wilderthan: (Default)
I really love this book. I don't remember how strongly I felt about it the first time, but I have a thing for second sons in fiction, second sons like Agravain -- the quieter, grimmer ones, the dutiful ones with their hidden passions and their determinations. Agravain is a perfect example, and it's also interesting that in this story, he and Laurel fall in love after their marriage, which comes of necessity and politics more than anything else. The four romances are much more differentiated than I remembered. In this one, I genuinely felt pain for Agravain and Laurel when they were separated, which is possibly because I found their situation more real.

The romance is still a little hurried in places, but I do like what we get of it. I also love the magic of this -- Laurel's magic, as she becomes unafraid and throws herself into it, doing what she has to do. I like how a lot of hints come together -- the stain on Guinevere's palm, for one thing, just that one tiny repeated detail finally finding meaning and explanation. Not something I noticed, on a single reading.

I found this somewhat unsatisfying as an end, the last time I read it. Morgaine is defeated, but Mordred is not killed, he flees. Reading it again, his defeat is pretty conclusive, and he runs like a child, but mostly I'm reminded of the fact that it's still prophesied that he will bring down Camelot, and the threat of him isn't neutralised at all. In one way, ending like this is very appropriate, because the quartet follows the sons of Lot, not the court of Arthur -- but the court of Arthur and the importance of Arthur's kingdom is important throughout the books, so it's kind of odd that it ends without a real conclusion for that.
wilderthan: ((Delirium) Fish)
Camelot's Honour

The first time I read this series, I wasn't all that impressed. There are still things I'm not so keen on -- the love at first sight, for one thing, doesn't ring very true, and also the books could do with better proofreading. There's punctuation missing, and I'm pretty sure "grieves" and "greaves" don't mean the same thing. But, this time, I found myself a lot more interested. I preferred Geraint to Gawain, I think, and I was interested in him and his feelings about his relationship to Morgaine, and his way of dealing with his legacy from his father -- and his love for Elen.

I don't know if the story of Elen and Geraint is based on any legend, Arthurian or otherwise, although I suspect that the story of Gwiffert, at least, has some kind of link to existing mythology. Still, it's nice to see a lot of mythology together and coupled to the Arthurian mythology, to make something new. The ongoing story of Morgaine is interesting, too: I can't actually remember very well how that's resolved, and I forgot that she seemed genuinely in love with Urien.

I originally didn't like Elen much, but there is something compelling about her, too, and her struggle, and Collanau. I wished the book had more about the Lord, the Lady, and Elen's family. As far as I remember, the Lord and the Lady don't come into it again, which is a shame.

Camelot's Sword

I'm liking all of these books in my second reading. It's interesting to see all the different threads of Arthurian myth and Celtic myth brought together in this way -- this book especially weaves so many things together: Tristan and Iseult, Lyonesse (Laurel) and Lynet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Morgaine, the Celtic Otherworld... I think I'm focusing a lot more on that, in this reading, instead of on the romance -- which isn't actually as central as I thought. It could do with more time spent on it, actually, because Gareth's transformation from a womaniser into Lynet's faithful knight is very hasty and not really given the time and space it should be. Perhaps the scene on the moor could've been expanded -- another fifty pages would probably have made the love story much more engaging and satisfying. There were some parts of the relationship with Ryol that were glossed over a bit too much -- that was closer to the centre of the story, I think, and didn't suffer too much, but there were a few places where I wondered why the heck it was happening like that. For example, how did Guinevere figure out that the mirror was the problem? Whence came her sudden decision to confiscate it?

One thing that is becoming clear to me is that the relationships aren't as cookie-cutter as I thought, my first time through. The relationships between Gawain and Rhian, Geraint and Elen, Gareth and Lynet... they're much more distinct than I thought at first, and the brothers are less alike than they thought at first. I'm not sure why I thought them so cookie-cutter the first time through, actually. Possibly because all the romance is that bit hastier than I'd like. Possibly I'm a slightly more discerning reader. Possibly my taste has just changed!

I really wish this book had received a little more attention from a proofreader. The little nags I have about grammar and punctuation are really little. For the most part I like the writing. But it's so distracting to keep thinking, "But where is the comma?"
wilderthan: (Default)
Camelot's Shadow (Sarah Zettel)

Since I'm hoping that the module on King Arthur will run next year, and reading widely in the tradition helped me with the Robin Hood module, I decided to revisit these books. As I said in my review almost two years ago, I'm not really one for romance books, generally, but these are Arthurian -- which helps a lot, since it's something I'm always interested in -- and they're not exactly bodice-rippers, and I do like Sarah Zettel's writing. There's genuinely a plot alongside the romance -- at least in this first book of the four -- and earlier elements of the tradition are woven into the story, while it's also not quite a carbon copy. It could have deviated more from the tradition, easily, and perhaps been more engaging then, but this is interesting enough. I like the portrayal of Guinevere, very much in love with Arthur, and though she's mischievous, she's a good queen. If I remember rightly, the betrayal of Arthur with Lancelot isn't re-enacted in this quartet, which I quite like. That's something new. And I like this portrayal of Gawain, as compared to some quite loutish ones I've read before.

