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Restless Spirits (Volume 1) Paperback – January 5, 2015
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And I've said before in reviews for other books of hers, perhaps her greatest strength is in her ability to create characters. They're complex. They have their own unique voices. They feel real, and you can't help but fall in love with them all.
That's what surprised me. Throughout much of the book, I hadn't fallen in love with them. Don't get me wrong, they were excellently-drawn. They were definitely complex. They felt like real people. It's just...this time around, I didn't really like them. (I guess it was bound to happen. I meet people that I don't really like all the time.)
In Restless Spirits, we have Vincent, a medium – a man who can interact with and channel ghosts – who has some severe doubts about his path in life, and we have Henry, an inventor and scientist, who has a strong prejudice against mediums thanks to an unfortunate past and who wants to make them obsolete with his latest invention. At the beginning of the story, both are up against a wall financially, and when an offer comes to both of them for inclusion in a contest pitting science against the occult arts, they both feel like it may be their last chance.
I had a hard time connecting with either Vincent or Henry. Vincent was a little too oversexed for my taste, and Henry was an uptight fussbudget whose predilection for taking offense got a bit tedious. Thankfully, I did NOT have that problem with the main supporting characters, Lizzie (Vincent's partner) and Jo (Henry's cousin), who were both delightful. (You know, in Hawk's excellent Whyborne & Griffin series, my most favorite character there is also a sidekick; I still think Christine deserves a series of her very own!) I think, if we're holding a contest, Jo edges ahead just a bit; she was so real and so wonderful, with exactly the right combination of vulnerability and verve, that even if I hadn't been into the story itself, I might've kept reading just to get more of her.
Anyway, I said I wasn't enamored with the main characters through MOST of the book, that's true. The ending, though, redeemed them solidly, and I'm excited to read the sequel.
In many of Hawk's books, she tackles the topic of historical homosexuality and just how difficult it was to be gay in those earlier times, and I've always thought she did it expertly. In Restless Spirits, she adds to that difficult theme by throwing racism and trans issues into the mix. It's an ambitious move, but she does it really well. (Well, from my perspective anyway, given that I'm white and cis.) I think it was tackled sensitively, but without sugarcoating any of it...and it really brings home how society's outcasts have to stick together.
I haven't said much about the plot itself yet, but rest assured, it was quite good. With all of fantasy fiction's offerings in this day and age (BTW, you know you're getting old when you say things like “in this day and age”), a plain old ghost story doesn't seem, on the surface, to be all that thrilling. Trust me: this haunted house story can hold its own.
Considering the quality of e-books in general lately, I feel compelled to add that (1) it was proofread, (2) the dialogue isn't the least bit stilted, and (3) it doesn't end with a cliffhanger. (For that matter, I wish all the writers who are so in love with the whole forgetting-to-write-an-ending-so-as-to-manipulate-readers-into-buying-the-sequel device would read this. It's proof that a book can have a completely satisfying ending, wrapping up the story completely, while making us readers even MORE anxious to read the next one.)
TL;DR? I knocked off a star for how long it took me to warm up to the characters, but all was redeemed in the end, and this was a solid start to a new series I can't wait to continue. Well done again, Ms. Hawk.
This book was fun to read. I enjoyed the turmoil in the two main characters' heads regarding one another as well as their own issues. Again, hope the next book brings more of their pasts to light so the characters can grow. I'd like to see more of the secondary characters, too. Hawk has a fan in me and I'll keep reading what she offers, mainly because even with all the not so good that happens, the books she writes at least end HFN.
He's not a bad person, just hard to really warm up to. Maybe in the next book he'll be fleshed out as a little more likeable.
This is also a story in which all the main characters are people who would have been (and still often are) marginalized by conventional "respectable" society to a greater or lesser degree because of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Hawk did an amazing job depicting the different ways the characters both receive and at times succumb to bigotry, mostly casual and unintentional but sometimes vicious and violent, and the sacrifices and compromises they make--or refuse to make--trying to carve out a life for themselves. I found Hawk's handling of these issues to be remarkably graceful and believable; there is a danger of turning characters suffering from marginalization into Moral Illustrations of Bad Things, which is its own kind of oppression, so I really admired how thoroughly each character was taken on his or her own terms.
Bottom line: this is a great read that offers both thrilling ghostly hijinks AND an unusually inclusive and diverse cast of well-drawn characters--in other words, a home run.
Most recent customer reviews
This was an awesome first in series, and I loved it.Read more