Review: Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris + Giveaway

Review: Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris + GiveawayWho Speaks for the Damned (Sebastian St. Cyr, #15) by C.S. Harris
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #15
Pages: 336
Published by Berkley on April 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Sebastian St. Cyr investigates the mysterious life and death of a nobleman accused of murder in this enthralling new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....

It's June 1814, and the royal families of Austria, Russia, and the German states have gathered in London at the Prince Regent's invitation to celebrate the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of monarchical control throughout Europe. But the festive atmosphere is marred one warm summer evening by the brutal murder of a disgraced British nobleman long thought dead.

Eighteen years before, Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaford, was accused of killing a beautiful young French émigré and transported to Botany Bay for life. Even before his conviction, Hayes had been disowned by his father. Few in London were surprised when they heard the ne'er-do-well had died in New South Wales in 1799. But those reports were obviously wrong. Recently Hayes returned to London with a mysterious young boy in tow--a child who vanishes shortly after Nicholas's body is discovered.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is drawn into the investigation by his valet, Jules Calhoun. With Calhoun's help, Sebastian begins to piece together the shattered life of the late Earl's ill-fated youngest son. Why did Nicholas risk his life and freedom by returning to England? And why did he bring the now-missing young boy with him? Several nervous Londoners had reason to fear that Nicholas Hayes had returned to kill them. One of them might have decided to kill him first.

My Review:

Once upon a time, the author of the Sebastian St. Cyr series described how she came to write St. Cyr and his series. She said that she wanted to create a character who seemed, on the surface, to be the epitome of the Regency hero; tall, dark, handsome and brooding. (I think with emphasis on the brooding.) But then to explicitly NOT make him the hero of a Regency romance. Thus was Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, born.

A much later description of Devlin referred to him as Darcy with more than a touch of James Bond, but that doesn’t really feel right. St. Cyr seems to have always been carrying too much emotional baggage to have ever been Darcy, while his adventures and investigations take him into much darker places than Bond usually goes and afford him considerably fewer technological toys – even ones that would have existed in the Regency.

St. Cyr relies on his instincts, his brains and his considerable ability to fight as dirty as necessary, whether that fight involves fisticuffs, social exposure or politics – as much as he hates the latter options when needed.

When his story began in 2005 – or in 1811 in St. Cyr’s world, England was on the brink of the Regency and St. Cyr was a battle-scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, unable to settle or sleep, wracked with PTSD after his life-altering experiences in a war that had not yet ended. (Even by the time period of this 15th book in the series, 1814, the war is still not over. It is merely in abeyance during Napoleon’s exile on the island of Elba.)

St. Cyr, as the heir to an earldom, should be one of the Regency dandies that appear in the pages of so many romances set in the period. Instead, he has become an unofficial and unpaid murder investigator with the help of the head of the newly formed police agency at Bow Street. His membership at the highest levels of the aristocracy allows him to poke his nose into many, many places where a simple copper would be thrown out the back door.

Even his father-in-law, the Prince Regent’s cousin and spymaster Jarvis, is forced to deal with St. Cyr whether he likes it or not. And he definitely does not.

This latest entry in the series is an enthralling mystery that does an especially good job of exposing the glitter of the Regency Era as the bio-luminescence of something rotting in the dark, as St. Cyr finds himself investigating the death of a man who is all too much like the one that he sees in his own mirror. There but for the grace of god, and just a few scraps of luck that turned good instead of bad, would have gone St. Cyr.

It’s a case he can’t let go of, no matter how many times he’s warned off. And no matter how high the halls of power that he needs to bring low.

Escape Rating A+: It should be fairly clear that this is one of my favorite series. In fact, if it isn’t clear already, as part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration I ONLY review stuff I really, really love. After all, this is my birthday and the blog’s birthday and why shouldn’t I treat myself to some books and authors that I know I’ll love?

Especially since this whole week is a hobbit’s birthday, meaning that I give presents instead of getting them. It just wouldn’t do to give away books I don’t utterly adore.

