Mean Streets is an anthology of four stories by four authors, all featuring urban fantasy and private eyes. For the record, I was familiar with two of...moreMean Streets is an anthology of four stories by four authors, all featuring urban fantasy and private eyes. For the record, I was familiar with two of the authors Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, but not familiar with Kat Richardson or Thomas E. Sniegoski. I'm going to review each of the stories separately.
The Warrior (Jim Butcher) I enjoyed this story. It involved the Carpenter family, some of my favorite side characters of The Dresden Files. Plus, we got some good world-building surrounding Michael Carpenter and Father Anthony Forthill's more temporal connections. It also tied up a bit of the fallout from the last book, Small Favor. And it's a solid story, with good pacing and use of characters, though from my previous experience with Butcher's short stories, I was not surprised by this.
However, I think I would have preferred this not in an anthology, as it is a poor introduction to the series. It spoils Small Favor mercilessly and relies a lot on previous knowledge, I'd say. Overall, I think it's hard to write a story about Harry after over ten books, and then write something that would make book 1 Harry accessible.
The Difference a Day Makes by Simon Green I've read about five of the Nightside books, so I'm familiar with John Taylor. Though this story had the opposite problem as the Dresden Files one -- John was John, but there wasn't that much to catch the interest of a fan. (Which goes to show that it's tricky to write for these things.) Part of that was that this felt like a simple case. John was hired to track down the missing memories of a normal who wandered into the Nightside. He ropes a friend of his, Dead Boy, into helping him out. John's power is that he can find anything, so it pretty much becomes 'I see the path, but there's dudes in the way'. I think the first five books of the series did a better job with limiting John's powers*, but there was no mention of those limits -- perhaps he overcame them in later books.
* In the first book, John mentions that someone targets him when he uses his ability, so he has to sneak peeks. Later books elaborate on what's going on with this. Here, there's no mention on the fact that John lights up like a Christmas tree (metaphorically speaking) when he uses his power, so he has to limit it.
The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog by Kat Richardson Funny story. Right before starting this story, I was wondering why there were no female supernatural PIs, or that the urban fantasy with female leads tended to be romance-focused. (Exception: the Marla Mason books by T. A. Pratt.) Then I read this story, with Harper Blaine... all right, at first I thought Harper was a male name, and the first-person narrative didn't enlighten me. (Considering I got to 'Miss Blaine' at some point, I changed my mind -- it was after the scene with Harper's boyfriend, which made me all 'yay, queer character', though.)
Anyway, this was one of my favorites in the anthology (I know, it was four stories, right?) -- it was well plotted and worked as an introduction to Harper's world, while giving some clues to her about her powers. I didn't see the ending coming, and it was a good mystery in that respect.
My one dislike of the book is that the Spanish felt forced -- you occasionally got the 'I speak perfect English, but I'm going to use simple words in Spanish anyway' situation. There also were some moments of info dump about Día de los Muertos and Oxacalan (Oxacan?) attitudes towards death. Most of it seemed right to my limited memories from Spanish class, it just felt off, like the author needed to emphasize 'hey, we're in Mexico, where they speak Spanish!' occasionally.
Noah's Orphans by Thomas Sniegoski So, we get a biblical situation with angel-in-disguise Remy Chandler out to investigate the murder of Noah, who had apparently survived. Not sure how I feel about this one. I have kind of a knee-jerk attitude towards Biblical literalism thanks to being a scientist*, so a fictional world where the Fall and Noah's Flood actually happened doesn't appeal to me. I did like that the angels were examined in more detail, as well as their relationships to humans. But, overall, this story fell a bit flat to me. I can't tell you if this is a 'I didn't like it' or 'it was a bad story' (or both), though.
* When people who believe X keep telling you that you're wrong and evil about something, and keep trying to undermine your work, it's not hard to develop a knee-jerk reaction to things, even in fiction.
Also? It might have been just me, but God came off as rather an ass in this, and He wasn't even on screen. Mind you, I think there's a lot of theology that either unintentionally makes God look like an ass to the unbelievers or has to work to reconcile some of the stuff in the Bible (and in life) to make God not look like an ass. (Usually, any argument about free will or why evil exists will fall into this category.)
