Unrelenting grimness finally gives way to some compelling action scenes halfway through the novel, though the splicing between viewpoints is clumsy anUnrelenting grimness finally gives way to some compelling action scenes halfway through the novel, though the splicing between viewpoints is clumsy and needlessly coy. The worldbuilding continues to be original and impressive, while the narrative craft remains amateurish. No improvement on the romance front—thank goodness for secondary characters!...more
Parasitic aliens invade Earth and the bodies of humans, but humans aren't always passive hosts: Melanie Stryder isn't. Even though an alien known as WParasitic aliens invade Earth and the bodies of humans, but humans aren't always passive hosts: Melanie Stryder isn't. Even though an alien known as Wanderer—because she's lived on so many different planets, a rare example of a restlessness among her species—uses her jellyfish-like tendrils to take control of Melanie's body, Melanie's memories, emotions, and consciousness won't quit. Inundated by foreign feelings, Wanderer develops a deep affinity for Melanie's world and is driven to seek out those whom Melanie cares for.
Meyer's setup is good and her denouement is satisfying, though her worldbuilding is unintentionally laughable (you thought sparkly vampires were bad?). But damn is she good at depicting yearning—for connection, for family, for love. Her characters long palpably; at the same time they struggle with feelings of unworthiness. I'm no spring chicken pushover, but I can relate deeply to these feelings—I think most of us can if we're honest with ourselves. Don't get me wrong: "Wanda," as she comes to be called, is dragged, hit, thrown, and abused far too many times for my liking. Even though a passive martyrdom is ostensibly inherent in her species, her refusal to lift a finger to protect herself is overdone (though it conveniently requires frequent rescue by hunky male characters). As with Twilight, an angsty masochism pervades Meyer's writing: for some readers, this is tantamount to anti-feminism and will ruin the experience. For others, myself included, it intensifies and dramatizes the story, the occasional eye roll notwithstanding. And later on we put the book (or iPad) down and go back to our IRL ball-busting ways....more
Lush and atmospheric, Daughter of Smoke and Bone boasts an inventive mythology—angels and demons is far too reductive a description, and it's a pleasuLush and atmospheric, Daughter of Smoke and Bone boasts an inventive mythology—angels and demons is far too reductive a description, and it's a pleasure to revel in Ms. Taylor's imagination. You can't help but have a little crush on blue-haired and tatted up Karou, and some of the secondary characters are pretty lovable as well. The mystery is good, and there is enough mystery leftover to propel a reader into the sequels. But the romance! The romance slipped on a banana peel and is helpless—lifeless—on the cafeteria floor. Are you OK, romance? Don't you want to get up off that cold, hard floor and move around a bit? Nah, I'm good. I've made my presence known. But us readers would like to get to know you a bit, to warm up to you and all. Selfish readers. Just leave me alone. Don't you know epic, fated, insta-love-at-first-sight when you see it? Back off and fill in the blanks yourself. Isn't it your job to, uh, convince us of this? What are you, nuts? Stop pestering me. I have important things to do like look up at the track lighting and tally popular shoe trends. It's nice down here. ...more
The Fever series is great fun, and the books keep getting better. The setup is standard, if not derivative: Mac Lane is pretty and shallow, but she isThe Fever series is great fun, and the books keep getting better. The setup is standard, if not derivative: Mac Lane is pretty and shallow, but she is special! She is just coming into her specialness, and it kinda sucks! (It's OK, Mac, you're not alone: Buffy and Sookie were born with special relationships to supernatural creatures and top-secret missions, too!) Bewildered by the grief of her sister's murder, Mac gets on a plane to Dublin to find answers. She'll get her answers, but not before she must ask a whole lot more questions—for one, why she hallucinates terrifying creatures every now and then...
