A heck of a ride with graphic details and punches of emotional drama, plus an epic end-of-the-world plot underpinning the brutally lustful romance. Ge...moreA heck of a ride with graphic details and punches of emotional drama, plus an epic end-of-the-world plot underpinning the brutally lustful romance. Gentle Readers beware, this one is rated "M" for mature.(less)
All the complexity and nuance and emotional turmoil as ASOIAF in just ONE book. I was completely swept away each time I picked it up, although I was d...moreAll the complexity and nuance and emotional turmoil as ASOIAF in just ONE book. I was completely swept away each time I picked it up, although I was dreading the ending. It was bittersweet, as expected. I found the themes of loss, grief, and torn hearts fantastically human and very moving. I cried. Thank you, GGK.(less)
Book 5 and still going strong. I'm liking the more drawn-out story arc and the will-they-wont-they romance that began with book 4. I wish we'd seen Ma...moreBook 5 and still going strong. I'm liking the more drawn-out story arc and the will-they-wont-they romance that began with book 4. I wish we'd seen Maldynado pushed a little further. I didn't feel like I learned anything new about him, and I was really looking forward to his view-point book because he's such a fun character. Ah well. (less)
Intense and raunchy in places. This one veers off in a decidedly darker/grittier direction. IMO, much better than the previous two installments. Lots...moreIntense and raunchy in places. This one veers off in a decidedly darker/grittier direction. IMO, much better than the previous two installments. Lots of action, drama, exploding things etc. From what I hear, this is the best one, so I might not keep reading.
On a side note, I'm getting a bit annoyed that the editor/author keeps mixing up 'then'&'than'.(less)
Wow. If nothing else, this book is beautifully poetic, but it is much else: dark, introspective, mystic, gritty, an un-fluffy kind of romantic. It pro...moreWow. If nothing else, this book is beautifully poetic, but it is much else: dark, introspective, mystic, gritty, an un-fluffy kind of romantic. It provided an interesting contrast to most of the heroine-fantasy I've read. It's not your average sword and sorcery epic.
Liked: ~Mythological storytelling/world building. There is a fully realized, culturally/religiously informed world view that isn't based on science, and not only is it understandable, it's practical and resonant. It makes sense as a way of thinking, even to my modern brain. It was amazing. I loved the little mythologically-based explanations of the way the world worked, and I loved that it didn't seem to take miraculous acts of divine magic to underscore the point. The 'magic' was more of a mystical experience because of this, and it gave the whole story a soulful feel. This was really my favorite part.
Appreciated: ~Stark portrayal of life for women. I can't say I liked it, because it made me mad to the point of almost giving up the book before I'd made it 1/3 of the way through, but I appreciated that the author created a story within the confines of a realistically chauvinistic society. I appreciated the fact that we're shown what kind of life an ordinary woman can expect, and what kinds of rules she might be able to break if she's extraordinary (not many, and certainly not gender rules).
Didn't like: ~The lack of a relationship between the two main characters. They only seem to interact when they're in bed, or when they're fighting. Sometimes both at once. I don't understand how they have such a strong connection (supposedly from the beginning) if this is all their relationship is. He can't possibly love her for who she is because he has no idea who she is. Nor she, him. Perhaps I missed something, because I'm not sure what he saw that he confesses to have fallen in love with, other than (I'm assuming) her amazing sex powers. Or maybe this kind of relationship is a result of the aforementioned societal confines. She is supposed to be his personal prostitute, after all, and men in this book don't really seem to be interested in women as anything else. I suppose a man brought up in that kind of culture wouldn't really care to know who his woman really was, even if he believed she was capable of being more than a sex-toy. I suppose this bothered me most of all because as a heroine, I really liked her. She is strong and determined without being reckless or fearless or magically adept at swords. She has character flaws but struggles to overcome them. I wish he knew what she was really like, because she deserves it, and because I think he'd appreciate her more for it.(less)
If you like genre UF, you'll probably like this. I don't, and I had a hard time in places.
Good things first: The premise was different. Lawyer instead...moreIf you like genre UF, you'll probably like this. I don't, and I had a hard time in places.
Good things first: The premise was different. Lawyer instead of fighter? Interesting. The heroine had some serious hurdles because she wasn't a kung-fu expert. Tackling racial divides? Great. My favorite line: "My people have been in the United States since the seventeen hundreds. I don't know what else it takes to be just an American."
