I agree with several other reviewers that Tempering felt very much like setting the stage, very different from the previous novel, which was the main...moreI agree with several other reviewers that Tempering felt very much like setting the stage, very different from the previous novel, which was the main event and had all the very high stakes and drama that comes with that. I knew from the start that for all the risky adventures and injuries, from a couple of battles with dangerous wild beasts, to the discovery of an unknown svartalf clan, to the capture of one of the main characters, there wouldn't be any hard losses or great victories or big revelations this time around.
But that was actually okay, as while this installment wasn't thrilling, it was satisfying. It steps out of the hard north so readers can learn more about the wider world the wolves and men inhabit, a world where inhuman threats and allies are meaningless in the face of the usual human ambitions: land, treasure, power. We get a peek at an alternate Rome on a quest of imperialistic expansion and everything they won't see coming in the lands of Northmen. I thought the decision to change the perspective from the previous novel's singular character to the three in this book was a smart move, broadening the scope of the narrative along with the scope of the universe, and by the end of it I was invested in and liked all three characters a lot more than I was expecting (and I already liked them in passing the previous novel). And don't be fooled by the ending of the last book or the start of this one, I was pleased to find that there was very little slogging through interpersonal drama, which you may either appreciate or miss, depending. I for one was happy that this trilogy isn't going to turn itself into a soap opera with a thin sheen of plot anytime soon; it was all story, all the time.
In a lot of ways, this book is milder than its predecessor, less about high-tension war and sex and the revealing of an unusual world, more about travel, friendship and politics within the established backdrop of that world. Sometimes a story can get trapped in the struggle to top itself, but Tempering merely expands upon what's already been shown without unnecessary emphasis. There are still wolves and men and their bonds to each other, Vikings getting it on, asskicking, and genderbending, but you should expect that by now. What Tempering promises in this intermediary set-up is a battle for survival bigger than anything the Northmen have seen yet, and firmly establishes the major players and elements for that battle. It really got me looking forward to what's to come.
One challenge from the first book that may be worse because of the changing perspectives is keeping track of the complicated Norse names and titles. Took concentration on my part, but managed not to be as annoying as it could have been. Well, you notice I didn't attempt to repeat any of it here, but I could recognize who and what where while reading. And I will say it helped with immersion. All in all, a worthwhile read.(less)
Hm. I wanted to like this, because I like all of Thurman's other books. I can't say I exactly hated it, but I lost interest in it very quickly. The sc...moreHm. I wanted to like this, because I like all of Thurman's other books. I can't say I exactly hated it, but I lost interest in it very quickly. The science fiction elements didn't really seem to have much of a presence - Stefan could have been rescuing his brother from a perfectly mundane human trafficking ring and it wouldn't have changed much of anything. It seemed like a whole lot of nothing happened from beginning to end, just two guys on the road snarking at each other, and I got sick of the ridiculously stupid decisions Stefan had to keep making in order for the plot to keep plodding right along. Of course he has some paltry excuse not to double-tap the crazy man who caught up with him and his brother for the second time! It makes perfect sense that he would pick up a suspicious hitchhiker on the side of the rode while on the run for his life with his vulnerable brother! Uh, yeah, no.
Also, I didn't know what to make of Stefan's belief that he had never killed anyone. You habitually shoot people in the torso and don't stick around to see what happens or get them some help, I think it's safe to assume the "Thou shalt not kill" ship has passed. Maybe we were supposed to criticize his naivete, but I didn't get that impression.
I wasn't very moved by the relationship between Stefan and Lukas/Michael, and the "twist" ending didn't amaze me. Like I said, not an awful book, but nowhere near what I was hoping for.(less)
I only just finished the book and am still reeling, but I'll try to be coherent.
I admit that I had a rather lukewarm reaction to the previous novels i...moreI only just finished the book and am still reeling, but I'll try to be coherent.
I admit that I had a rather lukewarm reaction to the previous novels in the trilogy. This bothered me, because I really enjoyed the author's short stories, and had looked forward to her first published novels from the first. Now I think I understand why I was dissatisfied: It had been from the mortal perspective, which didn't seem to suit the scope of the story being told. This novel is from a god's, Sieh's, perspective. The author has said herself that this trilogy has never mainly been about the mortals, and I think I resented that the perspective of the first two books didn't reflect all the facets of the deities who moved and fascinated with their personalities and interactions, while the mortals vaguely annoyed me with their limitations (though I was fond of them, too). Now, finally getting a book from the perspective of one of the oldest of them, I was so in love I could cry (and may have cried a little, at the end, but probably something was just in my eye, damn it). THIS is the amazingly epic book I wanted The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to be, and why it disappointed me when it didn't feel like it was. And now that I've gotten what I was hoping for, have read it and adored every word, all expectations fulfilled, I can view the entire trilogy much more favorably, knowing that everything culminates in this.
