I remember reading the Farseer trilogy (in which world this novella fits) as a kid and hating it. I was far too young for such a dark, depressing seriI remember reading the Farseer trilogy (in which world this novella fits) as a kid and hating it. I was far too young for such a dark, depressing series – I disliked it for all the reasons I disliked A Game of Thrones, which would mean I would probably like Hobb now. I decided it would be a good idea to read this, since it was so short, to see if I could take Hobb off my will-not-read list.
Hobb is still dark – no one gets to be happy, everybody dies THE END. The writing is good, the characters are solid and the worldbuilding is expertly done, which all points to "yes" on the "give Hobb another chance" scale.
Since I remember very little of the Farseer trilogy, except that it included murder and betrayal and NOBODY GETS HAPPY ENDINGS, I basically treated this as a stand-alone novella. And I didn't feel like I was missing anything in terms of background, so this could be an entrance into Hobb's fantasy world for those who are completely unfamiliar with it. ...more
I love this book. I've already re-read it four or five times since I first picked it up six years ago and I plan to re-read it again. And this is fromI love this book. I've already re-read it four or five times since I first picked it up six years ago and I plan to re-read it again. And this is from a girl who very rarely re-reads. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the old she hates him-she loves him trope where the love interest is initially the mysterious bad boy the heroine sees as an antagonist. Plus, the concept of every door opening into another landscape (including one into an amazing library) is wish-fulfillment for me. However, do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to read the sequel. I got less than halfway through it and then decided I would pretend it doesn't exist.
This was the first book I read by the author and then attempted to track down everything else she wrote based on my love for this book. Nothing else she ever wrote even slightly compared. ...more
For one thing, I couldn't understand why there were so many different types of humanoids mucking about. There’s Barrani (aka,Unnecessarily confusing.
For one thing, I couldn't understand why there were so many different types of humanoids mucking about. There’s Barrani (aka, fey), Leontines (lion people), Dragons (who usually seem human but can transform into Dragon Classic), Arians (winged people) and Tha'alani (who I thought were just psychic humans but are actually psychics with head tentacles). To add to this madness, any of these races may belong to the three guard organizations, all of which are named after animals (Hawks, Wolves, and something else). So there’s animal-esque people who belong to organizations named after other animals. Oh, and there's at least two types of magic users, three if you include the Tha'alani.
Politics and geography are also muddled. Everyone is ruled by the Emperor. Except for within the fiefs (which are slummish, hell-hole places), which are ruled by fieflords (who may or may not all be outcast Barrani. This was also unclear). The main character, Kaylin, is an ex-fief denizen who is now a Hawk (one of the guard orders. Who despite the name don’t go airborne. Unless they’re Arians who naturally have wings). The Hawk place (town? Citadel? Castle?) is a stone’s throw from the fief. Kaylin and her companions keep walking/running to the fief so it’s probably less than 5 miles away. Maybe one mile? It is just so absurdly close I don’t understand.
I don’t like being confused. I really, really don’t. I liked the concept of a fantasy-mystery, and there were actual creepy parts, plus the ultimate reveal of the reason behind why Kaylin keeps trying to kill childhood friend-turned-enemy Severn is an emotional punch in the stomach. But when I can’t quite keep straight who everyone is and what is going on, I am too distracted trying to make sense of things to appreciate the story.
Also, ultra-powerful immortals need to stop falling in love with heroines for NO GOOD REASON. Stop going mushy for humans because you find the mix of ignorance, sarcasm and defiance cute or whatever. ...more
I will be the first one to admit it: John Myers Myers is smarter than me. He’s forgotten more about obscure literature than I will ever know.
This booI will be the first one to admit it: John Myers Myers is smarter than me. He’s forgotten more about obscure literature than I will ever know.
This book reminds me of nothing more than a small child who has learned an exciting trick. "Look at me! Look at me!" it shouts. And at first you are impressed--hey, that's pretty good! But after a while, when it's just the same trick over and over, the child is still just as excited, but the watcher has started to get tired. "Okay, that's great. Now learn a new trick!"
Here's the trick: Protagonist Hero (character name: A. Clarence Shandon) from real-world Chicago gets shipwrecked in the Commonwealth, where all literature and legends exist at once. There he runs into Don Quixote, the Mad Hatter's tea party of Alice in Wonderland, Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Beowulf and a host of others, both famous and obscure (mostly obscure). Shandon kind of bounces around the Commonwealth, less having any real mission than meeting as many literary and legendary figures as possible. Oh, and he goes from a tool to a hero.
