Aside from the overly fast denouement and that atrocious lettering, this was a fun comic that was part Quincy, part Andy Griffith, part X-Files, and pAside from the overly fast denouement and that atrocious lettering, this was a fun comic that was part Quincy, part Andy Griffith, part X-Files, and part Jaws (doubt me, just LOOK at the mayor!) I will probably keep reading it if just for the weird nostalgic feel it gives off. Oh I forgot the Doc Hollywood vibe!...more
Margaret Dashwood hasn't been back to Norland Park since her family was unceremoniously shown the door by her sister-in-law Fanny after their beloved father died. Margaret and her father had a rather large secret that they kept from the rest of the family. They were both magically inclined. Her father secretly taught her spells and when she came of age she discovered that her father had left her a legacy in his study at Norland. Hence the visit. It might be awkward, it might even be painful, seeing her beloved Norland irreparably changed by Fanny's atrocious taste, but it's the only way to secure her legacy, a legacy that is far greater than she ever imagined. The first night she sneaks into her father's study she can't believe all the secret hidey-holes and realizes it will easily take every night of her visit to secure all the hidden treasures. Though one of the treasures is greater than all the rest. She finds an enchanted atlas that her father made for her. He knew how much she loved this book and longed to travel, so he made this very powerful artifact to fulfill his youngest daughters dreams. She is touched beyond measure to learn that she mattered this much to her father. But more importantly, through his correspondence she now has the names of fellow magical practitioners whom she can contact.
Arriving in London Margaret soon receives a response to a letter she sent to one of her father's friends, a Mrs. Bristlethwaite. Though Margaret has longed for magical company, it's her other correspondent who she's more excited about. While at Norland she met a Mr. Ellsworth, an eligible young man who she instantly connected with. He was also heading to London and asked if he could keep up the connection, something Margaret was very much wanting to do. But soon romance takes a back seat to magic when Mrs. Bristlethwaite sees Margaret's atlas and shows her the power it contains and how it can transport them all over the world. The book even contains lists of famous magical artifacts you can visit. Margaret longs to immerse herself in magic, but living with her family who are unaware of her abilities is a bit risky. Luckily a compromise is reached. While Mrs. Dashwood stays in town to look after Marianne during her confinement Margaret will head home to Devonshire with Mrs. Bristlethwaite and be a guest at Barbary Hall. At Barbary Hall Margaret is allowed to revel in her abilities and meet the local coven. But soon the coven is in danger. Magical artifacts are disappearing from all over the world and Margaret and her atlas are uniquely placed to put an end to this dastardly sorcerer who is up to no good. But will a revelation destroy her chances of happiness?
While most people view Pride and Prejudice as the definitive book by Austen, it isn't necessarily mine. Yes, I adore it more than words can say, but to me Austen is Sense and Sensibility. I still remember how it all happened, my introduction to Austen. I had a gaggle of friends senior year in high school obsessed with the Pride and Prejudice miniseries. They would watch the Netherfield Ball scene over and over while giggling. Now I had always viewed these friends as serious scholarly types, we ran a literary magazine and the "free thought" club, yet here was something that made them giddy little schoolgirls. They talked endlessly about spending nights re-reading Pride and Prejudice while taking a bath instead of doing homework. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. After I graduated I bought myself this big omnibus with the tinniest type possible from B. Dalton's with Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma promising myself to spend the summer reading all of Austen. I remember sitting on my bed in my room crying over the heartbreaks of Elinor and Marianne's story. My Austen obsession therefore began and ended with one book.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that reviews end up being more about the reviewer than what is being reviewed. I try not to do this too much, but this one time you will really have to indulge me. Because the truth of the matter is that reading Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas recaptured for me that moment when I first discovered and fell in love with Austen. When Margaret and her mother returned to Norland Park for a visit I felt like I was there once again for the first time. Like getting to experience a first kiss all over again. People talk about books being time machines. And they are. But sometimes it's not just world history but personal history that you discover between the covers. I relived a moment that I have tried to recapture before and have failed to. This second book in Beth Deitchman's series seems to capture more of the spirit of Austen's own writing. While I adored Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven, there's something about having a gaggle of interesting and unique characters thrown together in the most haphazard of circumstances that screams Austen.
But it isn't the other characters that anchor this book, it's Margaret. If I'm honest with myself Emma Thompson had more to do with my picking up Jane Austen than anyone else. Because when I was in high school I wasn't so much of a book nerd as a movie nerd; and I always have to read the book before watching the adaptation, that is an inviolable law. So yeah, book nerd in the making I guess. As fate would have it that Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility figures quite prominently in Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas in an interesting way. The truth is Margaret Dashwood is a very interesting character in that she actually doesn't really have any character. She is a blank. I like how on the Wikipedia page for Sense and Sensibility that they refer to one of John Middleton's sons as just "nameless." She is barely above this, being basically a cypher. To Emma Thompson this wouldn't fly. So she gave Margaret a personality in her adaptation. Margaret has a love of travel and wants to be a pirate and has a great love of a large atlas that Hugh Grant later gifts to her on his visit to Barton Cottage. It's not just in writing this book that Beth Deitchman has inexorably entwined Margaret with this atlas, she is just tapping into what all true fans of Austen know. With just a few lines Emma Thompson was forever to change the image of that little girl that Janeites the world over then embraced.
Emma Thompson gave Margaret a personality trait, imbuing her with something we can relate to and Beth Deitchman has expanded on that framework. Being the youngest of two very different siblings, I was interested to see who she would take after, the romantic Marianne, or the pragmatic Elinor. While Margaret does have the drive and levelheadedness of Elinor when it comes to studying her magic, I would say overall that she takes more after Marianne. It's not JUST the love of poetry and her losing her heart so quickly to Mr. Ellsworth, or even the pining for him hour after hour, it's the way she does her spells. This is a purely brilliant idea on the part of Beth Deitchman. Margaret does all her spells in French. If you remember what was previously said in Mary Bennet and the BloomsburyCoven, simplicity and intent are the most important aspects of getting a spell to work. Therefore Margaret translating her spells into French, no matter how perfect her pronunciation, is a poetic affectation. She thinks they sound more magical. I literally snorted at this. It's just SUCH a Marianne thing to say! While yes, I can agree with some of Margaret's theories as to magic and poetry, I think her revelation at the end to Mrs. Bristlethwaite is perfect. Oh, and totally Elinor.
A big difference betweenMary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven andMargaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlasis that in the prior we followed a novice, someone just introduced to the world of magic, while in the later we have a heroine who has been practicing magic under the guidance of her father all her life. While both heroines encounter magical communities on their adventures, Mary still stands separate, while Margaret becomes enmeshed in hers. Both are looking for their place in the world, but Margaret very much wants her place to include those like her, those who can help her on her journey. As I mentioned earlier, it's these unique and interesting characters that help make this book more Austen. The Devonshire Coven is just chock-a-block with characters I fell in love with. From the forthright and indomitable Mrs. Bristlethwaite, to the ever hungry Mr. James, to the kind and gentle Mr. Barrington, each one of these characters is so well rounded, so memorable, you can easily see them finding a permanent place in your heart, just like Mrs. Jennings somehow contrived to do. In fact the only real fault in this book is that it has now come to an end. I could literally spend hours just sitting with these characters in Barbary Hall sipping tea and playing cards while a fire glowed in the hearth. ...more
Lord Ballister Blackheart has always felt he's doing his best as a villain considering he never intended to be one. Back when he was training with theLord Ballister Blackheart has always felt he's doing his best as a villain considering he never intended to be one. Back when he was training with the kingdom's fated hero and his dearest friend, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, everything seemed so simple. But the loss of his arm changed his destiny. His destiny is about to change again when a shapeshifter, Nimona, shows up on his doorstep and informs him that she is to be his new sidekick; and yes he doesn't have a say in the matter. Nimona has radical ideas about what a villain should do, all of which seem drastic to Blackheart. Who even heard of a villain succeeding in their plots? Or leaving death and destruction in their wake? His name could actually be feared! But as Ambrosius points out to Blackheart, is this what he really wants? Nimona is changing everything. She's impulsive and her powers defy explanation, yet as she's breaking down doors in Blackheart's home, sigh, she's breaking down walls around his heart; and for the first time, in a very long time, he has someone to care for. Though it's information that Blackheart and Nimona uncover on one of their raids against the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics that really changes the game. The Institute, the upholders of good and the banishers of evil are up to no good! They are experimenting with the dangerous jaderoot and putting the entire kingdom in danger. It is up to Blackheart and Nimona to bring this deceit to light! Using plans with phases and science!
