Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book free from the author via a Librarything Member Giveaway, in return for an honest review.
As you can see from the description above, this looks like an interesting premise, so I was pleased to receive a free copy from the author. I am partial to good Sci-Fi and I like the way that post-apocalyptic novels can explore society and show character development. However, this book left me confused, frustrated and disappointed.
We begin the book in the point of view of Darrel and we are told almost at once that the cause of the ‘mysterious’ disappearances is not all that mysterious: huge space craft arrived over all the major cities on Earth the day before the first people vanished. Although Darrel has no idea how they were taken, it is obvious that they have been beamed aboard the space ships or vaporized by the aliens. It seems that Darrel was spared from his parents’ fate by some foil that he had wrapped around his bed many years earlier. This seemed a pretty groan-worthy plot device, but was confirmed when both of Darrel’s equally nerdy friends were the sole survivors in their households. They team up, wrap themselves in foil, and set off to find out where everyone has gone. They discover that some humans have been left behind so that they can be hunted by the aliens who look like six-legged lions, which the team nickname ‘alions’. After surviving a massive explosion and several car crashes I could no longer suspend my disbelief and stopped reading, so I do not know if the trio managed to defeat the alien menace, although I imagine that they do.
From the description I was expecting a lot more mystery and tension than the book delivered. This could have been resolved by placing the teens in a more rural setting and disabling the television and radio systems so that they had no idea what was going on. We would then have had a much more gradual and tense discovery of the aliens and their intentions. I also struggled with the teens surviving incidents that would have left them all badly injured and incapable of continuing their journey. These seemed unnecessary, placing them in situations of jeopardy through their own stupidity and requiring unbelievable and overly dramatic escapes. Surviving one such incident can be ascribed to amazingly good luck, but a series of them reduces my capacity to believe in the characters if they are supposed to be normal humans in a normal universe.
The main characters were fairly cliché and two dimensional, with the obligatory love triangle to add to the mix. They made some very odd decisions, such as driving towards the giant alien ship hovering over Seattle, rather than driving away from it or at least going around the city. Although I can understand that teenagers might not make the best decisions in this kind of situation, they did seem to behave in a manner that was inconsistent with their supposed intelligence. Their dialogue was very irritating, with an overuse of the terms ‘bromigo / bramiga’. Also, it was also unfortunate that the author chose to use both the characters’ names and nicknames without any explanation of who was who, so I was often confused about who was being spoken to or about.
I also think that it was a serious misstep to change the point of view from one chapter to the next. This would have worked well if the author was not using a first person narrative. At the beginning of the second chapter it took me several pages to work out whose head I was in. This was very confusing and seemed mostly a way of telling us what Maggy was feeling about Felix, which could have been done far more successfully by showing us through her dialogue and actions.
The book was not without imagination. I was intrigued by some of the technology that the author envisioned for this future Earth, which was mostly powered by solar technology. I loved the idea that the solar-powered cars were too quiet to be safe and so they had to emit fake car noises to stop people being run over. However, the solar power did act as a plot device as well because it allowed electrical appliances to work, making survival a whole lot easier than it would be in the same situation today. We were told that Maggy had metallic eyes and I wanted to know more about that and why she had them. Were they necessary because she was blind or had damaged her normal eyes, or were they some sort of upgrade? Were they a fairly typical thing or extremely rare and unusual?
In short, this book was not really what the description promised, and that is always disappointing to discover. If a story promises a mystery I expect to read a far bit of it before I discover what the mystery actually is, otherwise I lose the sense of suspense. If I am sold a story of teens struggling to endure, I expect them to do just that: I do not expect them to simply walk down to the local megamart and stock up on everything they need and suffer no hardships at all because everything is solar powered. Throw in some not very well developed characters that do highly improbable things and I am not likely to care what happens to them....more
The first thing that struck me about Celtic Moon was the choice of protagonist. Sophie is rather unusual for the Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance that I have read because she is already a relatively mature woman. I say ‘relatively’ because she is quite a bit younger than me and I do not like thinking of myself as ‘older’ or ‘mature’! Not only is she in her mid to late thirties, but also she has already found the love of her life and had his child. She is well beyond the Happy Ever After that comes at the end of traditional Romance novels and living a normal life with all the associated difficult bits. In fact, the only near perfect aspect of her life is that she has such great relationships with her son and mother.
