My friend, Jen, described this book as "a hot mess." I would say it's something closer to "ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag."
I had to wMy friend, Jen, described this book as "a hot mess." I would say it's something closer to "ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag."
I had to work just a little too hard to get to the pleasures of this book. Don't get me wrong, there were many pleasures. She clearly knew her world and her characters and didn't want to insult us readers with too much clear exposition. That's fine. I get that. But maybe she over estimated us a little bit? Everything was just slightly too... impenetrable.
Names: So it wasn't London it was Londinium. Not Victoria but Victrix. Not Blackworks but Black Werks. Amsterdam/Emsterdem. Even just passing mentions! Red Indians/Red Industans. Just enough to engage my brain. Which, normally, would have been fine, but....
There's the incredibly complex magic system, with white, gray, and black disciplines and different sorcerous ranks, and apparently subgroups, like "Endors," inside each discipline? And Queen Victirix is the living embodiment of Britannia. And griffons/gryphons who like to eat sorcerers. AND the "tideturn" when energy floods the world. AND specially trained Shields. AND magic stored in jewelry. AND dragons of different colors sleeping under the earth. AND she can turn into the living embodiment of death, riding across the land on a flesh-golem horse! AND floating magical colleges! AND... and.... and... It was enough of a difference from our world that really, that could have been more than enough in just one book.
But wait, there's MORE!
You have Mentaths, aka Sherlock Holmes clones. And Archibald was essentially Holmes himself. (I remember thinking, Oh, thank Gods. Finally a character I know and don't have to work at understanding!) But instead of being a singular creature, he's part of a small army of geniuses who help run the empire. And of course if they don't think, their brains may fuse.
They may or may not have anything to do with the Steampunky aspects -- the fusing of meat and machine. Clockwork horses and humans with claw hands. Which was really neat and, again, would have been more than enough "difference" to make the book unique. But wait, there's still more!
Because of course we get the mad scientist creating arachnid walking robots with menthath brains, as part of a THREE-PART conspiracy to unseat/discommode Victrix. And apparently the conspiracy (which includes Prussians and maybe Vixy's mum or husband?, and dragons, mustn't forget the dragons!) may have reached back really far in time because the bad guy's family estate is where the Oldest Dragon sleeps?
AND, because that wasn't enough to wade through, we've got back story for each of the main characters -- dark and grim and explained only through HINTS. What exactly happened to Emma that Mikal had to kill his Prime? Why is Clare in disgrace and "unregistered"? What's going on with Clare and Emma? What's going on with Mikal and Emma? Damn, I think they slept together four chapters earlier than I figured it out. It's all (period-appropriate) hints and glances and subtle imprecations.
Even the backstory of the secondary characters -- god I love Ludo, he was fantastic -- is complex and only hinted at. I'm not Sherlock Holmes! I want a little spoon feeding, please, in my trashy novels!
And so much happened off stage! Emma would wander off and then show up, next chapter, bloody, bruised, and broken. We would have to infer what happened.
And, of course, there's the language. Proper for the era, it's oblique and dense. And she's got an Italian and a Prussian so it lapses into different languages sometimes, too! With little contextual clues. (I kept my phone set to Google translate while reading it.)
All in all, it's a fine fun book. I liked it. The characters are nuanced and interesting, even Sig with his fixation on sausages. Emma, in particular, is fascinating. I'll read the next. But it's more work than I'm usually willing to put into a novel of this sort. So I'll have to wait until my brain has enough cycles. ...more
Austen is nice, if not my favorite sort of book. I like her stuff, but I'm not mad for the genre, like some folkA thoroughly excellent novel!
Austen is nice, if not my favorite sort of book. I like her stuff, but I'm not mad for the genre, like some folks.
But this was just like all the GREAT parts of Austen, with all the bad parts taken away and replaced with EVEN MORE AWESOME!
Austen's heroines are, frankly, lacking agency. I mean, that's part and parcel of the whole genre -- the women's crappy lot in life and how they make the best out of it. The tension between the practical things that these women need to do, because they are trapped, alongside the romantic ideals that they aspire to -- that's the driving force behind Austen's novels.
But Kowal has given her Jane more agency and a big climactic fight at the end! The magic system is very Austen-ish, quiet and lovely and elegant.
I'm eagerly awaiting book two from the library. ...more
A gothic little confection, Beauty and the Beast meets Jane Eyre. An interesting world with a new take on fae. Good writing, strong heroine... I shoulA gothic little confection, Beauty and the Beast meets Jane Eyre. An interesting world with a new take on fae. Good writing, strong heroine... I should have loved this book.
