This review is STRICTLY for Aliette de Bodard's story, Starsong. That story, part of her Xuyan universe, is the reason I sought out this anthology andThis review is STRICTLY for Aliette de Bodard's story, Starsong. That story, part of her Xuyan universe, is the reason I sought out this anthology and the only story I read from it.
The Xuyan stories I've read to date have mainly concerned the Xuyan and Mexican societies, both of which have some rigid societal rules, particularly when it comes to race (though, to be fair, from the one line mention in The Lost Xuyan Bride, the truncated U.S. seems to be much the same); this story delves more deeply into that racial divide through Axatl, a Chinese girl growing up in Mexica.
The story is as excellent as the other Xuyan stories, but this one struck especially hard for me, as a biracial person growing up in the fraught racism of the U.S. Axatl's discomfort with her own identity, how that twists around through a teenage rejection and a more adult acceptance feels very personal, even as Axatl's day to day reality is very different from mine. It is the human heart at the center of de Bodard's stories.
And, it seems to be the genesis of the human heart at the center of the mindships featured in later stories, which was an interesting and unexpected bonus.
Another of the Xuyan stories and both similar and different to Shipbirth. Another mindship story, this time from the Xuyan side, with a Vietnamese engAnother of the Xuyan stories and both similar and different to Shipbirth. Another mindship story, this time from the Xuyan side, with a Vietnamese engineer/designer as the protagonist.
(view spoiler)[I find it really interesting that, although clearly, there are enough successful Mind births to make space travel possible, both stories are those of failures, of possibility stunted and unable to come to fruition. (hide spoiler)] There's a huge sadness to the center of both stories and a deep atavistic horror centering around pregnancy in general that feels...very relevant, in a now where overpopulation is such a concern and more people are waiting longer to have kids or to even entertain the idea. Whether or not to have kids has never been more optional than it is now, I feel, and I think a lot of women are circling uncertainly and somewhat horrified/fascinated around that choice. So it seems a natural extension of that, in this story, where birth is not, per se or necessarily even what we would consider "birth".
More important and central to the story, though, is the weight of expectation versus a more real world what IS. We build ideas of perfection in our mind (ha, or Mind) but things seldom go as neatly or as beautifully...but does that negate what is imperfectly accomplished? A fascinating story and one I think I'll be turning over in my head for a long time afterward. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Another short story in de Bodard's Xuyan universe; this one is from the Mexica part of the universe about the process of birthing "mindships" for spacAnother short story in de Bodard's Xuyan universe; this one is from the Mexica part of the universe about the process of birthing "mindships" for space travel (riff off brain-in-a-jar). Space travel stories tend to be so Westernized; I love the conjecture of what a still viably Aztec based space faring society might look like. As well, the main character, Acoimi, is uncomfortable in the hard set gender lines of his society. The combination of those two things makes for a fascinating, welcome further look into the Xuyan universe....more
I always feel like I should caveat my reviews of Hawk's work by saying I'm a fan, but I became a fan in the first place because Hawk consistently putsI always feel like I should caveat my reviews of Hawk's work by saying I'm a fan, but I became a fan in the first place because Hawk consistently puts out excellently spooky paranormal, plotty romances with strong, interesting characters. So I don't think that quite counts as bias, so much as tasteful enjoyment.
Dangerous Spirits is another fun, enjoyable read, one of those books where I told myself, at bedtime, that I was just going to read "a little more" and ended at the wee hours of the morning, having finished the whole thing.
As I said, I enjoy Hawk's work in general, but I'm especially in love with the character of Vincent Night, both for being an indigenous American and for how Hawk portrays him as such, both internally and in how he's treated and seen by the other characters. There's one scene in particular that had me laughing at its genuine humor and in delight at how Hawk handled it.
If I have any critique, it's that I still feel the character of Lizzie is pretty opaque, even to Vincent, who's known her the longest and best of all the characters, but as Lizzie isn't really a center stage character (and there's presumably more books to get to know her better), I'm content to wait and see how she develops. And I do assume, giving Hawk's previous skill at developing secondary characters (CHRISTINE!!) that it's a "when" and not an "if".
I'm also really, genuinely interested in how the partnership of Henry & Jo's machines and Vincent & Lizzie's mental powers develops over time. I feel like I've read a number of post-invention stories, where gadgetry & 'magic' work in tandem for reasons, but I don't think I've ever read anything about a period of developing those gadgets and forging that partnership and it's pretty cool.
Another really enjoyable book from Hawk; highly recommended. ...more
Being a huge fan of the author's Whyborne & Griffin series--and not having read the SPECTRA books--I was wondering if a new series from Jordan HawBeing a huge fan of the author's Whyborne & Griffin series--and not having read the SPECTRA books--I was wondering if a new series from Jordan Hawk could be as delightful to me as Whyborne & Griffin. And I'm pleased to report that largely, it is.
My biggest complaint about Restless Spirits is that it's a bit of a slow starter. Hawk spends the first few chapters setting the story and, personally, I felt that most of those chapters' content were things that could've easily been summed up if Hawk had begun where the story itself begins.
That being said, though, once the story does start, it grabs hard and doesn't let go until the end. This is one of my very favorite kinds of story--remote (inescapable) haunted houses--and Hawk delivers nicely on the premise.
As well, she delivers interesting and charismatic new heroes in Henry Strauss and Vincent Night. Like Whyborne and Griffin, both are smart, highly competent in their different fields and good hearted...but not without their flaws and blind spots. I was delighted that Hawk also created Night as an Indigenous American, and did so with a satisfying awareness of what she was writing and thoughtfulness about the kind of difficulties Night would face.
Hawk also provides us with awesome secondary female characters in the persons of Jo and Lizzie. I really like that Hawk writes worlds that feel populated, with friends and family, all who have their own stories and agendas and that, though she's writing in the m/m romance genre, she doesn't fall into the trap so many authors do of either eliminating women characters entirely or making them awful, shrieking caricatures of womanhood. They never take the story away from the main characters, but they're there and no less textured or interesting for their secondary role. I also liked that Jo was also a PoC--a biracial (Black/White) woman and the way her relationship with Henry (they're cousins) put Henry into a position to think about the way PoC are treated in society and the kind of difficulties his cousin had faced and still faced as an intelligent Black woman in the U.S.
