The Dance of the Serpents

The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel

5/5 stars!

Ah, another incredible addition to the Frey & McGray Series. The Dance of the Serpents is a delayed follow-up of the events from the second book in the series, A Fever of the Blood. If you’re new around here you can check out my reviews of the previous books here, however I will give a brief overview of how this book relates back to the second.

A Fever of the Blood deals with the Lancashire witches and ends with McGray killing two of those witches who just so happen to be Queen Victoria’s go-to-guys for contacting her late husband. The Dance of the Serpents commences with the prime minister informing the detective duo of this and the Queen’s desire to see them both dead. The calculating prime minister comes up with an ultimatum for them though. He offers them full resources and a few of his chaperoning goons to accompany them in hopes that they can find some of the scattered members of the witch coven; who could potentially fulfil the Queen’s desires in the occult. This quest is no doubt Frey & McGray’s most dangerous yet, with both various witches trying to kill them along the way as well as the Prime minister’s goons sabotaging them at every turn.

Note: spoilers from here on out, proceed with caution.

Overall this book is a wonderful addition to the series. It has everything you would want to a Frey & McGray tale; clever and tense plot twists, complex characters and an intriguing storyline to suck you in. I will say that given how it relates back to the second book, I doubt very much that it could standalone and wouldn’t recommend it to someone without them having experienced A Fever of the Blood.

The storyline was impeccable. I must admit reading Oscar de Muriel’s previous works have trained my eye to scrutinise every twist and turn of his tales, scanning for any clues as to whose responsible but this book just completely side-swipped me. It was intricate and beautifully curated – Muriel truly left nothing to chance.

How could you do this? This book is a relic! It was already ancient when Henry VIII chose his first trollop!

Frey

Frey & McGray make for a hilarious duo. Ever witty, sarcastic and just all-round perfectly contrasted to one another and yet completely in-sync at the same time. The balance between the two characters is just spot on. Every book I feel like I notice shifts in their dynamic and how they’ve become more in tune with one another. Not just them but also their households have this terrific dynamic which is just amazing to behold.

Caroline Aldglass makes a stunning return. She is a key part of the story but also a great addition to the duo. She has such knowledge and wit, challenging the detective duo whilst also assisting them and just all round kicking things up a notch by being a total badass b!tch. There were moments of tension between her and Frey, like a mild, victorian version of Rachel and Ross from the Friends. Ultimately, I loved her in this book and would love to see her become a permanent character in future books.

Other characters I really appreciated were the return of some familiar witches such as Nettle and Oakley. I found it really interesting having the followup with them and seeing how their lives turned out after the chaos at the end of A Fever of the Blood. The prime minister, Lord Salisbury and his goons were the epitome of high-up, elite tw@ts that you really want to opportunity to smack in the gob. I mean, Boss was so irritating to me. I yearned to see him get killed in the most violent of ways. The depiction of Queen Victoria was so humorous to me. Just the whole bratty vibe was spot on for me.

Overall this book was just brilliant. Almost everything was spot on for me… BUT, yes there’s a but. I have a slight issue with the ending. Usually Frey mentions the reports and papers they’ll have to file following the events, and the various inquests, etc but this had none of that. Instead the book comes to a close as Frey has retreated to his Gloucestershire estate to recover from the hectic events. McGray visits him saying he guessed Frey wouldn’t be returning, to which Frey replies no ***GASP/HORROR/SHOCK/BETRAYAL… never ending plethora of mixed emotions***. McGray, touchingly, seemed dejected and I joined him in the mutual feeling. The prospect of no more additions and therefore, no more adventures for the duo is quite a bleak one for me although I am hoping it’s Muriel’s cunning plan to make Frey return with gusto to a sarcastic McGray saying “thought we got rid of ye, dandy”. In my mind that’s how I want things to unravel but if not, I’ll be quite happy with just the promise of more to come. (…as I’m about to schedule this post, Oscar de Muriel has actually made an announcement about the next addition to the series. I won’t go into it but I’ll just leave a lil link here for you).

Now I’ve never actually published my fave of the series in order, despite having discussed it at great length with my unwilling boyfriend; but I think I want to do that here (favourite-least favourite).

  1. Loch of the Dead
  2. The Dance of the Serpents
  3. The Strings of Murder
  4. The Darker Arts
  5. A Fever of the Blood
  6. A Mask of Shadows

I, as you can probably tell, love this series of books. Let me know what you think of them, I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

The Darker Arts

The Darker Arts, Oscar de Muriel

You only need to look at my book posts on here to know that I love Oscar de Muriel’s books. His Frey & McGray series is without a doubt my favourite series of all time (yes, I would even say above A Series of Unfortunate Events). So when I saw back in June that the fifth book in the series was to be released in August, I clicked that preorder button like my life depended on it and then did a happy dance whilst marking it on my calendar (blacking out a day or two to devour it for when it arrived).

*Now, before I go on -I must put a brief disclaimer here. While I don’t discuss major spoilers, or give a play-by-play account of what happens in this instalment to the series, I do detail a quick run-through of the overall premise of the book. Now if you are like my boyfriend and liked to go into a book or film completely blind to what will happen, then I would personally skip over the next paragraph so you don’t ruin anything for yourself.

The book picks up in Edinburgh, 1889 after the fatal events of the last book, The Loch of the Dead. The ‘closed-room seance murder’ is as dark and spooky as murder mysteries come, especially when the only survivor claims to have seen the hand of the devil appear. Those involved, and murdered that night, all have one thing in common Grannie Alice: the matriarch of the family, who held an important secret that her family members are desperate to find out. Attempting to communicate with her, those involved find themselves killed in the most terrifying way: something so terrifying that even Madame Katerina, the gypsy fortune teller, is petrified beyond belief. With Katerina as the only survivor she is of-course the culprit or at least, in everyones eyes but Inspector Nine-Nails McGray. With his fierce protection over her he pulls in his colleague Inspector Frey to help prove her innocence. With so many conflicting factors to the case, it seems that in an age of superstition Madame Katerina’s fate is sealed.

Oscar de Muriel’s ensemble of characters is by far superior to any cast of characters I have ever encountered before. They are so diversely interwoven with one another that you have to remember all the other factors that link them to the murder: which makes plot twists and motives absolutely gripping. I have to say, the last ten chapters are just beautifully written and entirely addictive. Once you reach a certain turning point there is simply no putting the book down.

While the fourth book, The Loch of the Dead, is still my favourite I must say I applaud Oscar de Muriel on what a tremendous job he did with this addition to the series. I did not know what to expect from this book. Having enjoyed the fourth so much I really was apprehensive to dive into this next one. As much as I was excited for it, I also held it an arms length in my mind and had a mental ‘proceed with caution’ sign on it. The middle section did lag a little at a certain point but now having read it in its entirety, I must say that the lag was necessary to give the reader a breather before it picks up and reaches its apex of the story.

Ultimately, this is a wonderful addition to the series of Frey & McGray mysteries and although it isn’t my favourite, I would say it’s one of them. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, they are an absolutely fantastic series of books which I personally think should be a part of everyones home library.

Cheerio for now!