pocketgarden: (Default)
Anyone need a copy of In the Forests of Serre? The used book store had three of the trade paperback on clearance, for $1 each, so I bought them all. I now have two extras....
pocketgarden: (Default)
I love Guy Kay's work. I truly do. Fionavar is early and weak and yet I still adore it; Tigana is one of my favorite fantasies ever; The Lions of Al-Rassan is brilliant and has the funniest ambush scene ever written (even funnier than the killer bunnies in Monty Python, made more so because it is on the whole such a serious book). I bought the first book of The Sarantine Mosaic, called Sailing to Sarantium, in 1998 and waited for the sequel. Then I broke up with the person I'd been visiting and, though I got the sequel, haven't read them until now.

Guy Kay writes intricate stories, deeply informed with history. Tigana was Italy, A Song for Arbonne was France, The Lions of Al-Rassan was El Cid in Spain, and Sarantium is (unsurprisingly enough) Justinian Byzantium. It is interesting that the last two were written in the same alternate historical fantastical world, while the first two do not appear to be related to them or to each other. At first, I liked the familiarity, but after a while I found it grating.

Overall, Sarantium disappointed me. I can't really recommend it. While there was a lot I liked, especially the worldbuilding, the virtues are more than covered in all the rave reviews I found after writing this non-rave review. I had several problems with the implementation that eventually overwhelmed my appreciation: Spoiler-Free Complaints )

The thing is, I enjoyed reading this. But I was irritated, too, and that last chapter irritated me so intensely that my final impression of the book is not happy and not satisfying. I will still read Kay's next series -- Vikings! How could I not? I love Vikings! -- but I dearly hope I will like it better.

Beautiful worldbuilding, though.
pocketgarden: (Default)
First post in a loooooong time. I guess I'm back.

In other news, [personal profile] pocketgarden is a child whose parent must approve her journal. I had to register her account and everything. I will admit that I was really fucking annoyed.

I've just finished Kate Ross' The Devil in Music, which is a lovely book, and decided I really dislike one of the major plot points. (Cut for non-explicit hints towards major spoiler) )

That said, I really liked The Devil in Music. Now I have finished Kate Ross' bibliography, and I must weep. Would anyone else say her main theme and preoccupation is loving someone unworthy of that love, and what it does to you? In sour grapes, I shall state that I expect Julian in future books to have become even more excessively perfect and desirable, with still more obscure superpowers, but that is just vinegar.

Reading the books though, and liking them, nevertheless emphasizes that mysteries really are Not My Thing. The purpose of the genre is alien to me. I read mysteries for character and setting, so I like historical mysteries all right. Modern ones generally bore me. I think the problem is that I don't actually believe in justice, so the tracking of a murderer seems worthy but uninteresting as such.
pocketgarden: (Default)
Body Electric, Susan Squires. I like Squires a lot, because she takes genre-breaking risks in romance. Unfortunately, this is a futuristic, and the science fiction bits suck: it's especially irritating because they suck in my field, computer security. However, the romantic relationship between former-hacker Vic and her AI program is very nicely done and sweet: she is probably the most utterly insane romance heroine I've ever read (the author is good enough to keep her character coherent, and she's still fucking nuts), while AI Jody is sweet and wonderful. I'm not sure she's aware of how insane Vic is, but she's not completely oblivious -- Vic at one point wonders if she's schizophrenic. A lot of fascinating gender exploration gets set up and never explored. That Jody the AI develops some superhuman-seeming powers is a good thing, because it will take a genius with extraordinary ability to deal with people to cope with Vic. Despite the flaws in this, I'm glad I read it: Squires takes risks.

Rachel's Change of Heart Donna Simpson. This is the third book in a trilogy. The first one I loathed; the second one I haven't read. I don't know why I read this one except that it was at the used book store and I felt like reading a good Simpson. She is sometimes good. This one was mostly good. Hero Sir Colin had stormed London in the previous book to try to attach Rachel yet again, only to be rebuffed yet again -- it's a minor annoyance that the book is a bit confusing on whether she ever led him on, or was pretty steadfast in always refusing. She gets engaged to the very proper Lord Yarnell, whose mother is a terror. She begins the book as shallow and cold, and there's too much psychologizing explanation of this being a result of her father's death and her fear of getting hurt again; but watching her grow up is charming. I just wish Sir Colin were a bit less dull and worthy: Simpson goes to some effort to make him seem unsexy (the word "homely" comes up a lot) and his past pursuit of Rachel was really pretty pathetic. Still, this is a sweet book. Simpson's nicer characters are sometimes boring, but when she tackles fortune hunters, man-hating duke's daughters, and shallow society girls, she can do some really interesting things.

