You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘fantasy’ tag.
Finally got my hands on Lumberjanes because I’m nothing if not a slave to your recommendations.
I get the love: the art is fresh, the girl-power theme is amazing, it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times. It’s all that so it deserved a bit more… depth. It felt really short mostly because its 24 pages are action-oriented and don’t leave much room for character development or exploration of their world.
In stories about a group of people I immediately find a favorite. In Lumberjanes I had some difficulty making that call – there’s just not much that distinguishes them (apart from Ripley being The Crazy One). In the end I went with Jo because she had books and pictures of stars and planets in her bunk:
To be fair, it’s only the first in the series and there’s a hint of background stories to come, like Molly’s fear of her family being informed about their adventures. But I can’t help but compare it to another very short, very popular, first-in-the-series, action-packed, kick-ass girl gang comic that takes the time to tells us (and make us care) about individual characters: Rat Queens.
The world-building in Lumberjanes also left me a bit confused: Magic? Fairy tales? Greek mythology? All? Two weeks after reading it I’m left with a vague sense of The Goonies meets Chamber of Secrets with a bit of Percy Jackson.
All this to say that I really had fun and will definitely pick up the next one in the series. I just wish it went a bit deeper with the story and its people, even if it’s “just” a first volume.
I’m ready for the rotten tomatoes to fly now… *ducks*
There’s not much I can say about this book that hasn’t been said 1.000 times before, so just some quick thoughts for posterity:
I went into One Hundred Years of Solitude with some fear, because it has happened that my re-reads turn teen favorites into just-oks. This one however, was still as amazing, as captivating and as fierce as I remembered. It’s that type of book that’s experimental and “intellectual” and yet emotionally engaging. Like a Michelin-star meal that really make you feel full.
The plot is simply summed up as the story of a family in a remote village in an unnamed South American country, but then each character is a world in itself, and the language… oh the language!
Márquez’s style is very much in the oral tradition, as if he just captured what he’d heard from someone old, wise and incredibly funny. That’s why the magic realism feels so real, why every relationship and emotion are described with such power and why the way he moves from one character to the other flows so well. The book may have the most depressing title ever and it does deal a lot with loneliness, but in fact it’s a really bright, energetic, colorful story, that feels always in motion. Hard to explain, you have to read it!
One of the biggest complains I’ve read about One Hundred Years is that the characters’ names are all the same (e.g. father José Arcadio Buendía, son Aureliano, grandson José Arcadio) and it confuses everything. Well, that might be true (as of the 4th generation I had to draw a family tree), but for me it’s a demonstration of Márquez sense of humor.
Also, surely Úrsula Buendía should belong to all the lists of “Best heroines of all time”.
I’ve read it in Portuguese but I’m aiming to pick up the original next time. I wonder how it reads in English and can see how part of the language’s richness is lost. I was debating with myself whether the “solitude” in the English title shouldn’t be “loneliness” instead. “Solitude” is almost a voluntary isolation, and the Spanish “soledad” doesn’t read like that.
Have you read this one? Any thoughts?
Other thoughts: A Striped Armchair, Jules’ Book Review, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Man of La Book, Other Sashas, of blog, Shelf Love, Fifty Book Project, The Labyrinth Library, Avid Readers’ Musings, bookhimdanno, Passion for the Page, My Library in the Making, Rivers I have Known, Old English Rose Reads, The Reading Life (thoughts?)
Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge
... and the Re-Read Challenge
Earlier this year I finally finished the Narnia series. I never read them as a kid and as I got from one book to the next I kept thinking that maybe I ought to have. By Last Battle it was clear that no, adulthood is exactly the right time to read Narnia, because at least now I’m aware of the heavy-handed indoctrination (Susan’s fate in The Last Battle, the Middle-Easterns Calormenes – urgh!) If in the future my son decides to read them, I know I’ll want us to discuss them together. (Actually, I’m curious about the general fascination with Narnia. Is it the plot or characterization? I found them rather weak. Childhood nostalgia?)
