Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Fortitude (known as Trudy) and Tomas (known as Tips) grew up together as orphans in the town of Bacio in the kingdom of Lax. Before they had quite finished growing up a man known as Felis el Gato (or the Booted Maestro) happened upon Tips performing one of his daring feats upon the water mill at the mill house where he was raised. Trudy, having been blessed with the gift of a seer, knew that apprenticing with Felis el Gato for what she thought would be a life of soldiering would be a better life for him than being the go-fer for his over-bearing and lazy brothers who had inherited the mill. Trudy became a kitchen maid in the local inn that her mother worked in before she died.
Wisdom (known as Dizzy), her grandmother, Dowager Queen Benevolence (known as Ben) and sister, Queen Temperance (known as Temperance) live in Montagne in the kindom of Lax. Duke Roger of Farina had come to Montagne with the expressed intent to offer marriage to Queen Temperance but found younger sister Dizzy much more to his liking. Once Dizzy accepted they all (except for Temperance) set off for Farina to meet with Roger's mother, the most deliciously evil and status-grubbing Wilhelmina, Duchess of Farina and plan for the wedding.
All of these main characters ultimately end up in the same town--Farina--with Trudy joining the royal entourage as a lady-in-waiting and Tips and Felis already in Farina. They determine that Roger and Wilhelmina have a nefarious plot planned to take over the ruling title of Montagne and the rest of them have to find a way to stop it. Told by 8 different narrators by way of a play, encyclopedia entries, diaries, memoirs and letters we follow these citizens of Lax in their quest to save their nation by way of magic, insight and sheer will and talent.
First off, the idea of this book was interesting to me. I thought it would maybe be Princess Bride-y in a way so that was something I was looking forward to. However, once I got into reading it I became a little bit saddened by the actual book.
I had read the short blurb from Booklist magazine and from their description I thought that it might be a fun little read. I even went into the story with the positive notions that I really enjoy books that flip the narration between the characters and books that employ different types of writing to get the story out--diary entries, letters, etc.--(both of these are probably best shown in the book My Most Excellent Year). However, I think there might have been too many narrators in this particular pot . . ., uh, plot. I think the most I've experienced was four (Wolves of Mercy Falls) and that managed to still be a very cohesive story. These eight different narrators were sometimes telling their own stories or their own version of the main plot and that made the story feel a little scattered.
In the end I think there were too many narrators telling their own story AND the main story that the main plot of the book got a little gypped. Each narrator had their own agenda to tell their story (Trudy and her loving and losing of Tips, Tips of his secret identity, Queen Ben and her concern for Temperance, etc.) as well as their view on the main plot that revolved around the Duchess of Farina and her evil wedding plans. The excess information overwhelmed the main story and it made that seem like a minor plot point along with all the others. To me it seemed they traveled and met each other and had all the background information then we learned about the evil plan that was afoot and then it was over. There wasn't very much action and intrigue and suspense to what should have been a scurrilous plot. It was a interesting idea and I think with less narrators the story could have worked better and have been expanded and become a bit more suspenseful and less bogged down in the fact that each narrator had to have their say. But, even though I thought the excessive number of narrators greatly diminished the suspense and adventure of the plot I did read the book the entire way through--the story was good and entertaining--but it just didn't pack the fantastical good vs. evil punch I was hoping for.
I received this advanced copy from the publisher for a fair and honest review. Wisdom's Kiss is available now.