Lamplighter: Monster Blood Tattoo: Book 2 by D.M. Cornish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This took a long time to finish because I was listening to this at night before bed and I would often fall asleep and have to rewind it the next night! I finally finished it early this morning. While I didn't like this one quite as much as the first book or the last (I had to read book 3 a few months ago for review), it was still a good read, and I was drawn into the world of our intrepid young hero. I just love Rossamünd. He's like my honorary little boy. Just a sweet kid. When he hurt, I hurt, when he was lonely and uncertain, I wanted to hug and comfort him. I was proud of him when he triumphed. He has a lot more honor, bravery, love, and heart than a lot of grown men, and he is a very humane person, which counts for a whole lot in these books. He alone makes this book series worthwhile.
I wasn't as enamored of the lifestyle of a lamplighter. Perhaps a bit too regimented for me. I believe that Rossamünd is about ten or so, but he is treated like a grownup, like an army recruit in a dangerous job that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Mind-numbingly boring, and unnecessarily dangerous. Not a good mix at all. Basically folks risking their lives on the roads to keep the highways lighted, way out in the boondocks (because that's so important), for the glory of the Emperor of the Half-Continent. The grunts are hard-working folks, and some of their superiors as well. But as always, you run into useless bureaucrats like the Master of Clerks who appear to want folks to end up dead. I couldn't figure out if he was just clueless or deliberately evil. I am leaning towards the latter since he is in cahoots with one in this book who definitely is evil.
As always, Rossamünd struggles with the moral conflicts of killing monsters or stepping aside in this war, when innocent humans' lives are at stakes. He knows quite well that not all monsters are bad and not all humans are good. He has to make the choice to fight or not near the end when things come to a head. And he chooses rightly. But for his troubles, he has to deal with enemies that are high in the government's workings. Good to know he has a powerful person or two on his side like Europe.
I have to be honest that I spent a lot of this book looking for Europe when she wasn't around. It's because I love the relationship between her and Rossamünd. I think that she is the mother that he never had, and he is her child in all but birth. But beyond that is a mutual respect and an essential aspect to their relationship that challenges them both to be better in the ways that are unique to each as an individual.
Threnody, a young girl that also joins the Lamplighter corp is much as I would have imagined Europe as a girl. Very haughty, yet unsure, her social superiority much like armor against the hurts of the world and the fact that she can't ever live up to her highborn mother's expectations. It was not surprising that she and Europe didn't get along at all. No doubt due to a sort of jealousy for Rossamünd's attention that Threnody feels, and perhaps some projection on her by Europe for the young Europe that she sees in the girl. Threnody was a bit annoying for most of the book, but at the same time, she grew on me, because I could see how she connected to Rossamünd and depended on a relationship with him to be 'normal' and perhaps feel human. And that is a bit of irony in itself.
Cornish has a way with imbuing this work with characters of distinction, even if their roles are quite small at times. I loved seeing Masters Fransitart and Cramupalin again. And I liked some of the fellow lamplighters and authoritative figures that Rossamünd engages with. The bad guys are quite unlikeable, be it evil monsters or evil beaurocrat humans. But the good thing is no one is cardboard or lackluster.
As far as world-building, this book has a complexity that makes it a more difficult listen than read. However, it was distinct, creative, and interesting. This world of monsters against humans isn't all black and white, but very much in shades of gray, which works well when you have a lead figure like Rossamünd who doesn't fit especially perfect in either world.
Although I didn't enjoy this as much as book one or book three, it was still enjoyable. More than anything, this is due to an unforgettable and utterly endearing main character. My beloved Rossamünd stands out to me. What a sweet kid he is. Equally fascinating is our Lady Europa, The Branden Rose. A woman of power and authority who has a surprisingly tender heart when it comes to Rossamünd. I love her for that.
I am sad to see this series come to an end as far as my reading pleasure. I would love to see more of Rossamünd and Europe.
This won't work for every YA or even older reader, but I like that it is a bit off the beaten track and challenging in the subject matter. I feel that the writer put a lot of energy and effort into building this world, and his characters will linger long in my mind, even though I have finished this book. A sign of a good book indeed for this reader.
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rossamünd Bookchild
Gemma Arterton as Lady Europe, The Branden Rose
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