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review 2015-06-14 06:50
Review of The Wolf of Winter
The Wolf of Winter - Paula Volsky

I'll start by saying I enjoyed The Wolf of WInter. It was intriguing,at times shocking and Volsky did a great job turning a sympathetic character into a complete and utter monster.

 

Varis, youngest of three brothers and part of the royal family, has not had the best go at life. Pale, scrawny and plagued by illness and weeping eyes, he has been teased and tormented his entire life. After being rejected for a position at court and having a terrifying prank pulled on him, Varis decides he needs to step away, to lick his wounds and let his anger simmer down. While away, Varis gets wrapped up in the terrifying art of necromancy, a practice that is forbidden and detested. 

 

Consuming mysterious substances meant to aide in the power of necromancy, he slowly spirals into a power hungry maniac and sets his sights on claiming more power for himself, no matter how high the cost. 

 

This first part of the book was most intriguing to me. Watching a character that I actually really liked and sympathized with quickly spiral into someone I could hate made for an interesting read. I also, as mentioned in a previous post, really love Paula Volsky's writing style and I liked it just as much in this book as I did in Illusion. 

 

The biggest flaw with the book is actually the synopsis on the back. It basically tells you what the last half of the book is going to entail. Not just hints at, but practically breaks down all the major details of the story, effectively ruining any interest I had in the last half of the book. Things that could have really made me wonder or that could have kept my interest simply stopped being that way because I already knew it was going to happen. 

 

While knowing ahead doesn't always ruin a book, the amount of details given in the synopsis really did hurt the overall experience. So, fair warning, if you decide to read it, just ignore the back of the book entirely. I feel without those details known ahead of time, I could have enjoyed the book a lot more and probably would have rated it higher. 

 

The Short: 

 

+ Good Length

+ Enjoyable, poetic writing style

+ Interesting characters (Especially Varis)

+ Intriguing - Necromancy was neat 

 

- Synopsis hinders enjoyment of second half of book - don't read it!

- Pace slows to a crawl halfway through the book 

 

 

 

 

 

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text 2015-06-07 01:11
Upcoming Reads

 

Upcoming Reads

 

I'm in the process of finishing up The Wolf of Winter so I thought I'd plan out some reading material for the next few months! Here are a few things I've got on my list so far.

 

Grave Peril - Jim Butcher

 

I read through the first two books in the popular Dresden Files pretty quickly. They are quick, easy reads and I like that about them. That being said, I'm not completely sold on the series yet. I really like Harry as a character and the concept intrigues me, but I haven't loved what I've read so far. I hear the series gets much better after this book, so I'm going to give it a shot and see if it's worth reading the rest.

 

 

 

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora was an amazing book that just happened to stand on its own quite well. I didn't feel a burning need to read the second book in the series, but now that some time has past, I find myself wanting to know what the Gentleman Bastards are up to these days. I can only assume it involves a fair amount of trouble, and I intent to find out what that trouble is.

 

 

Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay

 

My aunt is a big fan of Guy Gavriel Kay and has been trying to get me to read some of his work for a long time. In my defense, I did try to read Tigana a while back, but whether it was the reading material before it or just a certain mood I was in, I couldn't get into the book! I'm going to try reading it again and hope for better luck this time.

 

 

The Luck of Relian Kru - Paula Volsky

 

I'm only slightly in love with the rest of her work, so this is next on my list of stuff to read. Also, from what I can tell, this book is about a guy with really horrible luck. Sometimes, I feel like I may be that person. I can relate, therefore I am interested!

 

 

 

 

Got anything you're particularly excited about reading in the next couple months? Let me know in a comment below! I'd love to hear about it! :]

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text 2015-06-06 07:55
Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 500 pages.
The Wolf of Winter - Paula Volsky

My first foray into the work of Paula Volsky was her novel Illusion, a book that had been lying around my apartment, waiting to be read. It's a rather large book, and I've been spoiled by my Kindle when it comes to reading. That font size too small? Well, I'll just change it. Hate the font itself? Well, I'll just change that too. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I love the feel of a physical book. I love the smell of the pages, the texture of paper against my fingers, the weight of a book in my hands, but there are times, especially with larger books, that the overall comfort level is just higher with my Kindle. Unfortunately in this case, her work is not readily available on the Kindle and thus I finally picked up that book off the shelf and read it like people used to do back in the old days. /sarcasm

 

I loved Illusion. Loved it. A lot. Paula Volsky has such a command of language. She is wordy but not overbearingly so. Everything feels deliberate and beautiful and I'm incredibly jealous of the flow of her work. She is one of those authors whose writing styles I wish I could infuse a bit of into my own work.

