Have you ever read a book and thought: "I'd love to travel to or live in this universe"? From all the books that come to mind, the "A Song Of Ice AndHave you ever read a book and thought: "I'd love to travel to or live in this universe"? From all the books that come to mind, the "A Song Of Ice And Fire" series by George R. R. Martin is probably not the first one you thought of. On the contrary, this book should be high on everyone's lists of world they do not wish to travel to.
This however is exactly the premise of "The Pen Is Mightier". Labeled as both satire and homage, Andy C.F. Crawford takes on Martin's famous universe in this book, including both non-subtle references to the original ASOIAF plots and characters, fans, and even George R. R. Martin himself. This is the story of Sed, an avid fan of the fantasy series, who miraculously figures out a way to travel to the universe of "Those Accursed Chronicles" (as the "A Song Of Ice And Fire"-series is called in this book). He even convinces the author that this is not a hallucination, and both fan and author are left to face their conscience: is it right to create and enjoy a bloody and violent fictional world, if it suddenly ceased to be fiction?
This book I would definitely only recommend for fans of GRRM's original series. None of the characters in this series are particularly fleshed out, unless you can link them their "A Song Of Ice And Fire" counterparts. The representations of the author and the fans aren't in as much luck. There's little depth to any of these characters, though they would probably pass several of Tumblr's diversity standards. The lack of depth is an issue throughout the entire book I think, it was all fairly basic, and it already starts with the maps: the Kingdoms are called Marsh, Stone, Sand, Forest & Sea Kingdom, which are, if you ask me, the most basic possible names, and they never really developed beyond this status.
The good thing is however, that the plot is more driven by action than character development, so this didn't really lessen my enjoyment of the book. Though not as flowery as GRRM's prose, the book did captivate me more than I had expected. The format of many POVs with short chapters worked well for its set-up, and I loved the inclusion of Reddit discussions and Wiki-pages. The only downside to this was that the Wiki pages detailed the character's adventures in the books, and a lot of these excerpts described the same happenings. Again. And again. Sadly, I don't think we ever learned more than the basics of these events despite the repetition, but I loved the way the story was told and how the modern media were incorporated into the writing. In a story set in the modern day, it doesn't make sense to include the internet after all, especially if the protagonist is both in college and an avid fan of something.
My favourite part of the book was Paul, the author, and the struggle with his conscience. After all, Paul - and his real-life counterpart, GRRM - put their characters through some truly cruel events, so it's interesting to see them react to it. I think GRRM's made of slightly stronger stuff than Paul, but all the same, throughout the entire book I was reminded of one particular interview with GRRM about the "Game Of Thrones"-tv show, whose quote I think deserves a mention in this context:
"At the premiere, I found myself talking to three very nice actors, at one point, who were very pleasant, and I was having a great time talking with them and drinking with them, and then I suddenly realized that I had killed all three of them, at various points in the series, and that they would all shortly be unemployed actors. And I had a moment of horrible guilt, but it’s already done." (x)
An entire book on GRRM's guilt, multiplied by ten. Fantastic! I also loved that GRRM's slowness in writing these books was taken into account, because seriously, I think that's what *every* fan of these books can relate to. I just hope GRRM doesn't have to take Paul's way out.
Overall: a decent book, that I think is more homage than satire. Though it could've been a bit better fleshed out, the book was captivating as it was, and it was definitely enjoyable in its own way.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Parzival is one of the more famous medieval German works out there. The work has so much depth that some medieval scholars devote most of the researchParzival is one of the more famous medieval German works out there. The work has so much depth that some medieval scholars devote most of the research in their life to this work. My professor used to say it's a work that grows with you, and that you never tire of during your life. Of course, she was one of those professors who has devoted her life to medieval research, but the point stands: Parzival is a book that can inspire amazing devotion.
But, it must be said, Parzival is not a very easy read for our times. The book is, understandably, written in a different way than books are written nowadays, which makes the book both hard to translate and comprehend. Students reading Parzival at university generally get an entire course to help them understand the epos. Not everyone however has this chance, and I'm assuming that's where this book comes in.
