YouKneeK’s 2018 SF&F Overdose Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic YouKneeK’s 2018 SF&F Overdose Part 2.
This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2018 SF&F Overdose Part 3.
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Another new quarter, and another new thread. A longer introduction with excessive detail is in this year’s Part 1 thread, but here’s the short version:
2018 Reading Index
Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.
Here are the reading stats my Access database is currently spitting out.
Happy new thread!
>1 YouKneeK: You could almost be me; except that our dog is just super enthusiastic and possibly not quite a freak.
>4 humouress: Thanks! LOL, “enthusiastic” is a much more polite description than “freak”. :)
Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy. This appears to be a mix of science fiction and horror. It was a very short and fast read at only 200 pages, and it’s one of those types of books that sucks you in quickly with its questions and then keeps you reading in search of answers. However, this book doesn’t provide too many answers.
The basic premise is that there is a place called Area X, where some sort of environmental catastrophe has happened. That’s the implication, anyway, although nothing is really certain with this book. Teams of scientists are periodically sent to this place to explore it, although past teams have often failed to survive the experience. The book opens up with a new team of four women arriving at Area X and beginning their explorations. The entire book is narrated by one of the expedition members, “the biologist”. She is never given a name; everybody is just referred to by their role.
There is a bit of a horror vibe to the book, although I never felt creeped out by it. The main character was interesting and a bit different from most main characters, although there were several reasons to believe she was probably an unreliable narrator. Because we only know what she tells us, and we don’t know how much we can trust what she tells us, and she doesn’t seem to know much herself anyway, there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers, not even by the end. We’re given various clues to possible answers, but nothing concrete. I plan to continue with the series, and I’m hopeful that there might be at least a few definite answers in the next book.
Authority, the second book in this trilogy.
>6 YouKneeK: Star'd and I'll be waiting to see what you think of the trilogy overall. I've been thinking about adding this ever since '14 when I first saw it on booklikes but just had enough impetus to actually add it.
Seen some pretty good reviews by others that I trust as well...
I got the trilogy for my other half, and I've read this one. It wasn't really my cup of tea and I haven't read the others. (Our tastes are similar but not identical - I read more of what he thinks fluff and he reads more of what I call difficult. I did like another present I got him though - the Gameshouse novellas by Claire North.)
>5 YouKneeK: Our dog is definitely enthusiastic; but then, he’s a golden retriever. He does have some freakish behaviours though. For instance, he insists on chewing pebbles and gets upset if I try to take them off him.
ETA not to mention chasing his tail, which I know most dogs do - but when he catches it, I’m not sure he knows it actually belongs to him because he tries to tug it out by the roots, hard enough to end up with a mouthful of fur.
Maybe I should revise my rating to ‘freak’?
>6 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed this one too. Definitely agree that it's not a book if you need answers to all the questions it asks. Looking forward to seeing what you think of the rest of the trilogy. I still haven't progressed past this one yet.
>11 humouress: LOL, he definitely seems to have some freakish tendencies! Chewing pebbles… ouch!
>12 AHS-Wolfy: Thanks! I do like answers eventually, so I would have been more bothered if it hadn't been part of a series. I'm still holding out hope that there will be answers eventually. The second book has a different story-telling approach which seems more promising in terms of eventually getting some real answers, but the author may just be fooling me. :)
Review: Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
Authority is the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I’m still enjoying the series quite a bit.
This book is different from the first one, both in the way the story is told and in what it focuses on. The first book is pretty much all questions with no answers, and with no hints that you can really trust. This book didn’t provide many answers either, but the facts and hints it did provide felt more tangible, so I felt more like I had some basis for speculation about what was going on, and I was able to figure some things out before they were revealed.
I liked the difference in focus and perspective. As much as I enjoyed the first book, I might have gotten bored if it had been too much more of the same. There were a few sections here and there where I lost interest and had to push through, but it picked up again pretty fast. I look forward to seeing how things finish up in the last book.
Acceptance, the third and final book in this trilogy.
Review: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
This is the final book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I enjoyed it, but I sometimes got restless while reading it, more so than with the previous books. I also wasn’t entirely satisfied with all the answers. We do finally end up with some answers, but the important ones are pretty vague.
This is the only book in the series with multiple points of view. Those POVs take place at different times in the over-all story, so we finally get a much more coherent picture of the chain of events, from beginning to end. It’s a little bit out of order, due to jumping around between the different POVs/time periods, but I found it easy enough to follow it and sequence things correctly in my head.
The why’s and how’s behind some of the major events, on the other hand, were a lot less clear. The author gave some hints, but they weren’t very satisfying to me. The ending is also quite ambiguous, and I’m not usually a fan of ambiguous endings. So over all I enjoyed the series, and I don’t regret the time I spent on it, but I was hoping for something more from the final book than what I got.
Touch by Claire North.
>15 YouKneeK: Well, two 4's and one 3.5 is good enough for me. I guess I'll be adding this to my tbr now...
>16 BookstoogeLT: I hope you like it if/when you try it! I’ll be interested to read your thoughts either way.
Review: Touch by Claire North
This book was really good. It held my attention without fail, and I really enjoyed the premise. I’m giving it 4.5 stars, but I had trouble deciding whether to round up or down on Goodreads. In the end I decided to round down, only because I was still able to put it down fairly easily when I needed to and because I was a tad bit ambivalent about the ending.
Our main character, who I’ll call Kepler for lack of a better name, is an entity without a body of its own. Kepler can touch a human and inhabit that body until it chooses to switch to a different body. The original owner of the body is completely unaware of anything that happens while Kepler has control of it, regaining awareness only after Kepler leaves. Right at the beginning of this book, the body that Kepler had been inhabiting for a while and was rather attached to is murdered. The killer was trying to kill Kepler, yet he deliberately chose to kill the host, an innocent woman, even knowing Kepler was no longer in her body. Kepler pursues the killer in search of revenge and answers.
A lot of the attributes that one would normally use to identify a character, or a real person for that matter, are absent because of Kepler’s nature. We never learn Kepler’s original gender, and Kepler jumps into bodies of both genders for both short and extended periods of time. We don’t even know Kepler’s name, because Kepler is just a name that some people have chosen and that it will answer to but doesn’t actually identify as its own name. Kepler identifies with the gender and name of whichever body it’s inhabiting at the moment. All we can identify Kepler by is its actions and personality which is, after all, the most important parts.
The story jumps all over the place in time (and bodies!) but was usually easy to follow. I really enjoyed both the backstory and the main story. There is a lot of moral greyness, and I would sometimes find myself staring into space and wondering what I would do in a situation, either as Kepler or as one of the humans it inhabited. On the one hand I did like Kepler and cared about what happened to it. On the other hand, I also felt sorry for any humans that got caught up in its mayhem. Imagine going about your daily routine, somebody touches you, and then the next thing you know it’s days, months, or even years later, you’re probably in a completely different place than you were an instant ago, and you don’t remember anything. Not only has precious time been stolen from you, but now you probably think something is horribly wrong with you because you have no way of knowing that another entity had been inhabiting your body. And what if Kepler did something during that time that will cause you problems?
Based on my experience with this book, I definitely intend to try some of the author’s other work someday.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, the first book in the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy.
>18 YouKneeK: That sounds very interesting. I may need to keep an eye out for if it goes on sale.
Altered Carbon did not work for me at all. I hope you have better luck.
>19 Narilka: I actually bought Touch just a little over a month ago when it went on sale. Hopefully it won’t take too long to go on sale again!
Regarding Altered Carbon, I got completely hung up on the first sentence in the book for some reason: Two hours before dawn I sat in the peeling kitchen and smoked one of Sarah’s cigarettes, listening to the maelstrom and waiting.
I recognized from the beginning that “peeling kitchen” probably referred to some aspect of its décor, like peeling wallpaper, or peeling paint on the walls or cabinets. But my brain went off on a complete tangent about having separate kitchens for different types of food preparation. Are there also kitchens for chopping and slicing? Or is a “peeling kitchen” used for all types of knifework in the same way that a “bathroom” is used for more than just taking baths? Wouldn’t it be a lot of trouble if you’re trying to prepare a meal and you have to go to the “preservation kitchen” to retrieve food from the fridge and then go to the “peeling kitchen” and then the “spicing kitchen” to prepare it, and finally to the “baking kitchen” to cook it? These are the times when I question my mental health…
>20 YouKneeK: No, your mental health gets a gold star! You opened the book, opened your mind and in that altered state necessary for getting into F&FS with reasonable facility, let it speculate on an unusual vocabulary choice. As a mostly recovered dyslexic this has gotten really interesting when my brain made up a word the author didn't write.
I hope Altered Carbon works out. I've read enough other reviews to know that it is a series I won't be attempting...
>21 quondame: Ha, thanks. :) I haven’t experienced dyslexia, but I definitely misread words now and then and that can get pretty interesting!
>22 humouress: It does sound confusing, but I really didn’t think it was. I figure anybody who can follow an epic fantasy series with tons of characters and plot threads could surely follow this book. :) There are very few actual characters, just lots of bodies. And, while there are a lot of side trips into the past, there’s really only one main plot thread.
>23 BookstoogeLT: Thanks! I read a couple reviews here on LT fairly recently when other people read it, including Narilka, and I got the impression that I should brace myself before reading it, so I'm somewhat braced. I’ve had it on my kindle for about a year. I only read like 10 pages last night though, so I don't have much of an impression yet. Except that they must have lots of kitchens. ;)
>20 YouKneeK: If your brain isn't right, then mine is right there with you. It went exactly the same direction as yours did with that sentence, even before I read where yours went.
>25 MrsLee: Oh, Yes. I meant to say so did mine. Though I have to admit, not in quite as much detail :0)
>28 Marissa_Doyle: I hope you enjoy it if you read it! This was my first experience with any of her writing under any name, but I was pretty impressed.
