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Book reviews May 22, 2008

Posted by thejinx in books, writing.
Tags: ,

Well, this wasn’t what I intended to do with this journal, but it seems as good a place as any to share book reviews.  Besides, I never shirk at the chance to recommend something I enjoyed to others.  So, allow me to speak about some of the books I’ve read recently.

The Map of the Known World, Steven Smith – I was browsing through free fantasy/scifi ebooks on Lulu.com and ran across this amateur novel, which I ended up reading to completion.  It’s the story of an orphaned young woman living in a world in the tight grasp of a fanatical religious cult who comes into possession of an item of great importance that could take down the church, and her journey to escape the Mother Church and safely deliver the Map of the Known World to the only people who can keep it safe and use it wisely.

A simple premise, and there are a few cliche elements to the story, but the writing well makes up for it.  Vivid imagery and good word selection really drew me into the story, and the well balanced mix of description, exposition, and action kept me interested clear through to the end.  The lead character, Elowen, is believably portrayed almost to a fault, but her flaws and her awkwardness manage to only make her seem more human.  Her life at the orphanage in the beginning is a touch melodramatic, but the darkness of the setting and story provide a nice atmosphere.  Certain aspects of the story had a morbid fairy tale quality to them and the character development unfolded well.  In all, it was an enjoyable read and I’m interested in reading the next book of the trilogy, when it comes out.

Rebel Fay, Barb & J. C. Hendee – I’ve been following this duo’s Noble Dead series since book two – before I realized it was a book 2 – and I was looking forward to this fifth book in the series.  I was interested in the idea of a vampire story in a fantasy setting and I found the books I read engaging in a way that regrettably few fantasy books I have read are.  The characters are delightfully temperamental and sarcastic, the climax tends to begin directly building starting from about halfway through the book, and in general, they’re pretty entertaining reads.  The second book in the series, Thief of Lives, made a good introduction to the series, as there were enough hints at what had happened in the first book to suggest that something had come before it without making reading the first book necessary to its enjoyment – and you don’t have the silly goth mental picture of the first book’s cover that has become the norm in the later books.  The overall story does span deeper and stretches out as the series progresses, however, so I would recommend reading at least some of the first books before jumping to this fifth novel.  It’s worth it, though, as I greatly enjoyed all the books that came before it.

Rebel Fay is a bit slower for the series; there isn’t nearly as much action as in the other books and the climax is not as drawn out nor quite as exciting.  The ultimate climax, in fact, is not based in action but in diplomacy.  It was still an interesting read, and I wouldn’t say it’s the worse for its difference, but it is different for the series.  The authors still had a way of revealing just enough details to leave me with questions I had to keep reading to find answers.  It kept my appetite for Noble Dead sated yet has still left me eager to read the next book – though I’ll admit, I like the look of my paperback collection, so I’ll be waiting ’til next January to pick up the final book in the first series.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Cherie Priest – This was the first free ebook I received after signing up for Tor books’s new website.  Without having any pretense of idea what the book was about, nor even having any bland reviewer quotes in the e-text, I just started reading.  It’s a horror story about a woman who can see ghosts and on the search for information about her deceased mother discovers truths about her past that threaten her life and that of her aunt.

Right from the beginning, this book drew me in.  The narrative told a crisp picture of the lead character Eden’s troubled childhood, and her various methods of coping with the ghosts she saw and visions of a past life, and painted a very raw picture of a tough and cynical but likable star.  As the story progressed, Eden’s goal changed, one branch of her path being left behind to follow another that provided some answers and even more questions.  The twists of the story drew me along in rapt interest, and each was more strange and interesting than the last.  Small details became huge plot points, and like a net full of holes, each path converged to a climax that explained everything though was far from where the story began.  The writing was engaging, but the story itself was the driving point of the story.  The ending petered out somewhat, but it was still good enough to conclude the story.  This was a really enjoyable read and I certainly recommend it.  I’ll even keep an eye out for some of the other books Priest has written since.

That’s all for now.  On my own creative front, I rewrote the “About” page, so have a look and feel free to ask any questions you might have or make suggestions for anything else you’d like to know; also, Eyes of a Dragon reached 20,000 words today.  It’s amazing how you start writing a conversation and it ends up going in an entirely different direction than you expected.  I’m learning some interesting things about one of the characters.



1. More books « Brain Lag - March 12, 2009

[…] unusual for me – because I loved Priest’s first book, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I read last year, and I read her blog enough to know that much of her career rested on the success of this, her […]

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