Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Friday Society


The Friday SocietyAuthor: Adrienne Kress
Release date: December 6th 2012
Publisher: Dial
Hardcover, 440 pages
Buy: The Book Depository

An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them all 
Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.
It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.
Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

First things first: The Friday Society is a turn-of-the-century almost-steampunk (I’ll get to the ‘almost’ part later) that is exciting, funny and has a large number of unique, interesting characters. The idea of three intelligent young girls teaming up to solve crimes may have been used and abused far too many times, but the Victorian setting meant a new context that could have provided the necessary freshness. Unfortunately, it made things much worse instead.

Cora, Nellie and Michiko don’t have much in common, except that they’re all intelligent and very competent. Cora is an assistant to Lord White, a politician and an inventor. She’s interested in science and spends most of her time keeping his Lordship away from the opium dens. Nellie is the gorgeous assistant of Great Raheem, an accomplished and well-respected magician. She is very girly, but also very athletically gifted. Michiko came from Japan to work with a British self-defense instructor, wanting to escape from the parents that wanted to marry her off and her samurai teacher who refused to present her with a katana. She doesn’t speak much English and she’s constantly yelled at and beaten by her employer.

What turned The Friday Society from a fun fluffy read to a complete disaster was Kress’ carelessness or nonchalance towards the language. I am baffled by her constant use of modern colloquialisms in this book. I was ready to disregard the far too modern worldview of her heroines, the (unbelievably) liberal and progressive society, but language use is where I draw the line. I don’t think that ‘smokin’ hot’ was used to describe an attractive individual over a hundred years ago, and somehow I doubt that the word ‘awesome’ was used in every other sentence either. Aside from the steam-powered gadgets, steampunk should attempt to recreate an era, and that is largely done through language. Authors should either know how to do this, or not write steampunk at all.

It is a shame that Adrienne Kress didn’t do a better job with era- appropriate language. I was almost ready to forgive some of it, but then a character would say something so painfully jarring, and it would make my blood boil.

I wasn’t entirely unhappy with the abovementioned steam-powered gadgets. Cora is an inventor after all, and she had a few (very entertaining) aces up her sleeve. There were dirigibles, steam cabs, night vision goggles and other interesting things, and while they weren’t exactly described in detail, they at least worked well with the plot.

In this case, my two-star rating doesn’t mean anything other than ‘I had no idea how to rate this book’. There were things I truly enjoyed, humor and characters most of all, but in the end, even that wasn’t enough. Gail Carriger may not be much of a plotter, but no one can object to her language use or her ability to re-create the atmosphere of the Victorian era. Adrienne Kress, on the other hand, should write books in which characters can like, say ‘like’ as many times as they want.


24 comments:

  1. Steampunk Valley girls! Oh boy. I was excited to see an Asian girl on the cover too, although it reminded me a bit of Sucker Punch. Speaking of Gail Carriger though, is she worth reading?

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  2. Sadly, this was one I DNFed. I LOVED the premise and the cover totally ROCKS but the whole language thing really irritated me. Maybe she should have made a more modern-day steampunk-y story, then it would have worked.

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  3. Huh. I'm trying to decide if the disregard for the era would be something that bothers me. I think I might be able to get past it, but it would depend on how often modern sayings pop up and remind me of the error. It's such a shame about that though, because otherwise this sounds like a really fun story, and I'm a huge fan of steampunk in general. I've got a lot of other books I'm dying to read, so I think I'll be passing on this one Maja, but fabulous review as always!

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  4. ehhh that sounds pretty annoying. I hate when books are supposed to take place in a certain time or place but the characters don't act as if they are from there at all. Sorry that the dialogue ruined this one so much for you. I love the idea behind this one though, the kick-ass girls, but sad that it just didn't work. Great review, Maja!

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  5. I've not read many steampunks, I think just one. But, I've had this book for awhile now, but have yet to read it. I completely agree with you about the language aspect. It doesn't sound believable with the time the book is written in. Awesome review :)

    Janina @ Synchonized Reading

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  6. This looked like it would be such a fun read. I am sad you didn't enjoy it more. It is always hard to write a review about a book that you just aren't really sure how to rate.

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  7. Aww, I really enjoyed this one. Granted I was in a mood for a fluffy, fun book and was at a reading slump when I picked it up. The language didn't bother me for some reason and I just seem to whip through this one. I was actually hoping to see a sequel for it. Sorry this one didn't work for you.

