Two thumbs up and also a poke in the eye because honestly. Except Kage Baker is RECENTLY DEAD so I can’t even JOKE about how I want to [redacted] a little bit.
So. Mendoza is a little Spanish lass captured by the Inquisition (yoiks) and then rescued by a member of Dr Zeus, Inc, which basically owns everything in the future and invented time travel so they could go back and invent immortality and then rescue, say, little girls in imminent danger of inquisitioning and make them immortal and then have them copy the genetic codes of stuff that has gone extinct so that in the future they can Jurassic Park that shit and then hey presto, whales again.
I swear to you it makes total sense, and Mendoza explains it really well and also winningly. She is the reason I was LOVING IT and I realized from, like, page three that I was going to LOVE IT and then you get to settle back into it and enjoy yourself and it’s all the comfortable delight of a re-read with all the NOVELTY AND SUSPENSE of a first-time read so it’s basically the greatest, until it’s not.
So Mendoza is on her first field assignment (after she’s been made immortal and trained up by Dr Zeus, Inc) as England enters the reign of Bloody Mary Tudor and I am like, Go on… because what an era. And Baker sows some very promising Seeds of Impending Doom vis a vis Prince Philip and I am like, Yes mmhmm yesssss, and THEN she goes prancing off into Tragic RomanceTown and leaves those Prince Phillip Seedlings to wither.
And, ok. Tragic RomanceTown is one of my favorite haunts. I LIKE KISSY TIMES AND ALSO WEEPIES. Even though I am sometimes like, Buhhhh, these guys, never let it be said that I don’t enjoy two sweet young people being pleasantly and wittily amorous, especially if one of them is going to be fatally stabbed, or eaten by sharks, or accidentally poisoned. And you’re watching it and you’re like, Isn’t this adorable. And right by your elbow is the old, old, old Mendoza all, Yes, it is adorable, isn’t it. But her voice is incomprehensibly sad and you are like, What? Oh right, this is all going to go very badly.
So THAT part is great, in and of itself. And Baker’s writing is so good. Mendoza is collecting samples in the garden and is all, I took my X (designed to look like a Y) and my M (designed to look like a Q) and ‘my knife (designed to look like a knife)’ and I am like, *chortle* and at one point, they are discussing the Pope but England is still, briefly, Protestant and so ‘”That for the Pope!” and Joseph spat elegantly, though he had to wrooch around a little to avoid hitting anyone’ and I am like, ‘wrooch’ is exactly what he would have to do. I enjoy that sort of attention to detail.
And if the whole thing had just been all Blah blah immortal time-travellers blah ROMANCE blah then I would have been down. But Baker’s writing cheques that her ass either CAN’T cash or is WAITING TO CASH AT A LATER DATE because there are many, many books in the series but I resent that sort of forcery. I am contemplating not reading the rest of the books out of SPITE (let us not fool ourselves, I have the next one on hold already).
So I really, really, really loved it, but I’m a little bit butthurt that it promised more than it delivered. I don’t even know how to rate a book that is simultaneously so satisfying and so unsatisfactory. PARADOX.