wilderthan: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
I don't think there are major spoilers in here, but just in case and since the third book came out very recently...

Review of the Naamah trilogy: cut for potential spoilers )
wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
A bit of a backlog of reviews.

St Peter's Fair (Ellis Peters)

Another lovely historical mystery, blending the two nicely, and bringing in political and religious concerns, with a light touch. I can't understand the handful of reviews I've read that think the Brother Cadfael books are too heavy, the prose too dense. It's nice light reading, as far as I'm concerned. But then, I read actual medieval texts for fun, so a modern historical novel is unlikely to faze me...

The thing that bothers me, slightly, four books in, is that every book pairs up the female characters. Granted, most women would've married, and it's not a though the characters become less awesome for being paired up, but it's starting to become very predictable.

Still, I quite liked the characters, this time round, and was glad to see more of Hugh and Aline.

Santa Olivia (Jacqueline Carey)

I didn't even know about Santa Olivia until I saw someone else mention it a month or so ago. Maybe that's a good thing, because I was in just the right mood to read Santa Olivia right now. It's not high fantasy, like the Kushiel books: it's speculative fiction, with a bit of flu pandemic apocalypse and an oppressive government. And Loup isn't like Phèdre.

Loup is the daughter of a genetically modified man. She's something like a female Wolverine, if you know your superheroes. She's stronger and faster, and she doesn't know how to feel fear. Her brother gets killed in a boxing accident, after somebody cheats, and she's determined to fight back, and she trains to be a boxer herself. I thought I'd find that aspect boring, but the other characters surrounding her, their motivations and how they begin to change, make even that interesting.

She's also in a relationship with another woman. The attitude toward love isn't like in Kushiel -- "love as thou wilt" -- but thankfully the point isn't belaboured either. It feels closer to realistic than the Kushiel books without hammering home that hey, people aren't comfortable with lesbian relationships. I was worried that this would be brushed off at the end of the book, that the love story aspect would just peter out, but it stays present right to the end, so yay.

Looking forward to seeing more of it, I think. It isn't as amazing as Kushiel, as far as I'm concerned, but I want to see more of the characters.

Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier)

I saw a lot of this book coming. The romance between Jem and Mary, such as it was; the evil albino stereotype; Jem's actions... The atmosphere itself is quite good: the damp chill of it came across well, and the oppressive feeling, and the horror of it... in fact, it rarely shed that atmosphere, even in the brighter moments. And the character of the landlord and his wife are, though still stereotypical, still reasonably well done. I could believe in Patience's cringing servility, and in the landlord's rages.

Still, beyond that, I didn't get very deeply involved in it. I wouldn't pick it up again, riveted by the story. The love story between Jem and Mary isn't very believable, partially because of the oppressive atmosphere and because of Jem and Mary's personalities. Mary doesn't seem like the kind of girl to fall in love with a rough and untender man like Jem, or to go running after him if she did. And she doesn't fight it, either.

Despite the atmosphere, which worked, I didn't really believe in Mary's feelings at all, actually. I didn't really feel her fear or loathing or desperation or love.

Wild Orchid (Cameron Dokey)

This series of fairytale retellings caught my eye as something that might be fun and quick to read. It was both. This story is a sweet little romance, with a strong female character at the centre, and it's not one of the typical Western fairytales either, though most of the rest of the series is.

While I enjoyed it, and read it very quickly, I wouldn't give it three stars because it is in no way historically accurate or culturally plausible. There's tiny hints at research into Chinese customs, but it doesn't come alive for me -- not in the way that, say, Cindy Pon's [book:Silver Phoenix|5577995] does. And while there's more depth to it than in a fairytale, it doesn't really manage to give it depth, or strength, or the great sweetness that could be in it. There are some lovely passages, actually, but most of the time it's prosaic, the first person narration isn't very distinctive, and the story could be set anywhere, with any characters.

Which is not to say that it's not fun to sit with it on a quiet evening, and it's reasonably absorbing -- I did read it all in one go, after all -- but it doesn't have the depth and life that I hoped for.
wilderthan: (Default)
It's odd to think how much I love the first trilogy and how much I struggled with the second trilogy. They're different kinds of stories, really, I think. The first trilogy definitely has love in it, and to some degree, magic, but there's also a lot of heroism-in-unlikely-places and politics. Politics and heroism definitely have their place in the second trilogy, but love and magic hold centre-stage. I wasn't expecting it. Another issue is that Imriel is a less mature hero than Phèdre, and his trilogy covers shorter spans of time.

The plot is definitely Jacqueline Carey all over, but Sidonie and Imriel just don't carry it as well as Phèdre and Joscelin, for me. All the same, I enjoyed it quite a lot, when I didn't stall with reading it. I think it's best to just bear in mind that it's a different kind of story. And that Imriel isn't Phèdre -- where Phèdre opens doors with her body, Imriel has to wait and chafe, and that carries through to the reader, I think!

