I first read this book as a child and loved it. In reread, I see one major flaw: Honor is too perfect, too smooth. I would never have felt this way ex...moreI first read this book as a child and loved it. In reread, I see one major flaw: Honor is too perfect, too smooth. I would never have felt this way except that the series' inspiration, Master and Commander, pulls off a deeply flawed lead character with such charm and aplomb. And the only other series that competes in the world of rip-roaring military sci fi, Vorkosigan, does the same.
Still, the story carried me along, the tactical situations were completely sensible and by the end I was ready to cry at beloved characters' fates. What more can you ask?(less)
This was a delicious confection—it reminded me of my favorite Heyer in the sense that mixed up "romance" in the high adventure sense with "romance" in...moreThis was a delicious confection—it reminded me of my favorite Heyer in the sense that mixed up "romance" in the high adventure sense with "romance" in the Harlequin sense. Except, of course, I think it would be acceptable to non-Harlequin readers. I definitely felt that I wouldn't have liked it as much if I didn't have a strong sense of the time period in our world, the "real world"—but I've never studied it; just millions of Age of Sail + Regency novels under my belt gave me the taste.
I'm excited to read the next book in the series!(less)
A cute envisioning of the Beauty and the Beast story, quite referential to Disney but an enjoyable read.
I do wish that Medeiros had abandoned the "twi...moreA cute envisioning of the Beauty and the Beast story, quite referential to Disney but an enjoyable read.
I do wish that Medeiros had abandoned the "twist" at the end, (view spoiler)[that Cecily and Samantha are the same person (hide spoiler)]. It's too obvious early in the book, and it would have been more fun to be closer to the characters' actual thoughts and feelings—which is made impossible by the nature of the twist. Part of why I like romance is to really get to inhabit a character, but this never quite allows you to do so.
Nonetheless, there was lots to love here, especially for a Beauty and the Beast fan.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book has two defining qualities: it is a complete retreat into science fantasy; and it depicts in words exactly what would appear on a movie scre...moreThis book has two defining qualities: it is a complete retreat into science fantasy; and it depicts in words exactly what would appear on a movie screen.
What do I mean about science fantasy? The book’s plot relies entirely on romantic tropes. I don’t mean “romantic” as in “romance novels,” although there’s a little bit of that. I mean “romantic” as in “adventure,” like The Count of Monte Cristo or The Prisoner of Zenda. (view spoiler)[Leia has two men vying for her hand - rich Isolder, crown prince of the Hapes star cluster, who she does not know well but who can offer her wealth and sophistication, and Han Solo, decorated general of the Rebel Alliance and lovable (but poor) rogue. Meanwhile, Luke searches the old Jedi order’s records of their training facilities. They all end up stranded on the planet Dathomir, which is inhabited by primitive Force-using “witches,” and have to fight both the Dark Side faction of the witches of Dathomir and the amusingly-named Warlord Zsinj, a leftover general from the Empire. (hide spoiler)]
There is no interest, here, in what the effects of high technology actually are. Perhaps the most telling moment is when the issue of “droid rights” comes up. At first it’s played for a joke (when a politician suggests that he doesn’t want to let droids address the Alliance Council), but later (view spoiler)[Han suggests that he needs to find some “R2 brains” to fix the Millennium Falcon. R2 brains? But R2-D2 is your friend—do you so casually speak of hooking sentient beings to your ship? (hide spoiler)] This is interesting and curious! But it’s Star Wars, so the questions raised will go forever unanswered. We want swashbuckling, not philosophy.
