Four years after big buzz and glowing reviews turned "The Name of the Wind" into a surprise New York Times best-seller, rising fantasy author PatrickFour years after big buzz and glowing reviews turned "The Name of the Wind" into a surprise New York Times best-seller, rising fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss has finally delivered the widely anticipated middle book in his Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy.
It was worth the wait, even if Rothfuss can't get out of his own way at times.
"The Wise Man's Fear" picks up where "Wind" left off, with the episodic tale of Kvothe the Bloodless (a name he earned by surviving a brutal whipping without bleeding in the first book), a magically gifted teen in a traveling troupe of performers who grew up to become the most notorious wizard the world has ever seen.
Since then, and for reasons we won't know until the third book, Kvothe has fallen into anonymity as the unassuming proprietor of the Waystone Inn, where he's recognized one fateful day by the king's scribe known as Chronicler. Recognizing his good fortune, Chronicler persuades Kvothe to tell him the story of his legendary life over three days. "Wise Man's Fear," then, covers the second day of Kvothe's talks with the scribe.
The book follows Kvothe as he struggles to learn the higher magic of "naming" ---- an obscure talent for controlling the wind and other elements and objects ---- while searching for the Chandrian, the legendary demons who murdered his parents. Kvothe spends the first third of the book getting into and out of trouble at the generically named University ---- a medieval alchemist's version of Harry Potter's Hogwarts Castle ---- before setting off on a series of legend-making adventures.
It's a brick at 1,008 pages. And although it's not a perfect read ---- there's no discernible movement forward in Kvothe's search for the Chandrian, and we're practically screaming at Rothfuss to send his young wizard out on the road after nearly 400 pages at the University ---- there always seem to be enough brilliant moments of storytelling to propel us into the next chapter.
Rothfuss is good, no question. His writing feels almost poetic at times, and his imagination is off the charts.
And yet some of his storytelling choices are curious.
Rothfuss' decision to tell Kvothe's story chronologically through the king's scribe, for example, has forced him to write practically every scene from the wizard's point of view, resulting in a supporting cast of mostly one-dimensional characters. The only thing we know about most of the characters is what we see and hear through Kvothe.
He also lingers too long in subplots, resorts occasionally to chance encounters to advance his story and relies heavily on cliches and anachronisms ---- contemporary phrases that feel wildly out of place in a world of demons and wizards and kings.
In one scene, for example, Kvothe's friend Wilem tells the loan shark Devi that based on what he's heard about her, he thought she'd be taller. "How's that working out for you?" Devi asks. "Thinking, I mean."
Really? That's the sort of 'today' dialogue you'd expect in the Disney series "Hannah Montana," not in an ambitious fantasy setting like this.
And yet whether those sorts of things trip you up or not, it's fair to note that this is just Rothfuss' second book. You get the feeling that once he figures everything out, he'll almost certainly morph into the major fantasy-writing force his fans are demanding him to be today.
He certainly knows how to build tantalizing expectations into his story ---- hinting at everything from a legendary fae seductress to fantastic magic and morally ambiguous characters ---- and this second book in the trilogy has scenes that fairly crackle. The way Kvothe deals with tax bandits and kidnappers, for example, will stun even the most jaded fantasy readers.
There are plenty of reasons to look past Rothfuss' growing pains as a writer to get to the final book in the trilogy ---- even if takes another four years to get there.
Let's just hope he gets out of his own way enough to write a tighter storyline without all the momentum-sucking side trips and cringe-inducing cliches and anachronisms. ...more
(Hey, wait! What happened to the other two stars?!?!)
Well, OK, fine, let's do the math, shall we?
I'm giving three out of thrThree out of three stars.
(Hey, wait! What happened to the other two stars?!?!)
Well, OK, fine, let's do the math, shall we?
I'm giving three out of three stars to Grann's absorbing story on legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett's ill-fated expedition in 1925 into the deadly Amazon jungle in search of the mythic ancient kingdom of El Dorado.