What I love about this series in general, and it’s certainly exemplified by this entry, boils down to two things. One is certainly the development of the characters. St. Cyr and his wife Hero have created a partnership of equals in a way that doesn’t often happen in historical romance. They have both come through dark places and dark things, and found each other in spite of people and circumstances that stood in their way.

They both carry a lot of baggage, and it is not a weight that either can carry FOR the other. Rather, carrying it together lightens the load. I also have to say that more than either Darcy or Bond, the character that St. Cyr most often reminds me of is Roarke from the In Death series. They share the same kind of darkness in their pasts, and they both work on expiating their demons in the same ways. They have also both formed strong partnerships with women who were initially on opposing sides from themselves.

The other thing that makes this series so strong is its setting. It is so much the opposite of what we think of the Regency as being. There was so much glitter at the top, and so much rot underneath. The murder in this story is a case in point. The powers-that-be have already decided who MUST be guilty, regardless of who is actually guilty. The attitudes reflected by our protagonists resonate with 21st century readers and yet feel part and parcel of their time and place.

Wrong is always wrong. Murder is always murder. No matter who the victim was, or what they, themselves might have done. That St. Cyr sees so much of himself in this particular victim adds to the poignancy of the whole story.

In the end, good triumphed, at least temporarily. Evil got its just desserts. And the powers that be blame St. Cyr for righting a wrong that many would have preferred to bury. A combination of things as they should be with the acknowledgement that many in power do not desire that outcome.

While I am eagerly awaiting St. Cyr’s next case, probably this time next year, I’m offering one lucky reader the chance to either begin this marvelous series or pick up wherever they might have left off. This is a series where you do need to at least start at the beginning. I read the first few, lost track of the series in the middle and have returned for the last several and have enjoyed every single one since I returned.

I hope that the winner of this giveaway will too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

It’s April Fools’ Day, we’re all quarantined in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and I don’t know about you, but the thing that really feels like its melting is our brains. Also it’s raining. Again. It’s WAY too late for snow in this neck of the woods.

Or, to put it another way, our 90-day trial of 2020 is now officially over, and no one knows where to send it back to get a do-over.

But it’s finally April. We can hope that things will look up. That the sun will come out tomorrow. That the dawn will come. We WILL get through this.

And in the meantime there are books. And giveaways for more books. And giveaways for gift cards for – you guessed it – more books.

Today I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book, up to $10 in value from the Book Depository. This giveaway is available wherever the Book Depository ships in this big wide and somewhat shut down and shut in world.

This is also day 3 of my annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. There’s a giveaway here at Reading Reality every day this week. Monday’s giveaway is a $25 Amazon Gift AND $25 in Books. Tuesday’s giveaway is the winner’s choice of books by one of my favorite new authors. Thursday’s and Friday’s giveaways will be books from a couple of my long-standing favorite authors. So check out the giveaways! No fooling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton + Giveaway

Review: Servant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton + GiveawayServant of the Crown by Duncan M. Hamilton
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy, sword and sorcery
Series: Dragonslayer #3
Pages: 336
Published by Tor Books on March 10, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The Exciting Conclusion to the Dragonslayer Trilogy Long laid plans finally bear fruit, but will it prove as sweet as hoped for? With the king on his deathbed, the power Amaury has sought for so long is finally in his grasp.

As opposition gathers from unexpected places, dragonkind fights for survival and a long-awaited reckoning grows close.

Soléne masters her magic, but questions the demands the world will make of her. Unable to say no when the call of duty comes, Gill realizes that the life he had given up on has not given up on him.

Once a servant of the crown, ever a servant of the crown...

