I thought this was excellently done, but it's not for me. Hence the no rating. Recommended for fans of fantasy horror who aren't put off by gore (tastI thought this was excellently done, but it's not for me. Hence the no rating. Recommended for fans of fantasy horror who aren't put off by gore (tastefully done gore?) and who like a complicated story, in the sense that the plot intertwines past and present....more
I've been wavering between a four- and a five-star rating since I read this. I finally decided if I could give Uprooted five stars, this one deservedI've been wavering between a four- and a five-star rating since I read this. I finally decided if I could give Uprooted five stars, this one deserved the same, since I ended up having about the same emotional and intellectual reactions to both.
Jes and her sisters occupy a precarious place in society: they are children of a Patron, member of the upper-class conquerors of Elea, and of his Commoner concubine (though he thinks of her as his wife, they're forbidden to marry). This means their father is always conscious of the need for them to behave even more correctly than others of the Patron class. But Jes only cares about one thing, and that's running the Fives, a game of skill off-limits to her as a Patron. This is where the story begins. Where it ends is the result of political infighting and the intersection between religion and magic, of the real difference between Commoner and Patron.
I had a very hard time warming up to Jes, and honestly I never really liked her. She's obsessed with the Fives to a degree that makes her incredibly selfish and unconcerned with her family's safety. At the start of the book, she's preparing to secretly run the Fives in public (as opposed to just training), which she can do because Fives "adversaries" are masked. But when her father comes home early and intends to take the family to watch those same games from a very public place, Jes disregards her family's reputation and her father's position, the position that's allowed their family to stay together, because she really really wants this and because she'll lose her stake if she drops out. Her decision sets the tragedy that comes next in motion. (view spoiler)[I can't remember if Gargaron knew she was an adversary before or after she ran, but her performance certainly gave him the idea for using her to manipulate Kal into doing what he wanted. Way to go, selfish girl. (hide spoiler)] I also couldn't believe, when the catastrophe came, that instead of immediately trying to make things right (view spoiler)[OR AT LEAST FIND HER PREGNANT MOTHER (hide spoiler)] she lounges about being happy that she finally gets to be a Fives adversary, which is what she always wanted.
Jes is not likable. Jes is understandable. She's ruthless and utterly committed to everything she does. She may be responsible for her family's downfall--I'm not going to commit to that, but I think it's possible--but she always steps up to do dangerous things to help others. And at the end, it's believable that she can take on her greatest enemy, someone with much greater power than she--and win.
Come to think on it, there aren't a lot of really likable or thoroughly admirable characters in this book, except maybe Jes's mother (who is a little too good to be true) and definitely Kalliarkos, who is friendly, handsome, charming--and ultimately weak, which keeps him from being too perfect. He, like Jess, only wants to be a Fives runner, but he hesitates too much. He's got high political rank, but wants nothing to do with it, and as such he comes across as much younger than the ruthless Jes. Their relationship never feels like a permanent one, particularly from Jes's POV, but Kal is...sweet. And I wanted good things for him. Which is why (view spoiler)[the ending, in which he's condemned to joining the military and being forced into a role that will probably end up with him as king, feels right. Kal needs to be harder. This is not a world in which softness is rewarded--note particularly the fate of Jes's mother--and Kal is going to come back a better, stronger person and be far more interesting as a result. (hide spoiler)].
If I have a problem with the characterization, it's Lord Gargaron, who's way, way too evil to be realistic. He's a bad guy, and as ruthless as Jes, and I have to admire his ability to play the long game. (view spoiler)[I didn't get just how long it was until he made the deal with Kal that if he won at Fives, he could do whatever he wanted--but he'd already set Kal up to lose by putting Jes in where she could run against him, long before making that bargain. (hide spoiler)] But whenever he has a chance to torture someone, even when it's not needed, he does it. (view spoiler)[Walling up Jes's family alive in a tomb, with her mother being pregnant? Seriously? Particularly since you get the sense that he wants Jes to know what he's done? If all he needed was to get rid of them, he could have arranged to have them killed. (hide spoiler)] I can buy ruthless. I have trouble with evil for evil's sake. There are a few too many things in this novel that happen because the story needs them to, without being fully supported, and Gargaron is one of them. Without what he does to Jes's mother and sisters, half the plot--the part of the story that's about Elea and its magic--just disappears.
