lundi 11 mars 2013

Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk review

In the last few years, coming with a wave of gritty novels, came another genre of fantasy, the assassins genre. I have to admit being very interested and excited about that, seeing how I love movies and stories of that sort. However, and strangely enough I only picked one book of the genre recently. I guess I was kind of afraid I would find in a endless line of boring characters that are impossibly evil or always questioning themselves (which was a concern that was later confirmed by many reviews of different series). I mean if you’re an assassin, you probably don’t really care about what you do and how you do it. In the end a character that’s always questioning the meanings of his craft just looks like the writer is questioning his reason for taking on his story, and it annoys me mightily.

So it was with some reserves that I started Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk. But I have to say that the cover and the title did help in the choosing of this book to be my first of the assassin’s genre. This one had a different feeling about it, even if the difference was very small. And I was in for a surprise.

Caim is a young assassin living in the dangerous city of Othir, where corruption runs wild and assassin’s can make a lot of money. There are a lot of contracts and Caim is quite happy to oblige. Why? Because he’s good at what he does. But when a job turned sour sends him in an unwanted direction with the daughter of a rich upper city man and a dangerous mystery, he has to make compromises he never expected himself to do.

Shadow’s Son is a small book, very small, only about 300 pages. But every single of these pages are used efficiently to weave a story that is fast and tremendously fun. The story makes amend of it’s predictability and lack of complexity by putting us in the shoes of a cast of characters that feel genuine, honest and full of gumption. The relationship between them is enjoyable and everything flows without a hitch. While the dialogues are easy, they never feel too boring or lazy and make the story move flawlessly.

Nothing is ever perfect and I have to say that the length of the book is cause for sacrifices that could have made the story a bit more interesting. Mainly, the lack of proper world-building is the biggest problem and we end up with the some of the most common stereotypes of fantasy, namely a European similar world resembling our own a bit too much with its ex-roman style empire and a church that is so exactly like that catholic church that it is frustrating and feels simply lazy, the typical anti-hero, the young rich spoiled girl but with great strength of character.
The use of the Church as the cause for grief in the world is just a boring excuse to bash on religion again and the people at its head are corrupted to the bones and completely selfish.

But the author makes us forget all of that by making us move through the story fast enough to actually find great enjoyment and satisfaction in the first book of his series. Shadow’s Son is your typical dark fantasy, but made with talent and modesty, with no pretension or illusion of grandeur. If you are looking for a quick read between to chunky books, give it a try, I’m sure you will find some satisfaction in it.

New goodies from Tor publishing

Seeing as Tor is the biggest publisher of fantasy out there and representing some of the most important writers of the genre, it is no surprise that they would do something entirely too cool for our own sake once in a while. And this time they decided to grant Brandon Sanderson's new book The Rithmatist with a nice special bag. These fantastic bags, with the book inside, we'll be given away by Tor on their website very soon, stay tuned. While we wait for it, take a look at the bag.

Are there too many heroines in youth literature?

Ok, before you all start hating me and say I'm some kind of misogynist, let me tell you that I do not have a problem with women being main antagonists and there are some great heroines out there, namely Vin from the Mistborn trilogy, Kahlan Amnell from the Sword of truth or even Meggie from Inkheart. No, the problem isn't the fact that there's a lot of books with heroines, it's that there may be too much. It's great that women have more presence and that girls can have good characters to which they can relate, but my concern is that it seems that since the Twilight phenomena happened, boys have come to be neglected.

Why am I saying this? Well, working in a library has made me aware of a lot of different things in literature. One thing that was pointed out to me by different parents who had trouble finding good books for their little boy or teenager with a thirst for great adventure, but we're still too young to endure the big fantasy books, was that they could not find a story with a character they would relate to. I started doing my little research and I too noticed this lack of great male characters in youth literature. You will probably talk to me about series like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and even the Ranger's apprentice, and I will agree with you, but the fact still remains that outside of those series, it is starting to be increasingly difficult to find something for them, especially in the 6-9 years old section. You will find a plethora of books and series for girls and by that, I mean more than three quarters of the section is filled with them, including the 9-12 and young adults sections.

