What: featuring Mother of Souls again? But of course, because it's my birthday. And if you can't jump the queue and take a second turn on your birthday, when can you?
(I had a lovely essay written here and then did one of those accidental "swipe sideways" things on my trackpad that disappeared it. So let's do something different.)
One review noted of Mother of Souls that it's the book where I say, "So, we're all established and comfy, yes? Good, because now I'm going to start breaking things." That's not entirely wrong. The Alpennia series starts off, as yet a different reviewer notes, as "a tropetastic Heyeresque romance" with innocent young love and a fairly simple (hah!) mysterious-parentage and defying-social-expectations plot. Pretty much everything my characters thought they knew about the world in that book will eventually be exploded. And Mother of Souls starts challenging not only the characters, but the reader expectations of what sort of series I'm writing.
For one thing, it isn't a romance--not in the genre sensenot even as marginally as the first two books were. I think that shakes up a number of readers, even more than the amount of non-romantic plot in the previous books did. Not that the characters may not eventually find a lasting love, but life isn't that simple. And sometimes you have lessons to learn along the way first.
Reading Daughter of Mystery, some readers--along with Margerit Sovitre--got the impression that magic in the world of Alpennia was purely a matter of "Christian miracles are real". But Margerit's confidence in her understanding of mystic forces is rapidly being eroded. The world isn't that simple. And what happens to Margerit's faith in God and in the intercession of the saints when she accepts that magic can exist outside of them?
Barbara has built her whole self-image on being supremely competent in her sphere of activity: her skill with a blade, her ability to untangle the social and political currents in Rotenek's ballrooms and council halls, and her ability to direct and protect the lives of those she cares for and watches over for their own benefit and good. Even it, as Jeanne so succinctly puts it, she comes across as a bit of a bully. Just because Barbara thinks she is responsible for someone's life doesn't mean that person accepts her authority, and it's no suprise that Antuniet Chazillen sees no reason why she must answer for her plans to Baroness Saveze. Antuniet, as usual, is tripped up by her single-minded obliviousness. But Barbara is the one who pays the greatest price for her pride and self-confidence. That price will challenge everything she loves and holds dear.
And Serafina--poor Serafina! She's been given so many wonderful things in life: a happy and loving family, an acceptance and delight in her mystic visions, marriage to a scholar who values her abilities...only to have them erode away until all that's left is the need to master her confusing skills and maybe, just maybe, someday find a place where she feels she belongs, the way she did in her childhood home. But what if she will never find those things? What if she needs to look for new goals? Ones she hadn't previously thought to want?
Luzie enjoyed the acclaim of being a prodigy in a musical family in her youth, but she equally delighted in finding happiness as an ordinary middle-class wife and mother settled in Rotenek. And now that widowhood has become a habit, she is glad her musical talents can support her sons in the path her late husband planned for them. But she knows she can do more than compose little exercises and occasional pieces for her students, even if her friend the great composer Fizeir thinks that's what her talents are suited to. Daring to tackle a project as daunting as an opera would have been impossible if not for the encouragement and unexpected collaboration from one of her boarding-house tenants: a foreign thaumaturgy student named Serafina Talarico. Neither of them expect that Luzie's opera will be the key to the greatest magical ritual Alpennia has known for centuries.
Yes, I start breaking things. But not my characters. They will bend; they will rage; they will fight. And--as Jeanne so poetically puts it--they will come through the fire and they will be transformed. The fiercest fires are yet to come.
Mother of Souls is a story of dreams and ambitions, of finding new alliances and risking fatal fractures, of the conflict between personal triumphs and daring everything for a greater good. You should read it. It's a great book.
The Great November Book Release Reboot is a series I'm posting throughout the month of May to shine a light on books that were releasted in November 2016, and which therefore may not have gotten the attention and promtion they deserved due to the US electio results.