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Half a Crown Half a Crown by Jo Walton

The Small Change trilogy is set in an alternate history in which Britain makes peace with Hitler and a fascist group takes over the government.

Each book has two main protagonists. One is Carmichael, who is an Inspector in Scotland Yard in the first book and moves into a different job in Half a Crown. The other is a young woman (a different one in each book) who gets caught up in the political intrigues.

There are a lot of things that I like about this trilogy:

Jo Walton creates tension by setting the comfortable, familiar tropes of English life and fiction genres like "murder mystery" and "comedy of manners" against the consequences of an unpredictable and dangerous political situation.

Many of her characters are simultaneously ordinary and heroic, or ordinary and dangerous. Many of them are forced to make difficult choices, and their choices are believable.

She writes intelligently about class and sexual orientation.

In each book there were parts of the story that I never saw coming and that surprised me. I read lots of fiction and I also write fiction, which makes me better than I'd like to be at predicting what comes next. So it's a joy when I encounter a writer who can surprise me.

In each book there were parts of the story that scared and distressed me. (For the same reasons that I'm a reader who is hard to surprise, I'm a reader who is hard to scare, and so I appreciate a book that can elicit such a reaction.)

What I liked most about Half a Crown, though, was the way it ended. Which is odd in a way, because I found the ending less believable than most of the rest of the storyline. But...it was just very emotionally satisfying.

I think the trilogy and its ending work as a parallel with the US political situation from September 2001 to November 2008, and that's part of why I find it satisfying.

View all my (goodreads.com) reviews.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
I totally agree about the emotionally satisfying, less believable ending. I read this probably 2 weeks before the election, and burst into tears when QEII was just so...sensible and forthright and everything seemed like it could finally start to turn out OK. I don't know if it would have had quite as much of an emotional impact if I'd read it a few weeks later!
Nov. 30th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
I didn't quite burst into tears, but yes.

I read a biography of QEII recently, which made the ending both more and less believable. More, because I learned she is in fact very involved in government. Less, because she is reported to strongly dislike the media and giving speeches on TV.
Dec. 1st, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
A lot of the reviews are disappointed in the ending. I certainly didn't see it coming, but it really was set up from the beginning, with being presented to the Queen.
Dec. 1st, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
Yes, it definitely was set up from the beginning!
Dec. 1st, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for the review. The first two in the series were great, and it sounds like this one is a winner too.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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