The Darkness, Crystal Connor's debut novel, is an interesting blend of dark fantasy bordering on horror, science fiction and urban fantasy that comple The Darkness, Crystal Connor's debut novel, is an interesting blend of dark fantasy bordering on horror, science fiction and urban fantasy that completely does away with traditional genre categories. In fact, it does away with a lot of other elements traditionally found in speculative fiction and literature in general, such as the portrayal of motherhood, womanhood and characters of color. Like a lot of debut novels, there are quite a few things to praise here, but also a few to nitpick.
The opening chapters are among the best I've read in a while, as Connor is quick to set up an uneasy atmosphere that successfully grabs hold of her readers from the very start. You'll get chills down your spine by the time you read these words "I used to call you mother". And you'll want to know who this child is and what could possibly have happened for him to hold such hatred towards the one who rescued him. And here's the double-edged sword, because Connor will tell you this story.
She takes you back to the days when The Child was but a child, albeit with extraordinary abilities he couldn't always control, sometimes to dreadful consequences. The novel's pace slows down then, though I'd be hard pressed to ever call it slow, because Connor smartly alternates between past and present narratives. But the novel does start to lose some of its initial steam as we get to know more about Adam and identify with Artemisia's feelings for him. We know he's dangerous, and yet, he seems to be such a cute little baby that it's hard to re-conciliate the initial perception we had of him as a dangerous stalker, lurking and simply waiting for the right moment to strike, and this little child acting like any child, manipulating his environment to obtain what he wants. Again, this was a necessary step in the narrative, the reader's understanding of the past and Artemisia's feelings towards her child, otherwise the ending wouldn't have that much of an impact. But while building up for the ending, it also slowly unravels the atmosphere of gloom and unease that made the opening pages so gripping. And I never seemed to be able to reconnect with it later on. It felt like the fog had lifted and I could see the background tricks. I do realize this is a probably me being picky as I haven't read any other reviews that hinted at this and truth is, I don't think there was any way around it; except perhaps starting the novel at another point? But truly, I can understand that it was too tempting for both author and editor to have the novel start then and loose steam later on, rather than the other way around. Anyway, the character of Adam annoyed me as we got to know him. I struggled to see him as the psychopathic murderer the author wanted us to see, all I could see was an annoying little brat with special powers going through a teenage crisis.
I did however greatly enjoyed the characters of Artemisia and Inanna, both embodied different types of womanhood and motherhood (one could argue that where one is science and rationality, the other is magic and emotions, but it's a bit more complicated than this simplistic dichotomy), but both are strong, ambitious women who will stop at nothing to get what they want and they don't look for excuses or pretend to be sorry about it. I think the novel's greatest asset resides in the opposition of these two characters. Had the novel only included one and not the other, and had opposed Artemisia/Inanna to what I'll refer to as the traditional mother character, Artemisia/Inanna would have inevitably been set up as the dark side, the evil one, the ambitious black woman with an agenda. In The Darkness, because they share these traits, one is not set up as good and the other as evil. Both obey their own laws whether these happen to fit the laws of man or not, both love Adam and want to be a good mother to him, and so neither is good or evil. Without spoiling the ending, if the reader manages to rid himself of his traditional perception of motherhood and what it implies, and simply puts together the pieces scattered throughout the novel, the decision taken at the end of the novel makes perfect sense. That's all I can say and keep this review spoiler-free.
The Darkness is a short novel, with a gripping opening and a shocking ending. And while I do have queries about some of the middle parts, it must be recognized that it's a far from being your usual urban fantasy novel, especially when it comes to the portrayal of women of color and motherhood. Also know that a sequel is in the making, Artificial Light. ...more
While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla wasWhile other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.
So yes, this is a werewolf book and you know what? I've always loved werewolves a lot more than I have vampires!
Andrea Cremer does everything I expect from a werewolf book: she does a wonderful job at depicting the implications and consequences of belonging to a pack, the relationships between the pack members are subtly drawn, and contrary to a lot of YA fantasy novel, secondary characters are not just shadows lurking in the background or plot devices serving the overall narration. Clearly, the author has worked a great deal on her characters, but also on the world they inhabit and said world's politics.
Werewolves are Guardians serving the Keepers who are basically witches. The Guardians protect a sacred site from a third party. The Keepers care for the Guardians, making sure they never lack in anything (beautiful houses, expensive cars, education, etc.), in return, the Guardians are entirely devoted to the Keepers. The Keepers decide when a new pack needs to created, choose mating partners. It's quite interesting to uncover these dynamics as well as the events involving a nice mix of religious convictions, historical manipulation that led to the situation in which Calla, the main character finds herself.
