silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I really wanted to like this book. It's about the Library, which is an organization set apart in time and space, which agents that go out into various alternate universes to retrieve books. Sometimes undercover, sometimes timetravelling. Irene is suddenly sent out to retrieve a dangerous item, accompanied by a rookie agent she's never met.


One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...

(from Amazon's blurb)


But oh my god, I think my doneness with steampunk is getting to me. )
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
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.

some light discussion )

I also read the End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India's Young, by Somini Sengupta, on recommendation from [livejournal.com 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.

some discussion )
silverflight8: watercolour wash with white paper stars (stars in the sky)
I read Games Wizards Play and I was disappointed, to be honest.

Plotwise, it's quite interesting. There's nothing epic or earthshattering this time; instead the Wizards' Invitational is on, a competitive event where young wizards demonstrate their projects to a jury - a big international science fair. They are mentored by older wizards who the Powers think can pass on knowledge. It's meant to be a opportunity to help younger wizards experience without the life and death consequences that errantry usually brings.

details )

I also read Edge of Worlds, by Martha Wells, which I enjoyed a lot more. It's about the Raksura, a shape-shifters groundlings/skylings in a world full of different sapient species. It's been a few (peaceful) turns since the last book, but the whole court has had a strange, premonition dream linked again to the Fell, shape-shifters that prey on other species. Moon and Jade and some of the other Raksura sail away with a group of strange groundlings to investigate an sea-bound island that the groundlings think that the Fell-and-Raksuras' forerunners might have built.

more under the cut )

Progress mostly stalled on Sorrows of Young Werther and Here Be Dragons. I am reading a biography of John's rule during my breaks, and it's going well. It'd be going better if people in medieval England had more than like, five names in circulation. I cannot keep track of everyone! The big names, like William Marshal I can remember, but sometimes it's disputes of William vs William.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I woke up to schadenfreude the other morning, and by schadenfreude I mean the voting results out of the Hugos. HA!

===========

I finished the last book of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel and I have to make a post about it because the ending. Actually the whole thing made me feel like it was partly a retcon and I hate retcons. (See my objections to the Mistborn book - that third book was practically a giant retcon of the entire series, especially the last scene.)

This is the first actual review I've done in a long time I think. Though I am not synopsising this book, that will stall me out. I recommend the Wikipedia article! It is somewhat spoilery though.

One sentence summary: modern-day twins discover they are subjects of a prophecy, Nicholas Flamel and other immortals battle for control of them and their destiny.

Now: ALL THE SPOILERS )

I have even more things to say but I really need to just post this for now. STAY TUNED. Also, this is not meant to mean I disliked the books; on the contrary I'm still thinking about them (and feeling vaguely empty; I keep thinking that I'll read/listen to the next chapter and then realizing I finished the book...a couple days ago).
silverflight8: text icon: "Go ahead! Panic! Do it now and avoid the June rush!" (Panic!)
cover: arched domes and pyramids rising in distance, foreground people in colourful clothing This book was so bad. I read it all the way through because I wanted to figure out what was going on and partly because the worldbuilding premise and finally, because if a book is terrible and I'm 50% through I might as well finish it and pick it apart.

I really really wanted to like this book. Here is the back cover, but its premise can be summed up in the following words--"alternate-universe nineteenth-century Egyptian empire with spies and terrorist Otto von Bismark."

Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke live in a world where the sun never set on the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 of Our Lord Julius Caesar, Pharaoh Djoser-George governs a sprawling realm that spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. When the European terrorist Otto von Bismarck touches off an international conspiracy, Scott and Mik are charged with exposing the plot against the Empire.

Their adventure takes them from the sands of Memphis to a lush New World, home of the Incan Tawantinsuyu, a rival empire across the glittering Atlantic Ocean. Encompassing Quetzal airships, operas, blood sacrifice and high diplomacy, Ramona Wheeler's Three Princes is a richly imagined, cinematic vision of a modern Egyptian Empire.


This is such a cool premise and setting but it's botched because plotting was a mess, characterization painful and writing abysmal.

I did not like this book )

I am so bitterly disappointed. I love speculative fiction and I love alternate history--to describe this book as up my alley cannot describe how excited I was to read this--and it was just horrible on so many fronts. It was so bad that it lowered my opinion of Tor, who published this. It wasn't entertainingly bad, it was incompetent. Complete, sheer incompetence. I expected so, so much better.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
(this review has taken FOREVER to write. I finished reading this August 27 and it's now October.)

cover of Firethorn, a woman with red hair and haunted green eyes looking up
Sire Galan has forbidden his servant and lover Firethorn to follow him to war, but she disobeys. When the army of Corymb sets sail for Incus, she is aboard a ship of the fleet, gambling on Galan's welcome.

