Ink and Steel (and its sequel, Hell and Earth) is a prequel to the previous books in the series -- while the first two Promethean Age books are set in...moreInk and Steel (and its sequel, Hell and Earth) is a prequel to the previous books in the series -- while the first two Promethean Age books are set in the modern era, Ink and Steel is set at the tale end of the Elizabethan Era. In fact, it opens on the date of 30 May 1593 with the apparent death of Christopher "Kit" Marlowe. Apparent, as Kit was shifted to Faerie and a glamor left in his body's place. Unfortunately, he drinks the water before he's quite conscious, so ends up stuck there. Which lives a certain group of Englishmen in a bit of a dire situation.
Previous books (or future) in the series featured the Promethean mages, and this series sets the tone -- a conflict between two sets of masters of symbols, struggling for control of humanity (at least, that part of it that lives in England). One is loyal to the Queen (and, as such, is an ally of the Queen of Faerie -- having a mortal queen on the throne bolsters the Faerie's Queen), and uses its tools to keep England prosperous, and its queen healthy and safe. The other side is more shadowy, is bent on cutting out the Queen, the Fae, and the plays. After Kit is stranded in Faerie, one side is forced to bring in another playwright -- a young William Shakespeare, currently caught up in making Titus Andronicus work. (Hint, Will -- don't write it before eating the dorm's chicken. I know that made it difficult to watch.) The book describes a war of words and rumors, where plays are commissioned as weapons and closing the playhouses is the other side's way of shutting down the offense.
Ultimately, I know which side won (an aspect of prequels -- I knew Anakin was heading for The Dark Side, too, and just gave George Lucas 3 movie tickets' worth of money to see how. ) But the story is how they won, and how Our Heroes Kit and Will negotiate conspiracies between England and Faerie.
The pacing was a bit slow at first -- the scenes cutting between Will in England and Kit in Faerie seemed to be a bit awkwardly paced. Some of that was because the book covers some five years, so bits get glossed over. I did notice that whenever Our Two Protagonists are on screen together, they steal the show. I somehow see why Elizabeth Bear has entries on her blog about this book tagged 'Kit and Will's Excellent Adventure'.
Once things come together, near Act III*, things get exciting. The climax of the book is both great and tragic and woven full of colors, and utterly, utterly right. For a book about the power of poems and plays and words, it is fitting that the climax should have such power. Though, technically, this is only Book 1. Hell and Earth is due out to conclude the story next month. I can't wait.
* The book is labeled in Acts. Don't like? Deal.
Bit of a warning -- if you don't like fiction where most people are either historical or legendary figures (everyone from Lucifer to Queen Elizabeth to the original Puck), this will not be your kind of book. Similarly, if you are the sort who will defend passionately theories about dead English poets/playwrights, and can't stand even a fictional interpretation of their lives contrary to your theories, don't read this. (less)
He's a rebellious Ojibwe professor with a penchant for activism and a bad reputation. She is a small-town cop with a troubled past. Together... they f...moreHe's a rebellious Ojibwe professor with a penchant for activism and a bad reputation. She is a small-town cop with a troubled past. Together... they fight crime werewolves!
The plot -- Jessie (female MC and narrator) discovering that the rash of odd deaths and disappearances isn't rabies or dumb tourists, but werewolves, lead by someone planning on becoming the Wolf God through Ancient Indian Ritual -- is decent. What I couldn't stomach is how Jessie and Will (male MC and Obligatory Love Interest) interacted. Really, the two of them could be quite interesting, if the plot didn't tend to take a derailing into 'Jessie thinks Will is hot and sexy, which leads to sex'. I mean, I thought Jessie was interesting and Will could be interesting, and the two of them might have had an interesting interaction, except most of the stuff they did when sharing a scene together is basically hump like bunnies.
There was also attempt to make it seem like Will was the antagonist, which didn't work for me, just because the book couldn't make me forget that it was a romance -- in other words, the odds of Designated Love Interest being the villain is about the odds that both main characters take vows of celibacy.
The thing is, that the non-romance plot was decent, and if I could just maybe get some vibe for how Jessie and Will interact besides 'sexsexsexsex', I might have enjoyed the romance. I mean, I don't care how hot a fictional character (especially one in a book) is -- if I wanted to read hot fictional sex, I could take my chances on the internet. Make me care about the characters, and their relationship, and I'll care a lot more about the sex.
The short story I picked this up on was about Jessie and Will's wedding, in which it's revealed that Will's meddling grandma (who has been dead for ten years, but this is a paranormal romance) planted a love charm on both of them. Which might explain the hormonal overdrive, but might just be a retcon.