Here's why I think these books are so popular (and why I liked them, too): Moning stays with Mac, who grows throughout the five books (yes, clear your schedule: there are five! and you will read them in a row!). She follows through on her plot. Her pacing is mostly impeccable. Her mythology seems consistent and only slightly overcomplicated. And the slow-burn romance is the work of a master. This is genre fiction at its best, folks: crack with a HEA. The analog that comes to mind is in a totally different genre: the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. The difference is that I could see myself reading these puppies again. ...more
Kate Elliott and I clearly share a romantic fantasy in common: to be on the receiving end of a my-love-must-be-a-kind-of-blind-love. "I can't see anyoKate Elliott and I clearly share a romantic fantasy in common: to be on the receiving end of a my-love-must-be-a-kind-of-blind-love. "I can't see anyone but you..." (And all the while me and Kate and Lily and Tess get to be attracted to multiple people and sometimes even act out on it without jeopardizing our desirability!) Because let's face it: the Hawk/Kyosti and Lily [Insert-Last-Name-du-Jour-Here] romance is what kept me reading through these three novels, not the silly space opera nonsense, which I won't even bother to summarize. I won't spoil the details of the romance, but I found it thought provoking, satisfying, and transfixing. (And no, this doesn't mean that I'd want events exactly replicated in my own life. This is what we call fantasy, folks. It's OK to like it.)
I do have some qualms with Lily, the Buffy-like main character. She is strong but stupidly willful, as compulsive as a moth to a flame when it comes to falling for traps, and her whims drive a flimsy, episodic plot. The only reason she gets out of these messes is because she has a lot of heart and makes a ton of friends along the way, and these friends always show up in the nick of time. A woman's true strength always turns out to be the extent to which she can inspire devotion and loyalty. (Though maybe this is ultimately true of both genders--think Harry Potter.) Lily refuses to process facts that stare her in face, which means she's always a thousand steps behind a perceptive reader. Wake up, buttercup!
Bottom line: Kate Elliott is masterful at a certain kind of romance. Her secondary characters are wonderful. But this isn't the finest example of her ability to plot and to world-build. I still want to read everything she's written, though....more
I'm going against some opinions I value, but I found this novella flat, flat, flat. It reminded me of a Miyazaki movie, but, for me, visuals do a farI'm going against some opinions I value, but I found this novella flat, flat, flat. It reminded me of a Miyazaki movie, but, for me, visuals do a far better job than words of conveying that surreal tone....more
This last volume elevates this series from good to exceptional. Kate Elliott created wonderful characters and a nuanced world (her gender dynamics aloThis last volume elevates this series from good to exceptional. Kate Elliott created wonderful characters and a nuanced world (her gender dynamics alone are breathtaking) in the previous three installations, but she finally advances the plot in meaningful ways in this book. (At least in her earlier works, Elliott sometimes neglects plot, surrendering it to the whims of an impulsive character who bumbles about with little rhyme or reason.) Many of the major characters grow in profound ways as exposure to hitherto alien perspectives gives way to understanding them. Several of the Jaran leave Rhui and are finally introduced to the wider universe, where they become major players in the Human-Chapalli conflict. Back on Rhui, conquest has paved the way for politics, and soldiers must become statesmen. There are some great surprises and twists, and it's all totally fascinating. Elliott's writing skills are suddenly looking formidable, and you're really missing out if you stopped reading earlier in this series....more
I suppose a book called Palimpsest will inevitably be more dense than deft, disjointed than seamless. If you average out this novel's plot, which starI suppose a book called Palimpsest will inevitably be more dense than deft, disjointed than seamless. If you average out this novel's plot, which starts off at a nice clip, grinds to an expository-lush halt, and finally sputters to life with a jolt from a deus ex machina–shaped prod, you have some of the finest fantasy world-building around. Valente's inventions are gorgeous and strange: children who must be licked into adulthood, mute war veterans with animal limbs, moody and lustful trains, eerie burial practices—the list goes on.
Backtracking to the plot: four strangers in different corners of the world find themselves overcome with lust for persons sporting strange tattoos. Their mornings after are—I guarantee you—far more colorful than yours or mine: after surreal dreams, each member of our quartet wakes up to find himself or herself visibly marked. It is quickly revealed that these "tattoos" are pieces of a map, the map of the city Palimpsest. To extend your range of movement in this dream city-state, you must have congress with someone tattooed with the corresponding sector of the city. You see, our four are only the most recent inductees into a worldwide phenomenon. (Other reviewers have aptly likened the process to an STD.) Cue steamy scenes, breathtaking revelations of Palimpsest's topography, and the cheap thrills of a secret (sex) society.
