Famine – Monica Enderle Pierce

I havered over this book on Netgalley, and finally decided to be optimistic and request it. I really ought to have learned by now to go with my gut. This isn’t a bad book, though it has problems; it’s just not for me.

Hopefully, the errors that kept nudging me out of the story were fixed before publication, but I have no real way to check. There was a bit of tooth theme with some; in the middle of what was supposed to be a pretty intense scene, I was sitting there wondering what exactly “dental molding” was. I looked it up: it’s “DENTIL”. What a difference a vowel makes. Then a little while later the butler is polishing his boss’s beige toothpicks, and again I sat there going “Wha-?” The ensuing paragraph indicates that these are shoes, which makes more sense than, you know, actual toothpicks, but I wandered around the internet for a good bit of time without finding any style of shoes that has ever been called “toothpicks”. I don’t know. Anybody?

The problem that made me put the thing aside for a while, if not forever, is comma abuse. It was starting to make me alternately whimper and grumble every time it showed up, which was just about every other page. In common English usage there are places a comma is not used, such as in places where two adjectives are used to describe something. The author constantly uses two adjectives to describe people, places, and things, and in about ninety percent of these instances a comma is improperly used. “White, linen”; “shiny, black”; “droopy, old wives” (!); “massive, framed”; “palm-sized, tin”. And on, and on, and on. It drove me crazy. And it’s not consistent – now and then it’s done correctly (“black leather case”).

I have to say exposition is done pretty well; the background for the story is provided well enough to keep me afloat in what’s going on while maintaining mystery and tension, and I daresay holding back a few surprises.

I’m not sure I can give that much credit for characterization. The jury is still out on whether I like Bartholomew enough to spend the rest of the book at his side. There’s a whiff of iZombie about him – he consumes souls, or parts of souls, or something like that, and takes on some of the character of the person off whom he’s fed. And since he chooses blackguards to drain, he becomes a bit blackguardly. The servants felt a bit stereotypical, though the governess was beginning to take on some personality when I gave up. The villain, Famine, was … just another fairly standard all-powerful blood-sucking (is there a name for it? Homnivorous? Hey, that is a word) monster; there were the standard incredibly nasty hard-to-kill henchmen.

And then there was the little girl. Matilde is a child from the slums of New York’s Five Points who is destined to be … important, endangered by Bartholomew’s attention but then saved by her and adopted by her. She gave me pause. There were times when her dialogue came off as a young girl raised in the slums … and there were times when her dialogue came off as a middle-aged upper class matron. Sometimes in the same paragraph. And was “Matilde” a plausible name for a child from that neighborhood, with parents who did not seem to be French immigrants? As far as I could tell it wasn’t even “Matilda” given a French accent by Bartholomew.

I just have too many books in my to-be-read pile to keep on fighting. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but … no, thanks.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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