LUCY'S BLADE Hardcover – May 1 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
British author Lambshead, a research scientist with many technical papers to his credit, takes an imaginative premise for his first novel, a fantasy set mainly in Elizabethan England, but falters in the execution. After court wizard John Dee, with the aid of Lovecraft's Necronomicon, summons a demon thatpossesses Lucy Dennys, "a lady of gentle breeding... fair of face and bonny of character," Dee attempts to kill Lucy with his dagger. Sir Francis Walsingham, Lucy's uncle and the queen's spy chief, intervenes just in time, and the dagger later serves as a talisman for Lucy as she faces assorted challenges, including a plot against the queen's life. Rather than presenting the period from the point-of-view of the people living in it, Lambshead intrudes with anachronistic commentary ("Even a small cut could kill in a world without antibiotics") as well as historical exposition ("Elizabeth was the third great Tudor monarch, after her father Henry VIII and grandfather Henry VII"). Hopefully, any sequel will be less heavy-handed. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
British marine biologist Lambshead alternates the setting of his first historical fantasy involving a magical court of Queen Elizabeth I and twenty-first-century England. In the elder milieu, alchemist John Dee, at the behest of Sir Francis Walsingham, summons a demon to gain knowledge of plots against the queen. The demon escapes confinement and possesses Lady Lucy Dennys, Walsingham's niece. Fortunately, the demon is more just an ancient spirit and not venomously evil, and Lucy's subsequent adventures, plus those of her twenty-first-century counterpart, Dr. Alice Harding, occupy the rest of the book. Unfortunately, the whole shebang is based on an idiotic plot device: despite exhaustively described precautions against the demon's escape, Lucy is possessed by it because no one locked the door of the experiment chamber. Tad much to swallow. The swashbuckling heroines and twin romantic subplots do compensate, perhaps sufficiently for plenty of romantic, feminine readers. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel is part fantasy, part history, and part science fiction. After a science fiction prologue introducing the demon (which I sort of skimmed the first time, but enjoyed on a second reading), the book really hits its stride when it lands in the Elizabethan era and we meet spymaster Walsingham, his secretary Simon Tunstall, Dr. John Dee, and of course Lucy. It is evident that Dr. Lambshead has extensive knowledge of this period and is deeply in love with it. There are lots of winning period details, such as when Tunstall cuts his breakfast with a "good Sheffield blade: and then dresses for the day according to his social rank. In many places the history seamlessly ellides into the fantasy in a most enjoyable way.
All the characters are deftly drawn, and the historical ones are very true to life: you'll feel you've had an audience with Elizabeth (and be grateful you didn't have to do it for real), you'll fall in love with Lucy (but, take a number), and you'll cheer on her sea captain beau William Hawkins (but you'll wish he wasn't such a chucklehead about women). There's lots of romping good action and plenty of humour.
Dr. Lambshead wisely inserted just enough historical background that readers need not have any prior knowledge of the period in order to follow along just fine. (Ignore the stupid Publishers' Weekly comment in this context: this is a fantasy novel written for an American audience, the background asides are necessary and not at all heavy-handed.)
Buy this book, read it, enjoy it, and let's hope for more soon. Bravo!
I enjoyed this book a lot and, contrary to the Publisher's Review note, did not find the anachronisms intrusive or unnecessary. We tend, in an era where even severed limbs can be restored much of the time, to forget what a deadly, deadly place the world is without modern medicine, and what constraints that placed on both the thinking and action of our ancestors.
The story itself is, as you've probably already guessed, a mix of quantum computing, alternate (or at least hidden) history, and high magic. The characters are generally the kind of people you like to see Fighting for the Light, and when the dust settles, it's already apparent that here is raw material for bunchteen more fun romps. It's very well told, with good pacing for the most part. (Lilith's Origin could have been a touch shorter.) And the ending is, as noted, most satisfactory. Highly recommended.
Incidentally, the reason I picked this book up in the first place was that I read Mr. Lambshead's story "As Black as Hell", which appeared in the online magazine "Jim Baen's Universe" [...], and which is reprinted in the upcoming The Best of Jim Baen's Universe. THAT story is one of the ones I feel will make my buying the whole anthology worthwhile.
