I wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate h...moreI wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate history fiction and wasn't as interested in Laurence and Temeraire's wandering around Australia and the Americas. This was a welcome return (at least half of it was) to the War, and Napoleon's aggression on Russia.
The first half, though, is a digression into Japan which I also enjoyed because I like reading about Japanese culture in the 19th century, and Novik succeeds in making her alternate history reflect some of the isolationism of that time. Unfortunately, she also gives Laurence amnesia (he loses eight years of his memory), which struck me as sort of unnecessary to the plot. It effectively resets his relationship with Temeraire, since they've only been together for five years, so we're treated to the poignancy of Laurence having to build a new relationship with his best friend and discover everything, good and bad, that happened to him during that time. (Okay. I admit to being amused at his momentary belief that he's Emily Roland's father.) But that's really all it does, increase the tension in sort of a gimmicky way. It's a relief when his memory begins to come back.
My other problem is the one I've had since book six, which is that the plot has become a series of short adventures strung together like beads, none of which are long enough to support a full novel and each of which is only tenuously connected to the other. This book has two sections, the first being the escape from Japan and the second being Laurence's mission to bring hundreds of dragons from China to bolster the Russian army. Yes, they're connected, but very loosely, and I find I'm dissatisfied with stories that are less plot than mere connected events.
So why four stars? Because, as usual, Novik's characters are superb and her story, irrespective of my complaints about how it's structured, is exciting. We see old friends and make new ones--I didn't think I'd like General Chu much, but he ended up being one of my favorites. And Iskierka, who drove me crazy when she first appeared and now just makes me laugh, makes the first part of the story really interesting. I look forward to finding out what comes out of her and Temeraire's egg--her matter-of-fact revelation that she's carrying it was wonderful. As usual, the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire carries the story in places where it might otherwise sag. And Novik ends the novel in a way that left me eager for the next volume, something I couldn't say about either of the two previous ones. Complaints aside, I liked it very much.(less)
This third and final volume in the Milkweed Triptych was enjoyable, but ultimately a disappointment. Tregillis continues to deliver on the fast-paced...moreThis third and final volume in the Milkweed Triptych was enjoyable, but ultimately a disappointment. Tregillis continues to deliver on the fast-paced action, and handles the rewriting of the timeline of Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War well. With two Raybould Marshes running around, his decision to make Old Marsh's perspective first person and Young Marsh's third person kept the two narratives clearly separate. Some of the suspense is lost when it becomes clear that this "new" timeline is our actual history, which presumably isn't going to be obliterated by Eidolons, but the internal suspense (such as Liv and the baby heading off to doomed Coventry for safety) keeps the story moving.
It's the ending I object to, in which all the loose ends are tied up and Gretel finally receives her just reward: (view spoiler)[She's not killed, but marooned on a barren island by Marsh and Marsh with her wires cut off, and left with an ongoing supply of food so she'll live a long life in torment, without being able to use her power. (hide spoiler)]. It's said more than once that Gretel is evil, but aside from those assertions I don't see much evidence for her being anything but criminally insane. In particular, the interludes where we get inside her head reveal that she's completely doolally and focused entirely on creating a reality in which Young Marsh falls in love with her. Her attempts to kill Liv and Agnes are evil, but I'm not sure a person with her type of insanity can really be said to be evil. She is definitely not in the same class as von Westarp, who murdered and tortured children to achieve his goals in perfect sanity, and I don't even think she's in the same class as the necrophiliac Reinhardt, who burned a dozen kids out of vengeance. Gretel, like von Westarp's other children, needed to die to prevent the apocalypse; the two Marshes' justice for her is nothing more than personal vengeance, and it makes them less than heroic. What's unfortunate is that it fits with their personalities, so my question is, why should I have any respect for either of them?
