How are you doing? It's been very, very, very quiet on blogland... however, given that most had a long week-end, I am not surprised. My plan this week-end was to laze around and read, read and read... Although I didn't do much, I didn't read as much as I wanted... although at least, I did book shopping :D but that's for another post.... I'm definitively behind in my reviews and although it'd be better to go back in time and review books I've read earlier, I feel like reviewing When Demons Walk by Patrica Briggs, one of the books I read this week-end :)
When Demons Walk by Patricia Briggspublished by Ace Fantasy in June 1998 and re-printed in March 2008(?)
Sham had spent most of her young life as a sorceress and thief, stealing from Southwood's nobility to survive. Now she must face the greatest test of her skills...A killer has struck Southwood, claiming the lives of nobles. Lord Kerim, Reeve of Southwood, turns to Sham for help. Posing as his mistress, she delves behind castles walls to find the killer. But this murderer is no mortal - and Sham must use all of her magical wisdom to send the demon away. Because the city of Southwood has nowhere to hide - and no time to run...
Genre: fantasySeries: Sianim series, book #3 (stands alone)
The Story: Years ago, Shamera lived in the castle, the daughter of the Captain of Guards and apprentice to the King's wizard. However, her life changed drastically when the Cybellians overtook Southwood. Now an orphan, the only dear person to Shamera is her master, Maur, a broken man. In order to survive in the slumps of Southwood, Shamera disguised herself as a boy and became a thief... however, her world is once again rocked when her master is killed by a demon.
Lord Kerim, like any other Cybellians, does not believe in magic. All he knows is that nobles are dying, some attacked in sealed rooms. Recently afflicted, the Reeve cannot investigate this series of murders by himself and therefore asks for Sham's help. Passing her off as his mistress, he hopes she will find clues and will be able to explore the homes of the nobles... However, he is about to learn that magic indeed exists.
My Opinion: I bought this book on my trip to California earlier this year. Although at that time, I still haven't read the Mercy Thompson series, I still bought it because 1) the cover was pretty and 2) I've heard only good things about Ms Briggs. After reading the Mercy Thompson series in June, I was left wanting more... and if I can't have more of Mercy and the werewolves, I can at least get more of Ms Briggs' writing.
I enjoyed this book. I have to admit that I've always liked storylines where heroines cross-dressed as men. Don't ask me why, LOL :) Of course, that's not the only reason why I enjoyed When Demons Walk. First, Shamera was a great heroine. Smart, knowledgeable and witty. Although she lost so much, she didn't dwell too much on the past and wasn't focused on revenge either. She accepted the situation and made the most of it. I really liked her strength of character. It was really a pleasure to see her playing the role of Kerim's mistress... her outrageousness. Having lived in the bad parts of Southwood, she's developed great insight and understanding. Lord Kerim was also an interesting character... the bastard son of a Lady, he became the Reeve with his strength as a soldier and his wits as a tactician. Unfortunately, I don't think that his character was as developed as it could have been. That said, I like Sham and Kerim's chemistry. I felt that both characters raised above what was expected of them... they didn't blame the circumstances, they accept and overcame them and it gave them this 'zen' aura.
As for the intrigue, it was very well constructed. I enjoyed reading about it, how Sham and Talbot, the new Master of Security, found ways to convince the Reeve that demons and magic existed. One thing that was truly enjoyable is that both parties kept were open-minded. You didn't have two pig-headed characters trying to prove their point. True, Kerim didn't believe in magic, but at the same time, when he had tangible proof, he didn't go on and on trying to deny it and finding explanations. As for Sham, she knew when not to push it. I wasn't too lost either in the political fights and that was good.
Unfortunately, there are some elements that dimmed my enjoyment. It says on Ms Briggs' website that this book is a stand-alone set in the same world as Masques, Ms Briggs' first book. While I agree that the plot can stand alone, I found the background information insufficient and had difficulty finding my footing in the beginning... especially concerning the conflict between the Southwoodmen and the Cybellians... and so the world building, to me, was incomplete.
In addition, although I know this was a fantasy book... there is some romance going on. However, all the feelings came from Shamera. She's the one who realized she fell in love with Kerim. She's the one who was jealous and whose heart ached... but then, at the end, out of no where, Kerim said she was the only person he trusted. It's obvious that at the end, Kerim has feelings for Shamera... however, I'd have liked to have witnessed the evolution of his feelings. It's true that throughout the book, Kerim laughed a lot at Shamera's antics and seemed to enjoy her company... but it wasn't enough. I guess I would have liked for Kerim to say the three magic words.
Finally, Ms Briggs did an awesome job building Shamera's character; however, I felt that there should have been more. It's said that Shamera rescued her master from prison... how? What happened to her after the Cybellians overtook the castle? How did she escape? What about her cave with her treasure? Of course, all these loose ends are explained when you go on Ms Briggs' website and read the author's comments. Turns out When Demons Walk was supposed to be the first book in a series... However, what are the chances that readers will get a sequel 10 years later?
My Grade: B. I enjoyed this book a lot... unfortunately, I feel that it is incomplete... and so I can't give it a higher grade.