Throughout the narration, Calla is torn between being the alpha her family, pack and Keeper expect her to be (hell, she could even be happy that way, surrounded by those she loves) and unearthing a dangerous secret that just might shatter all that she's ever been brought up to believe. Of course, this is all spiced up by the forbidden love angle that makes Calla walk a slippery path. It's cleverly written and Andrea Cremer carefully writes the events that will lead to Calla's Cornelian dilemma.
Sexy, action-packed and fast-paced, this book will easily appeal to older audiences as well. Recommended even to those who are tired of paranormal romance. 3 books are planned in the series and a fourth companion novel... so lots to look forward to as well!...more
Meet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mytholoMeet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mythology and imagery to stand on its own. Can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!...more
I can say in all certainty that I've never read anything like this book before. It's filled with very original ideas to say the least. And the author'I can say in all certainty that I've never read anything like this book before. It's filled with very original ideas to say the least. And the author's style is very specific to herself and to the world she's created. This makes for a challenging, refreshing and surprising read. I can definitely see how this book illustrates the New Weird movement; a movement I have shied away from ever since my disastrous encounter with China Mieville and Iron Council (for those of you who don't remember, I read about 200 pages of Iron Council, I tried, I really did but I couldn't finsh the book. It's probably the only book that I couldn't finish).
My problem with Mieville's world and I extend it to most of the works of the NW, is that I'm a character reader. If you don't give me good solid characterization, I'm going to struggle through the story no matter how enchanting your world building may be and well, if your main character is your world, that might turn out to be a problem for me. Valente's main character happens to be a city but the city is also clearly marked by its inhabitant and as far as characterization goes, Valente has nothing to envy Hal Duncan, Sarah Rees Brennan, George R.R. Martin and some of the best that are out there.
Valente combines Jeff Vandermeer's talent for weird and enchanting world building and Jacqueline Carey's sensual and flourishing style. Why no French publisher has yet decided to publish this author is beyond me!
If the initial pages are a bit arduous (I really struggled at first, I was a bit lost), as soon as characters entered the picture and I got used the author's style, I no longer felt out of my depth. I really started enjoying the text and realized the full extent of the richness of her creation.
To sum up: this is some very impressive stuff once you get the gist of it.
I'll admit that each time Valente drew back from her characters and went back to the city and mentioned some random things, my interest and attention diminished and I really felt like skipping those parts (which were minor in comparison to the overall story). This is probably a very subjective criticism as it really depends on what kind of reader you are and what you are looking for. I know that no matter how bizarre and twisted the world the author wants to take me in is no problem as long as I have characters to anchor me within the story and relate to. Perhaps most readers don't require this.
Anyway, this was an immensely satisfying read that I can highly recommend. I especially think that Shannon and Katryn should give this author a try.
We have the Valente's Orphan Tales series at the agency so I'll be sure to pick them up and read them. In the meantime, I really hope that a French publisher will want to publish them because this author really has a distinctive voice and develops the most original of ideas....more
Once again, I shall not even pretend to be the least objective about Sarah Rees Brennan's work. I was hard pressed not to squeal like a shameless fangOnce again, I shall not even pretend to be the least objective about Sarah Rees Brennan's work. I was hard pressed not to squeal like a shameless fangirl when copies of the French edition of book 1 came in at the agency I used to work at. I think my colleagues noticed my enthusiasm nevertheless, perhaps the frantic hugging of the book tipped them off, or maybe they're just particularly receptive. Who knows?
The first title of the Demons trilogy, written from Nick's point of view was a pure treat. Book two, written from Mae's point of view was just as good! SRB deconstructs so many clichés and happily flushes them down the drain it's hard to pinpoint all of them. Here are a few: a heroine that has no magical ability, uses her wits to make things happen and is not afraid to take matters into her own hands to get what she wants; a love triangle that's not really one. This story is not about who Mae's going to pick. In fact, she may not 'pick' anyone, there might not a happily settled couple at the end of this series! But, if you really must know, if I were Mae I'd pick Alan, but that's beside the point really. If there a is love story in this series, the Reeves brothers are probably its protagonists (and no, I'm not talking about slash... well, not necessarily...). *ahem* Continuing on the flushing of clichés, SRB's gay character is not just here for comic relief. He stands as a main character in his own right.
