Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
As I was impressed by Glass Houses (the first Morganville Vampires book) and it ended on a cliff, The Dead Girls' Dance was always going to be a lock for me.
The cliff that ended Glass Houses is resolved quite early, and the story continues where the last one left off. We find out some more about Eve's background, why she adopted the Goth girl style and about her younger brother. He has potential to become a villain in the future.
Most of this one centres around the death of a Morganville vampire called Brandon, the framing of Shane for the murder and the rather barbaric method of execution the vampires demand for anyone who kills one of them.
Claire, Eve and Michael have to make some hard choices, life changing in the case of Michael, and some less than desirable alliances to save their friend's life.
Claire makes a decision between Michael and Shane, although this may have been because Eve took up with Michael. It still doesn't stop her from considering nearly every boy she meets as a prospective boyfriend. I don't get the impression she was boy crazy before coming to Morganville, but living away from home certainly seems to have brought her out of herself on that front.
The dance mentioned in the title is an actual event that happens in the book. It's a dance held by the Epsilon Epsilon Kappa (EEK, very clever and amusing) fraternity. Again it shows that there are scarier things out there than vampires, and unfortunately they're very real.
The Dead Girls' Dance ties up a few loose ends from Glass Houses, but it leaves you wanting more. I have mentioned how addictive these things are, right? The excerpt from Eve's diary at the end gives hints to what may happen in Midnight Alley. It would be interesting to see a book from Eve's point of view. So far we've mainly got Claire, although interestingly for an urban fantasy the Morganville Vampires books are not done in first person.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Since reading Knife last year, then picking up the sequel Rebel, a couple of weeks ago I've shot gunned R.J Anderson's faery books. I wasn't exactly sure what she'd do with Swift, because Arrow really did wrap up the story that began in Knife.
For about the first half I thought Swift was an entirely new story about an unrelated group of faery kind. Most of Swift focusses on the piskeys (they live in a Cornish mine and she's blended them with the knockers). The story is told through the eyes of Ivy; a young piskey born without wings who has been forced to grow up quickly due to the absence of her mother.
Ivy's mother was supposedly stolen away by the piskey's sworn enemies; the spriggans. The loss drove her father into the mines where he spends most of his time and when he's not there doesn't communicate much with his three children; Ivy, her irresponsible older brother Mica, and younger sister Cicely.
Ivy keeps the house and looks after Cicely. One night she's approached by a spriggan and then a mishievous young piskey called Keeve goes missing. The responsible spriggan is believe caught and Ivy discovers that he's not a spriggan at all, he's a faery and he has information about Ivy's missing mother.
What then happens leads Ivy into a journey of discovery. A journey of discovery about herself, her mother, the captured faery and her own people.
It's a nice little fable and it is exciting like all the previous books have been. Anderson only seems capable of writing the one female protagonist. You could put Knife, Linden, Rhosmari and Ivy in a line up and be hard put to tell who was who. It also did tie into the other three books. The young faery, whom Ivy nicknamed Richard, was actually Martin, a faery in Rebel and Arrow.
I've liked the books, but I do think Anderson went a little far and tried to get too much out of a concept that largely ran out of steam after the second book.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
The Fires of Heaven is actually a pretty good entry in The Wheel of Time sequence, but the story has well and truly gotten away from it's author by now.
Three stories take up the bulk of the action, with the occasional interlude from the White Tower, now controlled by the Black Ajah, and the Andoran halls of power.
The three main stories concern Rand, and with him are Mat, Egwene, Aviendha, Moiraine and Lan. That of former Amyrlin Seat; Suian Sanche, her friend Leane and the prophetess Min. The third story follows Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom Merrilin and the thief catcher Juilin.
Wait...there's someone missing. What about Perrin, Faile and Loial? The electronic copy of The Fires Of Heaven that I read was 866 pages, including the ever expanding glossary, and there was no Perrin. The former blacksmith's apprentice was barely mentioned. He was back in the story when I bailed on the series, so he must have returned. To write over 800 pages and hardly even reference one of your main characters is a pretty impressive achievement. I'm sure Perrin had some fans (I'm not one of them), and they must have been pretty hacked off when he was largely forgotten about in this book.
