wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
Prince of Annwn (Evangeline Walton)

Prince of Annwn is the first in a series of retellings of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion. Evangeline Walton wasn't Welsh, but nonetheless she made herself very familiar with the sources, and while she added to the story, there was nothing that I could see that wasn't in the spirit of it. She expanded and humanised the stories of the Mabinogion, giving Pwyll more of a journey and an arc of character growth, and adding a conflict between older faiths and new ones. At times there was a bit of endorsement of the 'Universal Spirit' idea: "In essence all Gods are the same, and one; but few mortals have glimpsed that Untellable Glory, and no human mind may hold it." Which, given that I'm a Unitarian Universalist, appeals to me.

Evangeline Walton's prose is clear and easy to read, and while at times there's a touch of the archaic about the phrasing and such, it doesn't get ridiculous or bogged down in it, and sometimes Pwyll's thoughts are refreshingly modern and direct. There are some beautiful passages, too. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the tetralogy.

The Children of Llyr (Evangeline Walton)

The second of Evangeline Walton's retellings of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion, The Children of Llyr is heartwrenching. The story of Pwyll, Prince of Annwn -- it's harrowing enough at times, fearing that he's messed everything up, that nothing will be good again... But the story of the children of Llyr is something else again, the destruction of two races, of a whole way of life.

It's better than the first book, to my mind: it got under my skin so much, so that I could hardly bear to keep reading, but I could hardly bear to stop. I fell in love with Manawydan, especially, and ached for Branwen, for Nissyen, and even at the end for Evnissyen. Evangeline Walton really brought the tales to life, here, and made them feel vibrant and urgent and pressing. She had to add less, I think, to make the story interesting, so it's also perhaps more true to the source.

My only complaint is the slight preachiness, near the end, where Bran the Blessed talks about governments and so on. It's an anachronism, which the text acknowledges, and it pulled me out of it.

There's such a sense of inevitability, of doom, of all the bright things going dull... I loved it. Much as I love the stories of the Mabinogion, my heritage, they weren't set on fire for me until reading this.

The Song of Rhiannon (Evangeline Walton)

The Song of Rhiannon, a retelling of the Third Branch of the Mabinogion, isn't as powerful as The Children of Llyr, which is a relief, in a way. There's a time of healing for the characters, as well as what they suffer during the action of the story, and there's a happy end for them as well. It continues to follow the characters of Manawydan, Rhiannon, Pryderi and Kigva. There are actually few other characters in the story, fleshed-out or not, but the character of the Bogey made me smile quite a bit, as did his interactions with Manawydan.

Once more, Evangeline Walton brings the characters to life. I can't remember anything in the Mabinogion about some of the elements she introduces, e.g. about Pryderi's father, but they all seem to belong quite naturally.

If I didn't already care about Pryderi, Rhiannon and Manawydan, though, I don't know how much I would have loved this book. The retelling of the Second Branch is the strongest so far, and can stand alone, but this can't, to my mind.

I have serious love for her version of Manawydan, in all his wisdom and dignity and his love for his land.

The Island of the Mighty (Evangeline Walton)

Island of the Mighty retells the last branch of the Mabinogion, the story of Gwydion, Arianrhod, Llew Llaw Gyffes, Blodeuwedd and Goronwy. It begins with a retelling of stealing the pigs belonging to Lord Pryderi. Gwydion uses this to provoke war, allowing his younger brother to rape the king's footholder. This also leads to the death of Pryderi, which doesn't endear Gwydion to the reader who has also read the retellings of the other three branches -- and also to the disgracing of Arianrhod and the birth of Llew Llaw Gyffes.

The themes Evangeline Walton explored in the other books come to fruition here, as power passes more and more from women to men, even power over birth and the rearing of children. Arianrhod is not very sympathetically dealt with, I have to say: often Walton's work suggests that the passing of women's power is a bad thing, but Arianrhod is capricious and unkind, considered by characters and text unnatural -- for the crime of not having wanted to bear a child! Blodeuwedd isn't treated with much sympathy here, and the other women are barely characters.

It's hard to sympathise with most of the characters here, particularly as they stir up war, steal, lie and trick each other. I still enjoyed it as a retelling and think Walton dealt well with the material, but I wish she'd been kinder to Arianrhod and Blodeuwedd, who were both unable to fit in the patriarchal society that wanted power over women's bodies, and expected them to abide by two conflicting sets of rules.
wilderthan: ((Books) And shoes)
A Memory of Wind (Rachel Swirsky)

When I saw a review of this book, and found out I could download it free from Tor.com (here), I was intrigued. I love stories about Greek myth -- actually, retellings of any myth -- and especially those which bring back the lost voices of women of these stories. So I downloaded it right away. It's a short story, really, so it doesn't take very long to read, and it drew me in from the first paragraphs: the way she describes Iphigenia going toward the sacrifice, losing everything she had before, is amazing.

There was one moment at the beginning which put me off, and that was the description of Odysseus as really wanting war. If I remember rightly, in the Iliad, he actually pretends to be mad to avoid going to war, and is only pulled into it when they prove he's sane by the fact that he won't run over his son with the plow he's using.

I liked the view of Clytemnestra this offered -- the moment in the cart when Iphigenia looks at her mother's hands, knotted by arthritis. That's a really powerfully real image, to me.

The writing is poetic, evocative. I really liked it, and especially the very last paragraph, which works so well.

The Monster's Million Faces (Rachel Swirsky)

This short story is available at Tor.com, here. I didn't like it as much as The Memory of Wind; Rachel Swirsky's writing is as effective, here -- more to the point, perhaps, sharper, somehow -- but it didn't sink its hooks into me. Perhaps because I didn't let it, because I've had therapy, and it is hard, and this situation just seemed... too easy. Even though it takes so many tries for him to get something that worked, it still seemed too easy. Perhaps if there had been more doubt, more emptiness at the end -- maybe if it had ended on the line, 'No reason at all,' where the reader is left to do that bit more work. If the story ended there, you're left to wonder if that scenario really did ever lay anything to rest, or whether the narrator was still left without any help. I guess because I believe that everyone is different, that no one thing works for everyone. I do believe there is a cure for everyone, but I don't believe in forcing everyone down the same path. I wouldn't even want my mind altered in this way.