I haven't said anything about the plot or the world yet, but mainly I have nothing to say; the worldbuilding is strong, the plot is interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading more in this series. One thing I did want to mention is how frequently I thought of The Winner's Curse in reading this book, because there's some similarity between the social and political structures. However, where The Winner's Curse is essentially a romance novel dressed up in the trappings of fantasy (which I liked very much) this is a story of politics and revenge that may or may not have a romance in it eventually. (view spoiler)[Kal is too nice to be a good match for Jes; my money is on Ro, their servant Coriander's brother and a strong, independent personality. (hide spoiler)]
And that's the reason for the five stars. That I could come to care about the story despite not liking the main character says a lot about the quality of the writing and the storytelling. Excellent work, and I'm interested to see what comes next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is the third book I've read by Fleming and probably the most amusing. In 1932, Fleming sets off on a whim to join an expedition going to Brazil tThis is the third book I've read by Fleming and probably the most amusing. In 1932, Fleming sets off on a whim to join an expedition going to Brazil to search for a missing explorer. Many other groups have tried to find him (or, more accurately, his remains, as almost everyone agrees he's probably dead), but the group Fleming joins has new information and is confident of their chances.
What follows is a comedy of errors that ends with nothing having been discovered and very little achieved short of a lot of amusing anecdotes I'm sure Fleming dined out on for weeks. Fleming is witty as always, and there are so many funny characters, not the least of which is Fleming's nemesis Major Pingle (not his real name) who is the nominal head of their expedition, but ends up an enemy. The final section, in which Fleming's tiny group tries to outrace Pingle's to the ship that will carry them back to England, is tense and exciting as well as very funny.
Fleming's casual racism--totally a product of his time--is again on display, but once again he turns out to be more of a classist than a racist, respectful of certain native tribes and scathing in his condemnation of many white Brazilians. Queiroz, their permanent guide, comes in for criticism only once, and it has nothing to do with his race. And I felt Fleming's frustration with the men he encountered who simply would not give him a straight answer about when they would depart a particular place. He never comes out and says that he feels British honor and honesty are superior, but he doesn't need to, because it's implied everywhere. It was interesting to note how often those obstructions only worked on Fleming because of his sense of British honor. I wondered what the story would have been like if the explorers had been native Brazilians dealing with native Brazilians.
The best part was definitely the last: Fleming and his friends had broken with Major Pingle, who was a total jerk, interfered with their mail, refused to return their money to them...the list goes on. In the end, they realize if they can beat Pingle to the city where the ship is leaving from, they can bypass some of his interference. But it turns into a race to spite the man as much as to get their stuff back, and it was very exciting to watch them making progress, then being held up, then making progress--it made up for some of the slow pacing of the earlier parts. Fleming tells a good story, and that's enough to make up for the book's flaws....more
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I dislike rating anthologies, and if I hadn't been asked for a starred revDisclosure: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I dislike rating anthologies, and if I hadn't been asked for a starred review, I probably would have left this without a rating. Like most anthologies I read, I liked some stories, I disliked others, and I developed an extreme antipathy toward one story. So I'm splitting the difference and going with three stars.
One thing that was uniformly good was the quality of the writing. All the stories had good, strong prose and most of them had unique narrative voices. Aside from that, I found the collection uneven in terms of plot and resolution. Many of the stories had endings that either just petered out, didn't match what the story had been building to, or were just too neatly wrapped up. I'd be reading along, enjoying the story, and get to the end and...that was it.