But the gods are as apt to meddle with the schemes of a lowborn mudwoman as the best-laid plans of her betters. The searing touch of Wildfire leaves Firethorn shattered, haunted, estranged from herself, and set apat from others.

She feels cursed, but others see her as blessed. Whores come to her for healing, and soldiers search her every utterance for hidden prophecies. Is she a charlatan or a true seer? Even Firethorn cannot answer that question. And Galan is wary of what Wildfire has made of her.

Synopsis from the book jacket.


This is the sequel of Firethorn, where the protagonist Firethorn, a mudwoman who fled the Kingswood manor, follows Sire Galan as he marches to war. There the armies of King Thyrse assemble, waiting for favourable winds and omens to depart.

Now in Wildfire the armies have decamped, and Firethorn is following in their wake. At sea, the ship encounters a huge storm and Firethorn is struck by a bolt of lightning. It nearly kills her, and when she recovers somewhat she discovers she has severe aphasia and can't read. When they land, they find that the vanguard has already successfully conquered the city of Lanx. Galan takes her in, but without being able to speak coherently she's not capable of doing things she used to. Without literacy she can't read the godsigns when she throws bones to divine; with her memory and voice shattered she can't act as a healer. Powerful men like the Crux and the priests of Rift alternatively use her confused words as an oracle, or suspect she's lying and a spy.

After Firethorn gets separated from Galan - she stays behind to help her friend Mai, another sheath, in childbirth - she is captured by the enemy, King Corvus. Corvus decides to take a risky mountain pass during winter after weeks of harassment from Queenmother Caelum's troops, and nearly kills his army doing so. They pass into Lambeth and Firethorn is sold as a bondswoman, then becomes one of the unclean, and then finally a whore-celebrant.

This review got very meandering because the book was so long and meandering itself, and does have spoilers. And some gruesome bits. )

I don't know how to recommend this book. It was very engrossing but also kind of painful to slog through (and to review, as you can see; the book was rambly and so the review is all over the place too.) I initially picked up Firethorn thinking it'd be a book on peasants in a medieval setting and I did not get that. I've been suckered into them, though, so I'll be checking once in awhile to see if there's ever any news about a third book. Wildfire is most definitely incomplete. 7/10
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I'm apparently on a re-read kick, and I have too many to review in the same way I did Mistborn (words! words everywhere!) so here's a quick thing:

The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon and The Lights Go On Again by Kit Pearson

The novels are about Norah and Gavin, two siblings who are sent to Canada as war guests as the Blitz ramps up in England. I'm struggling to think of a good descriptor of the books that involve plot, but the core of the books is really the emotional journeys that Norah and Gavin go through. They move into the house of Florence Ogilvie and Norah immediately has personality conflicts with Aunt Florence.

One thing I think Pearson did really well was portray unusual grief/emotions. Norah is young but she's twelve or so, and she doesn't want to leave England. She's angry with her parents for sending them away, afraid for them, ashamed of running away, angry she's being put in charge of her younger brother, resentful that he can't help being afraid and distressed himself. She's not happy with being put with the Ogilvies and she's not fitting into her new school. It's an ugly combination of emotions that nevertheless feels really honest.

There's also Gavin in The Lights Go On Again Major spoilers )It gets resolved and I love their grandfather, but I thought that his anger mixed with guilt towards him and Norah, too, was really honest.

Also I learned that Pearson is gay! That is pretty cool. I read her books when I was a kid and never looked at author bios (nor do I think they would have mentioned it). She's also from Alberta!

The Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson

Ahh, yes, my Star Wars obsession. When I say I love Star Wars what I actually mean is "the Prequel EU books" and Jude Watson is at least 50% responsible for this. I think the only post-RotJ books I've read is Zahn's Thrawn trilogy (which is really good, I get why people keep trying to sneak it into yuletide).

Secrets of the Jedi is about Obi-Wan and Siri's relationship. Watson also wrote Jedi Apprentice (about young Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon) and Jedi Quest (about Obi-Wan and Anakin) and The Secrets of the Jedi tie into Jedi Apprentice; this book ties into the Jedi Apprentice series. Obi-Wan and Siri, along with their respective masters, are assigned to escort a talented young boy named Talesan Fry to Coruscant after he discovers the plot of a group of bounty hunters. They're partly successful even though the Padawans get separated from their Masters halfway through, but Tal's parents are killed. Years later, when the galaxy is consumed by the Clone Wars, the Temple is informed that Tal, now a successful businessman, has created a perfect codebreaker and is offering the Republic the first bid.

