People have been telling me for a while that I ought to read Connie Willis, and I have not listened to them, and therefore it is entirely my fault thaPeople have been telling me for a while that I ought to read Connie Willis, and I have not listened to them, and therefore it is entirely my fault that I have been missing out. If you are at all interested in history, time travel, chaos theory, detective stories, the late Victorian period, or just a good read that will make you think but probably won't punish you too hard if you don't, you should be reading this book...and since I am interested in most of these things it's doubly ridiculous that I hadn't read it before.
Ned Henry is an Oxford historian in the late twenty-first century, when "historian" has become more or less synonymous with "time traveler." Time travel exists and it works, but nothing can be done to change the past, so the only people still interested in time travel are the people who care, not about changing history, but about studying it. There are rules: nothing from the past can be taken into the present, nothing can be done to meddle with significant dates in history (the time-traveling apparatus just won't open if in doing so it would allow an historian to create an incongruity), and if an incongruity somehow occurs, the continuum will throw a temper tantrum to try to fix it...which is exactly how Ned Henry, who's supposed to be researching the details of Coventry Cathedral in aid of one mad rich woman's effort to reconstruct it in Oxford, winds up in 1888 trying to salvage a series of increasingly large incongruities with the help of Verity Kindle (typical assignment 1930s, reassigned to 1888 as another part of the Coventry project).
I was a little disoriented at first, but this is more a result of Ned's own disorientation and the choice of first-person narration (which I frequently dislike, but which really works here), and this is a book in which there are certainly clues if you're looking for them but in which you can have fun just going along with it and seeing where you wind up. I love the premise -- of course time travel would become the province of historians, of course even time travelers need academic funding and so have to do projects for big donors that take time away from their normal objectives -- and the characters, though initially just on the "ok" level, grew on me when I wasn't looking and eventually won me over.
There is boating and fighting and lots of talk of history and also a great deal of cats (no, I'm not even joking), and I can't wait to go off and read the other books in the universe....more
I'm still reeling from where this book left off and wondering how in the world I'm going to wait til October for the final installment in the trilogy.I'm still reeling from where this book left off and wondering how in the world I'm going to wait til October for the final installment in the trilogy.
I had my reservations about Cold Magic, the first book in the series, because although I loved every inch of it conceptually, I thought the execution was weak in places and the plot lagged and dragged in strange ways. Cold Fire started out in a similar register, but I am so glad that I worked my way through what was ultimately a lot of complex set-up because once Cat leaves Europa for the Antilles the novel really hits its stride. I loved Elliott's version of the Caribbean paradoxically more than her version of Britain, and at times it seems clear that she likes it more, too, or at least has more fun in portraying it. And though it still goes slowly for the first hundred pages or so, this book moves much faster than its predecessor once it picks up steam. It's more firmly grounded in building its personal relationships between characters, something that really appealed to me, and although there are still some craft aspects less polished than I would expect, there we fewer of them.
Maybe it's because I'm still buzzed with the post-read thrill, but I think it's safe to say that it's worth working through the first novel, even if it is a bit of a slog at times, for the sake of getting to this one.
(Related: I read this novel over a longer period of time than Cold Magic, and I think sitting down for half an hour a day over the span of a week or so, only to rush through the last two hundred pages in one day, made for a better reading pace than my drive to read all of Cold Magic over the space of my one free weekend.)...more
This book deserves 4 stars more for its premise and the idea of its world than for its actual execution at times. It starts out slowly, largely becausThis book deserves 4 stars more for its premise and the idea of its world than for its actual execution at times. It starts out slowly, largely because the details of the world are explained in somewhat clunky ways (at least in my opinion), but the world itself is fantastic and the story is, I think, worth getting into. The characters are vividly drawn and complicated and well worth following on their journeys, and I'm definitely going to be reading the next one!
It may not be Leviathan, but I really, really enjoyed this book.
Set in a hazily defined steampunk-in-the-broadest-sense alt-history universe, the noveIt may not be Leviathan, but I really, really enjoyed this book.
