The Book Reviews Thread (Fantasy)

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The Book Reviews Thread (Fantasy)

Postby Keith » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:21 pm

Since we were hoping to encourage more people to post extended pieces of writing like essays, reviews etc. on the new RB, I thought I'd make a thread for people to post long-ish (100 words+) reviews of books they've read. To start things off, here's some I posted on the "What are you reading?" thread on the previous board.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Shut up, it was on special offer and I offloaded it to a charity shop after finishing it - I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. :P My reaction was pretty much 'meh'. It didn't seem bad enough to inspire its massive anti-fandom, which I guess must be more of a reaction to its massive and slightly creepy fandom.

My overall impression was that it was on the level of a moderately OK fanfic written by someone who can at least spell but has mostly unoriginal ideas tempered with the occasional weird concept. I can actually see why its target audience likes it - it's quite amusing in places, and hits the right cliched teen romance buttons. I don't get the rabid fans though - either they really need to read more, or I'm missing something about the teenage girl psyche.

What I thought was worst about it was the lack of tension and drama - it just kind of meanders along. And, of course, any potentially interesting aspects of the setting and other characters are stifled by Edward and Bella's trite romance.

The Iron Tree by Cecilia Dart-Thornton (book 1 of the Crowthistle Chronicles)

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to near the beginning. It's mostly about the parents of the main character of the next book, and how they fell in love and got married despite a curse on the girl's bloodline. As such it was a lot more 'domestic' than most fantasy novels. The romance was a bit cliched (too many descriptions of how good-looking the two are) but not too much so, and the world the characters lived in was well-developed, with a lot of details thrown in based on Celtic mythology and folklore. The descriptions and worldbuilding were good enough that I came away with very vivid impressions of most of the places and events in the book, and I rather enjoyed the slower pace and gentler nature of the story compared to the world-shattering epic sweep of the previous fantasy book I'd read (Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams).

My main complaint would be that some of the writing felt a bit redundant and paint-by-numbers in places, with a lot of what seemed like stock fantasy dialogue/descriptive text that didn't need to be there because it didn't add anything.

The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton (book 1 of the Bitterbynde trilogy)

I got this after reading The Iron Tree; it's an earlier work and it shows a bit. The book as a whole is a bit plot-sparse, most of it being devoted to two long travelogues through forests infested with mischievous and/or dangerous faerie creatures drawn from Celtic folklore. The romance that's introduced in the second half of the book has similar problems to the one in The Iron Tree, in particular too much dwelling on how handsome the love interest is (the female protagonist has a horribly disfigured face, which is an interesting idea, though it's undermined by the fact that the rest of her is fairly clearly described as being gorgeous). A lot of the other characters could have done with more development instead of there being so much about the love interest.

Fortunately, the book also had many of the same redeeming features as The Iron Tree, particularly very good descriptions that really painted a picture of the setting in my mind and interesting use of mythology/folklore. Despite the idealized romance, it was actually pretty gritty, with the protagonist suffering a seemingly endless series of calamities and the setting coming across as a really quite dangerous and dark place to live.

Scar Night by Alan Campbell (book 1 of the Deepgate Codex)

I actually attended a creative writing class run by the author last year, which was why I bought the book. Interestingly, I could see a lot of the ideas he discussed in the class in the book, particularly in the moral ambiguity of a lot of the characters. A misleading blurb which gave the impression there was a single major protagonist (when in fact the character in question was rather passive and inept and there were several other much stronger protagonists/antagonists/ambiguous lead characters) confused my reading of the book at first, but once I figured out the problem I enjoyed the stories of all of the ensemble cast. The elements of the setting aren't all that original (Paradise Lost style shenanigans involving fallen angels + steampunk-gothic world involving a lot of chains, blood and leather), but are used in a non-cliched, interesting way.

