(all cover images from Amazon.com)
I'm still reading quite a bit, but it's just light-weight entertainment. And these are all sequels in series fiction, most of which I've written about before, so I don't have too much to say about any of them. (I can hear the sighs of relief already.)
Taken (2012) by Benedict Jacka, for example, is the third in his Alex Verus series of urban fantasy. Like the first two, this one is lots of fun, but it's not much different. (If you're not familiar with the series, please read my comments about the earlier books.)
The characters are still appealing - not just Verus, but Luna and Sonder (and Arachne), too. And the Dark mage/Light mage split still reminds me of America's political parties, where the Democrats tend to be almost as infuriating as the Republicans, though for different reasons.
In my comments about Cursed, I wondered if it wasn't too much like the first book in the series. Well, this one does move the series forward, a bit, as we see Luna learning about magic as an apprentice. I really liked that.
Also, this book introduces two more young mages who might become regulars in the series, too. I would be very glad of that, if so. The thing is, we already know what Alex Verus can do, and to see him do it over and over again is likely to get old (though it hasn't yet).
True, he often uses unique one-shot magical items, so those can surprise us. But I think it's his allies who'll keep the series fresh. Of course, I like that kind of thing anyway. I always have. I enjoy heroes who work with other people. Superheroes don't interest me.
Persona Non Grata (2009) by Ruth Downie is the third in her historical mystery series staring the Roman doctor, Gaius Petreius Ruso, and his British lover, Tilla, both struggling to get by, and to understand each other, in the Europe of 2000 years ago.
This time, Ruso is called back to his dysfunctional family in Gaul, and Tilla hates everything about it. Yeah, it's a pretty nasty place, where violence is a spectator sport and politics,... well, you might hate politics now, but I'm very thankful we live in the 21st Century!
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of humor in this book. If you're familiar with the series, you'll know what to expect. If not, read my comments on the first two books. (Note that I recommend you read all of these series in order of publication.) But it's kind of depressing, too.
You see, I don't normally read historical fiction, because I know enough of history to be aware of the terrible things which lie in the future for people back then. (On the other hand, I love alternate history because the future of those worlds hasn't happened yet, thus there's always the chance things will be better.)
In this case, it's historical fiction, so we know there's a thousand years of the Dark Ages ahead, and centuries more before humanity really starts to progress. And things are pretty bad for most people already!
OK, this is a mystery, but it's a mystery in a historical setting, so it's not the kind of thing I normally read. The fact that I enjoy this series is pretty remarkable then, don't you think? But the characters are great. And I can't help but wonder what will happen to them next. (Their relationship has been evolving, slowly, from book to book.)
Finally, I wanted to mention another mystery I read weeks ago, but just never got around to reviewing. Midnight Fugue (2009) by Reginald Hill is the last in his long-running Dalziel and Pascoe series (unfortunately, Hill died early last year).
I've read - and loved - the entire series, but I haven't blogged about it previously, since this is the first one I've read since I started blogging a little more than three years ago. I actually watched a BBC television production of the first book, A Clubbable Woman, first, years ago. But it so caught my attention that I had to track down the book. And then the rest of the series.
Andy Dalziel is a crude, fat, heavy-drinking Yorkshireman who's from an earlier era of policing. Peter Pascoe, his assistant, is well-educated and well-mannered, a modern detective and a completely different kind of person. And as the series continued, a whole bunch of other characters - recurring characters - were introduced, most notably Sergeant Edgar Wield.
The funny thing is, I doubt I'd like any of them if I met them in real life. Dalziel, in particular, would seem like the worst kind of person to put in any kind of authority. But I'm not sure I'd like Pascoe much better. And his (eventual) wife, Ellie,... well, I could never understand the attraction there.
But all of these people have good qualities about them. Sometimes (with Dalziel, for example) it's pretty well hidden. But they all become very sympathetic. In fact, I'd have to say they're some of the best characters in fiction, not just mystery fiction. I really cared what happened to all of them.
As the series continued, new characters helped keep the whole thing fresh. In fact, I was rather disappointed at later books in the series which didn't involve the minor characters much, which were too much Dalziel or Pascoe. And there have been other flaws, too, occasionally. But that's just nitpicking, because this is easily my favorite mystery series (and I've enjoyed other books by Reginald Hill, as well).
You very definitely need to read this series in order, so it's kind of ironic that my first post is about the very last book, isn't it? Well, all I'm going to say is that this is a fitting end to the series.
Dalziel has been out of action for awhile - in a coma for one book, then on convalescent leave - and Pascoe has taken over for him. Now, Dalziel wonders if he can take charge again, or if he's just going to be a fat old man, struggling to maintain his authority. And Pascoe has been running things for awhile, so he's not exactly eager to become a subordinate again, either. (Pascoe is not the same guy he was at the start of this series. That's neat, too.)
Time passes, and nothing lasts forever. That's an appropriate thought for the last book in a series, isn't it? I've loved this series, but it was always going to end sometime. As are we.
As far as the mystery here goes, I enjoyed it. I don't particularly like these kinds of endings (I won't say any more about it than that), but that's just personal preference. I don't read these books for the mystery, anyway. I read them for the characters.
But it was the underlying theme here which really made the book special. This really was a fitting end to the series. We even got to see some of the minor characters from the series, and that was particularly nice, for the last one.
I'm sorry it's over, but... that's life. (And I'll be equally sorry - and equally resigned - when my life is over, I'm sure.)