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Sep 14, 2012

Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Iris Anthony
An intriguing look at how lace represents evil
Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (a pseudonym for Siri Mitchell)
October 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,
pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.

The synopsis gave me high hopes for this novel and I wanted to learn more about the history of lace. I was so intrigued and saddened that in Flanders the lace makers were pretty much slaves to the trade, even while being sheltered in houses of God. The women toiled day and night making lace, becoming blinded and hunched before old age would have naturally occurred. And once that happened, they were kicked out of that house of God and put on the streets. The lace was forbidden in France for these reasons in the seventeenth century, and so people had used lace as a token of bribery and then a web of deceit followed lace from France to Flanders and back again.

One of the "main" characters (using the term loosely as there were several) was a lace maker going blind and desperately needing rescue by her sister. Her sister needs to do some dastardly deeds to raise money to purchase her sister back from the nuns. Another character is a young girl Lissette who damages some lace that belonged to a count, which set into motion years of debt to the count, effectively destroying her family. Her saving grace would be procuring more lace for the count; the count wants it in order to bribe a cardinal, because his stepmother is pregnant and his inheritance is at stake.. as you see, there are several things going on and it was this interweaving storyline that made the read worthwhile.

This is a quick read that was very intriguing once it got going. My initial response was, OH my, what have I gotten myself into? There were seven different points of view going on, from the lace maker in Flanders to down on their luck nobles and then a dog. Yes, a dog. That dog narrative was extremely annoying and I really wish that part was not included; we could have done without it. It took about the first hundred pages for me to start feeling invested in the story, and then the many different points of view started becoming connected to each other and began to finally feel like a story rather than a start and stop kind of thing. Each chapter was narrated by a different person, and it took a while to get used to the flow. But once it started flowing, I could not stop reading, and it was a strong climatic finish. I could easily say that the finish was overdone, too convenient, and too contrived, but I was entertained and it still seemed to fit well with how the author was writing it. Speaking of the author, Iris Anthony is a pseudonym though she asked me to not disclose her other writing name. I had enjoyed one of her other works thus far but being asked to keep her pen name a secret is pretty stupid and so I won't read any other of her stuff. That said, I would recommend Ruins of Lace to those looking for an entertaining and quick read, but would be hesitant to say you would enjoy it as it had quirks that you would need to be tolerant of.