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  8. Yikes. I had been skeptical about this one (mainly because I have bad luck with all things steampunk) but I think this review sealed the deal for me. The language would have driven me nuts. If you want to write a Victorian set story, then make it legit, including proper language. Great review, Maja. :)

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  9. Modern phrases are something I can't stand when it comes to books set during Victorian times. I can see why the language here would have been jarring. I was really looking forward to reading this at one point. I even had it as a WoW post months back, but somewhere between then and its release date, I lost all interest in the book. Sorry it didn't work for you, Maja, but great review!

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  10. Great review, Maja. I'm still curious about the gadgetry, what a shame about the jarring language and things that just didn't seem to fit together :(

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  11. I borrowed this from Candace and I just sent it back without reading it and I am glad I did. She said the same thing about the language and I know she isn't as critical as you or I. It sounded like such a fun read. Too bad!

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  12. Well at least the characters were interesting, but sad things just didn't fit together and the language was off

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  13. Perhaps if she just reinvented the steam age to a mix of now! Ipods steam powered. Might have been fun and more consistant with the language. Too bad it didn't work for you. I don't think it would have worked for me if it just didn't seem to flow together. Perhaps for a younger crowd?

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  14. It's so funny when small details can completely throw off your enjoyment of a book, and the more they occur, the more grating the story becomes. Is this supposed to be like Charlie's Angels but steampunk? The covers certainly make me think that. Anyway, I like gadgets and girl power, but not sure that's enough to make me read this one.

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  15. Aww it sucks that the language and atmosphere didn't work in this! I am very picky about steampunk, and the contemporary slang would definitely grate on my nerves. Thanks for your honesty! I'll definitely skip this one. (After seeing so many DNF's awhile back, I don't feel like I'll be missing out either).

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  16. Uh-oh...I feel like you're in a bit of slump these days, Maja, and it's a real shame this is AGAIN steampunk gone wrong! First The Clockwork Key (or something like that) and now this. *sigh* I completely understand your qualms with this one, though, and know they would irritate me to no extent as well, so I'll be skipping this one for sure. Beautifully written review as always, Maja! :)

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  17. Oy! Yep, I'm not surprised that this one is getting yet another negative review. The cover makes it sound like an amazing steampunk, but it's quite depressing to hear that the steampunk element was the worst in this book! It's a shame that Kress wasn't able to make the steampunk era sound believable. Hey, at least you had (somewhat) fun with this book. Thanks for the gorgeously written and helpufl review, Maja!

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  18. This one sounds like it could be amazing. I've heard a few people say the same about it. Thank you.

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  19. No offense to the author...it's more a statement toward publishers...but sometimes I wonder how certain books get picked up for publication! It just sounds like the language would have been something the editor would point out. Anyway, sorry you didn't like this! It sounds like an enjoyable read...but if I'm going to break into steampunk, I need to find a better rated novel.

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  20. Oh boy - that is a big no-no for me too. I must MUST have language that is as accurate as possible. Maybe the author wasn't trying to go for accurate, but more humour... but it's just not my kind of thing at all, even if that was the case. It would just annoy the crap out of me and that would be all I could focus on until I couldn't see any positives to the book. So yeah, definitely not for me. But I imagine there is a subset of readers who would actually really enjoy reading this one!

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  21. Aw! It is a shame that this didn't pan out for you, Maja! I haven't heard much about it, but the blurb made it sound like a great girl-power type of steampunk novel. But if it's not very well-done in the steampunk aspect, I feel like much of the rest would fall flat for me as well.

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  22. Yep, I'm with you. The language totally ruined it all for me. Most everything was far too modern for me and just made it all feel rather odd. I was told that the author did that on purpose, like maybe to draw in those who don't like HF, but for those of us who DO read HF and steampunk, it was ruined. It had potential to be great, but fell short. I think I might have given it 2.5 stars because there were some bits that were good, but yeah, it was a little tough for me too.

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  23. I was never tempted by the blurb on this. I'm glad I trusted my gut and didn't request it. Thanks for the honest review, Maja. :)

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  24. I have a copy of this one sitting on my shelf but I haven't gotten around to reading it because I thought the heroines sounded kind of too modern. I'm really surprised though that they're using words like hot and awesome. I'll probably continue leaving this one unread as a result.

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