Posts tagged ‘Fantasy’

…Not Quite What I Expected

So, despite my very negative reaction to Game of Thrones, I decided to give George R. R. Martin another shot. I’m making my way through his vampire novel, Fevre Dream – I figured his brand of brutality would make for some chillingly evil vampires (which modern literature needs more of, IMHO).

Alas, his vampires seem to be following the Anne Rice model of suave, seductive, and alluring. One of them has ripped a few throats out, but it’s all been very tame reading overall. I’m hoping things will spice up a bit as I get farther in, but I’m already at 140 pages…

 

Day 21 – I Hate The Way She Licks Stamps!

So, today’s prompt is:

“Name one character you would have liked… except for that ONE quirk that drove you nuts.”

OOTP-Promotional-ginervra-ginny-weasley-1542604-1918-2560

This is surprisingly hard. I usually either love characters or hate them; they’re either my best friend or I think they’re a moron, so thinking of one that aaaalmost made it, but not quite is hard.

I suppose Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter would fit in that category. I don’t hate her like some of the fandom does, but I never really got to like her. She always seemed kind of… tacked on? Kinda blurred, personality-wise?

I suppose what prevented me from bonding with her was that she never seemed to stand out sharply as her own character in the same way that Luna, Neville, the Twins, or even Percy did. Everyone in her family had some defining quirk – her dad was fascinated by Muggles, her mom was motherly and always bustling about, Percy was an uptight perfectionist, Bill was super laid-back, Charlie worked with dragons and was pretty unflappable, the Twins were… well… the Twins, and Ron was a loyal friend and sibling despite being prone to jealousy.

And then there was Ginny. She was the only girl… played Quidditch (though most of her brothers did that as well), had several boyfriends… the movies made her more powerful magically, but I don’t remember if that’s book-canon. But for all that, she still seems rather blurred to me.

So perhaps I don’t dislike her because of a specific quirk, rather, I dislike her because of her lack of quirks.

 

Day 15 – Best So Far

Today’s prompt is:

“What is the best book you’ve read all year?”

2917367Out of the seven books I’ve read this year, I think I enjoyed Patricia McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head the most. Her haunting style of writing fit the mystery of the old mansion and the eerie strangeness of the Other Manor. As always, I enjoyed the lyrical quality of the words, but I also had the additional enjoyment of being able to follow the story-line fairly easily – it didn’t get lost in the wispiness of McKillip’s prose, which is often a problem that I have with her work.

The romance in this book is gentle and slow-developing and the “love triangle” is far above average in that it functions the way a love triangle would in real life. There’s minimal pining and mooning between the three parties, but rather a young woman faced with the choice of two honorable men, one more suited to her in temperament, the other able to provide a comfortable life despite their differing interests. Both men are steady and likable and treated her with respect and kindness (though the one we were supposed to root for was less irritating by far – hey, we had to be able to tell somehow, right?)

This choice contrasts with the strange ritual of the Other Manor, where the princess herself has no choice of suitor and goes about life acting out strange fractions of an ancient ritual.

So, anyways, wonderful blend of romance, mystery, and beautiful words. I highly recommend it!

Bimonthly Book Review – “Trapped” by Kevin Hearne

13536649So, the latest installment of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles has come out and I got it! It’s pretty good, par for the course in the series, really – nothing really, super spectacular, but fun to read and the parts I enjoyed made up for the parts I didn’t.

The book takes place twelve years after the last one. Atticus and his apprentice, Granuaile have been in hiding, flying safely under the radar thanks to the rumors of Atticus’ death. But a slight snag comes up – it’s time to bind Granuaile to the earth and make her a full Druid, but beginning the ritual alerts the world that Atticus is still alive, and so the enemies come flying in, all set on settling old scores. Between Roman gods, Norse gods, vampires, and dark elves, performing the binding becomes way more difficult than it should and time is running out.

It really is a fun story. Atticus’ snark and wit are ever-present, Oberon stays more dog-like than usual (which I like – sometimes his adopted personas get distracting), and Granuaile is a solid apprentice – not too whiny, bright, and cheerful. The plot itself is multi-faceted, which makes it fun to read and, even when the twists are more obvious than not, the amount of action keeps you guessing.

