Percy Jackson was always going to be a hard act to follow, let alone top. To Riordan’s credit he manages the first goal but falls very very sho...more 4 Stars
Percy Jackson was always going to be a hard act to follow, let alone top. To Riordan’s credit he manages the first goal but falls very very short of the second. Heroes of Olympus, a new series set in the Percy Jackson world follows fast on the heels of the last series. At first it seemed almost too fast – only a few measly months have gone between the final showdown between Gods and Titans and already the next big threat is rising up, some deities just can’t catch a break! Riordan’s knowledge of Greek (and Roman!) mythology placated me somewhat there though, and it’s as fast paced and action packed as ever. Where it doesn’t fare so well is the new characters and the shift from first person to third-person limited narration. No Percy Jackson in this book, no charmingly hilarious oddball narration. Instead we get three new characters; Jason, Piper, and Leo who shift between third person point of view chapters – allowing us to witness just how vapid and boring two of their personalities are.
Jason and Piper are both practically cut out from the Big Book of Mary-Sue Heroes and Love Interests. He’s an amnesiac with a magical weapon and great destiny! She has eyes that change colour and is so beautiful she tries to hide it by cutting her hair with safety scissors! Together they will ignore their ‘best friend’, take little heed to their own lives, and spend paragraphs boring on and on to themselves about how awesome the other is! It says a lot about how good the rest of the book is that I can award 4 stars to a novel where I’m indifferent at best to two out of three of the primary characters. Leo, however, is pretty awesome. Not as awesome as Percy of course, but he’s got some fun and humour about him and he actually puts work into what he does rather than simply being conveniently brilliant (he’s brilliant as well of course, he’s one of a prophesied group of heroes, but there’s a sense of effort and actually trying that’s distinctly lacking from the other two).
It’s a problem exacerbated by the rotating third-person limited narration. If I had never had to listen to her thoughts Piper may have been quite interesting, the potential was certainly there; she appears a clever, rebellious, tomboyish sort of girl, with a decent knowledge of Greek mythology, as a Native American she’s also the first character to call out the term ‘half-blood’ and point out its use as a very real and hurtful racial slur. So far, so good. Step into her PoV, however, read her thoughts and you can see just how shallow her characterisation actually is. Her tomboyishness manifests as a snobby disdain of ‘popular’ and ‘fashionable’ girls (because no girls become popular from actually being nice you know! Maybe it’s cause I never went to a US highschool but I have never, never, understood the ‘mean girl’ trope) and of course the story responds by making all the popular fashionable girls she encounters into complete bitches who use their sexuality for power like the evil hobags they are while she feels self conscious every time she’s put in a dress or make up. Bleh. Her rebelliousness becomes her acting out to get her father’s attention (no problems there), but instead of actually shoplifting she just used her powers (which she didn’t know of) to ask for things, which people then gave her before calling the police once they regained their senses. See! She’s not a real theif, she asked, and she didn’t know she had magical powers she’s super-perfect and awesome and would never actually do something bad like steal! Fuck off. She’d have been a bit more interesting and less Sueish if she actually had stolen that car. And the Greek mythology knowledge – she can call up the long and hard to pronounce names of pretty obscure figures all from reading it up with her actor dad for a part. I call bull. Without being subjected to her vapid ‘it’s so bad that I almost died but the worst thing was that Jason doesn’t recognise me’ inner monologues I could have found her interesting I may even have been singing her praises! As it stands I’m kind of hoping she tries to charmspeak Clarisse and gets a proper beat down. This book needed more Clarisse.
Jason’s the same. Bland heroic heroes are never my favourites and I’m still conflicted over what I feel about his ‘mysterious’ Roman past. On one hand the existence of Roman gods has been established since the Janus made an appearance in the third Percy Jackson book. There was yet more foreshadowing in the fifth where a statue-come-to-life resents being mistaken for a Greek Goddess when she's Roman. But at the same time I feel something as big as a whole Roman mythology-themed demigod camp running parallel with Camp Half-Blood with each unaware of the other’s existence is just a bit much to shoehorn into the story now. The characters can tell me that Jason was off doing awesome things to help against the Titan’s while Percy was doing his thing until they’re blue in the face – I still can’t make myself believe it. Wonderful feats of Titan-killing that happen completely off-page do not make for a particularly compelling backstory. It’s like ‘hey, look at the new awesome hero. I know he hasn’t done anything yet and you've never heard of him but he’s totally awesome and just as good as Percy, maybe better!’. No. I am the reader and I will be the judge of that and he’s not. He lacks both the charisma and the ingenuity.
