I find myself in agreement with my GR Friend Maree's assessment of this novel - "Meh." A very emphatic "meh."
There's nothing especially wrong with theI find myself in agreement with my GR Friend Maree's assessment of this novel - "Meh." A very emphatic "meh."
There's nothing especially wrong with the novel but there's nothing especially good or interesting about it. The characters are bland and I feel like I've read this story before.
And, on top of that, the reader on the Audio CD I listened to is awful. His voice was high and squeaky and a chore to listen to. He has no skill with accents. Anna is supposed to be a second-gen Finn with a slight accent but she sounds Eastern European, if anything. And I have no idea what accent the supposedly English character (Gilbert, I believe was his name) has; it's certainly not British.
Neither can he bring the proper emphasis to dialog. There are several places where his tone is all wrong in the context of what he's saying. For example, at one point he reads "X shouted" in a normal speaking voice.
Unfortunately, despite the admittedly great cover and a potentially memorable ghost in Anna, I can't recommend this to anyone. ...more
Year of the Unicorn is a typical Norton set up: An outsider is forced to make a journey where she discovers hidden abilities, overcomes threats to lifYear of the Unicorn is a typical Norton set up: An outsider is forced to make a journey where she discovers hidden abilities, overcomes threats to life and personal integrity, and ends up with the promise of a new life.
Unicorn takes us from the Witch World’s original setting in Estcarp/Escore across the seas to High Hallack, inhabited by a fair-haired race of humans who deeply mistrust witchcraft and studiously avoid the sites of magic scattered across their dales. Our hero is Gillan, a young woman who survived shipwreck as an infant and now endures a life immured in Abbey Norstead (it’s not a bad life, but it’s a very limited one). From her physical description – dark haired, fair skinned and thin – readers of Norton’s other Witch World novels will immediately recognize her as one of the Old Race. This means, of course, that she has some measure of Talent and sensitivity to uses of Power.
High Hallack has just thrown back an invasion from Alizon, the kingdom that lies north of Estcarp. But the country suffered greatly and the only way the Dalesmen could defeat their enemies was by allying with the Were Riders of the Wastes. The price was 13 maidens who would become the Riders’ brides. The bridal party passes through Abbey Norstead on its way to the Riders, and though Gillan is not one of the maidens she contrives to take one’s place (with the tacit approval of the nuns, who do not trust her foreignness) and sets out with the party to meet their new husbands.
The Riders have set up a glamor where the girls are attracted to the cloaks of the men best suited to them. Gillian’s senses let her see through the illusion but she’s nevertheless drawn to one particular mantle and so meets Herrel. Like her, Herrel is an outsider amongst the Riders as his mother was a fully human woman and Hyron, his father and leader of the pack, barely acknowledges him. Worse, if anyone else realizes who and what Gillan is, she may very well be killed; the Riders what brides and mothers of future sons, not woman who might rival them in Power.
Gillan’s identity is uncovered eventually; and Halse, the novel’s chief villain and a thoroughly unlikable and vindictive one, puts her soul at risk in an effort to eliminate her threat. (With the willing connivance of the other Riders. While the Riders aren’t corrupted by the Shadow, they are not exemplars of virtue. A fact that makes them one of the more interesting antagonists from a Norton story.)
This is one of the better Witch World novels. For one thing, Gillan is an interesting protagonist and engages the reader’s sympathy. She’s intelligent, resourceful and strong willed. This latter trait is important in Norton’s work. The author always challenges her heroes with threats to their personal integrity – their souls. And the worst thing that anyone in Norton’s moral universe can do is invade someone’s mind and force her to do things against her will. Another plus is that the author manages to create real tension. You know Gillan and Herrel will prevail in the end but you don’t know how far Norton will let Halse go before they do. She can be pretty brutal to her heroes. A third thing I liked about the novel were the Were Riders. As I mentioned above, they’re not evil men but their goals are so far removed from Gillan’s that the two can’t help but clash. Their deceptions anent the brides is inexcusable but they don’t intend to harm the women; they want to keep them pacified and unthreatening.
