I have come to the conclusion that there are four types of people who read (or at least begin to read) Song of Ice and Fire
1. People who start to read
I have come to the conclusion that there are four types of people who read (or at least begin to read) Song of Ice and Fire
1. People who start to read it, get 100 pages in (or a whole first book) before giving up in disgust, throwing the book across the room, and wondering what happened to the (usually) good sense and good taste of the friends who will not stop vehemently recommending these books.
2. People that read them, enjoy them somewhat, but don't get caught up in them and don't think about them much once they're over. They appreciate Martin's writing, concede there are some weaknesses, but otherwise go on with their lives. (In my sample population, this is a very small group.)
3. People who love long stories. They read stories for the detail, and don't want the story to end. They would have been easily wiled by Scheherazade. They revel in books that go on and on and on. They long for the next book, yes, but are in no hurry whatsoever for the books to be over, because that means that there won't be any more of them.
4. People who are immediately sucked into the story. They love the characters and the plot. But it's more a compulsion than true love. They skim paragraphs that are mostly about food and clothes. They get rabidly furious with Martin when cruel, bad things happen to their favorite characters. They swear they're going to stop reading. But, like addicts, they keep coming back, even though they don't really enjoy the experience. They want Martin to end the books, tie them up with a big bow, so they can move on with their lives and not have their hearts and affections tormented in such a manner.
People who belong to group number four are the reason, I believe, Martin gets so much crap for taking three to four years to write books. These books are more than 1,000 pages long. That seems a reasonable time to produce a book of that length to me. Novels, especially ones as intricate as these, don't fly off the production line.
These are the people who tell you they love the books, but then in the next breath, go on about how excessively long they are, and how there's too much talk about food, and how whole chapters go by with essentially nothing happening, and how there aren't enough battles and action scenes. When these people are complaining to me about the books, I want to ask (and maybe I should next time) "Well, why are you still reading them, then?" But I think it's the compulsion thing. I don't think they really have a choice. I don't know if they can change from group four to group three. I feel a little sorry for them.
I clearly belong in group three. I love the descriptions. I delight in being told what people are wearing and eating and what the rooms look like. I like the quirky humor Martin sneaks in. I hate long, complicated battle scenes. I tend to skim those when they pop up in books by authors other than a select handful who can write good battle scenes. I adore Martin's books, and I am having so much fun reading them. I'm eager to read the next one, but not panting to have them over with, either. I'm savoring them.
Storm of Swords gave us some of my favorite characters and themes in the Song of Ice and Fire (so far). We get the Queen of Thorns whom I adore. We get "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." And the Maid of Tarth. And Jaime's arc developing (the beautiful image of him staring at the mostly-empty page). We get a satisfying comeuppance to some characters we despised and tragic things happened to characters we love. We get two of the most memorable weddings I've ever read. The lead-up to the first one was excruciating the second time through. We don't have to find the patience to deal with Theon as a point-of-view character anymore, and we get Jaime instead.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can't recommend it highly enough. The group twos will enjoy its twists, the group threes don't need to be told to read it, and I can only beg the group fours: Try to enjoy the lemon pies and Myrish lace, OK? It'll all be over soon enough, and then we'll all be sad.
The point-of-view characters in this book are: Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow, Catelyn Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Samwell Tarly, Davos Seaworth, and Daenerys Targaryen....more
I can see both sides of the debate people seem to be having about this book. Yes, it's not as rich and deep as his other work. Yes, sometimes it feltI can see both sides of the debate people seem to be having about this book. Yes, it's not as rich and deep as his other work. Yes, sometimes it felt like you were trapped in the shallow end of a swimming pool, when you know that, if you could just get there, there's a dazzling, deep lagoon just beyond your reach. If you're familiar with Kay's work, this could be frustrating. But I think it's also clear that Kay wrote this story for his sons. As such, I'm grateful he shared it with us.
It was wonderful to revisit some of these characters. (I'd always wondered if Kim went with Dave on that date). And, while it was not necessary to have read Fionavar, I think that experience added some of that depth back to the book. The bull, the boar, Liadon, the immutable triangle, a fight between a wolf and someone named Cadell, and even Dave's alias (Ivorson!) gave the plot that heartbreaking quality we've all come to expect from Kay. (Not to mention one throat-catching scene where someone catches up a plate and throws it at his adversary like a discus)
The primary relationships here are ones between "normal" people. We don't care as much about the triumvirate, which is part of the point of the book: It's a re-re-imagining. And the two men who are fighting are neither friends nor brothers, so it's not as poignant as Ammar/Rodrigo (as if anything could be) or Arthur/Lancelot, but it's touching on several other, unexpected levels. In many ways this is much more a book about "normal" families and how they deal with stress. There was one moment when I thought Kay was going to commit an Unforgivable Sin with regard to Dave, but he didn't. Which is good, because I still haven't gotten over his last Unforgivable Sin in Lions.
