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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: The Devil's Looking Glass (Swords of Albion 3) by Mark Chadbourn - July 13, 2013

The Devil's Looking Glass
Author:  Mark Chadbourn
Series:  Swords of Albion 3
Publisher:  Pyr,  February 5, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 440 pages
Price:  $17.95  (print)
ISBN:  978-1-61614-700-6 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Devil's Looking Glass (Swords of Albion 3) by Mark Chadbourn - July 13, 2013
James Bond adventure in the court of Queen Elizabeth!

1593: The dreaded alchemist, magician, and spy Dr. John Dee is missing. . . .
Terror sweeps through the court of Queen Elizabeth, for in Dee's possession is an obsidian mirror, an object of great power which, legend says, could set the world afire. And so the call goes out to celebrated swordsman, adventurer and rake Will Swyfte—find Dee and his looking glass and return them to London before disaster strikes. But when Will discovers the mirror might solve the mystery that has haunted him for years—the fate of his lost love, Jenny—the stakes become acutely personal.

With London under siege by supernatural powers, time is running out. Will is left with no choice but to pursue the alchemist to the devil-haunted lands of the New World—in the very shadow of the terrifying fortress home of the Unseelie Court. Surrounded by an army of unearthly fiends, with only his sword and a few brave friends at his back, the realm's greatest spy must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice—or see all he loves destroyed.

Melanie's Thoughts:

The Devil's Looking Glass is set in the late 1500's with Queen Elizabeth I on the throne.  The court is in an uproar as Dr. John Dee, the country's magician and protector, has been captured by the Irish and spirited away to the New World. This has left England vulnerable as Dee built the wards that protect the country from the Unseelie Court.  The dark Fae had been kept at bay for decades after they had blighted the country stealing babies and luring people to their deaths.  Fear is high that they will break through Dee's barriers to seek revenge after the English had captured their Queen years before.  The Fae Queen has been locked in the Tower of London for decades and as the barriers between the worlds weaken the Fae will do anything to get her back.

Sent to find Dee and save the day is Will Swyfte, a master spy in the Queen's court. Swyfte ends up in the possession of a Fae mirror while trying to rescue Dee from the Irish. Through the mirror he discovers the fate of the love of his life, Jenny.  Will is convinced that the Unseelie Court were to blame for Jenny's disappearance and that the mirror will prove it. Bent on revenge Swyfte is on a mission to not just to find Dee and save England but more importantly learn the truth about Jenny's disappearance.

I started this book and then left it for several weeks while I read other things. I think this says 2 things about the story 1) it wasn't engaging enough that I couldn't stop reading it and 2) that it is so well written that I could easy pick it back up and quickly get back into it.  I quite like historical fantasy and while it isn't my favorite genre I enjoy seeing how an author can take real historical figures or events and add a fantasy layer on top.  Chadbourn excelled at this as the Unseelie Court made a great alternative to the French or Spanish who were England's biggest enemies during this period.  I was however, not immediately engaged and felt that the story was lacking. The book's summary describes Swytfte as being a bit of a rogue, but in the story he seems to spend most of his time mooning over his young love Jenny. Member's of Elizabeth's court often refer to Swyfte as being a rake but nothing in the book actually backs this up.  It is in fact rather incongruous with his actions and how he interacts with other main characters such as Grace, Jenny's younger sister.  Swyfte is much more of a do-gooder and loyal subject than you would expect from someone who was a rake.

Chadbourn had a unique style of describing the landscape and environment as much of this was done through dialogue between the characters.  Usually an author will describe the environment through the eyes of the main character(s). I have read other historical fiction where the environment was described so well that you could almost see what the characters were seeing and smell what they were smelling (usually something gross like horse manure or days old sweat!).  This was not the case, however, with The Devil's Looking Glass. While I like the writing style I was not drawn into the environment in which Swyfte lived. Therefore, I couldn't really immerse myself in Swyfte's life and the plot. This was a sumptuous and tumultuous period of English history and I believe that Chadbourn could have played on that a bit more.

Overall, The Devil's Looking Glass is solid historical fantasy although I wasn't completely sold on the protagonist, Swyfte. For fans of this genre I urge you to give it a go as there are lots of historical figures and some fiendishly, evil fantasy antagonists.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013

Hello everyone! I had a slightly more productive week this week than last.  I actually beat my all time reading low from last week.  Hurrah!

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013
I finished The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm. The lovely Qwill will be reviewing this one on The Qwillery so I don't want to give too much away. I will say this  - I didn't think it was possible for The Collector series to get better but Mr. Holm has outdone himself with The Big Reap. I am just glad that I don't have to rate this one...there aren't enough qwills, stars or 10's to describe it. This is a must read series so get to it if you haven't already.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013I found an excerpt in one of the books I had for Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper and thought it didn't sound half bad so I ordered it. It wasn't until I was writing this review that it dawned on me that the author had been interviewed on The Qwillery back in April. In case you didn't have a chance to read that interview the book was about a woman who had been captured with her young son, tortured, raped and all sorts of nasty things for being a 'dragon kin'. I wasn't really sure what a dragon kin was when I started the book and still wasn't even by the end.  From what I could gather they were a race where each dragon kin family had a super power, kind of like the X-Men. The heroine, Nan (also named Audrey...confused?) was freed from the labs where she had been experimented on and left to fight for her freedom in cage fights....which sounded a bit like gladiator fights. Her trainer, Leto had spent his whole life, underground, enduring similar abuses for his family. What I didn't realise until partway through the book (because I wasn't paying attention when I ordered it) was that it was really PNR and large part of the novel was about Nan and Leto's growing sexual attraction. I have a slight problem with the fact that Nan was so horrifically treated by almost every male, including Leto but was still lusting over his perfectly formed abs. There was also quite a bit of missing background about the dragon kin and their mythology. I felt like I had skipped a few books of the series but this was the first one, unless more background is covered in the prequel.  I am usually very particular about what PNR I will read and couldn't really rationalise Nan's treatment to her behaviour towards Leto later on in the novel. Stockholm syndrome perhaps but overall  I am not sure this series is my cup of tea.

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013Just today I started The Devils Looking Glass by Mark Chadbourn. I started this book about a month ago and for some reason put it down. I thought I better finish reading it as I am due to review it.  Better get it finished.

All sorts of excitement next week 1) I start my new job.....TENSE!!!  2) Its Paranormal Cozy Mystery Month (ParaCozyMysMo) here at The Qwillery.  I have to admit I had no idea what a cozy was until I came across ParaCozyMysMo and as it turns out I have read quite a few of them over the years.  I am looking forward to all the great things coming up during ParaCozyMysMo. 3) Its Canada Day on Monday. Yeah! .....or should I say 'eh'.  Until next week Happy Reading. 

Review: The Devil's Looking Glass (Swords of Albion 3) by Mark Chadbourn - July 13, 2013Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013

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