Being Jedi, love is forbidden, and the book has an interesting treatment of it. In one of the Jedi Apprentice books Obi-Wan actually left the Jedi Order once; he felt that the Temple was not helping the civil war on Melida/Daan enough and refused to go back to Coruscant, staying to help. Spoilers for how they handle it )

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider )

Snakecharm by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Snakecharm )

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

Hawk of May )

Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

Airborn )

Among Others

Among Others )

--

I'm working on Conspiracy of Kings by Turner and enjoying it a lot so far, though I'm having some trouble with the different perspectives. I think I've reread the previous three books altogether too many times already and I understand them really well now, but there is a lot here I'm skimming--the political bits for one. Sophos is growing up though! Awww.

This post took long enough that I finished a book while writing it. I wish I was faster!
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
These books were like a rollercoaster. I started yelling near the end ("WHAT!! WHAT!!") I also read them one after another so I'm not going to even try to do a book-by-book review, just a giant one for all three books. And the review kind of exploded on me. It's really long.

SO! These books!

They're all 500-700 pages by my e-reader and oh my god, I haven't had this level of can't-put-it-down for such a long time. They were magnetic.

cover of The Final Empire, with a young woman dressed in a mistcloak looking downThe first book follows Vin, a young skaa thief who is attached to a crew scaming noblemen and obligators. In Luthadel, the capital, the skaa live and work in terrible conditions, subjugated by the nobility and the Lord Ruler. Vin has survived thus far because she makes herself small and unnoticed, but also because the crew leaders have--consciously or unconsciously--picked up on her ability to make scams go better when she's around.

When she meets Kelsier, a man bent on creating a skaa rebellion, she finds out what that ability is Allomancy. She's a Mistborn, someone who can ingest different types of metal and then burn them to increase herstrength, see better, affect others' emotions, telekinetically pull and push metal, etc. Mistings--who can burn one type of metal--are fairly rare, and Mistborn, who can burn all ten, even rarer. Kelsier introduces her to his crew and starts training her both in Allomancy and to infiltrate the nobility.

Their rebellion is operated directly under the noses of the Lord Ruler, and there is the ever-present danger of his Inquisitors and the Steel Ministry. Supernaturally powerful and fast, they are the priests of the Lord Ruler and seek out and kill half-skaa Allomancers. There are the obligators, who witness every transaction of the nobility and are the bureaucracy of the Lord Ruler. And there is the power of the nobility, who "rent" the skaa for plantation work but essentially act as the owners of skaa.

The Final Empire )

The Well of Ascension )

The Hero of Ages )

The books as a whole--general impressions, thematically interesting points, etc - warning though, these books have significant twists that are discussed under the cut )

They were really good books. But I'm going to go read a nice, relaxing, fluffy novel next.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I inhaled The Queen of Attolia today. I haven't read much fiction for awhile 1 but today I actually had time and so I sat down in a two-hour chunk of free time, nearly lost my mind about halfway through the book, and finished it.

The Queen of Attolia is the sequel to The Thief and even the summary spoils the previous novel, so I'm going to cut the whole thing. Brief thoughts: I thought it started rather slowly--not in terms of pacing/action but as in interesting/funny writing and compelling action--but when it got going, it really went. I do recommend both The Thief and The Queen of Attolia!

Review of The Queen of Attolia under the cut! )

1 I thought about it and I think it's because in my system of mental accounting (to borrow the concept), "reading accounts" are fungible. Or rather, "time spent reading different genres" is fungible. So if I read stuff for not-pleasure (work, etc) then it gets classified under the general "reading" which is a leisure category, which means I have filled up my quota for the leisure spent and so stuff like "reading fiction" i.e. actual fun is pushed off because I have already used up my Reading Time. I don't actually differentiate, I guess. And that's my ten minutes of dorkiness for today.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover image--blue tinged, man with ships in the background
An island nation has vanished. Men of honor and magic have died unnatural deaths. Slaves flee in terror. . . . Are the Silent Gods beginning to speak? Or is another force at work?

