Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thy torc and thy armour, they comfort me...

So, anyway, I'd have been a lot sooner in the posting of this entry had it not been for the sinus infection that joined an ear infection, both of which proceeded to infect the lymph node they drained into. All of which meant a few nights hallucinating alternate sequences from Casino Infernale by Simon R. Green. This would be book 7 in his Secret Histories, all of which so far are plays on James Bond titles. (The listing at the end of this one for volume 8 lists the title as Property of a Lady Faire, which doesn't correspond to a Bond novel or movie that I know of.)

Anyway, I can't really go into the review of this without some backstory, which even then will be incomplete, because evidently some of his earlier medieval/renaissance fantasy has common characters.

So, for the sake of simplicity, we'll start with the 12 books of the Nightside, which was kind of like London Below in Gaimen's Neverwhere, only with many more explosions, time slips, and organizations straight out of the old Illuminati card game. While that series resolved in book 12 (The Bride Wore Black Leather), after invasions by Hell, Heaven, Lilith, Merlin Satanspawn, time travel, and just about everything else, Secret Histories started publishing around book 8, maybe?

Secert Histories concerns Shaman Bond, who is secretly also Edward Drood. Of the Drood family. Who mainly exist to protect humanity, whether they like it or not. While they, by old pacts, will not enter the Nightside, characters do jump series here and there (and also with the newest series, Ghost Finders). The Droods are a very, very old family, we find out most of their origin in Book 1, starting back at the dawn of man. We've been through various betrayals, bitter infighting, the death of The Matriarch, the death of Eddie, the destruction of Drood Manor, and Eddie leaving the family (AGAIN) and Joining the Department of the Uncanny. Which is where we join him and Molly Metcalf, Wild Witch of the Woods.

As we've been finding throughout the series, things assumed about the characters' pasts are not always as they seem. Which is why Molly and Shaman get sent to the northernmost island of Scotland, at the behest of the Regent of Shadows, to spy on a new organization first founded by Molly's now dead parents. They do find the information they seek, but at a price. As they try to transport back to London via the Merlin Glass, they wind up at Drood Manor to help with a "Family" matter. Namely, a summit between several organizations who might be affected by the war over Crow Lee's Inheritance. This ends up happening in the tombs of Mars. After much posturing, a few fights, and general silliness, Molly and Shaman go back to the Manor for equipment as they go try to break the Shadow Bank at this year's Casino Infernale.

Which is fine, except that they arrive to find that Shaman's parents have already lost his soul to the Casino. Which means he gets to bet Molly's, even though several have claims on it already. They have only their wits, as Eddie's torc gets removed before they go, and the Casino radiates a null zone most of the time that kills Molly's magic.

What follows careens between outright silly to deadly serious, often in the same paragraph. It's honestly one of the things I like best about Green's writing. I mean, during one scene as they first arrive in France, the talking car with an attitude helps Shaman and Molly escape from Valkyries that ride pterodactyls. When presented with such a ridiculous scene that is both funny and nail biting at the same time, it's a magical moment in its own right. His writing may veer off into outright lunacy, but it's done with such flair and elan that it's very hard not to go cheering right along with the shared delusion.