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I feel like I have been hearing about Frances Hardinge from my dwircle for quite some time now, and I've finally gotten around to reading her after a reading binge that I blame on [personal profile] skygiants' posts on the Fionavar Tapestry. (I started with The Fionavar Tapestry last weekend and then.. kept reading things! It was great! I think I read more books this past week than I have all year to date!)

Verdigris Deep

Ryan, Chelle and Josh are desperate for bus money one night, and Josh ends up sneaking down a well to grab some of the wishing coins. But then each of them begin developing strange powers (I am still viscerally creeped out by Ryan's), and they find that they have to start granting the wishes tied to the coins they took. And since granting wishes never goes well, things slowly start to go very, very wrong.

I've seen many comparisons of Hardinge with Diana Wynne Jones, and this book in particular feels very much like DWJ--the oddball kids, the way some unlikable characters grow likable and others turn bad, the slowly growing sense of dread and uneasiness. This book was very creepy in that damp fingers down your spine kind of way, which was not what I had been expecting. There's a lot here about what you wish for on the surface and what you actually want, and how you can be trapped in wishes you've outgrown. I also liked that even though Ryan, Chelle and Josh band together because both Ryan and Chelle would have been picked on at school if not for Josh, Hardinge takes time to show what bits are being friends just because there's no one else and how you can kind of be friends with someone and only get to know them better later.

The Lie Tree

So, I thought Verdigris Deep was creepy. The Lie Tree is SO MUCH CREEPIER O_o.

Faith's father is a discredited paleontologist who has taken his family and a secret project to an island to avoid the public eye, but growing a tree that feeds on lies that you spread never turns out well. This is set in the late 19th century, and it manages to make the time period feel just as alien as a built-from-scratch fantasy world. Hardinge makes fossils and the radical idea of evolution feel terrifying and world- and faith-shaking in a way I haven't really encountered before, and there's a matter-of-factness to the Victorian focus on morbidity that makes the entire worldview feel foreign. I went and looked up tons of details on Victorian photography and mourning rituals after this.

I loved Faith, who is clever and angry and not particularly nice, how she despises her mother and desperately wants her father's acknowledgement even though he is a terrible human being. I love that Hardinge doesn't try to file off her edges (or anyone else's, for that matter), and although it's not particularly new to talk about just how circumscribed women's roles were, it's rare to get that visceral feeling of being slowly stifled. Also, bonus points for not magically making Faith believe in evolution and other things we now know are scientifically correct; one of my favorite exchanges consists of one person arguing that something is caused by animal magnetism only to be pooh-poohed for being unscientific, as obviously it is spiritual energy instead.

This is a very, very good book, and I've been deliberately holding off on binging on more of Hardinge so I don't get through all her back catalog too quickly.

Links:


Link me to other write ups! I'm sad I missed the conversations!

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Sep. 18th, 2013 09:56 am
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What I've read: I haven't actually finished anything this week, alas.

What I'm reading: Of course, I have not progressed in anything I was reading last week! Instead, I have started Tenea D. Johnson's Smoketown, and how have I not heard of her? (Okay, possibly because I have been out of the loop for years.) This is one of those books that feels like it was written JUST FOR ME: a city with layers and layers of history still mourning the plague that struck it decades ago, a city that has outlawed birds and now has callers in the dawn to add an approximation of birdsong back into the city soundscape, a man locked away in a tower living through the full-immersion experiences of others via virtu reals, an artist who can bring things to life via drawing and chemistry. It feels so much like Kari Sparring's Living with Ghosts, only much, much kinder to its women. And! Not only does it have all the gorgeous cityscapes that I love, it is populated with brown people! I am only about a third of the way in, and it's a relatively short book, but I fell for the prose from paragraph one and the book has only gotten better since.

What I'm reading next: Hopefully finishing the books I was in the middle of last week, along with this book, and then maybe continuing on to Johnson's R/evolution.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Sep. 11th, 2013 12:29 pm
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Whoo, I have stuff to post on!

