The third book in Lev Grossman's trilogy feels like a highly satisfying victory lap rather than the emotional envelope-pushing of the first two volumeThe third book in Lev Grossman's trilogy feels like a highly satisfying victory lap rather than the emotional envelope-pushing of the first two volumes. And there's nothing wrong with that! It's also the most C.S. Lewis-y of the three, drawing on the structure of The Last Battle and delving deep into the nuts and bolts of Fillory. I will confess to being conflicted about (view spoiler)[how Alice is brought back from niffin-hood by Quentin's undying love and/or magic. Don't get me wrong, it was great to have her back as a character and it was an undeniably satisfying move, but it also seemed a bit like a cop-out, or mere wish-fulfillment, or a loss of nerve on the part of the author. (hide spoiler)] Not my favorite of the trilogy, but it's hard to complain too much if the weakest link is this entertaining....more
This wasn't really my cup of tea. It feels a little churlish to say because Rothfuss is absolutely writing his heart out here and it's to his credit tThis wasn't really my cup of tea. It feels a little churlish to say because Rothfuss is absolutely writing his heart out here and it's to his credit that this is as readable as it is. But ultimately this was an interesting 20-30 page chapter blown up into a fairly repetitive novella. The character of Auri is an interesting creation and he's worked hard to give her a unique voice and a rich inner world, but this would be so much more awesome if he connected his lovely character study to a plot. Any plot at all. It doesn't have to by Kvothe's plot, just something to give shape to the imagery and twee wordplay. Anyway, yet more evidence that Rothfuss is a talented writer. Looking forward to Doors of Stone....more
The Magicians succeeded on the basis of a great central idea -- that magic is just as spiritually corrupting as wealth and privilege -- and a gut-puncThe Magicians succeeded on the basis of a great central idea -- that magic is just as spiritually corrupting as wealth and privilege -- and a gut-punch ending. This book finds Quentin picking himself up post-disaster and moving on to new adventures in the magical land of Fillory. Quentin and friends aren't quite as darkly amusing this time 'round, as they have inevitably matured somewhat. Thankfully, in the character of Julia, Grossman finds another story worth telling and her story arc enriches the novel and mitigates any sense of diminishing returns. Plus the hilarious, sarcastic humor remains. All told, this might be a sharper, better book than the first volume....more
A lovely tale about a Jewish Golem and a Syrian Jinni who find themselves in New York City, circa 1900. Both the characters and the story itself functA lovely tale about a Jewish Golem and a Syrian Jinni who find themselves in New York City, circa 1900. Both the characters and the story itself function on multiple levels. On the one hand we get a quiet and detailed look at two turn of the century immigrant communities, on the other hand, the fantastical elements open up narrative space to talk more directly about big themes like identity and free will and "human" nature. (This is the trick Neil Gaiman has been finely honing for years, sometimes involving jinnis in NYC also.) Both Chava and Ahmad are fully fleshed characters -- never more so than during their constant bickering -- but also elements of traditional folklore come alive in a modern context.
Not everything works, of course. The ending is too pat, but unlike a lot of debut novelists, she resists the temptation to throw in every good idea that's ever occurred to her. The vignettes and supporting characters are well-paced and well-placed. In the end, it's not quite the tour-de-force that Jonathan Strange Mr. Norrell was, but if you liked that one, you'll find this assuredly in the right ballpark....more
Deborah Harkness's follow-up to A Discovery of Witches offers more of the same romance-fantasy hybrid, plus a big injection of historical fiction. DiaDeborah Harkness's follow-up to A Discovery of Witches offers more of the same romance-fantasy hybrid, plus a big injection of historical fiction. Diana and Matthew have time-traveled back to Elizabethan-era Europe to search for the missing manuscript and to buy time for Diana to learn her witch powers.
