I am somewhat confused as to why I didn't like this book. It has a pretty enthusiastic fan base. Its Victorian-inspired setting feels like alternate h...moreI am somewhat confused as to why I didn't like this book. It has a pretty enthusiastic fan base. Its Victorian-inspired setting feels like alternate history, a genre that I really enjoy. It explores issues related to gender roles and sexuality in interesting ways. And on top of it all, it focuses on a young girl and her quest to become a master fencer. This is pretty much Nancy-bait here.
Unfortunately, while I never felt as if this book was necessarily bad, it didn't always work for me. I liked Katherine, but found I didn't care that much about the rest of the cast. In fact, there were a few characters (such as Duke Alec) that I actively disliked. As a result, whenever the story strayed from Katherine's sword fighting, it didn't really keep my interest. By the end of the book, I was actually rather bored by most of cast, and their sexual exploits. It didn't help that I found the plot to be kind of meandering, and the relationships between the characters to feel, at times, kind of shallow. A big example of this is the friendship between Katherine and Artemisia. Katherine only meets her briefly at a ball, and then suddenly they're very devoted friends.
I chose to listen to the audio version of this book. Again, despite its high acclaim, I came out of it feeling a little divided. The audio version of The Privilege of the Sword was clearly a huge production, featuring music and sound effects as well as multiple narrators. The sections told from Katherine's point of view are read by the author. The sections told from a third person POV use a separate narrator. Also, scattered throughout the book are several scenes that feature a near full cast. Although the scenes that feature a full cast are really well done, it also made the book a little confusing to listen to, as you had to keep three voices straight per character. It made me wish that they had committed more fully to the full cast aspect, or skipped it all together. Also, there were times were the sound effects were too loud. I remember one scene in particular that featured a horse trotting. It was so loud, I had a hard time understanding the narrator.
The Privilege of the Sword is a well loved fantasy tale, but it didn't really work for me. As a result, I won't be reading any other of the books in the series.(less)
I'm not normally into these Official Companion type books, but seeing how I really love The Guild, I thought it would be worth checking it out. Now th...moreI'm not normally into these Official Companion type books, but seeing how I really love The Guild, I thought it would be worth checking it out. Now that I've read it, I'm glad to report that this is true. Although I wouldn't consider this to be a must read for fans, if you find yourself exiting season 6 wanting more, then I would recommend checking this out.
The Official Companion was put together by Titan Books but pretty much all of the content comes from interviews from the cast and crew. The book has a section devoted to each season, and each cast member, as well as memorable aspects of the series, such as the music videos and comic books. To be honest, I kind of wish they had organized this book a little better (for example, when you finish reading about season one, you don't just flip to stuff about season two. You have to go though several other sections first), but the way they have it set up is perfectly fine, and there's a table of contents in front to help guide you. The Official Companion is also filled with tons of great photographs, albeit ones of inconsistent quality. I guess this can be blamed on the fact that they didn't have the nicest cameras on the show for the first season or so.
Some of the content inside was familiar to me, such as Felicia and Kim Evey's explanation of The Guild's very humble beginnings, but there was plenty of new information too. I enjoyed getting to learn more about how the show was made, from the script writing process to the props, and liked the sections that focused on the most memorable aspects of the show (such as that romance cover style poster done of Codex and Fawkes). One thing that permeates all these interviews is a genuine enthusiasm for the show. This started out as a passion project. Even when the show became profitable, that passion never really left, which is really satisfying as a fan to see.
Reading this book made me nostalgic for The Guild, and sad that we probably won't be seeing any more seasons online (it sounds like Felicia wants to bring the show to television or something similar). As mentioned before, these companion books aren't really my thing, but I think they did a pretty good job with this one. I'd recommend checking it out from your library if you're a fan.(less)
It looks like I won't be reading Astonishing X-men anymore. This is a pity, because the first four volumes (written by Joss Whedon) were consistently...moreIt looks like I won't be reading Astonishing X-men anymore. This is a pity, because the first four volumes (written by Joss Whedon) were consistently strong. The same cannot be said about the series since Warren Ellis took over. Ghost Box (vol 5) was very uneven. Exogenetic (vol 6) while not perfect, was at least a step up. Xenogenesis, on the other hand, delivers the weakest volume in the series by far, failing on pretty much every level.