And yet I didn't care. I really don't know why I didn't care, but I paused with just 20 pages left o pick up a whole new book and read that. I can't say why, but I didn't like it.
**spoiler alert** Is anyone besides me getting a little sick of Rachel's charmed "child of destiny" schtick? We get it. She's going to heal the races**spoiler alert** Is anyone besides me getting a little sick of Rachel's charmed "child of destiny" schtick? We get it. She's going to heal the races or whatever. She's the object of a handful of predictions of prophesies -- the werewolves', and the gargoyles' and even Rynn Cormel's random assertion that she's going to save their souls. (Seriously. That came out of left field several books ago and she still hasn't ever explained WHY he thinks this.) She is going to heal the wounds between the elves and the demons, save the Ever After, save the vampires' souls, help the pixies and the fairies become friends, resurrect the dryads, yadda yadda yadda.
I wouldn't mind so much, I think, except that all of this is taking place in the space of two years? She needs to spread it out a bit more. This level of action and character development should be taking a decade, at least. It feels rushed.
I don't know if I'm tired of the Rachel/Trent UST or just relieved we've started down that path finally.
This is what happens when you take that stupid idea for a fantasy novel you had when you were 13 and wait until you're a skilled and talented pulp wriThis is what happens when you take that stupid idea for a fantasy novel you had when you were 13 and wait until you're a skilled and talented pulp writer to actually spin it out.
It's a terrible idea, just like most of the ones you have when you're 13. "Oooh, wouldn't it be cool if I could just reach into a book and pull out anything I want?!" Because our author is male, we have to add in, "Even a GIIIIIRRRRLLLLLL!" And the, because he was 13, add in "A sexy hot girl who would want to have sexy hot sex with me no matter what?! No, no, no, a sexy hot sexy BISEXUAL tree NYMPH! Like a Nympho but a nymph! Ha! I'm funny!"
And then give that terrible terrible idea to feminist, free thinker, and all around good guy (with decent writing chops), Jim Hines.
It's good, y'all, despite the omg bad concept. Not perfect and I'm sorta ishy about the nympho bi nymph who has no free will of her own, but I'm willing to give it a shot. ...more
Pitch-perfect pulp. And I mean that as the highest form of compliment. (This review will stand for the first three books, taken together in one big guPitch-perfect pulp. And I mean that as the highest form of compliment. (This review will stand for the first three books, taken together in one big gulp, which is how I read them.)
So often, authors feel the need to add stuff to steampunk. (I'm looking at you Kate Locke). Or they take the differences too far and create a world that is too alien to feel Victorian (Cherie Priest). But really, it's lovely as it is and a good writer can do so much with the setting. And Ms. Adina does. All three books are lovely examples of the genre, perfectly executed.
Our heroine is spunky and bright but not a Mary Sue. Her situation is only teensiest bit contrived. The series's villain is vicious and quite horrible, while still being subtle and believably evil. And I love her Rag Tag Bad of allies, from start to finish.
My only complain is the way that the central romance is being forestalled in a somewhat clumsy and strained manner. I'm hopeful that the next book will wrap up that nonsense and let our heroine bound forward of her own accord, with a man at her side or no.
The book is a perfect exemplar of epic fantasy ... and why I've abandoned the genre.
First, yes, we get it, Kvothe is clever. He's the mThe book is a perfect exemplar of epic fantasy ... and why I've abandoned the genre.
First, yes, we get it, Kvothe is clever. He's the mostestest veryest cleverest boy! He learns runes in days instead of months! He remembers things he heard just once! He's a genius musician! A talented magician! People spend all this time staring at him because he's just so very clever! We get it, already.
And there's the storytelling structure that's he's using. I haven't read more than the first book, but I'm not sure that the oh-so-clever structure provides an resonance with the larger theme or the series. Which we don't know yet, but probably has something to do with names, wind, or killing kings. I'm deeply afraid, though, that the bit at the end, where Bast natters on about masks and becoming your mask and all that, is supposed to be the tie in.
The world itself is fairly standard. Tarbean is an awful lot like London, innit? And the University is an awful lot like Oxford, innit? Magic is done with energy transfers and names. People who know names go batty in very dramatic and poetical ways that makes them talk about the moon and stars and things, like they've all tapped into the collective subconscious of all the Manic Pixie Dream Girls in the universe.
Speaking of girls...
Listen, I know that epic fantasy is a boys club. I do. It's one of the reasons I don't read it that often. But the women in this book are just beyond the pale.