It's an illustration just how out of control The Wheel of Time was becoming and an indication that Robert Jordan had pretty much lost his way. The story of Suian and Co being hunted, powerless fugitives was interesting and had some excitement, although Min did turn into a bit of doormat the longer the story went, and of course we never found out what it is about Rand that fascinates her so much.
The Elayne and Nynaeve story was a delight for nearly all of it's length. Have I mentioned how much I love Nynaeve, braid tugging and all. I don't really know why they're wandering around the wilds of Randland. I think Suian sent them off on some fools errand to track down Black Ajah, but I actually don't care, because they're so entertaining. They join a circus! It's really cool. It is blighted a little by Elayne's control freak tendencies surfacing. Rand has the power of a god, why does she think she can bind him to her as a Warder? She seems to regard him as some sort of adolescent crush. I just wonder if Rand's powers are some sort of aphrodisiac, because there isn't any other reason for the women who fall for him to do so.
Unfortunately for my reading pleasure Jordan focussed on the third story most. Mat gets pretty awesome later in the book, but Rand remains as drippy as always. I can kind of understand him a bit. All Rand ever wanted to do was inherit Tam's farm, marry Egwene, have a bunch of kids and live and die an anonymous Two Rivers farmer. Instead he's got a power that may drive him mad, he's battling godlike beings, fighting off demons and has been adopted as the leader of a homicidal bunch of tribesmen. Plus he has all these women throwing themselves at him, and he really only wants Min, who he thinks believes he's a wool headed farmer. The problem with that is that it took me a paragraph to explain that, in The Wheel of Time, Jordan has taken 1,000's of pages to say the same thing. The other thing is that the Aiel storyline moves at a glacial pace, because it delves into the intricacies of Aiel life, which is about as interesting as watching grass grow. It may work in a source book for the series, but as the bulk of a narrative it's tedious.
Rand's story aside, I did like the book, I just wish Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom and Juilin had stayed with the circus. They could have gotten an entire other series out of that storyline alone.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Darkling is the third of Yasmine Galenorn's Otherworld novels featuring the D'Artigo sisters; Camille, Delilah and Menolly, following Witchling and Changeling. She follows the convention established in the first two by having the third of the sisters act as the narrator. Camille; a witch, narrated Witchling and the story in Changeling was told by middle sister, the shapeshifter Delilah. Darkling is Menolly's turn. The title refers to the fact that Menolly is a vampire.
The stories told in the books tend to reflect the personalities of the girl telling it. Camille is the big sister and a little more serious than her siblings, and Witchling as the opener had a lot to acquaint readers with so was related in that way. Delilah is lighter and more fun than her sisters, plus the fact that when she gets stressed she defaults to the form of a highly strung tabby cat provides for some amusing moments. Delilah, despite being the middle sister and taller than the other two is still seen by them as the baby, something that frustrates her, but she doesn't seem to be able to shake it. Menolly, partly because of her nature, she was made into a vampire against her will, has a darker, edgier style and voice to her.
The story in Darkling was definitely the darkest of the three so far. The war in Otherworld has ramped up and despite the girls being Earthside, they're right in the middle of it, and it doesn't help when Menolly finds out that her hated sire; the depraved and sadistic Dredge is a major player, plus she's tied to him because of what he did to her. When he and his minions start targeting humans as foot soldiers in the war he and his allies are waging both on Otherworld and Earthside the D'Artigo's and their friends go in all guns blazing, it only gets worse when one of the girls' friends; a full blood human dress shop owner gets pulled into the mess. Menolly needs to find a way to get free of Dredge once and for all, and take him down in the process.
Yasmine Galenorn really lifted everything up a notch in Darkling. Not only was there a darker, edgier style to this one, some heavy hitters also appeared (Morgana Le Fay and Loki to name two). That the author seems to be comfortable when writing about vampires shouldn't surprise, they're a staple of urban fantasy, and her other series; Indigo Court, largely focusses on them.
Readers got their first real look at Otherworld, it was very completely realised and wonderfully written. I hope the girls can visit again, so we can see more of it in the future. Maggie, the orphaned gargoyle baby, took her first steps, and I still have the belief she'll surprise the girls before she's fully grown. My favourite character remains Iris; the girl's protective Finnish house sprite (she's a type referred to as a Talon-haltija). Although I felt Darkling was the best book of the three I've read, Delilah remains my favoured narrator. From what I've found out about book 4; Dragon Wytch is narrated by Camille, so they may be cycled around like that now each girl has had a go. Be interesting to see more than one narrator in a future volume, or maybe even someone other than one of the sisters. I'm putting in a vote for Iris right now.