(I have been greatly enjoying everyone's resolve to post every day for a month, and then I feel like I should as well to hopefully clear up book backlog, but the daily happiness posts (opt in here) are already kind of hard and I feel so spammy despite knowing people actually signed up for the filter and knowing that I enjoy seeing other people's posts!)

What I've read: I did more reading for the awards jury I am on, yay.

Aside from that, I went on a completely unexpected detour into the land of reading nostalgia: Terry Brooks. His Shannara books (back then only the original trilogy and Heritage of Shannara) were my introduction to fantasy as a genre; I had read a lot of middle grade stuff of course, but I wanted something just like Tolkien after my headlong fall into Middle Earth, and Shannara was right there. Anyway, I reread The Elfstones of Shannara and The Elf Queen of Shannara, and then did a mostly-skipping-Par's-POV reread of The Scions of Shannara.

They held up better than expected? But I also wasn't expecting much. There's the argh of the Rovers, which fit all the Roma stereotypes, way too many bland young men wandering about, and the world building is pretty sparse in terms of cultures and extremely high fantasy derivative. On the other hand, I remember so much more of them than I had expected, even specific chapters and lines I had liked. I am amused that even back in sixth or seventh grade, I was completely bored by the typical young white male savior figure (Par, Shea, Wil, Jair) and very much into the women or the older, more cynical men who weren't such blank slates. Alas for the lack of older, cynical women. And that the Frodo-and-Sam journey parts of the narrative never interested me nearly as much as the epic battle and war strategy bits. The women aren't the best—too many love interests inexplicably interested in the boring main characters, too many "too good for this world" women—but I remember liking things like Eretria helping out Amberle and especially Wren's relationship with her grandmother in Elf Queen. (Also, Eowen Cerise/Ellenroh, slashy like whoa.)

Anyway, definitely not something I'd rec, but it was an enjoyable dalliance! (Also, I totally wanted to be a Druid.)

What I'm reading: I tried starting a novel for awards reading (mostly I have been doing short stories, since they are so fast); hopefully I will stick with it. I also started Anuja Chauhan's The Zoya Factor per [personal profile] deepad's impromptu Anuja Chauhan book club. Not very far into it yet, but the voice is very breezy and enjoyable. Also, Shah Rukh Khan's abs have already made an appearance, which is never a bad thing imo.

What I'm reading next: More of The Zoya Factor and more awards reading, hopefully! Though I will probably end up doing the no-Par-POV reread of Heritage of Shannara....

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Aug. 28th, 2013 01:31 pm
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Woe, it's been a while since I've had a Reading Wednesday post.

What I've read: I thought I had already made a post about reading Meljean Brook's Guardian Demon, but apparently not! Anyway, I'm hoping to write this one up in more detail. Like many of the other books in the Guardian series, I don't completely buy the romance and the plot doesn't always make sense, but somehow the books are greater than the sum of their parts. Possibly it's Brook's clear affection for worldbuilding along with romance. And of course, after I finished, I went on to reread bits and pieces of various other Guardian books.

I did not read for another week or so after that, but then I got the Kobo Aura HD, and I have now resumed reading 7 Seeds (currently in the middle of volume 14? 13?). It continues to be awesome, and I am especially glad to see certain characters reappearing.

I also caught up on the latest Skip Beat chapters! I think I am withholding judgement until I see what happens next. Also, the translation for some of them is terrible.

And I skimmed The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, most of which I cannot remember, save the Victoria Janssen short story that I liked a lot. POC hero AND heroine! And a relatively unused romance time period (for the genre, not for the author) with a lot of period detail.

What I'm reading now: Finally found my places again in Spillover and Feed after uploading them to the new ereader, but I haven't made much progress in either. Also in the middle of a 7 Seeds volume. Also I am a few pages into Samit Basu's Gameworld trilogy book 1, but I don't count that as officially reading it yet.

Random book-shaped space: I miss reading manga! Being able to do it on the ereader is awesome, and the new one's larger screen makes them so much more legible. Anyway, I got Silver Spoon and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou to read, but I feel like I'm completely behind on stuff, especially shoujo manga. Any good new shoujo series around?