All in all, no this wasn't in the vein of Kay's recent work, but it was still wonderful, still really fun to read, and still incredibly sad when it ends. ...more
McKillip is a pleasure to read. She writes these little books that are more like fairy tales than they are anything else. They are finely drawn, beautMcKillip is a pleasure to read. She writes these little books that are more like fairy tales than they are anything else. They are finely drawn, beautifully detailed, perfect stories that make you think of the beautiful miniatures of another era. She borrows themes from old fairy tales and weaves them together into something surprising and new.
She doesn't write with the depth or character development of someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, but they're not meant to. While he writes novels that are like stunning wall-sized (or dome-sized ;)) mosaics, she writes gorgeous masterpieces that fit in a locket.
Od's Magic does not disappoint. It tells the story of a broken-hearted gardener, a confused wizard, a proud wizard, a rebellious princess, an enigmatic wizard's daughter, an Earth goddess, an apprentice, and a loyal city guard. And it's just so much fun to read! And comforting, like your favorite story from childhood read at bedtime....more
This series lures you in. The author is a passable world builder. But the, at some point (for me the ninth book; I'm slow) you realize 1) All the womeThis series lures you in. The author is a passable world builder. But the, at some point (for me the ninth book; I'm slow) you realize 1) All the women are cookie cutter characters 2) The only character you liked spent an entire novel buried under a wall 3) The whole series is one long sexual fantasy and 4) The man has written himself into a corner, has no idea where the story is going and is terrified. That's when I stopped reading, took all the hardback books (it's an addiction) to a second-hand bookstores and bought something else....more
Reading this book was a bit like being smacked upside the head with one of those really firm couch cushions by an overenthusiastic playmate. It didn'tReading this book was a bit like being smacked upside the head with one of those really firm couch cushions by an overenthusiastic playmate. It didn't hurt but that's about all that can be said of it.
The foreshadowing in the first few chapters was so very blatant and heavy-handed that I kept thinking surely these had to be red herrings. Sadly, they weren't. Anyone who has read more than three fantasy novels could have mapped out the rest of the book from there.
The main character is such a Mary Sue that, again, it borders on painful. At the same time, puzzlingly, she was frustratingly slow to pick up things that were obvious to the reader immediately. (This gives me the uncharitable suspicion that Howe thinks we're all similarly slow and dim.) The bad guy is so bad that you can't really believe she's so slow to spot it. The love interest is of the just-add-water variety (and, again, fairly unbelievable). The pat resolution of some tricky situations and relationships was frustrating and unlikely. The whole plot was cliched.
It wasn't entirely a wash. There were some interesting turns of phrases. The dog was nice. The historical chapters (where the protagonist wasn't present) were marginally better-written. And the conclusion was, if not original, at least novel for the fantasy environment as it stands. But that's about it. (All that, cumulatively, is what scraped it the third star.)
I read this book in a day. Usually that's a sign I'm enjoying myself, but in this case it was just a desperate attempt to get the book over with as quickly as possible....more
Wow talk about your sucker punch to the stomach. I thought Martin and Dozois were just being irritating by holding Diana Gabaldon's story until last iWow talk about your sucker punch to the stomach. I thought Martin and Dozois were just being irritating by holding Diana Gabaldon's story until last in the collection; like promising you cheesecake, but not until after you eat your whole dinner. But now I see why they did it. Nobody could have followed Gabaldon's story "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows." Not Peter Beagle or Neil Gaiman. Not anyone.
I'll review the whole book and then we can get back to "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows."
Touted as a cross-genre collection of "all-original tales of star-crossed love," what it really was is a collection of lovers overcoming awkward obstacles, with a handful of tales of actual star-crossed lovers thrown in. Star-crossed love isn't fun. It's not warm and fuzzy. It's Buffy and Angel, not Bella and Edward. There are no happy endings. All but a handful of authors faltered and gave us forever-afters instead of true impossible loves. These stories, Neil Gaiman's "The Thing About Cassandra," Jaqueline Carey's "You and You Alone," Lisa Tuttle's "His Wolf," Yasmine Galenorn's "Man in the Mirror," Peter S. Beagle's "Kaskia," and Gabaldon's above-mentioned story are the strongest stories in the book and also the ones with the most haunting, affecting storylines.
Happy endings are fun to read, but they can also feel very shallow and contrived. That was the case for Robin Hobb's "Blue Boots," Jo Beverly's "The Marrying Maid," Tanith Lee's "Under/Above the Water," Cecilia Holland's "Demon Lover," and Melinda Snodgrass's "The Wayfarer's Advice." These were all fun, amusing stories to read, but at the end they all rang a bit hollow. The lovers had obstacles, true, but they seemed to all overcome them very easily. Of course, these are short stories; there's not a lot of time for struggle. But the result were a love stories that didn't ring as deep or as true as I wanted them to.
The remaining stories were all either not really my cup of tea (M. L. N. Hanover's "Hurt Me" and Marjorie Liu's "After the Blood") due to genre and theme issues or eye-rollingly cliche and trite (Linnea Sinclair's "Courting Trouble" and Mary Jo Putney's "The Demon Dancer"). The remaining two, Jim Butcher's "Love Hurts," and Carrie Vaughn's "Rooftops," were, I would have said, not really about lovers in the first place and also, while entertaining, fairly unexceptional.
