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The Watchtower by Lee Carroll

December 29, 2011

The last in a long line of women sworn to guard our world against evil, jeweller Garet James is struggling to come to terms with who – or what – she really is.

Will Hughes, the alluring four-hundred-year-old vampire who tasted her blood and saved her life, could help, but he’s disappeared. Garet believes he’s in France, searching for the Summer Country, the legendary land of the Fey where he might be freed from his vampire curse.

Desperate to understand her legacy, Garet follows Will. In Paris, she encounters strange, mythic beings – an ancient botanist metamorphosed into the city’s oldest tree, a gnome who lives beneath the Labyrinth at the Jardin des Plantes, a dryad in the Luxembourg Gardens – meetings that convince her she is on the right path.

But Garet is not the only one trying to find the way in to the Summer Country – and the closer she gets, the more dangerous it becomes…

 

For some reason I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed the first part to this series, Black Swan Rising when I read it back in August. With the wonderful lyrical writing, and a full cast of magical creatures, I was absolutely captivated by the story and couldn’t wait to read more, and I’ve been recommending it ever since. Unfortunately, I feel a little sad to have to say that the second novel in the series, The Watchtower, didn’t deliver quite as well as the first, and I’ve been left feeling a bit disappointed.

Lee Carroll – a pseudonym for husband and wife, Carol Goodman, and Lee Slonimsky – certainly can’t be faulted for their wonderful prose, which let’s face it, is often hard to come by in the urban fantasy/dark fantasy genres these days. Where this story all went wrong for me, was the way it was split between the present day focus on Garet, and the past life of Will. Garet is a on a mission inParisto track Will down and find access to the Summer Country (the land of the Fey), whilst Will’s story follows his quest to become immortal, and we discover exactly how he became the vampire that he is today.

The structure of this novel is completely different to that of Black Swan Rising, and although at first I was definitely intrigued by Will’s past, he soon became a rather unlikeable character – shattering the illusion of his relationship with Garet for the reader. I almost didn’t really want them to even be together by the end of the novel. That’s not to say that Garet’s part of the story was faultless either – I found her whole quest to find the Summer Country and Will, a little tedious. She discovers an endless array of new creatures who then advise her to seek another creature who will hold the answers she seeks, and it goes on and on like this until the very end. It almost felt like a Dan Brown novel! As much as I love all the wonderful and weird creatures in these stories – sometimes they feel like they are just plonked in there to flesh out the story, or like Lee Carroll are on a mission to squeeze in as many creatures as possible. It all becomes rather silly.

My other gripe with the book is that it has far too much poetry in it for my liking. If you have a passion for poetry then this may be up your street, but I’ve never been one for poetry and I found it rather hard-going. I guess it’s to be expected when one of the authors – Lee Slonimsky, is actually a poet, and I certainly don’t doubt the quality of the poems, but rather that I personally didn’t enjoy it.

However, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom here. We do get a great insight into Will’s former human life, and how his relationship with Garet’s ancestor, Marguerite, begun, and of course how he actually became a vampire in the first place, when all he wanted was immortality.

In short, this novel isn’t as good as the first one, but it hasn’t put me off wanting to continue the series and I’m excited to see how it ends. If you haven’t started the series yet, why not read my review of Black Swan Rising and see if it floats your boat? 🙂

The Watchtower is published by Bantam Press, and is out now.

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