recommended The Riddle-master of Hed
and Barry Hughart's stories, and I finally tracked down copies of each. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it past three pages of the first. It just felt too much like in media res
, but not in a good way. More like I was expected to care about the siblings' squabbles, and the text was clearly indicating that I was expected to read characters in a certain way, but I'd barely even met them. It actually felt a little like I was walking into a sequel, and I was supposed to already know what was going on and who-was-who. So, guess it's a pass on that one.Bridge of Birds
... reminds me so much of the translations of Chinese stories. It's a particular style, influenced by the patterns of the original language, and Hughart does manage that. With a bit of dry humor, here and there.
However, I got sidetracked by another story, and I'm still not sure where I found the recommendation. Reiko Morgan's Over The Mountain Of The Moon
is a m/m romance set vaguely during the early Sengoku, maybe, in Japan. Awfully florid and oh with the romance and declarations of luuuuuurve and the protagonist-uke veering into yandere, but relatively entertaining all the same. If you can get past the flowers and hearts of the so-romance-it-hurts variety. Not a complex plot and a bit of whump, but sometimes I guess a body's in the mood.
And then a rec from Dear Author, I think, that sent me after Master of Crows
, which is your usual fantasy-romance, but with cultural elements of a steppes-influenced world bordering the, hrm, maybe central eastern European sort of world. The heroine isn't helpless nor stupid, which is a plus. Not a massively complex plot, but the hero is just as much a little off-beat as the heroine, so what might've ended up annoying spunkiness in her is toned down because he's not the usual all-bastard, all-the-time.
I quit halfway through Abraham's sequel, A Betrayal in Winter
, even though I really did enjoy the first in the series, A Shadow in Summer
. Abraham's managed a world that's substance of China, not so much trappings. It's very subtle, but it reminds me of stories about 19th-century Shanghai: cosmopolitan merchant-crossroads, but still China beneath the veneer of things from everywhere.
The problem for me was that the first book's emotional hinge is a triangle. Normally, I don't have a problem with this, and in the first book, it wasn't actually a problem. One hero leaves for a journey, and in his absence, his girlfriend and his closest friend become, erm, close. Things roll out that way, sometimes, after all. Technically, it's still cheating, but in the book's context, I had no issue with it.
The problem was that the second book... also hung its major emotional-plot elements on a woman cheating on her supposed intended/affianced. So again, uncomfortable triangle, with everything hanging on the woman's choice to split her attentions between two men. Once, okay, but twice is a little too much of a pattern. I had no interest in finishing the book once I realized that, and certainly no interest in carrying on to find out if the third and fourth books also turn on the emotional pivot of a two-timing woman. Pass.
Tried to read Maya Snow's Sisters of the Sword
, but it's a little too YA-style for me. Not in content -- it's got some brutal scenes early on where the protagonist's family is murdered right in front of her, so I wouldn't recommend it for kids under, hm, twelve -- but stylistically. It's just a very YA kind of voice. I didn't like that at that age, and I like it less, now.
Never did finish Dragon in Chains
. Awful lot of lyrical poetry, but I need a little more conflict to make me turn the page. Okay, I need conflict, period. Wasn't getting any.
On order: The Signore: Shogun of the Warring States
, a fictionalized history of Oda Nobunaga by Kunio Tsuji, and The Samurai and the Long-Nosed Devils
by Lensey Namioka. Ambivalent over the second, since it's been so long in print (and now out of print, I think) that I can't find an excerpt anywhere. So not really sure if I'm facing yet another YA-voiced story, even if a used copy is only a buck-fifty. (What a joke: shipping is more than twice the book itself.)
In related notes, the past night or so, we've been debating what it'd be like to have a Buddhist monk, a Catholic padre, a Daoist master, a Confucian scholar, and a Shinto priest in a room together. Although by the Heian or shortly after, the Buddhist and Shinto were probably close to the same in terms of ideology... but I still think the Confucian, the padre, and the Buddhist would be arguing over whether women are evil inherently or only evil if they don't follow the moral precepts of being barefoot and pregnant, while the Shinto priest would be in the corner playing one-sided Go. CP says by mid-Qing, the Daoist would be arguing right along with the rest, but I'd rather think of early Daoism, and that kind of priest would probably also be playing Go.
Although I'd be really curious to read anything that compared how each school of thought would react to meeting a yokai/demon in the flesh. (In the spirit?) Exorcise it? Beat it into submission to the Buddha? Instruct it in moral rules of behavior? Fear it? Or invite it to tea?