I appreciate what Myers is trying to accomplish here. And, frankly, if I caught more of the references than it would be much more amusing. But it’s very hard when I rely almost entirely on the glossary to understand things. And it’s not like I’m not decently well-read; but I think only someone like my friend who is getting her PhD in medieval literature will get the lesser-known Dark Ages saga figures.
And what’s up with all the references to eighteenth century novels no one reads anymore and not a single Jane Austen or Bronte sisters reference? Not even Dickens, if I'm not mistaken. It's like Myers wanted to be as obscure and academic as possible.
The story itself is obviously just a showcase for the references and a really blatant classic Hero’s Journey, which means it’s not actually interesting. The premise is amusing enough at first, but when it has neither character nor plot to sustain it, my interest wanes.
On the plus side, I learned that "bivouac" is a real word and not just an outdoor clothing & gear store. It means "encamping." Shandon bivouacs LIKE CRAZY in the Commonwealth. ...more
This is the Sharon Shinn I loved and missed! I demand that Shinn only write books centered on political intrigue. She is just so damn good! And lightThis is the Sharon Shinn I loved and missed! I demand that Shinn only write books centered on political intrigue. She is just so damn good! And light years beyond most other authors.
Zoe Ardelay is crazy with grief over the recent death of her beloved father, a man who was once the king's most trusted advisor and then became a political exile. Out of nowhere, the king's current right hand man, Darian Serlast, arrives and announces that Zoe will be the king's fifth wife. Given this beginning, I thought this would be a typical fantasy romance.
Then Zoe ran away as soon as they hit the capital and went to ground. Apparently Zoe was NOT going to marry the king. Then Zoe finds out that she is a Prime - the leader of one of the five elemental noble families, which makes her one of the most powerful magic users in the kingdom. More specifically, she is the Prime of the water element.
The magic system was imaginative and well-thought out, the political intrigue was believable and clever, and the supporting characters had depth. Best of all, the romance was electrically charged. Zoe can't quite trust Darian (he has lied and hidden truths from her repeatedly and his loyalty is fiercely to the king and the kingdom), but he is also an honorable man. And Zoe repeatedly throws Darian off-balance. It was an intense relationship and it was one of those pairings that I adore in fiction.
As much as I loved this book, it has its flaws.
First of all, Zoe spends a lot of the book living on a riverbank with the other squatters. And this is all written as some idyllic existence (because poverty is such a pleasant, simple life?). No one steals from Zoe, everyone gets along, it’s a jolly party all the time and it’s not cold/wet/miserable really. It’s not smelly or brutal. No one tries to rape her or murder her or get in a drunken brawl. No one is dying of starvation or so hungry that they can’t think. No one is sitting around drugged out of their mind and it’s not a beacon for mentally ill people. Man, it makes me want to be homeless. The homeless couple Zoe befriends (whose backstory we never really get, by the way), is perfectly able to transition into court life. Because they used to be servants? But now are living on the riverbank? And seem cheerful and gentle and not at all hardened by life on the streets? Ooookay, book. I believe the magic WAY more than I believe the portrayal of the homeless camp.
The other thing is that Zoe really does go fucking crazy with her power. She is basically a living weapon and at the end she causes a FLOOD which DAMAGES THE CITY and DESTROYS THE PALACE and she just gets a slap on the wrist. It’s okay because nobody drowned! But there were OTHER WAYS TO STOP THE MAD KING FROM WEDDING HIS UNDERAGE DAUGHTER TO THE PEDOPHILE ABUSIVE FOREIGN KING that did not involve widespread destruction. Like maybe a little flood?? Like maybe making the fountains overflow to distract people then grabbing the girl and running off? Maybe getting the other Primes to protest and cause some ruckus? I would be pretty damned pissed off if my house/belongings got destroyed because one of the Primes threw a temper tantrum because no one taught her better (which Zoe had done repeatedly and people had called her on it and yet she KEPT DOING IT). Zoe is the kind of magic user that causes people to hunt down and destroy those with magic power in other worlds. She is what you fear – someone who misuses and abuses her power and thoughtlessly causes destruction that no one can counter. She very well may have destroyed people’s livelihoods or at least their most treasured possessions. She may have caused people to be homeless (but that’s okay! Being homeless is great in this city!). And all she gets is a slap on the wrist and paying some fines. Ummm. No. That is not okay. That scene should not have happened. I was fine with Zoe until that scene. Maybe I should just pretend it didn’t exist. ...more
I should love this book, I really should, but there is that je ne sais quoi that prevents me.