I'm giving the other half of the book --- Grann's amateur-hour journey into the Amazon for clues to Fawcett's fate 80-plus years after he walked into the Amazon and never walked out --- zero out of two stars.
Three for three. Oh for naught.
I'm not going to belabor the point, except to say that authors inserting themselves into a good book almost always interrupts an otherwise compelling story ---- in the same way commercials suck the tension and drama out of Must Watch TV, in the same way stop-and-go, rush-hour, freeway traffic frustrates the holy bejesus out of us.
That said, don't let my rant scare you off. Lots to like here. Enjoy.
By the way ... who knew there were so many ways to die in the Amazon: piranhas, poison-tipped blow darts and arrows, crocodiles, vampire bats, anacondas, bug bites, starvation, hostile tribesmen, disease, infections, friendly fire, drowning, snakebites, cannibals, malaria, wild animals, electric eels and accidents.
And who knew, really, that Fawcett was the inspiration for Indiana Jones? ...more
Irene Ziegler likes to tell fans on her website that she's an excellent parallel parker and "the voice you love to hate" on GPS cell phones. Now we caIrene Ziegler likes to tell fans on her website that she's an excellent parallel parker and "the voice you love to hate" on GPS cell phones. Now we can add her dazzling debut novel, "Ashes to Water," to the list of things to love about this Richmond, Va., actress/playwright. Ziegler is scary good in "Ashes," a double whodunit riddled with fantastically flawed characters hiding behind all sorts of lies and secrets in a small Florida town where everyone's in everyone's business or back pocket. And as if that's not enough, someone's lighting up houses under construction near the town lake. Murder, arson, the sweltering Florida heat and humidity: It's a smorgasbord of evil that would push anyone and any town to the edge. It's the '80s, in the gossipy village of DeLeon, where Annie Bartlett has been called home to bury her murdered father ---- the apparent victim of his oar-swinging girlfriend, Della, a near dead-ringer for Annie's late mother. Annie reluctantly decides to help Della by looking for the real killer, both because she's inexplicably drawn to this mysterious woman who looks like her mother and because she's buying what Della's selling ---- that she's being framed. Before long, though, Annie realizes that her prying has made lots of people uncomfortable and that her dead parents may have harbored a few sordid secrets of their own. It's hard to believe this is Ziegler's first full-length novel ---- she has written screenplays and non-fiction books before this ---- because she spins such a mesmerizing tale, folding and unfolding layers of her byzantine plot like berries in batter. She's also seriously good with dialogue and lyrical, spot-on prose, using deceptively simple lines like "Her life, like a flatsided rock, skipped from tragedy to tragedy" to add depth and dimension to characters that pop off the page. As a result, the book is steeped in wonderfully nuanced characters: a dangerously bad-to-the-bone boyfriend, a Golden Boy firefighter, a my-way-or-the-highway judge and her odd-duck developmentally disabled son, a bellicose Miccosukee Indian developer, the brassy, bosomy owner of a popular diner, and an up-against-it sister. And then there's Annie, who occasionally engages an apparition of her dead mother in revealing mother-daughter conversations like it's as right as rain. It's all great fun in what is as much a whodunit as a whyfor, as much a murder mystery as an exploration of the tricky, fragile nature of relationships. The rapidly rising body count leading up to the final pages feels almost Shakespearean, where circumstance and chance and fate weigh heavily in who lives and who dies. (And, frankly, it's a good thing Ziegler ran out of story after nearly 400 pages, because another 50 pages and there might not have been anyone left standing in DeLeon. Hello, "Hamlet"!) Ziegler has crafted an entertaining, nearly flawless read, unless you really want to quibble about a slightly incredulous, tension-ratcheting turn of the screw at the end that doesn't detract from the story. Fair warning: This isn't a book you can set aside easily for TV or dinner or time with the family or anything else, because Ziegler doesn't pad her pages with superfluous, boring passages like too many of today's readers-be-damned, self-indulgent authors. There just aren't many jumping-off points. Good for her. Good for us.