I'm no less a fan of Tregillis's work because of this book, but I hope his next novel is less disappointing for not being part of an otherwise very satisfying trilogy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Jasper Fforde's first young adult novel has all the hallmarks of his books for adults while still being aimed at a younger audience; the story is shor...moreJasper Fforde's first young adult novel has all the hallmarks of his books for adults while still being aimed at a younger audience; the story is shorter and more focused, the main characters are teens, and you will find no Jack Schitts here. 15-year-old Jennifer Strange runs a magicians' employment agency called Kazam in a time when magic is at the ebb and people are turning more to technology to solve their problems. Jennifer's problems are more complex; her boss has disappeared, her employees are at each others' throats, and a prophecy that the last dragon will die at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer in just a few days has dumped that problem in her lap as well. Because it turns out she's the Last Dragonslayer.
I never felt Jennifer was really 15 years old. Granted, she's had a great deal of responsibility in her young life, but she talks and acts like...well, like Thursday Next. I think if I cared about the distinction between YA and adult novels, this would have bothered me more. As it is, I point it out because it's one of only a few flaws in the story. The plot is well-paced and the repercussions of Jennifer assuming her new role all make sense. Fforde is good at pointing out human flaws, especially greed, and putting Jennifer at odds with her king makes for good conflict.
One tiny thing that cracked me up was the marzipan. Fforde always has one element in his novels that is totally bizarre and totally taken for granted by the characters. In Thursday Next, it's illegal cheese; here, marzipan is a dangerous drug that might as well be angel dust. Things like "Police broke up a dangerous marzipan smuggling ring" just amuse me all out of proportion. But then, I already don't like marzipan.
I'm looking forward to the next books in the series, though I resent them a tiny wee bit for not being sequels to Shades of Grey. Any new Jasper Fforde novel is a lovely surprise.(less)
I love the Thursday Next series, but wasn't as fond of this one. Probably I'll like it better the next time I read it, but I'm not sure; the ending se...moreI love the Thursday Next series, but wasn't as fond of this one. Probably I'll like it better the next time I read it, but I'm not sure; the ending seemed a little contrived, or at the very least rushed. Although Fforde sets up the denouement throughout the book, the fact that it involves not only new characters but also a hitherto unknown organization makes it feel forced.
Aside from this, the storyline with Thursday's son Friday trying to change his destiny was really good. I especially liked their visits to the Man-Child, who's living in an altered-time zone and therefore sees things differently. Cheese is still outlawed, Landen is still disgustingly* good-tempered and attractive, and stupidity is still a commodity that has to be parceled out, so overall I'd say this book is a good addition to the series.
*and by disgustingly, I of course mean that every female and a bunch of the male readers want to be married to him.(less)
I hate it when I read a book that's beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot. I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn't unt...moreI hate it when I read a book that's beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot. I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn't until after I finished that I started realizing how many problems I had with it. In this alternate history/SF world, people's guilt over their mistakes or crimes manifests as animals that are emotionally or psychically attached to them, sort of like having an albatross hung around your neck, except living and not so corpsey. This was interesting to me, since becoming a Zoo is all about feeling guilt and not about whether you're really culpable of whatever you feel guilty about. Zinzi gained her Sloth because her brother died over something she did, which makes sense (her whole background makes sense, even). But she went to prison for it, convicted either of murder or manslaughter, and that doesn't fit at all with her memories of the event. It bugged me that this was never explained, because it made her prison time (an important part of how she's treated in the book) seem irrational.
Mostly I felt like I wasn't getting the right kind of clues about where the story was going. The book starts with one of Zinzi's clients (she specializes in finding lost things) being gruesomely murdered, and because the crime scene is described in such detail, and Zinzi herself is temporarily suspected of doing it, it seems like finding the murderer, or finding out why the woman was killed, is what the plot will be about. But it isn't. The story immediately veers away into a missing-persons' investigation, and then *that's* derailed by a return to the murder, which is important after all. But the murder thing is just a distraction from the missing-person story, which is still the important one, except that it's really a cover for something else. The whole plot felt like it was there to give the beautiful writing a framework to hang on.
