Book review: Blythe by John Kramer

BlytheBlythe by John Kramer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have no idea how to classify this book–it’s as if the author of The Hunger Games trilogy went drinking with Friedrich Hayek (“The Road to Serfdom”) and C.S. Lewis, and they all decided to write a novel together (while drinking). 🙂
The book is all about faith and freedom and redemption, and, yet, it is about none of these things. I have concluded that it is one of those rare books where you get out of the book what you put in, only with your thoughts more deeply developed and your words more lyrically written.
I realize my review is somewhat cryptic, but the book defies classification and is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished it. It isn’t the kind of book I normally read, and it’s not always a comfortable read (intentionally so). Even with those caveats, I really enjoyed it, and it will keep me thinking for quite a while.
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to get your mind to go down roads it doesn’t normally travel, I highly recommend “Blythe” to get those brain cells going!

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Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first realized a few pages into this book that Achilles was going to be the hero of this particular novel, I did a mental eye-roll (I may have even done a physical eye roll). Achilles has never struck me as being anything but an arrogant, petulant and sulky “hero” during the Trojan War who got his comeuppance too late as far as I was concerned.
That the author managed to convince me that there may be more to this Achilles fellow than I had previously given him credit for is a testament to her writing, her imagery, her characters, and (possibly) her imagination.
The plot isn’t much of a surprise, but the characterizations are the author’s own, and it’s a testament to her detailed writing and her passion that they are convincing. The author’s writing is lyrical and vivid and a complete pleasure to read. I strongly urge you to read this, if you have any interest in Greek mythology at all, and I very much look forward to her next book!

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Book review: The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey

The Gates of Sleep (Elemental Masters, #3)The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I’ve been a fan of the author’s earlier works (her Valdemar series–especially the early books–was excellent). I’m a bit ambivalent about this one. The author does a vivid and convincing job of setting up the magical world, which is one of her strengths. And the first half of the book, describing how Marina (the heroine) is cursed and her life with her guardians and how she discovers and controls her magic is well done. It’s only after Marina goes to live with the Maleficent equivalent that the book deteriorates. You never get a good explanation as to why Maleficent is so bitter and hateful, and the love story with Marina is completely unconvincing. (In essence, there are several interactions where the hero behaves like a boor, and then Marina suddenly realizes she’s in love with him. Whatevs.) It’s almost as if the author realized she hit her page limit but couldn’t bear to cut any of the earlier story (understandably) and just rushed headlong into the climax and ending.
I do like the Elemental world that the author has created with this retelling of fairy tales and am likely to give the series one more try, but this book, while I liked it well enough, was far from the authors’ best work.

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Book review: The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

The Scribe's DaughterThe Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a fan of the fantasy genre and picky about my books. This is a very well written book with several interesting plot twists and surprises. The characters are well drawn, and the heroine is especially entertaining with her sarcastic sense of humor and plucky spirit. The secondary characters are also interesting. The pacing is, perhaps, a bit uneven (not surprising for a debut novel), but while the book may start a bit slowly, it certainly makes up for it the rest of the way!
For fans of YA or fantasy, I definitely recommend this book for you!

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Book review: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Foundation (Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles, #1)Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s books, especially her early Valdemar books (the Herald-Mage series and the Oathbreakers series). I so wanted to really like this book and, while I do like “Foundation,” it has some serious flaws that prevented me from enjoying the book as much as I would have liked.
To begin with, this book takes place shortly after the Herald-Mage series and before all of the other Valdemar books. The writing is vintage Lackey–she writes fluidly and the characters are well drawn. The plot is generally good, but it’s with the plot that I have the biggest issues.
Clearly, this series was plotted out as a multi-book series from the beginning. As a result, rather than having a self-contained plot within the book with a narrative arc that reaches beyond the one book, there is no self-contained plot to speak of. Or, rather, the plot leaves the reader hanging, with many unanswered questions and unexplained plot points that are presumably answered in subsequent books.
I am a curmudgeonly enough reader not to want to read the subsequent books because of my annoyance at being left hanging. I like multi-book series well enough, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask the author to make each book in a series stand on its own as well.

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Book review: The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

The Serpent's Shadow (Elemental Masters, #2)The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have not read any Mercedes Lackey in quite some time (I really loved her Valdemar books), and I was thrilled to discover that she was as good as ever in “The Serpent’s Shadow.” (Being OCD, I will have to go back and read the first book in the series.)
The heroine of the book is Maya, a half-English, half-Indian doctor at a time when both were extremely rare. There are interesting interactions depicted by the author where Maya encounters discrimination on either or both counts, but it’s done with a light hand with little moralizing.
The hero, Peter Scott, is a lovely man who respects Maya’s independence and intelligence (and magical capabilities).
For those of you who enjoy Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey stories, the author pays tribute to that character with a clone of her own.
And the fantasy/magic interwoven in the story is done well, with consistent magical principles and terminology.
All in all, this was a well done fantasy with interesting characters and a nicely done plot. I highly recommend it.

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