I was absolutely, positively certain that was what was going on Carol Berg's Transformation. You could have cut the sexual tension between the two main characters with a spork! It's slavefic, which can be very, very icky a lot of the time, but Berg makes it not be icky. Basically, the slave (Seyonne) is sitting quietly judging the everloving fuck out of his master (Aleksander) every time he acts like an asshole (which is all the time, pretty much) and it drives Aleksander crazy, learning to see himself from a slave's perspective, and eventually he starts showing compassion--a teeny bit, but still. Then stuff happens involving a secret war with demons and a curse. Aleksander and Seyonne have to run for their lives. Seyonne finds out the woman he loved and his best friend left him for the slavers when they could have rescued him. Then, towards the end of the book is this little gem:
I had wondered about it myself. Aleksander could not prevent me [removing the slave collar], and I wasn't sure he would try. But on that night, as the first stars popped out of the deep turquoise of the sky, I finally understood my hesitation. Something extraordinary had come about between Aleksander and me. Something beyond oaths, beyond duty, beyond necessity and desperation. If the Prince unlocked my chains, I would not walk away. But until Aleksander believed it, I had no name for him but master, and no name for myself but slave. And inside I am yelling YES IT IS CALLED TRUE LOVE, GET ON WITH IT PLEASE. To me that reads pretty clearly that Seyonne at least has realized that what he feels is deeper than just genuine respect and friendship. I was deliciously anticipating the moment when Aleksander finally got a clue, but it just never came (he does set Seyonne free though). They both end up with women; Seyonne finds out his girlfriend was tricked by his best friend, who conveniently dies at the end, and, well, Aleksander isn't married yet, but it's implied that his future marriage to his betrothed won't just be a marriage of convenience.
I am not entirely sure if Berg is really that clueless, or trolling the everloving fuck out of m/m readers. (If so then A for effort?)
But this was something I actually read back in January, and posted the review on weirsjohnny. It's Johnny Weir's memoir, Welcome to my World.
( Review under cut )
( How I became a fan )
I've been bitching lately about having nothing to read around here. Which is ironic, because if I had all my books I would only read a few pages at a time and then be bored again. But there you go; it doesn't have to make sense.
The point of this being, I remembered yesterday that I gave my entire Animorphs collection to yurnewbff when I moved out years ago. And I had the entire collection, which is somewhere around 70 books--all the regular ones, the Megamorphs, the various Chronicles, even the Alternamorphs (sp?), which were choose your own adventure style, and I never really liked them, but I still had to have.
I have rediscovered the sheer love I once had for these characters. You know how you sometimes dig up a book you loved as a kid, reread it and wonder what you saw in it all those years ago? That's not the case with Animorphs. They're still as good I remember. Except for the thankfully short lived tv show. That I still have some VHS copies off...man it is bad. I made my whole family and a few of my school friends watch it. I doubt they've forgiven me. But it wasn't as bad as the original Power Rangers movie...that is a level of suck that I just...have no words. But it was so fuckin' cool when I was nine years old!
Anyway. Animorphs, by K.A. Applegate (yeah, she fell prey to the marketing belief that kids will only read books by authors the same gender as themselves, so she was published under her initials--lame). One of the reasons I remember thinking it was cool was because the characters were racially mixed, and came from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Also there was a love interest between a black and white character. That was a pretty bold move, I think, and props to the publisher for going ahead with it--and not white washing the characters on the cover art.
Another thing that really impressed me was the fact that the aliens were not humans with silly putty on their faces.
( Just check these guys out: )
The funny thing is, I picked it up completely by accident. I was at the library using the computer lab and a thunderstorm rolled in, and the librarian told us they had to shut off the computers, so I went downstairs and figured I'd pick up a book to read while I waited for the storm to pass. Melusine caught my eye because of the horrendous cover art--it would be mostly okay looking, if the tatoos on Felix's arms didn't look like they had been drawn on with Magic Markers. I thought, I have to see what this is about. Started reading, and decided Livejournal could wait.
Something else I picked up was The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta, about a forty something high school health teacher with very liberal ideas about sex, and her clash with a puritanical school board, Evangelical church leaders, and more specifically, one of it's members, a reformed drug addict who was only able to quite using and get his life back on track when he got saved. I was raised Evangelical, and anyone who reads about five entries in the journal or spends five minutes with me in real life will realize pretty quick that I'm definately not anymore. So I found myself being able to empathize completely with both characters, especially Tim's (the former drug addict) crisis of faith.
That's all I've got. Well, that and almost twenty hours of overtime.
Cross posted to epicfantasy .
This is going to be a loaded review. I've checked Amazon and Goodreads and it looks like, once again, I will be the dissenting opnion.
It has an interesting premise. But the characters just aren't there; the dialogue is awkward, and I found myself totally unable to visualize the action sequences.