Now back to the truly exceptional: Diana Gabaldon's "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallow's Eve." This was the story I bought the book for, the one I couldn't wait to read, because Gabaldon promised it was about Roger's parents. I was disappointed to find it last in the book, but deteremined to read the darn book in order. Now I'm glad I did, because everything else (even the really good ones) would be a disappointment after Gabaldon's story which caused my heart to beat faster and raised actual goosebumps up and down my arms and legs and spine. I don't know if the effect would have been as great if I hadn't read all her other books, but at this point it really doesn't matter. This story was truly heart-wrenching, very palpably about lost love, but also about secret, wonderful truths no one (but the reader and Diana and God) will ever know.
Despite the weak stories, I highly recommend this book, and not just for the last story. Wonderful to read, and there's something for (almost) everyone.
Here's a rundown of the stories, written as I went along:
"Love Hurts" by Jim Butcher. I've never read anything by Butcher before, but I did enjoy this story of a gritty PI and his partner as they investigate a rash of romantic murder-suicides across Chicago.
"The Marrying Maid" by Jo Beverly. An engaging story that charmed me despite it's completely cliched predictability.
"Rooftops" by Carrie Vaughn. Cute story about the world with superheroes. Trite moral ending, but still cute.
"Hurt Me" by M. L. N. Hanover. Sheesh, talk about your creepy laying-to-rest-old-ghost stories. This one takes the cake. Glad it's over, though it was satisfying.
"Demon Lover" by Cecilia Holland. Well, that was . . . nice. And again, a little cliche and trite. But not unenjoyable.
"The Wayfarer's Advice" by Melinda Snodgrass. I loved this one so much that it doesn't matter one bit that no one would notice if you changed the captain's name to Mal and the ship's name to Serenity.
"Blue Boots" by Robin Hobb. See now, that story was the definition of cliche and predictable, but I didn't mind one bit! It's all in the execution. Though the end did make my eyes roll, just a little bit.
"The Thing About Cassandra" by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is always worth reading. This story was no exception, and the twist was unexpected and well-done.
"After the Blood" by Marjorie Liu. A post-apocalyptic vampire tale. I really just don't enjoy vampire stories, and this one was fuzzily-told. It also, given the ending, sounded more like a setup for a longer piece than a piece that stands on its own two feet.
"You, and You Alone" by Jaqueline Carey. I haven't read any of the Kushiel's Dart books. But, just now, looking them up and noting the title, I realized this story must also be a setup for the novels. However, the story itself was well-told and self-contained enough to also be a satisfying stand-alone story, unlike "After the Blood." This was also one of the few stories that actually tells the story of true star-crossed lovers. Everyone else seems to merely be dealing with inconvenient difficulties or not be lovers at all.
"His Wolf" by Lisa Tuttle. I loved this story, though I did raise my eyebrows at the speed with which the relationship developed. However (having been something of a victim of love at first sight) I'm willing to forgive it, especially given the character Tuttle describes for Cody.
"Courting Trouble" by Linnea Sinclair. More lovers merely overcoming obstacles, not really star-crossed. Also, an unexceptional plot and unexceptional characters. Fairly fun to read anyway, though I don't care for fast-paced racing-the-space-police plots.
"The Demon Dancer" by Mary Jo Putney. Now we're getting into some serious eye-rolling territory. I really had trouble taking this one seriously. Telegraphed twists, ridiculous dialog and plot. Actually, "lots of eye-rolling" sums it up quite nicely. No need to say more.
"Under/Above the Water" by Tanith Lee. This was a very poetic, lyrical Tanith-Lee like story. Lovely, dreamy, and wonderful.
"Kaskia" by Peter S. Beagle. Now that was a satisfying, haunting, beautiful story of star-crossed lovers."
"Man in the Mirror" by Yasmine Galenorn. Here are more true star-crossed lovers! Gorgeous, haunting, well-told story of a haunted house and a haunted soul.
"A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon. See above gushing.
I started rereading this book to follow along as I watched HBO's miniseries (which, by the way, was impressively close to the book). Rereading the booI started rereading this book to follow along as I watched HBO's miniseries (which, by the way, was impressively close to the book). Rereading the book itself was no less rewarding. In rereading it, I was much more conscious of the book's reputation, in a way I wasn't the first few times I read it. Martin is not as strikingly original as some of his proponents enthusiastically (and persistently) claim. Rather, he does an excellent job using the existing structure, tropes, and cliches and twisting them to create something new, unexpected, and enlightening. He regularly subverts expectations in an unpredictable manner. (Meaning, he's consistently unpredictable not just predictable in an unorthodox way).
