Monday, October 28, 2013

Read-Along: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, Part 1

It’s time for the first post for the read-along of Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves !  Thanks to Dab of Darkness for providing this week’s questions, which cover from the beginning to "Intersect 1". Feel free to leave your link in the comments below, and I’ll add it to the post.  

Past this point are serious spoilers of the series, so beware!

1) We get to reminisce with several old friends in this section - Calo, Galdo, Chains. How did you like this? Bitter sweet or happy dance?
Happy dance!  It’s been long enough since reading The Lies of Locke Lamora that I am mostly over the shock and sadness of how we said goodbye to the Sanza twins.  I loved seeing how the Gentlemen Bastards were forged into a group. I can’t remember why there weren’t any older members of the gang, though.  Was it that the Gentlemen Bastards was a relatively recent whim of Father Chains, and so these kids were his first group?
2) Finally, the infamous Sabetha makes a physical appearance, albeit in Locke's reminisces. What are your impressions? How do you think the romance, if there is to be one, will play out? 
Finally, Sabetha appears!  She has been kind of an empty outline of a person for the first two books, affecting the story by her absence.  She seems like a quietly competent young lady, and I am curious to see how they fell in love and why they fell out.  We’ve seen Locke already ‘fall in love’ with her (in his child’s crush), which will clearly grow into something more due to his growing up with her as pretty much the only girl in his world.
3) After trying absolutely everything to save Locke, Jean still won't give up. What did you think of that little pep talk he gave Locke concerning Patience's offer of healing?
I was with Jean on that one.  Seriously, Locke, shut up.  When you’re about to die, and someone offers to let you stay alive, you can’t really argue about the conditions.  I thought Jean’s efforts to save Locke were really touching, and he had a point about Locke’s death wish.  I don’t know if it really is very subconscious, though.  Locke was not in a good mental or emotional place for a long time, after what happened in Camorr, and I think that probably played a role in his giving the antidote to Jean in the first place.
4) Locke has a few caveats to working for the Bondsmage. Wise or just Locke grasping for some control over his life? What would you ask Patience? 
I think having it explicitly stated that they’re through after the election is a good idea.  And having answers to questions is smart for both Locke and Patience.  They work some pretty complicated scams, and not having all the information about a situation could ruin things unexpectedly. However, I do kind of think it was a combination of grasping for control and saving face (since Locke had just backed down from insisting on dying instead).  I think I would ask if it’s possible to officially learn some magic while there… but I know Locke would absolutely not be on board for ever becoming a Bondsmage.
5) At the end of this section, we see that all is not as Patience laid it out. How much do you think Patience knows of the plot to off Locke and Jean? Do you see it interfering in the rigged election? 

 I think things will be more complicated than they appear, as always, and I’m sure it will cause problems.  I expect lots of complicated, dangerous, and amusing problems, based on the expectations I’ve got from the first two books.  I doubt Patience knows about the plot, or if she does, she might see it as a handy test of whether or not Jean and Locke are clever enough to be useful.

In other comments, the contest between Locke and Sabetha was fantastic, and it was cool to see where the Gentleman Bastard hand signals originated.  I’m wondering if we’ll see that the contest highlights the difference between Locke and Sabetha.  Locke works off inspiration, using anything to hand (even yellowjackets), while Sabetha has superior plans set in advance.  It seems like Locke’s strength is in his flexibility and charisma, while Sabetha’s is in her forethought.  Or I may be reading way too much into this!

Other answers!

Lynn's Book Blog
Little Red Reviewer
Dab of Darkness 
All I Am -- A Redhead
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
Published : Orbit, 2011
Series : Book 1 of The Dagger and the Coin 

The Book :

All paths lead to war...

Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps. 

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords. 

Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become. 

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path--the path to war.”

This is my final long-delayed review! Daniel Abraham is an author whose work I have always enjoyed. I liked his short fiction in Asimov's when I was a teenager, and then the Long Price Quartet, and more recently for his work as part of James S.A. Corey on The Expanse (I have already bought the 2nd and 3rd books of this series, and will be reading and reviewing them at some point). I actually received this novel along with Leviathan Wakes-- a pleasant surprise, since I had already planned on reading it at some point.