Through that lens, it's easy to think that Jo is only there to shine a favorable light on Henry, to show his good/kindness in taking in his mulatto cousin and treating her as an equal and peer, to give him the insight to relate better to Vincent...but though there's likely some truth to that characterization, Jo still feels like a solid and independent character, one who has been through her own travails and is the center of her own story.
(view spoiler)[And then the inclusion of Lizzie as a transgender woman, and whose inclusion is as matter of fact as Vincent or Jo's... (hide spoiler)] I really liked that, at no point did I feel like Hawk was including these characters for any other reason than she wanted to and they fit the story she wanted to tell. You have no idea how a) nervous I was to see a beloved author including PoC characters and then b) relieved and delighted to see that she did so in a way that satisfied me and showed she'd actually done so with a lot of mindfulness. This is especially a relief as this is the start of a new series and I'm actively looking forward to seeing more of these characters. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was a nice gap-filler between Incryptid novels and a more personal introduction to the character of Arthur (Artie), who we haven't previously seeThis was a nice gap-filler between Incryptid novels and a more personal introduction to the character of Arthur (Artie), who we haven't previously seen as a POV character (iirc), but the 'twist' at the end of the story feels so sudden (and possibly unearned) that I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take it at face value or not, which makes it a slightly less satisfying read than it might otherwise have been. It's always a 50/50 if McGuire is playing straight with you, or it's the wind up to ripping your heart out....more
On the one hand, this is my favorite kind of Incryptid short, one that actually tells a story. On the other hand, the events rely heavily on familiariOn the one hand, this is my favorite kind of Incryptid short, one that actually tells a story. On the other hand, the events rely heavily on familiarity with a short that is an anthology that I don't own (although, brilliant means of getting me more interested in buying it, Seanan, well done) and so, although it's perfectly easy to put the pieces together without having read the previous story, the completist in me is disgruntled and feels like I'm missing things that I would rather know.
As well, the end of the story is strangely abrupt, giving only a partial resolution to the story's mysteries. I'm assuming that there will be more information coming in the next/another short, but the big open-ended question: (view spoiler)[where is the cuckoo baby?! (hide spoiler)] detracts some from the satisfaction of the story. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm really indecisive on how to rate this book. I don't feel like I enjoyed it as much as I normally enjoy Riordan's books...but I'm not totally sureI'm really indecisive on how to rate this book. I don't feel like I enjoyed it as much as I normally enjoy Riordan's books...but I'm not totally sure that's Riordan's fault, either. I didn't go back and reread the previous volumes before tackling this one, even though it was the climax and culmination of the series, which I think affected my reading. Or maybe it was just not as gripping as the others. I'm not sure.
I do feel as though the cast had become large enough and unwieldy enough that things felt more diffuse and less focused/urgent than in the previous books. The quest parties had split into many groups and each one of them had enough to do to be their own volume, but instead, we had to flit around, not really getting to spend much time with any of them. I think Riordan did his best to give us some deep, character defining moments within those quick glimpses--and some of them are very successful; I've been waiting throughout two series for Nico to get his--but it's all so fast and relatively shallow because there's so much for everyone to do.
In any case, despite that flaw, it is a satisfying end to the series and leaves the door open to imagine further adventures or for Riordan to dip back into that pool, if he ever feels the urge...though at that point, he's aging his characters out of the genre and into more of a New Adult story...but as I'm an Old Adult, I'd be more than okay with that. ...more
I liked Glitches, the other short story in the Lunar Chronicles, but I ended up enjoying The Queen's Army a lot more, mainly because I've read CinderI liked Glitches, the other short story in the Lunar Chronicles, but I ended up enjoying The Queen's Army a lot more, mainly because I've read Cinder and so I have a better sense of Meyer as an author and a better trust in her as a storyteller.
Though this is labeled as 1.5 of the series and Glitches was labeled .05, it's mainly a designation based on chronology and I think it's probably better to read them after their respective books, since I feel like The Queen's Army, in particular, gives away things that I'm not sure I want to or should know until I've read Scarlet.
That being said, Meyer has the gift that surprisingly few authors do, to be able to write short and long fiction. Her story lengths are in proper scope; the novels don't feel like there's any filler, the short stories don't feel like there's too much story compacted into a too-small space. Even feeling like I'm not a little spoiled for Scarlet, it's an enjoyable story on its own and as something that fills the spaces between Lunar Chronicle novels. ...more
After finding Scarlet a rather iffy entry into the series, I really felt like Meyers was back in form for Cress, even after adding more new charactersAfter finding Scarlet a rather iffy entry into the series, I really felt like Meyers was back in form for Cress, even after adding more new characters to the mix. It felt like a much tighter story, an overall more interesting story, with satisfying amounts of time spent among all the characters. There was good forward motion on all the ongoing plotlines and, though I think I see a glimmer of Meyer's endgame, I like that I still don't really know how she's going to get there. So, overall, I would recommend the book and I'm excited to see where it all goes.
On the other hand, my nitpicks from the previous volumes remain in play.
The world building is intensely shaky. I just flat out don't understand how the Lunars became so powerful, given the complete lack of natural resources on the moon's surface. As it looks like Winter is going to mainly take place on the moon, this may be shown/discussed more, but I don't feel confident about it. But, as it is, the impossibility/improbability bugs me a lot and the lack of information or anything that addresses the much-changed history of the world becomes increasingly annoying.
Related to this, I still can't help feel like Meyer's creation of large, conglomerated governments is a way for her to gloss over (elide) race and culture. Especially because this is most seen and most obvious in the Commonwealth (a mish-mash of Asian cultures) and an unnamed part of Africa (depicted as basically cultureless).
I also find myself increasingly unsatisfied with the way Meyer portrays her characters of color, in a way I can't fully explain but that feels related to the amalgamated cultures she's put together. The character of Priya wears saris, there are Asian motifs to the planned ceremony between Kai and the Empress Levana…but it's without context, it's the trappings without anything about what it means or how it all fits together in this new post-racial society.
