Thursday, 22 September 2011

Revelation by Carol Berg

When I finished Transformation, the first book of the Rai-Kirah series, I thought I was done with Seyonne and Aleksander, that its sequel would probably be in the same universe but with different characters. It turns out I was wrong.

In Revelation there is more of Seyonne than of Aleksander, to be sure, but both characters are back. There is also a lot more about Seyonne's race, the Ezzarians, their traditions and why they fight demons.

This book can be divided into four parts: the beginning, with Seyonne as the sole warden of the Ezzarians, overworked and still very much under-appreciated by the rest of his people. Still, there is some joy in his life, he is back with his wife, the Queen, and she is expecting. But two things happen to bring suspicion on Seyonne (yet, again). First, he lets a demon go unpunished, sensing he has no ill intent. That is unheard of (at least in recent memory) and the talk of his corruption returns. And second, his son is born a demon, and Ezzarian law and tradition dictates that he must be left in the wild to die and that everyone else must go about their lives as if he had never been born conceived. He, however, begins to question said traditions and complains quite loudly about it.

Despairing and cast away, Seyonne goes in search of some answers. This is the second part of this book, when Seyonne first goes through severe depression, then goes about the world looking for some of the demon-children, that were saved by some that were not so keen on tradition as well, encountering prince Aleksander along the way who thinks him to be the leader of a rebellion against his empire. This encounter means one more task for Seyonne, who promises to help Aleksander squash the rebellion.

When he finds the leader, Blaise, he discovers what he had been searching all along – the demon-children. He learns a bit more of their powers and their nature, which leads him to question a bit more the Ezzarian traditions. He is accepted into the group and then cast away again (boy, this man cannot catch a break), and he decides to go to the one person who knows more about demonlore in all of the world, but who is also anathema to all Ezzarian (especially for those who have been made slaves and put through the excruciating rituals that he devised - like Seyonne).

This bring us to the third part, when Seyonne willingly travels to the demon realm, to find some answers. But things are never easy for this guy, so he is captured, tortured, made to forget everything he knows and his purpose, and kept like a pet by the demons (AKA, a slave, yet again). The first three were probably the most boring parts of this book, he is tortured, in the dark, he hears voices...and this goes on for pages. But when he reaches the court of the higher-ranking demons, things get interesting again. The society of the demons, their world, their relationships were really fun to read. That Seyonne had no idea what he was doing there, and kept being enticed by the demoness Vallyne, which lead him to forget what he was doing at the moment, only added to the fun. There was some intrigue, with an old warden living among the demons also as pet, and the demons blaming the Ezzarians of crimes against them, of rendering the lower castes crazy with their attacks, so much that they had no hunters, and their society was bent on collapse. And they also blamed the Ezzarians from keeping them from their promised land.

And because Seyonne is such a good guy, he helps them with that too. Which brings us to the last part of the book, back in the mortal realm, with a controlled demon attack, two armies about to go to war in the vicinity of where Seyonne wants to be (on of them Aleksander's), with the Ezzarians also moving to war against the demons, who Seyonne has to protect, and the rebels lurking close by. Not very good odds.

This is turning into a rather long review, but that is because there is a lot that goes on the book. Maybe not so much action-wise (most of it happens in the end), Seyonne does spend a lot of time wallowing in self-pity, and yet more time being torture and completely out of sorts. But there is a lot that is learned about the Ezzaians and the demons (quite a few revelations), and some new characters that kept me always wondering if they were to be trusted or not.

I missed not having more of Aleksander in this book, his relationship with Seyonne was always fun to read. But, Fiona, who dogs Seyonne most of the book, proves to be quite good to read as well. The stronger point in this book, besides Seyonne, is the history of the Ezzarians, of the traditions and rituals they follow blindly, without ever questioning their purpose [this actually reminded me of The Third God, by Ricardo Pinto].

Contrary to Transformation, this book ends in a cliffhanger, not a mean one, but enough to make me want to read the next one, and see how the story concludes. Comparing with the first one, I think it's a good sequel, maybe not as good as the first, but then again, the first one's ending was a bit of a let down. On the plus side, Revelation has a much more better cover (not that it was hard to achieve).

