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[personal profile] ed_rex
Drawing on myths from Jamaica to Russia, on folk tales of Coyote and Brer Rabbit, and maybe from sources as disparate as Chuck Jones, J.R.R. Tolkien and Mervyn Peake (not to mention Lewis Carroll), Nalo Hopkinson's "Young Adult" debut is as singular a creation as it has been my pleasure to read in a very long time.

All at once a surreal adventure, a subtle exploration of privilege in caste-ridden society and a daring push against the walls of narrative fiction itself, The Chaos has no villain and its (black, Canadian) heroine never wields a blade nor fires a gun.

Though questions of race and identify form organic parts of how the novel's characters view and interact with the world (none of the book's major characters is white), race is not what the book is about. Hopkinson is telling a story, she is not preaching.

Narrated by probably the most fully-realized teenager I have come across in fiction, The Chaos is always surprising, a thoroughly unconventional page-turner you owe it to yourself to read — to pass on to any literate young person you know.

For my full review, click, "When I cried, the tears were black."

 

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[personal profile] ed_rex
Cover to Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin TateWell Of Sorrows
I hate coming down hard on books by relatively unknown writers; given my 'druthers, I'd much prefer to pass over them in silence. At the same time, if a writer goes to the trouble of sending me a review copy (even an electronic copy), it seems disrespectful to ignore it.

So I've struggled with this review, and not only because I have been "friends" with the author (or rather, with his pseudonym) on Livejournal for a while, but because it became clear in the reading that Benjamin Tate's heart is very much in the right place.

Well of Sorrows tries hard to play with, and even to reverse, many of epic fantasy's tired tropes. The protagonist is more peace-maker than warrior, and in plays of scenes of glorious battle we are given the blood and the shit and the brutality of hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, good intentions alone don't make for good art. Well of Sorrows suffers from shallow characterization, structural confusion and world-building that is not remotely convincing. Click here for my full review (hardly any spoilers).

moonplanet: cover of Superfly's CD single "Aa" (superfly-aa)
[personal profile] moonplanet
Title: Forgotten Realms - Songs & Swords - Book 1: Elfshadow (on Librarything)
Author: Elaine Cunningham
Format: paperback
Pages: 312
Bookcrossing ID: 4957869 (received from silvas in Utrecht, left behind in Köln-Riehl Youth Hostel: http://www.jugendherberge.de/jh/rheinland/koeln-riehl/index.shtml.en?m)
Back cover text:
Silenth death stalks the Harpers of Faerûn. One by one, members of the semi-secret society for good in the Realms are falling to a murderer's blade. Now a Harper agent and a beautiful half-elf assassin must solve the mystery. If they fail, they will be the next victims.

But things in the Realms are rarely that simple.

First alinea of the prelude:
The elf emerged in a glade, a small verdant meadow ringed by a tight circle of vast, ancient oaks. His path had brought him to a spot of rare beauty that, to the untrained eye, appeared to be utterly untouched. Never had the elf seen a place more deeply green; a few determined shafts of early morning sunlight filtered through leaves and vines until even the air around him seemed dense and alive. At his feet, emerald droplets of dew clung to the grass. The elf's seeking eyes narrowed in speculation. Dropping to his knees, he studied the grass until he found it - an almost imperceptible path where the dew had been shaken loose from the ankle-high grass. Yes, his prey had come this way.

Review:
Read more...
moonplanet: cover of Superfly's CD single "Aa" (superfly-aa)
[personal profile] moonplanet
I just joined Dreamwidth this week and I was looking for an interesting book-review community, as I like reading book reviews :)
This summer holiday I'm trying to write as many book reviews as possible. Except for a few manga and French comic books, I have written a review for every book I read in July. It's fun and I'm going to try and continue writing reviews after the holiday as well!

Here is my latest review, of a fantasy book:

I took care to give no obvious spoilers about the story and there aren't even real spoilers in the back cover description...

Title: The Wise Man's Fear (on Librarything)
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Format: hardcover
Pages: 994
ISBN: 9780575081413
Back cover text (actually on the inside of the dust jacket):
The Kingkiller Chronicle Day Two

'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe.
You may have heard of me.'