I was both intrigued and delighted by Sophie and her dilemmas. I am not a great fan of chick lit or general Romance titles, so I enjoyed reading about a woman who has to deal with more than just romantic angst and whether or not her nail varnish matches her handbag. Sophie has big, real life issues to overcome and she does it with great grit and determination. This is where Jan really sold me her book: Sophie is a strong woman throughout the whole story. I have grown to really rather hate those ‘strong’ female protagonists that are repeatedly described as such right up until the moment that the male hero turns up to save her from all the big, bad monsters and sweep her off her feet. If a woman is strong then she will remain so even if she has a man around to help out with fighting the coming apocalypse. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has male friends and helpers, but she is always as good as, if not better than, them in a straight fight against the Big Bad. She is the type of strong female that I can appreciate and empathize with and Sophie has a slight touch of Buffy about her....more
Putting the infidelity to one side was not easy for me, but the portrayal of the magic of nature, and the garden in particular, was strong enough to keep me reading. The author obviously has a deep connection with the earth and countryside that shone through in her writing and resonated with my own love of the natural world. I liked how she understood the healing qualities of nature, especially with regards to Miranda’s children who blossom when they are allowed the freedom to explore the world around them.
In fact, the vivid descriptions of nature were about the only thing that I enjoyed in the book. Many of the characters are highly annoying and unsympathetic. Miranda is a mother who ignores and resents her children, although she does at least pay some attention to them, unlike David. She is shallow, spoilt, judgmental and snobbish. I was getting very tired of reading about her (insert famous designer name here) shoes / jacket / dress and how she misses going out to (insert famous name here) restaurant / shop. David was simply a selfish, thoughtless adulterer, with no redeeming qualities as far as I could see. Everything Ava does is all about her: she is incredibly selfish. Even before the affair she spends all her time in the garden, ignoring her children and doting husband, though she is consistently portrayed as a perfect wife and mother. Then there is Gus who enjoys beating a donkey with a stick and pulling the legs off spiders: delightful!...more
As with the second book, Changeless, we see Alexia’s world expanding. Geographically, we move through France and Italy, which allows us to see how these two cultures have reacted differently to the total acceptance of the supernatural races that we see in Britain. This increases the complexity of the world quite significantly, especially once we get to Italy, which has little resemblance to our version of the country. The Italians actively seek out and destroy any supernaturals that they discover, using the magical properties of pesto to protect themselves. The whole idea that pesto is a way to make a person unpalatable to both races is simply delightful and indicative of how Ms Carriger’s fiendish mind works.
We also see a massive expansion in Alexia herself, and I do not mean in the size of her abdomen. As a preternatural, she had always assumed that she was basically heartless, but here we see that she feels emotions very deeply indeed. She is totally distraught by Conall’s rejection and refusal to believe her. She finds this all the more frustrating because she cannot think of a reason why she should be able to be pregnant by a man who is basically dead. Her grief and frustration turns to anger and she holds onto that fierceness whenever she falters. It is also very touching to see how she develops feelings for the ‘infant inconvenience’ as time goes on and she starts to become more comfortable with the idea of her situation.
Conall is given a rather minor role, which mostly consists of drinking vast quantities of formaldehyde in order to stay insensible. However, this allows the wonderful Professor Lyall to shine as he takes control of the Pack, tries to support his Alpha and solve the mysteries of the ladybug attacks and the disappearance of Lord Akeldama. To add to his troubles, various powerful werewolves attempt to steal the Alpha position whilst Conall is unavailable. Of course, Lyall rises to the challenge wonderfully and it was nice to see him acting independently. The same could be said of Ivy, who steps in to run Madame Lefoux's hat shop during their trip to Europe. She is now married to Tunstell and we see her being sensible and thinking for herself, which reminds us why Alexia chose her as a friend in the first place. Even Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings manages to develop and become less of an irritation....more
Throughout the first two books in the series, Mr Sanderson had been leading us to a cataclysmic finale, and I have to say that I was not at all disappointed. In this final part we pick up on hints and suggestions made in both of the earlier books drawing to a very satisfying conclusion. I cannot think of any loose ends that are left dangling, which is not something I can normally say at the end of a series.
