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review 2017-11-01 07:49
Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 1) by Haruko Ichikawa, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley
Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

Land of the Lustrous is set on a world that has been battered by meteors several times over the course of its history, to the point that all life was driven into the ocean. Some of the surviving beings eventually sank to the bottom and were consumed by microorganisms, transforming them into inorganic substances that eventually formed into crystals (I know, it’s bizarre, but just try to accept it). Those crystals eventually became 28 (ish?) genderless gemstone-based beings that washed up onto the shore. Those gem beings are the series’ good guys. Beings from the moon, called Lunarians, periodically attack the gem beings so that they can capture them and break their bodies down into weapons and decorations.

The series’ main character is a gem being named Phosphophyllite (Phos). Phos desperately wants to become a member of one of the watcher and fighter pairs that protect everyone against the Lunarians, but unfortunately Phos is so brittle that that’s out of the question. So far, Phos has been unsuited to every task they’ve been assigned to, which is why I suspect the latest task Kongo, the group’s leader, has come up with is probably just busy work. Kongo asks Phos to compile a natural history.

Phos starts off by talking to the tragic and dangerous Cinnabar, because that’s who everyone keeps saying they should start with. After that, Phos spends some time with the Diamond fighting pair, Bort and Dia. And then there’s an incident with a giant snail.

This volume was weird. I requested it after reading Katherine Dacey’s review, so I knew going in that it would be beautiful and strange, but reading a review about it wasn’t quite the same as actually experiencing it. I loved it, at first, but then I became unsure, and the whole thing with the snail was just odd, like it was aimed at a different audience than the rest of the volume.

After I finished I let it percolate for a while, which turned out to be a wee bit too long. Suddenly my library due date had arrived and I couldn’t remember enough details about what had happened to write a proper summary. I didn’t quite reread it, but I did flip through the whole thing in order to refresh my memory, and to my surprise I liked it more the second time around. The world info was even weirder after giving myself some time to think it over, and, although the artwork was still gorgeous, the gem characters were still a bit hard to tell apart, but...there was something appealing about it all.

The artwork was a large part of what drew me to this series in the first place. Dacey’s review has one of my favorite sequences, the horrifying and beautiful moment when one of the Lunarians is sliced open to reveal arrows made of a captured gem being. Although the history of the gem beings was just plain bizarre, it was the Lunarians who were truly alien. They were perfect, beautiful, and incredibly creepy. I’m curious about them, but part of me hopes that Ichikawa will opt to keep them a mystery.

Unfortunately, there were times when the artwork definitely aimed more for style rather than clarity. The battles were gorgeous but occasionally difficult to follow. Also, like I mentioned earlier, the characters were sometimes hard to tell apart. Those things are part of the reason why I’d like to see the new Land of the Lustrous anime - muddled manga action scenes sometimes turn out better when adapted for anime. That said, it seems awfully early in the series' run to be turning it into an anime.

The world and characters grew on me, although this volume didn’t exactly give readers much. Phos was one of those borderline annoying characters that everyone just sort of puts up with. I’m crossing my fingers that Phos at least manages to come through for Cinnabar, as unlikely as that seems. Dia and Bort’s relationship intrigued me, and I’m hoping there’ll be more on them in the future. The whole thing about Dia’s arm confused me, though.

Of all the characters, the one that intrigued me the most was Cinnabar. Most of the gem beings are only active during the day because the organisms that hold them together feed off of sunlight. Cinnabar is the only exception, having been essentially banished to night patrol for everyone else’s safety. Lunarians have never attacked at night before, but it’s the only time Cinnabar can patrol without risking hurting anyone - Cinnabar unintentionally oozes (and sometimes vomits) a poison that destroys everything it touches. The poison can even cause irreversible damage to the otherwise immortal gem beings.

The properties of all the gem beings are based on the properties of the real minerals on which they're based, so each gem being’s hardness is based on the Mohs scale (the numbers are even used in the text). Since I knew nothing about cinnabar, I looked that up and was delighted to learn that Cinnabar’s poison was probably mercury. So those tidbits were kind of cool, and I’m wondering what other gem-related info Ichikawa might work into the series.

I don’t know at this point whether this series is one I’d recommend, but I’m intrigued enough to want to continue on.

