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Two Trilogies, One Standalone - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Two Trilogies, One Standalone
Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, Titans of Chaos (by John C. Wright)
Wow. I loved these. The premise is clearly a Drew run, about halfway between Kids and Conflux: five teenagers at a very mysterious school, discovering they have powers and then trying to figure out their backstory and what to do next. (Warning: the books don't stand alone at all; the breaks between books are cliffhangers rather than endings. I pre-ordered the darned third book, not because I had to see how the plot finished, but so I could listen to them talking more! As it turned out, the last book was more action and less talking, which was sad, but it was still a pretty good book). The plot is a little lumpy, but I didn't care - the writing is beautiful and funny and evocative, and the characters are differentiated and clever-but-fallible and human. There's a bit where some of them are eavesdropping on a scene a lot like the gathering in Season of Mists, with magical and mystical people and things from every corner of Greek mythology. (The author is kind enough to tell us who the obscure ones are, while leaving us to figure out the obvious. I can figure out who the beautiful lady married to the crippled smith is, but I wouldn't have known the Hecatonchires. This is in contrast to, say, American Gods, which I wish had come with footnotes.) There are a lot of bits where the plot isn't advancing, the characters are just chatting or squabbling or going to the Field of Experimentation to figure out how their powers work, but I wasn't at all bored, because they're just so entertaining to listen to (sort of like any conversation with Mirris). An excerpt from arguing about paradigms:
I said, "Well? Are you going to tell me what happened? What did you do to her?"
Victor said, "There was almost nothing to do. Quentin's book, the chapter on the Ancient Art of Memory, described a method of approach. Vanity was subconsciously hypnotized into believing in 'magic,' and so she was the one actually suppressing her own memories, due to her faith in Mrs. Wren's so-called spell. Once nerve paths were opened between her cortex and the hypnagogic areas of her brain, she became aware of the deception."
Colin said, "I will translate from Victor-babble into the common tongue of Westron. Miss Daw thrust a million years of time-energy into Vanity's brain. Once Vanity realized that time is an illusion, the million years went away. There was also some sort of spell, too, but Victor neutralized with with his magical anti-magic ray that magically pops out of his head and magically shoots out magic beams of blue magic."
Quentin said, "There is no such thing as magic. Victor does not believe in magic."
Colin said, "Victor does not believe in magic because that mind-set is one of the ingredients in the magic spell he uses to throw magic blue beams from his magic third eye. It's just an ingredient, like having eye of newt or toe of frog."
"It's not magic," insisted Quentin.
"Guess I was fooled by the big blue extra eyeball! Extra eyeball! Or didn't you notice he has an extra eyeball? Count them. I get at least to three before I get confused."
Or, in the Field of Experimentation playing with invisibility:
"What about things I pick up? What if I just lean against something, and pretend I am picking it up? If I turn a laser beam invisible, can I make it harmless? What about radio waves? Am I also stealthed to radar? Can I blind an enemy by making his retinas invisible?"
And, because I said it was evocative, here's a bit I liked, that made me pause just to think over the sentences again.
"Her sorrow gives her strength. Frightening strength. Those who dwell in the middle air below the Moon weep when she weeps, as do their humbler vassals in the stream and field and arbors. Do not be deceived that she is kindly toward you and Vanity; it is because she has no cause to fear."
Anyway. Five stars.

The Thirteenth Tale (by Diane Setterfield)
It's a little bit of a ghost story, and a little bit of a mystery, and a little bit a musing on the love of books and stories. (As is Inkheart, which I am listening to on audio book - while they seem to be in many ways companion pieces (father and daughter, the nature of Stories), I like this book better. Review of Inkheart when I finish it.) I'm usually not fond of stories in which the characters are as broken and dysfunctional as most of these are, but somehow it didn't bother me very much. As for the mystery, a few questions are never answered, and a few I am suspicious that the answer doesn't quite fit, but for the most part the resolution is a good one. (desireearmfeldt always wants to know what the book is about, so the one-sentence summary is "An old, reclusive author finally tells the story of her life to a younger woman." )

