June 04, 2020, 03:37:15 PM

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Topics - magisensei

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1
How important is visually picturing the setting of the fantasy world you are reading.  Whether you are starting at the Inn of the Last Home, or in Crydee (in the Kingdom of the Isles), or journeying from the Vale or enjoying the stay in Waterdeep, the picture of the place and the geography is important to imagining the world you are visiting. 

I was recently reading a fantasy series when I noticed something particular about the series.  I could not really picture the world I was reading.  The image I was getting was really confusing and odd. 

The fantasy series takes place mostly in a city although through out the series they do leave the city.  The problem I had was visualizing the city.  The city was the capital of the Empire but it had these magical slum areas (important to understanding the story) that were not subject to the Emperor's rule - these slums connected via bridges to the city - and there were multiple magical slum area each ruled or not ruled independently, in addition to bad areas where it was really bad to venture to.  The oddity of the city was imagining such a weird configuration - as it was hard to picture it; if I had to draw a map of the city it would look really strange assuming I could even draw it out.  As I continued to read the series and when the main characters left the city to travel to other parts of the world - it was even more difficult to imagine the distance and where they were traveling.  The world seemed for me to lack some consistency with geography - it was very difficult to imagine distance and how the world was constructed and how the different races all lived in this world.  At times the world seemed way too small to be a world spanning Empire as the book makes it out to be. 

The setting of Elantra (capital city) the main setting was visually confusing at times - it was hard to imagine such a city in which the main character patrolled as part of her daily policing duties.  It felt like it there were a bunch of small cities within a larger city sort of - but it was hard to imagine it. 

That is not to say that the setting in smaller ways was not visually there - for example - you could fully picture the inside of the "police" station and the insides of certain buildings that the characters traveled to - it was just that the overall geography of the city was confusing and odd to picture. 

For me, it was the lack of geography / mapping / clear visual setting of the area that made it for me difficult to imagine the city or the world in general and really immerse myself in the novel. 

11 books into the series and I was having some difficulty with visualizing the setting (although it only partially distracted me from enjoying the novel). 

[An Aside] While you didn't need to visual the setting to enjoy the series as it was character/plot driven - I would have enjoyed it more if I could have fully imagined the setting without wondering how the world and city were put together in a coherent way. 

What was I reading you ask? -- The Chronciles of Elantra

Back to the topic at hand. 

So as you are reading fantasy novel/series - how important is it for you to visualize the world that you are reading? Do you need lets say a map to help visualize the world? Could you draw out the world as it is described to you or is it rather confused and muddled?

What fantasy novels have you read that struggled with the setting/mapping out of the world?

2
I finally got around to reading Seanan McGuire's October Daye series and I have to say it was only okay maybe a bit less for me. 

There are currently 8 novels in the series so far but it is probably not worth reading that many of them not unless you really really really like Faeries. 

Rosemary and Rue (book 1)

The first book starts off well - our intrepid knight/investigator is following a pair of kidnappers - sounds good so far doesn't it.  We add in the fact that October (AKA as Toby) is also a half-fae but she keeps her identity secret from her fiance and from the world.  Yes, it is an urban fantasy but here in this world magic and faeries are hidden from the general public such that no one knows that they exist - so you can imagine that part of the story if it takes part in the human world well either have a way to hide things from the general population - of course humans being human no one would believe faeries actually existed and so would explain it as a hoax any way. 

But back to the story, Toby falls into a trap of sorts (it happens to the best of us) and gets transformed into a fish for 14 years (the book starts in 1995) and so we time jump 14 years into the future.  Now it gets a bit muddy for me.  Long winded self reflection and explanations about faeries really doesn't add to the story or characterization.  14 years has passed and there is no reunion between her former fiance and daughter - who call her a deadbeat - rather than feel excited that she is not dead - and all of this is glossed over in a few sentence - McGuire doesn't even show any of the action between daughter+fiance and Toby. 

A lot is made of the faeries and what they are like - while interesting to some degree almost takes away from the story and plot.  So Toby who after 14 years as fish decides to punish herself by staying away from her liege lord Sylvester (who by the way - it was his wife and daughter that were kidnapped and who Toby was searching for) and works as cashier at a late night grocery store.  No anger at being turned into a fish for 14 years no wanting revenge for this, no real explanation to what happened to the wife and daughter of Sylvester who were later found after 12 years -- nothing for us - although it leaves us (the readers) wondering huh - whats happening.  We never get to be her daughter (Gilly) or her fiance. 

Toby of course gets involved in a case - a murder case of an important faery and while she doesn't want to get involved a magical curse forces her to seek out the murderer and solve the case - after all she is a former knight and detective.  So our intrepid heroine jumps into the case if only to save herself.  Through out the story Toby is horribly outclassed in terms of power - every faerie we encounter is more powerful than she is - the only thing she has going for her is that she is the daughter of a blood-faerie (who is quite powerful) - so she can taste the last minutes of how someone died - perfect for a detective. 

While Toby seeks information we are treated to some of her past and her interactions with other faeries - including old lovers and former clients (or grateful faeries that she helped in the past) that assist her in small ways.  The biggest difficulty with the novel is that it tries to be a detective novel but sadly falls short of this - the mystery and suspense for me at least is rather poorly done - there is no real detective work on the part of Toby - she just jumps from one thing to another thing without any leads and without any contemplative thought that a detective would have.  Add to this she complains about the faeries and the fact that they don't give straight answers - but she has worked for faeries her entire life so she should be used to riddles, games and metaphors that have deeper meaning - BUT sadly she just complains. 

Eventually she solves the case - the villains die as does a few innocents along the way - Toby feels sad - but she lives since she solved the case.  Toby is likeable overall but she is so ineffectual at times that it is a wonder she is able to solve anything.  She has guts and she is stubborn but really has no brains or brawn - when she can't figure things out she just wanders in circle and the plot stalls as she tries to figure things out - which she can't do. 

