Sigh. A cute premise and pretty decent writing is solidly ruined by most of the plot hinging on everyone the heroine meets acting irrationally pissedSigh. A cute premise and pretty decent writing is solidly ruined by most of the plot hinging on everyone the heroine meets acting irrationally pissed at her, and refusing to clue her in to WTF is going on. If you want me to believe that an uptight preschool teacher is the chosen one, for the love of monkeys give her a rock star support team, not these bickering assholes. ...more
dear Max Gladstone: your picture should be right there in the literary dictionary next to the term "worldbuilding" so that people can look up how to ddear Max Gladstone: your picture should be right there in the literary dictionary next to the term "worldbuilding" so that people can look up how to do this concept right. plenty of people that have wonderful imaginations love to throw everything whackadoo they dreamed up into their fantasy/SF/horror/genre-mashup novel, and end up coming off like ADD children, blinking at a whole bunch of pretty but meaningless images in quick succession. 'Two Serpents Rise,' like your series starter, comes off like this at first. the city is full of mystical ex-disciples with no gods left to pray to, flying Quetzals bearing cops on their backs, a skeletal King in Red, and an economic firm that governs commerce based on a soul rather than gold standard (as in, pieces of one's soul are the literal coinage of the realm). these cinematically painted images are tossed in front of the reader like scattered coins so effortlessly that watching the author pick them back up again and pocket all these seemingly throw-away ideas into vital parts of the narrative is masterful. AND some characters happen to not be straight, AND AND some happen to not be white, and who they are and who they love is, again, part of the plot and not just a haphazard colors-of-benetton random choice. the story is a little slower in some places than the impeccable Three Parts Dead, but just as well-written. i almost didn't miss that first book's heroine in getting wrapped into this one - turns out that Serpents has absolutely nothing to do with the prior book, other than that they clearly have happened in the same world, so feel free to read out of order....more
an occasionally unevenly-written "normal people end up in a fantasy land" sort of tale, only SWEET BABY MONKEY IT'S ABOUT VETERINARIANS TREATING UNICOan occasionally unevenly-written "normal people end up in a fantasy land" sort of tale, only SWEET BABY MONKEY IT'S ABOUT VETERINARIANS TREATING UNICORNS AND WHATNOT.
BJ is a 4th year vet student in the middle of a brutal life upheaval that makes her question whether she can finish school. on the verge of walking out the door, she's invited by a large animal prof to join an ambulatory rotation, where she finds herself again by finding herself in an entirely different world. there's a somewhat superfluous bad guy plot tacked on the end, but that bit is easy to ignore in favor of the droll but deadly griffin and his ilk.
the fun of this for me was absolutely in the details. the afterword says that O'Donohoe's wife was a vet student during the writing of this novel, and her influence on accuracy of both the vet student experience and the practical realities of emergency equine surgery are utterly evident. this one is highly recommended for anyone who's both a fantasy lover and an IRL veterinarian....more
A half-dead man with no past (killed and resurrected with no memory of life before) works as an enforcer for the shadowy NYC Council of the2.5 stars.
A half-dead man with no past (killed and resurrected with no memory of life before) works as an enforcer for the shadowy NYC Council of the Dead, removing who- and whatever they consider a threat. He stalks a lushly described big apple populated with ghosts and voodoo priests, smoking cigarillos and hunting with a sword cane, avoiding notice by the mundane folks.
All of which has the potential for so much badassery that it's frustrating when it sinks under the weight of its own moral grey zones. The COD guys are described as incompetent and possibly immoral assholes, but hey, we work for them anyway. Are there alternative employers? Is fighting the fight from within of benefit to someone? What happens if he just tells them where to shove it? Who knows? Worse, though, I'm still fuzzy on why the bad guy's plan was in fact actually bad.
Despite all that, the set-up here is pretty fantastic, so I'll X fingers that the next one finds stronger footing. ...more
Kenyon has a formula that works for her (and her diehard fans): describe a tortured but hottt bad boy, explain how he got to be so very tortured and vKenyon has a formula that works for her (and her diehard fans): describe a tortured but hottt bad boy, explain how he got to be so very tortured and very very bad, then drop him in the pathof a refreshingly average,sweet caring woman who totally just wants to love him and discover how nice he is underneath his tough tough exterior. this installment is not much different, even though it's about a truly ancient being of immeasurable power. Apparently everybody is going to find their true love somewhere around New Orleans, and it's all going to end out great for everybody, no matter whether God or demons or fate themselves are involved. Pure popcorn fluff of the type that is ideal for beaches and airplane rides....more
there's a moment so indelible in 'the wizard of oz' that it's become a catchphrase for some situations: "pay no attention to that man behind the curtathere's a moment so indelible in 'the wizard of oz' that it's become a catchphrase for some situations: "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." it's at this point where the machinations to motivate the characters all come out in the open, where what's actually going on has gotten painfully obvious. it also works as a kind of metaphor for the contract i expect between author and reader - i promise to believe (at least for a little while) in this fictional world they've hallucinated for me, and in return, the author sweeps me up in such an engaging tale that i have no desire to leave it.
'Alif' has both an engaging tale, and an occasionally all too obvious woman behind the curtain.