The man was lost. The myth remained.

Kvothe - the dragon-slayer, the renowned swordsman, the most feared, famed and notorious wizard the world has ever seen - vanished without warning and without trace. And even now, when he has been found, when darkness is rising in the corners of the world, he will not return.

But his story lives on and, for the first time, Kvothe is going to tell it...
Read more... )
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[personal profile] othercat
My general impression of this book for the most part was “maybe it’s the translation, because this book is doing nothing for me.” Another reason why I didn’t have much of a feeling for the book was that the writer has a dyslexic character who plays a pivotal role in the story, but couldn’t be bothered to actually research dyslexia. (The writer seems to believe that dyslexic people are across the board completely unable to learn how to read and need to have magical assistance in order to obtain even *basic comprehension. What was I talking about again? Oh, right; the story and my inability to stay interested in it.)

Our Hero is a young lawyer named Jon Campelli who receives word that his estranged father Luca has died. Luca is the owner of a book store and since Luca had no will, Jon now owns the place since he is the next of kin. It turns out that the books store is the meeting place of a secret organization of people with a peculiar psychic or magical talent.

The Library of Shadows
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[personal profile] othercat
It is occasionally difficult to define why you don’t like a book. It might be otherwise well written and the story might be interesting, but there is something about the book--something in the narration or characterization maybe--that feels a little off. This was largely my reaction to Black Swan Rising. It was a difficult book to start, a difficult book to continue, and I didn’t much care for the ending which is of the “everything goes back to normal wrap-up” variety.

We start with our non-genre-savvy heroine, Garet James, who wanders into one of those stores that turn up and then disappear. She is in a very bad financial situation due to some bad business deals made by her art-gallery-owning father.

Black Swan Rising
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[personal profile] othercat
Chrono Crusade is an eight volume manga series with a twenty four episode anime series that is completely different from the manga. (The manga is superior to the anime series, in my opinion. The anime goes off in a completely different direction and generally weakens a lot of the character interactions and relationships.) Our Heroine and Hero are Rosette Christopher and her partner Chrono.

The setting is the United States during the 1920s. Rosette is an exorcist working with a religious organization known as the Magdalen Order, and organization that fights various supernatural monsters. (Appearance wise they seem to be a Catholic Order though it is Extremely Clueless Japanese Nuns are Miko Manga Catholicism.) This is not a new series, but it is a favorite series and the one that made me actively interested in manga and anime. (I only had a very occasional interest due to not finding anything I really liked until I discovered this series at a library.)

The first volume begins with Chrono and Rosette who are both sleeping in their car after a mission. A phone rings and Rosette picks up the phone and receives orders to head out on another mission. Rosette is exhausted and does not want to go but her superior insists--and Rosette realizes that something bad has just happened because a ship in the harbor bursts into flames. Rosette tries to wake up Chrono who would actually like to sleep a little longer. How long? “About ten hours.” This is not deemed an acceptable amount of time by Rosette's standards.

“The Story of a Girl Exorcist... and Her Demon Partner”
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[personal profile] othercat
Right Hand Magic is a “magic is out in the open” urban fantasy. Our heroine is a young woman named Tate, an aspiring artist in search of a new place to live. (She is a sculptor who works with steel, which does not make her very popular to her yuppie neighbors.) Despite having a trust fund, with rich parents, she is looking for a cheap place to stay. After looking around, she comes across a very cheap room at a boarding house in a part of Manhattan where absolutely no cab or moving company will go: Golgotham.

Golgotham is basically a ghetto in the oldest sense of the word; a segregated section of the city separated by law instead of economic bracket. The inhabitants of Golgotham are various varieties of magical creatures plus a non-human race of magic users called Kymerans. The Kymerans have been living in ghettoes like this for centuries after a “holy war,” that destroyed their country. (This will be the biggest problem I have with the book. It’s like a cross between Harry Potter, a manga and Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni novels, but not in a good way.)

The ghetto environment and accepted segregation of minorities is not the main plot of the story however. Instead, we have a light romance that develops between our heroine and her Kymeran sorcerer landlord. Hexe turns out to be the son of “The Witch-Queen of Golgotham,” and is technically a prince.

