For those of you who are Les Mis fans, this is by the same person who wrote Paris Burning/created the Cityverse. (and if you're not familiar with thosFor those of you who are Les Mis fans, this is by the same person who wrote Paris Burning/created the Cityverse. (and if you're not familiar with those things, you should go check 'em out!)...more
Currently available free for Kindle, at least in the U.S.! (And remember, there's Kindle desktop apps too - what I'm saying is grab this book.)
This waCurrently available free for Kindle, at least in the U.S.! (And remember, there's Kindle desktop apps too - what I'm saying is grab this book.)
This was a delight. I started it because I needed a counterpoint to Kushiel's Dart, and it wound up being a perfect contrast and more. Are there things that don't make sense? Yes! Are there plot elements that are totally absurd? (view spoiler)[Chess mob? CHESS MOB???? (hide spoiler)] Yes! Do I care? No! Because this was just a complete joy to read and honestly, the bits that were ridiculous just contributed to that. Give me all your corny optimistic contrivances for romance. I will devour them.
Duke who gets pissed at the peerage falls in love with woman who is smarter than him, because she's smarter than him, and spends entire book trying to build up her self-esteem and help her feel safe = holy shit, why isn't the entire genre about this kind of relationship. No, really - in the two Courtney Milan works I've read (this and The Governess Affair) I've been struck by how considerate, caring, and thoughtful her heroes are. They're sexual without being domineering, passionate without being overbearing, and genuinely seem like good people. I know there's a lot of appeal to the tortured alpha male anti-hero but honestly, that's just been done to death. This was 3000% more charming. It was like stuffing my face with an entire batch of cupcakes and not getting sick. It was wonderful.
Also, props to Milan for killer handling of both Minnie's agoro/enlochphobia and Robert's abusive and neglectful parents. While the background was at times absurd, the way their past traumas were handled in the course of their relationship was really beautiful and lent a lot to the strength of the book as a whole. I left the novel really and truly believing that this pair would stick together through thick and thin, something that not all romance plots can pull off.
Obligatory mention: BAD WEDDING NIGHT SEX! and then discussion about how to do it better, and experimenting in weird positions and laughing about it when they don't work! That was great. Gold star for realism, humor, and heart.
I started out rating this four stars but now that I've gotten my thoughts out, hell, let's bump it up a bit. I'm probably going to reread this, and try to get to the rest of the series in hopes of similar fun. It deserves that fifth point.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Reading other reviews for this book, I find myself feeling like I should have rated it higher - but at the end of the day, while I enjoyed it and founReading other reviews for this book, I find myself feeling like I should have rated it higher - but at the end of the day, while I enjoyed it and found it immersive, it never really grabbed me emotionally.
The good and compelling: Wilson's sense of setting and the way she draws social relationships is lovely. She doesn't shy away from anything - either the development of positive relationships or the existence of exploitation. To her credit, she portrays both positive and negative lesbian relationships. This is a good demonstration of why more representation is already better, because with so many women and so many relationships between them, no single example reads as a sweeping caricature.
The weak: It seems that the endgame relationship for this series isn't the one established in this book, and honestly the emotional resonance of this book's romantic (?) relationship was weak at best. In a book where people emphasized the significance of addressing emotions plainly, a lot went un-discussed between this couple. Additionally, the plot meandered, which wasn't a problem for much of the book until it became clear that there would be no concrete arc resolved at the end. The ending of this book felt less like an ending and more like a narrative amputation. For some people this may drive them to read the next book; it just left me feeling unsatisfied and disinclined to continue.
I do appreciate the fact that there's a well-written F/F historical fiction (fantasy? or were those all just hallucinogenic trips?) for free on Amazon, though. Two thumbs up for that; it just didn't strike me, personally....more
The third text for my Anthropology course this semester, this is definitely the most abstract and difficult of the books we've approached so far. CausThe third text for my Anthropology course this semester, this is definitely the most abstract and difficult of the books we've approached so far. Causey both provides an academic-styled discussion of tourist and 'tourate' interactions and some more writerly-styled portraits of Lake Toba and its inhabitants, which can make the reading a bit difficult - you have to switch modes to follow him, and the academia style can be quite dense.
