Guest review from Mary Kate.
Dear Ms. Knox:
I have to say – once again you have delivered an absolutely toe-curling, delicious mystery wrapped in romance. I fell in love with Frost and Mason all over again! In this continuation of their story, we find Mason in a steampunk version of 1800s England wracking himself with guilt and self-sacrifice over Agamemnon Frost – his friend, mentor, fellow transfigured, and the man he is head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, not only is Frost engaged to the lovely, damaged Theodora, but they’re embroiled in a war against the Martians, who are trying to take over the world through superior technology and mind control.
The first thing that really struck me about this installment was the progression of the relationship between the two main characters. It went from zero to steamy in a hundred. Not only were there a few passages that melted my computer screen and fogged up my glasses (in a good way, I promise), but the underlying tenderness between the pair was maintained. This wasn’t simply a hit it and quit it gay erotica, it was romance in the truest sense of the word. Despite their differing stations and the complexity of their working relationship, the genuine caring and love between the two was evident in every word written. It felt like a behind-the-curtain peek into the foundation of a legendary love story. My one very minor quibble with the relationship aspect was that there wasn’t enough sex. Oh, I know, more sex might have been over-indulging in a good thing, but what there was pegged my delectable meter off the charts.
The main plot was good – the story moved at a good pace without bogging down. The mystery was juicy enough to keep me turning the pages, though I did get lost every now and then in the more technical details. It felt as though some of those were glossed when they could/should have been explained just a little bit more. Whenever Mason and Frost discussed the people who had been “hollowed out,” because I had no real comprehension of the process, I could only imagine an evil Martian with a giant straw, hollowing out humans the same way we hollow out eggs during springtime.
The ending seemed a little abrupt, and while it wasn’t too pat, I wanted to see a bit more in the way of dialog with Pandarus. Every great story tends to have the villain making a mustache-twirling speech at the end, while cackling madly. Unfortunately, for as big an evil as Pandarus was made out to be, he was surprisingly ineffectual. It seemed as though the conclusion focused much more on the relationship aspect of the story and much less on the mystery / overall plot. A deux ex machina was employed which, despite phenomenal storytelling, left me feeling just a little bit cheated – though not cheated enough that I put the book down. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small blip on the radar. I was reading the book for Mason and Frost, mainly, with the plot secondary. I’m sorry, I admit it. My name is Mary Kate and I’m a big fan of a well-written love story.
There was one other small little thing you carried through from Hollow Ships to hint about in Crown of Towers that made me oddly happy. In Hollow Ships, Mason sees a desolate landscape that, to him, represents the end of the world – what happens if Pandarus isn’t stopped. In this book, Mason and Frost stand together and look out at a very similar landscape that seems to represent the Martian homeworld – also known as what could possibly happen to Earth. To me, it was a lovely bit of symbolism. In the first, Mason is alone. In the second, Frost and Mason are standing together. It’s a stunning and powerful visual, all by itself.
Thank you for writing such a wonderful series, filled with pride and pitfalls, relationships that aren’t always easy, and a stunning mystery! B