He faced her then, arms folded across his chest. 'I have no time for games.' The tips of his fingers had black rings of charcoal dust buried under th...moreHe faced her then, arms folded across his chest. 'I have no time for games.' The tips of his fingers had black rings of charcoal dust buried under the nail and into the cuticle. 'I have work to do.' 'Not if I say you don't.' He turned away. 'I like to finish what I start.' He gave her the look she recognised well, the one of measured disdain. [...] 'Where do you propose we play?' He swept a hand around the forge. 'Here?' 'My rooms.' [...] He leaned against the anvil considering. 'Your sitting room will do. I'll come when I've finished this sword. After all I have house privileges now. Might as well use them.'
*** This review contains spoilers for the first third. *** I am so angry - mostly at myself - and as deflated as a balloon after a kiddie party in summer. Because I blatantly ignored all the lovely, thoroughly reviewed and dissected titles waiting to be purchased on my wish list since forever, quite spontaneously preordered a novel I practically knew nothing about in hardcover, and did not cancel that mistake after reading the chapters that are cockily offered as a sneak preview for Kindle - even though those left me pretty unimpressed. Sometimes all the rational things that lead to choosing a book matching my taste fly out of a hidden window in my brain.
The preorder 'happened' after an early review by a friend, who compared the book to 'Darkness Shows the Stars', which I adored. She also mentioned another title, which I did not enjoy. But I stupidly chose to be deaf on that ear. After ordering I read the sample chapters with my book-taste buds screaming 'ordinary' and 'jerk-alert-level-3' at me. Unfortunately to no avail, because by then Kristin Cashore, whose Seven-Kingdoms-books I really love, had posted a glowing blog entry in a foreboding defense of her blurb. Yes, Rutkoski was her friend, but 'The Winner's Curse' was “wonderfully excellently super-good“ etcetera, etcetera. Obviously it was me, I guessed. I failed to see the sparkle that would ignite the book after chapter 5. The preorder remained in my account, rubbing its greedy hands. And I have to say that I really believe Cashore - and Aguirre - think their colleague's story to be “masterfully plotted“ and “beautifully written“. But if I admit what good marketing triggers in me in spite of my carefully honed purchasing rules stacked around me, maybe they should admit, that friendship probably made them unable to judge impartially. It usually does.
So, I fetched the eagerly awaited book out of my postbox, dug in and ... made it until page 104 - with difficulty.
Heavens, I was bored, so very bored and indignant, too. Why? Let's see:
- There has been gushing going on concerning the world-building. What world-building? It's a standard fantasy world with neighboring countries divided by a body at water at war. Like, i.e., when the Spaniards made a grab for Granada/the Alhambra, the nation with the upper hand, the Valorians, is the one with the inferior culture. They have no music, they have almost no literature and their army's victory depended on a premature surrender of the enemy, who is now enslaved, bound to serve the victors in their former homes, and certainly waiting for a chance to turn the tables. There is some talk about dresses, pianos, sitting rooms, chaperones, horses, lawn parties and - certainly human breeding rules (those make this almost 'dystopian', he?), which state that some girls/all girls/whoever has to do her part for her country's survival either by marrying and popping out puppies at a fixed point in their lives or join the army (Isn't that combination of choices superduperoriginal? Going all house-wifey or going all Amazone? Sprinkle it a bit with grand ideas like music-is-for-the-lower-classes and you've got yourself an “exquisite worldbuilding“ ( Kirkus Review).
- At least during the first third not much is happening. Although I enjoy thrilling books there are several examples among my favorites, which are slow or whimsical and concentrating mainly on a character or even on words or ideas. I didn't notice much extraordinarity about the writing. And as the characters are concerned ...
-- Kestrel displays right in the beginning chapter that she can distinguish between fake jewelry and real gems. But it is also made known to the reader that she is aware of market place politics, empty social standards like the necessity to go out chaperoned and probably her nation's much more complex prerequisites to keep on going in prosperity, too. She later successfully makes a deal with her father, because she offers to contribute her talent to strategize to the military (“Her father gave her a level look. 'Your military strength has never been in combat. […] You’re a strategist.'“). Apparently she is sharp-minded enough to be the designated winner in the board game favored in High Society (“Kestrel especially liked it when they cheated. It made beating them not quite so easy.”) and to keep the greedy bride-seekers at bay. But all these fine examples crumble like theatre props when we get to observe the girl in action: She is suddenly too dense to notice how letting her young, spontaneously acquired and physically attractive slave rudely walk all over her in public might be interpreted by her gossip- and power-hungry peers. (Btw, I remember reading reviews that proudly pointed out the book's lack of insta-love. Hmm. It's not mutual, no. But at the very least there is an insanely amount of insta-curiosity and - rather unforgivable for someone supposedly cunning - insta-trust.)
