I was really surprised that I didn't like this book, but for long stretches it was just a tedious slog with tedious characters. I would have thought t...moreI was really surprised that I didn't like this book, but for long stretches it was just a tedious slog with tedious characters. I would have thought that such a well-written piece of Harry Potter / Narnia fanfic would have at least been fun. While there were enough good scenes to keep me going, and the resolutions at the end were satisfying enough, the whole enterprise just didn't seem worth it.
I think it's a problem of stakes. For most of The Magicians there simply aren't any. I get that this is supposed to be a "what would magic school be like in the real world" kind of deal, so I'm not asking for epic quests or snarling villains. What I need, though, is for something - anything - to matter to the protagonist, and that's just not the case with Quentin Coldwater. Except for a handful of moments, the only thing really at risk for the first 75% of the novel is that the main character might get bored. As a result, the reader is treated to chapter after chapter of boring, jaded college kids living boring, jaded lives where they don't even have to pretend not to care about anything, because they really don't. Doesn't inspire me to read book 2.(less)
I don't comment on every graphic novel I read, but I just want to say this was an outstanding introduction. Self-aware genre humor is so hard to pull...moreI don't comment on every graphic novel I read, but I just want to say this was an outstanding introduction. Self-aware genre humor is so hard to pull off, but Rat Queens does the whole sword & sorcery gaming routine with perfect timing while also managing to sneak in occasional moments of genuine heart. If this series can keep going with the same tone, pace, and characterization (and without getting canceled too early like every other indie series I read) I'm eager to find out where this story is heading.(less)
In book 1 of this series, Laini Taylor hits home runs right from the start and doesn't really slow down. Karou is one of the most original characters...moreIn book 1 of this series, Laini Taylor hits home runs right from the start and doesn't really slow down. Karou is one of the most original characters I've come across in teen fiction, and the world she inhabits feels like something Neil Gaiman and Guillermo Del Toro would have come up with during a round of drinks. Karou's life (going to art school in Prague while living with magical chimerae and traveling around the world to collect teeth for a sorcerer) was so interesting I wouldn't have minded staying there for the whole novel - but of course that can't happen and things go south once the angels attack. What I love most about Karou is that she doesn't waste a single page moping about her situation and waiting for someone else to make decisions. She takes action and sets the rest of the story in motion in her attempt to get home.
Then, suddenly, all the mysteries are answered. The completeness of the revelations that follow in the second half surprised me - I expected the author to drag out the mysteries for as long as she could. The answers to the questions raised in the first half of the book all made perfect sense and were quite satisfactory. They did, however, slow the story down just a notch. Still, looking forward to book 2.(less)
For the sake of my book club, I'm starting this series out of order, but House of the Stag, as a prequel, stands nicely on its own. I'm sure that some...moreFor the sake of my book club, I'm starting this series out of order, but House of the Stag, as a prequel, stands nicely on its own. I'm sure that some big plot reveal in book 1 has been spoiled for me, but from the high quality of this volume, I know I'll be reading the other two.
I've never read Baker before, but she's clearly a master of tone. The story begins among a primitive, forest-dwelling people just on the edge between a mythical, edenic past and their future as an honest-to-gods civilization. The half-demon protagonist, Gard, is exiled from his folk and takes his own path through slavery, magic, and a more civilized, vicious culture. In each section of the book, Baker's voice switches from near-biblical storytelling to almost modern satire and back. Gard may just about be the first Dark Lord in fiction to be confounded by home improvement, contractors, and the need for adequate plumbing in his demon-infested mountain fortress.
But that's skipping ahead. How he gets there is a joy to follow. I detect traces of Gene Wolfe and echoes of Elizabeth Haydon's "Rhapsody" series, but Baker's story is original and unique.(less)
They say "write what you know," but if you're trying to write an engaging start to a light fantasy series and what you know is the minutia of currency...moreThey say "write what you know," but if you're trying to write an engaging start to a light fantasy series and what you know is the minutia of currency exchange... maybe you should go to an SCA meeting or two. Spice & Wolf was trucking along in solid "okay" territory until it hit chapter 3 and what felt like a 50-page lecture on currency valuation, I almost quit out of sheer boredom. The book redeems itself a little once it starts focusing on characters again and introduces some actual conflict (though it does so far too late in the story). However, the prose is clunky, the dialog is stilted in the extreme, and the plot never rises above "mildly interesting."(less)
Saga continues to be my favorite ongoing series. There aren't many monthlies that I'm still following, but this is definitely the one that I look forw...moreSaga continues to be my favorite ongoing series. There aren't many monthlies that I'm still following, but this is definitely the one that I look forward to the most. The characters continue to engage, the shocks and surprises keep coming, and now we get to meet the in-laws! The rocky romance that's the heart of all the SFF adventure has to be one of the most honest portrayals of a relationship, possibly ever in comics (Edit: Well, except for Strangers in Paradise.)