If you've enjoyed book 1, you don't need me to tell you to go read this NOW! But just in case: GO READ THIS NOW!...more
I might as well come out and say it up front: I’m not going to be the least objective about this book or this author. You see, Sarah Rees Brennan AKAI might as well come out and say it up front: I’m not going to be the least objective about this book or this author. You see, Sarah Rees Brennan AKA Maya is the one who got me hooked on HP fanfiction, slash and more particularly H/D. I’ve enjoyed everything she has ever put up on her lj which I’ve been reading for years now! She’s a gifted storyteller who does brilliantly amazing things as far as characterization is concerned. That’ll do for context. Her debut novel is marketed as YA and I’m not sure why. If it is YA at all, it’s definitely more on the mature side and certainly dark, clever and rich enough all in terms of writing and world building to blur the lines between YA and adult fiction. It seems that, these days, most urban fantasy that’s out there unavoidably loses its way to become paranormal romance and that’s part of the reason why I avoid the genre as a whole. But I couldn’t care less about subgenres here. Quite frankly, if SRB had written a rip off of the LOTR, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it and would’ve bought it and devoured it as fast as I did The Demon’s Lexicon (confer the opening paragraph on objectivity). Here, I found the urban fantasy to be a wonderful tool that really participated in grounding the characters in real life and helping the reader identify with them. SRB does such an amazing job at giving life and texture to the relationship between the brothers, depicting the complex mix of love and tension that, at times, unites and, at others, comes between them (yeah, I did feel the Winchester brothers echo at the beginning but it didn’t take long for the Rhyves brother to really grow and become their own pair in my mind). Honestly I couldn’t get enough of them and the other two main characters. In terms of interaction, exchanges, dialogs, SRB is always spot on and that, I think, is the book’s greatest strength. It’s got many others of course. For instance, the plot and the pace which won’t allow you to put the book down. I only did it because I had to work and sleep (though I didn’t get much of that). Theme-wise, there are some very nice bits about alienation and being brought up in a world that you don't fully understand or relate to. Anyway, it’s a highly recommended book if you’re looking for some good stuff to burn through and enjoy immensely. You can kick back and relax, you’re in good hands.
Somehow, I forgot to review this novel though I read it back in August!
Greg Van Eekhout is one of those short story writers I've been keeping an eye oSomehow, I forgot to review this novel though I read it back in August!
Greg Van Eekhout is one of those short story writers I've been keeping an eye on because I really like their works and would like to see how well they'd fare in the longer form (others are Gord Sellar, Eugie Foster, Rachel Swirsky, Shweta Narayan).
This is Greg Van Eekhout's debut novel and as such, it is not perfect but it's a damn good entertaining read that you'll most likely read cover to cover in one sitting. It's fast-paced, incredibly action packed in parts and filled with dark humor in others.
As far as plot is concerned, here is what Publishers Weekly has to say about it:
You can tell Greg Van Eekhout is a short story writer just by the sheer number of events taking place within a bit less than 300 pages! Van Eekhout's style is precise and concise, no useless lengthy description, no longish, borish dialogs... everything in this book has a purpose and, while that's enjoyable, I believe it's also one of the book's flaw. In the end, everything falls a bit to neatly into place as is often the case in many debut novels.
That's my only complaint and it's a minor one really. As a plus point, the author does an amazing job at weaving Norse mythology into the narration. No info dumps, no crash class Norse mythology for dummies. Elements are smartly introduced as the reader needs them.
Greg Van Eekhout is definitely an author to keep an eye on. I'm eagerly waiting for his upcoming YA novel. I would recommend Norse Code to all those looking for a fast-paced adventure story with a nice mix of Norse mythology. ...more
The Courtney Crumrin series is a nice little bunch of stories which initially makes you think you're in the comforting world of children stories beforThe Courtney Crumrin series is a nice little bunch of stories which initially makes you think you're in the comforting world of children stories before shaking you with issues of death and dark magic. But then aren't fairy tales filled with stories of evil witches eating children and various monsters doing unspeakable things to innocent peasants? Um... Ted Naifeh explores the delicate line between children and adult literature by exploring these mature themes and bringing us back in time. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the black and white illustrations are both gorgeous and creepy looking, confering some of the characters a very Bela Lugosi-like feeling. ...more
**spoiler alert** Re-read for the Scifi Dig book club.
I'm not big on rereads for the simple reason that there's already so much out there that I'll n**spoiler alert** Re-read for the Scifi Dig book club.
I'm not big on rereads for the simple reason that there's already so much out there that I'll never have time to read, let alone if I spend my time rereading. Still, I knew I wouldn't mind going back to Storm Front because the events of the first two books where unclear enough in my mind for there to be discoveries the second time around. Plus, if I was going to reread this, I wanted to pick up the French translation to see what it was worth and so I'll have some notes on that at the end.
The Dresden Files series is set in the clear tradition of the noir genre, a genre I know very little about, at least nothing beyond its most obvious clichés... and well, you'll get to see how Jim Butcher calls upon quite a few of them and has fun twisting them around. I'll be getting back to this but let's get on to the plot.