I did not understand the motivations of any of the characters. None of them. We aren't really in their heads at all, and for me good characterization is the most important element of a story. I can forgive a weak plot, or a lack or overabundance of detail, if the characters are real and compelling. These guys just aren't.
Which is sad because it's obvious Weeks put a lot of time and effort into the world he created, but doesn't really explain it's mechanics very well. I couldn't keep strait all the different magic artifacts and historical figures, and I was also very confused about the different types of mages and magic.
I would say don't waste time and money on this, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it, and anyway hell, I always end up finishing these things hoping they get better.
It's a collection of essays written by a middle aged gay guy who divides his time between New York City and Normandy. Observations on death, disease, art, drug use and being gay in today's society verseus when he was growing up, and (my favorite) an extra long, day by day account of when he quit smoking in Tokyo. He has this terrific, self deprecating sense of humor, and he spares no details. A quick read, but very entertaining, and I'm definately looking up the rest of his books. I've read up on it (naturally) and the general consensus seems to be that it's not as good as his previous work. Which if it's the case for me, then I really really need to find his other stuff!
( I had a weird dream after I started reading this book...I feel like sharing. )
I read this based on a friend's recomendation. It's good (especially the characterization--just brilliant), but not quite as good as I was expecting. The main problem for me was too many storylines to keep track of. I knew they would eventually converge, but it sure took long enough. This made a complicated contradiction: the action was both slow and quick. The fighting scenes, of course, are fantastically written, and a lot of things happen, but it just took too long for all the people to come together. Now that has happened I'm expecting the second book in the series to be better.
I do admit to a fondness for Jezal, bastard though he is.
And the sequel! It held my attention better because some of the storylines merged, but there were still three separate ones. Superior Glokta is becoming a more interesting character to me, and Jezal faces some, shall we say, adverse, circumstances. The ending though--WHOA. Definately didn't see that coming...
Alas, still working on Last Argument of Kings.
It's historical fiction--about a chef and his apprentice. It's immediately obvious why I would be drawn to this book; it's set in Rennaisance Venice, circa 1498. (For a while all the historical fiction was set in Elizabethan England, but now that's been done to death, so I guess Rennaisance Italy is going to be the new fad.)
Luciano is an orphan living on the streets. He steals whatever he needs, imagines a better life in the New World, and scrapes by. Until one day he is caught trying to steal a pomegranate. Not by a stall keeper or watchman, but by the Doge's chef, Chef Ferrero. "That's not the way, boy", is all he says to Luciano. He drags the boy back to the palace, washes him, feeds him, and sets him to work. Luciano is mystified as to why the chef chose him of all boys, a ragged filthy thief. The chef has his own reasons, and it's not long before Luciano begins to look up to Chef Ferrero as a father figure, and strive to please him and better himself.
Chef Ferrero is gifted. Unafraid of new things, he snaps up delicacies from the New World--potatoes and maize, among other herbs and spices, and comes up with sinfully delicious recipes. Most of the other cooks look at him askance because of this, but they one and all ackowledge his genius. And it is to this man that Luciano is now apprenticed. There is one catch, though. Luciano is in love--or thinks he is, anyway--with a girl he sees in the market. Her name is Francesca, and unfortunately, she is a nun, or will be after she takes vows. His nebulous attachment to a convent girl is a big impediment to Chef Ferrero's plans, although Luciano is sure he can find a way to satisfy them both. Not to mention his old friends still on the streets. Luciano steals scraps and leaves them hidden near the garbage pile, but it's not long before one of them becomes very demanding and jealous.
During this time in Venice, a rumor was sweeping the city about a magical book. Some said the book held the secrets to eternal life, or how to turn lead into gold, others that it contained the Gnostic Gospels. The Doge, old and dying of syphilis, wants the book, hoping it contains a recipe for a magical elixir to preserve his own life. The Council of Ten wants the book, hoping it turns out to be the Gnostic Gospels, so they can stage a coup against Rome. Of all the city, only one person knows the truth about the book--Chef Ferrero. Not only that, but he is in fact the book's owner--it's guardian, more like. It's not a book of magic spells or the lost Gnostic Gospels, but instead a book of knowledge--forbidden knowledge, disguised, of all things, as a cookbook. Chef Ferrero is one of a loose confederation of men who value knowledge above all else. They call themselves Guardians, and believe, heretically, that the Roman Catholic Church is an unneccessary establishment, an impediment to God rather than an intercessor. Most of them believe Jesus was just a teacher. That's not the only thing, though. They preserve works of science, philosophy, history, even animal husbandry; many of the ideas that great societies once had but lost in the Middle Ages, either through forgetfulness or the Church's purging.
It's told in first person by Luciano as an old man. It's mostly linear, but there is one chapter that leaps ahead by many years, when Luciano talks to Chef Ferrero's old master and finds out why Ferrero wanted Luciano, specifically, as his apprentice.