>27 YouKneeK: at least I'm in good company! The best. I say this with all humility ;0)
>31 AHS-Wolfy: The First Fifteen Lives is the one I seem to have heard the most about, or maybe it just seems that way because the title stands out. It’s a likely candidate once I cycle back around to her, though.
Revew: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Altered Carbon is the first book in a science fiction trilogy. It would be considered cyberpunk, I guess. I was pretty lukewarm about it. The story didn’t do much for me, although it held my interest at times. I was kind of interested in the beginning, and I was more interested toward the end, but there were large chunks of pages around the middle where I didn’t really care what happened. I wasn’t invested in the characters at all.
The story is set in the distant future. One of the main plot devices is that people can have backups made of their consciousness and then, after their death, their consciousness can be restored into another body. A person’s options are limited by their wealth, and some people can’t afford to bring back dead loved ones. There’s also usually a gap in memory upon revival, depending on how recently the person’s consciousness was backed up. Our main character, Takeshi Kovacs, has been hired by a man who had recently been killed. Police ruled his death as a suicide, but this man is convinced he would never have committed suicide and has enlisted Kovacs with proving what really happened.
Although there were times when the story held my interest, I was never that invested in it. It felt to me like Kovacs just got caught up in a flow of events that happened to him, conveniently providing him with clues that he might not have found on his own, and then he put together the pieces afterward. Maybe if this was the first book I had read with this sort of setting, the uniqueness of it would have helped hold my interest better. As it was, there were times when I was flat-out bored. Although it didn’t have much of an effect on my opinion of this book, I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody who might be bothered by violence or graphic sex in their reading. There’s quite a bit of the former, and a little bit of the latter.
Even though it’s the first book in a trilogy, it does tell a complete story, and everything is pretty well wrapped up by the end. As you may have guessed, I’ve decided not to continue with the series.
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, the first book in a fantasy trilogy. After ditching the above series, I had some extra space in my schedule. I wasn’t quite sure if I was in the mood for either of the science fiction series I had scheduled next, so I decided to pull this onto the schedule. It’s about the right length to fill in the gap I have, and I already have the first book. I don’t know anything about it, but it was on my list and I bought it on sale a year ago.
Thanks for that, I'll put Altered Carbon on the read someday maybe or maybe not list.
>34 Karlstar: Ha, that sounds like a good list for it! When I was looking at friend reviews, several people were much more enthusiastic about it. It may appeal more to people who are particularly fond of cyberpunk, or possibly people who have never experienced cyberpunk before and might find it more unique.
On the other hand, one person I know on GR gave it 1 star and abandoned it at 91% after being traumatized by a particular scene. Although it didn’t affect me as badly, I wasn’t happy with it either, especially since it was a gratuitous, throwaway scene, unnecessary for the plot. For those who have read the book, I’m referring to the scene where (even if you don’t care about spoilers, click at your own risk, it isn’t pleasant)
>35 YouKneeK: Ok, moved to the probably not list! Thanks for taking the pain for me. :)
>35 YouKneeK: Well, that put this onto my don't even think about thinking about trying it list then.
On a different note, I enjoyed Blood Song, but not enough to ever track down the rest of the trilogy once it came out. So I'll be interested in what you think of the trilogy as a whole.
>38 BookstoogeLT: Maybe I should rename my thread the Book Anti-Bullet thread. ;) I expect I’ll be more enthusiastic about the Blood Song trilogy, unless things go seriously downhill.
>39 YouKneeK: You are performing a valuable service by helping us find things not to read! You've also recommended some good ones.
>35 YouKneeK: Yeah. That scene. So screwed up.
>35 YouKneeK: Yeah, I think that moved from my ‘probably not’ list to my ‘OMG no way!’ I thank you for the warning.
>46 Karlstar: Yep, it is always nice to have a spare one lying around. You just never know when the occasion might demand one....
Review: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
Blood Song is the first book in the Raven’s Shadow fantasy trilogy by Anthony Ryan. I enjoyed it a great deal. I was hooked from the beginning, and I became more interested as the story progressed. I also really liked the main character.
It has some common epic fantasy tropes. The main story starts off when our main character, Vaelin, is only ten. Shortly after his mother’s death, his father abandons him at the “Sixth Order”, where young boys are raised and taught everything about battle so they can defend the Faith, the main religion in their country. Despite the tropes, I never caught myself comparing this book to anything specific as I read it. It was all handled in its own way and the story held my interest without feeling familiar, plus they’re tropes I tend to enjoy anyway. The first half of the book takes place mostly in the school setting as Vaelin grows up, and then the second half moves beyond that setting after Vaelin has become an adult.
The reader doesn’t get a clear sense of what the plot actually is until much later in the book, so I can’t give any useful details. We follow Vaelin as he grows up, things happen and we aren’t entirely sure why, but they’re interesting and we slowly start to see the bigger picture. I enjoyed the way everything wove together by the end. Most of the main questions and plot threads were wrapped up, although there are enough loose threads to leave me anxious to start the next book.
I think what I liked best was that I could respect the main character. I was usually happy with the way he chose to handle things, and I always felt like I understood the rationale behind his choices by the time all the relevant details were revealed. I do enjoy books where the main characters have more shades of grey, but sometimes I just want a character I can cheer for without reservation and Vaelin was that character for me. I wouldn’t want to mislead anybody into thinking this is a “feel-good” fantasy series, though. Several sad and unpleasant things do happen throughout.
Tower Lord, the second book in this series.
>49 Narilka: I noticed on the work page that you had it shelved and I was searching for a review or rating, but I figured you must not have read it yet. I look forward to reading your thoughts once you do! For some reason I kept bypassing it whenever I was planning books to read, and I never seem to see anybody talk about it. As soon as I started reading it though, I realized it was exactly what I was in the mood for.
>50 BookstoogeLT: Me too!
Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan
Tower Lord is the second book in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy by Anthony Ryan. The first book sucked me in right away and held my attention to the end. I enjoyed this one quite a bit also, but it didn’t hold my attention quite as consistently.
Unlike the first book, which was told primarily from the point of view of a single character, this book is split up into four main POV’s, along with a framing story in a similar format as the first book. Three of those characters were in the first book (
Despite the occasional slower spots, I’m still enjoying the story. This book left more threads hanging at the end than the first book did, and I look forward to finding out what happens in the final book.
Queen of Fire, the last book in this trilogy.
>52 YouKneeK: Sounds like you're having a good time with Ryan. Do you think you'll end up putting his other trilogy on your tbr now that you've experienced this? Or is a decision like that going to depend on the last book in THIS trilogy?
>53 BookstoogeLT: Since I know now that he can write stuff I really enjoy, I’ll probably keep him on my radar as an author to try again in the future, regardless of whether I like third book. If I end up being really disappointed by the way he handles the ending, though, I’d probably be more cautious and try to find some spoiler-free reviews of the last book in any series he writes before I consider reading it.
I've seen a couple comments from people I know indicating they didn’t like the third book in this series at all, so I’m a little worried on that count!
Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan
Queen of Fire is the last book in Anthony Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow trilogy. Although I was satisfied with the end, there was a little too much tedium in arriving there. Both the second and the third book have a lot of battles, and this last book had a particularly large amount of traveling on top of that. I still enjoyed it for the most part, but I was also happy to reach the end. I thought the first book in this series was really great and I could barely put it down, but the subsequent books didn’t hold my interest as well.
The structure is pretty close to the second book in that you have the framing story and multiple POVs alternating between the chapters. There wasn’t any particular POV that I enjoyed or disliked more than the others. Mostly, I just preferred whichever POV wasn’t in the middle of yet another battle at the moment. I think my weariness of the battles led to some of the more dramatic and emotional events having less of an impact on me than they should have.
I’m rating this at 3.5 stars, and this was a case where I had a lot of trouble deciding whether to round up or round down on Goodreads. I should probably round down based on my over-all enjoyment level, but I did think the ending was satisfying and I don’t always feel that way at the end of a series so that carries quite a bit of weight with me. For that reason, I’ve decided to be generous and round up.
I’ve decided to go ahead and fit in my third quarter classic read now, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Believe it or not, I know next to nothing about this story, so I’ll be going into it pretty blind. I’m reading the unabridged edition, and the Kindle edition claims to be 1276 pages, so this will be yet another tome for the year.
I’m about to enter the Month of Business Travel Hell, so I’ll likely be reading slower and posting less for the next few weeks, depending on how things go. This travel is for a project that my team is only indirectly involved in, so I’m hopeful it won’t be quite as intense as our usual projects. Last year’s was the worst with 18 hour days and working through several weekends, so this year shouldn’t be as bad.
>55 YouKneeK: Well, I'm guessing it'll be a while before you think about Ryan's Drake trilogy then.
As for Count, good luck! My experience was very varied. I first read an abridged version and didn't realize it and then when I read the full thing, all the detail bored me. My average is 4. I'm thinking in another 2 years I'll do another read to see what I think now that it isn't new and I'll be expecting the tide of verbosity so common to books from the late 1800's :-)
Plus, I'll seek out a good translation that hasn't cut out parts. Looking through,it seems there a LOT of various editions. I hate that...
>56 BookstoogeLT: Thanks! I’ve had some challenges deciding which editions of the classics to read. There are always so many choices. It’s even worse when it’s a translated work with multiple translators. Figuring out which version of The Iliad to read was particularly difficult because there were so many different translators and opinions on them were all over the place.
For The Count of Monte Cristo, I went with the Penguin Classics Kindle edition translated by Robin Buss, so we’ll see how that goes. From what I read, that version has everything whereas some of the older translations, even “unabridged” translations, have parts that were removed due to being offensive in the Victorian era.
>57 YouKneeK: Good choice. From what I understand, the Buss translation is as close to complete as we'll probably ever see. That'll probably be my choice of edition next time I read this too.
>60 YouKneeK: I think I only bought the first book of Ryan's trilogy. I will get to it eventually and if I enjoy it I'll pick up the other two. Or if I see them go on sale. I'm attempting, again, to make progress against the 20-something series I already have started :) We'll see how long my determination lasts lol
>57 YouKneeK: The Buss Penguin Classics of Count was what I read a few years ago (after realizing the book I originally had and was about to read was abridged *gerrr*). I really enjoyed it. I hope it'll provide you a wonderful read as well.