Book 2: A local Habitation

Toby is back being a knight/detective for the faerie community and Sylvester asks her to check on his niece - who is a countess ( Sylvester can't go because of border disputes with another faerie ruler and if he goes it might cause war between the faerie states - so he sends Toby to see what is happening).  An easy diplomatic mission of sorts - which Toby tells us she can't do well - as she likes to punch first - but really she is not much of a fighter - although brave.  We are thrown into a mysterious faerie county that is having troubles - for example January (the niece -- did McGuire run out of names - another person named after a month???) - can't reach her uncle through the phone lines - but can't leave her county to talk to him because it will leave it unprotected - but she doesn't send someone either - weird! Toby talks to Sylvester on the phone while in the area (outside of county that January rules) but while in it she also can't connect to Sylvester although oddly she is able to phone other people - this should clue her in - but sadly it doesn't.  Murders follow as Toby and Quentin (her side kick that Sylvester stuck her with to train him) - try to figure out what is happening - but Toby barely being  a detective has no way to figure it out - her powers are not working on the blood - which usually is able to reveal how they died - but sadly it doesn't so Toby has no way to figure it out differently - no forensic skill what so ever - for a detective she is really quite a lame duck.  We learn a little bit more about the faeries - which is interesting - but the long almost pointless way that Toby attempts to solve the case is annoying. 

Eventually she does solve the case but not with out a few more deaths - too much pointless faerie  politics that doesn't make any sense - for example - if she suspected a hostile faerie lord of wanting the land she could have investigated him - but faerie politics doesn't allow this - so no detective work to see if this is true or not. 

McGuire tries to add mystery and suspense to urban fantasy and for me it falls quite short.  Toby is barely a detective - with almost no detective skills - although a knight - she doesn't fight like one - and she is barely insightful enough to put the clues together.  While it is good to read a urban fantasy that is not about an apocalypse or uber characters - at the very least it needs a main character that is at the least a lot brighter than Toby is - yes she is brave or fearless - but with neither the brains or brawn or magic to back it up - it is amazing that she survives any encounter. 

Overall it really needs a good edit - a lot of miscellaneous information about faeries and more suspense building is needed. 

6/10 stars

3
Hi everyone

Just picked up and read Gail Carriger's new series Prudence which stars the daughter of the main characters from the first series and for me at least it was some what disjointed in its flow and lacking in characterization. 

First - if you have not read her first series, then you have no little idea what happened or why Rue is such a special person.  Making it difficult for new readers to understand what is going on in this series. 

While the dialogue remains clever at times - it is also somewhat inane and silly for me - and really adds little to the characterization of the characters.  The characters are rather 2-dimensional for me even Rue the main character is characterized by her powers and really lacks the personality of her mother from the first series. 

The story starts of course with a somewhat less than dangerous mission in which we see her amazing ability of soul-stealing or skin walking (basically this means she is able to copy the powers of were-creatures or vampires etc) gaining their powers and temporarily making that said creature she borrowed the power from mortal. 
Spoiler for Hiden:
A unique ability and as Rue says a somewhat painful experience which she has to change into a werewolf shape.  Her ability of course is somewhat limited as we later learn - distance will allow the borrowed power to return to the owner leaving Rue human once again.


Carriger tries I think to hard to create the humor of British manners by having Rue run around town as a werewolf while wearing bloomers and having her mom outraged at this incident.  But sadly it lacks the humor of the first book in terms of manners. 

The supporting characters are for me somewhat 2-dimensional as well. 
Spoiler for Hiden:
Prim (Rue's closest friend) has difficulties because of her mom ( a vampire who has horrible taste in hats) - while somewhat humorous - it gets dull pretty fast.  Her brother Professor Percy - is somewhat more interesting but sadly is underdeveloped and somewhat stereotypical - handsome professor brilliant curious but absentminded with a very good butler to help him; and Q (the son of another character from the first book) is the somewhat love interest to Rue - depicted as a rake of sorts but for me at least a rather dull character. 

The story really begins when Rue's vampire father asks her to go to India to help with his tea investments -he prepares an airship and crew
Spoiler for Hiden:
(in which Q and Percy - are also chosen to be members - much to the chagrin of Rue but nevertheless she goes to invite them on her adventure such as it is).
The rest of the crew is barely mentioned except for a cranky female engineer with a long name and a somewhat sour personality. 

The voyage is smooth for the most part but intrigue forms when the land to refuel on the way to India. 
Spoiler for Hiden:
Mistaken reasons and somewhat boring cloak and dagger intrigue - sets the stage for the main plot of the story.  When Rue and company arrive to India - the intrigue increases somewhat with a missing wife kidnapped; missing tax money; local Indian vampires who warn Rue she is not welcomed and of course a cat with too much curiosity and of course the werewolves who are stationed in India.  We meet some old characters from the first series in the werewolves as well. 

To make a long story short - Rue figures out there has been a huge miscommunication between all the interested parties for her reason in India - she really just came for tea.  Rue being the adventurer that she is jumps into the problem that has been dropped on her lap and she sets out to figure out how to deal with it.  The problem being a new supernatural species in India not known to the British who really are annoyed that the British made a treaty with the Indian vampires who are their enemies.  To make a long story short - Rue solves the difficulty with the were-monkey's by looking at the treaty and creates a new treaty that is different from the one that the Indian vampires have - and so peace is established. 

The most interesting is the were-cat (who in human form is a beautiful woman) who helped the were-monkey's because she wanted to and for her own curiosity.  She joins Rue in the end as part of the crew and it will prove interesting how Carriger will develop this new character.


Overall 6.5/10 for the read. 

4
Have you ever bought a book/series and just delayed reading it for weeks, months or even years? I imagine everyone has a to read pile of novels but this topic is not how big that pile is but about delaying reading of series/novel for some reason - for example it being too large. 

