I wrote this yesterday, hours after I actually finished the book, and then I realised that it’s about as much like a book review as an aardvark is like the English Channel. Still, it’s my book noise, so I had to put it up here after I wrote a real review.
The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan
There is a lot of wow in this book. I feel like it’s one of the little rewards I get for not reading reviews/spoilers even summaries. Because while it might seem obvious to some people that Violet, Countess of Cambury is the genius behind Sebastian Malheur’s brilliant scientific advances. It comes out on page two or three, and it was a wham moment for me. Maybe I’m just slow.
Or maybe it’s because all of the other characters in this series are a bunch of jerks. I say this with lasting affection for the books in the series and if Oliver and Robert were real, I would smack them upside the head. Part of the wham moment at the beginning was my saying aloud, “Wow Oliver is dumber than I thought!” Seriously, it gave so much delicious context to his derpy realisation of Violet’s notice of Sebastian in the last book that I found it more funny than anything.
And then he and Robert acted like the worst friends ever at Oliver’s bachelor party. Or whatever it was. Robert failed to ask Violet, and when Sebastian was angry that she had been even momentarily excluded, both Robert and Oliver failed worse by not seeing how serious Sebastian was, dismissing basically everything he said until he stormed out, and compounded the entire awkward situation by insisting repeatedly that Violet didn’t have to be there.
It amazes me how people behave outside the sphere of Main Character. I realise that each book is from the perspective of different people, and complex characters will not only be seen differently from person to person, but massively so when shown in their own perspective. HOWEVER. This series shows that variation more dramatically than most, possibly because most tend to put previous pairs on a bus. By the time we get to this book, the characterisation has gone a bit whack-a-doo.
So far, Sebastian has been consistently seen as charismatic with a wicked sense of humour, and very visibly off-kilter, possibly to the degree of mental illness. Mild mental illness, like he’s in a high school anime club and he’s probably faking it. In this book, he has secrets and serious thoughts, and the fact that his friends treat him like a pet duck trained to do tricks makes them look like assholes. Especially when he tries to tell them important things.
Outside of his own perspective, Robert loses a lot of competence somehow, and Oliver is just weird. From Robert’s POV, Oliver is this mysterious figure that just seems to be happy and wise, and a little bit like Gandalf. Oliver seems to see himself as bitter, full of anger, and much more clear on what he doesn’t want than what he does. From Sebastian’s perspective, Robert acts like a slow child, and Oliver is purposely dim.
….oh my goodness. Writing all that made me realise. This is not whack-a-doo. It’s exactly what it should be. It’s just JARRING. Because you guys, I am so much like Sebastian that I probably shouldn’t tell anyone. Sebastian is bright, in manner and in mental processing power. I’ve had friends whom I considered incredibly close and yet they were slower than me and frustrating. I loved making them happy, but they treated me a lot like that pet duck I mentioned. Oh, Sebastian, without Violet, your life kind of sucks.
Both Minnie and Jane make a good showing, although I was disturbed by Minnie’s comment about motherhood making her forgetful. Sure, I’ve basically forgotten half my life and most of what occurs in a day since my son was born, but I’m not a militant chess GENIUS. I don’t even remember the rules half the time. Still, her personality was intact and Jane got to flaunt her wonderfully awful taste.
Blah, this book, this book! I loved it. I did. It just made me think and now I can’t stop. Violet is amazing and horribly tragic. I have a lot of things in common with her too, and it hurt. Except the Science. I don’t have that. But it was awesome!
I almost cried once or twice, and now I don’t know if I can read the next book. I have never liked Frederica and her kitschy nickname. Guys, this girl is named after her mother’s sister AND her nickname is FREE. I just… I don’t do kitsch. It makes me need flamethrowers.