And while on the one hand, I suppose I'd take this cultural whitewashing with otherwise complex and interesting characters than more stereotypical and racist portrayals, it's a different kind of problematic to erase or otherwise remove that cultural and geographical context. It's important. It's part of what makes the characters who they are and the simplistic racial platitudes that "we're all human, we're all alike" tend to encourage the elision of culture and geographical context as unimportant, failing to recognize that a "post-racial human" society is often envisioned through a Western, Amero-European/Caucasian gaze.
One of the things I liked most about Cinder was its non-European context, but as the series has gone on, though it's become significantly more global in scope, it's become less global in feel. And that's disappointing.
I think that, at an interpersonal level, Meyer is much stronger. Barring my personal reservations about Scarlet, she creates characters that are distinct and memorable and relationships between them that are emotionally investing. I LIKE the characters. I like their relationships. I care about them and what's going to happen to them.
At the same time—and with the caveat that I'm aware that there's a fairy tale basis underpinning the entire series—I find myself a little amused/annoyed at how easily all the characters are pairing off, with no two people having feelings for the same person, no real unreciprocated feelings, and that all the pairings are so entirely (and tediously) heterosexual. I like the romances, but they're all very easy romances, at the same time.
However, this is one of those cases where I nitpick because I love. I like and care a lot about the series and I've recommended it to friends and family. The wait between now and Winter's publication seems like an endlessly long time....more
I liked Scarlet well enough, but the truth is that I didn't like it as much as the previous book in the series, Cinder. There are a few factors to thiI liked Scarlet well enough, but the truth is that I didn't like it as much as the previous book in the series, Cinder. There are a few factors to this.
First of all, Cinder excited me because it's fairly rare to find books set entirely in a non-Western setting and with non-Western (main) characters, especially YA novels and especially fairy tale retells. So Cinder was already kind of a unicorn. Scarlet, however, returns us back to the ubiquitous European setting of most fairy-tale & retells and a European (French) heroine. Though this is a valid choice on the author's part, it automatically made the book less interesting to me.
As well, Scarlet herself is a kind of character I don't really enjoy: irrationally hot-headed and prone to jump to conclusions with no or almost no information. To be clear, I don't mind angry characters, per se, but I get impatient and bored with characters who fly off the handle at every opportunity. Again, there's nothing wrong with this kind of character or Meyer's choice to make Scarlet this kind of character; I just personally don't cotton to them and it made Scarlet an exasperating and rather boring main character for me.
I also found Scarlet to be weirdly stupid/naïve in ways that I found frustrating shading into unrealistic. The central conceit of Scarlet's story is that her grandmother is missing and Scarlet is searching for her. (view spoiler)[Fairly early on, Scarlet's dead-beat dad shows up and claims that he was kidnapped and tortured in an effort to get information out of Scarlet's grandmother by the people who kidnapped her. Though Scarlet seems to accept her father's story (eventually) as valid, she continues her search for her grandmother never seeming to consider that she might also be watched or that these same people might be after her or, really, that any of this might be dangerous. (hide spoiler)] There just seems to be a certain pop-cultural awareness and common sense that Scarlet seems to lack that I could buy if the story was still set in non-specific medieval times and Scarlet was a young girl that is much, much harder to swallow in an adult woman in a futuristic society. So that was a problem.
And then, just as an ongoing nitpick, I'm still finding it hard to buy/believe how the Lunars are such a huge and formidable threat as a presumably terraformed ecosystem with limited natural resources.
As I thought about how Meyer could have shown that, given the POV characters of the books, I realized I'd like to see Meyer invest a little more in world-building, period. Individual countries with a lot of history are now drawn under umbrella geographic unions without any real explanation of how that came about or how they work or interact with each other.
The Eastern Commonweath seemed, in Cinder, to be Chinese-based, but in Scarlet, Adri and Peony show up wearing kimonos or gowns tied with kimono bows and I'm left wondering how much thought Meyer put into it, or whether it's just a way for her to write an undifferentiated "Asian" milieu and not worry about the real world implications of her fantasy world. I want to believe that Meyer thought it out, but I don't feel like I have the evidence to bear it out at this point, just as I'm left confused about how the Lunars became such a dominant super-power as to put all of Earth in fear.
All of that being said, I liked the parts with Cinder, Kai and Iko a lot. I loved Wolf, and though I didn't love Scarlet, I liked her and there was a real old-fashioned Hollywood charm/feel to Scarlet & Wolf's interactions/relationship that I enjoyed. I felt Thorne was a little under-developed and under utilized, but I enjoyed him, too.
I really like how Meyer handles the requisite romances. She gives the characters time to know each other, firstly and secondly doesn't try to telegraph or otherwise steamroll the reader into seeing/believing the chemistry, so it feels both excellently understated and very organic. I also like that attraction/love never feels like the characters' only preoccupation or even the most important thing happening in the characters' lives. It feels smart and balanced.
If she's a little weak on world-building, I do think Meyer brings it in the way she builds emotional states. Scarlet's panic/terror about her grandmother saturates all her chapters; Kai's grief and confusion and un-solvable problems is equally as vivid, as are the similar emotions from Cinder. We don't even get Wolf as a POV character but his struggles come through just as clearly as those characters whose heads we get to see inside. So while I have my nitpicks and things I don't love about the series and characters, I will keep reading and I am very much enjoying the series because there is excellent emotional payoff. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's hard for me to talk about the Incryptid books in a way that satisfies me, because on the one hand, they're fairly predictable—nothing about themIt's hard for me to talk about the Incryptid books in a way that satisfies me, because on the one hand, they're fairly predictable—nothing about them really surprises me—and they have some nitpicky plot/logic fails, as in this one, where (view spoiler)[McGuire fails to ever explain why/how The Covenant agents were so entirely prepared to fight Verity & Friends, or why Margaret showed up at the Port Hope hotel, which is a fairly pivotal plot point (hide spoiler)].
On the other hand, they're really enjoyable books that I would definitely recommend to people looking for some fun UF (with very few problematic elements) to read and that I plan to continue reading as further volumes are published. So take that as you will.
Getting down to more specific things, I still really like Verity a lot—McGuire manages 'spunky' and sarcastic in a way that I find enjoyable rather than annoying and I like the growth and change she goes through in the course of the story. I feel like Domenic is still a little wooden, like there's only enough room in that relationship for one personality, and Verity's got it all, but I do feel like he got colored in a little better in this book and that there was more palpable feeling and chemistry between the two of them.