My Thoughts:

In The Dragon's Path, it seems that Daniel Abraham set out to write an epic fantasy that would fit comfortably in the genre, and I think it does that. There's an ancient vanished civilization, an evil goddess, war, politics, and some small amount of magic. The world is reasonably well-developed, but does not yet seem to break too far out of the standard fantasy mold. However, there are a few things you might not often find in a traditional fantasy novel, such as the focus on medieval banking in a particularly entertaining plot line. The world also has 13 races of humanity, but their existence does not yet seem to be especially relevant to the story. All but one of the viewpoint characters are of the “standard” human race (the final is half-standard-human), and the differences between the races seemed fairly superficial so far.

One thing I've always enjoyed about Daniel Abraham's work is his style of characterization. In my opinion, his characters tend to be complicated, deeply flawed and portrayed with a kind of brutal honesty. The Dragon's Path follows a group of viewpoint characters, some of which are more familiar character types than others. The two viewpoint characters that seemed least interesting to me were the most fantasy-standard: Marcus, an elite ex-soldier with a tragic past, and Dawson, a traditional, conservative aristocrat. Of the others, Geder was easily the least sympathetic to me. In the beginning, he seems like a character that would be easy to sympathize with. He has a nerdy (by his society's standards) hobby, is unattractive, and is constantly bullied-- but it soon becomes clear that many of the complaints people have about him are valid. For instance, he has too high an opinion of his mental abilities, and his lack of life experience leads him to be a poor soldier and a worse leader.

The final viewpoint character is my favorite, a teenage orphan girl named Cithrin, who grew up in a bank. Cithrin has to face a lot of challenges when war comes to her home city, and she rises to them remarkably well for a woman of her age and experience. I was often impressed with her nerve and cleverness, and cringed with secondhand embarrassment when she made poor decisions or believable mistakes. I hope that Cithrin's adventures in commerce play a large role in the future of the series.

Though I liked the various characters to differing degrees, I appreciate their complexity and imperfections. I enjoy when characters are capable of misjudging situations or failing in ways that have serious personal repercussions. In addition, Abraham's characters do not often respond gracefully to failure, which makes their situation somehow feel all the more emotionally realistic. In fact, I was much more engaged in the personal stories of these characters than I was in the slowly emerging epic story of the series. From the end, I can kind of guess where the overarching storyline is headed, but so far, I am more interested in the day-to-day lives and interactions of the main characters.

My Rating: 3.5/5

For fans of epic fantasy, I think The Dragon's Path is likely to be a good pick. The world is interesting, and I get the impression that there is yet more to discover about its past and present. The main characters are as complex, flawed, and interesting as I generally expect from Abraham's work. The story follows several viewpoint characters, of which I found the unsympathetic Geder and the impressive young banker Cithrin to be the most memorable. In fact, at this point in the series, I am more interested in seeing what's next for Cithrin than I am in the ominous larger events of the world!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Read-Along: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, Part 3

We've come to the end of Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight, and also to the end of the entire Tiffany Aching series. This week's questions were contributed by Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow, and they cover to the end of the novel.

It's been a lot of fun reading everyone's answers, and I hope that I will see you guys in more read-alongs some day! Many thanks to Susan of Dab of Darkness and Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow for hosting this Read-Along. Also, thanks to Lynn (of Lynn's Books) and Sue (of Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers) for all their discussions! Now, on to the final discussion questions.

Also, I haven't been very diligent about spoiler warnings, but there are spoilers of the whole book (and series) ahead!

Well, now. It seems Letitia is much more than just a snivelly 'princess in the tower'... What do you think of the way she handles the ghosts at Keepsake Hall?

She still irritates me a bit, but I concede that she has skills. She seems to be a pretty good person, but I think she's kind of oblivious of how good she has life. She's jealous of Tiffany's life, but has no idea what it would be like to grow up on a farm, to not have money, or to go through half of the hardships Tiffany's been through in the past few books. I think that's pretty much why Tiffany feels so much older than her-- in terms of life experience, she is much older. I do agree with Tiffany, though, that Roland is in for a surprise if he genuinely thinks of Letitia as 'uncomplicated'.

