There are two components to a book: The plot and the writing. Obviously the best books pair a good story with good writing. An excellent writer can maThere are two components to a book: The plot and the writing. Obviously the best books pair a good story with good writing. An excellent writer can make an ordinary, or even boring, story fascinating. And sometimes a story is so extraordinary that it rises above mediocre, or even weak, writing.
The Nightingale is one of that third type of book. Upon starting it, I couldn't believe it won the Goodreads Choice Awards for historical fiction. The writing is, at best mediocre and bland, at worst cliched and clunky. It seems to be a book about stereotypes with overly-romanticized descriptions of everyday life in rural France thrown in. That remains true throughout the book. Ultimately, though, the story is so engrossing and so dramatic that it didn't need good writing to make it a good book.
Barring extenuating circumstances, I don't stay up late reading a book that's only OK, and I flew through this book when I should have been sleeping. The story and the plot are that compelling. The characters are fairly cliched (though there was an unexpected twist which I appreciated), and much of the writing is pedestrian, but the storyline was wonderful.
In the hands of a different author, this could have been a heartbreakingly beautiful book. As it stands, it's a very strong, compelling book with an amazing story to tell. ...more
1. She writes about grown-ups. Do you know how rare this is, especially in SFF? I didn't untHow do I love Lois McMaster Bujold? Let me count the ways.
1. She writes about grown-ups. Do you know how rare this is, especially in SFF? I didn't until I started looking for it. But Bujold does, and she does it well.
2. She does not let genre boss her around. The Vorkosigan novels fall into all sorts of different genres even though they're all nominally "space opera." This one is, at bottom, a romance. And again, it's done well.
3. Her characters. They're funny and flawed and thoughtful. They're real people, not sketches, ciphers, or caricatures. They're interesting and intriguing. They're also likable, though that's neither here nor there.
4. Her world. She has fleshed out an entire universe, going back and retconning whenever she wants to, but again, executing it skillfully.
5. She can write stories that are both fluffy and entertaining (as well as occasionally predictable) as well as deep and true at the same time. That is a rare skill in an author.
There are lots more reasons. But those are the main ones I can think of for right now.
This book was awesome. I will always read everything she writes, and I'll probably love them all, too. ...more
Halfway through this book, Fitz and the Fool finally have the conversation I expected them to have in the first few chapters.
I enjoyed hanging out witHalfway through this book, Fitz and the Fool finally have the conversation I expected them to have in the first few chapters.
I enjoyed hanging out with the characters in this book, but not a great deal actually happened. Everyone spent a lot of time waiting around or being generally clueless (Fitz, though we're used to that).
I'm very much looking forward to the third one, but I was sad more didn't happen in this one....more
I struggled to find a good answer for her, and I'm still struggling. Maybe because it was fun for the authors? (I hope it was fun.) Because those three names on the cover means a lot of people will pick it up, even if just out of curiosity? Because it's a good way to introduce fans of one author to the other?
But whatever the reasons, it wasn't because it made for a compelling book. The story is interesting but, due to the structure of the plot and the book, it read more like three short novels about a character who was supposed to be--but wasn't--the same throughout. Sario Grijalva's character changed fairly dramatically depending on which author was writing him, and I don't think the conceit of the plot was enough to convince me to accept these changes as in-character.
In addition, the magic was never fully threshed out. (Or it was and I totally missed it and misunderstood.) But I never solidly understood how or why it worked or what rules it obeyed (or was supposed to be obeying.)
It was long, and well-written (regardless of the author) which kept me engaged, but that wasn't enough to make up for its more fundamental flaws. A solid, but not spectacular, book. ...more
I'm a big fan of books about wolves--nonfiction or fiction. I was pretty darn excited to find out that 1) Katherine Addison wrote books under other naI'm a big fan of books about wolves--nonfiction or fiction. I was pretty darn excited to find out that 1) Katherine Addison wrote books under other names and that 2) one was about wolves.
Also, you should understand going in that I was really expecting to like this book.
I just didn't.
The issue was a combination of factors, but I think mainly it comes down to three facts: 1) I had trouble following the characters and keeping track of the Norse-ish terms 2) I had a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief (this is rare for me) and 3) when I did manage to suspend my disbelief I was pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the situations Isolfr found himself in.
I didn't realize how, in books where half the characters are non-human, I rely on cues to separate them out from the other ones. It helps when they have a different style of name (like Nighteyes) or when they have a systematized system to denote their species (like Pern's dragons). But I just couldn't keep track of who was whom, let alone what species everyone was. Also, like Alice said, people come and go quickly here. This is a book that would have benefited from a cast of characters listed somewhere.
I don't like it when I argue with a book. But the way of life Monette and Bear describe just felt too contrived to be sustainable. And I was deeply uncomfortable with Isolfr's coercion into a sexual lifestyle he didn't choose. He was never forced, but he was never, either, a willing and enthusiastic participant. It felt, for lack of a better word, skeevy. I can understand doing something out of duty and out of love of one's family, and I even recognized the parallel the authors drew with women in arranged marriages lying back and thinking of England or whatnot. It just . . . grated. The characters weren't drawn well or solid enough for me to understand their decisions. I just really don't think you can wish yourself bi.
Other than the world-building, the characters, and the vocabulary, the overall writing was quite good. Just not enough to salvage the story.
In the end this was an interesting, but not a very enjoyable, book. Also Burrich would not approve.