We all grow up listening to fairy tales. They are the first stories we hear. Told over and over again when we are little they become a part of our DNA. We learn valuable lessons about listening to our parents and never taking candy from strangers, especially if they look like they might be a witch in disguise with a suspiciously large oven. We grow up believing that the line between good and evil is clear-cut. That the knight will always save the maiden fair from the evil dragon and win her hand. We grow up expecting to get out happily ever after. And as we get older we still love these tales, we read re-interpretations and re-tellings. We devour YA books that are just repackaging the old stories in new ways, all the while waiting for the prince to come for us, because someday he will come. Yet deep down the message hasn't really changed. We are just getting the same lesson in a different way. And you know what? For the most part what fairy tales teach us is wrong. They were written to keep children in line and teach women to know their place, which is mainly in the kitchen. I'm sorry, but my happily ever after doesn't involve a sink, thank you very much. This is where Nimona comes in. This book might be fairy tales turned upside down and inside out, but this inversion is closer to the truth than you get in the traditional tales.
Because the truth is the distinction between good and evil is never clear cut. People don't usually have the honorific "evil" placed before their name, because that would make things so much easier. Life is countless shades of grey, and there's no getting around this fact. Just look to politics or the police, they are supposed to be here for the good of us but can you think of a more concentrated source of corruption? The police in fact pose far more of a threat to citizens than murderers. But of course this again isn't a blanket statement, even within these groups supposed to protect us there are those who do their jobs just as there are those who don't. Shades of grey people. This muddying of the waters is where Nimona really forges a connection between the narrative and the reader. Despite being about shapeshifters and one-armed science loving villains, there is this relatable truth at the center. The villain doesn't want to be a villain, not really, and the hero really thinks that he is doing good while oblivious to what is going on around him. While the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, while they do enforce the laws, there experimentation isn't so much heroic and horrific. They aim to keep the peace through subjugation, something none of their citizens want. Is it therefore any surprise that slowly Blackheart becomes heroic to the oppressed? Shades of grey can lead to the most unlikely of heroes.
But are heroes made or born? Blackheart thought he would be a hero but one accident forever derailed his life. He defeated the golden boy, but with the loss of a limb he was typecast as the villain, despite the fact that it was the "hero" who took said limb. Nimona explores preconceptions on so many levels. Names and physiognomy and preconceptions and prejudice and fear make a hero or villain, more so than actions. The easiest way I can explain this is how it relates to me personally. I try to be upbeat and content as much as I can, but let's face it, I can be grumpy and grumbly. There is nothing that annoys me more than when I'm in this dour mood to have someone say "why are you angry?" They aren't asking IF I'm angry, they are stating that I AM, when I'm not! This in fact MAKES me angry. I wasn't angry before but being assumed to be makes it so. I become what people say I am. If I'm told this enough it becomes a part of me because I start to see myself through their eyes. I become an angry person when I never set out to be one. Now imagine if you are told you are a villain. Would you become one if you were constantly told you were? Or what about Nimona? How many times did she have to be told she was a monster before she decided to be one? Preconceptions and statements can turn you into something you never wanted to be. Words can hurt and make you do actions that you regret and trying to change back, to make people forget their preconceptions, can be the hardest thing ever.
The weighty topics aren't the only success of this book, though technically this could be a weighty topic too... What surprised me most was the successful combination of science and sorcery, or modern in the medieval if you would. Who would have ever thought that these two could cohabitate peacefully together? Yes, there's a certain amount of potions and herbalism that is associated with the days of yore and armor and King Arthur, but advanced science? Oh no. Look even to Harry Potter, electricity, computers, modern medicine like stitches are a world apart. These two disciplines are usually like oil and water, never the twain shall meet. But here they meet and clash and form something new and awesome. Robotic arms, special armor, experiments with deadly poisons to make super soldiers work with those robotic arms actually wielding swords! And then there's Nimona at the heart of it. If this wasn't a world that combined science and sorcery she would have been stoned as a witch and that would have been the end of her life and we would have missed out because we wouldn't have gotten to hear her story. Instead, because science exists, she is experimented on, she is a lab rat to further this science and therefore has hidden depths and emotions and reasons that Blackheart could never have ever guessed at. Seriously, science!
Though none of this awesomeness would have entered my life if not for Rainbow Rowell. The only reason I picked up Fangirlin the first place, prior to all the buzz, was because I loved the cover. A cover done by Noelle Stevenson. A few months back I was at my local comic store picking up my backlog of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Faith comics when I spied Lumberjanes Volume 1: The Kitty Holy. I instantly recognized Noelle Stevenson's style and wanted to buy it. Being on a very tight budget I instead went home and reserved it through the library where I saw she had another book called Nimona, so I reserved that as well. After quite a long time, Noelle's books had some serious wait lists yo, I got my two books and got snugly in my reading chair and set to. Lumberjanes was a serious disappointment. I had all manner of dislike almost bordering on hate for that comic. Yes, I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't like it and nothing you can say will change my mind. At least the second volume was better with less typos and I'll leave it at that. Because of this setback I really didn't expect much from Nimona and it blew me away. How could these two books be done by the same author? Is it the coauthors fault? And it wasn't a case of "last worst book I read" wherein anything you read next will be awesome, because I re-read Nimona once I bought my own copy back to back with two other awesome books and it might actually have been even better. So just go out and buy it already, it will save you having a long wait to get it from the library and then having to buy your own copy anyway....more
The Fae have an interesting way of showing their displeasure. They disappeared into their reservations and have slowly been letting their more dangeroThe Fae have an interesting way of showing their displeasure. They disappeared into their reservations and have slowly been letting their more dangerous monsters into the world just to hint at what they could do, given the motivation. One of those monsters happens to be attacking the Cable Bridge which spans the Columbia River, right smack in the middle of the Colombia River Basin Pack's territory. Mercy and Adam's pack. The pack stops the troll, at the cost of the bridge, but luckily not at the cost of any lives. It is obvious that the Fae need to be brought to heel, and at just the right moment Tad and Zee walk back into Mercy's life perhaps with the answer. They have brought with them a young boy Aiden. Or at least Aiden was young once before the Fae and Underhill took him and played with him for perhaps centuries. He is now Fire Touched, but more importantly a link to Underhill. If there's anything the Fae want above all else it's to reestablish their link to Underhill and it's magics. The Fae want Aiden and Mercy has Aiden. Perhaps an agreement can be reached? But the Fae never play fair and attempt to take the boy by force, but Mercy has pledged the pack's protection, even at the risk to their own lives. Yet Aiden himself is dangerous and therefore negotiations are eventually opened. As Mercy and Adam journey into the realm of the Fae they will be lucky to survive whatever underhanded tricks might be headed their way, but a successful outcome could be a boon to all.
I feel like I've started my reviews for the last few Patricia Briggs books talking about the harsh realities of long running series and how some of the books just won't be as good as others. You're being judged against your best and therefore if you stumble, well, your book might be a higher rating for another author, but not for you. And it's not that I haven't liked continuing on these adventures with characters I view as my friends, I just haven't enjoyed the ride as much with these last few forays. The apex for me in recent years was 2011's River Marked. The reason that this book stands out is because the narrative was streamlined. There are a lot of characters inhabiting Mercy's world, some have even gotten their own stories or series, so it's hard to get them all in on the action. With Frost Burned, Night Broken, and now with Fire Touched, Briggs seems determined to bring everyone by the Hauptmans house just to say hi. This is making the books unwieldy, with these drops ins compromising the time in the book that should be spent on plot development. I would rather the story have a solid groundwork than have Mercy baking brownies for the pack with orange oil. Between the knock down drag out fights and Fae politics, I didn't feel as if there was actually anything to this installment.