Overall review is that I enjoyed 'The Warrior', but think it was meant for fans of the book series, and enjoyed 'The Third Death...' and mean to pick up that series. The other two I wasn't thrilled with. (less)
I picked this up after reading the short story by Kat Richardson in Mean Streets, which also featured Ms. Blaine. First off, it's nice to see a female...moreI picked this up after reading the short story by Kat Richardson in Mean Streets, which also featured Ms. Blaine. First off, it's nice to see a female paranormal detective character whose actual cases seem to have more weight than her love life. Normally there seems to be a strict gender divide in these things -- men like Harry Dresden and John Taylor occasionally have girlfriends and occasionally have horrible luck with women*, but generally that's not a major focus of the books' attention. Female urban-fantasy detective-types, like Vickie Nelson or Jill Kismet, tend to meet some hottie on a case in their first book and then most of the time the two are in the same room we switch modes so quickly I can hear the brakes squeal. And Vickie and Jill are the ones I remember because they weren't as bad as many. It seems like Men are from Noir and Women are from Romance.
* Few main characters seem to be gay or bisexual in these books. The only exception I can think of is Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine, who had a female lover in the past and a male lover in the present. Even then, the gay relationship ended Badly. But, that has nothing to do with anything, unless you count the fact I spent ten pages thinking Harper was male in Mean Streets, well past a date with a guy.
I didn't notice this with Harper, in that she strikes up a date with an auctioneer she meets in passing, notes that she wants to keep things low-key until the case she's working on ends, and the book makes it clear that he's not True Love, or even that Harper is going to meet some guy and do the mode switch like that. (I have a soft spot for some romance, but boy am I picky about it.)
Anyway, to actually talk about the plot and not vent about My Thoughts on Romance, after an accident, Harper develops the ability to see into the supernatural world and manipulate it. She thinks she's going crazy until a sympathetic doctor steers her towards some friends that specialize in weird stuff.
On the job side, Harper takes a job to track down a missing college student, and locate an old piece of furniture for an elderly man. It was nice to see the cases weave together, in that there was no plot-related reason to think they were connected, but Harper uses information from both to connect them. It also gave a better sense of 'this person has a real job', and doesn't just get weird cases dumped on her doorstep one at a time by the Paranormal Fairy. (I think that Storm Front did that too, only the cases were actually connected.)
One of the flaws is that I think the book tried to push Harper's powers as 'too much, too soon'. There are a lot of info-dumpy things from Harper's teachers, and thanks to some Trouble Harper gets into, she gets a boost to her powers (with unknown side-effects). I'd rather see her powers, and Harper's initial skepticism towards them, develop a bit more slowly. The book also introduced a lot of supernatural beasties at once.
The ferret scenes were also adorable, in that Chaos acted like a ferret, and not some kind of fuzzy prop. I have a soft spot for animals, and my sister owned a ferret for years when we were kids. (less)
This time Harry Dresden, Wizard detective, is trying to find the traitor in the White Council, after Morgan shows up on his doorstep on the lam for a...moreThis time Harry Dresden, Wizard detective, is trying to find the traitor in the White Council, after Morgan shows up on his doorstep on the lam for a crime he didn't commit and Harry realized that hes got to either turn Morgan in or help him out (and get blamed for helping a criminal).
The good things: -- We get to see more of the White Council, find out more about Morgan, Luccio and Listen-to-Wind. We also see a bit of why the Council thinks about Harry the way they do, and some awesome magic. -- I once read a maxim about how authors are willing to make characters struggle for what they need (read: plot) but are willing to give in on things that the characters want but don't need. Not to spoil things, but Jim Butcher doesn't do that in this book. Harry might solve the mystery, but he gets dealt several nasty punches for it -- it's definitely bittersweet. -- The banter is good, and I always appreciate that most characters can keep up with Harry verbally. It's nice to see that Harry doesn't get all the good lines.
The bad things: -- The traitor's plot is clever, but the identity of the traitor was a bit of a let down. A friend compared it to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when a giant deal was made about a character dying, when you find out that the character was only a minor character until that book. That and I kind of pegged it -- partly because my friend told me this beforehand, maybe.
Plus, Mouse totally stole the show. Mouse is awesome. (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)
For a book that managed to hit a rough spot with me on the first page, I liked Rosemary and Rue.
The rough spot was in the pronunciation guide. The aut...moreFor a book that managed to hit a rough spot with me on the first page, I liked Rosemary and Rue.
The rough spot was in the pronunciation guide. The author (or someone) noted that kitsune* was pronounced kit-soon, when the closer pronunciation would be kee-tsoo-neh -- Japanese transliteration doesn't leave silent letters. For that matter, I wasn't too thrilled with the use of a kitsune character in a book about fairies, because it felt like an afterthought to have a Japanese fox-spirit in a book about mostly British/Irish-patterned fairies, using a lot of the same rules (i.e. no iron, magic dissolved by the dawn, etc.). (For that matter, why are the ancient fairy courts in the San Francisco area like the ones from English/Irish/Scottish legends, rather than using legends that were common in the Bay Area? I mean, some of the pure fairy characters were living there before the Spanish even showed up and named the place after Saint Francis. I could see some of the fae names being ones that are tied to the meaning, not the sound -- so Lily would be Yuri to a Japanese-speaker and Lirio to a Spanish-speaker.)