I'm not going to review each story individually, because I think I'd come across as too critical. However, one story does deserve special mention--and not in a good way. (view spoiler)[I read this story twice just to be sure I hadn't missed something. I hadn't. "Of Mice and Monsters," the first story in the collection, is about a sociopath--yes, literally, someone who gets off on inflicting violence on those weaker than him--whose dead girlfriend comes back as a spirit to get him to change his ways. This is a man who beat her so severely she miscarried, telling her it was her fault he did it. There's never any mention of why she committed suicide, but presumably he had something to do with it. And the story is about how he learns to change. He never pays for his crime. He never atones. He just somehow, through magical/paranormal intervention, starts changing so now he can treat his new girlfriend well and buy her a puppy. I couldn't believe that's where the story went. Men like that don't change without serious psychological intervention, if that. I saw no evidence that he was worth saving and none at all for his dead girlfriend to care enough to go to all the trouble. If anything, this story tells us that redemption doesn't have to include repentance--just a desire to move forward. His plea is "Is it good enough?" and my answer is, emphatically, No. If you want a better take on this idea, go read Dan Wells' I Am Not A Serial Killer. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I'd say this is a decent but not extraordinary collection. There are enough gems here, particularly "Go Gentle" and "St. Peter's Fish," that I'd recommend it to fans of paranormal stories, but with a caveat about the first story in the collection.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this last night, going over the proof one final time (and finding errors that were easily corrected). It's very different from Servant of the CI read this last night, going over the proof one final time (and finding errors that were easily corrected). It's very different from Servant of the Crown; that's closer to being a romance, where this is more of an action book with a romance subplot. More than that, it's the story of a young woman learning who she is over the course of political infighting, a marriage of convenience, two different (short) wars, and an unexpected diplomatic career.
I'd originally intended the Crown of Tremontane series to be the story of three generations of women, mother, daughter, granddaughter. But when it came time to write the story of Elspeth, Alison's daughter, she turned out to be...boring. Cute, and funny, but basically lacking a story. The real story, it turned out, was centered on Imogen, who was Elspeth's friend in the original version who did all the things and had all the fun. So Rider of the Crown is her story, which does intersect with the North family, eventually.
As to there being only three books in the series, Zara North turned out to be such a powerful force I couldn't help writing more stories from her perspective, which turned into a novella, and now I'm working on her novel. Then there's the story of Willow North, first of the North Queens, and another book set after Zara's novel...I had no idea a series could provide so much material....more
I read this as an ARC, which makes me pretty darn lucky.
Desert Rains is a romance novel, but it's more than that; it's a science fiction/Western as weI read this as an ARC, which makes me pretty darn lucky.
Desert Rains is a romance novel, but it's more than that; it's a science fiction/Western as well, which gives it an interesting setting and a different feel than typical science fiction or even romance. It reminded me at times of one of my favorite books, Promised Land, thanks to how well it blended the futuristic setting with the details of ranch life.
The setup: Charlene runs a ranch with the help of her brother Ted (about whom more later) and needs a technician to help with some of the big farm machinery. Richard is a programmer who needs a job so he can prove himself worthy of his almost-fiancée. When Charlene hires Richard, some misunderstandings put them at odds with each other, but as they overcome those initial problems, they find they have a lot in common--definitely more than Richard has with his wealthy, selfish girlfriend.
I liked Charlene and Richard as a couple. They really do complement each other, and I was happy to see them come together without a lot of the artificial obstacles you get in some novels. I was interested in Charlene's chronic illness, which gave the story depth and added a dimension to Richard's relationship with her. I'm not a reader of romance novels, but I do like romance in the books I read, and the secondary plot in which they try to save the ranch from being taken over was strong enough to satisfy me.
My favorite character, though, was Ted, Charlene's brother. He's funny, and loyal, and provided comic relief--but he's more than just a one-dimensional character. There are moments when we see how serious he can be, and how hurt he was by the woman who dumped him. One of my favorite moments is when he's confronted by her; she wants to deny him his pain, and he's not done grieving. I'm assured the next book in the series is about him, and I'm looking forward to it.