I’ll wrap up with a recommendation to “read” if Andre Norton is your cup of tea....more
This is the second book in Nancy Springer's series about Sherlock Holmes' younger sister Enola. She's in London and trying to stay below the radar ofThis is the second book in Nancy Springer's series about Sherlock Holmes' younger sister Enola. She's in London and trying to stay below the radar of her brothers while still doing good, and the stresses of maintaining several identities is beginning to grind Enola down.
She stumbles upon an apparent elopement of an upper caste daughter and only just manages to keep out of her brother Sherlock's hands while solving the mystery.
As with the first book in the series (The Case of the Missing Marquess), this one is a fast paced, enjoyable read. The Mesmerism plot is hackneyed but - upon reflection - is reminiscent of Conan Doyle's style of writing in some of his Sherlock stories.
Highly recommended both to adults and/or that adult looking to find something exciting for his/her "rugrat" to read....more
Always on the look out for things to stock my nieces' bookshelves with and being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was very pleased to come across WealhtheoAlways on the look out for things to stock my nieces' bookshelves with and being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was very pleased to come across Wealhtheow Wylfing's reviews of this series on my update feed, especially as it's Hailey's birthday this month (May).
Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock, and for the past 14 years has been living with her mother on the family's estate, Ferndell Hall. When Mum disappears on Enola's birthday, the girl comes under the direct guardianship of Mycroft. A state of affairs that quickly grows intolerable since Mycroft's (and Sherlock's) idea of a proper lady includes corsets and boarding schools. Fortunately, Enola is a worthy fruit of the tree that produced her brothers, and her mother has left her clues that give her the resources to strike out on her own, escaping to London, where she quickly becomes involved in the case of a missing heir. All the while, she's also trying to find out what happened to her mother.
This is a very fun, very fast read with a likable character in Enola and is definitely recommended for the 10-14 crowd, but also worth a look if your a fan of the Great Detective....more
Children of Morrow was a favorite when I was younger. It’s a post-apocalypse YA novel about two mutant children who flee the murderous intentions of tChildren of Morrow was a favorite when I was younger. It’s a post-apocalypse YA novel about two mutant children who flee the murderous intentions of their village’s mayor and his henchman. I reread it about a decade ago and found that it held up rather well. It was thus that when I resolved to read The Dawn Palace (part of my recent fixation with Greek myths – see my reviews of The Iliad (Mitchell trans.), The Odyssey (Fagles trans.), For Her Dark Skin (Everett), Ransom (Malouf) and Medea (Wolf), among others) I was confident that I would like the story.
I’m happy to report that not only did I like the story, I liked it a lot. I thought this was one of the better interpretations of the Jason/Medea legend, and – despite its target audience of older YAs – it can appeal to adults as well.
Hoover wisely – I think – elects to make Medea a 14-year-old girl, and Jason is not many years older. She is the daughter of Asterodeia, the daughter of Helios the sun god, and Aeëtes, an expatriate Corinthian, who is king of Colchis from his marriage to her. The novel opens when Medea is five and sees a vision of her mother departing. Come the morning, she finds the court in mourning because Asterodeia has apparently died during the night. I say “apparently” because the child discovers that the covered body is not her mother’s. Asterodeia has gone back to her father, leaving Aeëtes to rule as regent for Medea (so she thinks). The years pass. Medea’s aunt Circe teaches her about herbs, magic and other knowledge astrally, visiting her in dreams and taking her to a timeless place where they she can study and learn undistracted. This is a time of change, however. The ancient matriarchal dynasties and the goddess-centered religion are being displaced by patriarchs and the male-centered Olympian pantheon. Aeëtes has remarried and plans to put Apsyrtus, the son of that union, on the throne. Medea learns of the betrayal shortly before Colchis is honored by the arrival of Jason and his Argonauts. Hurt, betrayed and feeling lost, Medea falls hard for the charming, unscrupulous and handsome Greek. Subsequently, the story departs from the received version (i.e., Euripides’) of the legend by making Jason solely responsible for killing Apsyrtus and it is he who murders his and Medea’s children. But it doesn’t exonerate Medea. Before she finally realizes his true nature, she does great evil because of her love for the man.
