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Freedom & Necessity Review

Freedom and Necessity - Steven Brust, Emma Bull

My sister recommended this book to me, and it took me several years to pick it up (as usual), but it was definitely worth the wait. The book, an epistolary novel written by SFF heavyweights Steven Brust and Emma Bull, concerns a group of family members in England in late 1848. As the action begins, James Cobham (presumed dead, but in reality having recently escaped from captivity) writes to his cousin Richard to enlist his assistance in uncovering the mystery of his "death." The matter evolves to include their cousins Kitty (romantically involved with Richard) and Susan as well, and the story is told through their letters to one another, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and so on. Once the plot really gets going, any two of them are rarely in the same place at the same time.


It's difficult to describe the plot except to say that it involves revolutionaries, and politics, and a group of people practicing a druidical magic. There is a great deal of discussion about Hegel, most of which went right over my head. The epistolary format sometimes lends itself to rambling and reflective passages that would frustrate any reader looking for continuous action. But the conclusion was well-plotted and satisfactory, from my point of view.


This book is definitely not for everyone. But if you're interested in mid-19th century English history, if you like strong and interesting male and female characters, if you don't mind the occasional philosophical ramble . . . this book is definitely for you.