Gripes: Not much outside the standard UF tropes to really get me enthused. Same half-core 'shady' underworld, same heroine who catches the eye of every male she encounters, same moment where I was left wondering if she really had a 9-5er. Maybe I'm just not an UF fan, but each of these things and other, smaller, gripes were just sandbags weighing down my balloon of suspended disbelief.
Friends? One-dimensional. Every conversation with Cam or Cole started out with "are you ok?" Never once did our heroine show the same concern for either of them. Tony? The heroine realizes very early on that she loves someone else. Why is she still stringing him along at the end? Oh, right. "He's not human!" It just feels like a set-up. Which it is, to drag out the romantic drama. Alban saying 'no' would have made a more believable road-block.
But the biggest issue I had was that despite all the fuss over the fact that she's a lawyer, I didn't really see it. And without seeing her do her job, I found it hard to get on board with her as a negotiator. She's not a hard/fast/clever talker when it counts. It seems like the real baddies all just laugh and give in because secretly they want to bang her. Is this standard for UF? Sorry, that doesn't count for brains in my opinion. If the antagonists were really as brutal as they're supposed to be, wouldn't someone have just shot her presumptuous little butt already?
At this point, the cool addition of 'Old Race' creatures just feels like a gimmick. (less)
Fast-paced and adventuresome, in the vein of Poison Study. If you liked the study series, you'll probably enjoy this, although for me it was a little...moreFast-paced and adventuresome, in the vein of Poison Study. If you liked the study series, you'll probably enjoy this, although for me it was a little too similar, if you know what I mean.
No? I'll tell you what I mean. Plucky orphan heroine with rare gift who is imprisoned kidnapped and forced to use that gift to save the life of The Commander a prince... Yelena. No? Oh, right, Avry.
Sinister, roguish jailor captor with mysterious past who eventually (view spoiler)[ falls in love with Yelena Avry (hide spoiler)] and suffers in order to save the heroine... Valek- no wait, his name is ... well, better not spoil it for you. You'll guess easily enough after the first few chapters anyway.
It wasn't really as bad as all that. The storyline was superficially different. There's a journey, and a quest, and a plucky band of heroes doing amusing things. But it all just felt like a re-write. Like Snyder dropped a few characters she'd written previously into a slightly different setting and said "voila! Character development? Oh, I took care of that in the last book!" The intensity of their relationships was just not there, and I didn't fall in love with any of them.
Amusing and fun? Yes. That's all. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Magic curses, prophecy, orphans who turn into royalty, horses and swords and fights and twue love...
Finnikin flirts with more than a few fantasy trope...moreMagic curses, prophecy, orphans who turn into royalty, horses and swords and fights and twue love...
Finnikin flirts with more than a few fantasy tropes, but it's far from your average book of wizards and magic. If you love fantasy for the world building, the epic battles, wizards throwing fireballs etc, then Finnikin might not be your thing. This one is all about the characters.
I appreciated the themes of identity and homeland and how people change when they lose the things that define them.
The writing style was... i don't know the word... ethereal? Finishing the book felt like waking up from a dream, and now that I'm done, the story is skirting around the edges of my memory the way dreams do. (Actually, Paladin of Souls felt this way too and Bujold is also a character-centered writer... coincidence?)
Anyway, if you haven't been able to get into sf/f because the detail is too exhausting or there aren't any characters you connect with, give Finnikin a try. (less)
A quiet and lovely retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of a priestess that accompanies Aeneas' fleet throughout the long journey from Troy...moreA quiet and lovely retelling of the Aeneid from the point of view of a priestess that accompanies Aeneas' fleet throughout the long journey from Troy to Italy.
The author has taken pains (and some liberties) to keep both the setting and technology historically accurate, and therefore is not particularly faithful to Vergil's original. However, this in no way detracts from the compelling story she has written, nor does is diminish the wonderful sense of mystery that pervades it.
That numinous feeling was such an unexpected delight. I loved how the goddess spoke through her priestess in a way that was obvious and yet never understood. To me, it really captured the essence of the Mystery experience that humans have struggled to rationalize since before we can remember.
Other story elements were similarly handled with delicate attention. The priestess of Death is fearsome and yet always compassionate. The contrast between life and death is stark but never untenable. And even though Aeneas' crew are an ancient and foreign people, they make sense as characters (and protagonists) without having to be modernized.
I wasn't expecting any of that, so it was pleasantly surprising. For further cultural delving, and another interpretation of the Aeneas legend, try Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin.
4 stars for being beautiful, tragic, romantic and unassuming all at once. (less)
Seven words to describe this first installment of the lightbringer trilogy: original, heroic, exciting, casual, fu...moreSeven years, seven great purposes...
