Protector of the Small is the Tortall quartet I've reread the least - hell, I think this was only my second reading of Lady Knight, though I know I read the first two books at least three times each before Squire came out. As such, it was the one I remembered the least, and Kel was the one of Pierce's heroines I was least attached to. And on the reread, I'm struck with how much I underrated her. As Mina remarked to me recently, "I love Alanna and Daine and all, but they're cray." And Kel? Kel is refreshingly goddamn sensible.
Oh, sure, she's an idealist, and she's stubborn as hell, and tends to pick fights she can't win on matters of principle. But she's smart enough to know when she's going to get her ass handed to her, decides her principles are worth it, and takes a beating without complaint. And then she works really freaking hard at winning next time. And we see her working hard - doing extra weapons practice and strength training, deliberately confronting her fears to make them more manageable, geeking out over tactics and military history and math - so all her successes feel earned. She starts the series as a ten-year-old who knows some martial arts and ends it as a certified BAMF and it's hard not to be proud of her. I also like how the romance angle is handled - she gets crushes on dudes and gets over them and it's not very neat and she's a bit confused and awkward about it, there's no love triangle, and she explicitly prioritizes her duties as a knight over romance. There's no love triangle and no endgame pairing and that should not be as refreshing as it is but hey. (Also her type seems to be Snarky Guys Who are Secretly Really Nice and Have a Lot of Feelings. All the targets of her affection are pretty great. You got good taste, girl.)
I guess I'm not talking about the plot much because early on it's "KEL FIGHTS FOR HER FRIENDS" and then later it becomes "KEL FIGHTS FOR DISEMPOWERED PEOPLE SHE HASN'T MET (AND ALSO HER FRIENDS)." I guess, even more generally, one could say it's KEL VS. SEXISM AND CLASSISM the whole way through. It's all black-and-white and none too subtle, but I'm not really bothered because Kel's awesome and -isms do in fact suck. The end.
Wildwood, Colin Meloy
I quite liked this book right after I finished it, and in the time since then I have been increasingly shading toward "ehhhh" and "awfully twee, wasn't it" and a disinclination to read any following volumes. It's a children's book written by the guy from the Decemberists, right, so I went in expecting some impressively dark shit wrapped in a quaint and charming package. That is more or less what I got, but... the wrapping was thicker than it needed to be. It takes a long freaking time to get anywhere, and there are all these characters who show up and are important to a chapter or two and then vanish entirely. It could've used more focus and less bouncing around showing the entire wilderness - there's gonna be more books, right? So the relationships between the kingdoms could have been revealed more gradually. Come on. I want more stuff with the crazy magic at a horrible price and fewer foxes in overalls.
Perhaps this is because I'm not a child. Who knows.
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle, Catherine Webb
CHARMING AS ANYTHING. Murder and mystery and magnetism. Dorky Victorian scientists. Badass Chinese dudes. TERESA HATCH, THE COOLEST CHILD PICKPOCKET I HAVE EVER READ. (seriously Tess is wonderful)
I don't know - if I may be frank, I was under a great deal of stress for the latter half of March and have only hazy impressions of what I did during this time. Including reading the ending of this book. Had I been in my right mind, I know I would have appreciated it a lot. I intend to read the other Horatio Lyle books. Sorry, that's all I got.
Dance of Death, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
To recap: this is the sixth Pendergast book; I found books 1-3 nearly impossible to put down and was pretty disappointed with 4 and 5.
AND THIS BOOK HAS MORE OR LESS RESTORED MY FAITH IN THE SERIES. It's pretty badass. All the characters I liked from the first three books are back, the Museum of Natural History is relevant again, Pendergast is an inscrutable weirdo, the pacing is way better, and there's some splendid use of misdirection and excellent plot twists. It achieves similar levels of tension to the early books while using a completely different threat. I'm kind of annoyed at the romancey bits (other than with Smithback and Nora, they're a cool couple), but it seems to me like Preston and Child returned to playing to their strengths with this one, cause it was a fun ride and I liked it. The end.