    The Dragonslayer Trilogy:

1. Dragonslayer
2. Knight of the Silver Circle
3. Servant of the Crown

My Review:

First things first. I just want to say what a treat it was to start a series, fall in love with it, and be able to just read – or be read to – all the way through to the end without having to wait months if not years for the later books in a series. I don’t always have that opportunity, either because I fall in love with the first book long before the others are out, or because I run into the “so many books, so little time” conundrum and have to space things out because of other reading commitments. Because I waited to start the first book (Dragonslayer) until the entire series was out – a happy accident! – I was able to do the whole thing in one swell foop. And wow! What a ride!

Second, this is epic fantasy of the sword and sorcery school, and there just hasn’t been as much of that around recently. I’d forgotten how much I love this end of the epic fantasy pool, so I’m grateful for the reminder and will be looking for more of it.

Third, this story manages to be both epic and not epically long at the same time in a way that just really, really works. In an era when so many epic fantasies are made up of several individual door-stop sized books, it was a joy to get such a rich and complete story in a length (or maybe I should reckon this as height) of just under one doorstop at 1,000 pages in total.

Fourth, but still not last, what makes this series so fascinating to read are its characters, and the way that their individual arcs both fulfill fantasy tropes and subvert them at the same time. Because this is a story where the characters feel like real, flawed human beings – and yet they still manage to be Big Damn Heroes, whether they want to be or not. And it’s definitely not.

I’m specifically referring to Gill and Soléne, because their respective journeys, separately and together-but-not-TOGETHER, form the backbone of the series.

Gill is the failed hero of the previous generation. His character, who is very much a classic archetype, usually becomes the mentor figure in most epic stories, whether fantasy or not, and that character usually dies somewhere in the middle so the “real” hero can take center stage. (One of my personal favorite characters of this type is actually dead to begin with, but that’s another story.)

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a great example. He was a hero in the previous war. He failed, he fell and then he hid himself away in the deserts of Tatooine. He becomes Luke’s first trainer and mentor in the Force, and then he’s killed by Vader. The mentor figure always dies. Like Merlin. And Dumbledore. And every other teacher/trainer of the young hero.

But the young hero in the Dragonslayer series is on an entirely different course than Gill’s. Because Gill doesn’t die. Instead, he becomes the hero, one more time, in spite of his own wishes to die in obscurity at the bottom of a bottle. He is, in the end, the “Servant of the Crown” as named in the title of this final volume. He serves no matter what he, himself might want. And he becomes the hero because no matter how many times he’s struck down, he gets up and tries again. And again. And again. Until the job is done.

If it ever will be.

Soléne is that young hero. Gill’s the one out in front to collect all the glory and fight all the battles, or so it seems. But she’s every bit the hero that he is, just from behind the scenes. Her power is huge, but it is also quiet. She’s the mage who operates in the shadows, not because she’s the woman inspiring the hero, but because the power she wields works best from the dark – and the quiet. He knows that she brought him the victory, and he knows that the best thing he can do for her is to acknowledge that privately and not publicly. Not that the Crown won’t give her its own semi-public acknowledgements. Maybe. If they succeed.

It is fascinating that both of their personal journeys are the journey to learn to trust themselves. He has to step up, and she has to step forward, but in so many ways it’s the same step.

I also absolutely adored that there is no romance here – nor should there be. It is wonderful to see trust, friendship and true comradeship in a relationship between a man and a woman that has absolutely no basis in will they/won’t they. Because this particular pair really, really shouldn’t – at least not with each other – and the reader is NEVER led to believe that they should. Solene is never Gill’s reward or his prize, nor is she ever fridged. She’s as big a damn hero as he is, just in a different way.

Even Amaury the villain is very, very human. While he is certainly a meditation on the cliche that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, he’s never able to grasp the absolute power he thinks he deserves. And the minute he gets close to it, it does him in. But throughout he’s human and understandable, even if he’s never a sympathetic character at all. And it’s another subversion of trope that Amaury the human is the big villain, while the really big creatures we think will be the villains, those dragons of the series title, actually aren’t. Well, at least all of them aren’t.

