Because I am so enamored of my many intelligent and lovely friends, I finally bit the bullet and acquired through superior catalog searching a copy of...moreBecause I am so enamored of my many intelligent and lovely friends, I finally bit the bullet and acquired through superior catalog searching a copy of this . . . book.
After all! I have been reading so much non-fiction lately it almost feels like I'm back in school. Which is the worst feeling to have while reading a book. Oh god. So I told myself that the next book I read would be fiction! Wild, incredible, amazing, escapist fiction! It was February in Indiana. Lord knows I needed it.
I asked for an honest opinion on this book. My tolerance for fantasy, especially serial fantasy, is pretty low. At some point in my life, I became a bitter, angry reader who doesn't like anything I can easily classify. (You: "Oh, it's like Dr. Who crossed with Cheers. You know." Me: *eyes roll out of head, onto floor, much cursing of the dark*.) My friends, bless them, thought I was asking "Why should I read this book?" when really I was asking, "Tell me that I can skip it. Please please please tell me no!"
The thing is, if I had been listening to them, I would have heard them answer the latter. Theresa said, "The first book is really good, but nothing ever gets fully wrapped up." David said, "It's like regular fantasy but with midgets and incest." I trust and respect these people implicitly. I just don't trust myself, apparently, because I think both of those assessments scream out to me, "OH HELL NO."
But enough personal narrative. Let's talk about the book. Which I abandoned a quarter of the way through for reasons to be explained later.
The setting is your typical, vaguely medieval kingdom kind of place. Where men with beards run around with swords while women in remarkably fewer clothes than you would think either sit around embroidering flowers on things or rebelling at flower embroidery by running around with swords. How their solar system is arranged is impossible for me to imagine, but I'm sure others have commented on that extensively so I'll leave it alone.
We open with a hacky "intrepid rangers eaten by ghosts" scene which was hard to read because I think Martin was trying too hard not to be hacky. We hear the phrase "supple as sin." This is a terrible simile because I don't think "sin" is a concept these people really understand. But regardless of its appropriateness, you will hear it at least twice in this book and that alone is unforgivable. Furthermore, this scene is all foreshadowing, but I have been informed that we are, what? Five? Six books in? And the thing being foreshadowed has not materialized.
Moving on. We meet our cast of characters. They are all of dubious loyalty except for our main character. A man of great wisdom and strength. Some call him . . . Tim Ned? Fine.
But let's talk about names. Because this is a fantasy book, and I have no idea why this should be so, Martin has followed the irritating convention of swapping out the serviceable letter "i" for the duplicitous letter "y". And so "Lisa" becomes "Lyssa." But, you might say, these are fantasy people! They should have fantasy names! Ok. Then why is there a dude called Robert and another dude called Brandon? Brandon! BRANDON!* And then, in a reversal, the main super-creep is called "Jaime," not "Jamey" or "Jayme" and I mention this as evidence that Martin knows how stupid this vowel swapping is and cannot have it for a character we are supposed fear and detest. This is why the media did not report the horrific acts of Teddy Bundy or Johnny Booth.**
Meanwhile, other than half the characters being named like suburban cheerleaders, as I read I just kept feeling like there were all these uncomfortable anachronisms floating around. Little things that I couldn't put my finger on.
Then, I read the words: "up his butt."
You should be able to figure out my problem. If you can't, I'm not going to argue with you. I'm just going to pat you on the head and think your literary opinions are irrelevant to my life choices. Have a nice day and enjoy your, I don't know, The Black Gryphon.
No, the only thing I found myself really liking was little "baby Rickon" (WHO IS ONLY THREE IF YOU AREN'T PAYING ATTENTION BTW). But this is because I have babies on the brain. I was latter informed that he grows up "freaky." So. I have made the correct decision. Namely, a week or so ago I realized that every book I have been reading for the past year or two has simply been "the book that is not Little, Big." And so, having long ago gained the ability to quit reading a terrible book, I dropped this one and picked up the other. It was amazing. For the first time since Deathless, I thought "Oh! This is what it is to read a book I like. Remarkable!"
In any event, I wrote all this down in case I ever say, "Gee, I wonder why I never finished that Thronesy book." And also to remind myself to listen to my friends more carefully. They love me and want the best for me, they just have no way of knowing what makes me angry with a book.
* I'm sorry, Brandons of the world, but I think yours is kind of a terrible name. Though, I think pretty much every name is a terrible name. So don't take it too hard.
** And if it's pronounced some way other than JAY-meee, then Martin still fails, but at phonetics. Other authors have been so kind as to include pronunciation guides when they get creative with phonetics.(less)
This one is a little darker and more despairing than the others because Ged, for most of the book, doesn't really know what the heck is going on outsi...moreThis one is a little darker and more despairing than the others because Ged, for most of the book, doesn't really know what the heck is going on outside of the fact that everything is terrible everywhere. It was a little rough to read this out loud to the baby while dealing with the leftovers of the baby blues, but there you are.
Anyway, even though everything is terrible everywhere, it was nice to get a glimpse of the rest Earthsea.
My baby is squirming and cooing so it's a little hard to think about more to add.
Look, here's the thing. Have you read Earthsea? Yes? Good. No? You're doing it wrong. Okay, bye now.(less)
**spoiler alert** When I was a little girl, I read a book about a maze in the dark and the image stuck with me even though I forgot what the book was....more**spoiler alert** When I was a little girl, I read a book about a maze in the dark and the image stuck with me even though I forgot what the book was. I was delighted to have found it again. The Tombs of Atuan is one of my favorite books.