There are also more in the series, but it appears to follow the romance series pattern of 'couple tangential to the previous couple meet and fall in love/have hot sex/both'. Which is a shame, as one of my favorite things are seeing how established couples balance work and romance, plus learning more about the actual plot. I'd rather read more about Jessie than get attached to a new character -- who looks to have a Tragic Past involving her husband and kid getting killed by werewolves. Yeah... giving this a pass.(less)
**spoiler alert** Okay, so this is the third book in a four-book series (fourth isn't out yet). It's also fantasy romance -- to the point where people...more**spoiler alert** Okay, so this is the third book in a four-book series (fourth isn't out yet). It's also fantasy romance -- to the point where people on the Bujold mailing list make a game of guessing whether reviewers are fantasy fen or romance fen by how the reviews read. And, I like it -- enough to have books 2 and 3 in hardcover.
So, I'm going to try not to spoil books 1 and 2 for this. The book has kind of a post-apocalyptic fantasy feel to it. Dag, Male Main Character, is a member of a group of people called Lakewalkers, who use their magic to kill monsters called malices that would otherwise suck dry all of the life force on the continent. (They are also descended from a group of mage-kings who used to run the area and caused the malices to come into being, so it's sort of an ancestral guilt thing.) Fawn, Female Main Character, is a Farmer (non-magic settler in the area) who, at the start of the book, is running away from home thanks to getting knocked up out of wedlock. Fawn happens to get kidnapped by a malice's goons, and Dag is present to help save her -- though Fawn is actually the one who delivers the final blow to the malice. Since this is a romance, they end up falling in love -- which creates problems, since Lakewalkers and Farmers don't trust each other, and barely interact. Dag's people are unhappy, Fawn's people are unhappy -- we have conflict (you know, besides the malices who will eat the world).
Now, this could turn predictable, but Bujold uses Dag and Fawn's romance to explore how the Lakewalkers and Farmer interact. And it isn't simple -- by Book 3, Dag and Fawn are out to find a way to bring their two cultures together, since the other two models (avoid each other, and have mages rule non-mages) don't seem to work. Dag also promised Fawn a trip to see the ocean, so they are heading down the river by boat. The geography is similar to the Great Lakes/Southeast US -- Bujold has a history of doing that with her fantasy -- so you can imagine the two of them heading down the Ohio/Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. By Book 3, Dag and Fawn are comfortable in their relationship -- which makes me squee.
Overall, this series does a bit better than the other series I'm reviewing. I could get a sense of both Dag and Fawn as characters and how their relationship grew. Also both of them had problems and brought things to the relationship -- both characters had family issues, Fawn had the twit of the guy who got her pregnant (who she had a crush on, but he was just interested in an easy lay), and Dag was a widower (his wife was killed by malices -- he also lost an arm in this). Having both characters POVs let me see the other from their eyes, which was nice. It also helped that both Dag and Fawn related to the other people on the boat -- Fawn's brother, Whit, the boat captain, a couple of stray Lakewalkers they picked up. A friend of mine commented that calling it a romance was overly simplistic -- it is a book about relationships, and not just Dag/Fawn.
So, yeah, I like this series, and can't wait to see how it concludes. (less)
So, this is a historical fantasy vampire novel. And... well, it was pretty generic. Young colonial brat gets shipped off to England for Education. Win...moreSo, this is a historical fantasy vampire novel. And... well, it was pretty generic. Young colonial brat gets shipped off to England for Education. Winds up being seduced by a vampire and turned, which he doesn't really know about until he returns home, is accidentally shot by a Washington-supporting neighbor who mistakes his good coat for High Ranking British Uniform, and wakes up in a coffin with a taste for blood. There wasn't much plot -- it felt like set-up for something else. And the supernatural was decidedly downplayed -- the vampires had all the standard powers, but neither the main character nor the other vampire seemed like anything other with humans with superpowers and a craving for blood. I was decidedly underwhelmed -- I hate vampires as humans with superpowers and a craving for blood.
This one's going back to the swap. If I wanted to read Revolutionary War fiction, I wouldn't bother with ones with vampires in it, unless the vampires add something to it. (less)
I am rereading Claymore, because I just got Claymore, Vol. 11, and want to be sure I remember the story.
And, wow, I forget how short manga volumes ar...moreI am rereading Claymore, because I just got Claymore, Vol. 11, and want to be sure I remember the story.
And, wow, I forget how short manga volumes are. I've been reading a lot of novels, even serial ones, and I'm still used to the idea that one book = one story. That's not as true in the manga publishing. I mean, if I had to turn Claymore into a series of books, I'd probably cap it at the end first longer story arc that starts in Claymore, Volume 2 and ends partway through Claymore, Volume 3. (Book #2 would be the flashback sequence showing how Claire became a Claymore).
