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review 2018-07-16 02:50
So-So
Desert Rising - Kelley Grant

The world building in this series is pretty good.  The use of an alternate world and the discussion about religion is really good.  Kelley is a fantasy writer who actually seems to really think about the religion that she is using in her world.

 

However, at no time in the book did I feel that any of the center characters were really in danger.

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review 2018-07-05 22:22
The Desert Spear / Peter V. Brett
The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power.

Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar'Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons--a spear and a crown--that give credence to his claim.

But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure.

 

This book is a distinct change of view from the first one, The Warded Man. We must back up and approach this story again, this time from the Krasian point of view. Jardir, who seemed like simply a back-stabbing traitor in book one now has his own version of the same events, giving us an alternate POV in this one.

We learn far more about Krasian civilization, which seems to be heavily based on early Middle Eastern cultures, with warrior values, harems of women, and contempt for outsiders, both non-warriors within the culture & actual foreigners. Many parallels can be seen within Arlen’s agrarian society, which is extremely patriarchal and very hidebound (very like medieval Europe), something which can happen when a society is under siege.

It almost seems, in this installment, that everyone has become much too comfortable with the demon-haunted night. Both societies seem to be channeling their inner demon hunters and the tension of the first book is gone in this regard. Hints are happening that we may soon get the POV of the demons—will they get the same sympathetic treatment as Jardir?

Arlen and Jardir were friends at one point—now they are rivals. Which one will become the great Unifier who will unite humanity and defeat the Corelings (demons)? But while Jardier claims to be the Deliverer, Arlen denies the title just as strenuously. Nevertheless, the demons clearly see them both as threats. These men could also have been rivals over Leesha if Brett had written things a little differently, but that ship seems to have sailed.

I’m displeased that my library doesn’t have book three and there’s no time for them to order it before I see Peter Brett at the When Words Collide conference in August. I’m not usually known for laying out the dinero for new books, but if I can get a bit of a discount at the merchants’ corner, I’ll maybe spring for book 3 (since I note that the library has books 4 & 5).

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text 2018-06-28 15:45
TBR Thursday
Casino Royale - Ian Fleming
The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold - John le Carré
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie
Jade City - Fonda Lee

After a very fun buddy read, I must now settle down & finish both a book club selection (Looking for Alaska) and a non-fiction selection (The Good Gut).  Also for book club (because we are combining two months' meetings) I better start The Name of the Star.

 

Then I'm going to move on to Casino Royale while I still have They Came to Baghdad clear in my memory.  Also on the Summer of Spies list are The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and The Secret Adversary.

 

Looking towards my writers' conference in August, I'll be reading The Desert Spear (second book in the Demon Cycle by Peter Brett) and Jade City (by Fonda Lee, one of this year's panelists).

 

July 1st is Canada Day, so I get July 2nd off work as a statutory holiday.  I've booked this Friday as vacation too, to give myself a 4 day break.  Right now the weather predictions are not all that promising, so I may get more reading time than anticipated!

 

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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review 2018-06-24 18:55
"Desert Dark" by Sonja Stone - abandoned at 51%. I am so not the target audience for this book.
Desert Dark - Sonja Stone

I wanted a lighter side to my "Summer Of Spies" reading so I picked up "Desert Dark", knowing from the publisher's summary that it was a Young Adult adventure book about a sixteen-year-old heroine attending a school for spies.

 

It was the light, fast, slightly simplistic read I'd expected it to be. It started at a run with an attempt on our heroine's life, did a "Three months earlier.." flip followed by an up close and personal murder. Then it slowed down so we could focus on Nadia's experience in attending spy school. 

 

The first indication that this might not be the book for me was how I stumbled over Nadia's reaction to her situation.

 

Day One of her new school she's subjected to an aggressive, invasive "psych eval" that seems more like an interrogation, is finally told the kind of school she's been tricked into signing up for and has been threatened with indefinite detention without charge under the Patriot Act if she tells anyone about it. 

 

Her reaction? "So I really get to work for CIA Black Ops? How cool is that?"

The dissonance felt pulled me out of the story. What kind of sixteen-year-old thinks it's cool to work for an illegal, lethal, organisation that sets itself outside of control by the democratic process in order to kill America's enemies?

 

After that, I struggled to muster the required suspension of disbelief.

As the chapters flew by, I began to see the Spy School as a sort of Hogwarts where everyone is in Slytherin and really proud of it.

 

I should have been caught up in a young Nadia's struggle to thrive in an elite spy school, which has been infiltrated by a double agent who has been told to terminate her in a make-it-look-like-an-accident way because she's perceived as a threat. My attention should have been split between figuring out who the double was (not a simple task as there were so many red herrings the plot stank of fish) and rooting for little miss cute but strong to succeed.

 

Instead, I kept seeing bright children being abused by a government agency that grooms them to be blindly obedient in the name of patriotism and then trains them to kill on command. They even use a psych profile to find the children whose backgrounds make them need to please and went to feel part of something larger than themselves. 

 

If this book had been written by Tom Clancy and set in a madrassah in Pakistan, he'd have shown it to the home of evil bad guys, exploiting children and misusing faith and courage. Setting the school in America doesn't make what's happening in it any more acceptable.

I stuck with the book to the half-way point because I was curious about who the bad guy was but, in the end, I couldn't set my distaste aside.

If you can come to this with a "Clear and Present Danger" for teenagers mindset then this will probably work for you. It was too Through The Looking Glass for me.

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text 2018-06-24 14:07
Reading progress update: I've read 35%.-spy novels are supposed to be "through the looking-glass" but not like this.
Desert Dark - Sonja Stone

I'm suffering from culture shock.

 

I'm in a world where Fox News is not an oxymoron.

 

A spy school that's a sort of Hogwarts where everyone is in Slytherin and really proud of it.

 

I'm supposed to be caught up in a young woman's struggle to thrive in an elite spy school, which has been infiltrated by a double agent who has been told to terminate her in a make-it-look-like-an-accident way because she's perceived as a threat. My attention should be split between figuring out who the double is - so many red herrings the plot stinks of fish - and rooting for little miss cute but nice to succeed.

 

Instead, I'm seeing bright children being abused by the State and manipulated into blind obedience in the name of patriotism and trained to kill on command. If this was written by Patterson and set in Pakistan, the school would be the home of the evil bad guys.

 

Now I'm rubbernecking rather than reading. This is a car wreck I can't look away from.

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