Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feature & Feature #9

I am trying to increase my readership and gain new followers, so I have signed up for this meme, hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read. Visit either of their posts to see who else is taking part.

I would especially appreciate 'likes' for my Facebook Page.

Activity: What is the first thing you would do if you woke up to find yourself in your favorite book?

That is a very difficult question for me to answer because my favorite book at the moment is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. This presents me with the problem of deciding where and when to appear . . . Do I want to see the Wall or Deanerys’ dragons? Do I want to give Joffrey a well-deserved slapping or poke Cersei in the eye? Do I want to ask Maester Aemon all about his wonderful life or do I simply want to see if Ghost would let me stroke him? So many choices . . .

I would really like to appear very early in A Game of Thrones at the inn at the Crossroads. This might seem like a very unusual place to choose, but I would try to prevent Catelyn Stark’s arrest of Tyrion Lannister. Now, the Mighty Tyrion is possibly my favorite character of all time, but that is not my reason for trying to keep him free. I think that this action marks the point of no return for almost all the horrible things that happen in the rest of the series. If only these two characters had not met in the inn then there would be a very good chance that many, many people would not have to die or suffer as they do in the remainder of the series.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.10 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.95 / 5.00

Earthsea is a land of many islands and it was on one of these, Gont, that the boy Duny was born to the village bronze-smith in Ten Alders. The youngest of seven brothers, he led a wild life until one day he overheard his aunt using strange words to call a goat down from a roof. Next day he shouted the same words at a whole herd of goats and then was terrified when the animals surrounded him and would not leave him alone. This was the first example of him using magic and it showed how powerful he would become.

The second time he used powerful magic was when the Kargs came to kill the villagers and plunder their homes. Conjuring a dense fog around the village he deceived the enemy and led them to their doom. This attracted the attention of the great wizard Ogion, who took the boy to be his apprentice and gave him his true name, Ged. But names carry great power and so the boy chose the name Sparrowhawk, and so he was known at the School on Roke and later when he went forth into the world as a fully-trained wizard. However, a student display of his hubris had released a shadow upon the world and Sparrowhawk soon found that he could not avoid it as it pursued him wherever he went.

I am not sure why I had never read this book before, as I have been aware of it for a long time, although my husband’s lack of enthusiasm may have made me avoid it. I have seen a lot of high praise for this title, and the trilogy that it begins, and felt that I should finally experience this award-winning title myself. Unfortunately, I was rather underwhelmed by the experience and I am at a loss to explain why this book is so highly praised.

The story of Ged / Sparrowhawk is full of imagination and is certainly interesting enough as a quick read, but I never really felt emotionally involved with it, and that is my major criticism. When I read a book, no matter of genre, I want to be drawn into its world and feel connected to the characters that I am following. In any type of fantasy, I expect the world to be lush with detail and diversity, challenging my imagination and presenting alternative types of life.

In Earthsea, Ms Le Guin has created a full-realized world, with a myriad of creatures and cultures for us to explore. There are languages, stories, folklore, mythology and history, as well as a variety of magics and magical abilities, and so I can understand why people mention it in the same breath as Middle Earth. However, and it amazes me to say this, Tolkien usually related his stories in such a way as to draw the reader into his world and make them feel as if they are being carried along by them. I say that this amazes me because I know that many readers find Tolkien overly wordy and too interested in descriptions, and yet he still draws me in to his works and I travel his characters’ journeys with them. I cannot say the same for A Wizard of Earthsea, which I can only compare to that densest of Tolkien’s works, The Silmarillion. I wanted to know what happened from an intellectual point of view, but felt very little inclusion in the world or empathy for the hero, Ged.

The world of Earthsea is so detailed and intricate that I felt overwhelmed by it. As Ged moves out into the world we see glimpses and flashes of the cultures he encounters, but we never get the chance to explore any of them with any depth and this was very dissatisfying, much like a single day tour of New York City. No sooner had we been introduced to something novel than we were whisked off to see another oddity. If ever there was a book where I desperately wanted much more time to immerse myself in the little details of a strange, new world, it is this one. Rather than cramming so much story into this little book, I would chosen to see perhaps only one third of the plot, with the rest of the space filled with descriptions, atmosphere-building dialogue and character work.