I pretty much adore all the supporting cast, especially the Aeslin mice, Istas and Sarah; it was especially nice to get deeper into Sarah's POV and what it is and what it's like to be a cuckoo.
I really like the sensible-ness that McGuire brings to all aspects of her stories. There are a lot of consequences here, from big things, like the ongoing consequences of the Healys and Prices defecting from the Covenant to little things like Verity's struggle with her dance career vs. her cryptozoologist work and the use of Sarah's powers. Though I felt like more of the story was given to preparing for the Covenant rather than actually opposing the Covenant, it didn't feel like it was unrealistic or unnecessary preparations and it's certainly more refreshing than heroes who go in with gun, a grin and a prayer.
I also really appreciate how much heavy lifting McGuire does in the background of her stories. Her worlds feel lived in; not only like the main characters have lives that go on when the 'camera' isn’t on them, but that life is going on, while all these things are happening. It has a very real heft to it all in a way that you can tell these characters live and breathe in McGuire's head, more than words on a paper.
In my review of the first Incryptid book, Discount Armageddon, I said I would ordinarily give a book like that 3 stars, but McGuire gets 4 because she tries harder. Still true. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
On the one hand, this is pretty standard Urban Fantasy. Quirky, sarcastic, petite-but-badass heroine with ties to the paranormal, requisite devastatinOn the one hand, this is pretty standard Urban Fantasy. Quirky, sarcastic, petite-but-badass heroine with ties to the paranormal, requisite devastatingly handsome, yet slightly unavailable/untrustworthy love-interest, and a big plot problem that needs to be solved/saved/stopped. Check, check, check.
On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with that, and sometimes all you want is some well-written Urban Fantasy to scratch the itch. Which this does. Verity is a likeable protagonist, with equally likeable friends and family. I didn't really feel like McGuire came across with the chemistry for Verity and her love-interest, Domenic, but I also thought she made up for it with interesting and fun-world building…which, really, I'll take over romance pretty much any/every day. And, I appreciate that, though all our main characters are Caucasian, McGuire writes a New York that is very multicultural and pretty female-positive, which are reasons I do generally trust her as an author and would read her UF over just about anyone else's. It's also why she gets 4 stars instead of 3: she tries harder.
Fast, enjoyable read and I'd downloaded the second book before I was finished with the first. ...more
I'm hoping I'll find the time to write a longer review at some point but here are the salient points:
I love these books. I love them deeply and uniroI'm hoping I'll find the time to write a longer review at some point but here are the salient points:
I love these books. I love them deeply and unironically. This one was kind of a downer, both because I can see the end of the series coming and because it's the fourth book, which is always the dark teatime of the soul before the triumph of the heroes in the finale. I still loved it. I'm just not ready to let go yet.
I do think Riordan has done a really great job of aging up the characters as we've gone along and this is an especially poignant portrayal of that awkward time at the end of your teens when you're most confused and trying hardest to figure out what your future will be. The fact that these are Greek/Roman demigods doesn't detract from that feeling at all and, in this instance, I think Riordan did a more satisfying job (for me) than Rowling did with the Harry Potter series.
I did have two nitpicks: (view spoiler)[I really didn't like Frank's magical transformation into a taller more "athletic" (read: thinner) version of himself. Nothing came of it, narratively, but a lot was made of it and it felt mainly like Riordan just didn't want Frank to be a fat kid, either for his own fat hating reasons or because he'd gotten crap from parents about the obesity epidemic. But, regardless of whether there IS an obesity epidemic or not, fat kids need representation, too and it felt very much like Riordan was telling all those overweight kids out there that they, too, are not good enough to be heroes unless they lose weight.
As well, I was overjoyed that Riordan would finally bring in an openly gay character, in canon, on page (talking to you, again, Rowling). But, at the same time--and with the caveat that I actually have always loved the character of Nico--it bothers me that the gay kid is also the outcast among outcasts. Nico has always been the kid with no place, no real friends; a sad, and lonely and often angry boy, one who we weren't always sure whose side he was on. And though his self-loathing and struggling with his crush on Percy explains the unevenness of his character brilliantly, it sets Nico up to be the stereotypical Tragic Gay (see TV Tropes "Bury Your Gays" if you don't know what I mean by that), where he pines woefully (and asexually) after the hero, only redeemed when he dies a sad, tragic gay death.
Now, I don't KNOW that this is what Riordan is going to do. Certainly, it's taken 4 books for him to find a love interest for Leo. But the history of Tragic Gay, and the definite aura of sad doom lurking around Nico certainly means that I'm giving Riordan the side eye until proven otherwise. (hide spoiler)] As with Frank, representation doesn't mean very much if all you do is show kids how they DON'T belong in the stories with the heroes. So.
Loved the book, but a little worried about how it will all end. Fall 2014 seems like a LONG way away.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I wasn't skeptical about reading Cinder but, after having read the prequel short story, Glitches, I was curious about what Meyer would do or could do,I wasn't skeptical about reading Cinder but, after having read the prequel short story, Glitches, I was curious about what Meyer would do or could do, to breathe life into such a well-trodden story. But I was really, really, pleasantly surprised at how much Meyer kept the story completely recognizable while adding enough newness and shininess to make it just as engrossing as it was when I was a little girl hearing it for the first time.
Every time Disney produces a new princess (or even when we talk about the older, established princesses) the debate always starts about why or whether it's imperative for them to always be so lily-white, to be so rooted in European/Eurocentric mythology. I want to take Cinder and shove it in the faces of all those people who try to argue that yes, it is a requirement and show them that, no, actually, it's not. It's not even necessary for Cinderella to be fully human.
Anyway. I do think the translation of Cinderella into a futuristic, Eastern-flavored political adventure-romance is a very successful one. All the familiar elements of the story are there and while that lends a certain predictability to the story, the journey there is interesting enough that you don't mind this is a trip to a familiar destination. The romance between Cinder and her prince doesn't feel pasted on and doesn't lack for chemistry, but it's also not the only thing (or even the most important thing) on Cinder's mind and I really liked the balance Meyer struck there, keeping it present without hitting you over the head with it or shelving the rest of the story for it. And, again, despite having certain marks that she had to hit, to keep within the Cinderella framework, Meyer does a great job of making the story feel like it developed organically from point to point.