The book is long, involved, character-driven, and features a lot of detail about social structure, food, clothes, and religion. If you don't like any of that, you won't like the book. (I'm tired of talking to people who keep asking me when they're going to get to the POINT of the book or the ACTUAL STORY. This is it. If you don't enjoy it, move along to something else.) However, I love becoming lost in the nuances of Martin's world. It's as comprehensively built as any of Jordan's, but with the bonus features of three-dimensional characters and intriguing plot lines. The only thing that bothered me were the logistics (and causes) of the long seasons, and their implications for the life-cycles of local species. However, I suppose I can't expect all SF/F novelists to think like scientists. That small flaw aside, this is a very good book.
One unexpected (to me) benefit of Martin's willingness to sacrifice characters to the story is that at times you almost dread the next chapter. If everyone's alive and (marginally) OK, you're tempted to put down the book to keep them that way. Martin's genius is that you can never quite bear to do that; the drive to find out what happens next is too strong.
Point-of-View characters in this book were: Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, Eddard Stark, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, and Tyrion Lannister....more
I can see why people were so upset by this book. Two of my favorite characters are left in awful cliff-hangers. There wasn't much of Dany, Jon, TyrionI can see why people were so upset by this book. Two of my favorite characters are left in awful cliff-hangers. There wasn't much of Dany, Jon, Tyrion, or Bran. And there was an awful lot of depressing carnage. It is called A Feast for Crows, and it deserves its name. But it is still a worthy addition to the Song of Ice and Fire, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Jaime's arc continues to get more interesting, and sometime along the way Sansa actually turned into an interesting character. We spend more time in the Iron Islands and get our first good look at Dorne, which is fascinating. Samwell's journey takes an unexpected turn, Brienne never fails to fascinate me (and make me feel big-sisterly protective toward her), and Cersei's breathtaking obtuseness is fun to read.
Point of view characters are Cersei Lannister, Aeron Greyjoy ("Damphair"), Jaime Lannister, Areo Hotah, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Samwell Tarly, Asha Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Brienne, Arys Oakheart, Arianne Martell.
Kate Danley, in this book, is like one of those people at the self-serve frozen yogurt shop who have just completely lost focus: "I love cheesecake! IKate Danley, in this book, is like one of those people at the self-serve frozen yogurt shop who have just completely lost focus: "I love cheesecake! I'll have some of that. Oooh, and pumpkin! Strawberry! MANGO! Can't forget cookies and cream. And double chocolate. And cappuccino!" And then they get to the toppings bar: "Blueberries! I can't NOT have gummi bears. I love gummi bears. And whipped cream! Chocolate sprinkles, of course. Some nuts. Also, hot fudge. Perhaps a kiwi slice. And those funky gelatin balls that I'm never quite sure what they are. And RAINBOW SPRINKLES ALL OVER IT!"
She threw in elements or characters from almost every myth, legend, or fairy tale into this book, weaving the stories loosely together. It's not particularly skillfully done (much like her frozen yogurt bowl). But it is a whole lot of fun, like a party for your imagination.
It's a self-indulgent romp. The writing style grated at times, the characters weren't well-developed, but it was fun nonetheless....more
I've been told for years now that this book is one of the pillars of fantasy. If that's true, then the whole genre is due to collapse any day now. TheI've been told for years now that this book is one of the pillars of fantasy. If that's true, then the whole genre is due to collapse any day now. The man is addicted to adverbs, and his writing is loose and weak. The storyline is almost slavishly Tolkienite. There are some creative touches (the hero is a leper) but I don't feel like it's original enough to merit being a "pillar." Also, it's poorly written, poorly plotted, and horribly insulting to women.
I hope people don't judge fantasy novels based on this one. It's really awful....more
Or, no, it wasn't quite love. Not exactly. It's more like a hedonistic weekend with someone you know isnSometimes you love books you really shouldn't.
Or, no, it wasn't quite love. Not exactly. It's more like a hedonistic weekend with someone you know isn't good for you, but you also know it's just a fling, so it's kind of OK.
This book was like that. I should do a chart, but books I read while on vacation by some body of water, large wooded area, or hunk of rock tend to do better than if I'd read the same book somewhere else. Anywhere other than on vacation, this probably would have been a three-star book. But luxury makes me indulgent of others, so I was more tolerant with Isabella (and with Brennan) than they really deserved.
At root, this is an interesting book. The cover alone is a work of art. The idea of the book is actually very good. It's unfortunate that the execution didn't live up to its promise. There are some very interesting ideas in here: the dragons themselves, the sparklings (I mean who doesn't love a fire lizard? I mean, sparkling?)
The writing, though, is stilted and forced. Isabella never quite takes on a voice and a life of her own. She's predictable and a bit bland. The plot, sadly, shares the same faults. Even my forgiving vacation mindset, I lost my patience with the book, the author, and the heroine a few times.
It was an enjoyable book, in that I enjoyed it. I do not believe it is a recommendable book. (Except for that cover art. I mean, really.)...more
After 11/22/63, I needed a palate cleanser. Something I didn't have to worry about too much. This book--which I first read back in junior high or highAfter 11/22/63, I needed a palate cleanser. Something I didn't have to worry about too much. This book--which I first read back in junior high or high school--fit the bill perfectly. It's a fat, fluffy, fantasy novel and you know it's all going to come right in the end.
