Honestly, the movie took all the best parts of this book and made them even better. I can see why the book has kind of fallen to the wayside as a chil...moreHonestly, the movie took all the best parts of this book and made them even better. I can see why the book has kind of fallen to the wayside as a children's classic, in preference of things like C.S. Lewis.
Having finished it, what's the first thing I nonchalantly stumble upon on the internet? Intense Oz creepiness from before the 1939 movie. Check it out
An important question to answer before beginning the Wheel of Time series is when you want to read this prequel. It takes p...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
An important question to answer before beginning the Wheel of Time series is when you want to read this prequel. It takes place before The Eye of the World, book 1, but was written after Crossroads of Twilight, book 10. It contains spoilers for up through book 6 or so. If it is the first book of the series you read, a lot of things will be ruined, and it would be confusing, as it assumes the reader is familiar with the world.
In other words, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK FIRST. This review contains minor spoilers up through book 6, too, so, fair warning.
I decided to read the series in published order, so I picked this up, begrudgingly, after book 10. Why begrudgingly you ask? Because Crossroads of Twilight was so soul-crushing and boring, I didn't want to pick up another filler book. And that is what this is - filler. There is nothing here that is necessary to the story. Indeed, it is a book full of events we have already had second-hand throughout the rest of the series, mostly being Moiraine focusing on her quest to discover the Dragon Reborn and bonding Lan as a warder.
What is new? Well, we get to see Moiraine again after an absence of... *counts on fingers*... 5 books and about 4,000 pages. I missed her. I wanted her back in my life. We get to experience her viewing of the prophecy of the actual moment Rand is born, and learn a little more of her friendship with Siuan Sanche. A few new Aes Sedai are mentioned but no one that will be important ever again. Moiraine bonding Lan was a lot better told as a campfire story way back in book 2 (so, so long ago now) than actually reading about it.
I'm pretty sure this is the first and only time characters spend any time in Kandor or Arafel, so if you want to know some more about the other borderlands, here's your chance.
My favorite part of New Spring was that we got some chapters told from the point of view of Lan, and he waxes reminiscent about Malkier. I love the whole Malkier story, and love that we finally got to see some of its history and politics. There are two characters introduced in these chapters that will come into play briefly in later books (as in, they are mentioned. That's about it), but they are not absolutely necessary to know about.
So...that leaves me at basically recommending to read the Wheel of Time wikipedia article of Malkier and call it good. If you're a completionist like myself, then perhaps you can get some joy out of finishing a Wheel of Time book really quickly, because it only has 334 pages. Sitting down for an hour and being almost 20% done was its own reward. Otherwise, onward and upward to greener pastures, and book 11!(less)
Last week I started planning for a Wheel of Time themed Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I got a few friends, most of whom ha...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
Last week I started planning for a Wheel of Time themed Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I got a few friends, most of whom have read at least a few Wheel of Time books, all fired up about the idea. The possibilities of story lines came at me faster than I could write down bullet points; there would be so many awesome things I could do with this world. And having a Dungeon Master who is passionate about the material he or she is working with is the first step to having a successful DnD campaign. If the DM believes it will work, it mostly likely will.
I am obviously a DIE-HARD Wheel of Time fan to be passionate enough about it that I want to spend hours every week writing story lines and acting out characters for the enjoyment of my players.
And yet even I couldn't stand this book. It was that bad.
I never thought I would advise to read chapter summaries instead of reading a book, but I'm doing it. It is more important, to me, that someone continues to read the series than allow any sort of love that might have been slowly growing over the first 9 books to wallow and die in book 10. Unless you blindly love this series even more than I, that is what is going to happen. It is why so many Robert Jordan fans departed the ranks after Crossroads of Twilight. Don't let this happen to you! Read chapter summaries and power through to book 11 (I also recommend skipping New Spring). Hell, you could probably get away with reading the last 10 pages and calling it good.
That's not a very good track record to continue on with. And yet, I'm still reading them. Some deep dark part of me obviously wants to know how the story is going to end, and whether any of these characters are ever going to bite it. So that does say something for this series. It is very readable. It is so...fluffy. Bad things continue to happen but the characters are never in any real danger, because no matter what, something will save them.
I love fantasy, there is no way around that. There are of course many reasons why I love fantasy so much, but one reason was actually present in this book. Shock! I know, right? I can't help it, I really like it when characters break down and accept their fate. The readers have known it was coming since the end of book 3 (or longer, depending on how quickly you picked up that the titles basically spoil the entire series), but here, it happens. Tavi accepts who he is, and who his dad was. He will never be without responsibilities again, will never be a little boy in Calderon again. I can't help it; even if I don't like the series, that scene was moving and well done. It was a paradigm shift, and the entire rest of the book plays out around his acceptance. Nothing can ever be the same. This is a big deal!
For once, the second half of the book was not taken up by one long, drawn out battle. It is instead a lot more about sneaking around and getting a precise mission completed, rather than throwing legion after legion into battle like all the other books up until this point. A lot of blood still gets shed, of course, but I was getting very tired of half a book of set up just so we could have half a book of battle.
Unfortunately, I find just about every character insufferable.
The evolution of Finduilas is a side story I've enjoyed, up until now. I love it when bad guys become maybe-almost-kinda good guys. Friendship through adversity and all that. In this particular installment, Finduilas' story, or "Marcus," was just ok. His character was great but some of the...let's say the WAY he got his orders was completely ridiculous. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't go into details, but I feel like the nobility in this series has to have better things to do than harass Tavi out in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, that's the only hobby any of them have. Very frustrating.
