At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.
But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
Why did I pick this up?: Honestly, I picked it up because I KEPT hearing about it. So often that I eventually caved and thought ‘why not just buy it and see?’
Good points: Okay, there is this gorgeous idea within it where characters use clouds as transportation. I LOVE THAT. I also love Prunella, and Rollo, who are great characters with huge potential.
Quibbles: I haven’t got that many, but yet again this was a book I was reading that was very slow to start. It reads a little like Austen, as several people have said, and this sort of thing often puts me off. However this time it didn’t. I’d say it was a steady 4/5. It also reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I love, so there was always going to be at least some positive points there.
Overview (TL;DR): Super short review, but… it was a good book, nothing to scream and rave about for me, but definitely worth picking up.
Progress on Alternate: In the hands of beta-readers
This is the sixth and final volume of Burton and Swinburne’s adventures. I think it really does sum up and conclude the story pretty well, despite the reviews I’ve read to the contrary. I love The Beetle, and the storyline there (yes, you get no spoilers here). I also very much like bringing Edward Burton into it.
However it is also clear that this was where the story needed to end. It was just too complicated, and it was leaving steampunk behind and going very much for an oddly surreal alternate world that was making less and less sense. It was a big writing task to take on, really, and I think it began to take its toll towards the end on both plot and characterisation. But the ambitious storytelling is still a selling point – it made it unique, and as someone who is no stranger to biting off more than I can chew myself, I’m always pleased when someone manages to do just that and then chew it anyway.
Finally, the very ending of this book finished just as I’d hoped it would, with the addition of a moment with a tiny plant that the plant-lover in me squealed at – it was a lovely touch, considering previous happenings in the book. To quote Swinburne, who oddly enough begins to say this phrase more and more throughout the books as they go on, so that it becomes less of the unusual way he speaks and more a catchphrase: My hat!
I honestly think, as with many series, the earlier books here are the better ones. But those earlier books set a high enough bar that it didn’t matter one jot. These books are on my bookshelf, and they’re on there to stay!
Progress on Alternate: FINISHED??? I… Help. I don’t know how to react to this.
Super short review today because tired writer actually feels sleepy for once.
Burton and Swinburne #5 moves back into the surreal. And I sort of love it but I don’t know why. I should, by all rights, loathe this. So complicated, bouncing around of plot… but I don’t. And I just… couldn’t if I tried.
I’m currently in a state of shock due to my own writing progress, but I do want to say, quickly, that I’m heading towards the end of the Burton and Swinburne series now and as much as I don’t want it to stop, because I want to read more and more of their adventures as characters… I think I’m glad. There’s only so much complex plot someone can realistically pull off, and Mark Hodder is pushing the boundary here. Still doing it, but by the skin of his teeth.
Progress on Alternate: Wibbly stuff… about 71% edited. I think. I hope.
At last. Burton and Swinburne #3. After which point I will be moving into uncharted territory in this series for me. And it made me remember why I stopped reading them… it was giving me a headache! So many different realities, guys. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But then again, it contains Swinburne. OF COURSE I’d love it. Swinburne’s excitement and desire for life is the best…
Which brings me to a spoiler-less what the hell moment. Because Swinburne at the end of this book… just… what? Say what? We moved from the steampunk into the surreal at this point.
I think there are a lot of complications in this book and you probably need to read it a few times before you completely understand all of the little threads that it ties up, or tries to. Which means not only is it a very long read, but it’s very odd to read too. My main source of confusion was very much… what happens now? Because there’s so many strange little… I don’t even know, ideas… that have been put forward in this book and I honestly have no idea how the author is going to manage them all. But I wish him well with it. I’m looking forward to reading the next one and judging for myself where it can go from here, and whether he truly did manage to pull off what will be, if he does it, a rather impressive undertaking.