Ob. Disclaimer: Yes, I want non-European/Abrahamic folktales and mythology used in my fantasy. But when it feels like everything is built in a European (British/Irish) foundation and the rest of the world's beliefs are added in after the fact, it kind of makes me want to see the other way around, outside of East-Asian comics/animation.
Now that I've gotten my rant out of my system, let me just say that I did like the book. I have a weakness for fairies and one for urban fantasy, and the setting was interesting. So, we have an urban fantasy setting -- sandwiched within and in between the mundane world are the fair folk, who have gateways to their own kingdoms and the occasional tryst or marriage with mortals, sometimes leaving a changeling child. Changelings pretty much occupy the lowest rung of fairy society -- add in the fact that as soon as the magical glamours that all changelings are born with fade, they get told to choose whether to be a human or a fairy. The 'human' choice usually ends up with the kidlet dying and the fairy choice usually ends up with them sprinted off to the Summerlands until they can be trusted enough to throw up glamors. It is unsurprising that changelings end up kind of fucked up, and usually end up finding some kind of protector who may or may not be benevolent.
Toby Daye (her mother thought 'October Daye' was a cute name) had been doing pretty well for a changeling. She had a PI job, managed to become a changeling that earned a knighthood in a fairy court, and had a human husband and daughter (who didn't know Toby's ancestry or that some of her cases were for the fairy Duke she owed fealty towards, so life wasn't perfect). Then she gets turned into a koi and lost for fourteen years while trying to chase down the Duke's missing wife and daughter -- not a spoiler, since this happens in Chapter 1. Husband doesn't understand what happened, Toby can't face her old boss/liege-lord and life is hard when the mortal world declared you legally dead. So she's all 'fucking fairies, I'm gonna live a mortal life', which seems to involve finding a low-end job that lets her be nocturnal and not have to deal with the fact she doesn't look quite human unless she throws up a glamor.
The fairy world respects this choice and Toby is left alone to wallow in her own failure...
Of course not, since otherwise there wouldn't be a story. Toby is dragged, kicking and screaming, back into politics when a fairy noble is killed and she gets geased into finding the murderer. The plot is interesting, and Toby is an interesting character, trying to cope with the fact she crawled her way up from the gutter and, when things were finally going right, everything went crashing to pieces. She's a little less cracked by the end of the book -- well, kind of -- but the book leaves a lot of threads dangling for a sequel.
Also, for all my ragging on the book in the opening parts of this review, I like some of the elements -- rose goblins, for example, which are cat-sized creatures made of petals and thorns. I'd rather like hearing more about the non-humanoid branches of fairie -- we get the rose goblins and kelpie mentioned. Also, folks like the Selkie and the Cait Sidhe (humanoid-cat shapeshifter fairies that live half-feral in the streets of San Francisco). (Heck, that makes me kind of want to collect animal-spirit folktales and write something myself, but I digress...)
So, I think this is one for the 'pick up the sequel when it comes out' pile.
-- * Japanese for fox, but when used in English it has the connotations of fox-spirits.
ETA: I am told by a friend that the author uses the correct pronunciation of kitsune when speaking. Said friend suggested that the pronunciation guide was added by the publisher to deal with all the types of fairies. In which case, I apologize to the author, and want to roll my eyes at the publisher. (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)
**spoiler alert** So, in an effort to branch out, I've been trying to read new authors. Plus, this gives me things to tell my mother when she asks wha...more**spoiler alert** So, in an effort to branch out, I've been trying to read new authors. Plus, this gives me things to tell my mother when she asks what I want for Christmas (sequels!). A couple of weeks ago, I read The Charmed Sphere by Catherine Asaro. I was a bit wary, as I always am with new authors. But it did have pretty, pretty cover art.
So the basic premise is that protagonist Chime was found to be a powerful mage and asked to study at the capital (and hopefully marry the heir to the throne, since it was customary for the consort to be a mage). Of course, there are all kinds of problems -- the original heir is dead, his son is missing, and the cousin who is the current heir is seen as a flake. Plus, the neighboring kingdom -- which has had a sort of uneasy peace with the kingdom -- is up to no good, they might have a mage themselves, and people keep trying to kill Chime and Mueller (the cousin).