I will not go any further into the plot, or reveal who the Hero is, as this would ruin the surprise for those of you who have not read the book, which would be a real shame. Suffice it to say, the identity of the Hero is a surprise, but not a huge one as we are led to it with many hints along the way. The final few chapters will have you reading with your heart in your mouth as the world collapses into a final battle for survival. I will not say who lives and who dies, but I promise you that I cried like a baby and that the ending is quite beautiful....more
Dac Kien designs spaceships, carefully applying the laws of Feng Shui to maximize the harmony of the part biological, part synthetic construct. However, the surrogate mother carrying the specially designed brain for the ship arrives early, putting all her plans in danger.
Although I find the idea of a part-biological ship very interesting, I was a little disappointed by this story. It did not seem to really go anywhere, merely commenting on one view of this phenomenon rather than presenting conflicting views. ...more
I have read quite a lot of fantasy, and would count myself as a fan of the genre, so I was looking forward to this unusual version of the fairy / elf world. The Aetherials’ Spiral, their history and culture are fascinating, as are the parallel versions of Earth that they can access. However, I felt that we spent far too little time exploring that aspect of the story. Instead, most of the book is given over to the family dramas that surround the main characters, which I found a little disappointing. The first half to two-thirds of the book was slow and got bogged down in exploring the family relationships and dynamics, with the fantasy elements really pushed to the background. However, once the transition to the Otherworld occurred, and the fantasy aspects came to the fore, the pace increased and the book became much more successful. Unfortunately, even here the world building could have been far more detailed, and I hope that the second book in the series spends much more time exploring this fascinating world.
The main characters are very three dimensional, though not necessarily very likeable. Many of the characters have secrets and do not behave honestly with their friends and family, which leads to a great deal of drama and tension, but makes it difficult to sympathize with them. This becomes a major problem when they are placed in danger and we need to care about them and their survival. Not that the human characters are any less dysfunctional. In fact, the two most destructive characters in the book are humans, bringing abusive incest and homicidal psychopathy to the party, so in some regards the Aetherials are far more sympathetic. However, infidelity is a recurring motif, as is self-deception, so it seems the author has a fascination with the lies we tell one-another and ourselves. Although there are a lot of clichéd Romantic Fiction aspects here, the more melodramatic romantic plot points did not have me rolling my eyes and reaching for my sick bucket. The characters are so well drawn that their actions are totally believable, in a “Oh no! Don’t do that!” kind of way.
One aspect of this book that I really loved was the way in which the various houses and buildings have their own life force and presence. The Foxes’ home is warm and inviting, which seems to reflect the family’s connection to the earth magic of their particular Otherworld realm. The fact that the house can change and shift to provide what the characters need is almost more fantastical than the whole ‘alien elves living amongst us’ idea. We see this to much greater effect in the Wilder house. Being of the air realm, these characters are much colder and cerebral, with Lawrence, in particular, having a kind of obsessional self-containment that borders on madness. His house has a cold menace that is truly chilling and makes the unpleasant secrets that are revealed there even more unbearable. The disturbing images that surround the characters in prison reminded me of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of Hell, making me wonder how any Aetherial could survive an extended time in such an environment without losing their mind.
I really wanted to love this book, and I did appreciate the wonderful writing and characterization, but I wanted more fantasy and less family angst in this ‘Fantasy’ title. ...more
When we first meet Flavia she is tied up and locked in a closet. This conveys her relationship with her older sisters very neatly, and also allows us to witness her resourcefulness as she escapes from her predicament. She is not your typical eleven-year-old girl in any way that I could detect, although sibling rivalry and bickering is something that is seen in practically all families. The girls’ mother died many years ago in a mountain-climbing accident and their father is very distant, so it seems that Flavia has mostly raised herself. She is very independent and disparaging of her sisters who are not like her at all: so much so that they spent several years insisting that she was adopted. As a sister myself, I understood their relationships completely and it all seemed very reminiscent of my own childhood, although my sister and I are actually quite similar in our tastes and outlook.
