About Merrilee

Appalling poet. Never writes enough fiction. Small son, big ideas. Terse to the point of incomprehensibility.

Review: Dauntless

Dauntless
Dauntless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John “Black Jack” Geary wakes up from cryosleep to find 100 years have passed and he is now a legendary hero. Lost in a decisive battle with the Syndic Alliance, Geary’s actions have made him a hero. Now he has been found by the Fleet cruiser Dauntless, and brought back to life in the middle of a war that has dehumanised both sides and brought them to the brink of collapse.

Geary just wants to crawl away somewhere and live out his life. But when command of the decimated fleet lands in his lap, he must find the courage to bring these tired soldiers home.

Dauntless was a fast, enjoyable read. Though at times dark, Geary’s determination to get his people home keeps the story positive. It’s fairly technical-heavy, but if those bits don’t interest you, you can skim them without losing the thread of the story.

I found most of the characters well-drawn and interesting, though a few grated on me with their unrelenting stupidity. There was also a fair bit of preaching from Geary, but believable in the context of the story.

Overall I enjoyed reading the story and will certainly continue with the series to find out how they get home.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very much enjoyed this story. Though it was slow to start, it was engaging with just enough mystery.

The main character, Karou, is delightful and whimsical and just a little bit mad. Raised by Chimera, she has always felt something missing, as if she was living the wrong life. She struggles to keep friends and make connections, so finds solace in her art and the strange creatures who raised her.

On a errand to Morocco for the enigmatic Brimstone, she runs into Akiva, the burning, winged seraphim who tries to kill her.

The story ends with the mysteries still unsolved; who is Karou, who is Akiva, why does Brimstone collect teeth?

My only quibble is that the book is very short, and reads more like a half a book than a complete story. But it’s definitely interesting enough that I will wait excitedly for book 2.

*Edit: It turns out that my ebook was a free preview.  No wonder it felt short and nothing was resolved!  I will buy the whole thing and do another review when I’ve finished.

The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin

And a nice cover too

 

Sutty is an observer, a listener, a historian.  Escaped from Earth and the fanatical, book-burning Unists, she has been sent to Aka to learn about the Telling.  But by the time she crosses space (over 100 years) the Telling has been burned, buried, destroyed, much like her own culture was.  Sutty’s journey to knowledge leads her not only to the Telling, but also to the dreadful tragedy of human contact with the Aka.

A classic science fiction by one of the best in the genre.  This is not space opera.  This is the view through a window to another world, another culture.

Le Guin’s prose is beautiful and evocative in the true sense of the word – there’s not a cliched phrase in the entire book.  I found it slightly confusing at first, as Le Guin really drops you right in the middle, but I quickly got into the rhythm of the story and then just flew through it to the end.

A beautiful book, and told on a much deeper level than a simple story.  And how nice to see a non-white, non-heterosexual protagonist.  Le Guin doesn’t make a statement of it.  She just writes Sutty’s story.  I appreciate that.

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

One Good Knight is, quite frankly, fluff, but it was entertaining fluff.

Princess Andromeda (Andie) is a studious bookworm, struggling to fit into courtly life and obtain her mother’s approval.  Queen Cassiopeia is voluptuous, sensual and unimpressed with her skinny, quiet daughter.

But Andie’s life takes a frightening turn when a dragon appears over the kingdom.  The traditional virgin sacrifices are initiated, and the kingdom calls for a Champion to come to their aid.

Lackey uses the traditional fairytale tropes (godmothers, princesses and rescuers, witches in the woods) and builds a world from them, and it is a fun concept.  There’s a good dash of romance in the books (as you would expect from the Luna imprint) and the plot is a little light, but that doesn’t detract from the story.

I enjoyed this novel, I think in part because it was a break from the more serious fantasy I had been reading previously. As long as you go into the book expecting a light, fun read, you won’t be disappointed.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is a barbarian halfblood, summoned from her kingdom in the north to her grandfather’s side in the city of Sky. Sky is a magical city, held up by the power of four gods, chained to mortal form in punishment.

On arrival Yeine is named as an heir, with her two cousins. But the power struggle between the mortals pales in comparison to the struggles of the gods to regain their immortality, of which Yeine becomes an unknowing pawn.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. I gave it 4 stars on the quality of the writing and the story. THTK is well written, gripping and unusual. The idea is interesting, and the Amn race are a fascinating, if slightly revolting culture. However I never felt really anchored in the world. It all becomes a rather pale backdrop to the characters.

The characters are at the forefront of the book. This is, in essence, a story about one woman’s journey of discovery, about her mother, her past, her self and the enslaved gods who share her world. Yeine is a strong character, well-drawn and interesting. I was invested in her struggles, however I wasn’t invested in her. There are, in fact, no sympathetic characters in the book except for Yeine, and she is too hard and too cold. I don’t say that as a criticism; she is who she is. But it meant that I enjoyed the book on an intellectual, rather than an emotional level.

I found the book satisfying, but not enjoyable. I’m not interested in reading the rest of the trilogy, however I would read more of this author in a different story.

4 Stars.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, which means she will be the first to fail on any quest to seek her fortune. So when her beautiful younger sisters are sent away, Sophie settles down to work in her father’s hat shop, expecting nothing more from life.

Then the Witch of the Waste comes to town. She curses Sophie and turns her into an old woman. Sophie flees into the hills, and runs into the famous wizard Howl and his magical moving castle. Howl is not all that he seems, and with his apprentice Michael and fire demon Calcifer, Howl and Sophie must both face the Witch of the Wastes – and their own fates.

The world of Ingary where the story is set, is a place where magical things like cloaks of disguise and seven-league boots are real. It’s a place of magic, of witches and wizards, of curses and of heroes. Sophie’s quest is a journey of discovery which leads the reader to discover wondrous people and far-away places, some not so far as others.

Sophie is a delightfully strong-willed and competent heroine. The story is fast-paced and entertaining, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. If you’ve seen the movie, never fear. While the movie had a lot of elements of the book, the two stories are different enough that you can read the book without knowing what’s going to happen next. A very entertaining read. While it’s aimed at middle grade, I certainly didn’t find it childish or dull.

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn has a reputation for writing light SF and fantasy-romance, and Summers at Castle Auburn is a perfect example of her style.  Don’t go into this book expecting a complex political situation and devious plotting.  This is a character story.

Coriel is a bastard daughter of house Halsing, and also the daughter of a witch.  Her sister Elisandra is betrothed to the wild and wicked Prince Bryan of Auburn, daring hero of all the courtly ladies’ dreams.  Coriel, too, is being groomed for an advantageous marriage, but is more headstrong and less pliant than her beloved sister.  She is bound to spend 3 months a year – summer – at Castle Auburn with her sister, and the rest of her year with her witchy grandmother, in the village where she was born.

The story follows Coriel’s last 3 years at Castle Auburn, and her gradual awakening to the truth of her and her sister’s lives. Her beloved uncle, the beautiful prince, her friends and even her sister all change in her eyes as she grows and becomes aware of the darkness lying beneath their perfect existence.

Coriel herself is very likeable, and anyone who has grown up with a bit of a tomboy bent will smile at some of her decisions and actions.  Her growth and development are what moves the novel along so well.  While there is no great drama in the novel, Coriel’s story is engaging and well told.  There’s a light romantic thread throughout the book which is delightfully resolved.

The setting is medieval, but leans towards the fantasy side, rather than historical.  While the world isn’t particularly deep, it fits the story and gives a nice frame for the events.

If you love a gentle read with interesting and well-developed characters and a satisfying ending, this is a book you might enjoy.