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)

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The Dragon Keeper (Robin Hobb)

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Dragon Haven (Robin Hobb)

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wilderthan: ((Books) And shoes)
The Door in the Hedge (Robin McKinley)

The Door in the Hedge contains four short-ish fairytales. Two of them are reworkings of existing ones; two of them I didn't know. I've liked all the fairytale retellings I've read by Robin McKinley before, and these were no exceptions. They're magical, and the writing is good, and the fleshing out of them feels natural.

The Stolen Princess is nice, though heavy with detail. I liked the compromise made in the end, and I like that -- as usual -- Robin McKinley wrote a strong female character who could hold on to her identity and memories and do what she needed to do. I liked the ending, the sense of things perhaps coming full circle again.

The Princess and the Frog is okay. I wanted more, I think -- more of Ariyander, and to know what he was doing, and more of the confrontation between him and his brother.

The Hunting of the Hind is lovely. I love, again, the main female character. I wish she'd been named sooner in the story, because at first she was quite anonymous, and when we did get her name, I didn't hold onto it for very long -- she remained 'the Princess' in my mind. That's, if anything, the flaw in these stories -- the fact that the characters are still archetypes rather than being that bit more fleshed out. But she's strong, and interesting, and she does what she has to do.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is probably my favourite, though. I like the character of the soldier, and the details of his life, and I like the glimpses we get of the sad king and of the people who try and fail to break the enchantment on the princesses.

I'll probably find myself rereading these, one day. They seem likely to stick with me.
wilderthan: ((Books) And shoes)
I was quite doubtful about Robin McKinley's Chalice, initially. It took a while to really get going, and while it did, there was a lot of skipping around between time periods, which I found a little confusing. I read it on my ereader, which made it a little more difficult to just turn back a few pages and reread stuff to connect up the dots and sort out my confusion, which might have helped -- but at the same time, I should've been able to read the story linearly.

I did enjoy it quite a lot, though, especially when it got to the last half of the book or so. I found the whole concept of the world, as it slowly unfolded -- the demesnes and the Circle and the different roles within the Circle -- intensely interesting, and kind of wish we'd seen more of the other roles, and actually seen the Circle in action. I wish we knew more about the Master, both his role in the Circle and the actual Master that the story follows, what he was like when he was a Fire priest, etc. At the same time, I liked the way we see glimpses of the world while not really knowing the rules, like Mirasol herself. I liked the symbolism of the Chalice, I liked the way she found power and found the ways to make things work again. I liked both Mirasol and the Master, and I also liked the even vaguer figure of the Seneschal.

I don't feel as if the characters were all that fleshed out, other than Mirasol. I almost could've wished the book was twice or three times as long, to show me more of all the things I was interested in. I liked the ending, and I'd been hoping for it all along, but I didn't really want it to end. This book could have got five stars from me, no question, if it had done a bit more somehow. Still, I enjoyed it very much as it is.
wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
Sunshine was a reread, but it's been a while and some things were a surprise to me all over again. I was worried it wouldn't stand up to a reread: I skimmed a couple of other reviews and saw that people had some pretty negative things to say about it. And I certainly saw the truth in the things that were said, but I also enjoyed reading the book again. It helps that it's an incredibly rich experience. The writing appeals a lot to my synaesthesia. It's pretty sensual writing as it is: there's a lot of detail, a lot of talk about cooking, and also a lot of feeling. Descriptions of sight and smell and hearing.

The whole book is written in first person POV. The main character is Sunshine, and she's "not your average heroine", as they say. She has no ambition, she's not all that smart, she's not that brave, and she'd quite happily live in her bakery all her life. Some people find her hard to like, but I think she's quite human and although she does get a lot of power, eventually able to kill vampires with her bare hands, she doesn't want it and she's scared of it. I find the writing interesting and absorbing, but I'm sure for some people it's too rambling and/or dense. It does take her an awful long time to do something as simple as log onto the internet equivalent.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic, vampires, demons and succubi -- to name a few -- exist. All those kinds of things are for real. This could be 'our world in the future' given the references to Bram Stoker, or an alternate reality. It's never made exactly clear, but I suspect the latter because of the slang words the characters use -- "carthaginian hell", "spartan", "sheer". I like that there's no explanation of the slang, given that the book is narrated by someone who is a part of that world. You just don't really think about that kind of thing in normal life: why would you? Sometimes Sunshine explains things that shouldn't need explaining, like how to kill vampires, but you can't avoid doing exposition entirely!