My biggest complaint about the story is the consistency with which Meyer telegraphs her moves. Some of them are endemic to the Cinderella story, and I can forgive or hand wave most of them, but (view spoiler)[her big 'twist', that Cinder is Selene, is writ in such large, screamingly obvious letters that it spoiled some of my enjoyment in the story, because really, if you're paying attention, it's absolutely no twist at all and thus, has no real dramatic tension.
I also feel like it's a bit of a cheat, because it solves the problems of a romance between Kai and Cinder so neatly…though perhaps I should just chalk that up to the fairy tale effect? (hide spoiler)]
Also, though it's not exactly flaw, I wish we had a better understanding of how the Lunars became such a huge power. I know that the war(s) prior to the story's start had a devastating effect on the Earthen countries, but the moon also lacks any/all of the natural resources of Earth and, even if it's been terraformed, it doesn't seem like it's been a long enough period of time to have made the Lunars so powerful and so able to bully their Earth-side neighbors, even given their specialized skills. I think it makes sense that we don't understand this from Cinder's POV, in particular, because she doesn't have the education or the political height to grasp such a big picture, but I wish we'd been able to understand that better in the chapters from Kai's POV. And I'm hoping we get more of that in the future volumes.
Nitpicks aside, though, this was a great story and one I stayed up way too late to finish. I also bought the sequel, Scarlet, first thing this morning. I can't wait to start it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I can't pretend to be at all rational about Barbara Hambly. When I read her books, it's not just about the pleasure of reading a really well-put-togetI can't pretend to be at all rational about Barbara Hambly. When I read her books, it's not just about the pleasure of reading a really well-put-together story, it's the way that reading one of her books puts a hot iron to my own creative impulses. She writes not only worlds that I gladly get completely lost inside, but worlds that make me want to create ones of my own.
Though I should have known/remembered, it was a surprise to realize/remember that, though Hambly's vampire novels have been published many, many years apart, internally, it's been less than a handful of years. Which is an observation that's really here nor there except that I really need to go back and reread the whole series from the start.
One thing I like best about Hambly's vampires is that, although they can be beautiful, seductive, and—as in the case of Ysidro—hero/protagonists, she never stints on the idea that they are, first and foremost, predators and that every beautiful, seductive thing that they do is for self-serving reasons, be it protection or food. And though the relationship—triangle—between Asher, Lydia and Ysidro is central to the entire series, it definitely comes at a gradually steeper price, both in responsibility (with great knowledge, blah blah…) and in danger.
This latest book takes place in Beijing (Peking) in the days of the early Republic of China. I've read Hambly's Benjamin January series and liked it greatly, both on its own merits and for a thoughtful representation of a non-Caucasian culture by a Caucasian author. Magistrates of Hell, unfortunately, is somewhat more problematic than the January series, if only because, unlike the January series, Magistrates is written from the point of view of the colonialists. And though James and Lydia are both greatly open-minded and non-partisan for any time period, let alone this one, they're still—by necessity—people of a certain place and time, looking at Chinese culture through foreign eyes and judging it accordingly. As well, the nature of the story and the motivations behind it mean that very little of ordinary Chinese society of the time is seen. Only that part of it that particularly panders to the colonials, either through politics or through the seedy commerce of drugs, prostitution, etc. I think that Hambly does go through great pains to present China, and the Chinese, sympathetically and with relatively non-judgmental equivalency…but I also don't think she always succeeds.
In particular, early in the book, Hambly sets up a comparison between the more obvious bigots of the diplomatic corps declaring that Chinese culture/thinking/being is unfathomable because "they're not like other people", versus a vampire hunter declaring similarly about vampires because they're not human. This, on the one hand, shows up the fulcrum of bigotry, creating Otherness where none necessarily exists. But on the other hand, it's basically equating being Chinese with being a bloodsucking monster. Ouch.
Though my uneasiness about this representation of (a particular part) of Chinese culture persisted throughout the book, it wasn't so great a deal-breaker that I didn't love the hell out of the book anyway.
Since Traveling With The Dead, Lydia's feelings for/about Ysidro (and vice versa) have been very apparent, but in Magistrates, I found myself a lot more conscious of Asher's part in the triangle and how, though much less overt, in that restrained English manner, his feelings for Ysidro are no less powerful than Lydia's and how, given that Asher is fully aware of Lydia's feelings about Ysidro and vice versa, he shares Lydia with Ysidro fairly equably, other than the natural concern that he and Lydia are entangled in something of a long con by a predator. That is, there is something very polyamorous about the relationship that, while not expressed in sexual terms, is no less strong for the lack. And no less fascinating, either.
And while the trappings with which Hambly brings together these three adventurers is, in and of itself, a romp worth having, it's the ongoing unanswered question of how this relationship will/does/can resolve that keeps bringing me back when other vampire stories have long been leaving me…cold. ...more
I have to confess: at first I was really thrown off by the writing style of The Rook. Though the book is intended for adults, the style the book is w I have to confess: at first I was really thrown off by the writing style of The Rook. Though the book is intended for adults, the style the book is written in felt juvenile, similar to something like Harry Potter…though, of course, the Harry Potter series is perfectly readable for adults, even if it 'reads' young.
However, O'Malley compensates for his stylistic quirk by offering a creative and clever page-turner of a story, smartly told. A lot of the things he does in the course of the novel are things other writers try and seldom succeed at.
Giving his main character, Myfanwy Thomas, amnesia allows the reader to learn Myfanwy's world at the same time that Myfanwy herself does, and the conceit of letters written by her previous self, peppered through the book allow O'Malley to insert big chunks of exposition and world building in ways that are informative, completely digestible and still entertaining.
More than that, it allows the previous Myfanwy to come into the spotlight as a character in her own right, someone I cared about as deeply as the new Myfanwy by the time all was said and done. I thought it was also smart in how, later in the book, once we're more thoroughly acquainted with Myfanwy's world and they're less necessary as instructional tools, O'Malley uses the letters to prolong the tension by inserting them between the cliffhanger of a previous chapter and its resolution, a chapter later.