And boy, is this beautiful. Beukes is amazing at describing places and characterizing people. Even when I didn't like her characters, and even when I thought their motivations were unrealistic, I was still impressed by how easy it was to envision everything that was going on. One of the most elegant and horrifying moments is when Zinzi and her supplier/employer/loan shark pull an email scam on a sweet, generous couple. Zinzi's job is normally to write the emails, but if a potential victim insists on meeting the orphan/rape victim/lost tribal princess, she has to play that role in person. It was sickening and infuriating not only for what it was, but because Beukes did an amazing job in showing how easy it was for Zinzi and her boss to take advantage of innocents.
Once again I'm not sure how to rate a book like this. I know I gave it way more credit, and stuck with it to the end, because I'm a sucker for really good writing. But that's the same as saying I didn't like the plot. So I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could, but I'll mark it up rather than down.(less)
This book begins twenty years after the end of Bitter Seeds, which was something of a surprise to me--I'd sort of expected it to pick right up from wh...moreThis book begins twenty years after the end of Bitter Seeds, which was something of a surprise to me--I'd sort of expected it to pick right up from where that one ended. But the time jump makes a lot of other things possible, both in advancing the plot and in creating a different kind of tension. Twenty years down the road, in the alternate future that develops from the psychic experiments of the Reichsbehoerde and the English warlocks' tampering with evil cosmic forces, Russia has become a world power, America never got over the Depression, and Britain's resources have been completely drained from having to fight the Commies unaided. Twenty years down the road, Will and Marsh's situations have changed: Will has dried out, cleaned up, and married an amazing woman; Marsh and Liv's marriage has completely fallen apart; and for both of them, Milkweed is just a bad memory. But since Klaus and his insane, precognitive sister Gretel are still alive, they can't stay free of that memory for long.
A twenty-year gap between novels is normally frustrating to me, but Tregillis did a good job of extrapolating that future from the stuff he set up in the first book. It's painful to see what's happened to everyone, but not unexpected. I found myself in much greater sympathy with Will than before, and I liked him best of all in the first book, so that was a nice surprise. Gretel is every bit as bitchy and evil as before, but now we get to see some of how her precognitive ability works--through her past self "remembering" stuff she experiences in the future. It turns out that knowing this just makes her seem even more bitchy and evil, particularly when she makes friends with Liv, gets her to confide in her...it's the moment where Marsh might be most justified in killing Gretel, and his reason for not doing so is the only one that could stop him throttling her.
I finished the book full of excitement for the next one. Tregillis's use of tension, and his orchestration of events, meant that the unhappiness of his characters and the sheer wrongness of the world allowed Gretel's final solution to be not only logical, but an exciting prelude to the conclusion of the series. I sincerely hope it's not going to take another gazillion years* for it to be published.
*Yes, I realize it's only been two years since Bitter Seeds came out. To me it feels more like five. Which in literary time might as well be a gazillion.(less)
I don't think I appreciated Christopher Golden's contribution to the Hellboy series until I read this--an unrelated, illustrated novel, but one that c...moreI don't think I appreciated Christopher Golden's contribution to the Hellboy series until I read this--an unrelated, illustrated novel, but one that clearly shows how Mignola and Golden make a good creative team. It felt a little too much like a movie for me to fully enjoy it as a book, but it's a good story in a dramatic setting, and I liked it very much.(less)
I went into this knowing that it was a very early example of steampunk fiction, so if the science/steampunkiness was lacking, I wasn't going to mark i...moreI went into this knowing that it was a very early example of steampunk fiction, so if the science/steampunkiness was lacking, I wasn't going to mark it down for that. And it turned out that the science/steampunkiness was very good! Lots of clockwork things and people, and you can tell that Jeter came out of the same primordial puddle as Tim Powers. The plot was also pretty good. It was the characters that killed it for me.
