Note: Spoilers are only for previous books in the series and parts of the story mentioned in the book description.
Wow. What a ride and what a trip. I'm still checking my clothes for hints of spice, sand, and sweat. Once again, Laurie R. King has done a beautiful job of transporting the reader to another place and another time. I feel like you need a passport for this series or something. What I think I love most about being a long time fan of the series is seeing the books evolve. I think that if she had written this book right after The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I would not have liked it near so well. Her books have gotten...tighter I guess you might say. Plot, clues, environment have all been carefully weaved together into a gorgeous tapestry you can't help but admire, even if the subject matter is not your favorite thing ever.
And the plot of this...no, I'm not going to let this run away with me. Let's give this review a bit of order.
Ah, some old favorites mixed with new and exciting ones. Holmes is, again, quite impeccable. How King can put that man into such...non-Holmesian situations and yet keep him completely in the character he has grown into during this series is nothing short of amazing. And Russell is still Russell even without her memories. I particularly enjoyed how the idea and smell of Bees follows her around and she's like, "Why is my messed up brain obsessed with the little blighters?" No idea, Russ, no idea. ;P Our old friends Mahmoud and Ali Hazr return; it's nice seeing them back in their 'native' habitat after Justice Hall. The various new cast, both fictional and historical are wonderfully fleshed out as the plot allows with my particular favorites being Idir and Maréchal Lyautey.
I have to admit, I doubted you Mrs. King. I really did. I read the description, saw the word amnesia and thought: "Nope, no way. She can't do it."
You proved me wrong.
I don't want to spoil anything because I really want you to read it, but this was a great plot. The mystery was really good, I hadn't even guessed most of it and the whole part about Russell losing her memories was actually well handled. I love seeing Holmes worried about his Russ. The fact that he never shows it makes it mean so much more when he finally does. I would like to point out that they can't seem to go to another country without being imprisoned, but then again: A Monstrous Regiment of Women. While the travelogue is no where close to that of their sojourn through Palestine, the author uses that time to build up Fez until you swear you can smell the spice and see the honeycomb streets.
As I stated above, I firmly believe King's writing has really grown. In 266 pages, she manages to turn a story including amnesia, revolt, mystery, Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, a strange new land, and history into a concise, elegant story made all the more amazing by not feeling rushed. A real gem in this already well decorated series.
So, I'm still reeling from the whole Mycroft issue and you just had to bring a new element into Russell's shaken world with Mahmoud and Ali? Really? The trouble is, I do understand Mahmoud's position, I really do but after everything they've been through together, the fact that he would not be honest to his 'brother's' disturbs me more than I can say.
If you have hung around for this long in the series, you don't need me to tell you to read this book. If you are intrigued by this particular book but are a stranger to the rest of the series, I strongly urge you to read the rest before returning here. I may have been able to mostly follow what was going on in a book as early as The Moor, but by this point in the series, the amount of short hand to prior events is nothing short of impossible for a new reader. The fact that a good deal of Russell's recovered memories come from the previous books does not help the matter.