wilderthan: ((Gale) Demons)
Apparently I feel wordy lately! All three of these reviews are under cuts because they got long. I tried to avoid specific spoilers, but if you don't want to know anything about the books at all, avoid!

Spindle's End (Robin McKinley)

Cut for length )

The Dragon Keeper (Robin Hobb)

Cut for length )

Dragon Haven (Robin Hobb)

Cut for length )
wilderthan: ((Dr Horrible) Status quo)
Harpy's Flight (Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb)

Harpy's Flight was written before the books that Lindholm wrote as Robin Hobb. This is evident in several ways -- the quality of the writing and plotting, the less rich characterisation, the fact that some characters seem almost like test runs for later ones (Rhesus from this book for Restart in Liveships, for example). Her potential also shows in the brightly described world, in the descriptions of cultures and rites, in the quality of the writing and the way it can grip you even when the first seven pages are just about climbing up a cliff (not the most gripping stuff). There's a lot of physicality in Hobb's writing -- when Ki is sore and raw and exhausted, it really comes through, which is something she did as well, probably better, in Farseers, with the various poison/torture/agony scenes of poor Fitz.

I like the ideas in this book, and some of the writing is wonderful. I felt like the way it's structured is a little clunky: too much diving around between past and present with the clumsy little 'going to sleep'/'waking up' transitions.

Enjoyable, and worth reading, especially if you want to see Hobb's earlier work, but not up to the standard of Farseers.

The Windsingers (Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb)

This book is better structured than Harpy's Flight, and I love it quite a lot. It continues everything I like so much from the first book, and builds on it -- developing the rich world-building, developing the undemanding partnership between Ki and Vandien, drawing the two of them into deeper plots.

Dresh is a horrible character, slimy as hell and rude and crude and, well, an attempted rapist. Having read this book before, it's hard to sympathise with him at all -- so much easier to like Rebeke and her kind, even if they're strange.

I wish, in a way, that the topic of Vandien's scar really was so futile, that Rebeke didn't help at all, that no one could help. I understand how important magic is to fantasy writing, and how odd it would be if there was no magic, but I hate the way disability/disfigurement is so often wished away in fantasy. The magic in this particular fantasy world doesn't seem necessarily like it could do healing... Still, that's a very small quibble.

The Limbreth Gate (Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb)

Not really my favourite of the quartet. I find it somewhat wince-worthy, somehow -- I don't like seeing Ki the way she is in this book, really. Still, the world-building that I love continues, hinting at some larger events, and also filling in parts of Ki's past with the deftest touches -- filling in about her mother, explaining why the harpies attacked her family...

Ki and Vandien are an awesome couple, strong both together and alone. In fact, the way they seem to have to be separated before the plot kicks off, in this book and the second book, suggests that together they're a lot stronger, because they temper each other -- Ki's caution tempers Vandien's impulsiveness, but he pushes/tugs her on to do things she wouldn't otherwise do.

I have to pause for a second to appreciate again how strong Ki's character is while also being feminine -- not really conforming to any stereotypes.

Luck of the Wheels (Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb)

There's something about this quartet that bothers me, and I don't know what it is. I like the characters, I like the world-building, but each time I read them, despite wanting to re-experience them, I'm also hesitant and reluctant. Probably because of the pain Lindholm puts them through, I suppose, and this last book has plenty and to spare of that.

My main problem with this book is Gotheris -- he's just so hard to sympathise with, and you probably should, but you can't... much like Ki and Vandien themselves, so I suppose it's not surprising. But it's hard to enjoy the ending, since it involves him so prominently, since it involves him being considered a bit like Vandien's son.

It's also difficult to enjoy the way Vandien behaves in this book -- totally unlike himself, after a certain point.

Still, it is nice that Ki accepts Vandien into her life wholly, after so long.
wilderthan: ((Yuna) Dance)
It's always interesting to read Robin Hobb's work as Megan Lindholm. Alien Earth is especially interesting because I haven't read any other sci-fi by her, and this is an interesting way about approaching the issue of how we treat the earth. I tend to think about her work as Megan Lindholm related to how it contributed to her growth as a writer and the good things about the Farseers trilogy (or the bad -- in my opinion -- things about the Liveships trilogy).

Compared to the Ki and Vandien quartet, the writing style in this book has definitely matured. Hobb is good with original ideas, even in Ki and Vandien, but the ideas for me are really the strong point of Alien Earth -- not the characters, so much, which I usually cite as Hobb's strength. I can't recognise any of the characters as being like ones she wrote later, really -- that could be down to experimenting with characters, but I didn't really find the characters in this book that memorable.

