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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to Get Into, Hard to Put Down
At first, it is difficult to understand what Barbara Hambly was attempting with "A Free Man of Color". Typically, when an author chooses an historical setting, he or she is doing one of two things, bringing light to the past through the artifice of fiction or revealing the present through the veil of the past. If Hambly was doing the former, she did a fine job of evoking...
Published on 15 Jan 2003 by Patrick Burnett

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, I don't share the same view as the majority.
I had a difficult time "getting into" this book and could hardly wait to finish reading it.
Published on 13 Aug 1999


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to Get Into, Hard to Put Down, 15 Jan 2003
By 
This review is from: A Free Man of Color (Hardcover)
At first, it is difficult to understand what Barbara Hambly was attempting with "A Free Man of Color". Typically, when an author chooses an historical setting, he or she is doing one of two things, bringing light to the past through the artifice of fiction or revealing the present through the veil of the past. If Hambly was doing the former, she did a fine job of evoking old New Orleans.
The book takes place during a time when The City That Care Forgot was losing her tenuous grip on her past and becoming a unique product of American industrialism and European traditions. The Civil War was still thirty years in the future and New Orleans, for all the destruction and disease she had seen, for all the blood spilled in her streets still had an air of innocence. This is the story of Benjamin Janvier, recently widowed and returning to New Orleans after 16 years in Paris. This places Benjamin in the unique position of being able to contrast Paris, with it's lack of color distinctions, and New Orleans, with it's infamous "Code Noir" - the well-defined laws governing the behavior of "colored" people and their interaction with the French settlers, or Creoles. This also places the reader in the position of comparing the treatment of blacks in Janvier's day and their treatment today, which makes this something of the latter of the above kinds of novels. Is Hambly trying to tell an engaging and accurately detailed story set in the past? Or is she trying to poignantly underline current wrongs by speaking to us through the past? I'm not sure she is certain which story she wants to tell, which puts the reader in the awkward position of trying to figure it out for themselves.
Ben, a surgeon in Paris but, due to prejudice, unable to practice medicine in New Orleans, makes his living as a pianist. On his way to play at an octaroon ball, he runs into one of his former students, Mistress Trepagier, a creole widow who is sneaking into the ball in disguise, desperate to speak with her late husband's mistress. When the mistress is later strangled, Ben, due to his color, seems a likely scapegoat - the victim was a woman of color, the murderer a man of color. Let's hang him and get on with our lives. Thinking he will get no consideration from the police, Benjamin looks into the murder on his own. Hambly seems to have difficulty finding the rhythm in her narrative, like a drummer only slightly out of step with the rest of the marching band. The overall effect is nice, but you keep suspecting her hitching a step in order to catch up. Once she gets in step, however, the effect is mesmerising; the language becomes more fluid, the characters more honest to themselves. From an historical perspective, I fully expected to have Marie Laveau pop up, at least in mention, and I was not disappointed; the greater treat was a cameo by Madame LaLaurie, the famous New Orleans civil rights activist (I'm kidding, of course).
Although I had to struggle to get comfortable with this book, it won me over in the end. I am looking forward to the next story in the Benjamin Janvier chronicles.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best historicals I've read in several years., 16 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Barbara Hambly brilliantly recreates the world of free blacks in Louisiana in the 1830s--a unique, dangerous society. Her hero, Benjamin January, a free man of color returned from Paris, lives a cat-and-mouse existence, constantly threatened with enslavement. His sister and her friends make their living as placées, socially recognized concubines. Murder is a complication none of them can afford. Hambly, well-known as a fantasy writer, turns this real-life background into something rich, strange, and haunting. You will not forget this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read,but not the equal of its prequel., 13 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
This is a very well crafted book. The words and sentences flow beautifully. I loved the previous book, and was ready to love this one also. Fever Season was slightly disappointing. This book isn't as rich in detail as the first book. Ms. Hambly does not spend the time describing the societies and people, or developing her main characters, that she did in the first novel. I missed this. She does describes clothes and architecture vividly. These aren't merely a cosmetic detail, but are crucial parts of novel. Its a pity that this book doesn't come in a copiusly illustrated edition.