The title of this book very much emphasizes that this well-known medieval work is retold for a modern audience. I think this is misleading. While I can see where Lindsay Clarke modernized the story, for most people this might not be the case. The text doesn't exactly read like a modern novel, and as the story has only been changed minimally, the book really doesn't have a modern feel to it. As such, I wouldn't say that this book is a grail romance "retold for our time".
What this book is however, is a version of the story condensed to the main plot of the original medieval work, told in prose instead of poetry. If you don't have the chance to take a class on the Parzival, then the story of Wolfram von Eschenbach may at first be rather confusing. For those people, this book might be very good. You get the chance to get familiar with the story, in a relatively light read. Once familiar with the story, a translation of Wolfram von Eschenbach's original epos should be easier to understand. Even if you just want to get familiar with the story of Parzival without wanting to plough through medieval poetry, this is a good book for you.
But you shouldn't go in expecting a modernized version of the Parzival, because that's definitely not what this book has to offer. The story is still a good and influential one, but probably more enjoyable if you're not expecting a modern romance!...more
Me and Terry Pratchett did not get off to a good start. I absolutely hated the first solo Terry Pratchett book I'd picked up, "The Color Of Magic". ThMe and Terry Pratchett did not get off to a good start. I absolutely hated the first solo Terry Pratchett book I'd picked up, "The Color Of Magic". The second book I read by him was "Good Omens", about two years later. I liked that one, but not as much as some people seem to do, and thus I figured I liked the book mostly because of Neil Gaiman's influence (who is in fact one of my favourite writers). As such I was never really inspired to pick up another Pratchett book, as none of the books I'd read before convinced me. But then they started releasing Discworld books in these lovely new editions, and I... am weak to beautiful covers. Don't judge a book by its cover, yes, I know. But I am weak and so I somehow ended up in possession of this book.
But why would I buy "Hogfather" if I don't like Pratchett? Well, one afternoon I happened to see the movie made of this book and actually liked it.... also, this particular book featured Death, which according to my friends are the best books in the Discworld series. So after three years, I decided to give Pratchett a chance again.
And hated it. Again. I tried to start this book in September and disliked the first 50 pages so much I put it away for 2 months, which is when I started thinking this was ridiculous. It's just one book, surely I could finish that. I'd paid more than 10 Euros for it! And so I picked it up again.
Why am I writing all this? Simply to show how incredibly biased I was against Terry Pratchett's writing. I just mean to say, that books can be better than you think they are, if you just give them a chance. Not every book will be to your liking, but sometimes you should look past preconceived ideas and test them. Again. Writers that don't work for you now may interest you a few years later. I should certainly keep this in mind.
This isn't to say that I was overly wowed by this book. Terry Pratchett's style of humour will never be completely my own, though it is clever and he references so many things that I'm not sure I quite understood all of them. But honestly, it felt like this book took a long detour to come to the actual plot. The way it's written is very random with a lot of little scenes added in, as well as very many characters we never really get to know. It's just a personal preference, but I like getting to know the characters a bit more than we did in this book.
But there's a lot to like in this book. "Death" is indeed a brilliant character, Susan's great (remembering Michelle Dockery in this role every time I read about this character totally enhanced the experience, A+ would recommend), Pratchett's imagination knows no bounds and really, the footnotes are genius.
I know these are more ramblings than that it is a proper review, but I hope you got the gist of it. My advice to you would be: Try some books you wouldn't normally read. They might surprise you....more
Oh boy. As far as Sisi biographies go, I really wouldn't recommend this as a book for starters. There's a few reasons why I have issues with the conteOh boy. As far as Sisi biographies go, I really wouldn't recommend this as a book for starters. There's a few reasons why I have issues with the content of the book, but even on a more general level, this book is not fit as an introduction to the Sisi discourse, for two very important reasons:
- Bestenreiner assumes you already have some knowledge of the subject matter; - And, more importantly, there is no real chronology in the book.