 

Rating Note:

 

This one was a toss-up between 3 stars and 3.5. I settled (uneasily) on 3.5. I'm letting beauty and intriguing strangeness trump clarity and focus, at least for now. I may change my tune after reading volume 2.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2013-07-21 20:58
Gemstones (Dk Handbooks)
Gemstones (Dk Handbooks) - Cally Hall I like the way this is laid out, a basic introduction to the subject, I would use this as a quick reference. It has a variety of stones and metals in both their unfinished and finished state.
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review 2012-11-24 00:00
Draykon by Charlotte E. English
Draykon - Charlotte E. English

What initially attracted me to this book was its absolutely gorgeous cover, reasonably interesting-sounding description, and decent reviews. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me, and I ended up spending maybe two months slogging through it.

I wasn't a huge fan of English's writing. It was a little too flowery for my tastes and featured a massive overuse of adverbs. I became very tired of the words “rather” and “quite.” It felt like one or the other of them was used on every single page.

I also became very tired of all the fantasy names – this, from someone who cut her teeth on fantasy. There were weird, almost Lewis Carroll-like names for everything, and I wasn't always sure they were necessary. I didn't need constant reminders that Draykon was set in a fantasy world. “Nivvens” could easily have been called “horses.” The same goes for many of the other things that had real-world equivalents. In some cases, the fantasy names were a little confusing. I couldn't read “whurthag” without imagining a warthog, although I'm pretty sure whurthags had more in common with big cats or other large predators.

I could have put up with English's writing, however, if either the story or characters had grabbed me. That didn't happen. I liked Eva well enough, but I actively disliked Llandry. Whereas Eva was older (maybe in her forties?), competent, and usually had a good head on her shoulders (except for a few blips involving Tren), Llandry was young (20) and appeared to suffer from To Stupid To Live Syndrome. Yes, I know, she had crippling social anxiety and parents that were maybe  a little too overprotective. Even so, I didn't think that completely excused her behavior. Even after she found out people were being killed for having istore, she kept a little piece of it around. She followed after Devary like a puppy, despite the fact that any idiot could see she'd only slow him down. I couldn't understand why he wasn't more angry with her when he learned she'd been following him. I mean, he was on a secret mission to deliver the last known piece of istore to someone who might be able to find out more about it. Llandry was well-known as the discoverer of istore. Having Llandry around was practically like having a giant neon sign saying “you'll probably find some istore here!”

I couldn't decide whether English was trying to set up a future romantic subplot between Llandry and Devary or not. On the one hand, Llandry seemed to have a crush on Devary, even though I don't think she realized it. On the other hand, Devary's behavior towards Llandry felt more like that of an indulgent family member than a potential love interest – not surprising, since he was an old friend of Llandry's mother. At any rate, there was absolutely zero chemistry between Devary and Llandry, and I do hope that was intentional.

Draykon's story didn't grab me any more than its characters did. I think it could have, if maybe 100 pages had been edited out. The occasional interesting event would happen, and then there'd be pages and pages that didn't seem to accomplish much of anything. It felt like most of the book happened in the last 60 or so pages.

The story became a little more interesting to me near the end, and part of me wants to know what happens next in the series. However, I'm not nearly hooked enough to buy and slog through the next book, if it's as much of a drag to get through as this one was.

Extras:

The book includes a color map of the seven realms and a glossary.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2012-10-16 00:00
Gemstones and Their Origins - Peter C. Keller,Erica Van Pelt,Harold Van Pelt,Edward Gübelin An overly ambitious look at all the major gem producing locations in the world. The photography by the Van Pelts is superb as usual but the author heavily cites other sources throughout and tries to cover all the angles in a rather small volume. It seems as though this book was formulated to try to please everyone. There are pretty pictures for those who want to see cut gems along with geological information that would appeal to those with a background in geology but not be of interest to others. It reads like an unfinished Mineralogical Record article.There are also a number of minor drawbacks. The gems are arranged by formulation method as opposed to type or location, the majority of the pictures of specimens do not give dimensions, and no information is given beyond 1990, the year of publication.Unless you're looking to add to your mineral library irregardless of content, there are better books on the subject. 2 1/2 stars rounded up to 3 for the photos.
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review 2007-01-01 00:00
Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones - Cally Hall A lovely little book on gemstones, full of pictures and straightup data, along with some history. Great for those of us who like bright shiny things that make us go 'Ooooooooh!'

For the full review please go here:
http://www.epinions.com/review/Smithsonian_Handbooks_Gemstones_by_Cally_Hall/content_402166222468
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