In terms of the book on its own, if I didn't know the author's other work already... it's an interesting enough little sci-fi thing, perhaps not that different to everything else on the market already. It's definitely interesting to read a sci-fi fan and a fan of Robin Hobb, but... in both cases, there's better stuff around. It's certainly not "hard" SF, if that's what you're looking for.
wilderthan: ((SquallRinoa) Dance)
Most of the final book of Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy didn't impress me very much. I thought it could have been cut down a lot, and made more interesting just by that. I thought that the resolution to it all got so painfully obvious by about two hundred and fifty pages in that anything more was simply labouring the point.


The last one hundred and fifty pages or so were brilliant. Things came together, and you could finally see how everything was meant to work out. Everything suddenly made a lot more sense, and characterisations -- I'm mostly referring to Nevare's father -- became much more satisfying to me. Points that I'd thought were a little irrelevant made a lot more sense and contributed to the story.

The end left me with a very positive view of the book, whereas in the middle I'd been getting quite tired of the dithering and the mistakes that kept being made. The same thing happened with Forest Mage, actually. Robin Hobb has a knack with writing satisfying endings. I think the pacing in her more recent work needs tidying up, but the end of this trilogy makes me think something I'll find as good as Farseers might be along soon.
wilderthan: (Default)
Having just finished the second book of Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy, Forest Mage, I think this trilogy could have done with a lot more editing than it got. Robin Hobb's world-building is very, very detailed, built up block by block. Unfortunately, in the first book that made it somewhat slow, and in this book it made it very hard to read. That isn't made any easier by the uncomfortableness of the topic. My English teacher always said that fiction is all about conflicts, but Nevare's life in this book is just one long conflict -- fighting the good, fighting the bad, fighting everything, and not until the very end seeing how things must be.

In terms of plot and basic ideas, though, the trilogy is very, very interesting, which is keeping me reading it. And obviously, it's not so very dragging, because I read this book in a single day. (Or perhaps it's best tackled that way!)

Normally, Robin Hobb's characters are extremely complex and well-formed. I can't help but think that perhaps she didn't spend as much time letting them grow for this trilogy, because Nevare's father reminds me very much of Kyle from Liveships -- in fact, his whole family does. Still, many of the other characters are intriguing and layered, and I'm getting extremely fond of Spink and Epiny.

Right now, I'm unsure how I feel about this trilogy. The first book was promising, but this book felt kind of strange, and very uncomfortable. I'm told the third book picks back up again, and that I'll enjoy it more -- so here's hoping.
wilderthan: ((Garnet) On my own)
If I'd read Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing, first book of the Soldier Son trilogy, more slowly, it might have got three stars (on goodreads, "liked it"), but I read it all in a day, and got quite caught up in it, so it got four stars ("really liked it"). I don't think it has the flair of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy. Nevare seems to me a less fully-formed main character than Fitz. I'm hoping he'll build up more in the later books. A good thing about Hobb's writing is that she isn't afraid to make her characters pay. Just like Fitz, Nevare has to work for things.

It's an interesting new world, too. Hobb's world building is always very good, and she has a pretty firm grasp on how societies change and break down, and rebuild. I'll be interested to see where all that goes, just on its own. I'm hoping for lots more of it, building up throughout the trilogy, as happened with the Realm of the Elderlings books.

I'm also very intrigued by the magic Nevare becomes a part of. We'll see, later in the trilogy, whether it's as good a concept as the Wit and the Skill, but I suspect it'll be interesting.

The trouble is with "infodumps", I think. There are quite long sections of pure background information. I think that happened in Farseers and the Tawny Man, but was most noticeable in Liveships and here. The conversational tone of the books due to the first person narration helps, but it still sticks out at me.

I think this trilogy is shaping up to be quite solid, interesting fantasy. There was a real sense of excitement later in the book, though the early chapters dragged rather. I guess the next two books will cement whether this trilogy is going to be brilliant, like Farseers, or just good.
wilderthan: (Default)
For [livejournal.com profile] bottle_of_shine's cat herding challenge, which, misleadingly, involves no cats. It actually involves books. And you can read more about it here. The basic idea starts with listing ten books you love. I've decided to list trilogies and the like as a single book, otherwise my list would get swallowed up by about two authors! But I'd say that reading and reviewing any book from the trilogy/series would count as one.

Ten books I love )
wilderthan: (Default)
Right now, it seems books have to be intriguing -- if not brilliant -- right from the outset to actually get me to pay attention to them. I knocked three books off my "read before you get more books" list today: not because I finished them, but because I read the first chapter of each and knew I wouldn't want to finish them. At the moment, my standards are skewed from usual (when I would give everything a good long chance) because I'm trying to read all these books before I buy new ones.