Many people will say that girls read more than boys, and though that might be true, I think it is due to the simple fact that there is less series for them than there used to be. I remember starting reading enormously when I was in high school. In those days Harry Potter was still fresh with only 3 books out and, with its success, came a big load of great imaginative fantasy series, namely series like Pendragon, The Edge's Chronicles and many others that I'm forgetting. The fun thing about those series is that they have a great equilibrium in its characterization. In every single one, you could find characters that any kid could associate with. Nowadays it's a bit different, especially since the success of Twilight. Not only was there a big flow of vampire and werewolf books, but an enormous increase in series with girls as main characters. The problem was not there, but mostly in the fact that creativity was neglected and that a noticeable change happened in term of characterization. It was becoming harder and harder to find characters with which young people could associate themselves. All the heroines where cute, and often vapid and girls and all the boys became sexy and mysterious. Stories became a bit lazy and you had a lot of trouble finding a writer who was fearless in where he was going with his series.

Then, Hunger Games happened: something new and exciting, new characters, new settings too, finally something else than vampires. It brought an increasing demand and offer in dystopian literature, but again, a wave of heroines, because let's face it, Katniss Everdeen is a badass. But here again, boys have trouble finding something truly satisfying. There's some great male characters in there, but you feel like they are only there as an accessory for the story of Katniss and to feed this ever present love triangle we have to face in almost every series out there. I still haven't found a series where there is a simple love story which is not the whole purpose of the book. The love story has become kind of a necessary thing and often the most important side of the storyline. Here are boys, thirsting for adventure and action and all they can find is complicated love stories in which the boy’s only motivation is getting the girl to love him at all cost.

And naturally, the series that are mostly for boys have become harder to find in libraries, even the ones that we're incredibly popular a few years ago, and still are, and that you could find in every store. I'd like to hear what you people think. Am I the only one who thinks like this?

samedi 9 mars 2013

Abarat by Clive Barker

So here you go, like I promised, a review of the first opus of the young adult series by horror novelist Clive Barker. You might know Clive Barker for his work in movies (hellraiser and candyman series), comics, or his famous Books of Blood collection. He usually writes horror novels and he's pretty good at it. In 2002, he derived a little bit from his usual material to create a new book that would be for a young audience and the result became what is know today as the Abarat series, which is set to be a 5 books adventure. Three of them have already been published under the following titles: Abarat, Days of Magic, Nights of War and Absolute Midnight.

The series stars a young girls of 16 years of age named Candy Quackenbush, not the greatest character name in history but definitely one with flavor, who lives in a tiny little and boring town of the Minnesota called Chickentown. As you can guest, the town is known for it’s chicken industry and our main protagonist is bored to no end by it. One day, she receives an assignment by her teacher to do a story about their town. Candy, annoyed, try to find a different story to tell than the one everyone else is sure to do and that is, chicken industry. She ends up uncovering a dark secret of her town and doing her report on this, which her teacher absolutely detested. Following an argument with that same teacher, she flee the school, guided by a strange feeling and wandered outside the skirt of town where she find a strange lighthouse in the middle of an empty field. Strange is the word to describe the situation until she stumbled on an even stranger thing, a sort of man, called John Mischief. This encounter leads to a typical turn of events that send out heroine in a parallel world named the Abarat.

Extraordinary, the Abarat is a world consisting of twenty-five incredible islands, some crazier than others. In this world, Candy discover that a major shift in its history is happening and become entangled in a tricky situation when Christopher Carrion, the most dangerous and cruel man in the world, becomes obsessed with her. The story then becomes a game of hide-and-seek between her and the various minions of Carrion.

Now that we know a bit more about the series, let’s talk about the book itself. Clive Barker sure know how to tell a story, I find Abarat to be a very good paced and enjoyable story, filled with mystery and adventure. If you want to go on a big and exciting travel in a fantastic world this is the one book you should seek. Barker built a world so extreme and imaginative that you feel like you have to dive in. Quite frankly, I have never seen such a beautiful and evocative destination building in a book for young adults. You can almost feel the temperature see the sky and smell the odors that pertains the streets of the Abarat archipelago.

Every story has its downside and I have to say that this one is undoubtedly its main character, Candy Quackenbush. On the whole I have to say that she is the typical boring heroine you see in way to much books; too nice, too comprehensive, too emphatic, in short too perfect. There is nothing that annoys me more than a character without faults, who sympathize with everybody and understand everything. There is no challenge in that, in fact, she doesn’t even feel like entirely human. I’ve never met anybody so selfless and comprehensive, and it’s annoying to no end. One other thing you could say about her is that she find herself entirely comfortable in this incredible world and doesn’t even bother to show even the blink of an eye at the most extreme weirdness that Mr. Barker throw at her. She’s just like a fish in the water, and it feels a bit too easy for her. She's even puzzled by it herself.

