Wondering Sight: The price of vindication

Wondering Sight by Melissa McShaneWondering Sight by Melissa McShane book reviewWondering Sight by Melissa McShane

In Wondering Sight (2017), the second book in Melissa McShane’s THE EXTRAORDINARIES series, we return to a fantasy-touched version of Regency-era England where some people have magical talents ― throwing and extinguishing fire, shaping one’s appearance, flying, teleporting, and more. Sophia is an Extraordinary, one of the very few people who have particularly strong magical abilities. As a Seer, she can cast herself into Dreams, which show her future events as a series of doors in her Dreams that she can open and explore, as well as Visions, where she can see past and current events by holding an object that has a significant history with a particular person.

Before this book begins, Sophia, like Elinor in the first book, Burning Bright, was working for the British military in the Caribbean, where she was instrumental in helping the British fight against pirates. But when she told the War Office that her Dreams also showed a powerful British lord embezzling from the Army, she was dismissed when the evidence didn’t support her accusation against him. Though the War Office didn’t make public the reason for her severance, everyone there believed she had a false Dream or, worse yet, was lying about having a Dream showing Lord Endicott embezzling supplies. Now Lord Endicott has followed her back to England, dividing his time between subtly harassing Sophia and engaging in a new and different criminal enterprise.

Sophia is deeply embittered by her disgrace, even though the War Office kept the reason for her leaving them non-public, especially since she knows her Dream of Lord Endicott was a true one. She turns to her Dreams again (and again and again) to try to catch him in his crimes, expose him as a fraud and criminal, and prove her talent is true and that she was Right. All. Along.

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Sophia gathers some allies in her single-minded quest for justice and revenge: her best friend Cecy, with whom Sophia is staying in London; her cousin Lady Daphne, who has the useful talent of Bounding, instantly teleporting from place to place (as long as she’s familiar with the place she is Bounding to); and Mr. Rutledge, whose offer of employment Sophia angrily rejects when she realizes he doesn’t believe that her initial Dreams about Lord Endicott were true. Despite getting off to a bad start, she and Mr. Rutledge gradually develop a friendship tinged with romance, even though they’re both keeping secrets. But Lord Endicott has talents and some unexpected resources of his own in connection with his new criminal enterprise. Sophia discovers some entirely new aspects to the Seer Talent, but she also tips over into obsession, sliding toward ruining her health and her friendships in her efforts to bring down Endicott and have her revenge ― even if it’s the last thing she does.
Wondering Sight focuses on an entirely new set of characters than Burning Bright, though there are a few brief references to the main characters and events in that book. Wondering Sight also takes a different and unexpected path for a Regency-era fantasy, with less time spent on society events and romance, and more time exploring the way Sophia’s visionary talent work and how she is using them to try to entrap a bitter enemy. It’s more of a detective story. There’s no real mystery here ― it’s clear from the outset who the villain is and what he’s up to ― but there is suspense in the cat-and-mouse game that the two of them play, and in seeing how it all plays out.

The heroine is a rather prideful, prickly person, sometimes difficult to empathize with, as she endangers her health by Dreaming too much and repeatedly lies to her concerned friends about what she’s up to, because she knows they won’t approve. She tells herself she wants justice, but it’s clear that it’s revenge she’s really looking for. The love interest for the widowed Sophia, Mr. Rutledge, is an interesting person in his own right, but I never really felt any real spark or heat between them.

So as a romance it’s a little underbaked, but as the tale of a chase to bring down a dangerous criminal using some unusual magical powers (which, though powerful, have their limitations), and as an exploration of obsession and revenge, and examining the personal costs of following that path, Wondering Sight is an intriguing and worthwhile read. One of the more delightful characters was Sophia’s exuberant cousin Daphne, the Extraordinary Bounder, who will be the main character in the next book of this series.

Published January 19, 2017. Sophia Westlake is an Extraordinary Seer, gifted with the ability to see past, present and future in Dreams and Visions. Her talent led to the destruction of the Caribbean pirates plaguing England’s shipping and gained her renown and the accolades of her peers. But when she accuses a prominent politician, Lord Endicott, of embezzling from the Army, her Dream is “proved” false and she is disgraced, her reputation ruined and her career in the Army’s War Office over. Humiliated, Sophia returns to London, but Lord Endicott follows her, intent on making her life increasingly miserable. Furious and desperate, Sophia takes the only course left to her: she sets out to discover Lord Endicott’s criminal enterprises, to expose him as the fraud he is and bring him to justice. Sophia’s allies are few, but loyal. Cecy, her best friend, supports Sophia in her quest, while her cousin Lady Daphne, an irrepressible Extraordinary Bounder, is always ready for a challenge that will strike at Lord Endicott’s heart. And always watching her is the mysterious Mr. Rutledge, who claims to be interested in Sophia’s friendship—and possibly more than that—but who has an agenda of his own. But as Sophia delves deeper into prophetic Dreams, Cecy and Daphne begin to fear for Sophia’s health and sanity. Driven to collapse by her frequent Dreaming, Sophia is forced to reevaluate her motives: does she want Lord Endicott brought to justice, or is it revenge she seeks? As Sophia draws closer to the secret of Lord Endicott’s criminal enterprise, a counterfeiting ring, his torment of Sophia increases, until the two are bound together by their respective obsessions. Though Sophia insists she is in control, her friends fear she is turning into the man she most hates. Sophia’s Dreams and Visions are leading her to just one place: the destruction of Lord Endicott. But the cost of her vengeance may be too high—and may demand the sacrifice of her own life.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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2 comments

  1. I started t his, and bogged down. Sophia is harder to like than, say, Elinor. I do plan to get back to it…maybe after I finish my current binge read of Theo Waitley books (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Liaden series).

    • I agree, this is definitely a harder book to love. I was initially very much on the fence about it, but by the end I’d bought into the author’s vision for it, at least to some extent. It’s a different type of story, for certain.

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