I really hope that the next book, which features Percy and two new heroes, will win me round to the Roman idea more though. Because I like it, it’s got potential, lots of it. I just don’t like Jason and don’t think the introduction was necessarily handled in the best way (though I totally get the dramatic and narrative reasons for doing it this way).
But I’ve been really negative! It’s only because I love it so much! If I didn’t love I wouldn’t critique! And much as I couldn’t care less about Jason or Piper, this was a wonderful children’s book. I wondered, a little, what threat Riordan was going to have to bring in to justify a second major prophecy getting started so soon after the last, but actually what he went with made total sense. The overarching villain is definitely an interesting one and the ‘smalltime’ enemies in this book include some of my all time favourite figures from Greek mythology. Allowing legendary humans, as well as monsters, to make appearances is probably going to be my favourite part of this series. Monsters are all well and good but Greek mythology is full of wonderful human vilainesses and husband-murderers as well (fingers crossed for Clytamnestra!). The story, at 552 pages is a lot longer than previous entries in the Percy Jackson series, mainly due to narrating for three separate characters rather than one, but actually it zips along at the same old pace and really is a very quick and easy read.
And Leo, poor forgotten Leo. Even in my own rant I haven’t mentioned him much. He’s no Percy, it’s true, but he’s definitely worth reading for and a great addition to the cast of characters at Camp Half-Blood. Which, almost perversely considering how much I disliked Jason and Piper, that was actually something this book managed way better than the Percy Jackson series ever did – the one thing I kept on ragging on Percy Jackson for not doing; it made Camp Half-Blood feel like it was peopled by real teenagers, not just background characters who came and went as the story required. So yay for the third-person narration in that respect!
Now if only Riordan could tighten it up a bit and make Jason and Piper a little less unreasonably obsessed with each other in the next book I may yet be a happy camper. It’ll be odd reading Percy from a third person perspective though…might take a bit of getting used to.(less)
First off I want to state that despite giving this review only one star I did not hate it, neither, however, can I in good faith rate it as 'ok'. It w...moreFirst off I want to state that despite giving this review only one star I did not hate it, neither, however, can I in good faith rate it as 'ok'. It wasn't ok, it was a total mess, but lurking in the first few chapters there was the potential for a good book - if only the author had been more concerned with the writing than the pictures.
The book's Wikipedia page says 'This children's book was originally intended to be a picture book featuring photographs Riggs had collected, but on the advice of an editor at Quirk Books, he used the photographs as a guide from which to put together a narrative.' and you can tell. The photographs aren't used to illustrate the story so much as the plot has been stretched out of shape to incorporate the pictures. The especially sad thing about this is that I would have loved the original concept - it was the photographs that drew me into buying this book and dissapointment at the mangled plot that made me donate it to charity.
The writing actually starts off well enough. For the first few chapters I was hooked, I even recommended it to my younger sister who hardly ever reads. It was tense, atmospheric, and the use of photographs - presented as once belonging to the protagonists recently deceased grandfather - made sense. However once the protagonist reaches the Welsh island he thinks will hold the answers to all his questions about his grandfather the plot takes a turn into WTFery.
Putting aside the irritating clichéness of the setting - a bleak windswept island that's barely heard of modern tecnology and the even more irritating superior attitude of the American protagonist who has heard of modern technology (such out of reach places do exist, afterall). The plot decided to take a bizare turn from creepy and atmospheric children's-horror -which was what it had been sold as - to (view spoiler)[a time travelling romance with kiddy X-Men. (hide spoiler)]
The use of pictures became increasingly poorly justified as we moved away from ones that were part of the Grandad's collection, and it soon became clear that the photographs were a crutch for both the plot and the writing. Why write a detailed description when you can say one short sentence and then stick in a picture? And then consistency issues within the photographs themselves started to appear too - I gave my book to charity so I can't double check but the protagonist's love interest looked like a different person in each photograph she appeared in and none of them matched the protagonists repeated textual description of her as 'totally hot' (maybe I'm just being shallow there though and if I'm wrong about it being a different girl in each do correct me).
