In preparation for the upcoming conclusion to McDonald’s trilogy, Crowfall, I decided it was high time to share my thoughts about Ravencry, which I read back in February, right after I finished Blackwing. Talk about procrastination 😉
While Blackwing was a powerful new entry into gritty military fantasy, well-written, riveting and – what’s quite astounding – a debut, Ravencry was even better. With the world and main characters already established, McDonald focused more on character development and intrigue, introducing a much better fleshed-out – and truly creepy – villain, believable motivations, and delightfully raised stakes. All in all he succeeded in smoothing the rough edges of his original creation while keeping all the grimness, bravado and rakish charm I appreciated in Blackwing.
Piotrek: The fifth one, huh? Well, this time we have a real treasure. We debated for a while, if it can be counted as one of the Nostalgia Posts, and decided that yes, why not? After all, we’ve been reading Pratchett most of our lives, and we feel pretty nostalgic about both the author and his works. Well, one difference between that and all the others – there isn’t a large gap between our first childhood encounters with Sir Terry and recent re-reads. Me, at least, I would read a Discworld novel or two at least every once in a few years.
Nevernight went through various blogs with a force of natural calamity, garnering a lot of praise for originality and vividness of the story despite what seemed like a very clichéd plot. When I saw Aaron’s glowing review at Swords and Spectres I decided to finally forgo my misgivings and give the book, constituting – not surprisingly – the first installment in Kristoff’s new series, a chance.
Boy, I wish I didn’t.
I was close to DNFing this book thrice. The first time happened on the first page, when the contrivance of the interlapping opening scenes hit me like a hammer between the eyes. The second time happened within the first few chapters, when I was so fed up with the narrator’s dubious personality charm that I didn’t think I could take any more of his/her blathering. You undoubtedly know what I’m talking about, O, gentlefriend, if you’ve read the book. Third time should be the charm, alas, I powered through by sheer effort of will just to write a vitriolic review later on.
Robert Holdstock was a distinguished British writer whom I already reviewed once. His Mythago Woods is a great, if a bit rough, journey through the world of Celtic – and earlier – myths connected in a very real way to a modern (well, post-II WW anyway) world. Mythago… is a first part of the Ryhope Woods cycle, whereas The Fetch is a stand-alone novel, but we stay in the general area of myths, archetypes, and British countryside. But while the previous one was scary at times, Fetch could well be called a horror story. I could see it being adapted to the big screen (or Netlix 😉 ) as a classical horror with an Omen vibe (without Christian references).
Having followed advice of the inestimable Bookstooge, I decided to embark on another bloody literary journey, but this time a decidedly hi-tech and futuristic one. Neal Asher’s Polity novels had been described as ‘a more action-packed Culture’, and it’s a description I find at once very apt and quite misleading ;). The world of Polity is indeed similar to Banks’s Culture in that it is an ever-expanding and galaxy-spanning political entity of humans inhabiting planets and space stations, all governed and kept together by extremely sophisticated AIs. The AIs have distinct personalities which are, as expected, highly logical and possessed of a worldview undoubtedly more affected by their computing skills than by any emotions, though they seem to feel them too – especially curiosity. In short, however you would slice it, they are not human. Their ascendance to the position of power in the human Polity has apparently been bloodless and quite benevolent, humans having realized that it’s ultimately for their own betterment – and that the other choice they have is definitely worse. The AIs act more like managers than dictators, quite content to improve the lives of Polity citizens and repel any possible threats. And there are threats aplenty, as on many worlds human populations hadn’t joined the Polity, mostly due to political differences (especially autocratic and religious regimes seemingly disapproving of the entire concept of Polity or even the existence of AIs). The major one is posed by Separatists, a loose coalition of terrorists, interest groups, or even governments happy to use Polity’s technology to bring about Polity’s demise, and they are a constant source of interest to ECS – the Earth Central Security agency, consisting mostly of human agents dealing with out-Polity threats.
*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*
The Serpent and the Eagle is Edward Rickford’s debut, a first book in a planned trilogy about the Spanish conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The topic of Hernán Cortés’ bloody and ambitious subjugation of the biggest New World empire of the time is a very interesting one, and I was eager to read the fictionalized account of his endeavors, especially balanced, as was the case here, by the Mexica perspective.
If I were to describe The Serpent and the Eagle in one word, it would be “earnest”. It is indeed a very earnest book, a work of undeniable effort and knowledge, and a clear passion for the topic.
Only third post this month and a re-post again. The first one had been planned for some time, to start the series and encourage our new readers to reach deeper into Re-E’s archives 😉 Today I’m commenting on a book that Ola reviewed over four years ago, and I’ve only just read. Next week – we will, hopefully, finish our post on Captain Marvel, just before the Avengers: Endgame premieres.
The Night Circus was quite popular a few years ago, with awards and positive reviews and a beautiful cover. Reviews vary in tone (but it still has a great 4.04 Goodreads average with 564K ratings and 62K reviews!), cover still looks great.
Why not a counter-review? Because in many ways I agree with Ola. I just like it a great deal more 😉
I agree that the book is in many ways an exercise in style. Imagination, attention to detail, well thought-through structure, poetry and elegance – all there. Slow pacing, not much happening, romance too easy, ending perhaps a bit too happy (there were victims along the way, I don’t think that’s too spoilery…) – yes, I agree.
It’s just that I like to occasionally read a book like that. I was in the mood and Morgenstern delivered what I needed – a diamond polished perhaps too much, but shining. The book reminded me a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it lacked the humour of Clarke’s masterpiece. My score for The Night Circus? 7.5, actually only a point more than it got from Ola 😉
And I’ll add one long quote, nothing too original, and definitely naive, but I liked it, and it will also serve as a sample of Morgentern’s style:
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, (…) and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with his prey.”
(…) “But wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?”
Ooops, I’m late again! 😉 To make up for it, this time I will write a shorter review than usual ;). The Night Circus is a debut novel of Erin Morgenstern – and her only book to date. This novel won Locus Award in 2012 and acclaim of many critics and readers alike. And left me with a feeling of pointlessness of it all.
The book starts with a description of a circus. Or, rather, of THE circus, the ultimate circus there could ever been. Le Cirque des Rêves opens only at night. It is black and white, it consists of multiple tents and booths arrayed in a series of circles connected by winding alleys. It is circular, looping and continuous, and feeding on itself. A place of innumerable wonders, constant surprises, awe-inspiring performances – and a few mysteries. It shows up unheralded, it disappears unannounced – but when it’s…