Maybe the technology is possible, maybe it will be like that one day, but for now it felt like cheating. It didn't ring true.

Eros, Philia, Agape (Rachel Swirsky)

Eros, Philia, Agape is lovely. It's available, like the other short stories by Rachel Swirsky that I've been reading, on Tor.com, here. It's a lovely story, which reminds me a little of Isaac Asimov's The Positronic Man -- except more emotional, more evocative, more tender and more sad. Despite how short it is, it creates a world and characters I fully believe in, and the writing is lovely. My heart was in my throat while reading parts of it, just for the aching tenderness in it.

I think perhaps my favourite detail is that little Rose wants to be a robot like her father. Of course she does, it makes so much sense, and the way she insists on it is just -- ouch, my heart.

Oh, and I love that there's a gay couple in the background, matter of fact and loving.

(A warning, though: there are brief descriptions of childhood abuse and rape. They're very brief and not explicit.)
wilderthan: ((Akihiko) Oh yeah?)
A while ago I promised some Welsh Fiction in English reviews. Here goes... Organised by author, with a little preamble.

Allen Raine )

Caradoc Evans )

Lewis Jones )
wilderthan: ((Dr Horrible) Status quo)
The Forever War (Joe Haldeman)

The Forever War is pretty pacy, easy to read. Sometimes the long descriptions of technology or warfare get a bit wearing, and there isn't enough of the human angle, but by about halfway through, I was starting to care without realising it, and by about seventy percent of the way through, I felt like I got a kick in the stomach when one of the few things that seemed like it was going to be a constant stopped.

I know very little about the Vietnam War, so I know very little about the climate this book came out of. The end, the moral of the story, reminds me a bit of Ender's Game, and something in the tone and so on reminds me of John Scalzi's Old Man's War. I definitely didn't like this as much, though.

At first glance, you might either see it as annoyingly homophobic (the main character is a homophobe, just a bit) or somewhat encouraging (whole societies become exclusively homosexual, with heterosexuality being deviant). I think it's a bit more complicated than that. There's the narrator's prejudice -- examples in this review -- and then there's the fact that he ends up being the only one, but the thing that clinches it is, for me, the end. For all that I'm emotionally engaged in the particular couple, it irritates the heck out of me that at the end, heteronormativity wins: the main character meets up with his female lover, and one of his surviving homosexual friends decides to get therapy to make him straight.

I don't know where Joe Haldeman stands when it comes to sexuality, now or back in the seventies, but I think The Forever War does come out on the side of heteronormativity, in the end.

Forever Free (Joe Haldeman)

I really enjoyed Forever Free, a direct sequel to The Forever War, with many of the same characters -- up to a point. I liked the set-up, although it was slow, because it rang true for the characters and promised more adventures to come. It was obvious that it was going to go wrong, of course, but that was going to be the interesting part.

And at first, it definitely was. I was intrigued by what scientific explanations Haldeman would come up with, and vaguely thought I remembered reading about the ruins of an older civilisation on some of the planets mentioned in The Forever War, and wondered if it was anything to do with that... There were hints from the Taurans about going into the unknown, okay, so maybe there is some clue somewhere as to what happened...

And then things went weird. Suddenly a new set of aliens showed up, but they had nothing really to do with it and were just an exposition device. And then -- pop! Another alien shows up, and shit gets philosophical.

It didn't hang together, for me.

Forever Peace (Joe Haldeman)

Forever Peace is an interesting book in itself, describing how the group mind from The Forever War/Forever Free could come about, but I didn't really engage with it very much emotionally. Partially because the main character, Julian, is self-destructive and emotionally off. It's self-defence, perhaps. It's not a headspace I want to spend much time in. At least it's reasonably well handled.

It isn't really connected to the other books very closely, either, which doesn't help, and the switching between first/third person is odd: sometimes it felt natural, and at other times, really jarred.

I enjoyed it, in parts, but it sort of leaves me shrugging a bit in ambivalence, too. I didn't have the same compulsive drive to read just a few more pages that I did with the other two books.

And a quick opinion poll: I've been reading a lot of Welsh literature, and have been posting the reviews only on goodreads. Would anyone like a selection of my reviews of Welsh lit (probably the ones of my favourites) to be posted here, or are you all as ambivalent as I thought you would be?
wilderthan: ((Gale) Demons)
Reminder: I don't post all my reviews here, so add me on goodreads (here)if you want to see all of them.

Don't Look Back (Josh Lanyon)

Started reading this when I was awake with a stomach ache at five in the morning. It's very readable, and kept my attention, even in that state -- and I finished it in one go today. It's pretty standard fare for Josh Lanyon, in the sense that there were no surprises, but he always manages to make it readable, and I enjoyed the character growth these particular characters had to go through, particularly that surrounding Peter and his friend Cole.

The sex scenes were pretty numerous, given the dream sequences, but there was one in particular that was really effective. The others I could've taken or left, but there was one in the middle that I thought was really well done and revealed things about both characters and their relationship.

I also liked the background friendships with Roma and Jessica. It'd be nice if there'd been more of their involvement, rather than the rather expositiony way they were handled.

For lazy, quick reading, I really have to learn that there's none better than Josh Lanyon. I'd been a bit reading-blocked, if that's possible, just working away on The Decameron and course books, but hopefully this unstoppered it a bit.

Shards of Honour (Lois McMaster Bujold)

Normally I wait to post reviews here until I've read the whole series, but that'll be quite a while with Bujold, so I'll give her a tag of her own instead.

I've been meaning to read Bujold's books for a while. Everyone has sung her praises, it seems -- though there hasn't been a reliable consensus on which book to start with, Cordelia or Miles, so I finally plumped for doing things chronologically. I'm told the later books are higher quality, but I do like to begin at the beginning.

I didn't really understand the hype about this book, in any case. I did enjoy it, but it didn't blow me away: I've read plenty of speculative fiction which I found fresher and/or more profound. I did enjoy the characters, but I didn't live in their skins with them; it was reasonably well paced, but there were sections where it was far too easy to put the book down. I didn't get deeply absorbed in the political game being played, either: it was functional, certainly, but not riveting. I did get quite involved with the fate of Bothari, and there was horrible pathos in the situation with him and Elena. That aspect of the books isn't simple at all, and I did connect with that. The aftermath section really affected me, too.