>63 mattries37315: Thanks, I'm glad you read you enjoyed this edition!
I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far myself. I’m on a business trip and had to work through the weekend so I haven’t had a lot of reading time, but I think I’m at around 25% right now. Sometimes I have more trouble focusing on whatever book I’m reading while I’m on a trip, so I wasn’t too sure if this book would be a good choice to read right now or not, but happily it’s holding my attention easily.
The beginning parts were a little predictable because I accidentally read the synopsis when I was deciding which edition to buy, and I knew it was about somebody
I've been buying classics to read to my kids / hope they read themselves. I'm trying to stick with Vintage and Penguin Classics so that the covers match (but now they seem to be changing them anyway). While I'm tempted to try and find the unabridged version of books like The Count of Monte Cristo, I'm not sure that they'll sit through it.
I have the Penguin of Roger Lancelyn Green's Knights of the Round Table because I was a huge fan of the Age of Chivalry when I was their age (or younger) and I started reading it to them - but even I found it dry and uninspiring.
>65 humouress: How old are your kids? I think I might have enjoyed The Count if I had read it when I was younger, but I’m never a good judge of what would appeal to kids and maybe this book wouldn’t have enough action. If nothing else, they might appreciate it when they’re older, or if they revisit the family collection after they’re adults.
>66 YouKneeK: One is 9 years old and loves reading; I have Emil and the Detectives (Vintage publication) which I started reading for bedtimes to both boys, but he's already read it. Maybe this scheme will work!
My other boy is 14 and into surfing on his phone or on his school laptop. He's not so interested in reading, though he likes being read to at bedtimes - but he's been nodding off during Emil. Both boys have always been good at reading; it's more of an interest thing for him.
I think I read Count at about their age, and I'm sure I read The Three Musketeers then. We moved from Africa to England when I was 10 and my books didn't make the journey, so there are some books I associate with my African days and others with England, which is how I remember what I read in my childhood. Of course, my memory could be faulty at this distance.
'Family collection' - there's a concept *dreams blissfully*
>67 humouress: That’s great that they both still enjoy being read to at bedtime! Oddly, considering my parents and I all loved to read, I really don’t remember any bedtime reading sessions with either parent when I was a child. I imagine they must have when I was really young, but I mostly just remember reading quietly to myself before bed. I think it would be a fun family thing to do together though, even for older children.
>68 YouKneeK: Due to family chaos and detached retinas I don't think there was much bedtime reading in my childhood, but later there was evening reading with my younger brother and me and group readings and plays with both my brothers - my sister was never around if she could help it. Once my daughter decided she could read the new Harry Potter herself, my husband reading to us at bedtime pretty much ended.
>68 YouKneeK: Actually, I don't think we had bedtime reading past the age when we could read by ourselves well enough when my sister and I were growing up. I always had books and access to books, but my parents and sister are more academically minded and not so addicted to reading for fun.
My boys are five years apart, so when the first was at that age, I was starting to read to the second and realised that my older boy still enjoyed it, so I've kept going - a bit sporadically, I must admit. Some nights I'm too tired. But, as I said, I'm hoping to insinuate some classics into their lives that way. *evil grin*
About the only person I can remember reading to me was my grandmother when we lived in Cairo, and she would have been reading to me in French. After we came back to England, I was reading by myself. "I suppose my mother read to me as an infant, but in all honesty I don't remember not being able to read.
My sister's kids read, but these days there's other distractions. Last time I visited, the two boys were playing Fortnite. The youngest nephew is forever on the Playstation (or whatever games system they have). The eldest nephew I was surprised to see had a complete collection of The Stainless Steel Rat series. The eldest niece has just completed an English degree and starts her teacher training this year.
>71 humouress: LOL, I like your “evil” plan. :)
>72 Maddz: I was born in ’75 and pretty much grew up with computers and computer games, but I didn’t usually sit and play them for hours so they didn’t cut into my reading time that much. We never had any of the video game consoles like a Nintendo or Atari or whatever was common at the time though, and we didn’t watch a lot of TV when I was growing up so that probably helped offset things.
I just wanted to post a quick note that I’m still here, and still working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m up to around 65% and enjoying it, but I’m also still traveling on business so my reading time and energy have been limited. This is hopefully my last week of travel for now. If this week is anything like last week I doubt I'll finish the book this week, but hopefully I'll get far enough that I can easily finish it within a couple days after I get home.
>74 YouKneeK: The Count of Monte Cristo was one of my birthday|Christmas* presents back when I was in 7th grade and since the volume was about 4" thick I negotiated to make it count for 3 books in English class. Still, that first read I skipped most of the stuff not featuring Edmund Dantes and|or after the escape until Paris, so I was in for about as many surprises as the bad guys. I've read through that version and at least one other more recent translation since.
*my birthday and Christmas are rather close.
>75 quondame: Ha, nice negotiating skills! :) On that first read, did you skip some of the parts
As a first-time reader, I was a little confused myself at the very beginning of the Franz chapters, wondering who this guy was and what he had to do with anything. That’s all clear now, though. I’m occasionally rolling my eyes at all the melodrama and coincidences, but it’s a fun story.
>76 YouKneeK: The only things I'm sure I missed had to do with the illegitimate child. When I got to the final scenes it was as much a surprise to me as to the parents. I know there were other ones, but that stands out.
Review: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Whew, this one took me some time to read! I read the Penguin Classics version, an unabridged version translated by Robin Buss. It’s 1276 pages according to Amazon and it kept me entertained during my spare moments while traveling on business for the first half of August.
The Count of Monte Cristo was originally published in France in 1844. It’s set primarily in France in the 1800’s, although we visit other countries also. At the beginning, the main character Edmond Dantes is a young man whose life is looking up. He has promising career prospects and is engaged to a woman he loves. Unfortunately, he also has jealous acquaintances who conspire to prevent him from gaining the things they want for themselves.
I’ll leave the rest of the story a surprise for the few people who don’t already know it anyway, but the story has quite a bit of meat to it. I had thought it would be primarily about the event that happened near the beginning (
The melodrama and coincidences got to be a bit much for me at times, but overall I enjoyed the story and I’m glad I read it. I’m rating it at 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads. If I manage to get into the mood for a movie anytime soon, I might try watching it to see how the adaptation was handled. It must surely cut out a huge portion of the plot.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. My first attempt at Heinlein almost a year ago (Stranger in a Strange Land) was a bit of a mixed bag, so we’ll see how this one goes. It was on my list, and a few people in a Goodreads group I participate in are reading it this month, so I’m going to join them.
>78 YouKneeK: Coincidences, or Divine Providence guiding the wheels of Justice? da-da-dun! :-)
After reading my own 2 reviews, I should probably actually read this again to get a better sense of just where I stand on the abridgement issue.
As for Heinlein, good luck! I've yet to read anything of his that I liked that was his non-juvenile stuff.
>79 BookstoogeLT: Ha, true – definitely Divine Providence from Dantes’ perspective, and probably Dumas’ also. I hope you like the unabridged version better the second time around if you do read it again. It never really felt too detailed to me, but I think that’s just because it was all completely new to me. I could see how a lot of material could have been cut out to make it more fast-paced without necessarily harming the coherence.
>80 Narilka: I was really interested in that part also, although I was also a bit worried that it would take up a lot more of the book and get tedious after a while. I was glad it didn’t.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the few Heinleins that remain in my library - along with Glory Road and Waldo and Magic Inc. From memory (it's been some years since I last read it), the technology is rather dated and there's a somewhat implausible event but I don't recall it distracting from the story.
>82 Maddz: I only read one measly chapter yesterday, but I thought the computer Mike seemed entertaining. When I read Stranger in a Strange Land, I was entertained for the first half but hated the second half, so I’m wondering if the same thing will happen here. I’m also wondering if Heinlein had a thing for the name Mike, considering that was also the name of the main character in Stranger.
>84 Karlstar: Starship Troopers was originally the Heinlein novel I intended to try next, until the GR group made plans to read Moon. I’ll probably get to Starship Troopers in another year or so. I made it up to page 150 on Moon yesterday and so far I’m really enjoying it, but I'm bracing myself for that to change like it did with Stranger.
>85 YouKneeK: Doesn't Moon have one great advantage - it is a lot shorter? I might have to pick it up and give it a read, I think yours is the 2 or 3 reading with commentary I've seen in the last couple of years and I haven't read this one in ages.
Two of my favourite books in a row. Absolutely loved The Count of Monte Cristo when I eventually got around to reading it a few years ago. Shame it didn't quite hit the hogh spots for you. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is definitely my favourite Heinlein so looking forward to seeing your comments on that one.
>88 AHS-Wolfy: Hmm… how do you feel about The Quantum Thief? Because if you tell me that’s a favorite too, I’m going to worry that you’re somehow using mind control to affect my reading list. ;) (That’s the book I plan to read next.)
I’m now well past the halfway point and still enjoying Moon. I doubt I’ll finish it tonight, but maybe tomorrow.
Edited to correct post # reference so it doesn’t look like I’m talking to myself…
>90 ScoLgo: Ha, that does sound like an intriguing opening. I hope we both enjoy it! :)
>89 YouKneeK: You're perfectly safe with that one. Not an author I've read anything by as yet.
>94 pgmcc: I read The Second Law trilogy last autumn - really enjoyed it. Would really like to go back & read some of Ken's earlier works but they are not available via my library so I am keeping an eye out, (now there is a strange expression!), for them at the used book stores in my area. No luck yet but I continue the vigil...
>95 ScoLgo: I have read most of Ken’s books and I have not found a dud yet. They are well worth watching out for. I wish you luck tracking them down.