Jerzy, Vineart apprentice and former slave, was sent by his master to investigate strange happenings in the Lands Vin--and found himself the target of betrayal. Now he must set out on his own journey, to find the source of the foul taint that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. By Jerzy’s side are Ao, who lives for commerce and the art of the deal; Mahault, stoic, and wise, risking death in flight from her homeland; and Kaïnam, once Named-Heir of an island Principality whose father has fallen into a magic-tangled madness that endangers them all.

These four companions will travel far from the earth and the soul of the vine, sailing along coastlines aflame with fear, confronting sea creatures summoned by darkness, and following winds imbued with malice. Their journey will take them to the very limits of the Sin Washer’s reach…and into a battle for the soul of the Vin Lands. For two millennia one commandment has kept the Lands Vin in order: Those of magic shall hold no power over men. Those of power shall hold no magic. Now that law has given way….


The second novel of the Vineart War, it follows Jerzy, Ao, and Mahault as they escape from Aleppan. Jerzy, accused of breaking Sin Washer's commands by both Washers and lay lords, flees overseas as he tries to carry out his master's instruction: find what the taint is coming from. The narrative switches between Jerzy's point of view to the antagonist's, giving us finally a glimpse of who is on the other end.

It is fascinating to see the progression of Jerzy's powers. In the first book he is only beginning to understand and improve his abilities with the wine. His time away from The Berengia and the necessary self-reliance he needs in Aleppan change him. Away from Malech, he discovers his quiet magic--the ability to use magic without having to ingest a drop of spellwine at all. I also enjoyed the fact that Ao and Mahault (and a fourth character, introduced earlier in Flesh and Fire) had motivations of their own, although they ultimately choose to follow Jerzy.

This novel, while I enjoyed the extra information about the quiet magic, kind of suffered from middle-of-the-trilogy symptom, whereby you kind of have to give us information and action to fill up room but can't rush towards a conclusion. I think that's why Jerzy is jerked from one place to another--out to sea, then back to House Malech, then out again, then back, and then out again. (Then back.) In a way it's another symptom of how Jerzy isn't really in control of things--he's being pushed around by the antagonist, and he is honestly one of the more aware characters; the other Vinearts are being silently taken out, and the ears of the lords are being poisoned by aids (think Wormtongue). It makes for frustrating reading as they're dragged around the map though.

Spoilers. )

In conclusion: I thought this book had more weaknesses than the first, but it was still quite good and if you liked the first, definitely pick up this one. 9/10
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover of The Merchant of Dreams, a young man/woman holding lantern and pistol in a dark Elizabethan alleyBack cover:
Exiled from the court of Queen Elizabeth for accusing a powerful nobleman of treason, swordsman-turned-spy Mal Catlyn has been living in France with his young valet Coby Hendricks for the past year.

But Mal harbours a darker secret: he and his twin brother share a soul that once belonged to a skrayling, one of the mystical creatures from the New World.

When Mal’s dream about a skrayling shipwreck in the Mediterranean proves reality, it sets him on a path to the beautiful, treacherous city of Venice – and a conflict of loyalties that will place him and his friends in greater danger than ever.


Mal is asked by an ailing Walsingham to spy in Venice on the skraylings, because England is concerned that an alliance with Venice might mean less profit for them, who need it. Mal and his friend Ned travel to Venice, while his valet Coby, his twin brother Sandy, and Ned's partner Gabriel stay in England. Things go awry, however, and all of them end up in Venice. While Mal and Ned try to find out what the skraylings are doing, and meddling with high society there, Coby and Sandy escape pursuit by fleeing to Venice.

Perhaps it is because I picked up the second book, and I was missing a lot of information, but I couldn't figure out what "guisers"--major antagonists--were, till about the last sixty pages. In general, the parts about the skraylings, Mal's problems, his brother's problems, were all little explained. And it made caring about their struggles hard.

Some more thoughts, some spoilers )

It was all right, neither bad nor good. I'm not picking up any of the books in the series. 6/10
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I am in the middle of typing a review of The Merchant of Dreams (Anne Lyle, historical fantasy set in Elizabethan England and then Venice, involving creatures from New World called skraylings) but I read Flesh and Fire today and well, I have to talk about this one first.
cover of Flesh and Fire, figure of man holding glowing plants, in painterly style
Back cover:
Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power.

But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts' craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed.

In Flesh and Fire, first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.


