Sep
06
2007

I know, I promised a review of Lamb by Christopher Moore and I haven’t gotten it up here yet. I will at some point before I forget what happened.

Currently, I’m continuing my quest to read more of the books released in 2007 with the newest novel by Carol Berg, Flesh and Spirit. This is the first book of two in the Lighthouse Duology. I believe the second book will be out in March 2008.

I was considering putting up a review (or rather, a warning about) the 10th Kingdom miniseries, but I don’t know if I’ll get to it or not. It should suffice to say whatever you do, do not believe the 4 and 5 star Amazon reviews or the people praising it as the most complex fantasy movie other than Lord of the Rings. I would only recommend watching this very long miniseries if you really want to watch something to make fun of Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. There were one or two funny parts, and the rest was just stupid and I don’t think they could have paid the actors enough to act so moronic. That probably sums it up enough that I don’t have to write a full review/warning.

Finally, I read and finished one of my most anticipated books of the year – Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book of seven in the Gentleman Bastards sequence by Scott Lynch. Although it was enjoyable and certainly well-worth reading, I didn’t think it quite lived up to The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place approximately two years after the end of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Locke and Jean are now in Tal Verrar, attempting to scheme the owner of a successful gambling house out of his money. Soon the two Gentleman Bastards are caught up between balances of power and trying to stay afloat in their web of convoluted half-truths. I’ll let you read the rest for yourself since this is definitely one of those books that is very plot-oriented and more fun to read if you don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.

Technically, Red Seas Under Red Skies is an improvement over The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is better written, for the most part – I did think the prologue in Lies was better done. The writing is much smoother, though, and there are fewer flashbacks, although there are some interludes in the beginning that cover some of the gaps in the two years between the first book and this one.

The dialogue is still clever and witty and not quite as overdone as it was at times in Lies, so this is also an improvement. Some of the lines definitely made me laugh out loud.

The characters still have roguish tendencies, but also possess a loyalty to each other that can be quite touching. There is not deep characterization in these books, but I have to say, Locke is probably my favorite character I’ve read about who is not a fully fleshed out character with a lot of depth. I’m a sucker for clever, roguish characters with a bit of a soft side. Plus these characters are portrayed as being highly clever, yet they do not always come out on top, which gives this series a bit more of a realistic feel than a lot of books that try to do the same type of thing.

The story was still interesting and fun, although sometimes it seemed a little bit like Lynch was using some of the same techniques as the first book. This did not happen enough to bother me that much, but I found this book a bit more predictable than the first in some ways, although there was a twist at the end that I rather enjoyed. The ending was very rushed, which may be in part because Lynch had to cut out some parts of the book and try to keep it to close to the same length as the first, according to an interview with the author on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

One of the strengths in the first book, in addition to the characters, witty dialogue, and purely entertaining story, was some scenes that portrayed very emotional, heart-wrenching moments. There were some scenes in this book I felt were supposed to have the same impact, yet somehow they didn’t. It lacked some of the little everyday human touches that were in the first book, such as all the Gentleman Bastards sitting down to dinner together and bantering with each other.

This doesn’t influence my opinion of the book in any way, but for once, the American version of the cover is far superior to the UK cover. It is actually absolutely gorgeous and would win my favorite cover art of the year award, if I had one.

Although it didn’t quite live up to the standards set by the first book in the series, I found Red Seas Under Red Skies to be a very entertaining book, and I wish the next book, Republic of Thieves, was out already.

8.5/10

Sep
01
2007

The 2007 Hugo Award winners have been announced. The winners are listed on the official Hugo website.

Sadly, I haven’t actually read any of the nominees for best novel, even though I do have Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon. I have seen all the movies that were nominated, though, and Pan’s Labyrinth was a good choice for the win. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if The Prestige or V for Vendetta had won, either, since I really liked both of those. I thought Children of Men was just ok and A Scanner Darkly was awful.

I also heard that Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon won the Campbell award, beating Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Aug
26
2007

“You have lived in your dreams so long you’ve lost sight of the world.”
Erlein from Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Although I found Ysabel to be an enjoyable page-turner, I heard it was inferior to Guy Gavriel Kay’s other books so I was really looking forward to reading Tigana. I was not at all disappointed, since Tigana turned out to be one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. It was beautifully written and emotionally powerful, filled with scenes that were so clear to me that I kept envisioning them long after I had finished the book.

Tigana is the story of a group of people from the nation of Tigana seeking to rectify the wrongs of the past. During a war between Tigana and Ygrath, the Prince of Tigana, Valentin, killed the son of Brandin of Ygrath, a powerful sorcerer attempting to conquer the entire land of the Five Palms, of which Tigana was a part. In retaliation, Brandin not only slaughtered the people of Tigana fighting against him in the war but cast a powerful spell removing the name of the land so that it could only be remembered and heard by the people who were born there. Once the people born in Tigana were dead, the name of Tigana would be lost forever.

While Valentin’s son is uniting the people of Tigana as well as other people who despise Brandin and the sorceror Alberico (who is also trying to conquer as much of the land of the Five Palms as possible), Dianora di Tigana masquerades as Dianora di Certando and allows herself to be captured as one of Brandin’s courtesans with the intent of killing him and restoring the name of her homeland. However, she finds her job growing more difficult as she finds herself falling in love with Brandin in spite of what he has done to her people.

Tigana is a tale about the danger of two extremes – the danger of remembering the past so clearly that one remains entrenched in it, unable to forget and move on, and the danger of forgetting about the reality of the past. It’s a story of love and being torn when you discover the world is not as black and white as once thought. It is one of those rare stories that shows both sides of the coin and reveals that there are consequences to actions and that one person’s triumph is another’s tragedy.

The characterization was masterful. At the beginning of the story, Brandin was portrayed as an evil bad guy, but once you saw him through Dianora’s eyes, you realize he’s only human and one who cares about the people around him so much that it overrules his better judgment at times. It takes some talent to make the reader go from despising a character to loving them, and these gray characters are my favorite kinds.

Some people may find Tigana to be a little too angst-filled and repetitive for their tastes. I freely admit it – I like some angst in my stories, but even I found the repetitiveness of the character’s thoughts a little much at times and wanted them to get on with the story. This was the only problem I had with Tigana, however.

Overall, Tigana was a spell-binding story that I still keep going back to even though it’s been almost a week since I finished it now.

9.5/10

Aug
07
2007

I realized recently that I have only read three books this year that were released this year (The Name of the Wind, Ysabel, and The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadows). To remedy this situation, I recently ordered the following:

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (#2 in the Gentleman Bastard sequence)
The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg (#1 in The Lighthouse Duology)

Hopefully later this year I’ll be able to get some more new releases. I’m looking forward to reading Acacia by David Anthony Durham and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie and hope to get at least those two this year.

So at some point I should get more reviews of newer books up here.

I finished Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore Sunday night so I’m hoping to get a review of that up here soon (unfortunately, work usually gets in the way of that during the week). I was pleasantly surprised by it – it was better than I was expecting it to be.

While I’m waiting for my Amazon order of 2007 releases to get here, I’m reading another older novel – Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay.

As anybody who keeps up with my blog is sure to know, I think Carol Berg is a wonderful and very under-rated fantasy author. So I was very happy to see them do this interview with her on wotmania’s Other Fantasy board. Plus the interviewer asked posters to contribute questions, and it was exciting for me to see some of the questions I contributed actually get asked in the interview! I really enjoyed reading Carol’s responses. Check it out!