This is one of those depressing fantasies I almost wantI should love this book, I really should, but there is that je ne sais quoi that prevents me.
This is one of those depressing fantasies I almost want to label dystopian fantasy. The kingdom is in trouble – the king on the throne is a tyrant, the magic users are hunted down and killed or mind-raped into either obedience or mental incapacitation. The heroine is the future hope of the rebellion, but she’s starving and on the run. SADNESS.
I realized that the only two real characters for most of this book were Neryn and Flint. Everyone else is a peripheral character. The Good Folk have more development than the other human characters! There are the numerous faceless, nameless, menacing Enforcers. There’s characters that either aid or hinder the heroine’s quest. There’s the memories of her family (her wise, strong grandmother; her foolish, brave brother; her clever, broken father), but that isn’t really the same thing, since they are memories frozen in time.
I do really, really like Flint and the intense romance is pitch-perfect. Neryn doesn’t want to trust Flint, but she does. Flint doesn’t feel good enough for Neryn (or anyone) but loves her anyway. I mean, there is a real dilemma in the Neryn-Flint dynamic. Flint may be a good person at heart, and he’s fighting the good fight, but as a double agent pretending to be loyal to the king he has had to do awful, awful things to preserve his cover (unnamed, but likely to include the torture and death of innocents in the normal role of the King’s Enforcer). And Neryn has no reason to trust an Enforcer, even one she suspects of being a double agent – Enforcers murdered her family and continue to terrorize her country. It is easier to believe that Flint is using her than that he actually cares for her. This is the kind of conflict that I love seeing in a romance - a real, compelling reason to keep the heroine and hero apart for so long.
Still not loving the dystopian kingdom, though. Why this king is so hellbent on destroying his country is a question not answered – he’s just a shadowy and fearful presence driving this story. Ostensibly his father was a good king, so why does he go so powermad? Why is he especially trying to destroy those with canny gifts? I kept expecting some prophecy indicating that the Good Folk would be his downfall, but no word about that. I will be annoyed if he doesn’t have a good reason for his actions, if instead he is just a Big Bad who is evulz for the lolz. He sounds like a mad Roman emperor (who, by the way, were often killed by their own guard because they went too fucking mad even for them – so the king better watch out). ...more
Sometimes authors appear to get all their talent out in their first book and all follow-ups are disappointing. I didn’t even like Poison Study as muchSometimes authors appear to get all their talent out in their first book and all follow-ups are disappointing. I didn’t even like Poison Study as much as everyone else (though I did think it was pretty good), but it was a hell of a lot better than this table leg prop.
This was just a horribly “meh” book. The love interests in particular suffered from Dull Syndrome. How can a love triangle be so unexciting? Kade, the Stormdancer, was far from being “mysterious and mercurial” like the description promised. Instead he was a personality-less mix of I Can’t Love Anyone Ever Again Because I Lost Someone I Cared About angst and lame sea/weather metaphors. At least he was better than Ulrick, who was a clingy, jealous, stalkery mess who ticked off a lot of the How To Spot An Abuser boxes (where are you going? who are you seeing? why won’t you tell me everything?!?!?). I kept waiting for Opal to realize what a creep Ulrick was, but I guess that takes more brainpower than poor Opal possesses. And then I read reviews of the later books and discovered that Devlen, the murderous, kidnapping villain of this book, is also a future love interest. When I found this out, I read the parts involving him more closely and was amused/horrified that the author tries to portray him in a sympathetic light at the end of this book, with the whole “Sure, he kidnaps and tortures me! But he protects me from those thugs who want to rape me!” Yeah, okay Snyder. You know Stockholm Syndrome is not the basis for a romance, right?
I have no interest whatsoever in reading the sequels, especially since all signs point to them being even worse than this book. Snyder has created an interesting world with some intriguing magic; too bad she fills it with flat, brainless characters. ...more
If you are going to read one door-stopper fantasy this year this should be it. A Game of Thrones is the hot commodity in this market right now, but I’If you are going to read one door-stopper fantasy this year this should be it. A Game of Thrones is the hot commodity in this market right now, but I’m going to lay it out there and say that I think Name of the Wind is better. Or at least more enjoyable (it has 100% less twincest and while harm does befall children, there is way less child killing/child attempted killing/etc).