Well I bought Brandon Sanderson's Way of the Kings way back when it came out and for the past several years it sat on my shelf being a heavy paper weight.  Last week I finally took the jump to read it as I picked up the second book in the series as well Words of Radiance. 

The 1000 page length of the both books really had me wondering if I wanted to commit so much time to reading such a huge epic series but since I had a bit of time, I plunged into the series. 

The first book really felt like the intro to a huge series.  A lot of world building, characters, classes, powers, monsters etc - it really felt like a world building project.  The writing and story at times felt disjointed as Sanderson was world building this epic world - the characterization at times felt a bit weak and the plot wasn't as smooth as I was expecting coming from Sanderson.  But I stuck with it and continued to read his epic fantasy.  I was rather hooked but not as much as I was with his Mistborn or Elantris books but nevertheless it was an enjoyable read that got better when I went from book 1 to book 2. 

As I went from book 1 to book 2 - Words of Radiance the action and characterization got much better but there was some plot issues for me and some characterization issues that for me didn't flow well but overall the story continued to pull me into his world and I continued to read non-stop until I reached the end. 

One issue for me about book 2 is that it reads like a second in a trilogy - tons of action - lots of secrets revealed -and some new problems that will be nicely wrapped up in the third (or fourth book) rather than a second book in a longer epic (ie game of thrones or Wot). 

Overall an enjoyable read - I can't wait for the next in the series - well I have to wait four years?

While overall I enjoyed the series so far, I was also somewhat disappointed as it was not as fluid as I was expecting from Sanderson's writing. 

So what book have you delayed reading and was it worth the wait or were you disappointed?

5
Recently I was reading Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassin series and I noticed that the romance part of the story was really quiet flat.  At the start of the series our assassin got involved with a straight-lace police officer/detective and this caused a lot of tension between them because of the perspective positions - one enforcing the law the other breaking it - and this tension caused some nice sparks between the two.  Unfortunately he was not able to deal with the conflict between his attraction for her and his job so he left essentially breaking it off.  Our heroine of course finds another romantic partner and while at first she is unsure of him (ie rebound - is it worth getting hurt again etc) she finally agrees to a date and they get along quiet well - the get along so well actually that he accepts what she does and even goes along for an adventure or two during her missions.  While it is great to have a partner that accepts you for who you are - for me at least the relationship is rather flat with no real spark - yawnnnnnn....

So what kind of romantic relationships do you prefer your characters to enjoy - are there those that are really just a yawn fest - ie no tension no spark - almost the happily ever after ending.  Or would you prefer your favorite heroine/hero to have a more up and down romantic life? or perhaps something in-between?

6
The Ghost Train to New Orleans is book 2 in the Shambling Guide series that started off with The Shambling Guide to New York. 

Book 2 has our human editor for a supernatural publishing firm full of supernaturals writers going to New Orleans to essentially write a travel guide book for the supernatural community. 

The Good: 

There is some light humor and a ton of references to dungeons and dragons and other popular fantasy books, movies and comics.  For the inner dragon and dungeon/sci-fi/fantasy fan-boy/girl it is fun to see the books that you played or read being sited once in a while. 

The writing remains good in this second book. 

The Okay:

Zoe finds out more of what it means to be a citytalker.  While it is an interesting magical ability to have the history of the citytalker is quite dark and Zoe has to come to terms with what this means for her past and for her future. 

The So-So:

Spoiler for Hiden:
At times Zoe comes across as quite too trusting and believing.  Would you actually believe a total stranger that you meet on a train that provided you information about ghosts? She believes him and that causes her to become unrealistically scared of ghosts - which is odd considering she faced down some other creatures in the first book.  Add this information from a stranger and the fact that he flees the first chance he gets when some ghosts hi-jacks the train - showing his cowardice - and you have to wonder why she believed a total stranger in the first place. 

The citytalker while an interesting gift isn't portrayed that well in terms of the city.  The city has a voice and is alive which is interesting but for a city that is hundreds of years old - you'd think it would not be so childish - the city of New Orleans comes across as a really childish and that takes away from the uniqueness of being able to speak to a city as a living entity. 
The Romance:

For those of you interested in romance - poor Zoe is batting almost zero in that department - her love life is going to take a turn for the worse in this book as her boyfriend who is a member of Public Works has to deal with becoming a zombie or dying -- instead choosing to become a vampire in the end thanks to a rather pointless death of one of her vampire writers.  Thankfully that new vampire romance doesn't seem to be possible at the moment as the vamps in this world are quite different. 

Other things:

The Death Goddess and Valkyrie are some of the bigger secondary characters in this novel - they add some humor and a bit of darkness at times to the story.  I miss the humor and lightness of the water elemental from the first book.  Hopefully she returns at some point. 

Overall an entertaining read.  7/10


7
Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / Grave Memory book 3 - review
« on: February 11, 2014, 06:36:36 PM »
Tired of all the vampires and werewolves urban fantasy books but still want an urban fantasy kick then check out this series by Kalayna Price about faes. 

Book 3 Grave Memory was an overall enjoyable read as it combined mystery, urban fantasy, murders, unbending cops and a lot of faes. 

Book 3 starts with Alex our main character opening her very own detective agency - to solve mysteries by speaking to the dead.  Alex is a grave witch who is able to see ghosts and call up the shade of those that have died. 

Spoiler alert

Spoiler for Hiden:
The story starts off with Alex and her friend seeing what appears to be a suicide -a man jumped off a building but the ghost of the suicide who she can see absolutely denies having any suicidal urges as his wife is about to give birth.  The police get involve in this suicide and Renee (her partner) passes on their business card to the police to give to the widow (who the police will see). 

The mystery takes center stage in this book and while it is a bit slow at times - is interesting to read about as Alex tries to figure out what is happening. 

Alex's romance has been a big mess since the start of the series - her potential beaus - one is Death (a soul collector who once again intervenes to save her) and a Fae who is the knight of the Winter Queen and as such can't be with her. 