What I didn't remember (this is a recurring theme with books I revisit as an adult) is quite how sexist the whole thing was. I'm not going to complain about Terisa's passivity; he made a good case for why she is the way she is, and I'm fine with that. Not everyone is going to be a Brave Strong Heroine. But I was bothered by the way all the women were described (and valued) based on their physical appearance. I got so sick of reading about how Elega looks best in candlelight and Myste looks best in daylight. Maybe it was OK to mention once, as a comment on their various strengths, but to harp on it just got old.
Though it's a thick book, it's best read quickly. Otherwise, you're liable to dwell on the plot weaknesses (of which there are many) and that would just ruin it. It's best not to think too deeply about it; then you're able to just enjoy the escapist fantasy of it all....more
After reading River of Stars, I remembered why I fell in love with Guy Kay in the first place, and went back to the last ones his I loved: The SarantiAfter reading River of Stars, I remembered why I fell in love with Guy Kay in the first place, and went back to the last ones his I loved: The Sarantine Mosaic.
These books are rich and beautiful. They're funny, action-packed, and, in places, eerie. They're enjoyable to read both because of the beauty of the writing and because of the rich characters and well-paced plots.
As someone has pointed out, not a lot big happens in this book: It's a lot of journeys, discoveries, and set-ups for the resolution of the second book. But Kay takes all these "smaller" stories, and weaves them into something impressive and meaty.
I highly recommend these books for any fans of Kay, historical fiction, history, (particularly Byzantium), art, horses, chariot racing, or Yeats. (It is shelved as fantasy, but has very few fantasy elements, other than being set in a fictitious version of Byzantium where Justinian is called Valerius II and Thedora is called Alixana).
There are also some fantastic chariot racing scene, that may be the best depiction of any sporting event in fiction....more
Clash of Kings continues and deepens the plots set up by A Game of Thrones. We lost Eddard Stark as a point-of-view character, but gained Ser Davos SeClash of Kings continues and deepens the plots set up by A Game of Thrones. We lost Eddard Stark as a point-of-view character, but gained Ser Davos Seaworth (called "The Onion Knight," which I loved), a knight belonging to Stannis Baratheon, and Theon Greyjoy. Davos gives us fascinating insight to the developments on Stannis's end, and his change in religion, and Theon gives us a delightful scene, followed by a lot of being disappointed in Theon. Martin's good this way. Even when you don't like a character (Theon or Sansa, for instance) their stories are still interesting, and it's always interesting seeing how their character's tragic flaws (in both cases a crippling self-absorption) dictate their actions, their relationships with others, and, ultimately, their fates.
This book has several chapters where things seem to be going well for a lot of our favorite characters. This situation makes veteran Martin readers nervous. That means he's about to do something really awful. It compels you to read on.
I've been reading a lot of reviews of this book that say it wasn't everything they expected it to be. I think, after six years of waiting, it would beI've been reading a lot of reviews of this book that say it wasn't everything they expected it to be. I think, after six years of waiting, it would be an awful lot to ask for this book to top all our expectations. However, I was very satisfied with the book. Yeah, it was a long time to wait. But it was a really good, and very satisfying, book.
This book had everything in it that I love from the others: rich, multi-layered, interwoven plots; incredibly vivid places and people; some beautiful images; fascinating three-dimensional characters; and intrigue out the wazoo.
My only complaint about it is that there may have been even a few too many point-of-view characters. There were more than in previous books, and some felt very thrown-in. I really felt the Jaime and Bran chapters were really only there to keep us from complaining that they weren't in the book at all. They were interesting, but they really were just there to let us know that Bran and Jaime are still pieces in the Game of Thrones, and that they're moving to their own destinations. (Though Bran's arc is promising some very cool pay-off.)
Cersei's chapters just serve to underline how clueless Cersei really is. Cersei is the new Sansa in the depth of her delusions and misreadings of characters and situations. Tyrion's story was fascinating (and actually caused me to cheer at one point). Daenerys's was frustrating, but you get the sense that it had to be. Daenerys is making all her big mistakes across the sea from Westeros so when she gets there she can really kick some fanny.
Arya's chapters were very fun to read, but didn't progress her arc forward very much. I don't think she's going to end up Faceless, and I keep waiting for her to realize that. I don't know what she'd do instead though. The fan-girl in me really wants a Dany-meets-Arya scene. How could Westeros withstand the two of them as joined forces?
Some of the new point-of-view characters, including Melisandre and Barristan were incredibly interesting, especially the glimpses into Melisandre's past and the foreshadowing of how Selmy may come to be important to Daenerys.
I feel like Martin is starting to play more with how he heads each chapter. Rather than just a name, it's often a clue to how the character thinks of him- or herself or what piece in the game he or she represents. I really enjoyed seeing how each chapter heading plays off the chapter's events.
And now we're getting into spoiler territory.
