Final verdict: a great antidote to A Game of Thrones, with brilliant, complicated characters.
My friend introduced to me to Ship of Magic because I'd bFinal verdict: a great antidote to A Game of Thrones, with brilliant, complicated characters.
My friend introduced to me to Ship of Magic because I'd been complaining about annoying stupid characters. She recommended Robin Hobb in general, but Ship of Magic especially, primarily for Althea Vestrit, our primary protagonist.
One thing I want to point out is that I would have never picked this up on my own. Not for the title, not the cover (yes, I'm disproportionately attracted to pretty covers--there's a blog post in there somehow), and not even the cover copy. Although Althea is my middle name. But normally not even that.
Thank goodness for my friend, because this book seems to have marked a change in the books I'm reading--after a streak of at best mediocre reading, I'm enjoying it again! (That can't be attributed entirely to this book, but did contribute to the exhilaration of my reading experience.)
Althea Vestrit is the younger daughter of a liveship trader family. In essence, the elite of colonial Bingtown. Liveships are just that: living ships. But you don't just build a ship that's alive, or buy one, it has to be built first of wizard wood, and 'grow': that is to say, quicken. A liveship, though, will only quicken after three of its family members die on-deck, through which they gain knowledge and awareness. And a liveship will only respond to a member of the family, especially once it is alive.
And I haven't even gotten to the story yet. Continued in vaguely topical order:
Robin Hobb has built an incredible, complex world, much of which is gradually revealed throughout the story, naturally and through the characters' perspectives. The world-building is crucial to the story's success, because in many ways, its core theme is the clash of worlds, old and new. There isn't one simple conflict between good and evil or even two families. Bingtown is a colony, only now, they're being settled again by people who don't understand the land and customs--and worse, Bingtown has started following the customs of the mainland, even those that just a generation ago would have been too horrifying to contemplate. Now, the newcomers may not understand the reasons for Bingtown's customs, but the locals won't explain them either (more on that later).
The conflict of cultures is so important. Worldly Jamaillia is decadent, rich, slave-owning. And the slaves can be anyone: the educated call for particularly high prices. Bingtown once had equal relations to men and women: they've borrowed the madonna/whore complex from Jamaillia and now are looking to slavery. But Bingtown has a strange relationship with magic and the people up the river who make it.
Back to Althea. Because she's the natural daughter of the Vestrit's, who own a liveship just one death away from quickening, Althea fully expects to be the next captain. After all, she's been sailing with her father for years, and her older sister is married: settled with children. But as the summary states so baldly, Althea doesn't get Vivacia, her brother in law does.
*The characters matter. The majority of characters in A Game of Thrones are AT BEST observers, and often not even good at that; all the characters (especially viewpoint characters)in Ship of Magic have agency: they are making things happen, everything they do affects the plot, the story. In A Game of Thrones the plot is happening around the characters--when they could make a difference, they don't, because characters get in the way of the plot. That could work, but only if the reader has a sense that characters caused the plot in the first place. Ship of Magic only takes place because of decisions made generations ago, and how the current people are trying to live around and with those decisions. There is a deep, complicated back story that at no time takes over what's happening now, but only makes it possible. Can I say how much I've missed this?
*A Game of thrones suffered from odd, arbitrary chapter breaks that always followed only one character (ideally, and when Martin didn't abruptly drop into omniscient when he forget what he was doing) and didn't follow the same characters in a row BECAUSE. The chapter breaks and POV changes in Ship of Magic are based on the timeline and pacing. And they don't just skip the big scenes to sum up later.
*The characters in Ship of Magic are so much better. In fact they're so awesome, I'll have to get back to this.
*The women are just as complex as the men! and just as active! and compelling! and have equal textual representation in a sexist world! and there's no creepy, overdone euphemisms for genitalia! and no glorified, underage, fetishized rape scenes! uhhhh....I feel like I shouldn't have to expect such things, but I am comparing it strictly to GoT here.
*This is also a vaguely historically-based world with only rare magic. Only here it's embedded from the beginning, and while not understood and distrusted by the inhabitants of the world, it doesn't follow the pattern of: 100 pages of ambiguity 1 sentence maybe? (x3) 100 pages ambiguity full-on firewalking and suckling dragons!
Like A Game of Thrones, Ship of Magic has several major plot threads (approximately eight, some embedded in the 'world' arcs), all given roughly equal treatment, and a great many POV characters (at least eight). I wonder if there's something to those numbers. and Martin is praised because he's willing to kill off 'anyone', which just makes me suspect a paucity of decent literature in the fantasy section. Ship of Magic made me care about the characters, even without ever having a POV of their own, and _then_ they died.
Getting into more spoiler-y territory, I loved the conflict between Ronica (Althea's mother) and Kyle (her brother-in-law).Kyle really seems like just your standard sub-boss evil. In most novels (The Name of the Wind), he'd be petty and cruel, and basically the antagonist until the confrontation with the real bad guy happens. In some ways, Kyle is all of those things. But his main threat is in how he threatens, and represents the threat, to the liveship trader way of life. And Ronica loathes him for it. But he's been her son-in-law for 15 years, IIRC, and no one in the family has tried to make him understand these traditions and why things are the way they are in Bingtown. There's a lot of hidden history that's gradually being revealed, but the locals don't discuss it amongst themselves, much less outsiders like Kyle. At least once, the truth has been actively hidden from him. These are cultures clashing because their people (on any side) cannot understand comprehend a way of life different from their own.
