This is the second book in the trilogy, coming after Finnikin of the Rock. I was really apprehensive about reading it, since it was such a thick book...moreThis is the second book in the trilogy, coming after Finnikin of the Rock. I was really apprehensive about reading it, since it was such a thick book in the fantasy genre – which I still have some trouble with. However, by and large, I was fine with reading it, and most of the time I didn’t even realise how long it was. Spoiler warning – I’ll probably spoil the first book in this review. Go and read the first book first!
This time the story focuses primarily on Froi, the boy picked up by Finnikin and Isaboe during the first book. There are big problems in the neighbouring kingdom of Charyn and Froi is recruited to head across the border with orders to assassinate the king. He is accompanied by the perpetually grumpy, Gargarin, and is soon entered into the royal court on (lengthy and complicated) false pretenses. There he meets the strange and damaged Quintana and the story becomes even more complicated and engrossing. Meanwhile, back in Lumatere, Finnikin, Isaboe and Finnikin’s old friend Lucian are all coming to terms with the responsibilities which have been thrust upon them.
To be honest, at times I felt like the book was too long. I wondered whether it would be better cut into two books, to create a series rather than a trilogy, or whether a heavy dose of editing would have helped. It almost always felt longer during the parts that were set with Froi – there seemed to be endless close calls and near misses which made it harder to follow at times (though maybe I’d have done better if I was the kind of person to look at the maps at the front of books). I adored the parts with Isaboe, coming to terms with not only being Queen, but also being a new mother. I also loved Lucian’s story, and almost wish I could get more about him.
The new characters introduced in Froi of the Exiles are universally interesting, if not always likable. Almost every character is written with several motivations and backgrounds, some of which we only catch a glimpse of as we are reading. Parts of the story are incredibly sad, and other terribly frustrating (just because the characters make silly choices, not because of the writing). I did enjoy it, and I am trying to find the third in the trilogy at the local library, but I might take a little time out with some other books – and I might even stretch a bit more into some adult fantasy!
Another of the Twelve Planets series, like Love and Romanpunk, this book contains four short stories. Unlike Love and Romanpunk, though, which had a c...moreAnother of the Twelve Planets series, like Love and Romanpunk, this book contains four short stories. Unlike Love and Romanpunk, though, which had a clear storyline thread through the four books, the thing that connects the stories in Cracklescape is more fleeting and indescribable – a bit ghostly.
The first story, The Duchess Dresser, is a story about a share house and the ghost that is invited in when Tan brings home a dresser with a mysteriously locked drawer. Tan and the other members of the household are curious but accepting of the dresser, and the woman who seems to live among them, particularly in their sleep. The Isle of Suns, which is probably my favourite story is about a group of children who set off, Pied Piper style, lured by tall and thin and golden people. The third story, Bajazzle introduces Sheelas and a deeply unlikable main character and is better read than reviewed. The last story, Significant Dust, slips back and forward between times, as Vanessa run from the ghosts of her past.
Margo Lanagan’s writing is like poetry – even if you’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the story (and at times I definitely felt like this – it’s been great thinking it over for a couple of days) you’re carried away by the pure beauty of the words. Her characters feel very real, like people you should know, even if they’re ghosts who reside in a locked drawer. A lot of people talk about the genre bending quality of the author’s work and I can understand that – this is a very accessible collection of stories, even if speculative fiction isn’t really your thing. It wouldn’t be out of place with a literary collection of short stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed these, and am both happy and sad that I’ve completed two of the Twelve Planets books – as much as I want to read them, I always want more there to read!
(Disclaimer – I know the author through the internet)
Back in the olden days before I became a teacher, I completed an arts degree with a double major...more(Disclaimer – I know the author through the internet)
Back in the olden days before I became a teacher, I completed an arts degree with a double major in Ancient History. My real love was Ancient Athens (I even learned Ancient Greek), but I did have a certain fondness for the early empire.
Which, luckily for me, is what Love and Romanpunk is based around.
The book is part of the Twelve Planet series and consists of four short, related stories. In the first one, Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary, we are introduced to the background to our story, told by my favourite of all Roman women (I studied Nero a little, so spent way too long designing collapsible boats with other wayward students. Did I mention we drank a lot of wine in the Ancient History department?) It turns out that the twists and turns of the early Roman empire where not caused by revolution and jealousy and a certain fondness for horses alone. Instead, there were numerous creatures and beings, some of them members of the ruling family. While we learn about the Roman world, which is kind of as we knew it, we are being fed information which sets up the next three stories – including the introduction of Lamia – Roman vampires.
In Lamia Victoriana, we follow these creatures to Victorian times. We then slip forward in history to a Roman City built in the Australian outback in The Patrician, before heading into the future in Last of the Romanpunks. Each story builds on the last, and I must admit that I really feel like I should read the whole lot again so that I can really understand it even better.
I don’t read a huge amount of short stories, but I understand that it’s a delicate balancing act to create fleshed out characters, without getting bogged down in lengthy character exposition. I think Love and Romanpunk does an excellent job of doing this, building on characters that we ‘know’ and creating characters that are very easy to care about. I would easily want to read more about the different ‘worlds’ we are introduced to.
I really loved this book and I would recommend this book to history lovers, of course, but also to people who aren’t usually interested in speculative fiction, but would like to dip their toes in a bit. The format is a great way to be introduced to Australian speculative fiction, and I look forward to reading more of them. I believe Love and Romanpunk had sold out in the print form, but is easily found through Kindle or the Twelfth Planet Press website.
Vampire Fiction is a ‘thing’ these days. After reading Team Human, I’m pretty happy about that – especially if it inspired this book!
Mel, our hero, is...moreVampire Fiction is a ‘thing’ these days. After reading Team Human, I’m pretty happy about that – especially if it inspired this book!
