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, this one was recced by my friend Zanne and as a result of Fandom Wank (an internet community I belong to) -- someone linked a romance novel kerfuf...moreSo, this one was recced by my friend Zanne and as a result of Fandom Wank (an internet community I belong to) -- someone linked a romance novel kerfuffle where Nora Roberts was being awesome. So I decided to check out one of the books she wrote that was not explicitly a romance.
The In Death series is a police procedural set in a future NYC. The main character, Eve, is a cop who gets the case to investigate the murder of a prostitute who also happens to be the granddaughter of an influential conservative senator. Soon, there were more murders, turning Senator's Granddaughter Gets Killed to Serial Killer Kills Prostitutes. The case was moderately interesting -- I kind of pinged the people involved within the first half of the book, and was mostly reading on to see how they did it. Decent airplane reading, but not something I'd keep around.
What tips the scale is the subplot. Eve falls for someone involved in the case -- which again, gets my hackles up. Listen, authors, if you try to create suspense by having Cop-Protagonist's Love Interest be potentially the Killer, it most likely isn't going to work on me. Because I don't think you are the type to have it turn out to be true, then make Protagonist arrest her love interest AND get into serious trouble for dating/having sex with someone involved in a current case. Maybe if it was an existing love interest, or someone would actually have the protagonist make that mistake and reap the consequences.
Add in that I think Eve's love interest is a rich and pompous jerkwad who makes the average cat win prizes for altruism in comparison. Seriously, I got nothing but negative vibes from him -- even when he moved from 'I want in her pants' to 'I really do love her', I still got the impression that his fundamental nature didn't change. Which bugged me, since Eve was changing for him (I'll take 'Healing Cock' for 100, Alex) -- it made the relationship have a bit of an uncomfortable power balance.
Yeah, I was rooting for him to be the Killer even though I knew that the author wouldn't do that to Eve. I wanted to send him through the effing wall.
Yeah, probably not conductive to continuing the series when I'm rooting for the main love interest to just leave. Unless he does, I mean. (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)