"We do right, we don't do nice..." Miss Smith turns up again - in another unusual way - and she's got some eye-opening words for Tiffany here... Do you agree that Tiffany's got to grow up a little more still, or should she just ask for help with the Cunning Man?

I really appreciated Miss Smith's words to Tiffany. Tiffany was starting to get a bit too cocky, and I think Miss Smith was right to point that the Cunning Man is dangerous, and she can't just assume she'll figure things out eventually. You can't just assume something (like dramatic failure) won't happen just because it never has before, that's a sure way towards a fall.

However, I undrerstand why Tiffany really couldn't ask for help in this instance. It had more to do with the working of the witch community, yet again. As Tiffany explained, once she was older, she could probably ask for help and not have it be a big deal. At her age, she had to be able to help herself, or risk permanently losing all her prestige as a witch.

Preston earns even more trust from Tiffany, and she makes an interesting point about whether or not the Cunning Man will be dangerous to him... Do you think the two of them can take him on?

I think Tiffany may just be right that he's immune. Preston seems like a really, genuinely good guy. Lynn called this one, but I agree that he is the right guy for Tiff, in the end. Their last exchange, “What is the sound of love?” …. “Listen.” was an incredibly sweet ending for the series. And also, yes, I think they can beat anything!

Speaking of taking on the Cunning Man, he's getting closer - and in a very alarming way. This is certainly different, and it's keeping Mrs Proust involved. Do you think she might be the exception to the "kindly assistance" rule among witches?

I don't think Mrs. Proust would be 'nice about' anything, if that's what you mean! She seems to be a very kind person in actions, but not a very kind person in temperament. Also, I think that all she did was provide Tiffany with information, much like Miss Smith. Surely there's no rule against letting friends keep you well-informed.

O-ho, so the Duchess has a secret of her own... Are you surprised?

A bit, but in retrospect, it makes sense. I am a little disappointed how this played out, though, I guess it would be too much to ask from the Duchess, but it would be nice if the reminder of her past awoke her to the realization that she should treat people of all stations with respect. Instead, she just tried to appease Mrs. Proust, so that no one would know she had a past as a poor woman of possibly easy virtue (Tiffany's understanding of 'strumpet' still makes me laugh). At least, we find out that she does care for her servants. I think her loyalty to caring for sick and elderly servants rounded out her character a bit.

Tiffany defeats the Cunning Man! What did you make of this scene?

I am honestly surprised that Tiffany killed the guy. I mean, we'd been told he was a murderer, and that the spirit would not leave his body until his death. Even so, I am surprised by Tiffany's, “No mercy, no redemption.” It was a pretty clever way to end him, though. She had help, but the plan and execution were hers alone. Also, what a weird wedding ceremony! I don't blame Letitia and Roland for doing it again later, in a more ordinary way!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Published : Roc, 2012
Awards Won : Stoker Award, Co-Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award.
Awards Nominated : Nebula Award, Shirley Jackson Award, Locus F Award, Mythopoeic Award, World Fantasy Award

The Book :

India Morgan Phelps (Imp) is a mentally ill woman who is also haunted, for a certain definition of the word ‘haunted’. Her ghost story involves mermaids and wolves and two women rescued from the side of the road.  One is Abalyn, a transgender woman who becomes an integral part of Imp’s life.  Another is Eva Canning, a mysterious woman who brings chaos with her.

In her journal, Imp tells the story of the time(s) she met Eva Canning, and tries to separate truth and fact, in order to come to terms with the events of one summer and/or fall—both the events that happened, and those that did not.  The facts may never be clear, but perhaps the truth can be found.”  ~Allie

This is my 10th novel for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, and with this review, I am officially back on track to finish within the scheduled year!  This novel is also my entry for the Readers Imbibing Peril event over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

My Thoughts :

The Drowning Girl is a very difficult book to describe, both because of the creative style of the story and its ambiguity.  The story is told through Imp’s journals, and she is an unreliable narrator with a very distinct voice.  Imp has no intention of telling a linear story, and she often rambles or skips in time to tell a part of the story that is less distressing.  She interrupts and argues with herself in the text, and constantly repeats or refers back to previous information.  Her voice also changes dramatically with her state of mind, and one memorable chapter in particular contains a very disordered but poetic stream of consciousness account.  Instead of moving chronologically through the events, it seems like Imp is slowly building up an orchestra of moods, information and ideas that can be employed to describe the significance and tone of events and to imply their connections to one another.