Review: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a classic science fiction novel by Heinlein, published in the 60’s. My first experience with Heinlein was about a year ago when I read Stranger in a Strange Land and that was quite a mixed bag. I had enjoyed the first half but hated the second half which I remember as being primarily monologues and mysticism.
I liked this book much better. I kept waiting for the monologues, but happily they didn’t appear. There’s still plenty of social and political commentary, some of it interesting and some of it bizarre, and a good dose of sexism and such. However, with books from this era, I’m usually able to just acknowledge some of the problematic attitudes and then move on and focus on other aspects of the story, as long as there are other aspects that I can enjoy.
The book is set on Earth’s moon, in a future where the moon is inhabited. Earth exiles criminals there, and those criminals and their descendants have made lives for themselves. The people of Earth consider themselves rulers of the moon and its resources, exploiting them without proper consideration for their future. The Luna residents want to overthrow Earth and become independent. Some of the leaders of this rebellion include a computer technician named Manuel, a professor, and a sentient computer named Mike.
I thought the story was very interesting, and I especially enjoyed Mike, the AI that thinks he has a sense of humor. The story itself had a bit of humor and I laughed out loud a few times while reading. I also liked Manuel pretty well. My interest did start to taper off a little toward the end, and I had a few complaints here and there, but overall this was a solid four-star read for me.
I have a couple spoilerish comments that I’ll have to put in spoiler tags…
I enjoyed reading about an AI who was likeable and didn’t get out of control and have to be shut down. I was sorry that he was dead/silent by the end, but I preferred that to the “Evil AI” route I was half expecting. I did get a little uncomfortable with how freely he used Man’s voice to get things done when he was unavailable, but that was offset by his affection for his first and best friend. Also, as we were told, he seemed to be developing a bit of a conscience.
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.
>98 YouKneeK: Sounds like you enjoyed this one more than I did. I found the endless talking, rather than acting, became dull after a while. Like you I did enjoy Mike a lot though.
>99 Sakerfalcon: Mike was great. :) There was a lot of talking, but it didn’t bother me too much. I think because it led to action and/or had relevance to the story. My reaction was probably influenced by my low expectations after reading Stranger in a Strange Land.
>100 YouKneeK: Low Expectations: helping readers since the dawn of time :-)
>98 YouKneeK: Glad to see you enjoy this one more than your first of his books you experienced. I tend to agree with how you treat the attitudes of the time with regards to sexism, etc. Acknowledge it's there, remember when it was written and get on with the story. Any plans to try any more of Heinlein's books?
>103 AHS-Wolfy: Thanks! I’ll probably try Starship Troopers next, maybe in another year.
>104 Sakerfalcon: Based on your comments about the talking in Moon, I’d be really surprised if you enjoyed Stranger. Especially in the second half.
Stranger was the book where I learned, after I had already read it, that there was an “uncut” version published later with additional content that was originally edited out. I typically go for whichever version of a book has the most content, so I’m sooo glad I didn’t know the uncut version existed. I thought the original could have stood some more cutting as it was! :)
>108 YouKneeK: His juveniles were written before he became a god. Or at least before he believed he was a god.
Review: The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Quantum Thief is the first book in the Jean le Flambeur science fiction trilogy. I can see where people might enjoy this book as it has some pretty creative world-building and a lot of action, but for some reason it really didn’t do much for me. I enjoyed it more in the beginning when I was learning about the world and the characters, but I lost interest as things went on.
The majority of the story takes place on Mars in the very distant future. We follow three characters. One is a thief who has been “rescued” from prison and who has lost most of his memories, another is the mysterious woman who “rescued” him but is holding him captive in her own way because she wants something from him, and the third is a Sherlock-like detective.
As I said above, the world-building is pretty creative. This is one of those books where the author drops you into things, using unfamiliar terminology without explaining anything. It wasn’t too difficult to understand the terms in context, and I liked some of the concepts. What I had more trouble with was that the world-building didn’t seem to have much of a foundation. The reader can figure out what the various technologies are for and who the various factions are, but there weren’t any real explanations to make it seem logical or believable, at least not to me. While reading this, I actually often felt kind of like I’ve felt with some of the few Urban Fantasy books I’ve read – like a bunch of random stuff is being thrown into the story without too much concern for logic or coherency, and like I’m being given a small taste of what I imagine it might feel like to be on drugs.
I liked the characters pretty well, particularly the thief and the detective, but I never got attached to them. The story was ok and I was interested in it at first, but I didn’t seem to be able to maintain my interest in it as things progressed. By the end I was happy to be done, and I don’t plan to continue the series.
Watchmen by Alan Moore. This is a graphic novel, a first for me. I have vague memories of reading a handful of comic books as a child and not being particularly impressed, but that’s my only experience as far as I can remember. Watchmen was on the list of books that I take a lot of my reading selections from, and I’ve been thinking I ought to give a graphic novel a try just for the experience of it. I’m not a very visual person, and I seem to not absorb as much meaning from pictures as other people do. I often say I would rather have the 1000 words than the picture. I don’t expect I’m likely to become a graphic novel convert, but hopefully I’ll be able to follow it well enough to enjoy the story.
>110 YouKneeK: Looking forward to seeing what you think of Watchmen--aka "the greatest graphic novel ever" by a lot of people, so no pressure ;)--which reminds me this is another book I have to reread and write a review for. I have a lot of those on my shelf, sigh.
I have nothing good to say about Watchmen. I never recorded that I read it and I have zero interest in ever revisiting it.
Just to give some joy and hope, you know? ;-)
>111 mattries37315: LOL, thanks. I see on the work page that you fell into the five-star camp, which is a very large camp! I guess this means that, if I don’t like this one, I can just declare myself hopeless and cross graphic novels off my list forever. ;) Actually, I do have two others on my list that I’ll probably try eventually, but how soon that happens will be influenced by how this one goes.
>112 BookstoogeLT: Ha, so at least if I hate it I’ll be in good company and I can say that I know an experienced graphic novel reader who hated it too. ;) Although I expect in my case the format will be my biggest hurdle rather than the story. I’ve already read enough to wonder why there are so many random words in boldface type.
>111 mattries37315: >112 BookstoogeLT: >113 YouKneeK: I've read Watchman and several other graphic novels. I don't remember hating Watchman, I simply don't remember anything but the cover and I think I must have read it twice. Bone I remember, Sandman I remember, Fables I remember. I've liked and disliked parts of those, but more importantly I remember parts of them. Watchman, no.
>113 YouKneeK: Before you give up on the graphic novel genre, have you read any of the Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire prequel novellas - in either written or graphic novel form? I liked the graphic novel versions.
I have a number of graphic novels, and I find the trick is to avoid any such that’s a book adaptation, especially one that you’ve read and loved. This is because you’ll almost certainly find that the artist’s vision is different to yours - I loathed the adaptatation of Jhereg Marvel did. It’s the same with books into films.
I remember when Watchmen came out in comic books - I worked in a comic shop at the time - and frankly it didn’t do anything for me, mostly because I find the concept of superheroes stupid. I only read it after we’d seen the film. Non-superhero stuff was tolerable. My beef there was the art (or lack thereof). So, about the only comics I liked were the DC Eclipse range - I have the complete Sandman series for instance.
>114 quondame: Sandman is one of the others on my list, and probably the one I’m most interested in, but I figured I should start with a shorter/standalone work for my first attempt so that I can get used to the format. I’m glad to read it was at least memorable. :)
>115 Karlstar: I haven’t, but then I haven’t really read the series either aside from the first book or two, many years ago. Then I decided to wait for the series to be finished, or at least wait until the hypothetical day when I don’t have a whole slew of already-finished series on my list to read.
>116 Maddz: That makes sense about the book adaptations. I’m sure I would have similar problems. My only real exposure to superheroes has been in movie/TV format. They don’t bother me, and I've enjoyed some of them, but it isn’t something I go out of my way to watch and there are a lot of popular ones that I’ve never seen. The only ones I remember absolutely hating were the Spiderman movies from several years ago. The whiny, sniveling Peter Parker made me want to inflict violence on either the TV or myself.
>117 AHS-Wolfy: Actually, I’d only read a few pages and my comments in >113 YouKneeK: were just hypothetical. :) I hadn’t formed any opinions at that point. I’m still not very far into it, but the story is holding my interest so far. I had a rough start because I had trouble figuring out who the characters were (they needed name tags or something!) and I misinterpreted some of the early panels, but it clicked into place once I got further into the story. The bold-faced thing is still driving me a little nuts because I can’t stop myself from emphasizing those words in my head which makes everything sound overly melodramatic. Maybe that’s the point. I imagine I’ll get used to that by the end. Maybe.
The other two on the list are Sandman and Nimona. I had heard of the first one before, and I'm interested in trying it because I've liked most of Neil Gaiman's novels pretty well. The ones I've read, anyway. I had never heard of the second one and don't know anything about it, but it was a group read selection earlier this year on GR and the people I'm friends with there all rated it pretty highly.
>113 YouKneeK: Ha, I just stopped following a particular blogger because every article they put up they bolded certain sentences. It made it almost impossible to read the post as a cohesive whole. When I asked them about it, they said it was for those who "skimmed" posts. I was pretty disgusted...
>118 YouKneeK: Just realised that I meant DC Vertigo, not Eclipse which was a Marvel imprint. I’ve been out of the comics scene for a while now, although I hear Eric Shanower is restarting Age of Bronze. (Wish Mark Smylie would restart Artesia.)
I got confused because I have some of the Eclipse Classic adaptations, specifically The Hobbit. It was a bit cutesy in style for me, but tolerable.
>119 AHS-Wolfy: I’m glad to hear that’s one of the good ones! I’ll have to try not to let too much time pass before I give it a try.
>120 BookstoogeLT: I could see that being annoying. I always had similar issues with those enlarged excerpts from the text that you sometimes see sprinkled throughout a published article. Anything that draws my eye away from the main text itself almost forces my eyes into skipping it even when I want to read it. At best, it slows me down by sidetracking my eyes from their more efficient reading path.
