Flora Segunda: Did Not Finish

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFlora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce fantasy book reviewsFlora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce is just odd. For one thing, the book is fully titled as Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, and while I don’t have a problem with long titles in general — see my love for Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books, or Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede’s collaborations — the problem with this title is the same problem I had with the book. It’s just trying to contain too many things. Also, stop spelling magic with a K. It’s twee.

This book has lots of neat ideas. Awesome mansions that have rooms that move around? Check. Insane characters? Check. Teenage girl that doesn’t want to do what her mom wants her to do? Absolutely required in books of this ilk. Magical servants? Check. Blossoming magical abilities, hidden powers, backstabbing and betrayal? Checkitty check check. However, it’s the literary equivalent of dumping everything in the fridge into a stock pot, adding a gallon of water and calling it soup. It just doesn’t form a harmonious or enjoyable experience for the reader. The plot is all over the place with multiple competing story lines that fight against each other.

Now, obviously, if you read reviews at Amazon I am a lunatic, because it gets sparkling reviews and is hailed as the sequel to HARRY POTTER. I respectfully disagree. I spent a considerable portion of my time wondering where this book was taking place. The naming structure is Spanish and/or Portuguese, the bad guys have an Aztec naming system and eagle-deity system, and there’s just some odd exclamations that I spent overly long trying to figure out how to pronounce. You have a Catorcena which is their equivalent of a Quinceañera, which would also argue for Mexico, but this is not recognizably Mexico in other regards, including the non-machismo allowance for a female to be the ranking officer of the military.

Now, this may seem nitpicky, but if I am spending this much time trying to figure out where the story is taking place, it means I don’t actually believe in the world the author has created, and if you’re writing a fantasy, I think getting the reader to actually believe in the world you are describing is an essential ingredient to success. I made it almost halfway through before I finally gave up. There are just too many other good books out there to make myself continue reading this one.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. I’m really really glad that I am not the only one who had problems with this book and getting into it. I found it frustratingly to be something that sounds really interesting but just couldn’t deliver because it couldn’t decide what it was trying to do. So I returned it to the library unfinished and made a note that perhaps it was not the sort of book for me.

  2. Sooo… that’s not how you make soup?

    It looks like later books in the series have won awards, but this just seems like too much! From her website and Amazon, I’m going to guess that the setting is Alta California (Monterey style) with really inconsistent world-building.

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