Todd Lockwood's debut as an author is an enjoyable fantasy read with plenty of positives and couple issues that keep it from reaching the heights it mTodd Lockwood's debut as an author is an enjoyable fantasy read with plenty of positives and couple issues that keep it from reaching the heights it might have.
The world of The Evertide series is based on a simple, but powerful premise: humans have domesticated some of the dragons and form close, lasting relationships with them. Todd Lockwood does excellent job of building on this premise, showing both the light and dark sides of the human-dragon interactions in a very believable manner. We can love our companions dearly, but also be real bastards towards other living beings. Reading about all this evokes wonder, delight, and anger alike.
Lockwood's dragons are also interesting. Initially they seem like relatively intelligent (more than a dog, less than a human) companion animals, but as the story progresses, we are slowly shown how they actually see and experience the world in a different way. This sense of other is a refreshing way to look at dragons.
The story itself isn't particularly innovative, as far as fantasy goes, but it stands firmly on its own feet. You'll read through it easily and buy every concept and event without hesitation. This is helped greatly by the book staying true to its basic, down-to-earth tone all through the story: even the more fantastical details of the setting are encountered on a very human level.
My biggest gripe with the book is the meandering writing style. Lockwood spends plenty of words conveying events and feelings that many authors would deliver in half the amount. At times it feels like he's afraid we won't understand how his characters feels about a certain thing unless he keeps repeating it at least five times. This makes particularly the more action-oriented scenes a heavy read, as they go on and on and on, without anything significant happening. Even the most dramatic details of the combat lose their impact, as the delivery gives them about as much emphasis as a routine shooting of an arrow.
Additionally I had bit of a mixed feelings about the characters. Most of them are well-rounded, believable personalities, but some completely failed to emerge from their basic roles, or convince me to care about them.
The Summer Dragon was a good start for a fantasy series and I have no doubt I'll be picking up the next instalment as well. Just be warned that if you are an impatient reader, parts of the story may make you want to gloss over some pages to get to the point where something important actually happens....more
Six-Gun Snow White is what it says on the tin - a re-telling of the Snow White motif in a wild west setting. A gritty, down-to-earth wild west with aSix-Gun Snow White is what it says on the tin - a re-telling of the Snow White motif in a wild west setting. A gritty, down-to-earth wild west with a strong mystical side current. At the same time it is also a Catherynne M. Valente book - full of imagination, surprises, and bittersweet notes about human nature woven in beautiful sentences. The title of the book may give you an idea what the story is all about, but in the end it's only a teaser, as Valente handles her subject with creativity that only few other authors could hope to match.
Stylistically, Six-Gun Snow White is closer to In the Night Garden than The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It's almost wrong to call it a novel (or a novella, as it's very compact for a novel), as it's closer to traditional storytelling -- to the extent that a long evening in front of a fireplace would probably be the most natural environment for the story. The descriptions are more evocative than detailed, a lot of ground is routinely covered in few sentences, and only the most important scenes are shown close enough to warrant actual lines of dialogue. It's very different than the modern way of writing fantasy, but it works very well.
If there is a downside to the storytelling approach, it's that it asks more from the reader. You need to pay close attention to each individual sentence, and focus to get inside the heads of the characters. As a side effect, it takes time for the story to build momentum and intensity after it has been set in motion, making the middle third of the story less engaging than the first or the last.
Six-Gun Snow White is a powerful, clever re-telling of a very familiar motif in a way that surprises the reader time and time again. It's not my favourite Valente book, but it packs some much goodness into so tight package that it's easy to recommend to anyone looking for a different angle to fantasy/alternative history writing....more