This is a very good read, but "Free Man of Color" is much better. I strongly recommend reading both books, in order.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant work in this historical mystery series, 21 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
In 1834, after being away from New Orleans for years, French-trained Doctor Benjamin January returns to provide help during a fatal cholera epidemic. Since he is a black man, Benjamin knows that his acceptance by the white community as a surgeon is,at best, tentative and probably will disappear once the current crisis passes. However, of more concern to Benjamin is a second epidemic in which free blacks are mysteriously disappearing, leaving the medical man to wonder if they are being sold on the slave market?
Though he has absolutely no time to spare, Benjamin begins to investigate the second epidemic. However, even that is somewhat sidetracked by the plight of his friend Cora Chouteau, accused of murder and attempted murder of her master and his spouse. Benjamin wonders if Cora could have done the act or perhaps the wife, who had the motive, set a lowly slave up to take the fall.
Talk about an overflowing plate, the brilliant and charming Benjamin needs thirty-six hours a day to complete half his tasks. Yet, in the hands of the talented Barbara Hambly, Benjamin comes across as an ambitious, caring individual who everyone should emulate. The story line of FEVER SEASON is a fast-paced, rising fever that will thrill readers of historical mysteries. The secondary players add a genuine feel to the tale, but it is the 1830's New Orleans social interactions that makes this book and its previous tale in the series (FREE MAN OF COLOR) some of the best fiction available for fans of the sub-genre.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! ! !, 27 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Benjamin January) (Mass Market Paperback)
When I first saw that Barbara Hambly was moving away from fantasy, I was disappointed. She is one of my favorites. But then I read "A Free Man of Color" and "Fever Season" and was blown away. The characters are rich and the amount of research and work that went into the story must have been massive. She picks you up and puts you right down in 1833 New Orleans.
One thing for sure, you don't go to New Orleans without wondering where it all happened.
Thank you for a wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More please, 15 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
Barbara Hambly has done it again. Benjamin Janvier returns in a sequel to A Free Man of Color. The images that are invoked are excellent. The streets of New Orleans, the culture, the miscarriage of justice reflect the way it was. My friends who teach French and enjoy mysteries loved the frist one after I pointed it out to them. I am recommending this one as well. Please keep up the good work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Free Man of Color, 11 April 2010
By 
J. R. Perrett (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Free Man of Color (Hardcover)
An unusual subject for Barbara Hambly - at least for someone who had read only her Darwath and Sunwolf books before.
She seems to have a good grasp of the social and political divides of the time she has chosen, and I was intrigued to learn about a whole area of American culture / sub-culture of which I had known nothing before.
Well written and a gripping storyline.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love Ben Janvier!, 7 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
When I saw the book on the new fiction shelf I gasped for joy! I could hardly wait to get home, tell my family I was unavailable for the weekend, and curl up for a good read. Ben Janvier and New Orleans of 1833 were back! And I was not disappointed. These characters are so well limned that they seem real. The caste system in New Orleans is terrible, but more terrible still is the assumption by the newly arrived "Americans" that all people of dark skin (or light skin, yet of African heritage) are to be seen only in terms of potential dollar value. One appreciates the only good "Kaintuck," Shaw, although I got a little squimish with all of his tobacco spitting. Still, this book is highly recommended reading for lovers of a good mystery! By the way, after my review of the previous Janvier novel, I got TONS of e-mail telling me that this novel was BEFORE the civil war, not ANTE bellum. Folks -- ante bellum means before the civil war. Anyway, read and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even Better Than the First One!, 1 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
As much as I loved the first book, A Free Man of Color, the second in the series was even better in some ways. Hambley plays her strongest card in this book--her fantastic command of characterization. Once I got to the last 1/3 of the book, I literally could not put it down. My only complaint--the end left me wanting more!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heat and pestilence in New Orleans, 26 Jun 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fever Season (Hardcover)
In the sequel to Free Man of Color, it is the summer of 1833, Ben January, a man of mixed blood making his living as a musician because he's not allowed to practice surgery in New Orleans, is working at a charity hospital battling the heat and the pestilence which is causing wealthy Orleanians to flee the city. January teaches music during the day and treats victims of Bronze John, the popular name for the deadly cholera epidemic, at night. The mother of two of his female students is considered a saint for working in the fetid hospitals. However, when a runaway slave seeks out January, he discovers that there are dark sides to Madame Lalaurie's personality. Hambly evokes the unrelenting heat, the fear of disease, and, most of all, the caste system which governed all facets of life.
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Fever Season (Benjamin January)
Fever Season (Benjamin January) by Barbara Hambly (Mass Market Paperback - Jun 1999)
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