Welcome to my "must-read" list, Mr. Lambshead.
Not bad for a first novel. Not bad, at all.
John Lambshead usually writes scientific papers for his job at the London Natural History Museum, where he is one of the world's experts on nematodes, so he joins a long line of distinguished scientists who have moved into writing science fiction and fantasy. Like many others, such as David Brin, he brings a sort of sidewise look to his writing that appeals more than the common run of "gloom and doom" writing.
I read the book as an e-arc from Baen's Webscriptions, and then again when it came out. It easily stood a second reading, and I expect it will stand up to many more. Since I read far faster than Lambshead writes, I expect I'll have to wait and read Lucy's Blade a couple of times more, before the expected sequel, Lucy's War, is released.
Go buy this book. All the nematodes in the world will thank you if you help make John's career a success and he can leave them alone.
Associate Editor/Marketing Director
<em>Jim Baen's Universe</em> magazine
Lilith's people are essentially computer programs in the far future who forgot where they came from. The constructored Lilith and sent her back in time to confirm the "one true faith" that they have always been there.
Lilith ends up in Lucy's nervous system, in a relationship that Lucy can best understand as demonic possession. Lucy supplies the charm and psychological insights. Lilith supplies the power. Together they use charm, guile, and fighting skills to protect England.
I like the premise and plot of John Lambshead's Lucy's Blade and its science-fantasy twist on where demons come from (Lilith is a future being who comes to Earth to study her ancestors). I also like the Elizabethan setting. The characters were mostly well done, especially Queen Elizabeth (I wish we had spent more time with her -- she was a great character), Walsingham's secretary Simon Tunstall, and the pirate William Hawkins.
Lucy's Blade was unique and diverting, but it didn't meet its potential, mostly because it simply lacked style. Lambshead's sentences are short, choppy, mostly of similar structure (usually with the subject at the beginning of the sentence), and lacking creativity in word choice and figurative language. These are two consecutive paragraphs on pages 129-130 of the hardback:
"Simon sat down beside Lucy. Gwilym leaned against the wall by the door where he could watch anyone entering. A servant came in with glasses of hypocras. This expensive sweet liqueur, imported by Venetians from Smyrna, was a rare treat. The servant passed around plates of sugared pastries and pears.
The theatre was a hexagon open to the sky in the centre. The stage was a raised area against the front wall. Two highly decorated pillars held up a canopy that protected the actors from the elements. The Underside of the roof was painted deep blue and decorated with stars."
This sing-song cadence could have been fixed by a more conscientious editor. The editor should also have fixed the suddenly shifting character viewpoints, the inconsistency in the narrative voice, the misspelling of Lady Dennys' name at one point, and the many missing commas. Also, the editor should have noticed that as the pirate ship was being piloted up the Thames, Simon asked the pilot a question... but Simon wasn't on the ship.
A related issue is the constant interruption of the plot and dialog with expository statements. At some points, nearly every line of dialog and every sentence that advances the plot is followed by a sentence of explanation:
* "Very good, Master Smethwick." The master could be safely left to organise such details with his usual competence.
* "I believe I will take a turn down the long gallery to catch the sun." The Queen slipped from the royal pronoun "we," indicating that she was now expressing the personal opinion of Elizabeth, rather than a royal view as head of the English state.
In their dialog, characters often tell each other information that is clearly only for the reader's benefit, such as when the Englishman Walsingham tells his English secretary (more than once) that Queen Mary is Queen Elizabeth's sister and that Mary's husband is Philip of Spain. Not only is it unlikely that Walsingham the spymaster needed to mention that to his educated trusty secretary, but it makes for clumsy dialog and it slows the action.
If you can read beyond these issues, then you may very well enjoy Lucy's Blade because it's a unique story with engaging characters and bright spots of humor. However, so much of my own enjoyment of reading comes from the appreciation of the author's use of language and style and Lucy's Blade didn't fulfill my expectations in that domain.