It’s space opera with YA sensibilities: only one of the main characters is actually a young adult, but all three of theStrong, appealing space opera.
It’s space opera with YA sensibilities: only one of the main characters is actually a young adult, but all three of the main characters are on journeys of self-discovery. The character I felt was the lead (a hard call, as all 3 stories are insanely well balanced, but hers is the catalyst for all that follows), Aisha, is the 13 year old daughter of planetary archaeologists; this is a story of history’s haunts and the actions we take to protect the future, with an interstellar war and psionic powers to boot.
FORGOTTEN SUNS is possibly the most immediately accessible book of Tarr's that I’ve read. Everything about it works beautifully, from Aisha’s explosive introduction to the regrets and ambitions that drive the other characters. If you haven’t read Tarr before and you like YA or space opera, I highly recommend discovering her through this book....more
THE DRAGON, THE WITCH & THE RAILROAD, which is a charming addition to the Seashell Archives. It continues with the tradition of a cursed heroine,THE DRAGON, THE WITCH & THE RAILROAD, which is a charming addition to the Seashell Archives. It continues with the tradition of a cursed heroine, and has a wonderful light steampunk vibe that I don’t remember from the earlier books (and indeed which may not have been in them, but it’s been a *long* time since I’ve read them, so I could be wrong). Our heroine, Verity, is a Modern Girl who believes, as is popular, that the witchy and magical antics of the past are out-dated and old-fashioned…despite the fact that she’s cursed to not only always tell the truth but also can’t let other people tell lies around her without correcting them.
Dragons, once mighty and majestic beasts, have been tamed and now run the railroads, but all is not as it seems…and Verity has a splendid adventure learning the truth while turning some of fairy tale and fantasy’s favourite tropes on their heads while heartily featuring others–like an older female protagonist/wise woman/guide whose story is just a little bit heartwrenching.
There are aspects of the world that haven’t aged well, primarily the wild wandering Gypsy persona/Gypsy magic, which thirty years ago wasn’t (widely) considered problematic, but which now kind of makes me wince. None of it is meant harmfully or cruelly; it’s just that our cultural expectations have shifted, and I couldn’t help noticing that something that didn’t even register when I was a kid is now something that makes my eyebrows lift.
*laughs* What HAS aged well, though, is–in perhaps the first of the Seashell Archives books, the story goes from Chapter 12 to Chapter 14, with a note saying “Our heroes are in enough trouble without this being Chapter 13!” I thought that was wonderful, and told Annie so when I met her in Ireland. She was grateful and said her editor had said, direly, “NEVER. AGAIN!” and she’d felt like she was in so much trouble that maybe it had been a bad idea after all. So I’m totally delighted that with DRAGON, she has revived the tradition of no Chapter Thirteen. #beams
I genuinely hope there will be more books in the Seashell Archives. It was a fun re-visit, and I'd love to see how the world turns out....more
Make room, GRRM: Chrysoula Tzavelas knows how to bring on the pain.
I’ve just finished CITADEL OF THE SKY, and, like, whoa.
This is not GRRM-style fantaMake room, GRRM: Chrysoula Tzavelas knows how to bring on the pain.
I’ve just finished CITADEL OF THE SKY, and, like, whoa.
This is not GRRM-style fantasy, let me make that clear. You don’t spend every turn of the page in fear that your protagonists are all going to be dead on the next one. It’s a cast of several, but not thousands. It’s also under 300 pages, which is like a quarter or a third of the length of a GRRM book. And in voice it’s–it’s not even faintly GRRM. It’s almost more…well, the *tone* is more like Eddings or Brooks or Lackey or–it’s not grimdark. You can’t possibly mistake it for grimdark, even if four people are dead by the end of the first paragraph (which is one of the greatest opening paragraphs I’ve ever read).
But holy crap, does it bring on the pain. But mostly psychological pain: the royal family has a gift for magic that leads to madness, and nobody I know writes crazy like Chrysoula does. She captures emotion and mindset incredibly well, and there were whole scenes I spent going “holy shit THAT’S how you do that in a book*!”