In general, I felt that the plot had a few too many convenient coincidences, but then so do Agatha Christie’s stories, and I think everyone can agree that she was a master at her craft. Indeed, there was a distinct feeling of Ms Christie’s St Mary Mead, the home of Miss Jane Marple, about the setting that I found very enjoyable. It also reminded me very strongly of the works of End Blyton, especially her The Famous Five series, which I read constantly as a child. They have a similar feel of childhood freedom and the ability of youngish teenagers to solve dangerous crimes and defeat serious villains. I imagine Mr Bradley might have read these as a child, as I am sure that his mother would have been familiar with them. ...more
As I began to read, I was not at all sure about this book for the first few chapters. I liked the unusual setting because it is great to see a fantasy title that is not immersed in European mythology and culture, but the beginning seemed somewhat slow and almost ethereal. One problem I did have right at the beginning was the names of the characters associated with the Scholar-God’s cult. They all have very similar names and so I found myself having to check their identities before they finally stuck in my brain. This could be a symptom of my increasing decrepitude, but I really hope not as I do not normally struggle with character names this much.
But I knew that everyone was raving about this book and so I plodded on, just as Temur does, hoping that it would improve and I would understand what all the love was about. I came to appreciate the slower rhythm of the earlier chapters, as they allowed me to absorb my surroundings, to sniff the air and get a good feel for this alien world that I was travelling through. That is one of the great surprises of this book: we are not on Earth, or even a past or future version of it. This is a land where the male heirs of the Great Khan each have a moon in the night sky. Each moon is slightly different, just as the men are unique, and they only burn while the man remains alive. In this way Mother Night allows Temur to see who in his family is still alive. However, Samarkar sees a totally different sky, because she lives in another empire, and we later learn that the sky changes as a person passes from one political empire to another. That’s right: you can tell who holds political sway of a land by looking at the sky! The sun travels in different directions and the look of the sky itself changes as the dominion of a land alters. How totally cool is that?!
In short, this book was everything that I had expected and more. The main characters are believable and endearing while the villain is suitably mysterious and diabolical, even though he prays through copying out religious texts. The setting is amazing and bursting with imagination and stunning visual imagery, while the plot sweeps you along like the wind blowing through the grass under the Eternal Sky....more
At first, I was not quite sure what to think of the book because we are introduced to several of our lead characters in quick succession. I have to admit that I almost gave up after about thirty pages because I was starting to feel somewhat lost and overwhelmed by this sudden immersion into at least two distinctively alien cultures. However, I am glad that I persevered because I quickly became caught up in exploring the rich landscape of cultures, religions and magic. I wish that the publisher had included a map so that I could have made a little more sense of some of the geography, but picturing Gujaareh as Alexandria in Egypt seemed to work fairly well for me.
The Egyptian influences are clear, especially in the dependence upon the annual river Flood to support agriculture and life within a desert environment. There were also nods to Egyptian dress, etiquette and architecture. The society also shared a similar caste system and range of methods of writing their language, from detailed pictograms to less formal cursive scripts. However, there were enough differences to make the world unique and interesting. We hear mention of plants and animals that seem to have no cousins here on Earth, and the dream-based religious system is like nothing I have read before.
The religion that is so fundamental to this series is an interesting amalgam of the most ancient forms of moon worship with the theory of the four humors that was prevalent from the time of the Ancient Greeks right up until the rise of modern medicine. The priests attempts to cure people by balancing these humors is very similar to treatments, such as bleeding and purging, that used to be so common. I was also intrigued by the concept of death being a transition to a spiritual plane that could be made to resemble paradise by an experienced practitioner so that the dying soul could be happy eternally. This seemed like a very worthwhile goal for the Gatherers and was a good of the gray aspects of so much of this title: this religion has so many good things to be said about it, and yet it is open to abuse and perversion....more
Perhaps the most striking thing about this book is the world building. At first, London Below seems to be simply an underground society of the dispossessed and forgotten. But, as we travel further in and further down, we come across increasingly magical and fantastical elements until we almost feel as if we are in Alice’s Wonderland or Dorothy’s Oz. Many of the inhabitants of this world appear to be normal humans, but they may have amazing talents or be the relics of a previous time period. One very disturbing feature of London Below is that entering into it causes your life in London Above to unravel. Once Richard has been drawn into the world he finds that the people above have forgotten his existence and cannot really ‘see’ him anymore. This makes it a cruel and hopeless world in many ways, so that it seems more nightmare than dream.
