Overall rating: 3 stars (although I really had to round up since the average was 2.25).
Breakdown of my rating:
Narrative: 2 stars. For the life of me,...moreOverall rating: 3 stars (although I really had to round up since the average was 2.25).
Breakdown of my rating:
Narrative: 2 stars. For the life of me, I just don’t know where this story is going. Why, for example, did it take until page 817 for some fairly important bit of information about the Chandrian to pop up? Why were we meandering all over the place, going this way and that, often for hundreds of pages at a time, going absolutely nowhere?
I get that this is an epic. I love my epics. But one of the things that I look for in any novel, regardless of length, is forward momentum. Will this part of the story propel the narrative along? Will this action or sequence or (mis)adventure make the characters grow or learn something? Will something significant happen along the way and will it be clear later on, when we come back to this?
Some of the time, sure, this happened. Most of the story though were mere diversions. Diversions that could’ve been told more succinctly. For example, as interesting as the Felurian story was, could it have been shorter? Sure. Was it necessary? To a certain degree, yes. To the degree it was written? No. And that’s the problem. There is always a reason to write something. The hard part is knowing when something is too much.
When I stop every thirty or forty pages, asking myself “Where is this going? Is the name of this series really The Kingkiller Chronicles? If so, where is this king? When will Kvothe kill him? We’ve barely had any allusions to the king, other than there’s this big war out there. Where is the killing of the king? How will the Chandrian come in? When will he meet them again? How will he defeat them? Will he defeat them? What about Denna? How does she fit into all this? Will Kvothe ever tell Denna how he feels?
Right now, I feel like I’ve read close to 1900 pages, and we’ve spent 2 years with Kvothe in the university, and he’s gotten into and out of trouble (mostly of his own doing…more on that later), he’s had sex, he’s become a warrior, he’s becoming a legend, but other than dozens of amusing side quests/adventures, I still question where the story is going.
And if that is the point of this story, then Rothfuss has succeeded. And boo on me for not recognizing that. But I don’t think that’s the point of the story. The point is for us to see how Kvothe became the man he is now: Kote, and how Kote finds his way back to being Kvothe (if that is the goal).
Writing: 3 stars. Such a HUGE improvement over Name of the Wind. Enormous improvement. One of the things that made me cringe in the first book was the overuse of adjectives and adverbs in every sentence. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that adjectives and adverbs are useful tools and can strengthen your writing and provide flavor and flare. But excessive use is burdensome: it detracts from the story when what you’re reading becomes stilted and too descriptive. It becomes too distracting when you find yourself saying “Did he really have to use twenty words here when he could’ve made his point in six?”
So I was (beyond) relieved when the writing in Wise Man’s Fear was crisper, tighter. Stronger verbs made for leaner, stronger sentences. Adjectives and adverbs used sparingly, and more often than not, it wasn’t overdone. He still had a few places where he overdid it, but they were few and far between, and so it wasn’t as annoying as in the first book.
I think Rothfuss and his editor finally struck an ideal balance as far as the technical merits of his writing was concerned. I am hopeful that he becomes even stronger with the third book.
Characters: 2 star. Here’s the thing. I can’t stand Kvothe. He’s annoying. He’s an idiot. He’s conceited. He doesn’t learn (view spoiler)[(really, Kvothe, did you need to send Ambrose that letter while you were in Tarbean? Couldn’t you leave well enough alone? (hide spoiler)]. Part of me thinks that every single misadventure he has, every punishment that’s meted out to him, he deserves. He is impetuous, almost to a fault, and he never learns. He doesn’t think things through. He’s clever and extremely intelligent and creative, but for someone who grew up in the streets, he certainly lacks a lot of common sense. It doesn’t make sense.
I get that he’s a teenager. He’s young. And he means well. He’s got the heart of gold. He can be tender and caring, considerate and compassionate. Let’s face it: most boys aged fifteen through seventeen are stupid and reckless, hasty and impulsive. But for me, it becomes a problem when your protagonists’ bad decisions overshadow the good he does because he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, when he recognizes that he shouldn’t do something and does it anyway, just because he feels like it. Or because something (or someone) rankles him and gets under his skin. Personally, I like seeing growth in my main characters. Bildungsroman, baby.
Having said all that, let me list the characters that I do like: Bast. Simmon. Willem. Denna. Elodin. Kilvin. Auri and Fela. Amazingly well-drawn, complex characters. With the exception of Denna, I’m just disappointed that they are supporting characters.
