Jul
21
2007

I’m behind on my reviews. I finished Thud! and Sea of Shadows and haven’t yet reviewed either of them. I have a good excuse, though – I’ve been sick all week (and still am). Blech.

So anyway, on to the first book I haven’t reviewed, which is Thud! by Terry Pratchett and the only Discworld book I hadn’t yet read (at least until the next one comes out this fall).

Thud! is another Discworld book about Sam Vimes and the rest of the City Watch. Tension is everywhere in Ankh-Morpork as the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley, a war between the trolls and the dwarfs, approaches. A prominent dwarf is found dead with a club beside him and a famous painting depicting the Battle of Koom Valley disappears from the museum. It’s up to the Watch, with a bit of help from “Mr. Shine” (who turns out to be a troll king and not, in fact, a cleaning product), to discover what is going on and the truth nobody wants to hear about what actually happened at Koom Valley.

As has been the case with the last few Discworld books, there is a bit more of a serious note to Thud!. It’s certainly not all seriousness, though, as becomes apparent by such touches as the artist of the stolen painting being afraid of a chicken he hears in his head. Another humorous addition is the Gooseberry dis-organizer with Bluenose technology that Sybil gave Vimes, which is reminiscent of the palm pilot except this one is powered by a little talking imp.

It’s always fun to see how Pratchett takes a fantasy world and illustrates our modern world through it. The “affirmative action” in the Watch that results in the hiring of dwarfs, trolls, a werewolf, golems, and in this book, a vampire always keeps things interesting as all these different species try to get along. Different religions and superstitions are wonderfully illustrated through these various creatures. I also liked the way he poked fun at art and artists and what makes a piece of work actual tasteful art.

I wouldn’t call this the best of the Discworld books, but it was certainly still a lot of fun containing much of the satire the series is known for.

7.5/10

Recently, I finished the final book in Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu Chronicles, The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire, after being glued to it for a good chunk of the day. I was sad to see the trilogy come to an end, but at least there is still the Wraeththu Histories trilogy left to read.

This story was told from the point of view of Calanthe, who was a major character in both of the previous books in the trilogy. Calanthe, not knowing where else to go, ends up working in a whore house for a time. Eventually, he leaves the whore house to travel around Jaddoyoth, on a quest to discover his destiny and who is sending him on journeys to learn from various Wraeththu.

Since this book is about Cal, it also fills in the missing information on what happened to him after he was separated from Swift in the second book.

There is not much I can say about this that I have not already said about the first two books. It is beautifully written, and each point-of-view character has his own voice, making it seem as though each book really could be written by a different person. Cal’s voice is more humorous and sarcastic than Pellaz or Swift, making him a pleasure to read about. The other characters are also portrayed as unique individuals with their own problems and motives that set them apart from other characters. I have rarely read books with such strong character development – there are no black and white characters here.

The story is thoughtfully written and contains a lot of interesting speculation on what the world would be like if humanity was replaced by a race of hermaphrodites that is more enlightened than humanity yet very human at times, no matter how hard they try to escape it.

This is one of those books I could not stop thinking about once I was finished. I still don’t think it charmed me quite as much as the first book, but I couldn’t put it down since I wanted to find out if Pell and Cal ever saw each other again.

9.75/10

The Bewitchments of Love and Hate is the second book in the Wraeththu Chronicles by Storm Constantine. It is much the same as the first book in that it is beautifully written, emotionally absorbing, thoughtful, and fascinating. I almost enjoyed it as much as the first book, but not quite – not because of the book itself, but because I wanted to find out what happened to Pellaz, who was not in this book other than being briefly mentioned on a few occasions.

The second book of Wraeththu is told from the perspective of Swift, the son of Cobweb and Terzian whom we met in the first book when Cal and Pellaz stayed with the Varrs for a time. The story starts with Swift as a young har and is the first part is somewhat of a coming-of-age story. I loved the way Constantine got inside Swift’s head as she wrote about his first learning of humans and how he pictured them from what the other Wraeththu told him.

Cobweb tells Swift of the demon Cal who once broke Terzian’s heart by leaving and his feeling that Cal will return some day. Terrified by Cobweb’s obvious fear of this event, Swift tries to protect the house from evil, but Cal is found one day and brought to their home. As in the first book, the story isn’t about action so much as the relationships between characters, but it is very enchanting and well-done.

Many of the characters who appeared in the first book appeared in this one in addition to the aforementioned – Seel, Ashmael, Thiede, and Caeru, to name a few. Constantine has a rare gift when it comes to characterization – I can’t remember being as emotionally attached to a set of characters since when I read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire. Each of the characters is so real and has their own unique personality – I loved them all.

This book gives more details on some aspects of the Wraeththu that are not explored very fully in the first book – for instance, the different tribes, Wraeththu magic, aruna, and Wraeththu procreation.