Not to say that manga isn't awesome. It's just a concept shift to have to get used to reading things in that way. Especially since I barely get beyond the stereotypes in the first volume -- Raki comes off as 'naive sidekick meant to show hero's human side' and Claire is 'cold, part-monster warrior with Hidden Heart of Gold'. Heck, swap out 'part-human' for 'genetically-engineered space-elf' and you have Crest of the Stars.
That being said, it is an interesting premise, and the hints of having competent female characters is nice. It's just I can get very little sense of whether or not I'll like this from one volume. (less)
I liked the second volume of Claymore better than the first. Here we got some actual plot, in the sense that Claire and Raki were put on a stealth mis...moreI liked the second volume of Claymore better than the first. Here we got some actual plot, in the sense that Claire and Raki were put on a stealth mission to the holy city of Rabona. In order to defy the city rules that nothing impure can enter the city, including half-youma, Claire suppresses her powers and uses Raki as a decoy. No one would suspect a Claymore to have a kid brother, after all. Unfortunately, things get bad and Claire is hounded by both the city guards and the youma she's fighting.
I liked this volume better, as we start to get a sense of who Claire and Raki really are. There's a lovely scene with Claire asks the local priest to take care of Raki if she dies, and he feels guilty for the fact he's been worried about dying himself, and Claire is thinking about someone else's life. We also get much more of a sense of how Claire deals with people, and why Raki started following Claire around.
My one complaint is I don't like how the artist draws faces, especially male ones. There are two guards, Galk and Sid, who are trying to chase Claire down in the first part, and then come to her aid against the youma. Aside from the fact Galk has a scar on one part of his face, I have problems telling him from Sid, or either from Raki, just by the face. The artist really needs to work on drawing clear, distinct human male faces. I didn't have this problem in Claymore, Volume 1, with Claire, Elena and the fake Claymore, but part of that could be hairstyle. (less)
So, we got the conclusion of the story began in Claymore, Volume 2, and the start of a flashback story between a human-Clare and the Claymore Teresa....moreSo, we got the conclusion of the story began in Claymore, Volume 2, and the start of a flashback story between a human-Clare and the Claymore Teresa. It is a bit annoying that the story ends in mid-book -- I'd rather see either a larger, one-book on each story arc, or one story-arc split into two books. Plus, it makes finding arcs harder, since the text of the back of the book describes the end of the first story, not the beginning of the next.
That being said, I enjoyed the flashback story -- it gave an interesting look at why Clare took Raki in. It also shows how Teresa changes by taking Clare in. (less)
Really, I should have done a reread. So, Jhegaala is a interquel in the Vlad Taltos series -- it comes after all the Vlad-the-assasin books, and befor...moreReally, I should have done a reread. So, Jhegaala is a interquel in the Vlad Taltos series -- it comes after all the Vlad-the-assasin books, and before all the Vlad the fugitive (and also Dangerous Guy) books. And, it might have helped to remember all the stuff -- heck I barely remembered Dzur.
As is, I found it pretty enjoyable. Vlad and Loiosh were witty as always, and the plot was interesting. Mostly involving Vlad walking into a situation that was totally not his fault, and trying to figure out What the Hell is Going On?
Damn, I really need to reread the series. I have a feeling I missed a lot.
(It was a shame to not see any of the regulars again, but I expected that. Also hard to remember that I knew stuff Vlad hadn't learned yet, or even when Vlad learned, for example, that Morrolan was raised by Easterners.) (less)
So, here we continue the flashback story between Clare and Teresa, and set up one of Clare's overriding goals. We also meet a bunch more Claymore. Mos...moreSo, here we continue the flashback story between Clare and Teresa, and set up one of Clare's overriding goals. We also meet a bunch more Claymore. Mostly the four hunting her only get the broad outlines of their personality, but it is enough to build to the idea that not all Claymore are the same, or fight in the same way (besides using Youma power and big-ass swords).
Again, we have my problem with splitting story arcs, but at least having five Claymore on screen and having them recognizable is an improvement over my complaint from Claymore, Volume 2.(less)
Finish up with the flashback, and back to Clare and Raki now that we know her motivations. We also meet more Claymore, and learn that despite Clare's...moreFinish up with the flashback, and back to Clare and Raki now that we know her motivations. We also meet more Claymore, and learn that despite Clare's impressiveness in the first two (and a bit) volumes, she's one of the weakest Claymore.
And here (and a bit in the previous volume), we get shounen and seinen manga's obsession with numbers, taken to extremes in the famous Dragon Ball Z quote: "His power levels! They're over Nine Thousand!". It might make sense in the sports manga context, where a team that scrapes the bottom of the barrel climbs to Champions, but it's not something I care about in the context of fighting manga. It's hard to assign numbers to things -- heck, in the next volume, someone (Miria) points out that there's real debate about who is #13 versus #14, for example. That a lot of the close numbers are just a matter of opinion and who cares most.
