In a historical novella, a soldier plunges into court politics and tries to gain acceptance by bringing water into Versailles.
The main character, SylvIn a historical novella, a soldier plunges into court politics and tries to gain acceptance by bringing water into Versailles.
The main character, Sylvain, builds running water and indoor toilets into Louis XV era Versailles. He does this with help from a captive water spirit. Even though most of the story happens in palace halls, the real essence of it is the interplay between Sylvain and the spirit, the way their relationship develops.
The story is well written and captivating. The palace politics are deftly described, and the internal conflicts of Sylvain are nicely built. The story really revolves around him - the other characters are described just enough to fit their role. No more is needed, though - I enjoyed the story just the way it is....more
A fun little story about a retired group of thieves who have found a safe haven in Theradane. One day, though, after a night of heavy drinking, theirA fun little story about a retired group of thieves who have found a safe haven in Theradane. One day, though, after a night of heavy drinking, their leader decides to tell the city's leaders how things stand. And it goes all wrong.
The thieves end up in the middle of a battle between ruling magicians, forced to come back from retirement and work for one of them.
The story is full of humor, the characters are varied. There are a couple of annoying loose ends, though, and even though the main plot is original, the ending was a bit of a letdown....more
Son of a family that has moved from Pakistan to the USA listens to tales of his grandfather. When his grandfather dies, evidence comes to light that aSon of a family that has moved from Pakistan to the USA listens to tales of his grandfather. When his grandfather dies, evidence comes to light that all of those tales may not have been fiction.
The story begins with grandad's fairytales, which are, frankly speaking, not particularly enchanting. The story really picks up speed after the grandfather dies and mythology starts to mix in with the reality. This doesn't last, though: in the end the story switches to a new gear and the fantasm morphs, in places, into word sallad. It's not too bothersome, though.
The focus is really on the main character: his girlfriend is left paper thin, and the same goes for his parents. Even his grandfather could use a bit of depth.
In the end, we have a story that has a hesitant start and a strong middle stretch. It mixes mythology with reality and even uses a pencil or two out of science fiction set of colors, but in the end, it falls flat with a predictable, although emotional ending....more
What to do when a god crawls on your porch to die? For Maggie Grey, it's her sad duty to make sure the possum god gets a decent death, for she is a wiWhat to do when a god crawls on your porch to die? For Maggie Grey, it's her sad duty to make sure the possum god gets a decent death, for she is a witch.
Pocosin reminds me a lot about Vernon's Jackalope Wives, which won a Nebula Award this year. The main character is an old woman who is wise beyond her years. The style is similar, the story flows peacefully and includes occasional philosophical ponderings.
I can't really put my finger on why, but the story left me completely cold. The dying god is a side note which could've been interesting, but isn't. Maggie's visitors could've been interesting but aren't. The story could've had an intriguing hook but doesn't.
From what I've seen in other reviews, some people read this as a story about confronting death of a loved one. I just didn't make the connection. Neither did I make the connection with Sojourner Truth that some people make - that's probably down to cultural differences.
I finally also realized Vernon is the creator of Digger, a comic which I've had in my bookmarks for years, which I really want to like - and which I never get around to actually reading. It seems her style of building stories just doesn't match my preferences....more
Locke Lamora is a thief, an excellent con artist who runs his little brood of villains to relieve the nobility of its coins. A fantasy Robin Hood, ifLocke Lamora is a thief, an excellent con artist who runs his little brood of villains to relieve the nobility of its coins. A fantasy Robin Hood, if you will, but where Hood used his bow and arrow, Lamora relies exclusively on his wits. The underworld of Camorr is run by Capa. When a challenger, the Grey King, appears, Locke Lamora gets sucked into a power play he doesn't want to partake.
The book begins with an elaborate con which paints Locke as an almost too witty character that plans everything in advance, is always one step ahead and does it all with a smile on his face.
The story takes an abrupt turn to darker side when the power struggle between the Capa and the King begins in earnest. Locke finds himself mixed in both underground and elite politics, and it's really not a good place to be.
While the story progresses, we are offered with bried glimpses of the history of both characters and the surrounding world. These flashes are short enough to keep the focus on the main story but they provide both necessary information and welcome introduction to various aspects of Gentleman Bastards universe.