One of the reasons I'm so happy about this is because I've been following the author's blog, and some of her posts really impressed me with the depth and ambition of the universe she had created for the trilogy, so I was unhappy because I felt like all that potential had been poorly expressed in the actual novels. No, the potential had been there, just limited - what it needed, I feel, was the viewpoint of a character who had seen the universe begin, who could tie it all together. It's still my opinion that all of the books should have been from a godly perspective, but I could be wrong; maybe the mortals were needed to set the stage. Maybe this third book wouldn't have had the impact on me that it did if we hadn't seen the divine drama from down in the trenches with the living things most affected. Whatever, I love this trilogy, its many characters and concepts (can you tell Sieh is now and forever my favorite?) and I'm sorry it took so long to appreciate it.
If you feel the way I did about the first two books, please, give this one a chance. You may be completely unimpressed (I certainly expected to be, and others were), you may even hate it and like the first two best (I have no idea how, but everyone's different, yes?). But try not to judge until you've considered the entire story. Some pictures are only beautiful with all their pieces in place; this trilogy, like the Three, is only at its best as a whole. I'm going to go back and re-read with new eyes, new respect for the author, and new love for this universe.
And other possible universes out there, hahaha.(less)
This is the second Cal Leandros book in a row to make me choke up by the end, and that is an uncommon feat. The same technical flaws that are present...moreThis is the second Cal Leandros book in a row to make me choke up by the end, and that is an uncommon feat. The same technical flaws that are present in the rest of the series resurface: Too much narrative repetition, overemphasis, exposition, and meandering. It could do with some serious editing for precision, as always, but it's gotten no worse, which is saying something considering how quality tends to deteriorate the longer a series goes on. However, everything that has made this series shine before is present in force to make this, in my opinion, the best installment of the Cal Leandros series yet.
Cal loses his life memory (though none of his objective knowledge and learned skills, as fictional amnesia usually goes) and gets a taste of freedom - freedom from his past, freedom from his inhumanity and dark impulses - but also loses his greatest asset in the bargain: Niko. Don't worry, this isn't the kind of amnesia story where the subject spends most of the story innocently bonding with the locals before his complex and murky history catches up to him. His brother and friends find him very quickly, and then the story becomes a question of not if Cal will ever be himself again, but if anyone, especially Cal himself, should want him to.
Story-wise, it's funny as hell, maybe even funnier than usual. I haven't laughed so hard or often in awhile. The monsters were spooky and original, the fight scenes brutal, the plot very convenient, but fortunately not predictable, and the rare bits of sex, romance and sentimentality refreshingly subtle, rather than taking over most of the plot.
Character-wise...Cal is an absolute treat as we see a new angle to him - as well-adjusted as he could ever be. This is a Cal who laughs freely, who gets piss-drunk and sings at the top of his lungs, who kills when he has to but never enjoys it, who wonders why he doesn't have any fun hobbies or a girlfriend. He's very much still Cal, stabbing anything he doesn't like with forks, endlessly snarking on the inherent absurdities of his life, but he is, for the first time, mostly at peace with himself. And it's heartbreaking that that peace cannot last.
Niko in this book is especially intriguing, knocked completely off his game, trying to cope by hiding vulnerability and upset under a thin veneer of Christ-like patience - we've seen him lose his Zen before thanks to Cal, but there's something different about this time. Niko has spent a lot of effort saving Cal from himself, and now Cal has to return the favor. We see a lot more of Niko's flaws and blind spots than usual here, and it makes him more personable, more real.
The brothers have to bond all over again and reexamine the parameters of their intense relationship, which is always entertaining and, for me, the crux of what makes these books so moving. These are two people who clash on so many levels yet are loyal to each other without exception, without reservation, and the series has gone to great lengths to explain why, instead of making the mistake of pretending this level of devotion could ever been newborn or automatic. "Bromance", indeed.
As for other characters: Robin is a riot as usual, newly lost to the trauma of monogamy with Ishiah and being a well-dressed brat about it every step of the way. Promise is still mourning the loss of her daughter, which I was pleased to see because that is not something a character should get over in one book, two books, or ever. And Delilah fits her new role as full-fledged villain with the same sexy intrigue as she did dubious ally.
It seems like this is a story evolving on a book-by-book basis, as the characters aren't ever trapped within their predictable patterns. They're forced to confront their flaws, their demons, and their losses, new and old, at every turn. They're not allowed to get comfortable, and that makes for great surprises and growth.
I borrowed my current copy of this book from a friend; with many books, one read would be enough for me. But I'm going to buy my own very soon to add to my collection. This novel, like all its predecessors, will be worth reading over and over again.(less)
Enjoyable read, but sort of went nowhere towards the end. You expect the characters to accomplish something significant near the climax of a book, ach...moreEnjoyable read, but sort of went nowhere towards the end. You expect the characters to accomplish something significant near the climax of a book, achieve the goals they were aiming for, and that didn't happen with this novel. The women whose stories were featured merely endured, they didn't conquer. Still, I didn't feel I wasted my time with it; I liked the characters, their strength and pride, and I loved their tales, so I would recommend it.(less)