Sunday, April 12, 2020

Review of The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering (Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 5), by L. Jagi Lamlighter

Here we go again. 

If you haven't seen the other books of Rachel Griffin ... this is a very long story. And I have other reviews that you're going to want to look at.

Book 1: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

Book 2: The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel

Book 3: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dream Land

Book 4: Awful Truth about Forgetting

By this point, we should all realize that I'm still reading them at book five, so it's a good assumption that this book, too, was awesome, and you should read it. And if you don't read it, you are a bad person. 

For those of you who are not up to speed on this series: we have a magical girl from a magical family at a magical boarding school with her magical friends. Her best friends include how a Dickens character should look after going through the foster care system (less like Oliver Twist, more like the Artful Dodger), a magical Australian with a magical stick up her ass, and Victor von Doom -- I mean Vladimir von Dread.

Imagine if JK Rowling had done a deep dive and actually built a world from the ground up, and every character had a full range of emotions and conflicting thoughts and agendas, while there are actual stakes that amounted to more than just the existence of the school, but existence itself.

That's the Rachel Griffin novels. 

Also, it's so nice to find a fantasy novel that includes other magic traditions and mythology outside of the UK and continental Europe. If there's a myth or lore or type of fantasy magic that Jagi hasn't thrown in yet, I haven't heard of them. 

I'm going to avoid posting the description of the book here for one simple reason: It spoils events in the second half of the book, something I've found jarring since as long as I can recall.

When Book 5 opens, Rachel's school, Roanoke Academy, has a problem: the local wild fey are loose. The wizards were supposed to keep the local wild fey psychopath under lock and key. But now it's loose, and the local fey no longer need to adhere to their bargain. If the Heer is not imprisoned again, and the fey put back in their place, Roanoke Academy will close.

One must admire Jagi's restraint with book five. It opens a whole two days after the end of book 4 -- usually the next book will open the same say as the last book ended, giving Terry Goodkind a run for his money on "the morning after" opening of The Sword of Truth. And there is so much blowback here, yikes.

What can one say about the book that I haven't already in prior reviews? Her brother is Lord Peter, her family estate is in Dartmoor -- they have a local beast that is not specifically referred to as a dog, a hound, or even a Great Dane. Rachel's family use microexpressions both to read people and to mislead them. 

The pace is only slightly more relaxed than usual. The opening threat wasn't lethal, which is about as relaxed as the book gets. The rest of the novel has an undercurrent of multiple threats, spread out along the length of the book. The pacing hurries along at a quick gallop, slowing here and there for world and character building. And then get out of a way before being run over. As I've said in previous reviews, if Rachel's days go any faster, she'll have to change her name to Jack Bauer. Hunting fey on the Roanoke Academy grounds makes for a wonderful subplot. It ties in nicely to the second subplot later on.

No, I'm not sure if there is a main plot anywhere along here. There are basically two major subplots jammed together, but they fit so well you don't care that the only main thread is the series plot, not a main plot for the novel.

We have Ankh-Morpork style football, a magical government that makes sense, sports team names that don't (show of hands: who wants your sports team to be named The Maenads?), Jim Butcher Scooby-Doo jokes, and students armed with a Bowie knife... which is an odd complaint given that they're all armed with wands, but seriously, who let that guy have a Bowie knife? Heck, Jagi even spells out the difference between the Seelie and the Unseelie... which I don't even think Harry Dresden explained.

It's so nice to see that in a world of magic, hydrogen peroxide is still used to remove blood from clothing. 


There are problems, of course. Mostly with some of the characters being ... themselves. At least one magical princess needs to be smothered with a magical pillow; then they issue her a bodyguard with Omega beams. Rachel's best friend (of her own age) might be one kid who needs mild sedatives for everyone else's safety ... or he need to learn restraint, perhaps with a butterfly net. 

I think the problems of the book can all be summed up as, well, high school is one big problem. 

Rachel also has flaws ... largely in that she has to stop reading classic romance novels; when she starts thinking romance, the narrative voice goes into prose so purple, I swear the text color changes. And she is such a kid. Despite saving the world enough times that even the adults listen to her when she says there is a problem, Rachel has very definite ideas of what should happen. She has this idea that she should have a womanly figure ... at 14. (pardon me while I head desk).

And then her PTSD kicks in, because really, after the skeleton baby incident, we should be worried if she didn't have PTSD.

Also, seriously, in a world where magic is a day to day thing, you'd think someone would have taught them to be really REALLY careful, and very specific, about the wishes one makes.

But you can say one thing about their characters flaws -- these people characters have characters to actually develop, which is more than I can say for certain other books. Heck, there are some characters in this series who I didn't know they had characters to develop.

Anyway, 5/5 stars. Go buy the book now. Thanks.

Paperback here

Amazon Kindle link here

1 comment:

  1. Excellent book but Jagi did miss Russian as far as I can tell. I really love Rachel. She reminds me with the purple prose and the figure obession about a niece. Definitely ursine approved.


Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.