In fact, my major grip over the recent books is the increasing time spent on pack politics and Mercy's unsuitability as a mate for Adam. Firstly, I think Mercy has proven time and time again that she is more than capable of being the Alpha's mate of the Colombia River Basin Pack. Isn't that basically what every book is? Showing her suitability? Therefore to have these politics brought up again and again, it is really starting to fray my nerves and try my patience. When it was decreed in this book that there would be no more pack political infighting about Mercy I quite literally shouted for joy. The biggest hurtle in my enjoyment in these recent installment had been removed, and quickly replaced with Fae politics. I mean seriously? I feel like Mercy, can I never catch a break? To finally remove the politics only to have OTHER politics fill the void? Ugh, you have got to be kidding me. I feel that this is some kind of punishment. At the end of Fair Game when the Fae basically declared war on humanity, I was really excited to see how it would all play out. I was hoping for all out war and bloodshed. I should have taken into account that I was thinking from a very human perspective. The Fae don't operate in expected ways; and therefore, the politics have taken over.
Here's the thing about me and politics. I don't like them. I avoid them at all costs. And not just governmental politics, oh no, even petty academic politics drive me round the bend. Some of the worst moments of my life have to do with getting my BA in Theatre and the weekly tech meetings we had that were never about what we needed to do and all about the politics of the department. I was once literally brought to tears. As for governmental politics, well, yes, I am paying attention at the moment because this is an election year, but if this wasn't the case I'd be attempting to bury my head in the sand. Now why would I want to read about politics give how much I hate them? The answer is that I don't. As for otherworldly politics? I want to read about them even less. The politics have taken over this series and if this doesn't change I seriously don't know what I'm going to do. There wasn't really a plot, there was no suspense, and if it wasn't for the last forth of this book nothing would have happened at all. Yes, a book CAN be all about politics. Should it? Not if you want me to read it. And of course, I know this book wasn't written just for me, but I'm sure there are people out there with the same aversion to politics as me who just want a cracking good story.
And yes, that means I want a story. I want a plot. I want some sort of narrative that combines what is bound between the two covers into a whole. I don't want politics, fight scene, politics, fight scene, politics, fight fight fight. I am not a fan of the big budget movies because I do not want to watch a three hour fight. I remember all my friends going on and on about how good the second Captain America movie is. So I watched it; and I hated it. In fact hate might be too weak a word for my feelings. All that movie was was one action scene after another. The first Captain America movie was more my style, a period superhero movie with an actual plot. But the thing is, plot is becoming less and less important in this age of spectacle. This is why I have given up on Marvel movies. In fact almost any "blockbuster" movie in general. Mad Max: Fury Road... Mad Eliza: Where's the Plot. Fire Touched felt like it wanted to be a blockbuster movie opening up on the big fight scene that decimated the Cable Bridge. If you think I tune out watching a fight, I tune out even more reading about a fight, because something in me just doesn't care to visualize it. Something in me just doesn't give a damn. I always think of that Eddie Izzard bit when he's talking about car chases in books... it's not that they don't happen, it's that they rarely work.
The redeeming factor of this book is that more mystical aspect of the Fae: Underhill. Underhill is that most interesting of places. This is the only mystery of the book, and that's because the whole place is a mystery, shifting and reshaping itself like a living breathing entity. The journey Mercy, Adam, and Aiden undertake in this realm focuses what was hundreds of pages of politics and pugilism into a story I was interested in. Fae politics are boring, which almost seems impossible given how fascinating the Fae and their world can be given the right writer. This is what the whole book should have been! A journey taken through fairy to mend the rift between the magical and non-magical worlds so that we can move beyond the politics and onto something new. The whole book could have been this epic quest, heck Tolkien got a whole trilogy and then some out of a similar quest. Save the world by journeying through strange lands! The moment I think that this whole series clicked for me was the first time Zee brought Mercy to the reservation and in her coyote form she accidentally slipped into Underhill and was there in that mystical realm. This was a magical moment for me, realizing a had found a new series I loved. For a few minutes I found that initial love again and most of the flaws of this book were forgiven, if not forgotten. Hopefully. ...more
I would never have thought medieval and SCIENCE would go well together, well I was totally wrong. I'm not sure if I want to by Nimona or if I want herI would never have thought medieval and SCIENCE would go well together, well I was totally wrong. I'm not sure if I want to by Nimona or if I want her as my sidekick/best friend, but I totally want her in my life. Also now I totally have to buy myself a copy of this book....more
**spoiler alert** Time doesn't stand still. Time is always moving forward. A witch, more then most, knows about life and death and the inevitability o**spoiler alert** Time doesn't stand still. Time is always moving forward. A witch, more then most, knows about life and death and the inevitability of both. The inevitable is about to happen in Lancre as Granny Weatherwax cleans her house for the last time and prepares to walk with DEATH. The rest of the witches can't believe that Esmerelda Weatherwax would do something so predictable as dying. At least her final wishes cause a stir as she leaves her steading to the young Tiffany Aching. But Tiffany isn't about to let Granny down! She will prove to all the other witches that Granny Weatherwax knew what she was doing, because didn't she always? Though the death of such a powerful witch has sent a shudder through the world. What was once safe and secure is now vulnerable, permeable, and those who were kept out sense it too. The fairies have long been trapped in their realm, unable to hunt among the humans, unable to enslave musicians, kidnap children, and kill indiscriminately. The Queen had an unforgettable encounter with Tiffany Aching and since that time the Discworld has become more and more inhospitable to their kind, banding the world in iron and steam. But the Lord Peaseblossom defies the Queen and decides that it's time for the fairies to take back the human world. Only they have one problem. Witches.
When Terry Pratchett died earlier this year I might have cried more than a little. Here was one of the most amazing authors I've ever read whose life was cut way too short. I had seen him only four years earlier, and sadly in those four years it was a rapid decline for him. He had all these stories left to tell and in the end he gave us one more before going. It's not just the nostalgia in me, this book really did feel like one more for the road. Before even picking it up I just intuited that Granny Weatherwax was leaving this world, because Terry was taking her with him, moreso than the other characters. It was his way to say goodbye. Granny Weatherwax organized her little cottage, put everything in order, let her wishes be known, and walked with DEATH hand in hand out of this world. This was the goodbye Terry wanted to leave us with, his work was as done as it could be and he and DEATH walked together, with a very opinionated witch by their side. This slim volume has everything there that you could want in a Discworld novel, but it lacks that final something. It's not unfinished, it's unpolished. The text wasn't pushed to it's furthest point and repetitive phrases weren't excised. This makes it even more bittersweet. The goodbye we were given was a hasty one. Everyone has one last quick cameo and then they shuffle off, stage right, living on through their stories though their creator is no more.
Terry has admitted more than once that his favorite character he created was Tiffany Aching, and that is perhaps why his fanbase, me included, have connected so strongly with her. Therefore it makes sense that the last tale to tell was one from Tiffany. But there's a part of me which is asking why. Why write it? Why write The Shepherd's Crown at all? This might seem ungrateful, like asking someone to take back this great gift they have given you, but might I rejoinder with I Shall Wear Midnight. Five years ago Terry Pratchett released what was to be the final Tiffany Aching story, I Shall Wear Midnight. This book is amazing, brilliant, perfection. It was a flawless ending. Tiffany came into her own and you could see the shape of her future. You could see her happily ever after. Then along comes The Shepherd's Crown and pokes holes in that happily ever after. Yes, we got to see more of her future and her inheritance from Granny Weatherwax, but I don't think that future needed to be spelled out, implying it was enough. Instead of envisioning this lovely future with her working side by side with Preston, the perfect match for her, we see their relationship fraying, and one can't help hoping that Tiffany and Preston's future doesn't mirror that of Granny Weatherwax and Mustrum Ridcully. We are told that work is more important then love. Perhaps in the end work was what was most important to Terry, finishing the stories he still had in him. But he was surrounded by people who loved him and fans who still love him. Love not duty seemed a better tone to end on, even if it's not as realistic.