In terms of this book alone, it definitely brings the trilogy to an amazing finish. The very last chapter made me grin and clap my hands. A lot of the events of the book are painful -- Jacqueline Carey, once again, spares the readers nothing. I think it's partly my hatred of lying/deceit/seeing people being deceived that makes this book very hard to read. There's a lot of that.

In terms of characters, Phèdre and Joscelin are unimpressive, in this book, for plot reasons. It makes me uncomfortable to see them so wrong, for once. I know they're spell bound, but I also feel like somehow they should doubt, somehow they should realise Imriel is right... Melisande is also another interesting point. It feels odd seeing her with much less ambition, content, mellowed out some by motherhood. I don't really like the point it makes about motherhood, in one sense. It shouldn't make you "soft". But I also like that she was redeemed somewhat.

I definitely liked this trilogy, even though I stalled with it, but my feelings are much more conflicted than with the first trilogy, and I don't think I'll be taking it up to reread very soon.
wilderthan: (Default)
Kushiel's Justice is the weakest of Jacqueline Carey's books that I've read so far, I think. I was enjoying it quite a lot, up to a point, and then somehow I just lost the urge to read it. Part of it is the unrelenting angst, and the fact that I don't love Imriel quite as much as I do Phèdre. I think the fact that it narrows down a lot from being events of massive importance to many people, to just being largely Imriel's personal journey, also makes it feel somewhat less urgent.

There's also a sense in which I felt that boxes were being ticked, because they had to be. Happiness, check, soured a little by some ominous event, check. A moment of calm before the storm, check, and then the storm, check. The beginnings of an epic adventure, check, setback, check, shipwreck, check. We've seen a lot of it before with Phèdre, so I'm not sure what's different about this, except that perhaps Imriel's reactions are usually more conventional than hers. He doesn't end up sleeping with people for insane reasons, mostly.

I did like a lot of the characters in this book. I expected to find Dorelei annoying, and then fell in love with and wanted to thwap Imriel for being self-absorbed. Some of the scenes when she's pregnant are incredibly sweet. I also enjoyed Berlik's character-arc, with his regret and his way to repent. Sidonie isn't so compelling a character -- she's rather like Ysandre, so she doesn't feel like a terribly new character. I was glad about what happened with Maslin -- that he and Imriel became close. It was an interesting end, for them.

Overall, though, I didn't enjoy this book as much and got bogged down with it for a long time. I still think it was enjoyable, and a worthwhile part of the series, but it felt a little weak. I hope the third book picks up again.
wilderthan: ((Rinoa) Waiting)
Kushiel's Scion didn't blow me away as much as the first trilogy did. That partly has to do with the fact that it's a sequel -- it takes place in a pre-created world that takes more and more from the real world. Tiberium is so obviously Rome, and Rome is so well known an era and place, that it loses a lot of the creative magic that came with, say, Terre D'Ange or Skaldia. A lot of the creativity that blew me away has been done, and also the characters that I fell so much in love with in the first trilogy are not so much in evidence, giving way to a new generation.

Having said that, Kushiel's Scion seems more accessible than the first trilogy, really. Imriel is less of a "Mary Sue" than Phèdre in some ways, since he isn't as perfect at anything and he isn't chosen by a god, and nor is he a Joscelin. In some ways, for both the reader and the world he's written in, Imriel himself is eclipsed by the shadows of his real and his foster parents, and must prove himself. That's a pretty familiar story, even with the addition of his childhood traumas that must be overcome.

It's also more accessible because there is much less BDSM sex. In this first book at least, there is only one scene I can recall, although Imriel does have desires in that direction. There is sex, but thus far it's been more or less tame and mostly to do with healing.

The storylines in this book are interesting. Imriel's growth is an obvious one, and his attempts to heal from what happened to him when he was younger. I also found Eamonn's little character arc interesting, and I like him a lot as a character, although I can't imagine he's going to find his Skaldic bride again quite so easily. Lucius' subplot, with the possession by his ancestor, is another interesting one, and it's fun to see the different kinds of magic woven into this world. His relationship with Imriel is also sweet and a little hurty, and I wish there was more of it. The plot with Claudia is fun because of what you learn about Delaunay and his past, and about the Unseen Guild, but I didn't like her as a character.

Canis is an intriguing character and perhaps I wasn't quite on my toes, but I didn't see the connection to Melisande until I was very late on. There are only the most tantalising hints at what Melisande might be doing, but I'm sure more on that will come later.

