Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Reading

Since I don't think I'll be finishing any books in the next hour (especially considering I only just started a new one and have only read the 3 page long prologue), I may as well put up the monthly summary. Some day I hope to actually have links to reviews of at least most of the books by the end of the month, but with the way this year has been going so far, that may be a while... But at least about half of the Changeless review is done so I should be able to put that up soon! And sometime after that, I'll get the other three that do not have links to reviews written up.

Read in March:

11. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
12. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
13. The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
14. Changeless by Gail Carriger
15. World's End by Joan D. Vinge
16. Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams

That's four new to me authors and one book I set a goal of reading in 2010 (Magic Bites). Only one science fiction book but I just started a space opera.

Favorite of the month: Changeless. I thought it was better than the first book in the series, and it left me with that feeling of series addiction - just can't wait to read more. The runner-up would be World's End. It's not as excellent as The Snow Queen, but I did really enjoy it and love Joan Vinge's writing.

What did everyone read in March? What were your favorites?

Monday, March 29, 2010

All About Library Organization

A new edition of Inside the Blogosphere went up today at Grasping for the Wind, in which several of us discussed our methods of library organization. It's complete with pictures so there's also plenty of opportunity for library envy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review of Magic Bites

Magic Bites is the first book in the Kate Daniels series by husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews. The second and third books in this urban fantasy series are Magic Burns and Magic Strikes. Magic Bleeds, the next novel, will be released on May 25 of this year.

Kate Daniels is a sword-and-magic wielding mercenary living near Atlanta, Georgia. When a magic fluctuation hits and her careful warding spells are down, she finds a vampire in her house. The vampire is controlled by Ghastek, who has a brief conversation with Kate in which he asks her if she has seen her guardian lately. Then the vampire rather abruptly leaves, as Kate wonders why they were watching her for long enough to get in as soon as her wards were no longer functioning.

Kate immediately calls the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid and asks for Greg, only to discover he was recently killed on the job. Since there are not many creatures powerful enough to kill the knight-diviner, Kate is quite shocked by this. Even though she normally avoids the Order, Kate goes there and obtains permission to investigate what happened to Greg personally - landing her right in the middle of a conflict between the People, who control the vampires, and the Pack, the shapechangers.

Magic Bites throws you right into the story and world, and it can be a bit confusing at first since it is not an urban fantasy setting with paranormal creatures in a modern world that otherwise closely mirrors our own. There are fluctuations in which magic works and technology no longer works and vice versa. Right in the first paragraph, one of these changes occurs - Kate's magical defenses go down and her TV immediately starts up. Since it just happened without explanation, though, it wasn't until later that I got an idea of what that really meant. While I definitely prefer being shown what is happening like this to long infodumps, there are times I would have liked a little more detail and a better idea of what was going on. (Although it's also completely possible that I missed a lot of the obvious due to being sick when reading this.)

Even though it does have some of the usual urban fantasy creatures, they are a bit different from the norm. While there are vampires, they are creepy, quite ugly and not some sort of sexy, charming almost-human being that draw women to them like magnets. They roam the streets controlled by necromancers, who use them to do their bidding. Also, instead of being limited to a werewolf pack, the Pack consists of many different types of shapeshifters - werewolves, were-rats, and assorted were-cats including a were-lion at the head of the Pack.

There's definitely a lot of interesting world-building here, but there's also a lot left unexplained that I hope is explored more in future books. It would be nice to know how the world got this way and more about how magic works as well as the magic/tech waves. That's part of the fun of reading a series, though - all the unanswered questions and the anticipation of which ones will be answered in the next book.

The first half of this book was a little hard to get into. The world was an interesting place, but it took a while for the plot to pick up as Kate went from place to place talking to various people trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her guardian. Once the story was set up some and the main characters were introduced, it started getting a lot easier to get into and I found myself really enjoying the second half, especially as I found myself caring more about Kate and what happened to her. Curran's increasing role didn't hurt, either, as I liked the Beast Lord from the moment he showed up and told Kate to call him "Lord" when she said she needed something shorter to call him than 'The Leader of the Southern Shapechanger Faction.' (And Kate completely deserved that after she decided to try to get the most powerful shapechanger in the region - who turns into a gigantic lion - to come out by calling 'Here kitty, kitty, kitty.')