Escape Rating A++: I need to stop squeeing at this point. It’s pretty obvious that I adored this series from beginning to end. I began it in audio – every time – but switched to text at the point where I just couldn’t find out what happened next nearly fast enough.

I will say that the reader for all three books, Simon Vance, was absolutely marvelous. I wanted to continue to listen to him, but patience has never been my long suit. If you love fantasy and have an excuse to listen to the full story, it’s a wonderful listen.

I loved this series so much that I decided to include it as one of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week reviews and giveaways. The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by Duncan M. Hamilton (up to $20 US), whether in this series or one of his previous series (and if anyone knows whether they are all set in this same world, please let me know!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Early Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

On April 4, 2011, the very first post on Reading Reality went live. That was back when the blog was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction” after a saying I found on a t-shirt. At the time I started the blog, the country was still reeling from the “Great Recession” and a book blog was a way to keep my hand in the book world – and give myself something to occupy me intellectually, during a period when we had just moved cities (AGAIN!) and jobs were hard to come by. And doesn’t it seem like the more things change, the more they remain the same?

Nine years and three cross-country moves later, the blog is still going strong!

My birthday happens to be April 5, hence the term Blogo-Birthday was born. I celebrate these anniversaries by giving stuff away – as a way of thanking all of my readers and followers who have found Reading Reality over the years and stuck around to see what happens next.

What happens this week will be a series of giveaways. Today I have two giveaways, one for a $25 Amazon Gift Card and one for $25 in books from either the Book Depository or, for those in the U.S. $25 in books delivered from the book store of your choice. If you have a local bookstore that’s doing mail order, I’ll have the books or a gift certificate sent to you from them. If you don’t have a local of your own, then you can choose from one of the big regional bookstores like Tattered Cover or Powell’s, or get your books from the Book Depository. But books you will get!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Snow Much Fun Giveaway Hop

 

Welcome to the Snow Much Fun Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

This is always a weird hop for me. Snow can be much fun, as long as one is inside watching it fall instead of outside trying to deal with it. But snow here in Atlanta is such a rare event that it is pretty much ALWAYS fun.

Very much on my other hand, at the moment we are all supposed to be staying in and watching whatever fall. That “whatever” being COVID-19.

And even as someone who normally works from home and doesn’t go out a whole lot, it is VERY different to be in the house because I have to be as opposed to because I want to be. That it’s expected to be a “gloomy Gus” of a week here weatherwise does not exactly help. If we’d wanted to live someplace where the weather is gray and gloomy, we’d have stayed in either Anchorage or Seattle. But the weather certainly fits the week and the mood.

But this does make for a GREAT time to stay in and READ. So if you’re looking to get a new book or two (or two dozen!) to tide you over, winning either the Amazon Gift Card or the Book should be a bit of help in that goal!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Leaping Leprechauns Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Leaping Leprechauns Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

The image that most people have of St. Patrick’s Day, at least in the U.S., is either leprechauns, parades, or possibly bars. Although, since St. Patrick’s Day is a Tuesday this year, maybe no so many bars this time around.

But I lived in Chicagoland, the greater Chicago area, for, let’s just say a lot of years. So my own personal image of St. Patrick’s Day is always this one, when they dye the Chicago River bright, brilliant green!

But on this hop, in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, you have the opportunity to win just a little bit of green yourself. Either in the form of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository. All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


OMG It’s a Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the OMG It’s a Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

As if that wasn’t enough, today is also Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day can be such a fraught holiday. If you don’t have someone, the entire day is a constant and generally unwelcome reminder. If you’re in the early stages, it feels like pressure to get the holiday right. If you’ve been partnered for a long time, there can be even more expectations and disappointments.

Or it might be a breeze for you and yours.

Then there’s the question of what to get your someone for the day. Flowers? Chocolate? Dinner out – which is going to be a real zoo as this year Valentine’s Day is a Friday – and Friday night dinner out is already a zoo.