Many of the major characters are very gray in terms of their motivation. Although we are sure that Richard and Door are the ‘good guys’, many of the other characters are much more doubtful. For example, the Marquis is a very difficult character to trust. Door trusts him totally, but throughout the first part of the book we are constantly given reason to doubt his loyalty and to suspect him of playing a double agent. We see something similar with Messers Croup and Vandemar. Yes, they are exceedingly dangerous murderers and Mr Vandemar eats raw animals, is immune to pain and has spit like superglue, but they are simply mercenaries. They do what they are paid to do, although they do enjoy it rather too much. This uncertainty about some of the characters was very refreshing and made them feel so much more real than if they had been written as the usual two-dimensional offerings....more
From the very beginning, this is a very funny book. It is told from Betsy’s perspective, and she has a wonderfully witty and snarky voice. I found myself laughing out loud at Ms Davidson’s turn of phrase and the ludicrous situations that she puts her characters into. Betsy herself is a very flawed character, being vain and more than a little dumb, but still very likeable. Her attempts to rid herself of her undead status are hilarious, as well as obviously unsuccessful, but she is stubborn to a fault and just keeps on trying because she is convinced that she is a zombie. However, her encounter with a woman and child being attacked makes her realize that she is a vampire: one who lisps when her fangs grow! So she runs to the nearest church to end it all, but finds herself surprisingly not burnt into a pile of ash. Indeed, the usual anti-vampire things have no effect on her, which she assumes is because the movies and books have got things wrong.
The plot is somewhat formulaic, but the ways in which Betsy deals with her transformation into the most powerful vampire on Earth are really what sets this book apart. She runs to her parents to tell them that she isn’t actually dead: much to the disgust of the evil step mother who had taken her death as an opportunity to steal all of Betsy’s designer shoes. There are the faithful sidekicks: Betsy’s childhood friend Jessica, who is amazingly rich and rabidly anti-racist, and Marc, a gay doctor that provides a useful snack at one point. The banter between these characters is worth the cover price alone. The obligatory stud muffin is every girl’s dream: tall, dark, handsome, wealthy and immaculately dressed. Even better, he understands her shoe-obsession and exploits it to get her cooperation. Admittedly, she does see him having sex with three women at once, which puts her off a bit, but we know that they are destined for one another. The token villain is the wonderfully pathetic Nostro. Although he is a ruthless and psychotic despot, he has the most appalling taste. He wanders about in stereotypical dress and even talks like a really bad Hollywood vampire, although I always had the image of The Count from Sesame Street in mind when he appeared....more
Unlike many modern horror stories, this title is mercifully lacking in blood-splat-gore-horror. This is the more psychological horror of Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker: it relies upon the terror produced by the unknown and the inexplicable, rather than simply exposing vast quantities of internal body organs. We share Arthur’s increasing terror as the unusual events move gradually from the merely peculiar to the absolutely murderous. However, we do not share his reaction to these events at the beginning: whilst we KNOW that there is something very wrong with his first meetings with the Woman, he ignores all the signs and continues to deny an otherworld explanation for events. Even when he has had some really terrifying experiences, he recovers and then hides behind his blind faith in his own indestructability and tries to ignore what his instincts, and we, are shouting: “DON”T BE STUPID! RUN AWAY!” I find this kind of horror far more disturbing than the simple ‘jump out of your seat’ shocks that are the usual fare in most modern horror films.
Other significant aspects of Gothic horror take minor roles in this book. As the story of the Woman is revealed, we find that her life was destroyed by society’s ideas of acceptable behavior. This was a great influence on Dickens, who is himself an influence upon this novel, as he is credited with introducing fog / smog into literature as a way of creating mood. Ms Hill uses the smog in London to create a feeling of foreboding at the beginning of the story, when Arthur is being given his task. Then the sea mist / fog is an important part of the setting out in the marsh, where the loss of vision adds to the claustrophobic, gloomy mood. This morbid fascination with death was also a common motif in Gothic novels, no doubt due to the increased prevalence of death in the increasingly crowded and poverty-stricken cities of the time. Indeed, Eel Marsh House itself and the surrounding landscape is almost another character, oppressively spreading an air of malevolence and despair.
