May 15th, 2018


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Spirit: The Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones

Second paragraph of third chapter:
One afternoon Col Ben Phu and Drez Doyle — two private soldiers from Orange Company who'd befriended her in Cymru along with Sergeant Aswad — arrived. Bibi was glad to see them. The servants who'd been together on campaign had been dispersed. The only familiar face in Juniper was Ogul Merdov, proud possessor of a family name (although she had no actual family living), and she had no time for the ‘savage'. Col and Drez took Bibi off with them, ignoring the protests of Serenity, the Han woman who was warden of the girls' dorm: through squares and gardens, over bridges, past many handsome buildings to a guardhouse in the perimeter wall. Sergeant Aswad looked the other way while they smuggled her up to the walkway.
I have somewhat bounced off Jones' prose before - I really enjoyed the novalla "Bold As Love", but then struggled with the book-length version and the first two Aleutian books. I am glad therefore to report that I got on rather well with Spirit, perhaps because it takes a few leads from The Count of Monte Cristo, familiar ground for me. Having said that, it's not as slavish a copy as, say, Stephen Fry's The Star's Tennis Balls; Bibi (the future Princess of Bois Dormant) starts as the sole survivor of a conflict that wiped out her family, is brought up by her former enemies, and then is used horribly by the neighbouring empire, resulting in her imprisonment, escape, and ultimate triumph. I did feel it ran out of steam in the final third (as does the original Dumas), but I can forgive that because I enjoyed the first two thirds so much; well-portrayed future worlds, and interesting people with interesting things happening to them. You can get it here.

This was the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that list is Anno Mortis, by Rebecca Levene.