I waited most of 2013 for Julie Klassen’s new release, The Dancing Master. A story set in a small English village featuring a dancing and fencing master and a young lady looking to unravel her identity and shake up her life sounded delightful. Unfortunately, this book fell just a bit shy of the extremely interesting story Julie usually crafts.
It wasn’t that Alec Valcourt and Julia Midwinter weren’t interesting, it was just that they were hard to connect with and root for on any level. Of all of the character’s, Alec is the one you get to know and love best. Perhaps this is because he seems to narrate the most or play into more of the action. Or maybe it is because the other characters remain largely unlikable at various levels throughout the whole story.
One never feels like being miffed with Julia or celebrating with her as she untangles her family history. Likewise, one never feels like exploring deeper into Lady Amelia’s story because she is altogether frosty and unlikeable…and even when she has moments to rise above this and tries to, they fall flat. This could be because her character is too solidly painted one way throughout the text, or it could be that there were almost too many characters to invest in with this book….and too much intrigue. Between the Valcourts, the Midwinters, the Desmonds, etc., there is a lot going on in parallel and intertwined ways that made the book feel more like a mystery box than a narrative.
On a scale of 1 to 5, this is definitely a three-star book, and I don’t think I’ve ever found Klassen to be below a 5. The historical accuracy is here, the lovely period descriptions, and the overall feel of an era, but the people suffered.
Disclosure: I received an eGalley of this book to review.