Sword and sorcery and lesbians? Engaging starving orphan eyes--please, sir, I want some more!
No, really. I want more. W...moreSword and sorcery? Yes, please!
Sword and sorcery and lesbians? Engaging starving orphan eyes--please, sir, I want some more!
No, really. I want more. Where the hell is the sequel? I need to know if Carys and Arabella ever get it oooon. I mean, um, declare their deep and abiding love for one another. Yep, totally meant that. Heh.
Okay, let me get serious. Not that I'm not serious about the girl-lovin', of course, because...well. Have you met me?
Anyway, here's the deal: I can't pretend this book is perfect. If I'm honest--and I always am, whether you like it or not--it could use some work. You can definitely tell it's self-published, because it suffers throughout from a lot of simple typographical errors, missing words, confused syntax, that sort of thing, as well as a handful of formatting flubs that I feel confident would have been caught and corrected by any half-competent editor. And I say that in no way intending to belittle or disrespect the people mentioned in the acknowledgements section whom the author had proofread for him; I'm sure they did the job to the best of their ability, but the fact is that there is a difference, clearly, between what can be accomplished by an amateur compared to what can be accomplished by a professional.
As further evidence of this point, my biggest complaint about this book is not the basic typos, or the rest of the aforementioned, but rather that large portions of the narrative read like a summary. I will be the first to admit that Show, Don't Tell is NOT an ironclad rule of writing, as some would have us believe; it's more of a guideline, which some writers would do well to follow less strenuously. But I feel that having the guidance of professionals at a reputable publishing house would have helped Eaton to strike a happy medium, because what we have here is what should have been a 400+ page epic crammed into a mere 224 pages, the result of which is a book that feels more like an outline rather than a finished work.
And that pisses me off, quite frankly, because you know what? This book has a hell of a lot of potential. I didn't really get into it until about page 70 or so, but after that I started being pretty impressed with Robert Eaton as a writer. Despite the brevity of this book, he managed to lay the foundation for a really intriguing magical saga, with at least three concurrent storylines, and evoked some pretty badass imagery while he was at it. It would almost sneak up on me sometimes. I'd be like: reading, reading, reading--oh, hey, that's pretty cool!
And while we're on the subject of things sneaking up on me, can I just take a minute to discuss the subtle mindfuckery that goes on in this book? I don't want to give too much away and spoil the story, but let's just say that the person you think you're supposed to be rooting for ends up being, well, not. And someone you assume is only a bit player and basically disregard for at least a third of the story, if not closer to half, actually ends up being of central importance to the plot. The effect is that, by the end of the book, you're left going, "Hey, wait just a goddamn minute!" You totally don't see it coming. Or at least I didn't. I read a lot, and I'm used to seeing the same old tired tropes trotted out over and over and over again, so I thought I knew what was going to happen. I was wrong. And that, I think, is pretty fucking cool.
In the acknowledgements, Eaton states that he wrote this book as a hobby. Well, if this is what he turns out for a hobby, I would love to see what he could produce if he approached a book as a serious, concerted project. And what I would really enjoy seeing is if, at some point, he had the time and inclination to expand this book into the epic it deserves to be, with deeper explanations of the lore involved, the magic and how it works, and those bare bones sections fleshed out to tell a more comprehensive and elaborate story. But I realize, of course, that what I want to happen and what is actually going to happen have never exactly been similar, so I will content myself with a sequel. Please write a sequel? Pretty please?
