silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
Uh, I've just discovered that Blofeld's garden of death exists. It is a garden at Alnwick Castle instead of in Japan, but nevertheless. I...would go visit that garden, actually. But the fact that they've had to put a bench in one part of the garden since people sometimes pass out from the smell of one of the flowers is slightly alarming.

book cover of The Wolf Hunt Anyway! I read The Wolf Hunt, by Gillian Bradshaw. It's based on Bisclavret, one of the twelve famous lays by Marie de France - it's a poem about a man who turns into a werewolf, and he's treacherously betrayed by his wife and trapped in wolf form.

Review under the cut. Spoiler: I loved it )bo
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: stacked old books (books)
I read The Sand-Reckoner the other day (the one by Gillian Bradshaw, not the one by Archimedes) and now I have all these feelings about Archimedes and Syracuse and Hieron.

The novel's about Archimedes as he returns from his studies at Alexandria - it begins with him coming home to a city on the verge of war, his father dying, and a sick sense that coming home will mean he must close off the part of him that lives and breathes mathematics, and do work he hates to support his family. Archimedes comes to the attention of Hieron, the king of Syracuse, as an outstanding and remarkable engineer - outstanding because he can devise new, original, and effective machines that work well from the very outset, because he can derive the basic principles from mathematics. With Archimedes is Marcus, his Italian slave, who looks after his absent-minded master despite conflicting loyalties. Marcus denies being Roman - the affiliation is dangerous - and Archimedes is too * and doesn't think it useful to press.

Like Island of Ghosts, which is about troops of Sarmatians - having been sent west as part of their treaty with Rome - settling into Roman Britain, this book is similarly more internal and character-driven. Which isn't to say there isn't external conflict; the book is set during the first Punic Wars (paging [livejournal.com profile] dhampyresa - though it's not really about Rome or Carthage so IDK if you're interested?) and Syracuse is caught between the two. Hieron is trying to avoid having to fight either or both of them at once, but needs siege engines to prevent either from eating his city. But he recognizes that Archimedes is brilliant - and also not an engineer by choice, merely to support his family; he knows Archimedes loved Alexandria and the Museum and Library there, and wrestles with how or if he can keep Archimedes in the service of his beloved city.

More discussion with spoilers )

Generally very recommended! I love Bradshaw's writing, the characters are all great and well-drawn (with human, sympathetic motivations), and is set in Classical antiquity if that's a selling point, though it doesn't rely on you knowing anything about it.
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)
cover of Island of Ghosts, simple picture of Roman cavalryman on rearing horse
Island of Ghosts, Gillian Bradshaw

I swapped ebooks with [livejournal.com profile] weekend, who very kindly sent me a copy of Island of Ghosts. (We were talking about Gillian Bradshaw's Arthurian books, which are Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer, and In Winter's Shadow. All of you should read these books! They are my favourite retellings of the Arthurian mythology. More historical and less fantasy, and they follow Sir Gawain, and completely heartbreaking by the end.)

Island of Ghosts is about three companies of defeated Sarmatians who are marched to Britain to form part of the Roman forces in the second century AD. The protagonist, Ariantes, is the scepter-holder of his company who struggles to make his new life in northern Britain.

A lot of his struggle is that all of them, the men he commands--and his peers, Gatalan and Arshak, both nobility--deeply distrust and feel contemptuous towards the Romans. Their customs are almost completely alien to each other. The Romans see the Sarmatians as barbarians, citing their custom of cutting and keeping enemies' scalps, their nomadic civilization, the various acts of war. The Sarmatians, who are now minorities in this new land, are unwilling to assimilate, afraid of losing their identities. The Sarmatians don't like the bread that are the Romans' staples; they refuse to sleep in the barracks indoors; they are all cavalry, no infantry at all, and value their horses enormously; they do not share a religion; they are horrified with the Romans' custom of burning their dead, believing it to destroy the soul. The novel begins with the Sarmatians nearly mutinying when they are told they have to go to Britain by ship: they are convinced the Romans are tricking them and that there is no land beyond the water, and they've been marched there to be killed.

Review )

Final verdict: do recommend! 8/10

NOTE: My classics history is very poor. (I'm really only good for medieval history, I'm afraid.) I think I have missed a lot regarding all the ranks (eg: how do legates and tribunes differ?) Clearly more reading is in order.

