Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme is “Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With” and actually, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of it. Okay, here goes…

  1. Jill Pole and Prince Rillian from The Silver ChairActually, most of the characters in the last two books. They just didn’t have the magic, somehow.
  2. Prince Sameth, Lirael AbhorsenCompared to their mother, both him and Ellimere are just weak tea. He spends so much time denying his responsibilities, where his mother just took it all on and never dreamed of saying no. In a way, it’s a more realistic characterisation, but gah, so much whining.
  3. Elvira, from Half a Crown. I love most of Jo Walton’s characters, but Elvira’s concerns seemed so far away from the concerns of the more mature characters we’ve already spent time with.
  4. Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. I know he’s actually a good guy at heart, and we see the evil power of the Ring twisting him, but there was something so glory-seeking and self-centered about the guy, especially when compared to Faramir.
  5. Malta Vestrit, from The Liveship Traders trilogy. Ohh my god, so spoilt. And it doesn’t really get better even as she begins to grow up; I never liked her. Mind you, a lot of the characters in this trilogy were very dislikeable, to me.
  6. Miriamele, from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Speaking of spoilt characters…
  7. Jaelle, from The Summer Tree. I never felt like I really understood the character, and I wanted more out of her.
  8. Katsa, from GracelingI know! She’s pretty kickass, but I never really connected with the character. It’s why I didn’t like it that much the first time I tried it.
  9. Lancelot, in anything. Almost the sole exception is Heather Dale’s music and parts of Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory.
  10. Dorian Havilliard, Throne of Glass. Actually, I didn’t really ‘get’ either love interest in the first book, but Chaol is growing on me. Dorian… there are some aspects I’m liking, but in the first book, he really didn’t win me over.

I tried to pick books I liked, in general, and characters who are not meant to be villains. I’ll be interested to see what other takes people have on this theme!

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Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme is auto-buy authors! I think I did this topic the last time it came round, but these things are prone to change. It’ll be interesting after I’ve made the list to look for the old one!

  1. Scott Lynch. Even seeing a short story of his is in a collection is enough to prompt me to at least consider picking it up.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure he’d even approve of the state of the stuff Christopher Tolkien is putting out for him is in, but I will always be fascinated with every word the guy wrote.
  3. Jo Walton. If I can’t get the ARCs, at least… Jo is my friend as well as a favourite author.
  4. N.K. Jemisin. I think I knew she’d be an auto-buy author from the first page of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
  5. Jacqueline Carey. I’ve seen her deal with stuff I wouldn’t be that interested in ably, in a way that comes out fun. Yeah, I’ll buy anything.
  6. Guy Gavriel Kay. Person most likely to make me cry at his work, except possibly Jo.
  7. Garth Nix. I haven’t even read all his backlist yet.
  8. Patricia A. McKillip. It took me a while to get into some of her books, but I think I’m securely hooked now. I’m glad there’s still a whole bunch of backlist titles I haven’t got to yet.
  9. Neil Gaiman. Okay, I’m not 100% a fan of everything the man says, and the title of his latest collection of short stories didn’t work for me, but if he writes a book, I’ll probably get it. Maybe not immediately. But in the end.
  10. Rainbow Rowell. It surprised me, but I just preordered Carry On and realised that yeah, I probably will automatically buy anything by her. Something about her style just… works for me.

What about you guys?

Review – The Darkest Road

Cover of The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel KayThe Darkest Road, Guy Gavriel Kay
Originally reviewed 26th January, 2012

No matter how many times I read them, these books still make me cry, and more, they still have me reading late into the night, breathless and stunned. I know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t take any of the poignancy out of it. Of the three books, this is the strongest: the best prose, the best action, the best images, the best in all the characters. He draws everything together do well, and puts the readers’ hearts through a blender without caring how much they’re undoubtedly cursing him.

(I seem to recall calling him a ‘magnificent, glorious bastard’ the last time I read it, and my other half agrees. No one can accuse Kay of being too gentle with his characters. He’s one of the few writers who can be ruthless. Tolkien’s work, dark as it can be, holds back from killing off the characters we love, and thus makes them less mortal, less fragile, and less dear.)