Town Bronze, Kate Huntingdon. I didn't like this book because of what it wasn't, instead of what it was. This is not fair to the book, but that's how it is. The setup is lovely: a young man is imprisoned in France for ten years and finally returns home, a much different person. His grandfather still wants him to marry the detested ward. The ward detests him equally: she had finally got her guardian to let her have a Season. Of course, they have changed enough over time that they deal very well together. There are many tender moments. However, instead of the wrenching, tortured story I was hoping for, this was a farce. A charming farce, but a farce nonetheless. I like Kate Huntingdon for light, sweet romances; I was disappointed that this book could have been something far stronger, but wasn't.

A Gift of Daisies, Mary Balogh. I got this very cheap from the Friends of the Library: I have liked some of Balogh's books, but tend to get irritated with the prose style. I don't remember much about this one: rich sought-after society lady falls for poor sexy vicar and finds a purpose in life. On the other hand, it's worth a fair bit of money if I get around to figuring out Ebay or Half.com.

Romances

Mar. 7th, 2004 02:27 pm
pocketgarden: (Default)
Lord Pierson Reforms, Donna Simpson. I am variable about Simpson: sometimes I like her a lot. Sometimes I'm indifferent. Sometimes I hate the book passionately and want to burn it as a personal statement. This is one of the ones I liked: governess Amy Corbett is swept up by an arrogant Duke wanting to marry off his beautiful, well-mannered, spoiled, man-hating daughter. If she succeeds in the impossible, she gets a competence; if she fails, she'll be sent out to the streets with no references. Lady Rowena is a marvelously obnoxious flirt; I enjoyed her. I enjoyed Amy's attempts to curb her bad behavior. I thought Pierson's love-and-reform-at-first-sight reaction to Rowena was just the sort of silly thing that character would do: he consistently looks outside himself for direction throughout the book (I just wish the author hadn't pointed out that she was being consistent, but that's a small gripe). The resolution is happy all around: even Rowena isn't so bad once she's away from her obnoxious father. This is sweet and has lovely characterizations. That Simpson doesn't do enough homework for my taste isn't that big a complaint; I didn't notice the errors until later.

His Stolen Bride, Judith Stanton. Oh, this is good. Nicholas Blum is a member of the Moravian community, an Amish-like religious sect. He's intelligent and flighty, and is sent to another community to learn yet another trade, this time from a merchant. The merchant's daughter, Abbigail, does most of the real teaching. However, when Nicholas finds out that the girl he was secretly in love with back home is going to marry his brother, he runs home to rescue her, leaving Abbigail. This is a sweet story; I liked it immensely. The setting was fascinating, and the girl back home was a truly sweet, wonderful person; the story of her marriage with the brother is very nice subplot. The interactions between Nicholas and Abbigail are lots of fun. Unfortunately, the author well and truly backs Nicholas into a corner, and resolves a lot of the complexities she's set up with some out-of-character drama from the villain. Oh, well. I still recommend this one, and I'll be looking for this author.

A Proper Marriage, Debbie Raleigh. This was dull, though slightly interesting because the romance comes after the marriage. I like this setup. Unfortunately, the author didn't take her characters very seriously, so their problems are resolved too easily. Adele is the free-spirited daughter of charmingly scandalous parents, who married Adam to restore the family fortunes; he's very stiff and proper and could never satisfy his perfectionist father. He gave her lectures about propriety when they married, never presented her, and spends all his time at the War Department. This is of course her fault for being petulant that she was made to marry a stranger. While I agree she behaved badly, the author doesn't seem to realize how dragging one's wife to London, failing to introduce her to Society, sticking her in a townhouse without friends or family, and not even allowing her to choose her own clothes is really nasty. Instead, when Adam finally takes her to a social event of the type she had enjoyed, she suddenly finds herself hating them. Gets him off the hook rather nicely. He was a toad.

