Exhaustive detail can be a plus and a minus- it serves as both here. The book is a bit out of date now, but covers its intended time period well. It'sExhaustive detail can be a plus and a minus- it serves as both here. The book is a bit out of date now, but covers its intended time period well. It's often a bit repetitive, and the writing is so so dry. Well deserving of its Pultizer, it's still a very difficult book to read. ...more
3.5/5. Jorg is still an edgelord, but this is a well written example of "post-apocalyptic fantasy", which under normal circumstances kinda drives me n3.5/5. Jorg is still an edgelord, but this is a well written example of "post-apocalyptic fantasy", which under normal circumstances kinda drives me nuts. This book is not kind to ladies through either plot or characterization, and Katherine seems... so terribly bland. I'm having a hard time convincing myself that our little sociopath Prince was really so taken with her that she'll be his big weakness moving forward. Anyway, slightly above standard fantasy fare....more
Sphene and Translator Zeiat and Breq and Seivarden and Tisarwat and Anaander and Kalr Five are my faaaaavorites I tell you, my faaaavorites. I can't rSphene and Translator Zeiat and Breq and Seivarden and Tisarwat and Anaander and Kalr Five are my faaaaavorites I tell you, my faaaavorites. I can't remember liking the entirety of a book's characters so much....more
This book maybe should actually get 2.5 stars. Maybe even 3. But the things that I didn't like about it marred my ability to enjoy the actual plot linThis book maybe should actually get 2.5 stars. Maybe even 3. But the things that I didn't like about it marred my ability to enjoy the actual plot line. So.
Also, I don't know how to shelve this book. Its not really dystopian, not really. Its implied that it takes place in the super future of our world, kind of a Shannara business, where modern civilization fell and magic rose up. But this sort of gently implied by use of names and the presence of anachronistic technology. Its not high fantasy, for the reasons listed above, though it could have and probably should have been. Its got its fingers in a lot of genre pies.
The writing itself is technically totally fine. The pacing is a bit of a mess, to be kind, but I've read worse. BUT THE REAL ISSUE HERE IS THE WORLDBUILDING. AND IM GOING TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING THAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT.
I figured out, finally, what really bothered me so much about the use of technology in the book. Magic and technology can coexist in books and movies and games quite easily, but it always felt jarring and kind of wrong in this book. Why? Because we have a world where magic is supposed to be the most powerful force out there, and the setting presents itself as a sort of dystopia. To match, the level of technology should be low. See: Howl's Moving Castle. Magic exists, it is very powerful, and so does technology, but tech stalls a little (as it should, because MAGIC). Technology and modern weaponry ruined the world before, thousands of years ago, right? So why do we have modern motorcycles, subways, and airplanes? We have suicide capsules and modern surveillance, but no one invented a Silver power inhibiting drug? Not even when Silvers were first rising to power? Suspicious. Obviously these people LOVE war. Where are the machine guns, body armor, the other weapons of war? Why do we have refrigerators, jet planes, and stadium shields made of tangible electric grids but not ICBMs? Bombs DO exist in this world, used by Reds and Silvers alike- why hasn't the use of modern technology become the dominant force in this world? Given that the metal controlling Silvers struggle with controlling more than a little metal at a time, I don't believe they could stop an incoming missile. So why are they treated as all powerful in this world when their powers aren't even regularly used. If guns are the default war weapon, why would anyone care if someone could control water? I can shoot this person from far away, so it doesn't really matter. "Special" will only get you so far if someone wants to kill you and that person has access to sniper rifles (which can be mitigated through magical power levels, as will be discussed later)
To follow with the dystopian presentation of the world, the tech should have at least been seen as antique or relics of the old world- Cal's motorcycle should been a carefully and meticulously repaired antique, not a shiny new toy. Further, if in this new society our buildings are made of magic (diamondglass?), then so should the rest of the tech of this new world. The boat should be powered not by a traditional motor, which is somehow seen as fancy (because its the ROYAL boat and the Reds do not have motorized boats, so it would seem), but instead by some sort of magic or a magically enhanced technology. The mix of selective modern technology and magic doesn't work in this world the way it should.
The Grey Town really messes with this even further, suggesting that "techies" who are, essentially, highly trained individuals who create all the technology of the world including cameras, video screens, guns, bullets, bombs, ships, and transports are the slaves of this world. "Why don't they leave?" our protag asks, when the real question is "shouldn't they actually be ruling the world, since a 'nymph' can't stop a bullet and a 'magnetron' or one of those heat/fire people can't stop a bomb?" The answer we are given is "they don't know any other life" but like, really? REallY? The people building the airplanes and living under a constant cloud of smog and in worse living conditions than the lower class Reds.... they're just like "yeah take our planes and bombs and guns, we can't imagine what use they could be to us." These people also haven't spent any time at all investing in pollution control technology? They just let the Silvers have their magic pollution trees and continue to provide them with guns and bombs and cameras and other micro-chip using devices OUT OF HABIT? I don't buy this at all. Not with the presented individual level of power each Silver seems to have. If Silvers are using whips to control crowds of Reds instead of magic, if a single mind-controlling Silver can only control 1 or 2 people at a time MAX-- nope. Nope. (Again, this could have been fixed if the tech hadn't been so modern. If the tech had been set back to 1900s era crude motors and cannons instead, say, and magic could easily overpower the technology.)
On the other hand, we can totally have modern technology and magic super-powered people together, so long as the rest of the worldbuilding follows. See: X-Men. But again, the book presents itself as quasi-dytopia and doesn't commit to a level of technology properly, and likewise doesn't give us a "god like" quality to the Silvers that would let them overpower modern technology to explain their continued reign.
So really this book needed to commit to being a dystopia and use the limitations on technology that come from a dystopian setting, or it needed to commit to being set in a fully modern world. OR it needed to commit to being a full high fantasy and just scrap the technology and replace it with magical inventions or innovations.
Also I don't like Cal or Mare or really even Maven. ...more