Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Review: Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Flora Segunda

Ysabeau S. Wilce

Publication Date: January 1st 2007

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 448

Genre: Fantasy

Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall--the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. Huge mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler--and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever.      Full of wildly clever plot twists, this extraordinary first novel establishes Ysabeau Wilce as a compelling new voice in teen fantasy.

Flora Segunda was recommended to me by goodread's spiffy recommendation program. The title and description intrigued me, and I am a fan of characters who get to explore gigantic magical houses (i.e. The House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones).

I liked the characters and prose well enough. I enjoyed the perspective of Flora and the messed up family she lived in which breaks your heart, yet somehow is portrayed light enough that it doesn't drag you down.

Now in fantasy books one of the hardest things to master is how to present one's world building. There are two extremes authors can trap themselves into: one of those being trying to fit every single bit of exposition about the world in every moment they can shove it, the other being the opposite and not explaining everything, bombarding the reader with strange words, culture, history and geography without explaining any of it, expecting the reader to know everything about it already. This latter issue is all right if it's a book in a series, but when meant to stand on its on this is a huge pitfall, and Flora Segunda unfortunately falls into it.

While reading this book I assumed that possibly it had been published in another country first, or the author was foreign and the fault in my trouble keeping up is that I just wasn't in the mind to understand it, but nope, apparently Wilce is from Chicago, which I learned from the about the author blurb. Also, apparently the world Flora Segunda is set in is a oft reused world by the author, so that could be the reason why the reader is left high and dry when it comes to this world.

The other issue is that the pacing of the book is rather slow and I'm a personal fan of faster paced books (and unfortunately the other book I was reading at the time, The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark) has a slow pacing to it as well so I found myself running away to a third book during the reading of them.

If there's one thing I hate doing, it is giving a lower review. I find sometimes things are just a matter of taste and sometimes, yes it is the writing itself. In Flora Segunda's case, I do think it's mostly taste. The writing itself is good writing, the plot and pacing is where it lacks for me. If you are already familiar with Wilde's world of the Republic of Califa, than I do recommend this book, because all the world being thrown at you will not cause you to put down the book. I also recommend this to people who want to read amusing characters, as that is where this book shines.



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