Thankfully, while Clare wants to get stronger, we don't seem to need to track her climb from #47 to #1. (less)
So, I always run into this when reviewing books that are sequels. How much do I say about things without spoiling earlier books? Almost makes me want...moreSo, I always run into this when reviewing books that are sequels. How much do I say about things without spoiling earlier books? Almost makes me want to write reviews for series, rather than individual books.
That being said, I enjoyed this series, as a sort of large-scale fantasy. The world was interesting, I liked the characters, and the plot worked for me. I think it was technically listed as young adult, but it's perfectly readable as an adult -- which is good. I mean, I hate returning to my childhood favorites and discovering they stunk. Don't want to wish that on someone else.
On the other hand, the thing about this that I did notice is that the first book in the trilogy works as a stand-alone novel, but the other two really were better sold as one book. I've noticed that a lot in trilogies -- the Matrix movie trilogy being a wonderful example. The first movie could either stand alone or segue into a series. The second pretty much ends on a cliffhanger that the third needs to wrap up. Doesn't seem to be unusual -- the old Star Wars trilogy does this (with Han frozen in carbonite, and Luke barely surviving his duel with Vader in Cloud City), Lord of the Rings does this (the books, not the movies, which decided to not have Shelob show up unto Return of the King). It kinds of irritates me. I'd rather have seen the Lirael & Abhorsen story packaged as one book, with the third book in the trilogy dealing with someone else. Then again, it would have been a very, very long book.
It also would let one address one of my pet peeves with epic fantasy. Here there might be spoilers. So, there was a big, world-shaking event that Our Heroes had to stop. There's plenty of International Incidents crawling around. And I kind of want to know: what happens next? Sure, Our Heroes defeated the Big Bad Evil Guy*, but there's still all the strings he was pulling around normal humans. What happens next? (I kind of want to start a webcomic taking place a couple of years after a BBEG is defeated by a Plucky Band of Heroes, just to chronicle what happens.)
* For the record, I love that term, which I mostly adapted from the Order of the Stick comic/Giant in the Playground message board.
So, this review isn't as much about the book but my thoughts on fantasy. (less)
So, at the end of Empire of Ivory, Laurence and Temeraire agree to commit treason to deliver a cure to a draconic plague to France -- Temeraire feeli...moreSo, at the end of Empire of Ivory, Laurence and Temeraire agree to commit treason to deliver a cure to a draconic plague to France -- Temeraire feeling that the lives of thousands of innocent dragons isn't worth victory of the war, and Laurence agreeing. Laurence then wishes to return to Britain, despite knowing he will be imprisoned or hanged for it, and Temeraire confined -- his own honor prevents him from staying in Europe, either as a French officer or a civilian. The book picks up several months later. Which I appreciate for two reasons. First, it give us a chance to see how dragons organize themselves on their own -- the breeding ground dragons are pretty much left to their own devices as long as they eat and mate and don't cause trouble. One of the dragons we meet, Percitia, is a mathematically inclined and quite clever dragon who refused to serve in the military because she didn't see the sense of getting shot up. Second, it gets to the interesting bit -- where Napoleon and Lung Tien Lien invade Britain -- quickly. Laurence, imprisoned on a ship, is presumed dead for a short while, long enough for Temeraire to be quite put out, and decide that he needs to fight Napoleon, and talks the rest of the dragons (ferals, captured dragons, some old retirees, and ones that just refused to fight) into forming their own flight to go fight.
Temeraire himself really shines here. He's forced to develop a sense of politics and leadership to negotiate with both other dragons and the human government and military. In Victory of Eagles he makes a lot more advances than I ever expected -- mostly because he points out that Napoleon was able to come so far because of giving dragons a reason to fight besides loyalty to their captains. Not to neglect Laurence, who is forced to go through a lot dealing with his own actions from Empire of Ivory -- questioning what honor and patriotism really mean. And even some of the secondary characters, such as Admiral Roland, get to play a role -- I'd love to see more interactions between her and General Wellsely/the Duke of Wellington, simply because the two of them quickly figured out the other was pretty damn good at their job, and developed a professional relationship, despite the fact Roland was a woman. (Thanks to Gentius, a veteran Longwings, we also got the story about how female Longwings captains got full rank. He told the story about how his first captain had left without the drunkard who had actual command, fought a tremendous battle, and then was commended by everyone, and finally got her proper rank.)