One can’t blame Dave Wolverton for this, though. It’s been the modus operandi of Star Wars from day one. His goal in writing The Courtship of Princess Leia seems to have been to create a Star Wars movie in novel form. He certainly succeeds in that. It’s easy to imagine Harrison Ford saying "Believe me, Your Highness, I’ve lived in the gutter most of my life. I’m slime. Most of my friends are slime. And when you’ve been among slime as long as I have, you learn to spot it at a distance! "(44)
His fidelity to the movies’ tone doesn’t just appear in characters’ voices, but also in the circumstances in which they find themselves: "Luke sighed, and he searched for a [record] cylinder farthest from the EMP grenade. He dug through the pile, found one in a far corner on the floor, and was about to pull it free when he felt the Force tug him in another direction. He fumbled among the cylinders, until his fingers brushed one. Very distinctly, he felt a sense of peace. This one, this one, a voice seemed to whisper. This is what you seek." (18)
In a movie, Luke’s experience of finding the right cylinder would be depicted in just this way. We would need to hear a ghostly voice speaking to him in order to understand that it wasn’t just intuition or indecision causing him to try cylinders at random, it was actually the Force guiding his hands. In text, we don’t need to be “told” in that way. We already have access to Luke’s thoughts, know that he feels peace when he touches the correct cylinder.
Since the movies have already established the way that the Force speaks to Luke through human voices, this isn’t really a howler—it’s a little clunky, but can be explained by simple fidelity to canon. Other times, it doesn’t work so well. We don’t need to hear that Leia “considered furiously” when she thought about (view spoiler)[the Hapes cluster’s offer—the next several paragraphs are full of her thoughts about whether she should marry their crown prince. (hide spoiler)]
Wolverton seems to get himself all tied up in the characters’ thoughts—what he should tell, what he should show, how he should illustrate it. The nadir is when he tries to let Artoo speak: “Artoo whistled his agreement, issuing a bunch of clicks and beeps to remind Luke that every time the droid gets near water, there’s a monster in it.” (163) Honestly, I feel like he’s torturing the characters by trying to pry into their brains. You see that he knows the strength of a novel is in letting us get into the characters’ heads, but he can’t figure out how to do it in a natural way.
There’s plenty of good, canon-like detail in the book - the “jangling of woot horns” made me smile, and Luke’s use of the Force to track emotions is described in pleasingly synaesthetic terms. The book contrasts two matriarchal cultures with each other—one highly advanced, the other primitive—and manages to do so without falling into a pit of misogynistic anti-feminist ragefoam. Although the beginnings of the book make it seem like Leia will be the protagonist in this romance novel, midway through you realize that Crown Prince Isolder is cast in the traditionally feminine role as much as Leia ever is or more. Those are nice aspects of the book, and not something I expected from it at all. One couldn’t say the book has a progressive agenda, but it tries to take its gender politics seriously, even when it’s in the midst of some of the most ridiculous ideas for a society ever.
There’s a lot to hate, too. I’m not sure what reading level the book was intended to be pitched to, but I think that the relative simplicity of the sentences and vocabulary didn’t help Wolverton create strong inner lives for each character. There’s also some howlers—the phrase “the effluent of rainbows” is used to describe Alderaanian lichen. Go ahead, look up “effluent.” This peculiar word choice was not helped by the fact that I went to see Les Miserables the day before I read it. It made me think of rainbow shit-smeared Hugh Jackman. Not the intended effect.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading this book, but mostly because it’s a very curious thing—a clunky novelization of a movie that has never been made. There’s no other way to describe it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was recommended this book as a Johanna Lindsey classic. I don't regret reading it, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to anybody else.
First of al...moreI was recommended this book as a Johanna Lindsey classic. I don't regret reading it, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to anybody else.
First of all, as always, Johanna Lindsey's writing style is very gripping. The story pulls you along. I like that, and it was a saving grace for the book. The lead character, Katherine, is a little nondescript, but I like her anyway: she's got the sort of believable, yet irrational, contrariness that I see in myself and my friends, and that makes good drama in a romance. The hero was in many ways standard, but he did have one really endearing trait: sex-positivity, for both men and women. While definitely concerned with class and family loyalty, he made it really clear that he didn't think less of anyone for sleeping around. I liked that a lot, because if he didn't have that trait, he would have been a huge hypocrite!
