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Six books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Six books
Mad Kestrel (by Misty Massey)
I get the feeling that the author is very familiar with the general shape of all the fantasy cliches, pirate and otherwise, but didn't pay enough attention to the details. For example, there is a classic way that a gambler cheats to win a ship:
  1. Lose to make the mark overconfident
  2. Win with a few big "lucky" hands to put the mark behind
  3. Now that the mark is desparate (but thinks they're the better player), they'll bet the ship to win back what they've lost
. But it is important to not skip step two. "Let the mark win, and in his enthusiasm, he will bet the ship!" is not plausible, even if it looks mostly like the same plot. Plus, if you have your pirate captain fall for this new and improved con, do not describe him elsewhere as "canny and cunning".
A different sort of example: "the single plant which fruits once every fifty years, bearing a fruit which, when eaten, makes you unaging for fifty years" belongs in a fairy tale, not a pirate adventure. Two stars.

The Stolen Child (by Keith Donohue)
A nicely written book about changelings which totally fails to pull the right strings for me. I just have no angst about Who Am I Really, and only a little about What Life Might I Have Led If. It really sucks to be a Lost Boy, though. Three stars.

A Darkness Forged in Fire (by Chris Evans)
This is supposed to be a Dark and Gritty take on classic fantasy. It has some clever tweaks, but it struck me as 50% Durkonesque anti-tree propaganda:
No living thing should have found a home there, yet the forest survived, its roots boring ever deeper into the rock, suckling on the bitter ore it found. Leaves turned iron-black, the wind honing them to a razor edge. Bark crystallized, growing translucent to reveal the thick ichor pulsing beneath while branches withered needle thin, stabbing down at the ground in the vain search for something fleshier to consume.
and 50% Anne McCaffrey but with trees instead of dragons, like this bit, which sounds a lot like the White Dragon to me:
He walked toward the little sapling cub and then stopped short. It was silver. Only once in many decades was a silver born to the Wolf Oaks, and not without cost. [...] A voice sounded in his head, then, a scared, weak voice begging for help. It was the sapling cub, and it was dying.
Konowa swayed on his feet, overcome with the power in that small, fragile voice. It yearned for life, for the chance to grow its roots deep into the earth and stretch its branches high into the open sky. Never in his life had he felt such need, such desire to live.
. And, did the author really make a "Is that your musket in your pocket?" joke? Sheesh. I didn't finish this one.

Shadowbridge (by Gregory Frost)
The adventures of a shadow-puppeteer, a god-touched musician, and a drunkard, collecting stories on a world made nearly all of mysterious bridges. On the plus side, the stories-within-stories works very well. I like the setting, which has the sense of a larger world with unexplored mysteries and passing strangeness, though it's more like a RPG world constructed from bits of our own, rather than a really alien place. And I really like the depictions of shadow-puppetry. But the story ends very abruptly, with none of the plots resolved and one big one in the middle of a cliffhanger; I knew there was a sequel (Lord Tophet), but I don't have it, and I did not know that the book stood so poorly on its own. Three and a half stars.

Nation (by Terry Pratchett)
I listened to this on audiobook, having run out of the Vimes series and others to listen to (and I will refrain from reviewing them all here; I adore the City Watch and wouldn't have a lot different to say other than that Night Watch is my favorite). It's not a Discworld novel, but listening to it just after Small Gods is an interesting pairing. I liked it a lot, though the shift in plot away from the personal and towards the historic wasn't quite what I wanted. It's a coming of age story, and also a musing on social contracts that I find very compelling. Four and a half stars.

The Hero of Ages (by Brandon Sanderson)
The final book in the Mistborn trilogy. The back of the book is a little over-excited ("...It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave you rubbing your eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream."), but it's a worthy finish. I think the first book was the best - like Nation, I want the personal more than just the epic. The plots in the first couple of books that I was glaring at saying "For God's sake, stop pointing at the gun on the wall, I saw it already, and it better be good" do get wrapped up, and several better than I expected. Nice personal sacrifices, slightly over the top deus ex machinas. Four stars. (I am disappointed that his web site does not have annotations for Book Three, as it did for the first two).

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Comments
mathhobbit From: mathhobbit Date: August 30th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Have you tried K.E. Mills? I recently stumbled across something by her and liked it. (Her earlier books under a different name I haven't liked so much.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: August 30th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, the covers look familiar, but I don't think I've read them.
twe From: twe Date: August 30th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I heard heard of Shadowbridge by way of an illustration blog, which was really only talking about the cover art, though the cover painting is pretty cool. If that's available for loaning, I wouldn't mind borrowing it.

Unrelatedly, I recently finished the most recent Patricia McKillip book, and can loan that to you if you have any interest. (It's one of her books with an actual villain in it.)
arcanology From: arcanology Date: August 30th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Anything that happens only rarely and is a special color is a bad sign, I've found.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: August 30th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that sounds like a good rule, and also includes the violet eyes in the list of Mary Sue characteristics.

On the other hand, I'm willing to allow gold chocobos, because you have to breed them yourself. :)
arcanology From: arcanology Date: August 30th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was thinking about this a bit more today.

When one is young, the idea of a special colored only born once in a blue moon is appealing, because we want to feel that we are made special and that's why we feel as we do.

Later on, we lose our taste for that when it's obvious that really everyone is pretty much messed up the same amount we are, we're not special. It's more fulfilling to read about people who made something of themselves (or not) despite not being a magical white oak tree.

Of course, gold chocobos require sacrifices:

http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=72
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: August 31st, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am strangely reminded of the thing in Preacher where the Grail is trying to breed a Messiah with 2000 years of inbreeding of Jesus' descendants, resulting in a one-eyed, drooling, giggling, poo-flinging Messiah.
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