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Book Review – Broom with a View

December 6, 2013

broom  I don’t actually review ebooks that often.  It’s not that I don’t think there are good ebooks out there; I know that there are.  But, I also work in a brick and mortar bookstore.  So… ebooks are a little bit like kicking my own teeth in every time I buy one.  However, sometimes, it’s worth the pain.  And when I read that Ted Naifeh (you remember Ted Naifeh, I gushed about him just a little while ago) tweeted that he had co-plotted a book with Gayla Twist I popped off to buy it immediately.  And I’m not sorry, even if my teeth do hurt a little.
Broom With a View was lots of fun.  It is a  an alternate history retelling of A Room With a View by E.M. Forster.  It opens in an England where Crafters and Vampires have been at war for centuries.  The time period is never distinctly specified, but I’d guess it’s most likely Edwardian, so turn of the 20th century.  The British countryside is deemed unsafe for a young witch and so Miss Violet Popplewell, our primary protagonist, is sent to X, a fabulous city on the border of Western Europe where the Crafters are mainly focused, and Eastern Europe where the Vampires hold sway.
X itself, is friendly to both, as Violet and her Aunt Vera find out when they arrive at the pensione to discover that ‘Witch Friendly’ does not mean Witch Exclusive.  There are, in fact, vampires in residence.  Two of them.  Comte du Monde and his son, Sebastian.
Hostilites soon break out in X, leading Violet, Vera, the Comte, Sebastian, and a motley crew from the pensione must seek refuge in the countryside.  This leads to the sort of trouble that young women in romantic novels always get themselves into.  Sebastian kisses her, they are discovered, and Vera flees with her back to the war-torn X where they encounter the most unlikely family of Mortals being accosted.
a room with a view 3If you’re familiar with A Room With a View you can guess where everything goes, but with many  more twists and turns of fantasy and war.  Some of my favorite moments are pulled out and duplicated – the bloody postcards, the lawn tennis match, the naked frolicking… (Yes, I’ve seen the movie with Julian Sands.  I’ve seen the movie with Julian Sands several times.)
Violet is, I’m happy to report, a much more active protagonist than Lucy Honeychurch.  Lucy is very much a girl of her era, where as Violet is a Witch of her’s.  This allows for a great deal more agency, which I appreciated.
I will say, and this is most likely a result of recently going through a writer’s workshop, that the POV was occasionally disorienting.  There are multiple 3rd person POVs and I sometimes had to take a moment to reorient myself when we changed character, but they were all well written and well characterized.  I’ve just been reading and writing in fixed 3rd person for so long that it was almost revelatory to find myself getting Sebastian’s perspective.
I would absolutely recommend this book if you’re fond of historical fantasy. It’s fairly short, clocking in at around 206 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read.  I don’t expect everyone to read it in one day like I did, but it’s possible.  It’s also inexpensive.  I think when I picked it up the ebook was $2.99.  I’ve just double checked, there is a paperback version as well for about $7.50, so if you’d rather have the tangible version (I despise the term ‘dead-tree edition’) you can pick that up instead.

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