 

But all that aside, I had another novel of hers hanging about the apartment and decided since I loved Illusion so much, I'd give The Wolf of Winter a try. So far I've been really drawn in to the world she has built. All the things I loved about Illusion are tucked within the pages of this book. It's beautifully crafted, interesting, and the characters are well fleshed out. And let me not forget to mention, she made me go from feeling sorry for a character to deeply hating him in under 200 pages. Like, really, really hating him. I kind of hope he gets a slice of Joffrey pie. 

 

I think after this I'll be picking up yet another of her novels, The Luck of Relian Kru. 

 

For now, I'll stop gushing and get back to reading. 

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review 2014-02-24 02:02
Illusion by Paula Volsky
Illusion - Paula Volsky

Though skeptical of this book at first, I wound up having a great time with it. Illusion is one of those books that recreates real historical events (the French Revolution, in this case) in an alternate world with a bit of magic, and this is a great example of why I love such novels: when done right, they provide the depth and texture of real history along with the adventure and possibility of a fantasy novel. And Illusion is excellent on both counts.

 

One of the book’s great strengths is its plot, focusing primarily on the life of a young noblewoman, Eliste vo Derrivalle. There’s a lot going on, and the pacing is just right, moving quickly enough to be gripping but taking long enough to fully develop the situations presented. And it’s unpredictable enough to be genuinely exciting; halfway through I realized I had no idea what would happen next, which is a rarity for me these days and kept me glued to the pages.

 

If you want that same experience, I suggest you stop reading this review now, because while I try to avoid spoilers, there will be plot details below.

 

The primary reason for my skepticism about this book is that it’s rather unsubtle, particularly at the beginning; the first chapter is as obvious about explaining the class divisions in Vonahr as it is in explaining the characters. Partly this seems to be mistrust of the audience's ability to read between the lines (which fades after the early chapters), but partly it’s just because there is so much going on in this story—covering two years of enormous and complex upheaval—that if Volsky never resorted to showing rather than telling, it would be a trilogy. I’m a big fan of standalone fantasy novels, so I reconciled myself to the occasional summary.

 

So, other than the great story, what I love about this book is the complex and realistic way it deals with class and revolution. The upper classes are neither excused nor demonized; the revolutionaries have a wide range of agendas, some better than others; no group is portrayed as a monolith, as even mobs are made up of individuals. People’s ideas and feelings don’t always match: there are nobles who appreciate democratic ideas, but only as abstractions; there are committed revolutionaries offended by poor treatment of the king. There are of course ideological divisions among the revolutionaries, with chilling consequences in practice. There are enormous changes to the society as a whole, beyond simply the effects on our protagonists.

 

The setting, meanwhile, is detailed and believable, from the provincial plantations to the lavish court to the streets of the capital. The chapters set on the streets are especially impressive: fantasy readers might anticipate a lucky break for our heroine, but instead the situation is handled with the utmost realism. By which I don’t mean these chapters are “gritty” in the sometimes gratuitous way of 21st century fantasy, but that Volsky captures what it would really be like to be homeless and penniless, rather than some romanticized fantasy version of it.

 

As for the characters. Eliste is a strong heroine who slowly grows and changes through the events of the novel. She comes from a privileged background and has picked up most of the prejudices of her class, which sees itself as a different species from ordinary mortals, but while she begins the book spoiled, we can see that she has a better nature. By the time the story is in full swing, it would be nearly impossible not to root for her. There’s less complexity to the secondary cast, though they work well enough in their roles: I enjoyed the proud and unbending Zeralenn, the kind and unworldly Uncle Quinz, the frivolous and mercenary Aurelie. The love interest, though, is annoying perfect, and the villain gets a lot of scenes in which he, of course, acts villainous (I have little patience for villain chapters in fantasy for this reason)—it is interesting, though, to see a fantasy villain who uses words and political maneuvers rather than might, and who has to win allies rather than having them automatically by virtue of his villainy.