Execution: 2 stars. I think I’ve said enough about the execution (see Narration and Characters). Suffice to say, I think it could’ve been handled better. It’s a compelling story, and you want to know what’s happening, but there’s much that could be improved. I hope the third book will be solid, a taut page turner, one that will not be disappointing to his fans.
And I never thought I’d have George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss in the same sentence, but I have the same fear for both the Song of Ice and Fire and Kingkiller Chronicle: how will they tie everything up? Martin has two more books left to tie things up after introducing another dozen or so characters to the already crowded world of the first five books.
Rothfuss, on the other hand, has only one novel left. And he’s said that it will definitely be the end of this part of the story. But if that’s the case, he has a LOT to tie up. In 450,000 words or less. And it terrifies me that he may not be able to tie most things up. We still need to know how Kvothe is kicked out of the University. We need to know how he finds the Chandrian, are they gone, did he defeat them, how he ends up part of this war that’s going on, who this king is (God, is it Ambrose?), what happens to Denna, how Kvothe meets Bast. Will he go back to Felurian? Did he send his sword back to the Adem (view spoiler)[(since it seems Folly isn’t Caesura) (hide spoiler)]? Lots of questions. Not a lot of story time left. I don’t want the third book to feel rushed, but am afraid it may be.
What was good about it: I have to give it to Patrick Rothfuss. Where world building is concerned, he’s got it down pat. Amazing world-builder, from the locales, the cultures, the religions, languages, currency, and everything else in between. He did an amazing job rounding out each of the different cultures and it’s very realistic. Having the Yllish have a knot-based language is amazing and is reminiscent of ancient cultures. The currency alone is intense, and when you add in the theology, the cultural differences, the foods, the laws…it’s all quite overwhelming. And as a chemist, I appreciate how Rothfuss has incorporated so many wonderful scientific themes (endothermic and exothermic reactions, using carbon as a chelating compound after ingesting toxins, reaction mechanisms) – it’s all fantastic stuff that I hope would get younger readers interested in the sciences.
And the Adem. Best. Culture. Ever. There were so many great things about the Adem, and about what Kvothe learned from them, that I can’t list them all. They’re all great. Best part of the book for me, hands down. Actually, best part of both books, if I were to be honest. (Although their concept of what amounts to asexual reproduction is a tad insular and hilarious, although that was the point, I suppose.) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Revenge. Incest. Magic. Politics. Lots of battles. Swordplay galore. Returning minor characters from the earlier Abercrombie First Law series (includi...moreRevenge. Incest. Magic. Politics. Lots of battles. Swordplay galore. Returning minor characters from the earlier Abercrombie First Law series (including those morbid Eaters). What a fantastic novel! What else could anyone ask for? Ooh, recipes (or maybe, just suggestions for the foodies out there). To wit:
A rump steak, then, thick-cut and pan-fried. He always carried a special mix of Suljuk four-spice with him, crushed to his taste, and the oil native to the region around Puranti had a wonderful nutty flavour. Then salt, and crushed pepper. Good meat was all in the seasoning. Pink in the centre, but not bloody. Shenkt had never been able to understand people who liked their meat bloody, the notion disgusted him. Onions sizzling alongside. Perhaps then dice the shank and make stew, with roots and mushrooms, a broth from the bones, a dash of that old Muris vinegar to give it...
He nodded to himself, carefully wiped the sickle clean, shouldered the bag, turned for the door and...stopped.
He had passed a baker's earlier, and thought what fine, crusty, new-baked loaves they had in the window. The smell of fresh bread. That glorious scent of honesty and simple goodness. He would very much have liked to be a baker, had he not been...what he was. Had he never been brought before his old master....
How well that bread would be, he thought now, sliced and thickly smeared with a coarse pâté. Perhaps with a quince jelly, or some such, and a good glass of wine. He drew his knife again and went in through Lucky Nim's back for her liver. After all, it was no use to her now.
I really enjoyed the First Law series, so I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I really enjoyed this one, too. Best Served Cold was meant to be a stand-alone novel, with a main character who was not part of the original series. It was refreshing to focus on Monza, the intrepid heroine in this novel, and not have to come face-to-face with Glokta, Bayaz and Jezal so soon after reading the first three books back-to-back, especially since that series was pretty grim and gory (although I really do miss Logen). Still, some characters from the other series not only show up, but move front and center in this narrative: the Bloody-Nine hating Northman Caul Shivers, Bayaz's apprentice Yori Sulfur, mercernary extraordinaire Nicomo Cosca, fallen magistrate-turned-Glokta spy Carlot dan Eider, and ex-torturer Practical Shylo Vitari. Even good old King Jezal and Bremmer dan Gorst make brief appeareances (invariably setting up the fifth book in the series, The Heroes).
