In the mood for detailed, lovingly described, slightly creepy, and very political high fantasy? Have I got a book for you!
(In the mood for a quick, li...moreIn the mood for detailed, lovingly described, slightly creepy, and very political high fantasy? Have I got a book for you!
(In the mood for a quick, light read? Come back later.)
Fortress in the Eye of Time is the first book in C. J. Cherryh's Fortress series, and it takes some time establishing the setting. The book opens with an old wizard, living alone in an old fortress, working a great, old magic designed to create a perfect being to fulfill an old promise. Being very, very old, he falters at the last, and instead creates Tristen: a lovely, innocent young man with the charm, good sense, and wit of an exceptionally adorable puppy. A sizable portion of the book is devoted to Tristen exploring the crumbling fortress with screaming faces set in the stonework, making friends with mice and owls (and not quite reconciling how the two can't seem to get along), and otherwise ambling along with the curiosity of an overgrown toddler.
Eventually what happens to very old men living alone happens to Tristen's creator, and Tristen makes his naive way out into the world. Following the dubious guidance of an owl, he makes his way to a town where the kingdom's heir has been sent, while his more-highly-favored younger brother remains home in the capital. Prince Cefwyn, on the counsel of his advisor, takes the unearthly manchild under his wing. Meanwhile, war is brewing with a neighboring kingdom, with multiple assassins having been sent for the prince, along with a marriage proposal that would ally their countries. That kingdom, curiously, has a regency in place, waiting for the day that a very old wizard fulfills his promise to return to them their king...
As I mentioned earlier, this is not a light, quick read. The prose, while lovely, is very detailed and requires savoring to fully appreciate. The characters are rich, with depth and strength and deeply human tendencies towards failings and magnificence in equal measure. As Tristen grows and learns, so do the people associated with him. This first novel only hints at the ways they'll all change, but it introduces people like Cefwyn, the Regent's amazing daughter Nínèvrisë, and Uwen, an old soldier assigned to Tristen to care for him. Political machinations, philosophy, and intense worldbuilding all abound in the series.
These are good books for fans of Game of Thrones who don't want to be depressed, those who enjoy the detailed descriptions of Tolkien, those who dislike the extraneous descriptions of Tolkien, and pretty much anybody who likes high fantasy done well.(less)
An entertaining and engaging first novel, filled with snarky humor intertwined with serious events. Reminiscent of, yet distinct from, early Harry Dre...moreAn entertaining and engaging first novel, filled with snarky humor intertwined with serious events. Reminiscent of, yet distinct from, early Harry Dresden novels. Jackson's voice is fun to read, and his ghostly partner Gladys is delightfully twisted. Highly recommended. (less)
"If I only knew then what I know now," is a common lament. With good reason. While this collection of letters cannot reach the intended recipients, wi...more"If I only knew then what I know now," is a common lament. With good reason. While this collection of letters cannot reach the intended recipients, with luck they'll fall into the hands of other people equally in need of a comforting word of advice from the future.
I think everyone can find at least one letter in this collection that speaks to them. Christopher Rice's was the one I wish my teenaged self could have read: don't take yourself too seriously. Worthy advice for anyone.(less)
This was a good book. I know that because I wanted to smack the main character upside his self-centered, very true-to-life, homophobic, teenaged boy h...moreThis was a good book. I know that because I wanted to smack the main character upside his self-centered, very true-to-life, homophobic, teenaged boy head. In spite of Logan being the protagonist, I did a little mental cheer when another character told him, "This isn't about you!
Because it wasn't. It's not even about Sage. I think it's about society, perceptions, and the horrible experiences of so very many LGBTQ people. Sad but true, Sage actually kind of lucked out. Her parents weren't happy with her and hid her like a shameful secret, but they did care. They didn't kick her out, they uprooted their lives to try to protect Sage (and themselves and their reputations), and they loved her, albeit in a rather misguided sort of way. How much of a tragedy is it that an environment where she was regarded as a freak and never accepted for herself could be considered lucky?