All in all, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an excellent read. Once the story got into full swing, it was hard to let go of the book. The main story ends in an obvious point to continue in next books (which already exist), and the multiple sidesteps, while not stealing the focus, still make me want to read a full novel, or at least a novelette, of the history of Camorr and the world beyond....more
Story about a young man, Rist, who sells ice for living but has a yearning for adventure. He gets a lift from the next iceberg and travels down the riStory about a young man, Rist, who sells ice for living but has a yearning for adventure. He gets a lift from the next iceberg and travels down the river to find a whole new world. The premise of the novella is interesting: it seems to be happening during or right after an ice age, and the hero of the story lives up north under eternal clouds. There's plenty of potential for exploring the effects this has on their culture and world view, and much of the story is based on the differences of these dusk-dwelling people and the newly found land of sunshine. Unfortunately, there's way too much repetition. When Rist first realizes that the people he meets have a visual written language instead of tactile, that's interesting; when that realization is repeated a dozen times, it becomes boring. … And while using body parts as measurements gives a certain caveman-like flair to the story, reading repeatedly about hand-of-hands of man-lengths is just tedious. The more advanced lake people seem to use regular English, and for some reason, Rist adopts immediately this new way of speaking. The reader, however, has to endure reading about Rist chiding himself for using his native terms time after time. There's only so many times one can read about "dimward" being "east" before getting severely annoyed. The beginning of the story becomes boring pretty fast, which is probably why Andrews added some action scenes to turn the tide in the middle of the novella. Unfortunately, apparently he couldn't think of a way to end the story so… he didn't. The novella ends abruptly, without any kind of conclusion. This is a sequel to an earlier novella, Thaw, so presumably the story of Rist will continue. However, since this is supposed to be a Hugo-nominated novella, I would've assumed there's at least some kind of effort made to make it a complete story....more
One Bright Star to Guide Them Stop if you've heard this one before: four children find a pathway to an enchanted world where they help the good guys fiOne Bright Star to Guide Them Stop if you've heard this one before: four children find a pathway to an enchanted world where they help the good guys fight the bad guys… I have to admit, I haven't read Narnia, but even then the comparison is pretty obvious. Having said that, the novel sets itself after the kids have grown into adults, so it's not that bad. What is bad, however, is the writing and the story. Much of the novel is spent with the main character describing events that happened in the past - not the way a novelist would, but the way a badly articulated regular Joe does. (view spoiler)[Particularly awful is the way Tommy gets caught in Robert's place and then just appears at Sally's doorstep, describing in a few words how the bad guys got swept into sea and he jumped from a plane to escape the Big Evil. How about writing that into the actual story, instead? (hide spoiler)] Even the starting point of the story is haphazard, the pages are filled with uninteresting sidesteps to the protagonists younger days, and the ending is flat. Add to this an unhealthy dose of religious agenda, abort criticism, creation myth, Jesus-like figures, and it's really hard to find anything positive to say about this novella. The Parliament of Beasts and Birds After the mankind disappears from the face of the Earth, animals gather up and discuss what to do next. They do it with pompous, preachy and tedious to read tone with no apparent reason. One thing they all agree on is that Earth was created just the way it says in the Good Book, and women are the root of all evil. John C. Wright's Patented One-Lesson Session in the Mechanics of Fiction The first decent piece of fiction, and I'm not even talking about the citation from Tolkien! Wright's example Old Men Shall Dream Dreams sounds intriguing, and I'm actually left waiting for more. Maybe the one page example just wasn't enough to get the engine running (well, apart from the title, of course). The advice for writing sound decent, although listing the examples again goes a bit too far - hearing pop clichés played by Axis of Awesome is enlightening, seeing too many of them listed in writing doesn't have the same effect. The Plural of Helens of Troy A time-travel story set in 30s detective mood which includes several public figures from past and future. This is by far the best novel of the collection. It has a decent idea, it moves forward and the religion is not quite as prominent as with the other stories. Having said that, even the headlining Helen of Troy seems a bit glued on. The problem here (as well as other stories) is that Wright doesn't follow the advice he gave in the previous essay. One of his main tenets was "Show, don't tell", but after showing the skeleton of the story in first part, he continues by telling in ever-more-complicated detail what the story was hiding. And by "complicated" I mean "confusing", and by "detail" I don't really mean details but vaguely described magical devices that are only used to explain the unexplainable. Time travel tends to make things complicated, and Wright (as well as his main character, Jake Frontino) recognized this, but instead of settling on that, he decided to add another layer of confusion by writing the novella in reverse order. Since there's time travel involved, neither the reader nor seemingly Wright himself can really keep track of what's happening when. Sometimes the story sounds like a reversed diary, sometimes it seems the main character already knows what has happened in his future (or story's past), and not because of time travel but because the writer can't hold all the strings he's spun. Pale Realms of Shade From time-traveling detective to a ghost detective. This is a story about a PI who handles fantastical cases; poltergeists, ancient pharaoh's, Baba Yaga all earn at least a passing mention. By happenstance this PI comes from roughly the same time period as the one in Helens of Troy, and he also jumps around in time. This time the enabling mechanics is not science fiction but the fact that the detective happens to be dead. Instead of building a detective story, or building a character, Wright just fills page after page with meandering ramblings surrounding the detective's death, life, wife, partner. Finally, the novella takes a hard turn to Christian imagery with heavy dose of moralism and search for absolution. A writer is welcome to have religious conviction, and there's nothing wrong with having religious themes in your stories. Writing bad fantasy stories as an excuse to preach your convictions, however, shouldn't be a feat worthy of a Hugo nomination.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A slow-moving fantasy about an ostracized son of an emperor who suddenly finds himself an emperor. The story focuses on court politics, tensions betweA slow-moving fantasy about an ostracized son of an emperor who suddenly finds himself an emperor. The story focuses on court politics, tensions between the emperor - who is clearly above everyone else in the society - and the rest of the society.