Let's start out with the artwork, done by Kaare Andrews. Admittedly, while there are some promising panels here and there, Andrews is just not that good at drawing people. This is especially true with the way he draws the female X-men. The first one to grab my attention was Storm. Turn to the back cover and you'll see just how scarily skinny she appears, complete with protruding ribs and hip bones, and a waist so narrow you have to wonder where she fits certain necessary internal organs (but don't worry guys! She still has breasts!). The next offense is Armor. Fortunately, the artist wisely choose not to sexualize this teenage character, but he also seems to forget that she's Japanese, as she looks completely Caucasian here. But the worst example of all has to be with Emma Frost. Listen, it doesn't take much to make Emma Frost sexy. With her skin tight white outfits, that's just who she is. Apparently, it's not enough for Andrews, who insists on drawing her constantly thrusting her breasts towards where the camera would be. I guess he wants to make sure that they're the first (or even only) thing you really notice about her. The male X-men, by comparison, just look like big goofy lugs, which isn't great, but a hair less ridiculous.
During Xenogenesis, Storm (who is currently married to Black Panther, and therefore Queen of Wakanda) and the rest of the X-men are called in to investigate a small African town where a large number of mutant babies have been born en masse. Xenogenesis makes a lot of noise about trying to shine a light on the issues facing Africa today, and then completely undercuts that by having the majority of the African characters be nothing more than ineffective window dressings. There is one notable exception, leader Joshua N'Dingi, but given that he mostly comes across as an asshole, I'm not sure how encouraging that is. As for the story itself, I must admit that I found it to be rather dull most of the time. I was also annoyed by some of the inconsistencies I found between graphic novels. For example, in Ghost Box, Storm is very worried about getting involved in the affairs of another country. As the queen of a nation, her actions can have disastrous results, and may even lead to outright war. In Xenogenesis, this is somehow no longer an issue. You expect certain disconnects in comics, given that you can have several writers working on a line, but BOTH of these volumes were written by Warren Ellis so it just looks like he's not even trying.
As a result of my dislike of Xenogenesis and Ghost Box, I will no longer be reading Astonishing X-men. There are tons of X-men lines out there, both past as present, so it's not worth wasting time on one clearly caught in a rut. Hopefully, the next comic I pick up will be more consistent. (less)
Kelly Sue DeConnick continues her run on Captain Marvel with it's second volume, Down. The graphic novel deals with two separate plots. In the first o...moreKelly Sue DeConnick continues her run on Captain Marvel with it's second volume, Down. The graphic novel deals with two separate plots. In the first one, Carol must work with Monica Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel, to solve a problem off the coast of New Orleans. In the process, she discovers that Monica is not 100% comfortable with how Carol took up Captain Marvel's mantle. In the second storyline, Captain Marvel discovers that something's wrong with her powers, and the results could be deadly.
While I enjoyed In Pursuit of Flight, I feel like DeConnick really hits her stride here with Down. Both storylines are quite strong, filled with action while keeping the emphasis on the relationships between the characters. DeConnick seems to be crafting a family for Carol in the apartment building where she lives, and the results can be quite comical, an can be seen in the well crafted dialogue. Another thing DeConnick does well is keep our protagonist grounded and relatable, no small feet given the power house Captain Marvel is. She does this in the first arc by keeping the emphasis on the relationship between the past and present Captain Marvesl (don't worry action fans! She gets to fight a giant mech too). And she does this in the second storyline by taking away one of Carol's biggest strengths. If she flies, she may die. There are also a nice amount of superhero cameos. Monica Rambeau is the biggest one, but you also get to see Spider Woman and Captain America lend a hand.