Jerzy, raised from his status of slave, becomes the apprentice of Malech unexpectedly. Like all his kind, Malech, a Vineart, can coax from wine true magic. Wines imbued with magic, called spellwines, can be used by anyone to do things like set and heal bones, create light without burning, or influence weather. However, the realm of temporal power is permanently blocked off for Vinearts--they are forbidden to do so by Sin Washer, a Jesus-like figure who broke the power of prince-mages a thousand years ago by blooding the grapes and is still worshipped today.

But things are not right--from all corners come news of petty plagues and harvest problems, sea-serpents attacking villages, and an entire island disappearing. In the isolated Valle of Ivy, where Vineart Malech has his vinyards, Jerzy studies at a frenetic pace. Hearing the news all together forms a disturbing picture, and Malech is concerned. Against all tradition, he sends Jerzy to another Vineart to try to understand what is happening, though Jerzy has hardly been a year under his tutelage.

Somewhat spoilery? I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK, if you don't want any spoilers you may want to go directly to your library! :D )

All in all it was excellent. Absolutely excellent. 10/10

Kiesha'ra

Dec. 10th, 2013 05:38 pm
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
Yesterday someone linked an ebook archive and in a fit of nostalgia I downloaded Hawksong (actually, the entire Kiesha'ra series) and I read all of Hawksong, starting at 1am. I don't make good decisions past midnight, all right?

I'm not sure I can make a coherent review about this book! Everything is submerged in a flood of feelings about ZANE COBRIANA because oh yeah, I remember why I loved these so much! To say I ship Danica/Zane (or rather, OTP) would be a gross understatement. It has some weaknesses I never noticed years ago but the magnetic quality of the characters is still there. And I'm so glad.

I'm not sure I want to read past Hawksong either. Everything is okay right now. Like, spoilers )On the other hand, I kind of want to read the entire thing to see "black night on black ice", that phrase, again.

Some of my objections aren't really fair, seeing as it's a YA novel and quite short. The parts I was didn't like much were all the issues with Tuuli Thea and such; kingship is very personal there (perhaps even more, for the serpiente) and so it makes sense that personal decisions like marriage would affect the kingdom. Well, as though it didn't before. But the politics I had trouble buying, since I feel like there should be more complexity, more resistance, more internal inertia. The personal relationships were drawn beautifully, for such a small book. I felt that the politics needed more; they felt like one-on-one sorts of decisions, which is hard for me to swallow, accustomed to modern political systems.

Also looking back, I can see that Atwater-Rhodes knew the series' plot when she was writing it--the notes dropped in about the falcons, especially about the poison, are all setting it up.

I felt a bit bad for Rei, but on the other hand, haha, too bad! It's the same in with poor Raisa ana'Mariana and Amon Byrne, who are in a similar queen/protector situation; the other character is always more compelling. (Question: where do the snakeskin pants come from? I mean...did he skin someone for it? I find myself asking all sorts of magic-worldbuildy questions. Humans exist: that's why the Mistari moved, because the humans were taking over Central Asia. But what about plain sparrows, plain cobras?)

I don't think I wrote fic for this, but I definitely recall reading a lot of fanfiction.net. Now I'm mad that I've completed my fandom stocking and yuletide is far away. FFN says it has 200 works in--oh my god, apparently the Georgina Kincaid series has fifteen works excuse me I have to investigate this.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover of Sabriel
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny. . .


The first novel in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, Sabriel follows a young woman as she takes on her inheritance--the position of Abhorsen, who, unlike other necromancers, puts the dead back into death--and searches for her father, trapped in Death. To do so, she crosses from Ancelstierre and into the Old Kingdom, where both Charter and Free Magic hold sway and the emerging weaponry and technology of Ancelstierre don't work.

As is probably obvious, I love worldbuilding of novels a lot. And that's one of the attractions of the Old Kingdom; there are actually three separate worlds. The first is Ancelstierre, an analogue to our world, circa the turn of the 20th century. One is the Old Kingdom, across Wall guarded by Ancelstierran soldiers (on their side, anyway. The Old Kingdom does not post sentries.) The last is Death, which Sabriel, as the daughter of the Abhorsen, can access. It's a strange, grey world, and very dangerous--not only are there dead creatures trying to drag you in, but also the whole world of death itself is trying to drag you further in. It manifests as a cold river with a strong current.

alternate cover of Sabriel Sabriel is definitely a character who has suddenly had a huge load of responsibility dropped into her lap, but she deals pretty admirably with it. She has a legacy left by her father, but she has known a little all along and has learned Charter Magic in preparation. Sabriel (novel) is a portal-quest fantasy, but one that handles the exposition well, without inundating the reader with information.

