Got this as a freebie from a Tor author panel at ALA. It hadn't been on my to-read list before, but Marie Brennan was so interesting in the discussionGot this as a freebie from a Tor author panel at ALA. It hadn't been on my to-read list before, but Marie Brennan was so interesting in the discussion that I got to it in short order. So glad that I did.
It's weird that I would like this since the world of the book approximates a "Jane Austen" era of British society, a setting which normally gives me a splitting headache. The crucial difference is that the heroine (and future Lady Trent) doesn't fit into this society at all, would rather be a scientist and explore the wild parts of the world. I kept thinking, what if Mina had insisted on accompanying Jonathan Harker to Transylvania because she was so keen on studying vampire anatomy. That's this book in a nutshell, just with dragons.
This book makes the little cataloger in me itch. Is it fantasy or science fiction? It's set in a fantasy-style secondary world (to use JRRT's nomenclature) that approximates a familiar period in Earth history, and it's got dragons. So does Pern, though, and that's very much science fiction. Like the Pern novels, A Natural History treats its subject matter scientifically and there's not a hint of real magic, just back-woods superstition that gets unmasked Scooby-Doo style. I think the key difference (and why I still have to put this on the fantasy side of the divide) is that you can draw an imaginary line from our present to the future world of Pern and can imagine that you can eventually get there from here. I don't think you can do that with Brennan's book, although future installments may prove me wrong....more
Silly me, here I thought this was going to be G.R.R.Martin's attempt at a children's novel. Not that it's been marketed that way or anything, oh no. ISilly me, here I thought this was going to be G.R.R.Martin's attempt at a children's novel. Not that it's been marketed that way or anything, oh no. It almost works as one, though, except for the war, dismemberment, and characters being burned alive. Still, taken on its own, it's a wonderful, tragic (albeit brutal) tale of children and dragons. And who knows, today's kids would probably yawn through the original Mad Max trilogy and not bat an eye at the violence in the story here.
One note: some of the descriptions I've seen posted about this book imply that it's set in the Song of Ice and Fire universe. It isn't. It was originally published in short story form back in 1980, and you can see Martin working through some of the themes of summer vs winter, dragons and magic, and the effect of warfare on the common folk....more
I don't know what it is with J.F. Lewis and likable protagonists who eat people, but after the Void City vampire series, he's gone and done it again iI don't know what it is with J.F. Lewis and likable protagonists who eat people, but after the Void City vampire series, he's gone and done it again in the realm of epic fantasy.
Grudgebearer is an overlooked gem of a new fantasy series, and an absolute blast to read. Lewis's most interesting and original creation in this series are the Aern, a cannibalistic warrior/slave offshoot of a more traditional (snooty, decadent) race of elves. What makes them unique is the idea that they are physically incapable of breaking any oath, whether made personally or by Kholster, their supreme leader. So, when said leader swears (for instance) that if any of their former masters should disturb the resting place of the Aern's sentient suits of armor, he and his kind would return and wipe the elves off the face of the earth, that's exactly what he has to do, even if said offence is committed by a loan, idiot elf prince six hundred years later.
Moral shades of gray are so yummy in epic fantasy. The Aern can be considered noble for their determination to keep their promises, but when those promises include genocide does that really put them on the side of right? Or is it mitigated by the fact that their targets, historically speaking, really did have it coming?
The book's ending is a rather abrupt cliffhanger, so it's a good thing the sequel will be coming out shortly....more
Just what I needed after a seemingly endless string of fantasy and paranormal books - an old school, Analog style, hard-SF adventure with some great BJust what I needed after a seemingly endless string of fantasy and paranormal books - an old school, Analog style, hard-SF adventure with some great Big Science concepts. The centerpiece are the titular dragons, life forms discovered in the accretion disk of SS Cygni, and the expedition/safari to bag one and bring it back. Along the way there's an interesting approach to wormhole-powered slower-than-light travel, and AI based on the personality of Ernest Hemingway, and an Earth future totally transformed by biotechnology.
As for the biotech, I don't quite buy that one aspect of Brotherton's world building. I'm sure there's a revolution of some sort coming down the road, and that given the option people would start modifying their own bodies in new and shocking ways, but some of the applications used in the book seem a little "jet-packy," if that makes sense. (Living creatures being used as beds and chairs, for instance.)
What makes the book kind of a slog through the middle section, though, are the dysfunctional characters. Flawed characters are always good for drama (and only extreme personalities would willingly volunteer for a 500-year mission) but Star Dragon's cast is so deeply messed up as to be completely unsympathetic for a big chunk of the book, and Brotherton seems to spend a lot of time writing from the point of view of the most detestable, least likable characters in the cast. The finale is suitably rousing, however, and most of the characters achieve some measure of redemption by the end....more
Probably the fastest 1,100 page book I’ve ever read. Even so, I’m tempted to give it as terse a review as possible, just for the sake of snark.
Storm oProbably the fastest 1,100 page book I’ve ever read. Even so, I’m tempted to give it as terse a review as possible, just for the sake of snark.
Storm of Swords has a much greater sense of forward progress than Clash of Kings, despite the fact that when the book begins the War of Five Kings is pretty much over except for the backstabbing. There is a much stronger sense in this volume of important characters growing, changing, and following through complete arcs, whereas in the previous book there were a lot of wheels spinning in place. Because there are so many characters, of course, Martin spends the first quarter of the book just reintroducing everyone and reminding the reader where all of his game pieces are. But then the game pieces start moving around, and by the end of Swords everyone you care about has either significantly changed, been killed, or shown in a new light that alters any perspective you had from before.
Can’t say anything about the plot without being spoilerific, but if you’ve got this far in the story you a) know what to expect by now, and b) wont’ see most of this coming, and that’s the great frisson Martin’s created that keeps us coming back for these doorstoppers the size of Bibles....more