Friesner, Esther M.: Druid’s Blood

Thanks to Mely’s discussion of Esther M. Friesner’s works, I checked Druid’s Blood out of the library. This was an agreeable way to pass a couple of hours, though I’ve no strong urge to seek out the rest of Friesner’s work.

Druid’s Blood is an alternate history of the “let’s have fun with historical characters” type rather than the “let’s rigorously work out the implications of a divergence” type. That is, in a world where Britain’s rulers are Druids chosen by winning magical battles for the throne and where a magical shieldwall encircles Britain, it defies probability that the same monarchs should have sat on the throne, and that Wellington, Kitchener, Byron, Lovelace, and Wilde should exist, let alone be pretty much as they were in history (except for the oh-so-minor fact of not all being alive at the same time). It is also a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, narrated by the Watson-equivalent, “Weston,” except for a short prologue, which reveals that the Holmes-equivalent is actually an actor who made himself over into the character depicted in a few short stories published in the Strand. (Which is kind of interesting, though less is made of this than I thought might’ve been.)

Like most (all?) interesting Holmes pastiches, the focus is someone other than Holmes, namely Weston, who finds himself caught up in a plot against Queen Victoria and the foundations of organized British magic. My impression of the plot—and again, this may be the fatigue talking—is that it’s less a coherent thing than an excuse for playing with various historical figures. However, the development of Weston is done nicely and keeps the book from falling apart.

There is an unfortunately stereotypical portrayal of a non-British deity in the book. I can somewhat rationalize the portrayal as being consistent with the character who invoked the deity, but I’m not sure that’s supported by the text, and regardless I found it irksome.

Finally, Friesner has a reputation for writing humorous novels, but I can’t say if this was funny, because I’m deficient at spotting humor in novels (you have no idea how many jokes I missed in the Aubrey-Maturin novels before I started listening to the audiobooks). I remember being amused on a couple of occasions, but my general impression is that this isn’t a farce, for whatever that’s worth.

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