Howard's "Conan" stories have a legendary aura around them, but some of their mystique comes from the horrible pastiches written like Conan - and lateHoward's "Conan" stories have a legendary aura around them, but some of their mystique comes from the horrible pastiches written like Conan - and later stuff like DeCamp's actual Conan stories themselves, most of which are sub-par. DAW's third book concludes the Conan cycle with the last bits of uncut, completely raw stories, all as Howard would want them.
Conan stories are best when they capture and magify the gloomy, headstrong personality of the creator, and two of the stories in here, "Beyond the Black River" and "Red Nails" do it perfectly. But the name of Howard's game is passion and lust for life, and since it's something none of his emulators even come close to achieving, the source is the only way to go....more
This is, in almost every way, a very entertaining but bog-standard fantasy novel involving a strange farmboy who comes into his own in a vaguely-RomanThis is, in almost every way, a very entertaining but bog-standard fantasy novel involving a strange farmboy who comes into his own in a vaguely-Roman world full of strange barbarians, scheming nobles, and common steadholders/farmers, almost all of which are able to command elemental spirits called 'furies'.
The book has some failings - some of the biggest reveals are easy to predict, and like many fantasy novels of its ilk, it never really strives to be more than an entertaining yarn. That last one is paradoxically also its strength, as well as Butcher's great talent in creating complex and interesting characters. Also, for all the heavy use of fantasy clichés, no "Dark Lord" is found of any kind. Or elves.
Butcher also has a real talent for writing engaging fight and battle scenes. This is someone who is both a good and skilled writer who has also used a sword, and it shows. Fights were fastand furious, Butcher shows the reader why skilled combatants are what they are, and the last third of the book blazes past in non-stop excitement. This is recommended for people who read fantasy for comfort, but want it good, dammit, and aren't afraid to slog through half the book to get to the interesting parts. Still, it felt ultimately unsatisfying. Perhaps the other two books will build on the first's strengths....more
The Secret History of Moscow Ekaterina Sedia Prime Books
Kat Sedia's "new" book, (it came out sometime in 2007, but my reading schedule is slow as molassThe Secret History of Moscow Ekaterina Sedia Prime Books
Kat Sedia's "new" book, (it came out sometime in 2007, but my reading schedule is slow as molasses) The Secret History of Moscow, is an intriguing novel about set in both the normal world of Moscow in the 1990s and in the strange underworld beneath it where both mythical figures from Moscow's past rub shoulders with Muscovites and visitors from many eras. When Maria, the sister of the main character Galina mysteriously turns into a jackdaw and flies away, Galina is compelled to seek out the hidden world beneath and around her.
Superficially, this novel is very similar to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, as Gaiman in his usual modest way suggests in a review of his own. Sedia I think builds on Gaiman's ideas of a mythical world mirroring (and underneath) our modern one - populating her 'mythic' Moscow with historical figures - gypsies, Jews from the pogroms, Napoleanic soldiers and Tajik warriors; and strange and curious creatures from stories like the voidyanoi, rusalki, and Koschei the Deathless.
The three main characters Galina, a woman who works as an English translator, Yakov the cop, and Fyodor the itinerant artist, are normal people who become aware of the strangeness that's disrupted their lives: They've seen things - people turning into blackbirds before their eyes or watched family members vanish, and are the only ones compelled to get to the bottom of what's going on. It took me a few chapters of character introduction to get into the book, but once things were set up I could barely put the book down. I didn't just want to know what happened next, I was sucked into the narrative. I almost didn't want it to end and was cursing the book was only 300 pages.
Sedia cuts out nearly everything for a breezy writing style that is fast-paced and extremely easy to read, only to come to jarring stops when she pauses to flesh out a character met along the way with their own story. This, it turns out, is an extremely good thing. Sedia's strengths at least in this story is creating incredibly engaging and interesting characters in a short amount of time. And with each of those characters, one gets a sense of the inevitable change of history around them.
As much as people in reviews I've seen have focused on the Russian-ness or Moscow-ness of the story, I don't actually see that as a strong point of the book. For all the fascinating observations of the changes of Russian style (from the crown Peter the Great refused to wear, to traffic snarls and the motives of car ownership in modern Moscow) one doesn't actually get a sense of Moscow as a character. Part, I think, is that descriptions throughout the book are notoriously spare. I never got a sense of the personality of the setting around me, or its character.
But what I did get from this book was a real sense of the struggle of otherwise normal people in events wildly beyond their control. And, in character after character, outsiders forced to view the normal events of a city from a distant, almost solitary perspective. This I think is much more universal - I'd even go so far as to say it's a primary focus of modern fantasy, and what sets apart bad fantasy which only offers an escape for those who feel outside modern culture, and good fantasy which offers empathy and understanding, and uses tools of mythology towards those ends. It's something Gaiman has always been uniquely good at and is a reason why his writing is so popular. Sedia's Secret History builds on this, and more.
I want to shout from the rooftops about this novel. It's just that great. More people need to be reading and talking about this book....more
Throne of Jade(Temeraire, Book 2) seemed like a let down from the first, though in retrospect the first book got away with a lot simply by being a slightly new spin on the traditional fantasy novel.
Throne doesn't have the spark of newness, so the book has to ride on Novik's writing. She does a good job with the writing itself, but the plotting lags with a long and drawn-out sea voyage taking up the majority of the book. Still, I'll probably get around to reading the third novel, just for curiousity's sake....more