A curious thing—possibly to do with a small sample size—but all of the transpeople (half a dozen, or thereabouts) I've met have been FTM, but all the ones I've read about are MTF. Again with the small sample size, or is there something more underlying that? My money's on a very long and unrelated explanation of sexism.(less)
A wonderful collection of (mostly) lesbian short stories, running the gamut from happy to everyday to heartwrenching. As with all collections, some wo...moreA wonderful collection of (mostly) lesbian short stories, running the gamut from happy to everyday to heartwrenching. As with all collections, some work better than others, but the overall effect is a broad scope of experience distilled into one slim volume well worth a read.(less)
Finally! Something to challenge the dominance of white, Eurocentric fantasy. Not only that, but it does it beautifully. The idea of an ignorant child...moreFinally! Something to challenge the dominance of white, Eurocentric fantasy. Not only that, but it does it beautifully. The idea of an ignorant child being whisked off to a magical school is hardly novel, but it's the execution that makes me giddy with delight. Richly built and beautifully detailed, this would likely appeal to readers of Alexander McCall Smith, except for the fact that it's a straight-up fantasy novel and not just a character piece waxing flushed for Africa.
I didn't know, until writing this review, that this is intended as the first of a series. I look forward to further adventures and learning with Sunny.(less)
Two things bring down my opinion of this collection, one is personal, one is more objective.
The first, through no fault of its own, is my distaste for...moreTwo things bring down my opinion of this collection, one is personal, one is more objective.
The first, through no fault of its own, is my distaste for the short story. It's not that I don't think a good story can be told in 10,000 words or thereabouts, in fact many can, but most of this collection needed more fleshing out to really make any sort of impact on me.
The second, though, is how dated it seems. What was edgy and relevant in 1994 seems rather redundant and blasé in 2012. On the plus side, that means that, in spite of what certain groups are trying to do, society is getting better, and that's downright heartening.
The primary standout in my mind is M. E. Kerr's "We Might As Well Be Strangers," the story of how a young, Jewish girl comes out to her mother and grandmother, and how hatred can be both learned from and forgotten.
The collection is worth a read, no matter what I may have said. While not all of the stories are still relevant, many are, and the ones that aren't provide a good picture of changing times and what life was like not even twenty years ago.(less)
Falcon is a odd one. He's never felt like he's fit in anywhere. On the first day of spring, he discovers why that is: he's not human. He and a couple...moreFalcon is a odd one. He's never felt like he's fit in anywhere. On the first day of spring, he discovers why that is: he's not human. He and a couple of classmates are picked up and delivered to a school for monsters, only to find that he doesn't really fit in there, either.
I confess that I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I still liked it, don't get me wrong (4 stars! That's pretty high praise from me.) bu...moreI confess that I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I still liked it, don't get me wrong (4 stars! That's pretty high praise from me.) but I didn't love it.
Regan is in the tough position of being the only one who knows her brother's secret: Liam is really Luna, who can only come out away from the expectations that keep her trapped in the male body and role she was born into. The book portrays the stress this creates quite well, but I never really got attached to anyone. I had sympathy and affection for the characters, but no real passion.
A good book, certainly, and one I wouldn't hesitate to suggest to anyone looking for a good read, but not one that will have me singing its praises to all and sundry.(less)
I'm struggling to put my feelings into words with this one.
Last summer, Kid loved Felix. Felix—too old, heroin-addicted Felix—may have loved Kid back...moreI'm struggling to put my feelings into words with this one.
Last summer, Kid loved Felix. Felix—too old, heroin-addicted Felix—may have loved Kid back, but Felix is gone now. Love invariably hurts, so this summer, when Kid meets Scout, Kid struggles not to fall in love again.
At the same time, this is also about Kid living on the street, families that aren't, and not-families that are. It's about the kindness of strangers, and reconciliation, and horrible assumptions. It's about hookers with hearts of gold, friendships that sustain, and bartenders that don't let you drink. It's about music and hope and bleak reality. It's about love.