Hero, as I said, is not perfect. But it is entertaining. For me, it was like reading a Baldur's Gate game. Which is awesome, of course, because I fucking love those games. (And I just found out via the magic of Wikipedia that there are actually Baldur's Gate/Forgotten Realms books as well, and now I'm peeing myself with glee, oh my god. But I won't say that reading this book is like reading those books, because clearly I have never read them and am therefore unqualified to make that assertion.) So if you're a fantasy fan, and especially if you're a fantasy fan who also likes the Baldur's Gate games--or probably any D&D-based game, really--then it might be relevant to your interests to give The Hero Always Wins a quick read. The open ending--which is not to say cliffhanger, per se--may prove a bit frustrating, but with any luck, we can look forward to seeing more (SEQUELSEQUELSEQUEL) from Eaton in the future.(less)
If you're looking for an in-depth read to give you more insight into the world of Harry Potter, this really isn't it. This is more along the lines of...moreIf you're looking for an in-depth read to give you more insight into the world of Harry Potter, this really isn't it. This is more along the lines of Fantastic Beasts and Quidditch Through the Ages. It's a fun, light read, and the proceeds go to a good cause, so it's definitely worth a look for Potter fans.
The commentary by Dumbledore is what really made the book for me. I was particularly amused by his comments regarding Lucius Malfoy, and by the story about his maiden aunt calling off her wedding because she discovered her fiance fondling some Horklumps. Horklumps being little pink, mushroom-shaped creatures, I have to wonder whether this was a rather euphemistic explanation inserted for the amusement of adult readers. Oh, JKR, I do love you so.(less)
I agree with the reviewer who said this was the worst ending ever. Not only does it have the worst ending, but the book itself is the worst ending to...moreI agree with the reviewer who said this was the worst ending ever. Not only does it have the worst ending, but the book itself is the worst ending to any series that I have ever read. Period.
Seriously, Mr. Lewis, what the hell is this though? Aside from the phenomenally craptacular ending--where we're supposed to believe that the very best thing that could possibly happen is for everybody to die--this book was just a whole lot of suck. It seemed to have no point whatsoever, except that Lewis decided he was done writing Narnia stories, and instead of leaving it open for fans to imagine what adventures might've come after, he figured he could cram some more Christian allegory in there and thoroughly traumatize his young audience by killing off every single character they'd come to love. Except Susan, because we shun the nonbeliever, shuuuunnnn.
Whatever. It was completely unnecessary, and the "but it's okay because they went to heaven" ending made me roll my eyes so hard they were in danger of falling out, but it didn't piss me off half so much as the convoluted End Times theme. What the fuck? There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever, at least that I could pinpoint. Basically some jerkass old ape (I see what you did there, Mr. Lewis) dresses up this gullible ass in a lion skin and starts ordering the Narnians around as the mouthpiece of Aslan, so instead of punishing Shift for his wickedness, Aslan DESTROYS THE WORLD. Because that's not overreacting or anything. Apparently Lewis ascribed to the angry, vengeful God of the old testament. I mean, wow. Was it because the Narnians were so easily deceived by the false Aslan and their love for him turned to fear and revulsion? Because it seems to me to be largely a result of Aslan's long absence, combined with the apparent inherent stupidity of Narnians, that made them susceptible to the lies of Shift and the Calormenes, which Aslan in his omniscience would've known would happen if he stayed away. So, in other words, he punished THE ENTIRE WORLD for something that he could've prevented and chose not to. Nice. But maybe I just don't get it, wicked atheist that I am.
Anyway. Unless you're a hardcore fan of the Narnia series, or OCD like me, I recommend skipping this one. It's not worth your time.(less)
Finally, a proper novel! Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Sixth time's the charm, eh?
The Silver Chair is my favorite out of all the Narnia books. Not only does i...moreFinally, a proper novel! Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Sixth time's the charm, eh?
The Silver Chair is my favorite out of all the Narnia books. Not only does it have all the usual elements of this wonderful, rich fantasy world Lewis created, but the characters are better, at least in my opinion, the story feels less contrived, and it has the added benefit of being a proper novel. That is to say, it has: a) an actual plot; b) an identifiable climactic point; and c) a clear, concise denouement. For once, I wasn't left scratching my head at the end and going, "What the hell was the point of that?"
