Book Review: What Really Happened in Peru is a Romp and a Lot of Cheek

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Magnus Bane is one of my favorite characters of Cassandra Clare’s easily, so when she announced that she would be writing with Sarah Rees Brennan a series of stories where he is the sole protagonist, I was excited.  Then she announced that it would be released only as e-books, and I mourned because I have yet to catch up to that technological advance.  Then, wonder of wonders, Simon & Schuster announced that it would be offering the first book free for a limited time, and for free, I was willing to take the chance that the download might not work, and miracle of miracles, the download did work, and I was able to find out What Really Happened in Peru.

During her Mortal Instruments series, it is several times mentioned that Magnus is banned from Peru, and the implication is always that he has done something absolutely awful, requiring metaphorical acid to wipe it from the mind.  I can’t say that I really yearned for the details of his crime, as apparently I was supposed to do.  In fact, I don’t think I’d really have noticed the throwaway lines if they hadn’t been culled from the texts to inspire this new text.  Perhaps that is because Clare’s (and Claire’s) characters are so often flippant that a throwaway line I usually take to be mere cheek.

I began this book in August and partially I’m sure because I forget that there is reading material bookmarked on my computer and because I tend not to consider with the same gravitas anything that I can read in digital form (which I recognize is completely unfair and is merely a lingering bias that I have from the days when I read fanfiction; more on that here) I did not finish it till February.  I would not have guessed that it is a mere 65 pages.  It’s broken up into four chapters, and sometimes those chapters themselves are broken up into smaller segment, certainly each chapter but sometimes each break a complete tale of another adventure of Magnus’ in Peru.  The frequency of such breaks made it very easy to put the book down and return to it months later with no ill effect.

Magnus’ adventures for the most part are excuses for him to be drink, love, and be cheeky.  The introduction of Ragnor Fell, le petit chouchou, as Magnus’ wingman, really his Rory, there to be the voice of reason if he was sometimes petulant and had tales of earlier debauchery to share, was welcome.  Without that grounding, I think there would have been too much frivolity (save for that one time in 1890 when things turned more serious).  Fell is a character of some mystery in The Mortal Instruments series, having been sought out and discovered to be dead.  So far as I have read in The Infernal Devices he does not appear either.  If the mystery of Magnus’ banishment could not be answered—and it is not with any surety—then at least that mystery has been solved by the book.

These tales were a good break from any serious reading.  The book could be read as a standalone, which I worried it might not be able to be, but it would not have any more weight as a standalone than it does as a spinoff series.

***

Clare, Cassandra and Sarah Rees Brennan.  The Bane Chronicles, Book One: What Really Happened in Peru.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or Simon & Schuster.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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