Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Sharing Knife - Lois McMaster Bujold

After starting out with Curse of Chalion, tearing my way through the Vorkosigan saga and falling madly in love with Miles, I finished my feast of all things Bujold with the Sharing Knife. This is a romantic fantasy, and the fantasy element allowed Bujold to avoid the part that always turns me off romance - the bit where the main characters get into a huge fight because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Fawn & Dag fall in love very early on, and they remain in love with one another throughout the entire series. And more than that, they're partners in the life they're building together.

The story is a bit slow at times, largely because as they travel around, their story needs to be told over and over again to the new people they meet. And since the telling varies, and the tale has a large impact on the people they meet, you get to hear it over and over again. This was exacerbated for me by listening to the audiobook, which meant that I couldn't just skip over bits the way I usually would. On the other hand, the action does move pretty quick once it gets going, and there was one scene near the end that gave me the shaking horrors. It certainly isn't just about repeating the same themes over and over!

One of the things I enjoyed most about this was the exploration of being both valued and loved in a relationship. Fawn is loved but not valued by her family, and the result is stifling. Dag on the other hand is valued, but not loved. The effect on their personalities once they fall in love with one another of being both loved and valued by someone whom you love and value is transcendent.

Overall a great story - wonderful love story, excellent action, and a very interesting world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Bone Key - Sarah Monette

I've been in love with Sarah Monette since I first read her Doctrine of Labyrinths series. The Bone Key is totally different, but completely awesome. It is a series of short stories about Kyle Murchison Booth - a reclusive museum archivist, specialist in rare books and necromantic mysteries. He isn't good at interacting with other people, but he can't always avoid them.

Inspired by HP Lovecraft and MR James, these stories are tinged with the same sort of horror, but contain characters you actually care about - sometimes even the scary ones. If you love Lovecraft's stories, you'll find this even better.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Elegy Beach - Steven R Boyett

I enjoyed Ariel (which is the first book of the Change), but I really loved Elegy Beach. It is a sequel, but not the standard sort of a sequel. The main character in Elegy Beach is Pete's son Fred (named after Pete's sword, which is totally awesome since you know exactly how much that sword meant to Pete, and just how whimsically he named it). Fred of course was born after the change, and his whole generation see the world through vastly different eyes than their parents. Fred is quite a good sorcerer, as is his good friend Yan, although Yan isn't exactly good. Yan wants power, and he doesn't particularly care about hurting other folks in order to get it. He has also been brought up on stories of life before the Change, and desperately wants to experience that world.

This winds up being a great adventure story. We get to find out what happened to Pete & Ariel after the end of their story, and the world of the Change starts to make a lot more sense than it did originally, but I really think that it is the little things about this story that make it amazing. The sea serpents mating in the ocean, Yan having a poster of the first moonlanding on his bedroom wall, the surfliner railway car that Fred & Yan turn into a home, potions brewed up over a camp stove and stored in a thermos, 'Ariel' the book showing up in this story - written by Pete, published by someone who stumbled across the manuscript and turned into an instant hit. One of my absolute favorite things is the centaur funeral custom: telling stories about people that other people have lost.

I only read this because John Scalzi wrote about it so glowingly (and the description of the book written by Steven Boyett sounded interesting too). I picked up a copy of Ariel based on that recommendation, and was a little disappointed, but reading Elegy Beach made it up to me. It isn't perfect, there are enough little details not quite right about the world to jolt me out of full immersion, but there are more than enough totally awesome bits to make it totally worth reading.