Monday, February 14, 2011

Something Dangerous by Penny Vincenzi

The second book in the Spoils of Time trilogy picks up as the children from the main characters in No Angel are entering adulthood. The entire second book focuses on this next generation of characters as they find love, have children, and decide what to do with their lives. Lyttons, the family's publishing house begins the novel as a viable career option for almost all of the children. Then, World War II breaks out and everything changes.

At Lyttons, Celia still holds a great deal of power. It's the only place where she can still control her children, keep them beaten down or draw them up as she sees fit. Being her children gives them no special treatment and no matter how old they get, they still have to contend with her professional opinions of them. These interactions have more affect on their personalities as adults than anything Celia did with or for them as children.

The focus goes beyond just Celia's children - Giles, Adele, Venetia, and Kit - extending to Barty, the adopted daughter, Jay, Celia's nephew, and Izzie, the child of a family friend. All of these characters, along with their significant others we meet along the way, struggle to find their own identities in their day-to-day life and even more so when WWII begins.

The War plays a much more central role in Something Dangerous. Although WWI happened during No Angel, it never becomes a key player in the story beyond how it affects London and life there. WWII, on the other hand, touches all the lives of our new set of main characters. All the boys (and even Barty) enlist. Lovers die, people's lives change forever because of permanent injury, there's even one harrowing escape from the Germans. In this book, the war is as much a character as any living person -- deeply sinking into the personal histories of this new generation.

I'm really still enjoying this series with two books under my belt and one more to go. I feel like I know this family personally. Vincenzi's story is so complete, even with so many characters to keep track of, and her soap opera-like plot twists consistently spice things up.

I love all the excitement and the historical context with it occurs in. A character going into labor while at work is exciting, but a character going into labor alone in her office while her husband is off at war and London is being bombed, is even more compelling. The history included in the narrative gives us a glimpse of all the experiences one had during the War and sheds a lot of insight into what went on beyond the battles and the bombing.

By the end of this book, you love and hate a completely different set of characters. Someone you may have felt sorry for in the first book you can no longer stand and people you found vapid and useless have no come into their own. You've watched a whole generation grow up not just into adulthood, but beyond, to the point where experience has begun to build wisdom. You've partaken in their joys and sorrows, watched them marry, have children, and begin careers. I can't wait to find out what happens to everyone next.

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