... and I mean above. Emperor Maia is kind, decent, thoughtful, listening ruler who tries to make friends everywhere and, in the end, probably succeeds. His background as a half-blood (the former emperor being an elf and Maia's mother a goblin) makes him a bit uncertain, his lack of education a bit socially awkward, but those things also allow him to break through conventions on how the ruling class should behave.
I thoroughly enjoyed the slow moving court politics, Maia's awakening into power and others' awakening into their emperor. Somewhere there's a nagging feeling that Maia is too good - the biggest mistakes he makes are on the level of apologizing from his subjects. One thing I didn't enjoy is the barrage of invented words - even though you get an idea of them as you read (and there's a description of some of those at the end of the book - nice to notice after you've read the book - they seem to be there just to give an idea of a foreign world without any real meaning.
Even though the book leaves an opening for sequels, I almost hope that doesn't happen; it would either be too much of a good emperor parade, or it would require changing the character of Maia. There are aspects to the story that practically shouts for more thorough handling, though, so maybe something set into the same world - say, in the neighboring goblin empire - would be nice.
(view spoiler)[ That is actually something that is, in my opinion, missing from the book. Even though Maia's goblin heritage is mentioned, repeatedly, the structure of the society is left kind of unclear. Goblins seem to be very much in the working class - but on the other hand, neighboring Avar empire is goblin-led and the former emperor had a goblin as a wife. The situation spells both internal and external conflict, but the best we get is the fact that Maia considers himself ugly because of his goblin-like features.
Another thing that annoys me is the heavy-handed reference to socialist movement in the flyer factory. Maybe it's just me, but depicting the workers as atheist heathens who want to bring down the ruling class by means of conspiratorial murders doesn't really fit the tone of the rest of the book. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Last Ring-Bearer starts with an idea of writing about Lord of the Rings from Mordorian perspective. Where the LOTR had magic, Last Ringbearer hasThe Last Ring-Bearer starts with an idea of writing about Lord of the Rings from Mordorian perspective. Where the LOTR had magic, Last Ringbearer has Mordor being on the verge of industrial revolution and being targeted because of it.
Unfortunately, the book falls flat in several ways. It's not so much LOTR from Mordorian perspective but a shoddy attempt of spy-military novel which just happens to use some names from the Lord of the Rings. The beginning of the book shares some events with Lord of the Rings, but it's mostly to establish the premise: the end of the war is described hastily in terms that are meant to make sure readers realize that the pure characters of LOTR were, in reality, evil, greedy or at the very least stupid.
The real story picks up after the War of the Rings as known in LOTR, where a couple of Mordorian military people, a medic and a scout, start on a secret mission to save the Motherland. It has some redeeming qualities, but pretty soon it devolves into a military-spy novel which jumps from place to place, takes weird sidetracks to describe internal politics of countries barely mentioned in LOTR and not really essential to this book either. Mordor is supposed to be moving from magic to technology, but the whole plot still depends on various magic devices.
The book has been translated by a fan, and that's probably one reason for fluctuation in the use of tenses: the text moves freely between past and present tense, often inside a paragraph and sometimes even during one sentence. It slows the reading down and turns really annoying, really fast. There are also occasional lapses in style which might be explained by mistakes in translation ("I'm a broad, I can foresee...").