NOTE: Although "Ashes" is essentially a sequel to Ziegler's "Rules of the Lake" ---- a collection of short stories about Annie's character-forming adolescent years ---- you don't need to read "Rules" first. ...more
**spoiler alert** This pretty amazing book ... boiled down to its barest, felony simplistic terms ... turns on a secret plot to shut Lisbeth Salander**spoiler alert** This pretty amazing book ... boiled down to its barest, felony simplistic terms ... turns on a secret plot to shut Lisbeth Salander up by duping a misguided, pretentious, pompous prosecutor into asking the courts to lock her up in an asylum.
You bastids! (smile)
It's addictive, clever, satisfying and supremely moral ... a rock-solid finish to a great series.
If you're like me, you'll turn the last page in this trilogy with mixed feelings.
1) With a monumental sense of accomplishment (Three books, 1,800-plus pages!)
2) With the feeling that you've just finished reading one of the quintessential works in contemporary crime fiction, warts and all, written by a great, talented writer
3) With lots of sadness that Larsson died before he could enjoy his celebrity and that as readers we've seen all we're going to see of the girl with the dragon tattoo
There are so many reasons this trilogy shouldn't have worked ... it's too long, it's unnecessarily complex at times, and the "title character" isn't even around for too much of the first book and is fairly inconsequential for too much of the final book.
Larsson also suffers from what journalists call a "notebook dump," meaning he dumped everything he had ever written down about Lisbeth's saga into his books, whether it needed to be in the story or not. Information overload.
And, finally, he relies too heavily on coincidences to move the story forward or to manufacture tension. I mean, really ... who in their right mind would put two people who tried to kill each other two doors apart in the same hospital wing? Seriously?
And yet it works ... largely because we come to care deeply about Lisbeth, the diminutive, dragon-tattooed, computer-hacking, nerves-of-steel victim of a colossal miscarriage of justice.
Even when she's not on the page, she is ... in the same way every ripple and ring is connected to the rock tossed into the center of an otherwise calm lake.
She's fearless, she's uncompromising. She rocks, she resonates. She's real, if not being able to get her out of your head is what gives great fictional characters life.
In fact, this series-ending book is riddled with great characters ... starting with Mikael and Erica and Lisbeth, of course, and including the Millennium crew, Mikael's savvy lawyer sister and his new love interest cop, the police, the Sapo agents, Lisbeth's father and brother ... even her doctor.
I remember reading a line from a reviewer who described Larsson's trilogy as "grown-up books for grownup readers."
**spoiler alert** In an eyebrow-raising author's note at the end of "The Child Thief" -- AKA Peter Pan -- the writer/illustrator Brom tells us that th**spoiler alert** In an eyebrow-raising author's note at the end of "The Child Thief" -- AKA Peter Pan -- the writer/illustrator Brom tells us that the inspiration for his deeply disturbing tale of the boy who never grows up leaped right out of the pages of J.M. Barrie's enduring fairytale.
He describes the seminal moment as a throwaway passage in which the narrator lets readers in on the dirty little secret that as the Lost Boys grow older in Neverland -- which is against the rules, of course -- Peter "thins them out."
Thins them out?
Brom says those three little words forever changed his perception of Peter as a "high-spirited rascal to something far more sinister."
Those three words, it turns out, also provided the enigmatic author with unexpected grist for his entertaining if horrifically dark re-imagining of a feral, messiah-like Peter Pan, in a tale where nothing and no one resembles anything we saw in Disney's animated feature film of Barrie's widely misremembered classic.
In Brom's provocative, tough take, Peter roams the streets and shadows of Manhattan recruiting abused kids and runaways for his war against a high-seas pirate and his deadly band of flesh-eaters, enticing them with tales of the mist-enshrouded magical island of Avalon and with promises of fairies, no growing old, no grownups, and great, grand adventures.
This charismatic Pied Piper Pan neglects to tell them, of course, that they've probably just swapped the horrors at home with the horrors of Avalon and that likely as not he's probably just sentenced them to death.