Because of the generally slow pace of the series, I'm beginning to get the impression that Vaughan and Staples are playing a really long game, and that it's going to take lots and lots of comic books to get to the end of this Saga. Normally that would make me worried - I've seen too many comic series I enjoy crash and burn after a dozen issues because no one else was reading them. This one, though, seems to be building up quite a community of fans, as evidenced by the Saga Costume Contest winners at the end of #12. In today's world, if you've got that much cosplay going on, then your core following is secure.
Guy Gavriel Kay is now officially my favorite fantasy author. I describe him sometimes as the "kinder, gentler George R.R. Martin" but that sells shor...moreGuy Gavriel Kay is now officially my favorite fantasy author. I describe him sometimes as the "kinder, gentler George R.R. Martin" but that sells short the thing Kay does that Martin doesn't: tell complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end. I wouldn't exactly call Kay's sprawling novels "tight" per se, but then again, look who I'm comparing him to.
Kay's shtick has always been to write magic-lite fantasy that's really historical fiction in disguise. In Under Heaven the supernatural is on display more overtly than in any of Kay's books since Tigana, but how it is presented is different from most other epics, in which magic is treated almost as a stand-in for technological power. Here, magic only exists in the wild, as far away from civilization as possible, and instead stands for the untameable forces of nature.
The era through the looking glass this time is Tang Dynasty China, and while the historical parallels are expected, I think this is the first time in a Kay novel that the Sweep Of History itself is treated like a character in its own right. Most epic fantasy novels treat with individuals who are at the fulcrum of power and can turn the tide of gigantic events through their actions. The characters in Under Heaven may find themselves at the heart of the action for brief moments, but those moments pass and history moves along without them.
Also, Kay's predilection for poets and musicians is finally beginning to dawn on me. Despite the vast amount of implied carnage (some 40 million people die off-stage) this is perhaps his most beautiful and poetic work I've read so far. (less)
Dang it, now I have to track down all of Caitlin Kiernan's books. I understand this is a spin-off from one of her novel series, but it stands well eno...moreDang it, now I have to track down all of Caitlin Kiernan's books. I understand this is a spin-off from one of her novel series, but it stands well enough on its own. From reading this and her first novel, Silk, it seems that Kiernan has a talent for creating characters who might be delusional, actually in touch with the supernatural, or both, and never letting the reader completely in on what's real and what isn't. What that does in this instance is to add a very interesting wrinkle to an old-fashioned monster-hunter saga.
Dancy Flammarion wanders the South slaying creatures of the night with a kitchen knife at the behest of a scary guiding angel who may or may not exist. She's guided to a small town in South Carolina completely overrun by a legion of monsters that would give Hellboy pause, and is then left to deal with it entirely on her own (except for the questionable help of a talkative raven). What I want to know is why isn't this comic an ongoing monthly? Because now I definitely want there to be a volume 2.(less)
It's starting to become a tradition with me - every year around this time, instead of driving back to Louisiana, I dive into another Sentinels of New...moreIt's starting to become a tradition with me - every year around this time, instead of driving back to Louisiana, I dive into another Sentinels of New Orleans book. Glad to see that volume 4, Pirate's Alley, is coming out next year just in time.
Elysian Fields is the most action-packed entry in the series yet. Whereas the previous volume took the story away from New Orleans proper into the blue-collar swampland south of the city, Elysian Fields brings wizard Drusilla Jaco and her ever-growing entourage of man-candy back home to deal with Byzantine layers of aristocratic wizard/elf/vampire political intrigue, a resurrected Jazz Age serial killer, an unwelcome loup garou infection, and a whole cast of arrogant rich people who could use a good ass-whoopin'.
I think what I love most about Johnson's New Orleans is that it feels like the real New Orleans that people live in - strip malls n' all. The tourist N.O. is there as well, in the form of the abandoned Six Flags park that the author seems to take a gleeful relish in blowing up real good.(less)
No matter what the verdict of the Goodreads Readers Choice awards, this is my pick for best graphic novel of the year, and the best new series since A...moreNo matter what the verdict of the Goodreads Readers Choice awards, this is my pick for best graphic novel of the year, and the best new series since American Vampire. Mix the space travel/fantasy whimsy of Moonshadow with the snark and ultra-violence of Powers? Yes, please. Can I have some more? Also, this book includes my favorite new comics character in ages: Lying Cat. (Read the book, you'll agree.)
