Thursday, November 18, 2010

Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; Memory of Light, #2)Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm actually pretty torn between a 4 and 5 star rating with this one. There were parts throughout the book where it dragged, where I felt this Crossroads of Twilight feeling of plot going nowhere. But those parts were relatively short, and the good parts. Wow. When it was good, it was really good.

So the penultimate volume in The World of Time is here to set up the grand finale. Does it do this? Yes. It brings some plotlines to a close and sets up the action for the Last Battle, that end of time-fight the Darklord climax we've been promised for the better part of 20 years.

Just one more year or so, and it will all come to a close. Towers of Midnight points us in that direction and says "Bring it on."

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Drawing of the Three

The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book 2)The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Drawing of the Three is the novel where the Dark Tower story goes from being a cool gunslinger action adventure of the weird west to being a true epic. We still have elements of that otherworldly western flavor, but we get a huge mixture of reality when Roland, the gunslinger anti-hero of the first book, opens a door into “our” world.

The three doors Roland must open each connect to our world, but at different “whens”, different eras. From each of these entry points, there are things that Roland must do in order to continue on the path to his fabled Dark Tower.

With these adventures, we’re introduced to new characters, a new ka-tet that will help Roland on his quest. But before they can move forward to their goal, they each have something they must work through first. Roland’s intervention is essential to this development, for without it they would be useless to him and to his quest.

This is the fourth time I’ve read this volume, and like its predecessor, The Gunslinger, it gets better with each reading. Little things that were missed before start to come together to form the whole. I did notice some discrepancies along the way, minor detail errors that could have been simple editing mistakes, or perhaps purposeful clues that the worlds don’t always connect smoothly and logically. It’s a good out to cover up any mistakes, at any rate. I also saw a little clue that linked a book I’d never realized had any Dark Tower relevance, and that’s always fun too. In small ways, I believe that all of King’s work is connected. Perhaps even his non-fiction.

I’m really excited about plunging into The Wastelands again, as the end of this book really sets us up nicely for a continuance of the adventure. While it does have a good stopping point, there is obviously more, much more, that we’ll see before Roland and his ka-tet come to their Dark Tower.

The cards have been drawn and dealt. The Dark Tower saga will continue with the cards played, for good or ill. Or both. Did-a-chik.

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The Crown Conspiracy - the Audio

The Crown Conspiracy (The Riyria Revelations, #1)The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

See my review (with spoilers) of the book itself. This re-read was for the audio version.

The book itself was right on the cusp between 4 and 5 stars. I originally gave it 4, then bumped it up to 5 after I'd given it time to sink in.

So why 4 now? This 4 is for the audio experience only. The story is still just as good. The reader wasn't bad, and I didn't struggle with him really, but at the same time he didn't wow me like some readers I've listened to in the past.

I've also read books 2 & 3 in this series since my initial read of TCC, and they're even better than this one. So I'll be looking forward to future audio releases, as well as books 4-6 of the series.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Lions of al-RassanThe Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I needed a couple of days to let this sink in before writing a review. That's how powerful the book was, and its incredible ending.

This is one of those books that it's very difficult to write a spoiler-free review for. I could mark it as such and go for it, but then people that haven't read the book will skip the review.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is a book I will push on friends. When asked for recommendations, it will float to the top of my list every time. I won't say it's my all-time favorite, but it's on the short list.

So, without spoilers, let's see what we can do.

This book is a great example of what epic fantasy should be. Key on the "epic". There really aren't that many traditional fantasy elements; no elves, dwarves, magic, dragons, or forgetful wizards. But it has the passion and scope of medieval society, and the brutality of its warfare. The clash of three religions that really should be compatible but for some reason cause hundreds of years of slaughter between the factions.

This could be a historical fiction, if not for the names being changed. It's an imaginary world, with a huge flavoring of our world's history, that of medieval Spain.

And while it has all of that, nothing will prepare the reader for the emotional pull this does on the heartstrings. Kay does not only make you like his characters, he makes you freakin' grieve for them. For their losses, for their ordeals, and sometimes for their deaths. When they're at risk, you feel your heartbeat skip and just as much you feel the relief if/when they survive the challenges. Sometimes, you even feel relief that Character A survived while Character B did not, and then you feel guilty for feeling that relief, because you loved Character B as well.

So, this is not a sword & sorcery Dungeons and Dragons campaign re-hash. It is not strictly a historical "real" fiction, though it is closer to that than the former. In fact, I hate to stick a genre label to this book at all, because it truly transcends labeling.

It's a damn good book, period.

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