Thus far, then, I'm enjoying the second trilogy. It could always do with more Phèdre, Joscelin and Hyacinthe, but everything could do with more characters like them.
wilderthan: ((Rinoa) Waiting)
You know what's coming, and yet it's still a punch to the gut. Some things actually caught me by surprise, in some ways, while making absolute sense in the end. The similarities to Tolkien are still very strong, but it brings something new to it as well: the noble enemy, the moral ambiguity. Deaths of characters who would be seen as completely evil from the other side of the argument turn out to be noble sacrifices. A lady gets a chance to kill her side's greatest enemy, and hesitates. Love grows where it shouldn't.

Carey does not go gently on her characters, or on the reader. She trampled all over my heart in pointy high heels and dug them in, hard.

There is no happy end. In fact, the implication is that it's a cycle, and it's all going to begin again. Despite the fantasy, the characters and choices and the ongoing nature of the story are all so very realistic.
wilderthan: ((Dr Horrible) Status quo)
Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker is nothing like her Kushiel books. It's written in third person, not first, which brings a lot of differences right there. You're not as close to the characters, for one thing, which makes it slightly less intense. The writing is still lovely, though. Less personal, more epic and Tolkienesque, but still nice to read.

It's an interesting concept, though: the epic like Lord of the Rings from the point of view of the bad guys, sympathetic to the bad guys. I think it's done pretty well, it's quite a good reflection of the old 'there's two sides to every story'. It actually makes me hesitant to read Godslayer, because of what's likely to happen. Doesn't good always win?

The parallels to Lord of the Rings are pretty blatant. There's a Frodo equivalent, the Nazgul equivalents, a Saruman equivalent... I didn't mind it because the point isn't a new story, it's a new side to an old story, which I think Carey brings across just fine.

The characters, as I said, you don't get as close to as in the Kushiel books, but they're still interesting characters. There's a huge range of them: humans, elf-equivalents, god-equivalents, troll-equivalents... It's going to hurt no matter which side loses, thanks to the affection I have for the some of the characters. There are a lot of interesting characters, too, despite the derivative plot -- the Three immortal servants of Satoris are pretty interesting, but especially Ushahin, with his adoption by the Were and his double heritage. Very, very interesting.

I both can't wait to read Godslayer and don't want to. I'm futilely hoping for a happy end, but I know Carey doesn't mind hurting characters she loves, so I know it's pretty much futile.
wilderthan: ((FFVIII) Promise)
I suppose it goes without saying that I loved the final book of this trilogy. The trilogy has its flaws, I'll admit. For one thing, pages on pages could have been cut in the interests of getting to the point faster and dazzling prose. Still, for me, I quite enjoyed the leisurely pace in some parts of it, and the careful and detailed world building that ensued. Yes, it's kind of ridiculous the way what is essentially France is idolised, and the idea of a land where everyone is beautiful seems like a bit of blatant wish-fulfilment, and the heroine is unlikely and, yes, maybe a little too perfect and prepared for whatever comes. And there's the sex -- plenty of it in each and every book, and some of it rather more kinky than your average person is interested in reading about. Oh, and there's what other people would probably consider to be blasphemy, too. But accept all of that -- and it isn't as hard as it may sound, I think, as long as you have the mental power to skip parts you know you're not going to like -- and there's a brilliant story shining out at you. Or so it seems to me! I do understand why some people don't like it. Now that I've articulated that, I'm going to get back to adoring it, though.

This final book was not quite so much about politics, I think. I mean, that was there -- couldn't really not be, considering. But this book was more about love, what with the various subplots finally playing out: Hyacinthe, Melisande's son, what Kushiel wants of Phèdre, etc, etc. A lot of the things in this book were connected to love, which is appropriate to the world it's set in, really, given that the central precept of the religion is "love as thou wilt".

The thing that most excited me about this book was the quest for the secret name. I loved the character of Hyacinthe from the start, and was sad when he barely appeared in the second book, so I was very glad at how much of the book was dedicated to this quest. At first it seemed a bit backward, since the overthrow of Drujan would seem to be more dramatic and yet came long before the climax of the book, but the way it played out was very good. I was pleased at the way the breaking of the geis was handled, and Hyacinthe's return to life. It would have seemed too good to be true if he'd just got back what he had before he became Master of the Straits.

Imriel's subplot was interesting, too. It was good to see a more tender side of Melisande, the love for her son, and was interesting to get to know Imriel -- how different he turns out. I didn't care for that plot very much at first, but it grew on me a lot, until I cheered at the relationship between him, Phèdre and Joscelin.

Joscelin is, by far, my favourite character of these books. It has to do with his absolute loyalty, which is one of those things I find very appealing in a character. It was very very hard to read how he was tested in Drujan, but it was well-written. I love the peace he and Phèdre make with it all: it's appropriate, and good to see them finding a balance.

