One of my favourite books of all-time. While it does have elements of fantasy - you can ignore them.
The book starts out as a series of letters between the main characters which weave a fascinating story which the characters are as amazed to uncover as the reader!
Drama, suspense, mystery, romance - this book has it ALL!
The way the book is told, leaves you constantly turning to the next page wanting more information.
I continue to be enthralled each time I re-read it.
England, 1849. A man is fished out of a lake, half-dead. His last memory is of falling into the water during a boating party - two months earlier.
What happened during that lost two months? And was there a plot afoot to do away with him? He goes underground, working as a hostler at a small inn, writing to his relative in order to try to find out what happened...
Emma Bull, particularly, is an author I very much enjoy and admire. However, this was the second time I've read this book (it was this month's selection for my book club), and I still just couldn't get into it.
It's written in the epistolary fashion - as a series of letters and journal entries, with the occasional newspaper article thrown in. A good deal of the time, the letters (written in pseudo-19th-century British style) are not even describing events, but are referencing OTHER letters, books, etc.
The effect is very distancing, and I found it impossible to achieve the "reading trance" or "flow state" that I very often experience while reading (and which is one of the best parts about reading!) through this book. This also means I read it very slowly - and it's a long book! (590 pgs.)
With some books, you end feeling that you know the characters intimately... in this one, you end feeling like you might have been pen-pals.
The characters (vivacious, blonde Kitty, who dabbles in mysticism, her husband Richard, the revolutionary and intense James, the spunky and unconventional Susan) are interesting, and many exciting elements are there: anti-government plots and counter plots, secret societies, occultism and sacrifice, cross-dressing, kidnapping, weapons smuggling, arson, violence, poison.... plus a healthy dash of romance.
However, throughout the book, I couldn't quite help feeling that really, not so much was at stake. I was at such a remove from the action that I didn't really care, emotionally.
Also, although advertised as a 'fantasy' (probably since it's from two authors known for fantasy), it's not. It's straight historical fiction, with no more of a hint of the supernatural than one would find in real life.
I can't say it's not an ambitious work - and well-done. The way in which one has to search through each letter for clues as to what is happening, and to find out exactly what each character knows, and when, can be an entertaining mental exercise. But personally, I prefer more of a feeling of immediacy to novels.
Alternate history -England - well written, researched