This is not a review, more of a bit of advice: My five-star rating is only for the original British edition, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,...moreThis is not a review, more of a bit of advice: My five-star rating is only for the original British edition, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, published by Bloomsbury, not for the crappy Scholastic version, which is sub-par for two reasons. Reason one is the fact that they retitled it Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I mean, what the hell is a Sorcerer's Stone anyway? The Philosopher's Stone has centuries of historical lore behind its name while the Sorcerer's Stone is just a lame attempt to hook readers by shouting, "Hey, this book is about wizards and sorcerers! Don't ya wanna pick it up?" The second reason is the fact that Scholastic dumbed down the text of the novel, essentially translating the original British English into American English and, in my opinion, thoroughly diluting the story. So what if most Americans are unfamiliar with certain British words and phrases? Read in context, unless you're as dumb as a rock, you're able to pick up their meaning. If clarity still eludes you, for crying out loud, Google it! I know, I know, the first book was published before Google launched...but only by a little over a year. Big deal. I'm sure the pitiful, pre-Google internet would've still been able to provide a translation for any unfamiliar British terms in the book. Scholastic finally wised up and stopped translating the text about four or five books in, but by that time, their efforts had turned me off totally and I'd like to think I'm not alone in this.
So, what I'm saying is if you want to truly immerse yourself in the tale of Harry Potter, please, if you're at all able, go for the original version published by Bloomsbury and avoid the Scholastic version like the plague.
Argh! Why, why, why did I torture myself by reading, all the way to the end, this piece of dreck? This horrible, annoying, brain-damage-in-printed-for...moreArgh! Why, why, why did I torture myself by reading, all the way to the end, this piece of dreck? This horrible, annoying, brain-damage-in-printed-form book? I wish someone could tell me because I sure as hell don't know. I should forewarn you: I've written an essay here. I didn't mean to and I usually try to keep myself under control. However, though I've read my fair share of horrible books, never have I read one that combined so many points of stupidity into one story. I admit, I only have myself to blame. I read the back cover and front page excerpt and ran into descriptions which made my hackles rise, concerning explosive passion, small moans of passion, and jolts of lust-induced heat, among others. So I knew what I was in for, but I kept on going anyway, mainly because I was intrigued by the basic premise of the book: Three races of warriors, who have been fighting the good fight for millenia, protecting our world and theirs against things which slaver and rage and kill in the night. Sounds good, right? Yeah, that's what I thought and look at what that got me. As anyone who has read through my reviews can attest, I'm not a fan of romance, in any genre; I'll suffer through it to get to the good bits, the stuff in between the heavy breathing and throbbing loins, which was the plan for this book. I had no idea that a) this book would come off like a stalker's/rapist's fantasy, nor that b) the female lead would be so damn infuriating, I would feel absolutely no connection to her or her story. Let me explain. First we have these warriors, nearly immortal, they're so long-lived, and skilled with the sword and deadly in their mission to kill monsters. However, these warriors are incomplete without a female partner (ain't it the truth) to aid them in battle. By some form of magical symbiosis, the two mates work off of each other, the man storing the energy, the woman pulling it out of him to power her magic. Fine and dandy, sounds fabulous. Sadly, most of the female warriors were massacred sometime in the past and the men are now slowly dying off as a result. Okay, we can work with that. The creepy and disturbing part comes when the warriors introduced in this book, Drake, Thomas, and Zach stumble across not one, but two half-blood warrior women in a diner, our "heroine," Helen Day, and a secondary character, Lexi the waitress. The phrase "Caveman attitude" is too tame to describe the men's reactions. "Jealously possessive and needy to the point of rape" would do better. The two men most reactive to Helen and Lexi, Drake and Zach, touch, press up against, trap, hold onto, and in various other ways, physically caress these women. Helen and Lexi