That said, while the reading experience wasn't the greatest, I did get a lot out of this book in terms of food for thought. As someone who has been, to varying degrees, both tourist and tourate in my life, it was interesting to read this analysis of those interactions in a place that's very distant from my experience and see so many common themes. It's given me a lot to think about, especially in terms of how I behave when visiting other places and the significance of being aware that one person's destination is another person's home. A lot of the tourist behavior is stuff I'd like to think that I would never do, but some of it was exactly the kind of things I have done in the past, or would do out of misplaced good intention. This was a good reminder that what initially seems like the 'best' way to handle a new culture may not be, and that it is easy to become blinded by the expectations of one's homeland and unable to see those of someone else's....more
TW for this review: long discussion of rape and consent.
Edit: No, one more thing. WHERE ARE THE CONTRACEPTIVES. WHERE.
Edit x2: Is it bothering anyoneTW for this review: long discussion of rape and consent.
Edit: No, one more thing. WHERE ARE THE CONTRACEPTIVES. WHERE.
Edit x2: Is it bothering anyone else that Phedre's name is apparently pronounced close to 'FAY-dra', but the accent on the first e is an accent grave? as opposed to an accent aigu, which would actually produce that hard 'a' sound in French? Because it's bothering me. If you're gonna do expy!France, don't fuck up the language. What's written there is closer to 'Fedruh'. Edit x3: I stand corrected.
I first encountered this book when I was much younger and just getting into Orson Scott Card's work - they're shelved next to each other in most bookstores and libraries, and after a while I got curious about the huge books with the rather prominently placed half-naked women on them. Reading the dust jackets, I concluded a few things: 1. that these were Sex Books; 2. that the main character would get raped, probably repeatedly; and 3. that they were not for me.
I was, as it turns out, correct on all counts.
A friend of mine convinced me to give them a shot this year, insisting that the political intrigue was fascinating and the sex wasn't that bad, really. I don't like gainsaying my friends, especially in an area where they objectively have more knowledge than I do, so I agreed, tracked down an ebook, and slogged through it. I came out the other side with... well, I guess I can argue back if anyone tries to convince me to read them again.
There were two major disappointments for me in this book: court intrigue and consent. Consent is, obviously, the more important one, so let's talk about that first.
One of the interesting things about this book is that it's written as if Phedre is looking back on the events of her life - there's a lot of "if only I had known then" which, believe you me, gets annoying. What this means, though, is that there's no room for character development to change perspective. The perspective of the narrator is that of adult Phedre and is cast as knowledgeable, omniscient as a result of hindsight. I mention this because, were this not the case, some of Carey's choices could be explained by Phedre's lack of knowledge or self-reflection in earlier stages of her life - but that's not an option.
Maybe it's an asexual thing, to be hyper-tuned to situations of dubious consent and grooming? I definitely seem to be in the minority both here and with regards to Deathless; I can only guess that, because compulsory sexuality is so inherently threatening to me, it stands out more than it does for allo people? The Night Court runs on child grooming. They raise kids from infancy in a situation where sex work is normalized, start teaching them about it sometimes as young as six, and initiate them at 13. (not that they weren't sexual objects before then - a 10 year-old boy is once told that "They'll be marking their calendars until you come of age".) Now, here's the thing: I don't believe there's anything wrong with choosing sex work freely. However, the Night Court and its influence are coercive - we see this in Alcuin, who nearly gets himself killed trying to make his marque and get out of his contract, and earlier in a comment a Valerian House adept makes regarding the use of flechettes as a sex toy: "He gave an involuntary tremor beside me and his voice changed. 'I hate them.'" Both of these characters have clearly been put into sexual situations in which they weren't comfortable, and continued to participate as 'Servants of Naamah' nonetheless. That's coercion, not consent. And then there's Phedre, who gets pleasure in pain, and so whose contracts always include a safeword. Which she then never uses, even when a client burns her skin with a poker. The thing about this is - yes, technically speaking, it's possible for someone to have a safeword and never encounter a situation that crosses their boundaries. But that doesn't work here. This whole situation is constructed; Carey chose to give Phedre a safeword but never to show her using it. This means we never see her exercising control over her assignations, nor do we get a demonstration that the nobles of Terre d'Ange would actually respect her choice to end a scene/encounter. The safeword, unused (view spoiler)[except for when Melisande orders her to use it (hide spoiler)], has no power. Finally: the handling of rape in this book. As I said, I anticipated it and rightly so, but what I didn't anticipate was Carey's choice to draw a division between kinds of rape. Minor spoilers: Terrible things happen and Phedre gets drugged by the series antagonist and sent to be a slave to the not!Germans over the border. Before she's sent away, though, the antagonist rapes her. Well. I say 'rape', because she was drugged and bound and never asked for consent, and because the sex was literally used as a coercive attempt to get information from her. What Phedre - and thereby Carey - says is this:
What she did to me that last night... she would have ended it, if I'd given the signale. I do believe that. It was my choice to withhold it.