Anyway, I had some problems with the magic system while thinking it could have been neat. The magic was based on shapes and colors -- mages had to focus through regular polygons or polyhedra and each kind of spell had colors -- for instance red spells called light and heat, green spells let the user sense emotions, orange and yellow spells soothed physical and emotional pain, and indigo and blue spells healed physical and emotional wounds. You could also reverse the spells to do the opposite -- cause harm and agitation -- but considering most powerful mages were wired into others' emotions, it wasn't a good idea at all. The shape aspect came in because mages need to focus through shapes, and the higher level mages could use different shapes for more power (triangle, square, regular pentagon... up to circle, then regular tetrahedron through sphere).
So, first problem. I somehow suspect the author needs to think a bit more about geometry. So, she specifies that regular/perfect shapes work, and imperfect shapes disrupt concentration (except for Mueller). For polygons, I assume that means regular ones. For polyhedra, I'd assume it meant the five Platonic solids (regular tetrahedron, cub/hexahedron, regular octahedron, regular dodecahedron, regular iscosahedron) , except one mage uses a square pyramid, and another uses a 18-sided shape. So maybe it's just 'shapes made of regular polygons', which seems a bit odd to me, since those don't really approach a sphere as the sides get infinite and are much less regular. (The Platonic and Archemedian solids do, but that limits you to 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 20, 26, 32, 38, 62 and 92 faces -- I don't think anyone got higher than 20 without going to a sphere.) For that matter, you get 'box', 'cube' and 'hexahedron' all being used in the book, with no real reason as to why the difference in terminology.
So, second problem. The book suffers a bit from Planet of the Hats syndrome. So there's shape magic. It's common in the royal family and shape mages are revered, with them often wearing crystal polyhedra marking their rank and serving as a magic focus -- the more faces and the higher-frequency the color, the more powerful the mage. The royal family decorates with mosaics, which makes sense, since they are mages and the constant use of shapes will mean they always have a focus at hand. The nobility and middle class folks copy this, because royalty are trendsetters. The non-magic folks use shapes as rank like the mages (and boy howdy did I get sick of shape-title in ranks). The army is trained to march in formation so the mages can supplement them -- and here things got a bit silly, since each unit does a separate shape, and it's mentioned that losses causes problems in keeping the formation supported via magic, especially since you can't transfer guys from other units out. Here is where I'd like to see some concession to actual military tactics -- do something like the hoplites or Roman legions where you put all your dudes in lines with shields as a wall (you can get hexagons if you stagger the lines). That way, everyone knows whats what, the army can fill in holes, tactics match the formation, and you can use your archers or cavalry to keep the enemy from trying to get around your army. Jeez, no wonder the kingdom gets nearly taken over,
Third problem has to do with the Planet of the Hats syndrome. I can buy mages shaping things... except later we find out that: -- There are, on average, only a couple green to indigo mages born per generation, plus the Royal Family. And the Royal Family doesn't seem to be spreading the blood around by having younger siblings and marrying them off to nobility. -- No one bothers to train the red to yellow mages, despite the fact they are much more common, and the spells are still useful. Sure, they can't heal, but they can block pain and fear, and still use the army formation as a focus. -- Somehow, having under a dozen mages makes up for the fact the Angry Despotic Kingdom to the north has a competent and larger army, and this kingdom... doesn't. Also Angry Despotic Kingdom doesn't have mages -- the mage they employ turns out to be a refuge from the Protagonist Kingdom.
It feels like the book tries to have its cake and eat it too. Magic is special and elite, but it also influences everything. Generally, that doesn't work.
(It does get pluses for showing that, despite a pretty ordered magic system, all the four mages we meet have unique talents and work in different ways.)
Also, the plot. It avoided a few of the cliches (Oh, look, the heroine meets the prince in disguise while she's upset about being pressured to marry the prince. How long can the author string this out... oh, good, she finds out right away and we don't get stupid melodrama), but it felt like the author was pretty much bouncing from plot point to plot point without giving time for things to develop. I think she could have gotten two books out of this if things were developed better -- the relationship between Mueller and Chime, the location of the missing heir and discovery that he was a bit crazy, and then the war (okay, battle) with Angry Despot Kingdom.
I also liked the protagonist, but the author really needed to lay off the 'she is so pure and good that the antagonist puts conquering the kingdom on the line to get her'. And here I'm going to go into ending spoilers...
