Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jane Austen Fan Fiction

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Reviewed by Diane K.M.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This novel is ridiculous. The writing could be cliched and cringe-worthy, and I came close to abandoning the book several times. If the story had not involved Jane Austen I would not have finished it. 

Despite these irritations, there were a few things I liked about "First Impressions." It opens in 1796 in Hampshire, with Jane Austen meeting Richard Mansfield, an elderly clergyman. Eventually the two become good friends, sharing ideas about books and literature. We see the fictional version of Jane becoming more confident as a writer, and sharing early drafts of her novels with Mr. Mansfield. Lovett invents numerous letters, taken from the text of Austen's real novels, and even though I thought it was twee, some fans might get a kick out of this. 

Meanwhile, the story also follows Sophie Collingwood, who is a modern-day bibliophile in London. The novel alternates chapters between Jane's life and Sophie's, and Sophie gets caught up in a mystery about something Mansfield wrote back in 1796. Sophie goes on a hunt to prove that Jane Austen wasn't a plagiarist, and this melodramatic mystery quickly became absurd. 

What I did like were the bookish aspects of the novel. Sophie was close with an uncle who is also a bibliophile, and the two had long conversations about their love of literature. Sophie also starts dating a guy who collects 18th and 19th century books, and another guy who shares her passion for Jane Austen's works. 

What I did not like was the trite writing and two-dimensional characters. I almost hurt myself doing exaggerated eye rolls while reading. Here are a few examples:

* Sophie describes one of her fellas as a "drop-dead gorgeous, charming, intelligent man." BLECH. 

* During the ridiculous hunt for clues, Sophie comes to a locked door, kicks it open and says something like, "Good thing I took those kickboxing lessons." OH MY GOD. DID YOU SERIOUSLY WRITE THAT? 

* During the final showdown with the villain, there is a pause in the action so the bad guy can explain his evil plan. Lovett wrote that he was "leaning against the fireplace, seeming to enjoy prolonging his moment of triumph." DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN, PEOPLE? THIS NOVEL IS SO CORNY IT'S ANNOYING.

The book is filled with references to Austen's writing, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it to my fellow Janeites. I was disappointed because I had been excited to read this book involving Jane Austen as a character. However, I think this will be one of those silly stories that I shall forget as soon as I return it to the library.

The Autumn Republic

The Autumn Republic (The Powder Mage, #3)The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adro is in foreign hands. Taniel Two-Shot is missing and presumed dead. The war with the Kez continues.

The conclusion of the Powder Mage trilogy has been a long time coming. Not in a geological, George R.R. Martin sort of way but I've been anticipating it since closing The Crimson Campaign. Was it worth it?

Pit, yes! All the seeds Brian McClellan planted in the previous two volumes bore bloody fruit! Who would have thought what an important character Nila the washer-woman would have become in the first book? Or the depths of the machinations of many of the characters?

As with the previous book, the meat of the book is with Tamas and Taniel, both of whom have traveled a long, carnage-strewn road since the first book. And let's not forget Inspector Adamat. I'd love a series of young Inspector Adamat novels.

I'm actually at a loss for words on how to review this without too much spoilage. The ending was everything I hoped it would be, complete with a single solitary man-tear running down my cheek near the end. All the loose ends were tied up or burned off and things ended pretty much how I thought they would. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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