wilderthan: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
[personal profile] wilderthan
I'm always saving reviews up until I have a bundle to post -- and then the bundle gets too big. Oops. My reviews on goodreads always get posted as I finish the books in question, though, so follow me there if you want more regular (and more complete) updates on my reading material.

Oh, and starting this update, I'm going to try and put a little description by the cut, since I'm guessing it might help people find the reviews of mine that they're more interested in.

The Inventor's Companion (Ariel Tachna)

I went up and down on whether I liked The Inventor's Companion for the first 50% of it. I like the setting, and the fact that it's a serious exploration of a caste system, rather than something done purely for titillation. I quickly got to love Gabriel for being a decent guy, though perhaps too good to be true. I got very fond of the supporting characters -- there was a lot of attention given to developing all the characters, which has been somewhat lacking in some of the other LGBT books I've read. It was a fully explored world, I think, bar for the fact that obviously it will develop after the political events of the story. Which is good, too: it's a satisfying, complete story, but there's scope for development, and I think it will be a series, according to what I've read.

I'm not sure what the problem in the first 50% or so was: I just didn't connect with the story at that point. What did get to me was the tension between Lucio and Gabriel, the feelings that grew between them, and the ways they found to be together. The fact that they communicated their problems and tried to work through them. And the supporting characters, too: their friendship for Gabriel, their growing understanding of and sensitivity to politics.

The steampunk aspects of the story are in the background, and feel natural to the story. It isn't really about the machines: they're important, yes, and the fact that Gabriel is an inventor is entirely necessary to the plot and to his interactions with others, but it isn't about "oooh, exotic machines!".

I think I'll read any sequels to this, but I wouldn't be dashing for them. I'd probably want to wait and get them for a lazy, self-indulgent afternoon, and read them in one go to get into the world and story.

Oh, warning: it has a fair number of fairly explicit sex scenes, most homosexual and one heterosexual. It includes lots of references to forced sex.

The Anvil of Ice (Michael Scott Rohan)

The Anvil of Ice reminds me of a lot of other fantasy I've read -- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Magician by Raymond E. Feist, for a start -- in its narration and in the way it begins. Some parts of it I found very interesting and different: the whole idea of the Ice, for one, which I want to know more about.

On the other hand, Kara bothered me. She was introduced in a flash; Alv/Elof cares about her all in a flash; she never seems to do anything significant to the plot. Obviously there are two more books in the trilogy, but she seemed somewhat superfluous in this.

I found the gods here interesting, too, and wanted more about them: we learn very little about them, all things considered. I do like the way we don't get infodumps in this book: we don't know the whole history of the world, the whole mythology of the gods.

Another slightly annoying thing: racial stereotyping. All Ekwesh are evil, hurrhurrhurr -- without any further thought than that. I do like subtlety in my fantasy. Again, perhaps something that's resolved in the other two books, or at least alleviated. I will be picking those up at some point: I am intrigued, though it took me about half the book to feel really enthusiastic.

The Winter Ghosts (Kate Mosse)

The Winter Ghosts felt more like a novella than a full novel: it was a very quick read. Mind you, I found Kate Mosse's other books to be very quick reads, too. It's funny, though, with her books -- I don't remember much of the plots, only the scenery therein, and the devices she used to tell the story (thankfully not in operation here, though it still feels a bit clumsy, of which more in a moment). I have a vague recollection of feeling comfortable, of curling up with the books with rain outside, but not of the actual plot. I have a feeling this one will be similar within very short order.

It's a ghost story, but not exactly creepy, and a lot of the tension that could be there is taken out of it by knowing that, to tell the story, the narrator has to have survived, at least in some sense. The main character is a bit character-less, defined mostly by the death of his brother and his driven urge to help the girl he meets, Fabrissa. I guessed all along what the plot was, but there was still the draw of the scenery, the quiet feeling of snow on stone and the branches of trees.

The structure is clumsy in that I can't believe the narrator of the middle chunk is actually sitting down telling his story in that way. It's very contrived, and the tone is more that of an internal monologue than of a storyteller.

So, yes, a curl up with for a cosy evening sort of book. It's fun enough, but unmemorable to me.

