Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Box of Frogs (The Fractured Faery #1) by Helen Harper

Madrona woke up on a golf course next to a decapitated body and with absolutely no memory of what just happened, who she is or anything else for that matter

And with three goons apparently trying to kill her, amnesia may be the least of her worries. At least she seems to have super powers to help save the day! And with these powers she can certainly do a lot of good

I mean, she is one of the good guys. Right?

When I read The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series (people say it’s a trilogy, I adamantly refuse to accept that this series is only 3 books long. Refuse refuse refuse. No novellas don’t count) I was joyously surprised as it was one of the funniest, realist, most entertaining book series I’ve read in a long time. I loved it and was determined to read more of this author’s work - especially since I had had another series but this author recommended (not this series… this is what comes of whimsically working from memory)

So I went into this book with immense amounts of glee and joy and so much of it worked.

I loved how Madrona, suffering from amnesia, goes about learning who she is - and what she is. I love her creeping realisation that she’s not actually a nice person, her horror when she thinks something that is… less than charitable and reels back at her own reaction. It also goes really nicely with her generally highly upbeat attitude and positivity and infinite confidence. I also like her snark and sass, her complete lack of shame and her willingness to dive in head first. And while this genre has no end of protagonists who prove they are Strong Female Protagonists but shouting and swearing at the closest authority figure or big guy with a large gun to show their strength. But the difference here is that Madrona is very aware that her mouth is an issue, a character flaw

And there’s also a very real conflict under the fun and snark - as Madrona learns more about her past activities and herself there’s a very real conflict and angst about exactly HOW much of a not-nice-person she was. And this is such a powerful thing - not having any memories of yourself but clearly having done some dubious things - and dubious things without the comfort of the little lies and excuses we tell ourselves. It’s an excellent internal conflict

Adding to the fun is Julie, the soap star with a secret, a lot of gin and, honestly, I’d be super happy with a book about Julie and Madrona tearing up the town and breezing through life all fun and darling and parties and antics. And through that we also have a fascinating plot full of questions and mysteries and some really really really good twists

There’s so much fun here. But there’s a but. And I’m torn over this but because I wonder how much of this but is due to my having ridiculously high expectations after The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic. Still, I’m left with a nagging feeling that this book just goes too far at times - it’s just a little too silly or convoluted in places

One example of a few - I can accept Madrona waking up with Amnesia and finding she has some strange abilities she can’t explain. I can accept her even thinking she’s a super hero. But I cannot get behind this woman who doesn’t know her own name deciding to walk around Manchester in a leotard and mask. There’s also a rather excessive amount of Madrona getting in the way of her own memories, not seeking the advice or knowledge of people who clearly know her and a lot of bluffing and stamping around. And getting in her own way which is just frustrating. It felt like they were there to drag things out a bit, to pushing things just a bit far, to wring out a little more ridiculousness - to take the greatness of this book and just add a liiiitttle too much

Also, I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, personal taste I know but still - everything was coming together and we get this? There’s also an issues with the diversity and inclusion of which there is none, which is quite sad. At least she isn’t a lone woman.

I did enjoy this book immensely - but not as immensely as I hoped to - but still more than enough to make me check out the next in the series