So after Narnia, I picked up another children/young adult fantasy – Fly Trap (Twilight Robbery in the UK) – and it was such a palate cleanser!
I loved Frances Hardinge’s first in the series, Fly by Night, and this one was even better. I’d also argue it can be read a stand-alone. It’s set right after Fly by Night, when the 12-year-old heroine Mosca Mye, her travel companion Eponymous Clent and Saracen, the goose, are looking for greener pastures after (accidentally) triggering a revolution. They end up in Toll, an apparently perfect town… until night falls.
Without giving too much away, in Hardinge’s world words and names have power. Each person is named according to the Saint (or Beloved) responsible for their birth day, but in Toll this has serious consequences. In Toll, all Beloveds have been divided into the bright, good ones and the villainous, dark ones. If you’re born under the right Beloved you’re allowed to live in Toll-by-Day, where life is well-organized and comfortable. Otherwise you’re banished to Toll-by-Night and for all intents and purposes you no longer exist. Mosca you see, was born under Beloved Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns. According to tradition, Palpitattle children are “judged to be villainous, verminous, and everywhere that they’re not wanted”.
Part of the plot is about how Toll go into such a society, and the rest is how Mosca deals with her status and her attempts to challenge it. And thus, once again our nomad trio find themselves entangled in new schemes and winding politics.
If I had just one word to describe Fly Trap it’d be “rich”. Rich in plot, that’s almost baroque in its twists, turns, leaps and layers. Rich in characterization, Mosca in particular is an amazing young female character, someone creative and independent, who’ll to survive at all costs, but also capable of great generosity and altruism. It’s rich in content and food for thought: the world building is the perfect basis to write about superstition and critical thinking. Or, if you want to go deeper, theology, crowd mentality and human nature. But, especially, the writing is rich. Hardinge continue to write her “gushy Valentine to the English language“. Here’s a taste:
“Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance – like a thrown trifle.”
“A couple of expressions pulled Clent’s face to a fro between them, like puppies trying to fight their way out of a bag.”
“I generally find,’ Clent murmured after a pause, ‘that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out.’
‘And when we get found, Mr. Clent, when the creditors and bailiffs come after us and it’s payment time…’
‘…then we borrow more, madam, at a higher interest. We embark on a wilder gamble, make a bigger promise, tell a braver story, devise a more intricate lie, sell the hides of imaginary dragons to desperate men, climb to even higher and more precarious ground…and later, of course, our fall and catastrophe will be all the worse, but later will be our watchword, Mosca. We have nothing else – but we can at least make later later.”
A great read overall and I agree with Teresa 100%: it’d make the perfect Miyazaki movie!
La fièvre d’Urbicande (Les Cités obscures, 2) by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters
Les Cités obscures or Cities of the Fantastic is one of my favorite comics series. I’ve spoken about them before and I’m looking forward to the day they’ll finally explode in the Anglo-Saxon literary world.
Each City in this universe has a distinct architectural style that influences and is influenced by its political structure, life-style and even in the way people dress. Urbicand is a city of massive structures that evokes the Futurist architects popular in the early 20th century. Buildings are huge and the few inhabitants seem insignificant is comparison.
We follow Eugen Robick, a urbatect (architect who designs entire cities) who is obsessively pursuing permission from Urbicande’s austere government to build a bridge. Without it, there’s an unbalance in the symmetry of his ambitious plans for the city.
Off-scene, some friends sent Robick a small, mysterious black cube built from an unknown material. Shortly after, he notices the cube is slowing multiplying and expanding. It continues to do so over the next months, passing through everything without damaging it and expanding to a point where it becomes a network that facilitates communication between different areas of Urbincande, areas that until that point had been mostly isolated.
In the style of many Franco-Belgian comics, La fièvre d’Urbicande is a surrealist story with lots of food for thought. I especially appreciated the way architecture/aesthetics and politics mix and reflect each other. There is something inhuman about Urbicand, a city seemingly not designed with the human scale in mind. It reminded me of the plans by Nazi architect Albert Speer.
