"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)
Another book that has to go unfinished (after 108 pages).
In the beginning I had a good feeling. Although the characters behaved a little anachronistic...moreAnother book that has to go unfinished (after 108 pages).
In the beginning I had a good feeling. Although the characters behaved a little anachronistically, which is completely alright for a fantasy novel set in an alternative version of an existing region, I liked them and I enjoyed the lush and exotic scenery - the food, the fabric, the means of transport. The 'problems' started with the onset of the road trip plot: The heroine flees an arranged marriage to an old, rich pervert and goes to search for her disappeared father outfitted with just one magical protection amulet, some food and a small bundle of clothes. After a few stops - the heroine gets permanently attacked by mythical creatures and accosted by sex-hungry geezers - I surmised the following:
The novel turned into something like a passive role playing game, where you press the 'fight button' and the game does the rest: All the moves, all the talk, all the staying fit and out of reach. The heroine had by pure chance read a book about supernatural monsters before leaving her home and can thus identify them, when they attack. But even that is not really necessary for the plot, for the multi-talented protection amulet immediately starts doing what it is meant to do : Smashing beasts and demons around, whacking potential rapists to pulp etc. After that the heroine cleans her clothes, rests her body and licks her wounds. Until the next incident.
4.5 stars. Kate is a very, very cool and tough girl. I love reading about her. Drawbacks are the - for me - sometimes slightly too cheesy romance betw...more4.5 stars. Kate is a very, very cool and tough girl. I love reading about her. Drawbacks are the - for me - sometimes slightly too cheesy romance between her and Vincent and the occasionally too high predictability of the story. Still, the plot kept me on my toes anyway, the atmosphere was great and the characters all stayed dear to me.
Thank you so much, Amy!! Especially for one of the 'endings', which fulfilled a wish of mine. I leave this world with a pleasantly mushy heart: Aching a little, but also bursting at the seams.(less)
The first volume in this series, The Girl in the Steel Corset, had been so much fun. It was kind of ridiculous, vapid, action-laden, a bit trashy and...moreThe first volume in this series, The Girl in the Steel Corset, had been so much fun. It was kind of ridiculous, vapid, action-laden, a bit trashy and inhabited by superhero-comic-like characters, but unquestionably fun. A perfect guilty-pleasure-combination of steampunk, fast action, mystery and bodice-ripping "light" (It seemed to me as if the "ripping" scenes had been "ripped" out of the novel to turn the soppy romance into something young-adult-appropriate - whatever that is).
At a first glance the sequel - including cover and title - does not stray very far from the former, successful recipe. There are the same old supernatural, monetarily independent teens clinging to the same old love-triangles and I-should-not-confess-my-feelings-resolves, displaying the same old sets of faults and and playing around with fantastically steampunky devices (i.e. armor, mobile phones, weapons and transportation objects) that one of them constructs in the course of one night from thin air if they are needed to facilitate or liven up the otherwise thin plot.
There are tiny variations, though, which caused the pudding to taste stale and unbearably boring to me: The even stronger focus on the romantic problems and multiple inner monologues of the tormented parties and the lack of danger and pepper and mystery. Around the middle of the story I grew antsy, because nothing really riveting happened, because of the repetitions and because the characters proved themselves to be pretty see-through and black-and-white (view spoiler)[Am I right? Amazing Mei Xing is of the evil sort and in the end Jasper loves "Miss" Emily and Emily still loves both Jasper and Sam ... and perhaps an army of other supernatural hunks, too? (hide spoiler)].
I never would have thought I would consider not finishing this book. Yet, here I am, burying the file in a dusty folder in the depths of my Kindle and shifting the writer into the blind spot of my consciousness: As it is I do not see sense in trying one of her future works.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
When I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because read...moreWhen I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because reading these 360 pages took a huge effort and did not dole out the tiniest reward. Offended, because the book, written by an author with quite some published writing to show as a proof for her skills, made me question my ability to focus, my ability to absorb and understand what I read and - for a short, shocking minute – the functionality of my Kindle’s page-turning buttons. I think I would have met the same experience with more detachment had I bought a glowingly praised debut cheaply at Smashwords. Probably I would not have stayed as long on board of the shipwreck, but I would have said with conviction: It’s not me. It’s the book. It’s unreadable, but it shows room for improvement. But how can I say that about a book which has 1.800 ratings that produce an average of 3.8 out of 5? How can I say that about a book that makes others buy the sequels for good money? You see my dilemma. But I refuse to take the blame. I rather dance the Cha-Cha with my fury as a partner. And because I do not want to appear as someone impersonating Rumpelstiltskin without a plausible cause, I am going to breathe in and breathe out and defend my sanity.