Thirty-two remain on my list. A load more might get knocked out after the first chapter: we'll see. I think this exercise in getting books knocked off my list might make me more selective about buying books. I bought two of Tad Williams' series on a whim, reading just the first couple of pages of the first book in each quartet. That gamble paid off: I love all those books. Same goes for Sarah Zettel.

On the other hand, Robert Newcomb's books turned out to be unbearable. So much telling, so little dialogue -- one line of dialogue, spoken to calm a horse, along with pages and pages of exposition covering years of history. Booooring.

For another example: Fiona McIntosh disappointed me. I bought two of her trilogies after a recommendation. I found the first book of one of her trilogies derivative in the extreme -- I was told she was like Robin Hobb. Well, she wasn't just like Robin Hobb. Some parts of it were lifted directly from Hobb. For example, a man is sentenced to death. He goes into someone else's mind and survives, only to be put back into his own body after he's supposed to have died. Hmmm. Sound familiar to any Hobb fans?

I wince to think how much money I've spent on books I didn't end up reading more than the first chapter of. Lesson for the future for me: read the first chapter sat on the bookshop floor, regardless of the looks you get.

Lesson to authors: that advice you hear about cutting the first chapter out? Consider it long and hard.

For my own future reference as much as anything else... Hooks are good. Begin in medias res. Introduce a mystery that the book will solve. Give me a character I instantly love or loathe so I have some kind of emotion about it all. The first chapter is not the place for minor characters. Feel free to introduce things in a way that will be turned on its head later on -- for example, I love the way, in A Sorcerer's Treason, Sarah Zettel introduces the characters of two main females completely skewed, and then proceeds to make you and the main character discover the reversal. But don't spend a chapter's loving description on a guy who'll be dead by chapter two.

(Of course, there are exceptions to that and valid reasons for doing it. But as a rule...)
wilderthan: ((Quistis) Sophisticated)
I just finished rereading the Liveships trilogy, by Robin Hobb. There are some beautiful ideas in there -- about dragons, and the life cycle of a dragon -- and there are references to the Farseers trilogy that complete that story, that explain things. Yet it's also, for quite a few people I've spoken to, quite tedious to read. This time as I was going through, I tried to put into words why it's broken for me. Comparisons to the Farseers trilogy abound, as well as spoilers for both trilogies and probably for the Tawny Man trilogy as well. Some of this, I've already written elsewhere.

Cut for length )

I've discussed a lot of ways the books could be more intriguing, with various people. More interesting characters, more of the interesting characters there already are -- starting in the Rain Wilds instead of taking so long to get there... I can see why it's written as it is, but with some tweaking to the plot to allow it to be written differently, I think these books could have been marvellous. I don't recommend reading them casually, but to fill out the details of the whole world in the Realm of the Elderlings cycle, I do recommend trying to push one's way through them. There are some lovely things in these books, but they're rather obscured, for me, by the things I've already mentioned.
wilderthan: ((FFVIII) Promise)
At the moment, I'm rereading Robin Hobb's fantasy trilogy, Farseers. Those books have been treasured possessions of mine for a long time, and when I met her and got a book signed by her, I was ecstatic. But these days, she really annoys me. You can read her opinions on fanfiction here (with commentary, unfortunately: she's replaced the rant on her site) and on blogging here. Although, if you want to read her books? I'd advise against it. I know of at least one person completely put off her writing by the offensive way she writes about both fanfic writers and those who keep blogs.

Ha. Here I am, falling to the temptation she warns of, with three regularly updated journals and several more, somewhere. But I actually get writing done (admittedly, the novels aren't edited, but that's because they weren't worth that effort). As does Neil Gaiman. Perhaps her rant says more about her own tendency to get distracted than anything about writers in general.

My point is... sometimes it's nice to not know the author. I'm quite glad that the POV in Farseers is so strongly not Hobb herself. It makes it a lot easier to separate the characters from her. Sometimes, I think that separation between the author and the characters, in the eyes of the reader, is the best thing. Maybe it's best not to follow your favourite writer's blog, for fear that something they say will make you want to throttle them and take away the enjoyment from reading their work. Perhaps it's best to keep your favourite author a stranger.

Personally, so far I'm not having much trouble reading Farseers without letting Hobb's own opinions getting in the way. But I would much prefer to remember the snapshot of a person I had before I read her rants: reading an excerpt from Fool's Fate, answering my clumsy questions about how to write, signing my brand new copy of Fool's Fate.


wilderthan: (Default)

October 2013

6789 1011 12


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags