Deerskin took a bit to get into because the narrative is purposefully distanced being that it's told from the perspective of a badly neglected and soc...moreDeerskin took a bit to get into because the narrative is purposefully distanced being that it's told from the perspective of a badly neglected and socially abused child. I didn't fully appreciate the genius of this narrative choice until she gradually opens herself to the world around her and the narrative becomes so much more engaging at the same time. I've read many a Robin McKinley book... But this is so much more artful and gut wrenching than her other fairy tales. It's the difference between Disney and Bluebeard.
There's a part of the book where Lissar describes her prince as the man who holds the "two halves of her broken heart:" That was what this book was to me. It broke my heart multiple times but then patched it into something better. Sometimes you read books and feel like you've personally grown from reading them. This was one of those for me. Though I would agree that people who have a specific trigger should not read this book, I would heavily encourage anyone else, even someone just potentially uncomfortable, to read this. It gives a really fresh, insightful, and touching perspective on psychological healing.
Also, there are puppies.
Also, there is the single most attractive-to-me male lead I've ever read. Both for who he is and who he is to her:
"She remembered him as if he dressed in bright colors: red and green and yellow and blue. And yet his clothing was usually the drab practical sort one would want to wear in a kennel... She also thought of his face and hair and eyes as bright, when in fact he was as drab as his clothing, and his hair and eyes were a dull brown. But his smile lit his dull square features as fire lightens darkness; and so when her memory of him startled her when she set her eyes again on the reality, his smile reminded her of what she chose to remember."
**spoiler alert** I honestly didn't know until I read the other reviews that this was the final book in a trilogy: This book totally succeeds as a sta...more**spoiler alert** I honestly didn't know until I read the other reviews that this was the final book in a trilogy: This book totally succeeds as a standalone. I am very impressed by that fact alone.
The world building and really cool magic system are the heart of this novel. The world and vibrant - The best part of Eff's character is her fundamental attachment to this system. I would recommend this book to any fantasy fan simply because of this setting.
The big caveat, however, is that the plot is pretty dull. The only conflict is between the characters and the environment. Because so much time is spent these encounters, the personal relationships seem oddly superficial for a relatively small group that has been traveling in such close quarters. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the primary 'romantic' relationship. There's literally nothing in their interactions that suggest that they want to be something more than best friends until he asks her to marry him. She agrees essentially because he's a good friend. This should absolutely be a component in a relationship - But not the sole component. Or if it is the only component, there should be some evidence that it grows (not magically turns into) something deeper before it's put as the central fixture in a 'happily ever after' epilogue. I had flashbacks to Harry Potter at the end that almost made me forget how GOOD the background information was.
So read the book. It's overall really interesting, but I'd almost warn people to stop before the end. Definitely skip the epilogue. (less)
First, I want to start a fan club for Enuwal. The novel really turns the traditional alpha male/submissive female trope on it's head. And damn it, swe...moreFirst, I want to start a fan club for Enuwal. The novel really turns the traditional alpha male/submissive female trope on it's head. And damn it, sweet, adorable guys are hot. For some reason, don't ask me why, he reminds me of Ren from Gabriel's Ghost (who, unlike this book, was the only redeeming quality of an otherwise horrible book), which is a BIG PLUS.
The lead character, Malia, is very strong and encounters her travails with an admirable amount of confidence that is, refreshingly, not brash, but still powerful. She thinks her actions through before making them, yet is still flexible and responsive to her surroundings. Her personality reflects well on the culture she was raised in - Which I found to be the highlight of the novel, particularly when considered in conjunction with the Jegudun (especially the magic system which was unique and had severe consequences, which I loved). It was well worth the purchase for these cultural interactions alone.