 

Finally, I have some reservations about the end, particularly the romantic aspect (a small but important part of the book). Volsky seems to misidentify the biggest obstacle to the relationship as the characters’ unwillingness to admit their feelings, when the real problem is their lack of respect for each other. Eliste is mostly there by the end, but he’s still calling her “an impossible child.” Ew.

 

Overall, I found this book to be great fun, very readable and surprisingly complex, especially once you get past those first couple of chapters. An excellent example of historical fantasy, and one that left me wanting more from this author.

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review 2014-02-15 00:00
Illusion
Illusion - Paula Volsky Though skeptical of this book at first, I wound up having a great time with it. Illusion is one of those books that recreates real historical events (the French Revolution, in this case) in an alternate world with a bit of magic, and this is a great example of why I love such novels: when done right, they provide the depth and texture of real history along with the adventure and possibility of a fantasy novel. And Illusion is excellent on both counts.

One of the book’s great strengths is its plot, focusing primarily on the life of a young noblewoman, Eliste vo Derrivalle. There’s a lot going on, and the pacing is just right, moving quickly enough to be gripping but taking long enough to fully develop the situations presented. And it’s unpredictable enough to be genuinely exciting; halfway through I realized I had no idea what would happen next, which is a rarity for me these days and kept me glued to the pages.

If you want that same experience, I suggest you stop reading this review now, because while I try to avoid spoilers, there will be plot details below.

The primary reason for my skepticism about this book is that it’s rather unsubtle, particularly at the beginning; the first chapter is as obvious about explaining the class divisions in Vonahr as it is in explaining the characters. Partly this seems to be mistrust of the audience's ability to read between the lines (which fades after the early chapters), but partly it’s just because there is so much going on in this story--covering two years of enormous and complex upheaval--that if Volsky never resorted to showing rather than telling, it would be a trilogy. I’m a big fan of standalone fantasy novels, so I reconciled myself to the occasional summary.

So, other than the great story, what I love about this book is the complex and realistic way it deals with class and revolution. The upper classes are neither excused nor demonized; the revolutionaries have a wide range of agendas, some better than others; no group is portrayed as a monolith, as even mobs are made up of individuals. People’s ideas and feelings don’t always match: there are nobles who appreciate democratic ideas, but only as abstractions; there are committed revolutionaries offended by poor treatment of the king. There are of course ideological divisions among the revolutionaries, with chilling consequences in practice. There are enormous changes to the society as a whole, beyond simply the effects on our protagonists.

The setting, meanwhile, is detailed and believable, from the provincial plantations to the lavish court to the streets of the capital. The chapters set on the streets are especially impressive: fantasy readers might anticipate a lucky break for our heroine, but instead the situation is handled with the utmost realism. By which I don’t mean these chapters are “gritty” in the sometimes gratuitous way of 21st century fantasy, but that Volsky captures what it would really be like to be homeless and penniless, rather than some romanticized fantasy version of it.

As for the characters. Eliste is a strong heroine who slowly grows and changes through the events of the novel. She comes from a privileged background and has picked up most of the prejudices of her class, which sees itself as a different species from ordinary mortals, but while she begins the book spoiled, we can see that she has a better nature. By the time the story is in full swing, it would be nearly impossible not to root for her. There’s less complexity to the secondary cast, though they work well enough in their roles: I enjoyed the proud and unbending Zeralenn, the kind and unworldly Uncle Quinz, the frivolous and mercenary Aurelie. The love interest, though, is annoying perfect, and the villain gets a lot of scenes in which he, of course, acts villainous (I have little patience for villain chapters in fantasy for this reason)--it is interesting, though, to see a fantasy villain who uses words and political maneuvers rather than might, and who has to win allies rather than having them automatically by virtue of his villainy.

Finally, I have some reservations about the end, particularly the romantic aspect (a small but important part of the book). Volsky seems to misidentify the biggest obstacle to the relationship as the characters’ unwillingness to admit their feelings, when the real problem is their lack of respect for each other. Eliste is mostly there by the end, but he’s still calling her “an impossible child.” Ew.

Overall, I found this book to be great fun, very readable and surprisingly complex, especially once you get past those first couple of chapters. An excellent example of historical fantasy, and one that left me wanting more from this author.
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