I'll explain this a bit more. Knowledge on the subject matter includes trivia. She doesn't just assume this about Sisi and her life, but about other people (vaguely) connected to her as well. For instance, see page 197 in this edition: "Dessen Nachfolger war im Jahre 1982 der uns bereits aus zahlreichen Presseberichten bekannte Fürst Johannes (...)", which implies that the reader should know one of the recent successors to the House of Thurn und Taxis. In this case, not knowing this bit of trivia doesn't impede understanding. There's more of these little things in the book though, and there they might be confusing for some readers.
But in all honesty, previous knowledge is almost a requirement to make sense of the build-up of the book. Bestenreiner doesn't follow a chronological order, what order she did follow, I don't know. I'll name a few examples:
- The chapter on Elisabeth's sister Mathilde is largely about Elisabeth and her life in Vienna. This takes up so many pages, that she writes that we should come back to the subject matter of Mathilde. This is not the only time this happens - Bestenreiner will be discussing person X, be reminded of something that happens to this person that relates to Elisabeth, write about this interesting tidbit, then come back to what she was writing about in the first place. It's confusing. - Gisela's (Elisabeth's oldest surviving daughter) life is discussed in full without ever mentioning Rudolf (Elisabeth's son, of Mayerling fame). Rudolf is only discussed about 200 pages in, so at about 2/3 of the book. If you think she really gets into the interesting subject matter that is Rudolf, you are mistaken. Half of his chapter is dedicated to Emperor Franz-Joseph's "dear friend" Katharina Schratt. For no clear reason. This happens with a lot of the chapters.
Bestenreiner's way of building up her book is confusing. She does offer a timetable in the back of the book, but I think that a reader should be able to understand a non-fiction book without having to puzzle where each historical fact fits in. This is why I wouldn't recommend the book to someone who's not very familiar with the discourse. The lack of chronology makes the history more difficult to understand than it should be. Another downside of writing the book like this is that some events show up at two different places in the book. This means you sometimes read about the same event twice. In the same words. I don't think that's what you want as a reader.
The book has other 'faults'. Even though I can see Bestenreiner has researched a lot, you don't see a lot of sourcing throughout the book. Some direct quotes are quoted, some are not. About half of what gets quoted is from one of Brigitte Hamann's biographies. I understand, her books are great, but quoting so much from one or two books instead of from other (primary) sources, does not do a lot of good for your credibility. The frustrating thing is that you can see in the text that a lot of different sources must have been used for research, and yet not a lot of this shows up in the bibliography. Had I handed in a paper this way at university, I probably would've gotten some criticism on the credibility of my paper. I feel the same way about the research in this book. Another thing I was surprised about was the lack of any of Martha Schad's research in the bibliography. Schad is also one of the more famous researchers in the Sisi discourse, and worked on Marie Valerie's diary. I mention this because the bibliography didn't even list Marie Valerie's diary as one of the sources, even though it had been quoted from in the book. Sloppy sourcing really doesn't add to your credibility!
I also have a comment about the book's title. For a book that's called "Sisi und ihre Geschwister", or "Sisi and her brothers and sisters", there wasn't an awful lot of information about Sisi's brothers and sisters in there. Most of this is truly about Elisabeth. Bestenreiner ends her book with the hope that this book will introduce Sisi's brothers and sisters to the readers. I would have loved if this were the case. But unfortunately, most of the information on her brothers and sisters in this was already known to me (the earlier mentioned Hamann biographies also discuss Sisi's brothers and sisters). I would have loved if this book really had discussed them in more detail, but was disappointed in this regard.
My last point of criticism was in the way Bestenreiner has written this book. It was subjective, probably to make the book a more engaging read. But yet I am not interested in Bestenreiner's interpretation of facts, or speculations of what might have been or how things could've been prevented. I just don't think it adds anything to the discourse, personally (though there is a lot of it in this particular discourse, so it's not entirely Bestenreiner's fault). I also could've done without the plethora of exclamation marks. Never seen this many in a non-fiction work before.
I don't mean to say I completely hated this book. I didn't... I'm still fond of the subject matter, so of course I didn't hate it. But I was disappointed. Please, skip this as your first Sisi book and buy Brigitte Hamann's biography, "Kaiserin Wider Willen / The Reluctant Empress", instead. It's a much better way to spend your money, you'll get the same information, but it's presented more logically. It's a much better place to start....more