One of annoyances with the series so far is that Alex is getting more and more powerful.  She started off as a grave witch but now is a planewalker (able to walk the various dimensions) and she is also a high level fae but it is still not enough at times to truly kick butt by herself half the time.   I like that there are consequences to her using grave magic - she goes blind temporarily each time she calls a shade so it creates a nice balance of sorts. 

Fae problems mixed with family difficulties start to plague her in this novel - she finds out she is fae and not just a human with fae blood; she needs to declare herself to fae by joining one of the Courts or choosing to be independent and this just adds to the complications of her life. 


8
Deadly Sting an Elemental Assassin novel - book 8 in the urban fantasy series by Jennifer Estep

For those of you who have been following the adventures of our deadly but semi-retired assassin code named Spider who is also the chef and owner of her own bbq restaurant this latest adventure proves somewhat disappointing. 

The general plot
Spoiler for Hiden:
- Gin (aka Spider) gets dragged to a museum like gala to take the the treasures of former mafia head that Gin killed in an earlier novel (her great nemesis) by her closest friend/almost brother Finn.  The pair go to the gala along with many of the city's rich and powerful only to have the gala be robbed at gun point.  The entire revolves around the heist which is pretty standard and rather uneventful for the most part.  Good planning on the part of the thieves but of course there is some general incompetence on their part as one of the bad guys assigned to kill Gin kills another woman with the exact same dress and he kills her in such a way that she can't be identified at all (the face is blown off - shot in the face).   And so the adventure starts as Gin is alive and the gala and everyone is taken hostage including her friends. 

As the story continues - it follows a rather predictable pattern of events - Gin/Spider goes around killing the thieves as she seeks revenge for the murder of the women that was accidentally killed in her place and of course to save her friends.  There are a few inconsistencies in the story which make the story that less enjoyable. 

Moving on - the relationship between Gin and Owen (her boyfriend) remains rocky because of the last book in which Spider had to kill his first love who had become a homicidal monster killing those that wronged her in the past and wanting to get Owen back by any means.  In this novel, the relationship remains rocky but for me it was never that great a relationship in the first place.  When ever Gin thinks of him she seems comes across as a bit pathetic and desperate - which is for me rather sad. 

The novel of course ends with a relatively happy conclusion the thieves all die, the hostages are saved, and Gin and Owen are slowly repairing their relationship.  Of course Gin gets help from her sister and her partner in this adventure - so now we have a larger team that helps Gin when she needs it.  And of course she gets the last laugh as she sends one of the thorns in her side to jail instead of killing him. 
Overall a small adventure - 6/10

One of the more unusual things
Spoiler for Hiden:
about the series is the fact that her identity if now known to many of the underworld types out there - for an assassin to lose her secret identity is like wearing a bullseye  on herself and her friends and family as someone is bound to take them hostages in order to kill off the infamous Spider.


The unusual about the series - the setting - the city of Ashland - resembles Gotham from the comic book with Batman and our protagonist, Spider at times feels like Batman/Elektra/Black Widow mix - helping those that need help from those that prey on the weak. 

The Good: lots of action, Gin and her friends are enjoyable to read - her cast of friends get larger as the series progress (starting from the beginning).  But of course there is a bit of oddity as well, as Spider for an assassin prefers knives to kill and her not really wanting to use her magic and her somewhat dislike of using it. 

The not so great:
Spoiler for Hiden:
her relationships are not that great and at times Gin comes across as pathetic and desperate.
 

9
Misfortune Cookie - is the latest adventure in the urban fantasy Esther Diamond series by Laura Resnick.

It's a fun and rather delightful romp through New York's Chinatown as this adventure takes place in and around NY's Chinatown. 

The book starts a week after what happened in the last book and Esther our down and somewhat out of luck actress who is on her last penny finally gets a break when she gets a shift at Stella's restaurant waitressing so she can have food at the start of the New Year and also pay the rent. 

Not to give away anything - but the adventure starts here (SPOILER alert) -
Spoiler for Hiden:
as the restaurant is raided by the police - of which Lopez (the love of her life) is also part of the raiding team. 

Esther's love life takes a hit - as she has waited a week since she and Lopez made love and he hasn't called her - leaving her very angry at Lopez who happens just happens to show up on this raid where she is currently working. 

That's it for spoilers....

It's a fun and light adventure with a lot of misunderstanding, some tender moments, a few curses, lots of Chinese food and some more insights into Max's life. 

A must read for those who have already enjoyed Esther Diamond series. 

10
Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe Neill

Book 1: Some Girls Bite + Book 2 Friday Night Bites

I've had this series sitting on my shelf for a while and now that it is summer I found I had a bit of time to read so I started it. 

There are so good parts and some bad parts and lot of unusual things as with all novels:

The Good:

The premise of the story is good.  The vampires make themselves known to the general public and are not really accepted by them.  Of course at the time of the story the vampires have been out to the world for a mere 8 months it seems so it is not surprising that there will be some difficulties.  Unlike other UF series with vampires this series has the vampires out to the world for such a short time period that they have not been accepted yet. 

The unusual: -let's take a look at the world-building

Lots of oddities with the vampires and the world-building mostly surrounding the supernaturals in this series. 

Vampirism seems to be more of a genetic change then a being an undead being.  The vampires breath still - so I guess that makes them alive still in some way.  The vampires eat and drink just like regular humans do although they do require a pint of blood once in awhile - but regular food is nourishing to these vampires as well.  So do vampires have to go the bathroom anymore - after all they do eat still???

Although able to eat and drink and process food they still have some vampire allergies - no sunlight for them and the wooden stake is usually the best way to turn them into dust. 

