@YesItsNicolaC, #Coming_of_Age, #Historical, #Fantasy, 4 out of 5 (very good)
@YesItsNicolaC, #Coming_of_Age, #Historical, #Fantasy, 4 out of 5 (very good)
Using stars, if books can ever be fairly classified in such a blunt way, this book requires five.
The first thing to note is that there isn’t much paradise here, even in the relatively mild climatic conditions of the south. Secondly, there are kings, legions of princes and princesses, and every kind of human ogre, and all have very tough lives, many characters hardly rising above the shitpits of crude existence. Generally, this is a story about the brutish nature of humanity, seen in the evil waves of real history and not just in these dystopian pages. The knife cuts every bit as deeply, with just as much pain, as in any human conflict. Little of it is truly fantastical, though we get a glimpse of fantasy spells in the final chapters, though nothing as far-fetched as fire breathing dragons in the first long tome of this eventual trilogy. The overall tone of the book is a plausible if dark read, and not at all one I recognise as fantasy genre. In fact, when fantasy elements crept in they didn’t seem to fit well at all. The balance of reality and wizardry is not my biggest problem here though, that being the overall weight of words.
There are two excellent 80,000 word stories in this long volume, plus 40,000 words of material to save for later. The quality of the writing easily sustained this reader, but as two books in a series, one about the south and one about the north, what is good reading could have been brilliant. The two main stories might be better weaved separately in the proposed series of books, rather than threading separately around each section by section. A minor grievance, as is often the case with indie authors, is that the editing isn’t always quite up to the quality of the descriptive writing, but all in all the production is very good. Some sections of the book, which may have faced late rewrites, are certainly less well chiselled.
I can see one reason for putting all this into one book, that being because the story of Ruka is just too bleak even for the dark side of grimdark, however that could be lightened considerably without losing the terror in his character. The story of the priestesses could easily be written lightly enough to act as a counterfoil, which to some degree it is anyway. I have to admit that a book focused simply on Ruka would have many readers reaching into their drug cabinet.
As mentioned, the book moves further from a classic dystopian genre towards fantasy as the abilities of Kale ‘mature’. In my view the ‘game of thrones’ feel of the script is strong enough without superpowers, and certainly Nell writes great storylines that really don’t need the escapology of supernatural talents. Exaggerated human skills, even out of body experiences, fit the foundations of the book’s world very well, but the creeping in abilities of Nordic gods, in my opinion, don’t.
My interested was sustained, I really wanted to get to the conclusion. However, when the end came we had already passed several far more powerful climaxes. That was certainly a disappointment, if one that isn’t uncommon in planned trilogies. Authors need to hold back some storylines of course, but the biggest ‘bang’ in every book in a series should be in its final chapters.
Would I read more by this author? Yes, for sure. But also note that I already feel I’ve read at least two of his books.
This book. I'm shaking my head over this book.
It boils down to three things:
The Discworld portion of the book, involving the Unseen University, is excellent; 4 stars. Pratchett's writing is always good, even when it's average for him, and the UU storyline doesn't disappoint. I loved the verbal interplay between the Archchancellor and the Dean. The librarian and Rincewind also kept me going when I was at risk of wandering away during the science-y chapters.
The Science part of the book was also, if distilled down to its essence, good. Solid. Accurate, if dated (even the revised edition is over 10 years old now). The explanation of some difficult concepts sometimes even reaches inspired in its clarity.
The rest of the science writing is... well. Hmph. The authors of the science sections decided to weave commentary throughout their chapters; I don't know if they were going for a whole Statler and Waldorf vibe, or really are the supremely condescending and arrogant gits they sound like, but either way - I didn't like them. At all. Which really in the grand scheme of things matters not a wit, except that I'll avoid anything else either of these two puts their name on, and that amounts to a raindrop in an ocean.
They started off with this whole ridiculous premise they call lies-to-children, which, if you've read any of my status updates so far, you'll be fed up to your eyeballs hearing about, so suffice it to say they don't understand the meaning of the word lie and leave it at that. Even though they don't, and proceed to condescend to the reader throughout the book, telling them they've been believing these lies-to-children all along; everything the reader thinks they know is wrong and then proceeds to explain the concepts using simplified terms in easy to understand ways. You know, lies-to-children.
The thing is, most of the time I did understand the concept just fine before they started in, and wasn't at all wrong about what I, in fact, knew thankyouverymuch. And maybe I'm not the target audience for this book; that's fair. But the hypocrisy of condescending to the reader out of one side of their mouths by telling them what they believe to know is wrong, while simultaneously condescending to them out of the other side of their mouths by re-explaining the concept in terms just as simplified is simply too rich.
I was worried about giving concrete examples of this hypocrisy because I'm crap at taking notes (as in: I don't.) while I read and figured I'd never find those examples again. But it just now occurred to me to check the index, and, sure enough, there's an index entry for lies-to-children. Excellent!
In chapter 26, Stewart and Cohan take exception to the term genetic code, conflating the term with genetic blueprint. To be fair, most people do and they're right, DNA is not a genetic blueprint. But it is genetic coding - something they later refer to and claim as being the only part of the DNA we do, at this time, understand. So... thanks for clearing that up.
In chapter 36 - on dinosaurs - they mention a bunch of fiction including the cartoon Fantasia, quote a psychologist named Helen Haste who claims that we all think of dinosaurs as icons of sex and power (you might, I sure as hell don't; they're just really cool, freaky-looking reptiles), and infer that these are the basis of our knowledge concerning dinosaurs. Really? Is this true? All I remember from Fantasia is Mickey doing his Sorcerer's Apprentice bit, and maybe something about hippos in tutus? And I've never read Wells or The Lost World, so I'm pretty sure the bulk of my knowledge about dinosaurs came from Discover Magazine as a kid and later, NewScientist.
There are other examples, I'm sure, and don't even get me started on the whole idea that they know what happens when life on earth ends. They are wrong by sheer dint that nobody knows what happens. You can feel certain within yourself that you know what will happen to you, but that is not empirical certainty and to believe anything else is...lies-to-children!
So - did not like the commentary. 2 stars for that. 3 star average. Won't be reading anymore of their stuff, although I'm with Pratchett until the wheels fall off.
I won Kris Kringle’s Magic, a lovely first edition hardcover novel, by Diane Stringam Tolley. If you have elvely questions, she has the answers.
Kris Kringle’s Magic is a wonderfully uplifting story for all ages that answers the questions of how Kris came to live at the North Pole with the elves, how they began the tradition of gift giving, and is both sad and happy with a lesson for all ages, leaving me wanting more.
In a world where elves are only slaves, one boy is determined to make things right. With the elves’ help, Kris decides to begin with the children. But can a pile of gifts on Christmas Eve really change anything? This enchanting story is sure to captivate kids of all ages. An instant holiday classic you’ll want to read again and again!