In spite of being the first person narrator, Kate has a lot of secrets she's holding back. For some reason, she is afraid of leaving any of her blood around (which is a bit tough being a mercenary who ends up wounded and bleeding a fair amount of the time), but never reveals why she's so afraid to do so. She's obviously powerful, but Kate just may be even more so than she's letting on. Personality-wise, I wouldn't say she's that out-of-the-ordinary - she's tough and a bit of a smart ass. It does seem as though we're told she's competent but not really shown it since she does say things that should get her into trouble with those one might not want to mess with. Often she acts like that to cover up how scared she really is, but it does seem like someone would have taught her better than that by now. Toward the end I did find myself sympathizing with her far more as she seemed to develop more as a character and I felt I better understood where she was coming from, though.

Other than some slowness, my main complaint was some continuity issues. There was one part where someone made an accusation and then Kate was blamed as the one who made it instead. That confused me and I had to go back and reread that part to make sure I remembered it correctly, and sure enough, it was not a suggestion made by Kate. Overall, I also felt the plot was much weaker than the world and some of the characters. It seemed rather contrived at times and not like it was naturally progressing toward a conclusion.

Magic Bites is strongest for its unique setting, which is an alternate world but more original than "the modern world with vampires and werewolves." It had a somewhat rocky beginning, but the second half was a big improvement over the first one and left me eager to find out more - especially since the next two books are supposed to be much better than the first one.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review of The Thief

The Thief is the first book in The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. The other books in this YA fantasy series are The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings (which was released today). The Thief won the Newbery Honor Book Award and is an ALA Notable Book and ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

According to Gen, he can steal anything. This proves not to be an idle boast when he successfully swipes the king's seal; however, bragging about this accomplishment lands him in prison. Each day seems the same as the one before in the king's dungeon, so Gen does not know how much time has passed when the magus has him brought to a room in the palace. Although the magus believes Gen to be rather stupid for blatantly advertising his thievery, he can't deny that Gen had to be quite skillful in order to avoid being caught in the act. So the magus informs Gen that he has a choice: he can either steal an unnamed item he desires or he can become one of the disappearing prisoners who is never seen nor heard from again. This is a rather easy decision for Gen and the next day he leaves on a journey with the magus, his two apprentices and a soldier in order to retrieve the mysterious object.

This review will probably be a bit shorter than normal since giving away too much about this novel would be doing a great disservice to future readers. The whole story is told from the first person perspective of Gen, who leaves out a lot of important details and is a rather misleading narrator. He doesn't outright lie and he drops a lot of hints by what he does choose to share for information, but he doesn't fill us in on the totality of what is happening until the very end. The conclusion is fantastic and reaching the end does make one want to go back and reread the book to catch all the little allusions to parts of it.

There are times before the wonderful final pages that the plot does meander a bit and there is more description about the journey and the land than necessary at times. The writing style is very engaging, though, and the scenes in which the characters are interacting come alive. When he's not being overly descriptive, Gen is a very fun protagonist - he's arrogant yet perfectly likable and charismatic.

Although it has some differences (such as the existence of guns), the fantasy world is based on Greek mythology and contains different gods reminiscent of their pantheon. During the group's travels, they tell a few stories about the world's mythology, many of which are fueled by the conflict between the Earth and the Sky. The Sky was created by the Earth as one of its companions, but the Earth made the mistake of creating the lakes so the Sky could see its reflection in them. Once it caught a glimpse of itself, the Sky thought itself far superior to the round, boring Earth and so the dissension between the two began. All these stories are fairly short and interesting, and they were a nice touch for providing further information on the setting.

Although there were some slower parts, The Thief was an enjoyable book, especially after discovering what had really been going on. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Other reviews:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

What a crazy week. I haven't had much spare time so I still need to finish up that review of The Thief and write one for both Magic Bites and The Gaslight Dogs.

