Written by: Leanna Renee Hieber
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books
August 2009, $6.99
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy
ARC: Thank you http://www.leannareneehieber.com/
What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…
I never thought that when I began to write my blog that people would visit, that my reviews would either persuade or dissuade someone from reading particular book. I began my blog for me simply because I love books. I love the worlds that they take me to, I love what they teach me and the pure entertainment and escape that books provide. I will be the first to admit that I am a bookaholic. My TBR piles are threatening to take over my bedroom and yet still I buy new books. Like the blog says I buy books first and if I have anything left over than we’ll move on to the clothes and food. Who needs gas in the car if only to drive me to the nearest bookstore.
I am happy to put forth a few bucks for a book to call my own, but it is nice when you get them in the post for less than that. Even better, when you get a chance to talk to the author about who they are, fangirlyness and all, before you receive said gift in the post. As a fellow Joss Whedon fan I knew that Leanna was good people and I was actually looking forward to the tale she had weaved. She described it as a gothic Victorian fantasy as well as few other much loved genres mixed within that is the first of a quartet of novels. She promised mythology, a tender love story and a while lot of fun. How could I resist.
The book begins in 1867 when six children from different backgrounds are drawn to the middle of London and to each other. They have become The Guard and have but one task and that is to fight the darkness and keep balance between the living and the restless ghosts that still wander London. It is a big responsibility and as members each have been granted a special ability thanks to the spirit that now lies within each.
That night they are also visited by what they believe to be a goddess who informs them what has happened and warns them that in order to fight the darkness, a Prophecy must be fulfilled in the form of a seventh member. But this seventh member means that the real war will begin and though she does not say how or when it will happen, she mentions that they will all see a door and that there will be a trickster as well. Then she vanishes.
Twenty years later those children have grown into adults. Their Prophecy has not yet come to ass, though they keep looking for clues. Rebecca and Alexi now run an exclusive Academy and it is at the exclusive Athens School where we first meet Miss Percy Parker.
She is a strange and beautiful creature. Raised in a convent with the ability to see and speak to ghosts, she looks very much like the ghosts that have always been part of her life. She is hoping for a fresh start and a chance to finally experience life outside the convent walls, but what she doesn’t realize is how much her life is truly about to change.
Things I loved: A mixture of Lady Amalthea from the Last Unicorn, a smidge of Luna Lovegood if she were fond of bustles and ghosts and a sweet far too innocent shy creature, Miss Percy Parker is certainly strange and beautiful as is her story. Alexi is dark and brooding all Edward Rochester with the smexiness of Alan Rickman. Not a horrible combination, come to think of it. I found myself both hating and loving Percy. Hating her because she was the teenage angst ridden, oh I am so strange and no one likes me version of Alexi in a pale pale body. She was so meek and uncertain that I wanted to shake her…a lot (In fact one of my meh moments was how often we are reminded of her self pity and angst, yes we get it you are so pale and oh how you hate it) But I loved her because weren’t we all that lost and uncertain at one time of our lives. Somehow she grew on me despite how bipolar she seemed at time. And she does have an inner strength which comes through when it needs to. Because this is the first book of a planned trilogy, I expect that she will grow as a character in the next two and no longer will we have the wisp of a girl, but a young woman. It is only if she doesn’t that I will truly be disappointed.
* I enjoyed the mythology surrounding the characters and if Percy is who she is I am quite interested to see who the rest of the Guard has at their core.
* The prose is lyrical, dreamy trying to invoke the Victorian era while trying to remain elegantly poetical. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are passages that are quite beautiful to read, but unfortunately at times it also came off as trying a bit too hard especially when it came to some of the dialogue. However, there are moments of greatness and those eclipse the meh moments so while it may not always be consistent, it is enjoyable over all.
* I liked some of the secondary characters such as Josephine, but longed for a bit more development. It is a hard thing to do sometimes balancing plot with character development and I will admit that many of the books I read fail in one aspect or another. And yet I know there will be more books and I hope that the rest of the Guard will become more fully developed. I love the ideas though and that is what draws me on. I want to know more, I want to see more and that curiosity has been lacking in a lot of books of late. So if a book can engage me that much, it is worth it.
* It’s a strange hodpodge of genres that somehow works. It is not spectacular but very charming. It’s a different take on the classic Victorian gothic romance with the paranormal and fantastic thrown in. Not everyone will enjoy it. Some may find it a bit stilted while others adore it. I found myself somewhere in between though leaning quite happily to the charmed side of things.
Things I didn't love so much: A small gripe, but the use of Prophecy as referring to a person was a bit maddening and irked me a bit as if trying to make the connection between Percy and Prophecy as if Percy’s name were Prophecy. Almost like being reminded of Percy’s pale pale beauty. Once or twice is fine, but when it is mentioned four times in 8 paragraphs, it is a little rough. In this I felt like she was trying too hard and she didn’t need to almost as if this were a really good piece of fan fiction that turned into her own story in the end. Sometimes less is more, something that George Lucas should also take to heart.
* I feel divided on the romance, mostly because I felt that Alexi was too much of a one note. There was no development with his character and to be honest the romance is a little creepy and happened quite quickly without a whole lot for me to go on. I need a bit of motivation. On the other hand it is a bit sweet as well. I know it may be weird of me, but I was hoping for not so much of an age difference, but in the end as I said it is sweet.
*This is more of a gripe in general these days, more to the whole of my beloved genre niche than to this book in particular. Everything seems to be series which can be nice because when you fall in love with a setting or a set of characters you want to read more. Unfortunately I think that sometimes a first in a series can sometimes get away with a lot of things like underdeveloped characters, convoluted plots, etc because we know there will be more and hope that such things are resolved. But why? Why can’t I have that the first round and the next only builds on what I already love? Sorry small tirade aside, there were frustrating moments in this tale. The beginning started out wonderfully, eerie, mysterious and intriguing. It lost its footing a bit in the middle, got a bit meandering and slow and then picked up the pace though perhaps a bit too fast in the end.
I did enjoy the book, gripes aside. I think my gripes come from seeing potential. Something you don’t always get these days. In all Percy is a delightful little read, but I know that Heiber has it in her to do something far greater and when she writes that I will be in line and will be happy to spend my hard earned money on the next. And it will be there, but like Percy I think she is just finding her stride.
Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a fan of genre and like the ideas behind it, borrow if you’re not quite sure. Not an insult by any means but I do think that any Snape lovers out here who read far too much fanfiction (like me) or have many many pictures of Mr. Rickman hanging about (also like me) may be smitten. It certainly didn’t hurt thinking of Alexi as Rickman (ala Prince of Thieves for me more than Snape, though with the robes)
Part of: The Guard? More are planned.
Also Recommended: You might enjoy the Menagerie series by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski which features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the second most powerful sorcerer in the world, a demon changeling, God’s own Clay in the form of a shapeshifting man, Eve…yes that Eve, an adventuring ghost, a hobgoblin, and a lady of Faerie. Like the Guard they are what keeps the balance between this world and the next and it is quite a fun ride.
3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks
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