Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Lilith's Tears by David Jones

Shipwrecked on an uncharted island Captain Trebane finds himself battling despair and the savage natives who occupy the island. When he discovers evidence that Serena, the woman he believes he loves, may have survived the shipwreck he sets off into the interior where he finds a strange white cathedral at the island's center. Before he could discover much more he is beset by the natives, saved only by an aged pirate named Sarn. Sarn explains that the savage natives are in fact sailors from other shipwrecks who have been cursed with a savage immortality by a strange pool on the island known as Lilith's tears. Trebane is initially skeptical but once he accepts this strange discovery he is more determined than ever to rescue Serena from the savages and their strange overlord Torn.

Jones' major strength as a writer is undoubtedly his considerable descriptive abilities. The world literally comes alive under his skill immersing the reader in this strange island land. However at times this strength becomes a weakness; with many sections of the story suffering from over description. There were entire paragraphs which felt redundant as they were simply repeating previous information. This creates a bit of a pacing issue.

Trebane is certainly an interesting character and I enjoyed his POV as the author shows us exactly what makes him tick. I was reminded a bit of Naomi Novik's work in how effectively Jones' was able to capture the time period's nuances and mannerisms.

At the halfway point in the novel the POV switched from Trebane to Torn and Serena. Torn's POV didn't work as well for me. At times he and therefore the rest of his eternus felt like bumbling buffoons and this cut the tension considerably with the return to Trebane's perspective. I realize that the author was going for a tragic figure with Torn and to a degree succeeds but then should have found another way to create the needed tension, perhaps by emphasizing the malignant unseen evil force on the island to a greater degree.

The finale was pulled off brilliantly and the twist was certainly a satisfying one.

Overall Jones' shows a great deal of promise in this novel. A greater focus on cutting down unnecessary paragraphs will certainly help him take his game to the next level. 7.25/10.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gaveriel Kay

Artisan Caius Crispus lost both his daughters and his wife to the plague. His only solace is in his work though even that is barely enough to make him want to go on living. A summons arrives from the emperor in Sarantium inviting Caius' partner Martinian to come to the capital and work on the newly erected sanctuary. Martinian urges Caius to go in his stead citing his age and the fact that Caius has been doing most of the work in recent years so the summons is by right his. Caius is initially reluctant but a meeting with queen Gisel a monarch barely hanging onto power because the various hostile forces wanting to seize Batria are locked in a deadlock, changes his mind. The queen wishes Caius to take an offer of marriage to the emperor and once again unite east with west.

Once again Kaye's world-building is phenomenal.The world in this book is based on the Byzantine period in Roman history and masterfully brought to life. Religion was an area of particular interest, largely a mix of paganism and a christian-like faith. The schisms that existed in the official faith and the coexisting of the paganism were particularly fascinating.

While Caius is the main view point character Kay introduces several others across the narrative. Even though some of these view points are only a few pages in length Kay builds up each of them and almost instantly gains the reader's sympathy and interest in each case.

Overall yet another fine offering from Kay. 9/10.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: The Born Queen by Greg Keyes

Anne Dare now sits on the throne of Crotheny. Using her growing powers she sets about driving the Church out of her kingdom, an action that leads to open warfare with Hansa. Queen Muriele leads an embassy, along with her bodyguard Alis Berrye and knight Neil MeqVren, hoping to preserve peace. Though Anne may have other ideas for the embassy. Aspar White is slowly mending from his injuries unsure of his next move. The decision is quickly taken out of his hands when Fend's creatures find him and he is reminded by the Sandlewood witch that he still owes her a favour. Stephen Darige has hit a standstill as he searches for Virgenya Dare's journal and the arc, though events may overtake him soon enough.

In my review of the Blood Knight I mentioned how I enjoyed the way Keyes hinted that things might not be as cut and dried with the characters morality as they first appeared. He takes this several steps further in this volume, giving hints that Stephen, Anne, Muriale among a few others might not be the heroes we believe them to be and that Robert, the church and Fend may have the right of it.

I really love the way Neil, Stephen and especially Anne have grown up throughout this series and Anne really steps up in this one. Pacing worked well here and the hectic pace of the finale was brilliant.

There were a few slight disappointments for me in this conclusion. Firstly I wanted the Church's position to take a more original turn and had every reason to believe that they would. Sadly by the end of this volume that is clearly not the case. After all the effort Robert spent in tricking Leoff into writing the death inducing song I found his plan for it to be rather redundant. I think his character as a whole was a bit of a waste of potential and felt his ending was too rushed.

Overall a strong ending to an enjoyable series, despite the missed oppurtunties in a few areas. 8/10.