Okay, so Angry Despot King and Crazy Mage try to conquer Protagonist Kingdom. They are stopped by Our Heroes, who decide... hey, let's give Angry Despot Kingdom to Mueller and Chime, while the Missing Heir and his wife rule Protagonist Kingdom. Which was like... did Angry Despot King get hit by the Idiot stick and not leave some guys back home? And are they okay with this? And are the people, even if they were taxed horribly, okay with being taken over by the kingdom to the south? And did Angry Despot King's wife and son -- only mentioned under the 'he had a treaty marriage but was so bad that his wife went home' -- okay with this? Not to mention the neighbors, who might be a tad upset by Protagonist Kingdom taking over Angry Despot Kingdom, even if the ADK attacked first.
It was kind of a fairy-tale ending tacked on so that it would be happy, but the author didn't sell it to me.
Yeah, this was an interesting world, and I didn't mind the characters, but the plot was an Idiot Plot. I might read the next one, but it's definitely going on the 'buy used or get as gift' list. And it might improve with practice -- a lot of first-in-series books can be shaky. (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)
He's a millennium-old vampire traveling to the New World to avoid vampire politics. She's a detective-mage with a sense of duty that could crack iron....moreHe's a millennium-old vampire traveling to the New World to avoid vampire politics. She's a detective-mage with a sense of duty that could crack iron. Together... they fight crime!
Seriously, New Amsterdam is set in sort of a steampunk/magic/alt-history where the Hadenosaunee(Iriquois) and other native tribes kept the British and French from doing much in the US interior, the Dutch didn't cede their New York territory to Britain until the Napoleonic era, and the US never won independence. Lady Abby Irene Garrett is one of the Crown's three go-to people for magical crimes in the colonies, after a self-imposed exile from England.
I enjoy a good supernatural mystery, and this fulfills this in spades. The book is made up of a series of interconnected short-stories -- there is an overarching plot about the relationship between Abby Irene and the Crown, but each story also features a crime to be solved. The worldbuilding is also nice, and I'd love to see more than New Amsterdam, Boston and Paris in the stories.
The romance, on the other hand, is pretty generic. I liked Sebastian (the vampire), but he doesn't really bring anything new to the idea of a vampire. At least we are saved from gratuitous additions, such as sparkles -- Sebastian just suffers horrible burns from sunlight. Bear does attempt to show what it is like to live a millennium, but all we get is an apolitical character who remarks a lot about vampires he's known who have suicided after the weight of years got to him. I guess I'm more of a fan of the charismatic monster for vampires, so perhaps it is not Sebastian's fault that I liked him as a character, but not as a vampire. (less)
I'd say the best reason to read this is for its characters. The protagonist is Seyonne, a man who was once a magical-warrior prodigy and the shining s...moreI'd say the best reason to read this is for its characters. The protagonist is Seyonne, a man who was once a magical-warrior prodigy and the shining star of his demon-hunting people before they got their butts kicked and he was captured on the battlefield, stripped of his magic, and sold into slavery for sixteen long years. Seyonne thinks that he's pretty much crushed all hope of being anything more than a slave and is just trying to survive as many days as he can, though he has a bare few points of pride left -- which is how he ends up on the auction block at the start of the book.
Aleksander is the prince of the Empire that conquered Seyonne's people, and a mix of the most spoiled palace brat someone could come across and a damned clever, talented and adept person. He's the one who ends up buying Seyonne.
Aleksander and Seyonne's relationship is interesting and complicated as Seyonne's limited senses pick up both that there are demons in the court and that Aleksander has some inner nobility that Seyonne could sense even beneath Zander's casual cruelty. Both of these start to stir Seyonne to bring out things he thought dead and buried, and this begins to influence Aleksander (and, for that matter, so does Seyonne's statement that he's known enough pain in his life that nothing Aleksander can do to him will make him frightened of him.)
The book also has interesting female characters in the Lady Lydia, Aleksander's betrothed, and Caitrin, Seyonne's teacher's granddaughter. (We also see Seyonne's old fiancee, Ysanne, but don't get that much sense of her outside of Seyonne's point of view.) That's always a plus, though Lydia gets more development in the sequel and we also get more of a cast. Sorry, female characters doing interesting things is an important qualification for me. Unfortunately, the two of them and the other women don't get much screentime.
Transforamtion is the start of a trilogy, but also stands alone, which is nice for re-reads. (less)
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)
So, I will endeavor to review the final book in a series without spoiling the other three.
Frankly, I'd hold up The Sharing Knife series as how to do a...moreSo, I will endeavor to review the final book in a series without spoiling the other three.
