The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
ARC, E-book, 336 pages
October 2, 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review through Netgalley
“Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.
The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.
For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.
The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.”
This novel was a very refreshing piece of historical fiction. The topic, the black market for lace in 17th century France, is one that I have not seen around before and was eager to read about. Anthony did not let me down and I was treated to quite the entertaining read.
As you move through this book we alternate narrators – we have: a lacemaker, a family whose life is ruined by a careless mistake made to a piece of lace, a dog who is used to smuggle lace, a guard of the boarder who is supposed to prevent lace smuggling, and a man who is desperate for lace (I think I hit them all…). Each of these characters lives show you a different part of the lace industry from the crafting, to the smuggling, to the purchasing. There also is enough history of why all the smuggling was happening to give the reader enough background to feel fully knowledgeable of what is happening.
The story is fast paced with action of every page right from beginning to end. It reminded me of an American Prohibition time period novel the way everything was black market, dangerous, smuggled, and very lucrative or disastrous depending on which side you ended up on. The characters were captivating, both the good and the bad, and all had flaws – which was rather refreshing. I kept wondering how she would write a chapter from the dog’s perspective, and I thought it was pulled off rather well. She keeps it within the limited scope of what a dog might actually understand, not having the dog think like a human. He was probably my favorite character and must have been a challenge to write!
My opinion of the ending has changed a little. When I first finished the book I thought that it was a little open ended and reminiscent of a “pick-your-own ending”. This frustrated me a little, but then I made up my own idea and was happy with my version of the ending. However, I just read a post on the author’s website where she tries to help clear up the ending with a clever scavenger hunt of pages from the book. Here is the link to that post so if you have finished the book and want to figure out what she intended you can. It helped me out. She will also be guest posting at Mod Podge Books on the 22nd discussing more about the ending.
The authors note and extended discussion with the author about the history behind the book was phenomenal and I really appreciated learning more about it – it really brings the chapters from the dog perspective home.
You can also watch this video where the author talks about the book.
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Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court