So, when someone feels they can't safeword out of a situation because of other pressures, that somehow becomes consensual? Since when is rape defined more by whether the attacker will stop if the victim gives them what they want, rather than by the fact that they started against someone's will in the first place? This is made worse by the way that Phedre's hindsight is used to emphasize it: "It was my choice". 'Choice' it might nominally be, but consent can't be freely given when the choice is weighted with the lives of people you love and the stability of an entire kingdom. 'Submit to assault or betray your friends and family' isn't a balanced decision at all.
The entire setting is built on the idea of "Love as thou wilt" being the guiding precept of the land, and while I sort of see where Carey was going with that idea, it just wasn't carefully considered enough. (For a smaller example, as other reviewers have pointed out, 'whore' is still an insult in this culture even though one of their minor deities was literally a prostitute by trade.) If compulsory sexuality is a problem in the real world, it's even more so here, where everyone is expected to be just merrily fucking their way along. (Well - at least, the people we see most of are. Which are the nobles and wealthy merchants. Does 'love as thou wilt' extend to the peasantry? Does Carey care? We may never know.)
Right. So. Consent: F-. Abject failure.
On to the thing that persuaded me to read this book: the promise of court intrigue!
I finally put my finger on why this book's 'intrigue' didn't work for me, and it's this: there's only ever one thing in play. Everyone wants the throne. Right. I get it. But because the major players all have one sole interest, they rarely interact in complicated ways - they're all just rivals for a single thing. Nobody is, say, out to get a better trade agreement with so-and-so, but will trade a favor for a favor even though they don't care about the rest. The 'machinations' at work here are ehh... I'd say maybe four steps at most? This is partly because none of them are playing within the system (if there is a system - we got very little info on the actual political structure of TdA) and they're all just gathering up armies to smash it from outside, but it just had no spark. The intrigue was, well, unintriguing. There's little more to say about it because it was just so damn shallow and dull.
I'm still a bit iffy on giving this book two stars, but for the moment that rating stands. The reason for the second: the last quarter or so was pretty much straight up epic fantasy fare (clashing armies, desperate alliances) and that, despite everything else, was pretty enjoyable. Not that there weren't issues involved in those parts - see 'Phedre has hardly any close relationships that don't involve sleeping together' and 'sex is the solution to every problem' - but the pace picked up. So, extra star for that.
Oh god, and before I end this review: the writing and the constant insistence that Terre d'Ange is the greatest thing that's ever existed, and all D'Angelines are supernaturally beautiful and no one else will ever be as pretty as them and blah blah fucking blah. Ugh. Infuriating. By the end of the book I about wanted TdA to get razed to the ground by invaders - though I suppose then all the characters would just wax poetic about its lost beauty. You can't win against this arrogance.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Congratulations, Brandon, on almost writing a sex scene!*
(*as someone who wouldn't feel comfortable doing so myself, I don't see anything wrong with c Congratulations, Brandon, on almost writing a sex scene!*
(*as someone who wouldn't feel comfortable doing so myself, I don't see anything wrong with choosing not to write sex, but he's been edging closer and closer to it for years and this is a distinct step forward so. confetti.)
Perfect State was... solid? I'm not sure how else to describe it: it met my expectations, based on its length and the bit that was read aloud at a signing some months ago. I did, however, have trouble with the basic concept - not that it was difficult to grasp, but that it was unnerving. For readers who are disoriented by unreality, this may not be a good experience. The entire premise is based on simulated, artificial worlds, and a significant portion of the text is dedicated to discussing it in detail. That's unfortunate, because as usual Sanderson's worldbuilding is interesting, but every time this came up I got more and more uncomfortable with it.
