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September book reviews September 7, 2009

Posted by thejinx in books.

And by “September,” I mean the last three months… again.

The High King’s Tomb, Kristen Britain – I was given the first book in this series, Green Rider, as a gift some years ago and enjoyed it enough to follow the series since. Continuing the story begun in the first book and second, First Rider’s Call, The High King’s Tomb tells of Karigan G’ladheon, first reluctant, now eager Green Rider messenger in service to the King of Sacoridia, a young woman who turns out to be far more than she realized, and the growing threat from beyond the D’Yer wall that keeps an ancient evil sealed inside a ruined forest. To say much more than that would be a spoiler for previous books, but suffice to say, at 670 large-format pages of text, there is a bit more to the story than just that much.

This book, as with the first two in the series, is something of a guilty pleasure read. The attention Karigan receives and the attention other characters give to her give it a bit of a romance novel feel, and I can almost understand the appeal of the genre. Karigan is fleshed out enough that she avoids being Mary Sue and I’ll admit I take a perverse pleasure in the things that happen to her, and in particular with the way villains and others toy with her. At the same time, in this book in particular, I found the writing at times a bit childish; not immature, but naive, and it seems almost like a young adult book.

As to the story in this one, it wasn’t bad. It was interesting, though it didn’t have the gripping appeal that I found so captivating in the first book, and some of the antagonists I found somewhat one-dimensionally evil, and chapters from their point of view were a bit annoying to read. In all, like the previous books, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but it’s fun. It’s kind of like a shoot-’em-up action movie or chick flick – whichever’s your taste – a lazy, easy read to simply get lost in.

Summer Knight, Jim Butcher – Another fantasy series that hooked me from the first book, this continues the saga of Harry Dresden, practicing wizard in modern-day downtown Chicago, in a story of epic battle between factions of the Sidhe, or faerie.

As with the other books in the Dresden Files, the fantasy is mixed in with murder mystery and comedy, and in that regard sticks to formula, though the comedy doesn’t shine quite as well as in books 1 and 3 of the series. Some startling developments to Harry seemed a little glossed over, and his decision to team up with the Alphas – a gang of werewolves introduced in the second book, Fool Moon – seemed somewhat out of character for him, but aside from that, I didn’t have any real complaints. It wasn’t my favourite book in the series, but it was a good one to continue it.

A Brief History of Life in the Middle Ages, Martyn Whittock – I don’t normally read nonfiction, but upon seeing this in the clearance section at my local bookstore, regarding a period of time of which I’m particularly fond, I decided to pick it up.

Before one looks into this book, I must stress that the book is not so much about the main title, but its subheading: “Scenes from the Towns and Countryside of Medieval England,” with focus on the last word. There is no information whatsoever as to the facets of life on mainland Europe, nor even really for Scotland or Ireland. Even so, I found the coverage of this book not as in depth as I would have liked, with the aspects of Medieval life that were covered feeling a little too separate from each other, without giving a good all-around view of how all these facets worked together. Also, I found this a difficult read as the writing was very dry, especially in the first few chapters.

It’s a decent introduction to the topic for those who already know a little about it, at least in absence of a better book, for which I’m open to suggestions. I wouldn’t really recommend this as a good starting place, though, and it’s certainly not expansive enough to extend the knowledge of someone already somewhat familiar with that era of history. More or less, if you can get past the dry writing, it can make a decent casual read for those interested in the subject, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for much else.

Crystal Rain, Tobias Buckell – Returning at last to the free ebooks offered in the promotion leading up to the opening of Tor.com, this steampunk-genre book with a basis in hard science fiction tells the story of an army of fanatical warriors and their alien “gods” invading a small jungle civilization, the only settlements on a distant planet cut off from Earth. At the center of it all is a clearly extraordinary man whom everyone is searching, but who has no idea who he really is.

When I started reading this book, it was like a breath of fresh air. It’s exactly the type of book I’ve been looking for – something distinctly speculative fiction, but so refreshingly different from all the typical off-the-shelf fantasy. It takes place in a setting vastly underexplored in the genre, with a very atmospheric portrayal, the characters have different mannerisms and, particularly, accents, the genre blending was very natural, and the fact that most of the characters, indeed, most of the people in the story, were dark-skinned was simply a refreshing change. Coupled with a well-woven plot, carefully laid out secrets, and real tension, this was a really engaging and fascinating read, and it comes with my recommendations.

A Brief History of Medieval Warfare, Peter Reid – Another clearance rack find, and again mostly for writing reference, I would again direct your attention more carefully to the subheading of this book: “The Rise and Fall of English Supremacy at Arms, 1314-1485.” The focus is strictly on England, with information only on France as it applies to England’s role in the Hundred Years War, and even then, I found the range of information too narrow to be of any general use. As also with the book above which shares only series title, the writing was very dry – even more so, as I started reading this one before all these others and was only able to finish it after I got through Life in the Middle Ages – and the information provided really didn’t seem to provide a good overall view of what the book was supposed to be about. It read quite more like an English history lecture than a treatise on Medieval warfare, and even seemed so strict in its coverage that I could find no overlap between the information provided in this book and that in Life in the Middle Ages.

Again, the book did provide some good information; the detailed descriptions of how battlefields were prepared and men arrayed and the tactics used give a good idea of how battles were set up, and won, in that time period. However, it just seemed to be too narrow in range to really give me what I was looking for, and what I expected from the book’s main title. And again, it’s certainly not one I would pick as a starting point for the topic.



1. theknowingblog - September 7, 2009

Jinx, You have an interesting site. I’ll read more when I have time. I like your artwork. I see you like the Middle Ages. I’ve been researching Medieval life for the book I’m writing, The Knower. Your site came up as an automatically generated related site and I was interested because I was thinking about doing a graphic novel in conjunction with the book.

thejinx - September 8, 2009

Thanks for the comments. If you ever want to trade ideas or information regarding the time period, feel free to contact me. Do you have any books on the topic to recommend?

Good luck with The Knower. I’d be interested to read it, if you feel like sharing.

theknowingblog - September 8, 2009

I’m still getting used to blogging, facebooking, etc. If you’re interested, you can get a taste of the book at: http://theknower.wordpress.com
I saw you had an Elfwood site and decided to open one up for The Knower. I think I may post the first chapter there just to give a sense of my writing style.

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