I used to say that to me an enjoyable story begins and ends with likable, complex characters and a believable setting. To my own astonishment I have to step back from that opinion now. For I liked paranormally gifted Catherine "Cat" Hassi Baharal, her cousin Bee, enemy and love interest Andevai Diarisso Haranwy, a powerful cold mage (view spoiler)[and Cat’s newfound brother the easy-going, shapeshifting ladies’ man Roderic (hide spoiler)]. And I admit that there are a lot of great ideas thrown into the world mix: A very alternative, slightly steampunky version of Europe, magicians, whose presence kills fire, a parallel spirit world, sabertoothed werecats, dragons, feathered lizard-like trolls. The combination should unquestionably trump superhuman jerks pursuing brainless, insta-love-seeking girls in front of a cardboard backdrop any day. It does not. For Cold Magic is not a story. It is a mess that needs to be chucked or rewritten from scratch.
Like most of the fantasy readers out here I am bored by long monologues meant to introduce the unfamiliar, fictional world and its inhabitants. I also find books that treat the reader like an old acquaintance, who is already in the know, pretty difficult. When I was reading Cold Magic I came to the point at which I desperately wished for the arrival of an enormous info dump to finally get me on track or for a scattering of some new and helpful puzzle pieces to add to my inner picture. Both wishes remained unfulfilled. In almost each chapter the same incomprehensible, unstructured information about the last millennium's world politics, the wars, the Hassi Baharal family, their niche in the world as spies, messengers, sailors, wandering scientists, sociologists and whatnot was repeated in different words, sometimes even by different means, like in a letter or as a part of a diary. But each repetition remained lacking, vague and foggy. If I were a drug user, I would surely have double-checked my dose. Instead I checked myself for lack of sleep, for symptoms of a beginning cold and for symptoms of beginning dementia. I hated these self-directed doubts, really hated them. And I have no reasonable explanation for the novel’s lack of structure. Maybe the author taught a beginners' creative writing class, threw the same keywords at each of the participants, had them write her heroine’s background, liked all results equally well and promised to use them all at some point of her next book? That cannot be, can it? But strange ideas like that flitted through my brains and messed with my sanity.
The aspects that made me look closer at my Kindle’s buttons were repetitions in the plot. I know that a normal road-trip plot contains some routine essentials: Scenery, clothes, food, sleeping arrangements. But a narrator could cut them short, if nothing important is to be conveyed by elaborating on them. For example, in each of the inns the carriage stops at the heroine is greeted by a detached, but matronly person and is then waited on by a red-haired, silent, young girl who brushes her long, black hair and praises it. Eventually I stopped reading in order to find out whether I really had made reading process or whether my Kindle had jumped to a scene I had covered some time before. My Kindle worked just fine. The book didn’t. And, as far as I know, there was no surprise reason presented later - like a flame-tressed wonder girl who could portal from inn to inn. Accordingly it is just senseless almost-cut-and-paste to emphasize how boring and monotonous a cross-country-trip can be? Or is it sloppiness?
In addition to those repetitions there is a lot of redundant rambling and straying from the straight, narrative path. Little Cat-Riding-Hood stops to pick flowers and chat with random wolves whenever she pleases, while the baffled reader stands aside nervously clutching grandmother’s lunch basket.