Wintrow, Althea's oldest nephew, lived with the priests since infancy, because in Bingtown, it's an honor. Wintrow can't wait to be a priest. But since Kyle captains the Vivacia, he needs a family-member by blood on board, especially now that Vivacia is conscious. Wintrow's struggles: to stay safe, to stay sane--my heart BLED for him.
Btw: Hobb has built an incredible, convincing fictional religion.
Kennit is about as villainous as a villain can be. As I said in a forum: "[he] knows he’s not a good guy, goes around plotting like mad, but is just going after what he wants in any way he can. He knows he’s not a good guy, but doesn’t care: he just wants power. He also goes around going good deeds, but evilly...He’s a pirate freeing slaves because then they’ll voluntarily be his army to help him take over the world. And he’s surrounded by people who are unbearably loyal to him: even his sentient charm fashioned in his image hates him and doesn’t think he deserves what he has."
One thing that Hobb does beautifully that Martin fails entirely, is have a focus to her narrative. Althea's story is central to the unifying thread. All of these characters have very important stories of their own, but Althea's is going to be right in the middle of it all.
One note about the characters: sometimes they aren't all good. Or bad. (Unless it's Kennit) They can be whiny, infuriating, annoying, ignorant, just-plain-stupid, and often wrong. For instance, Althea's quest to retake the Vivacia? Well, first she has to learn that she wasn't qualified to captain a vessel on her own, that when she traveled with her father, she was playing at sailoring. So she goes off on her own to learn--and learn she does. Slowly. Which is possibly the best part.
Now that I've been working on this for two hours, I want to touch on a subject I know is important to many of my GR friends--and the reviewers I follow who have no idea who I am: slut shaming.
THERE ISN'T ANY!
First you have Malta, Althea's niece, all of thirteen years old, *IIRC. O Good Lord, Malta. She takes the place of Martin's Sansa: obsessed with boys, rather stupid. Only Malta specifically wants sex. Preferably before babies and marriage, because she doesn't want to end up with an icky husband. Is she too young for this? Hell yes, she's spoiled rotten, doesn't understand how her own society works, and despite her interest, completely ignorant of what said sex would actually mean. Sansa, I just hated, but while I wanted to smack Malta upside the head, I also ached for her. She is so completely unaware of how vulnerable she is--and she does have to work at ignoring it too. Unlike Althea, she retreats from what scares her, what's hard (although Althea has her moments), and Keffria (her mother) and Ronica are only just learning how much they've neglected to teach her.
As for Althea--
Spoilers! Please click carefully, because this section is so important to her character development! It wouldn't ruin the book, but it would color the reading experience.
(view spoiler)[After Althea goes off to learn sailing while disguised as a boy (explained in text) she sleeps with Brashen (well, okay, it's clear he's a love interest from the cover copy) while both are impaired. She's concussed and they're both drunk and high, I think. He might be concussed too. It turns out, despite being 'upper class' in this society, and their expectations for women, she's had sex before. The first time when she was fourteen under skeevy circumstances. When she goes home to tell her sister, Keffria makes her get a charm to prevent pregnancy and STDs, assuming her sister is easy. It's the betray of trust that Althea has a problem with, she doesn't think of herself that way. In fact, she's NOT damaged by the experience, and she knows it's supposed to be pleasurable, so she seeks it out herself, occasionally. But it's not a flaw of her character that she's sexually active, and while other characters may not like it, it's never a view condoned by the text. Thought you guys might like that. (hide spoiler)]
I should end for now. I can think of so many more things to say! If I can get this under control, I promise to try and make it readable.
I just want to get everyone to read it themselves! It's just that awesome!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Léonie has to be one of the most irritating female characters I've read in a while: she wants to be considered an adult (beiThank goodness it's over.
Léonie has to be one of the most irritating female characters I've read in a while: she wants to be considered an adult (being a 17-year-old girl in France in 1891) and yet consistently behaves like a child. When she is caught and (rightly) chided, she throws a tantrum worthy of a toddler. Every time, up until the last 50 or so pages, only a chapter is devoted to her actual emotion growth--which would have made a far more interesting story. Even Léonie's aunt Isodel had promise as a character up until those last few pages--but unfortunately not being main focus character Léonie, Isodel is denied any character growth: until the end she is weak, weepy, and lost without her man.
(slight) (view spoiler)[ Even the baby is too charming to be real. Considering the circumstances, couldn't he be possibly be at least a little trouble? (hide spoiler)]
Meredith may be less irritating, if only because she is an adult (less her Tragic Backstory, but it wasn't too bad, considering). Her introduction to Léonie's story stretches the imagination--there was no reason for her not to have her own 'twist' in her story instead of the Debussy memoir. If your character is supposedly researching a significant (real) historical figure, either she'd better let me know more about him, or discover something important (even if not real) during the course of the story. Instead Meredith's memoir research is her reason for being in France, and is given a shout out at the end. She does grant it a few thoughts while she wanders merrily on her own adventures, but I would like to know how she managed the rest of her research during her trip.
The character description of both characters at times crossed into the terribly awkward: twice Léonie's hair is described as [paraphrased]: "falling down her back like a skein of silk to her slender waist", and Meredith gets a "she stretched her long, slender arms above her head." Neither is too terribly bad, but generally the text is fairly close 3rd person, which makes it sound like Léonie and Meredith have rather generous descriptions of themselves. Of course, this may well be my own insecurity, but since they've both had, and are continually given, perfectly serviceable and non-intrusive descriptions saying the same thing before, it's unnecessary purple prose.
Speaking of purple prose, there's a lot of it. Mosse wants to place the reader in France, either in the late 19th century or modern day, and she spends a lot of words attempting too. Unfortunately, it reads more like a laundry list or a description of a post card, and buries whatever atmosphere or authenticity the setting could have granted.