-- Arin is that sort of undercover spy/rebel, who cannot see that blending in and going with the flow would keep him off the radar and therefore in business. Luckily his condescending display of superiority inexplicably strikes a chord in his new mistress, who does not punish him for speaking up against her friend at a social call, but books his services until further notice, allows him to roam the city ('I want the priviledges of a house slave.' 'They are yours.' 'And the right to visit the city on my own. Just once in a while.' ) and is interested in hearing his opinion while losing at board games against him. Wow, Arin-My-Name-Is-Not-Smith would do well as the upper jerk in a High School romance. All the other slave girls have the hots for him and he just has to smirk and be haughty to get lonely and misunderstood Kestrel blabbing about her war-lord-dad's weaknesses and her own shortcomings. My guess is that in spite of the implausibility of his actions the jerk-affine crowd cannot help but swoon at his feet in a puddle of happy goo. The stellar average ratings will easily be maintained on a permanent basis.
-- Forget about the rest of the cast: There is an autocratic, cold-hearted father, an opportunistic steward, a fluffy-brained best friend, whose simplicity enhances Kestrel's intelligence, a harmlessly cute admirer, a still-attached nurse and mother-replacement, an evil, influencial upper-class prick, market people, slaves, rebels and a whole gaggle of unimportant folks in fashionable attire (see cover), but - at least during the first 100 pages - they merely provide the fairy lights for Kestrel's and Arin's drama about smitten ladies led on a tight leash by brooding wannabe-slaves.
Enough. In my book boring means bad. I don't want to bore you more than necessary to illustrate my stance. And, as you surely know, being bored by what and being bored easily or not are individual reactions and traits. Should the quote on top have activated your inner swoon mode, please go ahead, gorge yourself with sexy haughtiness and do not mind my peculiar opinion.
I received an electronic review copy of B. Kristin McMichael’s fantasy romance To Stand Beside Her in exchange for an honest review from her husband....moreI received an electronic review copy of B. Kristin McMichael’s fantasy romance To Stand Beside Her in exchange for an honest review from her husband. To be entirely fair I have to add that he did not force it on me. I had put the debut on my wishlist first and thus expressed my unmistakable interest. That means the blame for misspending 30 minutes by struggling twice through the first 10% should be entirely mine.
Before someone else repeats my mistake and maybe doesn’t even dare to throw the towel as early as I did, I offer my review both as a payment and as means to help like-minded readers to pass go without accepting or purchasing a copy.
Believe it or not, I even plan to entice some readers into pressing the to-read-button after browsing through my ramblings, for what is appalling to me might be appealing to others. And those others stand clear in front of my mind: The unabashed admirers of strong, beautiful, physically fit, unbeatably witty, unbearably female, lime-light addicted and uncompromisingly self-promoting heroines like assassin Celaena Sardothien.
The now wildly popular Throne of Glass, too, started out as a self-published novel, but having read more than half of the story my guess is that a lot of work went into re-structuring and basic editing afterwards. All in all it turned out to be quite readable in spite of not meeting my personal taste in character design and dynamics. To Stand Beside Her did not benefit of the services big publishing houses have to offer, but if you can generously overlook that the text does not tell you what a courier/ghost courier is - except that her job is split into six skill levels, extremely legendary, kind of hush-hush and certainly mind-blowingly dangerous - , that you will long await the moment when it will revealed to you were the story takes place – apart from that it is a world with at least eight kingdoms of which five kings are wifeless and keen on getting a feisty spouse that verbally abuses them on a day-to-day basis with her special brand of smirky wit -, and that other details keep leaping spontaneously at you – like that this fantasy world has running hot water even in windowless special-prisoner castle suites, then you may blissfully dive into a novel featuring Celaena reincarnated into a parallel universe:
"Leila was the best. [...] Leila could easily enter any heavily guarded place and leave unnoticed with her assignment." "No one, no man, or woman, could keep up with her. Leila was a ghost to many and a legend to everyone else. Through her training, she had perfected the use of multiple identities so she could travel from city to city, fulfilling even the the most demanding assignments." "She had yet to find a man who could beat her in both weapons and hand-to-hand combat." "All told of encountering a lady so beautiful she would take your breath away and yet was so cunning none could cage her long enough to make her into a wife."