So, no. It’s not me, who is damaged. It’s the book. I am sure. And I believe that every reader who did not experience my discomfort has just been graced with a superhuman ability to effortlessly combine scattered puzzle pieces, find the odd herb among the weeds and straighten tangled stories in the back of her mind. Contented readers, you have my full admiration. Ordinary readers, you now have my warning. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I hope I'll carve out some time to review, but I have to say this is how a fairytale retelling should be in my opnion. Thank you so much, Teccc, for p...moreI hope I'll carve out some time to review, but I have to say this is how a fairytale retelling should be in my opnion. Thank you so much, Teccc, for parting with your copy. It would have taken ages - or maybe forever - until I decided to finally buy it.(less)
Abandoned after reading past the 25% mark. I have simply read too many of those. And better ones, too. Really. Superspecial heroine of world-saving pr...more Abandoned after reading past the 25% mark. I have simply read too many of those. And better ones, too. Really. Superspecial heroine of world-saving proportions made aware of her new life and destiny has to face mean monsters, thrilling dangers and hot, mysterious boys that sort themselves into the no-no-category. Yawn.(less)
I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly...more I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly dangerous journey through freak-infested territory by devouring 'Horde' right now. It doesn't happen so often that I am that contented with a second/middle volume.
I suppose, I definitely could do without the love-triangle - although it's not a very sharp-angled or annoying one since the heroine's preferences are pretty clear and remain that way. Another tiny blotch is the occasional use of words which Deuce with her cut-off-from-topside-life-and-civilization-background should not know yet.
The rest has been almost perfect: The post-apocalytic setting, the action, the mystery of the fast evolving zombie freaks, the extraordinarily wonderful heroine, her clashes with an equally strict, but completely different society - world, even - from what she is used to that do not cause her to cower or back down, but also do not tempt her into gloryfying her former life as a Huntress in the College enclave; plus I liked the the accute picture of how circumstances and good or bad experiences form or damage people and how important and necessary second chances can be.(less)
I am finally out of patience after 146 pages of actual reading and some half-hopeful page flipping - oh my, is that paper glossy and shiny; but I didn...moreI am finally out of patience after 146 pages of actual reading and some half-hopeful page flipping - oh my, is that paper glossy and shiny; but I didn't expect it to be otherwise since the publisher calls itself 'Planet Girl'.
Bluishly glowing, extraterrestrial, hyper-prickly boy with an expiry date fascinates rebellious, pouty school girl with a helper-complex living under a dome in the United Nations of Earth.
That is almost 600 pages of he-hates-me-he-loves-me, we-cannot-be-together and our-love-will-make-it-happen-against-the-odds-of-alien-nature young adult romance. Earth with its reduced population, reduced inhabitable space and its newfound we-humans-are-a-happy-family disposition just serves as a convenient, unripe, pseudo-futuristic backdrop for the cross-planetary love-story: That dome has to span a hundred kilometers and can just be opened and closed when the weather changes. People have flying vehicles, printed books, iPads, meat-sausages, tea and coffee, visit the beach cafés on dome-free days and protest against animal testing in the laser cosmetic industry, although birds and insects are about the only animals living around town. The dome is packed with buildings high into the sky around the middle and deep into the ground everywhere else, but nothing is said about how and where food is produced. There are credit-operated ice-cream-machines and waste-bins for the wrappers on the street, but the heroine blithely states that the environmental sins of her ancestors have been learned of and will not be repeated. Although English remains the sole language spoken on the planet, most of the surnames sound distinctly German. In spite of that no hint according to the location of the dome city is dropped.
It is also pretty unlikely that the future rulers of Earth - how peaceful and harmony-loving they might have become - would allow 300 refugees from a planet they have formed a kind of alliance with to immigrate without in depth scientific knowledge of that species' bodies. In this novel human-looking kids from a five-light-years away planet are distributed by an quirky, artisty social-worker-person into foster homes after vaguely spreading rumours about manifesting skin-colors, telekinesis-like abilities and dietary limitations among the volunteering teenage baby-sitters, who nervously ask their accademically gifted charges if they are possibly able to read minds. Nobody seems to know what kind of secret anatomy is hidden under the scarf every child firmly keeps around his or her neck. It could just be a reproductive organ, a thermometer or an artificial anus, but what if it is a biological weapon or something sensitive and life-supporting? No government would be that naive.