I’m part of a Writer’s Review group at Goodreads. Basically, it’s a round-robin. We trade off and read each other’s novels, then write honest reviews for posting on Goodreads and Amazon.
Here’s my latest, on a novel by Chrys Cymri called “Penny White and The Cult of Unicorns.” Interesting read…
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As a reader coming into the second book of a series, there’s always a sense of trepidation. How much is the author going to assume we already know? Will we get a dozen pages of exposition? Will we get nothing and have to figure it all out as we go along? Will we be so lost we give up and go buy the first book in the series? Or will the second book stand up so will on its own that it compliments the first, without needing the predecessor to work?
In Penny White and The Cult of Unicorns, the second novel in Chrys Cymri’s Penny White series we’re literally dumped into an alternate reality with a character, and within ten pages, we understand enough to get us the entire book. That’s an impressive bit of writing. We get a quick lay of the land, and an engaging heroine in something that’s an interesting mash-up – part James Herriot, part P.G. Wodehouse, and part Anne McCaffrey at her most acerbic.
The story is theoretically a murder mystery. I say theoretically because generously at most a quarter of the book deals with that plot line(that’s your P.G. Wodehouse). The rest is the life of a small country vicar who happens to also be a part-time parish priest to another parallel dimension and has some really cool houseguests (hence the Herriot). With Doctor Who references. A lot of Doctor Who references.
And Welsh. Bunches of Welsh, without phonetic spellings or translations most of the time. Usually, it was a single word, maybe an entire line, and this ignorant American would often attempt to discern the meaning from context. But when your character doesn’t understand the language either, having her just let it go by, especially when other characters are spitting put lines back and forth, is a bit tiresome. I wanted to have her say, “Excuse me, what was that?” more than once.
It was an enjoyable read, though I’m left wanting regarding the past of Penny, the lead character. Enough hints are dropped to put together ages and relationships, but since this is a book that takes its time, I had hoped in all her navel-gazing Penny would have at least once reflected on why she wanted to be a minister in the first place. Perhaps that was covered in the first novel in the series, Penny White and The Temptation of Dragons.
It could have used a judicious trim here and there, like a prized bonsai being shaped just so. I mentioned Doctor Who. I like The Doctor, but using something like that is like spice in a recipe. Too much, and you overpower. This really rides the line toward too much. In the future, my recipe for Chrys is less Doctor, more Penny and company.
All of this would only make me drop Penny White and The Cult of Unicorns a half-star. But, since we don’t do half-stars, we round up. Five stars, and keep a copy of Google Translate on standby.