July 10th, 2010

Book review: Territory

Today's book review is Territory by Emma Bull.

This is a standalone novel.

I read this book strictly because of the author, but in this case I should maybe have been a little pickier about the subject.  This is a mashup of a classic Western and fantasy, and I'm not at all in touch with the Western side of it.  The setting is pretty well realized, but I believe that the reader is still supposed to bring some cultural understanding that I don't have.  I think this book is meant for people who know the Western tropes better than I do.  People who easily recognize where Bull is honoring the tradition and where she's tweaking it will probably enjoy this a lot, but I had a mild but persistent feeling that I wasn't quite getting the joke.  Or it could be that I'm misreading my own feelings, and the problem I was having is that she does too good a job of depicting a place that, for all the romance our culture ties to it, is just not a place I'd want to visit.  Still, despite the fact that I wasn't comfortable with the setting, I found the characters reasonably engaging, and the story was pretty good, up until an ending that snuck up behind me, yelled BOO, and vanished while I was still startled.  I think if I knew more about the real history, I'd be better prepared to appreciate the novel -- but unfortunately, I just don't feel tempted to go read up on the real history.

I think this is a well-written book; I just didn't like it very much.  If a serious story about magic sneaking into a Western frontier town actually appeals, your mileage will probably be better than mine.  6 out of 10.

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Book review: Kitty Goes to War

Today's book review is Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn.

This is book 8 in the ongoing Kitty Norville series.  It's a complete episode; you could read it without having read the others, but it's a little richer for knowing the recurring characters.

Despite the title, this isn't a story about going to war, it's a story about the people who come back from war.  Although couched in a fluffy brain-candy werewolf story, it says something about what returning vets need and what we owe them that most of us probably ought to spend a little more time thinking about.  It also says something about being a good leader.  And it shows something else in answer to a common complaint about the genre -- a stable, healthy, long-term relationship that still has plenty of steamy moments and that sustains the main character through the action without having to be the action.  There are a couple of points that are a little less believable in human terms -- the CEO and the high-ranking military officer who seem to be overwhelmed by the plot imperative and not quite acting their roles.  And there are some lurking issues about the power level -- a villain who is presented as an occult dabbler, but who's apparently responsible for some really epic bad stuff.  Oh, right, it's about werewolves and vampires, I shouldn't be thinking too hard about the realism of the world.

I liked the last book in the series a lot less just because it was a slasher flick and I hate those.  This one is back to the solid fun that I like about this series.  8 out of 10.

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