Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic (by David J. Schwartz)

I talked this book up on Twitter a few weeks ago, but since it was released in serial format, I didn’t get to finish it until yesterday. It’s now out in its entirety, which is absolutely how I would recommend reading it. The complex plot and large cast of characters does not lend itself well to waiting two weeks between installments. (One week, maybe. Two weeks, no.) I felt like I lost track of some important plot points along the way, and I need to re-read it as a whole to get the full effect (and the answers).

First, the good, and there is so much good. The characters are awesome. Schwartz’s main character is a disabled woman of color, there are gay and trans characters, there is a plus-sized woman who is a major object of romantic desire (despite being kind of a B), a badass female bodyguard, the list goes on. And their inclusion doesn’t feel like pandering or tokenism; they feel like real, fully fleshed-out characters who happen to be X, Y, or Z. It is unbelievably refreshing.

The plot doesn’t focus too much on the school of magic itself (I kind of was rooting for more school stuff since I teach at a community college and all) but instead there is kind of an undercover agent / detective / mystery plot involving magic. I loved the world and would happily read ten more books set there. I loved the inventiveness of the plotlines, especially Zelda’s and Ingrid’s.

Speaking of those two, the biggest negative is the somewhat abrupt ending (both of their plotlines are left hanging). It’s setting up for a sequel, clearly (which I wil be first in line to buy when it’s complete) but I was left with a whole lot of questions and not a ton of answers. I think it needed a few more answers to be emotionally satisfying. I wouldn’t want everything to be resolved, but I didn’t get enough of a feeling of closure after all these weeks of waiting and waiting and waiting between installments.

(This is weirdly the same issue people seemed to have with Scalzi’s The Human Division, which I haven’t read yet.  I decided based on the reviews to wait until it came out as a whole and to consider it part one of two. I wish I’d known that Gooseberry Bluff had a similar structure.)

Anyway, all that being said, and with those caveats, this is absolutely worth the read. I loved it.

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