I was happy to read this book. From the first page to the last page, even if there were happening horrible, scary things, even if occasionally I slowe...moreI was happy to read this book. From the first page to the last page, even if there were happening horrible, scary things, even if occasionally I slowed down, something had kept me happy, something had made me run to the library to grab and devour the next book (just as happily), and now that something is making me jump in my chair waiting for the autumn release of the third book in the Inheritance trilogy. (The stories are self-contained, all right, they have different heroes and heroines, but they are all a part of the larger story). What was that something, then? The first heroine – Yeine, the short, dark-skinned warrior princess, the impossible odds she is playing, the emo gods she is dealing with (beside the humans with different degrees of meanness, ambitions and conceit. The wonderful world-building – the creation myth that feels both fresh and familiar, true. The language, not too fanciful and poetic, but rich and delicious just enough for my taste, the kind of language that does not obstruct the story, but makes it deeper. (less)
I haven't really finished it - because of the moving I had to return it to the library. I liked it enough to entertain the thought of picking it up fr...moreI haven't really finished it - because of the moving I had to return it to the library. I liked it enough to entertain the thought of picking it up from another library some time in the future and finishing it, and not enough to need to finish it as soon as possible. I moved on, literally and figuratively. But, not a bad book, by all means. If you loved the first one, you'll enjoy this one as well.(less)
1)I loved it. It's probably not a brilliant book, but I don't care – it has that magical quality of pulling me right in and not letting go until the l...more1)I loved it. It's probably not a brilliant book, but I don't care – it has that magical quality of pulling me right in and not letting go until the last page. Your millage might obviously vary, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I cannot say that I am a huge fan of Elizabethan time and fairies (I love them, but not with passion), which probably helps, since I cannot catch any historical details that might be different from reality. Nothing spoiled my fun. The language is simple and flows perfectly, the story is engaging and stays powerful throughout.
We are introduced to two court in England – the court above, the court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, and the court below London in the Onyx Hall, the court of the Fairy Queen Indiviana. We follow the fortunes of Lune, the lady who lost the favour of the fairy queen and tries to return it – or at least survive. And we follow the fortunes of a young courtier Michael Deven, who seeks fortune at the court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, and - of course – his fortune gets entwined with Lune's.
Love is the main engine for this story, and the straightforwardness of it works very well. There is a fine sense of mystery and wonder, there are intrigues and power play, and friendship and loyalty and pride, all tangled in one fine mess, and in the end, the fae world doesn't look that much different from a human one. Oh, fairies are different enough to be instantly recognizable as such, and they are immortal and cannot abide the mentions of the God and the toll of church bell's, but they are still not alien. The author does a fine job of not really describing them – we can imagine them to our taste, but she does say that the fae we are reading about are close to humans in looks and manners as fairies can. There are others, less human-like, in looks and nature. Maybe we'll see them later. (less)
I have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel unco...moreI have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel uncomfortable about it, as it failed me even though it didn't owe me anything, but I am still annoyed.
1)a strong sense of deja-vu made me realize that the heroine, Alexia, is a brain twin of Amelia Peabody (of Elizabeth Peters' Egyptology mysteries.) The Britishness, the proud spinsterhood (that don't survive the end of the first book), the sharp mind, the assertiveness, the lack of conventional beauty... I adore Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, but I am not sure how many of her I need for my enjoyment. It has just occurred to me that both Amelia Peabody and Alexia are literary descendants of brilliant Marian Halcombe of Woman in White. Now, that's one lady whose adventures I'd love to follow...
Alexia and Lord Maccon work together as a romantic pair, but they felt to me kind of “meh”. They are probably the homage to Peabody and Emerson, but I feel that they are clones, and I'd rather re-read “Crocodile on the Sandbank” by Elizabeth Peters in the fifth time.
2)My major gripe is with the soul stuff. The book is called “Soulless”, and I kind of expected more exploration of the matter. What is the soul, what does it mean in that Universe? It is said that Alexia doesn't have a soul, which she was told at 6, and she read Greek philosophers to acquaint herself with the moral implications of that fact. But the thing is – it all falls empty, a tantalizing promise that never gets fulfilled. Alexia has a pronounced effect on supernatural beings, an effect that is attributed to her lack of soul. Except this is the only effect, and I reasonably suspect that either the soul here is something different from I am used to consider it, or the basic theories of her world are wrong, and Alexia does indeed have a soul, and her soulless effect is caused by something else. It might be explored further in the next books, but I was waiting for more soul stuff from the book that is called Soulless. After all, it would have been interesting whether good manners can be a person's moral compass. How love would look like without the soul in that world? What is the soul, anyway? Those are all questions I asked myself when I picked up the book, but I didn't find them – not even the questions themselves there.
3)Reading went much slower than I expected, and at the culmination I was frankly bored. Not a good sign.
4)I love omnipresent point of view and the narrator's voice separate from the author and the characters, being reasonably old-fashioned and raised on 18-19 century novels. I applaud the return of the narrator to modern stories, even if it is done to simulate the old time feel. But. But there is one giant difficulty: I need to love that narrator and don't want to smack it. Here so far it feels too twee, and I mostly grow annoyed. I still hope to befriend it as soon as I get used to the tone.