After a very promising start the middle section was dragged out and dull - a cross between Tom's Midnight Garden (without the charm) and (view spoiler)[the X-Men (with none of the excitement) (hide spoiler)] with an unnecessary dose of emotionally disturbing romance. Then along came the ending; an info-dump and an anti-climax leading to a 'to be continued'. Thanks, but no thanks, the gimmick couldn't be sustained past the half way point of one book, let alone prop up a whole series.
I feel bad giving a debut author such a bad rating so some positives: I really enjoyed the first few chapters, Riggs writes well in the first few chapters and the depiction of a grieving teenager with post-traumatic-stress was well done right up until the point they got to cliché Bleak-Island. If he hadn't commited himself so hard into stringing along a plot purely to including his favourite photographs, Riggs could have written something quite good (or better than this at least).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Inherit the Wind is a much better volume than Super Team. The ‘superhero’ gimmick has thankfully been dropped – one volume was fun anymore an...more3.5 Stars
Inherit the Wind is a much better volume than Super Team. The ‘superhero’ gimmick has thankfully been dropped – one volume was fun anymore and it would have been horrible – and it’s back to more standard Fables storytelling. All the same it’s still not quite up to the standard of some of the earlier volumes. Part of this is because it’s an inbetweeny, set-up, sort of book. The last volume resolved a major plot thread so this volume has to introduce us to the next few plotlines, something it manages with varying success.
The title storyline, Inherit the Wind, gives some sort of self-contained structure to the volume and is by far the most interesting thread of the three plotlines that take up the majority of the book (Finding a successor to the North Wind, Bufkin’s adventures in Oz, and Mrs. Spratt training for revenge on Fabletown). After having treated ‘the cubs’ almost as a single entity throughout a lot of the run it was interesting to see more panel time devoted to their individual personalities and the sibling relationships between them. I have to confess that I still can’t remember half of their names, but I have a slightly better grip on their personalities now and after hearing the prophecy surrounding them in this volume I look forward to them developing further and featuring more prominently in the future. I also liked the choice for which one did eventually win the title of the next North Wind. The entrance of the East, South, and Western winds also introduces some interesting story potential. The only bum note in this storyline that I can really think of is that Bigby and Snow’s dialogue came a little from ‘the big book of parent dialogue’.
The other plotlines in this book though…eh…I honestly can’t rate them too highly. If the payoff is good I’ll take it all back, but Nurse Spratt’s scenes seemed both too frequent and far too repetitive to really hold my interest: be praised by how far she’s come, flirt with whatshisface, make vague threats to destroy Fabletown, rinse and repeated ad nauseum. And call me oversensitive as well but I have to say I also find the ‘bitter fat woman’ characterisation a little…lazy? I can understand where the plot comes from in a verse were almost all the other females are ‘the fairest in the land’, but it really plays into the whole misogynistic idea that women who aren’t ‘pretty’ are all jealous bitches. If something interesting happens there I will take it all back, and for the moment I’m really reserving judgement on this plot, it could go somewhere really good, but it has yet to wow me.
The final of the main plotlines though did more than just fail to impress, in fact it actually prompted me to use the contemptuous look that I normally reserve for creepy men who try to grind up against me in nightclubs (and that normally sees them shuffling off looking suitably shamed). Bufkin in Oz…Bufkin in Oz… what to say about this plot… I stated in my review of Super Team that, although I love Bufkin, I don’t very much like Oz and well, if anything the dislike has increased with this volume. I was silently hoping that a more competent writer than Baum might do something I liked with the potentially interesting setting – unfortunately not. In fact if anything the Oz storyline has brought about some of the most puerile and irritating writing of the whole series ‘The new emperor fed me lots of people, because he had many enemies to go away of. “Yoop,” he’d say to me, “the secret of a stable empire is to turn all of your enemies into waste product as quickly and as often as they spring up.” Yoop poop!’. How funny! A babby-talking giant who eats people and shits them out! Oh wait, that’s not remotely funny. The whole storyline is characterised by this childish writing and annoying characters that simply don’t gel with the tone of the rest of the series. Unfortunately this plot also looks to be a big one, having come nowhere close to a resolution by the end of the volume. It’s not quite The Great Fables Crossover level of shit, but it’s probably going to be similarly ignored and sipped straight over in subsequent rereads. If you like Oz though you might like this, I'll happily admit my bias against the setting may be clouding my judgement.
