The problem with holidays is that, when I go on a slight reading rampage, I have no desire to review...moreIt's clear I'm still enjoying this series, right?
The problem with holidays is that, when I go on a slight reading rampage, I have no desire to review everything when I'm done.
On another note, this was probably the point in the series where I realized just how clever Wells was being when she wrote the Raksura as creatures distinct from human beings (a term she never uses, which makes perfect sense in the context of the book) and how she doesn't telegraph that certain Raksuran behaviors are replacing human ones, but just lets the narrative speak for itself and it's very well done. (less)
I think that once I knew what I was getting myself into and had the world set up in the first book, I could appreciate this book far more. And the sto...moreI think that once I knew what I was getting myself into and had the world set up in the first book, I could appreciate this book far more. And the stories were not repetitive (which was so very nice).(less)
I apparently got my spouse into Martha Wells and so he went and ordered her other books. I chose...wisely.
Her Raksura books are, at least superficiall...moreI apparently got my spouse into Martha Wells and so he went and ordered her other books. I chose...wisely.
Her Raksura books are, at least superficially, very different from the ersatz Europe of Ile-Rien. In many ways, these were much more like a traditional fantasy novel (and needed the same kind of introduction that those usually require - a character who conveniently knows less than the reader), but Wells is a solid wordsmith and spent way less time info dumping than I was worried, to the point that I occasionally found myself a bit confused.
My opinion of her writing hasn't changed - it's not that she transforms the genre in large ways by upending paradigms, but the smaller changes she makes to familiar narratives that subtly alter the stereotypes and cliches of the form (because all forms have those) make her work very fun to read.
The differences between the Raksura and Ile-Rien were unexpected enough that I think it took me a while to come to terms with this book as the book I was actually reading.
For example, most fantasy novels have a hard time with complex, well-rounded villains whose motives are transparent and even understandable (well, ish) from their perspective without going full tilt into redeeming them and finding some way to keep our heroes from having to kill people who feel like people or making everyone feel like the villain (Game of Thrones, I'm looking at you).
Wells manages that. She lets you encounter the villains, grow to understand them and then lets her heroes do what they need to do to survive. And I appreciate that.(less)
Some of the stories were really good, some of them delighted me less and I still could not care less about Aliane so, you know, that didn't exactly he...moreSome of the stories were really good, some of them delighted me less and I still could not care less about Aliane so, you know, that didn't exactly help.
Kitten's story was delightful, the second God of the Flame story was brilliant and brought me to terms with the first and I loved Mimic because it was the only non-Tortall story that felt as though it took place in a fully realized world that we were only seeing a slice of.
Having said that, the stories themselves felt...a bit repetitive. What distinguishes Pierce''s novels from being "one strong girl after another" is the time she takes in individuating their personalities and making them people, not just archetypes for fantasy with strong women (not strong™ women). And, don't get me wrong, her archetypes are awesome and we need more of them, but I felt like so many of these stories were either the prologue to novels she didn't have the time or inclination to write or skeleton stories that needed fleshing out. The plot was there, but the sense of people-ness that I associate with Pierce was not always there. But when they were there, these stories were Good!(less)
This was one of those books whose existence makes me happy, whose execution was flawless and that I would recommend pretty much unreservedly. Everythi...moreThis was one of those books whose existence makes me happy, whose execution was flawless and that I would recommend pretty much unreservedly. Everything about it worked for me, the story was deftly handled and I thought Sherman did a wonderful job evoking both 1960 and 1860. She wrote her characters well and, in particular, the way she handled race (and wrote a white girl mistaken for a slave) was superb.
Why a three? Well, the beginning was a bit slow and I found myself unable to get beyond my teacherly self who was...assessing the book rather than reading it. I wish I had gotten more into it and I'm pretty sure that was my fault rather than the books. And it seems unfair to the book, but I don't know what else I can do. It was really good and I really cared and devoured it, but ... I so wish I had read when I was 12.(less)
So after my slightly lackluster review of Whiskey and Water, I'm glad to note that this felt entirely like a return to form - I may have enjoyed this...moreSo after my slightly lackluster review of Whiskey and Water, I'm glad to note that this felt entirely like a return to form - I may have enjoyed this even more than the first book.