... also, I should grab whatever Yuki Kaori is working on now.
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This is a companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and is very similar to the previous book in terms of retold tales and storytelling as a conceit within the book. I don't remember Where the Mountain Meets the Moon well enough to figure out if there are any direct connections, although given the retold stories, I wouldn't be surprised if there were mythological figures in common.

Rendi is running away from home, and he ends up working at an inn in the Village of Clear Sky. There are several interesting guests whose true identities are slowly revealed, local grudges, and the mystery of why the moon has disappeared from the sky.

I was less interested in this in the beginning compared to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, probably because I wasn't as sympathetic to Rendi, but I was still charmed as all the story threads started to merge and fold in on each other. I guessed most of the twists well beforehand, partly due to the book being aimed at a much younger audience and partly due to being familiar with the mythologies in question. As with the previous book, I'd love some sort of DVD-style commentary on specific changes Lin made to various stories; I caught a few, but probably nowhere near all of them.

Slight spoilers )

As previously mentioned, I wish I had the physical book for this; the ebook has all the illustrations, but Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was so gorgeous that I would like this one for my shelves as well.

I am also tempted to reread Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to see how that book's mountain and moon mystery compares to this one.

And as a minor note, once I realized one character's identity, I wondered if it should be obvious to the people in the book due to his name (as opposed to the reader, who can't see the hanzi used). I will handwave and say that he used a character that sounds the same but is written differently.

Anyway, this is charming and relaxing.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jul. 10th, 2013 10:58 am
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Yay, I actually read something this week, even if I didn't finish anything!

What I've read: As noted, haven't finished anything =(.

What I'm reading: Wendy Christensen's Outsmarting Cats, for the obvious reasons. I probably won't finish, as there doesn't seem to be much in there that I can't already find on the Internets. I was, however, very amused at the introduction and the whole "cats have been domesticated for much less time than dogs, so inside your cat lurks a wild and ferocious predator!"

And I started Grace Lin's Starry River of the Sky, which is a companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which I loved. So far, there aren't any direct connections between the books, but the structure of stories within the main story is the same. It is so nice having a book that plays to my love of retold tales where said tales are not only not Eurocentric, but also ones I grew up with. Like the previous book, I'm enjoying the little changes Lin makes as she weaves them all together. I'm reading this as an ebook, though I feel I should get it (and the previous book) in paper so I can look more closely at the illustrations and the typesetting and etc.

What I'm reading next: Er, if I actually keep reading, hopefully finishing the Lin? Also, I have had Cold Steel for a while now and still haven't started, despite my anticipation. Cecilia Grant's new romance has also been out for a few weeks, and I vaguely intend to read, but haven't been in much of a romance mood. Instead, I want to get my hands on Spillover to read about pandemics or My Beloved Brontosaurus to read about the latest in paleontology. The latter is sparked by a rewatch of Jurassic Park a few months back, and as for the former... no idea, except that I like reading about diseases and parasites? I have several books about plague and disease and hospitals on my ereader, but am of course hankering after the one I don't have.
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I really didn't want to go back to my apartment and have to deal with the now-empty rat cage and assorted paraphernalia, so to put it off, CB and I crashed his friend's place and did a 7-episode Game of Thrones marathon.

Spoilers for both the show AND all books )

I'm good with any and all spoilers, so 'ware spoilers in the comments as well!

Reading Wednesday

Wed, May. 15th, 2013 10:34 am
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Didn't post last week since I didn't actually finish anything....

What I've read: Finished Adulthood Rites! And Imago! More noodling for Wiscon: all three of the books are captivity narratives in ways, though Jodahs' captivity is the least restrictive... it's only outlawed from Lo, and then briefly imprisoned while looking for its human mates. I keep being struck by the biological determinism of the books, particularly the emphasis on Human males and their propensity for wandering in Adulthood Rites, and how the Oankali think it's more important to listen to the messages that Humans' bodies give as opposed to their mouths/thoughts. There are some scenes in which the person is saying they don't want to be physically intimate with an ooloi, but the ooloi reads past the words to their body and goes on anyway. And... it doesn't always work out well--the Humans are frequently conflicted--but I am reminded of rape cases in which the survivor is physically aroused during the attack and how that in itself can be incredibly traumatic (as well as the super awful arguments about how then it isn't really rape).