The characters are only lightly drawn and are mostly used for a single beat and then tossed aside with little rhyme or reason. Perhaps if I had been given a chance to understand Ogion, for example, I might have accepted his decision to simply send Ged off to the School with little argument. This was one of the most difficult decisions for me to accept, especially after Ged had shown that he was rash and had attracted the attention of a shadow creature. Maybe Ogion had valid reasons for abandoning his role of teacher for the boy, but it made little sense to me and thus tested my suspension of disbelief.

Ged himself follows the trope of the wild child who finally scares himself ‘straight’ by doing something incredibly dangerous. This was a believable, if predictable, character arc, but was about the only development that he showed during the entire story. Again, there was too little detail and I would have liked to see many more interactions between him and those around him. I truly wanted to believe that his friend Vetch actually liked Ged for some reason, but he was merely a means to an end, providing Ged with the necessary skills to finally track down the shadow.

In short, I felt as if I was reading the outline of a much more interesting book which would display a fully-realized cast of characters and lush world-building. I have seen lots of reviews describing this as a great work of fantasy, and I can see the imagination that was involved in creating it. However, I just wish that I had been given the chance to see that world rather than being told about it.

I read this as part of a whole heap of challenges:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan Read Along: Week 6

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at On Starships & Dragonwings.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 40.

1. Looks like Rand and Mat met another ally finally. What do you think of Master Gill? Do you think his hope in Thom is well placed?

Master Gill seems like a decent, honest man, so I think that Rand and Mat can trust him. I get the feeling that Thom is a hard man to befriend, but Master Gill certainly thinks very highly of him, even if he finds Thom annoying and frustrating at times. His comments about Thom suggest a great friendship between the two men. Also, the fact that Thom says that Gill is trustworthy is a testament to the man’s character.

I find it hard to believe that Thom is dead because he is such a well drawn character with an interesting back story that we have only glimpsed so far. Master Gill suggests that Thom is capable of surviving most things and I find that easy to accept because I want to know much more about Thom. I expect that we will finally find out that he was someone very important, with a high standing and superior training.

2. Loial the Ogier! How adorable right? We only get a brief glimpse into this new race, but what do you think? What part do you think he'll play in the story?

Loial (pronounced like ‘loyal’) is a terrific character and I was shocked that I had forgotten about him. The ogier are a strange mix of Tolkien’s dwarves and elves. They have ‘dwarvish’ abilities to work stone, but are more ‘elf’-like in their affinity for trees and nature. There is also an ‘entish’ feel to his talk of humans being ‘hasty’, which I find very appealing.

I like the choice to give us a young and rebellious member of this ancient race. So often we see these elder races as wise and venerable, with lots of self-control and patience, but we rarely see their youngsters. It seems strange to think of a ninety year old runaway, but it seems that this is the best description for Loial. He mentions the Ways a few times, so I hope that he will join our merry band and help them to use what sounds like a method for long-distance travel.

I am really looking forward to reading what his mother says to him when he returns home: I expect it to be hilarious!

3. During the rescue of Perrin and Egwene, did it seem like Lan was overly concerned about Nynaeve to anyone else? >.> <.<

As someone who has read some of these books before, I do not want to comment too much on this.

It certainly seems that Nynaeve is interested in proving herself to him, but as she is always grumpy, I am not sure if she is more provoked by him than by anyone else. As for Lan, Moiraine has told him that Nynaeve is important, so maybe he is simply trying to keep the Aes Sedai happy.

4. The Dark One has been blamed for all sorts of things lately. Do you think that the Dark One is the root of Perrin's power like Moraine fears? How about Rand's?

I agree with Lan in believeing that Perrin’s power comes form something much older than the Dark One. The wolves seem to be actively opposed to Shai’tan and his forces, so I do not see how they could be associated with him or how Perrin’s talent could be derived from him.