The Drowning City (Amanda Downum)

I picked up The Drowning City somewhat on a whim, this morning. A couple of my friends loved it, a couple didn't like it so much but loved the second book, so I thought I would be reasonably likely to enjoy it, but wasn't in a hurry to pick it up. I read it in one day, though (six sessions altogether, taking only two and a half hours in total), and while I wasn't utterly compelled to keep reading -- I was fine with stopping and playing Persona PSP for a good chunk of the day -- I wasn't forcing myself to read either, by any stretch of the definition.

It's a pretty easy read, irritating in places because of the made-up language. It took me a while to get hold of who was doing what and why, but once I did, it was easy enough to keep track. There are several strong female characters, which I enjoyed, and -- you know, I find it a little horrible that I am actually about to remark on this with surprise -- I don't think there was a single rape threat in the whole thing. I've grown so used to that, lately. Anyway, it goes through three POVs, in limited third person, all of them female, all of them distinct. I don't feel like I got that strong a sense of people's motivations, now I think about it: I'm not sure what keeps Isyllt doing what she's doing, anyway.

I liked that the characters aren't impervious: Isyllt is permanently injured, for example. Actions have serious consequences: magic doesn't solve everything.

All in all, I enjoyed the politics -- shades of Kushiel's Dart, a little, but without all the sex: there's no explicit sex here at all, actually, it's all fade to black -- and the world, which was fairly vivid and well-explored: I think my only complaint is that I didn't feel so emotionally attached to the characters that my heart was in my mouth when they were in danger. It lacked immediacy, somehow.

Going to read the second book either tomorrow, or maybe on the train/Eurostar on Monday, which does show how interested I got.

The Bone Palace (Amanda Downum)

I enjoyed The Bone Palace more than the first book, The Drowning City. I think it was mostly because I got more interested in the characters, and thus got more interested in the plot for what it did to/with them. I got hooked pretty much as soon as the reader meets Sevedra: I love the fact that she's a transgendered person holding a significant position in court (the prince's mistress), that it's obviously reasonably well accepted in her world instead of people saying she isn't really a woman, that she and the prince and the prince's wife arrange something between them -- that it isn't a cut and dried case of a prince and his unwanted wife and his beloved mistress.

What does drive me absolutely crazy is the number of reviews misgendering Sevedra. Apparently the stigma is that strong that people can't even pick up on the fact that she's referred to as female throughout the book. She's not intersexed. She's not a transvestite. She is not a man. She is transgendered; hijra is the word used for it in the book.

Ahem. I'll climb down off my soapbox now. Anyway, Isyllt really wasn't the focus for me, as you might be able to tell. I think that worked better in this book, too, than in the first: the different points of view didn't fit together with an audible clunking noise, but blurred into each other. No jarring at all.

The story itself -- politics, possessions, fascinating history (the old palace, wow, I wanted to know more about that), personal histories between people (what's with Spider and Isyllt?), genre-crossing (Isyllt basically acts as a detective)... It came together very satisfyingly, for me. Will definitely get the next book, as soon as I can.

The Half-Made World (Felix Gilman)

I'm not sure I enjoyed The Half-Made World. I was intrigued by it, which is something different. There's nothing here to hang your hopes on, to get emotionally attached to: the Linesmen are interchangeable, the Line unpleasant; the Agents of the Gun are as bad or worse, though at least they're individuals; the General is nothing but a tool for the plot; Liv is colourless... Even the Republic is hollow. The narration follows a Linesman, an Agent, and Liv, who is neutral. It really just emphasises that there is no right or wrong: it's a sea of moral ambiguity. I don't even know what moral goodness would look like, in this world.

Creedmore is, despite being despicable, at least an interesting character. His conflict, his relationship with Marmion, his unpredictability and irreverence... If I kept reading for any of the characters, it was for him. He's colourful, at least, even if it's the colours of hell!

The world itself is interesting -- the concept of it, the idea of the Line and the Guns, and the half-made nature of it as you go out West. I was intrigued by the steampunk and Western aspects (though, again, I'm not sure I'd use the word enjoyed). Some of the most interesting things, the Folk, drift around on the outside...

And it's all very inconclusive. Has anything changed, at the end? It doesn't feel like it's waiting for a sequel -- it just trails off.

Despite all of that, which sounds very critical, I was (here's that word again) intrigued: I kept reading, all four hundred and eighty pages of it, which is something.
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