But, alas, almost right at the beginning Leila lets her guard slip in front of the guard after being really smug about losing a pair of newbie trackers. And, oops, the uncatchable maiden is caught. Surprisingly not for the first time. Leila proudly mentions she has already first-hand knowledge of both the men’s and the women’s section of the prison – and of five other kingdoms’, too, but she never intends to stay. She simply scales the prison’s inner and outer walls with her dainty, little feet (view spoiler)[they must really look unproportional on her, since we learn later, that she is taller than all the palace guards (hide spoiler)] and leaves before supper. Sadly her dumb Level-2-associate Kay is still inside the castle, which means she goes straight back in to fetch her out – and does not miss the chance to wiggle her tongue at the flabbergasted guards at the main gate.
Because she does not make her skills a secret and offers her new fans some in-detail glimpses into the tricks of her trade, cruel King Nalick – bless him, the first of acceptable height and muscle mass – is curious, sends for her, showers in a select mix of rude comebacks, seductive disregard and violent eye-lash-batting, and is instantly smitten. Leila languidly anticipates his proposal, because she had received five similar ones from his colleagues before. The offer of Nalick’s farther’s hand even resulted in the forced demise of her beloved fiancé. So keeping alive Level-2-Kay dictates taking different measures than that unrelenting "no" four years earlier (view spoiler)[when the heroine had been 14, should I have counted correctly (hide spoiler)]. Right? It does not hurt, though, to ask the next best priest standing in the way to help her flee as if he regularly dismisses his ruler's instructions for fun. Strangly, he does not comply.
Well. If your Celaena-addicted mind is not yet salviating yet, I give you the following last bits on top: "Leila did not approve of hurting innocent people. [...] Never once had she killed anyone who attacked her. Even those who would try to kill her did not deserve to die in her opinion." This shocking revelation of Leila’s purity of heart is apparently necessary for the story to come, for according to the palace seer Miss Smarty-Parts-Dirty-Mouth has "the power to change the world". Naturally. He elaborates "When people come in contact with you, their aura becomes whiter in color to match yours."
Should you think this is sweet, but not stickily so, go ahead and indulge. The e-book is very affordable, but it seems to lack a love-triangle.
If you feel like wiping off your fingers, just stay well behind the yellow tape. I do no know for sure, but I cannot imagine that the story improves enough to brighten your day. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a...more"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a wagashiya at Higashi-Bashi and took a secret sip of shirozake in between, while reading the less shocking parts of the shimbun to his wataire-clad okusan Miyuki, who was supposed to fold the last Hinamatsuri origami, but nervously fingered a fertility omamori from the neighborhood jinja instead. If she did not conceive this very month there was nothing left but harakiri. 'Shou ga nai', she wispered to herself with a soft sigh reminiscent of the maiko she once had been." Huh? No, this paragraph was certainly not extracted from Jay Kristoff's debut novel Stormdancer, but it could be, for I jumbled together a paragraph that made the same exaggerated use of japanese nouns in a slightly clumsy attempt to create a kind of asian atmosphere. I was really peeved by the vocabulary overload, which even had characters answering with "Hai" instead of simply "Yes", but in the end there were all in all more aspects in the story that I enjoyed, adored or felt comfortably familiar with than those I disliked. I will try to point out both and I will explain why I would in fact recommend to pick up the book along the way.