I do not think Rand’s power comes from him either. No matter who exactly is presenting himself as Ba’alzamon in the boys’ dreams, it is obvious that they have a choice about whether or not to follow him. Surely, if the Dark One had given them their powers he would have much more control over them and would not need to try to sway them to follow him.

Also, we see the Dark One being blamed for anything and everything. For example, the Children of the Light claim that all the Aes Sedai are Darkfriends, which does not seem to be true. As one would expect in a society driven by fear and superstition, anyone who is a little different is easily accused of being evil.

5. Very briefly Rand encounters a beggar who is obviously determined to find him specifically. Who do you think this is? What do you think is going to happen with this beggar in the future?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the beggar is Padan Fain, who we last saw in Baerlon. At that time he seemed to be very ragged and more than a little crazed, so it is easy to imagine that he would have deteriorated by the further travel and hardships since then.

He is going to keep tracking Rand and the others until he is permanently dead.

6. We learn a whole lot about Queen Morgase in this section, including getting to meet her in person! What do you think? Do you like the tradition of sending the royal children to study with the Aes Sedai and Warders?

She seems like a very imposing and talented leader, although I am a little concerned that her temper is supposed to be very fiery as I imagine that this could affect her judgment at times. She is certainly in complete control of her court, even squashing a powerful Aes Sedai and does not seem to have surrounded herself with sycophants, which gives me hope.

Although I can see how Aes Sedai and Warder training would be great assets for the royal children, it does seem a little dangerous, especially for the daughter-heir when there is no ‘spare’ available. I would have thought that this left them vulnerable to attacks from other branches of the royal family that could claim the throne once she was removed. Does that make me a little cynical?

7. Rand had quite an adventure in the palace there, wow! And we finally get to meet another Aes Sedai. What do you think of Elaida and her dark assessment of Rand's future? 

After Loial’s identification of Rand as a ta’veren, it was not much of a surprise that Elaida would be so interested in Rand: I assume that she can detect the same things about him as Moiraine. However, her interest seems much more hostile than Moiraine’s. There seemed to be a definite threat of torture or hard questioning when she suggested that he be imprisoned.

Her Foretelling was not much of a surprise because it is blatantly obvious that Rand and his friends are going to be very influential in the coming battle between Light and Dark. It tends to confirm my thought that he is the Dragon Reborn, but is so vague as to mean very little at the moment. However, I expect her to try to recapture him, no matter what the Queen has decided, and I predict that she will remain a danger for Rand and the others.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #32

Interesting Books

(Descriptions from Goodreads)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, review at Into The Hall Of Books

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason, review at My Bookish Ways

"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”

With this memorable first line, we meet Jason Getty, a regular guy in every mild sense of the word. But extraordinary circumstances push this ordinary man to do something he can’t undo...and now he must live with the undeniable reality of his actions. And just as Jason does finally learn to live with it, a landscaper discovers a body on his property—only it’s not the body Jason buried.

As Jason’s fragile peace begins to unravel, his life is hitched to the fortunes of several strangers: Leah, an abandoned woman looking for answers to her heartbreak; Tim, a small-town detective just doing his job; and Boyd, a fringe-dweller whose past is about to catch up to him—all of them in the wake and shadow of a dead man who had it coming.

I have listed these titles in earlier SSS posts: check out my SSS Books Page for links to more reviews:

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, review at Cuddlebuggery

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams, review at The Ranting Dragon

Every Day by David Levithan, review at Calico Reaction

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, reviews at Beauty In Ruins, Fantasy Faction & Iceberg Ink

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman, review at Fantasy Faction

The Six Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher, review at Fantasy Literature


Scarlet by Marissa Meyer at Into The Hall Of Books

Armchair BEA 2013

I took part in this event last year, and it was great fun even though I was exhausted when it was over and I hadn’t even left the house!

This post includes the dates for this year and some more details. If nothing else, I suggest that you add the website to your RSS feed reader so that you will notified of more information as it comes along.

Freda Warrington

I was delighted to see this post over at Fantasy Cafe. I loved Elfland and was very disappointed when the library copy of A Taste of Blood Wine went missing.

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