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Phil's Rambling Rants

August 9th, 2008

August 9th, 2008
06:29 pm

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Book review: The Snow Queen
I've not found the motivation to write anything about the books I've read since before I went on my trip, so I have a stack which I will try to cover in a slapdash way.

First is The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey.  This is the latest in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, and probably shouldn't be tried without at least reading The Fairy Godmother, the first one, which explains how the world works (and is the best of the lot so far anyway).

This is a retelling of the fairy tale of the same name, which I'm not very familiar with.  There's what I think is a twist on the original at the end, but it's a pretty unremarkable plot.  I do enjoy the feel of Lackey's writing, but this isn't among her better efforts.  It's sufficiently forgettable that, to be honest, I've forgotten most of it already in the two weeks since I finished it.  It's been a busy two weeks, and my memory is lousy, but I should remember more than this.

6 out of 10; if you're not the sort of die-hard fan who needs to read everything Lackey writes, you can probably do better.

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07:19 pm

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Book review: Academ's Fury
Next on the pile is Academ's Fury by Jim Butcher.

This is the second book in the Codex Alera series.  Read Furies of Calderon first to know who the characters are and how they got here.

This novel has furious action going on at several fronts at the same time, so that it's hard to keep track of everything that's happening.  It's fun, but it leaves me a little dazed.  Some parts of the plot are a little predictable, and the overall series story arc is a bit frustrating.  We got some oblique hints in the first book, and now we get some fairly blatant hints, but only hints, as to where we're going.  If it's supposed to be a surprise, make it a surprise, and if we're supposed to know the big stuff that's being planned, don't try to be coy about it.  On the plus side, there was a little hint of where the world came from and why there are so many homages to Roman society, and we got some insight into the Canim, the only important non-human race so far in the story.  On the minus side, there were a couple of apparent continuity errors: plot-driving stuff that was different from how I remembered it from the last book.  Perhaps it's my memory.  Overall, there are plenty of harrowing narrow escapes, enough places where moderately important characters don't escape that there's an appropriate amount of tension, the hero shows us that he's really quite heroic despite his handicap, and the story arc seems to be proceeding well.

I won't call it great, but it's a solid book.  8 out of 10.

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07:47 pm

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Book review: Valor's Trial
Next on the pile is Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff.

This is the fourth and final book in the Confederation series, also known as the Torin books.  The important characters have a lot of history that's not covered in much detail in this volume, so it would be best to read the series in order, although it's mostly furious action which will be furious action with or without all the background.

Most of what happens in this book is direct combat or at least Marines going through really tough circumstances and showing off their stuff.  The whole series is hardcore military SF, so maybe it's just my mood, but somehow this book seemed more violent than the previous ones and a little too bloody for my taste.  The personal story of the characters is rather predictable -- once it's set up you know where it has to go -- but it's still gripping.  The overall plot situation, though, where the series couldn't go on without a very radical change in tone.  I can't really say more, except to admit that I failed to see a really major part of the plot coming, even though I should have known it from the beginning.  I could chalk this up to the story being too riveting to give me a chance to think, but (with apologies to Tanya) I'm afraid I have to blame myself for just not looking.  I'm certainly not alert enough to be any sort of military person, much less one of Gunnery Sergeant Kerr's marines.

7 out of 10.  It was just too violent for me -- at least this week.

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08:24 pm

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Book review: Victory of Eagles
Finally, I've actually dug down to today's book reivew, which is Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik.

This is the fifth book in the Temeraire series; if you haven't read the first one, His Majesty's Dragon, get out from under your rock and read it.  This continues the series; if you didn't like it before, you still won't; if you're like the rest of us, you're addicted and this is the next hit.

It's really hard to say anything about this book without talking about the actual plot.  We continue to pursue the theme of Laurence's sense of honor and duty to his country in the face of his country treating him badly.  We continue to follow the thread of trying to bring English society around to the idea that the dragons are actually people and deserve to be treated as such.  And, of course, we continue to follow the thread of how Napoleon's military adventures would go in a world that's become so different from history that the original conceit of taking the actual history of the Napoleonic wars and mixing dragons in has completely turned into spinning a story out of whole cloth.  The whole series has never worked except as whimsy, and if one tries to look too closely at some of the details in this one, there are more and more suspension of disbelief problems.  I remain unable to understand what it is about Temeraire that is so captivating and enchanting that I don't care about anything else -- but I'm still too much in love with Temeraire to not enjoy this book.  If you're still reading the series, I think you know what I mean.

8 out of 10.

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