Overall, this is a strong clean romance and I highly enjoyed it....more
This book picks up where the second left off and, as usual for this series, delivers an exciting, terrifying horror adventure. The stakes are higher nThis book picks up where the second left off and, as usual for this series, delivers an exciting, terrifying horror adventure. The stakes are higher now because a serious incursion of Visitors (call them ghosts, spirits, haunts, whatever) is troubling Chelsea, and the best efforts of the big ghost-fighting agencies aren't enough to stop it. Lockwood, Lucy, and George aren't invited to the party--too small, and the powers involved are, again as usual, a little jealous of their success. But when Lockwood & Co. take on a job that's unexpectedly dangerous, it leads to them becoming involved in a nearly fatal way.
As usual, George is my favorite character, and I'm starting to be annoyed at how Lockwood treats him so poorly. His character descriptions still focus on his appearance, but then everyone in this series has been characterized by how they look (short is code for arrogant, fat is code for lazy, etc.) so my annoyance is spread out somewhat. As with The Whispering Skull, George's intellect and dogged pursuit of research is what saves the day and solves the problem, though everyone (plus a team of Fittes operatives who have gradually become allies) has to pitch in to implement the solution. I really don't know what to make of him at times, though. He's brilliant, and I would argue more of a hero than Lockwood, but he's frequently put in humiliating circumstances (dangling helplessly from a broken ladder comes to mind). So I have no idea what Stroud thinks he's doing. I'll just keep on liking George and let the puzzlement sort itself out later.
I've had trouble caring about Lucy because for most of the first two books, she felt sort of like a proxy for the reader, and not in a good way. The discovery of the skull in book two started to develop her abilities, and therefore her character, and this third book makes her even more interesting as she challenges the common understanding of spirits. I like the complexity of her conflict with Lockwood, or rather the conflict between the philosophies they represent: Lockwood speaks for the "establishment" in saying all ghosts are evil, something reinforced by his early experiences, and Lucy tries to convince him that her ability to hear spirits no one else can means some of them don't intend to do evil. It's poignant because even Lucy doesn't realize she's arguing on behalf of herself, trying to find meaning in a talent that according to current understanding of spirits is completely useless while being completely unique. Everyone wants to feel their abilities have meaning, and I see a lot of that in Lucy's experiences throughout the book. There's enough evidence on both sides to make the debate interesting, though mostly Lucy tends to be wrong and puts her teammates in danger. This leads to the ending, which isn't exactly a cliffhanger, but certainly sets up an intriguing next book: (view spoiler)[Lucy, recognizing her own failings and how they've nearly killed everyone at least once, quits Lockwood & Co. (hide spoiler)]
On Lockwood, I don't have much to say; he's still super-cool and a romantic hero with a tragic past, which sort of bores me because it's predictable. There's only so much you can do with a romantic hero with a tragic past and have him continue to fill that role. Whatever potential romance he's got with Lucy is proceeding slowly, and while I wouldn't be upset if it turned out to be a thing, it's not really something I'm looking forward to.
It's the new girl, Holly, that bugged the crap out of me. Never mind the rivalry between her and Lucy; that just seemed like how men think women behave toward each other, as if petty bitchiness is their default state. No, what I disliked is how Stroud beefed that up by making George and Lockwood fawn all over her and think she's wonderful when their behavior to Lucy, when she first joined, was distant and standoffish. There's really no evidence that Lucy's perceptions of Holly are wrong just because she's also jealous of her. And let me just say that if anyone had the nerve to tidy up my personal space, whatever their motives, I'd be seriously pissed off, so I don't blame Lucy one bit about that.
Between Lucy's dislike and the boys' attitudes, I suspected Holly of being a ringer for about half the book. Holly and Lucy's near-fatal argument near the end of the book didn't do anything to make me rethink my opinion of Holly's actions, particularly how high-handed she was in making decisions for the team when she'd only been a member for about five seconds. Maybe that means I like Lucy better than I thought I did.