Frankly, I'd hold up The Sharing Knife series as how to do a multi-book romance without plunging into unbelievable melodrama. The 'will they or won't they' is settled in the first book, leaving books 2-4 as a story of a young couple with a 'forbidden' relationship trying to carve a place in the world. Book 4 opens with Dag and Fawn in the south, where the problem of Lakewalkers and farmers is shown in high relief. The south hasn't had a malice attack in living memory, so Lakewalkers are forced to interact somewhat, but even then they don't have a solution that satisfies Dag. Dag is able to find a teacher for what he wants to do, though, and then strikes up north to return to the part of the country he grew up.
I continue to like how things are set up. Fawn continues to be 'the smart one' in the relationship, something that Bujold never says but does a wonderful job of showing. A lot of times in 'normal'/'paranormal' relationship fiction I get the sense that the normal person is just a kind of placeholder, and Fawn is nothing like that.
The book also does a good job of showing Dag-as-mage, in that some of what he does is reinvented because he didn't have access to a teacher, and some of what he does is innovative. I also like the interaction between him and his teacher, Arkady.
The one problem I had with this book is that Bujold introduces a cast of characters for the trip north -- a group of settlers that Dag offers to help guide, another wagon that they help in the mountains, and a Lakewalker patrol led by Dag's niece. A lot happens with those -- one set of siblings are half-Lakewalker and the sister has both a decent amount of groundsense and a bad case of Caught-Between-Two-Worlds, both of which the party addresses. There's also a romance between Dag's niece and his teacher. A lot of these don't get as much time as I'd like, and some of the characters (the male settlers, for instance), blur together. It's possible I'll resolve this on a reread, but it was disenheartening in a series so good about character relationships.
Overall, I do recommend this series as one of my favorite fantasies and romance-oriented fiction. I'd recommend the series to anyone who wants to see 'forbidden romance' done right, without either character abandoning his or her home culture but instead trying to forge a new path. (less)
Okay, I was recced this book based on the fact it had a lesbian protagonist. (It was during the mess with Amazon where books with GLBT themes weren't...moreOkay, I was recced this book based on the fact it had a lesbian protagonist. (It was during the mess with Amazon where books with GLBT themes weren't showing up on searches.) I did read the author's short stories beforehand as a bit of a warning and was ambivalent -- interesting in trying them, but prepared to send it off to PaperbackSwap if I didn't like them.
One of the problems with this book is that I went in thinking it was what I consider an otherwordly fantasy when it was more of a very-stretched alt-history. The reason I say this is because of the religious elements. Hundreds of years before the series began, Italy (still made up of a number of kingdoms, like historical-Italy was), a new religion arose based on the magical ability to call fire and worshiping a pair of gods (the Lord and the Lady, though the Lord isn't mentioned much) and supplanting Christianity (called 'the Old Way' in the book). Unsurprisingly, one still gets the Inquisition, de facto rule of the Church, and punishment of heretics, regardless of whose name the religion is ruled by.
While I don't mind Christianity in alt-history/historical-fantasy (because... well, it existed), I tend to worry that any use of it (or other real-world religions -- anytime you mention a goddess with multiple elements to her, I get the same feeling) in fantasy taking place outside of our world is going to lead to at best a lack of creativity, and at worse proselytizing, which leads to me throwing the book against the wall. Especially when they are the minority and oppressed religion. (Let's face it -- fantasy fen root for the oppressed.)
On the other hand, Kritzer did a good job of both keeping the heroine questioning which is right, and in not portraying one religion as the Good one or the Right one. Plus, as an alt-history nerd, I liked the fact that the resurgence of Old Way was apparently modified by the new religion. For one, the magefire promoted by the in-power religion acts to reduce fertility, which changed the status of women in the society. The Old Way version of the New Testament gives Gesu only two major disciples, Tomas and Mara (plus Guidas/Judas), and states that God is aspected as 'the Mother, Her Son, and the Holy Light'. The priestess character hints that the 'Old Way' is a reconstruction of the actual Old way and that even she, a scholar, has no clue what it was really like.
The plot also handled the main character's change from music student to revolutionary quite well, including explaining why and how she got a leadership position, something that doesn't always work well in fantasy. It also had a bit of an environmental message -- the plot switches from the protagonist's mysterious new roommate, to her discovery that magefire is what caused the dead regions on the border with another country, to her becoming involved in both the Old Way and the reform movement.
(Also kudos on handling the 'magic messes up the environment' and 'one religion likes magic, one doesn't' angles. I'm always a bit leery of environmental fiction as well, but it can be done well -- see half of all Miyazaki movies, notably Princess Mononoke.)