Basically, the hero, George, is a gormless panty-waisted wuss of the first order, complete with spine of jelly and brain of pudding. He spends most of the book stumbling into all sorts of trouble because he can't learn from the past. I can understand him being out of his depth at first, but he continues to be confused and useless whenever something weird happens. I was also frustrated that his adventure was a long series of misunderstandings in which he could never explain the truth. When it happens to Bertie Wooster, it's funny, because Bertie at least tries to act on his own initiative, but George is just as dumb as a bag of hammers. And this is more or less the entirety of the story--George stumbles into a situation in which he is either accused of something he didn't do, or is manipulated by someone else, and hilarity doesn't ensue.
There's a bit of authorial manipulation near the end, when we learn (view spoiler)[that Sir Charles, who's been a major antagonist for most of the book, is actually one of the good guys. In at least two instances, if he'd really been a good guy, he would have behaved very differently than he did, but then we couldn't have had the big reveal at the end. I don't have any respect for this kind of story manipulation. (hide spoiler)]. Between this and George's complete wussiness, I couldn't enjoy the book, though I'm not enough turned off that I won't read any of Jeter's other books if I happen upon them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I really wish I was connecting with this series better. I like the setting a lot, and the alternate history is very well thought out. But even though...moreI really wish I was connecting with this series better. I like the setting a lot, and the alternate history is very well thought out. But even though the characters are well-rounded, I have trouble caring about them, and I feel like I should. It's like I enjoy the concept of these characters--brothel madam, her former lover-slash-air pilot, the Texas Ranger who showed up in the previous book...actually, I think I like him a lot. In general, this seems like a mismatch with the reader rather than a criticism of the book. Four stars for the setting and craft, three for not liking the characters, and I'm rounding up because I admire what Priest is doing here.(less)
I had a hard time deciding how to rate this. Cherie Priest has a beautiful writing style and her alternate-history world interests me. I especially li...moreI had a hard time deciding how to rate this. Cherie Priest has a beautiful writing style and her alternate-history world interests me. I especially like the idea that the Civil War has stretched on for twenty-plus years, with all its implications. Mercy, the protagonist, is a Confederate nurse whose husband died in Andersonville (a Confederate POW camp for Union soldiers), and her perspective of the Union as the wrong side makes for a great story. "Wrong side," not "bad guys," because there are plenty of good guys on both sides of the divide. The story of the rotters, begun in Boneshaker, expands beyond Seattle as a division of Mexican soldiers goes missing in northern Texas, only to reappear as a growing horde of ravenous undead. The scene where the rotters attack the train Mercy is traveling on is deliciously horrible and creepy. Priest's skill with description and world-building is superb, as usual.
On the other hand, this felt very much like a string of events rather than a real plot. Mercy has to travel from Richmond, Virginia, to Seattle in Washington Territory, to answer her estranged father's plea for her presence. That's a lot of ground to cover when you can't fly there directly, and the changing war front means the route is even more circuitous than usual. But the story doesn't really begin until Mercy boards the war-engine Dreadnought, which happens more than a third of the way through; her earlier journey is a series of stops and short journeys by dirigible and train, providing color and background but nothing in terms of plot development. In most other books, this would have been tedious; I like Priest's writing enough that I was willing to stick with it, and the rest of the book made up for any flaws in the beginning.(less)
I'm always in the mood for a good alternate-history novel, and one with steampunk underpinnings is even better. Sixteen years ago, in Washington Terri...moreI'm always in the mood for a good alternate-history novel, and one with steampunk underpinnings is even better. Sixteen years ago, in Washington Territory, possibly-mad scientist Leviticus Blue built a machine to break the Alaskan ice to reach the gold underneath. Instead, the Boneshaker tore Seattle apart and ruptured some underground seam that began leaking poisonous, heavy yellow gas. The gas can kill you, but what's worse is that it doesn't let you stay dead. The survivors built an enormous wall around most of downtown Seattle to keep the undead, and the gas, at bay, but life on the frontier didn't get any easier. It's worse for Briar Wilkes, Blue's widow, and her son Ezekiel (Zeke), born after Blue's death; many believe Blue's disaster was intentional, and Briar was (and is) suspected of complicity. Zeke has never believed it, and sneaks into the walled-off city to prove it, and Briar has to follow to get him back alive.
