wilderthan: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
[personal profile] wilderthan
Two batches of reviews for you, this fine morning.

Rivers of London (Ben Aaronovitch)

I first came across Rivers of London on the Kindle store, and downloaded the sample. I was intrigued by the first chapter, and put it on my wishlist. A friend or two read it, and finally one lent me his copy. He thought I'd tear through it in one go.

Not quite true, as it happens. Oh, all in all, I think it took about two hours to read, but sometimes a few days would go by without me reading more. It reminded me a lot of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books -- which is not really a compliment, coming from me. They were similar in tone, and something about the narrators was similar. Thankfully, I didn't pick up on the same type of waves of misogyny -- sorry, I mean chivalry -- but I wasn't entirely happy. Do guys really think with their dicks to this extent? Leslie was, most of the time, a great character -- and then I was left feeling rather like she'd been there as a plot device all along. To fill in that role, of Pretty Polly, who is a silent onlooker and untroubled when wooed by a murderer...

Not a great start for women in this series, particularly with the nubile Beverley eventually used as a hostage, and then the whole thing ending with vagina dentata...!

To some extent, it depends what happens to Leslie now. Is she just the instrument for trowelling on Peter's manpain? Or the exposition tool to help Peter figure everything out? Or will she have a plot of her own?

I will be reading Moon Over Soho, though I did think Rivers of London also had a few problems with pacing, but I won't have the same tolerance with it. I do like the idea -- actual, officially sanctioned members of the constabulary dealing with supernatural events -- and I do love a good crime story when it falls together reasonably well.

Moon Over Soho (Ben Aaronovitch)

I found Moon Over Soho more compelling than Rivers of London, somehow. It was a bit unputdownable, which is a quality I've been missing in my books lately, so that's nice. Yeah, Peter's led round by his dick here, too, and fails to think about things because he's too busy having sex with them, and yeah, he's got serious manpain over Leslie, who he also makes do all his menial work, but... The plot moved at a decent pace, and set up some plot threads which will no doubt be ongoing.

It still reminds me of the Dresden Files, and I'm still not enamoured of the treatment of the female characters, but it didn't irritate me as much as I expected -- I think I'll continue reading this series. (Mind you, I didn't give up on the Dresden Files right away, so there's still time for it to annoy me.)

I read it more or less all in one go -- in three sessions, in one day -- so that's definitely a bit better than the first book, which took me seven reading sessions over just over a week's time. So if you were only planning to pick up Moon Over Soho if it was better than Rivers of London, showing that bit of improvement, well, it does.

The King's Peace (Jo Walton)

It took me a while to get into The King's Peace -- I knew from the first few chapters that it would be a slow burn. Which is was, but I ended up loving it. It's an alternate history -- think like Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne, I suppose: the places and people are given different names, but all the same you can trace it back to real events in our history -- with touches of fantasy. It explores the Arthurian mythology, without ever using those names (e.g. Arthur is Urdo, Guinevere is Elenn), and it explores an alternate theology and the meeting of different peoples and gods.

One warning -- the novel pretty much opens with a rape, and the issues that arise from that rape are revisited quite a few times. I didn't find it particularly graphic or upsetting, and I thought it was reasonably well-handled, but still, it is a theme.

Anyway, it's narrated by an original character, Sulien. She is a female warrior who rises to lead Urdo's own troops. The story follows her as she joins the ranks and fights for the peace Urdo so desperately desires. It took me a while to become attached to the characters -- and I think constantly comparing them to Arthurian characters and trying to figure out who was who was a barrier to that -- but I came to believe in Urdo and his kingdom, his hopes and dreams. I believed in Sulien, very much, and in her awkward relationships with her family and her son.

I enjoyed that Sulien was not a sexual being. Sex is part of her world, but she has no desire for it, and according to her statements at the beginning of the book, she's never coaxed into liking it by any man. She simply doesn't want to, and that's that.

I'll be going straight onto The King's Name, at speed. The book ends at a most unfair time.

The King's Name (Jo Walton)

The King's Name is a direct sequel to The King's Peace. It follows some forms of the Arthurian legend fairly closely, in terms of Mordred, Arthur and Guinevere, anyway, but of course Sulien is something entirely new. It's still fairly predictable to anyone who knows the Arthurian canon quite well -- in the way that Arthurian stories are: heartbreaking in their inevitability.

Everything comes together very well: I believe in the characters' motivations and their ends. I loved the confusion between Darien, Sulien and Urdo, the tangled-up feelings, the platonic love between Sulien and her lord. I made a comparison to Guy Gavriel Kay in my first review. That does stand, but I do have one caveat: I didn't cry at these books. I gasped and yelled that people were idiots and caused my girlfriend to look up in consternation more than once, but I didn't cry.

I found The King's Name a faster read than The King's Peace -- yes, it's shorter, but I also read it faster. I think that comes with already knowing the characters and the politics and such.

The Prize in the Game (Jo Walton)

I liked The King's Peace and The King's Name, but I loved The Prize in the Game. I read The Tain recently in preparation. It turns out to be a straighter (heh) retelling of The Tain than the Sulien books are of Arthuriana -- though, of course, I think The Tain has just one source text, whereas the Arthurian texts are a disparate bunch.

The fact that it's a fairly direct retelling threw me a little, but it isn't a bad thing. It's a very human version, especially in its portrayal of the deep love between Ferdia and Darag (hence my 'heh': in one sense, this isn't at all a straight retelling: Ferdia clearly loves Darag romantically). I found Emer and Conal less interesting, less mature, especially given that I know what they're like as a mature couple from the Sulien books, but I was intrigued to learn more about Elenn, and her love for Ferdia. The brief human glimpses of Atha are lovely, too.

The fight scenes are well done, and I love that the women are equally as much involved in fighting as the men. The society is well thought out, and believable, particularly after reading the Tir Tanagiri books, and is nice at a glimpse of pre-Christian-analogue Ireland.


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