Outside of the author’s take on the myth, there were two things that made this book so enjoyable for me, and those are Hoover’s characterizations of Hercules and Medea. Hercules’ and Medea’s paths cross three times. The first time they meet is near Troy, which Hercules has sacked because Laomedon, its king, had cheated him:
The dark form moved. Living wood creaked and broke. Rocks chinked and sparks flew. Flames licked up and grew bright, and the smell of burning cedar pitch mingled with the salt air. When he raised the flaming fatwood brand, she saw him clearly.
The arm that held the impromptu torch was thicker than her waist. He was nearly seven feet tall and heavily muscled. As a cape, he wore the dried-out, shabby pelt of a huge lion. Its head served as his helmet. His face was framed by the teeth left in the lion’s grotesquely dislocated jaws. His nose had been repeatedly broken; his dark eyes were fever-bright. His own dark hair, the dead beast’s mane, and his red beard seemed all tangled into one bushy mass. The pelt’s forepaws were fastened to his leather breastplate. The hind legs and tail flapped at the back of his bare knees. A belt secured a leather apron at his waist and also held the widest sword she’d ever seen. (pp. 129-30)
He warns her that Jason will betray her just as he betrayed him because they are both children of the gods, and promises to be a friend when that day comes. A promise that greatly disturbs Medea as she realizes he is on the knife-edge of madness and despair.
Their second meeting occurs several years later. She and Jason and their children have found succor in Corinth with Creon, its king. Hercules’ madness “was more evident now. His throat moved as if he were carrying on an angry internal dialogue, obsessed by old injustices” (p. 178). He reiterates his friendship for her and that he’ll help when Jason inevitably abandons her.
The final time they meet, Medea has fled Corinth, finally recognizing Jason for what he is and taking her revenge against him, Creon and Glauce. Hercules has murdered Deianeira, his wife, and his children. He’s holed up in his palace and so sunk into madness that “[h]e sat naked and hunched up, his huge arms hugging his knees so tightly that his muscles bulged and strained. His eyes were wide and unfocused; his jaws clenched, his throat working. As she watched, appalled, he began to rock in that spastic frenzy peculiar to lunatics. Faster and faster he rocked, until his heels were lifting higher with each backward lunge, and he finally tipped over and fell sideways, his head thudding against the roof” (pp. 203-4). She nurses him back to physical and mental health, and finds that – in the end – he can’t protect her and she must find the strength in herself to salvage what she can of her life.
Hoover humanizes the elemental force of nature that is Hercules and makes the reader sympathize with his plight – a man who set out to do good in the world but whose every action turns out horribly wrong.
As with Hercules, so with Medea. Over the course of the novel, Hoover creates a complex, believable and sympathetic character. As I mentioned, she commits evil but she’s also capable of good, and it’s never simply a question of doing the right thing since there’s no act she can do that won’t have maleficent consequences. I don’t have any specific passages that could illustrate my point. It’s a matter of the author’s ability to flesh out Medea’s character throughout the story but it works. Even more so than Hercules, Hoover’s Medea is a fully human person who readers empathize with even if they can’t always condone what she does.
There are two further points I wanted to mention before closing out this review. The first is Hoover’s treatment of gods and magic. There certainly is an element of the supernatural; I’ve already mentioned how Circe visits Medea astrally. But, otherwise, the gods and magic are more noticeable in their absence. Much of Medea’s power comes from greater knowledge of the physical world. For example, she murders Glauce and Creon with a dress and crown seeded with white phosphorus. Her murder of Pelias is accomplished with stage magic and duplicity. And her skill as a physician, not spells, saves lives. I wasn’t sure if this worked when I first read the novel but upon reflection I think it does, for the most part. I personally like the ambiguity of not knowing if the gods exist or to what extent – if they do – that they interfere in human affairs.
