For CJ’s birthday, I bought him “The Laws of Magic: Hour of Need” by Michael Pryor. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s the last book in the series (most writers who get past three books can’t seem to stop).
The series is about Aubrey FitzWilliam, son of the PM in an alternate reality where an evil sorceror aims to start World War 1. Aubrey is very magically gifted, brave, and loyal to his (rather excellent) parents.
First of all, the important questions when a series ends:
1. Did it really end – are all loose ends tied up as well as they should be? Yes.
2. Is it satisfying/does it have the feeling of an end? Yes.
3. Did the writer get sick of their series and rush through when they glimpsed the end of all that work? Maaaayyybe, a little. This should be the strongest (or second-strongest, after book 1), and in my opinion it’s only okay (although the series as a whole is pretty good, so that’s in context).
Backing up slightly, what do I think of the steampunk-ness of the series?
I like it. Steampunk often has a strong bent towards technology, which I tend to find a little dull compared to magic. This series has a unique and effective magic system. It’s rare when a book manages to “show, not tell” that the hero is magically gifted (because first you have to educate the reader on how it works), but these books absolutely do. It’s instantly understandable, and instantly impressive – with no list of “This is what this array of magical devices does”.
The world itself has a sense of honour and courage which I always enjoy. Plus, airships. The plots are exciting and I particularly loved a large plot about the consequences of Aubrey’s inexperience early on in the series – which continues to have an impact in the very end.
How about the characters?
I hate them. Hate them, hate them, hate them. Especially Aubrey. And his best friend (very much a “Watson” type character). Oh, and the love interest.
They’re just sooooooo, soooooooo irritating. Specifically, they’re pompous – Aubrey worst of all. (In addition to being a sexist idiot – which, given the strength of his mum and female friends, can’t be excused by the historical period.) Even the neutral narrator is pompous. The entire “voice” of the series irritates me.
It took me quite a while to get into the books, because they work really hard at being funny. I almost never like that (even Terry Pratchett, who I know intellectually is a genius, feels like an amateur to me – humour has that effect on me when it’s written down). Then I got into them, and found them funny. Then irritating again. Then mildly amusing.
CJ likes the books better than I do, but often stops dead as Aubrey does something especially stupid. He leaves it for several weeks or months, then grits his teeth and jumps back in.
I’ve read the whole series, and no-one made me do it – but I was relieved to finally be finished with it. I doubt I’ll read Michael Pryor again – but you never know.
(Next time I review a book, I’ll pick one I actually like 🙂 ).