A tight, well-paced novel about a boy finding out he's not, in fact, the only gay person in his school. I would have rated it higher but for the fact...moreA tight, well-paced novel about a boy finding out he's not, in fact, the only gay person in his school. I would have rated it higher but for the fact that I really would have liked more information about the other characters, Russel's home life, what happened to several of the tertiary characters, etc. For a super-quick read, though, it was quite good, and I'd recommend it to others looking for a fast read.(less)
Although it's the second in a series, The Bone Palace stands alone quite well. It’s a dark, political, high fantasy mystery told from two perspectives...moreAlthough it's the second in a series, The Bone Palace stands alone quite well. It’s a dark, political, high fantasy mystery told from two perspectives: Crown Investigator and necromancer Isyllt Iskaldur; and the crown prince’s mistress, Savedra Severos.
A prostitute has turned up dead, her throat slit. Sad, but hardly uncommon. The only thing that draws this to Isyllt’s attention is that she was found carrying a royal treasure, and the scandal needs to be resolved before word can reach the king. The investigation leads Isyllt into the deep underground to the vrykoloi, vampiric demons, and into an odd partnership with the vrykolos Spider. She knows it’s a bad idea, but bad ideas seem to be her stock in trade, lately.
Savedra, for her part, is deliriously in love with Prince Nikos, and surprisingly fond of his wife, Ashlin, even going so far as to serve as confidante and bodyguard—much to the warrior princess’ dismay. Being intimately tied to the crown as she is, while Isyllt roams the streets and tunnels of the city, Vedra investigates the twisty politics of the nobles, including those of her own family. Neither of them could anticipate the betrayals revealed when they uncover both buried history and an enraged demon out for blood.
Both books in the series (and, presumably, the forthcoming sequel, The Kingdoms of Dust) are marked by intensive world-building, political machinations, and strong female characters. This is a book for the people who get a bit tired of the testosterone of George R. R. Martin and don’t feel like the romantic bent of Kim Harrison.
For the non-copypasta'd part of the review, I want to gush lovingly about Downum's treatment of sex. Specifically, how it's just sex. It's a pleasurable activity between friends, and sometimes a drunken mistake, but there's nothing shameful about the activity. There's no visible backlack against orientation, either, with people being happily bisexual without reproach, or mildly lamenting that they aren't. (Isyllt wishing she were into women because her friend was otherwise perfect made me laugh, if only because she acknowledges that she's not even remotely her friend's type.) The relationship between Vedra, Ashlin, and Nikos fills me with angsty glee, and I wish there were more of that around. All in all, a fantastic novel. I eagerly await the next one.(less)
Naruto is a long-running series with all the power of hype that that entails. It begins as the story of a clumsy, none-too-bright boy who wants to bec...moreNaruto is a long-running series with all the power of hype that that entails. It begins as the story of a clumsy, none-too-bright boy who wants to become the greatest ninja ever. This is, as one might expect, not terribly easy.
I was more than a little leery of venturing into such a well-publicized manga. I’ve been burned before by popular works that have all the texture and depth of fast food, but I figured I’d give it a try. Fortunately, it is a long running series, so the initial toilet humor was easy to breeze past until the plot and characterization started kicking in. Even then, I don’t think there’s a moment where it passes the Bechdel Test. If a lack of strong female characters is a deal-breaker, I’d probably give this a miss—even when they’re supposed to be strong, they’re relegated to the background or otherwise dismissed—but if that doesn’t matter to you, or you can deal with it, then the guys are worth sticking around for.
The titular character, Naruto, starts out as a loud, obnoxious child of twelve, but slowly grows into an oddly charismatic boy due to sheer persistance and positive outlook. His teammates, Sakura and Sasuke, start out respectively as a flighty, mooning, tempermental girl and a brooding, taciturn boy, but both develop in their own ways. Assorted teachers, companions, and enemies gain depth and sympathy throughout the series, to the point where Naruto is actually consistently not the most popular character in his own series (the honor frequently going to Sasuke or their teacher, Kakashi).
While this is insanely popular with young teenaged boys, the series as a whole offers a lot to anyone who likes fast-paced action mixed with touching character development.(less)