You can see the appeal to a little girl. Tenar is a girl like any other girl who is plucked from her family and put into unhappy circumstances alone at a young age so that they are all she has ever known. But I think rather than insisting that there is something super special about her as is the fashion to do these days, the choices Tenar makes and the lessons she learns are realistic and easy to relate to. There never comes a point where she is saved by some mystic force larger than her. In fact, you could argue that she overcomes and renounces that force using only her humanity which is, in my opinion, what makes this small girl truly special.(less)
Dang it, I still love this stupid book. I read a hojillion times as a little girl (it was my go-to fat book), and in the process of trying to cull my...moreDang it, I still love this stupid book. I read a hojillion times as a little girl (it was my go-to fat book), and in the process of trying to cull my books, I read it again just recently. I have to keep it. It's just a goofy little swashbuckling doo-hickey, but it's mine and you can't take it from me, so there.
I did also reread the first (and second?) book(s?) in the Vlad Taltos series and I now know that for most of this book, you are supposed to be nodding your head knowingly, but I think it stands as a testament to the enjoyability of this book that I knew nothing about Vlad Taltos when I first read it and very little now and still I found it immensely entertaining.
So there. Middle-school me wasn't such a literary half-wit afterall. Maybe I should see about that Black Unicorn business again. Hmmm.(less)
The second and final volume of Valente's Orphan's Tales is a little darker than the first, but, unless I just got used to it, slightly less overwrough...moreThe second and final volume of Valente's Orphan's Tales is a little darker than the first, but, unless I just got used to it, slightly less overwrought in it's metaphors. The tales here are set mostly before the tales of the first book, but many of the loose ends from the first book are addressed.
Overall, I was charmed by these books. They took some getting used to, but once I had surrendered to them, I just ate them up. They aren't perfect, but they are mightily entertaining.(less)
Having finished the Cloud Atlas (Mitchell's, but let's not get into that again), I was a little dubious of this book at the beginning of it. The story...moreHaving finished the Cloud Atlas (Mitchell's, but let's not get into that again), I was a little dubious of this book at the beginning of it. The story structures on the face of it are similar, but now that I've thought about it, not so similar as I first feared. Where the Cloud Atlas is a neat package of six or seven stories split neatly in two and Matryoshka-dolled up, The Orphan's Tales are more, smaller stories, broken up into little rabbit holes you go in and out of.
That's not important. What's important is that by page 20 I'd given up my misgivings and plunged gleefully forward to see who would show up where next. This is a book you could in small chunks like a responsible human being, but really you will find it difficult to stop once you get rolling.
Valente's writing seems to contain a lot of the elements of folktale, but with (despite all the magic of stars and irrationality of royalty that is common to all stories) a more rational curve to them. What is that maiden doing up in that tower? What will she do when she gets down? Are these horrible monsters really evil or just misunderstood? Why the heck is that old dude so dang old? They call Valente's writing feminist, and maybe it is, but when I read it, I just think that here is a story written by a woman with a woman's perspective but without pandering to women. If that's what feminism is, well then. Sign me up.
For my own personal edification, I will say that I didn't think it was as good as Deathless, but that's a good thing because the Orphan's Tales are older than Deathless. In other words, she's getting better. That's truly refreshing.(less)
He's got his soul back, now, but he's still after the necromancy. While "borrowing" a black tome on that very subject, he ends up in a pickle in a bac...moreHe's got his soul back, now, but he's still after the necromancy. While "borrowing" a black tome on that very subject, he ends up in a pickle in a backwards, vaguely eastern European country and works to get out of it by hitching a lift on an airship whose passengers can't quite seem to stay alive. Meanwhile, he meets a feisty broad from his past.
I enjoyed it. Escapism? Okay. Will I dream about it? Naw. Will there be another one? Probably. Will I read it? I might.
Cabal sold his soul to the devil. To get it back, he's got to trade in one hundred new ones. And so, with the book jacket's promises of an anti-hero,...moreCabal sold his soul to the devil. To get it back, he's got to trade in one hundred new ones. And so, with the book jacket's promises of an anti-hero, I picked it up to see how they could spin this into not being morally reprehensible.
This is not a difficult, challenging, or unpredictable book. Cabal has a secret motivation, but you already know what it is. Nevertheless, it's good for a few yuks at the expense of Satan and who can't be entertained by that?
In any event, there's a second one. I'll read that one too because I liked the character. He's an insufferably proud man who can't understand the simplest of human motivation, but as he is in a book and I therefore never have to deal with him personally, I found him pretty entertaining.
This book is on my "steam" shelf, but I that's largely because of Cabal's sunglasses and the train his carnival (a diabolic one, natch) run around it. The most irritating part of this book was the difficulty I had in deciding what era these people are in. I think they'd be comfortable in the 30's? Someplace modern but lacking in computers and TV. I have no idea. I always had the idea the narrator was anachronistic. Maybe the author thought this would help set the mood of uncertainty. Or, he isn't a very good writer. Whatever works for you!
Fast paced, nicely episodic, pretty creative, happy ending, room for a sequel (of which there is one).(less)
Did . . . did they ever make another? That's all I remember. Really . . . I'll be walking down the road and I'll think to myself, "Hey, didn't I read...moreDid . . . did they ever make another? That's all I remember. Really . . . I'll be walking down the road and I'll think to myself, "Hey, didn't I read a graphic novel about a dude and some fans? Did they ever finish that? What was that even about?"(less)