I enjoyed the writing in this book very much, but I do have a criticism with the pacing: once the haunting began, the pace picked up and began to feel a little rushed. There was such a great set up to the horror that when it actually arrived I would have liked a more prolonged and gradual increase in tension. Also, the way in which Arthur uncovered the story about the Woman seemed far too easy: there really needed to be more subtle and varied ways to drop hints and give us pieces of the picture, which he could then mold into a whole. I felt this was a real weakness, as it made me feel that I was being fobbed off with a hurried way to give him the answers he needed. I also have a nit-pick about the lights, which kept annoying me. The book seems to be set in the early 1900s, at which time there is absolutely no chance that such an isolated house would have had electricity, unless there was a generator, and yet Arthur blithely wanders in and switches on light bulbs. This is only a very minor point, but it really stood out as a sloppy mistake in an otherwise well written and enjoyable read, and so it broke me out of the book, which is never a good thing.
As an aside, it appears that the recent film has taken great liberties with the original story, which is unfortunately all too common....more
So, why do I love this book so much? Is it the characters? The plot? The setting? The dialogue? The writing style? I have to answer “YES!” to all of these. It is rare that I read a book that I do not want to change in any way, but this is one of them. OK, I realize I am gushing a bit here, but as Readhead says at the Little Red Reviewer: “Scott Lynch turns me into a blabbering fan girl.” Trying to restrain myself a little, I will try to provide a more reasoned set of arguments for why you have to read this book.
This is Scott Lynch’s debut novel, but you would never know that from his skill with dialogue and descriptive writing. His voice is very engaging and witty, giving us memorable quotes and laugh-out-loud descriptions of events. His characters are well drawn and fully realized. Indeed, we come to love some of them very quickly: there are few ‘throw away’ place fillers in evidence. The setting is expertly drawn and we are given enough detail to leave us wanting more: it is similar to Elizabethan Europe, but different enough to tick all the required Fantasy boxes. The plot has enough originality to keep us off balance and surprised, with bold moves that will have you shouting angrily at the author because you do not want him to do THAT to the characters....more
The sisters are the two fairy tale archetypes: reckless, carefree tomboy and controlled, perfect princess. By reversing their positions, Mr Sanderson places them both well outside their comfort zones, leading to a lot of humor but also to massive personal growth, as each has to adapt to her situation. At first Vivenna is a fairly unsympathetic character because she is just so perfect herself and so judgmental and critical of others. However, she learns to let go of her training and do things that she would never have thought possible whilst uncovering some amazing personal strengths. Siri is a thoroughly likeable character from the beginning and her efforts to keep Susebron’s priests happy are hilarious. She learns to be more restrained and responsible, but her underlying compassion shines through in all her efforts.
My favorite characters are not your typical offerings, even in fantasy novels. Several hilarious scenes revolve an Awakened squirrel corpse, which proves to be as much trouble as a live tiger: disgusting and yet hilariously funny. My favorite character is another Awakened entity, Nightblood, a sentient sword. Although it provides some very funny moments, Nightblood is also extremely scary because it does not even need to be drawn to kill people. It has immense power and yet has the personality of a small child, somewhat like young Robert Arryn in A Game of Thrones, who always wants to see people ‘fly’ out of the door that opens over a drop of several thousand feet. Nightblood’s voice can be very chilling indeed even though we learn that it is not inherently evil....more
This is one of those series that I have always meant to read but has somehow never reached the top of my TBR pile. With the incentive of various challenges to encourage me, I finally decided to see if it lived up to its Hugo Award nomination. I am pleased to say that, unlike A Wizard of Earthsea, it seems to deserve its place on all those ‘Top Fantasy Series’ lists out there. It does feel a little dated now, but it is fifty years old, so that is hardly surprising.
The Witch World itself is lavishly detailed and totally developed. We experience a series of very different cultures and societies, but they are not presented via a mass of exposition. If anything, I would have liked some more detail and perhaps a little longer to immerse myself in each one before we moved on to the next. This was definitely a book that would have benefitted from a good glossary or appendix explaining some of the terms and concepts as it was a little too light on explanations for my taste.