Amara and Bernard are the worst. I thought their love story stilted from the beginning, while their ludicrous reasons for being married and hiding their marriage is just to create some drama. There was no real reason to write that their marriage had to be hidden, except that for some reason they are considered main characters and must therefore see some face time. Therefore: this marriage must be hidden! Let's talk about how we have to hide our love, endlessly! Plus, their mission in this book is an exercise in ridiculousness. The ONLY reason they are on such a stupid mission is to give them some face time, otherwise Bernard would be up in Calderon doing his count thing. Again, the nobility has nothing better to do than get their own hands dirty and perform their own work. I realize that the nobility houses the strongest furycrafters, but seriously, there's no one else the First Lord could have sent on this absolutely absurd quest? The entire idea behind this subplot was stupid, and then it just keeps on GOING. Walking through the swamp has never been so boring.
The evolution of Tavi has been completely unbelievable to me from the very beginning, but it became a million times worse in, Cursor's Fury (Codex Alera #3). The whole idea of Tavi wresting control of a legion, and then out thinking an entire army, was not only baffling to me, it was also so completely far fetched, I ranted about it for ages over at my review of it. Because of everything that occurred so nonsensically in book 3, book 4 picks up right where it left off, with Tavi having an entire legion so completely loyal they are all willing to do whatever he says at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, I am still in disbelief to the loyalty, as the whole reason it came around was so preposterous.
He then continues to perform death defying acts across the continent, putting himself into one stupid situation after another. I found it all to be worthless - I knew no one would die, no matter how close to death they got, and I knew Tavi would always come up with some crazy scheme, and it would always work out. The whole thing was an exercise in futility for the reader. You know what is going to happen long before it does, so what's the point of reading it? This installation was the most predictable, and I have found EVERY book in this series to be disappointingly predictable. There is no depth here, only fluff.
My last note is: I hate the vord. I have hated them since the croach crater in book 1. I'm not even sure why I dislike them so much, but I really really do. Maybe because they're a Borg-style (or Dalek-style, for that matter) villain but done poorly. Of course, I do feel that both of those villains became caricatures, and were no longer frightening by the end of their respective TV shows. We shall see how I feel after Princeps' Fury (Codex Alera #5), but I have the feeling I am going to hate that one. Big surprise!
Oh, yes! I can't forget to mention how much I hate the word "crow" now. SO MUCH! It's horrible. At least most fantasy books have a few different curse words to choose from. Having only one makes me have eye twitches.(less)
I was in the mood for some simple farmboy-to-prophesied-savior fantasy. Usually I save this sort of thing for the winter, w...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
I was in the mood for some simple farmboy-to-prophesied-savior fantasy. Usually I save this sort of thing for the winter, when I want comfort food, but, well, the reader's heart wants what it wants. So I picked up the first book of what is generally considered one of the pulpiest fantasy series ever made, Pawn of Prophecy, book one of The Belgariad.
With the knowledge of exactly what I was getting into, it fulfilled exactly what I wanted. Maybe someday if I read the entire series, I'll look back and think it was a great series, but right now, it's just derivative fantasy. There's just no way around that. The story is full of cliches, from a mysterious "ring wraith" black shrouded character, to everyone in the adventuring party magically being either royalty or on par with royalty, to Garion, the main character, being a orphan living on a farm. There are no surprises here, this has all been done before.
I would only recommend this if you are looking at it the same exact way I was. It's not ground breaking or even particularly good fantasy, but it does fulfill a particular niche. If you can find it in you to somehow like R.A. Salvatore novels, you'll probably like this. Sometimes I just want to read some brainless fantasy that I'm not going to get upset at the characters dying, and here it is! I might even read the next one next time I want some chicken soup/comfort food book.(less)
When I first read through this series about a decade ago, I loved Elayne. She was beautiful, a princess, and she was a red...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
When I first read through this series about a decade ago, I loved Elayne. She was beautiful, a princess, and she was a red head like me. I was not the critical reader I strive to be today. Reading through any chapter voiced by Nynaeve or Elayne has become an absolute chore - much like they CONSTANTLY say to each other, I just want to pick them up and shake them. Why are all the women in these books so bloody stubborn? I'd almost like to think that I learned what NOT to do in my life based off these absolutely terrible role models, but who are we kidding here? At least I don't jerk my braid, smooth my skirts, or even know what it means to box someones ears. That sounds like a bully to me. Although I have been known to cross my arms beneath my breasts because NEWS FLASH! That's the only place to really put your arms when you cross them.
While a lot of this book is frustrating (read: anything involving Nynaeve and Elayne), a number of pretty awesome things happen. The problem is there's so much to wade through to get to them, and endless descriptions of characters we'll never see again really bog it down. Or maybe we will see them again, but we won't remember because we were introduced to 400 other characters in the interim. I wish I were exaggerating.
First of all, Mat is a point of view. He has never failed me yet at being awesome, and there is an amazing scene involving him and Birgitte. 'Ware spoilers in the link. I would be even happier with Mat if he stopped following the Wonder Girls around, but in the desert, the man with the bottle of Evian is king. Or...something like that.
Anyway...then some shit happens to Elaida that actually made me feel a little bad for her. In the very beginning of the book, so no spoilers, she has a Foretelling. Try to keep the Foretelling in mind whenever Elaida comes up for the next few books, because we all know she simply can't succeed. Right? I hope? I've only read up through book 9 before so I'm almost into new territory here! It's going to be frightening when I don't know who's going to survive.
You're right, now that I've thought about it, Nynaeve does redeem herself a little in this book. A very memorable scene happens to her, that I remembered all these years later when the rest of the books have faded to obscurity. It doesn't matter too much yet but I have always loved Lan. I just want the guy to be happy!