What I liked ... * First of all: The cover. No, not that bland one one by Tor. It reminds me too much of the cover of Takashi Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows. I mean the gorgeous red and black one that shows a griffin, lotus-poisoned air, a sexy, young-enough-looking heroine and even a nine-tailed-fox tattoo on her arm. I really appreciate it, when publishers invest in creating a cover that actually reflects the story in detail. . . . * The abundance of action and gore. * The author's decision not to shy away from including sex in his plot. A lot of writers do so to appease those strange people who continue to pretend that sex is something not belonging into a normal teenager's life – both fictional and real. That really drives me bonkers from time to time. How refreshing to see a heroine who does not treat losing her virginity like a matter of life and death. * Several strong and extremely likable female characters – even in previously unexpected places. * The initially fragile, but later indestructible, Eragon-Saphira-style, exclusive bond between the paranormally gifted kick-ass heroine and the rare, conflicted and highly intelligent mythical creature thrown into her company. Who would not love Yukiko's "taming" of the proud and bristling griffin Buuru and their later mutual come-what-may trust in each other? * That under the disguise of a brutal, slightly romantic, steampunk fantasy set in an alternative Japan a highly relevant, thought-provoking environmental fairytale is genially smuggled onto many reading lists, which reminds me on the one hand of Hayao Miyazaki's masterworks Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke in a very positive way and on the other hand presses a hand-mirror reflecting our own planet-destructing behavior against our greedy noses. I am going to elaborate: - In Princess Mononoke the fierce Lady Eboshi runs a settlement that produces coal from cut-down forest trees to melt ironsand, which is needed to create firearms. The firearms are meant to kill the giant animal-gods protecting the forest and its inhabitants from human exploitation. Lady Eboshi is willing to sacrifice the forest and the magical creatures living there in order for her country's economy to flourish. She actually cares for her workers, but she doesn't see the connection between the mysterious illness many of the men are inflicted with and the destruction of the woods. The imperial hunters want the deer-god's head and they will receive it. In Stormdancer the ruthless ruler and a fanatic group called the Guild have considerably "bettered" the country's economic and political standing by forcing the farmers to grow lotus on their fields, a plant that fuels the various high-tech steampunk machines, appliances, weapons and airships, leads to addiction when consumed in the form of tea or smoke and unfortunately permanently poisons the air around it and the soil it is grown in. To highlight his power the monarch sends out his recently idle hunters to catch the very last magical beast, that had been spotted in one of the rare regions still untouched by the destructive effect of lotus production. - The easily influenced population in want of lotus money reminded me in turn of the Valley-of-the-Wind people in Nausicaä, who eagerly burn down each trace of fungus that reaches their fields, have to wear breathing masks when leaving their wind-filled haven and hold the Omu, huge insects roaming the supposedly deadly fungus forests, responsible for the actually man-made environmental catastrophe. Animal-loving Nausicaae finds out the truth, connects with the gentle Omus and deals with a steampunky, neighboring country threatening to invade the small paradise with their scifi airships. Oh, I can easily imagine Stormdancer turning into a Miyazaki animation film. The plot, the beast and the girl would be perfect. - But what is even more important – and worth a whole rating star for me – is the adaptability to our own present situation: The looming climate problem is evident, but it gets shoved again and again into a dusty backgroud corner to be dealt with later, because shortsightedly securing the immediate want and comfort and well-being of a handful of still thriving countries always gets prioritized. We destroy species after species and their habitats, we squirrel away radioactive time-bombs all over the planet, we make money at war, we figuratively design prettier breathing masks to avoid the stench of our own exhaust and we diplomatically close our eyes, when countries on the rise want to try their hands at high-impact beginners' mistakes, too. We do not import foreign slaves to do the dirty work in front of our doors like the Stormdancer's Emperor does, we prefer putting the factories themselves into far away countries, so we don't have to watch those people slaving away under unhealthy, inhuman conditions, and we can buy another cheap or not so cheap pair of of hip new jeans, while they have to decide between buying a daily bowl of rice or sending a kid to school. I am really grateful to Mr. Kristoff for writing a story that takes place in the midst of a barely stoppable destruction. The only other comparable example I have read so far was Firestorm by David Klass. Most young adult post-apocalyptic novels are – like the label says – set up in a time after an environmental collaps, after the wounded planet rebelled against being treated like something disposable. And usually the teenaged protagonists are handed the broken pieces and try to make the best of it: Living underwater, surviving a draught, contructing a dome ... They play the role of the innocent victim. We – like Yukiko – are not victims, we are doing the deed right now. * The "normal" fantasy plot parts. I had high expectations for the book to be completely different from everything else I have read, but it is certainly not. A lot of plot elements are very familiar, standard fare, really. But for those of us - like me - who usually enjoy high fantasy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. * The ending.
