My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Riverside is back! Yay!!!
1. I honestly didn’t realize this “serial novel” was a Riverside book when I picked it up, so was quite delighted to find that it is. I still have my doubts about the story being ‘shared’ by a number of different writers, but I’ll see how that goes when I move along to the sequels. This first installment, however, is by Ellen Kushner herself, and even though it’s really just an introduction, it’s got the magic!
Here we meet the Duchess of Tremontaine, a savvy but less-than-compassionate woman seeking to restore the family fortunes (and, it seems, not succeeding).
Ixkaab Balam is a young woman from a Mayan-influenced culture, sent away by her chocolate-trading merchant family for unspecified transgressions. She has a secret ambition to become a renowned swordswoman, and is full of fantastic notions of honor and chivalry, ready to run off to Riverside and get into trouble at the drop of a brightly-colored scarf.
Finally, Micah is a farmer girl who’s a socially awkward math genius. On an errand, she gets lost and falls in with a number of students who immediately appreciate her remarkable skill at card games.
How will these three stories connect? On to the sequels to find out!
If you are a fan of ‘Swordspoint,’ ‘The Privilege of the Sword’ and ‘The Fall of the Kings,’ do not miss this one!
2. The first scene, with Ixkaab and her family, felt a little bit too YA for me… but as this second installment progressed, it felt more stylistically in keeping with the first episode of the serial novel.
SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST EPISODE!
As one expects from a serial, it ends on a cliffhanger/teaser… On to the next episode!
I’ve only read one of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s novels, but liked it very much – and she did a great job with this segment. I’ll have to keep an eye out for more of her books.
3. The third episode in this serial novel.
Looks like they recruited a gay male author to do the (first?) gay male sex scene! It was pretty hot, actually, if somewhat vague (keeping it R-rated?)
Going down to three stars, though, because, as I was afraid would happen in this kind of multi-author venture, there is some inconsistency. (view spoiler)
However, quibbles aside, I still enjoyed it! On to the next!
4. I’m very much enjoying this serial. I’ve heard good things about Malinda Lo’s writing, but this episode is very much in keeping with the overarching style of this story, so I’m not sure how much insight it gives into her personal oeuvre.
5. This episode had a multi-flashback format that was inconsistent with the style of the previous episodes, and didn’t really feel necessary. The content was good, though! The plots thicken…
6. This episode was brought to me (and you?) by a couple of authors I’m not familiar with – but I thought it was one of the best so far.
7. Mixed feelings about this episode… I’m never a big fan of dream sequences, and I also thought that the “recap and summary from an omniscient perspective” was unnecessary and too large a chunk of the chapter.
However, the ball of the title is an epic (and humorous) scene, which makes it all worthwhile.
8. In this episode, more plots and underhanded dealings are revealed, with a side of romance. (view spoiler)
9. Somehow, this feels like one of the more low-key episodes in this serial, even though two key events happen here: (view spoiler)
It went quickly, therefore moving quickly along to the next…
10. High drama in this episode! One of the best ones yet!
The segment starts with foreshadowing, telling us about a legendary poison which makes the victim behave in an irrational and paranoid manner… we can guess that someone will be using this herb, but who will it be?
In additional to the politicking and plotting, we get an action-packed showdown in the form of a sword duel, and a hefty dose of romance.
11. I said the last episode was “one of the best ones yet” – but this one is absolutely the best one yet!
Finally, the Duchess’ deep, dark secret is revealed – and the plots thicken as the stakes in the games increase.
12. While the great secret of the Duchess of Tremontaine was revealed in the last episode, this segment features big chunks of flashback, where we learn all the bloody details of what exactly happened, seventeen years ago.
And in the ‘present,’ an attempt at blackmail, involving that very secret. But is the blackmailer really ready to go up against the master of spider-craft?
13. That’s it! The end of the ‘season.’
Overall, I really liked this. It ends with plenty of open opportunities to continue the story, but enough resolution to feel satisfying.
I think my biggest quibble with the story over all is (view spoiler)
Anyway, I definitely plan on continuing the story and finding out what’s in store for the troubled house of Tremontaine…
Many thanks to Serial Box and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. And thank you to Ellen Kushner for creating the world of Riverside.
As always, my opinions are solely my own.