Power wise - they have glamour and are physical more powerful than humans - powers vary with each vampire.  Why some vampires are more powerful then others we don't really know but some have more potential than others seems to be the reason.  Our main character falls into the category of being quite powerful for a new vampire - potentially a master vampire at some point in the future.  Although more powerful than humans they are not super powered as seen in some vampires urban fantasies; no flying, no animals to call, no lifting cars, no super incredible speed (although they are immortal) - what do they have - superior strength, endurance, speed, senses, magical abilities (sensing magic + glamour - varies), healing factor of sorts and immortality and some telepathy (between Master and his vampires of the house). 

Magic also is in this world as expected as the vampires are magical creatures.  So you have sorcerers and faeries among other creatures including shape-shifters.   Although the vampires seem to be at the top of the supernatural community at times you have to wonder if they actually are - the werewolves have a greater connection to magic in general; the sorcerers (who actually have a union - all the supernaturals seem to have a union of sorts) possess a lot of power and can do a lot with it (including giving cryptic prophecies about the future); the faeries seem angry at something not much is said about them; there are nymphs and other assorted supernatural creatures each with their own set of powers. 

The world-building takes a somewhat unusual twist - the vampires have Houses that they belong to unless you happen to be a rogue; most of these vampires (the general population) are just regular vampires - yes they are loyal to the House and master but they seem to be just regular folks with pointy teeth who are a bit stronger than normal and have an aversion to sunlight - no calling on them to be soldiers or having them as an army.  Outside of the Master of the House and his guards most the vampires are just regular people almost. 

The world of the vampires is also very political - we are given some history of the dark history of the relations between vampires and humans - a few cleansings - when humans killed vampires on mass.  You'd think a group of vampires some hundreds of years old would know how to conduct an investigation and co-operate with each other to protect the whole against everyone. 

Vampire training - mostly seen through the eyes of Merit consists of a lot of sword fighting and martial arts.  Although the training sessions are some interesting to read especially when you combine martial arts with vampiric feats of strength and ability it seems odd that you'd concentrate on swords in a modern world of weapons especially if your speed is not such that it can evade bullets - yes you are faster than a normal human but are they faster than a bullet? A lot of the battles seem rather human with few vampire like feats of powers.  And while it is tradition to use swords - ie vampire tradition to train in sword play - swords in the modern world is not the best weapon unless your vampire speed is such that it can evade the bullets or you are faster than the humans that pull the trigger. 

The humans are not really impressed for the most part with the vampires it seems.  The Mayor of Chicago has a lot of influence and power - a lot considering he is just a mayor - can he actually pass laws to limit the vampires? And how can you arrest a vampire Master for crimes committed by others in your community - its like arresting a minority for a crime that someone in your culture did - thats just crazy !

Plus you'd think that a vampire who is 400 years old would have a lot more political clout and power gained over the years or at the very least the vampire council would have influence with the human political powers in some way - but Ethan gets bullied by humans (Merit's family) and the Mayor. 

In addition the Ombuds group - made by the Mayor to negotiate with the supernatural community - really just talks and doesn't investigate the crimes or real complaints from the supernaturals. 

The not so great/bad:

The characters:


Merit - our main character is a 27 years old PhD candidate completing her literature degree in medieval literature - but her dialogue sounds like a teenager most of the time and she even acts like a teenager once in a while especially in regards to her relationships and her thought process.  She is depicted as being from a rich family but has been a rebel of sorts preferring her life as a scholar to that of a spoiled rich girl.  When she is changed from human to vampire - she focuses on the fact that her consent was not given instead of the fact that if Ethan (the Master) had not saved her she would be dead.  She gains vampiric powers and it is written so casually - almost no curiosity on her part about these powers.  As a new vampire she is very powerful but I guess with all UF the main character has to stand out in some way - at least she requires training to learn her powers which is a plus for the series although from scholar to vampire guard seems to be a huge leap.  And her name Merit is actually her last name after becoming a vampire you have only one name. 

One of the oddities is that Merit has to give up completing her degree - because the university doesn't want to deal with vampires - isn't this prejudice on their part? Can't Merit sue for this? And she could complete her degree by computer without actually being their in person - she is after all completing her PhD - which entitles writing her dissertation. 

Also the constant joke that Merit is always hungry - the character is always hungry in the book like some kind of series running joke. 

One of the odd things is the almost total lack of insight and logic from her - e.g. they go visit the shape shifters (in book 2) and its a place named "Little Red" - for a literary Phd candidate to not get the literary illusion is very odd; also her reading selection tends to be more chick lit and romance - which is okay but for a former PhD candidate it rings as rather hollow to just give up the scholarly attitude of a life time to read fluff; there are a few instance through out the first 2 novels that show that the character is rather dumb when it comes to literature and rarely acts her age - she is supposed to be 27 not 17. 

Ethan the vampire Master is a 400 years old vampire - head of his House hold but he acts like a love sick teenager half the time - he picks on her and teases her - because he feels this connection with her just like she finds him overly attractive.  For a Master - he doesn't seem overly powerful or deadly - but then again the world of Chicago land Vampires is a world that does not really seem overly dark for the vampires - the Masters of the Houses actually let a vampire killer be imprisoned (following their laws) instead of being staked for such a crime.    He tries to a a bad-ass vampire Master at times but rarely comes across as someone who is the master of the House - much to easy going - as are most of the masters and vampires in general. 

Mallory - the best friend of Merit has some nice comic moments and dialogue but like Merit who suddenly became a vampire, Mallory finds out she is magical - she is an untrained sorcerer with a lot of magic powers - how nice for Merit - your best friend now is a magically powerful sorcerer even if she is untrained. 

Lots of the male characters and there are a lot of them are depicted as overly handsome and charming - and Merit and has her admirers that range from vampires from different Houses to sorcerers to shifters - a lot of harmless flirting happens in this first book; Mallory who actually has a boyfriend breaks up with her current bf who is made to sound like a weak willed kind of flighty individual so she can date the sorcerer who finds out she has powers. 