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: Dragons, Heroes and Wizards | Ubiquitous Absence

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Monday, 19 September 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the story of Yeine, told by her, but it is also a way to present the world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (yes, it's actually called that) and its history. The story in itself only spans two weeks, from the day Yeine arrives at Sky, to the day of the succession ceremony, but those are two weeks filled with action.

Yeine is, at best, an unreliable narrator. The story is being told from a point somewhat towards the end of the book and, as I read on, I could start to put the pieces together about what would happen. But most of the times it did confuse me (and sometimes not about the plot, but about whether I had a faulty print or not).

What I loved the most in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were the gods and its mythos. I am a sucker for creation myths and all the different ways the gods make the world. In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the creation of the Universe is more of a by-product of the gods fights and quarrels and games, than a desire to create something new and alive – with a few exceptions, of course. And this plays right into the way they relate with the mortal humans, how they see them, how they use them. A part of the past of this world, the Gods' Wars, is also told, as a lot of the plot is a consequence of something that happened then. It would make a nice prequel to this book, the story of how it happened.

Every god that appears in this book has a personality of his own, and none of them are black or white (in the moral sense), even if there is a strong symbolism associated with the light/day god and the darkness/night god – meaning that colour and affinity with either night and day are not a sign of good and evil. Of all the gods that appear, the one I loved the most was Sieh who, for most of the book, is a child and trickster. Nahadoth comes in close second, for all his different sides, depending on the time of the day and his mood.

It makes sense to like these two the most, they are the most drawn out, the most important, the ones who actively contribute to the plot. But that would mean that I would also love Yeine, which is not true. Is not that I dislike her, but I never really cared for her fate. Or her love life and her troubles (thankfully there weren't many – just big ones). Maybe because, thinking about it, there is not much of consequence that she does. She follows leads and learns things, and is harassed by relatives and gods, but there are only a few points where I could say "there you go, you've done something to make sure you are not going to die in the end".

As for the story itself, there were good points, but by the end I felt it had all happened too fast. I was glad for its resolution, and happy with its ending, but had it taken longer to reach it, I would probably like it more.

But it was a nice fantasy novel, filled with action, and a lot of hints to its history and mythology that would love to see expanded in the following books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: A Few More Pages | Book Lovers Inc. | Fyrefly's Book Blog | Good Books & Good Wine | Jawas Read, Too! | Libri Touches | To Read or Not to Read 

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK | Amazon US |

Sunday, 11 September 2011

August Ins and Outs

A little late this one, but I was trying to actually write some reviews of books read on August.
August was a good month for reading (not as good as July, thought), and with a few purchases as well. No Bookmooched books, though (I seem to have finally spent all my points)

Null-A Three by A. E. Van Vogt
Found this at the supermarket at very low price, and I'm not the kind of girl to say no to a book bargain.

A clash of kings by George R.R. Martin
I was starting to wonder why it was taking so long for this book to arrive. When I finally got the package, there was a little sticker that explained everything: Missent to Australia

The king of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
I was avidly waiting for these two. You'll find one of them again below, and the reason it isn't the two, it is because A Conspiracy of Kings only arrived on the last day of August

Bought Used (and in this case, already read)

Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
My copy! Finally! After bookdepository sent my first one to limbo!

Fire study by Maria V. Snyder


Rating: 2 out 5

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner


Rating: 4 out 5

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells


Rating: 3.5 out 5

Revelation by Carol Berg     Review to come
The sequel to Transformation. It wasn't what I expected, but that is neither good or bad. It had some good things, a lot of history and tradition of the Ezzarians, and even more about the demons they fight. And yes, there were quite a few revelations in there.
Bonus: A much better cover

Rating: 4 out 5

The king of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner    Review to come
The third in The Queen's Thief series (my new favourite series!). Not told by the POV of Gen, but he is there. It feels different from the other two, less danger I would say, but there are a lot of dangerous situations in there. Maybe more homely. But still very good.

Rating: 4.5 out 5

TBR Variation: -1 (From 203 to 202)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner


On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless--until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.

Swordspoint is a story of intrigue, that pretty much follows Richard St. Vier, a swordsman for hire, and the best there is. It starts with him coming back home, after his latest duel, with the gossipers of Riverside trying to figure out who hired him. This is a mystery also discussed by the nobles of the Hill.