And that’s it for the main story, the last two issues collected in the volume are ‘standalones’. ‘All in a Single Night’, a Christmas Carol>/i> parody featuring Rose Red is surprisingly important for what at first glance looked like a ‘holiday special’. It sets up her upcoming role as one of the major players in the series and I have to say this is one thing that I am really looking forward to in the next few volumes. Rose Red is awesome and definitely deserves more time to shine. The second standalone ‘In those days‘ is more of a traditional standalone, being a collection of very short stories, illustrated by a number of different artists, set in the fairytale worlds before they were conquered. Mostly these stories are self-contained but at least one gives some insight into the past of characters we have seen before.
So overall a solid, if slightly directionless volume. I like where the North Wind plot is going, where the Rose Red plot is going, and reserve judgement on the Mrs. Spratt plot. Only the Oz storyline doesn’t gel well, and even there I’m still hoping that later volumes will me round to it.(less)
Again, this is going out to my newsfeed so whole review under spoilers for discussion of books 1-4
(view spoiler)[Running concurrently (for the first half at least) with events from A Feast For Crows, A Dance With Dragons follows the characters who didn’t appear there – mostly Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys. With the main cast scattered across the Narrow Sea up or North of the Wall it works better as a Song of Ice and Fire book than A Feast For Crows did. In the last book the plot felt very centred around Kings Landing with chapters set elsewhere feeling very much like interludes, A Dance With Dragons is a return to the feel of the first three books – geographically diverse and nominally ‘separate’ plotlines all interweaving to form a much larger story.
It also brings the return of some of my favourite (and least favourite) characters. Bran is back! I’m not sure there’s enough of him, to be honest, but he’s back and he’s north of the Wall. Also Davos. No matter what anyone else says I love Davos. Theon (who I hate) is back, and actually has an interesting role to play this time in an interesting plot line. And then there’s the ‘big three’ – Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys – all of whom have big things going on for them in this book. Dany is trying (and failing) to rule the conquered city of Myreen (why do people want her as queen of Westeros again? She’s just as terrible as you would expect a power mad overly entitled 15 year old to be if you gave her a throne), Jon as the newly elected commander of the Nights Watch is giving the Wall a serious shaking up, and Tyrion is on the run after murdering the most powerful man in the kingdom.
So right from the offset there’s a wider variety of things going on than in the previous book – which also means that some of the story lines are probably more hit-or-miss too, depending on what your reader preferences are. Personally, I found the Dany chapters tedious and unpleasantly colonialist (nothing quite as bad as the third HBO season’s white saviour shot of her crowdsufing her rescued brown subjects but yeah… that imagery certainly came from somewhere). I also wasn’t keen, and never have been, on the way she, as a very young teenage girl, is presented as a male sexual fantasy. Compare the treatment of her character with that of Sansa, who is only a year or two younger, and I actually feel quite sick. And this book especially was big on the ‘sexy Dany’ as she considers both offers of political marriages and her own inexplicable attraction to a man who dies his beard blue. Yes, girls did get sexualised younger in earlier time periods that Martin uses as his inspiration, I have no real problem with the characters doing that but the way its presented (and has been from book one) by the author always makes me feel as a reader that I’m meant to enjoy and be complicit in the sexualisation and I’m really, really not. Possitives though – at least this time she’s and active agent in her sexuality and sex life, making her own choices rather than being sold into sexual slavery and raped. Aside from the skeevy pervy bits I also found her chapters pretty dull and I could see where most of it was going well before we got there.