Vampires - the vampires themselves are almost human even if they are immortal - the romances are very human like - even vampire romance is pretty normal.  The female vampire friends that Merit makes act also like a sorority and less like a vampire who is years and years old. 

For many of the vampires especially the romances it feels very juvenile especially for creatures that are supposed to be much older. 

The term Master in the series so far seems rather weak - Master vampires are not the all powerful vampires that other UF make them out to be - you actually have to nominated and then tested to see if you can become one rather than it being the natural magical potential of a vampire although that is taken into consideration as well since without the potential you wouldn't be nominated. 

The plot:


Not a whole lot of action happens in this book.  There is an overly abundance of cat-fights it seems to me - except for Merit and Mallory most of the other female characters are rather shallow and bitchy and rather 2-dimensional. 

The mystery of the attacks which starts the series is mostly on the back burner - the investigation goes at a snails pace and the vampires it seems have no idea how to conduct an investigation at all. 

Merit's family is unique - her father is a self made millionaire more concerned with powers and politics and is made out to be somewhat of a jerk - she has father issues; meanwhile her grandfather a retired police officer is a special police officer still the Ombuds - who is sort of a negotiator for the supernatural community and the mayors office - how convenient for Merit (and Mallory) to have family who have supernatural connections and which can train them. 

The ending is sudden and abrupt - for 200 pages we explore Merit and her new vampirism along with her new life and how she is handling it all -- when suddenly the author realizes she has only about 50 pages to wrap it so - so bang it is all wrapped up - the vampire who is murdering these girls makes a move to get rid of Ethan - she is a powerful vampire who specialty is using glamour and it works on vampires as well - she attacks Ethan - and Merit intervenes being for some reason immune to her powers saves the day - and the murderer Celine is captured and extradited to England to be tried by the Vampire council - which is odd since the crimes took place in the US. 

So the ending is rushed and rather anti-climatic.  The story ends with Merit making the decision to move into the House so that Mallory and her new lover can have more privacy but also for Merit to take some control over her new life as Sentinel to the House. 

Overall - the writing flows pretty well although the politics and general lack of action may prove annoying along with the almost teenage like dialogue and reaction to emotions (oh I love no I hate - so teenage like).  But it is entertaining for the most part and reads very quickly at times. 

The romantic tension between Morgan, Ethan and Merit - the vampire love triangle of sorts feels really quite forced and didn't really ring true as a romantic triangle since Merit wasn't really into Morgan even if he is describe and depicted as a possible romance.  I am glad it the tension was diffused rather easily but it felt very human for vampires that are supposed to be much older than Merit's 27 years. 

The world-building needs additional work especially the vampire world as it feels rather 2-dimensional and a bit hollow. 

Is it a great UF to try - no there are better ones out there - but if you like vampires - and a character with a bit of backbone and a romance that is a bit unusual - no immediate falling in love with your master - (even if it is cliched and he is a hot blond) -  it makes for an entertaining read. 

More reviews as I complete the books.

6.75/10 for entertainment





11
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Throne of Glass - Sarah J Maas
« on: August 15, 2013, 04:53:22 PM »
Throne of Glass book 1 by Sarah J Maas - is a YA fantasy novel. 

The back cover of this novel sounds intriguing - assassins, competition, and mystery. 

Plot: is somewhat standard to some degree, an assassin stuck in a prison mine is asked by Crown Prince to be his representative for a competition to be King's Champion - which really is a nice word to mean King's assassin.  Given the choice of either staying in the prison mines forever as is her fate she agrees to compete for the Prince if he agrees to a 4 year term (originally it was a 6 year term- she negotiated it down) for this position if she wins the competition.  As the 20 competitors sponsored by various Lords of the realm being to compete - it is for the most part rather un-bloody - e.g. a marathon type race, a race to climb the side of the castle - of course the last competitor in each competition would be a kicked out of the competition (and sent back to whatever prison/whatever life they had before).  Our main antagonist for the story outside of the King is of course one of the competitors - the lead competitor comes of as evil and a jerk - who belittles her and really has no redeeming qualities besides his brutal killing skills. 

As the competition continues the Prince begins to find this assassin quite intriguing as does his Guard who is assigned to train her - and so we get the mandatory romance options - which happens to be between a Prince and a Royal Guard Captain .  Besides to competition and budding romance we get a mystery - something is killing the competitors in horrific ways - ripped apart and in some cases eaten to some degree -- the mystery is the weaker part of the story - as the reactions by those involved in really lack luster.  Other subplots - a lady who wants to marry the Prince and is willing to do anything to get him; a foreign Princess who is more than she appears to be. 

The world-building for me is a bit weak; we only really know that the King is a conqueror and a brutal one at that and that he has banned magic in the realm.   For a nation that is conquering others the Crown Prince (Dorian) is also rather too nice and carefree even if he is somewhat of a playboy or at least that is how the author writes him even if he doesn't show this side of him in the book.  The Royal Guard Captain (Chaol) has never killed anyone which is hard to imagine considering that he is a royal guard captain meant to protect royalty that at least a few rebels hate.  The discussion between Chaol and Calaena about killing and how she remembers everyone she had killed seemed really quite weak and meant to show that even as an assassin she had some humanity in her.  One of the things that is left a mystery for us is how does she get caught in the first place and why do they keep her a live even - she is one of the most feared assassins in the known world. 

