She Who Laughs Last, by Jennie Klassel

>> Thursday, May 10, 2007

TITLE: She Who Laughs Last (excerpt, etc.)
AUTHOR: Jennie Klassel

PAGES: 300

SETTING:Fictional island (The Dominion), during the Medieval period
TYPE: Romantic comedy
SERIES: There's a sequel Girl On The Run, about Syrah's younger brother.

REASON FOR READING: It got a DIK review at AAR.

The first time they meet, Prince Jibril captures Lady Syrah's thirteen-year-old heart. The second, nineteen-year- old Syrah kidnaps and deposits the prince in a coffin. And that is just her first trick. Odorous bedpans, clever disguises, fainting maids, gold coins: All are part of Syrah's daring and brilliant strategy to restore her family's wealth and honor. Tantalizing kisses, forbidden embraces, and heartfelt promises (and her brother's overzealous tall tales!) are not. Who's laughing now? So she frees Jibril. Then the prince vows to discover and marry his outrageous abductress, and Syrah knows at last they'll laugh together.
PLOT SUMMARY: Lady Syrah Dhion is the daughter of the head of the Ninth House, one of the 27 aristocratic families in the fictional island kingdom of the Dominion. At thirteen, Syrah fell in love with the Crown Prince, Jibril, and as she grew up she even suspected he might make her his bride.

But when Syrah turned 19, her mother died and her father became gravely ill, giving hateful cousin Ranulph the chance to barge in and take over the Ninth House. To give his claim legitimacy, he tried to marry Syrah, just as the obviously fake betrothal contract he produces said he had the right to.

When her flurry of petitions to the King produces no response, Syrah decides to fake her family's death. But she's not giving up: Syrah is determined to fight for her young brother's heritage, and so she hatches a plan. She needs to hire a mercenary to recapture her manor house, and for that, she needs some very serious money. So, how to get it? How about by kidnapping and ransoming the Crown Prince? After all, the royal family needs to pay for not heeding her calls for help...

MY THOUGHTS: Whether you like this or not will probably depend on whether you click with the author's sense of humour. In my case, it was hit and miss, with more hits than misses.

A lot of the humour was in the way Klassel has of putting things (not really what she was saying, but the funny way in which she was saying it), and that, I really liked. But she also had some running jokes, and bits of more physical humour, and those were the ones that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't.

Just as a for instance, a running joke that really had me laughing was Syrah's brother Eben' propensity for tall, wondrously embellished tales, which he used in order to get out of tight spots. Those I found really hilarious. Whenever he was in a difficult situation, he started going on about dromedaries and worms and cannibals, tales so ridiculously detailed that all who heard them were hopelessly befuddled and just let him go, rather than risk their sanity and continue listening.

And one that didn't make me laugh in the least was Syrah's lady's maid, Mayenne. Anything would set her off into complex, detailed, terrorific fancies. Like, Syrah would ask her to guard the prisoner, and she'd go "he'll ask me to set him free, and I'll have to do it, and I'll be taken prisoner, and blah, blah, blah", going into detail as to what the jailer would wear and how she would die. This was just more silly than funny.

I guess the difference is that with Mayenne, we were supposed to laugh at how stupid she was, while with Eben, the humour came from his unique intelligence.

As for the plot and the romance, I enjoyed the first half much better than the second. The first was basically Syrah holding Jibril prisoner and outwitting the king to get the ransom. Great stuff. I loved that Syrah knew exactly what she was doing and behaved just as what Klassel told us she was: a master strategist. All her actions are perfectly thought out and planned, and she's always at least 5 steps ahead of everyone else.

I also liked the chemistry between her and Jibril here, though I would have prefered to do without the childhood crush thing. I wanted to see Syrah fall in love as an adult, not simply confirm a crush she already had. Anyway, their relationship in this part was pretty good, and what I liked the most was how Jibril was attracted to Syrah's intelligence and resourcefulness.

In the second part, however, the romance which had been building up quite nicely lost all steam and the conflict felt forced, because the only reason there was any distance between Syrah and Jibril was that all the men insisted on keeping Syrah in the dark about what was going on. Syrah, the woman they all knew could plan and strategize even better than they could!

So all we had in that second half was everyone running around thinking they were outwitting the others and trying to capture this pirate I cared nothing about. The romance doesn't develop at all here. Fortunately, Klassel's writing style is nice and zippy and those last 150 pages went fast enough, but they didn't give me any satisfaction whatsoever.

MY GRADE: A B-. The second half was too much of a let-down.


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