Saturday, May 25, 2019

Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix

Drowned Wednesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #3)Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Link to my brief comments from my 2010 reading.

From my 2019 read:
So I'm doing it. I'm giving this 5 stars (was 3 stars). Is this better than the previous books? Not really. But I'm ready to give up any hangups I had about this series. It isn't perfect, but it is everything I look for in a book. There is always movement or progression of plot and characters. I always want to know what's going to happen next. I don't want to put it down. I have 3 other books I need to read in the next 2 weeks for various reasons, yet as I finish each book of this series I find myself moving straight to the next book and procrastinating my other responsibilities. Obviously that is a win.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix

Grim Tuesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #2)Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this in 2010, but my comments were... lacking.  See my entry here.

This is a great page-turner for young readers. Its originality and great characters pair well with the expanding conflict that Arthur, the young protagonist, faces. As with most good fantasy books, the fate of the entire universe is at stake, but Nix has cleverly reframed the universe into a conceptual house, and introduced politics at an age appropriate level into the house. It is very well done.

Strangely, I can't quite put my finger on why I'm not giving this 5 stars. I can't think of any criticisms I have for this book, which is unusual. It is strange that the house that controls the universe has a Victorian industrial age steam punk feel to it. But it feels like it fits with the story, and so is hard to complain about. After thinking it over, I think that I'm just anticipating more story, so having just this one piece of the story isn't as satisfying. Not fair you say? Well, I've heard that life isn't fair:)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #1)Mister Monday by Garth Nix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My 2010 Review

Comments from my 2019 reading:
I decided it was time to revisit a series I already knew and loved. This young adult book has the originality that I have come to expect from Garth Nix, and this reading did not disappoint. This second time through I caught more of the details and foreshadowing of the final ending than I did the first time, and it adds some depth that I appreciated. All in all, I'm excited to plow through this series again.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix

Have Sword, Will TravelHave Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a decent book for young readers. I'm not actually sure what age group it was aimed at, but I'm guessing it is a pretty young demographic. It moved along quickly, and had a good story.

So why was I disappointed? I picked up this book because it had Garth Nix's name printed on the cover. After my last few random selections at the library I wanted to turn to an author I trusted for a great book. Nix always has some original concept that makes his books exceptional. This book lacked that originality. I guess I was supposed to be more intrigued by the sword-as-a-character, but that didn't do it. There were too many cliches, from magic swords to dragons that talked, for this book to meet my expectation as a Nix work.

Was it a bad book? Not at all. Was it a fantastic book written for kids, but that would appeal to all ages? Not at all. It is just a plain old fashioned good book for kids.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1)Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After my disappointing results of random selection in the fantasy category, I decided to turn back to mystery. I searched the library for a classic whodunit and found this one in my usual audio book format.

I was almost immediately disappointed by several things. First of all there was the reader. His attempt to be theatrical took some getting used to, and while he was ok, this was not my favorite performance.

Second, the author has this odd style of dropping half of the dialogue in a conversation. A character goes off on a monologue, and then starts responding to unheard comments i.e. reactions of others. It's like listening someone talk animatedly on a phone call, where you only hear their side of the conversation. Can you follow along? Yes, with effort. But why do that to your reader?

Yet all of that was justified by one much appreciated feature at the end of the book. This author understands how to wrap up a mystery. In a mystery you drop clues and add twists and turns to keep your reader guessing. At the end of all that you owe it to your reader to explain everything. I mean everything. Every clue, every false trail. This is what bothered me about the last Flavia de Luce book I read--no exhaustive explanation. Well, this book did it right. Was the setup a little cheesy? Yes. There was the stereotypical suicide note that explained everything. But as a reader this is what I want, so this book redeemed itself in the end, and I've already recommended it to others. You will have to get over some odd stylistic habits, but it's worth it in the end.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron (Masters & Mages, #1)Cold Iron by Miles Cameron
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was another random selection from our local library's audio book section. Again, I was disappointed. The overall concept wasn't bad, but the execution of the idea was... awful. I'm sorry. If I ever get around to writing my own fantasy story, I will admit right here and now that I probably won't even produce something half this good, but as a reader, I expect more. One of the challenges is that as readers we consistently have greatness at our fingertips. How can the new writers in the market hope to compete?

As usual, I just paused to look up this author on Wikipedia. Of course, he isn't new. He has a decent bibliography, which leaves me more confused than ever.

Let me add some specifics:
The characters were flat. Aranthur gets a job offer from everyone he meets. He is big, strong, talented, powerful magically, yet humble as a farm boy. Oh, right, he is a farm boy. And of course, the ladies love him. What is interesting about Aranthur as a character? Nothing. He is all plot driven.

Everyone is young, fit, and promiscuous. From the General, to the innkeeper's son. Where are the old, overweight, and chaste? I thought Sassan to be an old drug addict, with a long past as a nobleman in a different culture, but then he sobers up in a few chapters, and before you know it he is another young, fit person who is sleeping around.

Why are all of these people in a fantasy medieval setting using our curse words? Why do we have to call a gun a "puffer", but then hear/read the F-word every other sentence? I read a review that said this book was a great example of world-building, but I don't see it.

The magic system is fairly complicated, which is fine if you get the same level of explanation as you go. I felt that while the magic was compelling, it was too complicated to leave it to a Night-Circus-style "and then there was magic" type of explanation. It didn't have the explanation of Sanderson's Mistborn Allomancy so you couldn't anticipate magical responses and let that be a part of the story.

Finally, to top it all off, a talking dragon and a unicorn show up in this book. A unicorn. That doesn't do anything. And a talking dragon that is treated like an animal in one scene, and then is called on for help in the next scene as if it were a regular ally. And it shows up. And helps. Why? Because all fantasy books require dragons and elves?

So while I did like the potential of this book, nearly 100% of that potential was unrealized. I have never read another book by this author, and in the last 20 minutes I've learned that he has written a lot of books, so I'm not judging his collected works here, but I generally finish every series I start. Its a curse I have. But I won't be finishing this one.