Once again, GRRM grabbed my attention sometime during the first two chapters with his incredible talent for characterization. Even though, Fevre DreamOnce again, GRRM grabbed my attention sometime during the first two chapters with his incredible talent for characterization. Even though, Fevre Dream presents a fresh take on vampires, to me, this novel was all about Abner Marsh, an endearing old captain, loyal right down his very last bone, more passionate about his ship and navigation than about any woman, and whose dream is to have his boat compete (and win!) with the fastest ship that ever sailed the waters of the Mississippi. Joshua York, the 'good' vampire to put it bluntly (though it hardly does justice to the complexity of his character), is also wonderfully portrayed. Their partnership and later on, friendship really drives the narration as it symbolizes an alliance between light and darkness, human and creatures of the night. This dream of alliance is Joshua's, but he has to reach out and trusts in order to achieve it and so, it's not just destiny that pushed him towards Abner Marsh. As always, GRRM takes in the in-between and depicts different shades of gray: there are no good or bad characters here.
I was very pleased to read GRRM's slow, rich and precise style in another genre than traditional fantasy. Fevre Dream is a historical novel and the descriptions related to navigation, ship's engines and life on board are a pure treat. GRRM's narration is constantly enriched with details about life in the antebellum South, Indians and slavery. It's all presented in subtle touches, but it's there all throughout the novel and makes it that much better. Plus, this human-vampire alliance allows Martin to question the nature of humanity and whether it can include that of races, what it means to be human, to be equals, especially in a segregated racist society. This brings yet another dimension to this rich story.
As I mentioned, the overall pacing is slow. Martin takes his time setting up the story and the protagonists. And even well into the book, he never rushed things. Like an experienced captain, he expertly maneuvers his readers and slowly builds up to some semi-climax before releasing the pressure. He plays this little game over and over and only an excellent writer can pull this off without annoying his reader.
A quick word on the French translation. While I understand that the publishers may have felt that 'Riverdream' was easier for French readers to pronounce than 'Fevre Dream', the French title makes no sense whatsoever! I wish they had kept the original title, especially when it's actually explained in the first or second chapter!
Fevre Dream is a very powerful historical novel with a nice touch of vampire folklore. Highly recommended...more
I've been keeping an eye on this novel for quite a while now having read and enjoyed all that is written by Aliette de Bodard and available online.
I'lI've been keeping an eye on this novel for quite a while now having read and enjoyed all that is written by Aliette de Bodard and available online.
I'll admit that my interest was initially triggered because the author is French (hey, fellow countrywoman!) of Vietnamese descent, living in Paris, writing in English and fascinated by Mesoamerican cultures... how cool is that? I guess the student in me who's always been fascinated by issues of identity and how they are portrayed in speculative fiction took over and thought this may prove to be a very nice playground.
And it turned out to be just that and so much more. I know next to nothing about Aztec culture and it was a pleasure reading the book if only to get to know more about this civilization that is all too often portrayed as barbaric and blood-thirsty. You can tell there was a lot of research put into this book and I particularly enjoyed the little bonus at the end which gave the author a chance to explain how she want about doing her research, how she built her story around it, what was true, historical fact and what was fiction.
I was also glad to get to read Aliette de Bodard's prose in longer form but what I most enjoyed was her depiction of her main character, the conflicted Acatl, High Priest of the Dead. The ways in which he inwardly struggles with the decision he's made to be a priest when his parents would have him become a soldier, how he also experiences difficulties being a High Priest, a leader to the other priests. I could completely relate to this character who constantly tries to reconcile his own desires with that which is expected of him.
While I greatly enjoyed the richness of the setting, the perfect balance between fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, the solid suspenseful plot, for me, it's Acatl and the many ways through which I could relate to him that really got me. It's a new aspect of Aliette de Bodard's fiction I was pleased to discover as in short stories, it's often difficult to demonstrate the extent of one's talent at characterization.
Highly recommended whether you enjoy mystery novels, fantasy, historical fiction, Aztec culture and solid characterization. Surely one of those describes you. I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment and hope this gets translated in French and many other languages.
Also, I'd like to mention that prior to the publication of the novel, the author posted on her blog a series of posts giving details about the historical and geographical context of the novel. Definitely worth checking out. ...more
I rarely ever read historical novels and I'm not quite sure why. Those I've read, I remember enjoying, but it's just not a genre I naturally turn to wI rarely ever read historical novels and I'm not quite sure why. Those I've read, I remember enjoying, but it's just not a genre I naturally turn to when looking for something to read.
I would never have picked this one up if I hadn't been asked to read it at work. Also, on a completely unrelated note, this is the first book I've read on my iphone thanks to the Stanza app and I must say that reading on the iphone felt as comfortable as reading on paper.
I'll shamelessly admit having never read The Scarlet Letter. Sure, I've studied bits and pieces of it in class, but my most vivid memory of the book's content is the movie with Demi Moore. Well, it all comes down to the fact that we were studying Poe at the same time and well really, the latter took up most of my study time as you can imagine...
At the end of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne tells his readers that the main character, Hester Prynne, leaves America with her young daughter Pearl, only to come back years later, alone. Paula Reed's novel fills in the blank left by the Scarlet Letter and recounts what became of Hester and Pearl as they journeyed back to England (then, under Oliver Cromwell) and reunite with old acquaintances of Hester's.
You really don't have to have read Hawthorne's novel to get into this book as the author makes a wonderful job at recounting here and there events of Hawthorne’s novel, as well as including certain elements when they provide for a greater understanding of the character’s motivations.
If the premise didn’t really strike me as particularly interesting, I was quickly grabbed by the author's rich and flowing style. It's a real pleasure to read.
Also, this is a story about women and how they fare in a world ruled by puritan men who see their female counterparts as little more than elaborate pieces of furniture capable of providing them with an heir... The mothers, daughters, sisters and friends in this story do what they can to bend the rules and work within the system to help and comfort one another... and really, some situations are not without resemblance to situations faced by some contemporary women.
My only complaint would be that, although the characters are well fleshed out, you never really feel worried or anxious regarding what may become of them. Unfortunate events do take place but Hester and Pearl are never irrevocably threatened by them. The reader simply knows that all will turn out fine for both of them and that's not just because you know all along that Hester will go back to America.
Still, this makes for a solid and wonderfully written story centred on women, which raises some interesting points about social conventions and religion. I would recommend it to all those who enjoy historical novels and 17th century England. Again, whether or not you’ve read or enjoyed The Scarlet Letter is of little consequence here.