I still think that Kay sucks at building romance stories up. I believe in the established love of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere — and fresh from reading The Mists of Avalon, I find myself thinking that Kay wasn’t simply talking of loyalty to a lord when he wrote of Lancelot’s love for Arthur — and in that of Sharra and Diarmuid. Kim and Dave, Jaelle and Paul, though…

I’m pretty sure I’ll return to these books again, and find the same shining delight again.

Rating: 5/5

Review – The Wandering Fire

Cover of The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel KayThe Wandering Fire, Guy Gavriel Kay
Put together from reviews written in 2010 and 2012

By this point in reading the trilogy, you’ve probably decided whether you can bear with Guy Gavriel Kay’s style or not — whether you can be invested in his characters or not. If the answer is yes, then carry on: he won’t disappoint you. If not, then… I don’t think he will get your attention at all.

The second book of the Fionavar Tapestry feels by far the shortest, to me. That isn’t to say not much happens — a lot does happen, so much that it makes my head spin a little but it mostly seems to happen at the end: for the characters and for the plot, this is a time of waiting, of things coming together. If you’re invested in the characters, though, there’s plenty to worry about: Kim’s dilemmas, whether she has a right to do what she’s doing; Paul’s separation from humanity; and Kevin’s initial helplessness, and then his journey to the Goddess… And there’s Arthur, of course, and the Wild Hunt, and Darien…

The Wandering Fire really introduces the Arthurian thread, which is the newest thing. It’s been hinted at and set up already in The Summer Tree, but it’s in The Wandering Fire that that’s finally articulated. I’m interested as to how much Guy Gavriel Kay has drawn on existing Arthurian legend and how much he has built himself. I haven’t read anything about Arthur being punished over and over again — he’s generally portrayed as fairly virtuous — and I’ve never read anything about Lancelot raising the dead. I do like the way the legend is constructed here — differences to the usual main themes and stories, but using them and showing that the stories we have are supposed to be reflections and echoes of this ‘reality’.

I love the fact that the gods aren’t supposed to act and there are penalties for this… and actually more of the lore about the gods in this world, like Dana working in threes and her gifts being two-edged swords.

The death in this book makes me cry… not the actual death, at least not until the very last line of that section, but the reactions, and particularly Paul’s. This isn’t really surprising, but it highlights once again how much these books make me care.

It’s amazing to me how much I can love almost every word of this book and yet find a small scene was horribly jarring — it’s the same in The Summer Tree, just one scene sticks in my throat and won’t go down. It’s the scene with Kim and Loren, at Maidaladan. It just doesn’t make sense. There’s no build to it. I always thought she should go to Aileron instead… now there’s a build-up that makes at least some sense.

Nonetheless, wow. This book breaks me more every time.

Rating: 5/5

Review – The Summer Tree

Cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel KayThe Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay
Originally reviewed 22nd January, 2012

Fresh from reading most of Tolkien’s work, and writing a gigantic essay on it too, I have a different perspective on Kay’s work. Especially when reminded that Kay worked on The Silmarillion with Christopher Tolkien. He has a lot in common with Tolkien, really: the synthesis of a new mythology (though not done as history, and therefore lacking all the little authenticating details that Tolkien put in) using elements of an old one (though Kay used Celtic and Norse mythology, and goodness knows what else). The comparisons can’t help but be made, though Kay sees his world as a tapestry and Tolkien as a song being sung.

I don’t think he makes his world as well as Tolkien does. I feel info-dumped, at times, rather than as if I’m just touching on the tip of a giant submerged mass of lore and wonder that even the inhabitants of his world only half-know. His gods are much more touchable, and more concerned with the individual fates of mortal men, and so less distant and thus less awe-inspiring. I think, perhaps more like C.S. Lewis, he tries to handle more than he can really weave together.

