I've been a fan of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller ever since I picked up my first Liaden novel, fifteen years ago. So I was happy to see Sharon Lee's solI've been a fan of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller ever since I picked up my first Liaden novel, fifteen years ago. So I was happy to see Sharon Lee's solo novel, Carousel Tides.
Sharon Lee is deft at giving us lively, enjoyable characters, and this novel is no exception. From the first page, the cynical, self-deprecating heroine is a treat to read. She's funny, astute, torn, and full of foibles, just the way a good protagonist should be. Oh, and quite capable of kicking ass. Having a dose of fey blood always helps with fast healing.
The other characters don't shirk their duties, either. Each one is fully alive, with quirks and personality. Fortunately, I don't have to pick a favorite, but if I did, it just might be Bob, the café owner who makes lousy coffee. Nobody's perfect.
From the first time I heard about this book, I was fascinated. A carousel? In a tiny amusement park in an equally tiny town on the Maine coast? What a setting! And the idea that a carousel would be used by the fey (called Trenvay) as a prison for six of their most notorious criminals... let's just say I'm choosing my animal carefully the next time I get on a merry-go-round.
One of the best things about the book is the interwoven worlds – many of the crusty Maine villagers are really Trenvay – selkies, tree sprites, etc., (and let's not leave out the snallygasters, Black Dogs, and willie wisps), all a natural part of our world, but with the ability to interact with other worlds. We see all this through the eyes of Kate Archer, daughter of a tree sprite and a prince from the Land of Flowers. Not a full Trenvay, Kate is nevertheless Guardian of the Land in this little village, and she has an important job: keeping the wards in place so those six criminals don't escape to destroy the world.
Oh, and running the carousel during the summer season.
Kate has demons of her own to fight, and they rear up constantly to beat her down, along with the minions of a local drug runner, who is killing the land with his poison. Her grandmother has disappeared, and Kate soon learns that the evil mage who killed her father's family has come to our world, determined to take it over. With the help of the town's Trenvay population, Kate must gain enough power to destroy the mage, capture the drug runners, keep the prisoners in place, and heal the damaged land.
I loved this book. Couldn't put it down, and I was reading it on my computer! I liked the voice from the first sentence. The protagonist, Kim, struckI loved this book. Couldn't put it down, and I was reading it on my computer! I liked the voice from the first sentence. The protagonist, Kim, struck me as very real - smart and well-educated, but immature enough to still make some stupid decisions. I liked her spirit though. Throughout the book, there's a stubborn unwillingness to let others call the shots for her, even though it constantly gets her in trouble.
I liked the subtle approach to the romance, too, even though I'm not usually subtle about romance. It came across as inevitable and sweet, but never overpowered the main plot. Yet, it's because of the romance that I can't wait for the next book. This situation has to be resolved!
There's great world-building, here. Incredible detail in the real cities, and a rich, colorful culture in the fictional land. I loved the mix of old-world magic and semi-modern technology - they have computers, but can't get internet, and cells phones don't work there, either. The explanation works, too.
That said, for some reason, the story is strangely light on the fantasy aspect. It all could have been left out and still been the same story. The ghosts don't add anything to the plot, the vampires are only mentioned, and no one does any magic (or not much), so I'm not sure why it's there, at all.
I did love the Brigadoon aspect of the country, and the magical elements fit in with that. But they never really added anything else.
At the end, I was just as thrilled as Kim, to see the date on the letter, and realize "they're still there." So did Alec and Ruli NOT get married? If I were Kim, I'd be on the next plane to Dobrencia, to find out....more
Great debut novel about a computer program becoming self-aware. Zvi Zaks comes at it from a new angle, which sometimes made me cringe, yet in some wayGreat debut novel about a computer program becoming self-aware. Zvi Zaks comes at it from a new angle, which sometimes made me cringe, yet in some ways makes a lot of sense to me. The cringe-worthy part is an assumption that men want a woman to serve them, with all the terms set by the man. A sort of Bambi/Bimbo syndrome. I'm not sure I buy that, and I certainly hope it's not true. Of course, Zaks is a man, so he probably has more data in this than I do. Or at least more experience on what men think.
But it does make sense to me that women want to nurture, so I didn't find it hard to believe that an AI programmed as a female sexpot, would have a strong nurturing instinct when she "wakes up."
This is a story that could lead to many hours of fun debate about men, women, humanity, and self-determination.