--

According to my kobo e-reader, which I have been using since mid-March, I have logged a total time of 389 hours and completed 53 novels on it. I'm a bit stunned. The kobo counts books as finished when you read cover to absolute end and does not count re-reads, halfway through, marked as read, etc titles. I'm sure the actual number of hours is a little smaller (sometimes I left it on while charging) but not by more than 10 hours. That's a lot of time I've spent reading, considering everything, and also there were the months of May/June when I was abroad and didn't bring it at all. I...yeah. You know what probably took up the most time? Les Misérables. God, there were so many hours burned on that book.

Also interesting are sometimes the page statistics. I'm currently reading Fragments du Passé which is a Dear Canada book from the perspective of a Holocaust survivor: they're books for young girls published by Scholastic. They're epistolary novels which are set in different points in Canada's history. When I was in elementary and junior high school I read a lot of them--there was that traumatizing one about the filles-du-roi (see, her husband dies of this poisoned mushroom and she screams and raves before accepting he's dead, and then she has to survive the Maritime winter by herself--terrifying, have you seen what the weather is like in the Maritimes?, she barely makes it--AND give birth by herself in the spring) and there's one about the Spanish influenza which introduced me to the prayer "if I should die before I wake" (atheist household so I never encountered this; I still think this is a horrifying prayer to teach kids), the one about immigration to the Prairies, the one about the Loyalists, the one about the War of 1812, I think I read the Plains of Abraham one too, probably more I'm forgetting. I grew out of them but man, I read a lot of them...they cover a lot of geographical ground and time and probably taught me more Canadian history than I ever learned in class. Anyway, I saw this one in the ebook library of the public library and decided to try one. My French isn't strong enough to take on the books I really want to read--they're just too long--so I decided to pick up this one. See: fondness for this series. Anyway, what I was going to say before I went on this long tangent--someday I should really put together a post about the Dear Canada books--is that usually the pages per minute count is 5-8 pages per minute, but it's all the way down to 1 on these. I only just realized Terry is not, in fact, a boy, twelve pages in. I don't know how I missed that.
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!

reading

Jul. 2nd, 2014 12:39 am
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I finished The Eagle of the Ninth, The Sky is Falling, and Looking at the Moon (latter two by Kit Pearson) today.

I liked all three--well, I've read the Pearson ones before, when I was a kid, and um this time The Sky is Falling made me cry--twice. It didn't do that before! (I never used to cry at books, and I want to go back to that.) I liked the Eagle of the Ninth but it was a bit weird reading it, because I've read so much about the fandom around it and the opinions of people shipping it and I have never aggressively not-shipped anything. Not Marcus/Esca, not Marcus/Cottia, just nothing. I am really disappointed that the next book in the 'series' is actually not about Marcus and Escus and Cottia and Uncle Aquila :(

Spoilers )

The next two novels are the first two books in a series by Kit Pearson, about evacuated children from England sent to Canada. I read them years ago and I do remember what happens in the third book which is probably partly why I cried. BIG SPOILERS ). They do stand up very well though. I sympathized with Norah just as much as I did then. I am not sure I can take the last book.

One reason I am reading so much is that it's a holiday (fireworks yesterday too! So great) but it's mostly because it's so hot and humid. See, I don't have air conditioning at my place, and my computer becomes a furnace when it's running. But my e-reader doesn't! So I spend time lying in front of the fan reading, because I can't take the heat and humidity.
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 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.
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Among Others cover
I've tried for awhile to try to describe Among Others. It's an epistolary novel, composed of Morwenna Phelps' journal entries as, in 1979, she leaves her home in Wales to a boarding school in England. By doing so, she's escaping her witch mother but becoming reliant upon her formerly-estranged father and his relatives, and she's also going from a place where she's cut off from--well--magic. And throughout all this she is still dealing with the death of her twin sister, Morganna, who died while foiling their mother.

Magic in Among Others is neither showy nor fantastical nor ordered; it has plausible deniability. A skeptic would have no problems disproving magic, because there's no solid proof. This magic is set against the magic of books instead. In the accident that killed Morwenna's sister, Morwenna is injured; in the sports-heavy boarding school, Morwenna is excluded straight off by being unable to participate in any sort of sport. Instead, she spends her time in the library, reading science fiction. And in this way, Among Others is a novel not about Wales or England or magic or boarding school (magic or otherwise) or ostracization or family--although it is about all these things--but almost a homage to science fiction novels. Mori is a voracious reader, and sprinkled throughout her accounts in her journal are her opinions on books she's just read--Le Guin and Heinlein, Delany and Zelazny, even some fantasy like C.S. Lewis and Susan Cooper.