The second point is that if there is a weakness in this novel it’s that the author compresses the second half of the story (after Jason and Medea reach Greece), and it feels rushed and incomplete. I would have liked 50-100 pages more devoted to Medea’s life in Greece so that its sudden disruption would have had as much emotional “oomph” as the events of the first part.
That aside, this novel comes highly recommended by yours truly (I’ll be sending a copy to my niece for her birthday), and it makes me intrigued about Hoover’s other work. Children of Morrow had already proved she could be an interesting writer but if her other work matches The Dawn Palace, I’m even more interested in seeking out her stuff....more
His name is “Teddy” and I have no recollection of getting him, but he has been with me for over 35 years. I can’t say that he anThis is my teddy bear:
His name is “Teddy” and I have no recollection of getting him, but he has been with me for over 35 years. I can’t say that he and I were (are) as close as the Boy and his Rabbit. I have no memories of sleeping with him nor of fervently clutching him when afraid nor of making ersatz bear dens for his comfort but he was always on the periphery of my life. Lurking on top of my dresser, carelessly tossed on the bed or (today) carefully packed away with a few other childhood treasures. And the idea of throwing him away or giving him to the Salvation Army is so fundamentally wrong that my stomach twists in dismay and I know – I know, even though I’m an atheist – that I will spend eternity in Hell if I ever do so.
My friend at work has occasionally recommended this book to me as it’s one of her favorites. This is the same woman who got me the novelization of the movie J.T. for Christmas one year. I watched J.T. in the second grade, and I refuse to read the book because that experience so affected me that I don’t want to relive it.
She also recommended the first Transformers movie.
So you can see that I was wary about The Velveteen Rabbit but I was finally moved to read it by a chance reference in an essay I read in the October 29, 2012 issue The Nation, the following quote:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day….
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby…. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
That observation resonated and I downloaded the eBook from the Project Gutenberg site.
This is a marvelous story and I can easily identify with the Boy (and there’s a happy ending, unlike J.T.), and it’s going on my Christmas list for my youngest niece, who’s six....more
The Terrible Troll-Bird is the third book in this year's B-Day present to my niece, Claire (see my reviews of the other two: Supposing and Ounce DiceThe Terrible Troll-Bird is the third book in this year's B-Day present to my niece, Claire (see my reviews of the other two: Supposing and Ounce Dice Trice), the most conventional of the three as it actually tells a story. In this case, the tale of Ola & his sisters, Lina, Sina and Trina.
The story reminds me of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation: The terrible troll-bird (Grendel) is terrorizing the forest & village, and when it attacks Ola, Lina, Sina & Trina's farmhouse, Ola manages to kill it. Everyone in the village and the denizens of the forest celebrate at a great feast (where the troll-bird provides the main course) but then the bird's owners - the trolls Gygra and Jotun (Grendel's mother) - come down from the mountain to take revenge. Fortunately, trolls - as everyone knows - aren't very bright and they're caught out when the sun rises and turn to stone.
The ending also reminded me of the great Norwegian film "Trollhunter" because after turning to stone, the trolls explode. (While we're recommending good Scandinavian films, I'd also include "Rare Exports" and "Dead Snow".)...more
Ounce Dice Trice is the second in my B-Day trilogy that I mailed to my niece the other day (the first being Supposing, by the same author, the third,Ounce Dice Trice is the second in my B-Day trilogy that I mailed to my niece the other day (the first being Supposing, by the same author, the third, The Terrible Troll-bird).
This book is a romp exploring the magic/fun of words and their power.