And frankly, I really don't care about the clothes. Patricia Clapp, in Jane-Emily had a few descriptions of clothes for her teenage narrator, but used them to indicate character growth. Here, it's just filler.
Sepulchre's plot seems to be based on a similar conspiracy theory to The Da Vinci Code I think (admittedly, I'm more than a little shaky on my French history, but since I just read Secret Societies, the names seemed familiar). The tarot angle, quite frankly, never seemed to go anywhere, but perhaps it's just because this book took me so long to read. Léonie, especially, became so irritating after just a few chapters I'd have to set it down for minutes/hours/a month.
Oh, and if you enjoy clever, engaging, convincing, threating villains, look somewhere else. Quite frankly, the foreshadowing in this novel, especially later, devolves into "That's an odd thing. It makes me think of ___. But that couldn't possibly be the case! Nope, no way. Couldn't possibly! Because I said so." Saying that, most of the rest wasn't too bad. But maybe trying to keep up suspense, a great many chapters ended on this note. Last, but not at all least, the villains are given their own point of view chapters, which is frankly one of the worst decisions in this book. This isn't a spoiler, because as soon as we get their pov, the villains announce their villainy. And in case you don't believe them, go out of their way to make their evil plans by rubbing their hands and cackling madly and commenting on the beauty of the protagonists. Both were despicable characters, not frightening antagonists.
As a final note, however 19th century rich people though of their servants, it's something of a turn-off when your narrator genuinely thinks of the 'commoners' as being lesser. Every time she ended outside her house and family and encountered real people, Léonie seemed incapable as seeing them as anything but threatening. (And honestly, even if she did know more, it wouldn't have helped her. She's not a critical thinker of anything). The closest she can come to identifying with someone from a lower class than herself is with her Most Loyal Servants. And regarding the end? If anyone else can tell me that the very end does anything more than confirm her attitude as right, please let me know. Because I was seeing red.
And thank goodness I only paid $3 for the hardcover at BigLots. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Dan says it pretty much exactly how I wish I could.
There may be spoilers?
I think the best way to respond to this book is by naming as many ways that I thought it could have been improved while reading it.
Firstly, this book is, in essence, structured through a frame narrative: We are introduced to a innkeeper Kote and several local villagers. They aren't important (although two show up at the very, very end so you need to keep track anyway). Mysterious bad things show up that the incredulous locals do not believe in, but Kote goes out and slaughters the not-demons anyway, because he knows better. Unfortunately for Kote, a famed storyteller (or something) shows up and announces he knows of Kote's secret past as Kvothe, the Hero who is so Heroic most people don't believe he really existed, despite the fact that his heroics took place not even five years ago.
Don't ask me.
So Kvothe gives in to the storyteller and agrees to tell his story. For some reason this skinny guy with no particular prowess or even equivalent intellectual power still out-manuvers the hero. Well, the reason is otherwise we wouldn't have the story, short of it being written entirely in first person. Turns out Kvothe was born a genius--a proper genius, not just smart, but literally brillaint--into some kind of travelling entertainment troupe. His parents loved him and he ended up with a tutor in magic who is put on a bus and as yet not heard from again. He gets a lot of page time for such an abrupt dismissal, but there you are. Then the parents and the rest of the troupe are murdered by the Chandrian, which is ostensibly Kvothe's driving motive. Except the 11-year-old Kvothe instead runs away to the forest for a year, then to the city for three more.
At which point we reach a major theme of the novel which is, if you aren't poor like Kvothe, you can never have any idea what it means to be poor like Kvothe. Though since this is a fiction book, I rather expect it to teach me what it means to be that poor, rather than simply insisting I don't know what it's like. Especially since Kvothe doesn't particularly seem to suffer from being poor. Seriously, he's an urchin in an urban medieval-type city, that should be awful.
Anyway, Kvothe finally decides not be be desperately poor anymore and goes to the magic school, where he is just so brilliant they let him, even though they have absolutely no reason too: no money, no recommendation. He's just That Good. And he makes friends with a few other guys who are kinda at the bottom rung as well (maybe: they all get names and a bit of page-space, but not much and I kept forgetting who they were). And then he antagonizes the queen(king?) bee of the school, Ambrose, whose father is uber-rich and powerful and crushes anyone who doesn't like his son because he has nothing better to do? Kvothe is supposed to be astute and good with people and a super genius--I have no idea why he couldn't not be stupid about this or stand up to him in any other way: suffice to stay it's a stupid conflict that really doesn't match anything else and comes up too fast and lasts too long.
At this point the novel goes on: Kvothe is an incredible, transformative musician, great at magic of both types (I'm not sure what the difference is), builds perfect devices that even when illegal or ill-advised are still allowed, meets girls whole love him for no good reason and goes places and does things none of which made much impression. Go read Dan's article again, he does a much better job overall. I'm just bored remembering it.
So how could this have worked?
1) It would have been awesome if Kote the badass innkeeper was 50-60 years old rather than his mid-twenties. For one thing, it would have been a lot more impressive, and make his world-weary ennui far more understandable and even heartbreaking. (Rothfuss handles his prose skillfully, if not his subject matter).
2) What if young Kvothe hadn't been born a genius? A good third of his problematic characterization would have been solved right there!
