Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this novel. Unlike the previous one, which seemed slightly easy in comparison, this one had a lot of features that I've grown to hate over the years.
Such as? Action buildups that suddenly cut to long and unasked for history lessons and expositions that sometimes, eventually, bring out an aspect of the story that will, also eventually, fit right into the tale. Unfortunately for me, it kicks me right out of the telling and I've got to reign in all my enormous reserves of patience until the action starts back up again, which, unfortunately, takes a long ass time. And these were rather dull.
I won't say they were pointless, because we eventually get the wraparound and the bow on top, BUT at the time, I'm left wondering where the main characters are and what any of this has to do with the main story we've begun with. Which, by that point, I'd pretty much forgotten, anyway.
Sounds pretty damning, doesn't it?
Well wait a moment. I'd have perfectly loved the hell out of this book if all that extraneous stuff had been omitted or condensed into footnotes or incorporated in MUCH smaller or at least story-integrated ways, and not as hijackers on the plane of my enjoyment.
So honestly, whenever we got back to Myfanwy, Felicity, or Odette, I was fully enjoying the tale again. Hell, it was a very good tale, and not to give away story twists, it's very satisfying on the emotional, strategical, and diplomatic angles.
I really enjoyed learning all about the big bads of the previous book and enjoyed even more to sympathize and empathize with the Grafters. What first appeared to be a simple and weird exploration of biological scariness became a much more complicated and positive, if fantastic, set of expertise. I fully bought it by the end of the novel, which is great.
If it wasn't for the aspects of the writing that kept knocking me right out of my imagination, for all the times I discovered that I wished that I was doing just about anything else but reading, (which is freaking odd, for me,) or for the plain fact that the pacing was constantly in mortal jeopardy, I really would have given this book a five star rating. There's a ton to love, but the exposition WAS NOT IT.
(Even if what I'm calling exposition actually had a self-contained story or stories within it, that actually wrapped up like out-of-time tales, I'll be honest... they just didn't belong here. Maybe somewhere else as side short-stories for die-hard fans, or extras at the end of the novel. I know this is just my opinion, but cutting them right out of the main story would have made the book superior, if not quite as deep. We're not dealing with victorian classics, here. This has all the trappings of a modern UF save the crown secret organization of superheroes joining forces with masters of extreme and esoteric biology sciences, NOT an in-depth exploration of the histories of rather minor character parts that happen to have important but not large page-time.)
But again, I think the story was damn awesome if we got away from all that. :)
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