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Four Books - Qualified Perceptions
Four Books
Legion of the Damned (by William Dietz)
There were many good things said about this book on Amazon, and the idea of the French Foreign Legion as cyborg space marines is a kind of endearing one, but it didn't do much for me. For all that it was a mecha-type genre, it seemed too gritty and non-anime to have as much love at first sight as there seemed to be. The characters have interesting quirks, but there are too many of them to really attach to any, and character growth is made of very sparse data points. The crazy Emperor with downloaded (and then executed) advisors in his brain was nice. The politics was mostly about "Get 'em!", and seemed a little implausible on that accord. Two stars.

Mystic and Rider (by Sharon Shinn) (spoiler included)
Swords, sorcery, trooping through the countryside on horses, and some old-fashioned X-men style hatred of muties mystics. The author does a good job of introducing the ensemble with a fight scene (though in retrospect, I'm not sure why the party set it up as a fight...) The travelling is okay; I was ready for them to be done with the travels and get to the king's court substantially earlier than they did, as the quest was just to "figure out the mood of the land", and they really had done that by about halfway through. And there's definitely a Plot going on at the court, that I wanted to see more of. A couple of gripes: I could accept the big tough fighter asking "Does it hurt?" when the mage summons fire. But not "Does it hurt - to hold it all back? To swallow the energy and intelligence that's usually on your face?" when the mage pretends to be a servant. It makes him sound like an Overly Sensitive Guy, or perhaps someone with an unhealthy obsession about things hurting. (Spoiler here!) He gets more Overly Sensitive Guy credentials when he finds out that the mage is from a Noble House, and kicks his angst into high gear about her being too far above him. Dude, she has already told you the story of her father killing her baby before he disowned her and threw her out of the house! You think she's still got any attachment to this family? (As it later turns out, the family politics are still trying to suck her in, so he was right and I was wrong, but at the point in the story that it comes up, she really seemed in no danger of being a Noble Lady.) Three stars.

The Winter Queen (by Boris Akunin) and Dog Day (by Alicia Giméez-Bartlett)
Books from rifmeister are always oddly exotic. In this case, the one is Russian and the other Spanish, both translated. rif described the former as an Assassin game and the latter a mystery, and that's pretty much right. The central conceit of Winter Queen is pulling threads to unravel the conspiracy; the conspiracy itself is quite nice, and the main character has a bumbling charm. There's one plot twist that I could see coming a mile away, but others that were reasonable surprises. I just don't know what to make of the ending, though - I suppose it's Russian to be fatalistic. Dog Day is a police procedural, but it's All About Dogs. A murdered guy with a dog. A stolen dog. Dog trainers. Dog vets. I think that's what makes it unusual, even more than the setting in Barcelona. It's like biting into a chocolate and discovering it to be paprika cream - tasty, but unexpected. The detectives are nicely written, with a lot of humor and character. An awful lot of their detecting seems to involve people just Telling them things, as opposed to Figuring Out, but I suspect that's closer to how it really works than sitting in an armchair and using your little grey cells. Three and a half stars for Dog Day, two and three-quarters for Winter Queen, but they're strange foreign stars and I don't recognize the constellations.


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jencallisto From: jencallisto Date: April 7th, 2007 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh! Amusingly, I just finished Mystic and Rider this afternoon. I plan to acquire the next one soon, as I agree, the plots at court look quite promising. lemurtanis informs me that the next one is from Kirra's perspective, and the third one Justin's (which I'm really looking forward to). So that should be interesting.
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