The Sally Lockhart Trilogy: Ruby in the Smoke, Shadow in the North, and Tiger in the Well (by Philip Pullman)
Hmm. Actually, this is the first three books of a Quartet, but I didn't acquire the fourth, because it doesn't actually have Sally Lockhart in it, so I didn't realize it was actually the same series. Oops. (Hee! Sally Lockhart is played by Rose Tyler Billie Piper for the BBC!) So, I read His Dark Materials, the Pullman trilogy starting with The Golden Compass, a while ago. Golden Compass is all about an Adventure with Warbears with Spooky Bits and a Totally Cool Divination Mechanic. As the series progresses, they become much less childrens' books and segue into metaphysics and gnosticism, and what Wikipedia claims is hylopathism, now my word of the day. A little similarly, this series starts as a Victorian Romp with a cursed gem and Mysterious Orientals, but by the end there's socialism and Jewish pogroms and a heavy helping of despair. I liked Golden Compass best of those three, but I liked Tiger in the Well best. The big personal conflict of TintW is one I would love to have used somewhere (spoiler): Sally is sued for divorce, (plus dissolution, drunkness, and general unfitness as a wife and mother), by a total stranger. Three stars for the first two; four stars for the third.



Thirteenth Tale is ilhander's and being returned to him. The Chaos trilogy has already been loaned to mjperson, who has had bits of it quoted at him all last week, but can be borrowed after that. Sally Lockhart is yours if you want it; otherwise it may go off to paperbackswap eventually.

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Comments
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 23rd, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I am suffering from the experience that I don't really like the same books you like, but I love your reviews.

With that in mind, I do think I'd like to read the Sally Lockhart trilogy, but it's entirely reasonable for you to decide I should return some of the other things I've borrowed first.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 23rd, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
At this point, I don't expect anyone but jdbakermn to have exactly the same taste in books as I do. :) But some of my favorite reviews are of books I didn't particularly like, so I'm glad they're entertaining on their own.

Sure, you can borrow them, though I suppose if there's someone else who wants to borrow them for a shorter period of time, they might get to have them first. ;-)
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 23rd, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm still trying to translate from "books that firstfrost says she likes for reasons that sound like I'd like them too" into whether or not I'll actually like the book. :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 23rd, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's definitely easier to build the filter of "do those reasons sound like reasons I'd have" than it is to detect "stuff Laura doesn't mind, and thus hasn't mentioned, but I do mind", which I think is more where we disagree.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 23rd, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
"stuff Laura doesn't mind, and thus hasn't mentioned, but I do mind"

And, in fact, mjperson has pointed out "You didn't mention all the awkward teenage lust" in the Chaos books. So, there. There's a lot of awkward teenage lust, which I didn't mind. There's also a Spanking, which some people on amazon seem to mind more than I did.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 24th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, but it's not even usually "it had this particular aspect I objected to." It's more like, you say something about the book, and it's totally true, and then there's the rest of the book surrounding it, which is occasionally an entirely different sort of book than I'd imagined from the one thing you said. :)

That, and your enthusiasm is very convincing, even when it's about something that I don't actually share your enthusiasm for.

I think... we like a lot of the same specific elements, but our general aesthetics are different? (So, the overall book that grabs you might not grab me and vice versa, and yet you might say "I like stories where people nobly sacrifice themselves for the people they love" and I'd say "oh yeah, I like those too.")
twe From: twe Date: April 23rd, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Something about Clarissa/Beatrice/Valerie in ilhander's run was bringing The Thirteenth Tale to mind recently, but I couldn't quite put my finger on how... I do agree about it being surprisingly enjoyable in light of how broken some of the characters are.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 23rd, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Titans of Chaos is out? That was quick...

(runs to bookstore)
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 24th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
And I just have to say, 'cause it always bothers me: The Golden Compass and The Amber Spyglass and whatever the title of the third one is are all fine titles. But His Dark Materials is a goofy name for a series.

(And I really ought to read them someday.)

That is all. :)
mijven From: mijven Date: April 25th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm pretty sure I had a bad bad reaction to Sally Lockhart. I'll consider reconsidering... but given how far behind I am on everything else, don't hold your breath. :)
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: May 4th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having just finished the three books I've borrowed I'd say don't reconsider.

Mind you, I did enjoy reading them, but the angst in the third book was a bit too much.
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