This week I used up the rest of my bookstore gift card on three books and also received three review copies.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

I had told myself I couldn't get this one until I reviewed the first book in the Kate Daniels series, but I had to kill some time waiting around one day this week so I decided to go ahead and use up my gift card to the bookstore. The first book was good enough to make me want to read the rest, but I probably wouldn't be in such a hurry to do so if I didn't keep hearing that each book in this series is better than the last. Hopefully I'll read both this and the third book before Magic Bleeds comes out in May but with so many different books to read, who knows.

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels knows how waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta's paramilitary clan of shape shifters, she quickly realizes much more is at stake. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug of war between two gods hoping for rebirth, and if Kate can't stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

From what I've heard about this series, I figured I'd better have the third book nearby for after I finish the second one. These are what I've been saving my gift card for anyway and I've read the first one now so it seemed like a good time to get them. Plus I did really like Curran, and I'm really curious about what Kate is hiding from us as readers about herself so I can see this series becoming very addictive if it does indeed get better and better...

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet.

Wings of Wrath by C. S. Friedman

I really enjoyed the first book in the Magister trilogy so I have been waiting for this one to come to paperback for a little while. Of course while I was at the bookstore I had to look for it and then pick it up once I found it... In this world, a sacrifice is required in order to use magic and it was a very compelling concept.

A masterwork of fantasy from the author of Feast of Souls...

Kamala, a peasant woman, has claimed the powerful sorcery of the Magisters as her own-the ability to draw on the power of the human soul without dying for it. But in her rise to power she finds herself hunted by the brotherhood, and flees to a land where spells are warped by a fatal curse. A land that even Magisters fear...

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

This is the first book in the Moorehawke trilogy. It is coming out on April 7 and the second book (The Crowded Shadows) is coming out in July 2010. According to the author's website, the third book (The Rebel Prince) is coming out in Fall 2010. The tagline one the front cover really intrigued me - "Friend. Father. Kingdom. Which one would you sacrifice?" There's just something about difficult choices that grabs me so I'm looking forward to reading this one. An excerpt is available on the author's website.

Young Wynter Moorehawke returns to court with her dying father – but she finds her old home shadowed with fear. The king has become a violent despot, terrorizing those he once loved. His son and heir Alberon has fled into exile and now there are whispers everywhere of rebellion. Meanwhile, Alberon’s half-brother Razi has been elevated to his throne. He struggles to meet his King’s demands while remaining loyal to his beloved brother and to his friend-Wynter.

And at the heart of matters is a secret that no one dares speak of. A secret so large it could tear the kingdom in two and Wynter is at the heart of it all. Her father lies dying. Her king is mad. Her friends are divided.

She must choose- her father or her dreams, her friend or her king, her duty… or her love.

Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams

Tsunami Blue is coming out on March 30. I can't find much other information on this book other than the blurb so I'm not sure if it's the start of a series or not. All I know is it's paranormal romance about a woman who can predict tsunamis and every time I flip it open, I see something about coffee. Maybe that's a sign I should read it...

With her badass rain boots, her faithful dog, and the ability to predict the monster tsunamis that have reduced the US to a series of islands, Kathryn O’Malley isn’t afraid of much. Cut off from all society, she takes to the airwaves as Tsunami Blue, hoping to save something of humanity as the world around her crumbles. But Blue should be afraid—because her message reaches the wrong ears.

Now she’s the target of ruthless pirates known as Runners who want to use her special talents for their own profiteering—as soon as they can find her. Blue’s only shot at survival lies with the naked stranger who washes up on her rocky beach. A man who might just be working for Runners himself. Torn between suspicion and attraction, the two will have to navigate a surging tide of danger and deceit if they hope to stay alive.

Secret of the Dragon by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

This is the second book in the Dragonships of Vindras series, which is supposed to be six books long. I must admit, I've never read any of the Dragonlance books. It was just released in hardcover on March 16.