Despite that, I loved the action and liked seeing the mystery of the Orpheus Society and Sir Rupert Gale continue to unfold around the more immediate threats. This was an excellent addition to the series and I look forward to the next book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wow. I loved this book. It's got everything the first three books had in terms of action and intense storytelling, plus one of the most beautiful relaWow. I loved this book. It's got everything the first three books had in terms of action and intense storytelling, plus one of the most beautiful relationship developments I've read in a long time. Echo Company gets a new sergeant, one a lot tougher than my beloved Sergeant Hanson, and it's not an easy transition because Hanson is still there and marginalized for being black (the new guy, slangily referred to as Top, actually calls him a "colored boy" and it's infuriating. I don't really care that it's realistic, because the story has done such a good job of showing the company coming together and overcoming racial differences). Fortunately, Top ends up being as competent as they could hope for, and even a little sympathetic. Not much. He's a lifer, and they're tough compared to soldiers like Michael who are desperate to complete their year of service without dying or being permanently crippled.
The first half of the book brings home the horrors of war in a way the previous books haven't, which is saying a lot considering the first three books didn't shy from showing how awful and terrifying it is. In this case, Echo Company has to help establish a camp, and they're constantly under attack. The order for them to "stand down," to go to relative safety at Chu Lai, comes as both a relief and a terror--terror because it seems too good to be true, and the whole time they're traveling I was on edge thinking now would be a good time for the whole convoy to be turned to paste by the NVA. But they make it, and after getting over the shock of returning to "civilization," it's time for the second half: the tentative reaching out that Michael and Rebecca engage in.
After the events of 'Tis the Season, there was really no reason for Michael to expect Rebecca to even remember him as more than the guy who nearly shot her. Their first correspondence when he was still in the field cracked me up, with Rebecca writing a stiffly formal letter of thanks and Michael responding with something snarky as is his wont, only to get back a letter with a single exclamation point in the center. But it's better when the two of them finally meet again, because neither of them is sure what they want, and their meeting begins with awkward hesitations and insecurity as both try to find common ground. She's a lieutenant, he's a private, and they're not supposed to fraternize, but it's clear from the beginning that they each need something more than romance from the other. My heart ached for them, both wounded in different ways. That Rebecca isn't ready to tell him what really happened to her in the jungle made a lot of sense, but what she does tell him sets the next book up for more revelations. The whole thing was just beautiful, and painful, and left me wanting more.
As usual, the secondary characters are brilliant, and one of my favorite parts happens at the end of the book, where we see all the guys relaxing in their different ways: Viper is a comatose drunk, silent even as he relaxes; Finnegan gets into three fights; Snoopy is laid-back and ready to eat as much as he can. I'm intrigued by the Major in charge of the nurses, who is tough but understanding when she catches Michael coming back from Rebecca's room in the morning (yes, they sleep together; no, they don't have sex) and I want to see more of her in the next book. Having read the first few pages of The Road Home before embarking on the whole series, I know she plays an important role, and I'm looking forward to it. As I look back over these four books, I can see how the momentum of the plot has been driving toward this fifth book, and I just hope it's as good as I anticipate....more
I don't actually find Tom Holt funny. He has some humorous moments, but for the most part his sense of humor doesn't mesh with mine. So the books of hI don't actually find Tom Holt funny. He has some humorous moments, but for the most part his sense of humor doesn't mesh with mine. So the books of his I enjoy tend to be the ones with strong world-building and an interesting plot, which is the case with the J.W. Wells books. I felt like re-reading this one recently, just for fun, and enjoyed it just as much...I think this is the third time around. Paul is gormless in an entertaining, sympathetic way, and Sophie is fascinating as a counter-romantic heroine. I like the concept of a business catering to those who need magic, particularly how pragmatic they are. Holt comes up with some clever magical inventions, particularly the titular portable door (though you could technically call it an improvement on the portable hole) and the rules governing the use of love potions. Overall, an enjoyable read, something to while away an evening, and I may re-read the next ones soon as well....more
I admit it, this wasn't a five-star rating until about halfway through, when I realized I'd become extremely attached to the characters without noticiI admit it, this wasn't a five-star rating until about halfway through, when I realized I'd become extremely attached to the characters without noticing. Danse de la Folie has a wonderful sensibility of the age and feels very authentic in the speech and manners of the characters, and I loved the romances--all of them, not just the main two. If the ending feels a little abrupt, I didn't mind so much because it felt like the right kind of comeuppance for our villain. Excellent story, and so satisfying....more
This third book in the Echo Company series goes in a different direction, with the main character being Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips, a nurse in VietnaThis third book in the Echo Company series goes in a different direction, with the main character being Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips, a nurse in Vietnam. She's cheerful, friendly, a little goofy, and lovable, and I was interested in her immediately. After some establishing scenes, however, everything goes wrong when she illicitly goes along on a rescue mission when no military corpsman is around. What happens next changes Rebecca forever.
