Friday, December 10, 2010

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne ****

The Spymaster's LadyThe Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had already read this in print, and liked it - 4 stars. The narrator, Kirsten Potter, was new to me, and I think I would give her a B/B- for this narration. Her reading in general was pretty good, and the French accent she gave Annique worked for me most of the time. She had a few mispronunciations that so struck me I physically shivered when she said them, notably "LeBlanc" where she put such emphasis on the final C. The C would not be pronounced in French; in fact, the name Leblanc is fairly common in Louisiana where the C is also not pronounced, sounding more like "luh-blah(n)". (The N would not really be pronounced, just sort of nasalized.) Another word that made me grind my teeth was gendarmes: the French would not pronounce the final S. OH, and Francois, the man she considered making love with (or was it him considering it with her?), would surely not like being given a woman's name: Francois would not have the S pronounced like the name Francoise.

OK, I'm being nitpicky but still - she went so far with giving Annique a French accent/pattern of speech (which, with Bourne's lyrical, French-patterned prose, she really had to do!) that having those kinds of things just spoiled the mood for me. It also seemed her voice got sort of scratchier by the end (or was it scratchy the whole time?) and that made Annique sound older. If I were rating this on narration only, I would have to lower it to 3 stars, maybe 3.5, but the story was wonderful and so I'm back to 4!

Below is my review of the print version from July, 2010:

This is a series that has had a lot of buzz in the past couple of years, so it's been on my radar to read. Since there is a new one in the series, it's risen on my list and I got the first 2 books, and am on a waiting list for the new one.

The heroine of Lady is Annique, a spy in her own right. She's 19 or 20 but has spent her entire life in the service of France because her mother and father were also spies, and raised her as such. She possessed a special gift - a photographic memory - which meant she could be trusted with maps, notes, photos that needed to be transmitted to the top spy via her memory. She's smart, she's wily, she's resourceful - I kept thinking of her as 19th c Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). She can throw knives; she can see in the dark; she can run like the wind. She's on a final journey, she figures, since there are several people who want her last big secret, and her mother and father are both dead.

Into her path comes Grey, the British Spymaster. She releases him from the cellar of the bad guy, and now their lives are entangled in oh so many ways, because Grey is the British Spymaster, and therefore her sworn enemy. And they are both attracted to one another - and he and she play a game of cat and mouse throughout the story, with him allowing her to lead him to the endpoint of her journey where he is hoping to learn the location of the secret everyone knows she possesses.

It seemed that much of the book was told from her (3rd person) POV, with a taste of how she would think in French, cleverly done with grammar mimicking the French way of speaking. The reader is also introduced to Grey's cohorts - Adrian and Doyle, also British spies. They make an engaging team, filling in strengths and making it more fun and oh so slightly more credible.

I really didn't see the final twist before it was revealed or how it affected the ending, so it was a surprise to me and I thought it made for a unique and interesting plot. Plus, from my vantage point, Grey was all besottedness and protection and I thought that made the ending very romantic. I just love a besotted hero! 4 stars - not a keeper but a wonderful story all the same.

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