New gods are challenging the old high god, Torval, for rulership of the world. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies with the five Bones of the Vektia Dragons—the five primal dragons hidden away by the dragon goddess, Vindrash, during the creation of the world. Without these dragons, one of the new gods, Aelon, cannot seize power. The only hope of the Vindrasi lies in finding the dragon bones before the followers of Aelon can use them to destroy the old gods. But the Vindrasi gods have a traitor in their midst…

In the land of mortals, Raegar, a Vindraisi turned Aelon warrior-priest, searches for the spirit bones. The gods have a champion of their own—Skylan Ivorson, sea-raider and high chief of the Vindrasi clans, and sworn enemy to Raegar. But Skylan is a prisoner on his own ship. The ship’s dragon, Kahg, has vanished and some believe he is dead. Skylan and his people are taken as captives to Sinaria, where they must fight in a game known as the Para Dix. The fates of men and gods and are dragons are rushing headlong to destruction. Skylan can stop the calamity, but only if he discovers the secret of the dragon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Poll Closed

Last night I finished reading Karin Lowachee's The Gaslight Dogs so the poll for what to read next is now closed. It was a close race between Changeless and Servant of a Dark God, but Changeless won by 1 vote so that will be next.

As much as I'd like to stay and finish a review, I'm afraid I have to go clean now. Yuck.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review of A Local Habitation

A Local Habitation is the second book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. The first book in this urban fantasy series is Rosemary and Rue, and I would definitely recommend beginning with that novel since it tells a lot about the different characters and the world. Even though A Local Habitation just came out earlier this month, the third book, An Artificial Night, will be released in September 2010.

The morning after a drunken girls' night out, Toby receives a visit from her liege lord, Sylvester Torquill. Sylvester is worried about his niece January since he hasn't heard from her in three weeks when she normally calls weekly, but due to area politics, he cannot visit her in Tamed Lightning without raising the suspicions of those nearby. Since January is his only living relative other than his daughter, Sylvester would like to make sure she is ok. So he requests that Toby go visit her for 2 or 3 days to check up on her while bringing his page Quentin along for the educational experience. Although she's not ecstatic at the thought of playing baby-sitter, Toby cannot refuse her liege lord and sets out to Tamed Lightning.

Toby and Quentin arrive at January's computer software company where they meet several of her employees and get a snack before they get to talk to January herself. At first January does not trust that her uncle actually sent them, but once she smells Toby's magic, she is convinced they did indeed come from Sylvester. January insists that nothing is wrong, but she seems very nervous and Toby gets the feeling she is lying and something is not right with the place. The next morning when she and Quentin return to January's office, she discovers her instincts were right - one of January's employees was just murdered and this is not the first time this has happened.

While the previous book was enjoyable, this new installment was a big improvement. Although I was eager for more by the end of the first novel, Rosemary and Rue did take a little while to get going and immerse me in the story, but this one had me hooked right from the start (it probably did not hurt that the first chapter had a lot of Tybalt, who is my favorite character). The pacing was much better since there was not a dull moment from the beginning to the end. Although there were still quite a few infodumps like the first book, they were also spread out better and they also contained enough humor that reading them was not tedious.

The books in this series are told from the first person perspective of Toby, and her narrative voice seemed much stronger in this book. Her comments had a lot of personality and wry humor - she seemed a lot more alive and likable. Although she was still tough at times, the softer side of her that was sometimes apparent in the first book seemed more at the forefront and she seemed more confident, more like she fit into the fae world even though she's trying to keep one foot in the human world in which she chooses to live. It wasn't hard to see that she really cared about many of the other characters. Even though she initially complained about feeling like a baby-sitter to Quentin, she got over it pretty quickly since she liked the kid and had fun with him and they (mostly) got along very well.

Very little of this novel takes place in San Francisco as most of it happens in Faerie. This was great since the world of Faerie is a wonderful place to visit and contains many different types of fae - Daoine Sidhe, Cait Sidhe, Kitsune, and a dryad living inside an information tree in a computer to name a few. Toby is half Daoine Sidhe, half human and cannot do much magic at a time without wearing herself out, although she does have very powerful blood magic due to her mother. She's not magical enough to be good in an offensive battle, but she does have a few handy tricks up her sleeve and finding out more about what she could do was interesting.

There were several new characters introduced since it mostly took place at January's computer software company, but there were some old favorites as well. Sylvester was occasionally present, and Quentin and Connor were both major characters. Fortunately, Tybalt was also there quite a bit - he and Toby are so fun together, especially early on when Toby was drunk. At the end of the first book, he was my favorite character and by the end of this one, I loved him even more.