Must remember to go over [personal profile] oracne's entry (spoilers) before the con as well. Can't believe Wiscon is in less than two weeks!

I also read [personal profile] rachelmanija's A Cup of Smoke, which is a collection of her short stories and poems. I've read a lot of them before, but I really needed something comforting after Haru, and having a familiar voice (along with a rodent zodiac) was immensely helpful. Unsurprisingly, I liked the stories more than the poems (I am not a huge poetry person), and there are a lot of f/f, POC, and retold tales, which is right up my alley. I can't really be objective about this, since Rachel is a really good friend of mine, and I can see so many of her fingerprints over all the stories, but that is also why it was the perfect thing to read right when I needed it.

What I'm reading now: Er, I'm not. I started Tansy Rayner Roberts' Creature Court trilogy, but I still need familiarity and comfort right now. Possibly instead I will continue rewatching Fruits Basket and Utena (CB is watching them for the first time. I think he's more taken with Utena so far, especially now that we've seen a few more Nanami episodes).

What I'm reading next: Maybe stuff for Wiscon? I don't know. Oh wait, I mean to get to the new Skip Beat chapter!

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Apr. 10th, 2013 09:42 am
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What I've read: I finished Alison Bechdel's Fun Home after seeing her at a City Arts & Lectures event. The event itself was great; Bechdel herself isn't all too talkative, but there was a short video clip of her creating a comic page and discussion of her process, which I hadn't been expecting and was really interesting. I don't have much to say about Fun Home yet, especially since I'm still in the middle of her next memoir about her mother, but it's definitely worth reading, and I kind of wish I had read her stuff before going to see her. Oh well! At least it was incentive to get some of her books!

I also finished Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, which I like, but possibly not as much as everyone else. As most people have said, the voice is fantastic, as is the sense of place, but every time I was getting into it, more murder mystery details showed up and I would promptly lose track of what was going on. Clearly plot brain has disappeared again.

A lot of Meljean Brook )

What I'm reading now: I'm still in the middle of Bechdel's Are You My Mother, which is an interesting experience because it has therapy and mothers, but Bechdel's relationship to her mother, problematic as it is, is very different from mine with my mother. (Me: I WISH my mom would not talk to me!) I also started Aaronovitch's Moon over Soho because I wanted to see how a few dangling threads at the end of Rivers of London were resolved, but now the mystery has hit and, predictably and sadly, I have lost interest.

What I'm reading next: Who knows! I feel like a fantasy + romance fun blend but don't like most paranormals and their more dominant than you heroes, but I can't really think of anything. I should also read vol. 2 of Wandering Son before it's due back at the library.
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I've read the books through A Feast for Crows, which is when I gave up on the series. I have some issues with the books, though the main thing that gets me ranting is the general fannish perception of the books and the series (namely: Most! Brilliant! Thing! Ever!).

I took up the TV series largely because I heard about Lena Headey's casting (insert woeful look re: TSCC here), and I was curious about how the series would treat Cersei. Also, it's one of CB's friend's favorite series.

CW for non-graphic discussion of sexual violence and general violence in the show.

Spoilers for entire show + books 1-4 )

So despite my ranting, will probably keep watching just because of the pretty sets and outfits and the incessant narrative drive.

Assume spoilers for the entire show and all the published books in the comments, along with future spoilers and speculation! I haven't read A Dance with Dragons, but please feel free to spoil away, as I doubt I ever will. In fact, spoiling me for it is a plus, since I'm still a little confused as to what happens from what I read in wiki summaries. Future speculation and/or spoilers also welcome!