Miss Seton's Sonata, Meredith Bond. A new author. Dull again: the Marquess of Whatever comes into his house to find a young lady he's never met before playing the piano, very well. He doesn't tell her he's the Marquess but comes in to listen frequently. They're caught together and have to marry. Miss Seton is timid and sweet and her flamboyant mother has always made her feel inadequate; Whatshisname compounds this by becoming convinced that he must mold her into a social success. Charming.

Marring the Major, Joanna Maitland. This was annoying. It could have been a nice Tortured Soldier story; instead, she has the heroine she describes as socially adept, poised, etc. behave incredibly badly. The hero is nasty to her. The external action plot is badly integrated with the story. Also, it's very convenient that the guy who's blackening the hero's name is such a coward: convenient and not plausible.

Madcap Marriage, Allison Lane. I like Allison Lane a lot. This book, unfortunately, showcases all her faults: melodrama, overacting, didacticism. She is very concerned with the evils of society, an odd preoccupation for a writer of Regency romances. Read something else by her: I like Birds of a Feather best, I think.
pocketgarden: (Default)
I reread this today, and I'm very upset because the copy I just bought is missing thirty pages! Bad print run. Damn.

Moonrise is cool because it is, as [profile] melymbrosia says, a romance that ends with me being certain they're going to be kiled in the next few minutes. Some happily ever after. It's a creepy romantic suspense novel: Annie Sutherland is trying to find out who killed her father, and why, and discovers way too much. She is not quite as passive as many of Ann Stuart's romantic suspense heroines. He, on the other hand, is one of the few assassins in a romance novel whom I actually believe is an assassin. They are both nuts. The novel is dark and intense and doesn't fall apart plotwise the way some of Stuarts' do -- Nightfall just had a dumb setup, and Still Lake was annoying. The sex is hot if you like dark, twisted, and psychotic.

I want my thirty pages, though. Need to find a better copy.
pocketgarden: (Default)
I considered putting this in my regular journal, because this is generally genre fiction. Then the post got long. The book is a self-help book. I won't normally talk about the self-help books I read: I suppose I find them kind of embarrassing, because I read a lot of them. Some I find useful; some I don't; I am probably looking for confirmation of my own preferred behaviors, but I'm hoping maybe some useful stuff will rub off. How to Be a Star at Work is interesting because it has lots of strategies that I hope will be useful. Click here for a fifth-grade-type book report, in which we discuss the plot at length. )
pocketgarden: (Default)
I haven't really liked Jo Beverley's romances for several years: they seem to have trailed off into seriesitis and boringly excessive plots which detracted from the emotional relationship of the characters. They've been okay, but not as good as her earlier Georgians and Regencies. I liked St. Raven, her book just previous, better, but also felt that she was recycling plot elements a little too obviously. Thus, I didn't get around to reading Winter Fires, Yet Another Malloren Book, for quite a while after I got it.

I just finished Winter Fires, and am surprised by how much I enjoyed it, especially considering what a large role her previous heroes and heroines had to play in the story. Beverley is especially bad about letting previous characters take over the plot, but I didn't feel it happened here: her beloved Mallorens both had a more intrinsic part to in the plot (no Rothgar ex machina this time), and their personal relationships were kept in the background more than usual. Reading this, I've decided that's what really bothers me -- when the author spends too much time catching us up on how happy previous hero and heroine are. There was a little billing and cooing, but it didn't impinge upon the main characters too much.

And I did like the main characters. Genova Smith is an admiral's daughter; she's travelled the seven seas and fought pirates, but now her father's retired and wants a quiet life. He has remarried a perfectly nice woman she doesn't get along with at all and they are building their own traditions, without Genova. She is delighted to accept an offer to travel with two elderly ladies to their grand-nephew's Christmas party. Grand-nephew is, of course the Marquess of Rothgar, the head of the Malloren clan to which Beverley has devoted so many novels.

On the way, they are stopped by a coach in the ditch with a woman and a baby. It is bitterly cold; they agree to take the baby and its wet nurse on to the nearest in to meet "Mrs. Dash's" husband. When Genova finds him, "Mr. Dash" is stunningly handsome and extremely rude. He also kisses her. He insists that the child is not his; he starts out convinced that Genova is involved in whatever plot "Mrs. Dash" has against him. He turns out to be the Marquess of Ashart and Rothgar's enemy. Hijinks ensue.