I vastly preferred Jon Snow and Tyrion’s chapters. Jon is really coming into his own, proving to his men that he isn’t just a kid but that he’s a Commander who will take control, shake things up, and try to reform the Night Watch to the power it once was. But, as with all reformers, not everyone will agree with him. I will be very very interested to see what happens on the Wall when book six eventually comes out. And Tyrion, as always, gets some of the best chapters by merit of the most interesting and varied supporting cast. But he still has the unfortunately repetitive habit of repetitively repeating the same things repeatedly. In previous books it’s been ‘I’m in love with a whore’ and ‘my sister tried to kill me’, this book it’s ‘I killed my father and King Joffrey’ (only one of which is true) and ‘Maybe I should ask her/him/them ‘where whores go”. Also there’s the fact that in the third book he murdered a woman for the crime of sleeping with someone who wasn’t him. There’s not really any coming back from that in my eyes, no matter how witty you are.
Which, funnily enough, is also the problem I have with relatively new viewpoint character Victarian. Introduced in A Feast for Crows, he returns in this book when the timelines merge once more. Brother of the new king of the Iron Islands, and experienced raider, Victorian bears a grudge against his brother for shagging his saltwife and ’forcing’ Victarian to kill her. No sympathy. Really. None. Anyways, he’s been given the mission of bringing the Dragon Queen, Daenerys back as a wife for the new new king of the Iron Islands. So there’s a lot of him travelling on a boat, raping a ‘dark mute’ his brother gave him as a present, and plotting to marry Dany for himself. And he’s not the only one, Quentin Martell of Dorne is on his way to Myreen as well to court the new Queen and persuade her to return to Westeros and take an army of Dornishmen as a wedding gift.
So lots going on in this book. Some worked for me (mostly the bits in northern Westeros and north of the Wall), some didn’t. It felt more like a Song of Ice and Fire book in structure and plot than the previous volume did. But I found that this was the book where I found popular criticisms of Martins style the most valid – the sexualisation bothered me more than in previous books and seemed more out of place, I felt there was a lot more rape happening on page and that it was presented in more worrying ways than in earlier volumes (a prior relationship with a man – only revealed after the sex scene – does not give him the right to corner you outside your bedroom and fuck you until you cry after you say ‘no’.) and there was a heavy-handed and exoticism and otherising in the way non-westerosi characters were portrayed that made Dany’s conquest and rulership uncomfortable. Probably most annoying from a purely narrative perspective, though, was that Martin’s penchant for unexpected twists and ‘it can always get worse’ meant that at the end of the book I was left with a ‘well what was the point of all that then?’ feeling. The place that Martin chose to wrap up the book (apparently earlier than he had wanted, pushing some already written material back into the next book) meant that several of the plotlines, for me, ended up feeling like a five-book-long shaggy dog story.
So yeah, I really enjoyed this book, it’s highly readable, and I really look forward to the sequel – especially for what’s happening in the north and at the Wall – but I did have some pretty big problems with it too and I don’t want to gloss over them. Hope to see all the characters together again properly in The Winds of Winter, whenever that comes out. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Rivers of London (because I’m not American) is a series I have mixed feelings about. I got the first book as an impulse buy because of its beau...more4 Stars
Rivers of London (because I’m not American) is a series I have mixed feelings about. I got the first book as an impulse buy because of its beautiful cover (the UK editions are gorgeous) and spent a lovely day lying out in the park getting myself very sunburnt as I totally immersed myself in the story. I got home, book finished, and preordered the next two in the series straight away. In the over-a-year I’ve been waiting for this book to come out, however, the second in the series arrived and it was…well…no where near as good as the first book. In fact I barely liked the second book at all and was beginning to think that maybe I had been wrong about the series, maybe the first one wasn’t as good as I thought and maybe I only enjoyed it so much because it was the first book I read for fun after sorting my life out and seeking help for my depression. Thankfully, with the arrival of Whispers Under Ground, I can rest easy that the series is good after all, very good, and that Moon Over Soho was just a blip in an otherwise very promising urban fantasy series.