Not much to say yet about the plot, because this volume is almost all set-up for events to come. However, it's hardly slow-paced because there's so much to introduce. Basically it boils down to the way Romeo & Juliet should have gone, with the two of them on the run together, fighting back against the Montagues and Capulets instead of moping and killing themselves. Despite that, and despite the fact that it's not a depressing read at all, the book never gets away from the tone that this is a story that can't possibly end well.(less)
The real trick with urban fantasy is to come up with something new to bring to the table, and Lewis does exactly that in this refreshing novella. Marl...moreThe real trick with urban fantasy is to come up with something new to bring to the table, and Lewis does exactly that in this refreshing novella. Marlo Morne is a zaomancer, a wizard with a very specific skill set involving the energy of life. On the surface he comes across as the standard Sam Spade-style private dick, but once you spend a little time in his head you slowly realize that it’s all an act, and he’s a very different kind of character. He works as a resurrectionist, but the use of his powers carries an extremely high personal cost. Lewis sets up the rules of his world and plays fair by them with the expertise of a master gamer, but it’s the level of emotional depth that makes the story shine. There is a little more padding in the end than you would normally have in a stand-alone novella, but it’s clear that Lewis is laying the groundwork for an ongoing series, and I really didn’t mind. Looking forward to the next one!(less)
A fun, light read for the weekend, but lacking the depth I tend to look for in fantasy novels nowadays. It’s been a good while since I read an RPG tie...moreA fun, light read for the weekend, but lacking the depth I tend to look for in fantasy novels nowadays. It’s been a good while since I read an RPG tie-in novel and I don’t remember the game-play aspects being quite so blatant as they were in this one. Of course, I was a teenager then and probably blind to those parts. Also, I doubt that I really understood how nonsensical RPG worldbuilding could get sometimes, with its easy, cheap, too-powerful magic and cultural anachronisms galore (for instance, European-style fairies in a Middle Eastern-style desert country). Nevertheless, my memories of books like the DragonLance Legends series was that they would stand up on their own even without an understanding (and tolerance for) role playing conventions and formulas.
I don’t want to slam Death’s Heretic too much, though. It is what it is, and Salim Gadhafar, the priest-hunter forced into servitude to a death goddess he hates, is an interesting, complex character and I wouldn’t mind picking up another novel or two about his adventures. Once the story veers off into the Outer Planes it becomes really fun in a "Moorcock light" vein. Also, this book rekindled my interest in playing fantasy RPGs, so: mission accomplished.(less)
Ever blast through a book and afterward get the feeling that you chugged something you should have sipped? I’ve got a feeling this one may take anothe...moreEver blast through a book and afterward get the feeling that you chugged something you should have sipped? I’ve got a feeling this one may take another read-through to completely sink in. Too bad I already leant my copy to someone else, but hey, I’m a librarian. I can’t help it.
While it’s good to have Gaiman writing for grown-ups again, you have to keep reminding yourself that The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn’t for children, since it shares so many points of reference with Coraline and The Graveyard Book. I don’t mean to say that Gaiman is recycling himself more than any other author – it’s just that Gaiman Country is so distinctive that, much like in a Tarantino movie, it’s easy to spot the creator’s favorite tropes. Here we’ve got a Maiden, Mother, and Crone who could easily have walked in on any given panel of Sandman (and probably did), cats that come and go as they please, voracious blackbirds who might have read too much Lovecraft, and a scary, otherworldy nanny who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Other Mother.
Ocean’s protagonist, however, is no Coraline, nor is he Nobody Owens. If anything, it’s hard to read this book without imagining that the main character isn’t Gaiman himself, especially after reading that the author has described this as his most personal work to date. Where Ocean veers away from Gaiman’s other child-protagonist novels is the nature of the horror at the heart of the story. Behind the mythical, magical, and fairy-tale trappings is a very real story of a child confronting adult neglect, violence, abuse, and betrayal, with underpinnings of existential terror from being forced into facing things that a young mind simply isn’t ready for.
At least that’s what I got out of it. One of the other themes I pulled out of it was that it’s an oversimplification to say that children understand less than adults: they understand different things that their adult selves inevitably forget and spend the rest of their lives desperately trying to remember. (less)
I really enjoyed this book, but somehow I feel manipulated – as if this novel was designed specifically to tug at the heartstrings of nerdy outcasts w...moreI really enjoyed this book, but somehow I feel manipulated – as if this novel was designed specifically to tug at the heartstrings of nerdy outcasts who grew up as SF fans and disliked the dreary real world they were forced to live in. I gather from the introduction that Among Others is more than a little autobiographical, so I guess we can let that slide.
Anyone looking for a traditional genre-style plot should probably move along, because they won’t find that here. Instead, Among Others focuses on the aftermath of the heroine’s Great Adventure – that left her scarred for life, “orphaned” from her twin, and an outsider from her own family. She finds refuge in her beloved SF novels, and since the protagonist is only five years older than I am she read a lot of the same things. (I’m particularly encouraged by her love of Samuel Delany.) It’s a story of healing and learning to reconnect with the world, but it’s couched in terms of magic and name-checking every great science fiction author of the 60s and 70s.
(Odd, though, that Star Wars only gets a cursory mention and Doctor Who none at all – even though this is set in Britain in the heyday of Tom Baker. If there’s anything that’s slightly unbelievable about the main character, it’s that she’s a little too well read – too much literature, not enough trash. But maybe that’s just me.)
It’s strange for a book to feel like a literary masterwork and a guilty pleasure at the same time. For the older SF fan there's an awful lot of self-confirmation here that’s sure to bias any evaluation of the book, but you know what – maybe we geeks need that once in a while. If anything, this book makes me want to read SF better. There’s still plenty of Delany I haven’t got to – maybe now’s the time.(less)