Who would you recommend this book to? This is a question, as readers' advisors, that we are to think about whenever we read anything. But most often my way of telling if a book is really going to stick with me (most YA fiction excluded) is if I want my mom to read it so I can discuss it with her. My mom has always been a huge influence on my reading. All the series I've ever been swept away on have been because she was reading them. Especially mysteries. My mom loves a good whodunit. And so do I.
So this blog now has a whole new standard for reviews defined this way: Books I would recommend to My Mom. She's going to love this standard. What it means is that when I find something I consider to be Mom-worthy (well-paced, well-written, re-readable or a series with a lot of appeal, basically an overall winner with little room for useless nonsense)I will mark the entries with the tag "My Mom." Don't expect this for every book, or even most of them. But today I have one for you. Mom, take this one to heart.
Yesterday I finished Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death.
You might recognize this as the book in my online profile pictures. I've been reading snippets forever, but since I own it, all the other genre studies and need to reads kept taking precedence. Until I reached that hook moment where I couldn't put it down.
This book was recommended to me by Big Sleep Books in St. Louis as a read-alike to one of my all time favorite books, The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I love the Alienist because it has well known historical figures, a well-researched time period and setting that seeps from every page, and the early ways science and reason are employed to catch the killer astounded me in a way that surpassed even Sherlock Holmes. It is one of the most tightly stitched stories I've ever read. Beautiful and infinitely re-readable. There was another book to but it didn't quite match up to The Alienist.
Mistress of the Art of Death has all of the same appeal elements, but a different time period and a far pluckier hero. I've mentioned this book before, and how hard it is to get into. But once I was into it and fully committed I was wowed. The main character, Adelia, is so anomalous for the time, but she is exactly how I would have wanted to be had I been living in Henry II's England. And I love a book that teaches me things about history, science, and/or people without me ever really realizing it until I'm spouting off some random trivia and realize that I got it from a mere story. This book has all that in SPADES. And the reason it is slow in the beginning is because Franklin wants to make sure we really and truly get the era we are entering into, and though she fully admits to fudging some things for the story's sake, she does a brilliant job. The plot unfolds slowly because there is so much Era to contend with, but the plot never feels secondary to the setting. Really well played, and totally mom-worthy.