Yet I can counter my own argument by saying, this wasn't so much a Tiffany Aching story as it was a witches story and therefore partially exempt from my displeasure. Prior to Tiffany coming along and hijacking all the witches plot lines they had six books of their own. Despite her being the protagonist here, it's more like those first six books with her filling the figurehead status that Granny Weatherwax did in those books. Therefore I guess you could say it's a more conventional Discworld book and perhaps that's where it fell a little flat for me, I like the individual character studies a little more. The threat isn't just a threat to Tiffany, and therefore her story, it's a threat to all witches, and therefore their story. So the gang is all here. Every witch that has ever graced the pages of Pratchett's writing, and even a wizard, show up. Magrat Garlick threw off her mantle of Queen and once more embraced her witchiness. Agnes took time out from singing to do battle. And of course Nanny Ogg was Nanny Ogg (and if one day she isn't played by Dawn French in some kind of movie or miniseries my life will have been in vain). It was great to see not only the newer witches but those who have been relegated to asides and background characters come to the fore again. Magrat has even got her battle armor on! Though this again brings about that nostalgic feeling. They're being let out for one last battle, one last moonlit broom ride before leaving us forever. Sigh.
Though for me, the best part of this book wasn't any witch or wizard, it was You. And by You I mean Granny Weatherwax's cat. Since that little white fuzzball first appeared I have been fascinated how she and Granny Weatherwax have gotten along, but more then that, how she is kind of a totem for Granny Weatherwax. While a cat would be the first to admit that they are in no way representatives of any person, being their own creatures, I think that cats might just induct Granny into their species, what with her prickly attitude and superior demeanor. After all "witches were a bit like cats. They didn’t much like one another’s company, but they did like to know where all the other witches were, just in case they needed them." Terry Pratchett just has this supernatural ability to understand cats. How You herself is just a fuzzy living bit of magic, able to get from one place to another with the simplest of ease, even if it takes Tiffany hours and hours to get between the two locals. Also, by having You approve of Tiffany it cements her status as Granny Weatherwax's successor. More than missing Terry, I'm going to miss his insights into those furry little mass murderers I love.
As for the real fault in the book? It has nothing to do with it's lack of finish and all to do with the villain. So therefore, no matter how much I could have loved this book if it was 100% finished, I would still end up at the level I feel now because of the fairies. OK people, especially you writers on Doctor Who, I don't like Big Bads coming back. I like fresh villains, wraiths with no eyes, the spirit of Winter, stuff like that, that's original. Cybermen, Daleks, no. The fairies again? No thank you. So far there have been two witches books dealing with these damn fairies, Lords and Ladies and The Wee Free Man. Why are they back? Why why why? It's not good enough to say because they ALWAYS come back. They always come back because writers are lazy and think if it worked once it will work again and readers on the whole like the predictable. For me this doesn't make interesting reading, it makes me bored. It makes me sit back and check out a little, occasionally tuning in to see if they have moved on yet. I will admit in the height of the battle I was a little caught up in the action, but overall, no. But the real truth? If I could get a few more Discworld books and Terry Pratchett back, I would read about as many fairies as he cared to write. ...more
Need not want. That's the way of the witch. You are respected and well regarded, but not really liked. Who indeed would like the person who knows allNeed not want. That's the way of the witch. You are respected and well regarded, but not really liked. Who indeed would like the person who knows all your dirty little secrets and does what needs to be done? There is also a certain amount of fear underneath, because though a witch's job has little to do with magic, there's always the threat of it. Worn to the bone by the needs of the people of the Chalk, Tiffany doesn't have time for sleep, especially when the rough music starts. Mr. Petty has been singled out by the villagers, an abusive man; he has taken things too far this time with his daughter Amber. While Tiffany doesn't necessary support or condemn the villagers and their plan to oust Mr. Petty, she knows one thing, evil though he may be, Mr. Petty doesn't deserve to die. After dealing with Mr. Petty and having another sleepless night, Tiffany is called to the home of the Baron. Once everyone thought that one day she would be the mistress of the manner when Roland inherited. But being the two "different" people didn't mean they were the two "right" people for each other and Roland is deep in preparations for his wedding to Letitia while his father slips away. When Roland goes away to the great city of Ankh Morpork, his father, the Baron, finally dies peacefully.
The Baron's nurse, a vengeful and hateful woman, claims that Tiffany killed him for his wealth. Tiffany, being unable to deal with these absurd accusations leaves to find Roland and break the news to him. Telling Roland doesn't go as she had planned, instead she ends up in prison with her faithful Nac Mac Feegles. But there is one thing to say about prison, it's safe. There in Ankh Morpork she felt the rising fear and hatred she's been feeling for weeks. People are starting to believe the old stories of evil witches and gingerbread cottages, of the cacklers, of the theory that "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." But there was a stench of rotting and hatred and a man in black only she could see. A man with holes where his eyes should be. Tiffany soon learns that this Cunning Man must be stopped. Her own life could be in danger as Roland himself turns against her. But she soon learns she has unexpected allies, who, even if they did inadvertently release the Cunning Man, are willing to help watch him burn. Because if he doesn't, everyone else will.
Tiffany has grown up. She has seen the best and the worst of mankind and she takes care of them all. Just because a person appears beyond redemption doesn't mean they aren't worth fighting for, that way leads cackling. She takes everyone's pain away and leaves no comfort for herself. This is a far darker and more disturbing tale of Discworld then has been seen in the annals of Tiffany Aching. But then, the Cunning man is one of the most terrifying villains seen yet. Sure Tiffany kissed the Winter away and walked in the lands of fairies and DEATH, but those creatures were more creatures of myth and fairy tale than a man who through his own hatred and his own dark past is able to corrupt and despoil those who come in contact with him, though he is long dead. Because, deep down, I Shall Wear Midnight shows that the true danger isn't magic, it is man. The Cunning man was once a man like all others. And when Tiffany struggles to quickly save Mr. Petty she is not only saving him from himself, but from his fellow townsfolk. The people that Tiffany grew up around, those she cares for and trusts, when the rough music starts the true danger is your fellow man, and that is a terrifying truth. Even your best friend or neighbor could spell your end.
Yet Tiffany learns more than the cruelty of fellow man as she grows up. She has more responsibility on her shoulders than ever before. No longer a naive young girl she lives in a world of sleepless nights. Nights spent caring for those who probably don't give her a second thought. The truth of the world is open to her and it shows her that the world is made up of assumptions based solely on appearances. Her and Roland were to marry because that's how it looked to outsiders. Witches are evil old ladies who live alone in the woods. And girls like Letitia with their typical fairy-tale-princess looks and pretty gowns are destined for a happily ever after. Whereas the truth is Tiffany and Roland never were fated to marry, they were too different. The poor old lady killed in the woods years ago was nothing but a poor old lady, not an ounce of witch about her; unlike Letitia who dreams of being a witch and nothing would please her more than a wart or two. Truth can never be found on the surface. Appearances are deceiving. The genius of Pratchett is that he takes concepts that are so ingrained in our culture that they have reached the point of being a cliche, but then he shows it to us in a new light, in the vulnerability of an old lady and her cat, and we realize the importance of this truth that led to it being a cliche.
And while showing us the worst humanity has to offer, Pratchett also shows us those moments of grace. We have been raised to fear DEATH. That when the time comes it is always too soon and too painful. What should be a sad moment, when Roland's father dies, instead we are given a death with dignity. The pain is taken away and a happy memory brought forward. His death wasn't just a release, it was beautiful. That is what Pratchett does time and time again. He takes what we expect and gives it back to us in another way, turned and twisted about to get at the heart of the matter. He takes the concept of the wicked witch, turns it on its head and makes us see that these women of fairy tale who are feared are the ones who have it right. You must care for them that can't. You don't burn down old ladies' houses and kill their cats, you don't run people out of town, you show kindness, even if it must be said in a stern tone of voice. I can not say enough how Pratchett's writing shows such a unique thought process, a great mind that was willing to question everything and in that quest gave us a new way to look at the world. Life happens not as you expect because maybe that's what is needed.
