Monster Hunter Alpha is amazing, truly a five-star. I loved both MHI and MHV, but was a little leery of MHA since it was not told from Owen's viewpoin...moreMonster Hunter Alpha is amazing, truly a five-star. I loved both MHI and MHV, but was a little leery of MHA since it was not told from Owen's viewpoint. I should not have worried! In addition to everything good about the period two installments in the series, Correia really ratcheted up the plotting and mystery. I was pretty much totally absorbed in every spare minute I had.(less)
Pretty entertaining specimen of the "Air Combat Stories for Boys" ilk. Unlike others (Dave Dawson, for example) the heroes are grown men instead of te...morePretty entertaining specimen of the "Air Combat Stories for Boys" ilk. Unlike others (Dave Dawson, for example) the heroes are grown men instead of teenagers, which I appreciated. There are additional details, not about flying, but about the layout of island bases, how bombs work, air field construction, etc. that add a level of authenticity, too.(less)
Title is somewhat misleading - this is not a book about white supremacy, except insofar as the attitude is implicit in exploring-type adventures from...moreTitle is somewhat misleading - this is not a book about white supremacy, except insofar as the attitude is implicit in exploring-type adventures from the turn of the last century.(less)
A curious book. Intriguing, slightly unsettling, absorbing action, fascinating characters, nebulous. There's an almost complete lack of scene-setting,...moreA curious book. Intriguing, slightly unsettling, absorbing action, fascinating characters, nebulous. There's an almost complete lack of scene-setting, which is both gratifying (no info-dumps) and confusing - I consider myself well-educated and well-read, but I have a somewhat sketchy knowledge of early medieval England and Europe/Near East.
The plot is overall simple (a task), but the setting, circumstances, and particularly characterization made it nearly impossible for me to predict what would happen. There is plenty of action, high on my list of factors, but no one sequence that I've gone back to reread. Many changes of viewpoint describe events and characters at perhaps unnecessary length. What turned out to be the climax of the book - and it definitely was a climax - arrived with little development or comprehension. And the long conclusion is both a wrap-up and stage-changing for the next book, without a sense of urgency.
I'm somehow left with the impression that I'm partly into a story told in episodic style, proceeding from event to event with unhurried tread, yet with enough tension that it failed to drag. I have put the sequel on my to-swap list, but I am not impatient for it to become available; an unusual attitude after immediately completing a first book. And yet I really did enjoy it, and look forward to the next book. Curious all around.(less)
**spoiler alert** This third entry in the Temaeraire series began promisingly. Still in the Far East, our protagonists received an urgent summons to r...more**spoiler alert** This third entry in the Temaeraire series began promisingly. Still in the Far East, our protagonists received an urgent summons to return to England by way of Turkey. Since they elected to return overland, the opening of the book was rife with possibilities of both adventure and intrigue - in a phrase, the "spy stuff" that I still adore. The prologue, in addition, introduced a deadly antagonist, and I kept reading in great anticipation of the conflict and eventual victory at the end of the book.
The overland journey was surprisingly brief, in retrospect. It was interesting, and there were adventures along the way, but nothing particularly notable. I was vaguely disappointed when they arrived in Istanbul after only a few chapters.
The time in Istanbul did not involve spy stuff so much as the worst kind of criminal activity, permitted by bureaucracy and timid diplomacy. The Gordian knot was cut, but the final adventure came with a shock that at least for me left a nasty flavor. I did not enjoy the sequence. Nor did the protagonists, of course; but surely it could have been written or plotted better. The time in China was worse for the protagonists, but while I felt for them just as much, I wasn't dragged down by it. Somehow she kept my interest up more. This part of the book lacked suspense, and without suspense, it was simply frustration.
The last half of the book I did not enjoy at all. Novik chose to enmesh her protagonists in the Prussian army shortly before their disastrous defeat by Napoleon at Jena, and to keep them in the long retreat and failure for the rest of the book. I have only the vaguest ideas of the progress of the Napoleonic Wars, but I had an inkling shortly after they arrived in Prussia, and knew for certain when the village of Jena was first mentioned. After that it was just a question of time - how long would they be stuck in this long defeat? More unforgivably, the protagonists do so little. They are little more than observers of Prussia's defeat. Their particular antagonist's work goes completely unopposed.
Still, I reserved judgment until the end. I've read many books that I did not particularly enjoy until the end, when the climax makes it all worth it and adds far more meaning. Instead, this climax felt rather flat. As a climax, it wasn't much; there was some tension, but the protagonists plotted almost too well. For the type of book I knew they wouldn't outright fail; but I do expect some serious in-spite-of-myself doubt. And in context of the book as a whole, it did not bring to closure anything but the protagonists' time in Europe. Unlike the previous two books, I did not put it down with a happy and wistful sigh.
I think the major flaw is the overall lack of suspense. The overland journey begins with a lot of suspense, but I found it failed to deliver much. Istanbul was more frustrating than exciting. Again, this is striking compared to Novik's plotting in Throne of Jade. The settings are similar - mewed up in royal/imperial quarters, denied their objectives by polite double-talking obstructionism - but although the China sequence went on much longer, I read the entire time looking forward to what would happen next. That didn't happen in Istanbul. And the last half felt like a blow-by-blow account of Valley Forge or something. (Not quite that bad - at least they were moving!) But it was just as depressing and ultimately seems pointless.
I am somewhat holding out hope that this book is (somewhat unexpectedly) going to function as a bridge. The first two were really well plotted: the first by setting up a fascinating situation within a fascinating world; and the second by taking a pivotal factor from the first and developing - and resolving - it masterfully. The antagonist introduced in this book comes from the second, and could have unified the plot; instead, the antagonist is a mostly-impersonal factor in a more nebulous plot that really isn't resolved. It left me with the feeling that Novik found her characters at loose ends, and tried to get up steam again by dragging them into the mainstream of the war. I am hoping, however, that she does have a greater plot in mind, and that Black Powder War turns out to be a building block in that plot.(less)