The world of Swordspoint is very well built, with the rich families that live on the Hill, and the poor and the dangerous people on Riverside. The society of Swordspoint is even better built, because there is so much detail that it feels real. The nobles have their protocols and rules, traditions and manners. They resort to swordsmen to fight their duels, some times to the death, as that is the socially accepted way to kill an enemy.

But even if the story follows Richard, there are other characters as well. Alec, Richard's lover, is a mystery to everyone, a drop-out from the University, who gambles away all his money and picks fights he cannot fight. There is Michael Godwin, a young noble with aspirations to power, who decides that he will learn how to fight with a sword, not just look pretty with it, like most of his counterparts. Duchess Tremontaine, to all appearances with no political ties, but who works behind the scenes to get what she wants. And a multitude of other characters, all with their struggles and passions.

I liked Swordspoint. during the time I read it, I didn't want to put it down. But I wanted to solve the mysteries that kept appearing, trying to see through all the intrigue. But I never really connected with Richard St. Vier, and disliked Alec immensely, although I think Alec was supposed to be dislikable, it was part of his persona. Of all the characters, the one I liked most was Michael, and I got little of him.

I had expected to love Swordspoint – the reviews I had read and the three pages of blurbs certainly made me believe I would, but that was not the case. It was a well written, and well thought off story, but once I was done with it, I didn't really care to know more about it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: starmetal oak book blog

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week is Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying To Read.

1 - El Mapa del Cielo by Félix J. Palma [The map of the sky]
When I read The Map of Time, I considered a finished book. In fact I loved that the ending was so final. A few months ago, I discovered there would be two more books in what is now called the Victorian Trilogy. I love Palma's writing, so I will read anything he writes next, but double so if it is anyway related to (or as good as) The Map of Time.

2 - House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
I read Howl's Moving Castle and loved it, and I read Castle in the Sky, and also liked it. So, I want to read the next one in the series.

3 - A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Again, I loved the first one, now I'm continuing the series. This one is already on the list as one of the next books to pick up. It's right there on the shelf looking at me.

4 - Ironside by Holly Black
The last one on the Modern Tales of Faerie series, I have heard good things about it and I, of course, want to finish this series. The only reason I haven't bought this yet is because I'm trying to find a copy that matches the other two. Not just because it will look better that way, but because it's the cover I like the most.

5 - Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Another one still in the process of being written. I want more! Especially if Katsa and Po reappear! More!

6 - The Scar by China Miéville
A sequel to Perdido Street Station. I want to read more stuff by China Miéville and I enjoyed Perdido Street Station and the world of Bas-Lag. More about it can only be good, right?

7 - Whatever I haven't read of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Unfortunately is a far too big list to be put in here. Or to be proud of.

8 - What I haven't read of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Which are: The Lost Colony, The Time Paradox, and The Atlantis Complex.

And that's it. No 9 and 10 places, but let's face it, Discworld alone could make the entire list.

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Monday, 5 September 2011

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds
This one is already a classic, but I had very little prior knowledge about its plot. I knew the Martians attacked, and that was it. Recently I read a book by a Portuguese author that was something akin to retelling of this book.

Intent on remedying this fault in my reading of Science Fiction, I set forth with this book. It was not without mishaps, as my aunt decided she would be reading it, and stole the book from me. Even though *I* was reading it. Luckily, this is a book in public domain, so I also had the ebook on my phone. Later on, I also “read” this book via audiobook, but I'll explain why further ahead.

The War of the Worlds is indeed the story of how Martians attacked Earth (or Britain, I'm still not sure what happened to the rest of world), and what happened during this invasion. The narrator tells us first of the society of the late 19th century, their beliefs (and disbeliefs) of the possibility of life on other planets and of space travel. Then he describes how the invasion came to pass, of the mayhem that followed and his own attempts of rescuing loved ones and survival.

This book took awhile to read, and it was more to do with the writing style than exactly the plot. The plot had everything to make read page after page, there were explosions and Martians and thunderstorms. But, somehow, the writing fail to transmit all that excitement and actions. It dragged, and dragged and I could only read a few pages at a time.