Right Hand Magic,
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[personal profile] othercat
Please Stop Laughing at Me, is a painful account of the writer's experience with having been bullied from junior high through high school. Blanco's story is that she was very much a misfit in junior high and became a target for bullies due to having the sort of soft, sensitive personality that tends to get ground under a lot in the face of the kinds of practical jokes and casual cruelty that kids have a tendency to engage in. Her situation is generally made worse by a sincere effort on her part to try getting along with everyone, and trying to fit in. (She does not say this in the book, this is my interpretation of the situation.) In addition, a congenital deformity that only appears in puberty results in making her even more of a target of the students of the school she went to.

Her parents attempted to help her by moving her to different schools, but this did not help very much, as Jodee is still soft and sensitive and kids are still basically twits wherever you go. They tried talking to the schools, but this did not work. They try putting her in therapy, but this does not help a great deal either. One of the few bright spots in her school experience is when she is able to make friends with other kids who are also misfits (and who have absolutely no desire to "be accepted" the way Jodee seems to). Another bright spot was that Jodee had the opportunity to visit Greece one summer, and made friends there as well. The book ends on a positive note and the school reunion that Jodee attends.

Please Stop Laughing at Me
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[personal profile] othercat
Iron Crowned is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series. In this book, Eugenie continues to attempt juggling her role of queen of the Thorn Land with being a Shaman/exorcist in the ordinary world. She is not very successful due to having to fight a war against Katrice of the Rowan Land, whose son had kidnapped and raped Eugenie repeatedly in the previous book in order to fulfill a prophecy that states the Eugenie’s first born son would conquer the ordinary world. (I am still kind of reminded of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series because of this plot point.)

Due to the fall out of the ending of Thorn Queen, Eugenie is now dating and allied with Dorian, King of the Oak Land. Another consequence of the outcome is that Eugenie’s step father Roland is no longer speaking to her. (This sort of nails down the coffin on my dislike of this character, which was born roughly around the time where he didn’t have a problem that a fellow Shaman was kidnapping and selling young “gentry” women.) She is also finding it difficult to take cases in the ordinary world due to how busy she is, (which is causing her assistant/secretary Lara a great deal of frustration).


Iron Crowned
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[personal profile] othercat
Storm Born and Thorn Queen
Two more examples of the “bad ass babe” sub genre of urban fantasy. The basic premise is that shaman long ago banished all magical beings and humans with inherent magical ability to the Otherworld. (Shaman do not have innate magical ability, instead they use their wills to manipulate outer forces, usually after having undergone a traumatic initiation. Also, the humans with inherent magical ability eventually became the sidhe.) It’s the job of modern shaman to serve as a kind of border guard, keeping all supernatural beings on the other side of the border. Our Heroine is one such shaman. (For some reason, I find it very amusing that she’s based in Tucson, Arizona.)

In Storm Born, we’re introduced to our protagonist Eugenie Markham (called Odile Dark Swan by clients and her enemies--something that mister or miss blurb writer utterly failed to realize was a major plot point, that no one had known her real name until recently. Of course, I’m just as bad by giving away the same plot point. However, it’s totally not my fault because I was spoiled by the blurb first, and then confused as heck when her client called her “Odile”) just as she’s about to determine whether or not a sneaker is in fact possessed, or if her client has forgotten his meds. (The author seems to delight in doing this sort of thing to the character. It’s alternately funny and eye-rolling.)
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[personal profile] othercat
War for the Oaks is urban fantasy of the subset known as urban faerie. (While some more recent urban fantasy might tack on faeries in a mostly vampire and werewolf universe, this is primarily a novel dealing with Faerie and its intersection with the mortal world.) This novel originally came out in the 80’s. It has been reprinted by Orb books.