What I disliked ... * The above mentioned vocabulary overload. Glossary or no glossary, all the unnecessary Japanese made reading the first chapters at least extremely exhausting. In fact, it seemed to me like complete lists of traditional japanese weaponry and clothing were put next to the author's computer with the goal to cross off each of them eventually. A lot of concepts could have also been expressed by a simple English word and an unfamiliar, exotic vibe would still have been the outcome. A good example is in my opinion the fantasy debut City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. The robes, the fans, the customs, the nomads ... everything was pretty visual, excitingly unfamiliar and special, but I couldn't pinpoint the setting to a single country. There were chinese, japanese and arabic elements and things I believe that were purely fiction. But no glossary and no inbuilt explanation was needed. I could understand it all. I hope that the final version of Stormdancer drops the occasional "Hai", uses plain English for things like jackets, trousers and knives and at least deletes American leanwords like sararimen (salary men). * The lack of world building in the midst of all the elaborate description. For example, I did not get a proper impression of the tree-house village (in comparison Yelena's first visit in the hidden jungle-city complete with floating bridges and braided furniture in Magic Study has burned itself into my memory), I was puzzled by ensuite bathrooms in the imperial palace, I would like to know more about the lotus business and how it facilitates warfare and I needed to dissect several scenes to finally understand Buuru's outer appearance. * Inconsistencies like love-interest Hiro, a green-eyed foreigner with a japanese name serving the nationalist, exclusive Guild and being a trusted servant of the Emperor in spite of obviously not being from "Shima". * The love triangle. * The very forseeable twists and turns on the way to the plot's climax. * The insignificance of Lady Aisha's role. She showed so much promise and surprise and then ... * The missing romance. There was lust and sex and a heroine lost in rather detached dreams of glowing green eyes, but there was nothing to make my heart flutter. I do not ask for an increase of boy-girl-scenes, but for those already there being more intense, more palatable.
I am afraid, this is getting unbearably long. Anyway, I am very grateful for the chance to read the book pre-publication and I recommend it in spite of the above mentioned obstacles, which might scare away a considerable number of potential fans before the story's lotus fumes have begun to lure them in.(less)
He nodded. 'And how old are you?' 'Eighteen.' But he said nothing. 'I know,' she continued. 'It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an e...moreHe nodded. 'And how old are you?' 'Eighteen.' But he said nothing. 'I know,' she continued. 'It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an early age.' 'Crime isn’t an accomplishment, Sardothien.' 'Yes, but becoming the world's most famous assassin is.' He didn’t respond. 'You might ask me how I did it.' 'Did what?' he said tightly. 'Became so talented and famous so quickly.'
To readers who were sorely disappointed by the teenage assassin girl in Grave Mercy, because she turned out to be squeamish, uneducated, childish, prudish and – stripped of her wonder box of magical knives and poisons – not really fit for killing anybody at the right place and at the right time, the Throne of Glass’s equally young heroine might certainly represent a reconciliation: For Celaena Sardothien proves herself to be more than capable of ruthlessly and efficiently ending the lives of those unfortunate enough to be on her hit list when she is working or those on her radar when she is snapping. Yes, capable is the adjective the reader cannot escape to associate with "Adarlan’s most notorious assassin", whose career had been cut short a year ago by some spineless betrayer, but there are many other labels that fit her.
Thus I would rather exchange "capable" for "accomplished", since the latter - used by Celaena herself, too - encompasses almost the full range of her praiseworthy achievements, traits and gifts and it implies her delectability in the admiring eyes of the strong, intelligent and good-looking alpha males around her: Celaena's best features are her blond hair and her gold-ringed irises, but after a few hearty breakfasts and some hefty workouts in her new castle suite her cheeks hollowed by prison food and her lean body mangled by hard slave labor in the conqueror king’s mines resume their seductive, yet athletic, voluptuousness and shine. Male chaperone Captain Chaol and Crown Prince Dorian certainly notice in spite of the multi-layered clothing that attempts to conceil her forms. The mine-induced paleness of skin – which stays and stays and stays – simply seems to add to Celaena’s attractiveness. Just like the three huge scars the girl earned during her year as a captive are on the one hand conveniently located on her back in places hidden by the country’s court fashion and on the other hand almost aesthetic reminders of the heroine’s unquenchable toughness. For right after her arrival in the mines her fellow inmates had started flocking towards her and had insisted on cleaning her wounds and smearing them with their own precious salves each night. Which makes it safe for me to assume that no ugly bumps and infections disturb the white-lined artwork on Celaena’s pearly shoulders.
The prisoners’ selfless act of help is just an example of how good and just people recognize Celaena’s inert goodness and righteousness. The reader sees the difference between cruel and mindless soldiers slaying random people in the name of the king and the pure-hearted murderess-on-commission, being a member of the highly esteemed and selective assassins' guild and killing with care and precision, anyhow. It is never mentioned how Celaena managed to stick to having fulfill clean-conscience-assignments only, but listening to her enraged thoughts you simply know deep down that killing children and innocent villagers would be against her work ethics. And, as mentioned, several characters having no access to her stream of consciousness also see her inner light: She might do friends only seldomly on principle because of her line of work, which requires mistrust and competitiveness, yet she is immediately sought out by the few sensible competitors of the king’s secret future champion competition, and her simple, welcoming greeting immediately convinces the visiting ambassador princess of one of the recently subjugated countries, that the girl disguised as Prince Dorian’s merchant class lover Lady Ludmilla is the only castle inhabitant fit to become her language and culture teacher, even her trusted confidante and companion.