Overall, I thought the book handled a number of cliche themes in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Which makes me happy. Plus, it had a good plot and a main character I liked. So I'll probably buy the sequel new. (less)
I am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with roman...moreI am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with romance'. There were elements of the story I liked -- most of them having to do with the plot, rather than the romance. But, overall I wasn't terribly happy with this book. Any spoilers I write will be at the end -- just warning you why I don't have the flag up.
So, the basic plot is that Earth's governments have been divided into city-states after wars and eco-catastrophes, with a sort of global police force that our Female Lead, Gina, belongs to. She decides to take some time off to investigate suspicious animal attacks in Arizona. Our Male Lead, the local sheriff, is a mix of help and hindrance, and Gina is trying to figure out why -- and why she finds him so very pretty.
So, my problems are twofold. The worldbuilding was a bit inconsistent -- I could never get a sense if the town Gina visited was the whole of the Republic of Arizona, or just a part, and if so, what happened to the rest of the state -- Arizona is a big place, and the town had a very small-town vibe. Actually, I had scale problems with a lot of the book -- one of the antagonists was a senator, and I could never quite grasp of what, since the US government no longer existed, and yet, he seemed to be markedly US focused. Speaking of him, he was obsessed with the idea of this Other -- modified people with special powers created in the last war and hiding.
The book generally seemed to regard the Other as something that most people thought was about on par with Roswell aliens and Bigfooy, and yet, a popular government official would openly mention them in speeches. If my senator was claiming that aliens were hiding among us, I'd be voting for the other person.
(Also, minor pet peeve with the use of synth- in front of everything -- I can see how things like chocolate and coffee would be commodities, but you do not need synth-alcohol, given you can ferment anything.)
As for the romance, Gina and Morgan hit two of my pet peeves in paranormal romance. The first is that I could never get a sense of their relationship outside of 'OMG, hot' -- I got the fact that they found each other physically attractive, but I never could pull past that to figure out how they worked as something other than a good lay. (Okay, I did get that Morgan was impressed with Gina's sense of justice, but from her all I got was 'OMG hot'.) The book did have a reason for this, but it's a spoiler, albeit one I saw coming.
The second reason had to do with the Others. A lot of times 'wolf' behavior was used as an excuse for Other customs... except, it was more related to the romantic idea of a wolf, rather than actual canine behavior. Someone really needs to read Limyaael's fantasy rants. Now, it could work, given that these are still humans we are dealing with, but I'd like to see something other than 'lol, werewolves' as an explanation.
In conclusion, I wasn't impressed. It might be something I would buy for a plane ride, but not something that will be staying on my shelf.
 Gina turns out to be part Other (werewolf, in fact), through her father, which is why she is attracted to other weres without even knowing it, including Morgan Hunter and his cousin, more than baseline humans. On the other hand, she's got a baseline human mother, which makes me wonder why one wins out over the other. And it still doesn't change the fact that I couldn't pick up anything else about the relationship from her end. (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)
I will say this -- my favorite aspects of Vows and Honor duology/trilogy/whatever is that the main relationship is between two women and is platonic*....moreI will say this -- my favorite aspects of Vows and Honor duology/trilogy/whatever is that the main relationship is between two women and is platonic*. The Oathbound is about two women, Kethry, who used to be a noble of a poverty-stricken house, but after her brother practically sold her into marriage, she took up the path of the mage, and Tarma, a swordswoman from a Nomadic Horse Clan, who became a servant of her peoples' Goddess in order to get revenge on her clan's murder. The two became partners helping Tarma avenge her clan and kin after that, with Kethry volunteering to help Tarma restore her clan.
Most of the book seems to be reconstructed out of short stories -- some of the short stories were shown in their original form in Oathblood. You can kind of tell in that a lot of Tarma and Kethry's adventures are self-contained but inter-related. I can see why Lackey chose those works to make a book out of. It works very well for the book**.
For me, this book is kind of like my mother's Turkey Soup. There's nothing terribly special or amazing about it, but it's comfort food and has enough meat to be filling. Swords and Sorcery is one of my favorite styles of fantasy***, but I don't know if this is an artifact of the books I choose to read, but it usually seems to be a male/female pair that quickly descends into a romance. (Not that male/female pairs and UST can't be well done -- I am a fan of Lina and Gourry in Hajime Kanzaka's Slayers series and one could even say that Harry Dresden and Karrin Murphy from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are a modern update -- one where the warrior was female and the wizard was male.)
* Okay, a non-platonic lesbian relationship in a book would also be cool.