This is naturally an opportunity for meeting lots of famous people, from Christopher Marlowe to Sir Walter Raleigh to Queen Elizabeth herself. The name dropping underscores one of Matthew's annoying character quirks, namely that he's perfect at everything and has a Zelig-like ability to pop up behind all the major events in world history. But overall jumping back in time was a smart move for the series in that it lets Harkness play with the world she's created in a way that doesn't seem arbitrary or repetitive. Plus you can tell she's a historian by training and you can sense her excitement at getting to write historical fiction and slip in lots of nerdy details here and there.
Diana and Matthew's relationship continues to be both the heart of the story and slightly ridiculous. I had sort of hoped that they had gotten through the DTR phase of their marriage in the first book. But no. They actually get married *again* in this book, and big emotional blow-ups and revealed secrets keep popping up like clockwork every 50 pages or so. Gotta keep the pot boiling I guess....more
A Feast for Crows, Book 4 in GRRM's increasingly hefty fantasy series, felt bloated and meandering. The cast of characters kept increasing, but each oA Feast for Crows, Book 4 in GRRM's increasingly hefty fantasy series, felt bloated and meandering. The cast of characters kept increasing, but each one had less and less to do. Plus there was a lot of trudging through burned out villages. It was a discouraging comedown from the crackerjack entertainment of Book 3. Happily, A Dance with Dragons is more or less a return to form.
The narrative still feels bloated. This is the longest book so far and GRRM is *still* introducing new POV characters to the mix, including not one but two (!!!) new potential heirs to the Iron Throne. It seems increasingly unlikely that he'll be able to wrap up all these threads in the planned two remaining volumes. But at least the excitement level is back up. We get reacquainted with Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys and each of their storylines advances significantly, including some fairly cruel cliffhangers at the end. GRRM remains a pleasure to read, with well-crafted characters and clever plotting. All told there is a lot here of what drew me to the series in the first place.
And now all that's left is the waiting for the next book to be written. And watching the TV show, I guess....more
I had actually never read this before now, despite various copies floating in and out of my life over the years. Totally cute. In a way it reminded meI had actually never read this before now, despite various copies floating in and out of my life over the years. Totally cute. In a way it reminded me of The Alchemist, except for the part where it didn't suck or make me want to toss the book across the room....more
I liked this one, but it's got some weaknesses. I suspect its popularity stems from the large pool of people looking for a "paranormal romance" novel,I liked this one, but it's got some weaknesses. I suspect its popularity stems from the large pool of people looking for a "paranormal romance" novel, but one that is competently written and intended for grown-ups. The well-crafted world is populated by vampires, witches and daemons, who have through the centuries negotiated an unstable truce to avoid detection by humans. The truce goes all wobbly when Diana Bishop (the last of a long line of New England witches, but one who has refused to use her powers) accidentally retrieves a bewitched manuscript from Oxford's Bodleian library. This attracts the attention of Matthew Clairmont, your typical tall-dark-n-handsome, centuries-old vampire, and the two soon strike up a forbidden romance.
Unfortunately, I found the romance to be fairly dorky. I'm not a big connoisseur of that genre so perhaps I shouldn't throw stones, but still. The book goes to ridiculous lengths to sloooowly kindle the flames between Diana and Matthew. We get yoga classes, romantic brunches, lots of chaste vampire-witch cuddling and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tea and expensive wine, during which the author stingily parcels out useful plot points. Occasionally the plot kicks into gear and something exciting happens to Diana, but after that it's back to the tea. I would blame the editor but I fear a lot of this is kind of the point.
To distract us from the food porn and the googly eyes, we learn a bit about Matthew and the nature of vampires. We learn that he is not only centuries old and close personal friends with most of the big names of European history, but he's also fabulously wealthy, owns several castles, is one of the most brilliant scientists working today, and is the secret head of an ancient order of knights in shining armor. So yeah, a bit of a Mary Sue. As per usual, vampires are presented as predators who are not fully in control of their urges, despite Matthew's attempts to live ethically. This sets up the book's central drama, a kind of battle of the sexes/species between Diana the independent modern woman and the literally old-fashioned vampire.