All this isn't getting across the feeling of the book, which is a remarkably understated but powerful nonetheless. It's written clearly, without any sort of tricks or elaborate constructions; except for the narrative structure that ties everything together, Mori's entries could have come out of any well-read person's personal journal. Mori's voice is direct and matter of fact, and it gives the reader somewhere to stand when strange or even conventional things happen--she's level-headed throughout, which helps also merge the magical/fantastical elements with the more conventionally-historical-fiction parts. There is no grandstanding, no showy magic. As Publishers Weekly's little comment says, it's an inversion of the magical boarding school trope, but it's not really about boarding school. Mori's stay at the boarding school's just a way of highlighting the other parts of the story; Mori's not really 'part' of the boarding school like her classmates are. She's kind of detached.

But yes--if you get a chance, this is a fantastic novel. I loved it.
I see that it won a Hugo and a Nebula, and both are absolutely well-deserved, holy cow. Also, once you get Ursula K LeGuin's review in The Guardian--oh my god what am I saying, read this book. And I think the more books you've read and the more you love books, the more you'll like this book. 10/10
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[Some gore in the last few paragraphs.]

You know, after The Serpent Prince and more generally Hoyt's Princes trilogy, I don't think I can really do the whole "duel for honour in Regency England" thing anymore.

Before I start, I'd like to say I LOVE DUELLING. The trope is like catnip. Half my favourite characters are expert swordsmen/women, and especially ones who are not soldiers, but warriors. Ilario de Sylvae? Joscelin Verreuil? Gwalchmai ap Lot? It's actively embarrassing, but the chances of me loving a character go up about 100% if they are swordsmen.

Now, for the Princes trilogy - they are the first three books written by Elizabeth Hoyt, all romances set in Georgian England that focus on a trio of friends: Edward de Raaf, Earl of Ravenwood; Harry Pye, a land steward; and Simon Iddesleigh, viscount of Iddesleigh. The three meet because of the Agrarian Club, and also I must mention that their moments of friendship and camaraderie at the club are my favourite parts sometimes. (I would kill for friendship fic about the three, but there is literally no fandom to speak of.)

Now, duelling.

Duelling. )
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Bee)
cover of Uther: red, with golden stylized lion stitched on red cloth, text in uncial lettering

This novel traces the life of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur Pendragon, and his growth from a boy to a king and ultimately his death fighting. It is told simply, without magic or trickery, and aims to make the story sound plausibly placed in a historical context. It's not set up to be the accounting of Uther, but instead a story about him, and at 832 pages does a rather full accounting. Uther is the sixth book in Whyte's Dream of Eagles series, which has other books set in the same period about other characters in Arthurian mythology - Merlin's story, in particular, runs parallel to Uther.

To be honest, though I read through about 760 pages and gave up at last, I could not like Uther well enough to finish, nor most of his companions. The novel follows Uther right enough, and if it were a biography would be lovely, since events that occur are entirely unconnected. There are many descriptions that I had taken to be foreshadowing and expected to morph into important plot points later (such as Nemo and her upbringing and character), but none of those were resolved. Unlike fairytale conventions, when characters are often archetypes, Whyte avoids such storytelling and clearly tries to portray characters as more fleshed-out people. And while I admire that he tried, many of the characters' actions seemed odd, such as Uther's grandfather. The town in Cambria Uther lives in is, by his accounting, lived in by suspicious and superstitious folk, and against that backdrop Uther's grandfather seems strangely magnanimous and generous and noble. The same goes for the man who trained Uther - unexpectedly gracious and levelheaded. As a foil, I suppose, is the character of Nemo, who is unswervingly obsessed with Uther and also unaware of others' feelings and unconscious of any personal pride or hurt or - really - emotion. The characters were just flat.

But Whyte's presentation of Uther's world is something else. Uther's maternal grandfather is Publius Varrus, connecting Uther's Cambria to the Roman Empire (or rather, what's left). The narrative is told through different people - Veronica, Uther's mother, who writes letters to her family - but mostly with a third-person omniscient view, which gives a broader view of the various characters that move in and out of the story. I did enjoy the confederation of chiefs come to choose the new king of Cambria. Mostly, though, the different spellings predictably intrigued me (Camulod, Merlyn, etc).

Perhaps it's reading the last books without reading the first, but I found the characters dull and often flat or out of place, and couldn't stick it through the end. Whyte gets points for trying realism, but the characters just aren't real enough to support it. 6/10

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