I need to recognize my fathers in this post before I do anything else, both of whom are constantly in my thoughts. My first dad was the one I was born to. The second one raised me from age of seven. They are both precious to me, and have affected me in ways they will never know. One gave me a crazy sense of humor. One gave me a crazy sense of honor. One taught me to love music and books. One taught me to love the countryside where I lived. One is in Arkansas, one resides in Oregon. If I could find the words, I’d give them much more thanks than I am now, but I can’t. All I can say is Happy Father’s Day to both of you.
Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven King series I read all four books in short order this May. It’s about a country girl in Virginia called Blue, who was told by her psychic mother that the first boy she kisses will die. This boy is an unlikely prep school lad, Richard Campbell Gansey III. His fixation on finding the remains of an ancient Welsh king drives the plot. The novels have an ensemble cast of three other prep school kids, Gansey’s best friends: Angry-all-the-time Ronan, hard-working Adam, and pale, ghostly Noah. This book is about magic, but also about relationships. It works quite well. The fourth book fell flat, with lots of loose ends that Stiefvater didn’t tie up to my satisfaction. She has a wonderful command of prose, although she occasionally tends to ramble. Blue is a snappy, sometimes comical, always interesting protagonist. Stiefvater manages to make me happy in ways that Cassandra Clare couldn’t seem to do, even though they are writing the same genre, with characters the same age. 4 Stars of 5 for the whole series.
Jim Butcher. The Aeronaut’s Windlass. The first new series by Jim Butcher in a long time, since he has been writing his Dresden Files novels for a lot of years. People live on gigantic spires that stick wayyyy up in the sky. They move between these spires on airships. It’s kind of a cross between Horatio Hornblower and steampunk action. Oh. And there are talking cats of course. It’s in third person point of view, and jumps between characters. Butcher is skilled at his craft, and knows how to tell a story. It’s not an awful book by any means, but it’s not as compelling as either the Dresden Files, or his earlier Codex Alera series. Yet. The man has definitely proven that he knows how to make us care about his characters. 3 stars out of 5, but I’m hoping for more good stuff to come in future installments.
Naomi Novik. His Majesty’s Dragon. Temeraire series; book 1. this is another work of magical fiction set in 1810s England. It’s odd how I’ve read several of these recently. This one has dragons. No magic per se, except what the dragons bring. The creatures have been fully integrated into all cultures across the world, and are fighting in the war against France. Our protagonist, Will Laurence, is a navy man, and he uncovers a dragon’s egg in a captured French ship. When the egg hatches, Laurence bonds with the dragon and is forced to leave his commission. It turns out the egg was bound for Napoleon’s army and the dragon inside, Temeraire is quite powerful. The book is interesting but not so compelling that I have rushed to pick up the second book in the Temeraire series. The aerial battle scenes are exciting. The story arc is done well, but no real surprises jump out at us. Maybe it gets better? Maybe I’ll jump back into this world some day. 3 stars out of 5.
Naomi Novik. Uprooted. Another Novik novel. This book was published recently (2015). Every ten years, in Novik’s alternate version of Poland, a girl must be sent to live with a cranky old wizard called The Dragon. He is scary. But our protagonist, Agnieszka, learns to love him. The whole novel is a a take on the Beauty and the Beast tale, really. Also, there are two different kinds of magic going on; the Dragon’s magic is quite different than the earthy magic (Baba Yaga style) the protagonist finds so easy to do. Agnieszka evolves and becomes stronger. The Dragon is a sourpuss until the very end. I liked the story okay, but nothing leapt out at me and made me want to shake someone by the collar and shout “Read this now!” I don’t find myself wanting to immerse myself in her medieval Slavic world again. 3 Stars of 5.