And on a completely unrelated note, I love the covers. The one linked above is gorgeous and striking (relevant to the book too! That's the surcoat she's wearing, and I love the slightly inhuman look they have. It kind of reminds me of medieval art actually.) There are two sets of covers I saw, and I am showing you the second set too because I love, love, love these covers' calligraphy. Look at how the title's done! One version of Lirael I was reading in the library was like this--huge wide margins (like a manuscript), lovely font, and gorgeous calligraphy on the chapter titles. The only bad part was the kerning; double quotation marks would seem suspended over or just before periods, which was annoying. But yes! The calligraphy is delicious.

--

cover of LiraelLirael, the next book, skips ahead a generation and is centered around Lirael. Lirael is born into the Clayr, a group of women who can see the future. Separately they see small snatches, but pooling together their strengths in what is called the Nine Day Watch can allow them to see a great deal more, which is how they aided Sabriel earlier. Lirael, however, does not receive the Sight, even as she reaches her fourteenth, then fifteenth, then sixteenth birthday, even as the younger girls around her receive the Sight at twelve. To keep her occupied, Lirael starts to work in the library of the Clayr, a huge and sometimes dangerous place inside the Clayr's Glacier. This library is extensive and not fully known anymore. There are places sealed off, places where no one has gone for years, and unknown dangerous creatures sometimes inside the rooms. Librarians are equipped with distress signals in case something happens, which speaks to how

Rest of the review )

--

cover of Abhorsen Abhorsen is the final book in the trilogy. Following the revelations in Lirael, Spoilers for previous books )
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
cover image of The Thief

All my public entries are about books these days, so please have another one!

I finished The Thief a few days ago. It's been a book batted around as a really good novel, but I never got round to it (so credit must go to [livejournal.com profile] kmo_lj who recced it again.)

The novel begins with Gen, a prisoner in the Sounis king's prison, where he's been languishing for months. The door to his jail opens and he's told that he's wanted by the magus. Gen was arrested for bragging in public he was thief who could steal anything (and did), but the magus wants him for some purpose, so he packs Gen on a horse and they leave the city alongside a few other characters--Pol, a soldier, and Ambiades and Sophos, two young men apprenticed to the magus. Slowly the magus reveals that he wants Gen to steal Hamaithes's Gift, a stone that in legend was given as a gift by one of the gods as a sign of divine right to rule. The novel is a mix of Gen and party moving through to Attolia (where Hamaithes's Gift is hidden) and Gen's telling of the myths.

The reveal! Holy cow! Reveals, plural, actually. I don't think I've ever read a book that's in first person all the way through and still has such a big surprise/revelation about the main character at the end. Most authors end up dropping at least some kind of biographical information to give insight into the character's motivations, which were almost completely lacking, though of course I never realized till the actual reveal happened. That is so cool. First person tends to talk about the thoughts and opinions of the person whose perspective is written from (sometimes as a clumsy way to do exposition or scene description) so it is really cool.

I also really enjoyed the writing. Some of the characters sounded very YA--they seemed to have some simplistic reactions and such (e.g. the magus was really rather trusting)--but Gen was very engaging and the reveal especially gave a lot more depth. The writing wasn't terse or spare or anything, but it dropped words exactly where they were needed--it was very deft, not a word out of place. Gen was always very dry, and I loved his narration. She also did a really great job with the scene where Gen walks into the cavern. When he first enters he nearly has a heart attack, thinking that there are people inside, then realizes they were statues--and then realizes in an even more heart-stopping moment that they aren't merely alive, they are truly the gods of myth. What a moment!

--

Currently reading, and quick discussion of article talking about hard science fiction )
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I almost didn't finish A Natural History of Dragons. Here's what the back cover says:

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten...

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.


Interesting, right? Victorian lady off on dragon-hunting adventures? Natural history? ADVENTURES HUNTING DRAGONS?!

The dragons. The dragons. I'm in it for the dragons.

I'm starting to think I should stop reading Victorian-set literature (as separate from literature written by Victorians, is what I'm trying to say) because with few exceptions, the overall tone is maddening. I'll get into that at the end of the review.

The novel begins in Isabella's youth, where her interest in dragons begins: she finds a sparkling in the garden, a tiny dragon. At that time sparklings were classified as insects, and dragons were not well studied because of the difficulty in preserving them. Any specimen that a hunter or a researcher brought down and shipped home would have decayed into dust or fragments in a few days. However, what little is known of dragons fascinates Isabella, and she concocts many schemes to learn more, like getting her brother to pilfer books from her father's library.

