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Four Lackluster Books - Qualified Perceptions
Four Lackluster Books
Never After (by Rebecca Lickiss)
Another self-consciously fractured fairy tale. The pastiching of different stories together works moderately well; the Rumplestiltskin character is quite charming. The rest are a bit muddled; there was a very assassin-game tendency to mob up together instead of work against your opposition. The bit where the castle turns out to have "3 sleeping princes" and not "a sleeping princess" (transcription error) was cute; many of the other humorous bits were not really so funny. Two and a half stars.

Unfortunately, all of the next three books I gave up on before finishing. That's a distressingly high proportion of them.

In the Eye of Heaven (by David Keck)
This book has very odd metaphors. "Durand saw fingers like hog bones wrapped in twine. Under the pilgrim's hat, he caught the edges of a face: a thorn bush of knotted twine spilling from the cheekbones where hairy cord knotted like a weapon's grip." It's very evocative, but I spent far too long thinking "but what sort of hog bones?" Does that mean his fingers are really big? Short? Is the twine the knuckles, or are his fingers ridiculously hairy? The thorn bush is probably a beard, but what about the cheekbones? Is his face sinewy, or is that more hair?

The style is similarly jagged; a lot is left unsaid, I think in the assumption that the reader will connect the dots, but I could have used some more flow. The word "fathom" is oddly used several times for a non-water height (the eaves were three fathoms above his head, and a tall guy's teeth are a fathom above him. I think the author may also be underestimating the length of a fathom...).

In the end, I gave up halfway through; too much grittiness, not enough plot. Durand's plight is unfortunate, and he makes some attempts at good choices and some choices which are constrained by the circumstances into being not as good as they could be. Realistic, but not very enthralling.

A Princess of Roumania (by Paul Park)
This is the second book this week I just can't finish. I feel like I'm a bad reader, unable to see the glory in things that someone must have loved a lot, in order to publish, or say "Move over Harry Potter and the Wizard of Oz" (Washington Post Book World) or "One of the major fantasy works of the decade" (Locus). But... I just couldn't care about anyone except the one somewhat interesting bad guy. It's just not an exciting Destiny to have two political teams arguing over whose figurehead/prisoner you're going to be, and there's been entirely too much slogging through woods. The premise that our world is the fictional one is perhaps the reason that the main character doesn't really bat much of an eye when it's de-created, including her adoptive parents, but I would have liked her better had she minded more. It's page 348, and I still don't really understand why Andromeda turned into a dog, other than "it's her spirit animal." Ah well. If you wanted to know what the Washington Post reviewers think of books, you can read their blogs instead; but you're stuck with me, and I just can't see what they're so excited about.

Across the Face of the World (by Russell Kirkpatrick)
Beautiful, beautiful cover. (I really like the subtle detail in the silhouettes). The title does pretty much tell you the plot, though: it's a travelogue through a very detailed map. The beginning of the book comes with a pile of maps (including one with a plot spoiler!). They're way more detailed than are needed, and fit together oddly; after much perusal, I finally believed that they were marked correctly, one a blow-up of the next, but the combination of different types of maps (one with topo lines, the next with 3D mountains...) and inexplicable rotations between them (with no north marked, which would have helped a lot!) made them a lot harder to follow than they ought to have been. Especially when the map features are so lovingly described as the group passes. But I'd rather read about interesting people, or interesting things happening, and the story is a little light on those. The starting town is kind of flawed and interesting, but then they leave it behind, and then it's just a narration of the countryside.

Current Mood: disappointed disappointed

4 comments or Leave a comment
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 22nd, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Interesting. The cover image at Amazon for AtFotW shows a lot more color and detail on the silhouettes than are on my copy of the book. I think it's better when they're nearly all black.)
arcanology From: arcanology Date: January 22nd, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't finish the Princess either. Sounds like you got further than I did.

I don't think the back of books actually has any bearing on the contents. Not just good or bad, those quotes are often written by educated guinea pigs. "The most X since Tolkien" used to be the standard for reviewers who don't actually know anything about fantasy or actually about reading, now it's "the most Y since Harry Potter".
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 22nd, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm learning to mostly disregard quotes by people ("Not since Tolkein have I been so awed", Trudi Canavan, front of Across the Face of the World... I wonder if the end of her sentence was "by the detail of the maps"), but I expected better from the Washington Post. And while I've gotten the impression that Locus tends to say nice things "major fantasy work of the decade" seemed more positive than the usual "A great new fantasy work!"
greenlily From: greenlily Date: January 22nd, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I had a hard time getting enthused about A Princess Of Roumania too. I skimmed through the whole thing out of a sense of duty, but I can't now remember a single thing about the plot.
4 comments or Leave a comment