Book Review – The Dire King by William Ritter

Hello Blogland,

We’re here today to talk about the fourth and final book in Ritter’s Jackaby series. I have read and reviewed them all, Jackaby, Beastly Bones, Ghostly Echoes, and now The Dire King.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, know that I rated this book 5 stars on Goodreads. It made me laugh a lot, and I cried a couple of times. I think this was Ritter’s best book so far, and I look forward to what he will do next, now that Jackaby is concluded.

There are spoilers ahead, as usual. So, you’ve been warned.

the dire king

The Dire King finds New Fiddleham in quite a state. The Mayor has not coped well with the fact that his beloved wife was an Nixie in disguise for the last 10 years, and has decided to arrest every non-human citizen of New Fiddleham.

Turns out, the city is chock-a-block full of all kinds of faeries and goblins, giants and gnomes, and everything in between. When Jackaby goes to the jail and witnesses the chaos of so many fair folk behind bars, he earns his place among some of my favorite characters ever.

He’s furious, and full of this righteous anger that was beautiful to witness. “We cannot make the world less awful by being more so ourselves.”

That’s some powerful shit right there, and I had to stop reading for a moment to let it sink in.  I hope you do too.

Anyway, Mayor Spade releases them all, telling them that Jackaby’s house is the only safe place for them, so suddenly the quirky house on Augur lane is bursting at the seams with supernatural folk.

Including something that even Jackaby had never seen. The creature is called a Twain. It’s ancient and full of pure, old magic, and typically comes in pairs. It’s described as tiny, and furry, but bipedal. I pictured a tiny, brown Lorax.

the lorax

Apparently this is something that Ritter created, because I cannot find anything about Twains on the internet that aren’t related to Mark. And I have to say he did a wonderful job! The Twain, which was alone (a red flag for a creature that comes into being with a soul mate), was enigmatic and interesting, and extremely foreboding.

the Twain explains that his mate gave her life to create the Crown, Shield, and  Spear of the original Dire King, saving his life. Twains are incredibly powerful creatures created of raw magic. Giving their lives is the greatest magical act possible, and giving their life is the greatest gift a Twain can do.

On top of all this tension in the household is the fact that Charlie Cane is preparing to propose to Abigail, a fact that Jackaby makes a point to share with his assistant. I was pissed when he did that; you can’t just spoil a proposal! Come on , man!

Oh yeah, and the fact that the evil Unseelie forces are working together to revive the Dire King and sunder the veil that separates the Anwynn and Earth. You know, little things.

Despite all this tension, the book flies along, and I laughed a lot, because this book feels like a reunion. All my favorite characters from the past books come back. Hank Hudson, Charlie Cane, Hotun, Nudd the Goblin Pirate Captain, Miss Lee, among others.

So, Jackaby and company must figure out who the Dire King actually is, and how to stop him. Unseelie forces are growing, and even Jackaby’s ragtag army of supernatural beings can’t come close to beating them.

But, they get help from an unexpected source. Pavel, the fangless vampire that tried to kill Abigail in the third book. He was betrayed by the Dire King, and seeks his revenge. So, he leads Jackaby,  Jenny, and Abigail through a rend in the veil, and into the heart of the Dire King’s stronghold.

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He then, of course, tries to kill them, and of course, dies himself. But, not before he breaks Jenny’s amulet that lets her travel beyond the house on Augur lane. She fades away, and neither Abigail nor Jackaby know if the ghost could survive her dissolution from the Anwynn.

They move on, and discover the giant machine that the Dire King has developed to tear the veil. The key to the machine’s success is the eyes of the Seer, which means he needs Jackaby.

Things get out of control from there very quickly. Jackaby is captured, the Seelie forces arrive, only to be drained by the machine, and Jackaby’s militia storm the stronghold.

And Charlie Cane dies.

Yep.  I didn’t believe it at first. I freaked out, screamed, cried. Charlie was hands down my favorite, and I was not in a place where I was ready to accept that Charlie was dead. He never even got to propose.

I had to stop reading for a bit at that moment. But I held out hope. Jackaby had just taken a spear to the chest a chapter before and survived, so I thought maybe something like that would happen for Charlie.

charlie cane

So, Abigail is crushed, she watched her boyfriend die at the hands of the Dire King, and Jackaby is hooked up to this terrible machine that will use his Sight to destroy the world as they know it. And he can only see one way to save everyone.

When the Seer dies, the Sight goes to the person they are looking at. And so Jackaby stares at Abigail and whispers, “I’m sorry.”

He dies. Yep. People are dropping like flies in this book and I was not okay with it! Please stop murdering all my favorites!

And the Sight flows to Abigail. It’s overwhelming and beautiful and gives her what she needs to convince Charlie’s sister to join her and defeat the Dire King. The backlash of the power of the machine unloading and repairing the veil is too much for Abigail and her new capability, and she passes out, but not before seeing Jenny hovering over Jackaby, her ghostly hands submerged into his chest.

She nearly dies in the darkness of her unconsciousness, and the Reaper visits her, offering to take her to Charlie. But, Abigail refuses, because the world needs her, and needs the Sight.  Because she wants to continue Charlie’s work.