Mel, our hero, is pretty anti-vampire. Which can make like a little difficult when you live in a vampire town, New Whitby, and a vampire turns up at your school. Then falls in love with your best friend.
But there’s something a little bit strange about him, not to mention the way the Principal is reacting to him, and Mel is determined to get to the bottom of it.
When I write the summary like that, Team Human looks a little sparse, like it doesn’t really have much in it at all. But there’s a lot more besides a vampire detective story going on here. There’s love stories left, right and centre. There’s the complicated world of high school friendships. There’s the confusing notion of determining who you are when you’ve lived less than two decades of your life (and when you’re surrounded by people who contemplate their 20th decade . . .). Then there’s the whole new vampire world.
It’s acknowledged that vampires can be dangerous – they’ve got power beyond what humans have, that’s why they have the vampire section of the police force. Being a vampire, in Team Human, has become a regulated thing, allowing them to live alongside the humans in their town. Even becoming a vampire is extremely regulated – but since there can be catastrophic consequences, this is a Good Thing. The world that has been created here is extremely rich, and it’s going to leave a lot of readers like me – wanting more stories set in this universe.
Mel is a sympathetic and believable main character. She isn’t always right, but it’s easy to understand her motives. She’s surrounded by a great cast of characters – I’m a big fan of both Anna and Kit. What’s even cooler about the group of characters is that it’s incredibly diverse, but in a perfectly normal way.
This is the book that I would have (and will, if I see them) recommended to some of my more mature students. I can see it gaining a bit of cult popularity among teenagers who are a little over the Twilight ‘thing’, but who enjoy speculative fiction. I’m also going to be recommending it to the adults I know – especially my sisters who I think will both enjoy it
I’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a r...moreI’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a reason to read a book!) But I’d skipped over this one, since fantasy is really not one of ‘my genres’. I have been coming around on this, though. In 2011, I devoured the Ranger’s Apprentice series (meeting the author, John Flanagan was a good reason to do this), and I enjoyed reading The Hobbit to my class in 2009. Generally, though, if there’s a map at the beginning of the book and it’s not historical fiction, then I generally give it a miss.
Since Finnikin cam out, though, I’ve had a number of people recommend it to me. And the Australian Women Writers Challenge, seemed like a pretty good kick up the bum to finally borrow it and read it. I can understand why it was recommended to me – there’s no dragons or trolls or dwarves or other complicated lore, which feel like you need a lifetime of reading fantasy to really ‘get’ and appreciate. However, there was deep magic and there was a map at the front of the book, which did make it feel like ‘one of those books I don’t read’ no matter how far I got into the story.
The story is about Finnikin, the son of Trevanion, the head of the King’s Guard. After the Unspeakable, the royal family is destroyed and the kingdom of Lumatere is left entombed, while those who could escape were left as refugees, locked out of their own kingdom. Finnikin and Sir Topher (the King’s First Man) are left travelling around the rest of Skuldenore, gathering both names and stories from fellow refugees.
That is, until they are drawn to the strange novice, Evanjalin, who leads them on an adventure they never expected – along with the promise that she would lead them to a surviving member of the royal family. Along their journey they meet Froi, a young thief, before collecting the scattered members of their old kingdom who can help them make it strong again.
There were so many expectations with this story, since a number of people had recommended it to me. It was they style of fantasy I think I enjoy the most – more emphasis on different magic, politics and history and less on magical creatures. The magic was very clearly the magic of women, which at times jarred against the traditional male roles which were evident throughout the story. As much as I enjoyed Finnikin as a narrator and main character, it would have been fascinating to have more of an insight into the world of women in this world – because Finnikin is excluded, so are we, which reminds me of how much of ‘real’ history we are excluded from because no one wrote the women’s stories.
I don’t think I’ll be going out to buy the series, but I did enjoy reading it and I have borrowed the second in the series to read (though it’s huge!) I think those who enjoy fantasy would enjoy it, though – I would recommend this one to my sister, if she hasn’t read it already. I would recommend it to teenagers who are wanting to read fantasy, and I actually think this is a book that boys could get into as well, though the cover seems to be marketed towards female readers – I notice there’s some other editions out there with more gender neutral covers.
A Dr Seuss inspired book, without the charm of Dr Seuss. The made up words feel a little too forced at times and they don't roll off the tongue to way...moreA Dr Seuss inspired book, without the charm of Dr Seuss. The made up words feel a little too forced at times and they don't roll off the tongue to way Seuss books do. Also felt like the environmental message was too obvious. Lovely illustrations.(less)
So I've finally finished the published Ranger's Apprentice books (don't fear - John Flanagan pointed out in the talk I was at on Thursday that there w...moreSo I've finally finished the published Ranger's Apprentice books (don't fear - John Flanagan pointed out in the talk I was at on Thursday that there will be at least one more). I'll start with my thoughts on the Lost Stories and then move back to the series as a whole.
This is a series of short stories covering everything from how Will's parents really died, through to random adventures through to more important milestones. The stories are short and easily digestible, which was good because there were some I liked more than others. While these stories fill in some holes, they also create a few more which is also fun for any reader young or old. I particularly liked the way the stories were bookended with the story of an archaeology dig in the 19th century uncovering the stories.
As for the series as a whole - well I can understand why they're so popular with my students now. They are fantasy - but like Harry Potter, they're set in a world close enough to ours to be easily relatable. They're set in a medieval-like world, which brings the knights and princesses which are so fascinating - but the world is fantastical enough to allow women to take on greater roles and conditions to be a little more palatable. There's adventure, grizzled mentors, humour and great friendship. All in all, a great series for both boys and girls to read, and one that many adults would probably enjoy as well.(less)