Alif is a computer hacker for hire, a self-styled "grey hat" that protects people's blogs and underground web sites from the state police of his Arab government. as part of a messy breakup, he ends up with an ancient book that may or may not have been written by jinn, and gets swept up into an unseen supernatural world that has a huge impact on the seen, real one.
this book absolutely should have done it for me. it hits the speculative sweet spot where it's not easily categorized as sci fi or fantasy, it realistically depicts an Arab setting instead of the standard wizard-in-the-midwest sort of UF that's done to death, and holy crap not everyone in the world is white. maybe it's all that potential for greatness that ends up disappointing when it's merely ok? the characters are mostly one-dimensional, and the protagonist's growth mostly amounts to realizing that he's been a bit of an ass most of his life. the part that jarred me out of the narrative, though, was the strangely self-conscious moments scattered in the text.
one character says
"Look at all the Eastern writers who've written great Western literature. Kazuo Ishiguro. You'd never guess that The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go were written by a Japanese guy. But I can't think of anyone who's ever done the reverse-- any Westerner who's written great Eastern literature."
and the western face smiling out from the dust jacket all of a sudden has me wondering just how self-referential or aspirational this idea is.
in another moment, one of the few characters with unfortunately hidden depths says
"I was afraid you'd turn into one of those literary types who say books can change the world when they're feeling good about themselves and it’s only a book when anybody challenges them. It wasn't about the books themselves—it was about hypocrisy. You can speak casually about burning the Alf Yeom for the same reason you’d be horrified if I suggested burning The Satanic Verses—because you have reactions, not convictions.”
and while that's a fantastic, insightful, incredible thought, the recipient of this thought then goes on to think, "it sounded as though she'd rehearsed that idea and only now found a time to say it," sigh, apparently like the author herself just did. i most certainly don't want to be reminded periodically of the curtain, that there's a hand behind it scripting all these flames and flourishes. with a story this potentially incredible, i really wish Wilson had been a skilful enough author to get out of her own way....more
in 'better part of darkness', Gay creates a particularly fascinating world. earth hangs in the middle of things, with recently discovered g2.5, maybe.
in 'better part of darkness', Gay creates a particularly fascinating world. earth hangs in the middle of things, with recently discovered gates to hellish Charybdon and ethereal Elysia allowing an influx of otherworldly beings. though the people name the newcomers by terms out of Earth myths and legends, these sirens and imps and jiin aren't earthlings at all. calling these other races "aliens" and "offworlders" sets the tone for this book to be a lot different than the now-overly-familiar "vampires have finally made themselves known as real" setup for a UF story, and the resultant tone balancing between SF and UF hits a speculative fiction sweet spot that i'm really into. unfortunately, the excellent worldbuilding is the best part of 'darkness', which ultimately falls flat due to a one-dimensional main character - charlie is a pretty stereotypical chosen-one sort of badass, leveling up continuously without needing to develop any of her newfound powers, shooting bad guys down all dirty harry at any opportunity. the plot is a jumbled mix that keeps putting any newfound major plot in the back seat as soon as the most recent subplot rears its head to take over, so it doesn't really know if it wants to be about a supernatural drug killing local teens, a woman trying to figure out her newfound magic powers, or a child abduction rescue mision. without a compelling plot building and driving toward the end, or a compelling heroine to really root for, it was too easy to put down even at critically climactic moments. ...more
An interesting story with a fun magic system (adepts brew potions, but there's no wand-waving and zippy spell-slinging, so you better plan ahead), wheAn interesting story with a fun magic system (adepts brew potions, but there's no wand-waving and zippy spell-slinging, so you better plan ahead), whete we're going along with a cop who might be getting her big break to detective, tracking down the source of an illegal killer new potion/street drug. Unfortunately, our heroine is one-note brashly foul-mouthed tuff, though she has a really interesting back story to explore in future installments. The difference between "clean" and "dirty" magic is annoyingly vague, though that may be the point. There's a pair of obligatory alpha males to start the obligatory love triangle, but refreshingly, there's more thought into career and getting stuff done than love/lust....more
a solid 3.5 stars from one of the trailblazers of the genre, though there's some confusion as to reading order: this one was published 2nd, but comesa solid 3.5 stars from one of the trailblazers of the genre, though there's some confusion as to reading order: this one was published 2nd, but comes in the timeline before the first book, Burning Water.
somewhen in 1973 or 4ish, Nixon's on trial and everyone's smoking grass and hanging groovy with the band. a young witch has moved to NYC now that college is done. though she has a pretty heavy amount of magical power, bills loom large for everyone, and saving people from demons & whatnot gets you lots of hugs but not the rent money. she's banging out formulaic romance novels on spec and minding the shop for a pregnant friend, and also discovering how to handle herself with a few unexpected things that go bump in the night.
it's funny how many more recently written series have echoes of this one (LK Hamilton and Tanya Huff instantly come to mind), though this series is pretty obscure even to UF aficionados. the pacing is a little slow, and everything is going to feel anachronistic until you get the date ironed out, but it's certainly refreshing to have a heroine with actual problems that doesn't get to level up instantly every time a baddie shows up. kindle versions are often on sale, and these are so far well worth checking out....more
a wonderfully ideal palate cleanser for those of us that like lightly trashy fantasy in-between our srs bzns fantasy, this series opener hits pretty ma wonderfully ideal palate cleanser for those of us that like lightly trashy fantasy in-between our srs bzns fantasy, this series opener hits pretty much every note just right. there's a nicely imagined world of magical and mugglemundane people, an engaging plot, leads with solid chemistry, and villains that are deeply dastardly (indeed, if there's anything really wrong with this book, it's that everyone is pretty one-note). oh, and, hey, pretty hawt to boot. special bonus points: you know that obnoxious crap where the plot of a standard romance novel is fueled mainly by miscommunication? well, in this book right here, the heroine gets all worried over something imminently practical she's done, starts to get nervous about overstepping her bounds, and the hero says, "wow, i was such a bonehead to have not done that earlier. thanks for being awesome," and then the plot continues on just fine without the unnecessary silliness. i'll definitely be picking up more of Beardsley's stuff....more