2.5) Young Kvothe's storyline would be far more effective it had taken place over, say, a minimum of twenty years. Again, because he's not a genius, his school takes longer and he has to undergo actual struggle to learn proper magic--he could have still had a unusual flair for creative spellcasting or something that makes his work Better Than Yours, but he wouldn't be infuriatingly precocious and get away with all that he does. He might have actually learned and grown while on the streets of the city, rather than unaccountably simply deciding he doesn't want to be a street rat anymore. His school years (because it would have taken years) would mean he'd have to actually figure out how the system worked and how the master's related to each other and what the back stories of the school and characters are before he could a) figure out how to manipulate it all to his advantage and b) without simply being told just because. Also, again: he'd have to expend actual effort.
3) There wouldn't be the slightly scuzzy romantic relationships. Kvothe isn't supposed to know how to deal with women (although after living such a distrustful life on the streets during such a crucial point in his development, how does he know how to deal with people at all?), and yet, he's got at least three who 'admire' him. There's Denna, who's his One True Love, which we know because he meets her first, at which point there's nothing at all to indicate that they have chemistry, and they never do, but he finds her sexually exciting: very Nice Guy syndrome, no one else could treat her as well, they have conversations! etc. There's the blonde (?) girl who's a money lender, who breaks her own lending rules for him just 'cause. And then there's the psychologically damaged girl who lives under the school and for some reason will only trust Kvothe, because he plays the best music. But I can't forget the one Ambrose is lusting after, but who has to look to Kvothe for protection because, despite being presented as perfectly competent (other than later setting herself on fire) won't stand up to Ambrose's father. She's the damsel in distress. It's exceedingly depressing.
Conclusion: If Kvothe wasn't a genius the story would have had to take much longer and time-wise wouldn't be so compressed. Old Kote would be old and a lot more impressive. And he wouldn't be such a Stu that while reading I wouldn't be twitching right out of my chair, which is so terribly undignified.
I have NO IDEA why I liked this book. None. But the prose was pretty. So the pacing must have been pretty good too, since never got so much of Kvothe that I couldn't finish, which by any normal laws of the univers3, shouldn't have happened....more
I think what turned me off most was the hype, because I was expecting awesome characters - all the reviews (that I'd read at the time) seemed to agreeI think what turned me off most was the hype, because I was expecting awesome characters - all the reviews (that I'd read at the time) seemed to agree. And the characters, while flawed, weren't interesting, weren't alive in the imagination as any decent character should be.
Fundamentally, it may be a conflict between what this story is - or at least, is starting to be - and the vehicle through which Martin is telling the story. That is, it's a political epic told through discrete viewpoints of characters who mostly don't have any ability to do anything.
It's aggravating as hell, excuse my language.
Too many of the characters where children who didn't sound like children, and frankly, Eddard was TSTL anyway, so I didn't really miss him. Spoilers? Also, nothing really started happening until about page 400. Sure, there was a lot of back story and some world-building in those pages, but mostly nothing that I, as a reasonably experienced reader, couldn't have done without....more
The second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. ThisThe second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. This is the first book I've so actively hated in a long time. Look, it's even generated a review! So yay?
Now, it's been sitting on my shelf since just after rode the first wave of popularity (meaning I found it at Costco). And when I first started, I suspected that my high-school self actually might have enjoyed it. Because my high-school self was a terrible, terrible person.
All of the characters are despicable, but especially the narrator Quentin. So whiny, pathetic and useless. I wanted to beat him. From first page to last he didn't grow at all. Apparently, I'm supposed to believe he was depressed? He apparently started at seventeen and ended at, what, twenty-five? Even younger? He may as well have been fifteen.
Side note: one of my few Harry Potter favorite fan fictions gave one canon character and an OC depression. That story? It was beautiful, and heartbreaking. The characters didn't go around why are you so depressed, you're so depressed, look at me, being depressed.
But Quentin existed to waste space. All the female characters were barely characters and rather thin compared to the over-whelming male characters—and I'm not entirely sure what gave me this impression because numerically speaking the numbers were fairly even. But all the named women felt rather auxiliary.
I even hated the world-building. Fillory was just your generic anti-Narnia, and for that, rather inoffensive. Lame, but meh. But the "real world" just...just...I hated it, I hated all the magicans. These magicians can do approximately everything with magic (except, for plot reasons, body modification)—
— and now that I think about it, that's especially odd to be so common a trope. You may not approve of plastic surgery, or foot binding, or any of the other things cultures have found attractive over the millennia, but it's clearly been going on a while. Why is that the one thing magic can't do. Hint: in this case, it's a naked plot point.—
—but for some reason, magicians in the "real world" do absolutely nothing practical. Well, the narrative mentions that some do, but mostly in a condescending sort of way that doesn't seem like it's ever accomplished anything at all.
Oh, and to be a wizard magician, you have to be genius-level smart...but if you never got an invitation, don't worry, all magicians also have to be profoundly stupid in any useful kind of knowledge. So there's that.
And the sort of geek-popular references: Harry Potter, Star Trek, Magritte.
I know in the reading I had other complaints, but thanks to this review and my rum-and-coke, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment and can let it go. ...more
I passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection fiI passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection first, and then again when I was shifting the fiction section.
When I finally went back and checked it out, I had high hopes. Romance can work, and magic is almost always fun, right? And, hey, knitting!
This book isn't even powerful enough to make it a wall-banger. I still couldn't finish, but more out of exasperation than any passionate hatred. But it was bad enough that even though the whole experience was more than a couple months ago at this point, I simply can't let it go without at least talking it out.