Definitely looking forward to continuing with the series, but not deeply in love with it (yet?).

Blackberry Wine (Joanne Harris)

The first time I tried to read Blackberry Wine apparently wasn't the right time to try to read this book. This time, though, I read it practically all in one go -- with, yeah, a glass of wine. Joanne Harris' prose is always easy to read, really clear, and I can believe in the characters she creates at least enough to carry on to the very last page. Joe, in particular, rang true with me: a miner's son, a gardener, a Yorkshire lad... Jay, perhaps not as much, particularly not at the beginning, but yes, enough that I cared what happened to him.

I love the everyday magic that Joanne Harris' characters work. Just normal enough that you can believe it's true for a while. Just close enough to coincidence or wishful thinking that if you can't step over into fantasy, you don't have to.

I don't think I'm likely to reread any of Joanne Harris' books: I guess to me they're a bit like chocolate, or a bottle of wine. You can only have the experience once. But I do greatly enjoy them, and will be sad when there are no more that I can read.
wilderthan: ((Books) Stack)
01:20: Earlier I posted a picture of one of my companions. Here's another: Archimedes the Owl.

Still working on Gentlemen and Players. Suspecting what the plot twist about to happen is going to be. Feeling like this is going quite slowly. I'd like to read about eight books, altogether...

02:37: Finished up Gentlemen and Players, review here. Found it very predictable -- disappointing, since I normally find Joanne Harris' work solid and satisfying. Not sure what next -- it's a bit early for me to dip into the children's books, especially since I seem to have woken up a bit.

03:42: It's late. I'm trying to restrain the desire to send my girlfriend really sappy texts about how much I miss her. I'm reading The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (Josh Lanyon) and wondering how (not if) the main characters are going to get together.

I'm also feeling a bit lonely, since my IM buddies are all either so absorbed in books they're not interested anymore, or asleep. Bed isn't really looking that tempting, though.

04:53: Finished another book, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks, review here. Parts of it made me giggle, but it was quite sweet in places, too. Not sure what I'm gonna read now.

05:40: Reading The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge), which is nice. Just got a couple of snacks and splashed cold water over myself to wake myself up a bit. It worked! For a while, at least.

06:59: Still reading The Little White Horse. So very very sleepy.

07:56: Finished reading The Little White Horse. Review here.

09:35: Now reading A Kiss Before the Apocalypse (Thomas E. Sniegoski). Keeping me awake much better than The Little White Horse: I might even dare to lie down.

10:30: Done, and review posted. I need to get reading again fast. I just took a break to eat breakfast, and now I'm nodding off again. The Neverending Story (Michael Ende), now, I think.

11:50: We're almost there. I'm reading The Neverending Story, as I thought, but it's quite slow going, because I'm so tired.

12:30:: I'm not going to finish The Neverending Story before the end of the thon, but I'll probably keep reading this afternoon -- I'm at my parents' house, there's not much else I can do! Anyway, here is the last mini-challenge...

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? What was 7am-9am to me, I think.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? That really depends on what an individual reader likes, though, doesn't it? If you like mystery stories, like I do, you might enjoy Josh Lanyon's LGBT romance/mystery books, or the story of an ex-angel turned private eye, A Kiss Before the Apocalypse and its sequels, by Thomas E. Sniegoski.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Not really, I didn't feel so overwhelmed by links and such as I did last time. But that could just be experience... To be honest, I didn't participate much in stuff like the mini-challenges, this time. I didn't interact with people as much. Ways to get people connected to each other are good.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I don't have anything specific to say.
5. How many books did you read? Eight.
6. What were the names of the books you read?
-Octavia Butler, Fledgling.
-Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories.
-Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
-William Shakespeare, King Lear.
-Joanne Harris, Gentlemen & Players.
-Josh Lanyon, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks.
-Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse.
-Thomas E. Snigoski, A Kiss Before the Apocalypse.
-Michael Ende, The Neverending Story. (Not finished.)
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Let's see. Fledgling was probably technically the best, but A Kiss Before the Apocalypse was the easiest to read and suited my mood best.
8. Which did you enjoy least? The Shakespeare, I'm afraid. Me and the Bard don't get on so well.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't. But I have to say I felt most encouraged by comments that made some sort of personal reference, e.g. to what I'm reading, rather than just doing a generic cheer.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Definitely, as a reader.
wilderthan: (Default)
It's the 24 hour read-a-thon tomorrow! I'm going to have a bit of a spanner in the works, in that I'm going to be going to a concert -- Karine Polwart -- tomorrow evening. But I'll take along my Kindle/my iPod with a Kindle app, and we'll see what I can do.

I have quite a pile I'll be drawing from tomorrow, and I don't expect to finish even half these. But this is what I might be reading:

Not many dead tree books this time.

-Sarah Rees Brennan, The Demon's Lexicon.
-Lois McMaster Bujold, the Vorkosigan series.
-Lois McMaster Bujold, the Chalion trilogy.
-Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories.
-Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
-Eoin Colfer, the Artemis Fowl series.
-Michael Ende, The Neverending Story.
-Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse.
-Joanne Harris, Coastliners.
-Joanne Harris, Gentlemen and Players.
-Stephen King, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
-Josh Lanyon, Don't Look Back.
-Josh Lanyon, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks.
-Annie Proulx, Fine Just The Way It Is.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series.
-William Shakespeare, King Lear.
-Thomas E. Sniegoski, the Remy Chandler books.
-Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Like last time, I'll start a new post after few hours, but in between those, I'll be editing a post until it gets -- to my mind, anyway -- too crowded. I'll start in here, so if you're interested in my progress, check back tomorrow! I'll be updating on what I think of the books, plus linking to my reviews on goodreads.

12:35: Just gearing up to go. Got plenty of sleep last night, just had a shower. Now I need to dry my hair, eat a bacon sandwich, and find my first cosy reading nook of the day. I'll be starting with Octavia Butler's Fledgling, which I'm partway through and haven't finished. I'll probably update every hour or so!

