Sunday, July 13, 2014
Book Review: Invito Rex by Brand Gamblin
Invito Rex by Brand Gamblin
He's known as Dizzy, but Disraeli Augustus McCracken III isn't his real name. He calls on people as an Earl, but he isn't that either. He's nothing he says he is. And the police are on to him. But someone else is looking for him, someone who has very different plans than imprisoning him. Dizzy, it turns out, is the illegitimate half-brother of the king, and sadly, the king died without heir. Now Dizzy finds himself on the throne, finally one of the nobility he always pretends to be.
But he wasn't trained for this position. Every move he makes seems to tumble him further and further from kinghood. How long until he fatally missteps?
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from amazon.com
In a fantastic world not too far ahead of us, Victorian sensibilities have brought back the monarchy, with a caste system that is lethally enforced. Dizzy is a con man, a commoner who makes his living impersonating the nobility. But one wrong turn leaves him trapped in the most dangerous place of all, the palace of the king.
This is the sequel to The Hidden Institute, and we see much more of the world in this novel. Where with The Hidden Institute, I would have called the world modernistic fantasy with a splash of steampunk, I really don't know how to classify Invito Rex. It's not really steampunk, because the year-setting is more sci-fi, being future. It's not modernistic, because it's again so futuristic. But it's not hard sci-fi. I've seen the term neo-Victorian applied to it, and I suppose that will have to. The world of this series is technologically parallel to ours in some ways, futuristic in others, and fancifully vintage, mostly thanks to the way his culture has developed in America. We see a strong caste system with clear lines between noble and commoner. While it can be hard to pin down the sort of what, where, and when of this novel, it's clearer to me than The Hidden Institute was. In this novel's predecessor, I had difficulty realizing it was set in America at all. Due to the nature of the subject matter and plot of this novel, that at least is far more clear. Limitations of technology seem somewhat arbitrary in this novel, and I'm not sure if that's a boon or a problem.
At the very least, I do enjoy Gamblin's imagination. The characters and setting are fun, to say the very least, and I love that this sequel actually followed the story of Dizzy, a supporting character from The Hidden Institute, rather than Cliffy, who was our protagonist for that book. Dizzy intrigued me from the start of THI, and now I was rewarded with a novel centering on him.
There was a sense of imbalance in this novel. I did listen to the audio version of it through iTunes, and I'm not sure if that really did justice to the book. Gamblin's voice is pleasant enough, and he does a decent job with most characters' voices, setting them apart. But there always seemed to be a sense of "I know something you don't know" from the author. Honestly, I believe that would apply to reading it as well. I just never seemed to get enough information, to really understand who was doing what and why. This might have been the intent of the author, to throw the reader as off balance as Dizzy himself is through the book, but on the whole, it left me uncomfortable the whole time I was listening.
Similarly, this lack of information left too many unanswered questions in the plot. I won't give any spoilers, but I felt like the rope of this novel's plot was fraying away as it went along. Add that to an ending that came out of nowhere far too quickly, and I was left highly unsatisfied with the entire experience. As much as I loved the book up to the last chapter (and even well into the last chapter), I was completely surprised by the fact that it ended when it did. Not HOW it did. WHEN. In my opinion, there was at least another 4 or 5 chapters to be had, but they're not there. It seemed to me that Gamblin wrote a decent enough ending, but then arbitrarily decided, "I'm tired of writing this novel. I'm just going to slap the ending here and call it a book." It felt like he gave up, digging Dizzy in too deep and not bothering to find a way to dig him out again. And then there were the unexplained actions and unfinished plot lines. It left me really disappointed.
Would I Recommend This Book? No and yes. The story itself is good, but considering how unsatisfied the ending left me, I would generally say no. Honestly, it makes me sad. I wanted so much more from this book, and it was setting me up for it, only to leave me wanting, and not in a good way. Mostly because of the ending, Invito Rex gets a byblow 2.5 out of 5 stars.
For more information on the author, visit http://brandg.com/