Characters: Calaena (our main character) is supposed to be the most feared assassin in the known world but at times she really is naive and rather brainless.  She is depicted as beautiful and deadly but also well read (as she likes to read) and can speak many languages.  She comes across as rather naive at times - in a competition she wants to shine but is told that it is better to be sort of average than take everyone by surprise - for an independent assassin it should be obvious that the best course of action is to lay low until the time to strike.  For the deadliest assassin in the world she actually is fearful of the King - she must have killed hundreds of people but still fears a King even if he does currently hold power of her life through this competition - this fear of the King comes off as really odd.  She is also written as trying to be likeable and a sort of heroic - as she saves one of the competitors from falling during one of the challenges; she even helps train them a bit and warns them to leave the competition when she figures out the truth behind the murders of the other competitors.   For a supposedly world famous assassin who ever fears she is really quite naive at times - she complains about her clothes and lets her maid sort of bully her into dressing up; she doesn't suspect poison during the competition even after she finds out the truth behind everything; she is petty at times crashing parties that she wasn't invited to; she wants to do everything herself but in the end she gets lucky that the Nehemia (the foreign Princess) is able to help her along with the various spirits and of course Chaol (the royal guard captain that trains her) kills the last competitor when he tries to sneak attack her after the competition is over and she has already won - she didn't kill him herself when she had the chance to kill him - as he was the one to raise the demon to kill off the other competitors and even being a part demon himself it seems. 

The romance: well Celaena has two choices as is what happens usually in YA.  The first choice is the Crown Prince - who comes across as really quite likeable for a prince and playboy who also doesn't really like the destructive and brutal ways his father is conquering others; the second choice is the Royal Guard - friend of the Crown Prince, former Lord who gave the title up to pursue his own life - he is also her trainer of sorts - takes her running, the occasional sparring, providing words of advice and caution and basically her guard/prison warden for the duration of the competition - he reluctantly is coming to like her even if he considers her a monster.  The romance for me feels rather forced - she is a mysterious assassin and beautiful so naturally these two men must fall in love with her.  Most of all these two love interest for most of the novel seem just like love interest with no real other purpose in the novel. 

Because the novel is a fantasy of course we get the necessary magic and monsters involved - a demon like creature; spirits from long dead Queens; magical items for protection, and of course the mage in the form of the foreign Princess that Calaena befriends and who helps her in the final confrontation between the evil that is arising that she has to stop because it seems Calaena was chosen. 

Overall the story is about average as is the writing.  The real story doesn't really begin until you get at least half way through the novel and the murders and magic begins to happen.  The flirting between the love interest is rather annoying at times and takes up a lot of the dialogue and interaction between the men that brought her from the prison mine.  The author at times gives away too much of the magic and mystery of the story and as such we the readers are at least two steps ahead of the protagonist who is made to seem naive and dumb at times.   While the premise was somewhat interesting the overall execution of the story and characters was a bit weak and rather forgettable.  If you compared this to Tamora Pierce's novels then it is really quite weak in terms of plot and characterization. 

6.5/10


12
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty.   

The story overall is quite light and entertaining with a touch of seriousness as the villain in the novel makes a move to cause some chaos. 

Zoe our main character, is the managing editor of a new travel guide book for New York for monsters and this is where the fun and entertainment begins.   
Spoiler for Hiden:
First she has to convince her soon to be boss why he should hire her when he and others that she happened to bump into tell her that she won't fit in at the new publishing firm. 

The world has all sorts of monsters (coterie as they are called in the novel) from zombies, to vampires, demons and spirits and gods of every shape and form.  These are not your stereotypical monsters as Lafferty puts her own spin on these creatures which adds to the world building that encompasses the novel. 

Zoe is quite entertaining taking everything she sees in stride as she tries to manage her new job and fit in with her co-workers who are all monsters.  Zoe comes off as capable - learning to deal with this new world and the oddities that surround it.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Some things fall a bit to neatly for Zoe - such as a feared almost crazy character in the form of Granny Good Mae who decides to provide some self defense training and knowledge to our newbie in this monster filled world and who is also liked a the spirit of the NY city who wants to protect her because she likes her. 
The book itself is a very fast paced read that it is almost over before you even realize it.  The reading is so easy at times that some of the descriptions of the monster cultures can almost be seen as silly. 

Spoiler for Hiden:
Of course the story has its villain and Zoe and her vampire publisher boss is determined to find out the reason behind some of the chaos that has descended upon them when their zombie writers go a food rampage of sorts when their brains that they are go missing.  Zoe while not totally gungho about being drawn into this investigation she is somewhat curious about what is happening considering her CR (monster resource person - like an HR person) happens to be a construct (golem) with the head of one of her ex-boyfriends and who obviously doesn't like her and all the troubles started when he was hired by the publishing firm. 
As the investigations continues we are introduced to the human side of things with Public Works - an organization that protects the city from its monster - imagine a police for the monsters - who is also doing the usual duties of public works (like sewer repair etc). 

The supporting characters in the novel are a fun bunch of characters - from Morgan the water spirit to the death-goddess to Carl the gay succubus who makes pastries to the taxi driver, to John and even Phil her vampire boss and to the Public Works employee Arthur who is her potential boyfriend (and also neighbor).

Overall the Shambling Guide to New York City is an easy and fun read that will keep its readers glued to its pages.   

7.5/10 


 

13
Hi everyone, 

Do you have books/authors (fantasy, sci-fi, mystery or any genre) that you just love to rave/talk about? If given the chance you would talk about that book forever and ever because it was just that amazing or unique enough to be food for thought. 

I have a few books/authors that I constantly talk about given half the chance:

Tamora Pierce - when it comes to her YA fantasy series I can't stop raving about them.  They are amazing well written with characters that have depth, feel human and are at times charming, coupled with an interesting plot and some excellent world building, I love to rave about her various series in which there are quite a few.  I wait every year in anticipation for her next novel or new series and read it with a voracious appetite that means I usually finish it in one sitting.    When speaking to fellow fantasy readers about characters and series that I would recommend, Tamora Pierce and any of her series are always some that I recommend for any age. 

