Okay, so — this was difficult to review, because it was everything I want in a book, except for when it wasn’t.
So I finally got around to watching Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, and I seem to be the only person on the internet with this opinion, but I thought it was mostly excellent.
I’m going to hold off from any extended analysis until I’ve read the last one, because there’s still a lot of plot stuff to get wrapped up, but Rope of Thorns was a worthy successor to Book of Tongues. A number of the things I’d said were vague in the first book get explained better here (re: the Aztec mythology and Rook’s motivations), Ed Morrow gets more developed as a character, and some kickass ladies join the cast.
There’s less of what I enjoyed the most about Book of Tongues — Chess and the Reverend being crazy about each other, all over each other — but my worry that their relationship would drop off the map was premature. Despite spending most of the book a couple hundred miles apart, they are still at the center of each other’s universes, for good or for ill.
And Chess Pargeter — brutal, callous, contrary Chess Pargeter — is shown to be that rarest of things: a character who can change.
The tragedy will be if Rook can’t do the same.
In other news, I’m also reading John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, which is enormously intellectually stimulating, but also very slow going, since his style makes the process more like gymnastics than reading. Hint: brush up on your Greek. (And Latin, and Slavic, and French, and Aramaic, and…)
I think a Guy Gavriel Kay would not go amiss for my next fiction book.
(This has been a hard book to review, because it's an extremely immersive reading experience, and after resurfacing it took me a couple days to be able to write about it objectively. So yeah, flawed or not, it's powerful stuff.)
A Book of Tongues is set a few years after the end of the Civil War, in an alternate world version of the wild west, in which some people are "hexslingers," magicians wielding power that they themselves can't always control. The nominal protagonist is a Pinkerton agent named Ed Morrow, working undercover to infiltrate the gang led by Reverend Asher Rook, former Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger, and his lover Chess Pargeter, gunslinger extraordinaire.