This brings us to one aspect of the world that I really did enjoy: the magic. For some reason it is confined to women, thus making them a powerful force in society, which was a very nice change for a society that was basically your typical Medieval European fantasy setting. I also liked the way that the magic was mind-based and more to do with mental discipline and good luck than anything else. This fallibility was also a nice deviation from the usual whizz, bang, point and shoot type of magic that we see so often. It also meant that the Witches had to work together with their male army in order to really accomplish anything, showing a fairly equal society in many aspects. This equality was even highlighted by the disapproval that they felt for the Falconers’ society, which was male-dominated and used their women as breeding machines....more
This urban fantasy is billed as “a sexy, sensuous tale of intrigue and suspense”. I agree that there is an interesting mystery at the core of this story, but I cannot call it either sexy or sensual - more on that later. The underlying premise is not wildly original these days, with weres and vampires living alongside normal humans. Aside from slight variations in appearance, abilities, the usefulness of garlic, etc., there is little to differentiate this universe from those of Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris and others. However, where Ms Arthur really falls short is in her heroine. Riley should have been strong and independent, which is our first impression of her. The very first scene in the book has her kicking the stuffing out of a group of vampires to protect some humans. But, as the moon fever takes over, she becomes increasingly incapable of controlling her libido. This brings me to my main problem – the sex.
There certainly is a lot of sex in this book - and I do mean A LOT! If you are at all uncomfortable reading erotica, then you will want to give this title a miss. The Chili Pepper has had so much heat that it has been reduced to a small pile of ash! Now, I don’t mind reading sex scenes, not at all, but I was getting sex-fatigue. While everyone else gets to run around doing detective work, Riley does very little other than having sex, and, as the story is told from her perspective, we get detailed descriptions of most of it. Kudos for the stamina displayed, but this gets dull very fast, and I think that it was a big mistake to create a universe where all weres turn into sex-crazed lunatics for the whole week leading up to the full moon. In order to scratch her ‘itch’, Riley has two regular mates, Talon and Misha, who she has sex with. As we get nearer to the full moon, these encounters become sleazier, and she discovers that one of them has been manipulating her for his own reasons. Even so, she dutifully has sex with him to get information, which is unpleasant to read. Consensual sex as a purely physical act is fine, but there are several encounters here that border on rape.
In short, I would have preferred a lot less sex and much more character development. I have read reviews that rate her earlier works more highly. ...more
I am not sure why I had never read this book before, as I have been aware of it for a long time, although my husband’s lack of enthusiasm may have made me avoid it. I have seen a lot of high praise for this title, and the trilogy that it begins, and felt that I should finally experience this award-winning title myself. Unfortunately, I was rather underwhelmed by the experience and I am at a loss to explain why this book is so highly praised.
The story of Ged / Sparrowhawk is full of imagination and is certainly interesting enough as a quick read, but I never really felt emotionally involved with it, and that is my major criticism. When I read a book, no matter of genre, I want to be drawn into its world and feel connected to the characters that I am following. In any type of fantasy, I expect the world to be lush with detail and diversity, challenging my imagination and presenting alternative types of life.
In Earthsea, Ms Le Guin has created a full-realized world, with a myriad of creatures and cultures for us to explore. There are languages, stories, folklore, mythology and history, as well as a variety of magics and magical abilities, and so I can understand why people mention it in the same breath as Middle Earth. However, and it amazes me to say this, Tolkien usually related his stories in such a way as to draw the reader into his world and make them feel as if they are being carried along by them. I say that this amazes me because I know that many readers find Tolkien overly wordy and too interested in descriptions, and yet he still draws me in to his works and I travel his characters’ journeys with them. I cannot say the same for A Wizard of Earthsea, which I can only compare to that densest of Tolkien’s works, The Silmarillion. I wanted to know what happened from an intellectual point of view, but felt very little inclusion in the world or empathy for the hero, Ged. ...more
I had never read of Brandon Sanderson’s books before this one, but I had heard that he had been chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This led me to expect a fantasy of book with great depth and detail. I was not disappointed at all.
The world that we encounter has a lot in common with ours, but the differences are startling and profound. For example, the slavery depicted is so much more entrenched and ruthlessly enforced than many examples in our history. The Skaa are non-people, with no possibility of truly rising above their position. This has similarities with the fate of African slaves in the US, who were easily identified because of their skin color. Although the Skaa look exactly like the Nobles, there is the same prejudice about the production of hybrids, with religious dictates that call for Skaa women to be killed immediately after they have served their purpose. The fact that this does not stop some Nobles from having children by Skaa mistresses is another point of similarity to the hypocrisy shown by many American slave owners. However, the biggest difference I can see between the Skaa and any slaves on Earth is that they are totally lacking in hope. After one thousand years of total and absolute subjugation they are almost totally incapable of showing rebellion.
