October 29, 2012

The most fun I’ve had with a novel in a long time

AmberlyAmberly by Mary E.  Hall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amberly is a light fantasy of the type Caprice Hokstad calls "Sword Opera." It's set in a storyworld modeled after 18th-century Europe. The greater conflict between Royalists and Anti-Monarchists is mirrored in the relationship between Marsten, a Royalist, and Eleanor, whose father leads the Anti-Monarchists. But both factions are united when their nation is invaded by enemy forces.

Hall has created a rich storyworld full of engaging characters. Each person is a well-rounded yet multifaceted individual. Her dialogue and narrative are beautifully written, with snappy banter and vivid sensory detail.

After a rousing opening sequence in which Marsten heroically rescues Eleanor from a band of invaders, the beginning slows down a bit as they travel cross-country to get her home. Romance blooms, and sparks fly when they reach her hometown of Amberly and her Royalist sweetheart meets the Anti-Monarchist family.

I enjoy the monarcy/democracy debate, an element rarely seen in fantasy fiction, which is usually staunchly monarchist. Hall accepts no easy answers, mainly because there are none and partly because, well, there’s Book 2…which I eagerly anticipate.

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