives the commission of a lifetime but he can't let go of a nagging feeling that it's a set up. He can't discuss it with Mary because they agreed to keep their distance in case Mrs. Thorold strikes again. He misses his partner and she also misses him. Will they ever find a way to be together? The clues lead Mary and James to believe something dangerous is afoot but who else is involved is up to Mary to find out.

I had my doubts about this book. The last one ended very well and I was afraid that this one would put too many obstacles and misunderstandings in the way of the central romance. I am glad to say I was completely wrong. Though someone does try to intervene in their relationship, it's a mild blip on the radar. James is as soonworthy as ever - more so now he's let go of his stupid prejudices and given himself wholly over to being in love with Mary. He's still a man of his times in terms of propriety and wanting to appear respectable but it's more for professional reasons than personal. This time, instead of stopping Mary, he knows to anticipate what she wants to do and let her do it. I just love them together. The ending was a bit rushed but cute.

The story kept me up late wondering what was going to happen. Mary is awesome in the action sequence! She's an amazing woman and a heroine to look up to. The problem I had with the plot is that it's too contrived. The story relies on too many coincidences and Mary even remarks on that fact a few times. The mystery plot was engaging nevertheless. I figured out what a certain person had done and was planning to do before Mary did. Of course Mary didn't have all the facts. Some of the plot is crafted to suit modern attitudes. I found that a little too out of place. It makes sense for Mary to worry about property laws.* There's a fair amount of violence in this story, especially in a boxing sequence in the beginning. I was shocked at the body count. I couldn't believe the villain could be so ruthless. The resolution left me wanting. We're told in passing about what happened next but the case was not yet concluded. I need to know what happens next! Also, they never solved the case they were working on in the beginning. Was it a coincidence? Were there two people in London shopping for the same item? That plot thread was unnecessary.

This wasn't the best entry in the series but I'm sad to see the series end. It did leave room for more Quinn and Easton adventures...

* I think, and I could be wrong, that if James dies before Mary (it's a possibility - he did have malaria), George will inherit if James does not have children. That would be terrible for Mary.

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