When she comes to, Jackaby is alive, resuscitated by Jenny who literally pumped his heart back to life in her hands. But, the Sight is hers now, for as long as she lives. Charlie is still dead, and the casualties to both the Seelie and Unseelie forces are great.

Alina, Charlie’s sister is made Queen of the Anwynn, although she treats it more as a Stewardship, vowing to make her brother proud and pay for her treachery.  But, Abigail is numb to it all, distracted by her new Sight and her pain at the loss of Charlie.

A couple days go by, and Jackaby is there for her, helping her learn to understand what she sees, but she’s hollow. She recognizes the beauty of the library now, she can see the magical auras around the books and understands Jackaby’s methods, but she can’t feel it.

abigail rook

And that’s when the Twain returns. He speaks with Abigail, acknowledging her pain, and realizes that Charlie was her Twain. He asks why she didn’t take the Reaper’s offer of death, why she didn’t go to Charlie. And she tells him that she could honor Charlie more in life than she could in death. The Twain is surprised, but vanishes.

At the funeral, Abigail sees the Twain, but no one else does. He walks up the center aisle and stands on Charlie’s casket. He looks at Abigail and tells her that he hopes she makes good on his gift and will use it to make the world a better place. Together.

The Twain drops down into the casket and there is a bright flash of light as Abigail sprints up the aisle.

THAT’S HOW THE BOOK ENDS!!!!!

WHAT?! Like…. WHAT? How can you end the book like that? It’s the last book!!! How can you leave me hanging? I mean, I believe in my heart that Charlie was resurrected by the Twain, but damn, a reunion kiss would be nice…

What this really means is that I really hope Ritter will continue his New Fiddleham stories. This is the last Jackaby novel, but at the end of this novel Abigail Rook is the Seer, and even the house recognizes her as a Private Investigator as she enters. So, all my hopes and dreams are pinned on the continuation of this franchise, but with Abigail as the Seer.

Please, William Ritter. PLEASE! I need more! I need more time in New Fiddleham, and I need more Abigail and Charlie! PLEASE!

Sorry this was so long, but this book had a ton of stuff going on, and all of it was important. I think this was some of Ritter’s best writing, and he juggled the multitude of plot points and character arcs really admirably.  I’m heartbroken that this could be the end for New Fiddleham, though I understand that he probably wants to write something else, at least for a little while.  I get it… just, come back someday? Please?

Anyway, I’ve got Audient Void business tonight, and am listening to the next Dresden book, and slowly reading The Stone Sky. Hopefully you’ll see another book review next week.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

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Book Review – Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Hello again Blogland!

Yesterday ended up being very productive. I wrote the Interlude for From the Quorum from start to finish, wrapping it at 3,508 words. For the time I sat writing, that was extremely productive. This book is writing itself!

Beyond that, I also finished reading all the installments of Locke & Key, as well as Low, vol. 1. That’s all the graphic novels I had checked out, so I get to return a bunch of items to the library today and move on to reading Arcanum Unbounded, which I’ve put off for far too long.

But, before I get too wrapped up in that, let’s talk about Ghostly Echoes. Beware the spoilers!ghostly-echoes

This was the largest of the three Jackaby books so far. The other two were under 300 pages, but this one had 352. And that’s because there’s a lot happening.

The book opens with Jenny and Abigail experimenting with possession. Yep. You read that right. Now, most of us sane folk would say, “that’s a terrible idea.” And it is. But, Abigail adores Jenny and wants to help her anyway she can. Even if that means subjecting herself to the disorienting and painful process of letting her friend take over her body.

But, the catch is, that when Jenny is in Abigail’s body, Abigail has access to Jenny’s memories. That’s really useful since Jenny can’t actually remember the circumstances of her death.

That’s the case they’re working on, by the way. Jenny’s murder.

Well, as they investigate they learn that Jenny’s murder is tied into the string of murders from the last book, and it’s all one big case. Add in some political ties, and this book gets interesting fast!

Charlie arrives out of concern for Abigail’s safety as she tackles this enormous case with Jackaby, much to her delight. I was a little bummed because he’s not very critical to the story. I mean, he plays an important role, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like.

So, all kinds of crazy things happen in this book. Possession, Abigail throws a brick in a vampire’s face, forcefully pushing him from their home, they cross into the Anwynn, a place between life and death, and Abigail is the one chosen to cross the river Styx to try and find a particular spirit that could help them solve the case.

jackaby-with-quote
Except, she doesn’t find who she expects, but Jenny’s fiancé.

Yeah, this book is all over the place. But, when you’re reading it everything makes sense. It’s only in this summation that I see how wild some of these events are, but I ain’t even mad. This book was fast-paced fun!

Anyway, they learn that a group known as The Dire Council is behind all these deaths, and that they’re trying to create some sort of enormous scientific device, that has something to do with energies. And while Jackaby and Co., catch the main murderer, a henchman for the Council, they are no closer to actually thwarting their dastardly plan.

And that’s where the book leaves off. The next (and final) book is titled The Dire King, and I am ready for it now! I don’t want to wait until August!

