Look, let's just put the obvious right out there: YIKES. And also, WTF?
I was feeling pretty happy when I started reading, because I missed everyone, bLook, let's just put the obvious right out there: YIKES. And also, WTF?
I was feeling pretty happy when I started reading, because I missed everyone, but I swear by the end of Tyrion's first chapter I was already tired of repeated phrases, over-detailed descriptions of food, clothing, and cities, and Tyrion's tiresome new fixations on his father's death and his long-lost teenage girlfriend/wife. Those feelings held good for most of the book, as it seems like the way Martin navigated himself through writing all these characters over six years (or more, if you count the sections he wrote for FFC and chopped out) was to give everyone a basic motivation and then hammer it in repeatedly during their sections.
Also, no one achieved these motivations. When rereading the series this year, I had to stop in the middle of the fourth book because I couldn't take the futility anymore, when I knew perfectly well this time through that Asha would lose to her uncles, Arianne was going to get an innocent man killed because her father neglected to fill her in on his plans, and Brienne was not going to find anyone at the ass-end of nowhere. So I imagine it would be with this book, if I had any plans to reread it fully instead of skimming the good bits. No one achieves their goals, some people (Jon, Asha) end up worse off, and some people (Tyrion, Dany) have about exactly the same resources as when they started.
More irritatingly, no one grew as characters and in some cases they regressed. The sidetrip into Dany is a Horny Teenage Girl I reeeeally could have done without, and Tyrion just got more bitter as the book went on. Jon's storyline was one of the few that felt interesting to me, if somewhat stationary and again full of unnecessary details, but any lessons he learned are apparently being saved for the next book. For the first time ever I was interested in Bran's storyline, and that one was left dangling halfway through the book, as I recall.
And oh my god, don't even get me started on how half of Westeros is hiding out on the eastern continent in disguise, or how the civilizations over there seem really ancient and advanced but are presented as degenerate, brown, and rotting-decadent (they eat dogs! they have pleasure slaves! everyone is ebony!), or how I am 100% certain Martin doesn't know how to write fully-realized female characters. I know the series was conceived in the '90s, when no one questioned why every fantasy had to replicate western medieval patriarchy, but the language the characters use when discussing the female characters or women in general is just fucking awful. I imagine his argument would be that women like Dany or Arianne or Asha are supposed to repudiate that language just by existing, a) not when they are constantly tricked or fucked over by men, and b) not when you have a WHOLE GODDAMN CHAPTER about how disgusting Cersei's post-childbirth body is and how anyone who's ever seen her naked can't possibly respect her. Yes, I'm SURE that's how she was ruling a kingdom from bed in the last book, with her disgusting body everyone apparently wanted to fuck.
OK. There were some things I liked. Bran's storyline was cool and when it became clear that the woman was a child of the forest I got a legit thrill. I loved Tyrion's river cruise through quasi-Egypt and the city of the stone men. Dany taking off on a dragon was awesome, despite the idiocy before and after. I liked getting Melisandre's POV, even if it was shallow and brief, and Arya's storyline redeemed itself somewhat. If she's training to be a Faceless assassin, I am in. Everyone I've talked to IRL thinks Barristan's stuff was the best and I tend to agree; I especially liked filling in the details of what happened 15-20 years ago and even earlier (Arys wanted Tywin's wife??) because of how all those events are still affecting the present day. I smiled at the Mance reveal because at that point I wasn't tired of "surprise! X isn't dead!" yet and I like Mance. Theon's storyline was interesting until it got boring. Jaime and Brienne whaaaa? And if it had been cut by 50-70%, I would have enjoyed the descriptions of the eastern continent because Martin has a genuine eye for detail; he just doesn't know when to cut it out.