As for the end, I was quite pleased by it. It ended in a way that doesn't diminish what Laurence did in Empire of Ivory, but keeps our pair flying. Plus, this way, we might get to see new parts of the world -- I think Victory of Eagles is the first book since His Majesty's Dragon where we don't hardly leave Britain.(less)
So, I've been rereading this book. It basically, is the story about Dag and Fawn get along in the Lakewalker camp, and segues into the third book by s...moreSo, I've been rereading this book. It basically, is the story about Dag and Fawn get along in the Lakewalker camp, and segues into the third book by setting up a malice attack right under a farmer town, that pulls Dag away into the action of the book. (Besides the camp council that Dag's mother and brother call to tell what is to be done about Dag and Fawn)
I like Fawn in this book. She might be out of her element, but she is both smart and tries to listen and make a place for herself, and is too stubborn to quit. It also is very telling that she is the one who comes up with the idea to free the Lakewalkers trapped by the malice, though Dag refines it and puts it into practice, and that most of the other Lakewalkers would rather believe it was a fluke, or that Dag somehow told her what to do.
One thing that I especially enjoyed was the fact I got a sense of why Dag loved Fawn and Fawn loved Dag. Many books leave me cold if I can only see one half of the couple -- or, worse, neither. If [The Sharing Knife Volume 1: Beguilement] is about Fawn growing out beyond her upbringing, this book is about Dag healing old wounds and developing new talents. (less)
One of the previous reviewers described this as 'what Ann McCaffrey's Pern books want to be when they grow up'. I have to say that I agree. ACtW has...moreOne of the previous reviewers described this as 'what Ann McCaffrey's Pern books want to be when they grow up'. I have to say that I agree. ACtW has some of the same premise as Pern -- a half-secluded group of warriors that protect the farmers and lords from an implacable enemy thanks to psychic bonds with intelligent animals. Heck, it's pretty easy to compare the plot of ACtW with Dragonflight -- young person is picked up by warriors, bonds to the alpha female, makes a startling discovery, and then ends up saving the day using that discovery.
On the other hand, it actually takes some of the elements of Pern and examines them critically, while telling an entertaining story. Going to emphasize that -- there is some message and theme to this one, but it also helps that there is an interesting story that stands on it's own.
It also does a wonderful job of creating non-humans who don't behave like humans, but still come off as intelligent. The trellwolves in this story act like real wolves, albeit ones with a weird gender ratio (female trellwolves are rare, usually less than one a litter). There are also the trolls themselves, which we get a glimpse of, and the dark elves (svaralfar (sp?)) -- a lot closer to the original myths than D&D's drow.
There are a lack of (human) female characters, but part of that played into the examination of gender and sexuality. What female characters that did show up were interesting people (and I count wolves as people -- the wolves had personality, and were portrayed as something other than generic four-legged shadows of the men). Also having millions of characters with name-changes and many of them having the same name element in their names made it confusing. While I could grasp the main characters to Isolfr's story, a lot of the bit characters blurred together, since it seemed like half of them were Ulf-something.
Elizabeth Bear mentioned that she and Sarah Monette would love to do a sequel on her blog, and I'd love to see it. (less)
So, you might ask, why read Girl Genius in the dead-tree form when it's available for free? Well, aside from the fact a book is a very nice way to sto...moreSo, you might ask, why read Girl Genius in the dead-tree form when it's available for free? Well, aside from the fact a book is a very nice way to stop thinking about physics in order to sleep*, it gives the creators money. And it's worth giving them money.
So, Agatha Clay is a lab assistant to Dr. Beetle, a Mad Scientist (or Spark). She lives with her adoptive parents, Adam and Lilith Clay (and if those aren't wonderfully symbolism-laden names, you aren't paying attention -- Adam and Lilith are constructs, reasonable approximations of human beings (in this case, at least), created by a mad scientist), and her only worry is that nothing she works on seems to work like it should. The first story chronicles the start of Agatha's adventures, with a side story of her future life as Agatha Heterodyne, Spark and descendant of one of the most famous set of Sparks.
Agatha is a pretty likable character -- Girl Genius is the story of her growing up and claiming her inheritance. Even early on, she's smart and resourceful, if a bit high-strung.
I only wish the first volume was in color, though the black and white work is exquisite, and makes this the cheapest GG volume because of it.
* Yes, I realize most people don't have to distract themselves from work by reading fantasy novels. I wanted to say in a entirely complimentary way that I read this before bed last night because I was too wound up from work to sleep. In normal situations, this book will Not Cure Insomnia, except for the kind brought on by stress. (less)
So, I've had this book for a while, and have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I like Elena, and I like the world, and reading the climax is s...moreSo, I've had this book for a while, and have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I like Elena, and I like the world, and reading the climax is satisfying. I'm a fan of fairy tale meta, and the Tradition (the magic that gives Godmothers their power and tries to put everything into a neat little tale) makes an awesome antagonist/protagonist/thing -- it's easy to struggle against a force of magic that is supposed to be arbitrary and unconcerned with human morality. Also, if I had read the last part of the books, with Elena and Alexander acting as a team, I'd be a happy camper.