meanwhile are shying away, cringing, fighting back, and doing everything in their power to make them stop and go away, which just makes the men smile and continue to assault them. Yeah, that's romantic, I want to meet a guy like that. That sort of possessive theme continues throughout the book, as concerns the interaction between Drake and Helen. His attitude is a continual litany of "She's mine, she completes me, I need her no matter what anyone says, and if any of my brothers-in-arms tries to take her away or touches her or even looks at her, I'll kill him. Oh, and if Helen runs away, I'll search the ends of the Earth to bring her back to me." Sorry, but that kind of psychotic, stalker attitude does not turn me on. Then we have Ms. Helen Day. What an irritating, whiny, whimpy, unrealistic character. From the very beginning, we're told she's terrified of Drake because he's the man who's going to watch her die, according to this vision she's had all her life. She stubbornly holds onto this belief throughout the book, despite evidence which shows her vision might be incorrect, and what I want to know is, why? Has she had other visions that have come true? Apparently not. So why is she so stupidly fatalistic in her conviction that her vision will come true? I haven't a clue. Now we come to the "relationship" between Helen and Drake. He has a permanent hard on for her, wants to touch her "soft skin and soft hair and soft body" (seriously, the dude has some sort of fetish for touching soft things), yet from my point of view, she's not desirable. For one thing, she's a tease: "Ooh, yes, let me lick my lips and let you kiss me, and I'll just run my hands through your hair and over your manly-man muscles and--oh my! What do we have here? Ooh, it's so big! Okay, then, I want to stop now because I don't think it's a good idea to have sex with you. Good luck with that raging hard-on." Men tend to have a more descriptive, and accurate in Helen's case, phrase for that kind of woman, by adding a certain anatomical euphemism to the front of 'tease'. No man wants a woman like that, especially when it's compounded by the second undesirable thing about Helen: her "lower than a snake's belly" self-image, which seems to be ubiquitous in the Romance genre anymore. Despite the fact that she, and most other romance novel heroines, react to Drake's attraction in the same manner I would should a gorgeous man happen to look twice at me--"Which of the hotties standing behind me are you eyeballing with lust, because I know it can't be me"--I am so bloody tired of encountering that type of attitude I could scream. Where are the confident women, the ones who know they're attractive and are fun to be around, and revel in their ability to catch a man's eye? What makes it even worse is the women who are so doubtful of their sex appeal are always built like the proverbial brick shithouse. Give me a break! Be doubtful you could inspire lust in a hunka-hunka burnin' love if you've got thunder thighs, a pot belly, and swaths of cellulite. Don't whine about how fat and unattractive you are if you're built like a Playboy centerfold! Yeah, 'cause no man wants to hit that. So not only did I have to contend with unrealistic, unlikeable characters (the only one I warmed up to was Miss Mabel), I had to slog through a messy plot. Every so often, Butcher paused the action to tell the story of another character, such as the above-mentioned Lexi, whether it was relevent or not. I get that she was trying to set up storylines for future books, but her attempts were clumsy, with no finesse at all. Some authors can weave multiple storylines into their novels with ease, while others shouldn't attempt it, especially when those attempts leave the reader bouncing around, wondering why they should care about this character's crazy mother or that one's life of deception, when there's no discernible reason. All I know is the more I read, the worse the book got until, just pages from the end, I was literally whimpering and screaming in frustration, so much so I scared my cat. Never again. I am glad to return the book to the library and avoid any future books as if they carried the plague...and smallpox...and anthrax.(less)
In the final installment to Gedge’s Lords of the Two Lands trilogy, the story of the Tao’s family attempt to reclaim Egypt from the Setiu invaders rea...moreIn the final installment to Gedge’s Lords of the Two Lands trilogy, the story of the Tao’s family attempt to reclaim Egypt from the Setiu invaders reaches a thrilling and riveting climax. I can’t say it’s the best book of the trilogy (deciding that would be something of a Sophie’s Choice), but I can say it’s a wonderfully written, compulsively readable finale.