Seven words to describe this first installment of the lightbringer trilogy: original, heroic, exciting, casual, funny, tragic, epic.
There are several things I loved about this book. First, the casual voice. Since the time of venerable master Tolkien, so much of epic fantasy has been written in equally venerable and suitably heroic language. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I enjoy the lighter atmosphere that is infused by the language. It brings the characters down to earth and introduces an element of humility to events that are often momentous.
Secondly, the characters are vivid, and the stakes are really personal for each of them. They have history, they have personality, they are lovable for their flaws as well as their virtues (to me, at least). They do things that are unimaginable and yet perfectly in character. They are trying desperately to hold onto a world that is spinning ever more out of control. And I feel for them.
Lastly, there is a good balance of intrigue and action, and the pacing is just right. There is always something happening even when nothing is happening.
Are there problems? Yes. I had trouble imagining the action scenes, especially in the beginning. The details and descriptions are just so technical that I found them hard to follow. But this seemed to get ironed out by the mid-way point, and I found that the action flowed much more naturally after that. In the end, it certainly wasn't bad enough to ruin the book, so I'll go with a 4.5 star rating.
Historical fantasy, intrigue, and assassins, cloaked in a habit of romance (har har! - see what I did there? The assassins are nuns! ... ok, moving on...moreHistorical fantasy, intrigue, and assassins, cloaked in a habit of romance (har har! - see what I did there? The assassins are nuns! ... ok, moving on.)
What an awesome premise. A convent that trains killers in service to a god of death who "marques" his victims, just to be sure the right man dies. In the end though, not nearly so exciting as it sounds.
Lots of courtly intrigue and a mystery traitor create a decent pretext of moving the story along, but really, this book is about the romance. Nothing wrong with that in itself. I just didn't enjoy it. I was frustrated at parts where I wanted explanations from the plot but they got smothered in a blanket of romance instead, and vice versa.
With all the action and intrigue, it could have been like Poison Study. However, in the end the tension was not nearly so high. Perhaps because in Poison Study the romance is of a Does-He-Doesn't-He nature, which keeps the viewpoint character guessing and thus heightens the tension. In Grave Mercy, the romance is of the Should-I-Shouldn't-I variety, and so (to me at least) there is never a question of whether or not she will. It's obvious from the beginning. The tension evaporates. In the meantime I have to listen to her soliloquize over and over on the list of pros/cons, for which I really have no patience.
Oh, and what was with the whole "poison purging" scene. Human Bezoar? I mean, wtf mate? ... W. T. F ?
Still, 2.5 stars because it was a pleasant read, but not my thing.(less)
I really appreciated that romance was not the answer to all the MC's problems, but there were definitely moments t...moreAgree completely with this reviewer.
I really appreciated that romance was not the answer to all the MC's problems, but there were definitely moments that sounded like movie-lines, or worse, just bland. I really wanted to like Tayse but even though most of the narrative is written from his POV, I never really felt like I knew him. The romance sub-plot suffered because of this, I think.
Overall, this was in the middle for me. Not D&M, but not lighthearted either. Not bad, but not fantastic.(less)
Amazing. Tragedy, romance, grief, divided loyalties, fierce love, honor, battle, some banter, the author's nuanced rendering of humanity ...and no mag...moreAmazing. Tragedy, romance, grief, divided loyalties, fierce love, honor, battle, some banter, the author's nuanced rendering of humanity ...and no magic fireballs. It reads more like history than fantasy, and that was fine with me.
I LOVED: ~The three main characters. Especially Jehane - the way she was a kick-ass woman without actually kicking any asses - the way she was strong without being rash or overly independent - the way she seemed like a normal human woman in the face of all the tragedy around her (and not some flippant urban fantasy superheroine). ~The delayed revelations. Yes, the dissembling was excruciating at times. Yes, I was cursing my way through much of the last third. Yes, it was worth it. ~The setting. Historical Spain at the end of Arab occupation, with 3 (rather familiar) religious powers vying for dominance. It was a different approach to the 'medieval fantasy' trope that I appreciated. A lot. Although in the beginning, the names did throw me and I had to turn back to remember who was being talked about. But the cultural naming made the setting so much more authentic and (since I am amused by such dry things as languages) it just made sense that Kay would do it that way.
I didn't love: ~The fact that everyone seemed to fall in love with Jehane. Ok, not everyone, but practically everyone. And I'm supposed to believe she lasted till 30 without getting married? Sorry. Don't believe it.
But this is a small aside to an otherwise outstanding read. (less)