(It didn't help that it didn't occur to me that this was also a romance when I picked it up at first.)
On the other, I'm not sure if I believed Alexander's transformation in the middle of the book or not. And... well, there's something in the last chapter (before the epilogue) that bothers me. It pretty much felt anti-climactic, like that most of the conflict of the book (or the romance part) depended on Elena's teacher (or anyone, really) not mentioning a specific piece of information that caused Elena to worry that her actions would cause a backlash.
Again, we run into the problem that, while I like seeing new aspects of the world, I also want more adventures of Elena and Alexander. Which seems to be something I run into a lot with fantasy-romance -- I like the story of 'how we got together', but I prefer 'we are a couple and also doing awesome things'. (less)
So, this is a retelling of several Russian fairy tales, and there are points when it really does feel like a fairy tale itself, which was well handled...moreSo, this is a retelling of several Russian fairy tales, and there are points when it really does feel like a fairy tale itself, which was well handled. I also enjoyed the two main leads -- Katya, the Sea King's daughter and spy, and Sasha, the Seventh Son and Songweaver. That's an essential element of any romance, and really any book -- that I not want to throw the book across the room because the main character has a case of the Stupids.
Also, as always, the worldbuilding was interesting, though I preferred it in the previous book in the series Fairy Godmother One criticism here is that the naming of the kingdoms (Nippon, Qin, Belarus) made it feel like each country in the 500 kingdoms listed maps to an Earth country. Considering Fairy Godmother had several European-clone kingdoms, it was a bit disappointing to see that large countries were being grouped into one kingdom. Even picking something sounding like the country's language, but as a fantasy name might be better.
One of my problems is that the book felt like it was broken into three parts, whose only connection was that they were about Katya and/or Sasha: the first part consisting of Katya's trip to Nippon and how she came by the paper bird that serves as an important tool later, the second that tells how Katya and Sasha met and fell in love, and the third being the one that the back of the book mentions. Since the second part felt really rushed and kind of generic -- or maybe it was just me, but it was a forgettable romance -- I'd almost have rather it been skipped and the book start with Katya and Sasha together. Then, maybe the Nippon (keep wanting to type Nihon, thanks to a semester of Japanese) plot could have been expanded or better woven in.
Other than that, this is a good cotton candy book -- entertaining enough that it was a pleasant re-read and probably a good beach or sick book, but not the most meaty of things. Maybe I'll even bump it up to a watermelon book -- refreshing, and not bad for you, but there's not much to it when all comes down to it. (less)
Between this book and Elizabeth Bear's Stratford Man duology, I find myself wanting to learn as much as I can about Elizabeth and her politics.
The t...moreBetween this book and Elizabeth Bear's Stratford Man duology, I find myself wanting to learn as much as I can about Elizabeth and her politics.
The two series have a superficial similarity. Both take Edmund Spenser's metaphor of The Faerie Queen for Elizabeth I, and create a shadow faerie court ruled by a queen bound to Elizabeth. Both also play up the theme of faeries being increasingly excluded from human society thanks to the advance of human technology, involving cold iron, and the old threat of human monotheism. (Faeries were harmed by church bells and couldn't tolerate speaking the name of God.) EBear even mentioned in her blog that she refused to read the book until her two were in their final copy, lest ideas leak from the one to the other.
That being said, Midnight Never Comes felt a lot simpler, as EBear's books had a lot of politics and shades of gray, and conspiracies. That's not intended as a criticism of Midnight Never Comes -- it was a good read, and a lot less head-swimming than Blood and Iron was. I wish more details were gone into*, and the flashbacks were a bit jarring, but it's something I'd read again.
* I'd like to know more about the other kingdoms of Faerie in the world. There is only the Onyx Court beneath London, with kingdoms around Britain and the Kingdom of the Sea mentioned. (less)
Irony-chan, the writer of the webcomic Get Medieval, once ran a side comic in which she commented that nothing happened in shoujo anime/manga besides...moreIrony-chan, the writer of the webcomic Get Medieval, once ran a side comic in which she commented that nothing happened in shoujo anime/manga besides relationship drama. I love Irony's comics, but she is wrong about that. Basara is a shoujo comic (and apparently crazy-popular in Japan in the 1990s) that still has a good dose of action. Plus, it has a strong female character as a lead.
So, the comic takes place in a future post-apocalyptic Japan that has pretty much been returned to the feudal era by massive climactic changes -- I'd say the fantasy level in Basara so far is 'magical realism'. There are some things that are unusual and some that are outright fantastic, but it feels realistic.
