Spoilers follow, but honestly...who cares with a book like this.
Honestly not really worth the trouble of reviewing, but I'll say a few things anyway..Spoilers follow, but honestly...who cares with a book like this.
Honestly not really worth the trouble of reviewing, but I'll say a few things anyway...Asimov himself described The Stars, Like Dust as his "least favorite novel" and even that was pretty generous on his part given its tortured publishing history. Forced to include a hokey subplot that involved the Constitution of the United States by his editor and publisher that he detested after being forced to complete an outline and two complete revisions, Asimov was done with the book and found himself going through the motions to just get it over with. Ahhh the things I wish I knew before I started reading.
Ultimately The Stars suffers from stiff dialogue, insanely conspicuous deus ex machina intrusions, and for a modern audience, some rather antiquated (to the point of absurdity) gender roles. The story follows the convoluted unravelling of the assassination of the Rancher of Widemos, whose son, Biron is left chasing after his father's murderers from planet to planet throughout the dreaded Tyranni Empire. Asimov borrowed heavily from history for his setting and society, with the dreaded Tyranni, led by the Khan, strongly resembling the Golden Horde. The last Asimov I read was The Foundation Series a number of years ago, and I found the jump to this series pretty disappointing. There are no clever ideas, new angles or speculated technology that make for interesting asides and the plot is boilerplate for its era.
The sexism is astoundingly bad for a modern audience.
It meant crowding; it meant a complete absence of privacy; and it meant that Artemisia would have to adjust herself to the fact that there were no women's clothes aboard, no mirrors, no washing facilities.
Well, she would have to get used to it. Byron let that he had done enough for her, gone sufficiently out of his way. Why couldn't she be pleasant about it and smile once in a while? She had a nice smile, and he had to admit that she wasn't bad, except for her temper. But oh, that temper!
"I agree with you there, Gil," said Biron. "just let's go somewhere where I don't have to listen to her clacking. Talk about women on space ships!"
The trip, he decided, could be quite wonderful if she would only learn to behave herself. The trouble was that no one had ever controlled her properly, that was all. Certainly not her father. She'd become too used to having her own way. If she'd been born a commoner she would be a very lovely creature.
"A supply of clothes for the lady," said Biron.
Rizzett wrinkled his forehead. "Yes, of course. Well, that will be her job."
"No, sir, it won't. We'll supply you with all the necessary measurements and you can supply us with whatever we ask for in whatever the current styles happen to be."
Rizzett laughed shortly and shook his head. "Rancher, she won't like that. She wouldn't be satisfied with any clothes she didn't pick. Not even if they were the identical items she would have picked if she had been given the chance. This isn't a guess, now. I've had experience with the creatures."
Forgive my digression. If this sort of thing bothers you, it only gets worse. In the course of a couple of days, strong, willful Artemisia faints, coquettishly tries to play males off against each other, faints, is rescued, and marries our rather unlikeable hero. And don't give me that cultural relativity, "but he was writing in the 40s and 50s" nonsense. It doesn't make it any easier to read through in the 21st century.
I'm really torn on this one. On the one hand, The Glass Magician continues to develop Ceony in the wrong direction. What started out as a strong, creaI'm really torn on this one. On the one hand, The Glass Magician continues to develop Ceony in the wrong direction. What started out as a strong, creative and independent young female character has turned into a dithering "does-he-or-does-he-not-love-me" trope from the 19th century that makes incredibly bad decisions from which she's rescued by the dashing male she desires. This is the type of feminine insecurity I usually expect from female characters in the hands of male authors, and for some reason I find it more irksome when they're not. I guess I kind of just expected a female author to want to break down the stereotypes and allow her character to flourish on her own rather than in strict counterpoint to a more imposing male figure (see Hermione, Elphaba, Victoria McQueen - bad asses all from male and female authors). The villains of this particular volume have even less dimension than Lira did in the previous - a bland lust for power and a desire to cause pain and suffering to avert boredom, nothing more - and they both seem much more than Ceony can handle. A strange turn of events considering that in the last volume, Holmberg seemingly turned convention on its head by having the young female apprentice adventure into danger to save the life of the bumbling male teacher. The collapse is almost inexplicable to me.