Unfortunately, the heroine's actions sometimes stretched my credibility. (view spoiler)[The book begins with her being mistaken for a commoner, kidnapped and delivered to the hero's bed (without his knowledge), and given spanish fly that turns her on so much that she absolutely needs and wants the hero. He thinks she's given consent, and when he finds out that she hasn't, he is deeply upset... but he still wants to bang her. In order to cover up his servants' crime, the hero (a Russian prince) takes her home with him against her will. She suffers various indignities, although of course she's sexually attracted to the prince; he struggles with the fact that he's really into this chick but had intended to marry some random eligible Russian lady. (hide spoiler)]
All that run-up didn't bother me: it was unrealistic, it was non-consensual sex, it was high adventure, but that's what I was expecting from an older romance novel. What happened next did: (view spoiler)[the hero comes home in a towering rage about the heroine's stubbornness and orders her dosed with spanish fly AGAIN (remember: the first time he didn't know about it, but now he is straight up raping her to teach her a lesson). And she's off to the races with sexual desiiiiiiiire and sex pollen and rawr. What happens as a result this? SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH HIM BECAUSE OF HIS MAGICAL PENIS. I don't even know. But then he is guilty (damn right he should be guilty!) about it and goes away and hides from her and his relations abuse her and then he comes back and blah blah blah denouement they eventually make up and he believes she's a lady boring. (hide spoiler)] What's funny about this is, I'm normally OK with non-consensual sex in romance novels, and I'm pretty much always OK with dubious-consent sex. I'm even OK with characters suddenly realizing that they actually love each other! But the combination of the two, plus the fact that the hero actually was the one who was providing the roofies, really made me squirm.
(There's also the whole issue of pre-revolutionary Russia, and the fact that everyone has serfs OH BUT WAIT THE HERO DOESN'T BELIEVE IN SERFDOM AND HAS OFFERED EVERYONE THEIR FREEDOM, oh but wait THEY ACTUALLY LIKE BEING HIS SERFS BECAUSE THEY'VE NEVER KNOWN ANYTHING ELSE AND HE'S SO NICE, which is really awkward. I give the author points for trying to address this issue in the book at all, but it's super clumsy.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Unlike the previous one in the series, this book doesn't get 5 stars in comparison with other novels—it gets it on its own merits. Oh, it's certainly...moreUnlike the previous one in the series, this book doesn't get 5 stars in comparison with other novels—it gets it on its own merits. Oh, it's certainly light reading! But it accomplishes what I always longed to see—connecting Austen's drawing-room universe with the romantic Napoleonic dash of an Age of Sail story—and it does it with great style and verve.(less)
I approached this book from the perspective of "hey, here's some Jane Austen fanfic." From that perspective, damn, this is a great book.
Seriously, tho...moreI approached this book from the perspective of "hey, here's some Jane Austen fanfic." From that perspective, damn, this is a great book.
Seriously, though. There's so much bad literature flooding the market that directly draws on Jane Austen's work—P.D. James, I'm looking at you—that it's refreshing to read a story where the style doesn't get in the way of the plot, which is meticulously historically researched, and which actually adds something new to the world of Austen.
Is it perfect? Possibly not—in fact, I might not have given it five stars, if it were in isolation. But comparing it to every other attempt to ape Jane Austen out there, one realizes how difficult an Austen-flavored Regency story really is to write. Bravo!(less)
I'm not at all sure how to give this a starred rating, so instead I'll tick off some of the pluses and minuses I can think of about the book:
+ When I...moreI'm not at all sure how to give this a starred rating, so instead I'll tick off some of the pluses and minuses I can think of about the book:
+ When I was ten, I would have loved this book. It's the kind of Cinderella story that is also about a girl winning her way through by grit and can-do spirit—the kind of thing I adored then. - There's a lot of weirdness about attitudes towards nature. We love nature, but we ought to dig oil wells? And we see how there are fewer and fewer moths around when we cut down all the trees, but we still should cut down some trees? I think it's trying to get at a kind of "middle way" of environmentalism, but it sort of fails. + The main character's relationship with her mother is central, which is really rare in a children's book, and it centers around how in order to grow up the main character must realize that her mother has other pains/losses/interests than herself. - There's a downright strange subplot involving a trio of street urchins and their drunk father.