13:43: Finished Fledgling; my review is here. Onto a collection of short stories, Bloodchild and Other Stories, also by Octavia Butler.

14:12: Introduction meme time!

1)Where are you reading from today? My parents' house in Yorkshire.
2)Three random facts about me… I'm an English Lit student, my Kindle is called Desmond, I used to be a ballerina. There, a nice random assortment!
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? A lot. I haven't counted.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? Not really. I'd like to beat last time, which was seven books.
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Don't drink too much caffeine, or you'll end up needing to pee wayyyy too much.

15:35: Still working on Bloodchild. I've found that reading short stories is actually a bad thing -- for me, anyway -- because instead of getting to settle into something that sweeps me away, I keep having to get into it all over again. And sometimes not, and then I struggle.

I've also started drinking some coke. It's cold and fizzy and caffeinated, so I decided I'll have one or two cans during the 'thon. The next one will be during the night, I think. In the meantime I'll have juice. I'm technically not meant to drink coke, during Lent, but I'm exempting myself for this!

16:21: The hour four post asked about reading companions. Here's mine -- Helen Hippo, my teddy since I was two days old, now nearly twenty-two years old!

I finished Bloodchild: my review is here. Now onto The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark).

18:37: Finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, review here. Not sure what I'll read next -- possibly King Lear, according to my plan, but perhaps I'll move right on to one of the Josh Lanyon or Joanne Harris books.

I won't be updating for a few hours, now. It's more or less time to go to the concert. I'll be back around midnight, at the latest! Hopefully I'll have read at least one more book by then.

00:01: Back from the concert! It was fantastic, though I did read through most of it. I put the book down firmly when she sang "We're All Leaving", though, largely because it always makes me cry... In the meantime, I've managed to read King Lear (William Shakespeare), review here. I'm also almost halfway through Gentlemen and Players (Joanne Harris). Settling down to that with a glass of smoothie (cranberries, blueberries and cherries -- all fruits I dislike on their own, but apparently don't mind in combination).

Mid-event survey...

1. What are you reading right now? Joanne Harris' Gentlemen and Players.
2. How many books have you read so far? Four and a half.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I've always heard a lot of good things -- worship even -- about The Neverending Story (Michael Ende).
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I didn't free up my whole day. I just attended a concert.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? The concert, errands, dinner, a bout of motion sickness in the car. I read through them where possible and put up with it where not!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I, as a lit student who reads in Old and Middle English and Old Norse, can be so bloody thrown by Shakespeare.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Try not to be attending a concert on the day.
9. Are you getting tired yet? A little, yes.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Apparently Innocent smoothies help greatly. I'm perking up, anyway...

I think with the next hour, I might make a new post. I like to start them with a photo -- any requests?
wilderthan: ((Gale) Demons)
Storm Glass (Maria V. Snyder)

When I first got my Kindle, the Glass books -- or maybe just the first one? -- were on offer, so I got them then, remembering the Study series as fun, easy to read, but vaguely trashy. I just looked over my reviews for the Study books, and I think I remember more clearly what my problems were. And, to some extent, I think they're less in evidence in this book. I don't think I had a particularly deep connection to Opal, the narrator of this book, either, but it didn't jar me either, so that's alright. There are romantic scenes, but again, they didn't bother me as much -- less clichéd? I'm not sure. There's something very hinky going on between Devlen and Opal: he has sex with her under very, very false pretences, so that part bothered me a lot -- or rather, it bothered me, in the sense that it rang false, that she didn't seem more bothered by it. I did like Kade, and actually rooted for the main pairing of this book, so that works.

One of the things I disliked, the sense that all the supporting characters disliked the main character for being special, remains. The thing with Pazia seemed almost a repeat of Roze and Yelena, although admittedly my memories are blurry. And the other thing, my dislike of how Yelena became more and more special, more and more different, seems to be playing out here too. It'd be nice if Opal remained a One Trick Wonder, in a way, and came to terms with it, rather than realising she has massive superpowers.

All in all, I enjoyed it, though. I know the list of complaints makes that hard to believe! But it's easy to read, and the plot is reasonably compelling, and there's enough up in the air at the end of this book that I want to pick up Sea Glass and get stuck in immediately. I have a lot of criticisms of these books, but less than I did of the Study book, and they do have that same compelling quality that makes me want to read on.

Sea Glass (Maria V. Snyder)

Sea Glass felt more like the Study series all over again. I'm not really surprised, as Maria V. Snyder seems prone to using tropes, etc. Opal did seem different to Yelena to me, owing to her different background, but now they're starting to become more similar -- she's learning to fight, she's picked up two soldier-protectors, she's gaining more and more power...

The end of this book did help. I have no confidence that the situation is going to last -- I've already started reading Spy Glass as I write this review, so I'm not quite able to separate the end of one and the beginning of the other, so bear with me -- I know that Opal's already special in the way she's lost her magic, too. I'll be much happier if the events at the end of this book have actual permanent consequences.

The main reason I got these books still holds true, though: they're easy to read, quick, and pretty fun. This managed to hold my attention on the train despite restlessness and anxiety. Admittedly, a more complex and better book might not have done simply because of the concentration needed, but whatever. It was still a good distraction.

Spy Glass (Maria V. Snyder)

Spy Glass, the conclusion to the Glass trilogy, really rubbed me up the wrong way. It's interesting, in the way that all the strands of the story come together, but I didn't believe in the conclusion. I don't believe in reformed criminals, or in settling down and having babies with someone who raped you, abducted you, etc. I didn't believe in Kade giving up on Opal so easily, and I didn't believe in what felt like a very rushed ending.

It left a rather bad taste in my mouth, really. Like the other books, it's a quick read and relatively absorbing, and I liked the larger role Valek had in this book, but I felt somewhat... betrayed, I guess, by the ending. I don't have all that much to say about it, given that.
wilderthan: ((River) Walk alone)
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Allison Bartlett)

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is definitely the wrong title for this book, because that's really not what this book is about. The love of stories is something I can relate to, easily -- or even the love of beautiful first editions. The amoral antics of a thief who wants to have books as a status symbol, and the wishy-washy morals of the story-hungry writer, are not something I can sympathise with as much. And I increasingly worried about the latter. She could have reported thefts of books worth thousands and thousands of dollars; she could have reported credit card fraud; she could have helped to discover where Gilkey hid the books.