And this is the reason I turned to audiobooks. It would be easier to listen one chapter at a time, while I did other stuff. And at least the readers at Librivox manage to convey the emotions that were on paper. And so I was able to finish this book.

So, my overall opinion? Meh. Nice story, but the writing did nothing for me. And it's a story that has lost part of its power since space travel became a reality.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US| | Librivox | Project Gutenberg

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice
Assassin's Apprentice is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, a introduction to the world of the Six Duchies, and to the story of Fitz Farseer.

Now, this book begins with young Fitz being left at the gates of a fort by his grandfather, claiming that his father should be the one providing for him. As it turned out, Fitz was the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, King-in-waiting. He is left in the care of Burrich, Chivalry's hound and stable master, until it is someone decides what is to be done with him.

But due to political intricacies of court life and throne heirs, Fitz remains in the care of Burrich, who, to be honest, only knows how to raise animals. So Fitz grows up among hounds and horses, as well as the rascals on the town below the Castle. And it is with the animals that he discovers his talent that is The Wit, which allows him to feel and communicate with animals.

This is just the beginning of the story, there are a lot of sub-plots, and master plots, and minor plots in this book. As Fitz grew older, the King Shrewd takes an interest on him while, shrewdly, teaching his younger son, Prince Regal, how best to deal with bastards in the family. And this is the way Fitz becomes an apprentice to the king's assassin, Chade. All this happens while the Six Duchies are under constant threat of barbarians, especially the Red-Ship Raiders.

There is a lot in this book that was good, or nice. For instance, the fact that the King and Princes have names that are qualities is not simply coincidence. In this world, it is believed that the name has a power, and so nobles are named with qualities one might desire on them. And, for most part it works. King Shrewd is shrewd, Prince Verity looks like he is true, and Prince Regal is very regal, no doubt. Prince Chivalry however I didn't get to see, and I would have loved to, because from the general feeling of the Six Duchies, he was a fine man, and his part of the story always screamed at me as important. Lady Patience is the one whose name missed the mark, in my opinion.

But back to the book. I liked it, but I felt it was too much of an introduction, and there were too many plots and sub-plots [etc.]. Not that this is bad, but there were some of them that were boring, others that I felt that should have lead somewhere by the end of the book, and one that I believe happened way to fast to my liking, because I enjoyed it a lot.

And part with my problem with this sub-plots had to do with how much I liked each character. Unfortunately, Fitz, the main character, never really clicked with me. He is not a bad character, but just not exactly what I like. So, I never really cared about his expeditions to town and his romantic woes. When he interacted with the other characters, then I liked. Chade and The Fool were my favourites, both shady characters, just the way I like.

And, as I said, this is just an introduction to the trilogy, but as such, it is a good one. I expect that the next book to shows a lot more about The Red-Ship raiders and their attacks, as well as how Fitz grows up in (the backstages) of the court.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: Este meu cantinho... (and part 2)

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Era uma vez, or so the story goes...

Era uma vez is the traditional way to start a fairy tale in Portugal - the Portuguese version of Once upon a time.

And so this is a meme/probably-regular-post-kind-of-thing where I'll share some first words I like of books I like.

So here are some of my favourites:

Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
The range of the airplane--a few thousand miles, the other side of the world, coconut palms, glaciers, the poles, the Poles, a lama, a llama, etc.--is pitifully limited compared to the vast extent and variety of experience provided, to those who know how to use it, by the airport.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.

Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin
If you'd like a story about how I won my basketball letter and achieved fame, love, and fortune, don't read this.

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
Far to the south of the land of Ingary, in the Sultanates of Rashpuht, a young carpet merchant called Abdullah lived in the city of Zanzib.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
It begins, as most things begin, with a song.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

...and its remade version:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Mordred's Curse by Ian McDowell
I don't care what Guinevere and Gawain say; this won't be Mordred's Life of Arthur, but Mordred's Life of Mordred. Fuck them; they can chronicle my sanctimonious progenitor's exploits if they've got the stomach for it.

The Map of Time by Felix J Palma
Welcome, dear reader, as you plunge into the thrilling pages of our melodrama where you will find adventures of which you never dreamt!