The Wounded Ones by G. D. Penman
Publisher: Meerkat Press Publication date: 23rd June 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Demons and serial killers are Iona “Sully” Sullivan’s bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing Read More…
The Wounded Ones is the second installment in G. D. Penman’s Witch of Empire series, and I was very fortunate to be granted a copy via Netgalley – thanks Meerkat Press!
I want to raise a couple of notes for my Netgalley review, which I won’t include in my general review for Goodreads etc.
Firstly, the quote on the cover is, I feel, nothing short of dreadful. Having read The Year of the Knife prior to starting The Wounded Ones, the character of Sully is nothing like Harry Potter or Katniss, and made me question whether Gill Chedgey had even read the book. I appreciate this kind of “like x meets y” comparison is great for marketing, but in this instance I think it’s highly misleading. Readers expecting her to be like this are going to be disappointed and may review the book unfairly; but likewise it pushes away those readers who feel characters like that, or YA as a genre, is too immature for them. Either assumption would be doing this book a great disservice.
Secondly, it may be a small quibble, but I noticed many instances of the term “off of”, and I was a little surprised the editor let so many of these through! Having checked briefly I understand it’s commonly accepted within American English, so perhaps this is why. British readers like myself would see it as a grammatical error, and it’s quite grating.
Penman has gone from strength to strength: The Year of the Knife felt like a whodunnit with Bigger Themes lurking in the background waiting to escape. With The Wounded Ones, Penman gives those themes free reign. There is a firmer step here towards more standard magical-fantasy fayre of demons, mythological beasts, and other planes of existence… As Sully’s world rips apart around, I felt myself on firmer ground. Sorry Sully. There is still a mystery as part of the plot here, there are disappearances happening, but this seemed to fall to the wayside. I think perhaps if a little more time had been allowed to this part of the plot the overall story might have balanced a little better, but as it was this was still a wonderfully meaty story with plenty of excitement to keep you turning the pages.
What I particularly loved about The Wounded Ones was the exploration of relationships and expectations. There are two very different kinds of mothers present, and it made for some heartbreaking moments. I’m trying to be careful what I say here without spoiling things, but suffice to say Penman’s characterisations, their drives and their faults, are a very strong element of his writing.
Previously, in my review for The Year of the Knife, I didn’t touch much on the magic system – which was extremely remiss of me, seeing as how focal it is to these stories. If you’re the kind of reader who loves a well-systemised magic system, with strict rules making it more a science than the unreliable raw magic of someone like Alix E Harrow, then you’re going to love this one. It’s a very well developed system indeed. Previously, we had a taste of taboos, curses, and we touched upon demons. Now, demons are very much more at the fore, as are certain other mythological creatures, and we explore the nature of wishes and their devastating affects; and the other realms from which magic is drawn. I found it a fascinating take!
As I said, there’s more heartbreak involved this time round. By the end, I was not ok. Up until this point, a particular character hasn’t always demonstrated her love through her actions; it wasn’t exactly the kind of relationship I had been rooting for. Like when a close friend of yours starts seeing someone you suspect isn’t quite good enough for them. But they make your friend happy so you resolve not to say anything and instead keep a close eye. There is, however, a hint that they’re about to redeem themselves – and it’s a wonderful hope to carry on through to the next book. I need the next book now dammit!