This book has many of Beverley's strengths without all the weaknesses that had been annoying me lately. Like many romance writers, she makes peace between the families; unlike many, it's not a inane, convenient peace. The heroine may be a peacemaker, but she's not stupid and doesn't behave badly in trying to force the issue. Ashart is gorgeous, spoiled, and stifled by his wicked grandmother; when he makes an inane comment about war, Genova rightly brings him to task because she's actually seen it. The emotional relationship somehow doesn't seem as compressed as many of Beverley's have lately: even though Genova and Ashart don't spend that much time together, there's a progression of intimacy, we see real conversations that touch on important matters. (Ok, so she kind of highlights them too much. This is only unusual in romance in that she is highlighting what I would consider real progress: the sort of comments that indicate the character has put down his or her guard, even without quite realizing it.) These aren't the heavy-handed psychological conversations some authors rely on, either.

I liked the plot: it's pleasantly complicated without spinning off into Dunnett dementia. (I don't mean that Dunnett's plots are demented, just that some writers who seem to rely too much on her plotting style go out into lala land.) It's focussed on the characters -- the setting is a short house party over Christmas, and there's mercifully little "action," which would have been inappropriate in context -- and doesn't get away from that. If this weren't a romance novel, I could make the argument that some things were too easy; but it is, and they're harder than normal for the genre, so I'm happy. The Christmas stuff also didn't bother me, but Beverley is usually okay with that.

Beverley has been one of my favorite romance authors for a long time: when she's good, she's very very good. When she's bad, she's ok. I think that Winter Fires is one of the good ones.
pocketgarden: (Default)
[profile] melymbrosia didn't like the pages and pages of exposition about cinnamon rolls in McKinley's Sunshine.. I loved them. Therefore, this is a book to read if you like to read about cooking. Do you read cookbooks for fun? Don't you wish your cookbooks had more sexy vampires in them? I'm mostly annoyed that she didn't have recipes.

While there are valid complaints -- Sunshine's magical powers increase to meet any situation -- I didn't mind any of the problems, because I liked the main character so much. First-person exposition just doesn't feel to me the same as third-person exposition: I do go off on long thoughtful explanations in my head about things, so it makes sense to me that a first-person narrator would do this. I liked the expanding magical powers in a Mary-Sue-Reader kind of way, even if I occasionally reminded myself, this is silly. I didn't care. This book was fun.

Sunshine is the baker at a local coffee-shop in a post-magical-wars world. One evening she goes where she probably shouldn't, but it ought to be safe -- but this time she is captured by vampires and offered up as bait to an Ethical Vampire they are starving. She and the vampire escape and she gets caught up in the magical world. All the while making cinnamon rolls: I liked how grounded the character was in ordinary things, even if sometimes she was stubbornly, absurdly grounded in the ordinary. It also made her superpowers more palatable to me -- she's just the baker next door.

And I still want the recipes, dammit.
pocketgarden: (Default)
I expected to dislike this book; in fact, I got it in a kind of bitchy wanting-to-complain mood. I felt like reading something I could shred. That I actually thought it was ok says a lot. Not wonderful, but not horrible or offensive.

It's an ordinary gothicky regency historical, and while one of the villains was homosexual, it didn't seem to me he was a villain because of being gay -- he was a villain because he was a weak, selfish person, not because all gays are bad. At least, that was my take on it. And the other, worse, villain was het.

Mrs. Verity Osbourne is sold in a wife sale, the lower-class equivalent of a divorce. The problem is that she's well-born and there's no prearranged buyer. The crowed watching the sale becomes almost moblike. James Harkness, while originally determined to remain uninvolved, is horrified, and to prevent worse from happening, he bids on her himself.

He is, of course, a Tortured Nobleman who still has nightmares from the war. His wife died in Mysterious Circumstances and everyone blames him. You can write the rest of the plot from here. It's ok -- the initial reason for the sale doesn't make sense, the PTSD issues were far too easily resolved, and the whole bringing-James-back-into-the-community plot was too easy, but at least the grounds for the annulment of her first marriage were historically correct. The interactions between the characters are sweet.

So. Not perfect, but not awful -- and given the mood I was in when I read it, probably better than I'm describing.

