125. The Dragons of Hazelett by Michelle Scott
Author: Michelle Scott
Publisher: Mundania Press
Publication Date: April 2009
Price: you've got a couple of options here. An e-book, available straight from the publisher, will set you back $4.99 USD. A print version costs $15.20 CAD, $12.95 USD or £11 GBP
TBR Status: neutral. I added this after 1 Jan 2009
Review copy provided by the author.
Romana of Amberweise is looking forward to a country holiday with her family when a messenger arrives with tragic news: Jasper, her estranged great-uncle, has died. Romana's deep religious beliefs demand that she pray for Jasper's soul, so she heads straight to Hazlett to fulfill her obligation. When it becomes clear that Jasper's death was no accident, Romana joins forces with her great-uncle's closest friend to uncover the truth behind the matter.
I always worry myself to death when I accept review copies from authors, but I'm pleased to report that I enjoyed this quite a bit. Y'all know I love my mysteries, and this one fits the bill. It's a quick, fun read with a fair bit going on beneath the surface.
Scott does a wonderful job of making the worldbuilding an essential part of the mystery. She employs a standard Magicians-over-commoners structure, but the setting itself is atypical. It feels more Victorian than medieval, and there's a clear divide between magic and technology. Magic is the norm; technology is considered occult. Even simple machines like wheels are anathema. While I'm not sure how well this holds up to a closer examination, (how do they clothe themselves if they're opposed to things like looms?), it works very well in the broad terms found here, and it generates some great tension between the characters.
And the worldbuilding is in no way extraneous; the mystery itself depends on the characters' reactions to the new technologies the commoners have begun using. It all comes together very well indeed. Add in characters with their own hurdles to overcome and you've got a fun, compelling read.
On the downside, there were a couple of areas where I felt that the writing could've been smoother, and the ending is a little rushed. Overall, though, I got a big kick out of this. I was always eager to read on, and I'd certainly be up for sequels.
2009 Pub Challenge - another one for the list. Horray!
Bear Mountain Books
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