Now, my favorite aspects of this book are Abigail’s newfound confidence. She loves these people she’s met and built a new life with, and she feels empowered by them to do anything for them. It’s a good look on her.

I also really loved the tender moments where Jackaby opens up about himself. There’s a lot of Jackaby’s history in this book, because The Dire Council needs him to complete their device. And so the history of how he acquired the Sight and how he coped with that gets fleshed out a bit. I loved it! He’s also more vulnerable in this book than in the others, because of his concern for Jenny. He’s hesitant to solve her case because he doesn’t want her business to be finished. He doesn’t want her to leave.

douglas-and-jenny
Two of Jackaby’s companions

It’s not like Jackaby has a lot of friends.

There was a moment in the book that, while not critical to the plot, was really powerful for me. Early in the novel Abigail and Jackaby come across a transgender woman being attacked. They stave off her attackers and get her home, Jackaby never faltering in calling her ‘her’ and treating her with respect. Abigail does her best, but she’s a little bewildered by the encounter.

When she asks Jackaby if Miss Lee was, in fact, a man, Jackaby’s response is perfect.

“‘Underneath she was herself- as are we all. Lydia Lee is as much a lady as you or Jenny or anyone. I imagine a midwife or attending doctor probably had another opinion on the matter, but it only goes to show what doctors really know’

‘Shouldn’t a doctor be able to tell at least that much?’

Jackaby’s expression clouded darkly. ‘I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,’ he said soberly, ‘but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are.'”

It struck me as immensely profound, coming from this man who most doctors would label insane. And a true representation of his character that he would stand up for Lydia Lee and defend her in a manner less defensive and more educational, even to Abigail.

I love this eccentric, fictional man. A shame I have to wait all summer to see what happens…

You probably won’t hear from me again this weekend, but I’ll see you all on Monday!

 

BZ

Book Review – Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hello, Blogland.

I’ve been a busy little reader these last few days, and have completed both Jackaby novels, as well as a few installments of Locke & Key. Pop over to the “What I’m Reading” page to get a full update.

Today we’re here to discuss the second novel in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones. If you’ve not read my review of Jackaby, now would be the time.

beastly-bonesIn this installment, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves on a case in Gad’s Valley, which is lovely since that’s where Charlie Barker, formerly Charlie Cane, now resides. There’s been a string of murders, seemingly unrelated save for a peculiar wound to the neck: a single puncture surrounded by bruising.

Along the way they catch up with an old friend of Jackaby’s, Hank Hudson. He’s a hunter and trapper, with a focus on unusual creatures. He’s also huge. I pictured him like a frontiersman Hagrid, but less approachable.

On this adventure, Abigail is torn. The official reason they’re sent to Gad’s Valley is to track down a stolen fossil, and her paleontology roots call to her. It was really great to see Abigail in her element, and she had several occasions to one up the male experts who were quick to disregard her. Jackaby was proud of her, but her interest and aptitude meant that he spent a bit of his time on his own, hunting the unseen forces behind the theft.

being-clever
I’m still waiting for a moment like this…

As the story goes on, things remain relatively light. The two paleontologists bicker and argue over all sorts of minutia, there’s a femme fatale reporter who befriends Abigail, and Abigail has a few delightfully awkward encounters with Charlie, who is even more endearing in this book.

 

But, when it appears that an actual dragon, thought extinct for a few thousand years, is terrorizing the valley, things get dark quick. Houses are razed, a nearby couple are killed, and in the final battle the reporter, Nellie Fuller, sacrifices herself to give Jackaby and Abigail time to figure something out.

And, Abigail does. That was my favorite part of this story. Abigail saves the day, and Jackaby’s life. She’s the hero, finally the strong female character, even if she refuses to see herself that way. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Abigail even kisses Charlie by the very end! Very bold indeed.

But, the events of Gad’s Valley also trouble her immensely, giving Jackaby the opportunity to wax philosophical, as he often does, and it’s always a treat. But, the events also set the stage for the next book, and help establish a larger arc for the series.

I would say that this book is very much Abigail’s. Though she’s the main character of the series, the first book had to introduce us to Jackaby and his unique place and function in the world. Now, with all that established, Abigail had the opportunity to really grow and shine.

Ritter did a good job of making his likeable narrator even more so, and keeping things fun while he did.

william-ritter
William Ritter

That would be my number one selling point of these books. They’re fun. The characters are endearing and well-developed, and the city of New Fiddleham feels like home. I want to spend time in this world, with these people. I’m happy to report that the third book is probably the best of them all, and the next book is due out this summer!

There’s no shortage of time with Abigail and Co., just yet.

Unrelated to the actual plot or books, I found out that William Ritter is a local author. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, about an hour south of Salem, near Eugene. He’s an educator, and I look forward to catching him during his promotion of the next book, The Dire King.

Aaaand, I just read that it’s the conclusion of the series. I am not OK with that. Not in the least. How can that be the end? There’s too many possibilities! You can’t just wrapghostly-echoes everything up in one book, right?

Now I’m sad. Damn it. Well, I’ll see you all tomorrow when I return with the book review for Ghostly Echoes.

Until then, Blogland…

 

BZ