Otherland: River of Blue Fire

Otherland: River of Blue Fire

By: Tad Williams

www.tadwilliams.com

(Sci-fi with Cyberpunk tendencies?)

Before the novel even starts, Tad Williams explains how Otherland to him is just one very long novel, but out of necessity had to be broken into multiple volumes, which explains the abrupt cliff hangers. My estimation would put the whole story in the neighborhood of 2,500 pages, so I can understand why he had to break it up. I would also like to thank him so much for the synopsis at the beginning of the book! I hope every installment has one. With such a complex story it’s easy to forget a few important details, no matter how closely you pay attention.

Otherland is a dense series, and it can take a little time to work your way through it, but I think it’s worth it.  That being said, here is my advice:

Take your time with it.  Read slowly and let it absorb.  You really need to read and thoroughly comprehend each and every sentence. They are so loaded with information that without doing so you might become hopelessly lost.  No skimming here.

I find the “netfeeds” at the start of every chapter add depth to the story, and help you get to know the not so distantly futuristic world that spawns Otherland.  It gives subtle insights into the sociology of the society itself. Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron used a similar technique and it really adds to the story.

Otherland is a story of different people traveling through different worlds created on the internet.  Some worlds are more interesting than others, but that’s a matter of personal taste.  This book spent most of its time in Otherland, rather than the real world, compared to City of Golden Shadow which spent a lot of time in the real world, and I liked that more. What can I say?  Reality is overrated. Many of the worlds in Otherland come from classic stories. I’m a fan of re-imaginings and Tad Williams’ take on a twisted version of the Wizard of Oz has to be my favorite so far.

Being a slow moving story, and with so many different characters and plot lines, the development of those characters is slow moving as well. It took until the end of this book for me to feel much closer to them than I had before, especially Renie and !Xabbu, who have an undefinable relationship that made it difficult for me to connect with them.

As the story progresses we learn more about the man behind the Otherland network and the mentality of the people who contributed to its creation, as well as the connections between the many characters introduced so far, and a few new ones. I have to say, Paul Jonas and little Christabell continue to be my favorites, and Paul makes some great strides in his journey, while things get a little complicated for Christabell.  Martine’s back story is also intriguing.

The more I read it the more I like it, but it does require more effort than other books I’ve read.  Still, I think it’s worth the investment.  I look forward to Mountain of Black Glass.  With all that has happened so far I can’t imagine what will happen with the next two books of the series. Until then…

Happy Reading!

Extras!

Memorable Quote: “…the stewed beets…seemed to find the whole thing wildly funny, and were shouting out useless, drunken advice indiscriminately to both boaters and predatory utensils.”

Memorable Typo: “Any anyway, we cannot spent time here talking, talking.”

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The Twelfth Enchantment

The Twelfth Enchantment

By: David Liss

davidliss.com

(Historical Fiction/Fantasy)

This 19th century historical fiction novel blurs the line between magic and alchemy, with secret societies, and appearances by Lord Byron, so naturally I loved it.  However, for some inexplicable reason, I found I was reading it very slowly.  Perhaps I was just in a slow reading kind of mood, or maybe the misery of the main character and how unfairly she was treated was a little bit of a turn off.  These elements are completely necessary to the story of course, but that still might have slowed my pace a bit.  That all changed once I was down to the last hundred pages or so.  What had taken weeks to slowly absorb, I wrapped up easily in one day.  By that point in the story everything starts to come together beautifully and surprising details are revealed about characters and events introduced in the first three hundred pages.

The main character, Lucy Derrick, is gutsy but painfully aware of her limitations, and I appreciated the honesty in that.  How does a young woman in nineteenth century England truly fight evil while keeping within the inflexible boundaries of society?  To put it simply, I liked her, and I’m a little surprised that such a convincing female character was written by a male author.

At the very beginning of the story Lucy is instructed to “gather the leaves,” and I love what that phrase comes to mean later in the book.  I also happened to  learn a new word as a result of reading this book…so that’s always nice.  It was used twice, and now I don’t think I’ll ever forget it: Somnambulist: a sleepwalker

*** SPOILERS! ***

Normally, I like to stay away from specifics, but there was one thing I wanted to comment on anyway.  So if you have any plans to read this book you might want to stop here.  Read on at your own risk.  (Highlight to read)

This might not be that much of a spoiler really, but I just had to mention the awesomeness of the Mutus Liber.  A book without words.  A simple concept and yet captivating at the same time.  This object was so well described with it’s bizarre imagery, and the energy it seemed to possess within its pages, that I truly wished I could hold it in real life.  The book felt very real, which made Lucy’s quest for it all the more meaningful.

Overall, this was a good read, with it’s combination of historical events, magic spells, and characters who aren’t what they first appear to be.  I’ll have to have a look at David Liss’ other books the next time I’m craving some historical fiction.  Until then…

Happy Reading!