It’s a complex book, unapologetically intellectual, and really rewarding to read.
L’archiviste (Cities of the Fantastic spin-off) by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters
The Archivist is almost like a coffee-table book. There’s a story, but it’s clearly meant to be eye candy.
Isidore Louis is an archivist that is given the task of debunking the myth of the Cités obscures. Each page includes one of the visual materials he’s unearthed and with each page we also see him slowly becoming convinced of the Cities’ existence.
There are also a wonderful connections with Jorge Luis Borges. Because of spoilers I can’t say much about the main one, but the story is very similar to Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.
I want to cover a wall just with posters from L’archiviste.
Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Wiebe & Upchurch
Even if I’d been immune to all the rave, Rat Queens would still have had me at this synopsis: “Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all gods’ creatures for profit.”
The plot is not ground-breaking and doesn’t deviate from the typical story about a group of coarse, bad-ass, bad-mouth, swashbuckling, bordering-on-mad mercenaries. Actually, I suspect the whole thing is a spoof of role-playing games that’s not taking itself too seriously.
Unlike unlike plot, character development is taken seriously and in this volume we’re already presented with interesting backstories that made me want to know more. Just the fact the mercenaries are all women (and such a diverse group is so many aspects!) gives Rat Queens extraordinary freshness. It’s impossible not to have a favourite but right I’m still divided between Dee and Violet.
Chew, Vol. 2: International Flavor by John Layman, Rob Guillory
Another outrageous plot and I loved every minute of it. Not much more to say.
First Frost is a return to the Waverly family we first meet in Allen’s most popular book, Garden Spells. All the women in the family have a gift and their house and garden literally have a life of their own. This subtle use of magical realism is a trade mark of Allen’s wonderful books, as well as an irresistible Southern charm.
First Frost starts about 10 years after Garden Spells and we find Claire has put aside her catering business and is now a full-time producer of hard-candy. Sydney’s magical hair salon is thriving, and Evanelle is still giving people just what they’ll eventually need. The main character thought, is Sydney’s daughter Bay, who has the gift of knowing where things belong (which we learn can also be a curse!). There’s also a side-story about a stranger that walks into town without the best of intentions.
Reasons why it’s a solid 4-star: Bay is great. She’s a misfit, but a confident one, proud of her heritage. I also really liked the theme of “what makes a family” that pops up at different moments (Sydney and Violet’s baby, Evanelle and Fred, the Waverleys and their husbands, the question of wether you’re a true Waverley if you’re not gifted).
Reasons why it’s not a 5-star: I could have done with more Bay and less mysterious stranger and the book should be longer!
Comment about a spoiler [so far the Waverley had relatively domestic gifts. But now Claire’s daughter can see and communicate with dead people? That feels a bit beyond the cozy feeling of Allen’s stories.]
Are you a fan of Saran Addison Allen? What’s your favorite? I’m split between Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen.
Other thoughts: Lessa’s Book Critiques, The Bluestocking Society, Annette’s Book Spot, Stacy’s Books, Capricious Reader, Booke’d Out, Workaday Reads, The Eclectic Reader, Always With a Book, Ex Libris (yours?)
Read for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
“A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure.“
Oh noes. I was afraid of this. The Lies of Locked Lamora was one of my favorite books of 2011: fresh and with a border-line hyperactive plot. My mind wandered off several times during book 2, Red Seas Under Red Skies, but the clever writing was still there, as well as a kick-ass female character. Unfortunately, The Republic of Thieves continued the downwards tendency.
To be fair, I was disappointed but it was still enjoyable, or not even Michael Page would get me to listen to 24 hours of audiobook. I’ll give it a solid 3.
Two things I enjoyed, and two I didn’t:
I continued to love the Lynch’s humor. Like the earlier in the series, The Republic is peppered with hilarious conversations and one-liners that Michael Page once again delivers to perfection. Lynch is one of the best when it comes to coarse cursing, right up there with Shakespeare. Also, just by themselves the foul-mouthed Sanza twins were worth the time I invested and I wish they’d be around in the future.