Somewhere in the middle, the book starts to turn into parody. Expanding on Umbar, Khand and so on is fine, but the way the new concepts are brought into world of LOTR is really hamfisted. Umberto, oath of silence? Nin'yokve fighters? Sniffing kokkaine? No.
The book could've used a proper editor, but the first thing that would've gone would have been the beginning that ties the book with LOTR. That would've left us with a less than mediocre military-spy novel with nothing to separate it from the rest.
The idea that Lord of the Rings is a history written by the victor is great and seeing it expanded would be intriguing. This book just doesn't deliver....more
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is probably the first book which I read purely based on reviews; or to be more exact, the glowing review in Fantasy &Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is probably the first book which I read purely based on reviews; or to be more exact, the glowing review in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Yes, it was a jump to unknown, but after reading the book, well worth the risk.
HMCN could be thought as fiction for young adults - the plot revolves around ever popular paranormal themes, such as werewolves, zombies and necromancy. The main characters are young and at least reasonably beautiful, the main adversaries are obviously bad guys from the very beginning. If you're looking for moral ambivalence, this is probably not the book for you.
The writing is clever, and the dialogue is full of comical soundbites. The plot starts a bit slow, and occasionally jumps around a bit too much, but towards the end, it all starts to come together. Too bad, though, that by that time you've probably noticed there's no way the book can end with a decent closure. The final confrontation is a bit too abrupt, and the final chapters pave too clear a way for the sequel - recognizing this as the first book in a series certainly doesn't require any supernatural powers.
Having said that, if you're in need of something to spend a few hours with, HMCN is as good a choice as any. It probably won't make the list of contemporary classics, but the characters are easy to like and it shows a promise for the future; after all, the sequel is already on the way....more
I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth installation in the Tiffany Aching subseries set in the Discworld universe. The first three were targeted for younI Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth installation in the Tiffany Aching subseries set in the Discworld universe. The first three were targeted for young adults, and this one's main character is still only 15 years old, so you might think it's another story for the younger audience. Forget about that, and just go read it already.
Compared to some of the earlier Discworld novels, I Shall Wear Midnight has a darker tone from the beginning. Even if it still has plenty of humor, clever use of words and distinctly funny supporting cast, it also attacks some of the shadier undercurrents of the human mind. Pratchett takes a teenaged witch, a bunch of tiny blue men and a decent plot, and turns them into a cocktail that, along with the story-telling, also brings up themes revolving around communities, such as acceptance, bonding and herd behavior. It does not really reveal anything you wouldn't already know, but it shows that comic fantasy doesn't always have to be light. ...more
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a fan fiction which takes a bit more scientific look at the saga of Harry Potter. While happening in HaHarry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a fan fiction which takes a bit more scientific look at the saga of Harry Potter. While happening in Harry Potter universe, it also introduces the readers to basics of scientific method and sees Harry trying to apply it to magic. It also takes a stab at explaining common fallacies in thought patterns and describes some of the groundbreaking psychological experiments of the last century, all the while keeping up with the fantasy plot.
Sounds boring? Doomed to failure? It could be both, but Methods of Rationality pulls through. It starts with criticizing low hanging fruits like quidditch. However, as the story evolves - and boy, does it evolve: two more chapters were published this week - it goes from "Rowling with modifications" into an ambitious story of its own. The characters grow, the plot thickens, and it turns into a thought-provoking work of literary art.
Of course, there are things that occasionally annoy. Harry Potter is too adult for his (and probably story's) own good. Being fan fiction, the book takes occasional, completely unrelated side steps, and almost 80 chapters into the book, the plot still doesn't seem to be converging into any kind of resolution.
Still, on the whole, this is definitely worth reading, and one of the best Harry Potter books I've read ;)...more
The Emperor's Edge continues my journey through the free books for Kindle, and it's definitely one of the bigger hits after a couple of bad misses...The Emperor's Edge continues my journey through the free books for Kindle, and it's definitely one of the bigger hits after a couple of bad misses... It distinguishes itself by actually having a plot, likeable characters, enjoyable writing and even some successful attempts on humor. The story starts with a young female enforcer - a local cop - plodding in a world of discrimination, but through a few random accidents, grander schemes take over.
The book is easily accessible, and the pace is fast enough to suck you in and keep you there until you've finished it. It has its share of clichés, but on the other hand, The Emperor Edge paints a world with an intriguing mix of traditional fantasy and early industrialization. This is only the beginning of the series, and the writer has also published some short stories set in the same world, so I'm hoping it slowly turns into something marvellous - the ingredients are there....more