For this book, even the list of point-of-view characters is minorly spoiler-y (view spoiler)[. They were: Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Quentyn Martell, Davos Seaworth (knew he wasn't dead!), Theon Greyjoy (really hoped he was), Jon Connington, Asha Greyjoy, Lady Melisandre, Areo Hotah, Arya Stark (knew she wasn't permanently blind!), Jaime Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Barristan Selmy, Victarion Greyjoy, and Kevan Lannister.
The slow realization that the "new" Reek was Theon is one of the eeriest sensations I've ever felt while reading. He turned very interesting, but his chapters still mostly made my skin crawl. His progression from Reek (the Gollum-esque rhyming was thoroughly creepy) back to Theon was fascinating and very well done. I enjoyed his chapters, even while I hated them.
Martin got a little lazy with Martell. He was an interesting character, but from the beginning I got the sense he was a dead-end (and not only because his name was "Quentyn.") He never got fully fleshed-out and always remained a game piece rather than a character (which may be why so many of his chapters were headed with something other than his actual name.) So his death did not strike me as hard as it could have.
Victarion's chapters are interesting, but I'm worried about him. How much of an idiot does he think his brother is? And how dumb do you have to be to pour out your soul to a woman given to you by the brother you despise? That just doesn't seem like a good idea. I'm not sure Victarion's arc is going to have a good ending.
The book ended frustratingly (surely Jon Snow is not dead) but with some lovely images. I would wait six more years for the scene of Dany flying off on Drogon, and the final scene of her, filthy and raggedy, crouched beside him as an enemy khal approaches.
I was going to write something here about how Martin hasn't really ruthlessly killed off a major character since Robb. Which means he's really only killed (I mean killed-killed, not just mostly killed) four beloved characters: Lady, Ned, Robb, and Grey Wind. And those were all in the first three books. I was going to say he had to kill them to show he was serious, but that he's really not that cruel. But then I thought that somehow writing that would mean Jon is really dead. So I take that all back, Mr. Martin! I think you're very ruthless. Please don't kill Jon. The dragon needs three heads.
Now, about Jon: Aegon really did survived and is being groomed by Varys to rule with Daenerys, thus proving a popular fan theory to be true. My guess is that Martin meant either to reveal that Jon is Rhaeger and Lyanna's son in this book, but didn't because he's a little irked we figured out three of his best twists (Jeyne being Arya is the third), or that he will reveal it in the next book, following a "one huge revelation per book" regimen. He's getting a little ham-fisted with the "Jon looks like Arya who looks like Lyanna" stuff.
I forget that, while some of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books are exactly the kind of light summer reading I enjoy, I find others of them vaguely tediI forget that, while some of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books are exactly the kind of light summer reading I enjoy, I find others of them vaguely tedious. This is one of the tedious ones, much to my dismay. ...more
Martha Wells has more imagination and more heart than any other 12 authors put together. (Unless you're exceptionally persnickety about which authorsMartha Wells has more imagination and more heart than any other 12 authors put together. (Unless you're exceptionally persnickety about which authors you pick and the list includes a lot of names like "Pratchett," "Dunnett," and "Bujold.)"
She creates the most breath-taking and ambitious, and also enjoyable, worlds. In the Raksura books, she created the best tree-houses ever. Here, she reminagines World War II and the London Blitz, being sure to incorporate world-travel and a gorgeous cruise ship taken over by the soldiers where our protagonists get to live and run around. (Apparently, the Queen Ravenna was based on the real live Queen Mary).
There's also magic, adventure, romance, intrigue, mystery, and politics. It's just so well done and, have I mentioned? so much fun. ...more
When I was growing up, every summer we'd spend a week at the beach. And I'd spend most of that week reading. It was during one of those summers that IWhen I was growing up, every summer we'd spend a week at the beach. And I'd spend most of that week reading. It was during one of those summers that I discovered Anne McCaffrey. That experience seared into my subconscious so that I now view dragon books as the perfect beach read.
I was further irked by Brennan's Moffat/Gatiss-like decision not to describe in detail a certain plot development (view spoiler)[ (how Isabella reached the island in the waterfall (hide spoiler)] and by the fact that we didn't get to hear very much about the science she was conducting.
However, it was still an engaging, enjoyable book. And, as mentioned, a perfect beach read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Well. That certainly was realistic. I am trying hard to remind myself that's a good thing. I do like realistic endings. I adored the end of Castaway.Well. That certainly was realistic. I am trying hard to remind myself that's a good thing. I do like realistic endings. I adored the end of Castaway. But: I really despised the end of this book. Coming up on the end, I kept nervously looking at how many pages I had left thinking, "OK, he's got to start wrapping things up soon . . ." and he didn't. I'm sure I'm supposed to take some lesson from this, and I'm sure it's a horribly depressing one. Something like "People don't change, everything stays the same, and there's no redemption ever." It was a realistic ending. I appreciate (intellectually) that Abercrombie didn't want to give us the standard-order Fairy Tale Happy Ending, and I do appreciate that. But I did expect some sort of reason some sort of change from the beginning of the trilogy to the end. Some reason I went through all that. And that is completely missing.
