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Books You Needn't Bother With - Qualified Perceptions
Books You Needn't Bother With
Spoilers for Sorcery Rising follow.

I don't normally put down a book midway through - it has to not only not be particularly interesting, but also not be excitingly bad. So getting two in a row is unusual. I did finish the third, but decline to read the rest of the series, so that's nearly the same thing.
The Grand Ellipse (by Paula Volsky)
This had a lot of promise. A sort of round-the-world-in-eighty-days plot in a fantasy/steampunk genre. But the author seemed to put work into the world, and into the romances, but not into the characters or the plot. The protagonist vows she will win. She will do anything to win, this she vows. With fierce and adamant vowedness. But she doesn't actually seem to have a plan other than "win", and "do anything" appears to mean "buy train tickets, and grumble that it's not fair when someone has some other method of transportation". The racers all mostly glob together on the same train, or boat, or magic teleportation method - they start to scatter due to randomness as the plot goes on, but I didn't really see how they expected to beat each other towards the beginning. And the B plot hadn't gotten out of the many-times recurring scene of "Mage demonstrates his Sentient Fire to King. Uh oh, what if King figures out he's not really who he says he is?". Enh.

Ceres Storm (by David Herter)
Well, his language glitters. I like "century rose" (even if I never quite got what it was) and "void mariner" and the ship called "Starswarm Pyre" and the like. (Oddly, Amazon thinks that the language is at a 5th-grade level on Flesch-Kincaid, which is a digression into "Hee! It's funny that they have these buttons to tell you this now!". But I guess the words are short, though baroque...). But language isn't enough, and I couldn't be bothered to care about the characters, or the plot - the epic scope needs something to personalize it, and the action is sparsely written enough to be somewhat inexplicable.
Sorcery Rising (by Jude Fisher)
This book I finished. This book, I am working myself into a rant about. Much of it had promise. There were characters I cared about. There was some novelty to the plot - there is a war coming, being stirred up, but exactly why and by what is not as explicit as it might be. It is something like reading a variant of Othello in which Iago has no soliloquys, and many of his scenes occur offstage. You can see the forces at work, in the spaces between the viewpoint characters, rather than in front and explaining themselves. The theme of the magic coming back, and buffing little cantrips and gypsy charms into crazily powerful effects was amusing. But despite all that, parts are still foolishly rough. For example, there's a scene where a girl is being burnt at the stake by a mob. Her father watches sadly, not interfering. Then a guy climbs into the bonfire with a sword. Everyone assumes he's going to kill her (because why else might one climb into a bonfire - to kill the victim!) This spurs the girl's father into action to try and save her; why didn't he try before? Was burning okay, but stabbing is Just Out? Of course, the guy with a sword is trying to save her, but he later gets the credit for his Deed of Heroism, trying to kill the horrible witch extra-dead. But isn't the point of burning witches that it's painful and not fast? If you're burning your witches, don't you get pissed if someone tries to cut their torment short? And, there's an epic poem (admittedly, the suggestion may be that the poet is not a good one) in progress about the guy's heroism!:
In battle's heat, midst flame and fight
He drew his sword in blackest night.
To give the witch to Falla's might
Such was the act of a true knight.
Ha! He's Green Lantern!
Then, let us look at the map for this book. I have never seen such a map, which goes out of its way to be as non-helpful, mystifying, and downright confusing, as possible. It is a masterwork of anti-mapness.
First, what do the circles mean? I have no idea. The thing in the centermost circle is "the southern continent." Those things in the next ring out are "the northern islands." In the outermost ring, Sanctuarii is far to the north - you need icebreakers to get to it. A MacGuffin of the book is the map of "The Ravenway", which gets you from the Northern Islands to the legendary Far West. It's a secret passage of some sort - it's described with awe much like the Northwest Passage, except that the Northwest Passage, one might recall from high school history, was a water passage through land. A water passage through the ocean, from some islands to somewhere else, is surely not that amazing. Unless the Far West is very very small and you need a map to find it. Anyway, the Ravenway isn't on the map, so I don't really know. I toyed with the idea that the map was just upside-down to normal usage, with south at the top and north at the bottom, but the description of the southern continent suggests that this is not so (the Moonfall Plain has "land beyond it to the west", and the Golden Mounts are described as south of Cantara. (Though so is the Dragon's Backbone, so maybe everything is inexplicably south of Cantara. Or maybe the mysterious voice saying "come south" thinks the guy he's addressing is still on Sanctuarii. That could be it.)). Though why you would sail from the Northern Islands to the Moonfall Plain, and be crossing an ocean rather than coming down the coast, is puzzling. Maybe the Northern Islands are not actually north of the southern continent, but are instead actually southeast, as they seem to be on the map. (Er, to clarify, they appear to be in all directions but north on the map. But the particular island that this ship is coming from is the one to the southeast.)

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3 comments or Leave a comment
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 10th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
How can it be blackest night midst flame? Wouldn't the flame kind of make it less black and more orange and yellow?

That is a deeply screwed-up "map." If the continent and islands actually have long perfect arcs as parts of their coastlines, it's a little less screwed-up.

Maybe the Ravenway has to do with currents? Or winds? Or, um, never mind.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 10th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Beware their power...

Hey! Don't be mocking the Green Lanterns!
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 11th, 2006 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Beware their power...

I'm not mocking the Green Lanterns, I'm mocking the fictional bard who's ripping off the Green Lanterns. :) (Mr. Anonymous Guy, don't think I don't know who you are...)
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