Ahmose Tao, Prince of Weset and self-proclaimed pharaoh now that both his father, Seqenenra, and brother, Kamose, have both died at the hands of those who claimed to be loyal yet ultimately betrayed them, has successfully reclaimed the entire land of Egypt. The last bastion of Setiu rule is their capital city, Het-Uart, a thickly walled repository of Setiu troops and scared citizens. Those impassable walls also held Ahmose’s sister, Tani, Apepa’s hostage these many years, as well as the physical symbols of Egypt’s divinity, the Horus throne, the double crown, the Crook of Mercy and the Flail of Justice. During the long months away from Weset, while Ahmose continues to lay siege to Het-Uart and finish the reclamation of his beloved country, a new center of Egyptian administration is taking shape under the capable hands of Ahmose’s wife Aahmes-nefertari and his mother Aahotep in Weset, both of whom effectively keep Egypt running by organizing and supervising the many small details required to keep a country working. Yet there’s a distance between Ahmose and Aahmes-nefertari which has nothing to do with their physical separation and as Het-Uart finally falls and a final betrayal to Ahmose’s reign comes to light, engineered by Apepa and orchestrated by Tani, Ahmose must decide if seeking reparation for such a awesome treachery is worth the price: the loss of his marriage and love of Aahmes-nefertari
As with the other books, the battle scenes are the poorest part of the novel, suffering from a lack of dynamism as the writing itself remains adroit. The only exception were the scenes describing the sieging of Het-Uart and, later, the Rethennu fortress of Sharuhen, which, perhaps because they were so much more intimate than the other large battle scenes, seemed to have a greater sense of urgency and were infused with a more authentic sense of the chaos which would surround such close-quarters fighting. Where Gedge really shines is in the complex interplay of her characters and their very human reactions and emotions. We see the fragility of Aahmes-nefertari as she tries bring together a nation in her husband’s absence while dealing with the trauma of childbirth and infant mortality; the desperation of Ramose as he attempts to rescue Tani, his idealized love; the cutting-to-the-quick of both Ramose and Ahmose as Tani reveals how she’s changed from the free-spirited girl they both knew years ago. Towards the end of the novel, these full-developed relationships intertwine to create a heartbreaking resolution of the story. That's said, Tani’s story is the most engrossing and the one which is the most vexatious. (view spoiler)[When we finally meet her after being closeted away by Apepa’s side for so many years, we see that she’s no longer Egyptian, but has adopted Setiu manners, to the point of even changing her name to Tautha. Her excuse? She was so long with Apepa, frightened and alone, missing her family, sure that Apepa would execute her for her family’s actions, but instead Apepa treated her with kindness and consideration. Soon she fell in love with him and consented to marry him. So that when Het-Uart finally falls and Egypt is free, she refuses to go home with Ahmose, instead holding fast to her marriage vows and claiming that her duty lies with her husband, Apepa and choosing the people of her husband over her own family. This sort of betrayal and cowardly behavior is so upsetting and abhorrent, it made me agree with Ahmose when he tells her “My only regret is that Ramose did no strangle you when he saw what you had become.” I mean, she even demanded an Egyptian burial for Apepa, using her status as a princess of royal blood to blackmail Ahmose into complying. (hide spoiler)]My horror at Tani’s behavior equaled that of Ahmose’s.
In the end, The Horus Road is a rousing, nail-biting, undeniably satisfactory ending to a trilogy of books which comprise just about some of the best ancient Egyptian historical fiction out there. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Let me state, right off the bat, this is an excellent book. It is truly the standard by which all ancient Egyptian historical fiction novels...more4.5 stars
Let me state, right off the bat, this is an excellent book. It is truly the standard by which all ancient Egyptian historical fiction novels should be measured...for the most part (I'll explain in a moment). The research is impeccable, thorough without being overwhelming and used appropriately (meaning that Gedge knows when to hold back and let the story take over and when to use her research to enhance/explain a scene). No info dumps here! The story itself moves along a brisk pace, the tension and action nicely balanced with more introspective, character-centered moments--it neither drags nor wears the reader out with never-ending action. The language is where Gedge truly shows her talent: the dialogue is beautiful, neither anachronistically modern (thus jarring the reader out of the book's ancient setting) nor so archaically formal that the reader is forced into multiple re-reads in order to decipher what was said; the narrative truly immerses the reader in the sights, sounds, and textures of ancient Egypt, to the point where I felt I could reach out and stroke the sweat-slicked flesh of the characters as they sat under Ra's implacable eye or smell the intoxicating scents of perfumed oil cones as they melted, the oil soaking the gauzy linen sheaths and kilts of the banqueters as they feasted in a stuffy, noisy dining hall. Certain hist. fiction authors who are currently the darlings of the publishing world, whom shall remain nameless here (although I will give out the initials P.G. and M.M.), should take note of Gedge's creative writing ability and follow her most excellent example.