I do not want to read another review calling this a Da Vinci Code wannabe. It's not. There are no descendents of Jesus, first of all, no scandals or plots or well formed secret societies (the guardians each only know of two other guardians, first of all; second the only "plot" is the preservation of knowledge). The Guardians are watching and waiting for a time when they can share their knowledge and help raise mankind to greatness. The divinity of Jesus is questioned, certainly, and there's no doubt Ferrero disbelieves it. But all the parts that could remind anyone even remotely of Dan Brown's novel take up less than one chapter. It's not the main focus of the novel at all. It's a story about personal growth, maturity, and having to make hard decisions. It's about growing up an outsider, and then suddenly getting shoved into a postiion that's totally out of your experience. Idiots. The Da Vinci Code, indeed.
On top of that, the Archon, tipped off by the Bondsmagi, embroils them in his own schemes. He's losing popularity with the people of Tal Verrar, and loosing patience with the short sighted way the Priori are running the city. He's planning a coup, and for that he needs Locke and Jean to sail onto the Sea of Brass, raise a pirate navy, and attack Tal Verrar. Basically, he needs a reason for the city to need him, but he also needs an enemy he knows he can beat. In order to secure their cooperation, the Archon slips them a latent poison to which only he has the antidote. Without taking it every two months, Locke and Jean face a slow and painful death.
None too pleased at being forced to abandon the Sinspire game after two years of careful and hard work, they set out to learn the basics--the bare basics, of sailing, under the tutelage of one of the Archon's sailing masters, also poisoned to ensure his cooperation. The plan is to send the sailing master with them, so Locke can appear to give the orders while Caldis, the sailing master, actually runs the ship. Unfortunately they end up getting captured by real pirates on the Sea of Brass. Prisoners at sea, with their two month deadline looming closer and closer, Locke and Jean are in for the the fight of their lives.
"It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming. I was comfortable, and you dared to move, those jade eyes said. For that you must die. When it became apparent to the cat that it's two or three pounds of mass were not sufficient to break Locke's neck with one mighty snap, it put its paws on his shoulders and began sharing it's drool covered nose with his lips."
The sarcastic remarks fly fast and loose, the profanity continues to impress, and the whole thing just got better because now there is swashbuckling. You can take almost any story, and with the careful application of pirates, make it better.
Cross posted to epicfantasy.
This book! I can safely say that this is my first favorite of 2009, (2008's being Breath and Bone and Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg). Locke Lamora is an orphan, likely a bastard too, in the city of Camorr. He's taken in by the Thiefmaker, an old thief to rickety to support himself, so he formed a band of orphans to thieve for him. They all live together in a cemetary, until Locke proves to be too clever for his own good, and is sold by the Thiefmaker to another gang leader, Father Chains. Father Chains is another thief, but of a different sort. He poses as a blind priest so pious he chained himself to his temple. Father Chains has his own band of orphaned thieves, called The Gentlemen Bastards, and he senses he can make something of Locke, who is far too intelligent for just petty breaking and entering and picking pockets. He teaches Locke about Capa Barsavi, the crime boss that every thief, whore, assasin and gang in Camorr pay homage to (and a percent of their take, as well); he teaches Locke about the Secret Peace, the unwritten law that the nobles of Camorr are inviolate.
The funny thing is, Father Chains really is a priest, in a fashion. The Camorri pantheon has twelve gods, and Chains claims to represent the Unnamed Thirteenth, Father of Neccessary Pretexts, god of thieves; basically a sort of black sheep younger brother of the other gods. He claims that priests of the Unnamed Thirteenth can pose as priests of other gods and not be punished for it, because of some sort of "lingering affection for his merry brand of fuckery". Oddly enough, Chains, and later Locke and the rest of his gang seem to be truly pious.
Locke grows up, and eventually takes control of the little gang. He learned well from Chains, and his main source of income is pulling brilliant and complicated scams on the nobility of Camorr--breaking the Secret Peace. It means Locke's death and the death of his gang if they are ever found out, but it's worth it to him. He's probably richer than some of the minor nobles they fleece, but instead of living high and mighty they just pile it up, in secret. Eventually though, things become very unstable in the slums of Camorr, when an unknown assailant starts targeting gang leaders. Capa Barsavi is on edge, and Locke is about to get wrapped up in a complicated plot.
As I mentioned before, Lynch has a flair for profanity: "--and fifty of Barsavi's men piled into the room with crossbows, and shot those poor idiots so full of holes that a porcupine in heat would have taken any one of them home and fucked him." That is--it's artful, is what it is.
I also love how The Gentleman Bastards cook! Real food--creative dishes, not the ubiquitous stew or slices of bread and cheese (a quick glance at Lynch's homepage revealed he was a line cook, no wonder). Not to mention he created a guild of professional chefs, who practice the Eight Beautiful Arts, One being Seafood and Five being desserts (what are the others, I want to know!) Ah, the way to my heart. <3
One final thing--it's amusing to me, how many publishers get authors to say things like "New, fresh, thoroughly unique!" on the covers of fantasy novels. Fantasy, one of the most cliched genres, except for maybe romance, around! There is no fresh and original; there is however engrossing and gorgeously realized. In fact I can see a lot of similarities between The Lies of Locke Lamora and Stalking Darkness, at least as far as the plot goes. But they were written in different ways so I can apprecaite and enjoy both books on their own merits.