This riveting reboot of the mystery and mythology of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys -- called the Devils in this book -- isn't for your kids. Although the violence is stylized, it's more nightmarish than fairytale-ish.
Brom shocks us early and often out of our preconceived notions of Peter and his supporting cast while giving virtually every one of his characters uncommon dimension and depth.
You'll find yourself both loving and hating Peter, rooting for Brom's curiously mesmerizing "Captain Hook," and empathizing with both sides of a senseless, centuries-long war that probably didn't have to happen.
And lest we forget which version we're reading, Brom's gorgeous illustrations in the center of the book and at the start of each chapter remind us at every twist and turn that this isn't Disney's Peter ... isn't even Barrie's Peter. Not really. Not in the end.
This book isn't for everyone, heavyhanded as it is on everything from murder and torture to child abuse. But for everyone who hangs on through the uncomfortable scenes long enough to choose sides and favorites, there are real rewards in the relentless, page-turning second half of the book.
**spoiler alert** All that beach-book buzz you're hearing these days is almost certainly for "The Passage," Justin Cronin's big-as-a-brick apocalyptic**spoiler alert** All that beach-book buzz you're hearing these days is almost certainly for "The Passage," Justin Cronin's big-as-a-brick apocalyptic vampire saga.
One part Stephen King's "The Stand," one part Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," this dark, humorless, 784-page morality tale is the opening act for Cronin's ambitious trilogy about a military experiment gone horribly bad.
The marketing machine for this thing is in overdrive: $3.7 million for the three-book deal, $1.7 million for the rights to the first movie, over-the-top reviews, and, drum roll, please ... a breathless jacket blurb from the "King" of horror himself.
And if all that isn't enough, "Passage" has been hyped to the hyperbolic heavens by just about everyone with a book blog as the summer's big "It" blockbuster.
Well, wait. Not so fast.
The book does get off to a spectacularly great start. But ultimately, it stumbles and staggers under the weight of all the hype and Cronin's inability to sustain the pace and promise of his first 200 brilliant pages.
The novel turns on the U.S. Army's botched experiments to breed immortal, indestructible super-soldiers by injecting them with tricked-up serums from a vampiric bat virus discovered deep in the Bolivian jungle, using 12 expendable death-row inmates and an abandoned 9-year-old girl named Amy as the test subjects.
Instead, the 12 inmates transmute into vicious, vampirelike creatures who escape and then quickly decimate an entire nation of on-the-run humans with their infectious bites. Before long, just about everyone's dead, infected or controlled telepathically by an exponentially expanding army of vampires, called "virals" and "dracs" in the book.
These aren't your romanticized "Twilight"-like vampires, by the way. No, sir. (The message here, I suspect, is that if you're going to play Russian roulette with Bolivian bat serum, don't use convicted murderers in your clinical trials. Just saying.)
Although Amy doesn't mutate into a bloodthirsty viral, for reasons we probably won't find out until the second or third book, she can no longer stand sunlight, ages super-slowly, and communicates mostly through paranormal whispers.
This is just about where the book fast-forwards nearly a hundred years, to a barricaded outpost in the San Jacinto mountains where a small band of survivors lives under bright night lights powered by dying generators to keep the nocturnal virals away.
Most of the colonists have never even seen the night sky or stars.
Soon enough, Amy shows up at the colony as the mysterious, ageless girl with viral-like qualities who may hold the genetic key to mankind's survival ---- if her small but brave band of uninfected humans can survive the dangerous journey back to her "birth" place in the Army's secret laboratories in a Colorado mountain compound.
The first 200 pages of the book are undeniably fantastic, filled with more memorable characters and scenes and tension than most writers wring out in 500 pages. This is seriously good writing ---- the kind of can't-catch-your breath storytelling that propels us forward while demanding that we read every beautiful, perfectly placed word.