The tools Imp used to build her story come from a wide variety of sources, both real and fictional. Imp references many different artists (including Radiohead), in addition to well-known events and ideas (l’inconnue de la Seine, Kuroi Jukai, etc.). She also uses a variety of fictional cultural influences, such as the artist Phillip George Saltonstall, who created the painting, The Drowning Girl, and Albert Perrault, a modern artist who was obsessed with Little Red Riding Hood. Imp’s own art and writings also play a role in the story.  All of these pieces were used to build the tone of each scene, and to imply the significance of, for instance, Eva as a mermaid or as a wolf. While I would not call this a scary story, the atmosphere is certainly often dark and unsettling.

Within this rambling style, eerie mood, and wealth of real and fictional art, The Drowning Girl tells a story of three women. I think Imp was a much more sympathetic character because the reader was allowed into her personal thoughts.  She was not always the easiest person to handle, and I couldn’t help but wince at some of the things she said to Abalyn.  From inside her mind, though, one could see the frustration and confusion that led to her outbursts.  Abalyn was probably the most likeable character of the story, a geek who wrote reviews of video games for a living.  Her personality was extremely different from Imp’s, but they seemed to complement each other well.  Eva Canning, the third main actor in the story, was simply mysterious. The story was something of a challenge to piece together, and I’m not sure I have everything completely clear, even at the end.  I enjoyed the journey through Imp’s story, though, and I think the conclusion was well suited the style of the story.

My Rating: 4.5/5

The Drowning Girl can be a confusing book, but it is also a fascinating one.  Told from the point of view of a very mentally ill woman named Imp, the story follows her relationship with Abalyn, and her encounter(s) with a mysterious woman named Eva Canning (who might be a ghost, a wolf, a mermaid…). Imp weaves her story with cultural references both real and fictional, building an unsettling tapestry of a ghost story from each thread.  Less an account of a series of events, the novel is more about Imp’s experiences, perceptions and state of mind.  It’s definitely not a traditional ghost story, but it is a novel that is atmospheric, immersive, and creative.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Read-Along: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, Part 2

