Friday, August 19, 2011

Alison DeLuca, The Night Watchman Express; Mercedes Lackey, Arrows of the Queen

My sincere thanks to Johanna Garth for awarding me the Blog on Fire award! You can read her entertaining columns here, at Losing Sanity

(BTW, Johanna is also the author of the book Losing Beauty, an updated version of the Persephone myth, and I must say that is an amazing urban fantasy in and of itself. I will definitely be featuring that book at a later date! )


Alison DeLuca hits the ground running in the opening chapters of 'The Night Watchman Express', and the story never stops moving until the last page. Miriam, an unhappy young girl is orphaned when her wealthy industrialist father dies. With no other family, her father’s business partners, the Marchpanes, become her guardians. The Marchpanes immediately move into Miriam’s house, and take over her father’s rooms. (Mrs. Marchpane is deliciously evil.) They make their attempt to gain full control of Miriam's money and her father's company.

Gradually, Miriam begins to find common ground with the Marchpane’s son and their other young ‘guest’ when a nanny who is both wise and skilled in certain magics is hired. Mana is a woman who is of a race of people, who are considered to be second-class citizens, and contrary to the Marchpane’s hopes, she turns out to be exactly what both Miriam and the two boys needed.

There is a reluctant camaraderie that develops between Miriam and the the two boys. The three of them do a certain amount of exploring the grounds of the estate, and discover a strange machine that her father has constructed. Another interesting thread is also Miriam's strange emotional attachment to her father's typewriter-like machine, which she has claimed for her own since his death, and keeps hidden in her room.

The Marchpanes are not pleased by Mana’s good influence on Miriam, and they fear her. They fire Mana and get rid of Miriam.

Nightly Miriam has heard the mournful Night Watchman Express, a mysterious train that passes close to her home, on its way to a sinister place called Devil's Kitchen where children are enslaved, and become subjects of evil experiments. Though she has never known where it actually went, the sound of it has terrified her.

At last, in an effort to be rid of her and gain full control of her fortune the Marchpane’s have her kidnapped and placed on The Night Watchman Express.

In the course of her adventures, Miriam becomes a strong young woman, and her resourcefulness and courage make for a great adventure. Mana is much more than she appears to be on the surface, and the two boys have parts to play in the story. All of the characters are clearly drawn, and the threads of the story are woven seamlessly through each of the protagonist’s stories to make a wonderful fantasy adventure.

The story is told almost as if it were a fairy tale, but it has a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next. This story captured my interest from page one, and kept me reading all the way through it to the end. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am looking forward to reading more of DeLuca’s work.


Arrows of TheQueen’ By Mercedes Lackey  begins with the Companion Rolan choosing a new rider, Talia. Rolan is a special being that is visually like a horse, but is more like an angel in that they are messengers of the Goddess.    Together, they journey to Haven, capital of Valdemar. She lives with a clan of Holderkin, a socially and religiously strict group which believes in female submission and polygynous marriage. On her 13th birthday, she boldly rejects an offer of marriage, declaring her desire to be a Herald and she is punished severely. Because she does not really know anything about the Heralds, or how they are even chosen, Rolan places a temporary block on her memory until he can get her to people who can explain everything.

When she arrives in Haven, Talia is informed that because she has been chosen by Rolan, she is to be Queen’s Own, a special Herald who advises the Queen.  Since she is so young, and still must be trained, she is given the task of caring for the Heir, Elspeth.  Elspeth is a spoiled brat, and has been manipulated by an evil nursemaid.  Talia is also an Empath, and her training in that area of talent is very important. 

There are many twists and turns to this tale, and as Talia grows, the story matures too.  Talia’s story, and the world of Valdemar is compelling and drawn in such a way that one is captivated and I, for one, could not put the book down once I picked it up.  As I frequently say, I only review books that I love, and this book hooked me to the point that I have purchased every single Mercedes Lackey book ever written, and I have enjoyed every one of them!  ‘Arrows of the Queen’ is the first book in a trilogy. None of them are excessively long, and I highly recommend this series of books!


jennymilch said...

I love seeing NIGHT WATCHMAN EXPRESS in any round up! It is climbing lists, on charts, and deservedly so!!

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

The NIght Watchman Express is a great book. I'm reading and will buy a hard copy for my neice. I specially like the idea of "Quantum Computer" in the book. It is a very smart book.