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text 2017-12-17 18:47
Reading progress update: I've read 23 out of 576 pages.
Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

We had rain this morning.

 

Low rumbling thunder woke me at 3:30 a.m.  The rain arrived at 3:50 and lasted about twenty minutes before tapering off to sprinkles.  I honestly do not remember the last time we had significant rain.  October?  September?

 

The studio was cold, but I put in about half an hour of productive time, cleaning and sewing and organizing.  Then the chill started to seep into my bones, and the gloom intensified.  Overcast is expected to hang around until tomorrow.  It's a good day to stay inside the house where it's warm and read.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-17 14:29
Age of Assassins - RJ Barker
Age of Assassins - R.J. Barker

First off, for those who care about those kind of things, Age of Assassins is the first book in a trilogy, with the next (Blood of Assassins) due out next year. Secondly, although I enjoyed this book quite a bit, I didn't love it as much as some people I know did and I've been trying to figure out just why that is - more on that later...

 

Age of Assassins is told from the point of view of Girton, a teenage boy with a clubfoot who just happens to be apprenticed to a female assassin called Merela. We first meet the two of them as they are sneaking into a castle to find out what they've been hired to do, only to discover that Merela has some personal history with the person who's hired them and that what they've been hired to do is not to kill someone but instead to keep someone from being killed. For that, Girton needs to infiltrate the castle as a member of minor nobility while he and Merela (disguised as a jester) try to figure out who the other assassin is (and ideally, who hired them). 

 

All this is set within a world where anyone possessing magic is ruthlessly hunted down and their blood used to try and stem the results of the magic wielded by a previous rogue sorcerer. I found the overall worldbuilding much more accomplished than the dynamics going on within the castle itself - the corrupt prince they've been hired to protect was just a bit too much of a moustache-twirling villain to be anything but one-dimensional and I couldn't see why exactly Girton and Merela should work that hard to keep him alive. Likewise, the moment a female stablehand is introduced as one of the few female characters Girton's age, it was pretty obvious she was there as (doomed) relationship fodder. 

 

And that, I think, along with a general lack of caring about teenage angst, was why Age of Assassins didn't quite work for me. Well thought-out overall worldbuilding let down by much more stereotypical relationship shenanigans closer to hand. Token female love interest who sees beyond Girton's disability - check. Character who is not who he seems - check. Trusting relationship that will probably come back to bite Girton in the next book - check. 

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review 2017-12-17 07:16
Earthsea Cycle: The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula Le Guin)
The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin

Synopsis: At the age of six, Tenar was taken from her home and made High Priestess of the Nameless Ones, dark powers of the Tombs of Atuan. But when the wizard, Ged, comes to steal the tombs' greatest treasure he also comes to bring Tenar out of darkness.

Review: Ursula Le Guin is known as one of the greatest names in fantasy literature, partly for her Earthsea Cycle, and its not hard to see why from this book. Its pretty short, only 180 pages or so, but the deeper plot involving the rescue of Tenar fills out the volume of the book really well. If it had been longer, I think it would have become tedious. There isn't much more to say except that the plotline of pulling a lost soul out of the mire resonates with me strongly.


Next up is the second book of Alastair Reynolds' Inhibitor Trilogy, Redemption Ark. This is a long one at 700 pages, and a re-read from way back, but its good to remember why I love reading this guy.

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review 2017-12-16 22:01
Book Review of Chase Tinker and the HOUSE OF DESTINY (The Chase Tinker Series, Book 3) by Malia Ann Haberman
Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny (The Chase Tinker Series, Book 3) (Volume 3) - Malia Ann Haberman

For eight agonizing months Chase Tinker's guilt over the despicable act he committed on Halloween night has been eating away at his heart and mind. His life gets even more complicated when secrets about the ancient Relic in the attic are revealed, right before an unwelcome caller arrives on Chase's birthday.

 

Despite these problems, his biggest concern is that his family's Dark Enemy, the Marlowe Family, is becoming more powerful with each passing day, fueled by the magic they continue to pillage from the many magical beings in the world. If Chase and his family are ever going to win, they'll need a whole lot of magical help. They must destroy the most evil threat the world has ever known.

 

Review 5*

 

This is the third book in The Chase Tinker series. I absolutely loved it!

 

Chase Tinker is a wonderful character and I really liked him from the first time I met him in the first book. I have enjoyed watching his development from a frustrated teen into someone who I would be proud to know.

 

In this third book, which is told mostly from Chase's point of view though other characters also have their say, Chase is still having to deal with new magical powers that he struggles to control. Not only that, the Marlowe's are still intent on finding the Relic hidden in the attic of the Tinker house. But now one of their own has turned on them too, leading the Tinkers to find assistance from other magical beings. However, there's a problem. The Marlowe's are stealing all the magic and if Chase and his family don't stop them, all will be lost. Can they stop them before it's too late?