I still loved this book, but I felt it lacked some of the magic of the first book. This could have been because I’d already become enthralled by the first book, or just because I really want to know more about what happened to Pellaz. I suspect this is the case since it is no less well-written or beautiful than the first book, and the characters no less endearing. I still savored it and read some passages a couple of times, but it didn’t give me that feeling of wanting to start the book all over again when I was done like the first one did (although I would definitely reread it at some point in the future).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Bewitchments of Love and Hate and highly recommend it to people who enjoy thoughtful, character-driven, unique stories (who have read the first book, of course!).

9.5/10

I saw on Carol Berg’s website the other day that she is holding a drawing for a free autographed book of your choice! All you have to do is send her an email with the subject “drawing” and you’re entered. I thought maybe you had to supply your address or which book you would like to receive if you won, but Carol responded to my email (I’m such a dork – that made my day!) and said that sending the email was all that was required.

Visit the site and scroll to the bottom for the address to send drawing entries to:
Carol Berg’s Site

I was recently recommended Wraeththu, an omnibus edition of the Wraeththu Chronicles trilogy by Storm Constantine (consisting of The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, and The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire). I’d never heard of these books, which were inspired by Goth culture and written in the late 1980’s, but now that I’ve read the first one, I’m really glad I did – it’s now one of my favorite books of all time!

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit is the testament of a Wraeththu by the name of Pellaz. As a young boy, Pellaz had heard horror stories of this mysterious new race known as the Wraeththu who stole boys away from their families. One day a young man named Cal comes to town and stays with Pellaz’s family. Pellaz knows in his heart that Cal is one of the Wraeththu, and finding him to be beautiful and fascinating, he leaves with Cal to become one of them.

The Wraeththu are a race created by the blood of a mutant human, known as the Aghama, who has become a sort of god to them. They are both male and female, are more beautiful than humans, and possess some “magical” abilities such as telepathy. While they always think of themselves as being better than the humans, the Wraeththu are still part human and are not as immune to creating gender barriers and being emotional as they would like to think they are.

Thiede, a very powerful and well-known Wraeththu, takes an interest in Pellaz and it is his genes that are used to make Pellaz into a Wraeththu. Pellaz excels in his studies, and together he and Cal travel to many different Wraeththu tribes, each having its own unique culture, so Pellaz can learn from them. They are happy for a while, but it turns out Thiede has his own plans for Pellaz, which have some rather tragic consequences.

This is a beautifully written book with a very classical Victorian feel to it. It is at times rather poetic and reminiscent of classical literature, but without the hard-to-wade-through wordiness that is often associated with older books.

This is not an action packed story, which is not to say that nothing ever happens, but it does focus a lot on the characters, their relationships with each other, and what it means to be a Wraeththu. The characters all seem real and each has their own unique personality. I loved them all, especially Pellaz, through whose eyes we see the story unfold.

This book had me mesmerized by page 3. I did not want to put The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit down. When I got to the end, I wanted to read it all over again (but there were two more books left, so I went forward instead!). It was one of those books where I did not rush through it but often read the same passage a couple of times. When I finished it, I went back and reread parts of it. I thought about the characters and story for days. It’s not a book I’ll forget about quickly, and being immersed in the world Constantine created with her well-drawn characters is a pleasure.

10/10

Jun
26
2007

The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin is a part of her Hainish Cycle, a collection of science fiction stories that do not need to be read in any particular order (at least from what I’ve heard). I was pleasantly surprised since all I had read by Le Guin were the first three Earthsea books, and while I liked them well enough, I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed by them. However, The Telling has definitely made me want to pick up more of the books in the Hainish Cycle.

Sutty is an Observer living on a world that wants so badly to be modern that they have banned the past. Owning and reading books, using certain expressions when speaking, and being different from what is acceptable will get people sent to reconditioning camps. Sutty is sent to a backwoods town to learn about the people there, who do keep the old ways through their idealistic religion known as The Telling. Knowledge is encouraged in this little society, where people tell stories and keep to the old ways.

The story is short but elegantly written and Le Guin manages to say more in 231 pages than many authors do in books 3 times the length. I was not sure if I would like something that short because I really like character-driven stories and that many pages is not normally enough to delve into the development of a character. This was not a character-driven story, but it was very thoughtfully done and gives a lot to think about on issues such as religion, understanding people outside of societal norms, capitalism, and throwing away knowledge.

It is also refreshing that Le Guin writes a more unique story than a lot of American authors writing in science fiction and fantasy today. The main character is an Asian female who was in a relationship with somebody of the same sex, and the cultures in the book have a strong Eastern influence. I had to keep reminding myself that Eastern religions were very different, because I had a very hard time at first seeing The Telling as an actual religion instead of just a communal way of life. It is supposed to be an ideal, but it is so far from what I’ve known as religion that I couldn’t see it as fitting into the definition of “religion” at first.

The Telling is a compelling and thought provoking book that is unique compared to a lot of what is out there. It was not an action packed story with excellent character development, but it was a book that I came away from feeling like it had given me a lot to think about.

7.5/10