Marvelous world building, interesting characters, decent story. The setting is very unique and I felt it took central place in this book. The plot seeMarvelous world building, interesting characters, decent story. The setting is very unique and I felt it took central place in this book. The plot seemed to be only a propelling force that served to show more of the setting, culture and interactions in this world. I didn't mind - I love seeing new worlds and Astreiant is the best I've encountered in ages - but it can bog down a normal story-focused reader. The writing is full of made up and specialized vocabulary, names are peculiar, and while beautiful prose, it isn't easy to read. Lethe edition doesn't make it any easier with their horrible cramped font.
It's supposed to be gay romance, which I didn't know until I held the book in my hands and noticed it in the blurb on the back. Oops. Not to worry though - there were like three sentences in the whole book that would have made me question the orientation of one character, only to forget it a few seconds later. I have no idea where the gay label came from - seems like it starts in the next book (Point of Knives / Point of Dreams), not this one. So, if you're looking for romance, you will be disappointed. If you're looking for fresh new fantasy, buy it.
What I love about these non-bestseller list niche stories is how creative they can afford to be. The setting in Astreiant is more similar to 19th century, and our own world. Low magic, gunpowder and swords, but it's a notably high level civilization, with common access to education, normal jobs in normal cities, and law enforcement actually serving citizens. Ethics and morality and laws actually work here and degenerates are put where they belong. The defining trait of the setting is astrology. It makes the world tick, it's real and everybody accommodates it into their lives as we do news channels and weather forecast. I've never seen something like it before.
Other reviews described the society as matriarchal, but I saw it as equal rights. It's just a society where your position, occupation, privileges and rights to inheritance have zero to do with your gender. The city of Astreiant happens to be traditionally ruled by a Queen, but I'm pretty sure neighboring country has a King. It's not like the book has an agenda - it doesn't rub this into your face.
Female empowerment doesn't seem to matter much because main characters are male anyway, something that started to bug me only after finishing the book. I know why the main duo is male, but I can see no reason (yet) why supporting characters are mainly men. What difference does it make? I hope other books in the series introduce more balanced gender ratio. If a character doesn't have plot reason to be male, they could as well be female.
The characters are good - they're not the focus of the book, but the characterization seeps in slowly and I grew to know and like both Philip and Nico very much. They feel like real people, just like supporting cast, even though the book doesn't spend a lot of time talking about them - it's more show than tell, which was great.
Story... uhh... It started great - policeman investigating a grim affair concerning missing children. No groundbreaking discoveries, just gathering clues and talking to people - awesome, like a police procedural. (I'd love to see more of these in fantasy or simply non-modern settings.) 80% into the book and... uhm... how are they going to solve it in time? I kept hoping it will sort itself out till things went (view spoiler)[KABOOM (hide spoiler)] and the book ended. Derp. All that buildup for nothing.
Up until the end, I thought this book was guaranteed 5 stars. Not with this ending though... As much as I loved every second of reading about the world and the characters, one still needs a decent plot in a fiction book. Nevertheless, it's a GREAT book and I already bought the rest of the series. Very much recommended to anyone who wants to read non-standard fantasy, something fresh and new. It was a lovely ride....more
This book is the perfect proof that I need a plot in a book after all.
It was a delight to read - for the first 200 pages. I loved the world and its quThis book is the perfect proof that I need a plot in a book after all.
It was a delight to read - for the first 200 pages. I loved the world and its quirks, I didn't quite understand the relationship between two main characters but believed it'll clear up in the end, and I was happily and eagerly anticipating the plot mentioned in the blurb. I reached half mark of the book and started to worry. And when I flipped to the last few pages, imagine how shocked and peeved I was to find that a good chunk of the tome was devoted to several short stories and an excerpt from another book. There was barely any time to introduce the main (?) point of the plot and to wrap it up... It all sizzled out together with my excitement. There's virtually nothing beyond the blurb. Still, I understand why it wasn't phrased differently - there is simply nothing else in this book that could be summarized and pitched. Nothing ever happens. Characters appear and disappear, nothing changes, main duo is as meh as ever (and I still don't understand why they even are together), it all reads like a slice of life without much meaning or purpose. It doesn't help that Kushner explains the evil political plot in three-page monologue by one of the characters, just as if she got bored and wanted to finish it quickly.
I loved the setting and the premise, but I can't help but feel that all of it was pretty pointless, no pun intended....more
A 30-year-old good-for-nothing musician finds his uncle's diary and gets sucked into fairytale world where all sorts of magical creatures are real andA 30-year-old good-for-nothing musician finds his uncle's diary and gets sucked into fairytale world where all sorts of magical creatures are real and flower-named elves wage war with each other... err, something like that anyway. Doesn't sound good.
I actually don't remember why I bought this book. It doesn't sound like my type of thing. Someone must have recommended it; but then, I remember one of my friends saying that it took her a year to finish this book. Tad Williams is the only author whose book I couldn't read in one chunk, had to leave it for two months, but actually came back and finished it, so I took the risk with this one.
It starts fairly nice. Unfortunately, once the tension dropped, I found myself stuck around 50th page. I was slogging through diary-reading and later through lengthy descriptions of Faerie. There were occasional gems here and there (Williams writes nice horror snippets, I was amazed), but generally nothing significant happened in the first half of the book. The only thing that kept me reading was the humor. Main character has a surprisingly nice sense of humor and it was really enjoyable to follow his narrative. The climax is great though. I didn't expect something so... creepy? Williams is certainly amazing with words, I could imagine the scenes in perfect detail. The resolution is somewhat random, but not that jarring. I could do without the epilogue though.
All in all, the world and its fairytale-ish qualities is well-drawn and pleasant to experience. I didn't mind its similarities to our world. There were some interesting (and dark) twists, mainly regarding characters' personalities. The main plot line is rather simple though, and many threads were gravely underdeveloped. Many things get referenced only to stay as mere references, which is rather annoying in a novel that long. This book is simply too wordy while not much happens.
I've seen some people complain about swearing in this book. I haven't noticed anything like that - quite the contrary, there are traces of serious censoring in Polish translation, which is awful by the way. And sprinkled with tons and tons of typos. Polish readers - do yourselves a favor and get the original. Polish version is horrible....more