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Ten books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Ten books
Black Sheep (by Georgette Heyer)
I start to realize that Heyer kind of likes a male variant of the Manic Pixie Dream Guy. The one here is particularly entertaining, though not too manic. I feel like I should object to the ending, but I just can't. Fluffy and charming, like the other Heyer I've read so far, and really good as an audiobook.

Promise of Blood (by Brian McClellan)
Book One of The Powder Mage Trilogy. Politics and rebellion and carnage and guillotines and snipers. And an odd magic system. And some nice dry humor. A job interview for a bodyguard:
"You've one mark on your record," Tamas said. "You once punched a na-baron in the face. Broke his jaw. Tell me about that."
Olem grimaced. "Officially, sir, I was pushing him out of the way of a runaway carriage. Saved his life. Half my company saw it."
"With your fist?"
"Aye."
"And unofficially?"
"The man was a git. He shot my dog because it startled his horse."
"And if I ever have cause to shoot your dog?"
"I'll punch you in the face."
"Fair enough. You have the job."
And - and this is somehow the part that elevates the book from being a Moderately Grim Fantasy to something more unique - a cheerful chef god who no one believes is a god (because who believes in that sort of superstition in this day and age?), but the miracles keep getting bigger and bigger. Four stars

Alif the Unseen (by G. Willow Wilson)
Written in a modern day Arab Spring(*) with secret magic, this seems to be one of the poster children for "non-Western-centric fantasy" this year. I liked it but didn't love it, and I must wonder some if I don't like stories as much which are outside my comfort zone of culture? I don't think that's it, but it's hard to tell. "A hacker gets in way over his head, and then involved with djinn and a Mysterious Book" is the basic premise; I wasn't all that fond of Alif himself, but I liked Dina a lot, and the djinn, and the prince who we don't meet until the middle. Three and three quarters stars - good, but just below the prosleytizing level.

Point of Honour (by Madeleine E Robins)
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Fallen Woman of good family must, soon or late, descend to whoredom. That's the underlying theme of this book, which is partially a detective novel and partly a rhetoric about Victorian sexual oppression? I found myself sometimes thinking "One would think that Great Britain's mercantile navy was recruited soley from her orphan asylums -- which we know is not the case", except with fallen women instead of orphans, and everything else instead of mercantile navies. Anyway. It's not a bad story, but it did seem like it was populated entirely by prostitutes and ex-prostitutes (and men). And it felt so much like the First of a Series that I metagamed quite hard about the plots, and in fact two different subplots were resolved such as to put everything more or less back the way it started at the end. Sort of like when the action hero gets a girlfriend - you know she'll either be dead or a bad guy by the end of the book. Three stars.

The Riyria Revelations (by Michael Sullivan)
I've spent some time trying to come up with a short description, and I settle on: This is a not-bad series which I enjoyed a lot. It's deliberately old-fashioned - the main characters remind me fondly of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the big fighter and the clever thief. (I think naming the thief's horse Mouse must have been homage.) The women are princesses and whores with hearts of gold and serving maids and damsels that need rescuing. But... the princess does quite a lot of rescuing in her own right, and the damsels have a lot of agency when they aren't absolutely required to be item cards. (There's a nice "moment of awesomeness" bit related to this that I will not spoil, that redeems a plotline I was starting to be grievously disappointed by). And the Gandalf figure has some seriously questionable aspects, which is interesting.

Sullivan's writing is a little clunky, characters are way too close-mouthed about things so the author can use them as Big Reveals later, and the man seems to write as if his typesetter charges him only by the comma, but it reminds me of nothing so much of role-players making fantasy speeches, so again, that earns some fondness from me. (And the banter between the two main characters is way too amusing.) There are a lot of small notes that really hit me the right way. There's a bit, early in the first book, where the PCs have come to a burned-out monastery, with one survivor kind of suffering from PTSD. The monk has been there since he was very young, and among other things mentions a friend of his, also a monk, who grew up with him, but died in his teens. He was buried beside the tree that the two of them had planted. The monk used to go down to the tree to talk to his friend, and tell him how the tree was doing. But now, since everything has been burnt - when he goes to talk to his dead friend, he lies and says everything is fine, because he can't bear to tell him the tree was burned. Something about that scene just wrung my heart.

Sullivan originally self-published quite successfully, and I think that "at the very top end of self-published" is not a bad description either. I bought the first three books in the six-book series at that point, but now the series has been combined into three very fat books, so now I have three physical books and two fat Kindle books with an overlap between them. Somewhat unaesthetic, but if someone wants to take the three physical books off my hands, they're all yours. Three and three quarters stars.

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Comments
lillibet From: lillibet Date: September 7th, 2013 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Black Sheep is the best of Heyer. The ducklings!

Is The Powder Mage Trilogy all out? I sort of hate picking up series in the middle.

As always, thanks for the reviews!
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 7th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Nope, this is the only book out yet, sorry.
lillibet From: lillibet Date: September 7th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah well. Perhaps I'll wait and see what you think of the rest of them.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: September 8th, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
a cheerful chef god who no one believes is a god

Paul Prudhomme cheerful or Emeril Lagasse cheerful?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 8th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. He's not shouty or dramatic, which seems to be a TV show chef thing that both Prudhomme and Lagasse have. Maybe Julia Child? She's from an earlier, less manic time.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 9th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sniffles for the monk.

Promise of Blood sounds fascinating. Is it readable for itself, or hopelessly cliffhanger-y?

Does Black Sheep get no stars?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 9th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. Promise of Blood is clearly Part 1, not a standalone story, but it didn't annoy me too much with where it ended.

I didn't bother to give Black Sheep stars - if you're interested in Heyer / Regency romances, then this is a good one. If you're not, then this is not for you. I've talked about the genre enough that I figure people reading my journal have already decided one way or another. :)
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