I even have some sympathy for him, because I saw a lot of writer's block tricks I recognized in the book -- start writing a chapter, make up some fun background world-building detail until you know what you're doing with your characters, then just write whatever conversation works until the plot steps in. Unfortunately he skipped the part where you go back and clean up all the extraneous words you had to write to get the good stuff flowing. It isn't his fault that the book got away from him, the deadline was pressing, and the publisher didn't bother with heavy editing because they knew it would sell regardless. But I feel like the book is so ponderous and full of dead ends (WHAT WAS THE POINT OF QUENTYN MARTELL?), not to mention riddled with kneejerk racial and gender stereotyping that's too lazy and endemic even to cross the line into bigotry, that it's hard to get excited about the rest of the series. Maybe this was his Order of the Phoenix (except with more uses of the word "cunny") and Winds of Winter will surprise us by being shorter, tighter, and kicking the plot into high gear. But I think in the meantime I will stop actively waiting for more ASOIAF and retire into other fantasy worlds. ...more
3.5 stars. My problem with this book is the same as with the previous one, which is that the tough, sarcastic tone is often overdone, so the narrator3.5 stars. My problem with this book is the same as with the previous one, which is that the tough, sarcastic tone is often overdone, so the narrator is still tossing out flip little asides after a line of dialogue or factual description and the pace drags. The fact that the asides are usually snarky comments about unpleasant things (their shitty parents, people who have died or betrayed them, the world sucking in general) annoys me even more, because I get impatient with main characters who are just too cool for everything, and never seem to enjoy anything without irony. Plus, boy, do some of the complaints get repetitive; I think it was around the third time we got the story of Buffy Meissioner that I started skimming when I saw her name.
However, that's just a writing tic that I don't like, and otherwise the world-building and characters are really enjoyable and once I got over the initial slow start to this book, I read it pretty fast thanks to some intense action scenes. I was a big fan of Crichton when I was a teen, and this series gives me that same medical-thriller feel as some of his best stuff. Great summer reading, basically. ...more
Despite getting a high rating for sheer entertainment value, this book has one major problem, which is that it is actually AT LEAST FOUR BOOKS, maybeDespite getting a high rating for sheer entertainment value, this book has one major problem, which is that it is actually AT LEAST FOUR BOOKS, maybe even five. No wonder it took the author so long to finish! And I'm not even talking about page length (though in the last 30-40 pages I was whining aloud "Why is this book still happening?" as I was trying to finish it at 1 in the morning), but the fact that there are four distinct stories here -- a return to the school stuff from the previous book, two D&D-type quests (go work for this faraway duke and incidentally save him from poisoning; go find some bandits along with four random new characters who don't get along with each other), and a pretty cool training montage which was maybe my favorite portion of the book. By the time I was on the third story, I was seriously annoyed that we'd spent over 300 pages noodling around back at the University to start with, and I seriously wished Rothfuss had just chopped off that part of the book and released it alone, then followed up with a third book set in Vintland, and finally an Ademic/faerie book followed by a return to the University in another book.
Pacing aside, the book has still got it going on, and Rothfuss continues to be excellent at coming up with original and creative new fantasy tropes and twists. I like that Kvothe gets himself into trouble as often as he gets himself out of it, and that it feels very natural for his young and precocious character to do so. His constant grooming of his own reputation works very well in this sense, and given his age and the frequent school setting I keep being reminded of Harry Potter and thinking Kvothe comes out better in comparison -- Harry always accidentally saves the day and then is modest and retiring about it, whereas I like that Kvothe takes advantage of what comes his way, even if he is honest about the truth to his friends.
The only other problem with this series is that Denna, the love interest, is the worst fucking character, but I guess you can't have everything. Sigh. ...more
I ended up liking this better than I like some of the books, even -- there were a lot of important emotional issues that got dealt with, and sometimesI ended up liking this better than I like some of the books, even -- there were a lot of important emotional issues that got dealt with, and sometimes it almost felt like fanfic of his own world. The POV switches to Thomas and Murphy were great. Where's the all-Murphy book?...more
I bought and read most of this collection in 2004, and then stopped reading near the end because I felt like it was getting repetitive and the story wI bought and read most of this collection in 2004, and then stopped reading near the end because I felt like it was getting repetitive and the story was slow to wrap up. After reading McKillip's latest, The Bards of Bone Plain this month, though, the similar themes made me want to pick it up again. It's still over-long (especially that last book) and wanders a bit, but the fantasy land and the system of magic she created are great, and so is the supporting cast of characters. A lot of things about it remind me of Martin's Song of Ice and fire series (especially the layout and character the land) and the recent book Name of the Wind, which is funny because after this book McKillip wasn't really known for epic fantasy, instead focusing on lyrical and intimate fairy stories. I'd say her strength lies somewhere in the middle (which is why I liked her most recent book), but this book has a lot to recommend it, especially to a younger audience still learning the base of the fantasy novel canon. The system of magic and the female characters especially feel like a step outside the Jordan-esque stuff that's become so standard, and it's sad to think this came out in the late '70s and still feels fresh because of that....more