Whispers Under Ground is a bit heavier on the police procedural side than the previous offering. That’s probably not for everyone but after being seriously annoyed at how utterly unprofessional Peter was in Moon Over Soho I was really glad there was a return to basic standards of policing. Also returning is Lesley May, something I was delighted with. I like Lesley and I like her and Peter’s banter-filled relationship – though I actually do hope that they stay friend’s rather than eventually ending up together. If nothing else, Lesley also provides a check against Peter’s occasional bouts of idiocy. The multi-book ‘ethically challenged wizard’ subplot introduced in the last book carries on, but the main focus, as in the first book is solving the initial crime – a fatal stabbing on the Underground tracks.
It’s a more mundane crime, in almost every way, than those in the two previous books and the police work is more mundane as a result. Without so many chase scenes, magical threats, and general life threatening danger it felt like a slower book – but it actually rattles along at a fair pace, the whole story taking approximately a week from murder to solution; and it's a very easy book to just devour in one sitting. What we get instead of a magical menagerie of fucked up experiments is a surly half-fairy, magic pottery, and a lot of traipsing through underground railway lines, sewers, world war two bunkers, and secret passages. It’s hard to describe it in a way that sounds interesting but it really is.
Peter’s habit of explaining the history of all the London places he visits in the story still remains and, now that I’m more familiar with London myself, I can understand why some people find it irritating. For the most part I still find it interesting – I’m the sort of person who does like to know and work out the history of the place and actually my dad is very like Peter when it comes to this habit of explaining architecture and history, so I guess it’s something I’m used to. However the description of Baker Street tube station almost had me shouting ‘I know what fucking Baker Street looks like, everyone in the world has travelled the Bakerloo line!’. What also remains is Peter’s apparently teenage hormones, I’m probably being a bit unfair here and I’m sure Peter’s voice is quite an authentic and realistic one, but I still don’t particularly enjoy hearing him admire a female character’s bum. Buuuut, it’s much more understated than previously and he doesn’t do his thinking with his penis this time so I’m going to accept it and move on. For the most part I really enjoy Peter’s voice.
Back to proper policing also means back to character interactions with lots of other police officers, both familiar and new, and I am always delighted with how Aaronovitch gets the multi-cultural nature of London (as he should, being a Londoner and all). No all white cast here but a real mix of races and ethnicities and each character, mostly, treated as a person (if a not-yet developed one) rather than a walking stereotype (though Peter does often like to speak in stereotypes himself). There’s not much in the way of complex character development in this book, and I think Nightingale is woefully underused, but the character interactions are crisp, realistic, and often funny. Like most police procedurals it’s not so much about the character’s as the plot, and both that and the cast are pretty well put together and enjoyable.
It’s not a five-star book, it wasn’t amazing and I don’t think I’ll ever ‘love’ this book with the same passion that I do my favourites. But it’s a very enjoyable page-turner/summer read and one of only two current series that I rush out to buy the moment a new book is released in hardback.(less)
First reviewed (with beginners introduction to the basic premise of the series) on my blog January 2012. Text and rating edited here because of hindsi...moreFirst reviewed (with beginners introduction to the basic premise of the series) on my blog January 2012. Text and rating edited here because of hindsight and different audience/ratings system (I imagine anyone searching volume 16 on goodreads has already read the previous volumes and doesn't need protecting from spoilers.).
This volume contains 3 stories: ‘The Ascent’, a one issue comic featuring Bufkin the flying monkey, ‘Waking Beauty’, a one issue focussed on Sleeping Beauty, and sandwiched in between them, the main multi-issue story ‘Super Team’.
‘The Ascent’ was a nice, solid start to what I can only assume will be an ongoing plotline independent from the main story. Bufkin the monkey has worked his way into my heart as one of my favourite characters with his mixture of book-smarts, bravery, sheer stupidity, and pure monkey-adorableness ‘I hardly ever throw poop anymore’ is just a winning line. So far I’ve enjoyed his last few solo issues immensely, and I enjoyed this one too, though not as much. This was mainly a transitory story and didn't have much going for it on its own, it's point was simply to get the character from A to B. The introduction of an Oz plotline too is a little worrying. But that’s probably just because I never liked Oz very much, in fact I found it tedious and patronising to the extreme when I read a few as a kid. However, I shall try and keep faith that Willingham will make it work – I never liked Snow White or Cinderella very much either and I have a total girl-crush on both in Fables – so I will reserve judgement until the story gets far enough to fairly judge it.