There are two main viewpoint characters in CITADEL, Tiana and Kiar. Tiana tries desperately to be the Normal Good Girl, which her position and surrounding events are never going to let her be. The moment where she stops being the Good Girl–for a very necessary reason–is very powerful, by dint of coming out of such regular, normal language–this isn’t stylised epic, it’s epic in a voice you and I would use if we found ourselves caught up in an epic adventure–and she never comes back from that dangerous, powerful place.
Kiar, OTOH, just doesn’t want to be noticed at all; she’s probably the best-realized introvert I’ve ever read. She’s also so unassuming as to be slightly maddening, which is brilliant characterisation. Her magic was a little harder for me to grasp than Tiana’s, although I eventually got the hang of it, and (although I caught a sniff of one with Tiana) it’s her romantic (very, very) subplot that really gave me the warm wigglies.
Seriously, the characterisation in this book. #headdesk Not just Kiar and Tiana, but the whole royal family, some of whom are hardly on the page at all, but who are beautifully sketched out with just a few lines. In fact, it’s one of those characters who ultimately brings the *most* pain, and that’s quite a feat. But it’s perfect: it’s perfectly done, that awful moment, and it tells us a huge amount about the characters surrounding it. So. Well. Done.
And I would like to doff my hat for Soula’s use of–let’s call it negative space. Moments when all we see is the reaction, rather than the action. It makes for a handful of incredibly elegant moments in the book, and I am *full* of admiration for the skill.
And also the descriptions. #headdeskMore Seriously, while reading her novel WOLF INTERVAL I was torn between wanting to do a Walker Papers/Senyaza crossover with her and being painfully aware that my descriptions would look like rudimentary stick figures beside hers. This has not changed with CITADEL OF THE SKY. :)
Interestingly, the writing felt a little rough in places–rougher than the Senyaza books–and I don’t know if that’s because I was reading an ARC or if it was reading it on my e-reader or if it was that I read it too disjointedly or if it’s deliberate. It was only a very minor distraction, and I think only noticeable to me because I’ve read Chrysoula’s other books, but I’ll be curious to see if that faint roughness is polished out in the final version.
This is a rare book that I have every intention of re-reading before I read its sequel, which, frankly, I would like to get my grabby little hands on right now.
*I would like to note that the only other writer who has made me think that, in those words, is Judith Tarr, who is kind of renowned for being brilliant....more
Book 3 went rollicking on to the end of the books in excellent form. I had a theory about how one aspect was going to turn out and was proven wrong, wBook 3 went rollicking on to the end of the books in excellent form. I had a theory about how one aspect was going to turn out and was proven wrong, which faintly surprises and probably pleases me for its lack of predictability. (Only probably because I'm still trying to decide if I think her resolution was more satisfying or mine was. :)) Overall, a pretty good trilogy....more
I'd say it took about halfway through the book for the plot to really kick in and get past the "I can't believe she did that" ending of book one. OTOHI'd say it took about halfway through the book for the plot to really kick in and get past the "I can't believe she did that" ending of book one. OTOH, when the plot kicked in--and arguably it's the real plot for the whole trilogy finally kicking in; the stuff before could be considered set-up--it did so with a vengeance, and rollicked right along to the end. I went straight into reading book 3. :)...more
Really loved the author's Eli Monpress books & was eager to read these. The first chapters were harder going than the Monpress books--the main chaReally loved the author's Eli Monpress books & was eager to read these. The first chapters were harder going than the Monpress books--the main character, Devi, lacks Eli's charm, but then, she's supposed to--but they weren't nearly so hard-going that I put the book down, and I thoroughly enjoyed it right up until the end, at which point the author did something I couldn't believe. Not a "oh my god that was an awful thing to do to the characters" kind of couldn't believe, but an "oh my god as a writer and reader I can't believe she used that god-awful trope" incredulous disbelief.
That did not, however, stop me from starting to read the second book immediately, so apparently even if I'm incredulous over it, it wasn't an unforgiveable offense. :)...more