As well, with any story that involves a central mystery (i.e. Who tried to kill Myfanwy?), the author has to keep throwing obstacles in the way to keep his protagonist and readers from finding out the answers too soon. Often enough, the hand of the author shows, the nature and timing of those obstacles coming across as too coincidental and timely to be entirely believable, but by the very nature of Myfanwy's work as an agent of the supernatural spy organization, the Checquy, and the limitations of her amnesia, every obstacle to Myfanwy's progress feels natural and organic and even entertaining enough to sometimes distract me, as the reader, from that main quest, let alone Myfanwy.
And then I just have to give O'Malley high marks for keeping me guessing. I'm a huge and long-time fan of mysteries and it's always my mission to try and figure it all out in advance of the hero. But, though there were certain clues I picked up on and guessed correctly, O'Malley gives you so many characters to choose from (all fleshed out beautifully and with their own agendas) and such a bewildering array of events, that I was still kept guessing all the way to the end. I love that! So few books manage to be surprising, let alone on such a narrative spanning scale.
I'd like to go back to Myfanwy herself (selves?) for a moment. (view spoiler)[First of all, though new!Myfanwy is presented as a braver, more assertive and more decisive person than old!Myfanwy (and this is by both new and old Myfanwys as well as by Myfanwy's colleagues in the Checquy), I really liked that the Myfanwys, as a team, succeeded largely by being SMART. I like my kickass heroes as much as the next reader, but I like smart, kickass heroes even better.
Secondly, despite the fact that old!Myfanwy was portrayed as lesser on pretty much every front (even by old!Myfanwy herself), by the end of the novel, the scope of what she's done, the information she's put together to give her new!self every advantage and possibility to survive, the sheer nerve and bravery of it, knowing she was going to, in essence, die and that she'd never even know if she succeeded or not, or whether all her careful planning worked or not…it was incredibly affecting for me, and showed me, at least that—although no one really believed in old!Myfanwy—she really isn't that different from new!Myfanwy after all.
And I really, really liked how O'Malley tipped the hat to that by closing the novel with old!Myfanwy's last, incredibly bittersweet letter of hopefulness, after new!Myfanwy has fought her way to her happy ending. It was perfect, so much so I'm sure I'll be marveling over it for a long time. (hide spoiler)]
The Rook is not without flaws. There's the quirky writing style. There are some random POV shifts in a book that is otherwise a single POV story, some of them jarringly mid-scene. There are a few (very few) moments where Myfanwy's actions (or really, lack of) didn't track as realistic for me. All these things are especial peeves of mine, and I am, in general, a grudging grader, so it should be taken as a sign of how well I think this book was written and how delightful I found the story that, given all that, I'm still giving the book a 5 star rating. This is one of those stories I'm going to flog to all of my friends (and possibly strangers who hold still long enough). I look forward to seeing what O'Malley does next. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I just love these books so much. They're fun, fast, entertaining reads that suck you up & transport you to a more magical place for just a littleI just love these books so much. They're fun, fast, entertaining reads that suck you up & transport you to a more magical place for just a little while. It's going to be a long, sad wait for the next book....more
I'm a huge King fan. But I'm not, I don't think, a King apologist. There are flaws in his work that have come to aggravate me more, the older and lessI'm a huge King fan. But I'm not, I don't think, a King apologist. There are flaws in his work that have come to aggravate me more, the older and less tolerant I've gotten. I wish the women in his books weren't so often reduced to support staff for the grand adventures of the men. I wish there was less race and gender fail in general. And I'm starting to feel disgruntled about the way he portrays Maine as a big sundown community (don't let the sun go down on you in…). I feel like his own prejudices are showing more and more, the older he gets.
But this is not really about that.
What I said to my husband, after finishing the book, is that I feel like King was hampered by his own premise. The story of these people stuck under this dome was an engrossing, fascinating, Lord of the Flies look into the heart of darkness. But. At some point in the narrative, King was going to have to explain how the dome came to be, in order to explain how to get rid of it. And that was problem number one.
Because there are really very few ways to explain a giant, impervious dome suddenly springing up and cutting off an entire community that will still fit in the willing suspension of disbelief. And really, even then, you're skating a thin line, because (view spoiler)[leatherhead aliens? Really? But of the ways to explain this, really, I think aliens was his best bet.
Sidestep: And, as a writer, I can see King pacing around his study—because he's stuck, until he figures this out—thinking, "Okay. So there's this dome. Where did the dome come from? Who made the dome?" And the boys in the brain farm send up: "Aliens." And, wanting to get on with the rest of the story, King looks at it, hesitates, and then thinks, "Okay, yeah. I can work with that," and plants himself back down at the computer. I can visualize this because I've been through this process myself. So okay. Aliens. I can work with that.
And so now King's got the aliens. And he's working. And then things start to slow down again and he goes back to the boys at the brain farm, cap in hand and he says, "Um. Okay, aliens. But *why*? Why did they make the dome?" And the boys at the brain farm look at each other, nonplussed and then one of them steps forward and says, "Um. Just…because?" And another, smarter brain farmboy steps forward and adds, "Because they thought it would be funny." And King thinks about it a bit and some neurons start firing off with little proto-ideas and possibilities and he decides he can work with this, too.
So that happened.
But the problem of explaining the dome, and having it be aliens and having these aliens be so powerful that nothing human hands could do could stop them, and they must therefore throw themselves on the mercy of these all-powerful aliens is that it makes everything that happened completely pointless.
The entire novel is based around two interconnected quests: figure out how this happened and figure out how to make it stop. The entire body of the novel is a pitched battle between Barbara and his forces of "good" trying to accomplish these two tasks and the complications of the forces of "evil", represented by Jim Rennie and his dumbass cronies present to the good guys in getting it done. It's over a THOUSAND PAGES of this really intense war between these two sides, carried out in incredible detail and, presumably, engaging the reader in all this emotional resonance…only to show at the end that all their efforts, good and bad, were ultimately completely pointless. That everything that everyone did, everything that people died for amounted to nothing, in the end, because none of their efforts was ever going to lead to anything.
I think there's an incredible amount of truth to the book's conclusion. I think there's a lesson that we all learn at some point: that no matter how hard we try, what we do, how we strive…there are certain situations where we are helpless. That our efforts are meaningless. And that, in those time, we are subject to the mercy or pity of the powerful. That's trufax, man. But. It's not, in my opinion, good entertainment.