JD Robb - "In Death" series - another series that I love to talk about is JD Robb's "In Death" series.  Even with 30 + books in the series I still want to read more.  For those of you who don't know the series, it is a series that combines mystery and science fiction together almost seamlessly; the stories take place in 2050 and has some new forensic-police technology and some futuristic tech (like partially flying cars, things like hover-skate boards) but it is mainly a mystery series set in a futuristic New York.  When I go to my favorite fantasy-science fiction speciality book shop this series is one in which the manager and I enjoy talking about as we explore out mutual enjoyment of this series.  Whats not to love you have a mystery, you have some science fiction, you have nice world building with this future New York, and you have interesting characters and a touch of romance thrown in - since everyone has a love life, and you have an assorted bunch of supporting characters that are unique and just add to the world-building of this series.  And of course when her latest book in the series appears (which is usually about two to three times a year) I usually finish it in one sitting. 

Any book that must be finished in one sitting must be one great and fascinating book that you greatly enjoy. 

The next author I always like to talk about is Rumiko Takahashi.  If you've never heard of her its not that surprising as she is not a novelist she is a mangka - which is defined as a writer and artist of manga (Japanese comics).  She remains one of my all time favorite writer/artists of manga with her incredibly comedic and at times touching comedy series that she has written over the years (she's been writing for 30+ years in her field).  My favorite of her series has to be her romantic comedy Maison Ikkoku about a young widow who becomes a manager of a small apartment and her quirky and definitely odd residents.  Here she meets a younger man who is forever having troubles with his studies at school (university) who has fallen for her at first sight, unfortunately for him she is still grieving for her husband and with that we have a start to a romantic comedy between two rather unlikely individuals that meet in a small apartment complex with a bunch of quirky supporting characters that hinder as much as help their budding romance in this comedy series.  The series itself is 15 volumes long at about 300 pages for each volume - so its not a short one graphic novel comic.  Beautifully written and drawn with comedic dialogue and plots - it is one of my favorite series from Rumiko Takahashi but really any of her series which are all quite different from each other are great to read. 

So which books or authors do you love to rave and talk about if given half the chance?

14
Hi everyone, well its the end of a series with Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris - no more Sookie which is a bit sad but everyone has to move on after all - so congrats on the final book and I look forward to new and amazing new titles from Harris in the future. 

Back to the novel - comments and criticism
Spoiler for Hiden:
The series ends with book 13 :P  which is a bit funny. 

The final book doesn't end with a roar its end with a small meow.  For me this book read as an extended epilogue to book 12 and could really have been just added the the book 12 without writing this final book.

Dead Ever After - is basically the fallout of book 12 after Sookie used her magical wish to bring back her dying friend Sam.  We see the conclusion to her vampire marriage to Eric and we see his fate - to get married to another vampire - but this was mostly in the background of the story and was told as if it was an after thought.

The story has a plot of sorts - which is more of a mystery really.  Arlene former friend gets released from prison and after speaking to Sookie she winds up dead strangled with Sookie's scarf.  It is pretty obvious that she didn't do it but the police influenced by magic arrest her anyways and she is eventually released on bail.  The mystery-murder seemed to be a half-hearted effort on the writers part that you have to wonder why she even added this murder to the novel. 

Eventually Sookie and co figure out who is behind some of her difficulties and with the aid of some vampire friends deal with the situation.  The bigger problem that exists in the novel is the tension between Sookie and Sam because of her bringing him back from the dead and the consequences of this magic which has affected both of them in some unknown way.

Back to the plot - Sookie is kidnapped and we find out the mastermind behind her difficulties (the murder and framing) is none other then her cousin Claude who has escaped from Faery and who seems quite mad - after an extended talk and Sookie escaping - all the bad guys are killed by the timely arrival of her friends and the police. 

The book ends with Sookie and Sam becoming a couple of sorts or at least starting a relationship; Sookie is stronger and more confident in herself knowing that even if this relationship doesn't work she can live and move on. 

A happy ending for everyone.  Sookie didn't want to be a vampire and she didn't become one; she loses a vampire love who was just too manipulative; she gets to remain friends with her vampire friends; and she gets a new supernatural lover who's supernatural ability is a family trait (shape shifting) rather than a curse (werewolf or vampire) without any of the baggage of their clans or vampire families.  Overall a happy ending for Sookie. 

In general this 2.5/5 stars - writing was still good but the plot was forced and the happy ending rather boring.
 

15
Hi everyone,  no this topic is not about paranormal urban fantasy, it is about the love life/romance of our/your favorite(s) protagonist and how truly unusual it actually is. 

First thing I noticed when reading urban fantasy usually when it has a female lead is that her soon to be boyfriend/lover/partner just happens to be a werewolf or a vampire (or in the odd case a wizard of sorts) and in both cases they just happen to also be the leader of their group/clan/pack. 

Personally I find it quite unusual that anyone would want to date something that is dead - vampires are cold since they are dead no beating heart means no heat - so who wants to kiss a dead thing but nevertheless it seems that many female protagonist seem to want to date the dead. 

As for dating a werewolf (whether it is genetic or a disease) would you date a dog? Okay really on a half-dog since he is human half the time.  One other thing about dating a werewolf, if being a werewolf is passed on through biting/clawing someone wouldn't there be a very good chance of being infected yourself...there is no cure/drug for being a werewolf. 

Plus there is the point that both vampires and werewolves will most likely outlive you as you tend to want to remain human - would you stay with a partner that would never age as you got older? Plus being supernatural creatures and dead you wouldn't be able to have children.... so why date one?

---------------------

On the other side of things the male lead in urban fantasy seems to have the worse luck when it comes to dating.  Of the various urban fantasies that have a male lead none of them have a significant other much less a date that lasts more than a book.  My question is why?

------------------------

So dating in the urban fantasy world for our lead protagonist seems to be either full of supernatural creatures of which some are dead for our female leads and no love life for are male leads. 

I think the only relatively normal relationship that I've seen in urban fantasy has to be in the Esther Diamond series where our protagonist is just a normal actress who just happens to have a few friends that are a bit supernatural. 

So what do you think of the love life/romance of your favorite urban fantasy protagonist?

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