This is one of those stories that works best as a retrospective; knowing what I do about what happens in the first two books, this sudden switch to "here's how everything started and how Kit Marlowe became the man we've known for a book" was perfect. I know the responses to Bear's language choices was...mixed, but I'm reserving judgement until the epilogue of the next book, when she says she'll explain it.
Finally, this book gave me the historical poetical ship I never knew I wanted and it made me so very happy. And it reminded me why it's a bad idea to finish the third book in a series of four right before Shabbat when my copy of the fourth book is digital.(less)
Question: is everything set in a far-flung future where we've managed to do horrible things to the world considered a dystopia? Or do I just need "pos...moreQuestion: is everything set in a far-flung future where we've managed to do horrible things to the world considered a dystopia? Or do I just need "post-apocalyptic" as a shelf?
This reminded me (for obvious reasons) of China Mieville's recent book, except that the authors were telling very different kinds of stories. This was far less of an homage to anything and more an interesting, bloody, clever and ultimately unsatisfying story.
My biggest issue with it was not the number of people who died along the narrative way, but the way that so many people died without acknowledgement from the book that these deaths were important while other people got the full appreciation for what loss of life meant. I could have dealt with either, I could even have handled some kind of logic of proximity to the main characters dictating meaningful deaths or even a couple of lines about why we could not dwell on everyone. For a book that was, overall, perspicacious in its explanation of people and emotions, this part really fell flat for me and make me like the book less.
But the idea of large, lumbering cities engages in "Municipal Darwinism" is delightful and I cannot fault Reeve's ingenuity. Still, this is a first book and I would like to know what happens next.(less)
I enjoyed this book, although I admit that I pick up every book from Pratchett wondering whether a) it will be his last and b) it will be as good.
This...moreI enjoyed this book, although I admit that I pick up every book from Pratchett wondering whether a) it will be his last and b) it will be as good.
This is a terrible way to approach an author's oeuvre. Don't do it. And one of the side effects is that I can't tell whether I'm less impressed by the more recent disc worlds because they're worse or I'm paying more attention. Or I just prefer the witches. It's probably the last.
It's disc world, it's Moist von Lipwig, it's Vetinari (who felt in less than top form in this book, except for one completely over the top moment, which I adored, especially since I was imagining Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) reprising his role from the BBC miniseries), it's odd technology, it's fun. What else is there to say.
Oh, other than an article topic: Jewish Dwarves in Tolkien and Pratchett. Discuss.(less)
This was a satisfying...continuation/conclusion to the first book; it tied up the looser of the ends, it felt good. I was less invested in the charact...moreThis was a satisfying...continuation/conclusion to the first book; it tied up the looser of the ends, it felt good. I was less invested in the characters this time around, perhaps after the number of deaths last time (except I was still upset when they died so, you know, good job transmitting affect) or just because it felt more like an ensemble cast. The wow-factor of the first (every myth EVER is true) became part of the texture of the universe: still incredibly well done, but expectedly so. The first book not only exceeded my expectations, it raised them. The second book certainly met them and I'm not complaining, but it lacked the impressiveness of the first.
I still highly recommend it. But, because it's a continuation, the impact of the first is somewhat lessened.
Having said all that, Kit Marlowe is the best character ever and the book's handling of the virgin in distress was beautiful and I loved it. (view spoiler)[It's Matthew and having a male not only be the virgin who gives power, but can't use it, but also be a little damseled and acknowledge that he's being used for what he can convey and not who he is while still maintaining his existence as a complex character is a brilliant takedown of the entire trope without feeling out of place in a novel more interested in subversion than parody. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's hard to rate the last book in an ongoing series, especially one like this where each book or pair of books is episodic rather than a giant arc (l...moreIt's hard to rate the last book in an ongoing series, especially one like this where each book or pair of books is episodic rather than a giant arc (like some fantasy novels I could mention), especially because this is the last book that Lynn Flewelling plans to do with these characters for now.
I will miss them. This entire series has been fun and clever and the best kind of sword and sorcery novels and, in particular, the past two books have been really enjoyable. (I have...mixed feelings about 4 and 5) But the characters carry the day, as they should in such a fantasy.
Reading Lynn Flewelling and Ellen Kushner in close proximity makes me want to introduce the Duke of Tremontaine to Seregil. I can only imagine how oddly that would go.