In this book, we're reunited with Eustace, the Pevensies' cousin, who has turned into an all right guy since we first met him in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Pity how he's kind of bland now that he's not an insufferable git anymore. Fortunately, it wasn't Eustace, but his schoolmate Jill who really made the book for me. Jill is a modern sort of girl; she has new age hippie parents who send her to a new age hippie school, and though Mr. Lewis obviously didn't seem to think much of it, I rather think it did her some good. Unlike the Pevensie girls, who had a tendency to be ninnies and were very much girls of their time, Jill is a pretty level-headed kid, and neither expects nor receives any particularly special treatment on account of being a girl. She's a real, honest-to-god herione, who takes a--if not the--central role in the proceedings, rather than just sort of standing around observing while the boys do all the important stuff. Girl protagonists, for the win! I love it.
Also, I feel it's worth mentioning that Jill using the sort of behaviors, if a bit exaggerated, that annoyed me about Lucy and Susan to trick the giants of Harfang, and with no small amount of disgust, amused me greatly. Maybe Lewis finally got the memo that post-war girls were a different breed.
But even though I rather adored Jill, I think my favorite character--not just from this book, but out of the whole series--has to be Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle. God, what a character! In my opinion, he has the most personality of any of Lewis's other characters. I love his upbeat sort of persistent doom and gloom, though that would seem to be an oxymoron, and his bravery and resolve despite his bleak, pessimistic outlook on life. I also loved that he was the only one who kept his head and saved the day through a heroic and selfless act when the witch was trying to enchant them. And I really hope we get to see him again in The Last Battle.
The other thing I really enjoyed about The Silver Chair is that it's a Quest story. I mean, who doesn't like a good Quest story? If there's a story where so-and-so goes on a long, harrowing journey to complete a difficult and dangerous task, I am all about it. The only thing I didn't particularly like was that the journey itself didn't last long enough for my tastes, and the final conflict and resolution were a little too easy, but since it's a children's book, I'm willing to handwave those points.
Definitely worth a read if you're into fantasy. And overall, if you were going to read just one of the Narnia books, I would recommend this one.(less)
Hey, did you get enough Christian allegory in the first four books? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Well, here, have some more anyway.
Basically, as...moreHey, did you get enough Christian allegory in the first four books? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Well, here, have some more anyway.
Basically, as far as I can tell, Dawn Treader is Lewis's vehicle for introducing this kid Eustace, who's kind of a dick. Until he finds Aslan. (And yes, I totally mean that in the "finding Jesus" sense, because duh.) As with most stories of this kind, Eustace starts out unlikable to the point of absurdity and pretty much hates everyone around him, and doesn't find the Way and the Light until he runs into trouble and needs some help. Naturally. Because why bother with religion unless it can do something for you, right? Nice message you guys are sending there. But anyway, after that Eustace realizes what a jerk he's been and magically stops sucking as a person, the moral of the story being that Jesus Makes Everything Better! Or something. I guess. Whatever.
Aside from that, I'm not entirely sure what the hell this book was supposed to be about. Eustace, Lucy and Edmund, and Caspian all embark on this long, drawn-out adventure to find the seven lost Lords, but what exactly is the freaking point? Seriously. I kept expecting them to find out something important, maybe something that the Lords learned during their exile, or for something really interesting to happen once they'd found all seven. But no. The Lords are all basically useless and do little more than serve as waypoints as the Dawn Treader sails farther east toward Aslan's country, WHERE NOTHING CONTINUES TO HAPPEN.
So here's the deal. Lewis was a pretty good storyteller, but not a very good writer, and what he did here was write a story with no clearly delineated plot, no climax, and no proper denouement just to tell one important thing (I'm assuming what Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund in the end is what was supposed to be the point of all this), which he could have done with less story and more plot. So unless you're a hardcore fan of the Narnia series, or you're OCD like me and absolutely have to read every book, then I say skip it.