5)What did I like? I liked the world, the atmosphere, the new and different take on vampires and werewolves, and their effect on human history and politics. I liked the scientific ideas of the supernatural. The world, of course, pretty much didn't exist beyond British Isles and North America, but that goes with the mores of the time, and a topic for the following books, anyway. I wrote previously that I was tired of vampires, and I still am, but I wasn't here. The ecology of supernatural beings among humans was very different and very interesting from what we are used to.
So, when all is said and done, my resume is that it is why it fails for me personally, I can recommend it for my friends, or for any lover of romance and Victorian fantasy. I won't guaranteed that you fall in love with it – I didn't, but it is a glimpse into a curious world. I will be checking out the second book as soon as I dog through my immediate to-read pile.
**spoiler alert** It is a very good book – it won Nebula award and is nominated for Hugo, both justly deserved. It is also a very difficult book to re...more**spoiler alert** It is a very good book – it won Nebula award and is nominated for Hugo, both justly deserved. It is also a very difficult book to read and love. One of the reasons is that I need characters to care about, and here... it is not that there were none of those, but none to carry the weight of a protagonist. The story followed fates of several: a businessman, an old Chinese refugee, a titular windup girl, and two corrupt Thai officials. It was not a character story, after all, it was a... situation story, I would say. Not unlike mystery novels in a way. Only the question was not who murdered X, but what the hell happened? Another reason why it was hard to love and painful to read book, because it is misery porn. Not because of actual porn involved (though there pages and pages of sexual abuse description), but because this is the world where things cannot get better, they only can get worse, and after a while I started to wish it all blew up already. And the book delivered. Now, for spoilers. The place is the Thai kingdom in a scary post-apocalyptic world, less than two hundred years from now. Thai kingdom is the only independent state in the world where big companies rule. The true rulers of the world are large companies who supply the world with genetically engineered food. And the other food doesn't exist any more. Well, almost. Ecological apocalypse at its scariest. The picture of our world is horrifying, because its is somewhat believable. More believable than a zombie apocalypse. Nature is all but extinguished by genetically engineered plants, animals and most of all – plagues. People are dying in troves from diseases unknown to us, most of them made by “calorie companies” to control the world. It is a bleak, miserable world. The book starts with a new shiny fruit on a market stall. New yet not engineered. Anderson, “a calorie man”, representative of THE BIG COMPANY undercover finds it and tries to learn where it comes from. Kingdom of Thai has closed its borders for those rulers of the world. Thais don't believe in free market. Anderson pretends he runs a factory that makes kink-springs – a staple of modern economy. Then we follow the problems of Hock Seng, his right hand on the factory, who hates Anderson and constantly scheming how to return to his fortunes. His life sucks badly, but at least he is alive, while all his family got killed in Malaya. I struggle through the book waiting for interesting stuff to start happening. The only thing that keeps me reading is that I am trying to find out what exactly happened here and how. Following the modern standard of writing, the author doesn't do infodumps and, as to not insult my intelligence feeds me the information in tiny pieces. I eventually start screaming silently, “Do insult my intelligence already! Just tell it, I am tired of picking up clues and doing that puzzle!” No, of course, after finishing the book, I can say that I know what happened on Earth. Just not why like that, not how. Oh, well. Why everything we know now stopped working except generipping and biotechnology? Then we finally get to see the titular character – Emiko, the windup girl. She wasn't born, she is genetically engineered in Japan to be a perfect companion. Except that she is not in Japan, she is in Thailand where she is illegal and she suffers a lot. Pages and pages of graphic suffering, starting with sexual abuse. I pity her, but starting with horrible abuse doesn't help to interest me in her fate. Then we see two Thai officials, who work at Environmental Ministry. They are corrupt and well-hated and not exceedingly nice people. Jaydee (male) and Kanya (female). I ended up rooting for them the most, because at least it is their country and they try to keep it alive. Even when they do wrong things. Then there is a new disease, government coup, more misery and suffering and death for everyone. But those are actually good and fun things, comparing to the rest of the book. I am glad I have finished this book. It was a worth-while endeavor, but my progress was so torturous, I am pretty sure I am not going to read it ever again.(less)
It is a rather big book, more than a thousand pages about – obviously – the European history. It took me more than a year to finish, and not only beca...moreIt is a rather big book, more than a thousand pages about – obviously – the European history. It took me more than a year to finish, and not only because it is so long and has a very specialized lexicon, but because during the reading I had a strong urge to throw this book at the wall, and had to put it away and cool off a little bit.
Do not mistake me: I liked this book. The author undertakes an impossible task: to write about the history of the part of the world we call Europe from the first people there to year 1992 AD. His main objective was to show all parts of Europe in an equal light. He was very subjective what light it should be.
The book taught me one important thing – the thing I probably should have known by now: history is subjective. As diligent as we try to find how people lived hundreds, thousands years ago, what happened, what those events meant – we are not discovering the TRUTH. We are interpreting the evidence. And sometimes we are interpreting interpretations.
The fact that the world history in Russia changed several times in this century – without falsifying any documents – is rather telling.
Norman Davies is unapologetically subjective in his vision of the European history. He presents a brilliant, lively picture where the author’s face is not hidden as it is usually appropriate in this kind of books. His style is flowing easily between countries and centuries, making interesting analogies, surprising connections, and curious hypotheses. He takes an interest in obscure places and epochs and makes them take their rightful place in the building of Europe as we know it now.
So, if the book is that wonderful what caused that violent reaction I was talking about earlier?
You see, he really, really doesn’t like Russia. And he confused Katherine Medici with Maria Medici.(less)