I wouldn't have been so easy-going about not seeing more of the adventures of PFC Michael Jennings and crew if I didn't already know that Rebecca is the main character in the fifth book, The Road Home, and therefore important. And by the end, when the two characters are brought together, it's very interesting to see Echo Company through someone else's eyes. Rebecca is tough as well as kind, as soft-hearted in her way as Michael is in his, and I loved reading about her.
Most of this book is worthy of a spoiler tag, which I will now provide: (view spoiler)[Rebecca's stand-off with a VC "soldier" (since she's uncertain what the boy's relationship to the enemy is, other than that he clearly wants to kill her) is one of the most incredibly tense scenes I've ever read. She's exhausted and in pain, terrified, and at the same time afraid for her enemy as well. Her reaction to finally killing him is perfect and perfectly in character. One of the things I anticipate is seeing her again and learning how she finally copes with having taken a life. The ending, where her captain and her major come together to protect her from the fallout that would certainly come if her gunshot wound was known, was emotionally satisfying, but it's clear Rebecca's soul is going to need as much healing as her body. (hide spoiler)]
Again, this was an exciting read, and I really want to know what happens next--particularly if Michael and Rebecca ever meet again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This follow-up to Welcome to Vietnam is literally a follow-up because it happens immediately after the ending of the first book. Much as I enjoyed it,This follow-up to Welcome to Vietnam is literally a follow-up because it happens immediately after the ending of the first book. Much as I enjoyed it, it didn't feel as if it stood on its own, but was rather the second part of the first book. There's more of what I loved about Welcome to Vietnam, including the fantastic descriptions, the great friendships, and Michael's unique and compelling voice. It's not until the end, during the assault on the titular hill, that the book really comes into its own--that Michael comes into his own. He's terrified, he thinks the whole thing is stupid because they're being ground to powder by the enemy, yet he takes over when there's no one else to give orders and comes up with the tactics that win them the battle. His relationship (if you can call animosity that) with Lieutenant Kendrick is probably one of my favorites in the book, as the two of them have to work out a grudging acceptance of the other's strengths. I can't wait to read the next....more
This is really excellent young adult historical fiction about the Vietnam War, told through the eyes of PFC Michael "Meat" Jennings, who is drafted anThis is really excellent young adult historical fiction about the Vietnam War, told through the eyes of PFC Michael "Meat" Jennings, who is drafted and sent to Vietnam even though he hates the Army ("Fuck the Army," FTA, is a frequent refrain with him). The story is very simple: Michael is assigned to a company and gets to know his squad mates and even to make friends, though he's warned by Viper, one of the experienced soldiers, not to get too close to anyone because death can happen at any time. There are moments of pure terror and moments of hilarity, and Emerson is fantastic at evoking the Vietnamese setting, how hot and wet and miserable it is. There's a constant sense of immediacy that's just great.
I loved Michael, even though he's remarkably unlovable. He's (reasonably) afraid all the time and covers it with bravado, he's hurt because his girlfriend dumped him cruelly, he misses his family and he's convinced he's a coward. And then, when the worst happens, he's the one who steps up and deals with it. He doesn't seem to realize that he's a natural leader, and I think it would take more than one year-long tour of duty to really turn him into that, but the quality is there.