The one thing I didn't like quite so much was the way Lynch would stop the story and start telling another, seemingly unrelated story, in order to make a point about a character. However I think he handled moving back and forth in Locke's life, from when he was first picked up by chains to the present, very skillfully. Ordinarily it's irritating, but young Locke and adult Locke are equally engaging, so the switching between story lines didn't bother me.
In short, I love this book. I am leaving now to go dive into the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Cross posted to epicfantasy .
Okay I started writing this review on my home computer and totally forgot about it. Found and finished this weekend and posted only six months after I read it!
It picks up a few weeks after Empire of Ivory left off. Laurence is under arrest for treason because he took the cure for the dragon plague to France, and Temeraire has been sent to the remote breeding ground Pen Y Fan. Instead being executed, Laurence is kept imprisoned, because there would be no controlling Temeraire if Laurence were dead. Temeraire is told that he must keep up good behavior or Laurence will be hanged, so he keeps to himself in the grounds. Ultimately, he hears news that the ship Laurence was being transported on was sunk by the French and that there were no survivors. Grief stricken and filled with rage, he decides enough is enough, and organizes the other dragons on the grounds into a sort of militia. Temeraire has decided that he is simply not going to sit around and let the French raze England; he is going to fight them whether the English government wants him to or not. Unbeknownst to him Laurence did indeed survive the wreck, and news that Napoleon has launched his invasion at last has forced his captors to press him and Temeraire back into service. Laurence is under no illusions though, that he will ever be forgiven. So he heads to Pen Y Fan, only to discover that it is totally empty. He follows the signs, trying to track down Temeraire, assuming that all the dragons fled in panic at news of the invasion, never dreaming that Temeraire organized them all into a fighting force and that they are all headed to London. Not only that, but they have already fought and won a minor battle, and gained vital intelligence on French movements. When Laurence and Temeraire reunite, Temeraire believes that if they distinguish themselves in battle they will not only earn Laurence a pardon, but earn Temeraire and the other dragons all the rights and privileges that Chinese dragons, and now French dragons, under the influence of Lien, enjoy. Things heat up when a captain, under orders from the Lords of the Admiralty, shows up, intending to give a commission to the bright young officer in charge of the militia:
“’Good God,’ Laurence said, comprehensively; he could well and vividly imagine the reaction which the Lords of the Admiralty should have, to the intelligence that the well-formed and orderly militia which they confidently expected, with a clever young officer at its head, was rather an experimental and wholly independent legion of unharnessed dragons, without any great sympathy for their Lordships, and under the command of the most recalcitrant dragon in all Britain.”
Temeraire shamelessly turns the desperation of the moment to the dragons’ advantage: he manages to keep the commission, and refuses to fight unless he is paid a wage, the same as all other members of the military. He manages to wrangle a few other concessions, but Laurence knows that once the danger is past, there will be a reckoning.
I love Temeraire. I just do. He’s arrogant, but humble; naïve, but insightful. Imagining a gigantic dragon that could squash a human and not even realize it being so mannerly and polite, is amusing. Not to mention his almost alien perception of human culture makes for some great reading. And Laurence! Sometimes I want to smack him in the head and tell him to get the hell over it, honor my ass! As far as I’m concerned if someone broke faith with you then you have no more obligation to them. He refuses several attempts of his friend Tharkay to help him escape, because even though the government wishes him hanged, and was willing to murder hundreds of French dragons (albeit by proxy of withholding the cure for the plague), he still loves England and is unwilling to abandon his homeland to the mercy of Napoleon.
Book 1 of the Fire of Heaven trilogy
From the back cover: From a tiny snowbound village, five men and women are about to embark in a journey that will change their lives—and the destiny of their world.
The front cover quotes Trudi Canavan as saying “Not since Tolkien have I been so awed.” In scope at least, this first book of a trilogy is comparable to LOTR. Kirkpatrick has certainly done plenty of world building but the characters aren't really very fleshed out, for the most part, except maybe Lieth, the protag. He’s a total geek, and he knows it. He wishes he could be more normal and attract the attention of the girl he likes, and having a cripple for a brother and his father mysteriously disappear on king’s business makes him all the more angsty. But eventually he starts to grow up, and at least attempt to fill the role of the man of the house. Then his father reappears secretly. He tells his family that he is being pursued by four lethal warriors, Maghdi Dasht, or Lords of Fear, and that they must leave their sleepy village. But before anyone can do anything, the Maghdi Dasht arrive, kidnap Leith’s parents and leave Leith and his brother, Hal, for dead. Turns out that Leith’s father is a retired spy and knows some very sensitive and dangerous secrets. So Leith and his brother enlist the help of some of the more stouthearted villagers and go after his parents.
