Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper

Joan is from a future that is losing the war against the Dark Forces. Desperate, she is sent back to the past, to the fork in the path that will determine the future. She finds herself in the woods near Simon Grenville's country estate -- and finds Simon Grenville fighting off demon hounds sent to kill him.

When Simon learns of Joan's mission, he knows he must help her. The man Joan seeks to stop at all cost is a man Simon knows very well. His former friend and fellow practitioner, Alex Reynell -- a man, who is the reason why Simon and his sister have escaped to the country.

But how can they get close enough to Reynell to complete their mission? They hatch a daring plan, one that requires Joan to get inside Alex Reynell's house and to destroy the manuscript that is they key to winning the war in the future.

The plan requires Joan to be a lady and to be accepted in society -- a task that's easier said than done.

This is not a book that is free of flaws, for one, the prose could be improved -- I understand the need for the author to write in two separate and distinct voices because Joan is from the future and Simon is from the "present" -- but there are times when Simon and the other people from the "present" lapse into slang, which was a bit jarring. (When Alex something is "no fun" - p. 313)

But this book has something -- that something that propels you forward and keeps you awake until 1 in the morning because you want to read what happens next --

It is the plot and the conflict the characters experience: there comes a point when Joan is very close to her goal to save the future but it would mean erasing herself from all the people that she loved and left behind. She would be left in limbo: belonging to neither the present or the future.

"I'm cut loose from time. That's how I could come back, and I guess it lets me survive any changes I make by being here. But that's just me. If I succeed... there'll be a different world two hundred years from now. Mine won't be there any more."
- p. 139

There is Simon who is torn between saving the world and saving his former friend's life. He wants so badly to believe that there is still goodness that exists in his friend but he cannot ignore the harm Alex has caused his sister or the warning about him Joan brings from the future.

It is the characters. Characters who, after realizing what is at stake, immediately think of a plan. They do not moan or agonize or despair ... but plan. They are well-drawn out -- with purpose and agency.

Simon who lives in two worlds: the polite and the arcane.

The civilized man in him wanted to turn away, but the magician relished the sight. Found it exciting.
- p. 45

Joan who lives in both the present and the future.

Her time there felt like a lifetime. More than that, it felt like her only lifetime. As her manners improved and the face she saw in the mirror got more like the ones around her, her memories of home felt like they belonged to someone else.
- p. 112

There is a wonderful cohesiveness of the author's vision and writing that makes this an amazing read -- and I understand why this received so much recognition in 2011. I really enjoyed reading this.

This is Isabel Cooper's debut novel and the first book in her Englefield (?) series. The second book, Lessons After Dark was released April 2012.

For more information about Isabel Cooper and her books, visit her website.



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