The writing was almost flawless -- it was amusing, fluid and captivating for the most part. Abercrombie still has a tendency to meander off every now and then, but he did it far less than in the first three books, and he rarely wandered too far, oftentimes reigning himself in and drawing his characters and readers back into the story. The characterization was strong; most of the characters were well-developed and three-dimensional. I found that much of the wry personal commentary Abercrombie imbued in Glokta was now taken over by the supercilious, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous Morveer. The hilarious half self-aware, half self-conscious observations made by Logen was now taken over by Shivers in the beginning, then by Cosca towards the end. The similarities between Logan and Shivers didn't end there, though: they had a joint liminal state, that of the Great Leveller. Just as the Bloody Nine was slowly introduced as Logen's "other self" (albeit his more destructive, psychotic, berzerker/schizophrenic self), Shivers too, transformed into a cold, furious, vengeful man once he accepted that part of him that had become the Great Leveller.
As with Abercrombie's first series, there were a host of dualities in this work: magic vs. science, faith vs. money, Gurkul vs. The Union, loyalty and vengeance. While magic was a major presence in The First Law, Best Served Cold makes the distinction that magic is a thing of the past and that science is firmly claiming its place in the world (as asserted by Morveer). Styria was ruled by economics, by gold and silver, by power and fear. Magic had no place in that world. Nevertheless, the war between Khalul and Bayaz still raged strong in Best Served Cold, only now, it's become obvious that their war is not merely a centuries-old disagreement about the way they chose to practice their art or about who was right and who was wrong, but it was also a war fueled as much by magic as it was about claiming which was stronger: faith or money. Khalul, as the Prophet, has his army of faithful (the magic-using Eaters), who believe in God while using Gurkish gold to further their causes. While we never see Bayaz in this book, he's all too present thanks to the ubiquitous Yori Sulfur and the banking house of Valint and Balk.
Finally, there's Monza herself. Strong, crazy, determined, plucky, nervy Monza. First things first: did she have an incestuous relationship with her brother? I think Abercrombie was purposely vague about that. He made it a point to say that Monza's reputation -- either as villain or hero -- was highly dependent on which side you were on and who was telling the story, and that includes stories about her and Benna. Regardless, what comes across is her immense love and loyalty to her only family. The beauty of it was that while it started and ended with her and her brother, along the way, that family grew to include Shivers, Vitari, Friendly and Cosca. While her quest for vengeance sometimes made me feel she was a one-note joke, she really wasn't. She wasn't one-dimensional; there was more to her than someone after revenge. She was scared, she was alone, she was trying to hold on to the one thing that she felt she had to do, even though she knew it would never bring her brother back. She started questioning her mission halfway through, and I must say, one of the things that I respected about her was the fact that she didn't turn back or give in. The woman's got guts; she had the chutzpah and the resolve to stick to her goal, even after it had lost its meaning.
All in all, this was an excellent book and would highly recommend it to anyone. Well, okay, maybe not my parents. But everyone else. It's really good!(less)
Kids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewh...moreKids are tough,that much is true. Last year, when I read The Hunger Games, I kept thinking that only a twisted individual would create a world, somewhere in our distant future, wherein kids would battle to the death in order to garner their colony and family a year's worth of supplies, supplies which the government withheld in order to control its people.
Flashback, then, to two decades before Hunger Games was even created, and you have Ender's Game, another dystopian world wherein each kid is tested to see if they have what it takes to become xenocidal maniacs. Where kids are tested at age three, and if they're lucky enough to pass muster as a potential soldier, they're taken away from their parents and families and sent to a hopped up military school in space, where they live and breathe The Game. Where they learn tactics and command. Where they learn to kill.
In both books, kids are put through a sort of mental, physical and psychological torture, but because of the resilient nature of children, the adults don't seem to think about the lasting damage these exercises have on the kids. While the kids were expected to kill each other in The Hunger Games, kids killing kids were considered collateral damage and for the good of all, in Ender's Game.
I guess at the center of both narratives, it was Katniss' urge to survive and Ender's struggles to maintain his humanity that made both these books so compelling to millions of readers. This is what struck a chord for most: Katniss' and Ender's sense of isolation, that only they could do what was asked of them and they had no one else really, that they could turn to, and certainly not any adults. It was their feelings of desolation, that they had to do this to save the ones they loved (for Katniss, it was to save her sister Prim, and for Ender, it was to save his sister Valentine). It was the emptiness of loss, as the realities of the price and consequences of their successes weighed on them. Too much blood, all at the hands of kids. Heavy stuff; most adults wouldn't be able to handle dealing with such things. And what about kids? They're resilient. They have the rest of their lives to recover from whatever damage this has done to their psyche.