I loved reading these books. I'm sorry for all the Italicized angst. I'm so upset by the ending, and it's been a while since I felt that way. I loved the stories (right up until, oh, the last 30 pages or so) and I had grown to trust Abercrombie, and now everything sucks again. And sucks in a particularly subtle, sadistic, tortured way. There is no resolution, no higher meaning, nothing but humans continually screwing up (and screwing each other) in a never ending cycle. You can try to break it, try to be better, but you won't. You're stuck. The end.
I honestly think I probably enjoyed the book up until the letdown of the ending. And I'm sure I'm being immature by demanding too much. But I was disappointment, and it's coloring my view of the whole rest of the book. The violence got progressively more prevalent, more gruesome, and more gratuitous. And then there wasn't anything in the end to explain, excuse or redeem it. Just more grim darkness and cold violence.
I'm not sorry I read the books. I did enjoy them, for the most part. I loved the first two. But I am sorry they ended the way they did, and I'm glad to be done with the third one....more
The Fionavar Trilogy are the first books Guy Kay wrote after helping young Chris Tolkien organize the Silmarillion. They are written as a response toThe Fionavar Trilogy are the first books Guy Kay wrote after helping young Chris Tolkien organize the Silmarillion. They are written as a response to many of the ideas Tolkien put forward (elves going west, ultimate evil, hope and despair, choice). They're lovely and poetic, but you must take them in the vein in which they were meant.
Thoughts on a Re-Read: These books are full of what makes other Kay books so heart-breaking: The finely drawn and intense looks at the relationships between people. This time through I caught many details and subtle sub-plots I missed the first time I read them. (That's easy to do: You get so caught up in the stories and the characters that you just can't wait to see what's next.) Also, I found myself reacting to the characters differently: I had a much harder time connecting with Paul and Jennifer, wasn't as in love with Kevin, had less empathy for Diarmuid, but had a lot more fun reading about Dave, Kim, Ivor, and Aileron. Which is surprisingly, especially that last.
These books are just as much fun the third time as the first, or second. With each reread, you find more layers to peel off the onion. ...more
Daniel Abraham is one of my new favorite authors. I liked the Long Price Quartet, but I didn't love (most of) them. I love this series.
Let me tell yoDaniel Abraham is one of my new favorite authors. I liked the Long Price Quartet, but I didn't love (most of) them. I love this series.
Let me tell you why.
Now. I'm not going to knock George R. R. Martin. I love his books. But a lot of why I like Abraham's books are their differences from Martin's.
Firstly, he focuses on a bare handful of characters. Huge casts of characters are fine and many authors (Martin, of course, included) do them well. But capping the number of points-of-view that the author and the readers have to keep track of makes the book more intimate and helps the story move along faster.
Secondly, he's a little, I'm not sure how to say this, sunnier than Martin. Abraham's OK with us getting attached to his characters. He's not (at least so far) going to kill one just to prove a point. ("Doing the right thing with no flexibility can get you killed.")
Thirdly, he publishes regularly. I mean, incredibly regularly. To the point that I'm worried about him spending enough time with his family and friends relaxing. The last thing we want is for Abraham to burn out.
He writes characters that are easy to love, even when you're not actually sure they're the "good guys." He has an almost Whedon-esque sense of humor and ear for dialog. The adventures are delightful. He makes perceptive points (about love, humanity, morality, and the Meaning of Life) without being heavy handed about it.
I haven't enjoyed an anthology this much since Warriors. Or maybe even Legends.
Unfettered is an amazing anthology with a noble purpose: to help a membI haven't enjoyed an anthology this much since Warriors. Or maybe even Legends.
Unfettered is an amazing anthology with a noble purpose: to help a member of the fantasy community pay his staggering medical bills accrued due to cancer. It includes stories from almost all your favorite fantasy authors including Naomi Novik, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss; and is just in general a fun read that zips by enjoyably.
Sadly (and surprisingly), the only story I didn't love unreservedly was Naomi Novik's. She's allowed to do whatever she likes, of course, but I was disoriented as to when (or where? or in what universe?) her story was taking place....more
This book is extremely difficult to categorize. It's fantasy, of course. It involves things that can't happen in our world. It also involves fictitiouThis book is extremely difficult to categorize. It's fantasy, of course. It involves things that can't happen in our world. It also involves fictitious kingdoms and histories that never happened. In that, it's more like Guy Kay than it is like anything else I've read. I found it classified as "epic fantasy," and I supposed if you think about the words logically, then it is. However, it isn't like any epic fantasy you've ever read. It's not a quest. There's no dark lord. There are just people, and lives, and complications, and economics.
It's wonderful. It's refreshing. It's NOT set in Medieval Europe. It's well thought out, original, and has three-dimensional characters. It's not grim for grimness's sake; it recognizes beauty, tragedy, and comedy.