But, that’s not to say it’s totally unsuccessful. A book that can have me laughing at one moment and weeping not three pages later can’t exactly be classed as unsuccessful. His style is distancing at first — perhaps too much of a high tone, which Tolkien avoided with his hobbits — but there are some lovely lines and turns of phrase, and undoubtedly he makes me care about the characters.

Another hint that he’s doing quite well is that this is at least my fourth reread of this trilogy, though I could well have read it more than that.

Not perfect, but beloved all the same.

Rating: 4/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme is books you’d like to see as movies/tv shows. The proviso here is that I would want appropriate casting, e.g. not a white man for Ged or Patriot.

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin. Shush. There hasn’t been one. Doesn’t exist.
  2. Captain Marvel. Sooner than planned, please. And keep in the recent bit about her dating Rhodey!
  3. Young Avengers. You’ve got all the ingredients ready, Marvel. Dooo iiiiiittttt.
  4. Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas. It could be really epic, and it’d require a female lead who could do stunts and would need a good range of acting skills.
  5. A Natural History of Dragons, Mary Brennan. I’m not sure how well it’d translate to the big screen, but again, it’d require a female lead and it’d be a little bit like Walking With Dinosaurs, only dragons and fiction.
  6. The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell. Do Arthur right!
  7. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay. In the right hands, it would be beautiful.
  8. Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Female lead who is both a reluctant hero type and a baker. Interesting vampire lore, gorgeous imagery. It’d be amazing, right?
  9. Farthing, Jo Walton. Could serve as a timely warning to a country embracing conservatism right now, too.
  10. Bloodshot, Cherie Priest. Weird found-family dynamics, kickass female lead, ex-Navy SEAL drag queen? Okay, there’d be so many ways for them to mess it up, but we’re talking an ideal world here, and it would be so very right.

Gaah, gimme them. Nowww.

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, so I’m going to borrow an idea that came to me via Guy Gavriel Kay:

“My youngest brother had a wonderful schtick from some time in high school, through to graduating medicine. He had a card in his wallet that read, ‘If I am found with amnesia, please give me the following books to read …’ And it listed half a dozen books where he longed to recapture that first glorious sense of needing to find out ‘what happens next’ … the feeling that keeps you up half the night. The feeling that comes before the plot’s been learned.”

So here’s my ten… Consider this an order if I am ever found with amnesia!

  1. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper. Well duh.
  2. The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin. I’m curious as to how I’d feel about The Furthest Shore and Tehanu, reading them for the first time as an adult — originally I read them when I was quite young.
  3. The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay. I was torn between this and Tigana, but this was my first experience of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, and I’d love to come to it fresh. Especially because it’s so influenced by prior fantasy.
  4. Whose Body, Dorothy L. Sayers. Well, all of the Peter Wimsey books really.
  5. Anything non-Arthurian by Mary Stewart. I’m not such a fan of her Arthurian books, but her other books are pure comfort to me. I might need that, if I’ve lost my memory!
  6. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. And Lord of the Rings, obviously.
  7. Among Others, Jo Walton. My first book by Walton was actually Farthing, but that’s less personal. It’d be interesting how much Among Others would resonate with me if I didn’t have the memories I do. (Mind you, neuroscience probably supports the idea that I’d still feel a sense of recognition, even without conscious memory.)
  8. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. An absolute must — I can’t go without knowing the opening and closing lines.
  9. Something by Patricia McKillip. Just don’t start me on Winter Rose unless you’re willing to take notes about my experience, compare them to my old reviews, and publish a study on unconscious memories of reading in amnesiacs.
  10. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Obviously a whole course of Arthurian literature would be essential — you could start by giving me my own essays on Guinevere and Gawain — including Steinbeck’s unfinished work. But this would make a good starting point, and you could check if I retained my knowledge of Middle English too.

Now I almost want that to happen, so I can study the neuroscience of reading and memory from within! It’d also be interesting to see how I reacted to the Harry Potter books if I couldn’t remember a) reading them as a child and b) the hype surrounding them. And —

Yeah, I’ll stop. Looking forward to seeing what themes other people have gone with this week!