There was a lot of potential but parts of it just fizzled out and left me not wanting to finish the book, at all. I did, because after a few days of rest I was curious enough to see what happens, but for the record, I hate multiple story lines. Two is testing my patience; three is truly irritating. And that’s probably what did this book in for me. When one story line left off and it switched to another is generally where I found my stopping places. Just when I get good and involved in what’s going on, we switch to see how these characters are doing, and instead of plowing on to get back to the storyline I was most interested in, I get exasperated and give up. Another problem that kept me from fully enjoying the book was the character of Stella, the girl Leith’s in love with. I simply don’t quite get her, and I wish that Kirkpatrick had spent more time developing her character. She seems rather unlikable at first, but becomes more sympathetic as the story goes on, but I just wish we had gotten more than a few glimpses inside her thoughts and motivations.
I also want to point out that while I understand how making the religion very similar to Christianity might make the world a little more identifiable to readers, and may even be a way for the author to make a point, I for one prefer an author to make up their own. Although so far I can't tell exactly if he is critiqueing Christianity or supporting it--there are a lot of questions that people ask of God in real life that are asked in this book (but not adequately answered by the believers), such as why would a good god let bad things happen, why doesn't God speak directly to mankind anymore, etc.... All in all, though, it was a good first effort. Kirkpatrick just needs to spend more time developing his characters.
But the book! Like the title says, each of the book's nine chapters descibes one of Jim's nine lives (and how he dies each time). It's also told from the point of view of Jim, who wonders why he has to eat on the floor and why isn't he ever allowed on beds or to have his own clothes? After all, he is the center of the universe.
Development number two is, I'm switching my major to Pastry. Yup. From what I've seen, I think I'd like that a lot better, and I really do love baking. I still can't make brownies for the life of me, but cookies and cakes and breads, I can do. Thankfully I came to this decision while it's still early enough that it won't make difficulties, such as right before graduation...
On to The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore!
Nothing evokes the spirit of Christmas like murder, one night stands, and zombies! God has sent an angel to Earth to grant a Christmas wish. The angel, who is none too bright, grants the wish of a little boy named Joshua, who witnessed a woman murder her ex husband while he was in a Santa costume. Joshua wants Santa to come back to life so that Christmas goes forward as usual, so the angel resurrects the dead santa, as well as all the other dead occupants of the town, who suddenly and inexplicably have a craving for brains.
I know aurillia has already read a Chris Moore book, so she knows what I mean when I say that the man if fucking funny. He has a great sense of irony, and the book is peppered with random pop culture references and profanity, and well, it's just great.
I don't really have anything to say. Except congrats again Shannon on becoming an aunt!
I am just being silly because I do not have to be in class for another 11 days. O.O Whoa. I do not know what to do with myself. And I managed to get the best schedule ever: Mondays 8-11:40 and Tuesday 9-8. No TDC next semester, either!
I just have to say, it makes me feel very cozy, to be in bed reading and have all the cats in bed with me (Oz is usually on me; it's like he's not convinced I am sincere in my petting unless he is draped over my chest). Even Olive, I am always faintly surprised when she actually sits still for a minute and wants me to pet her. She's still pretty wild, even for a kitten.
And now, what I have been most anxiously waiting for, I finally was able to read the new Valdemar book, Foundation. !!! I was not disapointed, at all. It was the literary equivalent of wrapping myself in a warm fleece blankie and sipping a mug of hot cocoa in front of a fire. I know that they tend to get a little formulaic; mistreated youth grows up in adversity, finds out she/he has special powers, and ends up saving the kingdom, or at least something else heroic. There are some deviations from the pattern; Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor for two. That was something I think you would like, Shannon. It's one of those, what you call, bilgunsomething. Anyway. I feel to lazy right now to give it a proper review. But really, mistreated youth grows up in adversity, finds out he has special powers, and ends up savig the kingdom really sums it up, although he hasn't saved the kingdom (yet, I imagine that will come in the following books).
So, Maledicte. Awesome. Seriously.
We have a lot of, shall we say, unsaintly heroes, main characters who defy the traditional "knight in shining armor" stereotype. I like those guys, but Maledicte takes that one step further. He doesn't even rate the term "antihero". He's stone cold killer, who really seems to have little or no emotional qualms at all. Amazingly, you don't care. Robins puts you in his head, makes you understand him so perfectly that you forgive him, over and over.
First of all, Maledicte used to be Miranda, daughter of a dockside prostitute, who refuses to follow in her mother's footsteps and becomes a thief instead. Her lover and best friend, Janus, also the offspring of a whore, is kidnapped one day by his long lost father, who in his desperation for an heir decides to reclaim his bastard son. During the course of Janus' removal, Miranda is beaten nearly death. Not one to give up easily, she decides to reclaim Janus, and ends up taking shelter in an abandoned temple that was once dedicated to Ani, goddess of love and vengeance. She wakes up possessed by the long-silent goddess, and with a wickedly sharp black sword. Thus fortified, she begins breaking into noble houses, looking for the one that holds Janus. What she finds is far more than she expected.