As for the plot: sadly, not a whole lot to write home about; which shouldn't be surprising given the length of the book, I suppose, but still. I've read enough Sanderson now to pick out his tells, and if I'd been less distracted by the setting it would have been easy to predict, roughly, the course of events. There was a twist at the end that I wasn't expecting, but it all fit. (view spoiler)[The one exception may have been a Kindle error: the pronouns referring to the antagonist changed from he/him to she/her on the last page. If this is meant to hint that Sophie is in fact a manifestation of Melhi, and that Kai was genuinely interacting with his nemesis, it would be fascinating, but it's probably just something that got missed in copy-editing. (hide spoiler)]
At its current price, I'm not sure I'd recommend this to any but the truly obsessive Sanderfans; it's not a lot of book for $3, and the quality isn't good enough to make up for the lack of quantity.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Honestly. I'm struggling to talk about this book without just... pointing to that sentence upPost-nuclear-apocalypse furries wielding magic crystals.
Honestly. I'm struggling to talk about this book without just... pointing to that sentence up there and raising my eyebrows. I should probably play nice because this was a Kindle freebie but really. Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries, I swear, what the actual hell.
Okay, okay. An attempt at a real review, in some form.
- Plot: Balanced between 'completely transparent' and 'where the fuck did that come from and why didn't you bother to foreshadow it', with the former dominating the earlier portions of the book and the latter taking up much of the conclusion. Note that when I say 'balanced' I don't mean that it all came out well, 'cause it didn't: the stuff that was completely obvious was often ignored by the characters, which left them looking stupid, and the things that came out of left field were crucial to the plot, which meant pretty much the whole conclusion of the book just had to be swallowed whole. Also, the epilogue jumps two years and just roughly summarizes the interval, in which all kinds of interesting things and developments happened, in a few paragraphs. Really?
- Setting: Grandiose self-aware infodumps that really, honestly, read like a child's history essay at points. Completely inconsistent technology/awareness thereof - no one is confused when ancient secrets about nuclear physics become a topic of discussion, yet they're still predominantly wielding swords and bows. Is this supposed to be a medieval-tech society? Is it industrial? Is it electronic? I HAVE NO IDEA, and apparently neither did the author.
- Writing: Started off on a bad foot with countries being referred to as "sovereigns" (that means ruler, not nation) and carried on from there with words that were either incorrectly applied or just plain made up. "Malefically" remains my favorite of the ones that don't actually exist.
- Characters: Stock fantasy tropes, occasionally with a side of annoying (whatsisface the raccoon) or just plain dumb (the guy who, given the opportunity to kill his lifelong rival and one of the major antagonists, FAILED TO STAB THE DUDE AND NECESSITATED YET ANOTHER LONG DRAWN-OUT SWORDFIGHT WHICH ALMOST KILLED HIM). Relationships were predictable and uncomplicated, and I just generally don't give a fuck.
Basically: If you want sword and sorcery with woodland creatures, read Redwall. If you want innovative epic fantasy, read any number of other series - if it's the young female protagonist who must learn to master her powers that gets you, I suggest The Final Empire. But at the end of the day there isn't enough originality in the concept nor quality in the execution to make this one worth your while....more
I've been putting off getting my hands on this novella because, much as I love the Cosmere, buying anything with GRRM's name on it is against my persoI've been putting off getting my hands on this novella because, much as I love the Cosmere, buying anything with GRRM's name on it is against my personal code - so I was thrilled to see it offered as a solo ebook, and at a reasonable price. And it was a solid read - quick, and not extraordinary, but solid.
The preface actually clued me into the fact that this wasn't going to be what I expected. By that I mean: this is the first Cosmere story I've read that hasn't really inspired awe and curiosity, and I suspected it would turn out that way from the first mention of Puritan settlers being the inspiration. I've spent my entire life in the American education system; it takes a lot for me to find Puritans particularly magical. Or even interesting, to be honest. To be fair, Sanderson did a fair job with it, and I'd be willing to read more about Silence and her daughters after this story, but that's also partly because it feels like the girls' stories are just beginning. Also, there's clearly more worldbuilding to be explored here, and we all know that's one of Sanderson's Things. I mean, c'mon - Silence, William Ann, and Sebruki? The names alone are a signpost to greater complexity.