Three things I loved about this book. One, the idea that sex marks you. Doesn't this go back to the feeling that we all had when we looked into the mirror after that first time and wondered, do I look different? Two, the idea of sex as access, not only to experience but also to a physical space, one that is mappable. Three, sex is not endgame. This is not sex for sex's sake; you become addicted to Palimpsest-as-place, and sex just gets you there (and can be quite tedious). It's not as though Palimpsest itself is any more sexualized than here. None of this is to say that the novel is mere allegory: I'm simply personally moved by these three ideas.
I know I seem stingy with my stars, but this is the type of book I'd want to write (not the type I'm equipped to write or the type I like best to read). I'm not sure I even know exactly what that means, but I know it's true and I know it's a compliment. Valente is awesomely creative, and I look forward to reading her others....more
Our little attempted rapist has repented and reformed and has trained as an assassin, charged with executing traitors to the crown. His orders are forOur little attempted rapist has repented and reformed and has trained as an assassin, charged with executing traitors to the crown. His orders are for clean kills: no roughing up the slimy bastards beforehand. When Froi complains about this his comrade warns him about bringing emotion into it: disgust is a coin's toss away from compassion, and neither have any place in an assassin's repertoire.
Froi lands the biggest and baddest of hits: the king of neighboring Charyn, responsible for all the horror inflicted on Lumatere. But what's waiting for Froi at Charyn's palace will sorely test his orders to keep emotion out of it...
Marchetta's plots are breathtakingly complex, and the interplay of action and revelation is masterful. With few exceptions, the characters and their interactions are nuanced and compelling. You'll be loath to put the book down once you start!
I can overlook the annoyance of the interspersed Lumatere chapters, which had me impatient for Froi and Charyn. So why do I withhold that fifth star? I guess because I couldn't sense any truly compelling philosophical, spiritual, and intellectual underpinnings, and I think very best fantasies don't neglect them....more
A young doctor in an unnamed and war torn Balkans country mourns her recently deceased grandfather and uncovers the fantastical stories that have giveA young doctor in an unnamed and war torn Balkans country mourns her recently deceased grandfather and uncovers the fantastical stories that have given meaning and texture to his life. The Tiger's Wife is an intriguing debut. Decent storytelling and a compelling mythological component (present also in her former MFA classmate's, Alexi Zentner's, debut earlier this year) are, alas, undermined by a heavy-handed ending and a lack of emotional subtlety and depth. I did find parts of this rather captivating, though. 2.5 stars. ...more
Strange, beautifully written, almost plot-less, thought-provoking, and not without some irritating stumbling blocks. Definitely a continuation of theStrange, beautifully written, almost plot-less, thought-provoking, and not without some irritating stumbling blocks. Definitely a continuation of the first and meant to be followed up with the third. (Warning: you won't understand this review without some knowledge of the first book.) Let's see, what happens? That's actually a hard question with this book. I don't consider any of what I'm going to list as major spoilers (like I said, not really a plot-driven book), but you might want to stop reading if you want to go in with a blank slate. This is less of a review and more of my attempt to understand what I just read and leave myself refreshers for when I begin the third novel in the series.
The book is framed by Pierce's visit to his mother, Winnie, in Florida. We learn about Pierce's childhood and meet several intriguing characters who are sure to appear later. We learn about Pierce's "Saturnian" love life, his pattern of intense and consuming affairs; Rose Ryder becomes his latest. Pierce is ostensibly "working on his book," though not much seems to happen on that front. He pretends to have a son (alert: irritating stumbling block). Back in the 16th century, Giordano Bruno meets John Dee, and there is inexplicable(?) tension between the two. Dee and Kelly go to Prague, at Madimi-the-angel's suggestion. In current times, Boney finally dies; Val says goodbye. Mike Mucho abandons climacterics for some Christian healing cult led by one Ray Honeybeare, whom we glimpse but don't yet meet; Rose follows suit. Sam has several seizures; Rosie is beside herself with concern. More happens/is revealed in the last twenty or so pages than in the rest of the book combined; a strange wind of apocalypse is blowing, and several characters are connected in ways you didn't foresee. There's a whiff of conspiracy to it all.
This is hard to read in big chunks, but I'm curious about how Crowley will wrap everything up in the final two books....more