By the end of the book, I wasn't sure that she would do that last -- and I knew she didn't report the thefts or the fraud. She becomes an unreliable narrator, I think. I mean, humans already tend to be, because even the most honest of us have fallible memories. I was almost more interested in that increasing swing to being on Gilkey's side.

In any case, as a book, it's easy to read, though not exactly glittering prose. It's a collection of recollections and personal musings, none of which I found particularly interesting. The more interesting figure of Ken Sanders, the "bibliodick", was rapidly written out as he began to notice the author's growing bias and unethical practices.

Lifelode (Jo Walton)

I've loved everything I've read by Jo Walton, but it's so hard to rate them in relation to each other, because they're each so different. I enjoyed Lifelode more than Tooth and Claw, but perhaps less than Farthing -- yet I rated both four stars. I loved Among Others most of all her work so far, and I'm not sure Lifelode matches up... Maybe I should be rating all her work that I've read so far five stars, except Tooth and Claw.

Her range of work is fascinating. Her books are not like each other, and yet all of them are well-written and ambitious, and succeed very well with their ambitions. The narration of Lifelode, for example, is done in both past and present tense, because for one of the main characters, time is like that: all things happening at once. I expected to see more of the more distant past, through Taveth, but it was very much about that generation, the people she knew. It's a very warm book, full of family bonds and love.

It's also interesting in that polyamory seems to be the default, and Jo Walton treats that sensitively. There's a sense of great strength in the relationships, but also an acknowledgement of the problems they'll succeed. There's also LGBT people, and one who seems pretty much asexual. She always writes about all kinds of people, and that's another thing I really appreciate about her writing.

It's also nice that the gendering of roles isn't a really big thing here. Taveth is a housewife, but she chooses that, and her role is central to the functioning of her home. But even a female priest is still just called a priest, not a priestess.

I've managed to say all that and say nothing about the plot. It's a domestic fantasy, although there is also a level on which it is about gods. I think the homelife is as important to the story as the bursts of fighting, and the magic -- the bonds between people are, I think, more important, as they are what is under threat. Don't go into it expecting a big showdown at the end, or something like that.

Child of the Northern Spring (Persia Woolley)

I really wasn't impressed by Persia Woolley's version of Guinevere's story, to begin with. The transitions between past and present were clumsily done, and this version of Guinevere wasn't anything particularly new. It reminded me very much of Mercedes Lackey's version of the story, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, except that this Guinevere is less of a warrior-type. They had definite similarities, though, with the deaths of their mothers, their links to Epona, etc.

However, as it developed, I came to enjoy it much more. The prose never really rose above mediocre, in my opinion, but the characters were well presented, and their relations to each other well thought out. The glimpse of a young, angry Gawain was fantastic, though too brief for a Gawain-lover like myself, and I particularly liked Bedivere. The relationship between Arthur and Guinevere also felt real, and I sort of don't want to read the rest of this trilogy, because it will separate them. Although not inevitably, I suppose: Sarah Zettel's books sidestep that issue, why can't others?

Another thing I appreciated was her care in the author's note regarding the choice of place names and such. She chose to call the Welsh people the Cumbri, which is nice, given that the word "Welsh" actually comes from the Saxon word for "foreigner". I think she navigated that well.

So, all in all, surprisingly satisfying -- I think I will track down the other books.
wilderthan: ((Quistis) Sophisticated)
Because Jo Walton is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers, and because I loved this book, and because this is a new book and I think people should buy it, here is my review of it, all on its own, immediately I've finished the book.

I tried to write this review without spoilers, but it depends on what you consider to be spoilers. I think it's a book based more on characters than events, and I don't think knowing some of the events will spoil the whole, but you might want to exercise a bit of caution...

Jo Walton -- Among Others )
wilderthan: ((Mitsuru) Angry)
The other promised catch-up post.

The Years of Rice and Salt (Kim Stanley Robinson)

Rather than a novel, this is more like a series of short stories/novellas. It follows the same characters through various incarnations. In some of them the connections are easy to make, in others it's not so easy. The alternate history aspect is interesting, and couldn't have been fully explored without this device, I suppose, but I found it jarring to be jerked from time period to time period, culture to culture, and I never really fell in love with the characters as continuations of the previous characters. There were characters I found interesting in each separate story, but I didn't necessarily like them in their other incarnations, I mean. If I had, maybe I'd have cared more.

As it is, I ended up abandoning this book for a while, and almost skimming to finish it. I really liked "The Alchemist", and kind of wanted more of it than that -- that and the first story especially stick in my head.

An interesting idea, but the execution didn't work for me. I might reread it someday.

Always Coming Home (Ursula Le Guin)

I expected to take a long time over Always Coming Home. In a way, I wish I had: there's a lot in it, and a lot to reward a slower, careful reading -- this time I went plunging through it for the narrative, such as it was, enjoying the layers of understanding that came to me, imagining and figuring out what I didn't know. I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, this time: another time, I think I will. I just wanted to fly through it, this time, total immersion in a culture that does not exist.

Always Coming Home is a collection of stories, of fake-histories, of poems and plays and things that do not neatly fit into our genres, belonging to a culture that does not exist. The first note says it best, "The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern Carolina." It seems to be the story almost of the Native peoples, and then it begins to mention computers and other technologies of our day... The way the world came to be this way isn't really seen clearly, only seen in its effects on the people. It's very interesting to read this way: interesting, and frustrating, because like real history, it doesn't always show you the bits you most want to see.

Ursula Le Guin's writing is beautiful, as always, and easy to read and understand despite the invented words and concepts. I sort of imagine this as the way she might build up any culture, in any book, through the scraps of their literature and histories that come to her... It's quite a nice thought, actually.

I didn't read the "Back of the Book" section, preferring to keep things vaguer, not spelled out. I will probably read it one day, but not now.

Though I greatly enjoyed this, I don't know if I'd dare recommend it to anyone. For me it required some patience with the original idea, which turned into delight as Ursula Le Guin once more captured my heart. For others, who didn't find Earthsea compelling, it'd be dry as dust, I think. And as with many books, but particularly with those that are a bit different, someone might find they love it, when they have never loved Le Guin's work before -- or that they hate it, when they've always loved her work.