I always loved to get flowers for Valentine’s Day, but they would be sent to my work. Now that I work from home, that’s a problem instead of an option. Not that I wouldn’t still love flowers, but there’s no place safe from the cats. That’s just a mess waiting to happen. And it would. It so would.

What about you? What would you rather receive for Valentine’s Day? Answer in the rafflecopter for a chance at my usual prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


The Cat’s Meow Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the The Cat’s Meow Giveaway Hop,  hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

Not all cats actually “meow” – or even make a sound remotely equivalent. Our current clowder certainly doesn’t.

Both Freddie and Hecate “cry”. It’s kind of a whine that seems to either mean, “Where are you, my human?” or “Where am I, I’m lost and can’t find you.” Mind you, they are lost and can’t find us while we’re all in the same house. Lucifer, on the other hand, is a silent little demon. He doesn’t make much noise at all, and he certainly doesn’t meow or cry or whine. He still has plenty of ways of letting us know that we’ve been “stupid humans” and that he wants something right now.

Speaking of cats wanting things right now, My very first cat meowed. He also screamed, quite loudly. And he could say “now”, except he usually said it as “NOW!” at high volume. His name was Licorice, he was the cat of my heart, and thinking of him still makes me tear up. It’s been 25 years since he went to the Rainbow Bridge, and I still miss him.

Not that Lucifer doesn’t do his best to console me as often as felinely possible. He’s the first cat since Licorice where I’m his person. There have been plenty of others in our life, and I’ve loved them all, but for the most part they have loved Galen best and that’s okay.

On a cheerier note, here’s something definitely feline related that once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee. Also it’s true. The word “homeowner” has MEOW in the middle. Home for us is where the cats are.

But to celebrate ALL the pets in your lives, fill out the rafflecopter for a chance at your choice of $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book up to $10 from the Book Depository. And it doesn’t even have to be about cats!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous prizes be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Welcome Winter Giveaway Hop, hosted by Review Wire Media and Chatty Patty’s Place!

This is the perfect day for this hop. At least from a certain shivery perspective. I don’t know about where you live, but here in Atlanta it has been unseasonably warm for the past week. Sometimes wet and gloomy, but into the 60s. Shirtsleeve weather even in the evening.

And it all ends just as this hop opens, and temps are expected to drop like a rock – or maybe a hailstone – over the next week. It’s more than enough to make a person think seriously about global warming – because the summer will probably be brutal.

Nevertheless, the thing I love about living around here is that we have four seasons but winter isn’t terribly wintry – all things considered. Not like some other places I’ve lived in and shivered through.

But winter does have some upsides. It does get cool enough that we get out the “cushy” blankets, which brings the cats back into the bed. A purring snugglebunny is a lovely way to end the day!

What about you, what’s your favorite thing about winter? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at the usual Reading Reality prize, your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository anywhere that the Book Depository ships.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous – if possibly somewhat chilly prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop, Hosted by Bookhounds.

Every year has its highs and its lows, its bests and its worsts – and 2019 was no exception. But 2019 is over, and its time to take a look back – at least at the books.

This blog hop is all about those best books list that everyone does at the end of the year. My list was posted as Best of My 2019 on Boxing Day (12/26) 2019. Since I just couldn’t reduce the damn thing to only 10 books, it’s long. It’s really, really long.

And that’s all to the good for you. Because the prize in this particular hop is whichever book from that list you want, either in print or ebook. If you would really rather have a $10 Amazon Gift Card I’ll send the winner one of those instead, but I really want to share my favorite books. So if you say you want a book, it will be the currently available print copy – paperback if there is one, hardcover if there isn’t. Unless you are in the US and want an ebook. I don’t think I can send ebooks outside the US, but the giveaway is open to everyone so print (up to $25) is probably the best option.

Now it’s up to you. I want to share my favorites with you, and my list was long enough that there is plenty to choose from, at least something from most genres. And all good! So tell me which book you would want in the rafflecopter below and cross your fingers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more best books and best bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!