Casting Spells is a book about blonde (don't forget) Chloe Hobbs and her magical knitting shop, in her magical town, with her magical friends, where nothing bad, especially crime, ever happens. But when a voluptuous (remember--voluptuousness=wantonness) blonde is murdered, handsome cop (remember good-looking *and* crime-fighter) Luke MacKenzie must come to town and mediate on how odd everyone is...you might they're magical but of course they're totally not because I know better. And then together they will fall in love and solve the mystery. (Or is it the other way around? I didn't quite get that far.)
Well, first I have to introduce the main character's knitting shop with a quote from the book:
Blog posts about the magical store in northern Vermont where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge were popping up on a daily basis, raising both my profile and my bottom line.
What a way to make me resent your character. Knitting is perfectly easy if you have magic! I don't have magic thank you very much, and dangnabbit, that's just not fair. So why am I supposed to think that she actually works at this, that she ever actually had to *learn* knitting. I'm not sure I am. And this supposedly has a side of murder-mystery to its romance, so of course the male lead is an out-of-town cop who also has to comment on the heroine's shop:
Her shop was a top link on websites and blogs from neighboring New Hampshire to Malaysia with all stops in between. Okay, so maybe it was like reading Sanskrit (apparently knitters had their own language), but I was able to translate enough to know Chloe's shop was something special...
...According to the posts I read online, Chloe was Elvis and Sticks & Strings was Graceland, which I would probably chalk up to being a suburban legend if it weren't for the fact that the noise level at the front of the store could cause hearing loss.
Which quite fortuitously leads me to point number two (especially since, well seriously, "hearing loss"???).
Yes, the story is told in alternating first person. I've found I'm a little iffy on first person in the best of times (positive example: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison), but alternating first person should be forbidden on pain of death. Okay, so I think many things should be forbidden on pain of death, but fortunately I'm not in charge of these things, nor will I ever be. Anyway...alternating first person=bad. Yes?
Because when it's used, especially in romance you get gems like these:
"They were all vying for the attention of a tall, skinny blonde, one of the disheveled types who always seemed on the verge of a meltdown."
That's how Luke first observes Chloe--by they way, she's actually mayor, which is why he has to opportunity to give this description--as he thinks 'that's totally not my type'. Totally. Like never would I be attracted to a lady like that in a million, zillion years. Never. Sure, I believe him. Seriously, Ms. Bretton, talk to your publishers. This is marketed as a romance, so as soon as we get Luke's point of view, we *know* that he's going to fall in love with her. If she's observing that he doesn't act attracted to her on a physical level, that's fine. But when he does it? It's just...just...ugh.
And not even fifteen pages later he finds Chloe asleep and snoring and doesn't even try to wake her (as we learned in Twilight, that's not creepy *at all* remember) and tells himself this little gem:
Cops notice things. It's an occupational hazard. Noticing details about a woman's appearance was part of a detective's job description. It didn't mean anything.
Not even if the cop in question found himself standing there with a stupid grin on his face.
These two characters switch viewpoints several times a chapter (but only after the first fifty pages or something) so it's only a matter of hours from "totally not my type" to "omg hawtness".
Actually, if the alternating first person were between Chloe and her "best friend" whatshisname--call him Elf, because he is, naturally--it might have worked. Because Chloe's been stringing him along since forever, as all male, non-gay best friends must be in love with the main character, and I would like to have seen him get with some nice girl of his own in a real relationship based on something more than lust. Maybe that happened later in the book? But not from his point of view. No, we get Luke's, so we can see everything twice.
Wait, I haven't gotten to the squicky yet.
That poor Chloe, from a long line of witches, has no magic herself but was raised by the village. Sweet right? Chloe thinks so. Except her family line (at least the women...WOMAN POWAH!!!!) are in charge of this ancient spell that protects the town from exposure to the pedestrians. And she has to give birth to a girl by thirty-five or something to keep the spell going. Or get magic herself, idk. But the locals totally raised her out of the goodness of their hearts and just love her so much.
At that point, I really did feel badly for Chloe. In that whole setup she's definitely the victim, and her so-called saviors are only exploiting her. But was this explored? Well, not in the part I read. She never questioned anything they'd done.
But she does tell Luke about her parent's death, and of course this changes him. See, he's a cop (in case you forgot--didn't I tell you that it was important?!) and often hears sad stories, but her's touches his heard. And so does she:
She told her parents' story without embellishment or self pity.
I'd rather hope so. She was, what? a few years old at most? Firstly, she shouldn't know any embellishments, and at this point in her live, self-pity would be rather pathetic (now, if she ever seemed like a rounded character or even thought about her parents...). We've had her first person. We know that she doesn't have any reason for self-pity.
But this is Twu Wuv:
My hand touched his, and we both jumped back as silver-white sparks crackled through the space between us.
I first read perhaps all of these books back in high school, and from that era, they're the only genre series I've actually come back to and still likI first read perhaps all of these books back in high school, and from that era, they're the only genre series I've actually come back to and still liked.
Not that there aren't issues: there are plenty.
But that's why I've just added a guilty-pleasures shelf, because it's far too late for me to actually come up with reasons why I like them so much. I'll have to come back to it later (maybe after I check out the second book, tomorrow)....more
Unfortunately, it's entirely inappropriate for the tone and style of the novel. I should have paid more attention to anDoesn't it have a lovely cover?
Unfortunately, it's entirely inappropriate for the tone and style of the novel. I should have paid more attention to another edition's comparision to Ocean's Eleven, which is not my genre, and the comparison to Robin Hood at all is pushing it.