This was a terrible review, I'm sorry. Consider this a short and odd letter to a fantasy series that I can only endorse as follows: 1) I bought the books in more than one format to read it on Shabbat and lend it. 2) I made my spouse read it. 3) I needed to own every new book that came out and preordered them.(less)
I feel a bit like Darcy: this book was tolerable, but not compelling enough to tempt me into the rest of the series. It worked fine, but I found the c...moreI feel a bit like Darcy: this book was tolerable, but not compelling enough to tempt me into the rest of the series. It worked fine, but I found the characters both to be a bit too inconsistent in their characterization and I think that MacLean's style, overall, doesn't work for me quite as much as others.(less)
Interesting how many of Milan's heroines are victims of abuse. Not sure whether this leans towards "love replaces the...moreStill cute, still enjoying Milan.
Interesting how many of Milan's heroines are victims of abuse. Not sure whether this leans towards "love replaces therapy!" which is a problematic trope or whether Milan is doing something clever with a deconstruction of the "hurt by a man and will never love again" trope by exploring what kind of hurt it might need to be to justify such a rejection.
So I just wrote what practically amounts to a long blot post or a short article about romances and then I decided to delete it because this is a revie...moreSo I just wrote what practically amounts to a long blot post or a short article about romances and then I decided to delete it because this is a review, damnit, not a dissertation.
The point of that diatribe was that Milan (not exclusively, although relevantly) does an excellent job of writing the inside of character's heads and I sometimes think that romance novels could give the rest of fiction a tutorial in the conventions/tropes of affective language in the novel. Romances have developed a dialect of emotions where the signifiers manage to...signify more than usual by virtue of being in a romance novel. Familiarity with the conventions gives the language more weight and makes it easier to write about emotions because a system of signification has developed around the genre.
And that was the short version.
Anyway, this was a nice short read for that four hour layover I had in LAX today and only maybe kinda resulted in my purchasing the next book in the series. (My current mantra is "books are cheaper than clothes so buy books" although they are less reusable.)(less)
So I was torn while sorting this by shelf, because it's not a fairy tale although it is a tale about Faerie, which is very different.
How did I miss El...moreSo I was torn while sorting this by shelf, because it's not a fairy tale although it is a tale about Faerie, which is very different.
How did I miss Elizabeth Bear? I have this odd feeling I tried this series before and started with Ink and Steel and totally didn't get it (even though it's a separate duo logy). The cover looks familiar, but I lose track so easily...anyway.
One of the really cool things about this book (other than the horse named Whiskey) is how it both works with and against conceptions of the Fae. It takes faeries and the legends about the Sidhe and the British Isles seriously and doesn't mitigate the otherness of the Fae, but it still manages to make them sympathetic characters. Bear doesn't make the fae seem human, but she...shows how the humans almost appear fae from the opposite perspective. And it's impossible to tell what the line is between good and evil, but not in the George R. R. Martin "everyone's a jerk" fashion, but in the "wars are complicated when both sides have grudges and are willing to destroy the others to survive and thrive" which I prefer.
Also, I have a soft spot for books that include the Lions outside the NYPL. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and have to pencil in catching up on everything Bear has written.
(Which brings me to two squeecast regulars whose books I love)(less)
I came across this, cough, gem of a story in my "hmm, what's eligible for the Hugos that I'm never going to get around to reading" work and it was jus...moreI came across this, cough, gem of a story in my "hmm, what's eligible for the Hugos that I'm never going to get around to reading" work and it was just a gorgeous little piece that pushed all my fantasy buttons. I'm so glad I found it(less)
So much fun to read, so good and so...glib about the future. Not that I mind the optimism, God knows I need it given the gutting of higher education, t...moreSo much fun to read, so good and so...glib about the future. Not that I mind the optimism, God knows I need it given the gutting of higher education, the money we're not putting in to K-12, the devaluing of both science and the humanities...but Laurel ends on this note that idolizes future possibilities that are, inherently, problematic.
Yes, there's so much cool stuff left to do and all is nowhere near lost. But she lacked the nuance that lets one speak well of good, but problematic things.(less)
For all his...zaniness and unique storytelling, Fforde himself has become decidedly predictable within his own stories. I could feel the plot-beats in...moreFor all his...zaniness and unique storytelling, Fforde himself has become decidedly predictable within his own stories. I could feel the plot-beats in The Last Dragonslayer and came to expect the things that would happen at particular points.
