Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones
The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. This was better than expected, even with the hype. At first I hesitated to buy it. I mean, why do I want to sink this kind of money into one of GRRM's distractions? All that does is encourage him to work on stuff that isn't The Winds of Winter. Right?

That, and I'm not even sure how much of this he wrote. He has endorsed it heavily, and I know that he's very protective of his material. So that kind of won me over, and I added it to my Christmas list. At least it isn't a snoozefest of an anthology, right?

Right. This book is brilliant. I wouldn't even call it something to tide me over while I wait on TWOW. It's a great work on its own. This is a history textbook that is way more interesting than anything I had in school. And the artwork is breathtaking - it's worth picking up this book just for the pictures, even if you never read a word of it.

That said, the "story" here is wonderful. We go all the way back to the Dawn Age and it comes full circle back to the time just after Robert's Rebellion. (There are a few spoilers of the "present" narrative of the series, but not many). All those places and peoples and old events that get quick mention in the series, they're here. And in the context that brings it all to life.

It made me want to read the series again. Now. And it's only been a little more than a year since the last time I read it. But I want to go find all those Easter eggs and see how they relate to the main story. Armed with the knowledge of old history, this could be fun.

I will say that my rating dropped slightly by then end as the last few chapters were pretty dry. It was still interesting, but lost a lot of the richness that made the first 2/3 of the book so great.

Favorite parts? The histories of the Targaryen kings. By far the best section of the book, it was worth the read all by itself.

What's missing? Well, I would have liked a few more maps. I loved the maps that depicted the indiviual Westeros "kingdoms", but would have liked to see more of the areas of Essos and a world view.

There were also a few sections of the history with noticeable gaps: the Tragedy of Summerhall, the final story of Rhaenys Targaryen, and the cities of Slaver's Bay. I did feel that these were intentional, maybe a clue that GRRM doesn't want those stories told just yet. That makes sense with Summerhall, as I could see that being told at the end of the Dunk & Egg stories. But we'll see. I'm sure there's a reason for it.....

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Consider Phlebas

Consider PhlebasConsider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, I had mixed feelings here. At times I was really into it, but during others I felt it dragged on. I'd say the good outweighed the bad, however. So I'll round up my 3.5 stars to a 4 rating.

I really liked the characters, and I loved Banks's development. I also enjoyed the universe building that this first Culture novel has. I'm definitely curious enough to look into reading others (I've actually read Player of Games, but it's been 20 years and I don't remember much).

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Retribution Falls

Retribution Falls
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this, and though I've been seeing great things said about it for a long time, I just now got to it. Well, I'm glad I did. I'm good and thoroughly hooked, and I'll be picking up more books in this series.

Cross [b:The Winds of Khalakovo|9601072|The Winds of Khalakovo (Lays of Anuskaya, #1)|Bradley P. Beaulieu|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361611024s/9601072.jpg|14488183] with Firefly and you might have a basic idea of what to expect. Or not. It's kinda its own thing too.


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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: Lirael

Lirael: Daughter of the ClayrLirael: Daughter of the Clayr by Garth Nix
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I glance at the reviews for this book, I'm actually surprised. Not that people would like this book, but that everyone would like it. I thought for sure there would be more of a split on it.

I mean, the writing is good. Nix can put together sentences and his plot is soundly articulated. His Old Kingdom is a vast and impressive construct, and his imagination is superb. There were even a couple really good scenes in here.

I just...I don't know. I couldn't wait for it to end. I hated the characters. As much as I love Tim Curry as a narrator, even he couldn't save this audiobook. Lirael was annoying, and her dog was worse. Sam started out alright, but I came to loathe him more than Lirael herself by the end. Mogget the cat was pretty good, nearly as enjoyable as he had been in the first book.

The first book, which I had liked. What happened here? Ahhh, don't know. Maybe it's suffering from middle book syndrome. Maybe the plot wasn't strong enough to keep my interest with a cast of such lame characters.

Let's talk about the characters.

I would not piss on Lirael, Sameth, or the Disreputable Dog if they were on fire.

I so much wanted to reach into that story and rip Mogget's collar off, and let him go totally batshit nuts on those three.

I didn't even like Hedge. I thought I would, but no. Fail. An Uninteresting Villain, that one. I found myself yawning nearly as much as Mogget (maybe that's why I like him).

And what's with that ending? (view spoiler)

Nothing was resolved, as of course I should expect from a middle book full of moronic characters.

Well, I did kinda like Nicholas Sayre. (view spoiler)
Maybe the Moronic Protagonists and the Disreputable Dumbass can get him out of the carbonite before Jabba the Hedge eats him.

And WTF, zombies? This thing dragged on for so long that I actually forgot there were zombies. So when they attacked, I was like !

Hell yeah!

But it didn't last long. Pretty soon we were back in the boat with our Disreputable Zeros.

I am curious to see where this series will go from here. Maybe it needs some Ewoks.

ETA: There was one thing in particular that soured me on this book. A scene about 65% into the book that really kicked ass. I mean, it was dark as hell, and a real surprise. A kick in the nuts for the reader, and a main character.

But then in the next chapter, slate wiped clean - nullified all consequences to what had happened. I mean, eh? A really badass gut wrenching type moment where shit got real, and they roll that kind of a saving throw?

The fucker didn't even feel remorse, since it was wiped out. I mean. This was Turn to the Dark Side Forever type shit, and slate clean. It didn't happen, so he can go back to whining like a bitch because he's afraid to read a damn book.

Ok, I'm seething again. I'll move on now.

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Review: Dark Lord of Derkholm

Dark Lord of DerkholmDark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Almost 4.0 (As I write this review, I'm actually rounding up to 4)

This was a fun read. I liked it better than Howl's Moving Castle, which I'd read earlier in 2014. There was a nice mixture of wit and magic, and some characters I could really get behind.

The concept was absurdly brilliant - a fantasy world used as a theme park by Pilgrim Parties that come to live the adventure. Derk is chosen to be this year's Darklord and must go out of his way to give the tourists the best possible epic thrillride.

Execution was nice too. Jones had a way of smooth prose and timing. This book was actually much darker than I'd expected (despite the title) and I'm not really sure I'd call it "YA", as the marketing has it. The light tone (though darker subject matter at times) and satirical approach might have played into that, but it certainly wasn't childish. Much.

There was a moment or two near the end that almost ruined the story somewhat, but things worked out fairly well by the end. The ending almost disappointed me too, but then I put into perspective the type of book I was reading. I'm actually giving extra props for Jones being able to make me take this story seriously enough to question that ending. Not to be vague, but I don't want to spoil any of it.

Anyway, this was an enjoyable read and I'm interested enough to consider the sequel.

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