Anyway, Sarasa and her twin brother Tatara were born at an auspicious time, causing the local village wise man to declare that the Child of Destiny was born. Things being what they are, everyone assumes he means Tatara, who is raised to be the savior of the nation and leader of a revolution to kick out the corrupt monarchy, while Sarasa is shuffled off to the side. On the twins' fifteenth birthday, the leader of the country, the Red King, kills Tatara and orders the rest of the village to be destroyed and everyone else killed as well. Sarasa, realizing that the loss of their icon was sending the village into panic, quickly chops off her hair and convinces the villagers and the Red King that he got the wrong twin.
Of course, it being shoujo and all, there's also a romance. Sarasa runs into a guy her age named Shuri that is attractive, but kind of a jerk. Want to guess who he really is? (I give the author credit in the second volume she makes it clear that Shuri/the Red King is not secretly a nice guy deep inside. Makes a potential relationship a lot more interesting when it's more than 'opposite sides of a conflict' but also 'one party is very much a jerk and the other party will be pissed when she finds out'. Here's hoping that this is kept up.)
Another thing that I liked was that Sarasa's first win -- reclaiming the village's legendary sword from the Red King's trap -- was shown as taking brains, and it doesn't go perfectly. The series also deals with the fact that even two twins won't look alike if one is a boy and the other is a girl -- Sarasa notes that the rest of the village is so caught up in the idea of the Boy of Destiny that they don't notice that a switch was made. (Which doesn't do much for her self-esteem, since she always felt like she was the leftover, and now that she's supposed to be dead, no one much is mourning her, besides her dead childhood friend's mother.)
Anyway, I recommend Basara, and am looking forward to reading the rest. (less)
So, the story continues as Sarasa leaves home to seek the bearers of the other three swords. I enjoyed seeing how Sarasa handled the tunnel, because i...moreSo, the story continues as Sarasa leaves home to seek the bearers of the other three swords. I enjoyed seeing how Sarasa handled the tunnel, because it showed that she was able to keep calm under pressure and use some smarts. I approve of that in a character.
For that matter, the villains also seem to be smart about dealing with a 'Boy of Destiny'. In the first volume, we had some traps, many of which Sarasa only partially escaped. Here, she manages to only escape with the help of Ageha, and the second half of the story is a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for her.
I also like the parallels between Sarasa and the Red King.
Now, to get a female character on Sarasa's side. (One strong woman is nice, but more would be nicer.) Currently, the only other living female characters are Sarasa's captured mother, and Senju, Shido's fiance. (less)
So, here we have pirates! Sadly, no ninja. This book was interesting and fun, and I don't have much to say besides that I enjoyed it. I also liked the...moreSo, here we have pirates! Sadly, no ninja. This book was interesting and fun, and I don't have much to say besides that I enjoyed it. I also liked the ending solution as to what to do when one is trapped between the people who betrayed Hayato's ancestor, and Shido and the Red King's Army. Good, creative thinking there. (less)
Yoko Nakajima is a Japanese high schooler. Her main defining trait seems to be that she wants to make everyone happy, which leaves her with all the sp...moreYoko Nakajima is a Japanese high schooler. Her main defining trait seems to be that she wants to make everyone happy, which leaves her with all the spine of a wet noodle. After being dropped into a fantasy country with the clothes on her back, a sword, and a spirit that lets her use it, this personality trait is not going to help her out.
One reason I really liked Sea of Shadow was that Yoko showed a great deal of character evolution through the book. Her journey teaches her to both become self-reliant, and allow herself to rely on others without just becoming what they want to see. The lack of knowledge Yoko has of what exactly is going on is well handled, when her guide, Keiki, disappears later on.
My one critique of the book is that the ending feels rushed. Once Yoko figures out why she was brought to the Twelve Kingdoms, and comes up with a plan to rescue Keiki from imprisonment, the last couple of scenes feel rushed, like the author felt like they weren't as important as the inner journey Yoko went through. (less)
**spoiler alert** Okay, so when discussing the Twelve Kingdoms anime, Lena, a friend of mine, noted that it seemed a bit odd that no one would have to...more**spoiler alert** Okay, so when discussing the Twelve Kingdoms anime, Lena, a friend of mine, noted that it seemed a bit odd that no one would have told Yoko 'Hey, you know what? Keiki is the name of the minister of Kei, and he has golden hair and could easily have brought you here'. And then Yoko could have described how she met Keiki in her world, and people would be all 'Hey, you know what? You're the next King of Kei!'. Then I got to thinking that Yoko knowing that she was the King of Kei wouldn't have changed much. Sure, Takki might not have tried to trick her, since she would have known that someone would be looking for her, but then again, Takki might have just assumed Yoko was crazy. Rakushun would have still suggested they go to En, if only to get the Ever-King's help in getting Yoko to the throne in one piece. The tenor of Yoko's inner conflict would change, but it would just shift to the later in the book 'Do I take up the mantle of kingship just because everyone expects it of me, or do I chose what I do as my own person?'. Yoko would still have to come to terms with being her own person versus being what people expect of her.