Lynch’s amazing world-building is also still alive and kicking. Every book is set in a different country and you can tell that a lot of thought went into developing separate political systems, manners and habits, architecture, gastronomy, etc. A good world-building goes a long way to make me loyal to a fantasy series.
Now for the down side. The plot interweaves two stories: in one Locke and Jean and hired by the bondmagi to rig an election in Karthain, with the (in)famous Sabetha as their opponent. The interludes are about Locke’s and the Gentleman Bastards’ early years, in particular a play they staged in their teens as a sort of team-building exercise. This supposedly secondary story is given as much time as the main one and even takes over the title of the book (the play is called The Republic of Thieves), which confused me a bit.
I though the details about Locke’s childhood were interesting, but the play became lumbering after a while. I was hoping it would bring an insight into the main story, but it wasn’t the case. In the end it felt like Lynch was just using this book as a platform to realize his dream of writing Shakespeare-style theater (there are pages of the actual play being declaimed, all very meta). This plot line should have been a separate book, like the upcoming The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard, #0).
Regarding the “present” adventure in Karthain, I was expecting an Ocean’s 11 or Mission Impossible type of plot. Rigging an election has huge potential for a plot full of baroque twists and turns, but instead Lynch focused on the romance side of the story. I wouldn’t usually defend plot over character development, but here I longed the relentlessness action of the first book. Also, in Camorr Locke and Jean had control over events and the narrative, even when plans apparently didn’t come together. In Karthain they only had a hand full of halfhearted pranks up their sleeves and were mostly puppets in the hands of their employees. I was hoping for a big a-ha! moment at the end, but was again disappointment.
Still, my biggest problem with the book was Sabetha. During the two earlier book Lynch built her up so much that in the end her entrance was just felt anticlimactic. There was no chemistry between the two, and her personality never goes beyond being a repository for Locke’s obsession and emasculation. I understand that falling in love with the leader of your gang must be hard, but it’s still no excuse for just how whinny and annoying Sabetha turned out to be.
A final aside: at some point I wondered if this book would pass The Bechdel test. Conclusion: the play part would, Karthain, not so much.
On-wards to The Thorn of Emberlain, better times will come I’m sure 🙂
Other thoughts: BookLust, Fantasy Book Critic, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, The Wertzone, Neth Space, A Dribble of Ink, The Little Red Reviewer, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews, Speculative Book Review, Val’s Random Comments, In Bed with Books (yours?)
I really didn’t need to be in yet another online platform, but couldn’t resist the idea of having my series organised. With FictFact I can track my progress and it warns me of new publications in all the series I follow.
I also like the quick overview of the books I have coming up in my profile page and to be able to nose around the series my friends are following (search sleeplessreader and feel free to add me).
Going through my stats is fun but it triggers the familiar “so many books, so little time” anxiety. I am currently following 61 series, but these include books on the TBR, so of those I haven’t even started 30. I’ve completed 50% or more of only 12 series and shamefully I’m only up to date on two (how is that possible?): the Wolf Hall Trilogy and Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing.
This is a list of the top 10 series I’m keener to start. Many have been on the shelf looking at me with big Puss in Boots eyes for a while. I’m thinking that the Long Awaited Reads might be a good opportunity to finally start a couple of them.
Go ahead and nudge me in the direction of your favorites 😉
- Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
- Jackson Brodie by Kate Atkinson
- Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
- Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, Ben
Rivers of London/Midnight Riot
- New Crobuzon by China Miéville
Perdido Street Station
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
- Eleanor of Aquitaine by Sharon Kay Penman
When Christ and His Saints Slept
- Welsh Princes by Sharon Kay Penman
Here Be Dragons
- Moosepath League by Van Reid
I don’t think it’ll be in mine, but it was still a very good read. Lots of other books and movies came to mind while reading it, from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Firebrand (my favorite book about the Trojan War), to Brad Pitt’s Troy.