The artwork this time around is divided between two artist. Dexter Soy, who I've grown to quite like (despite the fact that he constantly changes the length of Carol's hair from panel to panel), provides the art for the first arc, while Filipe Andrade does the second. I wasn't as fond of Andrade's style at first, but by the end I was growing to like it.
Because I enjoyed Down so much, I will continue to read Captain Marvel with the upcoming graphic novel The Enemy Within, which is a crossover with Avengers Assemble. From there, I hear that they're planning on rebooting the title, which makes me a little nervous. I quite like how things are, does rebooting mean they're going to change things a lot? I guess we'll see(less)
A Natural History of Dragons is a solid start to a new fantasy series by Marie Brennan. Brennan really makes the well worn topic of dragons her own by...moreA Natural History of Dragons is a solid start to a new fantasy series by Marie Brennan. Brennan really makes the well worn topic of dragons her own by choosing a more science based, as opposed to magic based, focus on dragons. Here dragons are not so much the untouchable treasure-hoarding creatures as they are fascinating specimens. As a result, our heroes in this tale are not sword wielding knights, but scientists, including out heroine, Isabella Trent.
I have read several books by Marie Brennan (including three novels and one novella in this year alone), and one thing I admire about her work is the fact that each of her series feels decidedly different. Yes, A Natural History of Dragons, does have some similar elements to her Onyx Court series, but this is mainly due to the Victorian inspired Era. Beyond that, it's very much it's own beast, which is quite refreshing. I was pulled into the story right away, not only due to the scientific nature of the plot, but also due to Isabella's appealing dry wit. Told in the style of a memoir, the book gives us a few details of Isabella's adolescence and marriage before taking us off on her first big adventure. One of the benefits of having older Isabella tell younger Isabella's story is we get the benefit of hindsight. For example, young Isabella may not be able to understand that she should be treating her maid better, but older Isabella does.
Although I don't think this book ended quite as well as it began (the main plot threads didn't wrap themselves us in a way that was completely satisfying to me), I was still quite happy with it overall. I chose to read the print version of the book instead of going for the audio, and I would highly recommend others do the same. Not only is the cover illustration lovely, but the inside is also equally impressive. The text is printed in sepia colored ink, which makes the book look charmingly old fashioned, and contains several illustrations, which are also quite nice. I hope follow up books in the series (I read somewhere that we will be getting five books) are just as satisfactory. (less)
Hellbent is the second book in Cherie Priest's Cheshire Red Reports. Following the events of Bloodshot, master vampire thief Raylene Pendle finds hers...moreHellbent is the second book in Cherie Priest's Cheshire Red Reports. Following the events of Bloodshot, master vampire thief Raylene Pendle finds herself not quite the loner she once was. But her fledgling family is threatened when Ian is called back to his old vampire house, an action that may cost him his life.
I read Bloodshot about a year ago, and while I wouldn't list it as one of my top titles of the year, I must admit that I found it to be a fun, yet enjoyable read that's not afraid to play with the conventions of the urban fantasy genre. I came out of Hellbent feeling pretty much the same way. I think what makes these books so enjoyable is the mixture of humor and action. Although Raylene's voice feels a touch too modern for an immortal vampire from another era (admittedly, she's not ancient, but she's not a snarky twenty-something anymore), there's something really entertaining about the way she sees the world. This is further enhanced by audiobook narrator Natalie Ross, who puts a delightful purr to her voice. Hellbent is also filled with plenty of amusing side characters, including Raylene's best friend Adrian, an ex-Navy Seal who spends nights working as a drag queen.
What ends up drawing down the book a little bit is the fact that it's time is split between two storylines. Neither are particularly bad, but because Hellbent is not a lengthily tome, you end up feeling a little short changed. This is especially true with the story involving the Atlanta House. Also, this is not exactly a negative on this book, but I was a little surprised to learn that there wasn't a third book published, or in the works. Now I understand that Priest has some great stuff going on with her Steampunk books, but with the way that things ended, there is clearly a door left open for book three. I hope that the author decides to revisit this story at a future date. I'd love to see what happens next.(less)