This tension thankfully complicates Diana's and Matthew's relationship and drives the story forward. However, Matthew's protectiveness, secrecy, need for control and thinly veiled violence too often give echoes of a classic abusive relationship. It's confusing because that's definitely not how he is presented in the text itself (the author makes it clear he's a total mensch), but at the same time draws on that cultural subtext to give their relationship a lot of its drama. It doesn't help that Diana is (at least initially) "power-less" in the context of the story, and it is good to see the balance of the relationship change as she comes into her magical inheritance (it turns out she's a bit of a Mary Sue as well). Anyway, romance aside it's a fun book and it's got a good cliff-hanger ending. I'll probably check out the next one in the series....more
This book is a hell of a lot of fun. Clearly Scott Lynch's major influences are cinematic rather than bookish. The foul-mouthed dialogue owes a big deThis book is a hell of a lot of fun. Clearly Scott Lynch's major influences are cinematic rather than bookish. The foul-mouthed dialogue owes a big debt to Quentin Tarantino, while the plot mashes up the badass super-thieves of Oceans 11 with every gangland movie ever made. And the setting -- a gorgeous, magical, pseudo-Venice lorded over by unbreakable crystal palaces reaching up to the heavens -- is just begging to be filmed and digitally enhanced. Plus it has shark-fighting. It's like a weaponized strain of geek cool. Resistance is futile.
The story earns plenty of crackerjack points. For the first act Lynch builds tension with some well-played cliff-hangers, both in the present-day story and in the flashbacks to Locke's childhood. Then comes the Big Re-Shuffling Event, after which the plot gains a lot of downhill speed, mirroring Locke's own reckless, improvised decision-making, until the denouement. From a plotting perspective, it all works really really well. The characters are fairly well drawn and the dialogue is amusing, although Lynch doesn't do much with them emotionally. Locke and his friends mainly exist to outsmart everyone else.
Which is perfectly fine by me when it is this entertaining. At the end of book 1 of the series, it's nice that it doesn't feel played out already. There are plenty of lingering mysteries, continuing character threads and distant horizons to fuel the goodly number of sequels he's got planned....more
3.5 stars. I went back and forth about what to rate this one. On the one hand, I like what Neil Gaiman is shooting for here. He's stepping back from t3.5 stars. I went back and forth about what to rate this one. On the one hand, I like what Neil Gaiman is shooting for here. He's stepping back from the operatic, pseudo-Milton/Dante storyline of Season of Mists in favor of something more intimate and character-driven. Dreams are something that each of us can lay claim to because we all experience it (more or less) nightly, so it would make sense that the series would delve into how our dreams reflect our inner lives, our struggles and our fears. Plus its a nice change of pace that demonstrates his range as a writer.
But on the other hand, I feel like he doesn't quite hit the mark he's set for himself. There's a slight awkwardness in how the pieces fit together and in the resolution of the story arc. (view spoiler)[Several of the characters are good ideas that don't quite connect as people -- Hazel in particular, and even Barbie in a way. The character of Wanda has drawn criticism from other trans-women for being inaccurate, but at least she's more than just a walking concept. The most dynamic (and amusing) character is clearly Thessaly, but it's extremely frustrating that Gaiman leads the trio into the Dreaming and then gives them basically nothing to do once they get there. Finally, the hurricane that leads to Wanda's and Maisie's death is just puzzling and pointless, and seems only to exist to set up final chapter. Did Wanda really have to die just so that Barbie could re-learn how to live? Come on. (hide spoiler)]
Gaiman remains pretty good at writing the actual dream part of the Dreaming. He threads the needle between various potential catastrophes. The standard cliche is to use a dream not just as a door to understanding ourselves or uncovering things we know but have forgotten, but as a prophecy. A way to spookily foreshadow the plot. My dreams certainly don't work like that (at least, I think), but it's like catnip for a certain type of writer. A related weakness is that story dreams don't often *feel* like dreams (think "Inception" or every horror movie ever). They are too schematic and miss out on the strange intensity and odd preoccupations of real dreams. (One story that does get the odd texture of dreams just right is the episode "Restless" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) But the dreams found here are convincing as well, full of intense emotions yet communicated through initially cryptic, highly personal mythology and symbolism.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more