At first glance, the Final Empire would seem to be pretty similar to Medieval Europe. However, this is a world where no living person has seen a green leaf or a colorful flower. The ever-present ash drains the color from everything and the plants have changed to cope with the lack of direct sunlight. This, and the impossibility of keeping things clean, creates a constantly depressing sense of hopelessness. The daylight hours are spent in the endless battle to move the ash out of the way whilst the night is a time of fear for the mist that covers everything. The whole world feels so claustrophobic that I am amazed that the Skaa have not chosen to commit mass suicide in an effort to escape their drudgery. However, we find that other races have been forced to submit to castration and breeding programs, so perhaps the Skaa are luckier than some.
Of course, the main difference is the presence of magic in this world. I do not want to say too much about how the system works, because it was a true joy to see it revealed slowly as Kelsier taught Vin how to use her powers. It is perhaps the most original magic system that I have ever read (see the note below), and involves the use of a variety of metals to power certain abilities. It is visually stunning and creates very exciting and enthralling fight sequences. One thing that I really liked about it is that it has weaknesses. If you run out of a metal you need during a fight then you are stuffed and things can go horribly wrong very quickly. It also has interesting implications for armor and what weapons you should carry, or not, as the case may be.
I found the Prologue and the first few chapters difficult to get through, possibly due to an overload of new information and concepts. However, after that, Mr Sanderson paints a wonderful picture of his world, with just the right amount of detail. We are given enough knowledge about most things, so that we feel informed without being overburdened. This is a delicate balancing act and sometimes he does fall slightly on the side of not answering all my questions. However, as there are two more books in the series, I hope that most of my questions will be answered in time. Indeed, the book does not read like the first part of a series. It does not seem to be setting the scene for action that will only arrive in later volumes and reaches a relatively tidy resolution. The plot does accelerate towards the end and I was fearful that we would be left with a cliffhanger ending, but this book could be read as a stand-alone without too much feeling left dangling. Of course, once you have read this volume you will want to read the other two, but I still appreciated the way it ended....more
Experienced readers of the Discworld series were first introduced to Mr Pratchett’s concept of Witches back in 1988 Wyrd Sisters and Tiffany and Miss Tick snuggle easily into that version of the practice. There are pointy hats, but that is only because people expect them; there are hairy warts, mainly because most women of a certain age get them; and there are flying broomsticks for some reason that is never explained but there is definitely no cackling. Cackling is something that all Witches strive to avoid and is a certain indication of impending madness. No, Mr Pratchett’s Witches are women who have a keen intelligence and an ability to apply hard work, excellent observation and a mass of headology (a brand of psychology only studied by Witches) to the everyday troubles of the people that they care for. Some have specialties, such as Granny Aching who keeps her Witching almost exclusively to sheep.
Young Tiffany is a great heroine to throw at a person who loves to read books, because she is so serious and bookish herself. She is not like the other children who dash about in a carefree manner: she is an outsider and observer, someone who immediately appeals to the geeky nerd inside all of us who are likely to pick up a book for entertainment. She does all the things that we wish we could have done when we were nine: she is calm in the face of danger and brave enough to trust her instincts; she is doggedly loyal to her little brother even though he is totally obnoxious and she is very, very clever. In short, she has you cheering for her within the first page of text.
However, there is no doubt that the stars of this book, and indeed the series, are the Wee Free Men of the title. Whilst Tiffany is all common sense and thoughtfulness, they are the exact opposite. They are chaotic and unrelentingly aggressive towards anything and everything unless it is a lawyer, which they find terrifying, or someone they deem a friend. Once you have become a friend of the Feegles they will watch over you until you die, whether you want them to or not. Granny Aching befriended the Feegle Clan that lives on the Chalk, and they extend their protection to Tiffany as part of that friendship. They are impressed by her fighting skills because of the frying pan incident and are awed by her ability to read and think without having to hit herself on the head. She is constantly irritated by them and their behavior, but they prove to be wonderful allies and she eventually develops a deep affection for them....more