And it's a fine line. I think there are ways to be truthful and entertaining and, for me, that's how I reckon success as a creator. I want there to be enough truth for people to recognize and emotionally resonate to…but I also want to keep them entertained and, at the end, there should be some sense of closure and satisfaction, even if it's a sad one. I don't feel like the emotional strings that tie us to this story should be abruptly cut and left to trail off, unresolved, into darkness.
There are so many plotlines that King built up in the course of the story; open the first few pages of the book and the list of dramatis personae. Nearly every one of them had a story that we were, in some way, made to be intimately acquainted with. And ultimately, those storylines that we became so engrossed in were pointless. In terms of resolving the problem at hand, they meant nothing. In terms of what they accomplished, other than to make the audience care for them before brutally ripping them away, they were nothing. And, again, I think there's a realism to that, but it's not entertaining and it's not very satisfying. It's the kind of messiness we find in our real lives and for which we turn to the storytelling arts to supply a frame of meaning.
When I was originally thinking about writing this, there were weak points I wanted to pull out, like the whole sub-sub plot about Horace the dog and the Vader file behind the couch. But my desire to talk about the absolute absurdity (and the needlessness of writing this bit and writing it in this way) is sharply curtailed by the fact that, as the story resolved, it was a pointless plotline anyway. Whether anyone knew about Jim Rennie's massive list of sins or the fact that he'd built the largest meth lab in North America don't matter. It didn't lend itself to the resolution in any way. Jim Rennie died and was never going to be called upon to answer for his crimes except maybe at the throne of Heaven he was always harping on about. The Vader file was a red herring. The battle for control of Chester's Mill was a red herring. The meth lab itself was a red herring. Junior's serial killing spree, his brain tumor, the riot at the grocery store, the seizures, the foreboding about Halloween...it was all a red herring. (hide spoiler)]
The whole book was a red herring.
And no, I don't feel satisfied by that. I don't feel well served by this story. Instead, I even feel maybe a little foolish for being enticed to care so deeply about the outcome of all this only to find it was all mostly a con man's game of three-card monte. I was looking for the queen and instead I ended on the nine of clubs. As an author myself (though not anywhere near so important, successful or well-known, obvs), it's not an outcome I would want from my audience, this sense of disappointment and betrayal. And while King could be the kind of author who doesn't give a shit and is laughing his way all the way to the bank, that's never been my impression of him. Though not counted, necessarily, among the finest literary artists of our time, I've always heard him talk honestly and earnestly about his desire to tell the best story he could, be it schlocky horror or delving deep into the murky spaces of human heart and mind. And I'm not sure whether I'm more disappointed that he didn't do that here, or that this ended up being the best story he could've told.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I feel a little conflicted about Doctor Sleep. I don’t think it’s a particularly good book. And I don’t think it’s a great successor to The Shining. BI feel a little conflicted about Doctor Sleep. I don’t think it’s a particularly good book. And I don’t think it’s a great successor to The Shining. But (view spoiler)[given how much Dan went through in The Shining and as a consequence of his powers, I was still glad King didn’t kill him off, however I felt that it made for a pedestrian book. (hide spoiler)]
As a standalone book, Doctor Sleep isn’t good because it lacks both urgency and consequences. The opening is slow, and rambling and though I get why it is the way it is, it doesn’t make for any more interesting reading. King is the one who coined the term gimme to describe that feeling when a book grabs hold and doesn’t let go; the problem is, Doctor Sleep doesn’t really have any. The villains never feel realistically dangerous, they’re not actually scary. As a consequence, there’s no real tension to anything that happens. It’s readable—and less offensive than a lot of King’s books—but it’s just not that interesting. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Apparently, my full review is too long for Goodreads, so you can find it: here.
I hated this book. I'll just put that out there. I hated this book. TheApparently, my full review is too long for Goodreads, so you can find it: here.
I hated this book. I'll just put that out there. I hated this book. The only reason I finished it was because my husband and I were reading it together and he would've been disappointed if I'd just quit, after he read the whole thing. But I wanted to quit. And almost every word of this book was work, read with a McKayla Moroney scowl on my face. I hated this book.
But I didn't want to.
I didn’t like The Passage, first book of this trilogy, per se, but it had definitely stayed on my mind in the three years between reading it and the publication of The Twelve. I was intrigued to see where Cronin was going with it all, and I wanted to see if/how he would recoup or redeem the more puzzling and/or problematic bits of The Passage.
Short answer: he wouldn't, he didn't, and he was really only going to make everything much, much worse. The book was poorly written, poorly plotted, had flimsy characterization, bored me to tears and failed on issues of race, gender and representation. ...more
I love The Shining. I love ghost stories, I love stories about hotels, be they haunted or not, I love "locked room" type stories, with all the charactI love The Shining. I love ghost stories, I love stories about hotels, be they haunted or not, I love "locked room" type stories, with all the characters confined in a single space. I love stories where the characters aren't sure if they're going insane or whether actual supernatural things are happening around them. So The Shining delivers in spades on things that make me happy.
And I don't have the patience to go into it, but let's just stipulate ahead of time that The Shining has all of King's usual problems with race, from Magical Negroes to his ability to work in an amazing amount of racism in a story that mainly concerns three White people snowed in a hotel in Colorado. It's the price of admission with King.
I've read The Shining many times, at many different times of life, starting in my pre-teens. What was interesting for me this time around is that it's the first time I've read it when I've been old enough to be a peer/contemporary with Jack and Wendy and the first time I've read it since being married myself. So it was interesting to see how those factors changed or influenced my feelings and/or understanding of the characters. A lot of Wendy's behavior, in particular, is easier to understand as an old married woman than as a self-righteous and intolerant teen or twenty-something. *g*
On the other hand, that ability to empathize/understand only goes so far, because even at my advanced age, I find Jack and Wendy to be both stupid and awful and the only person I can really feel for is Danny, the five year old boy trapped in the situation. Which felt less awkward when I was closer to Danny's age, but as someone who is both chronologically adult and who (finally) FEELS like an adult, it's a little weird. I want to be able to feel for and identify with the adults of the story, but ultimately, I can't.