It's interesting how close it sticks to the plot of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I'm doing a module on at the moment. I hadn't read that the first time I read this, so I didn't really appreciate how it had taken that plot but also woven in the women, Rhian and Kerra, and how it's also woven in the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell -- which I haven't read, but I know a decent amount about.

It's nice that there's an overarching plot to these four romances, with the figure of Morgaine, about whom we learn little in this book. It's also nice that they're romances in both the medieval sense and the modern sense. At least, it is for my inner geek.
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: ((SquallRinoa) Dance)
I finished reading Sarah Zettel's Paths to Camelot books: Camelot's Shadow, Camelot's Honour, Camelot's Sword, Camelot's Blood. They center around the sons of Morgause, which in this case means Gawain, Geraint, Gareth and Agravain, in that order. They're all romances, so the lead characters are girls somewhat rooted in legends surrounding the boys -- except Elen, who I couldn't find any mythological basis for (but that was only on a quick search). Rhian for Gawain (Ragnelle), Elen for Geraint, Lynet for Gareth (Lynette), and Laurel for Agravain (Lyonesse).

The books individually tell the stories of how the brothers come to meet their brides, and put together tell the story of Camelot's fight against Morgaine, Arthur's sister (commonly known as Morgan Le Fay). I don't think they adhere to any plot previously set out for Arthur, but there are little references and similarities throughout. Guinevere, for example, is faithful to Arthur, but at one point Morgaine impersonates her and has sex with Lancelot. Mordred also plays a part, the son of Morgaine and Arthur, but ultimately doesn't seem that important to the plot.

As an Arthur retelling, it's interesting. There's lots of the pagan magic mixed in with the bright and shining Camelot and Christianity, which is an intriguing mix. The writing itself is quite good: descriptive enough to call pictures into one's mind, but not weighed down with it.

Unfortunately -- considering it's a series of Arthurian romances! -- the romance falls fairly flat to me. Knight meets lady in need and falls in love. Lady meets knight and falls in love. Unfaithful womanising knight becomes faithful (Gawain and Gareth). Beautiful woman gets through the coldness and silence (Geraint/Elen and Agravain/Laurel). The love seems to come quick as fairytales, and happily ever after seems inevitable. All the men have to do stuff to bring their ladies back after the lady's bold and noble sacrifice -- Gawain stands up to the test of the Green Knight, Geraint kills something important while fearing the worst, Gareth gives his life to Lynet to bring her back from the sea, Agravain uses Excalibur's scabbard to bring Laurel back from the sea. It all seems a bit formulaic.

It also seems a little... unfinished. At the end of Agravain's story, Morgaine is dead, but Mordred has fled. A prophecy remains that Mordred will kill Arthur. But the epilogue deals only with Sir Kai's death, and doesn't say anything about where Mordred went and how that prophecy pans out. It's true, though, that the story doesn't focus on Arthur but on the knights.

The books are easy to read, hard to put down and probably enough to keep someone interested. I got into the world and the relationships despite their flaws, and I'll probably reread the books someday. I think Sarah Zettel's Isavalta books are a much better introduction to her writing, though. They're more original and flow much more easily, with characters that are much less formulaic. I think I partially blame the flaws of the Camelot series on the fact that she's writing in a tradition that's centuries old. Sometimes that makes people not dare to be more creative.
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: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
I was just thinking -- I really don't read much fic any more. If I have a craving, I go and hunt stuff down, and if someone recs something really interesting, I might read it, but posts that come up on my flist from [livejournal.com profile] getbackers or [livejournal.com profile] over_look or even [livejournal.com profile] fated_children, I just don't read. And, I confess, I haven't read anything written by [livejournal.com profile] irishais in ages. >>;;

I think part of that's my tendency not to read anything unfinished. I very, very rarely start buying a trilogy or series until it's finished. The only time I've done otherwise is when I bought the first three books of Sarah Zettel's Arthurian romance series. And I haven't read those yet. Oh, and Garth Nix: I have up to Grim Thursday already despite the series not being finished.

Another part of it is, I guess, that a lot of the stuff I come across just doesn't interest me that much or tends to disappoint me even if it does. Still, I don't like it, 'cause here's me getting a reasonable amount of comments -- usually, one or two per fic post! -- and I don't give anything back to my various fandoms in that way. Most of the fics I come across and like are ones I've hunted down after the fact and I feel shy leaving comments.

I think I'm going to go round and leave comments to any fics I've got bookmarked in my del.icio.us, for a start, and then I think I'll try and set myself some kind of goal of commenting on at least one fic a day. 8D

So! If you have anything you'd really like me to read that you think I skipped, drop me a link (or a couple of links -- not too many >>). Please, though, not anything still in progress. In fact -- it'd be better if it wasn't a chaptered fic. Chaptered fics intimidate me. Long one-shots are a-okay, but nothing with more than, say, two parts.

Preferred reading fandoms: Final Fantasy III, IV, VIII, X, X-2, XII (RW). Kingdom Hearts (I/CoM/II). Robin Hood BBC. The Dark Is Rising. The Fionavar Tapestry. Good Omens. Doctor Who (but not Torchwood, yet). Phoenix Wright. Firefly. Heroes (season one). GetBackers. Gundam Wing (which I never watched, but acquired a huge knowledge of by osmosis).


wilderthan: (Default)

October 2013

6789 1011 12


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags