Thursday, June 12, 2014

REVIEW: Factotum by D.M. Cornish

Factotum (Monster Blood Tattoo, #3)Factotum by D.M. Cornish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2009
Genre(s): Fantasy, Middle-grade
Series: Monster Blood Tattoo #3
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated By: Humphrey Bower

I suspect my comments about this third book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series are going to be all ahoo. The series follows the adventures of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name who also has a secret that not even he knows – the truth of who he is. In book three, he has just been whisked away from Winstermill by Europe, a Duchess and a famous monster slayer or teratologist. He is in a tenuous and dangerous situation and he can no longer stay in the lamplighter corps so Europe uses her noble privilege to claim him as her factotum.

As with the other books the world building and overall atmosphere created by the book is second to none. It’s fully imagined and the detail is often astonishing. The language used is unique, perhaps sometimes overly so, but it helps to give the books their own special vibe reminiscent of, but much weirder than, Dickens.

I really loved book two of this series. The plot had picked up and was going in a direction I found exciting and there were some interesting new characters introduced while we still got to spend time with Europe and other favorites from book one. So it is with some disappointment that almost everything from book two was ignored in this book. Europe, Rossamund and his old masters must deal with the rumors that have surfaced because of the activities of book two but the major conflict that was built up and not resolved in that book is dealt with here in roughly 10 pages, off stage and only one of the (minor) characters from book two makes an appearance. It definitely felt like the author couldn’t decide how to resolve the original storyline and also wanted to go a completely different direction. I was especially bummed that none of the characters from book two made an appearance because I believed that this was the last book in the series since it was published in 2009 and there have been no others forthcoming. However, I just did a little snooping and apparently Cornish does intend to continue the series he’s just taking his time (which is fine) and that went a ways to making me feel better about things. I point this out because there may be other readers who like me expected this to be a straight up continuation and resolution of book two and it is really its own beast.

With that slight unpleasantness out of the way I can talk about the things that I loved. One thing that is wrapped up, though I think it was of no big surprise at this point, is that Rossamund and all his companions finally know his true nature. While Rossamund is an easy kid to love and get behind, the real star of the series for me is Europe and she really gets to shine here. Throughout the series Europe has been a complicated enigma. She’s moody, superior and cold. When we first meet her in book one she is killing, without remorse, a creature who probably did not deserve to be killed. She mourns quite heavily the death of her first factotum, who seemed, without a doubt, a horrible, ignorant and cruel person. But by book three she has protected Rossamund at great personal cost to herself. She continues to do so even when she is quite sure that Rossamund is not what he seems. Their attachment and relationship and how it transforms Europe is definitely the highlight of this book for me and it frequently brought me to tears. The way it and she is written was perfect.

So in the end, and even with the disappointment of the discontinued storyline, I can in no way be disappointed in the book as a whole. As a plot driven novel, I did not enjoy it as much as book two but as a character driven story, I loved it.

Final Verdict: Yay for complicated women and crazy world building! Bring on book four!

Pop Quiz:  Do you have a favorite Australian author?  How about a book with a complicated heroine?

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