Once again it was a long book with a very quick and unsatisfactory pay off. This is also the first time Jordan wrote the ending as ambiguous - we're never really sure if the Forsaken Rand fights is dead or not. It was strange and left me only halfheartedly excited for the next novel.
hah, who am I kidding, I can't put this shit down.(less)
Much of the charm of His Majesty's Dragon was completely lost in this second installment. In that book, it was a gradual bu...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
Much of the charm of His Majesty's Dragon was completely lost in this second installment. In that book, it was a gradual build up to the awesome end action scene against Napoleon's armies. In this novel, we get to ride a boat and talk about food and clothing for about 300 pages before anything interesting even happens.
Some of my favorite parts of the first book were the completely endearing and sweet conversations between Temeraire and Laurence. For example, “I should rather have you than a heap of gold, even if it were very comfortable to sleep on." BEST DRAGON EVER! I wanted more of the exact same interactions, but unfortunately, most of the book it seems Temeraire and Laurence aren't even speaking. Whenever they do speak, it feels like they are always on the verge of cross words. Most of their conversations revolve around 19th century politics, bringing up slavery and bigotry, and Temeraire is even forced to ask if he owns himself - or is he the king's property. Some of it was interesting, but by the end of the ship voyage I was tired even of these miniscule conversations Temeraire and Laurence had, as it was invariably going to be brow beating us with politics.
They spend 8 months on a boat, traveling to China. And boy, do we really get to FEEL those 8 months. The entire ship storyline took an insanely long time, and it was just straight up boring. I wanted some action in China damnit. We eventually arrive in China, sure, but only about the last 100 pages of this 400 page novel is devoted to that. Talk about feeling rushed. We are bombarded with new characters who we never really get to know, and then a deus ex machina ending is thrown at us out of the blue. And then...it was just over.
I was completely disappointed by this novel. I will be continuing the series but I hope it returns to its roots.(less)
If I were a 13 year old boy, this book would be awesome. As it stands, I think I've just grown out of Redwall books a bit. It was all food, action, ki...moreIf I were a 13 year old boy, this book would be awesome. As it stands, I think I've just grown out of Redwall books a bit. It was all food, action, kill someone, food, action, kill another someone. Rinse and repeat.(less)
This is the first Wheel of Time book I'm giving less than 5 stars to. The story here starts to become repetitive and tediou...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
This is the first Wheel of Time book I'm giving less than 5 stars to. The story here starts to become repetitive and tedious, and for the first time, I was annoyed at certain narrators. Many groans ensued whenever it came time for their point of view.
Because I didn't feel particularly inspired to write a review at the time when I first finished The Fires of Heaven, it has now been a couple months and the details are already fading. Were the wonder girls (Nynaeve and Elayne, of course) in Tanchico in book 4 or book 5? When was Siuan deposed? What cities has Rand taken over? The Wheel of Time series is infamous for this detail gradient that occurs. I can always remember the climax of each book, but the details in between drop between the lines pretty quickly. It doesn't help that the readers are bombarded with a lot of useless information that either never becomes useful, or doesn't come into play until several thousand pages down the line. It becomes very hard to keep track of what you need to remember when you don't know if the information will ever be repeated, or if it is even the least bit important.
The character of Birgitte becomes more solid in this installation, and I really like her. She has some rough shit happen to her but she's a fighter, both in the physical and psychological sense. Unfortunately, Birgitte only appears when the wonder girls do, and holy shit are they annoying. I've never wanted to slap a character as hard as I want to slap Nynaeve, she is SO dense sometimes. Everyone in the Wheel of Time always complains about how many secrets they always have to keep, and how they never know who they can trust. So many problems would be solved if they just TALKED to each other, and Nynaeve definitely falls victim to this. Her relationship with Elayne is cringe inducing every single time it is mentioned. Which, as you may guess from this novel having the named Robert Jordan on it, is a lot. To generalize for story purposes, because like I said, it all starts running together, book 5 has the infamous circus scenes.
Rand, on the other hand, is awesome in this book. He does all sorts of crazy shit but now he has an entire army that will follow him anywhere. All of a sudden he's not a farm boy flailing about, hoping things work out. He starts forming legitimate plans for the future.
Asmodean becomes one of my favorite characters too. I really want to hear more about him!
Now I know all of that sounds pretty negative. Honestly though, I could NOT put this book down. I don't know what it is about this series that keeps me so captivated, but it does. This book definitely slows down the action, yes. The series continues to lose momentum for every book now up until book 11, but I still love it so much. I still don't recommend this series for anyone except hardcore fantasy fans but the payoff is so worth it if you can stick with it.(less)
Let me start by saying that I find this series very readable. It is basically fluff, doesn't require much brain po...moreAs seen on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Let me start by saying that I find this series very readable. It is basically fluff, doesn't require much brain power, and it was easy to pound out in a couple of days. I love the idea of a druid as hero, and I quite like the "Gods are around but are just out of reach" idea that has become pretty popular recently. I even learned a few things about the Norse pantheon; I knew little about it, but now I know a bit more.
Unfortunately, the list of problems that I have with this series is much more lengthy. My main issue stems from the old aphorism, "You can't write smarter than you are." Now I'm not calling Kevin Hearne dumb or anything, but Atticus is TWO THOUSAND YEARS OLD. That's pretty damn old. You would think in that time he would have picked up some wisdom or something. I like that he is lighthearted about being that old, but apparently all the things he knows about occurred within the last decade or so, with an occasional throwback to Star Wars and Star Trek. Almost all of the jokes came from some faction of nerd knowledge, including movies, TV shows, and internet memes. At one point Atticus has an angel and devil on his shoulders, and they took the form of Kirk and Spock. He mentions "pulling a Yoda." But when Atticus started speaking in "lolcats" for a quick laugh, a line was crossed. I think I threw up a little in the back of my throat.