Re-reading all those reviews, I notice I used the word 'cliched' in all four...oy vey. :roll:

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Re: The Book Reviews Thread (Fantasy)

Postby Azriel » Thu May 06, 2010 2:57 pm

Maximum Ride : The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

A very dumb book.
I've read plenty of young adult fiction, much of it is intelligent, fun to read, and well written. This book, however, seems to have been written by someone who's never met a young person in his life. The book's audience is treated as if they're some other less intelligent race that can only speak in catch phrases and slang.
The book is written in first person and the narrator is self-absorbed and irritating. There is a very forced nonchalance about the writing that gets on ones nerves almost immediately.
She addresses the audience directly using phrases like, "you can't possibly understand..." or "you may not know this but..." or "I forgot to mention this but..." over and over and over again until one wishes they could shake her.
All the main characters seem like comic adaptations of what an adult *thinks* young people are like. Idiotic phrases such as: "way cool," "for real," and "like totally" are horrifically over-used and Patterson seems to think that just because a child is 6 or 8 means they're idiots and therefore all they say must be cute but very stupid.
Honestly the plot had to potential to be very good. I was intrigued by the book description which is why I decided to check it out in the first place. Sadly it was terribly mishandled with predictably cyclical events, terrible dialogue, and strained attempts at humor.
I realize that Patterson is a New York Times best selling author, but if this book is exemplary of what his other work is like, I don't understand how he got that status.
I am thankful I got this book from the library and didn't waste money on it.

Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker

The Abarat books are the first I've read by Clive Barker and I am not disappointed. The mix of fantasy and horror is masterfully done, though the writing style is quite different, the atmosphere of the books are reminiscent of Neil Gaiman at times.
Abarat is original, well written, and entertaining. I will definitely be reading more of Barker's writing. He is able to weave a fantasy world with both magical wonders and vivid horrors. I was occasionally disappointed that certain characters were introduced in a manner that made it seem they were important and yet were never revisited. Certain parts of the story were very well developed while others were merely touched on in such a way as to be merely a tease. It seems that writing the world of Abarat is a massive undertaking and there simply is not enough room in each book to describe it all fully.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book was quite excellent. It is based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book but instead of being about a boy brought up by wolves in the jungles of India it's about a boy brought up by ghosts in a graveyard in England.
If you liked The Jungle Book you'll definitely appreciate this book (if you haven't read The Jungle Book I highly recommend that as well, don't be fooled by the lame Disney-ization of it). The writing is of course impeccable (it is Gaiman after all) and the book has a perfect blend of humor and the macabre. I have yet to find a Gaiman book I didn't enjoy on some level.

One of my favorite quotes:
"It's like the people who believe they'll be happier if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Where ever you go, you take yourself with you.
"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era of darkness new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."

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Re: The Book Reviews Thread (Fantasy)

Postby ElviraStarkeeper » Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:14 am

His Majesty's Dragon by Naiomi Novik

If you like Dragons, Historical Fiction, Being Ridiculous, Well Written Things or any of the above, read this book. Set during the Napoleonic wars, it features as the main character the captain of a warship who comes across a -wait for it- dragon's egg on a French vessel they capture. Dragons egg? Really? Yes. Because in this reality the Napoleonic wars have an air-force. MADE OF DRAGONS. *flail flail flail*
I heard this book described as Patrick O'Brien (Aubry-Maturin series, also recommended) meets Jane Austen, meets Anne McCaffrey. "Surely you jest, good sir!" I objected, appalled that anyone could make such a preposterous claim. Upon reading the book, I ate my words and they were not tasty.
Then I discovered there are sequels. I have not read them but they'd better be good or I will be SO SAD.
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Re: The Book Reviews Thread (Fantasy)

Postby gaffergamgee » Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:02 pm

'Dwarves' by Markus Heitz. I got this for some holiday reading, but didn't boher bringing it home. Originally written in German, I'm going to be charitable and assume it's lost something in translation- the prose is clunky and amateurish, the characters one dimensional, and the unremarkable 'quest' plot has more holes than a sieve. I understand there is a sequel 'War of the Dwarves' and another one pending, but believe me, life is really too short.

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