Book Review: The Binge Continues

My historical romance binge continues with a three-book series called The Extraordinaries, by author Melissa McShane. Let’s be honest: I read these books because of the GORGEOUS covers. It happens.

You will probably enjoy this series if you are a fan of naval war books like the Horatio Hornblower novels but with a fantasy twist, like the Glamourist Histories.

Burning Bright introduces us to a Regency world where children, usually in upper-class families, develop “extraordinary” genetic traits. The powers are an expansion of paranormal concepts like telekinesis, telepathy, and pyrokinesis, and the magic system is well designed and believable.

The novel is a nicely executed read about a woman choosing neither forced marriage nor spinsterhood, but the “third path,” of serving in the British Navy. My initial headlong dive into the book washed up plenty of surprising plot twists and a very satisfying ending. A second-read revealed a few minor issues I glazed over due to enjoyment, but on the whole, it is solid.

Wondering Sight is a middle novel, and for me, the least enjoyable of the trilogy. The pacing bogged down and so did the main character’s arc, both suffering from the same problem: Backstory Baggage. The result is a book that offers a reader unclear expectations and conflicting foreshadowing about the hero/villain, romance element, and the mechanics of the heroine’s Seer powers.

Frankly, a story about a woman who lays on her bed and Dreams or has Visions a lot was going to be problematic. The book’s flow was regularly interrupted by confusing secondary characters, info-dumping and almost entirely unsuitable, unromantic love interest. I finished for the sake of the series, but I wasn’t surprised by anything, and I didn’t really care about the characters by the end of the book.

Abounding Might has the most enjoyable main character of the three books. From a writerly perspective, it may be the strongest, but I like boat stories better than intrigue tales, so #1 is my favorite.

It begins in the way “they” say you’re supposed to start a book: In the middle of the action. I would submit that, while technically “correct,” beginning on a battlefield, with a dead man covered in blood, is an awfully rough place to start a romance.

I appreciated that the heroine of the book pushed boundaries, took huge risks, and suffered consequences for them. A true romance, it was the relationship between the heroine and her hero that made this book a good read.

It did not suffer from the info dump lulls or confusing character substitutions in Book 2, but some heavy-handed foreshadowing of a few plot lines made it a little predictable in the second act. Not so much that there weren’t surprises and misdirections to enjoy at the climax and in the denouement.

Taken as a whole, the series has enjoyable settings, great main characters, a thoughtful magic system, interesting ideas, and is well plotted. Plenty there for a good solid historical, romance, fantasy, Regency binge, if you’re on the lookout for exactly that sort of thing.

 

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