Nerds love nothing more than being in on a joke. The joke doesn't even have to be funny - a lot of memes aren't actually funny, they're only funny once you're "in the know." They are also only funny on the internet. Taken outside of that, the only people in real life that are going to laugh at your inside joke are other people "in the know." In effect, it's like any circle of friends where you look at one person and say an inside joke. Of course others are going to feel left out. It's like that guy at the party who quotes South Park/Family Guy/The Simpsons/what have you, and that's the extent of his humor. Nothing really gets added to a conversation, he's just pointing at something and hoping you get his regurgitated joke. It's lazy, and it's more annoying than funny.
I used to work at a bowling alley that played music videos constantly, and the first week I worked there, the video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up" came on. I cracked up laughing and said to my co-workers, "Damn, we just got rick rolled!" They all gave me startled looks. I grinned sheepishly and mumbled, "Umm...nevermind." Lesson learned! No quoting nerd stuff around people who aren't nerds, got it. Just like you can't share an inside joke, because it doesn't make sense unless you're included on the inside.
The thing about the internet is that it moves so fast, and memes that everyone knew last summer are no longer funny. Saying "Honey badger don't care!" anywhere on the internet nowadays will only earn you shouts of "So last year man!" Any meme is this way; they have a lifespan. A book...well, let's just say a book is forever because we all want them to last that long. If the majority of your jokes are pop culture references, or even worse, internet references, it is going to be dated incredibly fast. At one point Atticus makes a joke, saying "his voice and rugged good looks reminded me of that guy from the Old Spice body-wash commercials." (he was talking about Jesus here, by the way. page 107) That's already dated, that guy isn't the spokesperson anymore. Sure, we all get the joke now, but give it a few years and it won't be funny anymore. Not that I did anything except groan when I read that line.
So we have this 2,000 year old druid who smugly reports he must leave behind his Chewbacca action figures in the original packaging...oh and he can also defeat GODS. Not singular either, he takes care of several over the course of the series. But the Norse pantheon...well, they're kind of a big deal. The scale just seems out of balance here, and if we're trying to make it believable, gods should be more powerful. A werewolf, vampire, or druid, should not be equally as strong as a god. Overcoming some weaknesses somewhere might have been entertaining, but instead we just get some bloody battles. Character development is given to us in the form of switching narratives instead of meaningful interaction. It was all very lacking, and I felt that the humor was supposed to make up for that.
Essentially, I feel that the Iron Druid Chronicles is not creating new content. It just points at pop culture references and says, "Hey, wasn't that funny!" It's regurgitating jokes, and while a lot of people enjoy being those people who are "in the know" and laughing at those jokes, I'm simply not one of them. There's definitely a market for this series, but I couldn't shake the feeling of reading lazy, premade content, with an exclusive sense of humor in place of character development.(less)
My feelings are split. Overall, I really liked Graceling, but it ended with me wanting to love i...more**spoiler alert** As seen on my blog, Stumptown Books.
My feelings are split. Overall, I really liked Graceling, but it ended with me wanting to love it more than it gave me. It is was very readable, even if the story was a bit predictable, but I could hardly put it down. I wanted Katsa to win so bad, and I always like getting that invested in a character. However, the political undercurrents left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I just loved the idea of Graces. I especially like where Ms. Cashore went with both Katsa's and Po's Grace, where you don't always immediately know what your Grace is, nor do others. You just have to wait and see what you're exceptionally good at. I would kill to be Graced with cooking! Embroidery...not so much. Pretty soon I had out my Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manual and was looking at all the skills a character can have there. Here's a list of all the Dungeons and Dragons proficiencies, and as far as I could tell, anything from this list could be considered a Grace (although not ones that are obviously fantastical). So then I had to decide which one I would choose, and this degenerated into all sorts of arguments with my friends over the pros and cons of different skills. So good job Graceling for making all my friends think about you! I think I'd go for some sort of language knowledge, if that could exist in the Graceling world. Like taking the language right out of someone's brain or reading the dictionary like from that movie Phenomenon. Others that my friends said were musical instruments, oration, and gambling.
Here's where we get into it. I really disliked all of the talk of "anti-girl" things. You know what, I like pink, what's wrong with that? A lot, if you're Katsa. Any mention of even brushing her hair or a glimpse of a dress and she's liable to throw a fit. I tried not to let it bug me too much, but you really get bashed over the head with it. Katsa is independent, see? And being in a relationship, well that means you're not your own person, you "belong" to someone else. She doesn't like marriage and doesn't want kids! That makes her ~*special*~! After a while I couldn't decide just what the author wanted to do with her. She doesn't like brushing her hair, but wants to feel beautiful; doesn't like the idea of a relationship, but casual sex is great. Have a quote!
Graceling, page 159:
She couldn't have him, and there was no mistaking it. She could never be his wife. She could not steal herself back from Randa only to give herself away - belong to another person, be answerable to another person, build her very being around another person. No matter how she loved him...
[Katsa] understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone's but her own.
The end of that is disturbingly like the famous quote from Twilight ("About three things I was absolutely positive..."), which is particularly why I bookmarked that page. I certainly don't desire a heroine that reminds me of Bella, and Katsa thankfully does not. She just gets a little whiny.
Ok, I'm gonna level with you. I think Katsa is a female character written as a male. Now, think of her as a boy. How cool is it that he is able to murder people on secretive missions, has best friends that think he's amazing and hot, and a foreigner who is immediately drawn to him because he's so reclusive and mysterious? His Grace enables him to kill people effortlessly, he has emotional issues when it comes to relationships or commitment, and he really just wants to fuck some wenches and go on an adventure. Did the male pronoun make it more believeable? That sounds like any fantasy story. Is that what I wanted? Hell no, I want a strong female character damnit. This book tries to be feminist but in actuality it just reinforces masculine ideals. This is a strong female writer trying to convey a strong female character, yet her own misconceptions color the story.