This story was pretty light on broader Cosmere content, which doesn't surprise me as I believe it was recently confirmed that Threnody isn't a Shardworld. That's another reason I'd like to see more worldbuilding: what are the relationships between the three Realms like when not mediated by a shard? what kind of natural magic exists in the Cosmere? This definitely seems like a good case study. (view spoiler)[Side note: it seems pretty obvious that the event that drove Silence and co's ancestors to the Forest had to do with Odium - see repeated mentions of 'Evil' and that line about 'as good a man as were left'; that's strong implication of widespread corruption - but the question is, from where? Were they direct from Yolen, or was this a second migration? (hide spoiler)]
The more I think about it, the more I kind of expect Sanderson to put out another book set on Threnody. It might not be soon, but I bet he'll fall off the wagon and do it eventually.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
For a Kindle freebie, this book was fairly good; in the grand scheme of things, that places it squarely in the realm of 'mediocre'. The story is a strFor a Kindle freebie, this book was fairly good; in the grand scheme of things, that places it squarely in the realm of 'mediocre'. The story is a straightforward trauma-training-revenge arc with pretty much no surprises. Caina is good at everything she's taught; she makes no major errors of judgement in her work; everyone on her side is trustworthy and, to a greater or lesser degree, honorable. The only twists and turns, persay, come from the villain - and even these aren't very twisty, because we're given periodic villain POV and therefore are often more informed about his actions and motivations than the characters.
Predictability, however, doesn't necessarily mean it's not enjoyable - and it is, for the most part. If there's anything that makes this book stand out from similar 'hyper-talented Lone Wolf vs ancient evil' stories, it's that Moeller avoids a lot of the pitfalls of similar books. There's no love triangle, for one, and Caina is never placed in the position of damsel in distress except when she's 11 years old and traumatized. Also, for all that the mentions of her wanting children but never being able to have them were repetitive, I actually felt they were decently integrated into the story as a factor in her motivations and choices, and that despite that repetition they never felt preachy. (As someone who doesn't want kids ever, this is something I'm pretty sensitive to - but the inclusion of other DFAB characters who weren't interested in offspring kept it from being 'all people with uteruses want children by biological decree' and emphasized it as Caina's choice/goals. Very effective.) Her attitudes towards sex also struck me as a strong part of her characterization: she enjoys it, but it's not all-consuming and she attaches no moral value to the act itself. Caina in general felt very pragmatic, which I enjoyed.
Honestly, this is the kind of light fare that I generally enjoy reading from time to time, and I'd continue with this series but for two things. One: the constant focus on all magi being evil or corrupt; I feel that lacks nuance, and after the one-chapter sample of the second book and skimming the synopses for the other volumes in the series I'm skeptical that it'll be thoroughly explored. The second reason is the more serious, though, and that's that the series strikes me as bloated. Right now there are 9 books in the 'Ghosts' series and 4 more featuring Caina in the 'Ghost Exile' series, plus umpteen short stories, and no clear end in sight, and I'm just not interested in getting into something that long without a clear continuous arc or upcoming finale.
Also, Moeller has a habit of punctuating his writing with a lot of single sentences.
They get a bit distracting after a while and I don't want to have to deal with more of them....more
Not much to say by way of 'review' here: this is a purely academic text, ethnography from top to bottom. Constable is up front about her techniques anNot much to say by way of 'review' here: this is a purely academic text, ethnography from top to bottom. Constable is up front about her techniques and many of her possible biases, particularly in the sample of migrant mothers she studies being predominantly contacted through one NGO. Her writing is dense but readable, and she does a good job of integrating anthropological observation with sympathy for her subjects (which, in turn, works better because of the way she situates herself in the text - the reader is always aware of her observational lens).
From a personal perspective: obviously, as an American who has never so much as visited China, I had no idea about the situation of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Reading this book made me wonder about the finer points of immigration law in my own country - are there laws here similar to the 'two-week limit' Constable describes, for instance? Something to look into, moving forwards....more