This was a fantastic series. It took me awhile to warm up to the first book, The Blade Itself, primarily because I couldn't quite put my finger on Glo...moreThis was a fantastic series. It took me awhile to warm up to the first book, The Blade Itself, primarily because I couldn't quite put my finger on Glokta and Jezal. I loved their characters' growth in the second book, Before They Are Hanged, especially Glokta's.
A lot of people have commented on how no one quite deserves what they get in the books, and Joe Abercrombie himself made this quite plain, having his main characters utter this reference throughout the third book. And there were some definitely heartbreaking moments, for some characters. I kept expecting worse and worse things to happen, but in the end, I thought that everyone pretty much came out relatively unscathed. (I kept telling myself it could've been worse; some characters I loved could've died.)
I appreciated how everything was tied up at the end. There really were no lose ends, save for the ending, but I think everyone will recognize that Abercrombie ended this novel the way how he started the series, and because of that, I have a feeling someone may show up in another book somewhere.
What I loved about this series was that all characters, major and minor, lovable and loathsome, and everyone in between, were crafted so meticulously that I, as the reader, cared about what happened to each of them. Regardless of whether I liked or abhorred a character, when something happened, it affected me positively and/or negatively. There aren't a lot of books that can elicit that kind of a response from me.
Well done, Joe Abercrombie. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work, and am especially looking forward to reading the next 3-part series.(less)
Well, I just finished this and I can honestly say that this was a novel of dualities. Not just in the Manichean nature of the main characters (e.g., J...moreWell, I just finished this and I can honestly say that this was a novel of dualities. Not just in the Manichean nature of the main characters (e.g., Jezal vs. West, Jezal vs. Logen, Glokta vs. Bayaz, Glokta vs. Jezal), but in the differences between sexes and races (what, black women can't be awesome warriors?!?), between north and south, between "civilized society" vs. "the savages", between rich and the poor and the nobility and the middle classes...you name it, it was all in here.
For a good part of the story, I kept coming back to something I learned during my Middle English class. Early medieval English poets (and society in general) often made a statement that pretty much came down to this: if your hero/heroine was noble, they were almost always perfect in appearance and speech (even if they started out poor and uneducated). It didn't matter because their "true nature" would always shine through in everything they said or did because they were noble at heart and by birth. At some point during the story, it would be disclosed that they were of noble birth and were removed from that life by some nefarious person for whatever reason, but by the end of the story, they would be returned to their rightful place in the nobility. Good things always happened to them along their adventures because somehow, they were blessed. Or because it was what was due them. Essentially, a hero's noble nature will overcome anything and the fates will intervene to put that person back where they belong. It wasn't so much that a hero was a hero because of their deeds but because they were born into the upper class and so they were already imbued with whatever magic juice made them part of the nobility to begin with.
Obviously, this was a fallacy.
In The Blade Itself, I liked that Abercrombie dealt with this concept and turned it on its head. Yes, both Jezal and Glokta were of the nobility and both of them were pitted against West, who was middle class (and therefore, a commoner). While both were friends with West, everyone was always aware that there was a divide that separated them, and that it could never be crossed. West could never move forward in his career or society without the support of someone from a higher station in life, and even then, he would never be allowed to get beyond a certain point reserved only for the nobility. This was a shame as, out of the three, he was probably the most noble in spirit and character (one episode with his sister notwithstanding). Jezal, on the other hand, had everything: he was of noble birth, he had money, he could have any woman he wanted (and did, until Ardee) and he could have any future he wanted. At one point, he admits that he had assumed everyone loved him because...well, because he was Jezal and he was about as close to perfect as they got. Glokta was like him when he was younger, before he was captured by the Ghurkish, and he freely admits he was worse than Jezal, both in conceit and in deed. Both men owned up to the fact that they expected good things to happen to them because of who they were and their standing in society. Not because of what they did or could do -- they acted like spoiled brats most of the time -- but because it was due them, based on the families they were born into.