I love that this is a story about a mother and son and their relationship. Through most of the book, chapters alternate between Briar's and Zeke's point of view, and Priest handles the alternating viewpoints very well. I never felt impatient at being forced to sit through one person's part of the story when I wanted to see what the other was doing. All the secondary characters were interesting, too; I liked it when someone from the beginning of the story showed up later, especially Andan Cly and the Princess. It's also a very exciting story, mostly because the zombies ("rotters") crank up the tension as Briar and Zeke try to find their answers. The rotters are your basic nouveau zombies, super-fast and super-strong, but the story isn't about them, so they don't need to be innovative. The scenes where Briar or Zeke are running away from them are very tense.
The plot is well-defined and well-paced, so it's a good story, but I think what makes it excellent is Priest's worldbuilding. She's changed a number of historical details (the Civil War has lasted for 20 years and is still going on; gold was discovered much earlier, so settlement and development are accelerated) to support the story she wants to tell, but she's given a lot of thought to the rationale for and the consequences of those changes. The Civil War, for example, has lasted so long because the South has railroads and an infrastructure that better supports their military. And the scenes in Seattle are simply creepy; it's like late-Victorian London with its pea-souper fogs, with dozens of Rippers around every corner. The descriptions are evocative enough that I'd have liked it even if the characters and story weren't as good as they are. Excellent beginning to a series.(less)
The Bookman is a steampunk/alternate history chock-full of literary characters--so full that it's surprising the book isn't overwhelmed by them. The p...moreThe Bookman is a steampunk/alternate history chock-full of literary characters--so full that it's surprising the book isn't overwhelmed by them. The premise: sometime in the very early 16th century, lizard-like aliens were discovered on a remote Caribbean island, and proceeded to conquer most of the western world. As the story opens, they've been ruling Great Britain for a couple of centuries, long enough that most people just accept Les Lezards as their masters. All this is background, though, because the story is about a young man called Orphan (because he's, you know, an orphan) and his marine biologist girlfriend Lucy. (She studies the whales who swim in the Thames. This is my favorite reality-change in the whole book.) When Lucy is killed by a terrorist attack, Orphan turns his life into a hunt for the mysterious attacker--the Bookman.
There's a lot to like about this novel, though I think the sheer overabundance of literary references may overwhelm some readers. Tidhar does a good job of integrating all of those characters out of literature, mainly by not having them play the roles they do in their own stories; Irene Adler is chief of police, Moriarty the Prime Minister. Tidhar's writing style is engaging, and in general this book feels like a Jules Verne novel written in contemporary prose.
Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed the background, I never warmed to the central plot. Orphan's quest is centered on his love for Lucy, his grief at her death, and his hope to get her back somehow, but since she dies very early in the book, she isn't much more than a handful of characteristics to the reader. Orphan cares way more about her than I did, so I didn't care about what motivated him, and by extension I didn't care that much about his quest or its outcome. It probably didn't help that Orphan is a character type (idealistic young man with mysterious past) that I don't generally care about either.
Oddly, I think I'd like the sequel, Camera Obscura, better, now that Orphan's quest objectives in The Bookman have been resolved. The big question that's always danced around here is--why on Earth are the English so passive about being ruled by intelligent lizards? Anglo-Saxons accepting the Normans, yeah, but lizards? I'd like to see this question answered.(less)
Like Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold is much shorter than the other Temeraire books. When I first read Tongues of Serpents in 2010, I wondered i...moreLike Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold is much shorter than the other Temeraire books. When I first read Tongues of Serpents in 2010, I wondered if it was the first half of a novel that was too long to publish in one volume, but now it's clear that they're both independent but short novels.