Tuck

Tuck

By: Stephen Lawhead

www.stephenlawhead.com

(Historical Fiction)

Although entitled “Tuck” this final installment of the King Raven trilogy isn’t narrated from the character’s point of view like it was in “Scarlet.”  Where in that novel Will Scatlocke was directly relating his misadventures to the monk/scribe Odo while he was imprisoned, here the story takes place vaguely from Friar Tuck’s perspective and highlights his influence in the conclusion of the conflict that began in the first book of the series.

I always enjoy Bran’s plots and clever disguises.  This character is fearless and gets away with quite a lot, but there is always just the right balance of success and failure.  While one scheme goes to plan flawlessly, something new and unexpected might pop up.  Bran is a quick thinker, and always manages to come up with something even when the situation seems impossible.  I admire that about him and it makes him a good leader.  The conflict between Bran’s band of rebels and the Ffrenc continues to escalate and in the process there are a few casualties.  I have to say I didn’t entirely agree with the author’s choice in the death on one character in particular.  I thought it was just needlessly tragic, despite not being a main character.  I suppose without a few losses, it wouldn’t be sufficiently realistic, but I still didn’t like it.  Casualties and all, I did still liked the ending.  There were a few unexpected twists, although I did guess one of them, so maybe it wasn’t hugely unexpected, but it was enough to keep things interesting.

With the epilogue, the author finally ties the Robin Hood myth to Sherwood forest and wraps up the whole trilogy quite nicely.  It seems I liked these books more than I realized, because now I find I’m a little sad that it’s over.  This series slowly snuck up on me in a way.  When I first started reading it, I didn’t expect too much to be honest, but Bran’s righteous quest and band of wily Welsh rebels really grew on me and I think I’m going to miss them.

 I never expected to like Stephen Lawhead so much, and after looking into his other books I’ve added quite a few to my reading list.  I’m sure it won’t be long before I review another of his books.  Until then…

 Happy Reading!

*** Just for fun…I noticed a flaming typo on pages 80-81 in the hard cover edition, where they repeated an entire paragraph! (giggles)

The Alchemist’s Daughter

The Alchemist’s Daughter

By: Katharine McMahon

www.katharinemcmahon.com

(Historical Fiction)

The most important thing to know with this book is that it is Historical Fiction, no matter how enticing the word “alchemist” may be.  It refers more specifically to the science of the age than anything of mystical origins, even if I was secretly hoping for more.  It seemed really promising at first, with a little girl obediently following her father, helping with and observing his experiments, but as the story progressed, I started to like it less and less.  First, let me talk about what I liked.

The book is really beautifully written.  Now, maybe I only think that because this book was in fact an audio book, read by a woman with a lovely English accent…but I think it was more than just that.  The descriptions were clear and vivid, with no shortage of them, making it easy to put oneself in the story.  There was also something about the way the prose was put together that felt to me like how a novel should sound, if that makes any sense.  Also, I’m assuming the author did her research, because the history presented in the story, especially the alchemical experiments and theories, seemed impeccably accurate, although I’m no expert.  The true historical sense of alchemy, as it was in those days was really fascinating to me.

What I liked least about this novel, was the story itself, and largely the main character.  Now, perhaps it is not that the story is bad, it’s just that it wasn’t really what I wanted.  A sheltered girl, first dominated by her father and then by her husband, is not my usual fare.  But despite my distaste for the situations presented in the story, the idea of an alchemist (scientist) father, raising his daughter as if she were an experiment was both wrong, and an interesting psychological study.  Perhaps, had he raised her properly, and taught her what she really needed to know, she wouldn’t have fallen madly in love with the first hot guy that came around.  Especially since he was so clearly a bag guy from the first moment he appeared on the page.  I kept feeling like the main character should have been smarter, or more aware, even with her sheltered upbringing.  She was so smart in every other area, you would think she could have figured it out sooner.  As a result of all this I was really disliking the book for a while, but I was already more than half way through, so I couldn’t give up on it at that point.

I have to say, the ending, although I won’t describe it much here, made me dislike the story less.  I had expected a bleak ending where the main character was trapped in a mess of her own misguided making, but it worked out a bit better than that, and depending on how you envision what happens after the book ends, you could say it was almost happy.

Ultimately, this was not my favorite book.  My feelings after finishing it are relatively neutral, which I suppose is better than hating it.  Until next time…

Happy Reading! 🙂

The Saga of Seven Suns: Hidden Empire

The Saga of Seven Suns: Hidden Empire

By: Kevin J. Anderson

Official Website

For some reason I just couldn’t read this book quickly, hence the long period of time since my last review.  It’s a bit of a slow read and took a really long time to get going.  I really wish the last fifty or so pages had been the beginning, because that’s when everything finally picked up.  That being said, I understand the need to introduce this whole world, its governments, aliens, and characters, I just wish it could have been done in a more exciting way.

