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Three More Books - Qualified Perceptions
Three More Books
About 90% of yesterday's melancholy came from reading all the way through A Mirror for Princes. But Snare helped too, with its little comment about how all love stories are tragedies, unless you're lucky enough to die at the same moment...

A Mirror for Princes (Tom de Haan)
A very odd book. Lyrical, poetical, and despairing. Some foreshadowing is the author sniggering at you: here, I have a secret that you don't know. Other foreshadowing is to point out something important that the reader wouldn't have noticed otherwise. But here, the foreshadowing is all to underscore that this is a Tragedy. Like going to see Hamlet, there are no illusions that this will turn out well in the end. At the very beginning of A Mirror for Princes, it is clear that it will all come to grief, all the loved ones die, in a stately, inexorable pace. And so they do, heart-breakingly, tragically. The tragedy of their lives comes from love, not hate, and that makes it all the more compelling. The characters are real, for good or ill, and the writing is measured without quite crossing into being labored. This will haunt me for quite some time. (5 stars)
Snare (Katharine Kerr)
Oddly dissatisfying. I liked the three cultures, where they mingled and how they clashed. I liked the aliens, especially their linguistic color (Is Stig, is knows, is good aliens all have linguistic color). I liked the characters. I even liked the interminable travelling all over the continent on one errand or another. In fact, I mostly liked the first two thirds of the book. But then, it's like the author decided to end the book not on day ten, but about three days into the postgame. The major villain of the piece had already lost his plot a long way back, and was really no longer a threat against the huge good guy mob, but his defeat is treated as drama all the same. And then there were the pages and pages of exposition from the deus ex machina, explaining all the backstory and the little clues, in case we hadn't noticed them all. That odd scar one character had? Here's why! The naming convention in the tribes? Here's where that came from! I can see wanting a wrapup, but authors should resist the urge to make it part of the novel. (3 stars. Would have been 4 had the book ended two hundred pages earlier).
The Merlin Conspiracy (Diana Wynne Jones)
Whew. What a muddle. Jones has a strange tendency to drag explanations into the narrative. Like when the narrator explains why he keeps calling Maxwell Hyde by his full name, not Hyde (because that reminds him of Dr. Jekyll) or Maxwell (because then he thinks of silver hammers). Meanwhile, all I could think was "Well, for heaven's sakes, you should have named him something else if you're going to have such a time of it!" And why the heck was one of the main characters an interdimensional fosterling? It didn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the plot. Maybe this was a sequel to something? (ahah, Amazon tells me that it is, in fact, a character from a previous novel appearing here) And for crying out loud, what possessed her when it came to naming the chapters? Section 1, Roddy. Chapter one, chapter two, chapter three. Section 2, Nick. Chapter one, chapter two, chapter three. Section 3, Roddy. Chapter one, chapter two... it's not like they're descriptive enough to get away with not making them unique. On its good side, it has a resemblance to Sorcery and Cecelia, equally muddled, equally full of youngsters running about pell-mell into strange magical plots. But that book had some of its muddle results from it being written by two different authors, only through correspondence. This is all by one person, and there's really no excuse. Also on the positive side, there were some plot twists that really did surprise me. (2 stars)

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