Princess Nehemia’s sudden sway to her favour might unquestionably also have been caused by Calaena’s unusual and outstanding language skills – nobody but her in the castle is able to speak Eyllwe, because the King of Adarlan does not believe in diplomatics, but in swords and in the display of power.
As already mentioned, Celaena's special abilities are numerous and her knowledge is vast. I attribute these facts to her almost magical grasp on time management: In a very short time she has her fighting, spying, running, targeting, poison sniffing and observing skills honed to their former unsurpassable glory by doing sit-ups in her room, sparring outside and running a few laps now and then. Simultaneously she naps, stuffs herself with as much food as she can and spends her entire spare time reading herself through the royal library while idly lounging on her balcony. Still there is enough time left for competition meetings, clothes fittings, afternoon hours with the princess and nightly expeditions through the castle’s ancient hidden passages, which certainly, yet to the reader’s complete surprise, start right behind a meaningful tapestry in Celaena’s heavily guarded apartment and carry a whiff of magic and destiny with them, which I do not want to elaborate upon.
Luckily, Celaena does not need to set aside time slots to practice playing the pianoforte. A short foray into some of her former favourite pieces shows that she has lost nothing of her prodigy-like techniques and means of musical expression.
Unlike the above mentioned heroine of Grave Mercy Celaena could hold her own in the company of anybody at any table – highest to lowest - , for her manners including table manners are impeccable – but only if she chooses to make use of them, she says. When she nourishes herself in her suite with Chaol watching her, she prefers showing off her skills in chewing und slurping full-mouthed, open-snouted pig-style, which mysteriously seems to make her more exotic and delectable in the eyes of her male trainer.
The process of heartily inserting food reminds me of Celaena’s favoured method of extracting it again. Boy, can that maid vomit. She "heaves and heaves", when she is exhausted or afraid, when she had breakfast, when she has her moontime. And she does it with gusto and bile in finely tuned archs right where she is – she has a waiting woman who cleans up after her after all – one who had the impertinence to call her out on her arrogance and her habit of admiring herself in the mirror for longer bits of time.
But who would be entitled to being a tiny bit arrogant and show-offy if not she? Even after a year of handling nothing else than a pick-axe Celaena knows that she is the best archer, the best climber, the best knife thrower, the best sword wielder, the best runner, the nimblest fist fighter, the second best poison sniffer, the most intelligent planner, the cutest grinner, the one travelled widest and, and, and without checking out the runners up. Her name is universally known and feared, her education had been costly – though forced on her. So, what if lying low first for the sake of gaining the weapon of surprise is something she simply is not really capable of? Every perfect heroine – even the very most capable one - needs a flaw. Right? And the habit of admiring the cute enemies’ butts to block out waves of mortal fear in a death trial does not truly count.
So, why, in the Wyrdmarks’ name, am I too bored to continue reading after having covered 65% of my Kindle copy? Who is to blame for that dust-layered feeling of draggerishness if not our rise-and-shine hyper-good, hyper-pure, hyper-seductive, probably hyper-magical and hyper-accomplished-in-general murderess-for-hire? I am open to suggestions, but I won’t listen to those trying to shove prequels and sequels and other literary masterpieces under my nose, which I supposedly have to study first before being apt enough to appreciate Throne of Glass. (less)
Birdie folded me into her arms and said into my ear, 'I know why you're so reluctant, Silvermay. You still think yourself in love. Well, this is your...more Birdie folded me into her arms and said into my ear, 'I know why you're so reluctant, Silvermay. You still think yourself in love. Well, this is your chance to show how strong that love is. Go with them, so the ones he loves will live to make him happy.'My motivation to read 'Silvermay' had been the pretty cover with a bit of 'Aussie Author Awe' thrown in - for the description sounded pretty confusing and non-descriptive to me and held me back instead of rushing me to the Fishpond's expensive shores. My motivation for writing this review after giving up the book at approximately 40% is that the only two-star-review consists of about two sentences. I understand perfectly. Writing something with a bleeding heart, giddy happiness or a boiling anger in tow comes pretty easy to me. Expressing my mildly irritated indifference or boredom so others can nod with made-up minds is a rather difficult task.I think, I start (and probably stop) with breaking down that confusing description / back flap copy to the more or less bland plot the reader faces