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit (Mercedes Lackey)

Mercedes Lackey's version of Guinevere's story is mostly distinctive in her choice of sources: she has taken elements mainly from the Welsh tradition, and tried to weave a coherent story out of them. The three Gwenhwyfars named in the Triads, the abductions by both Melwas and Medraut, Gwenhwyfach... It's very interesting that she chose to use the Welsh tales.

The subtleties of the relationship between the Christians and the pagans in this story were also an interesting decision. Normally people draw them as diametrically opposed: this co-existence and slow merge is an interesting way to look on it.

However, her characters and plotting are not particularly distinctive. The first three quarters of the book is rather slow, and she doesn't even meet Arthur in that time. Her time with Arthur is largely glossed over, too. She's a Celtic warrior-woman, and a scout, but ultimately that doesn't seem that important... the most important thing in it is her moment of sacrifice, sacrificing that to her duty when she goes to marry Arthur. And even then, I don't think that moment has the power it could.

The relationship with Lancelin is profoundly unsatisfactory, and seems almost a by-the-by to add a touch of romance. If something more was done with them at the end, maybe...

This is a fun enough read, and based on some interesting ideas. But it's a bit slow at times, and it's not exactly a deep and involved retelling

Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham)

The Day of the Triffids is a book I've meant to read for a long time. Sometime way back when, I forget quite why, Dad told me the basic story -- not with characters, just the basic ideas -- and as an impressionable little daddy's girl of probably about eight years old, it stuck in my mind.

I actually expected something a bit more trashy than this, after some reviews and comments I read. It's certainly got the seeds (heh) for a lot of horror writing -- Stephen King's work is quite similar in some ways, in The Stand and Cell. It's got some ideas that're creepy as all get out: the lurking triffids, genetic experiments, satellites full of plagues and nukes and god knows what, the return of feudalism...

In a way, I've read this book before -- nothing that happened really surprised me, because I've read enough post-apocalyptic fiction to have thought about how things would work out if [xyz] happened. It's a reasonably realistic guess at how things would've turned out if this was all the case, I think.

It's a reasonably compelling read, too. There's a chapter full of back story, which drags a bit, but for the most part it goes along at a pretty good pace, and there's genuine anxiety about whether Bill and Josella will find each other again and so on.
wilderthan: ((Books) And shoes)
Butterfly Swords (Jeannie Lin)

Given that this was published by Harlequin, I wasn't really holding out very much hope of it being a good book. Still, when it was mentioned during the discussions of the cover of Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix, I decided I'd give it a try when it was out, and have finally got round to it. It does have an Asian woman on the cover, and she is indeed holding a butterfly sword (though she should have two, I'm told). So it's winning there, at least.

From her author bio on Goodreads, though:

"After four years of trying to break into publishing with an Asian-set historical, her 2009 Golden Heart Award–winning manuscript, Butterfly Swords, sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon."

At the very least, she deserves better than a publishing house associated -- among the people I know, anyway -- with dreck and exoticisation. I don't know much about the historical setting, really, and since I don't read much in the romance genre, I have little to compare it to in terms of exoticisation. There wasn't anything that made me deeply uncomfortable, at least, but how much that is worth from a white reader...

In any case, the main character, Ai Li, is a strong woman. Not "fiesty", but fierce, honourable, great-hearted, willing to do whatever it is she has to do. She's naive, too trusting, but she never simply expects Ryam to look after her. She is willing to take care of herself, and to some extent capable of doing so, without being a superwoman.

Ultimately, some of the episodes seem to have little point -- the interlude with Lady Ling, for example -- and the characters aren't going to stay with me. I have truly no idea how plausible it all is. But it's a reasonably enjoyable read, I wasn't bored, the sex scenes were reasonably well-written, the story didn't feel like just a vehicle for the sex scenes... As an undemanding read to relax with on a Saturday afternoon, it was good fun.

Kindred (Octavia Butler)

Shelved as fantasy, rather than SF, because while it deals with time travel, that aspect isn't explained at all. It simply isn't the focus: it's set up enough that the main character can go back in time to that of her ancestor, and forward again to her own time, but there's no explanation of why it starts or how it works. In a way, I do wish there'd been more of that, but ultimately it isn't the important part.

Octavia Butler writes well -- not just interesting writing, but writing that is just easy to read. There's no barrier to enjoying the story: the writing isn't ornate, but it's not too simple, either. Personally, it walked a perfect line, and the voice of Dana -- the narrator -- worked well for me.

The stories alternates between the 1970s -- Dana's time -- and the 1800s, when she had a white, slave-owning ancestor. The co-dependency she has with him, and the way things fall apart at the end, are well-drawn, and the contradictions of liking him somewhat while knowing the kind of man he is... The way she's trapped, forced to play the role of the slave, is a little heart-breaking. Someone else's review talks about wishing Dana were a stronger character, but when you think about the time period she was put into... a different kind of strength was needed then, which to some extent she develops, and some of which is beyond her...

I liked the inclusion of her (white) husband, Kevin. He seems to be a great guy -- not untouched by the world he ends up spending five years being a part of, but fighting it all the time -- and one likes to hope that the two of them manage to be happy after the end of the book. It's a big strain on their relationship, after all.

I'm not sure how articulate I'm really being! In any case, I found it fascinating and definitely recommend it, with the caveats that you have to be okay with the lack of explanation, and with slave narratives. And if you're one of the white people who has read this book and complained about the racism towards white people shown in it, think about it this way: a) however little you like it, it's historically accurate, and b) it's not about you.

Both times I've read a book by Octavia Butler, I want to immediately go out and find the rest. So I expect I'll read some more soon.

Enchanted Glass (Diana Wynne Jones)

In a way, all Diana Wynne Jones' books remind me of each other. There's something very similar in the style of them -- though Enchanted Glass is perhaps a bit more subdued than the others -- and yet also something fresh, every time, something in the tone... A feeling, I suppose, that I wish Diana Wynne Jones would come and tell me bedtime stories, in a way: something about her stories would make my toes curl with glee at the same time as I would know it would be okay to go to sleep.