I don't know how to recommend it any more highly. ...more
Now, this is what well-drawn characters look like! For the most part, I'm generally inclined to steer clear of prequels that follow the background ofNow, this is what well-drawn characters look like! For the most part, I'm generally inclined to steer clear of prequels that follow the background of characters that aren't central to a later sequence of books. (See: many of Anne McCaffrey's "later" novels.) However, I was out of reading material so I gave it a shot. And it was well worth it. This follows Weaponsmaster Alberich's story before and as he became a Herald from Karse. The characters are well-developed and unique. The story was wonderful to read, with a few actual unexpected twists. My only quibble is that Lackey still occasionally tells rather than shows and at a few points Selenay's name was accidentally misspelled as "Elspeth."...more
I read this hot on the heels of In the Night Garden, which may be the best way to read it: when the braided threads of the stories are all fresh in yoI read this hot on the heels of In the Night Garden, which may be the best way to read it: when the braided threads of the stories are all fresh in your mind. However, this book also starts out much darker and grimmer than its predecessor. It tells some very dark tales that remind me of the original fairy tails where people cut off their heels to fit into small shoes and used other folk's skulls as flower pots.
It's just as absorbing, complex, and ultimately satisfying as the first book, and it ends with a surprisingly pleasing twist. I highly recommend these books. And then I highly recommend a break to let your brain breathe and relax....more
The main word I would use to describe this book is "uneven." Parts of it were extraordinarily well-written and spectacularly well-executed. And then pThe main word I would use to describe this book is "uneven." Parts of it were extraordinarily well-written and spectacularly well-executed. And then parts of it were clumsy, clunky, poorly-written and amateurish. I don't know if it needed more editing or more marinating to bring out the excellent parts and weed the bad ones, but it certainly needed something. By the end, the clumsiness outweighed any benefit for me and I was looking forward to being done with it. That being said, now that I'm no longer reading the book, I find myself mainly remembering only the good parts. I would read another book by Liu, but I would withhold judgement until I'd done so. ...more
Royal Assassin continues and deepens the story begun in Assassin's Apprentice. Fitz is going through his awkward growing-up and becoming-an-adult years and, as such, is particularly frustrating. But the story buoys you along, no matter how irked you get by his relationships. Fabulous supporting characters and original ideas make this a very compelling read. ...more
This book is lovely, lyrical, compelling, and a wonderful read. Not that I'd expect anything less from Robin McKinley. Other reviewers have complainedThis book is lovely, lyrical, compelling, and a wonderful read. Not that I'd expect anything less from Robin McKinley. Other reviewers have complained that the pace was a bit slow, and I agree, but for me it was a positive soaking-in of the story, rather than a dragging of the plot. I like an author giving characters (and scenes and events) room to breathe. It gives them more weight and heft, and thus makes them more realistic.
I was, as probably every other reader of the book was, completely discombobulated by the ending and, for a moment, convinced pages were missing out of the book. But, it turns out, this is a book in two volumes, of which this one is only the first. The second is due out next year. I am very excited about that, and can't wait to read it.
My only argument in this book is that the bad guy is just--almost a little too bad. There's very little explanation of what makes him tick. This may be remedied in the next volume, but in this first volume he's left as a self-serving, ambitious, evil man out for his own ends over everyone else's. I like stories where the opposing team is a little more nuanced, but it's entirely possible to enjoy the book anyway, as there are plenty of other nuances to keep you busy. ...more
Even more than The Magicians, this book plays with, and subverts, the tropes of the Narnia novels. And this book delves even more deeply into that worEven more than The Magicians, this book plays with, and subverts, the tropes of the Narnia novels. And this book delves even more deeply into that world. While The Magicians was very overtly about questioning the value of that world, this book was more about embracing it. That doesn't mean there wasn't any philosophical thinking. In fact, there was an incredibly touching sequence in our world ("the real world") where Quentin realizes that he wrote off his own planet without really exploring it or giving it a chance. But this was more a novel about desperately searching for meaning and finding something to live, and if necessary, die for.
This book was more a straight fantasy adventure novel, but enjoyable for all that. It was a deeply thoughtful fantasy adventure novel, and one that looks fantasy elements right in the eyes. Intercut with Quentin's adventures in (and and out of) Fillory (the Narnia stand-in, renamed for no-doubt legal and philosophical reasons, is the story of Julia, a magician who didn't pass the test at the magician's school and had to find her own way.
The adventure is breathless and very satisfying. I keep reading that people felt this was "obviously" a transition book in the series. I did not feel that at all. In fact when I finished I was worried there wouldn't be any more. I clearly missed something. But, missing something or not, I'm very glad I read this book, and very hopeful there will be more. It's definitely one worth a reread....more
Poor Vimes. He never gets straightforward assignments. (Actually, he probably does. Pratchett just writes books about the odd ones because, let's be hPoor Vimes. He never gets straightforward assignments. (Actually, he probably does. Pratchett just writes books about the odd ones because, let's be honest, Vimes is most hilarious when he's out of his depth.)
An island appears in between Ankh-Morpork and their neighboring country. Both countries claim it. There is racial and ethnic tension. People's patriotism is questioned. Other people act stupidly. Vimes and Carrot save the day.