Some reviewers have complained that this book is no different from Maitland's earlier books. That's a shame if true, but I've never read any of her otSome reviewers have complained that this book is no different from Maitland's earlier books. That's a shame if true, but I've never read any of her other books so I can only judge The Falcons of Fire & Ice on its own merits. And those merits are considerable.
The ice is Iceland; the fire is the fire of the Portuguese Inquisition in the mid-16th Century. The daughter of a Portuguese falconer is forced to travel north to capture two falcons to save her father from the flames, while a charming con-man is blackmailed into accompanying her to frustrate her quest. These two are joint narrators, along with the Icelandic witch who, chained in her cave with her dead twin sister, awaits their arrival.
The story balances the superstition of the inquisition with the mysticism of the Icelanders: struggling to keep their catholic faith against a Lutheranism imposed by Denmark, despite being barely more than pagan.
Maitland's imagination runs wild, dripping with allegory and never allowing the reader to choose between reality and mysticism. The plotting and the triple narration are deftly handled, the minor characters all have a chance to breathe and the story never loses pace. The theme of religious intolerance is always there but never overwhelms the writing.
If other reviewers are to be believed, you only need to read one Karen Maitland novel. In that case, read this one. Meanwhile I'll read another one and see if they're right. ...more
A girl is brought up alone by her mysterious, intellectual, over-protective father. Gradually she discovers more about his vampire past and the strangA girl is brought up alone by her mysterious, intellectual, over-protective father. Gradually she discovers more about his vampire past and the strange fate of her mother, who disappeared soon after she was born. Eventually she sets off in search of both her parents, coming face to face with her own vampire heritage on the way. Yes, this is the plot of Elizabeth Kostova's 2005 novel The Historian. It is also the plot of The Society Of S, a light, easy-reading version for teenage girls.
Hubbard has won awards for short stories, so coming up with a plot of her own shouldn't have been a problem. But the very obvious parallels with a recent bestseller which she surely had read do cast a shadow over what is otherwise a reasonably enjoyable bit of fluff.
Unlike The Historian, there is no intellectual depth to this book and it should not be too taxing for its teenage readership. However, Hubbard does follow the present literary fashion for intellectual show-boating, including reams of arcane facts that have no relevance to the plot and can be rather irritating at times. None of it seems to serve any purpose, except as a contrast to the New Age nonsense spouted by the mother later on. Umberto Eco and Donna Tartt, who carried off the same trick with a lot more panache, have got a lot to answer for.
Take this example: "I had read selected chapters of the Bible, Quran, Kabbalah, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, the writings of Lao-Tse - but I had read all of them as literature or philosophy, and my father and I discussed them as such... Every Friday, my father asked me to summarize the various lessons of the week: history, philosophy, mathematics, literature, the sciences, art. Then he would synthesize my summaries, finding patterns an parallels and symmetries that often dazzled me. Sadly, few minds are capable of such thinking and such articulation. ...Yes, I'll get back to my story now." Oddly, the word "pretentious" does not appear anywhere in the book.
Yet despite its many flaws and its laughable intellectual pretensions, the book rattles along at an easy pace, even if very little happens in the first half. It will please teenagers (mostly girls) who are looking to graduate to grown-up books, though it lacks the gravitas to satisfy adults (unless you are the sort of adult who reads Harry Potter, and that need not be an insult).
It ends rather messily - I thought it was building up to a delicious plot twist that never materialised, and the characters just seem to drift away. I got the feeling that Hubbard was hedging her bets, leaving the door open for a sequel and thereby compromising the work in hand. ...more
'From A Buick 8' probably isn't the best place to start with Stephen King: when reading a book in an unfavoured genre, usually only the best will do,'From A Buick 8' probably isn't the best place to start with Stephen King: when reading a book in an unfavoured genre, usually only the best will do, and 'Buick 8' isn't the best.
Pennsylvania's state troopers find themselves in possession of a mysterious object that looks like an old Buick but in fact is a portal to another world. Over 20 years a few things go one way and a few the other. That's it, pretty much. No explanation, very little conflict and no resolution.
It's a tribute to King's writing skills that he can be engaging for several hundred pages of mostly flashback in which nothing much happens. His characters are sympathetic, well-drawn and distinct, but they're all too sympathetic. They're all 'good cops' with the usual array of problems, except for the carboard cut-out bad boy who appears and then quickly disappears half-way through. Where's the conflict?
The structure is a procession of chapters where a different cop takes up the story of how an object that looks like an old car but is in fact a portal into another world found its way into Shed B. The listener is Ned, son of Curt, who has recently died in the line of duty. The way King often switches narrators and chapters in mid-sentence is a nice touch, but it gets tedious to listen to the old cop again talk about how good a cop Curt was and how much is son reminds him of his departed colleague.
Ultimately, this is a pleasant enough way to fill some idle hours, but we learn nothing about the car or the paranormal, and even less about the human condition. All pretty sterile really. ...more