Miranda, wisely disguised as a boy, ends up in the house of Vornatti, and old lecher and, more importantly, brother in law of the king. When he sees Miranda, instead of prudently dispatching the intruder, lets lust get the better of him and has his servant, Gilly, give her drugged wine so he can keep her around for his own amusement. Eventually he discovers what she was doing in his house, and since the man who stole her Janus, Lord Last, is one of his enemies at court, he decides to help her get revenge. During the course of this, he discovers she is female, but promises to keep that secret to himself. This is when she chooses the name, Maledicte.
From that point on, Maledicte is written exactly as if he were really male. Sometimes I even forgot who he really was. He does everything in his power, even takes a poison to damage his vocal cords in order to lower his voice, to make the illusion more complete. Another point to note is that from here the book is told from the point of view of Gilly, Vornatti's servant and boy toy.
From there Maledicte endures endless rounds of lessons from Vornatti in order to fit in at court, all the while sleeping with the old bastard. When she is finally able to reconnect with Janus, at first everything is exactly how you would expect. But slowly, slowly, things change. Because of the pact Maledicte made with Ani, simply reuniting with Janus is not enough; she has to kill Lord Last, Janus' father. Janus is perfectly willing to go along with this, since it means he will inherit all the sooner. The problem is, where Ani/Maledicte would just skewer the bastard, Janus wants it done so that there can be no doubt cast on either of them, so that they can continue their lives comfortably at court.
During the course of all this, Maledicte ends up murdering a handful of people, some deserving, some maybe not so much. Unfortunately every time he kills someone Ani grow stronger in him, harder to control. All Maledicte really wants to do is complete the pact by killing Last, and run off with Janus. But Janus is having none of it; he has become very ambitious, and even has eyes on the throne, not simply his father's estate. It becomes plenty obvious who we want Maledicte to end up with--Gilly, who all this time has been quietly supporting Maledicte, even though at times he scares the hell out of Gilly, and Janus is jealously growling at him, even at one point threatening his life.
It is amazing to me that this is someone's first novel. I absolutely bow to the skill it took to keep all that going, and keep my interest, and make me love a cold blooded murderer and want him/her to have a happy ending.
On to The Privelage of the Sword. Not as bad as Swordspoint, not as good as The Fall of the Kings. And that's really all I can say. It suffers from the same plot problem as Swordspoint, in that it really doesn't have one until the last 100 or so pages, and just tends to ramble and I don't understand the character's motivations at all. But I still kind of like them. Of the three (chronologically they are Swordspoint, The Privelage of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings), the only one I would spend money on is TFotK.
My antics at culinary school have pretty effectively curtailed how much reading I get done; it took me two weeks to finish Crown of Stars, which is pretty embarrassing for me. Since it would take me far too much time to write detailed reviews of all the books I’ve been reading, I’m just giving a kind of mini review for each, a few key points as to why I like or don’t like it. I really do mean to write more reviews, but, well, I forget. Something exciting either happens that I have to post about first, or I get involved in a conversation with one of my friends, or something else. And I realize at 3 a.m., hey I read thus-and-such two weeks ago and I still haven’t reviewed it.
So here they are.
(As promised) The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
All the things that Swordspoint got wrong, TFotK got right. Such as, a plot. It has one! And compelling, likeable characters, to boot! And no weird, wonky, abstract sex scenes (I think I forgot to mention that in the review of Swordspoint. A reviewer on Goodreads said that one of the scenes was either a description of sex or the Rapture, which I found amusing on so many levels). It’s still not graphic or explicit, though; thankfully that is how I like my sex scenes, vague on the details, but still obvious about what’s going on. Recommended to anyone who is not homophobic. Also, you don’t need to read Swordspoint to understand TFotK; I didn’t. It works perfectly as a stand alone. In fact, don’t read Swordspoint at all, ever. Really; don’t.
The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey
One of Misty’s Elemental Master’s series, this one is based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. And can I just say, I loved the “dwarves”! Recommended to everyone. Although beware the soapboxing; there’s some in pretty much every book she writes, but it gets a liiitle heavy handed in this one; not surprising, given the main character and the time period she’s in. I can overlook it, but if anyone is looking for a good introduction to the series, then look up The Gates of Sleep.
By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey
Book nine of the Valdemar series. I had forgotten just how much I love it. I decided to reread it after recommending it to edroxy. Reading it again was so...refreshing. This is one of Misty's greats (and speaking as a forgiving fan, she's certainly had some duds where the Valdemar series is concerned; it probably helps that she's admitted that this is her favorite Valdemar book).