when braving the pages. Maybe that will do the trick: Silvermay Hawker lives in a harsh, feudalistic world. Common folks in the villages are farmers, innkeepers, miners, game hunters or healers who are forced to share - and not just to tithe a tenth, but as much as the wyrdborn enforcers randomly tell them to - with those lording over them. It seemed peculiar to me, but the Wyrdborn, who you can imagine like invincible, super-strong brutes with heightened senses and both the 'gift' and mind-frame of Kristin Cashore's villain Leck, are seldom in a Lord’s position themselves. Usually they are employed by one in sets of two, who jealously keep each other’s appetite for power in check. On harvest collection days those wyrdborn guards tend to ensnare a couple of pretty young bed warmers on top, who they return as mindless wrecks without memories after growing bored of their services. In spite of that frightful practice no one tries to hide away their female offspring or to send them safely out of sight, when the tithe wagons roll in. The villagers just watch and lament the drama and then look down on unwed mothers as if those poor things have had any chance to prevent being abused. The remaining lot of the kingdom’s population lives in Vonne, the capital, earning money as spies/thugs/assassins ... whatever. So far, it's annoying, but business as usual. So far? Well, it stays that way:Wyrdborn Leck-look-alike Lord Coyle gets notice of a prophecy about one of his newborn bastards and sends out his greedy minions to get hold of his last pretty plaything Nerigold. Perpetually weak Nerigold and her solemn baby Lucien turn up in Silvermay's - think ‘Merida’ without a castle and without wealthy suitors - village with the mysterious, perfect and hyper-attractive Tamlyn in their wake, who poses as her lover, makes a feeble attempt at hiding his name and a quick, flirty beeline towards sixteen-year-old Silvermay's fluttering, boy-hungry heart. Silvermay's parents, a hawker and a healer, are the strangest lot. Lacking a son they have taught her youngest daughter to master the bow and the bird of prey, but not with particular changes to the usual female career in mind. They - just like that and notwithstanding the talk of starving in winter - take in disgraced Nerigorld against the elders' wishes - without any kind of consequences, too – and later insist, that their precious, immature and inexperienced daughter accompanies the couple on their journey, although Tamlyn announces, that they will be hunted by ruthless killers and have only a small chance to survive them, and although they know that Silvermay harbors a crush for the unavailable guy. Someone has to care for the baby, they say. To complete the samaritan picture painted of them, they part with their strongest bow and their only sword in order to outfit the doomed trio properly. Silvermay does not know much more about her future travel companions than her family – apart from the fact that he has a kind and yearning face and a cold and calculating one and that she loves her baby. But she feels their goodness and she cannot bear to part from them. So, farewell, Silvermay! Don’t die, honey!I endured a rather long road trip with descriptions of feeding the baby and resting and feeding the baby and shooting a rabbit and feeding the baby and mortal danger and resting and some affectionate touches and discoveries of love and secrets and feeding the baby, all the while unsuccessfully waiting for the inevitable moment when Nerigold is finally too weak to take the next breath of air. The – first - trip temporarily ends with the revelation of the prophecy - which is thanks to another point of view already known to the reader - and a lot of anguish. But that anguish also was expected and bland and boring and ... they were feeding the baby I am desperately trying to remember: In which other book does a baby suck all the life force out of its mother? The title lurks in a corner of my brain. . And I stopped reading. I was very, very confident at this time that nothing the remaining half of the novel would present had anything to offer that would manage to grab my interest. Nerigold has to die, the prophecy has to be stopped. A lot of traveling and touching ... and feeding ... will have to be done, while Silvermay grows a personality and starts to battle for Tamlyn’s hardened heart of gold and the first declaration of his unusual, kind of inappropriate affections. For it will come. Whether in volume one, two or three is certainly unknown and wholly uninteresting to me. But it will come. Apropos things to come: I think it is absolutely futile to have the heroine state in the prologue that she had to murder a baby by smothering its face with a cloth, when the title of the trilogy's third volume consists of said baby’s name. *Disappointed sigh*(less)
Slumber is road trip fantasy fiction set in a parallel world, which some magicians' clans had especially created for their kind in order to evade huma...moreSlumber is road trip fantasy fiction set in a parallel world, which some magicians' clans had especially created for their kind in order to evade human persecution in ours.