It’s time for the second week of I Shall Wear Midnight, with questions provided by Susan of Dab of Darkness.  These discussion questions cover chapters 7-10. I’m a day late, so on to the questions.
1) This section featured some characters from the Night Watch, who are featured in other books. Did you enjoy the cameos? If you haven't read the Night Watch books, did their appearance pique your interest?
I vaguely remember the Night Watch members from Thud.  I definitely remember Commander Vimes and his son, and that was a fun cameo to see! 
2) Roland sure is harsh in this section! What do you think is the source of these drastic changes in him? What, or who, would you delete in his life to makes things better?
Well, spoilers from later in the chapters, but Letitia.  It appears that she’s done something to make him dislike Tiffany, and I’m guessing it has him a harsher person in the process.  If her magic was tied up with the Cunning Man, it also makes sense that he would be more cold and harsh. 
3) As Mrs. Proust predicted, Miss....Smith of the Unreal Estate found Tiffany. How do you think Ms. Smith's info on the Cunning Man will be used by Tiffany? What would you fear stumbling over in the Unreal Estate, a place where magical bits are constantly bumping into each other?
I’m not sure how the story will be useful, but I’m sure Tiffany will find a way to fight him.  In a way, the Cunning Man is the most dangerous of enemies Tiffany has faced, because he is the most human. I don’t think I could handle the Unreal Estate.  It sounds way too dirty.
4) Tiffany & the Feegles return to the Chalk to find Roland's men about to dig up the Mound. Luckily, Tiffany is able to make them see sense and they put away their shovels. If they hadn't, what do you picture would have happened? 
I imagine the Feegles would have cut them to pieces. I really don’t think that’s workable in a YA novel, though, so it’s for the best that they saw sense and stopped.  That’s the most serious I’ve ever seen the Feegles, but I suppose things do get very serious when you threaten someone’s home and family.
5) The Duchess seems ready to cause everyone a bit of pain, especially Tiffany. While Tiff seems to have checkmated her for now, what do you think the Duchess's next moves will be?  Did you find it hard to hold your tongue during that standoff too? 
After seeing Letitia and the Duchess together, I actually wondered if that was part of why Roland was marrying her.  He has been (up until now) a pretty decent guy, and Letitia is in a pretty horrible family situation.  I’m not saying he would have married her for pity, but if he liked her anyway, the desire to get her away from her awful mother could have played a role in the decision.
As to the actual question, I’m not really sure what the Duchess hopes to accomplish.  Maybe she’ll try to go for having Tiffany executed for witchcraft, but does she really think she can bully everyone into that?  And yes, I would not have been able to hold my tongue, but I doubt I would have handled everything as gracefully as Tiffany did.  Tiffany did rise to the bait a little, but I thought she managed to stay remarkably calm in the circumstances. 
6) We've met a very interesting guard, Preston, the newest of the bunch. He's a bit of a bookish nerd. Do you see him being of further assistance to Tiffany? How do you think this will affect his long-term employment at the castle? 
I’m hoping that Preston will not remain working at the castle.  I don’t think it would ultimately be a very happy life for him, having to play stupid all the time (though “happy ass, corp ass” = “habeas corpus” did crack me up).  I’m hoping that he’ll help Tiffany more, and he’ll find another path for himself through his interaction with her.  It seems to me that he’s mostly a guard because he couldn’t find a better option for himself, and I hope he learns that there are things he can do that suit him better. 
7) Finally, we learn something very interesting about Letitia. It appears she is a witch. Will Letitia and Tiffany join forces to defeat evil? What do you think Letitia did, if anything, to bring the Cunning Man?

Right now, I think that Letitia inadvertently summoned the Cunning Man. She seems to be very magically talented, and to have had no help or training whatsoever.  I’m not really buying the “woe is me, I was born pretty and rich” lament, though.  She does have a difficult situation with her mother, but she could do something for herself. We’ve seen no evidence that she’s ever done anything but cry, paint watercolors, and work magic for petty reasons. I have some sympathy for her, but probably not as much as Roland seems to.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published : Little, Brown (2011)
Series : Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

The Book :

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth have grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

This is my 9th novel for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge at WWEnd.  A friend recommended that I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  Since it’s pretty far outside the usual range of books I read, I was thinking I’d call this one my “randomly chosen” one.  My 10th review will turn up next week, on The Drowning Girl.

I’m posting this review now in order to match up with my trip to Marrakech, Morocco.  I’m actually here for business, but I liked the idea of writing a review while staying in a location where the book is partially set.  Some notable events of Daughter of Smoke and Bone occur in Marrakech, including the initial meeting of Karou and Akiva.  Just for fun, I’ve included a picture of the square where they met (from a nearby rooftop café) and of the brightly colored market Karou mentions. 
My Thoughts:

The magical setting of Daughter of Smoke and Bone was probably one of my favorite parts of the novel.  I thought the magic was pretty creative, especially the hierarchy of wishes that one could trade for in teeth.  What was done with those teeth was intriguing as well, but I’ll refrain from discussing it here in order to not give away plot points. In the beginning, the fantastical creatures appeared to be angels and devils, but I appreciated that it was not so simple as that. The seraph and chimaera (a variety of human/animal races) societies, and even the neverending war between them, didn’t follow the traditional religious story. The seraphs were not necessarily good creatures, as the chimaera were not necessarily monsters.  Karou began the story ignorant of everything beyond her chimaera family’s shop, and discovering the rest of the supernatural world along with her was one of my favorite aspects of the novel.

While I enjoyed the setting, I had mixed reactions to the major characters. I appreciated that Karou had a female best friend, and that she expressed genuine interest in her life and personal troubles.  Karou also cared deeply for her chimaera family, and it was nice to read about a character that was concerned for the wellbeing of the people who loved her.  However, this was also a novel where all of the main characters were amazingly beautiful, and there were many long, lingering descriptions of their physical qualities. There is a message that beauty is not everything, as the story opens in the aftermath of Karou’s failed relationship with a beautiful jerk.  Unfortunately, this is undermined by the constant focus on the physical beauty of the characters. 