The reason I bring this up with regards to the second book is because Taiki's inner conflict in the second half of the book could have easily been solved if Keiki had told him 'don't worry -- as a kirin, Heaven won't let you chose the wrong king. To the point where you physically can't do the ritual, or even kowtow to anyone but the king of Tai'. Of course, if Taiki didn't know he couldn't fake it, he might not have even tried and then there'd be another problem. But, it just felt a lot like an idiot plot -- a plot that was driven by a fake-seeming lack of information.
Other than that, I did enjoy the book for a different look at the Twelve Kingdoms. (less)
I stayed up last night finishing this book, and I was glad I did. I really enjoyed this next venture into the Family Trade series, and it gave me a lo...moreI stayed up last night finishing this book, and I was glad I did. I really enjoyed this next venture into the Family Trade series, and it gave me a lot to think about.
(Seriously, I was speculating about group theory and genetics and world travel and what the heck the current (soon to be outgoing) administration would do with world-travel. At one in the morning. I learned that I can remember the definition of an Abelian group at one at the morning, but heck if I can remember the name.)
I enjoyed the characters -- both the new ones and the old -- and liked seeing how Miriam was changing with respect to the Clan and the events of the past three or four books. I think this book is going to be a turning point in the series, based on how the book ended.
I also enjoyed the speculation about the government, though it lead to some cynicism about things.
One of my problems was that it felt like few of the plots were resolved. If you read the last book, you noticed that Miriam had fled, the crown prince had staged a coup and was gunning for the Clan, and the US government was getting involved. The book introduces two new plot threads (study of the world-walking ability by both the Clan and the US Government, and unrest in New Britain), but only ties up one of the ones floating in the last book. Still, that seems to be a centerpiece of the series -- the book seemed to have a lot going on, but not as much got done and there were so many points of view that it didn't feel like anyone's plots were advanced that much. It'll depend on how the series progresses whether I'll stick with this or give up, but it's something to look for.
Well, all right, that and Charles's Stross's non-American English showed for a moment when he called a character a postgrad (grad student for us Americans). The only reason I noticed it was that the book was written in passable American English, so it was like -- 'blah blah blah postdoc... wait, no that says postgrad *flips to the author bio* Yep, thought so'. It's not one of the obvious dialect changes, but it's something I'd notice being a grad student/postgrad myself. I'm also not terribly sure of some of the T stuff was right, but if it could fool a Boston non-native like me (I mostly ride the Red Line when visiting family in Boston, anyway, so the other three I am pretty vague about), it probably would pass for everyone but a Bostonian -- it showed that Stross did a bit of homework, or at least visited Boston. Pick, pick, pick, I know, but details can bug me. Especially at one in the morning. (less)
So, this book is actually two -- Athyra and Orca, republished as one, as both concern the character Savn, a Teckla boy Vlad runs into in Aythra and...moreSo, this book is actually two -- Athyra and Orca, republished as one, as both concern the character Savn, a Teckla boy Vlad runs into in Aythra and ends up with a debt to that he tries to repay in Orca. On my re-read, I mainly reread Orca.
Steven Brust and Terry Pratchett have one thing in common -- both can tell a good story about something I never thought would be entertaining. Pratchett has The Truth about Ahnk-Morphork's first newspaper starting up, Going Postal about the Ahnk Morpork's post office versus the clacks (a telegraph-like system), and most recently Making Money, about Moist, the lead character from Going Postal, getting to the bottom of the city's bank.
And, well, Brust has Orca. Vlad, Brust's lead character for the series, a (former) assassin on the run from the House of the Jhereg, his homeland's equivalent of the Mafia. However, most of the book is told by Kiera the Thief, a friend of Vlad's, to Cawti, Vlad's estranged wife. Kiera runs into Vlad when he's trying to save the house of a healer in exchange for healing for Savn. The two of them discover that it's not just the matter of her banker trying to make a quick buck by tricking a couple of renters, but the edge effects of a Serious Economic Crisis that the Empire is trying desperately to control.
(Note, given the climate of the country, this is why I decided to re-read Orca.)
As always for this series, Orca has a dose of mystery, a dose of action, and some good dialog. We also get to see Kiera and Vlad team up, which is awesome. Orca is also infamous in the fandom for causing the most spoiler warnings on the mailing list, thanks to two twists (one in the last chapter and one in the epilogue).
Speaking of, maybe I should re-read Making Money after this...(less)