A few centuries after the world's construction magical talents have become rare among the newborn, but everybody believes that magic is necessary to keep the small world from tumbling into chaos. After the ruler dies, his young daughter Haydyn is the last known person able to excercise nationwide mindcontrol: Her job is to keep all her subjects from nursing violent or aggressive emotions and certainly from acting upon them. Everlasting peace among the handfull of provinces and the two nomadic clans is the highest goal in Phaedra. It is doubly tragic, that it had been in the name of said peace that the Captain of the young princess' guard employed unnecessarily brutal methods to gather the latest generation of mages at the palace when they were still small: Willing to cooperate or not - he had his soldiers kill every family member of Rogan, Kir and Valena in front of the gifted children's eyes and left their properties in smoking heaps of ashes and bones.
It is quite understandable that Rogan still harbors a deep hatred for the man responsible for slaughtering her family, although the princess has grown to be her best friend, values her opion above all and had the sadistic killer tried and executed for his crimes years ago. It is also understandable that Rogan is a bit weary of the sincerity of his will to protect her, when the former Captain's son Wolfe inherits his father's position and treats her with a mixture of chivalry and cold haughtiness. And, gosh, does the initiary bickering of the two entertain, when princess Haydyn falls into a deep slumber and the royal court sends Rogan on a heavily chaperoned road trip to find the almost extinct antidote plant in far away mountains because of her magical ability to find everything she had been ordered to find.
But what is not understandable and also not amusing at all is Rogan's resolve to keep despising Wolfe on principle because of what his father did to her family even after he repeatedly went enormous lengths to save her life and keep her out of the hands of thugs and rapists and although the dangerous situations she found herself in again and again were mainly her very own fault. For there is a reason the royal court sent 50 soldiers to accompany her on her cross-country journey - namely reports of heightend violence, vagabond thief groups and savage rebels in the provinces. Yet Rogan values her privacy and her own judgement so high that she sneaks off on her own on a regular basis for no urgent reason at all (view spoiler)[ ... kind of like camera-laden, flower-shirted German tourists on a Serengeti Safari chasing the cute lions ... (hide spoiler)], which certainly triggers trouble each time. The repetitions got boring with time and Rogan "evolved" from a tough cookie victim to a snotty brat who doesn't deserve all the loving and worrying.
Because of the good start Slumber and I had, I had been pretty bent on ploughing through, but I started skimming at approximately 60% and lost monumentum shortly before 70%. Now there is no drive left to finish the journey side by side with the annoying hope of her little universe, Lady Rogan of Phaedra. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Although I liked Archangel, I believe Troubled Waters has been the last Sharon Shinn novel for me. At the moment new authors sprout out of the ground...moreAlthough I liked Archangel, I believe Troubled Waters has been the last Sharon Shinn novel for me. At the moment new authors sprout out of the ground like grass - or nettles - so it relieves me a great deal to cross one off my observation list. I know that this decision is probably a harsh one after just one and a half tries, especially since Troubled Waters is not a bad story.
There is nothing blatantly wrong with the writing or the characters or the setting. Really. It is rather the other way around: The heroine is a kind of smooth uebergirl. Zoe calmy mourns her father, she levelly decides on the right things, she does this at the right time (the reader should not try to look into her head - it is a useless endeavor) and does that correctly and smiles benignly. Her actions, like the actions of the other inhabitants of this fantasy world are solely determined by her biologically given character set (she is coru, which means "water and blood", which results in both an affinity - also the means elemental manipulation - to real water and in the walter-like urge to wander, to go with the flow ecetera) and by the three random blessings bestowed on her at birth by three strangers: Beauty, Love and Power. The constant reminder of who was supposed to act so and so because he or she was wood or stone or air or fire left little room for letting characters just be themselves.
Apart from that I had the feeling that during the first 160 pages not much had really happened - although that is objectively seen not true: Zoe's father dies. On the next day she is fetched by a messenger of the king. She is driven across country in a kind a steampunk-camper. She flees the vehicle, she settles among the homeless although she has plenty of gold sewn into her shawl. She quickly acquires lovely friends and a fulfilling job and draws the random blessing of change at a temple ... which certainly changes her life once more in a major kind of way, which - again - felt completely eventless/unimportant to me. The plot did have notable turning points, but no drive, no compelling force.
If I had not encountered some specimen of excellently captivating fantasy fiction recently I would have said high fantasy and I should just go our separate ways for a while. As it is I just kick the book out. Shoo ...
Teccc, do you want to give the paperback a new home?