Set in a hazily defined steampunk-in-the-broadest-sense alt-history universe, the novel is told from the first-person perspective of Matt Cruse, cabin boy on the luxury skyliner Aurora, who only feels at home in the air. On the surface his story is simple -- YA fiction, particularly that of a fantastic bent, is flooded with young boys whose fathers die and leave them head of household, to carry on in the fathers' lines of work -- but while Matt's emotional trajectory isn't complicated, it's certainly worth watching. I found myself at moments absolutely in love with the language of this novel, something I very rarely find myself saying about YA. The first-person narration works; Matt's voice is distinct and characterizing without being obtrusive, and his love of flying, the way it's the only thing that makes him feel like himself, is rendered with depth and sincerity that made me feel right along with him.
If Matt were the only character worth mentioning I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this book half as much as I did, but the other major character -- and the motor for the external conflict in the novel -- is one fabulous young woman, Kate de Vries, who (because everything is related to the Leviathan series now) seems slightly similar to how I would imagine a young Nora Barlow. Kate's from a wealthy family with little interest in supporting her passion for science and research, a passion she seems to have inherited in part from her grandfather, whose untimely death while attempting a circumnavigation of the world by air balloon starts off the novel. When it comes to her tenuous relationship to expected female behavior, Kate's no Deryn Sharp, but she's feisty and smart and she knows what she wants, and I for one desperately want to see more of her!...more
Why am I done with this already? What will the next one be like? Why do I not already possess the next one so I can find out? WHY DO I READ TOO FAST?
IWhy am I done with this already? What will the next one be like? Why do I not already possess the next one so I can find out? WHY DO I READ TOO FAST?
In other words: lovely follow-up to Leviathan, adds just the right amount of unexpected twists, and has me coming back for more...even if only to know when a certain someone will reveal a certain something that, I am surprised to say, has yet to be revealed!...more
Really, this book deserves 3.5 stars -- I liked it a lot, but more for the ideas behind it than the actual plot. It was refreshing to read a fantasy nReally, this book deserves 3.5 stars -- I liked it a lot, but more for the ideas behind it than the actual plot. It was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that is not "about" the fantasy -- where the main conflicts are about humans interacting with each other, and where magic just makes up part of the scenery -- but after reading and loving Austen, Kowal's plot feels occasionally like a rather flat homage.
The best thing about this novel is the way Kowal imagines "glamour," the name magic goes by in this alternate universe. It's an art of illusion, conjuring sounds and images and sensations that aren't there, and this seems so perfectly adapted to Regency life with its desire to put on a good show.
I liked the characters, but not overwhelmingly, and I was surprised by the ending, but I will certainly be intrigued to see what Kowal does with this concept of magic in potential later books....more
**spoiler alert** Definitely a quick, light, fluffy sort of read, but nonetheless entertaining. In fact, it may be the most purely entertaining book I**spoiler alert** Definitely a quick, light, fluffy sort of read, but nonetheless entertaining. In fact, it may be the most purely entertaining book I’ve read since…well, since a long time.
However, there is a really interesting premise behind a story that is more or less simple romance. Vampires as German spies in Britain during WWII? Totally something I can buy. It creates a very interesting alternate universe scenario. Although I’m not such a fan of true alternate history, where events happen differently, I do like the idea that the events that we know for a fact did come to pass may have done so as a result of circumstances no one else quite understands. So I’m ready to believe that members of the supernatural/paranormal community may have been involved in major turning points of world history without the knowledge of those who would rather not know.
Also, I like Evans for her stance on magic and “Otherness” in general. The idea that vampires are mostly bad, but one of them lives a few towns away and does no harm; the existence of a werefox; Pixies and Pendragons! All these things create an interesting magical mythology where, most importantly, no one is good or evil simply as a result of the creature that they are or become.