‘Waking Beauty’ is another transitory story, but one I actually found myself enjoying more. It was nice to see not only what became of Briar Rose (I was never particularly comfortable with her earlier fate as the sacrificial woman) but how the homelands are funtioning without the Adversary. Seems all our Fables have done is create a power vacuum. Who could have predicted? (I'm a History student, that question was sarcastic). Although I know Briar Rose's story is continuing in the new spin-off Fairest rather than Fables this story felt far more linked to the ongoing Fables plotline than Buffkins did. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next; here’s hoping Fairest will be a better spinoff than the mediocre, justly cancelled, Jack of Fables.
And onto the main story! Not the strongest storyline by a long shot but it was fun, a decent bit of light and fluffy to contrast with how dark the last few volumes have been. The basic premise is that, after all other attempts have failed, Pinocchio wants to put together a comic book super team to battle Mr. Dark. It’s about as silly as it sounds and is basically an excuse for Willingham and the artists to have fun affectionately pastiching the X-Men and other superheroes. I do love the parodies of vintage comic covers, but then I'm the sad sort of girl who had art postcards of those original covers on her wall throughout uni. As always I am in love with Bigby (Big Bad Wolf) who fills the ‘Wolverine’ role on the team. It’s also nice to see Ozma getting fleshed out a bit more, apart from Frau Totenkinder I've never really had the feeling that the 13th floor magicians were much more than background scenery.
The resolution to the Mr. Dark plot I found a bit disappointing and anticlimactic, I would have preferred something less…cheaty, but I can’t deny that it made sense and was foreshadowed in advance. It also throws up some interesting directions as to where the story will go from here, so I'll try not to complain too hard. For me the highlights here were the development of Beauty and Beast’s subplot, a little scene between Snow White and Bigby Wolf (not the 'woman's job is to look after the kids while I do manly stuff' - the other one), and a hint that there’s yet more new trouble brewing on the horizon. Plenty to keep the comic going on for the moment but I do hope it picks up it's game soon - everything since the fall of the Empire has seemed a bit lackluster compared to the first few volumes.
Definitely one of the weakest volumes for me – though nowhere near the low-point of the series (the dire Great Fables Crossover). It’s not one for new readers to start with but new readers shouldn’t be starting anywhere apart from volume 1 (or possibly 2) anyway. A three star book that I’ll definitely reread (Fables, along with Harry Potter, is my comfort read whenever my depression gives me a particularly rough time). Hopefully volume 17 will be back up to 5 star quality but am not too disappointed with this. Of course it all depends where it goes from here.(less)
Since this pops up in people's newsfeeds and I talk about things that happened in books 1-3 I am going to put the whole thing in spoiler tags...more 3.5 Stars
Since this pops up in people's newsfeeds and I talk about things that happened in books 1-3 I am going to put the whole thing in spoiler tags. Shouldn't be any real spoilers for the book itself though.
(view spoiler)[ So I caved in and gave up on reading each book just before the corresponding TV series started. It was working well for me but eventually I got fed up of people who thought they were being subtle spoiling big events: ‘ooooh, I don’t want to ruin anything but wait til you get to the Red Wedding!’ Fuck off. I mean seriously, stop it, it’s not subtle and mysterious. Anybody with a brain can work out that the term ‘Red Wedding’ signifies a massacre at a wedding feast and then use basic logic to guess at whose wedding - so clearly you either do want to spoil or think I'm really thick. Thankfully not many friends do this to me, but I encountered enough people who thought they were being really enigmatic by blatantly giving away key plot points that I decided to just read ahead so they would stop annoying me with their ‘I know something you don’t know’ twattery as if they’d been inducted to the cult of Cybele or something.
