The Luck Uglies: Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham

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fork tongue charmersThe Luck Uglies: Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham
Harper, 2015.

It’s sequel week at bibliobrit! Today I’ll be looking at the sequel to Cybil-winning The Luck Uglies and on Thursday I’ll review Trent Reedy’s Burning Nation, the sequel to Divided We Fall, which I reviewed last week. I don’t often read sequels as a) they’re usually disappointing, particularly if they’re the second book in a trilogy (henceforth known as DSBIT) and b) I’d rather move on to something fresh. But in both these cases, there was something special about the first book that made me want to keep reading.

Fork-Tongue Charmers sadly falls into the pit of DSBIT. It lacks the imagination of the first book and the structure is a series of mini-climaxes, none of which are fully developed. There’s too much explanation needed because the plot is too complicated, and the characters don’t really develop much from the first book. Even the map, of the Isle of Pest, feels skimpy compared to the glorious one of Village Drowning in the first book.

Earl Longchance has appointed a vicious new Constable who seems to be on a personal vengeance mission against Rye and the rest of the O’Chanter family. So they, along with Rye’s friends, Folly and Quinn, take off for Pest, the home island of Rye’s mother. But even there, they do not seem to be safe from Constable Valant.

The middle section of the book, set on Pest’s High Isle, is most satisfying and inventive. Enjoyable new characters and customs are introduced, and the plot feels like it has time to breathe. This part’s culminating battle, between the Belongers (as the islanders call themselves) and the Uninvited Longchance soldiers, has some twitches of the nimble imagination I was longing for, but is over all too quickly.

Also new are the Fork-Tongue Charmers – a shady faction of the Luck Uglies – and their leader, Slinister. He is interestingly conflicted, and makes a decent replacement for the largely absent effete Earl as the villain of the piece.

Rye, herself, continues to develop as her understanding of her family’s history grows. However, she is starting to feel more like a generic spunky, undeterrable protagonist and less like the fully rounded quirky character we came to love. And Quinn and Folly, without the backdrop of Drowning, are one-dimensional plot pawns.

If all this feels a bit harsh, it’s because Fork-Tongue Charmers felt like such a let down compared to The Luck Uglies. Really it’s still a pretty good read, but it just stumbles when put up against the profoundly gifted first born.

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