They should have stuck with this one:
Problem was, I hated Locke. Didn't find him the least bit charming, and yet I don't think I was supposed to see him as a sociopath, though I'm fairly sure he was. Surely Locke's genius should have provided some consolation? Only it felt like an informed attribute: everyone's always just so impressed by Locke, and we spend so much time going on about his various gambits ('cause he's a genius), I just got bored.
You might ask: if you see so much of his planning, how can his intelligence be an informed attribute? Because I don't remember any scenes of Locke working to figure it out. Have you ever watched Sherlock? Even the consulting detective himself has to stop and put all the clues together, but as I recall, most of Locke's brilliance was recounted after the fact.
That could be unfair. Still, what with Locke-as-protagonist, and this terrible, terrible world, the novel felt too self satisfied. It reveled in all the ugliness and gore.
But I didn't care about anyone! All the side characters were one-dimensional, especially the significant ones—which is just as well, considering they amounted to nothing more than motivation fodder for Locke. Yes, there was a lot of graphic violence, but it didn't serve the story. Now, I'm not opposed to violence or gore in books, but it was so over the top, I occasionally snorted in amusement before I could stop myself (which makes me feel like a terrible person).
I suppose I liked Doña Vorchenza and Sophia(?). Unfortunately, I can't remember much about them.
There's my real trouble right there. Because I didn't like Locke, I kept putting the book down; every time I put the book down, I forgot what was going on, who was who, and why I should care. Also, related to that, the pacing felt choppy. I read this on my nook, and the segments were all really short, and—this can't be faulted to the author—after every section break, the first paragraph was formatted in a larger font. It very much seemed to drag anything out.
I can see why others like this book: if you don't despise Locke, you won't be as distracted from the plot like I was, and there is a lot of it. I honestly can't think of how to put the positives, but if this is your thing, please go and read it.
But if, like me, you saw the cover, but not Ocean's Eleven, just know what you're getting into, and be prepared for a long, digressing set-up and conventional plot....more
Found this review on my blog and realized it never made it to GR.
The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills (pseudonym for Karen Miller) has strong charactFound this review on my blog and realized it never made it to GR.
The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills (pseudonym for Karen Miller) has strong characters that are fully part of their entirely fictional fantasy world. Which is especially interesting because I don't think the world is given a name.
I think that indicates how strong a fantasy setting it is. In this book, the first of the Rogue Agent series, three different countries are in play: or rather, primary protagonist Gerald Dunwoody moves from Ottosland to New Ottosland, the colony, which is entirely surrounded by the desert country of Kallarapi.
Never, in any of these settings, is the audience given a rundown of the political system, the laws, the culture or the population statistics. Instead, the characters move through their surroundings, and like people reflect only on what immediately impacts them. So Gerald doesn't really think about how his government operates, but as a third-grade wizard and cog of bureaucracy, we learn about out it operates on a day-to-day level, and more importantly the attitude the government has to its function. Gerald's whole story begins when, at the factory he was sent to inspect , there is an explosion as a result of lax safety standards. Instead of the illustrious company being investigated, Gerald is fired.
Because he is only a third-grade wizard, several self-important first-class wizards go out of their way to make him further miserable--a very clear class structure that is only emphasized by his absent-minded, genius-inclined best friend Monk who is so far up the social ladder that, while he cannot directly get Gerald out of trouble, he can make the others back off. However, when his own stunts go awry, he isn't immune from the consequences.
The focus of the book is Gerald's time in New Ottosland. Unlike the mother country, New Ottosland follows Tradition with the capital "T". They speak the same language, every building is an exact copy, and every king is named Lionel and every queen Melisande--as are the first male and female heir. Gerald's problem is the new King Lionel disbelieves in any need for advisors or anything other than strict obedience.
And war is brewing with Kallarapi, the desert that surrounds New Ottosland. Given descriptions of turbans, camels, and very prominent Holy Men and gods, at first glance, Kallarapi might read as the stereotypical middle-eastern backwards country. But holy man Shugat is, well, if not good, especially to our protagonists, at least right. Kallarapi is a fully independent county--it represents mostly how backwards New Ottosland has become.
The beginning the The Accidental Sorcerer is in many ways whimsical. There's a great deal of witty banter, and wry observations on the fabric of society. But the strongest part of the book, the most moving, is that there really is evil in this world, and no one can be perfectly good.
Evil is human, and there is death--and it actually affects the characters. Someone is tortured, and changed forever. Everyone is actually impacted by the end, and there is no magical healing....more
To start, I have far less to say than this book has to say about itself.
Though I first picked it up in July, and didn't finish it until a concenWell.
To start, I have far less to say than this book has to say about itself.
Though I first picked it up in July, and didn't finish it until a concentrated burst this afternoon, as the library simply wouldn't let me keep it anymore, it's a quick read. I only picked it up after I heard about another of the author's books, Reamde, from my friend's dad while on vacation. Apparently every guy in the family had been reading and enjoying it, but the library only had Anathem. My friend hasn't been enjoying that one, so my choice is just as well.
Not being much a reader of speculative fiction (I suppose the only genre I know to put this in, it's not like anything I've ever read)the wildly different worldbuilding might have put me off, but I found the narrative voice strangely charming.
And really, that describes much of the book for me—fun and enthralling, bordering on silly. You know, I didn't read any other reviews before either checking out this book or writing my review, so I don't know what other readers will make of my response. Succinctly: it's the familiar Campbell-ian hero's journey only set somewhere else and with lots of exposition. Specifically, it's about less a character and more a personality to walk the reader through the world without having to worry about a complex or unfamiliar plot. It tracks almost too perfectly.