Also, I am really not interested in the argument on whether Game of Thrones is feminist or not. FWIW, my take is that it very much is not, even though it has some interesting female characters. I've also read a fair amount of posts on why people think it is, so no need to rehash.
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(consists of The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods)

Ile-Rien has been under attack by the Gardier for a while, and they are losing. The Gardier possess magic that can disrupt anything mechanical, and Rienish wizards haven't been able to find anything that can counter the Gardier's magic, at least until they accidentally find a way to jump to different worlds using a sphere made by Tremaine Valiarde's eccentric uncle-figure Arisilde, who has been missing and presumed dead for a while. Ensuing attempts to battle the Gardier eventually encompass rogue wizards, a giant luxury liner, a lot of fighting, airships, and Tremaine's often dubious morals.

I especially enjoyed the trilogy's blend of plot, world building, and fun characters. Tremaine herself would probably admit that she is terrible as a model heroine, but very good at flying by the seat of her pants, being sarcastic, and having a complete lack of sympathy for the Gardier. And the Ilias and Giliead show always cracks me up.

Cut for length )

Spoilers, some mention of suicidality )

In conclusion: I have some nitpicks, but the trilogy is really enjoyable, with settings I think you don't get that much in fantasy (I now want to check out the luxury ocean liner the Ravenna is based on) and a fun cadre of characters.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Feb. 6th, 2013 10:03 am
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I was going to say that I didn't manage to finish a book this week, but then I managed to read on the bus yesterday without getting carsick and then sped through the book at home.

What I've just finished: Martha Wells' The Wizard Hunters, the first book of the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy. It is so nice to be able to luxuriate in sf/f worldbuilding and plot again, and even better when I manage to like the first part of a series. I looked at the next two volumes (or, well, their listing in my Nook) with great pleasure and anticipation: hours more of enjoyment! More time finding things out about the world! I usually read for character and still do, but it is a very nice feeling to be able to juggle more than one aspect of a book again.

I feel I should also note that I finished my audiobook listen of Tamora Pierce's Magic Steps. It seems that the return of plot brain also means the return of "brain whirring too much before sleep" and ergo the need for more meaty content to distract it. The Circle books have been really comforting to listen to and they soothe my anxiety.

What I'm reading: I stalled out on the Andrea K. Host. I think I am just not up for books that focus so much on the protagonist's inner life right now, which I find amusing, since that was basically all I could read for the past five years or so. Other than that, just started the next Ile-Rien book and am currently listening to Street Magic. I like the narrator's voice here better than Tamora Pierce's, who narrated all the other Circle books so far. I also really like the person doing Evvy. Other than that... Oh Tamora Pierce. You try so hard, but the vaguely West Asian coded villains in Magic Steps and the entire setting of Street Magic is making me facepalm.

What I'm reading next: Probably the third Wells book, and then maybe her Raksura trilogy? Or, hopefully by then I will have gotten my greedy hands on Karen Lord's next book.

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(books one and two of the Spiritwalker trilogy)

This is set in the late Regency period of a world in which the Roman Empire never completely toppled, mage houses are a powerful force from a long-ago alliance between West African and Celtic mages, people are making airships, revolutionary forces are in the brewing, the spirit world is close at hand, Camjiata (the Napoleon equivalent) is about to make a second attempt at empire, and oh yes, by the way, there's still a bit of the ice age going and did I mention the intelligent dinosaurs (called "trolls" by the humans in the world)?

Our heroine, Cat Hassi Barahal, gets entangled in mage house politics while also uncovering her own ties to the spirit world in book one. In book two, she ends up in Expedition, a trade city in the world's equivalent of the Dominican Republic which struggles to maintain its independence from the next-door Taino empire.

This is basically everything and the kitchen sink. The pacing in book one is kind of terrible; I didn't get into it until a revelation around the halfway point. Book two does much better, partly because there is much less journeying involved and way less worldbuilding to cram into your head, because if you couldn't tell, there is a heck of a lot of worldbuilding in these books. Some of it is less explicit than I would like (want more about the trolls!), but I find the eventual migration of various African peoples up north and the blend of African and Celtic society to be absolutely fascinating.