The cover, on the other hand, is too, too stupid.
pocketgarden: (Default)
As a reviewer for a swanky book blog, or something, I got to read an early copy of Laurie Marks' Earth Logic.

I don't know what to think of it. So here are lots of incoherent spoilers. )
pocketgarden: (Default)
Ok, I just read a Kleypas novel. I've liked her before all right; a bit overdone, but not horrible. But this one drove me up the wall. I'm not sure it's even fair to name it, so I won't. There are real flaws in it (a servant would not gossip about their host's sexual proclivities in front of a small child, or at least the mother shouldn't allow it, and the contrived way to get said small child to dinner with the adults so she could ask charmingly innocent questions regarding such proclivities was nauseating). But I don't think it's nearly as bad as I hate it.

For one, I despise the Robber Baron With A Heart Of Gold stereotype. It is actually more common in contemporaries, but it's seen in the occasional historical. Perhaps I am a pinko commie or something, but I don't actually believe that one can become as fabulously wealthy as such books describe -- wealthy enough to force his way into very exclusive gentlemen's clubs, wealthy enough to buy a da Vinci -- and still be a good person. I don't care how personally involved he is in his charity projects. (Indeed, with that kind of wealth, that makes me think even less of him: because it's implied that he "does better than just throwing money at the problem," but there's no way the guy would have enough time to personally supervise very much in the way of charity, and so it feels to me as though this personal involvement is a nice limiting factor on the giving. Hire people to do this, dammit.)

Sometimes the authors do point out what an absolute bully they are in the City, but with the excuse that he's only bullying toffs and other wealthy Cits, and look how much he gives ordinary people! I'm not saying that anyone who's that wealthy was of course personally throwing widows and orphans out into the street. I am saying that I don't believe they got that way without that sort of thing happening a lot. And that the character is thus inconsistent in verisimilitude (does that make sense, or should I explain it) as well as inconsistent as described? Making money is not just a Midas touch some people have: to be that wealthy, you have to take it from someone else. The characters based on this stereotype always seem to me to be pretty schizophrenic, not in a good way. [Frex, I recently read an article about how a certain tycoon was such a good manager, so in touch with his people, so preferred to speak with his ordinary workers! The company? Wal-Mart.]

Now that I think of it, I believe that money is a zero-sum game. I'm not sure I'm right. I'm not sure I'm not. But you'd better figure out an economic justification for this kind of character.

My other gripe is the offhand proposal scene, which happens in many books. Hero is madly in love with Heroine! Hero is pining! Hero feels worthless before her grace/beauty/charm/wit/dimpled knees! And then he offers marriage: "If you're so intent on marrying a man you don't love, take me." I'll take care of you, you poor helpless thing. You won't have to move back in with your kindly but overbearing relatives. I know you're panting after me. Oh, you're saying no? Well, don't come back.

Oh, lovely. that's just the proposal every woman wants to hear. Look, I don't care who proposes: but the person who does so had better say something about actually wanting it before I'll feel much sympathy for the refusal. It would make me very happy. I would be delighted to have someone with your grace/beauty/charm/wit/dimpled knees at my side. Please do me the honor. In other words, you are not just my charity-case-cum-lust-muffin.

I am not going to throw my heart over the windmill for someone who has asked for my hand, but expressed no interest in actually having it. I would have stuck with the Nice Friend, whose affection may have been tepid, but who was at least willing to mention it. (Of course, I have no personal issues on this subject. No, indeed.) Hero may really feel himself not worthy of Heroine. But that doesn't excuse him, in my not so humble opinion, from offering what he has. This "I'm not worthy and I can't offer you anything so I just won't, so there" crap is pretty obnoxious.

Thus endeth rant.
pocketgarden: (Default)
The Viscount's Vixen, Joan Overfield: Not bad at all, but I had to look at it to remember much. I found that the Obvious Sequel Couple were a tad more interesting than the main ones. Why is it that bluestockings are never as truly intelligent and eccentric as the author supposes?

The Devil's Bride, Stephanie Laurens: It was...all right. Stephanie Laurens is a Big Name. The Bar Cynsters are a big deal in Romance. But it left me pretty cold: The heroine's ambitions to travel aren't given enough credence by anyone -- not herself, not the author (who makes them rather ridiculous, when she is otherwise portrayed as very practical), not the hero. I tend not to like stories where the hero's notion of "pursuit" means something more like "refuse to respect no for an answer on anything." Also, I skimmed all the sex scenes.