>114 quondame: I have Bone as well--another book I need to reread--as well as it's prequel Rose. I loved that as well. I have the one volume edition int he original b&w that Smith drew it in, but am still wondering if I'll pony-up to by the colored version.
>118 YouKneeK: I want to read Sandman as well, but getting my hands on all the volumes is difficult at my local used book store unless I want to pony-up at either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
>123 mattries37315: Does your local library system have it, or would you prefer to own your own copy? My library system seems to have all the Sandman volumes from my very cursory check, so I’d probably just go that route.
I’m actually reading Watchmen as an e-book borrowed from the library, which hopefully won’t horrify anybody, but it’s working well enough for me. I’m reading it on a tablet of course instead of my normal Kindle e-reader, so I can see it in color.
>123 mattries37315: if you just want to check out Sandman and see if it interests you, try starting with Season of Mist. It is accessible enough that you don't have to have read the previous volumes to be able to jump into the story, and by the end of it you will know whether you want to read the whole series from the beginning.
>98 YouKneeK: Charles Stross is featuring a Heinlein discussion on his blog at the moment: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/08/dread-of-heinleinism.html
>116 Maddz: "I loathed the adaptatation of Jhereg Marvel did. It’s the same with books into films." Whaaaat!! I love Jhereg! Was the adaptation really that awful? Vlad would make a great comic book/graphic novel character.
>129 Karlstar: Dreadful in the visual sense. If you look at the cover, Vlad is a red-head (looks like Conan in a wig), and it's not my concept of Sethra at all (I don't think it's Brust's conception either!) I know she's meant to be older that the Empire, but Brust's description is not that of a well-preserved elderly corpse (faintly vampiric is what I recall).
I am not a Graphic Novel aficionado by any means, however, I do enjoy them now and then. My daughter introduced me to them, Watchmen she saved until after I had read some of the Sandman volumes. She didn't encourage me to read all of them, because a few are graphic in ways I cannot enjoy. I'm not sure I can say I "enjoyed" Watchmen, but I did find it very interesting.
My favorite type of graphic novel would be The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett. Me, I like happy/funny stories, and most graphic novels are not. I am a sucker for terrific art/illustrations though, so many of the Sandman novels appealed on that level.
>131 MrsLee: Did you like the Sandman volumes you read pretty well? I think I can see why your daughter saved Watchmen for later. It is very interesting as you said, but pretty bleak and a bit gruesome. I also suspect some of the formatting choices made it less of an easy of a starting point than something else might have been.
I hadn’t even thought to consider The Last Hero as a graphic novel since the text was more prose-like versus word bubbles, but I did read and enjoy that too, including the pictures. So if that counts, I guess Watchmen wasn’t my first graphic novel after all! The picture with Death and the kitty stood out for me, and I remember laughing at Rincewind’s expressions.
I finished Watchmen a little bit ago, but I’ll have to wait and put my thoughts together tomorrow, probably in the evening after work. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with 3.5 stars, but I haven’t quite decided which way to go with the pesky GR-enforced rounding.
>132 YouKneeK: I adored the Sandman volumes I read. Some were lovely because of the pictures, others had intriguing ideas, some were simply takes on Death and Sleep, etc. that I appreciated. There was a lot going on in them to think about, and in many, the images demanded one stop and linger.
Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore
This was my first time reading a graphic novel, or at least my first time reading a book where almost all the text is in word bubbles. Not having anything to compare it to (yet), I could be wrong, but this seemed like a somewhat challenging entry into the format. I’m going to split my review into two sections: one that focuses more on my reaction to the story, and one that focuses more on my reaction to the graphic novel format.
I didn’t know anything about the story when I started this, and I was a little bit surprised by what it turned out to be. It was far bleaker than I expected, and a bit gruesome, but it was also very interesting and I can see why it made such an impact when it was published in the 80’s.
Watchmen is kind of a subversion of the superhero genre. The story focuses on a group of people who have chosen to dress up in costumes and take crimefighting and justice into their own hands. But these aren’t the noble superheroes you may have grown up with who put the welfare of the average citizen above everything and always acted honorably. Some of these “heroes” are scumbags, some of them are nutcases, and some of them believe the ends justify the means. The story opens up with the murder of one of the masked heroes, so there's an underlying mystery throughout the book as other events lead some of the characters to consider that masked heroes are being targeted.
The first half of the story focused a lot on the psychology aspect of things – what different motives might cause people to don a mask and try to fight crime, how those different personality types would clash with each other if they tried to work together, how they would clash with society, how society would affect them, and so forth. It was a pretty interesting exploration, and probably far more realistic than the way superheroes are normally portrayed, but it was also pretty depressing. The second half gets a little more action-oriented and focuses more on the plot regarding the targeting of the masked heroes.
If you prefer reading about characters that you can respect and cheer for, you will not find that here. Although there were some characters like Rorschach that were particularly interesting to me, there weren’t any I could say I liked. The ending was not uplifting or cheerful, but I thought it was appropriate and it fit well with the over-all tone of the book.
I’m not a very visual person, so I’ve always had some difficulty extracting meaning out of pictures. I would rather have the 1000 words. I’m also really bad at recognizing faces in the real world. I recall a time when I was 12 or 13 and my parents had somebody they knew drive me to an event along with a couple other kids around my age. I didn’t know any of these people, the driver included, and I couldn’t remember what they looked like after we went our separate ways. I spent most of the evening stressing out that I wouldn’t be able to find them again in order to get back home. Fortunately, they found me.
So that may help explain why I had so much difficulty keeping the characters straight as I read this. I’m used to prose where character names are used repeatedly to let the reader know whose point-of-view we’re in, who’s talking, etc. In Watchmen, character names were used infrequently and you had to recognize them based on the pictures. Adding complexity to this, the characters rarely looked the same from picture to picture. Sometimes they were in costume and sometimes out of costume, some scenes took place in the past when the characters looked younger, and the characters looked different depending on the different lighting conditions they were drawn in. I really needed some name tags! My issues with this led to quite a bit of confusion although usually, if I kept reading for a few more pages and paid very close attention, it would all click eventually.
Another difficulty I had was with unidentified word bubbles. I completely misinterpreted the first few pages of the book because I didn’t understand who was talking, although it all made sense after I had read a little further. There are also several sections where you have panels alternating between two different scenes, with each panel containing word bubbles for both scenes. I figured these out more easily, but was occasionally confused.
I was also thoroughly confused by the comic within the comic for a while. I thought it was part of the actual story and was trying to figure out how it fit and who “raft guy” (as I called him in my head) was supposed to be of the characters I’d already been introduced to. Eventually I grasped that this was a story within the story with parallels to the main story and I appreciated it more, but I was confused for a while.
I suspect this graphic novel may have been on the more complex side of the format, and I might have done better to seek out something a little less challenging. There are undoubtedly some things I missed altogether and I’d probably get a lot more out of a reread, although I don’t intend to take the time to do that. I was constantly retroactively understanding things as I kept reading, which caused me to reinterpret previously-read pages, so I’d probably follow things better if I re-read it with that understanding already in place. But despite the challenges, I did feel like I usually figured things out eventually, at least enough to grasp the main ideas and appreciate the cleverness of the story.
I thought this story had quite a bit of depth. It was clever, and it held my interest. On the other hand, it’s bleak and depressing and the characters are pretty awful. Due to my inexperience with the graphic novel format and my pathetic visual skills, I worked harder to keep the story straight than I would normally need to do with any plain-text novel. I’m sure I missed nuances that I might have caught otherwise. My ratings are based on my enjoyment level, and I think 3.5 stars is a pretty easy decision for this one. On Goodreads I’m going to round down. 3 seems a little too low, but 4 seems much too high.
I’ve decided it’s finally time for A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. I’ve had it on my list for a while and I bought the first book on sale a year and a half ago.
I've never really been able to get into graphic novels. I've tried and they just don't hold my interest the way a regular book does.
>137 YouKneeK: I'm reading a lot of "awfuls" in that review. Sure you don't want to round down to maybe a 2? ;-)
Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
A Natural History of Dragons is the first book in the five-book fantasy series, The Memoirs of Lady Trent. I thought this was a (mostly) light and fun read. Aside from the existence of dragons, it actually didn’t feel much like a fantasy book. I wouldn’t consider it to be YA, but it frequently reminded me of the types of books I enjoyed as a child which often featured a plucky, unconventional young woman in a historical setting going off to do something people didn’t approve of and having various adventures.
The story is told in the first person, as a memoir being written by Isabella as an older woman. The setting is in a fictional world, but it feels Victorian. Dragons exist in this world, but not much is known about them during the time when Isabella is growing up. She is fascinated with them and wants to study them, but such behavior is unthinkable for a woman of her era. This book details the first dragon expedition she gets to go on, after starting off with some relevant snippets from her earlier years.
There are some mysteries in the story, but this was mostly a light and straight-forward read with a lot of charm. It’s kind of a relaxing read in a way, although there is one very sad (if easily predicted) part toward the end. Otherwise, most of it was pretty light-hearted and cheerful. One thing I really liked was the way Isabella and her husband’s relationship was portrayed. I liked that this book didn’t have any stereotypical, angsty romance and actually depicted a marriage between two people who got along well and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice change.
I’m not necessarily the best person to advise on whether a book is a “clean” book, but I think this book would qualify and might appeal to people looking for that. Isabella’s fictional editor is horrified by her choice to use the word “breasts” at one point, so I guess her fictional editor kept things pretty well toned down. :) I also think this would appeal to people who aren’t too crazy for fantasy, if the other aspects of the story sound appealing. There are really very few fantasy elements. The dragons could just as well be some other fascinating animal of interest. This may change in the future books as I suspect (I’m not sure if this is a spoiler or not, since it’s only a suspicion)
I enjoyed this enough that I plan to continue the series, and I have book two queued up and ready to go on my Kindle.
The Tropic of Serpents, book two in the above series.