In addition to her extreme physical beauty, Karou is shown to be exceptional in many ways.  She’s intriguingly mysterious, an excellent artist, speaks over twenty languages, and has been trained in martial arts since she was very small.  I am not a fan of reading about inhumanly amazing people, especially when they are praised in the text. Karou is not completely perfect, though—she has a slightly irresponsible side, which is shown when she uses magic for frivolous things (dying her hair, embarrassing people she doesn’t like, etc.).  Karou was certainly a likeable character, in terms of personality, but reading about all her superlative qualities was sometimes a bit annoying.  

I liked reading about Karou, as she lived her double life and went on errands for her chimaera family.  However, after the male and female main characters met, it became clear that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was primarily a romance, of the supernatural “Romeo & Juliet” variety.  As is usually the case with instant love, the romance was based almost entirely on physical attraction, and was fueled by both of them being incredibly gorgeous.  As in Romeo & Juliet, they were also star-crossed lovers, and they were seriously endangered by the circumstances surrounding their relationship. I believe this is a case where I am emphatically not the target audience of the novel, so I’m sure that there are many other readers who found the romance much more affecting than I did.  I was most impressed by the twist at the end of the novel, which seemed to send the story on a very unexpected (and welcome) path.  I am curious if the next two books in the trilogy will maintain or negate the effect of the ending of this one.

My Rating: 3/5

After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have to conclude that I am really not the target audience.  I am not a fan of romance or star-crossed lovers, and I dislike the importance that is often accorded to instant love. I’m also not particularly into stories that feature many descriptions of amazingly beautiful characters. However, many of the characters were very easy to like, and I enjoyed reading about Karou's family and friends.  Also, what was revealed about the system of magic and the fantastical world was pretty interesting, and seemed to have potential for more development in the future novels.  The ending of the story stepped impressively away from what I expected, though I wonder if this ending will be preserved in the future novels.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New: Upcoming Read-Along of Scott Lynch's Republic of Thieves

Scott Lynch's long-awaited third novel, Republic of Thieves, came out yesterday, and I think that a read-along is a terrific way to greet it!  If you recall, I (and many other people) participated in a group reading of The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies.  This time, I'm going to be one of the five co-hosts of the group reading of Republic of Thieves, along with Little Red ReviewerOver the Effing RainbowDab of Darkness, and Lynn's Book Blog.  

The read-along will begin on October 28th, so there's plenty of time to get a copy of the novel and join in!  If you're interested in receiving an email of the discussion questions each week, then you can sign up here or at any of the blogs linked above.  The discussion of each section will kick off with blog posts each Monday, and the tentative schedule is:

  • Week 1: Prologue through Intersect 1, hosted by Dab of Darkness
    • Questions will go out on Oct. 25th, and discussion posts will go up on Oct. 28th
  • Week 2: Chapter 3 through the Interlude "Bastards Abroad", hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
    • Questions will go out on Nov. 1st, and discussion posts will go up on Nov. 4th
  • Week 3: Chapter 6 through the Interlude "Aurin and Amadine", hosted by Lynn's Book Blog
    • Questions will go out on Nov. 8th, and discussion posts will go up on Nov. 11th
  • Week 4: Chapter 8 through Chapter 10, hosted by Little Red Reviewer
    • Questions will go out on Nov. 15th, and discussion posts will go up on Nov. 18th
  • Week 5: The Interlude "Death Masks" through the Epilogue, hosted by me!
    • Questions will go out on Nov. 22nd, and discussion posts will go up on Nov. 25th
I am really excited to finally be able to get my hands on the next book in the series, and I'm looking forward to discussing the novel with everyone!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Read-Along: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, Part 1

It’s time to kick off the read-along of the final Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight.  Tiffany is now almost 16, and the story seems to have become much more adult than in the previous novels.  It’s a little sad to see Tiffany almost grown up, but I feel like this is probably going to allow an even more complicated story.  The questions this time were provided by Lisa of OverTheEffingRainbow, and the discussion will cover chapters 1-6. Next week (which I may post a day late due to camel-riding) will cover chapters 7-10, and the following week will conclude the read-along.

