Book Review: The Floating City by Craig Cormick
Series: Book #2 of The Shadow Master
Publisher: Angry Robot (July 7, 2015)
Author Information: Website
Tiara’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars, but with some caveats
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Angry Robot via Netgalley. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.
This is very different from its predecessor. The only thing that has stayed the same is the Shadow Master himself. The Shadow Master is far from the Walled City in a place called the Floating City (Venice, basically). The city is being besieged by an enemy that sends monsters in the water who attack the powerful people living in the city, such as the seers who are magicians with immense power. The story begins with the writer Vincenzo who is torn as to whether he should write about the trouble of the city, as he feels led to do, or to do the job he is being paid for which is to write the history of the Montecchi family, which largely chronicles the adventures of the Montecchi daughters. However, the Montecchi daughters and Vincenzo’s urge to write about the troubles of the city begin to converge into a single story. Vincenzo also finds himself sort of a master of events to come when he becomes an accomplice to the Shadow Master who sets certain events into motion.
Cormick has taken the heroines from three of Shakespeare’s plays–Disdemona (Desdemona from Othello), Giuletta (Juliet from Romeo and Juliet), and Isabella (Isabella from Measure for Measure)–and essentially has made them sisters in this book along with a few other trappings from their individual stories. I have no problem with that. I enjoy retellings or stories that imagine familiar characters in different ways. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, so there’s a part of me that takes satisfaction in being able to point out things that parallel his stories in these books. Some things followed Shakespeare’s plays so closely that you can easily predict certain dialogue and situations if you’re familiar with these stories, especially Othello with its inclusion of Otello (Othello) and Ipato (Iago). Sometimes this works for the story and sometimes it doesn’t.
I really did like the sisters, though, especially as their roles became clear and their stories started to make a real impact. You also see much more of the Shadow Master and his machinations in this book, which helped in understanding him a bit better than in the last book. Okay, maybe “understand” is a strong choice of word, but there’s more to him this time around. There are many characters and many point of views in this book aside from the sisters, and funnily enough, few of these POVs actually end up merging together. What’s interesting though is that they do fit together to make an overarching story with Vincenzo acting as the Shakespeare of this story along with the Shadow Master to reshape the story that is taking place. However, so many POVs might be a major turn off for some people who may see it as too overwhelming to follow so many characters, especially some who don’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things. This book is very busy, and the reader will ultimately have to decide if these things make much sense to them or not.
I’ll admit that I am largely still confused by some of this story. There’s still way too much that seemed pointless and just befuddling to me. It’s not badly written, and some of the ideas that are set forth are interesting. I’m starting to see these books as Shakespearean retellings that add more magic, political intrigue, and assassins. I’m going to give it three stars for that because I don’t feel it’s fair to keep giving him question marks when there are things I do like about this overall–especially compared to that last book. I feel like these might be the kind of books that I may need to sit down with one day and reread them with a different way of looking at things, especially now that I am absolutely sure that Cormick means for these to be some type of Shakespearean tragedy with a puppet master pulling the strings. I thought this book was and wasn’t much easier to follow than the previous book, but I just… my brain still hurts after reading this. My husband said this aptly describes my face after finishing this book when I just sat there looking off into space while my brain tried to process this.
There were less euphemisms this time around, which I was thankful for. I’m coming to the conclusion that maybe this just isn’t the series for me, though. Maybe I’m not smart enough for it. If you’re smart enough to understand, please explain it to me. I am lost. I need help. I need an adult, an adultier adult than I am.