In the opening of Carol Carman’s Twicetime, Lady Rosalind Dibkiss has finally kicked her worthless husband out of her ancestral castle and decided to live for herself, conducting alchemical experiments and haranguing her resident builder into maybe repairing a tower the worthless husband destroyed. The worthless husband, in turn, has decided that he needs to retake the castle and kill his wife with the dubious aid of two old army chums. Witch Frances Stein, Lady Roz’s dying aunt, has decided that the best way to protect her niece from the rapidly escalating schemes of the worthless husband is to reanimate a corpse and convince it to be a bodyguard and protect Rosalind, her castle, and everyone in it. Thrown into the mix are a barmaid with a mean right hook, a paper-mâché poster boy, a white cat named Sooty, and a host of other colorful characters whose parts are secondary, but roles are hardly minor.
Written with wit, warmth, and whimsical logic, Twicetime is everything you want from a fairytale for grown-ups. There is love and humor and heartache all on the page, and Carman handles each with a deft touch as she weaves between the dark absurdity of the worthless husband’s spiraling pathology, the allies working to protect Rosalind’s castle, and the steadily ticking down of Frances’ life.
Chapters shift between different character’s points of view organically, sometimes moving in close to sit on their shoulders, sometimes pulling back to explore the world they inhabit more broadly, but never without reason. There are authors (particularly fantasy authors) who feel the need to bombard readers by overloading their work with worldbuilding details or the character’s innermost thoughts, and those who know how to balance their world, story, and characters. Carman, thankfully, is one of the balancers, and the way she weaves her tale is truly a masterclass in keeping perspective on the story at hand.
Mature without taking itself too seriously, melodramatic but in ways you are not expecting, and written with a true heart for the world she has built, this is only Carol Carman’s second outing as a novelist, but if Twicetime is the standard she writes to now, her future can only be bright.