Part of the four-star rating is the very-probably-wrong feeling I have that this book, like the previous one, is too short, but it's really that it feels as if Temeraire and Lawrence have been sidelined...which, of course, they have. The exploration of the alternate-history Incan Empire is still very interesting, particularly the idea that the Incan dragons are essentially owners of the humans. I also like that Iskierka, whose wild nature has been a danger to everyone around her from the beginning, finally goes to such extremes that Granby gives her the metaphorical spanking she really needs. Less pleasant is that (view spoiler)[RILEY IS DEAD! How sad is it that I kept hoping that he'd somehow, I don't know, escaped the explosion and the sinking ship and swam three hundred miles to the mainland...fine, okay, I'm sad and pathetic. But I liked him so much, and he provided an important link between Lawrence and the Navy. (hide spoiler)]
The ending of the novel makes it clear that Lawrence and Temeraire's exile is at an end, and I look forward to their rejoining the war in the next book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a beautifully-written fantasy/mystery/detective story set in an unusual and fascinating world, and if I were rating books based on literary qu...moreThis is a beautifully-written fantasy/mystery/detective story set in an unusual and fascinating world, and if I were rating books based on literary quality instead of personal preference, I'd have given it 4.5 stars.
Tyador Borlu (I can't recreate the accent marks here, but think Hungarian/Slovakian and you'll be close) is a police detective in the city of Besz, somewhere at the eastern edge of Europe. He's called in to investigate the murder of an unknown woman, but the routine investigation becomes complicated when he receives an anonymous tip from someone who should never have called him, whose tip Borlu can't even follow up on without risking his job and possibly his life. This is because Besz is no ordinary city; it's intertwined with another city called Ul Qoma, literally intertwined, with streets and even buildings side-by-side with those of Besz. A citizen of Besz might have to detour half a mile around Ul Qoman territory to reach a cafe only twenty feet away ("grosstopical" feet, in Mieville's words). They learn from an early age to "unsee" things and people in the wrong city, to avoid while pretending to be unaware of what they're avoiding. These rules are enforced by the mysterious people/entities known as Breach, who take away those who are seen to break the rules. Borlu's informant is in Ul Qoma. The missing persons flyers about the murdered woman are in Besz. If Borlu uses this information to solve the case, it could cost him everything.
I'd never read anything by China Mieville (again with the no diacriticals), but I've heard a lot about his books, and The City and the City lived up to the glowing praise. I particularly liked the dialogue--it's natural-sounding, including the sorts of pauses and half-sentences real people use, without being hard to follow. It's also a good mystery, with reverses and dead ends and false leads. The first "solution" was the one I thought was obvious, so I was glad it didn't turn out to be true; I hate it when a mystery is so obvious you spend half the book yelling at the idiot detective who can't figure it out.
Of course, the intertwined cities are what make the story so unique. The truth about how Besz and Ul Qoma are connected doesn't come out right away, but Mieville doesn't drag it out to the point of frustration. Each new fact changed my perception of what was going on; I started thinking Ul Qoma was a ghost-city, then a parallel dimension, and that drew me in because I was actually engaged in thinking out how such a situation could have developed, or be maintained. Mieville makes the idea of two cities separated only by what amounts to mass denial plausible.
But this is also where I stopped being able to believe it. Despite this well-thought-out system, there's no reason given for it to happen. No one knows how or why the city and the city were created; it's a thousand years in the past--but why do they have to stay separate? Why is Breach so insistent on keeping it that way? If there's a reason given in the story, I must have missed it, but I don't think there is. I would even have been satisfied with "We don't know why, but a thousand years of tradition is hard to overcome, so we don't bother." Maybe the subplot of the opposing but minority factions--one calling for the two cities to join, another wanting one city to take over the other--is supposed to represent the impossibility of ending the stalemate. It's clear that there's no political or metaphysical reason to keep them apart, and in the end, the villain exploits the separation of the cities to very nearly escape. So as interesting and intellectually engaging as the book is, ultimately I couldn't love it, but I will definitely be reading more of Mieville's books in the future.(less)
Jones's ninth novel is probably one of her best known, and is the first of several books set in the world of the nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci. Er...moreJones's ninth novel is probably one of her best known, and is the first of several books set in the world of the nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci. Eric (Cat) Chant's sister Gwendolen is a witch, and a promising one, while Cat is just ordinary. Gwendolen's abilities bring her to the attention of Chrestomanci, and the two go to live at Chrestomanci Castle so that Gwendolen can study magic. Cat loves his sister despite her nasty personality and occasional cruelty toward him, but even he has trouble making excuses for her when she sets out to make trouble for everyone in the castle, in a ploy to force Chrestomanci to teach her more advanced and dangerous magic. Of course, it turns out that Cat does have magic of his own, and getting out from under Gwendolen's control is just the beginning of discovering what that is.