Like Tad Williams’ Otherland, this book has many short chapters following a myriad of storylines, following different characters and their relations to all the things that finally happen at the end of the book.  This is a great thing if you don’t happen to like a particular plot line, but it can also be a little distracting without anything to connect those chapters, or any cliff hangers to make you want to get back to that character faster.  With so many stopping points it makes it too easy to put the book down and go tinker with something else…or perhaps I have a short attention span…

My favorite aspect of the story are the world trees, and I find them to be so adorable (though that may not have been the intention) with their sentience and super cute thirst for knowledge.  Can trees really be cute?  I liked the two archaeologists and the mysterious Klikiss robots.  The relationship between Jess and Ceska is alright, but starting a story off with two people just automatically in love isn’t as fun as having them fall for each other slowly over the course of the story.  Despite all the things that keep them apart, it still felt a little too simple for me.  The Ildiran’s and the other characters filled out the rest of the story nicely.

I really wish this story had more action, emotion, surprises, and epic moments, but since this is only the first of seven, maybe it’s merely the introduction to all of those things.  I don’t want to judge it too harshly yet, but so far it feels like it’s lacking a little something, perhaps it will be found in book two.  Until then…

Happy Reading! 🙂

The whole series:

  • Hidden Empire
  • A Forest of Stars
  • Horizon Storms
  • Scattered Suns
  • Of Fire and Night
  • Metal Swarm
  • The Ashes of Worlds

Fever Series

Fever SeriesThe Fever Series

By: Karen Marie Moning

Official Website

I absolutely love this series!  It’s rare for me to find something I love this much, where I get completely sucked in and easily go through a hundred pages in one sitting.  With so many other books I find myself counting the pages to see how much more I’ve got left till I finish it, but here I’m shocked to find how far I’ve gotten and wishing another couple hundred pages would magically materialize so I could enjoy it for longer.  But enough of my gushing…

Since I’m reviewing the entire series rather than one book at a time, my review will be more general, especially since I don’t want to give anything away.

This author’s first series of novels, known as the Highlander series, belong to the romance novel category, so some of that style and a fair share of “R” rated moments have made their way into this series as well, but it is so much more than that!  This dark fantasy series takes place in Dublin with evil fae, known as Unseelie creeping into our world.  When the main character’s sister is brutally murdered, she travels to Dublin to find her killer, but gets herself involved in something far greater and far more dangerous.  I admit, in the beginning, I didn’t particularly like MacKayla Lane, with all her carefree, blond, perfectness, but her transition from that person to what she becomes after going through countless trials is very interesting to watch.  Her reactions to impossible situations are realistic, and very human.  She’s not perfect.  She makes a lot of mistakes, and most of them when faced with impossible choices.  The ways she tries to balance all the crazy horrible things in her life is also rather charming.

The other characters in the book are fascinating, and the way they’re presented makes you always want to know more.  Their interactions are always entertaining, whether they’re fighting, or having fun, or threatening eachother’s very existence.

This is a very fast paced book.  Every few chapters something unspeakable and completely unexpected jumps out at you from nowhere forcing you to read at least one more chapter before you can put it down.  This book is full of cliff hangers and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There really isn’t a dull moment.

A few random notes:

I feel this book is more geared toward a female audience, with a female author and a female main character, so keep that in mind if you’re considering reading it.

Thankfully it seems the author is working on a new series set in the same world. (Can’t wait for that!)

And it seems Dreamworks just might make it into a movie one day. (Mixed feelings about that…I really hope they don’t ruin it.)

The series is as follows:

  • Darkfever
  • Bloodfever
  • Faefever
  • Dreamfever
  • Shadowfever

Happy Reading! 🙂

Incarceron

Incarceron

By: Catherine Fisher

www.catherine-fisher.com

I tend to stay away form books in the young adult category these days, since I most definitely don’t belong to that age group anymore, but I heard good things about this book, and the cover art was fascinating, so I had to give it a try.  This is one of those books that is enjoyable regardless of age, even with the main characters being around 16, and I really enjoyed it.   The characters were likeable and interesting with the Warden’s daughter who doesn’t like to follow the rules, and the boy-prisoner with no memory of who he is.

The story’s setting carries some steam-punk elements, both in the outside world as well as the prison itself, making the setting of the story as interesting as the adventure itself.  At the beginning of each chapter is a different italicized snippet of information that slowly informs the reader about the world and the prison and how they came to be, which I found to be far more refreshing than an introduction or character just laying it all out there in one go.

The whole story wraps up with a nifty twist of an ending that some may see coming if they are particularly observant.  Over all, I think it was a great quick read for readers of nearly any age and I definitely recommend it.  If you happen to read a lot of YA fiction, I suggest looking into the many other books written by this author, even if I have yet to read them myself.  There is also a sequel to Incarceron out now entitled Sapphique.

Happy Reading!