On the other hand, Holmberg continues to create an inviting and interesting world, expanding it significantly beyond The Paper Magician. In The Glass Magician the reader is exposed to the magical arts beyond paper and our young heroine adventures far beyond the fringes of London. The magical system continues to expand in novel ways with creative and organic growth occurring in the realm of paper and in the new focus material of glass. Holmberg is certainly imaginative and has a wonderful visual aesthetic that is compelling and engrossing. Her sense of pacing this time around is far improved as well.
Ultimately though, character development is noticeably lacking and disappointing given the promise with which this tale began. The books end up feeling superficial and shallow given all the depth that could be there, and I feel like Holmberg sticks to the very top layer of her world and we still haven't taken the deep dive into what could be out there. I'll probably read The Master Magician, but at this point I'm not really anxious to get to it. ...more
An enjoyable read with a creative magical system and wonderful atmosphere. Something in it reminded me of Final Fantasy IX and maybe if you're a nerdAn enjoyable read with a creative magical system and wonderful atmosphere. Something in it reminded me of Final Fantasy IX and maybe if you're a nerd from the 90s that'll mean something to you. A kind of mix between the gothic and the cartoonish, a Victorian sensibility with a childish whimsy.
Something like that. I can't really describe what style it is, but there is something fun and attractive about it that is really engrossing - and you really feel it from the very first page.
Ceony Twill is apprenticed to the strange, but likable Magician Emery Thane, a Paper folder, which sounds kind of dumb next to metal magic or glass magic, but deep down, you have to know that it's going to end up awesome. Paper, because it's used to make books, has an imaginative aspect to its magic that seems really cool and an unhappy, but grateful Ceony takes exceptionally quickly to the magic. I was immediately impressed with the imaginative aspects of Holmberg's world-building and immensely hopeful that I'd finally found that series that could fill the Kingkiller and Gentleman Bastard void...
Unfortunately, I had some pretty big problems with the story as it unfolded. Althea Ann's review very nicely sums up my sentiments. The biggest problem is the relationship that develops between Thane and Twill.
I'm not opposed to the idea of relationships with an age difference (19 and 30, here) but as other reviewers have pointed out, there's an inherent inequity in a relationship where one is a student who's had her schooling paid for by her teacher. Ceony is obedient to her teacher, and even puts herself in a more-menial-than-asked-for position by volunteering to do household chores. Her behavior is believable, given her background, so it's not so much that I have a problem with it, but I do think it's a failing in the book that the inequity and power imbalance portrayed isn't addressed or discussed at all.
It's also a tough shift that the author is trying to negotiate - I felt like she took a relationship of formal mentor-student that started to have father-daughter overtones - and then changed it to a romantic relationship. The idea is that Ceony's journey through Emery's heart lets her get to know him so well that she understands and falls in love with him. But... I didn't quite feel it. I didn't find what we see in the heart very appealing. It's quite explicitly about seeing, comprehending and forgiving past weaknesses and mistakes, knowing another person's faults to love them... but to me, finding out about someone's past moments of moral failing and casual cruelty is not about to endear them to me.
And that's exactly it. I'd have much rather seen their relationship develop as the pupil becomes the equal and forming a bond of friendship. As it is, it seems...not creepy, because it really isn't. More like, disappointing. Sure, you're not quite sure if Thane reciprocates the feeling...entirely, but having started The Glass Magician it kind of seems that way to me.
I also agree with Althea's criticism that the crux of the novel, the voyage through the chambers of Thane's heart, was a bit frustrating. I wanted to see Ceony break out and explore the world. Here's an England filled with possibilities and we spend two-thirds of the book in someone's memories, a prisoner of their hopes, loves, and losses. It gets tedious after a while.
Still, there's enough here in both content and style to indicate tremendous promise and it's definitely worth a shot sticking with it. ...more