December 19th, 2009

HP - of house elves and children's tales

Book Review: The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey

Title: The Black Swan
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Pages: 376

Summary: The Sorceror Baron von Rothbart collects maidens who have betrayed the men in their lives--husbands, fathers--and keeps them under enchantment, always to be swans by day and maidens by the moonlight. His daughter, Odile, serves as his assistant and the keeper of the swans. But Odette, the Swan Queen, is given one chance to set the flock free--find a man who will pledge to her and only her, never to be forsworn.

The Prince Siegried is a man with wild ways, indulging in all that there is to indulge in, encouraged by his power-hungry mother, the Queen Regent Clothilde. In a tangled web of lies and betrayals, good intentions and bad, love and disdain, can Odile find herself and Siegfried and Odette win out over evil?

Notes: This is a most excellent retelling of the story of Swan Lake. Told in a rotating POV, you get glimpses of much of the cast of characters, at their motivations, intentions, and emotions. You get to see the flawed narrators up close and personal--though never Odette or von Rothbart himself--and the story unfolds from them.

I think the characters are excellently rendered, from Clothilde's resistance of the ravages of time to Odile's desperate love of her father to Siegfried's arrogance. And they aren't static, for even in the course of the story they evolve and change. I think my favorite character is Odile, whom I identify with in so many ways.

Anyone who loves retold tales should love this book.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Other: I plan on reading more of Lackey this year, I think. I find her intriguing from what little I've read so far.
Mummy - it's just a book

Book Review: Chalice by Robin McKinley

Title: Chalice
Author: Robin McKinley
Pages: 272 pages

Summary: Mirasol is the new and untrained Chalice of the Willowlands, and thus it is her job to bind the Circle, the Master, and the land together for the good of all. But the land is in dissarray, and she was not trained for this--no, she was a beekeeper and a woodtender. But when the old Master and his Chalice die in tragedy, and the new Master comes back from fire priests, a thing that has never before been done for he is no longer human.

She struggles to bind the Circle into a cohesive unit, which is hard when the members do not wish to be bound. She fights to learn enough to keep the Willowlands together and to help the new Master, who cannot touch without burning. It seems impossible--but as the only honey Chalice in the history of the lands, she tries anyway.

Notes: This is a singularly unique novel. Though rather short, it contains a lushly penned world rich in description and detail. It's not a book to rush through but rather one to savor and chew on thoughtfully for a little while. It can at times be a little repetitive, and yet somehow it works because Mirasol, the narrator and main character, is struggling to solve the problem facing not only her, but the entire land.

It is quite different than some of her other work, I think. It's not the action of The Blue Sword or the tale you can pull from the realms of history; in some ways it's similar to her Sunshine in its utter uniqueness.

It left me feeling thoughtful and I still cannot describe exactly how I feel about it. I don't love it the way I love so many books, but I'm very happy I did read it and I will most likely reread it again at a later point. I'm not sure what that says about it, but I'm sure it says something.

As always, though, McKinley is the master of world building. I can only hope I do as well with it.

Rating: Hmmm. This time it's hard, since I'm left in an odd state about it. Let's put it at 6.5 / 10, but see the notes about rereading at a later date.
OtH - i like the cookie

Review: Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Title: Furies of Calderon
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: Book 1 of The Codex Alera
Pages: 512 pages

Summary: Tavi of Bernardholt is an awkward teen growing up in a valley far off from the world of politics and the Emperor. He is singularly unique, for unlike anyone else in Alera, he does not have any furies--elemental manifestations of magic--to call his own. Considered at an endless disadvantage, he cultivates his wits and mind to make up for the lack.

When old enemies appear in the valley, Tavi must struggle save not only his family but the whole of Alera, along with the woman claiming to be a slave, Amara. With no magic, can he do it?

Notes: I loved this. OMG Squee, lol. I once tried reading it, and I'd put it back, but I now know why--because it's so complete different than Butcher's other works (The Dresden Files) that it completely threw me off.

This is written in rotating third person POV, and Butcher uses it effectively. BUtcher is, too, a master of world building and even more of the long-stretching plot, as you will see when you read on in this series.

Tavi is imminently clever and yet not unrealistically so. He reminds me of no one quite so much as Miles Vorkosigan in Bujold's Vorkosigan series--held at a disadvantage by his people and using his intelligence and ingenuity to make up for the lack. He is also, because of his "disability," more open minded than any of his brethren, and this continually stands him in good stead. Like Miles, I love Tavi.

I fell in love with all of the characters in this book and even more so as the series continues on. Butcher even does one thing most people don't do--some of his "bad guys" have very good reasons for doing what they're doing. Even mad Odiana--who I kinda heart in a twisted sort of way--has a reason for being how she is.

Rating: 8 / 10

Other: One thing I can say is that I wouldn't read these books immediately after or before his Dresden books, for it threw me off the first time and they're so different it can cast this series in a poorer light. It is very much a horse-and-sword book, a quest, and if you don't like that sort of thing, you probably won't like this.