In other news of my blog, I foolishly left the draft of my review for The Dragon’s Path on my home computer, and I am now in Morocco.  There are still some reviews incoming, but they will be of (surprise!) Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and then Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl. Anyhow, on with the questions!

So Roland is engaged! ... And being a bit of a 'Baron' towards Tiffany. Oh dear. What do you think of this awkward turn in their 'friendship' in this book?

I am not sure what’s up with him.  I’m wondering if handling his aunts involved him needing to get a “respectable” young lady to marry.  Even his father seems disappointed that he’s off of Tiffany, so it really seems like there must be more than meets the eye here. 

"Rough music..." Even more so than with Wintersmith, it seems this book is tackling darker/more adult issues. What did you think of the way Tiffany handled Mr Petty, and is this darker side a welcome development?

I was very surprised by quite how much more adult the book was, from the very beginning.  I think Tiffany handled the situation as best she could, but it seems like there should have been a better judicial system for the town.  There should be some punishment for assault and the murder of an unborn child that is between exile and lynching.

I think that the one major problem with the way Tiffany handled the situation, though, is that she has no ability to enforce her decisions right now.  She told Mr. Petty to leave town—and he didn’t.  She gets no help from his wife, who just insists he’ll be better, and she has no real authority to force him to leave.  For another thing, she took their child.  If something like child services existed, I think they should definitely have taken Amber.  Again, though, Tiffany only has the authority she gains through confidence and force of will.  If people decide she’s an evil child-kidnapper, then she’s going to have a hard time defending Amber on her own.

The Feegles are back, and this time we see more of Jeannie, their Kelda. She takes in the Pettys' daughter, Amber, after Tiffany deals with Mr Petty. Is this a good idea, or do you think it'll just bring trouble? And what do you make of Jeannie's prediction that more trouble is coming Tiffany's way?

As mentioned above, I think removing Amber from the home was what needed to happen, but I do think it will bring trouble.  People don’t like it when some teenage girl takes their children from them, no matter how justified it seems to be.  I don’t think Tiffany is thinking enough (or at all) about PR.  She assumes her actions will speak for themselves… and they do, but they don’t always say what she intends.

Speaking of Amber, there's something interesting going on with her ... Do you think we might see Amber become a witch? And what do you make of her ability to 'understand' animals?

I hope she becomes a witch.  That would be a nice way for this all to end up for her.  I thought it was interesting that she seemed to specify that it wasn’t so much that Amber was picking up languages, as it was that she could read the meanings behind sounds.  I suppose that would work even for people or creatures that don’t have a proper language, because she can still understand what they mean. 

Tiffany vs. Miss Spruce ... It seems Tiffany is having to deal much more with people's negative views of witchcraft, and her use of it. Do you think we'll see Miss Spruce become more of a problem for Tiffany later?

Yes, I get the impression that prejudice might be the main topic of this book.  Pratchett also worked in a reminder about old Mrs. Snapperly, whose death made such an impression on Tiffany when she was young.  I get the impression that Tiffany doesn’t really appreciate the danger of this kind of prejudice.  She thinks that it’s obvious that she’s only doing good things, and that anyone of intelligence should be able to see that.  She may be right, but unintelligent people are also capable of causing quite a lot of damage.

I thought it was interesting how Tiffany’s interaction with the coachman illustrated another common and frustrating facet of prejudice. His interaction with Tiffany did nothing to convince him his views on witches were wrong. He just decided he’d met an unusual witch.  No matter how many kind, decent witches he meets, I bet he will decide that they are all exceptions, and that all the other witches are nasty and evil.  It seems like prejudice is incredibly resistant to conflicting evidence in that way.

On the other hand, there is the Baron, may he rest in peace ... What did you think of his first and last real conversation with Tiffany?

I thought he seemed like a pretty nice guy, in the end.  He’s been kind of a distant character until now—Granny Aching used to keep him in line, Roland worried about him while barricaded in his room—but it was nice to see him as more of an individual before he left with Death.