lexlingua: (Disney)

Book Blurb:

The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Ancillary Justice.

For a moment, things seemed to be under control for Breq, the soldier who used to be a warship. Then a search of Athoek Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, and a messenger from the mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai - ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Breq refuses to flee with her ship and crew, because that would leave the people of Athoek in terrible danger. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.

I began this book with a lot of trepidation. I remembered the basic plot and loved the characters from Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword (my review), but didn't remember the specifics. I simply didn’t have enough time to re-read the previous books, and I was also very afraid that Breq would sacrifice herself for the Greater Good.

These particular qualms were soon sorted out -- but there were other issues. Perhaps the only biggest fault of Ancillary Mercy is that it’s not the first book. The same world building that hits you like lightning in the first book is old hat by now. For the first 25% of the book, I felt I was reading about the same situation again: a kind of ceasefire at the Athoek Station, where Fleet Captain Breq’s ship is stationed, and her crew is waiting for something ominous to come out of the neighbouring ghost gate.

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lexlingua: (Books)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Hachette Audio (2014)
Narrated by: Robert Glenister

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling. When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.

To be honest, I don’t think I would have read this book if I’d not known that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling. That’s not an aspersion on the quality of the book itself; however, several mystery books come out every year, how many of them actually get pulled into the light? But The Silkworm did, because, well, it’s the second book in the new mystery series by Rowling.

The blurb does a good job of explaining the plot and Glenister narrates the audiobook well, especially the character of Cormoran Strike. It’s clear from the audio version that Cormoran is a gruff and large man, a good employer and a kind man. I personally think that women always make better audiobook narrators because they have a broader range of voice modulation for both male and female characters. Most male audio narrators make women sound as if they are screeching, whispering, or flat-out childish. Glenister doesn't do that, so that's to his credit.

There is a lot of focus on the actual process of detective work, even the smaller daily rituals (sometimes more than the focus on the dangerous side of a detective’s work). Inevitably, therefore, the book is not very fast-paced and despite the dark tenor of the premise, there wasn’t really a time when I was on tenterhooks as to what would happen next. Well, The Silkworm is definitely not a “thriller”. But the whodunit reveal towards the end was quite unexpected, and for that, The Silkworm gets brownie points. I haven't read the first book in the series, so I can also tell you that The Silkworm can be read as a standalone, which is something that Rowling aka Galbraith has always managed exceptionally well.

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lexlingua: (Contemplation)
When you read the other urban fantasy works out these days—with those badass heroes and heroines in leather and hijinks and fancy weaponry—McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow seems a tamer work in comparison. It was hard for me to get started with the book—the scenes were too rustic, the heroine too commonplace, the hero too subdued. You may have heard of ‘cozy mysteries’; Ombria in Shadow seemed like a ‘cozy fantasy’. But give it a few chapters, and Ombria will reel you in with the elegance of the words and the charm of uncomplicated blacks and whites.

The reason I am talking of blacks-and-whites may not resonate with you. In today’s fantasy works, there is too much scope for greys. You may sympathize with villains, heroes may fall in honour, persons with dubious character may turn out to be the lynchpins (or the traitors).

Ombria is not a tale of who is the villain or will the villain remain a villain. It’s a tale of two cities, Ombria and her shadow city, and the magic to access these cities and harness their power. The imagery in the books is so potent that you will constantly have an impression of nostalgia, of old faded vintage photos, of dusk and shadows. I don’t know many authors who can strike at me with such forceful imagination as McKillip.

The tale is simple. There is a malevolent being, Domina Pearl, who wants to gain power over the city of Ombria and the shadow city too. She kills the king, throws out his mistress, imprisons or murders his supporters, ensorcells the young prince, and blackmails the hero, who is a bastard with no legitimate claim to the throne. Of course, she does other evil stuff too, but into her way comes a waxling (a sort of halfling) named Mag, whose mistress is a powerful sorceress in her own right. How these persons cross paths and meddle with each other’s lives is curious and endearing.

I read The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier some time back, and the story was too remarkably similar to Ombria— twin cities, an evil sorceress desperate to harness their power, the bastard and his halfling sister. Is this a common topic then—the magic of twin cities? I found the similarities in the two books odd and uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just me.

Warning: the ending will surprise you and leave you thinking for a long time.

Rating: 8/10
lexlingua: (WHAT!?)
Until I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I hadn’t realized that madness gives you a key to the faerie/ magical worlds. Then I read Bleeding Violet, which shows that crazy can be cool— though with some immediate repercussions.

The blurb from Amazon:

Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas, in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. And when a crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

Hannah is a girl who suffers from bipolar disorder. She has been shunted from one place to the next after her father’s death and is in therapy. In one particular burst of manic depression and hurt, she hits her aunt on the head with a frying pan, and runs away to her mother’s home in an obscure weird city called Portero, Texas. Portero is called thus because it has a lot of portals (doors) to other worlds. Hannah’s mother, Rosalie, is not happy because she had abandoned Hannah as a kid because of various reasons. But Hannah is determined to stay in this crazy town and win her mother’s love. The highlight of the book is Hannah, (who is a flawed heroine but is instantly loveable) and Hannah’s need for mother’s love and her willingness to do anything to get it. One way to do this is by becoming friends with the Mortmaines, especially Wes — tale too complicated and fascinating to summarize— who go around hunting crazy creatures in the night.

The crazy creatures that Reeves cooks up in the book are all kinds of cool. It will bring to your mind all those strange blobs and goons from Cartoon Network scifi shows (like Johnny Quest, if you will). In fact, Bleeding Violet is like a comicbook, with some really fun-horror scenes and cool stunts.

There is a darker theme running underneath, of course. A crazy ghost is in town who’s looking to re-unite with his daughter, and who’s – spoilers — possessing Hannah’s mother, due to a series of unfortunate events set in motion by Rosalie and Hannah themselves. Getting Rosalie free of him will take Hannah all her love and all her badass effort. That’s the best part of this book— dealing with really weighty issues with lovely dollops of hope, and a treat to read.

Rating: 8/10


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January 2017



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