Frankly, I probably would’ve liked this book a lot more if I’d believed the romance. Yes, I liked the characters involved, but in a somewhat superficial way. I don’t feel like I know enought about them as people to beleive their whirlwind romance. Also, I feel like they fell together too easily. The complications were wholly external. Not to mention that the speed of their relationship seemed historically unrealistic (as did the diction of certain sex scenes, but we won’t go there). Things started out promising what with Alice hating Peter’s guts and him having to work for her, but the author didn’t leave enough room for awkward.
There just wasn’t much tension overall, mostly because of the third person omniscient viewpoint choice. It helped move the story, but wasn’t exactly astute at creating suspense. And sometimes I was confused by the difference between what I knew and what the characters knew.
Finally — I want more history. The phrases and langauge of the characters were great for establishing the tone (also, a name like Dr. Alice Doyle totally kicks ass), but I wanted even more touches of the historical content. I believe the author knows what she’s talking about, I just want her to talk some more!...more
**spoiler alert** I read more for the story than the writing, which was itself merely adequate. I thought that the characters were interesting, but no**spoiler alert** I read more for the story than the writing, which was itself merely adequate. I thought that the characters were interesting, but not quite compelling, and I almost wish that the author had simply focused on Leonora’s story, because although Corradino’s was interesting, it didn’t give me the same sense of forward motion or agency.
And it bothered me a little that Alessandro turned out to be such a nice guy — if you ask me, that was just too good to be true. It was difficult for me to believe that he would want to have this child with a woman he barely knew and that he would want to marry her when the narrative never really gave me evidence for the time they spent together. I think Alessandro was right to feel like the love story was really between Leonora and Corradino, but I also think that any man in that situation would have probably walked away.
I loved learning about the parts of Venice I’d just visited, but I wish there had been more detail about how glass is actually blown, more scenes with Leonora in the workshop. I wanted more of Venice as a character, with the past seeping through into the present but not overshadowing it. Again, maybe the story of Corradino Manin wasn’t as important as the story of Leonora.
I think was bothered me most about this book was that, at the end, instead of having Nora as the strong woman figure, she becomes the contented mother. And although that’s not bad, it’s not as interesting, not to mention that the move seems contrived, considering Leonora’s previous infertility....more
If you are interested in cheeky cross-dressing Scottish girls, aeronautical (and other) escapades, alternate history, political shenanigans, introspecIf you are interested in cheeky cross-dressing Scottish girls, aeronautical (and other) escapades, alternate history, political shenanigans, introspective princes of the royal line of Austria-Hungary, and/or something like steampunk but actually more awesome - you NEED to read this book.
Deryn Sharp - aforementioned cross-dressing Scottish girl - grew up flying in hot air balloons with her dad, and even his death in a freak ballooning accident can't keep her from wanting to get back into the sky. At fifteen, she takes the last of her inheritance and heads from Glasgow to London, where "Dylan Sharp" is born and gets a job as a midshipman on board His Majesty's Airship, the Leviathan. The prince of Austria-Hungary would be Aleksander, (fictional) son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who is forced to run away when his parents are assassinated. Through a series of complicated events, Alek and his men wind up as passengers on the Leviathan, and the story develops onwards and upwards from there.
Westerfeld has reimagined the Allied/Central powers divide along technological lines: the Allies are known as the "Darwinists" because of their advanced biological sciences and genetic manipulation, which they use to create living ships and weapons systems (ex. the Leviathan is basically a massive hydrogen-breathing whale-like creature, with a whole ecosystem of other genetically manipulated animals living on and in it); the Central powers are called "Clankers" because they tend towards machine-based technology, but even their machines are more animal-like than our modern ones...think "walkers" and things that move on legs more often than on wheels. The alternative histories and technologies are fascinatingly intricate, but they never intrude upon the centrality of the story at the heart of the trilogy, in which two kids from different backgrounds leading totally different lives become fast friends and change the course of human history in the process....more
This was probably my favorite book in this series so far. I felt settled enough into the world and the cast of characters that I could really enjoy myThis was probably my favorite book in this series so far. I felt settled enough into the world and the cast of characters that I could really enjoy myself. I also have a feeling that either Carriger's craft is noticeably improving or that I'm just getting more used to her style....more