However, the villains and the war in general felt... contrived. The most immediate villain, Malia's husband, was just too unreasonably mean. There wasn't much background given to their relationship or to his personality and past. Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue, but their failed relationship and his general jerkiness seemed to be a convenient impetus for every problem in the novel. It wasn't enough that he hit her. (view spoiler)[He ALSO killed her friend. He shows up and cockblocks her time with the most adorkably cute character I've ever read. When she's trying to make a grand diplomatic gesture between the two races, guess who's there to add his two cents about his ex-wife? I was honestly surprised that he didn't magically rise from the dead to start fighting for the Maddion. (hide spoiler)]
As for the Maddion, the passages from their leader's perspective were incredibly well written: I ended up truly liking him and sympathizing with his plight as a leader. His back story was fascinating and the slow realization of his son's deception was actually heartbreaking. I normally don't like passages told from the 'other side's' POV (frequently they're used as a plot device to create tension in a story that was stagnating plotwise... "Let's remind the reader that evil is still occuring!"), but I found myself increasingly looking forward to stories from dragon peoples.
That being said: for the life of me I couldn't figure out why he was in this war. Vaguely, I know that they had something of a caste-based society. There's a disease. And the Taakwa waters were healing waters. But they really weren't? How did he get this foolbrained idea in the first place? What happened to all those people dying of this disease when their efforts failed? Who is the new leader of the Maddion? I don't get why a guy who seemingly has a fully functioning brain wouldn't just, you know, ASK them about it. Or why the Great War happened in the first place. Or why there were dragons? No seriously: Why the dragons? Is it because it doesn't qualify as a fantasy novel without them? We've got the cool Taakwa/Jegudun bond thingy on the one side, but the dragons just kinda seem to be fire-breathing magic mounts.
So, despite a few reservations (which may be unfounded... I read it in a rush, so I might've missed a few bits of info), I really liked this novel. Well worth the purchase! Read it for Enuwal. Mmmm. (Side note: Love the cover art.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I read a review by the author of Seraphina, who cited this series as her source point for the importance of well-drawn religious systems in fantasy no...moreI read a review by the author of Seraphina, who cited this series as her source point for the importance of well-drawn religious systems in fantasy novels. Having read the novel, I whole heartedly agree. This is possibly the most mature, grown up fantasy novel I've read - This can be largely attributed to the perspective it was told from. It makes me wonder what Harry Potter would be like if it were told from Dumbledore's perspective... Or, and this I now desperately want to read, the Lord of the Rings from the perspective of Gandalf. If you want fast-paced action, this is NOT the book for you. On the one hand, the story is an emotional journey - Caz is a man who has been both physically and emotionally abused before the start of the novel, and those scars show. You won't find many novels where the main male character is prone to bouts of hysterical crying. But as he slowly strengthens both physically and emotionally, the endurance that held him through his prior slavery drives him through the events of the novel.
The only minor annoyance I had was the romance - Though I can't blame the girl for her infatuation with Caz, I wondered at why he was interested in a character I found rather simplistic. But then again, maybe simple was what he wanted after the tumultuous events of his past? There's no accounting for taste, I suppose.
The rest of the story is political, and religious, drama... I hesitate to get into much detail, because I was honestly surprised by many of the revelations throughout (some only a quarter of the way into the novel), and I wouldn't take that sense of bewildered interest from anyone. The plot may seem to move slowly, belayed by small diplomatic enquiries and religious debate, but every detail is carefully crafted to entwine with the greater flow of the novel. The gods of this world are very much involved in the day-to-day goings on of the leaders, which adds an entirely new component to the political scena. They are removed enough to be the objects of religious fervour, and religious orders, but involved enough to have saints who directly interact with them, troops to carry out their will, and the ability to personally escort souls to their sides at death. It leads to a rather bittersweet religious perspective on Caz's part. As well as an understandable amount of insecurity at the challenges laid before him.
All in all, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. To anybody.(less)
It may be my unfamiliarity with Terry Goodkind's offerings that prompts this review. I've read the first three novels of the Sword of Truth series, bu...moreIt may be my unfamiliarity with Terry Goodkind's offerings that prompts this review. I've read the first three novels of the Sword of Truth series, but Goodkind's writing, specifically his dialogue, struck me as pedantic and unbelievable, even though the setting was interesting, so I stopped reading.
