Sunday, April 22, 2012
All Men of Genius (Lev AC Rosen)
No shipwrecks here: Violet masquerades as her twin brother Ashton so she can be a student at the illustrious, all-male Illyria College. What's admirable about her efforts is that she is not merely driven by personal ambition; she genuinely desires to change the way society looks at female inventors. Ironically, to do this she must submit herself to the standards and approval of men first. Despite the confusing social politics governing female inventors (Ada Lovelace is a patron of the college and she doesn't seem to have any problems gaining said masculine approval), All Men of Genius strives to impress upon the reader the celebration of individual differences despite society's standards and rules.
Violet's first days at the College, her interaction with her professors and peers -- these all seem to be an effective way to get the readers acclimated to the world of the text. As with other re-imaginings, I enjoyed seeing familiar characters show up in different roles. There was also the promise of something darker, more sinister, brewing beneath the surface (and I mean that literally: Violet and her friends uncover strange plots in Illyria's off-limits basement). But after a while these action-adventure elements seem tacked on. Twelfth Night already has a number of subplots going on, and giving Violet and her crew the added burden of discovering a plot that threatens Illyria College doesn't seem too well thought-out. That part of the plot felt thin and poorly explored both in intention and in execution.
The cover immediately made me think that it's being marketed as a young adult read but note: it's very bold about exploring homosexual relationships, bicuriosity, May-December affairs. That, together with the smattering of mature jokes and situations, ought to serve as a warning that some younger or more conservative readers may not find this the most ideal reading material. As a romance though, it has its moments, but to enjoy those I had to leave the young adult frame of mind and enter the Regency one: Violet is eighteen and the Duke is about thirty. Add to this their uncomfortable relationship of being student and headmaster and you've got a romance that I was surprised to find in what I assumed to be a YA story. (Note: If this wasn't marketed as YA, then please tell me. I'd love to know that I was wrong.) I enjoyed this quick read but I wouldn't call myself a fan; there's something in the gender politics that doesn't quite sit well with me, although I can't quite pinpoint what it is. But if that has you curious, then by all means, grab a copy and let's discuss. Despite this, Mr Rosen's writing is lively and impassioned enough that I'll be looking forward to his next book.