It’s very cleverly told: the paragraphs were short, the writing beautiful without being whimsical or overly poetic (always a risk in stories about myths). There weren’t lots of lengthy descriptions or endless impossible-to-memorize names, but it didn’t feel dumbed-down at all, on the contrary, it was accessible and engaging.
I was expecting that, as usual, the fact it was about a gay relationship would be the driver of the plot, so it was refreshing to see it practically as a non-issue and that the demi-God and human factor created much more emotional tension. I wonder if it felt like that because the story is told in the first person, turning a him + him and into a more “generic” me + him.
Lots of other thoughts and wonderings. The biggest was about whether Achilles really did love Patroclus, which may be blasphemy for those of you who cried buckets at the end.
Patroclus is the real hero of the story. Unlike Achilles, he feels fear, but still rescues Briseis and the other women, and goes into battle to save Achilles’ honor. Achilles is the strongest, no one can beat him, and he knows it. His only fear is to be forgotten. He prefers to go into a sure death and win Eternal Glory than have a safe, ordinary life with Patroclus. What if the Gods had told him: you’ll only be famous if you leave – or worst, kill – Patroclus? Agamemnon killed his own daughter – would Achilles do the same?
Odysseus was great. A smartass, but great. Good to see someone using wits over brutal force. In a book where loving relationships are so underrated, his passion for Penelope was really touching and human. Of course there’ll be a certain Calypso in his future, but who’s counting?
In the end, I didn’t cry like everyone else. It’s strange, because I’m usually a literary cry-baby and at the moment that’s exacerbated by crazy hormones. My questioning about Achilles’ real feelings probably distanced me from the expected tragedy. It was still a good read (a first novel – respect!) with lots of food for thought, it just didn’t pull at my heart-strings as I was expecting.
Also, where’s the Horse?! I was looking forward to the Horse!
Other thoughts: Book Twirps, Fizzy Thoughts, Always Cooking Up Something, Rivers I Have Known, The Allure of Books, Eve’s Alexandria, What She Read, Lazy Gal Reads, 2606 Books, Fleur Fisher, Novel Insights, Devourer of Books, Nomad Reader, Vulpes Libris, Savidge Reads, Iris on Books, chasing bawa, Farm Lane Books (yours?)
“We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”
(Cool quote, but doesn’t it sound a bit Lady Gagaish… or maybe Doctor Whoish?)
I don’t like talking animals. Don’t like them in books, movies and especially don’t like them in commercials. I’m ok with anthropomorphism is general – loved Tangled’s chameleon and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon – I just don’t like it when they talk. It’s like it takes my suspension of disbelief too far.
It’s probably because of this that some of the dragon books I’ve read before didn’t quite do it for me, including Eragon of His Majesty’s Dragon. So I had my expectations in check when I let myself succumb to the book blogosphere’s love of Seraphina.
A bit of plot: an unstable peace exists between humans and dragons in the medieval kingdom of Gorred, where dragons walk the streets in human bodies, so as not to frighten people. Outlawing dragons’ natural form is one of the cornerstones of the peace treaty signed 50 years ago between the two races. But when a royal family member is murdered in a suspiciously draconian way just days before the treaty’s 50th anniversary celebration, Seraphina, a talented Court musician, must be careful to hide the truth about herself.
The story, which basically a whodunit, develops somewhat slowly, but that’s not a problem when there are so many interesting details to discover about Seraphina’s world, her past, her profession and her fellow courtiers. Everything about the worldbuilding is interesting, from the descriptions of the cobblestone-covered Medieval city, to the pieces of the history between dragons and humans and the well-thought-of religious beliefs (comparable to the detail George R.R. Martin puts into his ’s Seven/Old Gods system). Lots of stuff to further develop in upcoming books.
Add finely nuanced characters (a shout out to Orma, dragon scholar and Seraphina’s teacher), shapeshifting dragons fascinated by human art and a society balancing mistrust and infatuation and you have a winning combination.