>141 YouKneeK: So far, I have books 1, 2 and 3 (although oddly I don't seem to have logged book 3). I've enjoyed them enough to keep, but as you say they're fairly light. I enjoyed her short fiction I've acquired from Early Reviewers, and I think I prefer that. The only other work I have of hers is one of her Onyx Court novels. It's a matter of what I find on Amazon in various sales as they're light enough to not want to pay full price (I know, I'm a cheapskate).
>142 Maddz: So far, I’m finding the lightness to be a really nice change of pace. I’ve wanted to read this for a while, but I was originally planning on next year. Slipping it into my schedule now was done at a whim after I chose not to continue the series that starts with The Quantum Thief.
I don’t think I’ve ever even seen anybody talk about her outside of this series until your post, but it might just be that her name wasn’t that familiar to me before so it didn’t register. I may have to keep her in mind in the future when I’m looking for a lighter change of pace.
Review: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
The Tropic of Serpents is the second book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I enjoyed this book equally with the first book, for most of the same reasons. I actually don’t have much to say in this review because most of what I said just yesterday when I reviewed the first book still applies here.
This book did have a few slower moments as it dealt a bit more with politics and relationships, some of which was interesting and some of which wasn’t. The second half the book was very fast-paced though; I finished it faster than I expected to because I didn’t want to put it down. On to the third book!
The Voyage of the Basilisk, book three in the above series.
Review: Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. Similar to the second book, there were some slow spots. However, the author makes up for them with the “fast spots”. I think she writes adventure and action scenes very well.
These are fun, light, and quick reads. Unlike the impression one might get from the title of the first book, A Natural History of Dragons, there isn’t much science. Or fantasy for that matter. There are some descriptions of the dragons, and of course we see her research process to some extent, but for any nitty-gritty details she usually refers the reader to other imaginary books or articles. That’s fine with me, because learning a lot of scientific detail about creatures that don’t exist isn’t that high on my to-do list. :) As far as the fantasy goes, the only fantastical thing is that dragons exist. Aside from their “extraordinary breath” ability, which for the most part isn’t too terribly dramatic, there isn’t much that sets them apart from a real-world exotic and dangerous animal. The books focus far more on the people than the dragons, really.
A short story set in this world, From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review. I’ve actually already read it, so my review will be up shortly. Then I’ll move on to book four of this series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes.
Review: From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review by Marie Brennan
This is a very short story set in the same world as the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. It’s actually a set of fictional letters started when our main character, Isabella, challenges the author of a scientifically questionable notice in the Falchester Weekly Review. She and the author both send their letters to each other via the Falchester Weekly Review, so they’re published publicly.
I guess this is sort of what a Victorian-era flame war might look like. :) The letters were written shortly after Isabella’s return from her expedition in the third book of the series. Although too short to have any substantial meat, it did make a nice little supplement to the series and the ending made me laugh because it fit Isabella’s character so well.
This is currently available for free on Tor’s website here.
The fourth book in this series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes.
Review: In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan
In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. There is only one more book to go, and so far I’ve found the series to be consistently entertaining.
This was another fun story and I especially enjoyed some of the discoveries and revelations near the end of the book. I really like the main character Isabella, as well as some of the recurring secondary characters. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this much before, but there is a bit of humor sprinkled throughout the stories. I chuckled at several parts in this book, and there was an entire chapter in the previous book that had me snickering and occasionally guffawing all the way through.
I look forward to seeing what the last book has in store.
Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the fifth and final book in this series.
>149 YouKneeK: You are flying through these! They must be really good for approx. 350 page books.
>150 Karlstar: I’m reading on the Kindle so I can’t say for sure, but I suspect the print versions must have a slightly larger than normal font or extra spacing or something. Whenever I pay attention to it, the “real page #’s” on my Kindle seem to be advancing faster per Kindle page turn than they normally do while reading other books. Or maybe they’re just really fast reads. :)
Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the fifth and final book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series that began with A Natural History of Dragons. I’ve enjoyed this entire series. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, the books are fairly light, with lots of adventure and fun. Although there were slow spots here and there, they held my interest consistently and felt like fast reads.
This final book started off in the same vein as the previous books, but there was a twist around the middle that really sucked me in and took my interest in the story up to another level. I was also happy with how the series wrapped up. I’m really glad I decided to fit this into my reading schedule; it made a nice change of pace from some of my recent selections.
The Power by Naomi Alderman. I really don’t know anything about this, but it was on my list and I bought the e-book when it went on sale last month.
>152 YouKneeK: I read The Power a couple of months ago. Without saying anything to spoil it for you, I rated it at 3.5 stars, (for me, that means 7/10 so easily an above average read).
I liked the writing style so would also read more from Alderman - but probably not any of the titles with the word 'zombie' in them. I am soooo very much done with zombies... Unless Bruce Campbell is involved. Then I'm all in... ;)
>153 ScoLgo: LOL, I have no opinion either way about Bruce Campbell, but I’m right there with you about the zombies. One of the downsides of going into books blind is that I occasionally find myself reading a zombie-type novel unintentionally. Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often, and I don’t usually end up hating them, but they do get tedious.
I’m glad to know you liked The Power pretty well. I glanced at my friends’ star ratings on GR, just to try to get an idea of whether or not I might like it. Only 4 people I know rated it, and they gave it 1, 2, 4, and 5 stars. So I wasn’t too sure what to make of that! :)
I probably won’t get much time to read it until tomorrow evening, but I did read the first chapter just so I could say I started it. So far, just going by my first impression, I like the writing style too.
>78 YouKneeK: I love your comment "you never saw so many pale and trembling people." I have several copies of this, plus a digital version as well, but I never seem to pick it up. Perhaps I should try listening to it instead.
>137 YouKneeK: This one was a mixed bag for me as well. And I found the movie version quite unnerving!
>141 YouKneeK: - 152 Nice to see you're back into reading a series again, and rating it very highly, too. All is right with the world... :o)
>157 clamairy: Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to catch up on old reviews, especially knowing how busy you’ve been! :)
Regarding The Count of Monte Cristo, I would love to hear what you think about it if you do try it. I was a little worried about my timing when I started reading it, that I might be too distracted/tired while traveling on business to really focus on such a long classic, but it held my interest well.
I can only imagine how much more disturbing Watchmen could be as a movie!
Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Power is a standalone science fiction story in which women develop the ability to generate electricity from their bodies, with sufficient power to be used as a weapon. It basically becomes a story in which gender roles are reversed. Now women have the strength and power to defend themselves or enforce their own desires, and men are seen as the weaker sex.
I had mixed feelings about this. The writing style is good and the story was interesting. I was never bored by it, and it did make me think. On the other hand, I felt like the story decisions were a little too obvious. It was a bit as if the author had made a list of all of the horrible things that have ever been done to women in various cultures throughout the years and found ways to insert them into this book, with men as the victims instead. It does get violent at times, especially with regard to rape and attempted rape, so this might be something that some readers would rather avoid.
There are thought-provoking messages here but, from a believability aspect, I didn’t always buy into it. My explanation for that is a little spoilerish, so I’ll mask it:
This is a case where I think the message took priority over plot. However, the book was entertaining and I think it has some worthwhile messages that will make people think. Not just the more obvious themes about the subjugation of a “weaker” sex, but also about how suddenly gaining power might corrupt people, how violence is perpetuated, and how people might be blinded into repeating past mistakes when they should know better.
I'm ready to start my next huge series – Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Enderlings. As some may have seen me mention before, I read the first three trilogies back around 2011. I’ve been wanting to re-read all those books and then move on to the seven newer books I haven’t read yet. I also plan to fit in some of the novellas and short stories; I've never read those either.
I’m going to start with Assassin’s Apprentice. That’s the obvious starting point, but I had considered starting with The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince which is a novella I haven’t read, set before the first trilogy. However, I decided to wait. I’d like to refresh my memory on the main story first, because I think I’ll appreciate the shorter works better if I remember how they fit into the larger picture. I’ll probably read them at some point after I finish the first trilogy.
That's so amazing, we were discussing the Elderling series at dinner tonight. A friend who loved the original trilogy never realized she wrote more lol I still need to read the final series still and I've never tried any of the novellas. I'm looking forward to your reviews.
>160 Narilka: What’s even more amazing to me is that you actually know somebody in real life who has read some of these books! :) I know very few people who like to read. The friends and family who do read don’t read much SF&F.
Coincidentally, the group I'm in over on GR is just starting a buddy read of this series. I think their plan is to read a book a month though, so I'll be outpacing them before too long.
>161 YouKneeK: Yeah I'm not sure I'd want to wait a month between books on that series, or at least not the individual sub-series. Robin Hobb is one of those "must read them all NOW" type authors :D
It was a fun conversation. He hadn't read anything in years that wasn't related to work, is finally ready to get going again and didn't know where to start :) So many good books and authors! I haven't talked his wife into SFF yet, though in all fairness she's gone back to school so it's probably a moot point for a while.
>162 Narilka: Ha, yeah, even if I weren’t normally a series-binge-reading freak, I don’t think this is one I could read slowly. I didn’t even dare start the first book last night, even though I had time, for fear I might get sucked in all over again and not get to sleep at a decent time.
It would be really hard to know where to start with SF&F for somebody who hasn’t read it in a while! There’s so much out there to choose from, and so many different styles and subgenres.
Ughhh, Hobbs. Well, at least you know you like her stuff and have lots of it to keep you happy.
>165 BookstoogeLT: LOL, yep. Or to keep me tortured when she's abusing her characters.
Review: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, and also the first book in the larger Realm of the Enderlings series. I read and loved the first 9 books back around 2011, and some of the characters have stuck with me in a way that few others ever have. Now I’ve decided to re-read it from the beginning and then continue on with the newer books I haven’t read yet.