(ARC borrowed from my husband's to-review pile.) This is the third McKillip book I've read this year that made sense more than 75% of the time! (I jes(ARC borrowed from my husband's to-review pile.) This is the third McKillip book I've read this year that made sense more than 75% of the time! (I jest, because I love her books, but it does get irritating when they wander off into abstraction and don't actually resolve the *plot*). The structure worked well, flipping back and forth each chapter between a handful of "modern" characters and the story of the fabled bard Nairn, whose chapters are headed first by an excerpt from a scholarly paper and then followed by actual narration of his life. You have the usual fantasy/McKillip cast of royals and commoners, including bards in this case as Phelan, a bardic student, unravels the mysteries of his past and his archaeologist father. I was slightly amused at the inclusion of lots of steam technology in the modern sections; I guess steampunk trappings are just inescapable in fantasy at this point, although they don't sit well with the author's usual gorgeous medieval settings. I was reminded, of course, of her Riddlemaster trilogy, since a lot of the book involves harping and musical/magical battles, and while the book resolves satisfyingly enough, I felt like it was conceived with a larger scope. Three books would have been a stretch, but a second book (or lengthening this one) would have been nice, if only because all the modern sections take place in one city, as do most of the historical ones, and the slight hinting at the larger world made me want the characters to explore it. Overall enjoyable, though, and I would recommend it to friends who hadn't read McKillip and wanted a more straightforward introduction than some of her other books....more
I've been rounding up scores a lot lately for creativity -- here, I felt like the book devolved into some standard and disappointing/unsupported romanI've been rounding up scores a lot lately for creativity -- here, I felt like the book devolved into some standard and disappointing/unsupported romance novel stuff at the end, but the worldbuilding and characters were so interesting that I couldn't just give it three stars. I don't object to romance subplots (would be hard to be a fantasy reader and do that, since it's so pervasive in the genre), but I do object to romance *novel* subplots, but which I mean relationship arcs that seem forced and cliched. I especially dislike it when the male lead is a arrogant asshole from the beginning, but is somehow redeemed through backstory, because then every asshole-ish thing the guy did in the first half of the book is somehow wiped out by a tragic childhood or whatever.
However, in the interest of not projecting my issues onto this book, I upped the score. The African-descent heroine, the extended-ice-age/Napoleonic setting, and especially the brief brush with what would've been the American continent and its "troll" inhabitants (who seem more like feathered serpents) were all intriguing, and this is after all the first book in the series. I'm just preemptively irritated to know that the romance will probably continue throughout the rest of the book without addressing any of the original things that made the male lead so loathsome to the female lead....more
I hate giving such a poor review to a Le Guin book, but seriously, what was she doing here? It starts in one direction, goes in another, and limps toI hate giving such a poor review to a Le Guin book, but seriously, what was she doing here? It starts in one direction, goes in another, and limps to a close in a third without really illuminating or exploring much of what was set up at the start. I guess it was an experiment in mood but it's like she ran out of steam. ...more
Gets a charity extra star for extenuating circumstances. Urban fantasy has come a long way since this, and since it's a first book I forgive the clumsGets a charity extra star for extenuating circumstances. Urban fantasy has come a long way since this, and since it's a first book I forgive the clumsy looseness of the plot's machinations. Also, Eddi is one of the more sufferable Mary Sue heroines out there, and I sort of liked her wardrobe. Otherwise it's a funny mishmash of things the author personally likes (Minneapolis, vintage clothing, rock music, fairies, Prince) and some interesting characters in search of a real story. Where's the Hairy Meg-centered sequel?
(Also -- anyone notice that Jim Butcher seems to have pulled all of his fairies-in-Chicago stuff right out of this fairies-in-Minneapolis book?)...more
People for whom this is their first McKillip may be surprised to hear that it's actually one of the clearest and most-readable of her books -- I had aPeople for whom this is their first McKillip may be surprised to hear that it's actually one of the clearest and most-readable of her books -- I had a much better sense of place, time, and character than I often do (despite the POV changes and jumps through time and space, haha). I also really liked most of the characters more than usual, and felt that they had more purpose and growth than opaque fantasy archetypes. Conclusion doesn't make much sense, of course, since it's McKillip and she loves her abstract prettiness, but it's in smaller proportion here. This may sound like I'm damning the book with faint praise, but since I always want to love McKillip's books more than I end up doing, and this is the first one of hers I didn't have to reread the first five pages over again once I understood what the heck was happening, I really feel like she balanced the elements very well in this book. ...more