Although there are some great humorous moments, there is also plenty of tragedy. This novel can be on the darker side - Toby is not perfect and not everything always works out for the best. If something does go wrong, it's not all magically fixed at the end like some books. Personally, I love this about them but those who like their perfect happy endings may want to look elsewhere for reading material.

My main complaint is that as much as I liked Toby, there were some times I couldn't believe how stupid she was being. It would be a spoiler to explain that in detail, but basically she had a lot of clues that something wasn't quite right and you would have expected her to figure it out a bit earlier with the observations she made.

Overall, A Local Habitation is a lot of fun to read and is an even better novel than the first book in the October Daye series. It had great pacing, plenty of both dark and humorous moments, an intriguing look at Faerie and some memorable, three-dimensional characters (if a bit slow-on-the-uptake on occasion). After reading this one, I am very glad the next book is due this fall because I'm very invested in this series now.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received an ARC (thus the lack of quotes - I was about to quote some of the drunk conversation between Toby and Tybalt but then realized I'd better not since you're not supposed to quote from an ARC without checking against the final copy).

Reviews of other books in this series:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

I had been thinking about picking up the next Kate Daniels book this week but didn't since I'm not letting myself read it until after reviewing the first one (almost there - just need to write a review of The Thief and revise a draft of A Local Habitation first). Two more review copies showed up this week, though.

Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series and is coming out in April (although Amazon will be shipping it starting March 30). The first book in this series, Soulless, was a lot of fun to read so I'm really looking forward to this one. It was a humorous story featuring vampires and werewolves in Victorian London and a heroine born without a soul.

I'm going to skip the blurb for this one just because it does contain a spoiler for the end of the first book. If you've read Soulless and would like to read it (or don't care about spoilers), you can read it here.

And if you haven't seen it yet, there's a pretty neat video showing how the cover for the third book (Blameless) was put together. I especially liked the revision process.

Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez

Divine Misfortune is a comedic fantasy coming out in hardcover on March 26. My husband has already read this one and is planning to write a review of it, although I'm not really sure when he is going to have time to do so.

DIVINE MISFORTUNE is a story of gods and mortals---in worship, in love, and at parties.

Teri and Phil had never needed their own personal god. But when Phil is passed up for a promotion - again-it's time to take matters into their own hands. And look online.

Choosing a god isn't as simple as you would think. There are too many choices; and they often have very hefty prices for their eternal devotion: blood, money, sacrifices, and vows of chastity. But then they found Luka, raccoon god of prosperity. All he wants is a small cut of their good fortune.

Oh -- and can he crash on their couch for a few days?

Throw in a heartbroken love goddess and an ancient deity bent on revenge and not even the gods can save Teri and Phil.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Review of Sea Dragon Heir

Sea Dragon Heir
by Storm Constantine
384pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 5.5/10
Amazon Rating: 3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.53/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.56/5

Sea Dragon Heir is the first book in The Chronicles of Magravandias trilogy by Storm Constantine. The next two books in this epic fantasy trilogy are The Crown of Silence and The Way of Light, respectively.

The novel starts with the end of the independent state of Caradore when it is conquered by a king of a Magravandian house. The lord of Caradore is killed while his wife attempts to hide her children. It is not long before the rest of the rest of the Palindrake family is found and the eldest son is singled out by the king. The new king would like him to submit to a ritual in which he submits all his power as the dragon heir to Madragore. The boy agrees since his mother told him it is important that he remain alive so their line can continue. She said that he must never tell his children of their heritage and that the dragon heir will sleep for a while but will not cease to exist.

Two hundred years later the Palindrake family consists of Everna and her twin siblings Valraven and Pharinet. Although Pharinet has dreamed of the dragons since she was a little girl, it is not until she is fifteen years old that she learns the truth about their heritage from Everna. The Palindrake women were priestesses of the sea dragons, and the firstborn son was the dragon heir who channeled their power. Her brother Valraven is therefore the dragon heir, but he does not know it - and Everna says they must trust in the work begun by their ancestor Ilcretia and make sure Valraven remains ignorant of this role until the time is right.