Isabella chafes at the restrictions on her life. Although it's called Scirland, the novel is very clearly patterned after Victorian or Victorian-adjacent England; as a young woman of breeding, she mustn't do this and that etc, sneaks out in boy's clothing and nearly gets herself killed trying to see a dragon, etc etc, her father puts together a list of eligible gentlemen to marry (he's starred the ones who own a copy of "A Natural History of Dragons", the first book Isabella read about them), tries to push down her interests but ends up talking to gentlemen about her dragon fixation, etc...

rest of the review )

---

I'm gonna stop reading fiction set in the Victorian period (unless it is written by Victorians.) There's this arch, coy voice which is SO ANNOYING, as well as the apparent prevalence of "I'm not like those girls" (let's punish other people for conformity) and "all mothers are daft", both of which drive me up the wall.

(OH MY GOD IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF OR STAY OUT OF TROUBLE WHY DO YOU MANEUVER YOURSELF INTO THESE SITUATIONS.)
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I read the two available novels in Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker trilogy in four days, because I couldn't get my hands on the next fast enough. Some books I put down for days and don't think of them much, but there's some that I read every minute I've got free--but I don't need to go on, you all know the sensation.

My usual back cover gripe: the back cover enticement of Cold Magic was one of the most misleading things ever and told me nothing about anything; from the back cover you'd think it a steampunk novel about two cousins going to university. In the extras at the back, Elliott provides the best descriptor for this book I've seen: she calls it a mashup because it's an "Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency novel with airships, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendents of troodons".

As if I could resist.

Cold Magic begins with Catherine--known to her family as Cat--attending the Academy with her cousin Beatrice (Bee). So far, on track with the back cover; the world that Cat and Bee inhabit is said to be 1830's, but an 1830's where land exists where the English Channel does in ours, connecting Britain to the rest of Europe. An 1830's where Scandinavia is covered in a thick ice shelf. Nevertheless, Victorian attitudes continue to prevail, as Bee and Cat can only attend lectures on the balconies of the lecture hall, where they are learning about airships and aerostatic principles.

And then the cold mage Andevai arrives, and everything changes. In this cold Europa, cold mages are a force equal to the temporal power of princes and lords. They are organized into Houses, which are confederations of powerful mages, often from one bloodline. These mage Houses hold clientage--a vaguely feudal ownership, what I would call 'manorialism' (between unequal parties) not 'feudalism' (between equals). That is to say, they own land, wealth, and also the people who work for them, who pay tithes and other dues and are bound to the land. The cold mage invokes an agreement that Cat's aunt and uncle made years ago regarding the eldest daughter of their house, marries Cat on the spot, and takes her away.

more about Cold Magic )

--

In Cold Fire, Cat ends up in the Americas, but it's an Americas that's vastly different from ours. Like Cold Magic emphasizes, much of the world is covered in ice; Canada is completely covered, and ice stretches into much of what is the United States. Instead of humans, the feathered troodons--what the humans call trolls--live there. Cat becomes entangled in the politics of Expedition, a city in the Caribbean. In Cold Magic, Cat finds out her paternity, and much of her actions in this book are dealing with it. Spoilery for Cold Magic, the rest of Cold Fire's review )

--

Final opinion: I love them, I must have the next nowwwww.

I made a reaction post which can be found here: http://silverflight8.livejournal.com/262479.html, which is much more interesting, in my opinion. I have to admit, I prefer those sorts of posts over reviews, where I feel constrained to not spoil the books (...not always very successfully) and have to write summaries, argh, plot/novel summaries are the bane of my life. The most interesting part of reviewing is the nitty gritty when you get to talk about specifics!

ONE LAST NOTE on AO3 tagging and this series )
silverflight8: text icon: "Go ahead! Panic! Do it now and avoid the June rush!" (Panic!)
Agatha H and the Airship City, by Phil and Kaja Foglio--DNF.

This book is terrible.

It is unbelievably clunkily written. Paragraphs that don't have any connection follow each other. There are entire paragraphs are made up of sentences which are very short and simple, which make the whole thing sound choppy. There are multiple italics and CAPSLOCKED WORDS AND PHRASES on nearly every page. No one acts like a human, all the Jäger machines have their accents written out phonetically (possibly German caricature?), and the whole thing tries to be clever and arch and falls so badly short. And honestly, it's the last that really gets my goat.