Re-reading this book was bittersweet in the wake of Pratchett's own death. While this book turned out not to be the final Tiffany Aching book, Tiffany did end Discworld with The Shepherd's Crown. But to me, this should be the end of Tiffany's story. She might have other adventures, but here... here she is glorious. This story is so perfect that there was no way to capture that sense of completion by writing yet another tale, it was unnecessary. Though with the love and care Pratchett obviously felt for Tiffany, it is no wonder that he wanted his last book to be with the character he loved most. And despite all the characters he has created over his prolific career, I find it amazing that so many people have identified with Tiffany; a rather obstinate, forthright girl, who just happens to be a witch. She's a character the likes of which will be echoed in countless other characters for a long time to come. Yet in the end, she's uniquely herself and uniquely Pratchett. And of all her tales, this one is uniquely perfect. It's rare that a book ends on just the right note, but Pratchett has succeeded perfectly. The absolute right note which has a bite of a susurration to it. ...more
Zacharias Wythe has succeeded to the post of Sorcerer Royal. A post he doesn't particularly want, which is about the only thing him and his fellow magicians agree on; they want Zacharias out. There was only one person in the world who thought Zacharias was capable of this lofty post, and Sir Stephen, his guardian and surrogate father, is dead but not quite gone. Sir Stephen was everything a Sorcerer Royal should be, in other words, not the wrong skin color, not a freed slave, and not without the aid of a familiar. But just because Zacharias doesn't want the position doesn't mean he won't do it to the best of his abilities, if just for Sir Stephen. Yet London is politically dangerous at the moment with the crown attempting to coerce the Sorcerer Royal into an untenable position and the magicians trying to hide the fact that magic is waning. Zacharias knows full well that his unwillingness to help the government is quite possibly the last straw before his fellow Unnatural Philosophers oust him under the pretext that it is his fault that magic is dying. So taking the advice of a dear friend he agrees to get out of town for a few days to give a talk at Mrs. Daubeney's School for Gentlewitches as well as to go to the border of fairy and see why England's magic is waning.
Miss Prunella Gentleman came to Mrs. Daubeney with her father as a young girl. In fact it was Mr. Gentleman's passing and Prunella's inherent magical abilities that led Mrs. Daubeney to form her school with the purpose of helping young gentlewitches to suppress their powers. Though Prunella has never been one of the "gentlewitches." The color of her skin and her debt to Mrs. Daubeney has made her a servant if not in name then in deed as she's taken care of the students and the school. Everything changes the day the Sorcerer Royal visits. It's not just the hurt inflicted by Mrs. Daubeney when she demotes Prunella, it's the secret she finds in the attic in an old valise that belonged to her father. A secret that could change Prunella's fortune and the course of English magic. Zacharias is beside himself at the school. England is languishing for lack of magic and yet here these young girls are brimming with more magic then they can handle; and then there's Prunella. Prunella does magic as easily as she breaths. Perhaps the Royal Society is wrong about banning women to work magic. Perhaps Zacharias's legacy as Sorcerer Royal will be a complete overhaul of magical education. Prunella wastes no time worming her way into Zacharias's life and when the two of them arrive in London, it is time for a reckoning. They will shake up the staid Regency and bring about change, whether they meant to or not.
The reason I became in thrall to Regency books with a magical bent is all down to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I can not nor will not be able to ever completely verbalize my love of that book. Yet my love for it isn't a blind love. I know the book is flawed. The characters aren't that likable, there isn't that much of a plot, and it reads more as a history text written in gorgeous prose than a story about flesh and blood people. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell lacks emotion. Not just in the staid way the story is told but in the way you connect to the characters. There is no emotional connection to Strange or Norrell. You feel sympathy for Stephen and Lady Pole, but there's no tugging of heartstrings. That is where Sorcerer to the Crown comes in a fills that void you didn't know you had. It's almost as if this book took the character we could connect to the most in Clarke's writing, Stephen, and gave him a new adventure. Stephen Black, the man who would be king, instead becomes Sorcerer Royal. Though while the first few chapters definitely owe a great debt to Susanna Clarke, as soon as Prunella shows up on the scene the book explodes into a life of it's own. One wonders if it was the lack of a strong female presence in Clarke's book, aside from the narrator, that might have hindered the emotional connection. Because there's something about Prunella that is so alive, so complex, that you can't help but connect to her on a deep emotional level, even if at times you totally disagree with some of her mercenary tactics. This in turn helps you to connect to Zacharias and every other character. You feel the love and hate and frustration of all these characters and you can not admit to yourself that it's going to be a very long wait for the next installment.
For as many authors as have tackled the idea of magic in the 19th century there have been as many different magic systems to govern them. Clarke went with a more male based "masculine" skill set, while Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamourist Histories embraced the "home" arts and focused more on magic as an art form. Here we get a lovely melding of the two. There are the Unnatural Philosophers who think they are doing great works while there are the more hedge witch like servant women who use magic to light fires and cure ills. So while we still have the societal separation of abilities based on gender we get to see how each gender handles that magic. Plus with Zacharias having his eyes opened by Prunella we see that going forward these two separate spheres of magic could merge. With Prunella we have a force of nature whose magic, while until now has been forced to be subservient to the domestic sphere, is now unfettered and out in the world where she doesn't see anything wrong with using her copious abilities to do what she pleases when she pleases. By being forced to abide by the rules for so long she sees that the rules, the boundaries, are irrelevant. Just throw the rule book out the window and see what you are capable of.
This is what I love about the book, that it's the outsiders that are the ones that see that magic is being unnecessarily restrained. The stuffy men in even stuffier rooms have been saying for centuries this is how it has always been done and will continue to be so. There can be no advancement of technique, no discoveries with an attitude like this. Therefore it isn't shocking that magic has been dwindling. Even taking out the fairy angle with regard to the bottling, look to the lack of familiars. There hasn't been a new familiar in so long that this fact is able to undermine Zacharias as Sorcerer Royal though it has nothing to do with him. Why would magic want to come to those who use it in the same boring ways since time immemorial? Magic comes to those who understand it and want to use it right. Look to Mak Grenggang from Janda Baik in Malaysia who is at the heart of Zacharias's problems with the British government. She is not only an unaccepted gender, but an unaccepted race as viewed by the Society's members, yet her magic can let her walk through fairy unmolested, give her wings, gain her access anywhere. Her magic is unrivaled. Because she is an outsider, she is "other" and therefore the only way forward. The three agents of change with regard to British magic are of different skin tone and two of them are women. Zacharias, Prunella, and Mak Grenggang are there to break the chains of magic and make it great once again.
What is most interesting about this book is that it gives us a different view then the traditional Jane Austen magical pastiche. In almost every single one of these books we are given a very Anglocentric view of the world. We see it through the eyes of Britain, and the political and magical challenges are all to do with the British Government and the war with France. To an extent this is to be expected because the key feature of the Regency period was England's ongoing war with Napoleon. But despite this fact there are other places and other people that aren't all white and from the upper classes. This was one of the angles I loved in Mary Robinette Kowal's series, which was explored even further in her final book in the series, Of Noble Family. In her writing we saw people that were different, we saw people representing different classes, different races, different genders. We saw that despite what the British upper classes would like you to believe, that the world is teaming with this other. I loved how Of Noble Family brought in how other magic systems worked and how learning magic from one culture is so confining. In Sorcerer to the Crown we not only see these different races, but we go further. With Mak Grenggang we have a link to the other side of the world, a link that plays into Prunella's past. We get a glimpse that not only is the magic different, but the myths and realities and monsters are not what those in the Western world would even like to dwell on. We are given a hint as to how big the world really is. A tiny little island might have controlled the world, but this shows that despite how England tried, it couldn't control the magic; and I for one can't wait to learn more about this magic. ...more
Mark Whatney has inadvertently been left behind on Mars. He was part of the Ares 3 mission to the red planet which had to be aborted due to a dust stoMark Whatney has inadvertently been left behind on Mars. He was part of the Ares 3 mission to the red planet which had to be aborted due to a dust storm and he was left for dead. He doesn't blame his crew mates, they did what they had to do. They did what he would have done in their situation. The problem is, how to tell them he's still alive? Which he won't be for much longer unless he figures some things out, like food. Plus, even if they did know it's not like they can just turn around and pick him up. His life has now become a struggle to survive, but that survival won't mean much unless at the end of it there's some way off the planet. He concentrates on one task at a time. First food and water. If he doesn't have food and water there's no point. So it looks like he's going to get very sick of potatoes, but you eat what you have, or in this case can grow. Once this hurtle is cleared, he needs to get the word out he's alive. Luckily for him Mars is scattered with the debris from past and future missions. The only problem is Mars is big and to get to these other sites is epic journeys of not just days, but weeks. And if while trying to get to these sites something happens, he is cut off from his Habitat and his food supply. But soon Earth is alerted to his survival and they are just as committed to bringing Mark home as Mark himself is. Each and every day is a struggle, but with his unique sense of humor and his captain's never ending supply of 70s television and disco music, he's going to try to make it, to survive being the first person to ever live on another planet. And if he does survive, he will never eat another potato again.