Anyway, book four of A Song of Ice and Fire picks up almost imediately after book three. And there my main problems with this book start. Martin’s initial plan for the series was to include a several year timeskip between books three and four – and you can really tell . Book three rounded most of the characters plots off to a point that made it perfect for a timeskip – Arya was setting off for Bravos, Sansa had escaped kings Landing, Jon had been elected Lord Commander, Joffrey had been replaced on the throne by his brother Tommen and, most crucially, Dany had decided to put off her invasion of Westeros and get some Queen-ing experience over in Myreen. It was ripe for a bit of off-page development and a ‘five years later’ type introduction. Martin’s plan went awry, however and was forced to continue straight on from the previous book instead. This means that things developed a bit too fast for my liking. Cersei’s plot – which is really the meat of this volume – should have been one of slow-burning political machinations spanning years but instead seemed rushed and squeezed in to just a few months.
In an effort not to scrimp on showing any of the characters, Martin has also split the narrative in two with A Feast for Crows catching up with only half the cast and the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, showing what’s been happening with the others. This means that fan favourite characters Tyrion and Danny don’t appear at all in A Feast For Crows. Given that I find Danny’s chapters the worst with their over sexualisation, exotification, and marked reliance on fantasy clichés when compared to the other chapters, I didn’t particularly mind losing out on those. And Tyrion gets the best chapters only by having the best supporting cast but is quite an annoying character on his own so again, I wasn’t fussed. I did miss Bran and Jon though. After all, I am much more interested in what’s happening at and beyond the Wall than I am in Danny’s boobs or Tyrion’s cock (who could probably get chapters to themselves by this point).
So I was mourning a couple of characters I’ve enjoyed since the first book when A Feast for Crows introduces a whole slew of new viewpoint characters on me; the Greyjoys of Pike and the Martells of Dorne. And partly due to their newness and distance from the main Westeros plot and partly due to the naming convention of their chapters I found it difficult to get into these characters. Instead of their chapters being titled ‘Arys’ or ‘Asha’ you get ‘The Soiled Knight’, ‘The Kraken’s Daughter’ and such – all of which rather invites you to see them as narrative devices rather than major characters or players in the Game of Thrones. Although I came to quite like the Martells and their scheming for revenge and rebellion, I found the Greyjoys plot line fairly dull. I assume it will be important later, but it’s hard to care about it.
The meat of the story, though, is Cersei’s and for the first time Martin gives us Cersei viewpoint chapters. As a Cersei lover I was both looking forward to and dreading this because Cersei worked so well in the first three books when other characters could only guess at her thoughts or motivations. And yeah, although I still love her I was kind of disappointed with what I saw in her viewpoint chapters and how quickly she lost her grip on things after Tywin’s murder. Most of this, though, comes from aforementioned squeezing down of the timeframe. As Littlefinger lampshades ‘I never expected she [Cersei] would do it quite so fast. . . I had hoped to have four or five quiet years…‘. You and me both, Littlefinger, that's about what I would have expected as well at the end of book three. The rapid development of Cersei’s plot just feels too fast to me, while I could perfectly see it happening at a slower pace. They’re still some of the best chapters in the book, due to being the main Kings Landing ones but it all just seems a bit too much too fast.
Other characters such as Sansa, Arya, Brienne and Samwell all put in appearances as well, but the plot of this book is definitely about the political landscapes of Kings Landing, Dorne, and the Iron Islands. Other chapters (although I loved Arya’s) really do come across as removed interludes to main meat of the story, essential for the wider plot of A Song of Ice and Fire, but not for the smaller plot of A Feast for Crows. Martin did some interesting things with the Stark girls, playing with their sense of identity now that they are both in hiding and disguised, but most of Samwell and Brienne’s chapters often felt unnecessary with plot points dragged out over two or three chapters that could have easily been done in one. This was the other pacing issue with this book, while previous instalments in the series may have been long there always seemed to be a point to every chapter, book four feels a lot more aimless.
That said, and I know Ive been pretty critical, I enjoyed this book. Martin’s prose is still not great and occasionally terrible (the prologue is, just as in the last book a real struggle to get through) but once I got used to it it was a very enjoyable and compelling read. It’s not as good as previous books in the series, but that doesn’t make it bad either. I do hope, though, that when book six finally comes out with all the characters back together again, that the series will return to A Storm of Swords quality. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)