Quite some time ago, I actually think it was more than two years ago now (seriously where does the time go? I need a Tardis) I read a fluffy little YA thing called Knife. I liked it and had always intended to read the sequel, I only now got to it in the TBR pile.
Rebel and Knife are two fairly different books, despite being part of the same series. I would have hesitated to call Knife YA urban fantasy, but that's exactly what Rebel is. Knife was gentler and more about the relationship between Knife; a faery and Paul; a crippled human. Knife and Paul are both in Rebel, although Knife now calls herself Peri, and they're both grown up. There's a relationship in Rebel, but I found it more incidental than it was in Knife.
Rebel is the story of Linden, a young faery a generation on from Knife. The Queen is dying and Linden is tasked with going out into the world and enlisting other fae kind to help the Oakenfolk and continue their way of life.
It's also the story of Timothy, a troubled fifteen year old, who is Paul's cousin and has been suspended from his boarding school for fighting.
Linden stows away in Timothy's rucksack, and the two of them wind up in London, meeting some very different and dangerous fae. Both their lives have been turned upside down and their actions will determine the roads that the Oakenfolk and faery kind in general will take.
I quite liked Linden and her pluck, although she seemed to go from being fairly helpless to being quite powerful very quickly, and it was all a little too easy for her. Timothy was frustrating, but then again he's a teenage boy and they often are annoying. I liked Rob, or Robin, readers were kept guessing about his intentions and whose side he was on right to the end. I'm still not entirely sure myself.
To be totally honest Rebel is probably a little young for me, I think it's out of place in the YA section and maybe should be dropped down in the age expected to read it, but it's still quite enjoyable, and has hooked me enough to get to give the third book in the series; Arrow, a go.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
The Shadow Rising is the fourth book of Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series. I've seen some rate this as one of their favourites of the sequence. I can remember really liking the fifth book, but this one not so much. It's necessary and it has some great bits, but overall it's quite uneven.
Most of the Wheel of Time books seemed to go for about 1,000 pages, but whilst reading The Shadow Rising I kept wondering what Jordan's editor was doing, other than checking spelling and punctuation. There really is a huge amount of padding that could be easily cut without affecting the final outcome. At the end because it really doesn't go anywhere and cliffs are hung left right and centre you really wonder why this wasn't broken up and added onto the 3rd and 5th books.
Possibly some of my dissatisfaction could stem from the fact that Jordan seems to be interested in Rand's story with the Aiel, and I find that particular section fairly boring. Egwene and Moiraine liven it up a little, as does Mat, but most of the time it's yawn inducing for me.
Three of the other stories had far more potential and one of them, despite being the most exciting part of the book, was really given rather short shrift.
It could also be the females Jordan writes. I've heard it that he based most of his female characters on his wife; Harriet. If I were Harriet I don't know if I'd be flattered or horrified, I lean towards the latter. I'll just go through a few of them and how I see them.
I like Nynaeve, yes, she's a bad tempered shrew, and I personally wouldn't like her if I met her, but she's very honest about what she is and she's comfortable with it. The same cannot be said for some of her companions. Elayne is a bit of an airhead, the scene where Nynaeve sobers the Daughter Heir of Andor up in her usual no nonsense way is one of the book's highlights. Egwene is very controlling and manipulative, and I have no doubt she'd sell her own family down the river if it came down to a choice between them and her precious Aes Sedai. Then there's Aviendha, I didn't mind Aviendha in The Dragon Reborn, but I came to really loathe her in The Shadow Rising. She's homicidal and her behaviour doesn't even make sense. I kept hoping she'd get killed in one of the many fights the Aiel get themselves into during the book, but alas it was not to be.
The parts of the book that took place in the Two Rivers, Tanchico and the Tower were excellent. They could have cut Rand's entire section and got a far better book out of it. I'm reading on for what happens in those stories, not Rand. He could walk off a cliff into a bottomless pit and take Aviendha with him and immediately improve the story.