(Spoiler alert, although for something that’s revealed pretty early on) I know most posts about this book focus on Seraphina dealing with her half-breed status, and indeed it’s all done in a very subtle and engaging way, (/mild spoilers) but for me the best part of the book was the dragons vs. humans dynamic. It often brought to mind Star Trek and the relationships between the rational and logical Vulcans (and even droids like Data) and the more flawed (is that the word?) Humans. There’s tension, but also a mutual fascination and need to understand and be understood that can be applied about many inter-human conflicts around the world today. Fascinating stuff!
A short note on the romance bit just to say it was very satisfying without overpowering the book or creating the ANGST that’s ruined so many YAs for me.
One of the best of 2012 and I gladly add my voice to the rest of the enthusiastic choir.
Other thoughts: things mean a lot, Stella Matutina, Magnificent Octopus, The Book Smugglers, Steph Su Reads, Wear the Old Coat, Charlotte’s Library, intoyourlungs, Books Without Any Pictures, The Readventurer, Anna Reads, The Book Swarm, Good Books & Good Wine, Book Sake, Beyond Books, Iris on Books (yours?)
Yet another proof that this re-reading thing really pays off and the confirmation that Tigana is still my favorite stand-alone fantasy novel, 10 years after the first read. This time around the experience was further improved by Simon Vance‘s most excellent narration.
(By the way, to all fantasy authors who still write stand-alones: thank you!)
There’s a lot for the grateful reader to sink his teeth on in Tigana, but the central topic is the subjugation of a people. The Peninsula of the Palm was invaded at the same time by two tyrants and sorcerers. The lack of unity among the Palm’s provinces made them easy targets and all were soon conquered and their territory divided among the two invaders.
One province stood out – Tigana. They were the last to fight back and in a decisive battle the son of the most powerful of the two tyrants was killed. He promised and delivered a terrible revenge: first he crushed them in the final battle and then, using his magic, he ensured that only people who were born in the province before the invasion could remember Tigana, its name, culture or history. Buildings were destroyed, music forgotten, books burned. Proud Tigana was now Lower Corte, a poor and minor province in the shadow of its neighbor (and former rival) Corte.
Now, twenty years after the invasions, a group of rebels led by Tigana’s heir have a plan to bring down the tyrants and break the spell. It is the province’s last chance before its name is forever wiped from history.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is one hell of a premise. The use of language during dictatorships and invasions has always fascinated me. Its direct link to identity, culture and sense of belonging makes it an extremely effective tool of subjugation, humiliation and consolidation. As Gavriel Kay explains in the Afterword:
When you want to subjugate a people – to erase their sense of themselves as separate and distinctive – one place to start (and it is sometimes enough) is with their language and names. Names link to history, and we need a sense of our history to define ourselves.
This book is a good argument against the nay-sayers convinced that fantasy books are detached from the real world. It’s impossible not to make parallels with past and present events.Lots of food for thought in
Tigana, but delivered in a way far from preachy or obvious. There’s lots of suspense, adventure, intrigue and romance. The characters, as I’ve come to expect from Gavriel Kay, are masterly built (he paid attention in the “show don’t tell” class), from the tyrants, to the rebel leader to the inn-keeper we meet only in one short scene.
It’s also very rewarding in its complexity: nothing is black-and-white, characters are never just the Heroes or the Villains and are often put in scenarios that seem like psychology case-studies where there’s never a clear win-win decision.
I plan to re-read The Fionavar Tapestry ( and maybe The Sarantine Mosaic) next year.
One of my favorite quotes:
He carried, like baggage, like a cart yoked to his shoulders, like a round stone in his heart, images of his people, their world destroyed, their name obliterated. Truly obliterated: a sound that was drifting, year by year, further away from the shores of the world of men, like some tide withdrawing in the grey hour of a winter dawn. Very like such a tide, but different as well, because tides came back.
Other thoughts: The Literay Omnivore, The Speculative Scotsman, just add books, Fantasy Cafe, Only the Best Fantasy & Sci-fi, Ela’s Book Blog, Speculative Book Review, The Readventurer, Necromancy Never Pays, Doing Dewey (yours?)