No Place for a Lady, Katharine Greyle: The general opinion on Greyle, looking at her reviews, is that she has the spark, but not yet the craft to get all the way through the story -- I'd have to agree. I thought this book started very well and dwindled badly (which is why I was looking at reviews: my opinion jumped around so much I wondered if I were just in the wrong mood). It's by turns funny, farcical, charming, and utterly stupid.

Captured Innocence, Susan Sizemore: It's so utterly and completely fluffy that I wonder she could write it. Kit is a spy with a heart of gold and a wacky spy family, and Lily is a princess who really just wants to get back to her sheep. The whole thing is just not up to Sizemore's usual standard -- or maybe it is; the first book of hers I read made a permanent impression, and nothing has matched up since.

I think I'll go read Susan Grant.
pocketgarden: (Default)
I am not going to finish this. Continually describing how your main characters are "in a trace" and "asleep" for their entire lives does not excuse their lack of agency. It's beautiful, but unpleasantly empty. I do not require characters I can sympathize with; I do require characters who have, well, character.

I have tried a few different Tanith Lee books, but only liked the YA Unicorn series. Even Red as Blood, her book of fairy tale shorts, left me pretty cold, though I don't recall specifics. The ideas are fascinating and the writing is lovely, but it's a cold story about automata, and I don't have to finish it.

Isn't that great? I can stop.
pocketgarden: (Default)
Gregory Frost's Fitcher's Brides is an interesting, beautifully written rendition of the fairy tale Bluebeard. Bluebeard is a story in which women's curiosity -- sexual and otherwise -- is brutally punished. So, unfortunately, is Fitcher's Brides. I think that Frost tries to get away from that; but he does not succeed. Instead, he seems to add "religious" to "not a virgin" to the bad brides, and "intellectual" to "virginal" for the good bride.

I'm rather angry about the whole thing.

Vernelia, Amy, and Kate's father and stepmother move them to a Millennialist utopia cult in upstate New York. There, the sisters one by one marry Elias Fitcher, a charismatic preacher, and then disappear. In the end, the last sister manages to save them all.

The author decides early on that he doesn't like the elder two sisters, and so they don't have a chance: at least, that's how I see it. For example, consider Vern's sleepwalking episode, in which her sisters find her in the attic covered with blood: while they know she's bled far too much for just her period, no one does anything about it besides clean her up, or think anything's worth doing. (Nor, by the way, does the author seem to note that there's a difference between menstrual blood and venous, which given how much there was should have been covered better.)

I think it's probably a miscarriage. Someone who sleepwalks through that and doesn't react afterwards isn't being given a chance.. The elder sisters are silly and vain and asleep when it suits the author. Kate, whom the author likes, is pure and heroic. When I look at their behavior without the author's lens, they're not all that different -- and much of what Kate is is defined by her sisters, and vice versa, in a family roles thing that results in character but not (in my opinion) fault.

Frost seems a bit taken with Fitcher's own psychosis regarding women, and his divergence from that is not one to make me warm to him: Vern and Amy are sexually experienced and religiously credulous, so of course they get to die. Kate is virginal and skeptical, so she succeeds: except she had only one night with Fitcher. The other girls had several weeks each. Yes, Kate did better in her one day with her husband, but she also had the mysterious disappearance of his previous brides to warn her. From the text, it seems clear to me that she wouldn't have lasted very long. She was lucky.

I'm very cranky about this book, obviously. I can't recommend it; it's beautiful, but icky. It's not entirely the author's fault that I feel so strongly about it -- Bluebeard is a story that I have always hated passionately, in no small part because of its resemblance to my own family. But he should have done better.
pocketgarden: (Default)
Holder of Lightning, by [personal profile] sleigh. You expect me to remember pseudonyms? Even in my library, I file under the name I know, whether it's the name in the book or not -- Katherine Blake is next to Dorthy Heydt, etc. I have several of Stephen Leigh's books. I have not read them, because I did not believe it was possible to write a book as good as the title A Quiet of Stone.

Holder of Lightning is really good. It's possible that I am biased because I like [personal profile] sleigh, but I don't think so: after all, I've disliked stuff by authors I quite like. Where's the damn sequel? Want it now.

