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The Prussian Dispatch: Sophie Rathenau’s Vienna Mysteries Volume 1 Kindle Edition
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Still it’s hard not to be pulled in by his irrepressible heroine, Sophie Rathenau, a fictionalized widowed noblewoman out make her own way in a man’s world. The reader comes to understand that even though times, fashion and technology change, history keeps repeating itself and those who live it are still subject to the same wants, hopes and desires. Women of all ages had to live by their wits and use their times and resources to their advantage. Sophie showcases this in her matching wits and braun, whenever necessary, against any gentleman she meets. She stops at nothing to “get her man” and untangle the mystery of who has the missing dispatch, what does it actually contain and why are so many men and women willing to kill or die for it? It’s a non-stop page turner to find the answers. Clearly Neilson has done his research in this first spellbinding novel with a promise of more to come.
#1: Sophie. She may be the most developed and complex character (she feels real to me) I’ve met. She’s independent, strong, smart, modest and calm. She doesn’t get rattled despite the serious situations she gets herself in. I found myself smiling and even laughing out loud more than a few times… definitely an interesting character.
At times I wish I knew a little more of what she was thinking and she can be closed. However, that's what makes her good at what she does.(I imagine she'd be stellar at gambling/ card playing given she can read others well.)
There is also a softer side of Sophie that doesn’t come out often but when it does, it pulls at your heart.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the author probably has pages upon pages of intel about this character – probably more than ¾ of info that will never see the light of day– that’s how solid of a character she is. The saving grace is that it looks like there will be more books in the series so we can find out more snippets.
#2: Description is A+. The book came to life with the colorful scenery and unusual setting. The story (again, it felt read/ never felt like I was reading “a story”) was written seamlessly, allowing me to experience it as if I was there.
#3: Smart: The plot is definitely a bit complex, but not typical. There are also a lot of characters with names and titles that I wasn’t familiar with. On this note, readers will need to pay attention. I may have struggled more because this isn’t the genre I normally read.
#4: Witty dialogue: Not cookie-cutter and again, felt very real. The conversations stay true to the characters.
All in all, a really unique and fascinating story. Thank you Mr. Neilson for painting this new world for me.
The characters and setting were probably my favorite parts. 1700s Austria is a time and place I've rarely seen in fiction, and I greatly enjoyed the chance to delve into such a a unique setting (one can only re-visit Victorian London so many times!). The writer clearly did their research too, as was shown in their careful descriptions of the era's costumes, manners, politics, etc. My inner history nerd loved this attention to detail, and by the end of the story I felt as if I had a real sense of Sophie's Vienna. Sophie herself is endearing and easy to root for, being both sensible and sympathetic. Side-characters like Camilla felt fully formed too, and equally easy to care about. I was a bit sad to say goodbye to them at the end, honestly.
As far as criticisms, I don't have many. It's not a perfect story, of course. There were a few places where the plot felt a little confusing or the writing seemed a bit uneven, but not many. And honestly, I haven't much mood to complain about minor bumps like these in a fun bit of escapism. 5 stars for a well-researched, well-written Viennese romp.
PS: Do use the glossary in the back! I felt a bit lost about terms and names at first before I realized it was there. Once I started using it things started sliding into place far better.