Harry Dresden is a private investigator of a special kind. He is a wizard, a very fine one at that, it's just that he hasn't had much luck with wizards or humans so far. And it's not about to get any better. When he gets a call from his friend Karrin Murphy over at the Chicago PD's Special Investigations, Harry leaps at the chance of getting a pay check and keeping a roof over his head. But Murphy's double murder is a very complex one as it involves magic and there's only one known wizard in town, you can find him in the yellow pages and that's Harry. In parallel, Harry must also deal with a pesky and sexy reporter, a damsel in distress who's sending mixed signals about being saved, the sexual needs of an air spirit, his stuck up warden and failing electrical appliances.
Storm Front is light and quick read, even the second time around (I finished this in a day!). You get easily caught up by the story and whether you like or not, you want to see what's coming up next. The writing is not high literature but hey, it's not trying to be. All this story wants to do is entertain you and Harry's first person narration is engaging enough to do just that. So yes, sometimes you think that Harry is not the brightest chap to have seen the light of day, sometimes he reflects too long on certain things, sometimes he does stupid things because he has not reflected on them long enough, sometimes Jim Butcher has decided to be very cruel to his character but hey, it doesn't matter, it's fun anyway!
See the thing is, Harry is not your typical smooth, cool and macho PI you usually encounter in the noir genre. He's trying to be that's for sure, but it appears Jim Butcher won't give a second of rest. Harry's got the macho part all worked out. He's at the frontier of gallantry but his assumptions about women, the way they work and their feelings never fail to annoy me. Hopefully, the author never actually proves his character right.
For instance, when Harry first sees the scene of the double murder, he suspects a woman. Why? Because, according to Harry, only a woman could call upon such feelings as jealousy and passion to channel them into a spell so powerful it could tear out the hearts of two human beings. As the story unfolds, the reader will realize that Harry couldn't have been more wrong.
Additionally, the only time Harry gets close to score with one of the many female characters of the book, the lady is under the effect of a love potion and both of them are trapped in a protective circle of about 90 centimeters while a demon is circling them, waiting for an opening. But the love potion is making the lady in question very insisting and convincing and Harry is doing everything he can to keep them alive. When they do escape, said lady ends up throwing up her guts in an alley. That's a romantic evening with Harry Dresden for you.
It constantly feels like Jim Butcher is making fun of him and I certainly wouldn't have appreciated the story this much had he let Harry's macho/gallant attitude go unhindered. That's something the TV series didn't do and one thing which annoyed me greatly. Butcher does that till the very end when Harry is brought back to consciousness, thanks to mouth-to-mouth, by none other than his old Warden. So yes that was another fun trick played on our macho man.
I'm surprised to say that I enjoyed this second reading more than the first and this has nothing to do with James Marsters's reading quite the contrary! Instead, it has all to do with expectations. The first time, I had been told so much about the Dresden Files that I was expecting a great deal from them and was disappointed when it didn't turn out to be this life changing, complex philosophical reading experience (which thankfully all books aren't, otherwise I probably wouldn't be reading as much as I do! It'd be exhausting !). The second time, I knew what I was getting into and so, could effortlessly let go and follow the rapid pace of the story.
I know the books have been well received in English speaking communities but I've seen some negative reviews in French circles. Of course, this doesn't mean that the book was ill-received throughout the country. I don't think it was since the publisher is pursuing its translation of the following books. I do think that some of the negative reviews it got was because certain people are tired of seeing the publisher in question literally flooding the speculative fiction market with its productions. And it's true that its monthly number of publications is very impressive and it's probably leading to the death of others smaller independent speculative fiction publishers, still I don't think it reason enough to say that everything they publish is rubbish. Don't get me wrong, some titles are and I don't think they are worth being translated, but hey, those are probably the ones that make the most money. Plus, I have to mention that what they pay their translators is an outrage to the entire profession. But they are also the ones who make sure Scott Lynch, Graham Joyce and soon, Elizabeth Bear are published in France. So you gotta give them some credit for that.
And so that gets me to some translation notes and more precisely, some questionable choices made by the translator and/or the editor. For instance, when Jim Butcher describes vampire Bianca, he gives the names of two actresses. I can't remember what those names were in the original version but in the French version, here, pops up Fanny Ardant and Simone Signoret. My problem is that when you're reading a translation, you *know* that it's a translation. In Storm Front, the reader knows that the story is taking place in Chicago, why do you, the translator, have to put the names of French actresses in the story? If you're doing it for context and for French readers to have a better understanding of the description then you use the names of other American actresses which are more famous in France than the ones originally picked by the author. That makes a lot more sense and doesn't jolt your French reader out of the narration and have him wonder: hum... we're in Chicago, and I'm fairly certain most Americans have no idea who Fanny Ardant and Simone Signoret are. There were other such instances I won't comment upon since this was the most shocking one in my mind. ...more