Women warriors are pretty much a standard device in fantasy fiction. But in all the books I’ve read featuring women warriors, none of them have ever been more compelling or believable, or so easy for me to identify with, as Kerowyn. Lord knows I’ve been disappointed enough by the way such characters are dealt with (as those of you who read my gripe about Mistress of the Art of Death recall). But By The Sword is a comfort book, something I can go back to when I feel disappointed and remember that someone got it right, at least once. Recommended to everyone. And as a bonus, no previous knowledge of the series is required! It’s a stand alone.
King's Dragon by Kate Elliot
Recommended by aurillia (and now me).
Book 1 of The Crown of Stars series. I liked this book, lots. The sheer level of detail is astonishing. I love how there are elements of the world and the religion that bear resemblances to the real world (of about 1000 years ago—and I don’t just mean in a vague, sort-of way, like a lot of fantasy authors do; Elliot really did her homework for this one) and Christianity. It was cool to me to realize who the real world counterparts of certain characters were, such as Emperor Taillefer being based on Alexander the Great. Plus the way women are written in this book is also fantastic. Believable and plausible; so much so that I found myself wondering, heeeey, how come we didn’t do it that way for real?
Swordspoint is one of the classic cases where I build my expectations up only to have them knocked down. I wanted to like it; I wanted to love it, since I read it's sequel, The Fall of the Kings, and thought it was amazing. But this...ordinarily I would give a plot summary first, but that's next to impossible because this book's plot, such as it is, is all over the place and hardly discernable. That is, once it actually got going. I got to page 93 and began to wonder, okay, what is supposed to be going on here?
The two people in the book you need to know about are Richard St Vier, an expert swordsman-for-hire, and his lover, the mysterious and scholarly Alec. Alec is probably a member of the nobility, but he never says, and Richard never asks. Frankly one of the huge disappointments about the book is the relationship between Richard and Alec. I found myself wondering, time and again, just what is Richard's attraction to Alec? He's annoying, petulant, self serving, manipulative, self destructive...really, he had no redeeming qualities that I could see. But for some reason Richard decides he needs to protect him. Alec trades endlessly off of Richard's reputation, deliberatly picking fights and making enemies, just so he can get Richard to kill them.
And Richard, if anything, was even more disappointing than Alec. What is his motivation? Why does he risk his life for the sake of some idiot nobles who pick quarrells with each other and set swordsmen at each other's throats, instead of doing their own dirty work? There is hardly any character growth and developement going on with them, no interesting flashbacks where we learn more about their histories and how they ended up where they are. There was however, one character that I ended up liking. But he wasn't a huge part of the action, and I really didn't see why he was in the book as much as he was, other than to serve as a convenient plot device. But it was highly frustrating, to see Kushner take a character who comes off as badly as he does in the beginning, and turn him into someone halfway likable, and then end the story before we find out what ever happens to him!
I admit that sometimes it's nice to read a book where the kingdom isn't in dire peril and needs rescuing. I love gritty, political books that are full of intrigue. That is Swordspoint's one redeeming grace. It certainly doesn't disappoint on that score. And once I was well through the first half of the book and could see where it going (finally), I enjoyed it a bit more...but I still thought the rest of it was terrible.
X posted to
A review of The Fall of the Kings is forthcoming, after I eat lunch.
The Sharing Knife is about Fawn Bluefield, a young woman, pregnant but unwed, and scorned by the father of her baby. Fearing the shame and outrage that will fall on her when news of her pregnancy gets around, she decides to run away from home and make a new life for herself in the city of Glassforge, where she will pretend to be a widow. On her way, she encounters a group of Lakewalkers, a mysterious race of people who patrol the land, searching for and destroying malices, also known as blight bogles to the farmers. Fawn hides from them, and soon after continues on her way. Unfortunately she walks right into a fierce battle between the Lakewalkers and a malice of unusual strength. Two of the malice's slaves kidnap her, meaning to drain her and her unborn baby of life so that it will gain power. She is rescued by Dag, a Lakewalker who was tracking the two slaves, but not before the malice steals the life of Fawn's baby and she miscarries. Actually, during the fight to free her, Fawn is the one who kills the malice, by stabbing it with Dag's sharing knife, which is the only way to kill a malice. Sharing knives are made of human bone, but only bone from a willing adult donor. The knives are "primed", or enchanted, when a Lakewalker gives his or her death to it, that is they stab themselves through the heart, usually on the battlefield to avoid being taken by a malice, or in the face of incurable illness. Dag was carrying two sharing knives, one that was primed, to kill the malice, and one that wasn't. The one that wasn't primed is made from his wife's bone, who died twenty years ago. Unfortunately Fawn didn't know which to use, and so used both. The second knife is now primed, and Dag doesn't know how or why, although he puts that thought behind him, in the more immediate need to take care of Fawn.
Exhausted from the fight and the Malice's lingering influence, Dag and Fawn ride to a nearby abandoned farm, where Dag does what he can to help her. Eventually she is well enough that they can travel on to Glassforge, there to meet up with Dag's patrol of Lakewalkers. Not surpisingly, Fawn begins to develope feelings for Dag, who saved her life, and so does Dag; Fawn is pretty, spirited, and intelligent. Dag keeps his distance though, knowing that Lakewalkers and farmers do not mix, and Fawn does as well, still stung by her previous lover's rejection. When they arrive at Glassforge, Dag asks permission to leave and consult with a maker, to find out what must be done with the knife. His patrol leader and aunt, Mari, agrees, although they must complete their current patrol first. The Lakewalkers all treat Fawn with respect for her role in killing the malice, and kindly allow her to stay with them, since she is still too weak from her miscarriage to find work.
Eventually though, Dag and Fawn cannot hide their feelings for each other anymore, and against all better judgement and the advice of Mari, they become a couple. Not long after, Dag finishes his patrol, and he and Fawn set off for Dag's homeland, in the North. First however, Dag feels that Fawn needs to make an appearance at her family home, to let them know that she is well, since she ran away without leaving word.
While at Fawn's home, Dag proposes to her, causing an uproar. Fawn of course agrees and they make plans to stay in Bluefield long enough to have a proper marriage, before leaving for Dag's home.
On a scale of 1--10, this rates 5. I think Bujold had some really great ideas. Groundsense/magic? Awesome. A one handed protagonist? Awesome. A polyandrous society? Awesome.
Fawn really annoyed me. Bujold tried to make her engaging, and strong, but it didn't feel right to me. Sure having Fawn kill the malice ought to have made her strong. But she only managed to kill it through a combination of luck and accident. And she just has no back bone at all. She seems completely dependent on Dag. Not a good start to winning me over.
However, I was more or less okay with that, and up until 2/3 through the book I would have given it a 7. But then they go on that stupid detour to Fawn's home! Right around page 250, I think, is where my logic circuit sent a BS alert to my consciousness and my disbelief slipped a few notches. All of a sudden they go from being on a journey to find out what happened to the sharing knife, to being in the middle of a family drama/romance. Which is not what I signed up for.
The main number one problem I have is the relationship itself between Dag and Fawn. It just feels wrong. Disturbing, almost. First of all there is the age difference of thirty-seven years. Yes, 37 years. On top of that Fawn lied about her age, telling Dag she was twenty when in fact she was eighteen. Two years difference might not make much difference to someone Dag's age (which is fifty-five), but there can be a pretty big difference between eighteen and twenty. There was for me, and I was a pretty mature eighteen year old. There is an even bigger difference between the eighteen year old me and the twenty-two year old me. And Dag wasn't even upset to find out she had been lying to him. And she wasn't upset to find out his actual age (which he had been hiding from her). Now, Dag does come from a long lived people; barring death in battle or from illness he can expect to live to 120 +/-. That's not the issue, so much as the fact that Fawn is still a teenager. Technically, physically, she is an adult, but mentally and emotionally? She still has some growing to do; she is not his equal. Take the reason she got pregnant in the first place. She didn't think she would really be grown up until she had slept with a man, which is a very juvenile and ungrown up idea. And she confesses this to Dag the second day after they've met. Granted, they'd both been through a lot, but I can see how he would be real attracted to her at that point. If she had exhibited any kind of real growth over the course of the story then that would change the lanscape a bit, but she didn't, not from what I can see.
One more thing. Where is the angst? Dag has been shutting himself off from romantic companionship for twenty years, because of the death of his wife. Then he meets a new girl (I just can't think of Fawn as a woman) and falls in love again, just like that. Not to mention the fact that the sharing knife made from his first wife's bone, that he meant to one day plunge into his heart, is in the posession of this new girl, who has possibly rendered it useless, and therefore made his wife's sacrifice in vain. WHY ISN'T HE ANGSTING? He should not be asking her to marry him, what, three weeks after they first met? If there is any situation in fantasy fiction that calls for angst, this is it. Not that I have a particular fondness for angst; it can wear thin pretty quickly. But it is a natural part of human emotion. I expect just a hint of it from Dag, but there really isn't any.
Alright, this is fantasy, and I'm supposed to suspend my disbelief. But the things I'm supposed to suspend my disbelief for--groundsense, malices, etc... do not have any real world counterparts. People, however, are both real life and fictional. And just because I've decided to go along with whatever you concoct doesn't mean that if the people in the story do something like, well, this, that I can just accept it, no questions asked. If anyone had asked me what I thought was going to happen in the story, I would have said that Fawn definately developes feelings for Dag. He saved her life after all, it's a natural enough thing to happen. Dag might start feeling a little attracted to her, but he just has too much emotional baggage to simply say, here I am, I'm yours. Not to mention the guilt he should have felt over being attracted to/in love with someone that much younger than him. Over time, in which Fawn grows and matures, Dag gets over his issues, and then they get together.
Cross posted to epicfantasy.