I did enjoy the worldbuilding though, which saved it. I think the way I arranged in my head, to keep everything straight and not rely too heavily on the glossary right from the start went something like this: Eramus (Sp??) is a member of an academically-themed monkhood, on a planet much like our own, or at least ours in a parallel universe, if civilization had diverged technologically four hundred years ago and from there where it would be in another three thousand years (view spoiler)[all before it turned out to be the plot in-text. Sort of (hide spoiler)]. Then, of course, he's almost immediately outside the convent—sorry, concent—because that's how this kind of plot goes. He meets up with his sister, or rather, 'sib', and while all the theoretical discussions are interesting, at least to me, I wonder how much of this is just a send up of, well, modern everything. That would be a really interesting discussion if I were smart enough to try it, and remembered enough of the work. I really have too much else to get to to try and get through this behemoth, however. Maybe I'll get back to it, I have plenty of notes. After meeting his sib, Raz gets into trouble and has to stay home—at least until he has to leave again—there are so many more theoretical arguments to be made about the outside world! And anyway, we have to get to the sort of (view spoiler)[aliens (hide spoiler)] somehow.
So the only reason I question whether or not this is a satire of modern culture, or rather, exactly how much of is, is because as I said, most of it is worldbuilding. There is lots and lots of worldbuilding with lots of theoretical math-ish type conversations. I couldn't say whether it's real math, because math isn't my thing. Also, math is a term in the novel for a subset of the concent.
There are many random terms in the novel, really, that's half the worldbuilding. He chooses what words to use carefully: I didn't think there were too many, though most significant nouns were of unconventional usage. At least there were no apostrophes. It's a bit pulpy, which is fun, and sometimes techno-babbly, which I'm not sure is the term as it's been used, but sounds right. I wish I could tell how much of the concent was supposed to be satire, because I'm not sure of Stephenson's point with the concent idea. The ideas and concepts are simplistic—but then again, it's only a thousand pages, and long as that is for fiction, it's hardly enough to start with reality. Of course, he's not engaging with many tricky human quirks except in the most general sense...like I said, we're led through the world by a personality, less a character. No one is particularly deep or complex, but suit their purposes.
I've barely even started with what I want to say...I'm not even sure what that is. I'll have to give myself some time to format a proper argument or at least some cohesion. Let me think on it, look out for a proper review after I've had a chance to cogitate.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Tria is as judgmental as Zoey and as stupid as Clary.
She causes the problems, relies on everyone else to provide the impetJust my thoughts as reading:
Tria is as judgmental as Zoey and as stupid as Clary.
She causes the problems, relies on everyone else to provide the impetus for the solution--though Tria herself has to actually take action at least, since she's the only one with any power.
Tria does not suffer enough for the consequences of what she does.
The characterization is overwhelmingly shallow.
The worldbuilding fails
All of this is primarily tied to the fact it's mostly telling vs. showing.
I'll try to come up with a more coherent review later, but sometimes it just made me angry.
On the other hand, the concept is okay, and the actual execution of the jumping through mirrors, etc, actually worked pretty well. It just hadn't been set up in the story. The tone is uneven and the plot isn't built....more
You may not agree with his conclusions, but I think Lewis does demonstrate a remarkable handle on human psychology (thI thought this was a lot of fun.
You may not agree with his conclusions, but I think Lewis does demonstrate a remarkable handle on human psychology (though he is talking of 'man'kind), and it's fun to read about regardless. If you can read it like that without agreeing with him, you might enjoy it too. Again, mostly fun in terms of the criticisms. What can I say, I'm a cynic.
Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever.
These first words, both on the front flap and front page, are the reason I picked up The Somnam
Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever.
These first words, both on the front flap and front page, are the reason I picked up The Somnambulist and raised my hopes.
Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed.
What with such a promising voice and the subject matter--Victoriana, such possibilities!--I expected a lot more...exuberance, I think is the word. Instead, despite the promise of "no literary merit", it's written in a literary style. Which, quite frankly, isn't very Victorian or pulp.
The title is misleading too. Yes, there is "the Somnambulist" but he was more a Chekhov's gun than a character. He was introduced early, and brought back in the last few pages, but for the most part entirely forgotten in the middle.
Actually, the middle was just about a turning point. Barnes had a fairly interesting story set up in the beginning, and then the book just seemed to lose focus. Large casts can be interesting, but this book should have been Moon's story, and the Somnabulist should have had a reason for being there other than the Deus ex Machina. So character after character just kept being introduced, far too late for a reader to truly care, and only in time to confuse the plot and weaken the sense of suspense.
What's almost worse is that Barnes kept lampshading these weaknesses:
They were in a bubble there, the giant thought, far removed from the world outside, and on hearing Gillman speak, he felt as though someone's else's story, some other narrative, were impinging itself, suddenly and without warning, upon there own.
Well, I for one, couldn't keep track of which story was actually being told. I often enjoy metafictional devices, but here it felt they were only used to highlight the story's weaknesses, those I was trying to ignore.
The narrative structure also distracted from the story. Complicated narrative voices can work, but this has a first person narrator telling a story in third person; not, ostensibly, about Moon, the first character (who's not a corpse-in-waiting) we meet, or the Somnambulist, who only occasionally gets a POV, or even the narrator--though I think at the end we're supposed to think so. Given the early set up--the narrator, Moon, and the Somnambulist, suddenly around chapter 10 and to the end, another half dozen characters all get POV time.
And while I found the narrator occasionally amusing--after the first chapter, I did laugh once or twice, the big reveal of his identity left me cold. At that point, I knew it wasn't any POV character so far, nor any of the previous 'big three', so I knew it was going to be just another character.
