Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller
(Almost Five Stars)
“I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt.”
Well done. Follows the formula Miller first employed in The Song of Achilles: making a sympathetic bit character from a Homeric epic–in this case Odyssey–the point of view character for the entire story, expanding and embellishing as necessary. Works. Told in the first person by Circe, this tale weaves the psychology of her estrangement from just about everyone with the tapestry of ancient Greek history and mythology. Introspective but engaging.
“All those years I had spent with them were like a stone tossed in a pool. Already, the ripples were gone.”
Episodic, but with enough foreshadowing to keep the reader involved–mostly.
“Most men do not know me for what I am.” “Most men, in my experience, are fools. I confess you nearly made me give the game away. Your father, the cowherd?”
Readers familiar with Greek history and mythology will Continue reading
Book Review: Deeds of Honor (Paksennerrion #10.5) by Elizabeth Moon
“Something would go wrong; something always did in war.”
Set in the world of the Paksennerrion tales, these short stories as less backstory as background. Each stands alone, concerning some minor or bridge character in the greater timeline. As the number implies, there’s a lot to cross connect.
“You can’t undo what is done or unsay what is said.”
I have only read The Farmer’s Daughter, but missing many connecting threads enhances the quality, if not the enjoyment, of these fragments. In fact, I enjoyed these short stories–because each was a self-contained whole–better than the sluggish longer work.
“Sometimes young men learn only from old men … willing to teach the hardest lessons the hardest way.”
Book Review: Sword of the Storm (The Rigante #1) by David Gemmell.
“We are born alone, and we die alone. In between we may be touched by love, but we are still alone.”
A rousing opening to a historical epic fantasy series based on the northern European clash of expanding Rome with the resident Celtic and Germanic populations. Good characterization and storytelling. Deep point of view of main characters shows all to be flawed, driven and occasionally very wrong. Just like us.
“I’m not saying not to fight. I am saying do not hate. It is not war that leads to murderous excuses but hate.”
Celtic and Roman analogs hew close to the history, except Continue reading
Book Review: The Age of War (The Legends of the First Empire #3) by Michael J. Sullivan
“[Rhunes] didn’t live long, but while they lived they burned brighter.”
This series, and Sullivan’s storytelling, keeps getting better and better. This is epic fantasy at its fullest and most satisfying. A turning point of history revolves around the courage and daring of a mixed bag of characters, most of whom have secrets and scars and a few of whom aren’t what they seem. Magic, multiple species, ancient wisdom and new discovers–all that and more.
“Regardless where you are born, the world has a way of finding you and ruining everything.”
The extra that Sullivan brings to the mix is his excellent story development. His plots are complex, but well timed and executed. The greater story grows naturally, and you the reader know things about each character that they don’t know. And yet you are teased with Continue reading
Book Review: The Curse of Chalion (World of the Five Gods #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold
“If you lent me a razor now, for me to cut my throat with, it would save ever so many steps.”
Feared they weren’t writing fantasy like this anymore. Excellent in every way. Good world and cosmology building, deep first person point of view, maybe romance, a map, humor. A satisfying ending. What more could a reader want? More? Well, there’s that, too. Bujold is a master.
“His heart melted. Or maybe it was his wits.”
Unique among current fantasy because this world has several fully developed religions, not the cardboard caricatures of most science fiction and fantasy. Bujold presents a supernatural which is series and time appropriate without straying into silliness or social commentary … too much.
“He’d been swimming in a miracle every day of his life, and hadn’t known it.
Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion (Heirs of Alexandria #1) by Mercedes Lackey et al.
“Just as simple as original sin and just as seductive.”
Excellent. Amazingly deep, rich epic fantasy set in an alternate timeline very close to Renaissance northern Italy. The nations, myths, religions, factions and families are close enough to historical that the student of history has a leg up on the fun. Yet Lackey has shifted emphasis, history there, motives somewhere else just enough to create a fascinating new universe.
“There is such a thing as evil in the world, which cannot be persuaded, but only defeated.”
Amazing that Lackey produces such good word so quickly. Nonetheless, there are signs of this story being rushed to print. For example, modern expressions, Continue reading
Book Review: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan
“Some things are unimaginable right up until you are looking at them, and even then, you might not want to believe. Love is that way, so is death.”
If anything, better than the first book, Age of Myths. Superficially Sullivan is not an epic fantasy writer like Rothfuss or Tolkien, but he weaves an excellent story amid afresh, if derivative world. Part of the fun is his tongue-in-cheek homages to classic fantasy.
“I hated my brothers. Dead for three years and they’re still trying to kill me.”
Satisfying conclusion with appropriate hooks into the next stories. Well done. Leavened with humor. Not so much as the Riyria stores, but enough. Waited for second volume for magic school, hooray! And the training was organic, taking the reader inside Continue reading
Book Review: Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #2) by Tad Williams
“I thought it would be like a story. I didn’t think any more people would die.”
Keeps getting better. Second installations of trilogies often suffer being bridges without beginnings or endings. No so here. Stone of Farewell advances the story (stories) and keeps the reader guessing. Like all good epic fantasy, this series is not just about just magic, swords and crowns, but life and death, love and hate. The real questions of life.
“Winning and losing are only the walls within which the game takes place. It is the living that makes a house–not the doors, not the walls.”
Williams keeps the threads advancing by adroitly pulling the rug from the various protagonists just as they start to make headway. Just when things can’t get worse, Continue reading
Book Review: Steles of the Sky (Eternal Sky #3) by Elizabeth Bear
Four Stars out of Five
“You can only influence the moment.”
Wizards, dragons and poets—not to mention ghuls, demonlings, blood ghosts and horses. What’s not to like in this rousing conclusion to Elizabeth’s Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy?
“Just keep walking.”
Quite a bit. But for her smashing climax, the rest of the book merits three stars … at best. It suffers a terrible case of sideways: lots of talking, lots of maneuvering, but little development of the story. Fans of Bear, and no one should start reading any series with the last book, will enjoy her writing. Her overuse of “that” becomes intrusive. Lots of Robert Jordan influence; that’s not a complement.
“From a woman’s strength came we all.”
For those who decry the dearth of female heroic characters, Eternal Sky is full of them. In fact, though the central conflict involves men, all the really interesting and significant characters are female.
“Comforting thoughts should be questioned no less Continue reading
Book Review: Shattered Pillars (Eternal Sky #2) by Elizabeth Bear
Three Stars out of Five
“To say a thing is to make it so.”
Well-conceived and well-told epic fantasy. Bear’s created world breathes authenticity. Spared returning reader retelling the first book, though a new reader may not pick up the stakes and the players as quickly.
“Everything is lazy.”
Maintains the high standards of Range of Ghosts but still drifts a little sideways. Nothing requires a story stretch to three volumes if it can be told in two. Ends with the right mix of hope and despair.
“It’s easier to be shared than to share.”