kaigou: Skeptical Mike is skeptical. (1 skeptical mike)
[personal profile] kaigou
omg, wtf is up with all the hoods on fantasy covers? I'd seen reviewers complaining but I figured, oh, it can't be that bad. omfg, it's worse. who started this trend? someone find that person and punch them. please.

The Thousand Names - Django Wrexler
I want to like this, but for some reason it just isn't hooking me. I feel like each point that I start to think I've found a POV character that I'd like to explore, I'm ripped out of that and forced to meet a new one and start over. It's like being dragged around a party by a hostess who thinks introductions consist of only enough time to exchange names, the barest pleasantries, and then you're dragged off to meet the next important person. Exhausting.

The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, The Siren Depths - Martha Wells
For a fantasy novel (with absolutely no human characters at all), Wells has a good handle on the way an alienated/isolated character would act, even after finding a place/similar-others. The ugly duckling's story usually ends with finding other swans, but that's where Moon's story starts, and Wells doesn't shirk the fact that the ugly duckling isn't going to just up and trust that e's welcome and belongs. A lifetime of not-belonging leaves scars.

Plus, Wells gets total thankful bonus points for not ruining it all with the final-biggest-bad being either a) a human-created AI in the sky, b) a relic from when humans engineered the various races on the planet, or c) the sole human who did a Dr Moreau on the planet originally. Nope, no humans, to the very end. Whew.

The Tainted City -- Courtney Schafer (sequel to The Whitefire Crossing)
Okay, Schafer redeemed herself with this one. Still have some quibbles, but overall, a lot of my discomfort with the first is now resolved. Okay, so I still feel like Dev's romantic interest is tacked-on (there's a lot of being told how much Dev cares about what's-her-face, not a lot of showing, let alone showing why she likes him in return), but whatever. The rest of the story pulls no punches, and has a few good twists, so it made for a quick (if intense) read.

The Wall of Night -- Helen Lowe
omg it's writing-by-the-numbers. I figured it out by the fourth chapter and quit. No use throwing good time after trite.

The Briar King -- Greg Keyes
So there's a Prelude (whatver-the-fuck that is), and then there's a Prologue, and then there's a page of faux-lore-quotations, and then we finally get to the actual fucking story. Forty-four pages before we get to the actual story is just TOO MUCH. Screw this.

The Magpie Lord, A Case of Possession -- KJ Charles
Yeah, I don't usually read Victoriana, or steampunk, or whatever. And I'm kind of out of habit with the M/M, but a review intrigued me, so what-the-hell. Charles subverts the genre's usual expectations by giving Lord Crane, the (taller, richer, older, cultured) character, a completely wicked and self-pricking sense of humor. Like when Crane is showing someone his family's ancestral estate: “This is the draw­ing room. It prob­a­bly wouldn’t be so bad with­out the pan­elling, or the chairs, and if it was in a dif­fer­ent house.”

Relatively quick read, decent twists (though I avoid figuring-out/predicting twists, so maybe anyone else would be looking for them), fun characterization. Also, there are more female characters in the second book than the first, with more of a role, and none of them bastardized or villianized. Nice change.

Too Many Fairy Princes - Alex Beecroft
I don't get it. I thought Beecroft was a good writer, with a fair sense of substance to er stories, so either this is a much earlier work or I'm mixing up author names and misremembering. There are some suitably otherly/surreal elements to this story, in the elves' own world (somewhere not here, almost parallel-world-like) but that world is otherwise so little fleshed out that it's more an intellectual curiosity. Nice, but nice in the sense of take-or-leave. The this-world parts feel too cracktastic, over-the-top, with the too-rare female characters all being that M/M standby, the motherly-type. I quit about halfway through.

Traitor's Blade - Sebastien de Castell
Alright, first off, the story gets a lot shorter once you start skipping the fight scenes. The author has spent time learning swordfighting art, and he's determined to show, not tell. Over, and over, and over. (I think there's only one fight he actually skips, and that's entirely to leave open who wins; this would've worked better if any of the good guys had actually lost a fight previously.) The author needs to pay attention to del Toro's advice of walking the viewer (reader) through the details one time, and cutting to the chase after that.

The first half of the story has major potential; the second half, it feels like the author wasn't quite sure how to resolve what he'd created. So he settled instead for a series of coincidences, wow-didn't-see-that-coming lucky breaks, and bad guys randomly deciding to step down. Oh, and a real deus in the works (or at least a character effectively given enough vague knowledge/power to openly pull strings). The first half, characters fight against the current; the second half, they just coast along with it. I'm pretty sure the good stories, the pattern is supposed to go the opposite: coast along at first, then wake up and fight.

Don't even get me started on a villain who gets all kind of build-up being the worst, worst, worst kind of villain (narratively and objectively) -- only to, well, basically commit suicide. Gee, what a lucky break! Err, no. The villain spent all this time working so hard for evil outcomes and then decided that some guy with a sword was reason enough to self-kick the bucket? I'm used to heroines who are TSTL. A villain who's TSTL, that's new.

The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension -- Brandon Sanderson
Yes, there were cool parts about this. Yes, it's good to read a character who's been raised in a warzone (abject poverty being its own kind of warzone) who retains the scars even after life ostensibly gets better. No, not so good when you realize the scarred character is also a Mary Sue who just happens to pick up so much, so naturally, from spy-work to infiltration to magic to fighting to whatever. And happens to be the only non-bubble-headed female in the cast. Or for that matter, the only female in the cast that isn't a quick walk-on.

So in the first book, the female protag appears to exist to support the (chosen-one-y) male protag's rebellion/heist. By the second book, she's become chosen-one-y herself... and she continues to exist to support some guy. In this case, her quasi-husband, the King-cum-Prime-Minister. But when another female character shows up and her entire objective is ALSO to support the king-prime-minister-guy, and make him a better king-prime-minister, I'd had it. Could we have some non-bubbled-headed females who are competent (without being Mary Sues) who have a goal other than "make that guy the best King evah"?

Now reading:
The Red Wolf Conspiracy - Robert Redick
The Innocent Mage - Karen Miller
Throne of the Crescent Moon - Saladin Ahmed

Up next:
The Killing Moon - NK Jemisin
Sword of Fire and Sea - Erin Hoffman
The War with the Mein - David Anthony Durham

Date: 18 May 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
sharibet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sharibet
I just finished reading the Brandon Sanderson MISTBORN trilogy. It wasn't awful, and I liked seeing an original system of magic, but I wasn't moved by or or compelled to keep reading. (It was perfectly adequate for a gym-workout read on my Kindle.) But, yeah--rags-to-riches heroine with superpowers whose mission in life is...to support her man. Sigh.

Love Martha Wells. I read her Tales of the Raksura trilogy a couple of years ago, and remember the fabulous world-building and sympathetic non-human characters. Her other books are quite good as well--once I finished the Raksura books, I tore through her back-list. The world-building was consistently good, with strong female characters and interesting jeopardies.

I think you might like Wells' Wheel of the Infinite, set in a kingdom modeled on ancient Cambodia and Angkor Wat, with a 40+ year old sorceress heroine and a dashing young swordsman. Again, wonderful world-and-culture building, with fascinating characters and an interesting story.

I'm currently reading an oldie but goodie--Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, occasioned by the author's death two days ago.


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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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