All in all, I'm not sure I'd give this to my child, but it was still an engaging read.(less)
I'd have been more than happy to buy this used. Basically—a reasonably solid sci fi novel, nothing to write home about, written in that matter of fact...moreI'd have been more than happy to buy this used. Basically—a reasonably solid sci fi novel, nothing to write home about, written in that matter of fact 1970s sci fi style, originally marketed as a juvenile (but not at all like YA books these days, don't get that idea). As it was, it was certainly worth the free download and read from the Kindle store.(less)
Apart from a couple strange lines (do they really suggest that if battered wives just think about the Magic, their husbands would stop beating them?)...moreApart from a couple strange lines (do they really suggest that if battered wives just think about the Magic, their husbands would stop beating them?) this was exactly the same wonderful book I read as a child—it lost nothing in the intervening years. A Little Princess was always my favorite, but now I can't help but wish I'd taken some of this book's loving attention to detail with regard to gardening to heart: I would've spent a lot more time outside, that's for sure!(less)
On the one hand, I thought there was a lot of great stuff in this book. On the other hand, it was about three times longer than it should have been. T...moreOn the one hand, I thought there was a lot of great stuff in this book. On the other hand, it was about three times longer than it should have been. The narrative style became heavy handed after a while, and I never understood the point of the little executive summaries at the end of each chapter. If you're going to tell us a story—tell us a damn story! There were also points where people from earlier in the book showed back up in such a way as to suggest that they'd never been mentioned before (when actually they had): quite strange.
Ultimately, though, I can't hate too much, because the insight into the PUA culture and Clarisse's experiences there were fascinating.(less)
I always enjoy a Jennifer Crusie novel. This one felt a lot like The Cinderella Deal, though, in its setup. It didn't exactly bother me, but it did ma...moreI always enjoy a Jennifer Crusie novel. This one felt a lot like The Cinderella Deal, though, in its setup. It didn't exactly bother me, but it did make me feel much more like I was reading a romance novel than Jennifer Crusie usually does (her style is so definite and her plots so quirky that I usually feel like I'm reading a romcom movie in book form—not a romance novel! That difference might not seem big, but trust me, it is).(less)
One of the few books I've had trouble reading passages from—simply too violent. I immediately understood why this book was so wildly popular upon begi...moreOne of the few books I've had trouble reading passages from—simply too violent. I immediately understood why this book was so wildly popular upon beginning to read it: the voice is absolutely compelling. I also liked lots of aspects of it—the unreliable narrator, the utter grinding materialism. I felt, however, that it was about fifty pages too long. At a certain point I felt like "alright—this is supposed to be wearying, I accept that," but then I went beyond that stage and felt that the narrator's bullshit was too wearying, that I'd gotten the point, that it was time for some new thing to be added to the formula.
One thing that I did not feel, although I have heard the charge leveled many times, was that the book was particularly anti-woman. That is like saying that Lolita is pro-pedophilia. Almost all the characters in this book are hateful, with the exception of some (but not all!) of Pat's victims. Women and men alike are presented as being responsible for, and twisted by, yuppie culture; women are to some extent represented as complicit in their dehumanization, but isn't that God's honest truth about the world? I was surprised that I could read a book so violent and so filled with sexual violence and not find it immediately repulsive on these grounds, but there you are.(less)
Enjoyed this far more than I expected. Light reading, yes, but Ruff does a great job of constructing an alternate reality. Much less political of a no...moreEnjoyed this far more than I expected. Light reading, yes, but Ruff does a great job of constructing an alternate reality. Much less political of a novel than one might expect it to be, and correspondingly it does not feel like he's got any particular axe to grind, apart from a general distaste for people in power (which, you know, who doesn't).(less)
I really enjoyed this book, but I absolutely can't put my finger on why. I think that the thing I admired—of course, it's beautifully written, etc. et...moreI really enjoyed this book, but I absolutely can't put my finger on why. I think that the thing I admired—of course, it's beautifully written, etc. etc., but take that as a given—is that I had the creeping feeling throughout that the situation of the brothers was a metaphor for something, but it never really let me resolve what that metaphor was. It resisted my desire to put it neatly in a category. I admire that.(less)