As it stands, however, we get a bunch of readers angry over the bizarre not-quite-feminist views that Katsa supports. I don't want to come across as all for the institution of marriage, because I'm definitely not, but I feel Katsa's attitude just perpetuates stereotypes. Po really just wanted to be trusted, and although Katsa eventually comes around, her thoughts leading up to it are what stuck with me, and many other readers.
The bad guy was seriously more Katsa's own thoughts rather than the actual "bad guy." Leck (the bad guy) was in it for like a page and a half. Marriage was more of a villain than he was; he was completely forgettable, albeit terrifying when he had the upperhand. He simply wasn't around for long enough.
Po was great and I feel he got the short end of the lover boy stick. I felt his story ended on a bittersweet note that wasn't entirely necessary. Why couldn't Po and Katsa just be happy together in fairy tale land?! Alas, his tale made me feel heartsick, but not in a particularly good way. Katsa was so determined to be independent, so...how do we fix this? I know, we make Po completely dependent on her!
This book was very close to being 5 stars for me. It just couldn't quite make it there with all the rants against marriage and children. However, we must also remember that this was a debut novel! Which means it was really well done for being a debut and still totally deserves its popularity. I will definitely be checking out the sequels.(less)
Once again we are following the adventures of Lirael and Prince Sameth as they fight to with...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Once again we are following the adventures of Lirael and Prince Sameth as they fight to withhold the darkness from taking over the world. Once again the story is too drawn out and the little things that came rapid fire in Sabriel are left with exhausting descriptions in Abhorsen, and yet we never get a true feel of the world or the people who inhabit it. It took me forever to read this book because I simply didn't care about what was happening. If I don't even care about the destruction of the entire world, then we probably have some issues to resolve here. I just wanted it to be over.
There's the same get up and go attitude that Sabriel had. We're on a time constraint with the undead on our heels and sleep deprivation comes as a matter of course. Instead of a grand sense of adventure and discovery this time though, I just found it exhausting. Might be part of the reason that it took me so long to read, I just couldn't read more than a chapter or two at a time.
We do discover the true natures of Mogget and the Disreputable Dog finally, and I still enjoyed those two characters. The revelation could have come a little earlier in the book and that might have made it more interesting, but as it stands it was filed under "do not care" like a lot of the book.
Better than Lirael, but not by much. I still recommend reading Sabriel and stopping there.
Addendum: Apparently a 4th Abhorsen book is scheduled to be released in 2013, named Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen, about the Abhorsen who became Chlorr of the Mask. I might still have to check it out when it is published just to see if the series is redeemed.(less)
I had an odd sense of déja vu when I picked up this book. I sat there staring at the cover u...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
I had an odd sense of déja vu when I picked up this book. I sat there staring at the cover until finally I realized this book had sat on my shelf when I was a kid. Immediately I wondered if I had ever read it when I was younger, and set to ferociously. Unfortunately no memories swam to the surface, and I'm forced to reconcile that the boxed set must have sat there forlornly on my bookshelf for years until I moved out for college. Poor unloved books.
Over Sea, Under Stone is aimed for a younger audience than I normally enjoy reading, but Goodreads insisted that I would love it and gave it to me as a recommendation again and again. It read quickly, being short and simply written, and would probably work well to read aloud. I love Arthurian legend and I had no idea that was where the book was headed when it started, but the whole mystery and chase fell flat for me. I have major issues with the Disney way of telling kids stories - the kids are forced to figure out the mystery or magic by themselves, adults never believe them, and often stand in their way. The evil forces were so evil with no reason to be. I find it extremely frustrating and untrue to reality, but I guess it makes drama. Just not the type I want to read.
Honestly the Arthurian bit of the story was completely forgettable, and this is coming from someone who loves anything Arthur. I wouldn't recommend this book unless it is nostalgic or you have a younger reader who finished The Chronicles of Narnia and wants something else along the same lines. Having said that however, I have heard that this first book is the weakest of the series, so I will be begrudgingly trying the next one.(less)
Although this was a quick and easy read, it was still interesting and I read it in only two s...moreThis review can also be read on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Although this was a quick and easy read, it was still interesting and I read it in only two sittings. De Lint himself has classified The Dreaming Place as more of a novella, as it is only 134 pages long, but it is a nice little introductory to his creation of Newford. This was the first book de Lint wrote that took place in Newford, but now it is classified as the second because of the recommended reading order. It is considered young adult, along with only one other Newford book, so this is a good place to start if you're unsure about some of De Lint's more...graphic tendencies.
A lot that goes on is, unfortunately, troped and stereotypical. This is why I only gave it 3 stars, as the characters just aren't that original, but that is to be expected for a young adult novel. Traveling to another world is always cool though, and that is, as per usual for de Lint's work, the best part of the story. The two main characters, Ashley and Nina, go through logical character progression even if it has been done before, and there's not a bunch of sidelines or digressions to lose the reader's interest. I surprised myself when I discovered I was worried about what was going to happen to them.
This is never going to be a life shattering read, but it is quick and interesting, and a must if you want to delve into the world of Newford.(less)
Short stories, I have decided, are simply not my favorite medium. They don't offer up enough...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Short stories, I have decided, are simply not my favorite medium. They don't offer up enough satisfaction or closure, and there's that obscurely frustrating first couple pages of a story when you don't know what is going on, and that happens over and over again. Thankfully all the stories in this case take place in one area, the city of Newford, with a cast of characters that show up repeatedly. Jilly is a great character and I can't wait to see her again, as well as Geordie the fiddle player.
