(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com)
Back in February, I read Shadowbridge for calico_reaction's February Dare and really liked it. Before I even finished Shadowbridge I went out and bought Lord Tophet. I had originally intended to read Lord Tophet as soon as I finished Shadowbridge, but March got super hectic with school and then April was even worse. I suppose I could have read it a bit sooner than now, but oh well, it doesn't really matter, because I finally got to it! I'm glad I didn't wait much longer to read this, because Lord Tophet picks up *right* where Shadowbridge left off (which was a huge cliffhanger by the way.)
My number one favorite thing about this duology is its focus on stories, and how stories/fables/tales/whathaveyou can shape a people and a culture, and how stories change over time because of culture. It also helps that these stories are some of the most beautifully realized fairy tales I've ever read. They're all imbued with this magical quality that I found mesmerizing. Leodora's story, while not written in quite the same way, feels very much like these tales that she conveys to the people through her puppets -- it's full of magic. The only story I found kind of odd was the story of Meersh and his talking penis. That ... uhh.. caught me off guard? Still a great tale, I've just never read a story with so much focus on a talking male member.
Leodora has definitely made it on my list of "Favorite Literary Heroines". She's headstrong and resourceful without having to fall into that "female badass" mold. No wonder Diverus had such a crush on her -- she is quite the lady. Soter drove me crazy with how mean he was to Diverus, who did nothing to deserve it, and with his overall surliness. He did however redeem himself quite a bit by the end when he finally spills the beans to Leodora about her parents' demise and his relationship to them both.
There's a bit of romance between Leodora and Diverus, and while I do think they'd make a very cute couple, I'm glad Frost didn't focus on it TOO much. I'm not sure why I feel that way, but I do, and I think Frost handled it perfectly.
And the ending. How I love the ending. It was seriously perfect. :)
Final Verdict: This is a very short review, but I'm really not too sure what else to say. Most of my feelings for this book were said in my review of Shadowbridge, and really, this feels like I'm reading the same book, seeing as its a very, VERY direct sequel. Frost has created a unique vein of fantasy with these two novels that highlight the magic behind stories and their malleability. The world-building, like the first volume, is stellar and has all kinds of magic and wonder at every turn that I absolutely loved. Like Pullman, Frost blows me away with his imaginativeness. This duology also boasts a cast of memorable characters, especially Leodora, whom I love quite dearly. I definitely recommend everyone to check this series out; it's just too bad it was published as a duology when it really could've been one volume. That being said, for the love of god, do NOT read Lord Tophet without having read Shadowbridge first. You'll be very, VERY confused if you do.