It starts in traditional epic fantasy fashion. We’re introduced to our main character, Fitz, at the ripe old age of 6. He isn’t a traditional fantasy orphan, but he’s a traditional fantasy bastard of a king-in-waiting which I guess is nearly as good. I love epic fantasy and most of its tropes, and I adore this series, so I’m really not complaining, just releasing a tiny bit of good-natured sarcasm. The story is written from the first-person perspective of Fitz. Fitz in this context means bastard, and he's probably called Fitz more than anything else, but sometimes he’s called more creative names like “bastard” or “boy”.
When the story starts, Fitz’s grandfather on his mother’s side has decided the boy costs too much to feed so he dumps him off for his father to deal with. This is the first time the world becomes aware that Prince Chivalry has an illegitimate son. It causes a big stir, Chivalry abdicates his right to the throne and goes off to live in seclusion with his not-so-happy wife, and he leaves Fitz to grow up among strangers at the castle. King Shrewd eventually decides to have him trained in the art of assassination, among other things. (Yes, royal characters in this book have names like Chivalry and Shrewd. Also Verity, Royal, Patience, and so forth. It’s explained in the book.) The story has both external threats to the kingdom as well as internal political intrigue.
Fitz is a likeable character and I always cared what happened to him, although I admit he does have a frustrating tendency toward self-pity and bad decisions at times. I also really like the secondary characters, in some cases maybe more than Fitz himself. I was very attached to Prince Verity in these early books. I also enjoyed Burrich and Chade and their multi-faceted relationships with Fitz. And the Fool… I love him almost as if he were a real person, which is not something I would ever normally say about a fictional character. However, he doesn’t show up too much in this first book so, the first time I read it, he was mostly just a source of curiosity and interest. This time around, I appreciated his scenes far more with the knowledge of what’s to come.
In general, that’s how I felt about this entire book. I enjoyed re-reading it with the knowledge of what’s to come, and I paid particular attention to the world-building and to everything that hints at future events. Hobb does take her time with setting up Fitz’s environment and his relationships with the different characters, so the beginning is maybe a bit slow. I don’t remember noticing any slowness the first time I read it, but I did this time since I already remembered those parts so well. As Fitz got older and started getting embroiled in more interesting events, the pace started to pick up and I got wrapped up in the action all over again, even though I knew what would happen.
I’m giving this 4.5 stars. Based on this book by itself, I probably ought to round it down to 4 stars on Goodreads. However, I can’t help factoring in the nostalgia factor and my knowledge of how it sets the foundation for the books to follow, so I’m going to round up to 5.
The second book in this series, Royal Assassin. I plan to stick with my usual strategy for long series and read the Hobb books more or less all in a row, but with brief breaks for unrelated standalones every few books. Since this series is made up of subseries, I’ll probably take my breaks in-between each subseries.
>167 YouKneeK: Oh man, I'm going to be subjected to months of reviews of Hobbs' books? I'll just go kill myself right now and avoid the pain ;-)
I've been up thumb'ing most of your reviews but I have to wonder, does that actually DO anything here on LT? Do you get an award for getting so many thumbs up or get your reviews shown in a special place or something? It just seems like LT is filled with things you can do without accomplishing anything. Or you DO accomplish something but never find out about it. Sorry, I'm just crabby because of all the Hobbs coming down the pipeline.
Any chance you can let me know some of the standalones you have on tap for between the various sub-series of Hobbs?
>169 Karlstar: You killed yourself? Man, that is dedication! I was just being hyperbolic...
>168 BookstoogeLT: LOL, I won’t be at all offended if you want to avoid my thread. I figure it must get boring for people on a frequent basis when I start a series they aren’t interested in. Even the shorter series mean several reviews in a row about the same basic thing.
Regarding the thumbs, I’m not aware that they do anything aside from providing an alternate way to sort book reviews on the book page. You can click “votes” in the “Member reviews” section and reviews with more thumbs sort to the top. However, I’ve always thought that was kind of a useless sorting method on any site with a “likes” type of feature. For the most part it just sorts to the top whoever has the most friends who like to give thumbs up, which may or may not be the most interesting reviews. Otherwise, since people don’t get notified when they receive them and can’t see who gave it to them if they do happen to notice, I don’t think they really serve as much purpose on LT as they do on other sites. I still give them when I want to, but I figure they mostly go unnoticed.
Regarding the standalones I have planned, I may add in others and/or change the plan, but here’s my current, somewhat-tentative plan. The ones I’m reading as part of a group read are pretty definite, although I don't worry much about starting right on time since I avoid the threads until I'm done with the book anyway. Those last three may get switched out in favor of others I'm interested in once the GR group I’m in votes for the early 2019 reads later this year.
>171 YouKneeK: Thanks for the info about the thumbs. I figured it didn't mean much but figured I'd ask just in case.
And definitely thanks for the possible TBR betweeners.
>167 YouKneeK: I will be following your Elderlings reviews for my own nostalgia's sake. I get why some people don't like this series; the emotional manipulation, the re-treading of concepts, the scenes that just go on too long (how many pages are spent on Fitz recuperating from various injuries?).
But I did get attached to the characters, in much the same way as I did with Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, which is similarly split into trilogies but is a better adventure when read all in one long row. (which took me about four wonderful months, FYI)
I read all four Rain Wilds books earlier this year, and loved them the most so far in this series. I hesitate to move on to the final segment, because then it will be over. I might even wait awhile, then start from the beginning and read them all. It worked with Valdemar :)
>173 Darth-Heather: I remember when you read those Rain Wilds books because I was glad to see you enjoyed them so much. From what little I’ve seen other people talk about them, the reactions have seemed a bit mixed. I’m looking forward to getting to them though; I've been curious about them for a while.
I’m a little bit scared of the last trilogy. The other two trilogies with that set of characters had such bittersweet endings that I’m trying to brace myself for that to happen again. I’m really looking forward to your opinions on it if you happen to get to it before I do. Waiting then rereading sounds like a good plan too, though! ;)
I almost never reread except in situations like this where I had read only part of a series in the past and now I want to read the whole thing, but this reminds me of all the reasons why rereading can be fun.
>170 BookstoogeLT: I sure did, I'm back as a zombie book reviewer. I really hate those zombie apocalypse books, the good undead always lose.
>176 Karlstar: Will do! Although, if I stick to my current schedule (which is always questionable), I may not get to it until early next year. You must have enjoyed it pretty well, if you’re planning on a re-read? It will be the first time for me. So far, the only Bradbury I’ve read is Fahrenheit 451 early this year.
>178 Karlstar: Thanks for the recommendation! Oddly, I’m not sure I ever realized that title came from a Bradbury book. I’m curious now, so I might have to try it eventually.
>180 Darth-Heather: Ok, I have to admit I'm now totally confused as to which book follows which in the 'Green Town' series. I thought Something Wicked This Way Comes was the first book but it looks like Dandelion Wine is the first. Of the series, I enjoyed Farewell Summer the most, though its story is set up in the previous two.
>182 YouKneeK: First time, I think. I may have read it from the library many years ago, but I don't remember it.
>183 Karlstar: I remember Something Wicked as being a self-contained story. I see from the reviews that Dandelion Wine takes place in the same town but the main characters seem to be different. Also, according to the LT series page Farewell Summer comes before Something Wicked.
>179 YouKneeK: I think the line, Something Wicked this way Comes, is from Macbeth. Bradbury stole it. ;)
Review: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
Royal Assassin is the second book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, the first trilogy in the larger Realms of the Enderlings series. I’m still really enjoying my re-read of these earlier books.
Without spoiling anything from the first book, it ends with the main plot threads feeling pretty well wrapped up. We don’t quite see the final resolution, but one might imagine that it will be quick and simple. This book picks up where that one left off, and we find that things aren’t as simple as we might have imagined, and there are a lot more problems to deal with.
Although this book is about 200 pages longer, it felt like a fast read. We’re past the introductory bits and there’s quite a bit going on. Things pick up especially in the second half and, unlike the first book, there’s no way to feel any sense of closure at the end. It doesn’t end with a major cliffhanger, but there are several important plot threads left dangling.
There were some parts that I found particularly annoying, mostly surrounding a character who I also disliked in my original read-through. On the other hand, there’s another character who I appreciated more on this second read with the knowledge of what’s to come. I enjoyed the rest of the characters as much as before. I’ll go into a bit more detail on these things within spoiler tags.
The tags below contain spoilers through the end of this second book, mostly related to my previous paragraph.
Nighteyes was the character I didn’t really appreciate the first time I read this. Although I had enjoyed the Wit stuff in the first book, I was more concerned about his bond with Nighteyes when I first read this book. That first time Nighteyes helps Fitz when he’s attacked by Forged ones, and Fitz loses his sense of self and fights them with his teeth like a wolf, spitting out beard and junk afterward, pretty well grossed me out. That influenced how I saw their bond, as something dangerous that might make Fitz less than he was, and so I treated their relationship with suspicion and only started to appreciate it more toward the end of the book. Now that I’m reading this book with more familiarity with Nighteyes and their bond, I was better able to appreciate Nighteyes' introduction and the development of their bond. The scenes where Fitz attacks other humans with his teeth are still gross, though!
I especially loved the scenes with the Fool. His wordplay and wit make me laugh, but we also really start to get a sense of how much depth his character has in this book.
So over-all I really enjoyed re-reading this and, like the first book, I’m giving it 4.5 stars. However, unlike the first book, I’ve decided to round this one down to 4 on Goodreads. This is mostly due to my annoyance with those particular parts I mentioned above. If not for that, this one might have been given the full 5 stars because I loved almost everything else.
Assassin’s Quest, the last book in this first trilogy. I expect my pace will slow down a bit now. I was off work this past week which gave me some extra reading time, but now my schedule will be going back to normal and this next book is about 750 pages. It’s not quite a tome when compared with some of the other things I’ve read this year, but it’s close. :)
>188 YouKneeK: I felt so disappointed with Assassin's Quest after the great build up in the first two books, I hope you've had a better experience with it through.