The book is set in a pseudoceltic sort of world, but that's a good thing -- there's so much going on otherwise that I wouldn't have been able to absorb Splendiferous New Fantasy Setting, and the details ring true. There are peasants and economies going on behind this world, and people's reactions to the changes that are happening as sky magic returns are realistic and unpleasant.

Jenna Aoire is the daughter of a widowed sheepcrofter in a small village. When the "mage-lights" return after centuries, she finds a small stone that turns out to be the master of the magic stone. The power of the mage-lights will fill this stone, and then she'll be able to open all the other magic stones, and many people will have access to the power. As she's the one with the master stone, she'll be the most powerful -- assuming she survives.

Of course, everyone wants the stone, from the nobleman who comes to take them to the local king (and takes up with her mam) to the soldiers who destroy the village to the ghosts of former holders to sea-creatures unseen for thousands of years. In addition, the stone itself causes excruciating pain as it soaks in the power of the mage-lights; to cope with it, Jenna addicts herself to a drug that relieves the pain, but has psychotropic effects.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of a some of the best stuff -- or at least, the stuff that should have been great -- about Star Wars. The stones have a similar place in the story to light sabers, though they don't have the same effects; the politics are as complex (if more realistic), and I seriously began wondering halfway through whether Jenna was going to do an Anakin Skywalker.

One word of caution: don't read this if you want a happy ending. It's complex, absorbing, and very dark. Nearly everyone she cares about betrays or turns against Jenna by the end; people who just shouldn't do that in stories, do. The ending is satisfying nonetheless, and there are so many directions for the second book to go off into that I really can't wait.

Flowerdust

Sep. 27th, 2003 10:50 pm
pocketgarden: (Default)
I read Gwyneth Jones' Flowerdust, and never said anything about it. I meant to.

The book is set in the middle of Divine Endurance, during part of the stuff we didn't know. Much too much time was spent explaining backstory, robbing it of one of DE's great wonders, the slow exploration of this new world from the point of view of a a complete innocent. All the characters are there, and some new ones, too.

My main problem was that it explained too much about the marvelous, magical Peninsula of DE, and I honestly don't think the explanations quite add up. When I decided that DE was fantasy, everything worked; Flowerdust keeps doggedly dragging it back into science fiction, and it seems mundane and clumsy. (I remember being outraged when McCaffery tried to explain Pern.)

Finally, a novel with Deviant Heterosexual Love seems, I don't know, a bit retro. The gender politics were interesting, but seemed a bit obvious and behind the times. The book wasn't written that long ago.

Eh. I just liked Divine Endurance better, that's all.

Books

Sep. 27th, 2003 10:41 pm
pocketgarden: (Default)
I am so far behind on books that I will never catch up.

  • Forests of Serre, McKillip. Loved it. Not as good as Ombria, but what is?
  • Kushiel's Dart, I enjoyed reading it, but I kept wanting to yell "shut up, you racist twit" at the narrator. The racism, and the weird conception of masochism (only one "real" masochist in three generations!?), are increasingly squicky on consideration. I probably won't read the second book. I probably will read the third.
  • Cupid's Dart, Maggie MacKeever. A new MacKeever! Joy! Well, maybe not. She wrote Regencies in the '70s, fun frothy farces. This was also fun and frothy, but the backstory was insufficiently explained (I missed why the heroine was estranged from her family) and I a) hate pet points-of-view and b) do not find untrained dogs endearing, but a very poor reflection on their owners.
  • Absolute Pleasure, Cheryl Holt. This is one of those erotic romances. As long as the author kept to the main story, it was quite good. However, the subplot convinced me that I will not even take the book to a used bookstore. I may burn it. I do not care how nasty and ill-tempered the heroine's stepmother was; marital rape is not ok. Ever. And a book that presents it as justice utterly infuriates me.
  • The Devil You Know, Liz Carlyle. Way too much backstory that I didn't remember from the previous books, but pretty fun anyway.
  • To Sir Philip, With Love, Julia Quinn. I'm a sucker for epistolary romances, though I'm usually bored by Quinn. I figured out everything well in advance, but it was still a nice story.
  • Pyramids Plus, Sharyn Craig. A quilt book. I'm madly in love with it.