It's not even the biggest point of the world either, just the background! The books are basically about revolutionary and radical ideas and the spread of ideas about equality and property and rights, and I am really impressed that Elliott manages to make these ideas feel (afaict) true to the Regency time period we know and true to her own world. It's a great example of how fantasy doesn't actually have to be about the restoration of monarchical bloodlines, and I like that she does it in a way that doesn't use that much modern jargon about social justice or democracy (in the USian sense, not the Greek sense).

I did find that the characters suffer a little due to this. Cat has an extremely close relationship with her cousin Bee, but I often felt as though we were told that more than seeing it. Some of it is due to Cat getting separated from Bee for long periods in both books, and I'm hoping the third will have much more Cat-and-Bee adventures. Cat herself is a fine character but not one I am completely in love with (unlike, say, the women in Melina Marchetta's Lumatere trilogy), though I very much like that Elliott emphasizes both Cat's fighting ability and her skill with a needle.

Spoilers )

Links:

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(books two and three of the Lumatere Chronicles)

You can read the first book of the trilogy, Finnikin of the Rock, as a standalone, but these work best as two halves of a single book.

Trigger warning: The book has a lot of abuse (sexual and non-sexual) in it.

Three years after the events of Finnikin, former Lumateran exile Froi is sent into the royal court of neighboring country and enemy Charyn. As he's there, he's intrigued by the despised princess Quintana and quickly entangled in really messy political stuff.

I'm not sure these books are better than Finnikin, as Finnikin has much better pacing and structure, but once I finished both of them, I'm pretty sure I like them even more. If you thought the topics of healing (both individual and country-wide), instutionalized violence and abuse, found families, war, and making peace were difficult in Finnikin, they are even more so here. Ditto the proliferation of really awesome women, and I was incredibly happy to see a gay character with a canonical gay romance.

Spoilers )

I feel like the last few paragraphs have all been about my quibbles with the books, but honestly, they are very, very good, and they tackle issues and do a lot of things that a lot of fantasy doesn't. Both books aren't paced nearly as well as the first book, but they cover a lot more territory and plot, so despite the unevenness, I like them much more. Definitely recommended.

Links (assume spoilers):
- [personal profile] skygiants' list of ways the books are a romantic comedy

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 23rd, 2013 01:03 pm
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What I've just finished: I finished Cold Magic at a reasonable hour in which I could make it to bed and still get enough sleep.

What I'm reading: ... so of course I started Cold Fire so I could continue to read on and get so caught up in character relationships that once again I went to bed at a truly very bad ungood hour. /o\

I'm not actually sure this "reading" thing is better for my sleep schedule than endless Picross and Sims Social, but it certainly is more enjoyable.

What I'm going to read next: So... when does Cold Steel come out?

Barring that, I'm not sure. I kinda want to finish Subramaniam's retelling of the Mahabharata, but now I have read several books in a row on my Nook, I am a bit reluctant to lug the giant thing around. I suppose I'll just browse my library and see what catches my interest to try and keep up reading momentum. Suggestions always welcome! I currently seem to be in the mood for relatively plotty, fast-moving sf/f with cool worldbuilding, though I will add the disclaimer that my brain is very capricious.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 16th, 2013 12:37 pm
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What I am reading now
Started Kate Elliott's Cold Magic so I can catch up to the rest of my dwircle. So far, it's a bit slow, and the AU history bits in combination with bits of our world's history (i.e. the Napoleon equivalent) make my brain very confused. I think the plot has finally kicked off though, so yay.

What I just finished reading
Melina Marchetta's Quintana of Charyn, which I need to write up, and Hagio Moto's The Heart of Thomas. Thomas is a beautiful edition, but the size makes it a little hard to read now that I am accustomed to my light ereader. Also, I spotted some typos and etc =(. Still, SO HAPPY it is now available in a translation I can read!

