Katherine Addison clearly loves the world she has built in The Goblin Emperor, a world that is way bigger and detailed and meticulous than is requiredKatherine Addison clearly loves the world she has built in The Goblin Emperor, a world that is way bigger and detailed and meticulous than is required for this 500 page standalone. It isn't a world built for the book; this is a book is about a pre-imagined world. I like that, because it shows an extraordinary commitment of the imagination. At the same time it's frustrating because I know there is so much more this book could be. There is so much more I want to know outside the confines of this story.
The story itself is entirely about hearts and minds. Don't expect high octane action. Most of the book is spent following the eponymous goblin emperor to audiences and meetings and balls, where he struggles to fit himself to his role. The Bildungsroman plot is windy and the complex naming conventions make the characters hard to follow. Effort is rewarded though and there are so many to warm to and love.
Addison is more interested in what can't be said than what can be, and the book is full of powerful silences, miscommunications, tentative sharing. Emotions run high throughout and tension comes from the struggle to both contain and express them within the constraints of court life. It's done with great delicacy and thoughtfulness. In the end what I admired most was the low key drama of it all. The fantasy flashbangs are relegated in favour of determining whether or not an emperor can make friends.
Addison has already said there won't be a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, which is sad, but I'll be watching for her next book with anticipation. ...more
Oh. My. Days. I bloody loved this book with a fierce intensity from page 1 right through to the end. I loved that this is a book about friendship firsOh. My. Days. I bloody loved this book with a fierce intensity from page 1 right through to the end. I loved that this is a book about friendship first and foremost, and then I loved that it is a book about desire (and not just romantic desire), and then I loved the strong delineation of the characters: Blue and Adam and Gansey and Ronan and Noah. Also Blue's mother and aunts. Also the magic and the ley line and the Welsh mythos of Owain Glendower. Also Stiefvater's wonderful writing. Also, pretty much everything else. I need book 2. And I need it now. ...more
My experience of reading this was so mixed that I hardly know what to think. For me, it was two books. One which was high concept, gloriously beautifuMy experience of reading this was so mixed that I hardly know what to think. For me, it was two books. One which was high concept, gloriously beautiful and full of big bright feelings; and another one which was oddly paced and annoying with stagey banter and broken by fragmented point of view. So while I was moved by the end - gut-wrenched and breathless through the final pages, as you are clearly meant to be - I spent the first half of the novel impatient with boredom, and most of the second part lamenting the fact that the characters didn't have enough space to breathe for the drama. How can the first 200 pages spend so long establishing the premise, only so that the second 200 pages have to rush the most powerful moments? I'm glad to have persevered and do want to read Children of God, but it won't be a favourite book for me sadly. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read Rachel Hartman's debut Seraphina in a day; it took me over a month to read Shadow Scale. True it's 600 pages long but, still,**spoiler alert** I read Rachel Hartman's debut Seraphina in a day; it took me over a month to read Shadow Scale. True it's 600 pages long but, still, my tardy pace is a pretty good indicator of my experience of reading it. Slow going and, at times, disappointingly hard work with less of the sweet wicked humour and energy of the first book.
In the end Shadow Scale has lots of the things that Seraphina had to recommend it: our bright, determined heroine, her diverse friends and allies, the well visioned complexity of Hartman's world. But I found the first 300 pages terribly slow and clunking, too much in common with the worst kind of epic fantasy. The book opens with an awkward attempt to recap book one for new readers, and segues quickly into a travelogue as a Seraphina heads off across the Southlands to recruit her fellow half dragons to help defend her home nation Goredd against rebel dragons. We doggedly progress from one ityasaari to another, ticking them off a mental list and collecting them like toys. There isn't a great deal of time to know or understand these new characters before Seraphina has to get moving again; the mass of them seems more important to the novel than their individuality. Things improve markedly with the introduction of Jannoula, Seraphina's half dragon nemesis, who is able to reach out to other ityasaari, infect their minds and control them from a distance. Imprisoned and tortured as a child, Jannoula is hungry for attention and love and determined to manipulate the geopolitics of the Southlands and the dragon Tannamoot to achieve her ultimate aim of universal adoration. Events gather momentum and the novel begins building towards the inevitable stand off between the two 'sisters'. There are eventually battles and betrayals and bereavements enough for anyone.
There are some lovely set pieces in the latter part of the book too: the taking of Lab 4, a stronghold of the dragon Censors, in particular and the flight of exiled dragons from Porphyria. There are also new opportunities to address some of the themes dear to the novels' heart, especially diversities of identity and belief. There are some lovely considerations of second generation dragons in exile in the Southlands, struggling with what it means to be both a different species and a native citizen. The introduction of the transgender ityasaari Camba and revelations about Glisselda's sexuality (the biggest yay of the book for me) widen the range of experience of Hartman's cast. We are allowed another tantalising glimpse of quigutl culture, the lizard underclass of dragon society too (though not enough, never enough!) The ways the book engages with questions of religious conviction, and plays with undermining the status of Goredd's Saints, figureheads who are not quite gods but close to it, has a lot of potential. The sheer good hearted generosity Hartman's world allows almost anything to be embraced and reconciled in the end - any identity, any belief - so long as it is wrapped up with love and honesty.
It's very beguiling and I enjoyed it tremendously by the end. Of course I'd read a third book in a heart beat. But this definitely seems like that difficult second book to me, where the full implication of the world Hartman has created, and her determination to do it justice, leads to some baggy plot, moments of over complication and some thematic dead ends.
An incredibly mixed bag of a book for me. I very much admired the first half, but found the second completely unengaging. I thought the fantastical stAn incredibly mixed bag of a book for me. I very much admired the first half, but found the second completely unengaging. I thought the fantastical strand - horology, the Atemporals, the Chapel of the Blind Cathar - was a stolid lump of whimsy and silliness, built entirely on info dumps and meaningless jargon. The whole thing convinced me yet again that Mitchell writes much better near-historical and contemporary fiction than future or science fiction. Not for me. ...more
More significant than it appears on first acquaintance. I was bumbling along the first 300 pages - which is quite a lot of pages to be entertained butMore significant than it appears on first acquaintance. I was bumbling along the first 300 pages - which is quite a lot of pages to be entertained but indifferent - then, bam, Ness tightens his grip and there 'ain't' nothing but turmoil from there on out. Turmoil and tears and tension, lots of tension, and some very perceptive writing. And also the most vertiginous cliff-hanger ending I've come across in some time. Very much looking forward to The Ask and the Answer. ...more
Delicious and extraordinary prose styling from Margo Lanagan from beginning to end, and an entire sea-bound world built out of it. Highly highly recomDelicious and extraordinary prose styling from Margo Lanagan from beginning to end, and an entire sea-bound world built out of it. Highly highly recommended! ...more