I picked up this edition of Julie Hearn's Ivy for two reasons: 1) I'd read Hearn's The Minister's Daughter and really enjoyed it, and 2) the British cover (pictured left) is the exact reverse of the cover of Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith. There is a new cover for the US release of Ivy, due out June 17, 2008, which is equally stunning. I wish I could say the story is as good as the cover(s).
The Minister's Daughter is a wicked good tale, full of witchery, fairies, midwives, and a stern Puritan household. I expected more of the same from Ivy but the style of this book is just about as different as can be. I'm thinking Lemony Snicket; while it's probably more believable than TMD in the long run, it's definitely filled with over-the-top Cockney accented characters subsisting by their wits,which aren't exactly overflowing. Ivy is a sympathetic character, of course; introduced at age 5, we follow her as she "escapes" from school and is basically abducted by a thief with the intention of using her to entrap unsuspecting children from whom their clothes will be stolen. Ivy eventually ends up back with her "family" but she's become addicted to laudunum; however, as she grows, it's very evident that her beauty cannot be denied. Spied by Oscar Frosdick (how's that for a name?), he immediately identifies her as his muse for painting, his "stunner". The events that follow and Ivy's experiences as a model fill roughly the last 2/3 of the book.
I'll admit the story picked up nearly 3/4 of the way in, but til that point, I seriously considered wallbanging this one. It's just so...well, so unexpectedly goofy, so over-the-top (which is how I kept feeling as I read), so filled with unlikeable people and places that I wasn't enjoying it. Hearn's writing is nicely done, but the characterization in this novel is lacking so severely that I wasn't intrigued until Ivy is very nearly dead. I'm not sure why I pushed myself through this one, other than I really, really enjoyed The Minister's Daughter and kept waiting for this one to improve. And while it did, indeed, improve, it's nowhere near the caliber of TMD in tone, characterization, or even good ole storytelling. I ended up liking Ivy (both the book and the character) for the last 1/4 of the story, but that's a long, long way to go to decide a book's worth reading. Hopefully Hearn's next book will be more in the spirit of TMD.
Still love the covers, though. That's something.
No amazon review this time. It's still unavailable stateside so I'll have to wait to post my rather disappointing review.