Then it all starts to crumble, partly because we're introduced to a new cast of characters after the 100-year leap forward who don't carry our interest as much as the ones we've just left behind, and partly because we begin to sense logical lapses in the storytelling.
Why, for example, wouldn't the two colonists who discover that the generators are failing convene a big meeting with everyone to brainstorm solutions instead of keeping it to themselves to avoid a panic? (What ---- no one's going to panic when blood-sucking, body-shredding vampires overrun the outpost after the lights go out? Really?)
The book has too many ensemble-type characters for readers to become attached to most of them (good thing; lots of them don't last long). And, frankly, they tend to blend together, with indistinguishable personalities and names like Peter and Michael, and are quickly replaced by other generic characters after they're killed or disappear.
The bigger problem, though, is that the character we care about most, the ageless girl Amy, communicates only occasionally in frustratingly short, cryptic, paranormal conversations. She's mostly quiet and passive in this first book, when she's even on the page at all. Even the zombielike virals don't leap out of the shadows often enough in a book where they're center stage.
It's a curious choice to take the story's two most interesting elements ---- Amy and the virals ---- and banish them to the sidelines for long stretches, or worse, to turn them into one-dimensional, secondary characters.
Publisher's take: "No one with long and happy memories of a legend wants to have them too woefully disturbed, and Leonard Mosley has not set out to upPublisher's take: "No one with long and happy memories of a legend wants to have them too woefully disturbed, and Leonard Mosley has not set out to upset or destroy the image so many people cherish of the remarkable Walt Disney. But while sharing the general admiration of a man whose cinematic achievements were always so happily inspired and inspiriting, this biographer discloses all the facts, no matter how unpalatable, about a man whose all too human flaws and weaknesses of character were as real as his genuine talents and vision."
My take: If that sounds like an apology from the publisher for what you're about to read, well, that's because it is. Disney had a few issues. Watching Mickey and Minnie will never be the same.
Riveting reading, by the way.
A caveat: I noticed there are a few Amazon reader/reviewers questioning the veracity of this book, despite Mosley's widely heralded reputation as a thorough, first-rate biographer. There's no way for me to really know how close to the truth this book really is, but my instinct tells me Mosley is at least in the ball park. ...more
I liked this book quite a bit, apparently, because it's hard to stop thinking about it.
I get that I wasn't supposed to have a good time reading aboutI liked this book quite a bit, apparently, because it's hard to stop thinking about it.
I get that I wasn't supposed to have a good time reading about a patriarchal dystopian society, so I was prepared to slug it through to the end.
And, give her credit, it never felt like Atwood was lecturing or beating me over the head with her warning of a future where women are subjugated to secondary roles and valued only for their ovaries, where people are hanged on college campuses for even the smallest acts of disobedience, where truth and courage give way to real fears of reprisal.
Made me wonder as I trudged on whether this sort of bleak, faceless kind of future really is possible, but then I reminded myself that we've already been there ... with the sexually repressive ways of the original Puritans, with the dangerous fanaticism of cults and religious sects, with the Salem witch hunts, with the totalitarian, genocidic regime of some guy named Hitler. ...more
For starters, too long. Coulda been a tighter, stronger story in half the 600-plus pages. Lots of backstory aYour average, ordinary, overhyped debut.
For starters, too long. Coulda been a tighter, stronger story in half the 600-plus pages. Lots of backstory at the front end, so the story is slow to get going. And even then, it's not a page-turner.
I found myself skim-reading through much of the book to get to the finish, probably because 1) I didn't really care that much about Ethan and Lena, either as individual characters or as an 'item,' and 2) I had a hard time buying into Ethan as the book's believable male point of view.
He's too perfect, too politically correct, too chivalrous, too quick to choose the new girl in town over his longtime friends, too lustless, too into poetry and too detail-oriented for a teen-age boy. He's certainly not like any teenage guys I grew up with or know today.
It's hard to buy into a book if you can't buy into the lead character.
Personally, I knew the book was in trouble when Ethan casually accepted that Lena could communicate with him through their thoughts ... or even that she just assumed he'd accept her paranormal whispers with little to no freaking out.