And after the reveal, the story lost most of it's momentum and immediacy, which is a shame because that's when most of the action actually happened, not to mentioned the horror. (view spoiler)[A child is found beaten to death, and it was dull. (hide spoiler)] And the narrator was just obnoxious, rather than amusing.
There were plenty of well-placed elements of the grotesque that added to the atmosphere. Ms. Puggsley's, was a fantastic invention. Barnes did a good job with the female character, letting them be characters, and none of them were just what they should be as females. Unfortunately, none of them were particularly significant characters, though Charlotte should have been.
"Curious, is it not, how it is often the worst sceptics and bitterest cynics who become the most zealous of us all" And the transition of that character's story mostly works, though we don't see it.
(view spoiler)[Speight's sign though...if you don't see that coming...but his character was actually well done--like the canary in the coal mine. He's well done in that it's subtly done (hide spoiler)]
Now, The Somnambulist is well written, but somehow I felt that it held the work back. Earlier, I said it should have been exuberant. The Somnambulist can't be human! Moon is past his prime, but London is going to be destroyed! Why all the literary sophistication, when 1) the narrator is "without any ability to enthral the reader, to beguile with narrative tricks"; and 2) it's too slow for the subject. It's supposed to play with the ideas of Doyle (which is explicitly pointed out in the text), Poe, Wilke Collins and even Mary Shelley--at least according to one of the blurbs. By rights, it ought to be a little fun.
This is undoubtedly because it was a stylistic choice--fair warning, at the end the narrator tells the story behind the story:
I feel sure that my skill has grown with the tale's telling and I am concerned that the opening sections must seem amateurish and crude in comparison with later chapters. I have repeatedly asked if I might not be allowed the complete manuscript, if only for an hour or two, so that I might make some revisions and clarifications from which the work can only benefit. To date, they have denied my every request
But I can't enjoy literary posturing just for the sake of literary posturing. Metafiction can be fun, but only when there's enough of a story to rest on.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It took a while to get used to the (very) short chapters and, for lack a better term, the musical interludes, but once so accustomed, they weren't intIt took a while to get used to the (very) short chapters and, for lack a better term, the musical interludes, but once so accustomed, they weren't intrusive on the story at all: and I liked how the scores effectively named the preceding chapter.
I felt for all of the characters, especially the family left behind, and Thompson handled the situation both with empathy but not too much pathos. There's enough depth and complexity in the emotion even for adult readers, though it's clear enough for the younger audience. However, J.J., the young protagonist, is 15, and for some reason pictured him quite a bit younger. The plot was, perhaps less than complex or original, but the characters were engaging enough that I simply read it all in one sitting: literally couldn't put it down, though it only took me a few hours.
Overall a fun read, but unless you are willing to read it all at once, the short chapters and basic story might be too obvious. Still, it kept me reading up past my bedtime ;) and I'm glad to have read it....more
**spoiler alert** First of all, I loved the ghosts. I loved the set up, I love how they revealed themselves and interacted with the 'living' world. I**spoiler alert** First of all, I loved the ghosts. I loved the set up, I love how they revealed themselves and interacted with the 'living' world. I even loved their perspectives.
Lily is a great young female protagonist, and not like many. She prefers science and doesn't trust fiction (though her friend Vas loves to read, even Hemingway). Lily is wounded and distrustful, and unlike certain older characters, actually mature for her age. Fortunately that doesn't make her preternaturally intelligent or poised, she's simply used to taking care of herself and her background has actually influenced. Like said unnamed character, Lily's mother is also a little flaky, but not an absent parent.
However, I'm not sure why Vas, the eventual love interest, is the only positive male role. There aren't very many characters at all, but of the two male villains and the female villain, only the woman is redeemed in any character. I suppose Uncle Max could count as a non-villain's male, but he hardly shows up as a character. Wesley is over-the-top super-duper evil villain, all but cackling madly, the librarian shows up as a vamp (why?) who is redeemed because Max didn't really leave her, and Benten is her whiny, weak brother. Even the other male ghost is just a flabby middle-aged guy.
Still. before the live-criminal plot showed up, I enjoyed the story. Lily's burgeoning relationship with Vas was authentic and cute, and gave her mother some character development. Even the mother's reluctance verses Lily's acceptance of the ghosts at the very end was interesting commentary on the nature of belief, given their characters. And the ghosts (aside from Max, oh wait, and Kidd--was he even really necessary?) were very well developed, and engaging.
What was the point of Kidd? There wasn't one. The secret conspiracy just went too far, it was too convoluted and absurd. Wesley could have been an interesting character, and I would have liked to get to know Max, who quite frankly was far more interesting than his pyromaniac, psychopath of a brother. A 22 year old who murdered his brother, and a year later commissions a portrait of him (presumably right after his mother's suicide.) And what tipped off the mother anyway? Why, for all the 'girl power' in this book, didn't she actually do something about it? If it were for older readers, or if she hadn't aimed for a high adventure with pirates, this might have made an interesting revenge story.
That's not fair to the novel, of course. This is a book for young adults and these are just my thoughts, as an adult and more sophisticated reader, so that part doesn't exactly factor into my review.
For kids, and I think the book is aimed at the 10 and older crowd, so for that group, this book should be great fun. And for older kids and adults, it's a quick, enjoyable read, and worth a try, should you have it somewhere. ...more
For some reason, not at all what I expected. Even though I had some issues with it, I enjoyed it very much, likely more than if I'd read it when I wasFor some reason, not at all what I expected. Even though I had some issues with it, I enjoyed it very much, likely more than if I'd read it when I was younger....more