Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Starstone by Grace Chetwin

Link to synopsis: The Starstone

Lets see. So this is the last book in the Gom of Windy Mountain series, and I have the same criticism for this one as I do for several other series-enders. The ending is sadly insufficient. Nothing is settled, as far as the main character goes, and as for the plot, there was a flippin' war going on! How can you end the series in the middle of a war? I guess we are supposed to assume that because Gom won his battle, the war was a no-brainer. Very frustrating.

The rest of the story wasn't bad. A little quicker paced than the previous books, and with more character development. I'll always wish for the next three books that should have been written in this series . . .

Date Completed: 6/5/2008
Rating: 3.0

Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

Link to synopsis:Gregor And The Code Of Claw (Underland Chronicles)

It took two different hold requests at the local library to finally get my hands on this book. The series as a whole is fantastic, a term here meant to mean both good and hard to believe. (Sorry, I had a Series of Unfortunate Events moment there.) This book was about 85% of everything I hoped it would be. I guess that is good for a solid "B" grade. Let's begin with the assumption that it is perfect, and then I will give my reasons---both of them---for deducting 15%.

Reason 1: The ending was less than satisfactory. You just didn't feel "closure" with how it wrapped up. I will admit to being a little sensitive to this since I have the same complaint about a number of other recent reads. I hope it isn't a trend, either in publishing or my tastes. Either one would be inconvenient. Anyway, I believe that there is a certain level of closure that an author owes the their audience after a series. A stand-alone book is one thing, but after 5 or 7 or 13 (don't even get me started about Robert Jordan) you owe your readers a little more than a 2 or 3 page "and they walked into the sunset" kind of ending. I am going to re-read Harry Potter just so I can continue this rant in that review. . .

Reason 2: So the whole story line is interesting, albeit a little weird, but being a fantasy reader that isn't what bothers me. Does anyone else think that Gregor is way way way too young to be in these situations? I am not saying anything about the age of the readers of this book. I am saying that I don't want to read about a 12 year old kid falling in love and being a great warrior. It is unbelievable. And that is saying something, coming from a guy who is not put off by talking rats, magic spells or humanoid aliens who wear wooden armor. Now if Gregor were 16 or so, I could begin to see it. Even 15 would be closer. But 12? No way.

Date Completed:5/31/2008
Rating: 3.3

Jason's Seven Magical Night Rides by Grace Chetwin

Link to synopsis: Jason's Seven Magical Night Rides

I will be brief. I like a lot of Chetwin's work. It is generally slower paced, but it gets it done, generally speaking. This book is not in that category. I had to force myself to finish it. It was disjointed and had very little sensible plot.

The one bright spot (worth .5): Many of the scenes used a variety of historical settings that were both interesting and informative, although I did not check up on any of the details.

A note: At the end I think I figured out what Chetwin was trying to do. Constant references to Jason's absent father were supposed to lead up to his acceptance of his situation. To me the whole thing came across as weak from a development perspective, and the finale was cheesy. Like I said, I like her other work, this one just didn't get there.

Date Completed: 5/28/08
Rating: .5

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist

Link to Synopsis: Silverthorn (Riftwar Saga, Volume 3)

I had taken a bit of a break from this series, having left the previous two books with mixed responses. The first ended very abruptly, while the second seemed the natural continuation of the first, and sweetened the experience quite a bit. The ending was complete from a plot perspective, while the author left you wanting to know more about the characters. I was excited to pick up Silverthorn.

One of the key questions in my mind was how Feist was going to introduce or prolong the conflict. Everything had been tied up, more or less, in Magician: Master, and it it was difficult to see exactly where the new book would go. In the end he did a great job of introducing new aspects of an old conflict introduced in the earlier works. For me the original mention of the new conflict had been supportive in nature to the main conflict in the first books, but in Silverthorn it takes center stage while the original conflict was pushed into a supporting, while still additive, role.

So that is the positive take-away here, and while it was short, I'll say now that I really enjoyed the story and look forward to the next book in the series. As for the negative, however, I can only take a moment to be critical on the Fantasy genre as a whole. Every genre has characteristics; defining features that make it appealing to some group of paying readers. I get that. For instance, I could read a hundred fantasy novels and if every one of them has some type of "elf" character in it, I'm OK with that. Elves work in the kind of stories that I like to read. However, there are a few plot lines that seem to get repeated over and over again, and I don't think it is helping the genre at all. I'm not talking about the archetypal journey here, which is a mainstay of course. That is a "feature" to me.

No, in Silverthorn the main plot line is centered around a damsel in distress. Yes, a prince sets out on a quest to save his beloved who has been poisoned by procuring the rare root that will save her. Doesn't that just sound a little too much like a dozen other fantasy plots you have read? I happen to be a fan of David Eddings, and while I don't know who wrote first, Eddings or Feist, one of them has to be copying each other. The plots are so similar and some of the characters are exact replicas. Especially Jimmy the Hand (Feist) and Talon (Eddings). Those two characters are 100% interchangeable. That kind of coincidence is hard to believe in such a creative field.

It makes me want to keep a running list of plot lines:
1. Prince quests to find the rare cure for his princess.
2. Young boy finds out about magic abilities and
A.)goes to magic school where a classic good vs. evil struggle occurs OR
B.)becomes all-powerful and saves the world, generally while being shunned by those in power.

Date Completed: 5/26/2008
Rating: 4.1