As usual, the only thing that prevents me from fully enjoying the series is Atticus’ combative attitude towards Christianity (to be clear – it’s the Christians he dislikes, not the Christian deities). Yes, it makes sense – he is, after all, the only Druid to survive the ancient Catholic purge and he worships his own pantheon of gods, but I don’t really need the digs at monotheistic faiths that Hearne injects into Atticus’ dialogue in every book. I’ve gotten the point by now, and I’d appreciate a gentler touch in that regard.

Other than that flaw, I recommend this story to Fantasy lovers – especially if you like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Bimonthly Book Review – “The Bards of Bone Plain” by Patricia McKillip

7894642So, I finished off 2012 with Patricia McKillip’s The Bards of Bone Plain. Usually, I find her work to be beautiful and dreamy, but a bit too flowy and hazy; very often, I find myself getting lost in the lovely prose and losing track of the story. It’s like looking at something through a veil – you can still see it, but it’s softened and unclear. In this case however, McKillip hit just the right balance between spellbinding prose and clarity of story. I always knew where I was, and because of that, I was able to relax and let myself be swept away both the language and the narrative.

The story follows the young scholar, Phelan Cle, as he researches the mystical Bone Plain for his final project at the bardic academy. Alongside him, his father, Jonah Cle, and Princess Beatrice dig through ancient ruins, trying to piece together the past bit by bit. Both of these pursuits are interrupted by the eerie bard, Kelda, that comes to court to play in the next bardic competition – a trial in which one of Phelan’s close friends, Zoe, is competing. These four plot bits are all tied up within the legend of Nairn, an ancient bard associated with Bone Plain.

It isn’t unusual for McKillip to weave that many separate story arcs together, and usually, that’s part of the reason that she loses me as a reader. This time, they all blended together harmoniously and enhanced each other, rather than competing with each other for my attention.

As always, her prose are lyrical and hypnotizing, which is the biggest reason why I keep returning to her works. I love how she makes her language reflect the mystery and magic that she’s writing about. And, unrelated to that point, the cover art is absolutely gorgeous – much like the cover art for The Tower at Stony Wood.

I actually can’t think of anything that I particularly disliked about this book. The premise of linking magic and music has become pretty common today (though I do think she is one of the original propagators of that theme), so it’s nothing groundbreaking there, but it is a good solid read by an author who obviously loves language and knows how to use it. Fantasy lovers, English majors, and music lovers alike will enjoy this book in equal measure.

Beware the Kraken!!

Literary Pleasures

Prompted by my Rhetoric teacher’s question of, “What types of pleasure do we get from reading novels?” These are just a few. 🙂

Vignette 1 – “Sheer, Wide-Eyed Wonder” Pleasure

One of my favorite books when I was very young was my illustrated copy of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The premise of the sisters dressing in their most beautiful gowns and dancing in an enchanted castle until dawn captivated me (and I checked our mobile home very thoroughly for secret passages that would lead somewhere similar).

Beyond the story itself though, the beautiful full-color plate illustrations of the diamond-studded forest and the princess’ flower garden enthralled me. This book was one of the first to introduce me to the delight of entering a fantasy world and staying there for a while. It’s one of the stories that cemented my reading tastes in the Fantasy genre.

Vignette 2 – “Boy, I’m Tired, But It Was So Worth It” Pleasure

I first read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in fifth grade. It took me seventy-two hours of straight reading (excluding parent enforced meal breaks and the occasional cat-nap) to finish. By the time I set the book down, I had a serious case of eyestrain, but I remember feeling a distinct sense of pride and accomplishment since it had been a difficult story to read, vocabulary-wise, and I had gotten through the entire trilogy faster than my mom had when she first read it. It was my first truly long “marathon” read, and I was proud to have made it through. It also didn’t hurt that I had absolutely loved the story and couldn’t wait to open the books up and go on the trek with Frodo all over again.

Vignette 3 – “Not A Tourist Anymore!” Pleasure

The world of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels has a very complex social caste system based around a person’s magical strength, gender, and bloodlines. Underneath the social structure is the economic consideration of wealth and status. All of it blends together into a dizzying social dance that would leave readers bewildered for the first few books if Bishop didn’t take the time to point out what’s going on.

One of my favorite types of reading pleasure is when I start to think like an inhabitant of whatever book I’m reading. I love when the author’s alien world begins to make as much sense as my own. It is especially satisfying with Bishop’s books because of how intricate her system is. The first time that I recognized and understood the visual clues within the narrative before any exposition was given, was amazingly awesome.

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