Unfortunately, Sea Dragon Heir did not live up to the standard set by Storm Constantine's earlier Wraeththu trilogy (the first book in that trilogy is quite possibly my favorite book of all time). It was readable enough other than a couple of parts that were somewhat dull, especially toward the end, but it was missing that special something that made the Wraeththu books stand out to me. Wraeththu was original and beautifully written with multi-faceted characters that came alive and left me thinking about it for weeks after reading it. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the two since they are so different - Sea Dragon Heir is more traditional fantasy and less introspective and character-driven. However, since I loved Wraeththu so much, I find it impossible not to compare the two and Sea Dragon Heir failed to affect me even close to the same way. Once the book was out of sight, it was out of mind as well.

The early part of the book does read a bit like an old Victorian romance with some fantasy thrown in. Pharinet grows up with her closest friend Ellony and they both dream of princes who will sweep them off their feet as children. They often wonder if they are in love with each other's brothers, and as time goes by it becomes apparent that they are expected to marry them. Ellony is ecstatic about one day becoming Valraven's wife, but Pharinet has no real feelings for Ellony's brother Khaster. As she does come close to marrying age, Pharinet realizes she doesn't want Ellony to marry Valraven - because she is madly in love with her own twin brother.

Pharinet's section was fun to read in a soap opera sort of way and she was an intriguing character. There was the tension of her relationship with Valraven, who is in love with her too. And there's her double-edged relationship with naive, romantic Ellony, who doesn't seem to understand that Valraven doesn't return her feelings. Pharinet is wildly jealous of Ellony and at times she seems to hate her old friend, yet there are also times when it seems as though she cannot completely forget the close friendship she shared with her. Although it was not the most compelling reading ever, these pages did fly by.

Not quite halfway through the novel, the perspective changes from Pharinet to a completely new character, the princess Varencienne. The old characters were still present since Varencienne moved to Caradore; there was just more of her than the others. While the fantasy storyline did progress more during this perspective, Varencienne was more boring than Pharinet. She was a perfectly respectable woman and in some ways seemed more grounded and rational (i.e., she didn't join the Valraven fan club) but parts of her story were rather dull. Like Pharinet, she was obsessive, but her dreams were all for a dead man she'd never even met - all it took was seeing his picture on the wall to set her imagination afire.

One problem I did have was I never understood why all these women were fawning over Valraven. He never did anything to make me believe he was as wonderful as Pharinet and Ellony seemed to think he was, but then I also never felt that we really learned a lot about Valraven even though he was such a central figure as the dragon heir. Other than his sister, he never really seemed to care about anyone, and he cheated on his wife with his own sibling. It was most likely completely intentional that he wasn't supposed to be the knight in shining armor; Storm Constantine does tend to write flawed characters instead of perfectly good ones. It's just that from what I did read about him, it never seemed credible that he'd garner such depth of feeling from so many people (as there is also a young man just as crazy about Valraven as Ellony and Pharinet).

The fantasy part of the story seemed fairly generic and predictable. It's basically the story of an evil king who overthrows a nation, replaces its religion with their own religion, and the struggle of their ancestors to regain their place and the old ways.

For the amount that happened in this novel, it could have been a lot shorter. Toward the end I was definitely losing interest and was ready to finish it. The final pages did leave me somewhat curious as to where it was going, though, and now I'm not sure whether or not I'll read the second book in this series.

Sea Dragon Heir had three-dimensional, flawed characters but they never came alive the same way as others Constantine has written. Although some of these protagonists were fun to read about, there were times the story dragged, particularly as the fantasy aspect seemed fairly standard. I'd recommend newcomers to the writing of Storm Constantine pick up The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit instead of this novel.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a gift from a friend.

Bone Crossed Winner

The giveaway for Bone Crossed is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is:

Eva from Finland

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Do I Read Next?

As usual, I'm indecisive so help me decide what to read next by voting on the poll to the right. I'll read whichever book wins when I'm done with The Gaslight Dogs and leave the poll up until I'm finished with it. And I just might run another poll when I need to choose one of the books I bought to read after that because I'm really torn about whether to read the new Carol Berg, the new Robin Hobb, the next Snow Queen book or Night's Master or a lot of other books...

For this one, I picked some of the ones that seemed to get the most interest from the comments and threw in a couple of others. This time the choices are:

Changeless by Gail Carriger
The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker
The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
Master of None by Sonya Bateman
The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
by N.K. Jemisin
432pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.14/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.42/5

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a debut novel by N. K. Jemisin, who was recently nominated for the Nebula Award for her short story "Non-Zero Probabilities." Even though it's the first book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a complete story with a satisfying conclusion. The next two books in the series each focus on a different main character than the first one. According to Jemisin's website, the second book The Broken Kingdoms will be released in fall 2010.

Soon after the mysterious death of her mother, Yeine Darr is summoned to the Arameri court by its ruler, her grandfather. When Yeine's mother met her father, a minor barbarian noble, she abdicated her position as heir to the Arameri throne. The Arameri have ruled the world for a very long time due to their favor with the Skylord, one of the three major gods. The Skylord killed one of the other gods and gave the Nightlord along with his sons and daughters to the Arameri as their own personal weapons. These gods are slaves to the Arameri, bound in flesh and made to obey their every whim.

Yeine goes to the Arameri home of Sky and meets with her grandfather, who informs her that he is making her his heir while keeping her cousins as his other two heirs. She will now be a true Arameri - and will quite possibly be killed by one of her cousins in an attempt for the throne while trying to unravel the truth about the past.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is one of those books that appeals to me on so many levels and I loved it. It did have a couple of cheesy sex scenes, but other than that, I have no complaints and was completely engaged in this novel from beginning to end.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Yeine. Her narrative is very scattered and feels as though she really is telling the story to the reader as she interrupts herself often to insert information or go back and fill in parts she just remembered. For instance, when she goes to meet her grandfather for the first time, she then stops to expound on the history of the gods and how it relates to the Arameri people:
I knelt before my grandfather with my head bowed, hearing titters of laughter.

No, wait.

* * *

There were three gods once.

Only three, I mean. Now there are dozens, perhaps hundreds. They breed like rabbits. But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn. Of light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.

The Arameri get their power from this remaining god. He is called the Skyfather, Bright Itempas, and the ancestors of the Arameri were His most devoted priests. He rewarded them by giving them a weapon so mighty that no army could stand against it. They used this weapon - weapons, really - to make themselves rulers of the world.

That's better. Now.

* * *

I knelt before my grandfather with my head bowed and my knife laid on the floor. (pp. 6)
Some may find this style a bit chaotic, but personally, I really liked it. Yeine herself is far from an omniscient narrator since she spends much of the novel trying to discover the truth about her mother and the gods (since the only accepted account allowed by the winning god may be a bit biased). Throughout the tale, more and more about the world and the characters and how everything weaves together is slowly revealed.

The world mythology was well-developed and added a lot to the novel. The gods were somewhat reminiscent of the Greek gods since they shared so many human traits and complexities. In spite of the fact that they were very powerful and different from the humans, they were also capable of jealousy, greed and love.

Most of the characters were well-written with diverse motivations. Of course, Yeine was a favorite as the point of view character and the easiest to sympathize with. She went from being leader of a relatively small nation to contending for the title of world ruler, plus she has the disadvantage of not knowing the Arameri ways like her two cousins. After Yeine, my favorite character was Sieh, the trickster god who usually appeared as a child (happily, he is the subject of the third book). At once ancient and childlike, Sieh had an interesting dual nature and before he was enslaved the world was his playground (he still has several suns that he keeps around to play with). Nahadoth, the dangerous god of night, was also a major character as Yeine's romantic interest.

There's a lot packed into this book and it deals with themes such as race, gender, slavery and religion. Yet these different issues are all subtly intertwined into the story - there are no long diatribes on any of them and they are all incorporated into the novel without being heavy-handed or excessive. Yeine is a dark-skinned woman raised in a matriarchal society. The gods were enslaved and this removal of the other gods affected the people's religion and the perception of truth.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was both entertaining and different. This debut novel had a compelling story with some complex and human characters, and I'm really looking forward to reading more by N.K. Jemisin.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: The publisher sent me a copy.

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