And this is where Abercrombie turned things on its head. Every Jezal chapter was another chapter on his expectations of his own greatness, his delusions of grandeur, of how he looked down on the little people. He wasn't very likeable, especially when contrasted against West and Logen, both men who are much lower down the social ladder but who are far superior to him in character. Glokta literally becomes a monster after his torture, and is so bitter by what was taken away from him that he is only truly happy when others are miserable. His conceit is still there, but now it's been twisted into something else: if he can't be the high ranking nobleman he was born to be because of how he's been turned into a pained, tortured soul, then he'll make sure to inflict the same on others, most notably the middle classes and anyone who falls outside of his social strata. After all, he was tortured by the Ghurkish, an uncivilized, black, poor, selfish race; it's only fitting that he do the same to those beneath him.
It was fascinating to me that out of the main characters (Logen, West, Jezal, Bayaz and Glokta), two of them were totally unlikeable and were purposely written that way. The jury is still out on Bayaz...he's written both ways and I can see him becoming a total jerk as time goes on. West's character has an uphill battle ahead of him, and I don't know what to expect in the other two books. Nothing good, I expect...
Logen himself was a study in dualities due to his dual nature: was he just a berserker or did he have a split personality? He was both Logen Ninefingers, the empathic warrior leader who lost everything and everyone he cared about, and the Bloody Nine, an unbridled killing machine. It was fascinating how he switched from Logen to the Bloody Nine, how each personality tried to bury the other, how each one dealt with the violence around them. Logen, tired and brought to tears by the damage he'd wrought, and the Bloody Nine, exulting in seeing broken bodies surrounding him, reveling in the blood and gore and the damage he'd done. Logen was disarming, sympathetic, conflicted, introspective. The Bloody Nine was conceited, brazen, crazy. Who was the real person?
All in all, this was a very rich story and a rollicking good tale. I know some have compared this to George R. R. Martin's novels, and I can understand why, to a certain degree, because both are epic, both are violent and gory, and both are set in a highly crafted world that is as much a character as the people who populate them. But they're two totally different beasts and I think, ultimately, have different stories to tell. It will be interesting to see how Abercrombie shapes this world and what he does to our intrepid cast of characters.
Because I can see very bad things happening to them, to all of them.
This was another fantastic one, following Lies of Locke Lamora. As much as I loved, loved, loved the first one, I think I may have liked this just a t...moreThis was another fantastic one, following Lies of Locke Lamora. As much as I loved, loved, loved the first one, I think I may have liked this just a tad bit more. While the first book dealt with the origins of the Gentlemen Bastards, this one was solely about Locke and Jean and them finding their footing and figuring out who they were to each other. This was their story. It is a story of love and loss, of friendship and growing up.
As much as I laughed and cried in the first one (oh, Calo and Galdo, I really do miss you!!), this one bit a little deeper. There were a few really good laugh-out-loud parts (hello, dangling from a cliff whilst a thief robs Locke and Jean blind!), sprinkled with few more bitter tears (Ezri and the flaming ball; Locke facing down an alley piece as Jean looks on; Jean and Locke's after-dinner drink on the yacht), and of course, action and adventure galore. But at the heart of it all, this was a story of Locke and Jean and their relationship. How they're tied to each other, how they really can't be apart, how much they really love each other. It's about two guys growing up, growing apart, growing towards each other.
This would've gotten a solid 5-stars for me except for all the sailing stuff. While I am a fan of the Masterpiece Theater Hornblower shows, I am not a huge nautical novel fan. I know the Aubrey/Maturin books are some of the best out there (and my hubby and sister are huge fans), but I just didn't warm up as much to all things larboard, boatswain and forecastle, etc. in this book. (Granted, part of my annoyance with all-things nautical stem from the fact that 90% of the time, these nautical terms aren't pronounced anywhere remotely like they're spelled...and it's an altogether different language and way of thinking. Methinks I may be a bit too old to learn how to become a sailor at this point.)
Nevertheless, I look forward to reading the next one. I want to have more Jean-and-Locke time. I can't wait to see how Locke gets himself out of the pickle he's in right now. I want to see if Jean breaks down when dealing with the ramifications of Locke's actions in the last chapter of Red Seas. And I hear Sabetha finally makes an appearance in the third book...can't wait!! (less)
Now that was a fantastic read! I absolutely fell in love with the characters, from Locke himself, to Jean and even the Sanza twins. Beautifully writte...moreNow that was a fantastic read! I absolutely fell in love with the characters, from Locke himself, to Jean and even the Sanza twins. Beautifully written, intelligent, witty, utterly disarming -- Scott Lynch's first novel was truly a wonderful surprise. And even though it is set in a totally different world, I identified Camorr as Renaissance-era Venice, from its waterways, buildings, towers and the people who populated it. Even the city itself was a grand old character, one that I am sad to let go. Nevertheless, I can't wait to dig into the second book of the series, which I'm starting tonight!(less)