P.S. If Eustace getting baptized by Aslan after he repented for his prickish ways wasn't anvilicious enough, Aslan showing up as a lamb in the final scene really drives it home. Thank you, Mr. Lewis, we totally would've missed your amazingly subtle point if you hadn't bludgeoned us half to death with it.(less)
For a book entitled Prince Caspian, I would've liked for more of the story to actually have been about Caspian, rather than the Pevensies. I feel like...moreFor a book entitled Prince Caspian, I would've liked for more of the story to actually have been about Caspian, rather than the Pevensies. I feel like Lewis could've contrived a better way of bringing the children into the story that didn't involve taking up about a third of the book with their journey from the ruins to Aslan's How. It felt largely unnecessary to me, except as a vehicle for Important Religious Message #2, and I would've much preferred if Lewis had devoted more of the narrative instead to elaborating on the fight between Caspian and Miraz, which was pretty much the entire point of the book in the first place.
Also, I still really hate third person omniscient. Who ever thought this was a good idea? Seriously.
But since this is, after all, a children's book, I can't judge it too harshly. I doubt its target audience is going to be concerned with its literary shortcomings; all kids are going to care about is whether it's fun to read. And it is. Prince Caspian is another fast, fun little adventure in the Narnia series, with a lot of interesting new characters to meet, some suspense, some intrigue, a couple of fight scenes that would probably be exciting to the younger reader, and a few really good messages for kids, even if they are buried beneath a lot of anvilicious religious parallels.(less)
I liked this book better than its predecessor, largely because it felt like more of a proper story than, "A girl goes through a wardrobe to a magical...moreI liked this book better than its predecessor, largely because it felt like more of a proper story than, "A girl goes through a wardrobe to a magical land, and here, have some Christian allegory. And how about a bit more Christian allegory, with a side of Christian allegory, topped with Christian allegory?" Aslan is still Jesus, obviously, but he only shows up toward the end of the book, so you don't get overwhelmed by the religious message.
The rest of the book is a fun, fast-paced little adventure with interesting characters to meet and places to see. It sometimes requires a suspension of disbelief, and also suffers throughout from POV issues (I usually loathe third person omniscient, which reads like exactly what it is: a spastic writer with the neurotic compulsion to tell the story from every single character's perspective), but since this is a children's book, rather than something really intended for the more discerning adult, I'm willing to overlook that. Mostly.(less)
This book completely surprised me. Leaper leapt out of nowhere (actually, it leapt out of my mailbox, right after it l...moreWow.
And I really mean that. Wow.
This book completely surprised me. Leaper leapt out of nowhere (actually, it leapt out of my mailbox, right after it leapt into my mailbox by means of the mailman who I'm fairly sure secretly hates me because he never comes at the same time, ever, but always remembers to knock the little POW-MIA mailbox-flag thingy off and leave it lying just far enough from the door that I have to step out in the half-foot of snow or slush to get it, but whatever), unceremoniously swatted me in the throat with a rolled-up copy of Coffee Grinder's Monthly, kept me up until the wee hours devouring the entire book in one sitting, and left me wondering, "...How the hell did that happen?"
You see, I had absolutely no expectation of liking this book. In fact, I was almost entirely sure that I would dislike it. This may seem silly, or illogical, or possibly both, considering that I did, in fact, enter the giveaway for Leaper of my own free will. But I, like our exceedingly unfortunate anti(super)hero, am largely oblivious to the world around me until it's far too late to do anything about anything except flail around helplessly and try to make sense of the trainwreck into which my life has devolved. What I'm trying to say is that I never read the fine print. Not that there was actually fine print, mind, but here's the thing: I didn't realize that this is Christian fiction until after I had already won the giveaway.
So what, you might ask, is the big deal? A little Christian fiction never hurt anyone, right? Wrong. Once upon a time, my mother was married to a man whose idea of being well-read was gobbling up the Left Behind novels with all the ravenous fervor usually reserved for Harry Potter. Not that he ever read Harry Potter, mind you; this 50-something satellite technician (and I don't mean, like, DTV satellites; I mean those huge-ass satellite arrays at Wallops Island, VA) couldn't even get through Sorcerer's Stone, a meager 300 or so page novel written for 8- to 13-year-olds. It was "too wordy." I know, right? So, because I am an unequivocal bibliophile and willing to give anything try, for at least the first ten pages, and because I was so bemusedly curious as to what could possibly have incited this man to actually pick up a book, I decided to read Left Behind for myself.
