Archive for March 22nd, 2011

Book Nook and Reviews

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Here are my latest reads:

The Transition of Titus Crow (published in Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus) by Brian Lumley
Imperial Lady by Andre Norton and Susan Shwartz
The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I didn’t enjoy The Transition of Titus Crow as much as the first novel in the series. It seemed to have lost the ‘Holmesian’ feel from the first novel. Sad to say I was a tad disappointed, but I think the author was moving towards more science fiction. Not sure if/when I will read the third book in the Titus Crow series. There are other series’ and books I plan on reading first.

Imperial Lady is a fantasy novel based upon a legend/myth about a Han Chinese princess, Wang Zhaojun (Silver Snow in the novel), who was married off to a Xiongnu shanyu (equivalent to a king/emperor). In the novel, Silver Snow is living in North China (near the borders of the Xiongnu) with her disgraced father who was once a General for the Emperor of China. One day she receives a call to appear at the Emperor’s court because his favourite concubine died and he is looking for a new one. Although Silver Snow does not meet the Emperor at first as she and her father hoped (he gave her rare jade burial armour to present to the Emperor as a gift thereby hoping to restore his name and honour), she is eventually given in an arranged marriage by the Emperor to the Xiongnu shanyu. From there, the story tells of her rise to honour.

I was impressed by the writing of Imperial Lady. I have so far enjoyed Andre Norton’s novels, but was unsure about Susan Shwartz. The authors captured the sense of Han China, even capturing the sense of language that is used, although the novel is in English. In Chinese culture, it is considered polite to downplay your own attributes while exaggerating the qualities of the person to whom you are talking. This is even more important when someone from a ‘lower’ social class is conversing with someone from a ‘higher’ social class. I enjoyed the novel, and yes, there is a bit of magic (more in the form of shape-shifting) in it since it is labelled a fantasy novel.

The Firebrand was another enjoyable read by Bradley. Though not part of the Avalon series, the novel did read much like the Avalon books. The novel is based on the story of the Trojan War, but with Bradley filling in any pieces that are missing. Notably, the novel is told from the perspective of Cassandra of Troy – a good starting point since she predicted the war and the fall of Troy. Since little facts are known about Cassandra, Bradley had a good amount of freedom to be creative with parts of the story, especially in the beginning of the novel. This is a good read if you are a Bradley fan or if you are interested in a re-telling of the Trojan War. It is definitely a better re-telling than the movie Troy (although I respect Brad Pitt’s athletic abilities displayed in that movie).

As for my current fiction reading list:
Knife of Dreams (book eleven of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan
A Feast for Crows (book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

It’s a toss-up right now between The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire. I love both series. While I personally think Martin is a better writer than Jordan, I find The Wheel of Time maintains a nice balance of mood – it’s not overly dramatic or serious. The overarching story of The Wheel of Time is interesting and while fans may have their favourite characters, they all want to know what happens at Tarmon Gai’don. Martin has a writing style that keeps you turning pages. You get to the end of a chapter and even though the next chapter changes points of view to another character, you just want to know what happens next. While there is an overarching storyline like in The Wheel of Time (‘Winter is Coming’, which may bring disaster on the continent of Westeros), there seems so far to be less emphasis on it. I do have a few favourite characters though (Arya, Daenerys, and Jon; and I like reading Tyrion’s point of view), which definitely keeps me reading.

Additionally, the first novel of A Song of Ice and Fire is being made into a mini-series on HBO. Yes, A Game of Thrones finally has a full cast and the first episode is to be aired on April 17, 2011. The fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, is to be published in July 2011, which is why I am keen on reading book four, A Feast for Crows now. I think I mentioned previously that I was going to wait for the fifth book before reading the fourth since Martin originally wrote those two as one novel, but it was turning out to be too long and he had to split it into two.

I’ll probably end up reading back and forth between The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire for a bit until I just want to finish reading one of the novels.

Seems likely that I will get to Cherryh’s novel a little later than intended. I did start it awhile back, but it was reminding me too much of Battlestar Galactica and I kept thinking of Helo, Sharon, Starbuck, and Apollo while reading (LOL). I will get back to that novel though at some point because the writing was pretty good and I wanted to read some more science fiction. Cherryh is a reputable author too and I have no complaints so far.

~~~C
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