Every once in awhile there's book that you'd not heard anything about and then all of a sudden, bam, it's all everyone is talking about. There are huge endcap displays in stores that look like they have been ransacked, there's a movie adaptation in the pipeline, famous actors are interested in starring, all your friends have read it, the book is ubiquitous. And you'll be intrigued. You'll pick it up out of interest, and realize it's the kind of book that has mass appeal because it's nothing very original and bores you to tears. I have been sucked into this frenzy more then once. Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn, all overlooked authors until they were propelled forward by this weird cultural phenomenon. Therefore when people started talking about The Martian, I was hesitant to say the least. I wasn't going to be caught in a Girl on the Train scenario again. My decision to read the book started to waiver when I saw the trailer for the movie, yes, starring a famous actor. Yet I held firm. But then people's opinions who I trusted as being very harsh started raving about this book. And I'm only human. I caved. And I'm really glad I did. It's an intense book that is meant to be devoured in as few sittings as possible. It's by no means a perfect book, while the first person narration of Mark Watney is spot on, the third person narration back on Earth is choppy, which, let's be honest, is to be expected from a first time author. But what I liked was the book felt like a Michael Crichton book grown up, the science was more accurate, and Mark was a wonderfully snarky narrator, perfect for the disillusioned reader of today. The irony here is that I was at a Michael Crichton movie when my resolve started to waiver. That's right folks, Jurassic World brought me to my generation's Crichton!
Recently one of my friends asked me if she should read this book. I said yes, obviously, but I gave her the caveat that it should be read only if she had the time to devote to reading this book in one go. This book is so suspenseful that you will struggle to set it down. For awhile I wondered if it was just the plight of Mark, the question surrounding his survival. This book is very realistic so his survival isn't a given and I am not going to tell you how it turns out. But I think the real reason is that everything is in the moment, which ups the suspense. What I mean by this is that there's no long expositions about his life back on Earth, his parents in Chicago whom he must miss, etc etc. Yes, his parents are mentioned, but that is all. We know nothing about his past life or his future life, we are living his life moment to moment with him. It's almost like we have a front row seat to his subconscious and survival is the only thing that is allowed to take up valuable brain power. That and bitching about 70s television shows. This means that anyone picking up this book will relate to his situation. He has a distinct personality, but at the same time he is a blank slate, he could come from any background so he could be you or me. Then there's the 70s television and music that are his bane and savior. Everyone has seen these shows or heard the music sometime in their life, it's a cultural touchstone. By including this in the story it gives us something more to relate to in a situation where we feel the question of Mark's survival but in a situation that we would never find ourselves in. So while we might never find ourselves on Mars, we can feel his pain of watching Three's Company and how lame it was when Crissy left.
And I needed that little connection, that 70s kitsch, because there is no way in hell you will ever see me going to Mars. It's not just that this book brought home how I would obviously die very quickly in this situation, it's that I never want to be in this situation in the first place. It says a lot for this book that I enjoyed it so much when I am now and never will be interested in space travel. Yes, the stars and outer space are interesting. I look forward to updates from Mars and the search for intelligent life and when will they reinstate Pluto, but as for wanting to be an astronaut? No chance in hell. I have never wanted to actually go into space myself. I am firmly of the couch surfing the galaxies school. It always mystified me that kids growing up wanted to be astronauts, firefighters, and the president. I wanted to sit and draw, not be shot up into space, trapped in a burning building, or have to make decisions with the fate of the world in jeopardy. Yet reading this book, I can see why people might want to venture out into the unknown. Again, I would die in five seconds, but the day to day survival of Mark, how he works things out, how he messes up, how he triumphs in the face of adversity, this is what an astronaut should be. They should be someone to look up to and admire for what they have done. Yes, going to the moon and back, that's kind of cool, but surviving against all odds for such a long period of time on an alien world? Now that deserves respect. That deserves the accolades of the first men in space.
I think I've also just inadvertently answered my own question I was about to posit... I mean, how realistic is it that NASA would spend SO MUCH MONEY to save Mark? So, as per what I just said, maybe it's because he is the ideal astronaut, the hero everyone has been waiting to come along to add new life into NASA. He's the only human to have lived on another planet! But realistically? Would this play out as it did fictionally in real life? So much of this book is based on real science and real scenarios, it's oddly the most human aspect that I question, and that's would they actual attempt to rescue Mark? It's not JUST the money, though that would be a big concern, it's more human nature. Our attention span as humans keeps shrinking more and more. We like everything in small digestible bites. Anything that is too long loses our interest and here we're supposed to believe that the world as a whole was invested in Mark Whatney for 687 days! That is almost two years! Could the interest in him really stay at fever pitch? Could they really have a thirty minute show daily on the news networks just devoted to him? Well, yes, the news networks can spin nothing into a show, just watch the news sometimes to see, but would people keep watching? I think interest would be at the beginning and at the end. But would that end interest make the pay out of all this time and money worth it? Maybe I'm just cynical, but I don't buy it. Yes, call me contradictory that I buy everything on Mars but have no faith in humanity. And in fact, I believe it's far more likely that they would just hush it all up. Sweep Mark under the carpet and call his death an unfortunate accident.
While I really liked this book there's a part of me that can never love it. I'm just not geeky enough, in the science vein. I could out geek anyone on books and TV, but science, I've never been the biggest fan of science. Yes, I am glad it's there, I just wish I hadn't ever had to take any in school because for me I've never found it relevant. Even being forced to take "Physics in the Arts" in undergrad where they try to focus the science on things that will interest artists, like the chemistry behind developing photos and sound waves in music, I was still bored stiff. Therefore when the book would sometimes go off on a sciencey tangent it would lose me a bit until the next rift on Dukes of Hazzard, where the police should have totally just gone to their house and arrested them and avoided all the car chases. But that's me, I'm the Dukes of Hazzard girl not the "what is it that makes soil viable" girl. And while some of the science was fascinating to me, like how to make soil viable on Mars, there was that other part of me going, but all the science... why all the science? Which again feeds back into why I would never be an astronaut and why I would be dead in seconds. Not only do I not have the passion and desire, but I lack the know-how. But even with all the science that sometimes bogs down the narrative in my opinion, it's real science, and I have to applaud that. Now, if we could make this actually a reality in my lifetime, that would be really cool, you know, for me to watch from my sofa. Elon Musk better get working on this......more
Manfred has settled into Midnight, Texas quite well. He feels like it's home. He's still furiously working away telling fortunes and giving advice psyManfred has settled into Midnight, Texas quite well. He feels like it's home. He's still furiously working away telling fortunes and giving advice psychically, but he's one with his life. The small community has welcomed him with open arms and they are his friends. The biggest gossip around town is that the old hotel is going to be refurbished and reopened as a short term residence for older people waiting for a place at a nursing home and for employees of the Internet company Magic Portal. Now that Manfred has settled in he has decided that he will once again do in-person readings for select clients. He has a weekend booked in Dallas to do just that when one of his favorite clients, Rachel, unexpectedly dies on him during the reading. She had recently been ill, so it wasn't that shocking she died, but when Rachel's unhinged son Lewis accuses Manfred of stealing his mother's jewels as well as being a false psychic, things start heating up for Manfred. But what really worries him is that this unpleasant incident has brought unwelcome light on his small town and all the people living their with their secrets. Manfred's problem is now the town's problem, and they have the ruthless Olivia to help. But can they resolve this fiasco before their secrets are revealed? At least Manfred knows why he's been so determined in his work lately; it's to pay for his high priced lawyer.
