(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/25306.html)
Just two days ago I posted my review for Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. Thankfully, I ended up liking that book a fair bit, so I had no hesitation jumping into this title. This novel is *completely* different from Tooth and Claw (though that book was pretty different in and of itself), so nothing felt repetitious, thankfully. Overall this was a decent novel and I enjoyed it a fair bit.
I think part of the reason I liked this book as much as I did was because it mostly fell into a genre I don't read a whole lot of: mystery. It didn't hurt that it was a mystery set in an alternative-history England, in which the English have struck an alliance of sorts with Nazi Germany. I'm not a *huge* history geek, but I still like it quite a bit, so I thought that it was a nice little bit of zing to spice things up.
I thought the mystery itself was rather compelling. I have to admit that I wasn't *surprised* when I found out who was behind all the shenanigans at foot, but I also never guessed who was behind everything either, so that must mean Walton was doing something right. I do have to admit that I suck at solving mysteries though.. Either way, I liked the murder mystery plot and that's what matters.
As for characters, everything was pretty good on that front as well. We have Lucy, who seems like quite a ditz, but a really likable kind of ditz, not the really annoying breed that you want to punch in the face. I found her kind of adorable, and I loved how earnest and genuine she is. I think Walton made a really good choice in telling her side of the story from a first-person perspective; it helped make her character a lot more likable, because when you see her from the outside (like from the chapters from Cameron's point-of-view), she seems a lot more stupid and gullible than she really is. Everyone else, except for the investigator and Lucy's husband David are absolute jerks and you want them to go DOWN. They're all pretty snotty and unfortunately a little flat, but this never bothered me too much.
Speaking of point-of-view, I really liked how Walton handled the alternating POVs in the book. As I mentioned above, Lucy's POV is told from a first-person past-tense perspective, like she's recounting the story to someone else after it happened. Then we see the story from a third-person POV from the investigator Cameron's perspective. I can't pin-point WHY this POV worked so well with him.. but it did. It also really helped in differentiating his chapters from Lucy's.
Last thing I want to mention is Walton's writing style. Again, this book is very different from Tooth and Claw in regards to genre and writing. Where Tooth was an homage to the Victorian novel of manners, Farthing is an homage to the murder mystery novel of the 40s. It's written in a very accessible style without that was easy but fun to read. It's also worth noting that I read this for the 24-hour read-a-thon I did last weekend and it managed to keep my attention throughout all 320 pages, and was never too strenuous to read, nor was it ever boring.
So yeah, this was a good book. I don't think it's one my favorite books of the year or anything, but it was solid all around, and considering I bought this book for about $2 for the hardcover, I'm super pleased with what I got.
Final Verdict: This isn't one of my favorite reads of the year, but there was still something fun and engaging about this book that isn't going to allow me to forget it any time soon. This was an engaging mystery, that had an equally engaging writing style that I was able to fall into really well and that allowed me to read the entire book right through in one sitting (though I did that because I was participating in a read-a-thon; I might not have otherwise, but the fact that I *could* read this book right through and not get bored is definitely a good thing.) I loved the two main characters, and loved how Walton wrote their chapters with two different POVs; they lended themselves to the characters really well. The secondary characters in this novel are pretty much all jerks, and as such a little two-dimensional, but this never bothered me enough to detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I recommend this to people who like alternate history and/or mystery. I don't think it's mind-blowing in either category, but it was fun and I don't regret reading this. :)