Enchanted Glass has the same sort of pitfalls as most of her other stuff: somewhere in the last few chapters, everything that got kinked up straightens out with a jerk. And then there's a happy end. I've sort of got used to it, started seeing the signs, so when the rug starts to go from under my feet, I go with it. So now I can't really judge what effect that moment would have on the unsuspecting. If you're a fan of Diana Wynne Jones' work, though, it won't be a problem.

I finished my exams today. This was a perfect book to unwind with. I loved Andrew most of all -- the mildness of him, I think, so different to the manic energy of Howl or the wizards from the Chrestomanci books. I liked the people of the village, perhaps especially Tarquin, and had such a soft spot for Shaun.

My favourite part was when Aidan used Excalibur as a verb (yes, I'm predictable). "I seem to have excalibured this knife," indeed.

It's -- fun. Not earth shaking or heart-breaking or even so very funny. But it's fun, and easy, and familiar.
wilderthan: ((Dr Horrible) Status quo)
The Killing Way (Tony Hays)

Now I've read a handful of historical mysteries, I'm starting to see trends -- the interest in the physical things surrounding the stories: how this was built or by whom, what purpose this serves, etc. I'm really not so interested in that: I know how castles are built, and often by whom, or at least what particular purpose they've served, and I am far more interested in reading about people.

Fortunately, to some extent, I can say that Tony Hays delivers both. He invents the central character, the narrator, Malgwyn, in a way that reminded me a lot of Bernard Cornwell's Derfel in The Winter King et al. A one-armed ex-warrior-cum-scribe, he's bitter toward Arthur for saving his life, still angry at the Saxons who caused his wife's death, and feels himself unworthy of being with his daughter, who he leaves with his brother to be raised by him. Woven around the murder mystery and political plot is his slow realisation that his life isn't over, that he has a family to take care of, and that killing Saxons doesn't satisfy his hatred and pain anymore. This is all reasonably well done, and despite being one-armed, Malgwyn is a capable warrior and, when not drunk, he is a clever man.

Which is, of course, why Arthur saved his life, and why Arthur turns to him when a murder is blamed on someone close to him. Arthur is about to take the throne -- or, as it's framed here, succeed the last Rigotamos, the head chieftain of all the Brythonic tribes -- and he needs to find out the truth of the murder, and fast, as other chieftains attempt to use it against him. The portrayal of Arthur is a familiar one, closer to the Arthur of Geoffrey's Historia or Wace and Layamon's Bruts than to the Arthur of French romance. He's capable, good in war, fair, and a Christian man, with Roman pretensions. Hand in hand with this goes the fact that figures like Lancelot and Galahad are not present.

More unusually, Gawain is not present either, and no relationship to Arthur is stressed. He's referenced a couple of times, but never appears. One of the main figures in the story, other than Malgwyn and Arthur, is Kay, who is treated very well here: he is noble and good-hearted, loyal to his lord, although supposedly he has a temper (which isn't really displayed much). I really enjoyed the portrayal of Kay, who -- like Arthur -- isn't touched by any of the French tradition. That's really what prompted me to give it four stars, despite not being really overwhelmed with the rest of it, which I found to be reasonably standard fare for a historical mystery story.

If you're fond of Tristan, you won't really enjoy his portrayal here. He's allied with traitors, and a coward, and the sort of man who mistreats women. It's an interesting way to choose to portray him, though.

Ultimately, it's easy to read, and kind of interesting to see which characters Tony Hays uses and what he does with them. I'll read the sequel, and likely anything else he writes for this series, but it hasn't even really approached my favourite Arthurian stories.

The Divine Sacrifice (Tony Hays)

The sequel to The Killing Way, this is another Arthurian mystery novel. I don't think you need to read the first book if all you're interested in is the mystery, but if you're interested in the emotional development of the main character, then you'd be better served by reading the first book.

I enjoyed The Divine Sacrifice less than The Killing Way, I think. It's less about Arthur, and Arthur's rule, particularly in the first half or so, and more about a complex situation involving both religious issues and personal ones. The answers to the mysteries weren't particularly a surprise for me, but nor was I particularly involved in them. The character of Patrick was an interesting one, and Malgwyn's development continued somewhat, but Kay -- a major feature of the first book, for me -- wasn't really present, and Bedevere didn't move forward to take that place as much as I could wish.

Another thing that bothers me is the... racial determinism. It's very black and white: Saxons are bad. The Scotti are bad. Admittedly, it's told from the point of view of someone who has no particular reason to be sympathetic in any way to the Scotti and Saxons. Still, Bernard Cornwell managed to make the Saxons the enemy at the same time as rendering them human -- I'm thinking of the narrator, Derfel, and his father... I suppose it could be moving to a less black and white view of the Saxons, as Malgwyn comes to terms with his reasons for fighting them.

Reading the author's notes is interesting, too. He refers to unsympathetic Welsh material, which I'm guessing must be the hagiographies, as I can't think of anything else I've read that is particularly unsympathetic.

(Sometimes, I long for a bibliography in books as much as I would in an academic essay. Hah.)

Tooth and Claw (Jo Walton)

Tooth and Claw is a Jane Austen-ish tale, of maidens with slightly compromised virtue, inheritances, betrothals, law suits... Except, all those involved? They're dragons. I really enjoyed how Jo Walton handled this aspect: she sets up a whole culture for the dragons, with plenty of history in the background -- not detailed so that it drags down the plot, which is very much about the present, but enough to feel real.

I have to confess, when I first started reading it, I didn't get into it very much. I picked it back up tonight, though, and read the last two thirds of it all in one go, giggling in the appropriate places and squirming on the edge of my seat, wondering how things could possibly turn out alright.

It's fun. It's inventive. It has characters you can get to care about -- I think my favourite is Sher: he seems so basically good, despite his flightiness initially, and he comes to care so much about Selendra.

My only quibble is in that something, whatever it was, in the first third that failed to catch my attention. And, I suppose, how much Jo Walton crammed in here that she didn't really get to examine in the detail I would have been interested in: the issues of the enslaved dragons, the foreign dragons, and the True Believers.