De Lint has this "magic is just out of the corner of your eye if only you knew how to see it" philosophy, which I suppose makes it urban fantasy, but it felt more like folklore. There was no hard-boiled detective making snarky comments, just simple people with problems like the rest of us, turning to fantasy to take care of them. It struck a chord with me that most urban fantasy does not. A few of the stories became rather disturbing, and the best I could compare it to were the heart wrenching passages in Infinite Jest. Sadly abused young girls and women forced into prostitution telling their childhood stories; they were pretty horrifying. It definitely means Dreams Underfoot is meant for adults, not young adults.
I was so-so on the book until the third story, Time Skip, that had me sobbing into my burrito at Chipotle. Cilantro and tears: turns out? Not so tasty! Unfortunately I felt that it turned so-so again, and none of the other stories have really stuck with me like that one. I didn't have a desire to go reread any of them immediately. Time Skip has a resolution later on in the book but I didn't like that story nearly so much. It robbed me of some of the original poignancy.
This was my first foray into the magical world of Charles de Lint, and although it will not be counted among my favorite books ever, I still enjoyed it.(less)
**spoiler alert** This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
I have yet to actually like any of the books in the Codex Alera. Why do I...more**spoiler alert** This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
I have yet to actually like any of the books in the Codex Alera. Why do I keep reading them, you ask? Good fucking question. I guess at some point I couldn't tear my eyes away from the train wreck and I love a good groan as well as the next bloke. At this point I'm in gaped mouthed awe at how angry these books make me, and I just have to know if they continue to be so bad. Prepare for maximum bitchiness.
I'll begin with the title. Once you figure out the naming scheme for the Codex Alera books, where the series is going becomes pretty obvious. The sixth book is called First Lord's Fury. Damn Jim Butcher, spoiler that shit! At this point I can only hope I'm wrong, but I really do hate nothing more in the world than being spoiled so I'm not going to read the synopsis of the last book to find out. I'll come back and edit when I get there.
For now though, Tavi is a Cursor in the aptly named Cursor's Fury. This is the farmer-turned-savior trope taken to a whole new level, as from the first chapter, Tavi does not go to the First Lord. No no, the First Lord comes to him. Like Tavi is seriously busier than the First Lord? Come on now. And what does Gaius Sextus immediately do? What every good emperor would. Ask about his agent's LOVE LIFE. "Hey Tavi I thought I'd come to see you since you're obviously a busy man, hey by the way how goes shagging the ambassador?" What?! You, my good sir, were just written off as ever being a viable leader. I could now care less that the rest of the book is all about people throwing their lives away to protect YOUR kingdom, when you obviously do not deserve as much. You spent the last book complaining about being overworked, and your brief foray in this book you come personally to give a soldier orders any old servant could have done, thoroughly destroying any sympathy you might have had from me in the process.
That is what begins what I eventually realize is a complete lack of a chain of command or any sort of military knowledge. Tavi is always able to go directly to the top with no repercussions. True, this is not a modern day army, but if there was ever an army that loved discipline, duty, and knowing your place, it was the Romans. He can waltz into the general's tent and no one bats an eyelid, even though we're the only ones who are supposed to know he's not actually that low on the totem pole. He is placed as a logistics officer, assisting in keeping the army running smoothly, well geared, and well fed. This is a RUSE so that we are cowed into believing one iota of thought went into how a army is run. He is sent to go buy grain off local farms but as SOON as the battle started, the problem of feeding the army was never mentioned again. "An army marches on its stomach" is a saying for a reason, and supply lines are serious business when it comes to defending a town. They're never mentioned.
Then, HOW CONVENIENT, the entire officer's corps is wiped out. WHOEVER WILL SAVE US?! Thank God one officer wasn't there. Yes, TAVI TO THE RESCUE. At this point, he has only been in school for two years, and he's going up against soldiers, sometimes with years of battle experience, and they just shrug it off and say, "Boy is that kid clever." He manages to come up with several deus ex machina; particularly I'm thinking of the Knights Aeris bending light to make a gigantic lens of fiery death. No one has ever thought of this before? Seriously, you left it up to the kid with no furies? Any battle that does not employ this tactic from now on is wasting lives. And I'm positive the world is going to pretend like it never happened, and this innovation will be forgotten. If it does continue to get used, I'll eat my words, but there's basically nothing an army can do against that, which doesn't make for very interesting battles.
Let's take a look at how the battle was laid out. I never fully understood it, and even after looking at the Butcher approved map over at his website, it made even less sense. The entire battle was over a city that spanned two sides of a river, and the bridge connecting the two. Based on the map, you can see the town, Elinarch, over on the western side. Ok. Let's think about this. The Canim had a fleet that was hundreds of ships, and they all landed in the same place. Let's make our best estimate and say it's about 50,000 troops because I can't find anywhere that says how many it was. They all make landfall in Founderport, to the southwest, and they all head for Elinarch. That bridge doesn't even look that important to me, especially because it's to the north, when everything important to the kingdom is to the east. Now, why, WHY, if they really wanted the bridge, couldn't they have landed half the forces up the coast 50 miles, and surrounded the town? Or send a few thousand troops up river 10 miles, so that they can cross over and start attacking the other side? Maybe mess up those supply lines that didn't exist? It is even mentioned at one point that directly below the bridge, Canim troops try to swim across, but are thwarted by a defense Tavi put there. So...go a mile up river where that defense doesn't exist? I simply don't understand. The entire battle was completely useless because the Canim obviously should have won. Of course I want the good guys to win, but if the only reason they did so was because of a bad setting and bad writing, then the victory is senseless.