Jack is a classic Nice Guy, selfish, narcissistic and deliberately blind to his own faults. I think that King wants us to feel bad for Jack and to see him as a victim of the hotel as much as Danny (more on Wendy in a minute) but in this, I think that Jack sits in King's own blind spot. I don't think Jack is King's avatar, specifically, any more than I think any of the pantheon of White Writer Heroes/Protagonists found in his stories are, but they're still born of King and King's subconscious, with his collection of biases, privileges and problems, and it comes through in some rather predictable ways.
And, if comparisons can be made between Jack and his King protagonist writer brethren, Wendy is a pretty classic King mother: passive, abused and weak-willed, fearful and unable/unwilling to protect her child right up to the point where it becomes a life and death situation. The most recent example I remember reading is in The Wind Through The Keyhole, but I know I've read near-identical renditions of this same mother in multiple books and it never becomes more palatable to me, if only because of it's faithful (and near-identical) reproduction SO MANY TIMES. The Shining was still from early in King's career, so it's possible I should give him a pass, but even as that pre-teen, I remember the sense of repulsion I felt about Wendy, far stronger than anything I felt for/about Jack.
If Jack is portrayed as a victim--of his abusive father, of his alcoholism, of the hotel's manipulation--I don't feel he's nearly as forgiving of Wendy, who is also a child of abuse. (view spoiler)[I mean, on the one hand, Wendy gets to LIVE, when Jack dies, but Jack's death comes as an act of belated heroism (in taking his body back and refusing to kill his son) whereas (hide spoiler)] Wendy is a much more passive participant in all the books events and her survival is more happenstance than because of any active effort on her part.
And, for this reader, Jack and Wendy are not people I would ever choose to be, nor do they make the decisions I would make in their circumstances and so while I do feel for them, I cannot project myself into them, whereas, having been a weird and sensitive child with parents who didn't at all get along, I find it very easy to empathize with Danny, who is also the biggest victim of everything that happens. And, honestly, visualizing a five year old having to cope in those circumstances really only increases the horror of the story, as much for visualizing yourself as that child as for the desire to save Danny from the situation. So, though I would like to be able to feel more for the adults, King more than does his job by making Danny the emotional center of the story.
So, for all my issues, I still love The Shining. And for all his issues, I still think King is the best and finding and exploiting those places where our tender and atavistic fears live, bringing them into the light just long enough for us to see and feel how horrible they are before releasing them back into the shadows. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm tempted to call this my favorite...except I'm honest enough to admit that my favorite Hambly books is whichever book I'm reading at the time. EvenI'm tempted to call this my favorite...except I'm honest enough to admit that my favorite Hambly books is whichever book I'm reading at the time. Even years after having read this for the first time, I'm always amazed at how clearly I can visualize the scenes of Stranger, and how, though it's a much read book, I can get completely engulfed in its world.
It also holds up well for me being older, hopefully wiser and more experienced than when I first read it (or even any of the many other times); Kyra's self-struggle--for identity, self-determination, for self-integrity, for the right and ability to pursue her dreams and wants--is one that spoke to me as a young woman and speaks to me just as much now, as an older and married woman. Hambly's heroines are often women swimming against a tide--of expectation both personal and societal. The fact that they are, even so, the heroines, the movers of action, the center of the story and, through great peril, generally able to secure some modicum of happiness from the world is something I don't think I knew to value when I started reading her books, but probably influenced and helped me more than I knew. I don't feel like it's any less so rereading it now.
Though Stranger takes place in a fictional and fantastical world, Hambly always brings her historical background to give it a grounding in familiar reality; when I first read Stranger, I was most strongly reminder of the kind of effortless, charming banter and flirtatiousness of a classic, Golden Era Hollywood movie. And I still see and feel that there, but I'm also reminded of the class politics and division of Gosford Park or Downton Abbey. Not that Stranger is a pastiche of either of these things; I think Hambly's work stands distinct, but those slight echoes or associations on my part add a richness that improves an already excellent read....more
Note: This review was written after having read Feast of Crows.
This was definitely my favorite of the series to date, feeling tighter and more purposeNote: This review was written after having read Feast of Crows.
This was definitely my favorite of the series to date, feeling tighter and more purposeful than the previous volumes while still keeping the epic scope of worldwide events. Though I'm enjoying the series and I hope to read it in its entirety, the previous two books had moments of "well, what's the POINT of all this?" or moments where I was only dragging through the chapter to get to characters and storylines I was more interested in. Not so with Storm of Swords; even with the characters I care less about, I found myself responding to the dramatic tension of their plot lines and reading faster than I had with the previous books.
If I have a complaint about Storm of Swords, it's that I see the beginning of what characterizes Feast of Crows (and presumably Dance of Dragons): while the POV still swaps from chapter to chapter, they start to focus more on centralized geographic regions, rather than skipping more freely around. One of the techniques that I liked about the previous books was that, if you didn't like the plotline happening in the current chapter, you were pretty much guaranteed to be somewhere else on the globe in the next chapter; it gave you a reward for persisting through less interesting chapters and gave a better picture of what was happening when and where. And just the change of scenery itself was kind of a palate cleanser, creating more eagerness to get back to that storyline. By centralizing more on multiple POVs in the same region/plotline, you no longer had that guarantee or that reward or that frisson of anticipation.
As well, Martin continues something he's done throughout the series, revealing actions and plot developments that would seem to be very important to the overall story only in retrospect and usually through 'telling'; that is, one character telling another whose been out of touch what's happened. Sometimes this is a clever storytelling technique, allowing him to hold back information that will become important later (see: Beric Dondarrion, et. al); sometimes it's just...frustrating, because it doesn't become relevant later or, rather, it doesn't become relevant in any way that justifies the strange radio silence on what happened during that period of time (see: just about everything with Robb Stark). And these writing/editing choices feel all the stranger and more irritating for some of the scenes he chooses to lavish attention on (this becomes a bigger deal for me in Feast of Crows, but its still true here, as well).
All that being said, the idiosyncrasies of what Martin chooses to tell or not tell and the meandering pace of the overall story does make Martin an unpredictable storyteller--not always easy in epic fantasy, where there are such heavy and expected conventions--and even in those moments where you know where the overall story is going (see: The Red Wedding), Martin has a definite flair for creating almost unbearable tension, which I think is both good and necessary for a tale that unfolds as slowly and intricately as this one. ...more