Now to explain the "for the most part" bit from earlier. Bear with me as my one criticism- no, that's the wrong word. How about I say 'problem' instead? My one problem with the book is rather nebulous and difficult to explain. While all of what I've said in the previous paragraph is true, while Gedge brings to life these ancient peoples and places and personages to a degree that is to be envied and admired, the characters themselves, most especially those who are responsible for driving the story, still don't feel as fully fleshed as they could be, as though they're missing whatever it is that would make them jump off the pages and become real human beings. To contrast, Conn Iggulden, whose Genghis series I'm currently reading, has to deal with some of the same issues as Gedge in bringing his characters to life, i.e. taking an historical personage about whom more myth than reality is written/known and creating a real human being from the scraps of truth to be found in such myths and legends. Yet Conn's Temujin/Genghis doesn't just leap off the page, he smashes his way through the flimsy wood pulp and weak ink letters which hold him captive. And the same dynamism is true of all the other characters in Genghis's life: some are weak, some are cunning, some are utterly depraved and despicable, and some are brave, noble, conflicted, innocent, dependable--in other words they are human, with human foibles and human drives. With the characters in The Hippopotamus Marsh I don't get that same sense of reality. Yes, we are shown the motivations of Seqenenra and his son Kamose, their pride and sense of honor, as they chafe under the rule of the Setiu/Hyksos king Apepa; the conflicted outrage of Kamose's twin brother Si-Amun as he traps himself in a no-way-out situation; the wise resignation of Seqenenra's wife Aahotep, the haughty grandeur of Tetisheri, the matriarch of the family, and the lesser motivations of the rest of the family. Yet I never really got a sense of each character's depth beyond those surface impressions. And this is where the nebulousness comes in, as the depth of personality for each of these characters (which I'm sure will deepen as the series progresses) is perfectly adequate (and in comparison to some hist. fiction downright marvelous). Taken in combination with the rest of the elements of Gedge's writing, The Hippopotamus Marsh becomes a work of fiction which is quite astonishing and absolutely amazing to read. So why am I complaining? I guess because I want to go deeper, I want to know more about these characters--Kamose, Seqenenra, Tani, Ramose, Aahmes-Nefertari and the rest--I want them to break free of history's cobwebs, leap off the page and stand before me as they tell me their story, through Gedge's words, much as Conn Iggulden's Genghis Khan did. They seemed too tame, too calm, too remote for such dynamic history taking place around them.
One other quibble I have with the book, which ties in with the issue I pointed out above, is the action, compelling as it was, could've been more dynamic and more compelling to read. Once again, I need to refer to Iggulden as I've been spoiled by him and his depictions of battle, of blood and death, defeat and victory, depictions which are at once gruesome and engrossing. If I can smell the flood waters of the Nile, feel its life-giving mud slither through my fingers and the grit of the desert sand, then I should also be able to see the sweat and fear pouring off a soldier's face, hear the clashing of swords, the crash of shields, the twang of bowstrings, the hiss of blood as it sinks into the baking earth. Yet that never occurred. As with the personalities of the book's characters, the action is surface-level only: I saw the clash, I saw the tactics, the hope and fatigue of the soldiers, the humiliation of defeat, but I never felt the reality of the action taking place. Maybe it's simply due to a contrast in styles between a male and female author (and, god, I hate myself for even thinking that, let alone writing it, as I'm well aware of many female authors who can write kinetic and enthralling action scenes as well as, if not better than, male authors). Or perhaps it's simply that Gedge has so much territory to cover, she didn't feel the need to dwell on the battle scenes. Who knows?