** Given I once blogged about converting books to anime, it kind of makes me want an anime series about Tarma and Kethry. Because that would be awesome, and unlike some anime I've seen, it would convert well.
*** Need to read some of the original works in the genre. I'll add it to my List. (less)
I really enjoy the Laundry series -- a mix of spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror, where mathematics, philosophy and computer programming can get your...moreI really enjoy the Laundry series -- a mix of spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror, where mathematics, philosophy and computer programming can get your brain eaten.
This book is sort of a parody or deconstruction of the iconic James Bond film/movie. After an EU meeting goes sour, Bob ends up linked to a dangerous American femme fatale and on assignment to the exotic Caribbean investigating an amoral billionaire and a doomsday object.
it probably says something about Bond that I have never seen a Bond movie in my life, but I knew most of the tropes in the book. And the contrast drawn between 'real spies' and 'James Bond' was noted, and why an antagonist might want Bond (because, face it -- he's not subtle).
It was also an entertaining story all around, even without the meta-narrative.
Plus, Bob's girlfriend, Mo, is totally awesome in this book, as are his (former) roommates, Pinky and Brain serving as his gadgeteers on the mission. And a short story involving the Laundry's Human Resources department and MMORPGs and why having Interns for Occult Spies is not a good idea. (less)
I picked this up on a whim, knowing that Lilith Saintcrow was one of those authors that could be hit-or-miss about me. Uusually she's in the group of...moreI picked this up on a whim, knowing that Lilith Saintcrow was one of those authors that could be hit-or-miss about me. Uusually she's in the group of fantastic worldbuilding but the characters tend to make me want to slap them sometimes. I also occasionally have problems wiht her romance.
I have a weakness for sword and sorcery that is compounded by my insistence on interesting and varied female characters. (What can I say? For all it's flaws, I cut my teeth on Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor duology.) Consequently, I'll be a bit more daring about that than the fifty-million Urban Fantasy books I read.
I did like Kaia as a character. Her world sounded interesting, but I had some problems with immersion -- too many countries too quickly. I like that there actually seemed to be non-Europeans in her world, even discounting the G'mai. I like the fact she was competent, though I wished we could have more development of the other female characters (Kaia's innkeeper friend, for instance, or the G'mai woman that joins them in the second half of the book.)
There are some nitty-gritty things as well. The book also suffers from Fantasy Apostrophe Syndrome, mitigated by the fact that at least the apostrophe is signaled to mean something (the glottal stop). On the other hand, I still have problems pronouncing the names. That and the food and drink appears to be a case of 'call a rabbit a smeerp'. To some extent I can tolerate this, but when I start to remember all of this, it's a problem.
And about halfway through, the book switches from calling the female lead 'Kaia the Iron Flower' to 'Kaia Steelflower'. That and other changes make me wonder if Ms. Saintcrow wrote two novellas and stitched them together for this book. It could be that both are used by different sets of people, but I couldn't tell the difference.
With that, I segue into the plot. I enjoyed the first bits of the book, where Kaia and Redfist were being chased by someone unknown for reasons unknown, and the last bits of the book where the business about the God-Emperor from the back of the book comes in. The middle bits not so much, for something I've heard called 'the banality of pain'. Basically, Kaia believes she was abandoned by her people for being without magic* and not undergoing some kind of spiffy soulbond with a guy who was her True Love. When a G'mai dude shows up and starts following her around and telling her she's got magic, she goes into denial. For half the book.
* Okay, anyone older than 15 and/or who has read fantasy books for over a year knows how this plot will turn out. Me, I was hoping for an inversion...
Now, >TMI< I've suffered from a anxiety disorder &lgt;/TMI<, and have listened to friends who are depressed. Yeah, it does kind of sound like that -- the same thoughts keep circling around in your head over and over, no matter how many times you try to balance them. Fighting your way out of such thoughts are HARD. However, this might be a case of 'the terrible boredom of pain' (gratuitous Ursela LeGuin quote here) -- being psychologically hurt, doesn't make one angsty and deep, just hurting. Hard to portray without making me depressed though.
>spoilers< A nice touch was that Kaia's perception was shown as being flawed, rather than the Evil Relatives thing. But, it did make me question G'mai parenting practices if Kaia's extended family couldn't find a way to bring her out of her depression or even figure out what was wrong with her, even if her magic was hindering communications. At the least, they had ten years to bring in an expert to get through to her. >/spoilers<
So, I'd have to say I recommend this for people who can tolerate a bit of Angst in their books. I'll be looking for the next book in the series, but I'll probably wait until it comes in trade paperback, or pick it up used. (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)
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)
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)
**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)