I still have the migraine.
And I am not even kidding. That crap is horrendous. But this is not a review of Left Behind. Let's just say that, after molesting my brain in the worst way with truly godawful writing and its anvilicious religious message, that book has forever colored my opinion of Christian fiction. I have avoided said genre like plague ever since. Even before I came to terms with being a godless heathen.
Yes, I'm an atheist. You see my dilemma. I get preached at and proselytized to enough as it is, without subjecting myself to such in book form.
But my dilemma is twofold. I am also, as I said, a bibliophile. And there I am, holding in my jittery over-caffeinated hands this nice, shiny, new book emblazoned with the title that snagged my attention and made me enter the giveaway in the first place. I couldn't just not read it. A new book! Besides, these people were nice enough to send me this shiny new book. For free. Alas, they have discovered my weakness!
And did I mention it was shiny?
So I read Leaper. And I'm glad I did.
This book was everything I never expected.
Firstly, far from being the annoyingly upright, godlier-than-thou jerk I imagined, the protagonist turned out to be an ordinary guy, as flawed as anybody else, just trying to be a good person. (Whatever good is anyway. I like that this book explores the concept of goodness, of what it means to do good, and the complexities and complications of muddling out just what good really is, without bludgeoning the reader with any prescribed doctrine regarding what makes people, choices, etc. either good or bad.) He is a likeable, endearingly spastic, mostly clueless Arthur Dent-ish type character, whom I immediately identified and sympathized with. As I said, we have a lot in common. Especially coffee.
Secondly, the writing is strangely brilliant; it's quirky in a fun and delightful way, and lends realism to the idea that this is the first-person account of an average, hypercaffeinated guy who suddenly finds himself in possession of a superpower. I adored all the digressions and the somewhat off-topic asides. Maybe some people would be put-off by them, but I thought they added a certain flair to the story. And speaking of the story itself, in terms of premise and plot progression: I absolutely loved it. Leaper is a fun, fast-paced chronicle of the protagonist's many and exceedingly outrageous misadventures. Wood has channeled that wonderful sort of inspired lunacy usually reserved for satirical novels, and used it to great effect to pull the reader into this believably unbelievable and hilarious tale. I couldn't help but literally laugh out loud every few pages.
Thirdly, and what I enjoyed most about Leaper, is that Wood is not at all heavy-handed in his delivery of The Message. There definitely is a message here, but it seems largely open to interpretation. Like any good author, Wood doesn't try to tell you what you should take away from this book, doesn't force the point down your throat with a Jesus chaser; he lays out his story skillfully and lets you take from it what you will. I admire that. And I admire the fact that the religious elements of the story are not overwhelming; never once did I feel like I was being preached at or scolded for my lowly, sinning ways. Unlike other books I've come across, where the underlying tone is, "See what you're doing wrong? See how terrible and sinful you are?", the underlying tone of Leaper instead seems to be, "It's okay, nobody's perfect. Keep trying." And I like that. It's comforting, encouraging, and makes the book more accessible.
Overall, Leaper is a fantastically entertaining book, full of wit, humor, and a healthy dose of insanity. But more than that, it's a book that will make you think, and keep you thinking long after you've put it down. Definitely a good read. I highly recommend it.(less)
Good things come in small packages, so the saying goes. Or is that: big things come in small packages? Whatever. The point is that Quidditch Through t...moreGood things come in small packages, so the saying goes. Or is that: big things come in small packages? Whatever. The point is that Quidditch Through the Ages, itty bitty though it may be, is a wonderful addition to the Potter 'Verse. As someone who fell instantly in love with Rowling's (unfortunately fictional) sport, I really enjoyed reading more about the history and evolution of Quidditch, as well as the various teams and the amusing anecdotes regarding the same. My favorite was the story of the Wigtown Wanderers; any team who intimidates the competition by way of meat cleaver has my support. Your mileage may vary, of course, but the best thing about this book, I think, is that every Potter fan will find something to enjoy.(less)