On further thought, that is just like Jane Austen, though, e.g. the light mention of the slave trade in Mansfield Park.
wilderthan: ((River) Walk alone)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Elizabeth Jewell)

I should probably be screaming at the liberties taken with Arthurian myth, knowing me, but I actually really enjoyed this. I found it hilarious to begin with: first with the inappropriateness of saying things like, "Camelot was a liberal place, after all.", and then at other observations which summarised what I've always really thought about certain knights, e.g. of Lancelot, "Gawain steeled himself for a long, drawn-out, nonlinear narrative of rescuing fair maidens from dragond, conquering supernatural demons disguised as human knights with fire-breathing horses, and getting oh so very close to the discovery of the ever-elusive Holy Grail and yet somehow once again not quite managing to bring it back to the castle."

Once Gawain left the castle though, it settled down a bit into something that was much better than I expected. Most of the elements of the familiar story are here, but used ingeniously. A tenderness and a tension does build between Bertilak and Gawain, and I began to need to finish the story to find out how things turned out for them. It didn't totally neglect women, either, as Bertilak's wife is a part of the story, is given a name and feelings of her own. The tenderness between her and Bertilak, despite their lack of attraction to each other, and their cursed situation, is rather lovely. The sex itself is pretty well-written, too: nothing egregiously bad, or inherently hilarious.

It all added up to a surprisingly satisfying story, which made me laugh along the way. I don't think one can really ask for much more.

(Just. Gaheris and Agravain are not Gawain's cousins.)

Cards on the Table (Josh Lanyon)

Cards on the Table is relatively short, but -- as with all Lanyon's work, actually -- I very quickly came to care about the characters. Jack is a good guy: not a jerk who you like anyway, but an actually good guy who has legitimate concerns about being with Tim. That makes him all the more likeable -- that his issues are understandable, even sensible. I actually liked him more than Tim, though there was nothing I particularly disliked about Tim.

The story of the mystery itself was well written, too, though decidedly -- personally, anyway -- second to the relationship developing between Tim and Jack. I didn't really get invested in the mystery, if that's any indication: the climax for me was the relationship between Tim and Jack, not the solution of the mystery.

Dangerous Ground (Josh Lanyon)

Whenever I want something quick and fun to read, I'm starting to realise that I should just pick up something by Josh Lanyon, since there's plenty of his work I haven't read yet (and isn't that a lovely feeling?). Dangerous Ground is more action/adventure than mystery, but the build-up of the relationship is as well-done as ever, and I quite liked the way he handles the action/adventure aspect. I liked the history between the two characters, and their helpless misunderstandings of each other -- which didn't embarrass or annoy me as they would in a chick flick, which just seemed real and believable.

My only quibble is that the main characters are very alike. Taylor and Will... for a while, I couldn't keep them (heh) straight. They are meant to be alike, with a lot in common, that's why they're drawn to each other, but they shouldn't be alike to the reader.

Still, plenty of fun, as well as being light and easy to read.
wilderthan: (Default)
Liar (Justine Larbalestier)

Not spoilery )

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps (Michel Faber)

Short answer: don't bother with this one; mild spoilers )

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Philip Pullman)

If you consider 'Christians say Jesus rose from the dead' a spoiler... )
wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
Seaward (Susan Cooper)

This is a lovely, lovely book. The tone and quality of the writing reminds me very much of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, although it seems in some ways more mature than that sequence. It's the first book in a while that I just couldn't put down once I got started -- I stayed up late to finish reading it. Fortunately, it's quite a quick read, so that didn't matter too much. It's also the first book in a long, long while to make me think that I couldn't actually go to Cardiff without taking it with me, just so that I could sometimes pick it up and reread a favourite part to make me smile.

I love the relationship between West and Cally. Somehow, in such a short book, Susan Cooper builds up a love story that I really feel and want to follow. The build-up of awareness between them is well done, even in so short a space. And the ending is beautiful -- the knowledge that they will find each other. It's enough, in a way, too: I would read more, and I do want more, but I feel it ends on just the right note, and neither too early nor too late.

The world of the story is magical, drawing on Celtic myth and making up a mythology of its own, as well. I love the descriptions of the world -- the chess game, the tower, Snake, Peth...

I'll definitely be revisiting this book. Probably many times.

Snowball in Hell (Josh Lanyon)

I love the way that Josh Lanyon makes me feel about his characters. I always seem to start feeling ambivalent, maybe not even caring that much, and then no matter how short the story is, I quickly come to care about them and feel very strongly about them. I grew to love Matt and Nathan very quickly, and to hurt for them, and also -- obviously, I suppose -- to believe in their feelings and their predicament.

Snowball in Hell also has a reasonably solid plot: I wasn't too far behind the game, but it wasn't horribly predictable, either. I didn't care about the plot nearly as much as I cared about the characters -- there wasn't enough danger to either of them of being suspects, I think, so they weren't as deeply connected to the case as I'd like. I mean, Nathan was a suspect, but it didn't seem for a minute like Matt would push that angle.

Shades of Milk and Honey (Mary Robinette Kowal)

I'm vacillating between two and three stars on this one -- it's not halfway between, I'm just trying to decide whether I'll give it credit for keeping me reading, or dock it for how very high its debt to Jane Austen's work is. It's basically a cut and paste job on Austen's characters and situations, and while the writing is competent enough, it doesn't have the same subtlety and humour that Jane Austen brought to her work. It suffers very much in comparison, because of its debt.

The fantasy woven into it lies awkwardly on top of Jane Austen's work, I found, and wasn't fully explored. For example, if the working of glamour is so essential to a lady, but so few men do it, why is there no sign of any assumptions of effeminacy that would likely go with that? There's a few hints that being a "glamuralist" -- a person who goes around making complicated artwork out of glamour for people who don't have the skill themselves -- is considered lower class work, perhaps, or is stigmatised in some way, but at the same time both male and female characters admire Mr. Vincent's work, and hardly seem to treat him with inferiority.

Something about the language Kowal used doesn't ring true for me, either. When you read Jane Austen, it's plain that she's writing in her own style, in a natural sort of manner. The style of this, though, is so plainly a copy of someone else's style, and the gaps show through in the choice of language here and there.

I think I'll settle for two stars, "it was ok", since I'm not turned off Kowal's work, and enjoyed it well enough to fill a few hours.


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October 2013

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