For the first half or so, there are two women (both maternal) and both of them have no more than one or two lines. There's an interesting argument, within fantasy literature, about which form of misogyny is worse -- the systematic exclusion of women from the story (like Rothfuss) or the systematic brutalization of them (a la Martin). But that's a debate for another day.
Instead, let's look at the three (only three in 650+ pages!) female characters in The Name of the Wind. Who, it goes without saying, are young, slim, and think Kvothe's just the bees knees!
There's Fela, who doesn't say more than four or five words until our hero has rescued her TWICE! (Ambrose and the fire.) Both times, the rescue isn't about HER, so much as it is about HIM. AND, once he's saved her, she dithers about how she's useless and he reassures her! And, of course, because he's rescued her, she falls for him.
(One of the other females is the little 13 year old that he "rescues" by giving her a false charm. Not even going to examine that, since she's not on page for more than a few 'graphs, but he does cite that moment as a waystone in his life, wanting to become a hero because he LIED to her to "rescue" her.... If she doesn't die horribly later in the series becasue she did something stupid and was buoyed by his lies.... that has some terrifying implications.)
Then there's the mad flighty little mad waif who lives in the Underground, Auri. Who is poetical and whatnot in a way that mad people never are outside of fantasy. And who is a wild thing and only Kvothe's exceptionally clever awesomeness allows him to tame her! She adores him! Ooooh, Kvothe is so dreamy even the mad crazy girls like him!
And then there's Denna/Dinnah/Deanna/Dineah/whatever. She's this broken and beautiful but fugitive soul, a will o wisp of a girl, luminescent and elusive. He's the only one for her, she is like a spark on the winds of fate and they talked of everything and nothing.... and .... Gag. Good God, the description their time together reads an awful lot like a fifteen year old's storybook romance. Which would be clever, so clever, if that's what it was. But it's an adult's recollection of that same thing and either Kvothe is an emotionally stunted idiot or the author is, I can't quite decide which. Mostly I'm exhausted and irritated and offended that this is anyone's idea of a decent woman, much less the one at the center of this epic.
Even the incidental women are all sexualized -- the dancer who invites Ben into her tent at his going away party, the girl leaning out the window to wave, there was even, I think, a prostitute/acolyte of Encanis? It's a bit muddled now.
To be fair, there are glimpses that he realizes he has a problem with both his dearth of female characters and his portrayal of the few that do exist. He just doesn't actually DO anything about it. Which is, almost, worse than not realizing he has a problem at all.
I'm maybe being too harsh. It's not a bad book, if you accept that it's a standard western European fantasy epic with all the flaws of that genre (and no attempt at overcoming them). It's got an interesting if unoriginal take on the magic, a standard hero of the Clever! (rather than Strong! or Good!) flavor, a religious system that looks an awful lot like Christianity, and a casual everyday misogyny. If that floats your boat, go for it....more
Another Stephanie Plum book. It is a fine book, what with the cars exploding and the tension between her love for Morelli and her love for Ranger, theAnother Stephanie Plum book. It is a fine book, what with the cars exploding and the tension between her love for Morelli and her love for Ranger, the nudie beach apprehension, the ridiculous dress, and the Lula wackiness.... it's the exact same book she's been writing for about 15 books now. It's fine. If that's all you want, you'll be thrilled.
If, like me, you're yearning for just a smidge of movement, a hint of character development, you'll be most excited by the splash page in the back announcing a new series by Ms. Evanovich and the head writer for the 'Monk' TV series. Perhaps she'll have a new series to make money with and be willing to mix it up in the Stephanie series for a change....more
Ms. King's novel employs that most hoary of pulp devices, amnesia. It's delightful. After the cinematic excesses of the Pirate book, I was somewhat irMs. King's novel employs that most hoary of pulp devices, amnesia. It's delightful. After the cinematic excesses of the Pirate book, I was somewhat irritated at first, hoping for a return to the less cartoony tone of earlier books in the series. What I got was, in fact, a dark and subtle exploration of the inherent awfulness of a Colonial system, even when all involved have the best intentions, and the slippery slopes involved in having first-rate minds engaged in action on behalf of a second-rate government.
I was thrilled by the return of Mahmoud and Ali, especially in their own milieu -- I loved them in O, Jerusalem but found Justice Hall irritating, despite their awesomeness. In addition, the coming conflict between Mycroft and Mary makes me tremble to even consider, and I wonder about the Homles's marriage given taht Sherlock will be caught in the middle.