Charlaine Harris is an author I love flaws and all. When she is on, her books are delightful fun. Though she's not always on. She is an uneven writer who I am always ready to give a second chance to. Was the entirety of the Sookie Stackhouse series amazing? No. Seeing as it lasted thirteen books that would have been a miracle. I was very excited to see her going back to her mystery style epitomized by the amazing Harper Connelly series with the Midnight, Texas series that started last year. I felt disappointed in the first installment, Midnight Crossroad, which I felt was using the supernatural elements more as a crutch to bridge the worlds of Sookie and Harper. But upon picking up Day Shift all the failings of Midnight Crossroads are now forgiven. While there are similarities to the two known worlds she has built, I see now that Midnight Crossroads was needed in order to set up this new world. It took awhile to settle in and get to know these outcasts, and now that we do? Oh my, the action starts almost on the first page and doesn't let up till the last moment creating a fun escapist read that I actually didn't want to end.
The key to Day Shift's success lies in the mystery. Yes, you could say that most of the town and it's inhabitants are a mystery, but the disappearance of Bobo's girlfriend was laughably pedestrian in scope in the first book. But again, the first book isn't about the mystery, it's about the people. Now that we know the people, well, to a certain extent, they do like to keep their secrets, the "mystery" can take a front row seat. The death of Manfred's wealthy client Rachel isn't a shock. If you'd read the book's blurb you knew she'd be down for the count. It's the way she died coupled with the familial complications that make the mystery intriguing. It is also the way in which Manfred experiences her death, with her dead husband's spirit literally spiriting her away through their connection that adds a spine tingling frisson of spookiness. It was a rare moment in Charlaine's writing that felt so real and so deliciously "other" that I smiled to myself knowing that I was going to enjoy the ride. The fact that in trying to solve Rachel's murder we get light shed on that most mysterious of Midnight's inhabitants, Olivia, that the book develops some real depth. Olivia's story also helps to take the edge off my hatred of her vampire lover.
It's this slow reveal of all these characters having hidden depths that is what makes this book work. They are all there for a reason, and slowly, we're going to learn those reasons. With Charlaine's Sookie Stackhouse books, despite how much they tried to book them as "Southern Vampire" or even as an ensemble like with True Blood, the truth is there was one heroine and it was her series. In Midnight Crossroad it seemed very much like Manfred was going to step up and take on the mantle of "star" but as I read this book I realized that he's not the star, he was just our avatar to enter this little community. Now that the town is established, he's just one of the denizens and each and every one of them is a star. I was OK with this shift, in fact it lends itself to the series's longevity going forward. We won't see the world just from Manfred's POV. Here we got quite a lot of Olivia, but who knows who will be next? Personally, I want to know all the stories hidden in this town so I don't care who takes center stage in the next installment. It really is becoming a great ensemble in this wacky little southern Twin Peaksy town.
I do want to know though why Charlaine feels it necessary to keep having these Sookie cross-overs. Yes, I can see that her publishers might have foisted this on her in order to lure in the readers from her most successful series, but how much longer will it go on? I can see it as useful in the beginning, to an extent. But the truth is that there wasn't really any connection in the first book other then vampires and werewolves. Did the first book do so badly that she was ordered to put someone, anyone, from the Sookie-verse into Day Shift to pump up the sales? Thankfully she minimally used Barry the telepath and Quinn the were-tiger. But I don't want this to continue. Yes, the supernatural community is small and they probably do all know each other, but perhaps I want something new? The small town of Midnight is very closed and secretive so I wonder how realistic it is that they would let these strangers show up and not run them out of town? Or do they have some special sensor that makes them know if the people are "one of us"? Only time will tell, but I do hope that this series is given a chance to stand on it's own versus being some sort of spin-off of Sookie Stackhouse. This book was great and it deserves to grow beyond the obvious comparisons.
Though I did find one aspect of these cameos interesting. And that's that it appears there has been a shift of some kind in the supernatural world. Something has changed and it appears that the supes are going underground. Texas no longer as a thriving vampire population, it seems that all vampires are congregated now in Louisiana. So what happened? Was there a big backlash from the were reveal? Did the non-supernatural world say enough is enough? Olivia references vampire hunters, which makes it seem that perhaps they are more common than they once were. I find it interesting that with just a few little mentions here and there that Charlaine was able to permeate her book with a sense of unease for the supernatural community. This also makes me wonder what future refugees might turn up in Midnight. Who will take over the gas station? Why was the Midnight Hotel really rebuilt at all that cost for almost no return? There's a shift coming to this world, and I can't wait to read what happens next. ...more
Really dark yet fun story from the world of Mercy Thompson. Though with Dead Heat just out did we need more Fae child killers? I really liked that weReally dark yet fun story from the world of Mercy Thompson. Though with Dead Heat just out did we need more Fae child killers? I really liked that we go to read so much more about Adam's daughter Jesse, who is usually relegated to the sidelines. Must buy myself a copy......more
Maia never expected to be Emperor. Forth in line for the throne, the half goblin son of the Elvish Emperor Varenechibel IV has spent his life in exileMaia never expected to be Emperor. Forth in line for the throne, the half goblin son of the Elvish Emperor Varenechibel IV has spent his life in exile with an abusive cousin. When his father and elder brothers all die in an airship crash Maia is plunged into a world of court intrigue he was never prepared for. Maia has a good heart and has had a lonely life; he finds the transition to court almost unbearable. He doesn't know who to trust and those he does are to be viewed as servants not friends. Then there is his remaining family, people he has never met and who make it clear they are not happy with his rapid and unexpected ascension. The earnest youth has to deal with plots and plans and the startling knowledge that the airship crash that changed his life was sabotage and that his family didn't die because of an unfortunate accident, they were murdered. As Maia tries to find out the truth his own life might very well be in danger. After all, in an elvish realm who wants a goblin as emperor?
I don't lightly contemplate giving up on a book. Once I pick it up I am in it for the long haul. I am there to the bitter end. Like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory contemplating adding a new television show to his life, no matter what happens or how bad it gets, we are committed and can't back out; it's a facet of our personalities, though I'm not fictional. Therefore when I got about sixty pages into The Goblin Emperor and started seriously thinking of backing out, well, you can get an idea as to how I feel about this book. Seeing as this book was a selection for my book club I stated my feelings on our Facebook page and was strongly encouraged to carry on. I waited about a week and started the book over again. I struggled and I cursed, I occasionally chose sleep over reading, I had panic attacks that I would never finish, and then, I stumbled into the finish line abruptly. Occasionally I glimpsed the greatness that caught my friends imaginations, but overall this book failed to achieve even the most basic needs of a book, legibility.
The Goblin Emperor is full of dense almost impenetrable text. If you can get past these trappings there is a story with a very slight narrative in there, but if you don't look closely you might miss it. Katherine Addison has created the most convoluted language with unpronounceable titles and honorifics possible. At times I thought that she just literally hit keys at random on her keyboard to come up with some of the names of her characters. In her "Handbook for Travelers in the Elflands" she oh so kindly points out that "there are no silent letters in Ethuverazhin." Oh, so all those random consonants and vowels, I say them all? OK, let me just mentally rename all the fifty million characters in the book to something legible to preserve my sanity. And then Addison has some fun with masculine and feminine names and does some slight Scandinavian manipulation so that husbands and wives have different surnames! And all these woman have the same-ish title, which could for a couple hundred pages be mistaken for their forenames, of dach'osmer, or dach'osmerrem, or even dach'osmin! Rarely does a book make me feel stupid. This book made me feel stupid.