I also loved the other characters, who have their own issues, particularly Sergeant Hanson, and if he dies I will cry big tears of misery because he's so great. Snoopy, Michael's closest friend, would be the Designated Sidekick if his comical actions didn't cover a warm and compassionate heart. The greatest tension in this book comes from knowing that any of them could be killed at any moment, and Viper might as well have been speaking to the reader when he warns Michael about having too good a friend.
I'm honestly surprised that Scholastic picked this series up. It is as profane and violent as you'd expect a story about soldiers to be, with one particularly gruesome scene and a lot of swearing. I predict this will be another of the books I have trouble explaining why it's YA to parents, but it totally is--it's all about becoming a man, about facing the greatest challenge I think anyone can be forced to face and learning who you are as a result. Excellent story, and I can't wait to read the rest....more
It's always difficult to rate a book by an author who was dying when he wrote it. There's the instinct to cut him some slack when it's not quite to thIt's always difficult to rate a book by an author who was dying when he wrote it. There's the instinct to cut him some slack when it's not quite to the quality of earlier books in the series, balanced against the desire to rate it coldly, to give it the same analysis (if that's what you're going for) as the rest. It's worse when it's a favorite author writing in a beloved series, worse still when you enjoyed it even as you were conscious of the flaws that would not exist had the author been fully well. And in the end, I opted to go with the generous rating: The Shepherd's Crown gave an ending to Tiffany Aching's story in the way that another flawed Discworld book, Raising Steam, gave an ending to half a dozen smaller plots in the Discworld, and I appreciated it for that even as it hurt to read the book.
This is not a complete book. If you've read the rest of the Discworld novels as I have (i.e. obsessively and often) you get to know the rhythm of the stories, how multiple plots get drawn together to reinforce each other (I'm particularly thinking of Carpe Jugulum because it's the other one I've most recently read and because it too features the Nac Mac Feegles, but it's the case for more than half the books in the series), and the absence of that is painful here because it's obvious where those plots should have been--where they would have been in earlier times.
The Shepherd's Crown is far more straightforward than any of the other Discworld books, and honestly, if I didn't have that body of work to compare it to, I'd have been totally satisfied, because what it does have is humor and wit and strong characterization, an interesting plot and the development of ideas generated in the earlier Tiffany Aching books. I absolutely loved the man-sheds and the idea, put forth much earlier in the personae of Cohen the Barbarian and the Silver Horde, that old people have a wealth of knowledge and skill by virtue of having lived and experienced. The appearance of Geoffrey, would-be witch, parallels the long-ago story of Eskarina Smith, would-be wizard, and implies a new chapter in the lives of the witches that I'm sad we'll never see fulfilled. And the ending, while abrupt and a little heavy-handed, promises a new age for the Discworld that's been coming for a long time. There's a lot to be satisfied with here.
So it's in respect of what this book achieves that I won't go into more detail about what I think it fails at, except for one very spoilery bit: (view spoiler)[The death of Granny Weatherwax has always been coming as the end of this series, and with this being the last book I fully expected her to die. What I didn't expect was for her death to happen just in the service of Tiffany coming to power and taking her place. Again, that was something that had to happen--Granny leaves too much of a void otherwise--but her life simply slipped away, and it should have mattered more. Instead, what happens is we're told how all these people react to it, even though they don't know it's happened, but I didn't feel it. Tiffany is one of my favorite characters, but she's not Granny Weatherwax yet, and I felt she was shoehorned into that position because Pratchett was in a hurry. And I don't blame him for that, but it was still disappointing as hell. (hide spoiler)]
The great thing about books--well, one of them--is how they persist past the life of the writer. Forty-one Discworld books, most of them truly amazing: that's quite a legacy. And while I probably won't re-read this one often, I still treasure what it represents--the completion of something wonderful.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more