>189 mattries37315: Thanks, from what I remember of my first read, I found the earlier parts a bit slow but really got hooked later on and couldn’t put the book down. I don't remember for sure, but I suspect I rushed through this one a bit because I was so anxious to know the fate of various characters, and I remember being annoyed when we didn’t work toward those answers fast enough. I suspect it will help me this time around that I already know the answers to the questions that were plaguing me during my first read.
You are almost making me want to reread these. Almost ;) Seriously though, one year I'd love to read this series straight through like you're doing.
>191 Narilka: It’s hard to justify the time when it takes up so many reading slots, but I’m finding it to be worth the time so far.
Apparently it’s now possible that Feist’s Riftwar Saga may be adapted for television. I just saw somebody post about it over on Goodreads, and it was the first I’d heard of it, so I thought I’d mention it here in case anybody is interested. It looks like they’re just focusing on that first series, at least for now.
It seems like the TV world is going a bit crazy with the plans for fantasy series adaptations now that Game of Thrones has been embraced by the general public. As with the Wheel of Time adaptation I’ll remain skeptical until it happens, but if it actually materializes and if they do it well I’ll probably be interested in watching it.
Magician: Apprentice was the first fantasy novel I read as an adult, back in my early 20’s, and I consider it largely responsible for my current addiction to fantasy. (Technically, the credit belongs to the old computer game Betrayal at Krondor which led me to seek out his books.) Since I only read the books published up to the early 2000’s or so, and the series is now complete, I’ve been tentatively planning the whole Riftwar Cycle as my next big series read for late 2019/early 2020.
>193 YouKneeK: That's awesome if it happens! The first few books in that series are excellent. Those are some of my favorite old fantasy epics too. The quality comes and goes a little bit as the series goes on, but I did read them all. Hopefully they will include the Empire/Kelewan trilogy also.
>194 AHS-Wolfy: Not good, I take it? I never saw it, and I haven’t read any of the Shannara books (yet).
>195 Karlstar: Yes, I agree, I loved the first few books, including the Empire trilogy. I read everything I could find available at the time, which I think was up through the Serpentwar Saga. I wasn’t enjoying the books as much by that point and I didn’t seek out his newer stuff once I learned about it, but I've been wanting to revisit it and finish it. Unless of course I decide at some point in the process that it's much worse than I remembered and I decide to "formally" abandon it.
Once I read the Feist series, that will be the last of the long, partially-read series that have been haunting me, along with The Wheel of Time and the Hobb books.
>193 YouKneeK:. Interesting. The reviews on that page don't make me eager to give it a try.
>196 YouKneeK: They turned it into a GoT-lite show given a teen drama makeover but wasn't really too surprised as I believe it aired on MTV. I watched the first season but haven't got around to season 2 yet. It was canned after that but with some talk of it being resurrected elsewhere iirc.
Jimmy the Hand remains one of my favourite thieves in all of fantasy although his top spot was usurped when I encountered Locke Lamora.
>198 AHS-Wolfy: Jimmy the Hand was awesome. :) He became one of my favorite characters in the series after he was introduced. I also really liked Prince Arutha. Those two are the main things I remember about the books, 20 years later. Somewhere along the lines I sort of lost interest in Pug.
>199 YouKneeK: Pug and Tomas sort of faded away in the middle of the series, but Pug was always awesome, maybe too much so. I do agree on Jimmy the Hand, I think maybe the best character in the series.
Review: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb
Assassin’s Quest is the last book in the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, the first subseries in the larger Realms of the Enderlings series. The first time I read this, I remember being very anxious about the fate of certain characters and I probably raced through the book a bit. This time around, it was nice to already know all the answers and be able to relax and enjoy the journey a little more.
Speaking of journeys, that’s pretty much what this entire book consists of, except in the beginning and the end. I could see this book driving people a little bit nuts, but I enjoyed it. The story goes off on a lot of side trails that aren’t strictly necessary to tell the main story, but I enjoyed most of them and that kind of meandering is something I typically enjoy in my fantasy. Fitz makes many exasperating decisions, but that’s Fitz. Since he’s the narrator for these books, I guess he should get some credit for his honesty in (presumably) not sugar-coating his mistakes.
The ending wraps things up well, although there is some bittersweetness to it. I would have been frustrated at some aspects of the ending if I hadn’t known there were more books featuring the characters.
I have a few spoiler-ish comments for the spoiler tags…
Aside from the beginning, Fitz spends very little time in the first half of the book with the characters we’ve come to know and love. Nighteyes is there, and there are some good moments between them, but even Nighteyes takes off for a while to go see what it’s like to hang out with other wolves. The first time I read this, I was very anxious to know about Verity, who we barely hear from until near the end of the book, and I was angry at Fitz for prioritizing Regal’s assassination over Verity. I was also anxious to know what had happened to the Fool and Kettricken, who Fitz doesn’t encounter again until halfway through the book. Reading this a second time made it a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy the first half, since I already knew what was going to happen with all the characters.
The first time I read this I was very attached to Verity, so I was disappointed that he had to more-or-less die in order to give his dragon life and save the Six Duchies. This time around I was prepared, so I was able to appreciate his sacrifice more. It’s still a little frustrating to know that it wasn’t really necessary. If there had been a way for them to figure out earlier that a combination of blood and the Wit could wake up the existing dragons, Verity wouldn’t have had to create his own.
Happily, Molly doesn’t play much of a role in this book, although Fitz’s obsession with her still gets annoying. I did enjoy seeing Burrich’s growing role in her life, and I liked the way she stood up to Regal’s people when they came for Nettle. If Fitz weren’t obsessed with her, I’d probably like her character a lot better.
Going through the first half of the book without the Fool was frustrating, but the second half did make up for it pretty well because he was a constant presence and there were some great scenes with him. There are also a lot of great scenes with Nighteyes.
Of the new characters introduced, I liked Kettle/Kestral quite a bit. Starling, on the other hand, got on my nerves pretty fast.
I’m going to fit in some of the shorter works now, starting with The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince. This legend is referenced a few times in this first trilogy, so I assume this novella will tell me the “real” story.
I already have a deviation planned from the list of standalones I’d mentioned I’d be reading between the Hobb books. I just learned that Children of Time has a follow-up book coming out next year, Children of Ruin. If I like Children of Time enough to want to read more in that setting, then I’d rather read it when I can jump straight into the next book. So I’ll read it eventually, but I’m not going to read it until at least next year.
I think I’ll pull up The Martian Chronicles in its place since we were talking about that earlier. I have about 330 pages worth of Hobb novellas and short stories to read first, so I imagine I’ll get to it around the middle of this week.
Review: The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb
The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a novella set in the Six Duchies from Robin Hobb’s books, long before the events in the Farseer Trilogy. There are some references to this story throughout that Farseer Trilogy, but this novella tells the true story behind the legends as witnessed by those who were close to the people involved. It also explains how the Wit came to be so feared and loathed.
I don’t think the story would have much meaning to somebody not already familiar with the setting, but it adds some interesting context for those of us who are. It’s not a terribly cheerful story, though. It’s full of bad decisions, betrayals, and tragedies. It’s also a bit too romance-y at times, at least for my tastes. Despite that, it held my interest and I did enjoy learning the back story. I also liked the way it ended.
Words Like Coins, a short story in Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Enderlings setting. I don’t know anything about what this one is supposed to be about.
>201 YouKneeK: I swear, Tchaikovsky is pushing them out faster than I can read them!
>203 BookstoogeLT: I’d really like to try his work eventually. I seem to remember hearing some good things about him from you, I think, and a couple other people I follow.
Review: Words Like Coins by Robin Hobb
Words Like Coins is a short story set in the Six Duchies from Robin Hobb’s books. In this story, we learn about the mysterious pecksies. Despite its setting, this actually stands alone perfectly fine and doesn’t require any familiarity with Hobb’s other work to be enjoyed.
I’m not normally too crazy for short stories, but I really enjoyed this one. It caught my interest from the beginning, and I was especially interested after the pecksies started to show up. From that point, I was reading somewhat anxiously to find out what would happen. One can never really be sure just what Hobb will do to her poor characters, so I felt a little more suspense than I might have otherwise.
Songs of Love Lost and Found by various authors. This is a short anthology (only 161 pages) with five stories, including one by Robin Hobb in her Enderlings setting. I’ve never read anything by the other authors before – Jo Beverley, Jacqueline Carey, Tanith Lee, and Cecilia Holland. It sounds like these are going to be romance-y stories, so I expect they won’t be a big hit with me, but the anthology was cheap and it’s pretty short, so I thought I’d give it a try for the sake of the Hobb story.
After that, I’ll take a brief Hobb break and read The Martian Chronicles as noted a few posts above.
>204 YouKneeK: As far as I'm concerned, he's neck and neck with Sanderson now. Both in terms of overall quality AND in terms of output. That makes me rather happy :-D
>205 YouKneeK: I am familiar with Jacqueline Carey, Tanith Lee, and Cecilia Holland as well as Robin Hobb, and would never expect the ordinary in romance from any of those first 3.
>207 quondame: That’s good to know. I’ve been wanting to eventually get to that Kushiel fantasy series by Jacqueline Carey. I’ve had the first book on my Kindle for quite a while. The other two authors aren’t on my radar at all, although the name Tanith Lee sounds vaguely familiar. I assume I’ve seen people talk about her.
I read a little bit of the first story by Jo Beverley last night, got hit with two romance tropes within the first page or two, and decided to go to bed early instead of reading since I was tired anyway.
>208 YouKneeK: Cecilia Holland wrote the most depressing SF novel, or at least the wrong novel to read if you are depressed, but mostly does historicals that have a very dry sensibility, though her recent series set among the late Viking age Norse, Irish, English, and down into Byzantium has heavily mystic touches and a somewhat different tone. She is a great change of pace author to reach for.
Tanith Lee died last year. She was a British SFF author, mostly writing rather lush dark fantasy (but not as pretentious as Storm Constantine).
>203 BookstoogeLT: Do you have a recommendation for where to start with his (Tchaikovsky's) books? Never heard of him before this!
This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2018 SF&F Overdose Part 3.
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