I heard about this book on the Sword & Laser podcast recently, so I decided to give it a look. I admire Goodkind's interest in self-publishing/distribution. I thought it was a step in the right direction. I detest his response to the piracy of his ebook... It's one thing to ask your readers to consider the odds you're going up against. It's quite another to throw out a single individual as the representative of all piracy to your adoring fan-base. I've heard the argument that he's just 'defending his property.' Had he dealt with the matter by contacting the individual himself, or dealing with the matter legally, I'd agree. Instead, he sicced his pack of hounds after a lone fox while he sat back and took righteous pride in ferreting out the 'traitor' the the ideal of his book. Oh look, you can write a facebook post that ruins someone's life for a relatively small transgression... You must feel so proud.
That being said, I was drawn in to the first chapter of the book from the sample, so I bought it from Amazon (legally, mind you). The story started off well - the world and background were very interesting. I was curious to find out why the First Wizard had committed suicide. I was interested to learn how the magic then had led to the magic of his latter books. But as I read on, I realized that background was ALL the book was about. It's like a Silmarillion for a far less interesting world. At least Tolkein's work was formatted as a historical novel. No such concessions were made for The First Confessor. It tempts you with a semblance of a plot... Then it bores you with pages upon pages of exposition disguised as dialogue. For instance, when Magda went down to meet with the spiritist. Theoretically, Magda was in a hurry because, you know, bad things were happening and time is short. But rather than getting things done, she instead chooses to sit there an listen to the crazy lady ramble on forever without ever asking questions or interjections of any sort.
And then the haphazard romance with Merritt: Gag me. My synopsis: Hmm, you're hot, I'm hot and I'm now conveniently single. Oh no, I'm feeling a small itty bitty teensy bit of remorse. Oh wait, I don't actually care. Let's make babies.
It annoyed me even more because it lured me in. Don't buy it! It's a trap! (less)
The story is certainly intended for young adults. The plot, and the setting, is familiar. But the prose and characterization rings...moreThis was beautiful.
The story is certainly intended for young adults. The plot, and the setting, is familiar. But the prose and characterization rings true. Seraphina is a completely sympathetic main character with faults, but understandable ones. And more than that, the secondary characters are astoundingly different, yet also sympathetic.
The setting is more about cultural than magical differences. The dragons simply have a different worldview than humans - and Seraphina, with her halfbreed heritage, both sympathises and completely misunderstands both of them. The 'magical abilities' of the halfbreeds were a bit far-fetched, imo. But not enough to disuade me from reading.
And the romance... So many novels show the "other woman" as someone detestable. Someone that treats the heroine poorly so that she must 'save' her love from the evil woman. But what is the heroine to do when the "other woman" is as much of a heroine as she is? Someone no one would want to hurt? Well, I can't wait to see in the next novel.
In short: Read this book. Also, get the sequel out soon so I can read it. Argh.
Edit: She mentions that she's a fan of Josquin in one of her interviews. OMG Music nerd happiness.(less)
This is done in the style of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with 7 pilgrims being selected by the 'Shrike' to see him on the planet Hyperion. The prose i...moreThis is done in the style of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with 7 pilgrims being selected by the 'Shrike' to see him on the planet Hyperion. The prose is gorgeously written and the characters fascinating. Each tale is told in a completely different style, but serve as another tidbit of exposition as to the ending of their journey (which I've been warned is a cliffhanger). I'm listening to the audiobook, which has a different narrator for each character... I find the audiobook akin to sitting around a campfire with some particularly good storytellers. So far, I've listened to the first three stories and I cannot wait to continue.(less)
If I could give 3.5 stars to this book, I would. It was very solid and I enjoyed reading it... The world was interesting and cool. Considering I gener...moreIf I could give 3.5 stars to this book, I would. It was very solid and I enjoyed reading it... The world was interesting and cool. Considering I generally don't like scifi, that's a ringing endorsement. And the chemistry between the main characters was very well done - I really liked the plot device about their relationship beforehand. Overall, neither was enough. The relationship was all 'feelings' and no fun. And the world was decidedly peripheral to the discussion of how the hero had 'lied' to the heroine... Which turned an otherwise cool character into something of a nag (And an idiot because the rest of us readers saw it coming from a mile away). But it was a good, quick read and these misgivings didn't stop me from going through it like my dad through a bag of potato chips the week after he got off his no-carb diet. So... 3.5.(less)