What I plan on reading next
Who knows?! Probably Cold Fire once (if) I finish Cold Magic. Manga-wise, I have no idea. I feel so behind on everything that I'm overwhelmed, so I'm tempted to start a reread of X, since I got some of the shiny reissues for Christmas, or Fullmetal Alchemist so I can finally finish it.
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(book one of the Lumatere Chronicles)

Warning: there is a fair amount of sexual violence in this book

Ten years ago, the impostor king slaughtered the royal family of Lumatere. In the panic, the people of Lumatere turned on the Forest Dwellers, an oppressed minority in the country, and when they burned one of them at stake, she cursed the land and the people. As such, half of the Lumaterans are trapped in its borders and the other half are wandering exiles who don't know anything of what is now going on within their country. Finnikin of the Rock is one of these exiles, and he and his mentor are recruited by a girl Evanjalin who claims she can lead them to the heir and break the curse.

Marchetta says, "I was told often that I couldn't write fantasy unless I had read all the greats and knew the conventions well." I think the book is a good example of both why this is right and wrong. The worldbuilding isn't the best I've read, but it's also not bad: Marchetta has thought about things like trade and economics and minority populations and how each country has its own subpopulations. I particularly like notes such as how one country hates the Lumateran exiles because the Lumateran curse has cut off their access to the river trade and thereby improverished the country. On the other hand, I wanted a broader range of cultures and governing styles across the countries, especially because this book is so concerned with hereditary rulers and blood. It's also, like so much of fantasy, vaguely Eurocentric in inspiration, and I found that and the focus on prophecy and gathering together enough plot tokens people to defeat the curse not nearly as interesting. One specific prophecy in the book rears its head several times quite annoyingly.

That said, this is above-calibre fantasy in terms of characters; I didn't mind the various people Finnikin and Evanjalin had to round up because I found them all interesting. Also, I love that the book explores themes about community and nation and loss, how big the loss of Lumatere is to all the Lumaterans but also how they all react differently. I kind of wished that the journey to gather all the exiles had taken longer and been more difficult, especially given how many qualms Finnikin has about their quest.

Also, while the book seems very heavy on the male characters, Evanjalin is absolutely awesome and terrifying in a way I think many female characters don't get to be.

Spoilers )

Also, I am really not sure why this was published as YA, except for YA being Marchetta's usual genre of choice.

In conclusion: very good, and I really hope Marchetta keeps writing fantasy and hopefully starts to mess around with more genre conventions. (Also, I totally blame this book for completely wrecking my sleep schedule.)

Links:
- [personal profile] rilina's review
- [personal profile] lab's review (middle of entry)
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(consists of The Maker's Mask and The Hawkwood War)

Tzenni Boccamera would like to rescue her sister Catha from the stronghold of the Kapellans, as the feud between Boccamera and Kapellan is legendary. Then things get incredibly complicated with the search for various missing Kapellans, a genderqueer bodyguard, dizzyingly complex politics, the involvement of more families, ancient technologies, secret orders, and a very detailed world. I am not entirely sure all of it makes sense to me in the end, but it's great fun to read even when I can't keep track of half of what's going on. My main gripe would be that there's enough content in here to make for a very fat trilogy, as opposed to the two relatively slim volumes there are.

These books have a lot of things I like. Tzenni is an engineering geek who is rather frustrated at being entangled in all these politics, and she is overwhelmingly practical until faced with an engineering problem, which of course requires her undevoted attention and brainspace no matter what else is going on. Innes Liang the bodyguard is made of ten kinds of awesome, and it is an epicon (genderqueer for the world, "it" seems to be its preferred pronoun) of great wit and sardocness, and its relationship with Tzenni is one of my favorites in the books. The books easily pass the Bechdel test, and there are a lot of very interesting women doing very interesting things, some of whom I like, some of whom I don't, and some of whom I am on the fence about. I particularly want to know more about the system of inheritance and families; marriages frequently consist of more than two people, heirs are chosen and named and can skip generations, and there's a huge injunction that two heirs or a Prime (like a ruler) and an heir should not marry.

