silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
[personal profile] silverflight8
Wow, I haven't posted about my reading in forever. In fact there are still books undeleted from my kobo/marked as unread in Calibre cause I'm not even updating my spreadsheet of read books...for shame.

I finished Here Be Dragons. It improved as I went on, and the narrative really narrowed down a lot more after John's death, which was helpful - I don't really like a lot of POV-jumping. I find it hard to care as much when it constantly flips between people. At any rate, I didn't even recognize the Magna Carta when it showed up. Joanna calls it the Runnymede charter, which makes sense. You don't call it the ancien regime when you're in it. John's death also took me rather by surprise. I was reading a non-fiction biography sort of concurrently with Here Be Dragons, but very intermittently, during lunch breaks, and it was going much slower than Here Be Dragons, since it had to describe the warfare and political situations, esp on the continent.

Here Be Dragons was a pretty emotionally complex book; it's really hard to really root for anyone, except perhaps Joanna, though she makes her own decisions of who to support - she does have her own small power, and crucially, brings a petition to John to help reconcile him to Llewellyn. She also makes a choice between her children and her stepchildren; it's complicated by the fact that she's foreign still and her children also sort of tainted by that, plus that Llewellyn has a bastard son that is older than her son. John especially is incredibly polarizing. From the biography, he turned on even his loyal supporters, and even from a remove of 800 years he still doesn't look good. An able administrator, but undoubtedly lost his continental possessions and then had to raise fees via taxes for wars that didn't succeed - you'll be forgiven if you win, but to lose, yikes.

The crux of the emotional conflict is, I think, the three-way intentions and desires of John, Llewellyn, and Joanna. Llewellyn wants Wales independent of John; John, the opposite. Joanna, married to one and son of the other, is caught squarely in the middle, and throughout John's life is continually having to justify and choose between the two. John is at a remove, at least, which means the heat mostly comes from Llewellyn and her court, which is in Wales. In the book, Joanna is treated very, very well by John, who takes her in after her mother dies, and she refuses to believe that he would starve to death Maude de Braose and her son, or hang his hostages. John and Llewellyn act with their idea of what is best for their respective states. John especially seems to have tried marrying her to Llewellyn in an attempt to cement a closer relationship with the Welsh state, but obviously chucks that out the window and wars against Llewellyn repeatedly, when he thinks it's necessary - and the other way around, of course. And the conflict is also played out on a smaller scale between Gruffyd, Llewellyn's first-born bastard son, and Davydd, his first legitimate son with Joanna. Gruffyd is practically a grown man while Davydd is still a boy, and Llewellyn makes the decision to declare Davydd his heir, over Gruffyd, because the latter is too hot-headed and impulsive. And after a few incidents and some mild maneuvering from Joanna, Llewellyn puts Gruffyd in house prison - not only is the age thing a problem, but Gruffyd's parents are both Welsh, and Davydd's mother isn't. This is ugly on all sides. They are all contemporaries of the hot mess that was Henry's attempt to secure his sons' inheritances, after all.

I took a quick skim of Wikipedia as well, after reading both books; I was interested to see that the man she cheated on Llewellyn with, William of Braose (grandson of Maude) is called "William de Braose (died 1230)" on Wikipedia. Ouch. IDK, given how contested sometimes the Wikipedia titles are, the titling of an entry can be interesting in itself - like I found out the other day that FYROM is now simply called Republic of Macedonia (and yes the talk page is as you are probably imagining.)

I'm not sure how I feel about John, in the end. He doesn't seem to have known how to handle his allies very well. And yet he clearly learns from that one time when he was trying to wage war on multiple temporal/spiritual planes at once - he makes very certain to have the pope supporting him (you know, the king that had the country put under interdict for ages) later on. Richard is certainly valorized, but he didn't exactly administer anything. Look, I'm pitting the two brothers against each other again.

I also read the End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India's Young, by Somini Sengupta, on recommendation from [ profile] wordsofastory. It's a very engaging, well-written and also easy-to-plow-through book, which is really difficult to do. She doesn't shy away from talking about how ugly circumstances and life can be, but she doesn't pity or coddle either, and she does in an incredibly readable way. She takes stories from seven different young people, from all over the country with different ambitions and aspirations, and ties their expectations and hopes back to some of the hopes and promises that came out of independence. She calls them noonday's children - out of the dark, big dreams sometimes, wanting those promises to be fulfilled. And she wrote about inequality, which is something that is very relevant right now. This is an extremely recent book - especially since I'm always late to the party when it comes to reading new stuff - and it was good to see how she incorporated current events in her discussion. Overall extremely good, although I found the last chapter hard to get through - I had to slam the book closed a few times there because it was getting to me. This review is very short because I know next to nothing about India, history or current, and moreover I've had to return my book, but it's very good for someone who doesn't know India well at all.

I read Martha Wells' The Wizard Hunters in an effort to stave off my burning desire to have the next Raksura book. You know how you have books on your e-reader or shelf for ages and ages and are always excited about them when you're sorting through the library (and don't have the time to sit down and read), but when you are actually in a place to read you go, no, I'd rather reread this extremely trashy book for the 48572th time? Anyway, I finally started while I think I was waiting for the train and the opening part hooked me immediately, though when I say what it is it sounds rather horrible. Tremaine's looking for a way to kill herself that would be passed off as an accident - because her city's under siege and she doesn't really have close family anymore and it's not nearly as horrible and sad as it sounds! Oh god. Think Lirael's beginning or something.

Her country, Ile Rien, is under attack by the Gardier - they don't know where they're coming from nor are they having much luck countering their spells. Tremaine is from a family with magic (and also spying, but that's rather more secret) and gets involved in trying to harness the powers of a sphere that her family left behind. Something unexpected happens and they are teleported to a different world - which, yay! I like portal fantasies. Tremaine meets Ilias and Giliead, who are trying to find an evil sorcerer - and in their world, all magic users are malicious.

I kept looking for sort of echoes of Moon and Jade and co in this book - and I really wish I could shut this part of my brain off, it sometimes ruins books for me. Why haven't I read a Heinlein in ages? etc. A little, maybe? I like how Wells writes culture clash. I don't know - after the last two books it was rather nice. Obviously both are very different and have diametrically opposing opinions on things like magic use but (leaving out the Gardier) it's a portrayal of two cultures that are both good. Neither is particularly awful despite the differences. I do hope the Gardier get some more development, though.


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