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Black Opera - Mary Gentle

Oh, this is fantastically silly. The book is set in the seventeenth century, and it is possible for music to create miracles. This mainly happens within church/sacred music structures, but can happen in secular ones like opera... and it just so happens that we need one in order to stop the Black Opera going ahead and probably destroying most of Italy through another eruption of Vesuvius. There are opera zombies.

The problem really is the pacing. The general rhythm of the book takes a long while to get off the ground, at least in part because the build-up of plot and the arc doesn't quite know where it's headed. You get to a bit and go 'hang on, there's more?', or 'wait, what just happened?'. The ending is also a bit... too comfortably pat. (Yay, love triangle with happy resolution made possible by zombies!) I mean, I enjoyed it and it was a pretty entertainingly daft bit of reading, but I got a bit frustrated with the pacing and wanted the characters to have a bit more... not consistency, that's not fair, but for them to get a bit more of a chance to develop and Do Stuff. Things just didn't leap off the page. Which was a shame, as it was a corker of an idea.

London Falling - Paul Cornell

Look, more urban fantasy set in London! The other supernatural police series currently underway! This was rather different to the Rivers of London series, in that here nobody has a clue what's going on with the whole magic thing as opposed to an initiate paired with someone who knows the ins and outs of the business. This gives the piece a slightly different feel, as you get four people trying to work out what the hell is going on and not having all the answers (or indeed, anywhere close to a tenth of the answers), leading to a different sort of police procedural puzzle form. The writing is also darker and grittier, by which I mean that while Aaronovitch plays for laughs and deliberately is going for the comic along with the spooky, Cornell is far more interested in hitting the pitch of realistic police novel (or at least, I surmise as much from my unfamiliarity with the genre). You get much fewer quirky encounters and much more deep gut-wrenching fear and terror. That said, it's well-realised gut-wrenching fear and terror in a well-realised broader frame of police work. At the end of the first book, it does feel very much like scene-setting - Cornell has set up his puzzle and is going to spend the next few books solving it. The actual plot is sort of incidental to the wider game it sets in motion, and indeed is more interesting for the contribution it makes to that wider game instead of solving this first crime. So I think it's a question of seeing where this goes - the second book is on order from the local library...

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