The women...ah the women. I don't like any of them. Kitai is barely ok, but the whole "bonding" thing with Tavi completely turned me off her. How about Isana, who doomed who knows how many soldiers to death because she selfishly chose to only help Fade? And she is busy healing him for literally over a month, the entire time a battle raging a mere mile from her apartment. Seriously, there are so many things wrong with that picture. Isana gets absolutely no sympathy from me ever again. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, that's just how it is.
Certain things started to annoy me so much I thought about keeping a scoreboard of how many times I rolled my eyes. The word "crow" shows up 132 times, according to my Kindle search, including all instances of "crowspawn" and "crowbegotten," and this book is only 450 pages. That's a crow at least every three pages. I HATE the word crow SO MUCH now. I seriously never want to read or hear it again. Everybody has flashes of insight, instinct, intuition, and amazing eyesight to see movement out of the corner of their eyes so they can roll away at the last second. If there's a swordsman, he will always be "the best" or "one of the best" in the realm. All the women arch their back whenever their kissed, and Bernard always kisses Amara on the eyes and "full on the mouth." UGH.
I was interested in discovering why Tavi has no furies until we actually do find out, and that was a major let down.
For the first time, I could not find any redeeming features in this book. The best thing about it is that it is very readable. I openly admit to not being a fan of the first two installments, and this book is more of the same, but even worse. There are so many good fantasy series out there, don't waste your time on this one.(less)
Although this installment was easier for me to read than Furies of Calderon (my groans were cut down by about a third, I'd...moreAs seen on Stumptown Books.
Although this installment was easier for me to read than Furies of Calderon (my groans were cut down by about a third, I'd say), I liked this second novel no more than the first one. It has been two years since the events of Furies, and we're plopped right back into the action without so much as an update, which at first had me a little miffed. The problem with plowing through novels so quickly is that proper nouns quickly find their way into the oubliette, so even though it's only been about two months, I was still playing catch up trying to remember who the characters were. On second thought, the names just aren't very memorable. I was 3/4s of the way through this book and explaining it to a friend and I had to grope for the main character's name. T...t...it's T-something I swear! Tavi? No wonder he's powerless, he sounds like a pussy.
From the first page, Butcher sets up the story, and from there on out it is non-stop action. I like a good action scene as much as the next bloke, but in this case it really started to grate on me. The characters are never given a chance for introspection, besides sparing a thought or two for "I wonder where this other character is right now? No matter, off to another near death situation!" So once again, one of my main problems is the lack of character development. I know what the author wants the characters to be, but they never seem to get there on their own. We're just told they do, and I am baffled at people who say these characters feel "alive." Only alive in the sense that fire is alive; expanding the story and going new places but leaving nothing behind to appreciate. Honestly the only character I felt became a little more interesting in this novel was Fidelias, who I hated in the first book, so that's saying a lot. Making bad guys likable is always a plus in my book.
What really interests me about this series is the weak (well, relatively) main character. Tavi uses his brains and quick wit to talk himself out of - or into - situations. Usually in fantasy novels, any sort of magic is regarded with suspicion, à la X-Men. Someone with crazy powers and inhuman strength is usually incredibly frightening to the layman. In these novels, however, Tavi is the only weak character without magic, and he's the weirdo and regarded with suspicion. This flips my thoughts on magic and powers on its head, and I like that. I can't help but be gut wrenchingly involved whenever Tavi is in the middle of the action. I always want THIS to be the moment when his powers manifest.
I could have done without the weird women's right storyline. I know I know, I'm always touting about how sexist fantasy is and give me my strong female characters dammit. But in this case, it just came across as schmaltzy and a thoroughly fake storyline to throw some pretend politics into the mix. Without it, there would have been next to no politics in the novel, and Butcher obviously wants us to be aware of the political situation in the realm.
The love story between Amara and Bernard was uncomfortable at best and gag worthy at worst. Here's my favorite quote from page 453:
Amara let out a nervous little laugh, and her cheeks flushed hot. She took two steps to Bernard and leaned up to kiss him again. He returned it, one hand touching her waist, a possessive gesture.
Please! That's so stilted it made me flush hot too. Hopefully it picks up a little in subsequent books.
Pick this up if you want a fun romp with non stop action, with little consequence but also small reward. It definitely improves on the first novel, but not enough for me to legitimately like it on its own.(less)
In 2005 I was full flung into my love of the young adult genre. I've basically outgrown it n...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
In 2005 I was full flung into my love of the young adult genre. I've basically outgrown it now, which is pretty unfortunate really. There are a lot of good books in that genre, but I just can't get into them like I used to. That aside, for some reason this series completely passed me by. I saw the trailers for the movie and that still didn't convince me. So here we are, the books have been out for years, and I literally knew next to nothing about them besides the lady from Kill Bill had a teaser poster posing as Medusa.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was sucked into the story. I sat down and all of a sudden 50 pages had flown by. However, I feel that those first 50 pages were the strongest part of the novel, and about the time Percy Jackson arrived at Camp Half-Blood, my pace had slowed down quite a bit. The origin story is always my favorite! I start to get annoyed when 12-year-olds are sent on epic, death defying quests, and in this case all of the adults were like "Yup, you'll probably die. Sucks to be you." But that's just how the the Greek gods did things (i.e. were major dicks), so the age discrepancy didn't bug me all that much.
I don't know much about ancient Greece, and its mythology, and I learned quite a bit about it reading this book. For example, I had never heard of Procrustes, but quickly ran to Wikipedia to find out who he was when he was mentioned in the story. A few other reviewers have mentioned how annoyed they are when Medusa is portrayed as a monster, but hey you know, it's a mythological creature, I don't mind if we differ on opinions of what they "should" be. Like...oh I don't know, VAMPIRES. They sure have changed recently!