 

This is a wonderful story full of adventure, danger and mystery, and I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat as Chase, Andy, Nori and Persephone face danger once more. There are several twists and turns that keep a reader guessing. I found myself on a roller coaster of emotion from beginning to end. The story is full of imaginative prose that guides the reader in such a way that it runs like a movie in the mind's eye and is easy to picture. I love the way the secrets of the house were revealed and what it means to be a Tinker. I also love the way the characters' grow and develop throughout this series. This book doesn't end with a cliffhanger, but it still left me looking forward to reading the last book in the series, Chase Tinker and the House of Mist, as soon as possible. Though I am dreading it too, as I don't want the series to end.

 

Malia Ann Haberman has written a entertaining and exciting story for middle grade children. I love her writing style, which is fast paced and imaginative. The flow is wonderful too. I would definitely read more of her books in the future.

 

I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers aged 9 to 14. However, I also recommend this book (and series) to adults who love reading middle grade fantasy, or to those who are fans of books like Harry Potter. - Lynn Worton

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review 2017-12-16 20:10
Find a comfortable spot and settle in
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

Disclosure:  I obtained my copy of this book from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author.

 

(Trigger warning: Some animal cruelty.)

 

My house is cold this morning, cold enough that I had to turn on the heat for a while.  After making a couple of early trips to the studio -- 30 strides from my back door and 30 strides back -- I was so chilled I went right back to bed just to get warm again.  I used the time wisely: I finished the last 100 pages of The Dragonbone Chair.

 

As mentioned in previous status updates, I first read this series well more than two decades ago.  A few details remained in my memory along with the basic plotline, but 98% was as new as if I had never read it.

 

Had there been a decimal rating, I might have gone with 4.75 stars, but I backed it off to 4 1/2 because it wasn't quite up to the full five, for a couple of reasons.  And I'm going to hit those reasons first.

 

The saga is set in a medievalish earth-like world, with castles and kingdoms and kings and princesses. . . . and a medievalish church that too much resembles medieval christianity.  The monks and priests and bishops, churches and cathedrals, saints and relics, rites and writings are creepy and weak.  Pagans give lip service to "God" and "His son" the holy Usires Aedon (aka Jesus) who was martyred by hanging upside down on the "Execution Tree."  Instead of the sign of the cross, believers make "the sign of the Tree."  The whole Aedonite religion seemed forced and almost silly, right down to holidays called "mansas" like Christian "-mas" and the wearing of jeweled or golden or wooden "tree" symbols around the neck like a crucifix.  Williams offers no opinion of christianity in his creation, whether for good or ill, so it seems kind of pointless and lazy.

 

Other than that, the world-building is fine and relatively consistent in terms of the various kingdoms and rivalries and languages.  Some of the human groups/ethnicities are vaguely teutonic, some are vaguely celtic, some a little more original; none, however, seem to reflect Asian or African or other non-European groups.  The only exception is the "Black Rimmersmen," who seem to be bad guys, but they haven't played enough of a role in this first volume to determine what the designation really means.

 

The non-human races are kind of stock, though the use of the troll Binabik as one of the good guys is a nice change.  The Sithi and Norns are vaguely elvish on the Tolkien model; the giant Hunen are rather like hairy Middle-Earthling cave trolls.

 

The cast of characters is huge, and this makes keeping them straight a bit difficult, even with the full listing at the end of the book.  Where Tolkien introduced the various groups more or less one at a time as the Fellowship passed through their lands, Williams brings all of his onto the stage at once.  The ensuing war encompasses virtually all of the vast uber-kingdom of Osten Ard, so the action shifts between the Erkynlanders in Erchester, the Hernystirimen, the Nabbanai in Nabban, the Rimmersmen from Rimmergard, and so on.  As some of the main supporting characters change allegiance, the whole thing becomes a bit confusing, and I suspect that will continue through the succeeding volumes.

 

The main character, Simon, is your typical young male who has greatness thrust upon him.  Orphaned at birth, he's been raised by the chambermaids in the great castle of the Hayholt in Erchester.  Still in his teens, he gets swept up in the mighty and magical machinations of the High King Elias, whose quest for power is only thwarted by his brother Prince Josua . . . and mysterious bits of mythical lore.

 

By the end of The Dragonbone Chair, we've got lots of guys, one evil woman super villain, one possibly evil woman, and one princess who keeps disappearing.  Women aren't well represented.  This might not have bothered me nearly as much 25 years ago as it does now.

 

Okay, those are the negatives, the things that brought the rating down.  The positives were that the writing is delicious, and there's lots of it!  (There are also a surprising number of typesetting errors, but I've found that to be a frequent problem with paperbacks from the 1980s, and I don't know why.)

 

If you're a lover of the long, long, long epic fantasy, this is a pretty good example, with better world-building and stronger characterizations than others.  Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series had more and maybe better female characters, but I lost interest in that after about seven volumes.  I haven't tried the Game of Thrones books yet, though I have them.

 

I've only read the first few pages of the next book, Stone of Farewell, and I remember far less about it than I did about The Dragonbone Chair, so we'll see how it goes.  I think it's even longer.

 

 

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