I struggled so much that at times I was brought to tears and conversely I was occasionally brought to the edge of panic with my heart racing as it felt like it was climbing into my throat. The only time of the day I found it mildly productive to read this book was when I was half awake. In this almost dream state I just didn't care enough to have my ire raised. But if I was fully conscious; well that's another matter. Here's the thing about creating a world with a different language; it might be helpful if that different language has some basis in, oh, any language on earth. The reason a fantasy writer like Tolkien is embraced is because as a historian of dead languages he was able to create languages that had the same basis as our own. The names and words made sense. Got that? You can't just make up an entire new language with no touchstone to reality. There's a reason language formed as it did over time, we can speak it! We understand it! We don't look at it and go, what they hell is this!?! That is what I spent the majority of this book doing; ripping out my hair and saying what the hell is this!
Addison spent so much time creating this made up etiquette and title system she forgot that worldbuilding is more then just made up words and it's generally a good idea to have a plot. Even if we were to take the theory that this was a character study... well, no one but Maia is more then two-dimensional, some barely make it that far, being just signifiers of emotion. All I kept thinking while reading this book and looking askance at the rave review on the front cover from author Scott Lynch guaranteeing court intrigue was that someone, ie Addison, needs to bone up on their court history or read Patrick Rothfuss's A Wise Man's Fear to see a successfully executed fantasy court. Because really, strip this book down, strip the stupid Ethuverazhin language, strip the emotive ears, strip out every time someone says "Serenity" (that alone should make the book two hundred pages shorter) and what do you have? Literally Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne, which is milquetoast to the Medici's! Seriously, all this book is is a kernel of real history tarted up with all these fantastical and nonsensical trappings and spewed back at us with no depth and no umph. Everything is surface.
I know this review might cause uproar, and it probably will make some of my friends wonder how we are friends with such different tastes in reading material, but I just couldn't like this book. I begrudgingly gave it two stars because Maia does have a good heart and it is rare to have someone kind and thoughtful and not at all malicious or vindictive as a hero, but think how much better this book would be if Addison could write? Because that is my biggest take-away from this book. Addison can't write. She can spew nonsense, she can write impressive lists of horrendously annoying made up names, she can spend hours going on and on about Maia's clothes, but she can't write. I so wanted this book to be good if just to thwart those Sad and Rapid Puppies out there who got this book a Hugo Nomination most likely because of the anti gay societal values, but alas, it isn't so. And as a parting salvo, I want to ask, who the hell thought to categorize this book as Steampunk? Pneumatic tubes and airships do not a Steampunk book make. You might be able to argue that it fits in Baroque Punk... but like my overall opinion of this book, um no.
Ugh, that went downhill fast with stupid oh so stooopid government agencies, though the "Dead Presidents" might just be the worst I've ever come acrosUgh, that went downhill fast with stupid oh so stooopid government agencies, though the "Dead Presidents" might just be the worst I've ever come across. The only redeeming feature was the 80s flashback. ...more
Worked better then the first volume, allowing for the secondary characters to carry the weight, which let Spot and his Ape grandfather shine. FrankensWorked better then the first volume, allowing for the secondary characters to carry the weight, which let Spot and his Ape grandfather shine. Frankenstein monster lady isn't working and neither are the monster hunters, but it is getting better so I have hope....more
I picked this up because, well, I'm loving the TV Series. This isn't the TV Series. Not even close. What Rob Thomas has done is taken a derivative comI picked this up because, well, I'm loving the TV Series. This isn't the TV Series. Not even close. What Rob Thomas has done is taken a derivative comic and made an engaging show. As for this derivative comic, think Being Human, with a little Buffy, and a tiny bit of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Not to my taste at all. Though I appreciate the clear classification system of supernatural entities. ...more
Jane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds at Trieste, Jane and Vincent take ship to Murano. Lord Byron has given the Vincents an open invitation to visit him in Venice, which is a nice cover for what they plan to do in Murano. They have long wanted to visit the famed glassmakers there after their discovery about weaving magic into glass to make it portable and not tethered to the earth in a fixed locale. The couple hope that with improved techniques and materials they can get reliable results. Yet as Napoleon rallied and invaded Belgium when they were first experimenting with this idea, they are once again derailed by outside influences.
This time they are set upon by pirates who, while ransoming them and hence not enslaving them, take all their possessions and leave Vincent with a nasty concussion. Finding Byron away from home they are struck with the realization that they are destitute. A kind man from the infamous boat journey takes them in and gives them everything they could need till either Byron returns or they are able to alert their families. Only sometimes kind men have ulterior motives and the Vincents could be in far more trouble then they could even guess. In fact pirates might be a welcome relief. Just don't tell Jane's mother about the pirates, she'll never forgive Vincent.
There are few authors out there which I will drop everything for. Phone calls go unanswered, emails pile up, work deadlines get stretched to breaking point. If it wasn't for the fact that food keeps me going and therefore keeps me reading I don't think I would remember to eat. Even on a re-read of these books I have found myself reverting to these habits that are usually only employed when I first hold the book in my hands. My love of these books has grown and developed over time, much like the books themselves. They are no longer just Jane Austen fanfic with magic, they're so much more! The books are part history, part fantasy, part alternate reality, there's just so much to love about them that I really can't stress enough that you should go out right now and get yourself all the books, because the first won't be enough.
So what keeps me coming back to Mary's series, seeing as I have just devoured the first four books in quick succession yet again? Aside from the fact that I love anything Regency (ahem Regency Magic) and Mary captures the feeling of the time period by sprinkling in historic details without inundating us with information, she has created a world where the magic just works. I'm not talking about works as in you say a spell and wow a light goes on, or even that it's successful in that something magical happens, I'm saying in the way she has created how magic is done just makes sense. The way magic resides in the ether out of the visible range and is brought forth and woven into something visible, either temporary or lasting, just works, it makes sense. Add to that the manipulation of ether outside the visible spectrum, such as cold and hot, as being dangerous, and the system just clicks into place.
As an artist myself, the way you think creatively, the way work takes a toll on you physically and mentally, Mary just nails it. While Jane would blush if I went into specifics, the issue with her "flower" I totally get. There is such a simpatico going on between me and Jane with our feelings and our physical beings that I am right there with her every step of the way. While yes, there is this part of me going, Jane is me, there's a happier part of me going Jane is Jane. She is an amazing heroine, she doesn't just have a spine, she has spine enough for both her and Vincent, supporting them through their trials and hardships, making plans, taking names, befriending nuns, it's just perfect.
And those hardships. Mary perfectly captures the day to day struggle of someone who once didn't have to worry about where the next meal will come from. The shame of being less then you were and being indebted to others and having your name sullied. Wondering if there will be shelter, if there will be food, if you will be warm. Valour and Vanity shows the flip side of Regency life. It's not all ballrooms and magic, it can be working on the street in danger of fainting just hoping to bring money home for some food or wood for the fire. And the scene where Jane buys a bar of soap. The fact that a bar of soap can be such a luxury and such a source of contention. But I can say, there is something so amazing that something as small as a little bar of soap that can subtly change your outlook. But I do also look at Jane's life and think, I am glad I grew up knowing how to cook and clean. There can be something said for self-reliance.
Now speaking of those nuns... they are just one of the many aspects that made this book so awesome. The blurbs comparing this installment to Ocean's Eleven aren't wrong. Only I would personally choose Ocean's Twelve, having seen it twice in theatres it's a better movie for many reasons; it has an awesome soundtrack, has a part in Italy, I believe even in Venice, has an amazing Chachi joke, makes more fun of itself with meta humor, and has Eddie Izzard. Here we have glamourists, nuns, pirates, puppet shows, disguises, the Eleventh Doctor, breaking and entering, there is just so much awesome that it's hard to pinpoint what makes it work so well unless you count the fact that everything works so seamlessly together.
The thing I found interesting is you don't really think of heists starting before this past century. Sure there were pirates and brigands and all number of baddies who did all number of innumerable nasty things, but the heist feels like a more modern invention. In fact the definition of heist shows the word being an Americanism from the twenties and even references cars to define it. Aside from Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, while being Victorian in conceit, but still very much a product of the seventies, I can't think of a successful book that combines a 19th century setting with an elaborate heist. For this alone Valour and Vanity should be held extraordinary and a must read, if not for every other reason I mentioned. Oh, and of course, me being a pusher for this series. Go on! You know you want to read it......more