What I do know is the issues I have with the novel are minor in comparison to The Hippopotamus Marsh's overall scope and readability. There may be a few (a very few) books out there which are better (and we all know "better" and "worse" are highly subjective adjectives), but there are certainly a great deal too many books which are worse--pieces of dreck which would have to climb onto extension ladders just to get close enough to reach out and aspire to Gedge's level of artistry.(less)
Ah, now this is much better! With The Oasis, Pauline Gedge has hit her stride with this story arc in general and her characters in particular. The str...moreAh, now this is much better! With The Oasis, Pauline Gedge has hit her stride with this story arc in general and her characters in particular. The strengths of The Oasis only serve to highlight the weaknesses of The Hippopotamus Marsh.
I mentioned in my review of The Hippopotamus Marsh how the characters seemed to suffer from a lack of realism and I think part of the problem is that that first book of Lords of the Two Lands Trilogy is a set-up book. We meet Seqenenra, the instigator of the story's plot and about whom the main action revolves, at the beginning of the book. However, before we can fully know and understand him and his motivations, he's killed and his active participation in the story is over with, about midway through the book. Then we find ourselves involved with the brothers Si-Amun, Kamose and Ahmose; nominally it's Si-Amun who leads the story line, but then he goes away and Kamose takes his place. Basically, there's so much going on and so many people weaving in and out of the main plot line, it's hard to get a grasp on who these characters really are, what drives them, what they're hiding behind their smiles. However, with The Oasis the focus pretty much stays on Kamose and to a lesser extent Ahmose. Finally we get to see more of these two characters; we get to delve into their fears and hidden talents and discover what makes them tick. Finally we get an idea of who they really are. This discovery also extends to the Tao women. We get to see beyond Tetisheri's imperious facade and see her fears and her weaknesses. Aahotep and Aahmes-Nefertari step out of the shadows and become deeper and richer, more than just mother and widow, wife and sister. Now I can see these people. Now they have become real.
Once again, though, the battle scenes are still weak and underdeveloped. The action is briefly described and hastily done with. However, the tension has been ratcheted up by several notches and there are many scenes which caused me to hold my breath as betrayals and shocking revelations threatened to derail Kamose's attempts to retake Egypt and remove the Setiu stench from his country. Several times throughout the book, I ached with him and felt as exhausted as he when events overwhelmed him. And that is the one constancy between The Hippopotamus Marsh and The Oasis: Gedge's masterful use of language and imagery. She skillfully weaves the ancient history and traditions of Egypt into the story, engaging all the senses and immersing the reader totally. As I noted before, Gedge manages to keep the reader's attention focused in that ancient period by using appropriate language without alienating the modern mindset with stuffy or awkward turns of phrase. Which is why I was quite surprised to find a slip-up. Towards the end of the book, (view spoiler)[ when a few of the princes rise up in rebellion (hide spoiler)], Prince Iasen cries out, in regards to General Hor-Aha, "We are tired of kowtowing to him." (Italics are mine.) Kowtow is from the Chinese ketou which is a combination of the syllables ke knock + tou head. I realize the ancient Egyptians were in trade with many other ancient societies at the time, but would they have used such a word? Even if they would, which I doubt highly, the use of it in the text brought me temporarily out of the story--it jarred me. I think it a better choice would've been the more neutral genuflect or prostrate. I mean, Gedge might as well have written salaam. However, that is the first and so far only error I've found in her novels.
Which is why, in the end, I'm sticking with my initial judgment which placed Gedge head and shoulders above nearly all other ancient Egyptian historical fiction authors.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)