This is not my favorite book by Diana Wynne Jones, though I do like it a lot. The main conceit of the Chrestomanci novels is that many worlds exist and that they differ based on crucial historical events that turned out differently in each world--for example, in Chrestomanci's world Guy Fawkes really did blow up Parliament. While this isn't exactly a new idea, DWJ puts an interesting spin on it by having worlds that share a common history be linked in a great circle; our world is adjacent to Chrestomanci's and has developed along the same lines.
In addition to history being mostly the same, every person on all the variant Earths has an analogue in every other world, with Chrestomanci being the exception; his extraordinary power results from all his analogues having died in infancy or never been born. (This is much less creepy in the book than it sounds here.) The fact that Eric's nickname is Cat should be a clue to the secret of his magic, and the fact that Gwendolen gave the name to him is a clue to the kind of person she is.
What makes Charmed Life less of a favorite with me is that I have this feeling, while reading it, of DWJ working all this out with less certainty than she shows with her other experiments. Each succeeding Chrestomanci book (The Magicians of Caprona, Witch Week) is increasingly well-developed, and by the time we get to The Lives of Christopher Chant, which is actually based on travel between analogue worlds, the principles of the Chrestomanci universe are rock-solid. And while the book overall is not my favorite, some of the best moments in DWJ's novels happen here--Gwendolen's increasingly clever and unsettling pranks, for one, and I absolutely love the stained-glass windows in the church becoming animated during the sermon and starting a fight. The kids zooming around on floating tea-trays. Gwendolen's final trick that reveals a lot about how the connected worlds work. I especially recommend this book as a first DWJ novel for middle grade readers (ages 8-12).(less)
I love alternate history stories, I love stories about paranormal abilities, and I love war stories, so I was already sold on this one before the firs...moreI love alternate history stories, I love stories about paranormal abilities, and I love war stories, so I was already sold on this one before the first page. The cover copy draws comparisons between this work and that of Alan Furst (whom I don't know) and Alan Moore (for whom I have great respect), but in my opinion this is totally Tim Powers. I mean, really--blood sacrifice, vast inhuman intelligences that exist in the spaces alongside our reality, uncommon magics, and with the World War II setting it's practically in the same universe as Declare. And I don't mean that in a derogatory, "it's unoriginal" way either. Tregillis has put together his material in a fresh and interesting way, and I like his characters, even the ones I hate. Mad Gretel the seer is infuriating and fascinating all at once; I feel sorry for her brother Klaus, who despite being a Nazi weapon is still one of the good guys. I liked it just as well (maybe a little better) the second time around, and look forward to the sequel.(less)
I pre-ordered the latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold, but didn't realize I would need to re-read this one first. I'm glad I did. It is a lot shor...moreI pre-ordered the latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold, but didn't realize I would need to re-read this one first. I'm glad I did. It is a lot shorter than the earlier Temeraire books, and when I first read it, I thought it might be the first half of a larger novel that was split into two for publication. This time, though, it was more obvious that this was just a nice short book. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the earlier ones simply because Lawrence and Temeraire's Australian exile isn't as interesting to me as their involvement in the Napoleonic wars. I did like the bunyips, though. Bunyips are scary-cool. I also can't be the only person who gets so incredibly frustrated with the stupid convicts, right? Over a hundred years after Richard Morgan's time and the convicts haven't learned anything? The subtext really is an indictment of the futility of England trying to govern a colony even farther away than North America.