Our heroine is one Eddie McCandry, a young woman who finds herself without a boyfriend and without a band due to said boyfriend’s general incompetence and failure at life. Before she has time to do much more than be annoyed and angry about the situation she is contacted by an emissary from the Seelie Court. This emissary is a phouka (a type of shape-shifting faerie that can turn into a horse, a goat, or in this case a black dog) and he has chosen her for the not very wonderful job of being a participant in an upcoming war with the Unseelie Court. She has absolutely no choice but to sign on because the instant she was chosen by the Seelie Court, she became the target of the Unseelie Court.

The phouka is to serve as her bodyguard, which is something Eddie doesn’t appreciate, but can’t exactly escape. She appreciates it even less when she discovers that her part in the battle is to be a sort of angel of death--she finds out that she is the major component of a spell that ensures that the immortal combatants will have a permanent end should they be fatally wounded on the field.

In short, it really sucks to be her.

War for the Oaks
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[personal profile] othercat
Tinker

I first read Tinker when it came out in 2003. It quickly became one of my favorites because of the heroine Tinker (who is an engineer who runs a junkyard), and a great deal of the world building. The setting is Pittsburgh, which has had a variable location between Earth and Elfhome since the Chinese built an interdimensional gate in orbit. Tinker has lived her entire life in Pittsburgh and many of her inventions take advantage of the magical energy available on Elfhome.

One night during Shutdown (the time when Pittsburgh is on Earth) she rescues an elf who is being chased by giant monster dogs through her junkyard. The elf in question is Windwolf, who had saved her from an escaped saurus when she was a child. (Elfhome has dinosaurs. And carnivorous trees. And river sharks.) After saving her, he subsequently marked her with a spell that she believes will possibly do something horrible to her if Windwolf dies, so she has lots of additional incentive to keep the elf alive and in one piece.


Tinker

Wolf Who Rules

In this sequel to Tinker, Our Heroine has to figure out how to deal with the very large mess she made in the previous book. Tinker has managed to permanently strand Pittsburgh on Elfhome and has also managed to turn Turtle Creek into a mushy dimensional discontinuity that’s been dubbed “the Ghostlands.” On top of that, she has to pick more sekasha for her “Hand” of bodyguards, something she isn’t particularly looking forward to doing and she’s receiving urgent messages and apologies from Riki, the tengu who had betrayed her to the oni in the previous book, and trying to learn magic and receiving “how to be an elf and married to Windwolf” lessons from various sources.

While this is going on, Windwolf must deal with the situation involving the human population of Pittsburgh, and hunt down the oni who have infiltrated the city. This is a very daunting task because Elfhome is a homogenous culture that has never really had to deal extensively with anyone from outside of it. (No, it does not count that Pittsburgh has been a frequent resident for more than a decade.) While he’s hunting for Oni he discovers that some humans have been forced to help the oni, and some of these interactions have resulted in children (which creates many more levels of complication.)

Wolf Who Rules

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[personal profile] libelula
Just to get things started, I thought I'd post a review that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch
Bantam Books, 2007, 722 pages, 978-0-553-58894-1, Mass Market, $6.99

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place in the city of Camorr and focuses almost exclusively on the happenings of the city’s underbelly. More specifically, it focuses on Locke, a sometimes rash but always brilliant thief who caused more trouble before the age of ten than some of the city’s veteran criminals managed in their entire careers. The story’s narrative switches between two timelines (which might be a tad confusing at first, but you quickly get used to it), one revolving around Locke’s childhood and training, and one that shows him leading the Gentleman Bastards on a long con job against one of the city’s prominent citizens.

But, naturally, there are complications, and Locke is nothing if not resourceful.

Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this book. Granted, it took me a few chapters to really get my bearings. Lynch's style isn't like anything I'd ever read before (not that was done well, anyway), and I had to get used to it - not to mention, I had to figure out that there were multiple timelines that I needed to keep track of (well, two, but I didn't know that at first). Once I had that straightened out, though, I became quite engaged with both the story and the characters. Locke is a lot of fun, and I was glad that Lynch chose to give enough background for Jean that he became someone I was interested in as well. I'm expecting good things from the second book in the series, so I'll be quite excited to get to that review when it comes around.

Read the full review at The Reader Eclectic.

(There shouldn't be anything terribly spoiler-ish in the full review - at least not that I recall).

~