The thing that really impresses me about this is that the vampires aren't overly sexualised, and while Constantine is still an ally, he remains unsettling. Okay, there are a couple of scenes in which Sunshine has chemistry with him, but she's also more often than not aware that there's something vastly different about him. He moves differently, he looks different, there's no heartbeat... I like the way it ends on an awkward note, with them not quite sure what's going to happen now but not wanting to lose contact with each other.

A lot of the more minor characters are completely fascinating and have big backstories that we clearly barely glimpse -- Mel, Yolande, Sunshine's grandmother, the goddess of pain, the SOFs in general... There's a lot to work with in this world, and I'd really love to see a sequel.

My main problem with this book is how it made me crave cinnamon rolls. Argh!
wilderthan: ((Squall) Griever)
I'm not sure which of McKinley's Beauty and the Beast tellings I like better. I liked the simplicity of Beauty, but Rose Daughter is a little more grown up, and there's a little more world building, and I went a little deeper into it than with Beauty because it had more depth to go into. I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions and the bits of magic, and the foreshadowing for what actually happened at the end -- although I thought it could have done with more foreshadowing, so that the greenwitch had to do a little less explaining. This lost some of the simplicity of Beauty and the fairytale in general, but it kept enough to keep it firmly in the region of fairy tale, for me.

I liked the very end, that the Beast remained a Beast and that that was the happy ending. That's quite lovely: he doesn't have to change to have the love that he earned as a beast.
wilderthan: ((Squall) Lionheart)
I liked The Blue Sword rather more than The Hero and the Crown. It felt a bit more consistent, to me, and there was more world-building in it. It's still obviously one of McKinley's early novels, but it's quite a good read all the same, as long as you don't expect too much of it. The characters were intriguing enough, though not greatly fleshed out, and Harry's apprenticeship, learning everything about what she has to do, is quite interesting. I saw the romance coming a mile off, but it didn't really convince me: it could've done with more foreshadowing. But I feel I'm saying that a lot, lately, about romance in fantasy novels, which is, after all, patently not the point of that whole exercise. As a fantasy novel, it's just fine -- not incredibly special, but a nice quick easy read.
wilderthan: ((Gale) Demons)
I didn't really know what to expect, when I started reading this book, as actually no one had told me anything about it. I knew I liked Robin McKinley's writing in other places, but that was all, along with the fact that the cover art led me to suspect dragons. It's probably unfortunate that I was also reading Kushiel's Chosen at the same time, because that book is very, very rich in world building and so this book seemed to have very little in comparison. There was some, and I actually got quite interested in the world, but it didn't have the depth and richness that, right now, I'm hoping for, in either setting or characters.

I actually preferred the first half of the book to the second, up to when Aerin defeats Maur. After that, it felt to me as if the tone changed and became even more fairytale-ish, which I didn't quite like after getting to know Aerin in a more personal way. I had my heart in my mouth when she fought dragons, but in the final battle, I didn't really feel much tension at all.

As light reading, though, I enjoyed it. It's fairytale-ish, which I do like, and it's very easy to get along with. While I didn't get deeply invested in the story or characters, I felt some pangs of pathos all the same. I'm not sure I'd say it's a must read, but you could do a lot worse.
wilderthan: ((Edea) Sinister)
Apparently, Robin McKinley has written two retellings of the "Beauty and the Beast" story. Beauty is the first. It's easy to read, and the world building is pretty simple -- i.e. none of the layers that Sunshine has -- not that the details given aren't well-placed and lovely. I would dearly love to live in the Beast's castle just for his library, anyway. It isn't a re-imagining of the story by any means: details may differ, but the plot overall remains the same. But the detail and the voice makes it interesting enough.

I enjoyed it a lot, as a bit of light reading, and I'm planning to read Rose Daughter, for comparison, when I can afford it or when the nice anonymous has a fit of generosity again. (If it was one of you who bought me Kushiel's Avatar, please own up. I love you anyway, whoever you are, but there was no name on the invoice and while I can narrow it down a bit from the comment, I'm not psychic!)


Jul. 11th, 2007 08:59 pm
wilderthan: ((Garnet) On my own)
I was just thinking about some books that I really like and tried to take apart why I liked them, so I thought I'd post it here. The books mentioned are:
-Sunshine (Robin McKinley)
-The Old Kingdom trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen (Garth Nix)
-The Kovacs books: Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies (Richard Morgan)
-Century Rain (Alastair Reynolds)
-Newton's Wake (Ken MacLeod)
-Engines of Light: Cosmonaut Keep, Dark Light and Engine City (Ken MacLeod)
-Warlord Chronicles: The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur (Bernard Cornwell)
-The Culai Heritage: Magician's Law, Demon's Law and Death's Law (Michael Scott)

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