Below is a short compilation of some of my favorite words or phrases:
A "consternation of mothers" or a "tribulation of children"
Sounds people & things make:
MRRAAOWL (a more accurate transliteration of a cat's "meow") HARROWOLLOWORRAH (a yawn) KINKLUNK (a car going over a manhole cover)
Names for whales: HAMISH, CHUMLEY
A propos of that: "It is most important to be a good namer, since it falls to all of us at some time or other to name anything from a canary to a castle...."
If someone tells you something you don't believe, look at him steadily and say: FIRKYDOODLE FUDGE.
Having decided that The One That Got Away, though good, was for a younger audience than Claire, my soon-to-be six-year-old niece, I settled on SupposiHaving decided that The One That Got Away, though good, was for a younger audience than Claire, my soon-to-be six-year-old niece, I settled on Supposing... as one of the trilogy of books that I wound up mailing to her.
The book is not only about stimulating "unfettered thought" as the GR blurb says but is also an opportunity to discuss morals and the consequences of action. For example, what would be the consequences if you followed through on either of these two suppositions?
Supposing I collected old hair from a barber shop and sent it in parcels to people I didn't like...
Supposing I telephoned people I didn't know in the middle of the night and practiced my horrible sounds over the phone...
In today's hysterically paranoid atmosphere, the least that would happen is getting put on the TSA's no-fly list, and I wouldn't be surprised if your adorable little moppet didn't wind up doing a perp walk to an undisclosed detainment facility. (Can you imagine the late-night, emergency NSA meetings as our "intelligence" community tried to figure out how al Qaida had infiltrated the pre-school set?)
There are also suppositions, less creepy, that can prompt discussions about what's important and what's not, e.g.,
Supposing I had a great house with valuable paintings and furniture and things and I came home one day and it was all blazing and burned down and people came rushing up to me being sorry for me but I just laughed and took off my clothes and threw them into the fire...
And then there's just fun stuff like "What if I were bald?" or "What if I taught my dog to read?"
Overall, I liked the book and - as I am sending it to Claire - I can recommend it to parents everywhere. (Though I suppose I really should wait until my sister gets back to me about that :-)...more
An interesting review in the New York Review of Books of Percival Everett’s Assumption and the approach of my niece Claire’s sixth birthday came togetAn interesting review in the New York Review of Books of Percival Everett’s Assumption and the approach of my niece Claire’s sixth birthday came together recently to bring this book to my attention. In the course of compiling an Everett bibliography, I discovered that he had written a children's book, and it worked out that my trusty LA County library had a copy.
So here we are.
The story tells of the travails of three unnamed cowpokes who capture a herd of “ones” but then have to go and track down a “one” that escapes from the corral. This is a story that requires illustration as the text alone doesn’t convey half of the message. Left with the unadorned words, you’d be bored. Combined with Dirk Zimmer’s wonderful artwork, however, Everett’s prose takes on a life that illustrates the wrongness of confining some “one” against their will.
If I had easy access to a decent scanner, I’d scan pages 10 and 12 to show what I mean but I’ll try to describe it in words that will (hopefully) peak your interest & get you to acquire a copy yourself. On page 10, the text says: “Then they saw one. And another and a big one. It was a herd.” By themselves, neutral in context. The illustration shows a dozen+ “ones” walking peacefully along, unaware of the cowboys lurking behind the rocks on page 11. There’s a couple holding hands, some kids playing. Most every “one” is smiling (except for a disgruntled “one” but I think he’s jealous of the lovers). Turn the page and it’s a far different scene. Again, the prose is neutral – “They rode into the herd and threw hoolies over one, then another, until they had captured many” – it’s the picture that gives them context. The cowpokes have struck, and chaos reigns. The lovers cling to each other in terror, the children (one having been lassoed) are vainly fleeing up a hill, and the disgruntled “one” is being hog-tied.
Not every illustration is one of terror. One of my favorites is on page 22. The cowboys are climbing up a mountainside and one of them is struggling with his mount, who’s decidedly reluctant to continue. And beyond the initial conceit about the use of “one,” Everett has other amusing plays on words. My favorite among these occurs when the cowboys are scaling the mountain. They’re using a convenient set of stairs but come to a gap so one is sent down to find a stair to close it: “He went to a hole in the ground and dropped down the loop of his lariat. He pulled up a stair. It was a stairwell.” (Perhaps it doesn’t rise to the level of wordplay in The Phantom Tollbooth but I liked it.)
I wound up not getting a copy for my niece. Not because I didn’t like the book but because Claire is too old for it now. If I had discovered The One That Got Away a couple or three years ago, a copy would be winging its way to Buffalo. So – for what it’s worth coming from a 44-year-old divorcé with no children – I would recommend this book, primarily to the 2-5-year-old crowd but also to any “one” who likes well illustrated children’s literature....more
Meh...I've been listening to this on the way to/from work (as is my wont with audiobooks as I can't focus on them outside of that confined environmentMeh...I've been listening to this on the way to/from work (as is my wont with audiobooks as I can't focus on them outside of that confined environment).
While Tim Curry does a good job of reading (though I couldn't stand his Moggett voice), I couldn't get engaged in either characters or story.
SIDEBAR: This is my 3000th GR book though I think there really shouldn't be a celebration until I'm up to the 3000th read book....more
I find myself without a great deal to say about Railsea.
I certainly liked it. China Miéville is one of my favorite authors and I have yet to be disappI find myself without a great deal to say about Railsea.
I certainly liked it. China Miéville is one of my favorite authors and I have yet to be disappointed in anything of his I’ve read. His imagination and talent are on full display – as usual – and it is far more than a simple homage or pastiche of Moby Dick.
Other reviewers have summarized the plot (which is also reasonably well summarized on the dust jacket of my edition) and described the railsea and its denizens so I’m not going to dwell on those aspects of the novel. What I will briefly mention, however, are two episodes that stood out for me, and that are examples of why I like Miéville so much – his ability to surprise me. When I first began reading Un Lun Dun, I feared that the author was “slumming.” Writing a YA fantasy that really wasn’t going to push any boundaries but then he turned everything on its head and delivered a great story.
A similar thing happened with this book. I can’t go into too much detail without entering spoiler territory but both scenes involve choices – the one Sham makes when Caldera Shroake asks him to go with her and Dero as they set out to complete their parents’ quest to find the end of the railsea ((view spoiler)[a bad choice as it turns out (hide spoiler)]), and the one the Medes’ crew makes when faced with confronting Mocker-Jack (“the great white mole”) or rescuing Sham ((view spoiler)[a good choice (hide spoiler)]). If there’s any truth to what Gardner writes in On Moral Fiction*, that fiction is “good … only when it has a clear positive moral effect, presenting valid models for imitation, eternal verities worth keeping in mind, and a benevolent vision of the possible which can inspire and incite human beings toward virtue, toward life affirmation as opposed to destruction or indifference,” then Railsea is “good.”
But don’t let that put you off. Another quality of Railsea is that it’s not preachy nor does it talk down to its ostensibly YA audience – of which, hopefully, my niece will be one as this will be yet another book sent to her for her enjoyment.
* A recent read that’s going to be futzing with my reading enjoyment for years to come, for better or for worse.
** Random observation: The final scene from the book reminds me strongly of that from the film Dark City.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'll begin by saying that I enjoyed reading Finnikin of the Rock.
On the island of Skuldenore, the tiny kingdom of Lumatere has been brutally conqueredI'll begin by saying that I enjoyed reading Finnikin of the Rock.
On the island of Skuldenore, the tiny kingdom of Lumatere has been brutally conquered by the usurping cousin of the king, and a subsequent curse has cut it off from the rest of the world, splitting its citizens between those trapped within its borders and the exiles, who eke out meager existences in the surrounding nations. For nine years, Finnikin of the Rock, the son of the Captain of the King's Guard, and his mentor Sir Topher have been wandering among the exile camps, giving aid where they could and trying to convince some nation to make a place for their people. One day they're summoned to the Lagrami cloister in Sendecane where they're tasked to escort the mysterious novice Evanjalin, who claims to be able to lead them to Balthazar, the King's son. What follows is their efforts to return to Lumatere, break the curse and restore their land.
Upon a certain amount of reflection, this book brings to mind Colson Whitehead's Zone One (which I recently read) in that it tells the stories of people who suffer horrors indescribable - murder, rape, terror, etc. - and are forced to make decisions no one should have to - who to sacrifice so all don't die, etc. Finnikin of the Rock, however, celebrates our capacity to retain our ability to feel love and compassion, unlike Mark Spitz and his fellow survivors in Zone One, who have reached a point where they feel they can't affort to care anymore.
While I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to any adult reader, it definitely strains the definition of "young adult." There are themes of rape, murder, vengeance and terrorism that most parents might not want their twelve-year-old reading about. At least not without mom or dad there to discuss things....more
I missed my “Robin McKinley window” by about thirty years. If I had had the good fortune to come across this novel when I was fourteen, I’m sure I wouI missed my “Robin McKinley window” by about thirty years. If I had had the good fortune to come across this novel when I was fourteen, I’m sure I would have sought out more of her work and enjoyed them to the same extent as I enjoyed authors such as Andre Norton or Lloyd Alexander (whom I did have the luck to meet around this time in my life). As it happens, I’m too experienced a reader (and, mayhap, too cynical?) to fully appreciate the spirit in which the book is written. There were too many niggling “off” things for me to immerse myself, and chief among them was the heroine, Harry, who never became sufficiently “real” enough for me to care for her.
But I don’t want to come down on McKinley too harshly or suggest that this isn’t a good book. In fact, I’m including it (and its sequel, The Hero and the Crown) in my nieces’ Xmas care package this year because I think they’d enjoy it. (And, I’m happy to say, I’m enjoying the aforementioned sequel much more than The Blue Sword, the reasons for which I’ll elaborate on in my review of that work when I’m finished.)
Recommended? Yes, though not for middle-aged, curmudgeonly sticks in the mud....more
It's always a pleasure seeing an author get better. In our last episode, I gave a less-than-enthusiastic review to The Blue Sword and so was a littleIt's always a pleasure seeing an author get better. In our last episode, I gave a less-than-enthusiastic review to The Blue Sword and so was a little hesitant to begin this book. But there were enough good points about McKinley's writing that I wasn't dreading the experience.
As it turns out, I enjoyed The Hero and the Crown much more than The Blue Sword. The story revolves around Arlbeth's (the king of Damar) daughter, Aerin, whose mother was a woman from the North (in McKinley's world, the North is a land of demons and half-human creatures, and Aerin's lineage makes her suspect in the eyes of the court). Aerin begins as your typical ugly duckling, isolated outcast, and grows into a person confident in herself and her abilities (paralleling the author's growth as a writer?).
For myself, what made Aerin a more compelling and interesting character than The Blue Sword's Harry was the bitterness that McKinley mixed with the sweet. (view spoiler)[Aerin couldn't simply find her prince charming but found herself torn between Tor and Luthe; Agsded wasn't a cipher like Thurra but was Aerin's uncle; Tor becomes king and marries Aerin but Arlbeth dies; etc. (hide spoiler)]The Blue Sword reads too much like a fairy tale, and I never entered into the personal life of Harry to the extent I was able to with Aerin.
This curmudgeonly stick in the mud recommends The Hero and the Crown with more confidence and enthusiasm than The Blue Sword, though both are good.
PS - Can I complain, yet again, about the inadequacy of the rating system? I gave both this book and The Blue Sword three stars but they're very different three stars. If I were comparing these two books alone, Hero would get four stars because it is, IMO, that much better than Sword.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more