Not a bad thing, but so much of what makes Fforde ffun is the unexpectedness of his writing. Granted, this is YA so he might have tried to turn it normaler (or not), but reading it felt like I'd read it before. Not...exactly, but between the writing tics (e.g. his car model descriptors assume a vehicular familiarity that I entirely lack), the overarching structure and the simple fact that he spends less time actually building the weirdness of the world in this book (and that's always been his finest work), I didn't find it exciting. A perfectly good read, sure. But not brilliant and I miss Fforde when he's not being brilliant.
It's Beauty and the Beast! I can't help but read B&tB retellings even though they always disappoint me (Disney and Robin McKinley make all the oth...moreIt's Beauty and the Beast! I can't help but read B&tB retellings even though they always disappoint me (Disney and Robin McKinley make all the other versions look bad). However, remembering not to get excited helped a lot.
This one was good. For one thing, it had a reason for existing and it actually had something new to do with the story rather than "just" retelling it. It was also clever: Hodge comes up with a very good backstory for all her characters and, while the world-building sometimes feels more like window-dressing, it's very good window-dressing and I rarely notice that the world doesn't quite seem...flesh-outable.
And Nyx (beauty) has a personality! And she's not a goody two shoes. Her inner demons were my favorite part of her, although (first novel problems) Hodge had a tendency to have Nyx tell us what she was feeling rather than letting Nyx feel it on the page.
Anyway, definitely worth reading in my never-ending quest to read all the reasonably enjoyable YA fairy tale retellings (except the urban fantasy ones because I'm pickier about UF).(less)
So I actually thought I had a different Ishiguro novel sitting on my shelf for when I got bored (Never Let Me Go, which would make more sense given my...moreSo I actually thought I had a different Ishiguro novel sitting on my shelf for when I got bored (Never Let Me Go, which would make more sense given my usual fare), but I had time to kill and had been meaning to read him forever.
Well, this book certainly deserved the Man Booker prize. It was subtly brilliant in character portrayal and Ishiguro strikes that balance between showing a flawed character and making you experience the flawed person in a way that allows you to both judge and accept. He reminds me of so much of what I like about the 19th century realist novel, only trimmed down into 245 pages instead of 900. (less)
This book was one of those "very good at what it does and kinda not for me" books that I could appreciate even as I kinda wished it was a bit happier...moreThis book was one of those "very good at what it does and kinda not for me" books that I could appreciate even as I kinda wished it was a bit happier and less horrifically dystopic.
I loved what Hurley did with religion/culture/ideology, not just because I enjoyed playing "spot the peoples of the book!", but because the world she creates out of a fidelity to and break with Islam in particular, but Judaism and Christianity to a lesser degree is brilliant and visible.
Her writings of the callousness, devastation, repercussions and psychological effects of a long, ongoing war are also very well done. Part of what I like about this is that everyone kinda comes out looking awful, which is usually the case in ongoing battles that no one really knows why we're fighting them, and I never get the impression that one side is morally superior for the way they approach religion.
Which is also to say everyone's terrible and I like my books with a bit more optimism.
One final thing that I just want to mention because I was surprised both at its presence and its comparative absence anywhere else: the devout characters are portrayed as neither fundamentally god-touched and divine or absurd for their beliefs. Prayer, in particular, is treated as the human reaching out for the divine in a way that provides a sense of stability, emotional security and--given that this character's faith developed out of Islam--submission.
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did because it did everything right. It just goes to show how much individual tastes and content predilections matter.(less)
Well, I seem to have exhausted the Read of Ile-Rien. I wish there were more books in this world. Still, the ones there are were definitely a fun read...moreWell, I seem to have exhausted the Read of Ile-Rien. I wish there were more books in this world. Still, the ones there are were definitely a fun read and, as I've been saying this whole time, hit all my fantasy buttons.
There are some authors who are great because they are very clearly doing new and innovative and interesting things and it's obvious from the cover. And then there are other authors who, in telling a familiar story and working within the tradition of epic fantasy, just do it better than so many other authors and, by doing it better, innovate in small ways and embrace the good tropes while eschewing the frustrating cliches. That's why Wells' books worked for me. I've been reminded of how much I enjoy epic fantasy that's been done well.(less)