I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
When 19th-century English widow Lady Diana inherits the keep of supernatural portals from her late husband, she finds her hands full with an impending war caused by demonic entities crossing over from the Netherworld. It's up to Diana, accompanied by a Chinese sailor, her feline guardian, and a mysterious scholar, to solve the mystery of her husband's death and prevent a supernatural war with apocalyptic consequences.
I was so excited to receive this book from LibraryThing. The premise is fascinating and I knew that it would be filled with originality and adventure. I was right, and I truly enjoyed reading it. You might remember from my status updates that I especially enjoyed the beginning. The characters were clever, brave, and easy to like - I was more than happy to cheer Diana and Co. on as they proceeded on their mission.
However, this book did have its flaws. If you look up reviews of this book, you'll find complaints about the characters being "entertainingly stupid," historical inaccuracies, and a slow-moving plot, along with accusations of racism, sexism, and generally offensive content. It's my opinion that these accusations are a bit harsh. I didn't really find any of the characters to be stupid, nor did I come across any historical inaccuracies, though I will admit that when Diana et al. were in Asia, there may have been some - my knowledge of Asian history is embarrassingly limited. As far as racism/sexism, the book takes place in Victorian era England, and it's hardly a secret that society in general was much more racist/sexist/generally offensive than we are today - and Diana herself is very much opposed to the offensive nature of her culture.
My biggest complaint is not that the plot was slow-moving, but that it moved far too fast. This book should have been split up into several different installments. I think the best way to have done so would have been to focus one on each of the geographic areas that Diana visits - one for Transylvania, one for India, one for Canton, one for America, and one for Cornwall/Ireland. Trying to cram everything that happened into one book was just insane. The result was that Morton skimmed over many, many details that would have made the book much better, and rather than telling the story, it seemed as though she simply recited things that happened. For example, at one point, Diana contracts an infection. While this could have been a very dramatic part of the book, we’re limited to what is essentially “Diana got an infection from [spoiler - won't explain]. She had a high fever and was incapacitated for several weeks. She made such and such decisions during her illness. After recovering, she set out to accomplish these plans.” Though these sentences are expanded into a few paragraphs, we don’t get any further details. I think the reason for this is that Lisa Morton is an accomplished screenwriter. When screenwriting, it's okay to skim over such details, because it's necessary to fit a story into around 2 hours of screen time. But in books, details such as these are what make or break a story. Some of the details that were there simply distract from the story, such as the use of Chinese phrases without translation. At one point, the timeline of the story is even off - the date Diana returns to Cornwall is October 29th and she says that gives her 6 days to get to Ireland but the attack from the Netherworld is supposed to happen on October 31… this mistake should have been caught by editor. Finally, the ending was much too abrupt for my taste.
This book had great potential that I wish had been fulfilled. Although it's a very interesting story, too much of it is skimmed over by the author. I believe that this is supposed to be a series, and I hope that in later books, Lisa Morton devotes much more attention to expanding detail, so readers can enjoy a more satisfying story. This is a series that I intend to continue reading, because, again, it's original and has many likeable characters, but I do hope that future books will tell the whole story, not just part of it.
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book from LibraryThing, but in no way did this influence my review.