The world is one of those populated by the descendents of space-faring peoples, with a mix of space fantasy and VR tech and telepathy or something, and although you get a bit of the world's backstory and how the various technologies were forgotten or recovered or lost, I actually wanted a lot more infodumping than I got. The dialogue is witty and fun, and the pace is breakneck. I did have a bit of trouble following the many, many plot twists, though never enough to keep me from enjoying the book. I feel a bit odd in that I can't quite summarize the plot of the book because I'm still not quite sure what exactly it was, because there was so much of it.

I do wish one of the primary villains weren't an epicon, particularly given his/her branch of villainy, but overall I like the gender and sexuality bits of the world a lot. Other requests I guess would be more central non-het relationships, and more of Innes Liang in general.

But yes. One could have worse complaints than "More please!" (Dear Ankaret Wells, I really hope there is going to be more set on Requite, because I like it a lot so far and would read many many more pages about it, even without the current characters. And I very much want more of the current characters too.)

Thanks to [personal profile] coffeeandink for the rec!
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
(Book 1 of Crescent Moon Kingdoms)

Adoulla Makhslood is the last ghul hunter in Dhamsawaat; the order of ghul hunters has been slowly dying out for a while, which is a bit of a pain when a series of ghul attacks strike the city. Soon, he and his apprentice Raseed find that the attacks are somehow connected with the overall dissatisfaction with the current Khalif and the growing backlash against the Khalif that is being fanned by the thief the Falcon Prince.

I very much liked how urban this book was: Adoulla is an inhabitant of the large city Dhamsawaat, and he wouldn't have it any other way, no matter how much he complains. My favorite bits had very little to do with the plot and had more to do with Adoulla talking to various people around the city, going places, having tea, and etc. I was also glad to see characters who are aging, as opposed to the usual teens and 20-somes that populate fantasy. Adoulla is tired and his joints often hurt, and really he would like to just sit and eat instead of chasing down these ghuls every day. I greatly sympathize with this. In fact, the older folk are the most interesting, from Adoulla to his two friends. Zamia, a member of a nomadic band, later joins, and she and Raseed are sadly the most boring bits.

I think Ahmed was trying to go for a commentary on religious fundamentalism and varying types of Islam via Adoulla and his apprentice Raseed (the religion of the book is not Islam although is probably based on it). Raseed is extremely by-the-book and devout, and he is frequently horrified by the little exceptions and grey areas that Adoulla insists on. And I am sure all of you guys know this, but it is so nice to see this kind of commentary framed entirely within a religion, as opposed to Faith A vs. Faith B or Faith C vs. Atheism.

Alas, I probably wouldn't have picked this up if it hadn't been for the setting. The plot wasn't enticing enough to pull me along, and the emotional connection, which is usually what keeps me reading, was a bit lacking. As noted, I liked Adoulla plenty, but I found it very hard to get into Zamia and Raseed's heads, as they were fairly single-minded in what they were going for. Also, Ahmed has a habit of telling emotional facts, such as Raseed's attraction to Zamia or Adoulla's pining over an old flame, as opposed to showing. In the end, I wasn't a believer of either romance.

Though I appreciated the inclusion of Zamia, Ahmed's old flame Miri, and a female magic user whose name I can't find, I really wish Zamia had been more fleshed out. We mostly see her through Adoulla's eyes or Raseed's, and in one she's the nuisance, and in the other, she's an object of romantic attraction. There are bits where she gets to interact with female magic user, and I like the contrast of warrior Zamia with female magic user's healing ability, but really, the book is Adoulla's. Also, it would be nice to have a female romantic interest whose main desire was not to get Hero out of the whole Hero of Epic Fantasy business.

Cool world but could be fleshed out a lot more.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Book two of Dreamblood (first book is The Killing Moon)

This is set about ten years after the events of The Killing Moon, and while it's nice to have read the previous book for worldbuilding, I don't think it's necessary.

Trigger warnings )

Spoilers for TKM )

In conclusion: I didn't enjoy the plot nearly as much as TKM, but I love the world in Dreamblood, and it was great being able to see more of it. The ten-year span between the books helps as well; Gujaareh of TKM is not the same Gujaareh of this book, and I am very fond of "what happens a long time after" stories.

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