So I had some issues with this book. )

Having now written all of that out, I think the authors were trying to go for humour. But there's nothing for the humour to go on top of. Nothing to build on top of, so instead I'm left wondering what's going on and why I should care, and finding the humour illogical instead.

In conclusion, I hope that their webcomic is leagues better than their writing, because this book is just plain awful. Girl Genius won a Hugo? Why do so many steampunk novels insist on being arch? It reminds me of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate, which was uneven and whose main female character practically screamed I'm not one of those girls! Thank you, I'll pass.
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny

Corwin, Lord of Amber, escapes from the dungeons of Amber to fight back against his brother Eric, who has usurped the throne of Amber, slipping between shadow worlds.

This is an extremely peculiar book. Corwin can 'walk in shadow', which means he can move between what amount to parallel universes. The novel opens with him walking out of prison and meeting with a wounded man named Lance (i.e. Lancelot). Corwin proceeds with Lance to Lorraine, a place that bears similarity to Corwin's own land--but this is a shadow of the other one. It's sort of Avalon, but not. Then they go off and have a battle...and Corwin unwittingly tells an impostor how to use the Pattern of Amber.

To be honest, this novel confused me a great deal. I see now that it is a second novel in a series (...this would explain rather a lot) but as I complained in a previous entry (here) the language wavers between very modern and archaic. In a way that might have been deliberate, but to me just sounded muddled. As well, the references were mixed too--there are references to our world (except one where there is no settlement on Africa) but also names like Ganelon (Song of Roland!) and of course the Arthurian influences (most notably Lancelot.)

I don't know if I want to try any of his other books. It was a tiny book but I didn't come out of it really liking anyone, except maybe Benedict, who seems to be the most level-headed of the bunch of brothers.

*

The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier

I also read The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier some...months...back. Fortunately I still have a copy and some of my thoughts written down.

The Floating Islands follows Trei, an orphaned boy, as he searches for his distant relatives living on the Floating Islands. These islands, adrift dozens of miles above the sea, are their own principality, defended by their geography. Arriving by boat, Trei is immediately struck by the kajuraihi--winged men that fly with crimson wings supported by dragon magic.

When he arrives at Canpra, the capital city, he meets and is accepted by his uncle into the family. He discovers he has a cousin, Araenè, who is a skilled chef, but he isn't in the household for very long when he successfully passes the initial test to become a kajuraihi. The test involves jumping from stepping stones to stepping stones between two islands, and then a further test by the dragons on the island.

Meanwhile, Araenè has a secret life of her own--when her parents are absent, she dresses as a boy and sneaks to the lectures at the university. On one such trip, she comes back and finds a door--walks in and finds Master Tnegun, a mage, who offers her a Dannè sphere and the assertion that she is a mage, if she won't stifle her magic.

Both of them become significant when the political tensions between the Floating Islands and the militant Tolounn, where Trei comes from, begin to heat up. Seeing the Islands as a new land to annex, their mages have found out how to suppress the magic that keeps them floating and protects them, and try to take over.

My thoughts )

*

And lastly, a picture. I was out today and saw this thing. I stared at it, and then walked by, and then turned around and had to take some pictures because...what?

image under cut, sfw )
silverflight8: Barcode with silverflight8 on top and userid underneath (_support)
It rained Friday (!!!!!) and the weather has cooled significantly down. It was even slightly cool today when I went out, and it was enormously satisfying to walk in the sunshine and enjoy it.

*

I was at the mall today and went and read some more of Empress. (I'm not really a fan of shopping.) I'm now up to about page 150.

spoilers I suppose )

Oh, that brings me to the other point. THE COMMA SPLICES. I know, picky, but she uses them multiple times in a paragraph, on every page. I swear I'm not using hyperbole. It's everywhere. Also when Hekat speaks, there's a subtle shift in writing, where she will drop words that make the writing choppy.

I don't recall Miller using comma splices so often in CW: Wild Space or CW Gambit: Stealth, so I think it's for effect, but while I can and do ignore some of it, some just leap out at me and I end up thinking about the comma splices instead of the stuff I'm reading.

But mostly the political stuff bogged me down. I don't care about Raklion, he can go do whatever he pleases, but I want to see more of Hekat! And also see Abajai get his comeuppance. (There's not a chance Hekat's father will get his comeuppance on page, but I would love to see Abajai get his. I just enjoy revenge stories in general.)

Lastly: in the bookstore I noticed the second book was in stock and oh my god it's enormous! It's over a thousand pages and much taller than a paperback, although it has similar margins and print size.

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