Really? I know I'd jump out of my skin if someone started talking to me nonchanlantly inside my head like that, as if it was right as rain.
That's the kind of credibility-sinking turn in a book that disconnects readers with characters ... and it's exactly the sort of thing a good editor would have fixed before this book ever saw print.
On the other hand, there's some nice stylistic writing going on in this book. And the last five lines in that opening chapter suck you in about as well as any opening chapter I've read in a long time.
I really wanted to like this book. I did. But ... didn't really work for me. ...more
Two-hundred-fifteen rapid-fire pages of non-stop, action-packed storytelling. Yeah, OK, over the top at times, but in a good way ... like one of thoseTwo-hundred-fifteen rapid-fire pages of non-stop, action-packed storytelling. Yeah, OK, over the top at times, but in a good way ... like one of those thrills-a-minute, out-of-the-fire-into-the-frying-pan scenes in an Indiana Jones movie ... and even if that's not your thing, man oh man, you certainly can't say it's not at least endlessly entertaining, with a big fat capital 'E.'
Nice twisty ending with an unexpected, smile-inducing poignant moment.
This is my first Swierczynski novel. Won't be my last. Great fun....more
Lots to like here, although I suspect that for everyone like me who loves this book there will be someone else who hates it, especially hardened HarryLots to like here, although I suspect that for everyone like me who loves this book there will be someone else who hates it, especially hardened Harry Potter fans who will almost certainly think Grossman borrowed too liberally from J.K. Rowling's history-making fantasy series.
Yes, OK, there's a school for magicians and a Quidditch-like tournament, but the story is so cleverly dissimilar from 'Potter' in so many other ways it's not a problem.
And, actually, it felt very much like an homage to both Rowling and C.S. Lewis in the way it explores the interesting, entertaining notion of what can happen if troubled kids use their new wizard-like skills to explore a supernatural Narnia-like fantasy realm they grew up reading about.
And, personally, I loved that it took just one instead of seven books for the main characters to graduate from their school of magic, and that the main characters are older than the Harry Potter kids (and that they're not always likeable, by the way), and that the main character is prone to making occasionally horrific, consequence-costing decisions, and that the magic isn't easy and can be used in the real world.
And, sacriligious gasp!, I prefer Lev's style over J.K.'s style anyway.
He's a more sophisticated writer with a more cautionary, adult tale to tell ... and he's particularly masterful at using analogies and pithy phrases for context. I found myself constanting thinking after reading one point-on analogy after another, 'Oh, yeah. I totally get what you're saying!'
I fall solidly in the camp of people who love this book. You may or may not. And, frankly, that's OK.
This isn't for your kids, though. Adult themes and circumstances....more
I've seen this book described as a sort of "Survivor" meets "The Lottery." Yes, OK ... but that really sells it short.
Clever, riveting storytelling.I've seen this book described as a sort of "Survivor" meets "The Lottery." Yes, OK ... but that really sells it short.
Clever, riveting storytelling. Memorable characters. Surprises and twists. Perfect ending.
Couldn't put it down.
This book caught some flak for its tough-at-times, kids-fighting-to-the-death plot.
On the other hand, it has also been embraced by critics and is averaging 4-plus stars from nearly 1,000 Amazon readers, almost certainly because it's unputdownable and because of its thought-provoking storylines on violence-as-entertainment and rule-by-intimidation.
Starts slow, builds as it goes. One of those two-steps-ahead-of-the-reader plots with a startling, didn't-see-it-coming ending and a supremely satisfyStarts slow, builds as it goes. One of those two-steps-ahead-of-the-reader plots with a startling, didn't-see-it-coming ending and a supremely satisfying twist in the final two pages just after you think everything's wrapped up.
Very Raymond Chandler-ish --- snappy dialogue, knuckle sandwiches, a fast-paced plot and damaged dames.
It's an easy call to put Harvey's second book on my radar.