All in all, I really wish I had the Imriel trilogy right now. Unfortunately, unless someone loves me very much and buys me the hardbacks, I'm going to have to wait until all three books are out in paperback in the UK. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.
wilderthan: ((SquallRinoa) Dance)
With the expectations Kushiel's Dart gave me, I might have been worried that Kushiel's Chosen wouldn't match up. I wasn't, but I wouldn't have needed to be anyway. I loved this book just as much as the first one. Everything I've said about how it's not for everyone still stands (see my first review), although there was less sex, I think, and perhaps more of the politics. Somehow, this book didn't feel as dense as that one, but there's still a lot of content considering it's the second book of a trilogy, and not a trilogy in itself. I think the feeling of less going on is mostly because there are fewer dramatic changes -- in the first book, there were a lot of milestones, and in this one, maybe not as much. It's still an incredible ride.

The stage is set, in this book, so there isn't such a flurry of characters being thrown at you. The new ones, such as Nicola L'Envers y Aragon and Sevario Stregazza, are quite interesting (not least because of the sex scenes, I have to admit). It's lovely to see how Jacqueline Carey weaves the characters so neatly into the plot -- there are no useless characters. I was sorry not to see anything of Hyacinthe in this book, and I was glad that he wasn't ignored. Ysandre was one of my favourite characters in the latter part of this book: she's written as such a strong, strong character.

The relationship between Joscelin and Phèdre was more painful than ever in this book, so I was very, very glad of the end. I'm not sure it could have continued as it was without getting needlessly painful and boring. While the new development makes me happy now, I have no doubts that Joscelin and Phèdre will find new ways to hurt my heart -- and that's good. The relationship between Melisande and Phèdre is still wonderfully handled. The thin line between love and hate that lies between them is perfectly walked. The scene where Phèdre smashes her head back against something to distract herself from Melisande's kiss is amazing.

Plotwise, it was so good. It seriously surprised me in various places, leaving me to flail and keyboard bash and fangirl at anyone willing to listen. The twists and turns are surprising, and yet brilliantly set up: once it's happened you think, "Oh. Yes. Of course."

There's a lovely conclusion, ending the book with some closure and yet also with threads still waiting to be tied up in the final book of the trilogy. I can't wait. I'm tempted to buy the Imriel books already, but I think I'll wait until they're all out in paperback -- painful as that will be.

I seriously recommend this trilogy, if you don't mind a bit of BDSM sex woven into the plot (you can skip it, after all).
wilderthan: ((Quistis) Sophisticated)
I don't normally do a very long or thorough review for books that are part of a trilogy: I tend to wait for the end of the trilogy. But Kushiel's Dart is an exception, mainly because there's enough action and intrigue for a whole trilogy in the first book alone. A lot of people start their reviews by saying that this book is not for everyone. Well, bah to that. No book is for everyone. Kushiel's Dart does deal with a lot of sex. Kinky sex. I thought, on the whole, that part was well done -- and a lot of Phèdre's assignations were also plot points. I think that even a person with no interest in BDSM in itself could enjoy the books, and just skim or skip the sex scenes if they're that troubling. Now, some of the torture scenes: they made me wince.

I wasn't fond of the narrative voice, at first, but once I got into it, I quite enjoyed it. The voice is quite distinctive, being decidedly not modern English, although it does remind me a little of Fitz and Nevare in Robin Hobb's work -- I think it's mostly that they and Phèdre tell their stories from the same distance.

This book is incredibly rich in terms of world building. There is so much depth to it, woven into the story. Perhaps a little more than is exactly necessary, but if you appreciate a lot of world building, it's brilliant. You probably have to lay aside any scepticism about a land where everyone is beautiful, having the blood of the son of Jesus, but if you suspend your disbelief and let the details build up, I think it's a very compelling world. The politics that drive the plot are also amazing, and this is one of few books that kept me guessing a lot. Melisande really does play a deep and subtle game.

The characters themselves, again, you have to be willing to buy into, I think. I know that some people think she's a "Mary Sue" because she's beautiful and she's special and she's marked by a god and all of it. Yes: okay. I can see that criticism. But once you're drawn into the story, once the setup is over, the characters become incredibly compelling. The complex relationships between them are very, very interesting, and I can't wait to see how things will play out. My favourite characters were Joscelin and Hyacinthe, fairly predictably. There's something I find incredibly compelling about the depth of loyalty Joscelin and Hyacinthe have for Phèdre in their different ways. Melisande is also incredibly interesting, of course.

I loved the subplot of Ysandre and Drustan, too, including the part with the Master of the Straits. Hyacinthe's subplot in that breaks my heart, and yet I love it.

Jacqueline Carey keeps a lot of threads on the loom, in this book, and I think she manages them all admirably. I'm eager to read Kushiel's Chosen -- though I might have to take a day or two to recover first!


wilderthan: (Default)

October 2013

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