This is also more of a “classic” high fantasy: talented young boy goes on to become a legend. The nice thing is that he isn’t The Chosen One. The real fresh take on the classic fantasy hero’s journey is that the book begins with the hero, Kvothe, already a legend. It begins where most fantasy story ends: the hero has kicked ass, taken names, and made his own famous. Then he retires. Sadly, Kvothe really sucks at retirement. He’s desperately unhappy but won’t admit it. He’s a bored innkeeper slowly rusting out in the boonies. His assistant/friend, Bast (who has his own mysterious past), is doing his best to pull him out of this nowhere-life, but Kvothe seems too stuck in his own inertia to lose. Modern-day Kvothe is probably the most depressing part of the book.
Luckily, modern-day Kvothe takes up very little of the book – it is mostly flashback to his origins. This is the place that most fantasy books start: the hero as a child. At least he’s not a good-hearted farmboy. He’s a clever, arrogant, tricky travelling performer. He becomes a broken bird early on, when his family/troupe are massacred. After three years as a street urchin, he finally makes his way to the Arcanum (aka magic school). The Arcanum is a richly developed setting and really comes alive - it feels like a magical Oxford (both the university and the surrounding town). This was my favourite part of the book: Kvothe’s life at the Arcanum.
There is so much I love about this book, starting with the brilliant, impatient, manipulative, kind Kvothe. He’s an excellent hero and you can see how this guy could one day be a famous kingkiller (and later a broken innkeeper). Though he does need to learn to ask for some frickin’ help when he frickin’ needs it -- one of his greated weaknesses is his stubborn insistence on doing things on his own even when he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t want to take charity and he doesn’t want to look weak, so he NEVER turns to his friends for help - he’d rather have a loanshark break his legs than to tell his friends that he is in desperate straits. This is injuring him already in this early third of the story, but the real danger is that this personality trait bites him in the ass in a big way later on (which I’m guessing it probably does).
I also think Rothfuss’ writing is really solid. He’s not a beautifully lyrical writer, though it flows wonderfully and reads like a dream. His biggest strength as a writer is his superb mastery of metaphors and similes. They fit so well and say even more about the situation than most simple comparisons achieve. One example is when Kvothe saying that he was like a lamb lost in the woods. On one hand it was saying that he was confused and befuddled – but it also spoke to his vulnerability and innocence that was spot-on.
The one big weakness for me in this novel was Denna, Kvothe’s love interest. I do not like her type. She is la belle dame sans merci - flirty, cruel, manipulative, passionate, cold, teasing. It’s a male desire that I don’t understand. Why does someone as awesome as Kvothe obsess over someone as terrible for him as Denna? It’s like he both wants to possess her (she’s the one that everyone wants – but you know/desire that she only really wants you) and save her (from all those other terrible men who don’t truly understand her). I guess she is the female equivalent of the “bad boy” figure – women want that kind of man for those same reasons (possession and saving).
I don’t like her at all. First off, it’s stupid that Rothfuss equates “not having any female friends” to “being too attractive” instead of, I don’t know, the fact that she is kinda a selfish bitch. Look, girls are friends with really beautiful girls all the time. If the “too hot” thing was true, no actress in Hollywood would have female friends. This is a lie girls who are pretty bitches tell themselves to excuse their behavior. Also, the fact that she is a maneater makes me hate her. Look, I know it was hard to be a lone woman back in the day, but this is fantasyland. There are female scholars at the Arcanum and female medical workers. Even female moneylenders! True, not many, but it is possible. And Denna is supposed to be wicked smart and determined. If she wanted a career instead of just being an escort/mistress, she could do it. And Kvothe just shrugging and going “that’s just her nature! She can’t be any less cruel than a tiger can” is bullshit, because a tiger doesn’t have any higher moral capability or higher thinking (so far as we know) and Denna can. Denna could change. She just doesn’t want to, either through an inherent flaw or a troubled background or whatever. In the end, though, it’s all excuses and I think Kvothe deserves better than her. And I’m sorry he’s so desperately in love with her.
I hope Kvothe finds someone more worthy of him than Denna, but I doubt it. I guess the best I can hope for is character growth on her part.
But if the worst I can say about it is I think the love interest is unworthy of the hero, then it is definitely a superb book. ...more