Oracle by Susan Boulton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Oracle by Susan Boulton
I must admit that I was drawn to this novel by reading the first chapter and getting acquainted with the Oracle; a character; who reminded me of another character in something I recently read. In Diamond Eyes by A.A. Bell there is a blind girl not quite blind who sees the past (not the future) and rambles on about things and is generally ignored. But where Oracle is allowed to roam and live off the charity of others Mira was institutionalized and often kept sedated. Both are integral to the plot of the story and both seem to embody the most innocent of characters. (Though Mira does have the spirit of an imp in her.) And somewhere around there the similarity ends and the Oracle takes on her own life as I dig into the story.
This novel is billed as Gaslight Fantasy and mentions Steam power also on the cover though it is only the vaguest of reference drawn to Steampunk and this book surely does not lean much into the Steampunk. Gaslight or Gaslamp as some would have it, seems to be where this story is. I'm not sure whether to call it Victorian or Edwardian; but that is mostly my own deficiency. Its historical fiction of a slightly altered world that has a lot that borders onto the Paranormal. It is a landscape of intrigue and suspense.
We have trains; possibly steam trains though there is no real depth taken in their description. The train is important, because the first half of the book is a bit of trying to understand the Oracle's fractured predictions: possibly to save the day. There are two characters that seem to be the main characters in the novel although it took me a bit to finally decide that. Through careful elimination as many characters became duplicitous and multifaceted and deceitful. Finally it devolved down to Pugh Avinguard and the Oracle (who is really his ex-wife; Claire). Pugh is a quite well developed character while the Oracle's development is often stunted by her being two personalities struggling to control one form.
One hindrance for me throughout the novel was that the shifting point of view would give me several different explanations of events in peoples lives-somewhat based on rumor so that it was often difficult to tell which story was the truth. As an example the rumors ran everywhere from Claire being dead to her having eloped with Pugh then running away and having the marriage annulled. And finally; to her father arraigned the marriage for political reasons and Pugh having cast her out and divorcing her and thwarting his father inlaws dreams. And I might not have all of that correct; but there were other characters as equally misrepresented this way.
This world in which the Oracle exists is one where slavery is practiced under another name and passed off as the best way to take care of the poor. There is change in the air and the Oracle is in tune with this though the political climate is still fraught with those who are comfortable with things staying the way they are. But rebellion is afoot and foreign interest would love to see the country fracture under the stress of social upheaval.
The Oracle has a future that seems to be heading into a dark area of things, but the reader is not to fear as there is some hope of redemption; though it may cost the few that are near to her.
There is an end to this story that can satisfy the reader, though there seems to be a large number of threads that are left hanging; or perhaps left to the imagination. It is difficult to tell from this if the author will seek to visit this land again.
Overall the novel has solid writing with a fair to sprawling plot that only resolves, at the end, if we look strictly toward this being the story of Clair and Pugh.
I would have loved to see Claire come out stronger in the story especially when there were other strong female characters such as Elizabeth who delivered my favorite tongue in cheek statement.
Remember, I am just a woman, and you are making my delicate mind hurt.
Boulton, Susan (2015-03-31). Oracle (Kindle Location 150). Tickety Boo Press. Kindle Edition.
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