Honestly its obvious similarities to other recent powerhouses in the young adult genre did not bug me one bit. I found the idea to be in itself original and interesting enough that I probably let a few other things that usually bug me slide under the table. But hey, there's nothing wrong with just enjoying a book for the sake of it, not because I have to contrast and compare it to other books I've read.
All in all it was a rip-roaring read and I quite enjoyed it. I will definitely be picking up the sequels.(less)
Everything that was awesome about the first installation of the series, Sabriel, got complete...moreThis review can also be read on my blog, Stumptown Books.
Everything that was awesome about the first installation of the series, Sabriel, got completely muddled and lost in this sequel. I loved the first book, and had high hopes with following it up. Those hopes have been dashed. Mercilessly.
We begin with Lirael, only 14, a daughter of the Clayr. She decides the best way we could possibly be introduced to her as a character is for a wallowing in self pity depression session and contemplation of suicide. I don't know about you, dear readers, but that is not a good way for me to get on our lovely heroine's side. I'm much more likely to say, Fine, jump off the cliff, it will at least put ME out of my misery. Now you may think this sounds heartless. And, well...you have a good point, that's pretty mean. While I suppose the whole "feel sorry for me" schtick was to allow us to see her grow as a character, all it managed to do for me was make me want to slap her, followed by throwing the book down. I managed to not do either, intent that the book had to go up hill from here.
How wrong I was.
We're introduced to the second character, Prince Sameth, and he starts off pretty strong. I'm convinced at this point that the chapter introducing him was written first, because it's the only time in the whole book that he's ok with taking charge. He's the son of Sabriel and Touchstone and destined to be the new Abhorsen. Great, I think. Now we're in for some action! The good feelings don't last. He quickly falls even deeper than Lirael in the self pity pool; I was secretly wishing he would die. Seriously. Two main characters that go around bemoaning their terrible fates of not fitting in. If only someone out there understood how unique they are! Ugh, spare me.
Sabriel and Touchstone are unfortunately only background characters, but Mogget makes a reappearance and as per usual, the animals are the best part of the book. We're introduced to the Disreputable Dog, who quickly becomes the best character, and she's a dog! Any conversation involving either of the two animals is bound to be chuckle inducing, so at least that didn't change from Sabriel. Honestly I would have been way more excited with the adventures of Mogget and the Dog than I-have-no-backbone Prince Sameth and no-one-understands-my-pain Lirael. But I digress.
Besides the animal characters, the best part of the book was exploring the Clayr's library. Something about the thrill of exploration in crazy magical buildings always gets my jollies going. It was like exploring Hogwarts again, only a lot more deadly. I would have been happy with more exploration except that it was from Lirael's point of view, and that left me with laryngitis from heavy sighing.
I will be regretfully reading the next in the series, hoping that the payoff is worth it. Otherwise, read Sabriel and leave it at that.(less)
I discovered this book my senior year of high school, when a couple of my friends in drama c...moreThis review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books.
I discovered this book my senior year of high school, when a couple of my friends in drama club were reading it. Having always been a fan of fantasy, I ran to the library and picked it up, although I remember being rather surprised that it had been published in 1995. The Harry Potter craze was in full swing in 2003 and I thought Sabriel was riding on its coattails, like so many books are still doing today. But no, not only is it incredibly original, it is also unique and scary.
Sabriel kicks some serious butt. She is already powerful when we meet her, so there's not much in the way of starting off powerless and learning in a safe environment (like a school). Although she quickly discovers she has barely scratched the surface of the amount she has to learn, at least she's not bumbling. She's strong, willful, and smart; overall a great heroine. Mogget the sometimes-cat is hilarious, much more so than I remember from high school. Touchstone takes some getting used to but he gets much better as the book goes on.
The magic system is awesome. A lot of the magic is done with music, like whistling, or the seven bells that Sabriel wears, all of which serve a different purpose. The bells were rather confusing; I recommend bookmarking the page in the beginning where she lists each bell and describes its power, because from then on all she ever does is mention the bells name, not what its good for. The benign Charter magic is a vast unknown entity that I would love to know more about. The book never really touches on what it would mean to be a full fledged powerful mage, but I bet it would be awesome.
I'm just gonna say it. I'm kind of a wimp, especially when it comes to stuff that should be dead. I could never in a million years handle Sabriel's job of casually crossing the border into death and dealing with the spirits of the angry dead. I was never scared for myself though, which is why I can still call this young adult. If I read a horror novel, I start thinking hands are going to pop out of the couch or DID I lock the front door? or don't turn your back while you walk upstairs. Ugh. I can't handle that stuff at all. Give me a zombie movie and I am scared for weeks, if not longer. Maybe because Sabriel never features any high pitched violins or bad guys jumping out at you from the darkness, but the zombies here are only terrifying because Sabriel has to deal with them, not because they are scary to us, the readers. So even if you're a wimp like me, you can read this book and totally handle it.
One of the things that has really started to bug me with young adult fantasy is that authors seem to be unable to make drama based on their story alone, so they add in extremely irritating stupid people to be purposefully antagonistic. It annoys me to no end. In Sabriel, however, there are multiple times when I thought "Here is where a lesser author would make some cheap drama," and Garth Nix never falls for the bait. The side characters are supportive and understanding, even if they want to say no to her, they let her go on her way. I really appreciate that. Readers aren't dumb, we don't need dumb drama.
A great quick read, even if you wouldn't normally consider picking up a young adult novel. It transcends that label into good fantasy.(less)