However, I can say this about the rest of the cast, they are very enjoyable, the bad guy is really evil, and his minions are vividly mean and cruel, but without loosing a sense of personality. Every single character seems to have its own singularities. But like Candy, there seem to be no middle ground in them, they are either black or white, no shades of grey in the world of Abarat, simply pure goodness or evilness and the infinite boring theme of the necessity of balance of good and evil in the world

Nevertheless, Clive Barker achieved a very nice story that is enjoyable and throws us in a vibrant world filled with mystery and magic. This kind-of-dark, fairy tale is beautifully illustrated by the author himself. The van goghesque illustrations help to become completely immersed in this incredible and bizarre universe and make us feel as if we are shadowing the characters of this story, making us not only silent observers like any books, but a part of the archipelago. As if we we’re walking the streets and fields of the islands ourselves. The brush strokes make us feel as if we are walking completely awake in a disturbing and fun dream, and you will want to go back to it as many times as possible.

In the end, even though the main protagonist is a bit boring, the rest of the cast is brilliantly woven and the story move at a pace that everybody can find satisfying and it feels like we have entered a new kind of fairy tale that is refreshing and comforting, It is definitely a book you should read and I assure you, you will enjoy it, even if only for the great illustrations.


jeudi 7 mars 2013

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb (Excerpt)

I'm excited about today's news, we finally have a small taste of the next Robin Hobb's book in the Rain Wild Chronicles; Blood of Dragons. The book is coming out very soon, in March or April I think, so don't despair people.
Tintaglia awoke feeling chilled and old. She had made a good kill and eaten heavily, but had not rested well. The festering wound under her left wing made it hard to find a comfortable position. If she stretched out, the hot swollen place pulled, and if she curled up, she felt the jabbing of the buried arrow. The pain spread out in her wing now when she opened it, as if some thistly plant were sending out runners inside her, prickling her with thorns as it spread. The weather had become colder as she flew toward the Rain Wilds. There were no deserts, no warm sands in this region of the world. Heat seemed to well up from the earth’s heart in the Chalcedean deserts, making it nearly as warm as the southern lands were at this time of year. But now she had left the dry lands and warm sands behind, and winter’s stranglehold on spring had claimed its due. The cold stiffened the flesh around her wound, making each morning a torment.

IceFyre had not come with her. She had expected the old black dragon to accompany her, although she could not recall why. Dragons preferred to be solitary than social. To eat well, each needed a large hunting territory. It had only been when she had left his side and he had not followed that the humiliating realization had drenched her: she had been following him, all that time. She could not recall that he had ever requested her to stay; neither had he asked her to leave.

He had all he needed from her. In the early excitement of discovering one another, they had mated. When she grew to full maturity, she would visit the nesting island, and there lay the eggs that he had already fertilized. But once he had impregnated her there was no reason for him to stay with her. When her eggs hatched into serpents that would slither into the sea and renew the endless cycle of dragon-egg-serpent-cocoon-dragon, the memories of his lineage would continue. Eventually, there would be other dragons for him to encounter, when he chose to seek their company. She felt puzzled that she had lingered with him as long as she had. Having hatched so alone and isolated, had she learned undragonlike behaviour from humans?

She uncoiled slowly and then even more gingerly, spread her wings to the overcast day. She stretched, already missing the warmth of the sands and tried not to wonder if the journey back to Trehaug were beyond her strength. Had she waited too long, hoping she would heal on her own?

It hurt to crane her neck to inspect the wound. It smelled foul and when she moved, pus oozed from it. She hissed in anger that such a thing had befallen her, and then used the strength of that anger to tighten the muscles there. The movement forced more liquid from the wound. It hurt and stank terribly, but when she had finished, her skin felt less tight. She could fly. Not without pain, and not swiftly, but she could fly. Tonight she would take more care in selecting her resting place. Taking flight from the riverbank where she presently found herself was going to be difficult.

She wanted to fly directly to Trehaug in the hope of locating Malta and Reyn quickly and having one of her Elderling servants remove the arrowhead from her flesh. A direct route would have been best, but the thick forests of the region made that impossible. For a dragon to land in such a thickly treed area was difficult at the best of times; with a bad wing, she would certainly go crashing down through the canopy. So she had followed first the coast and then the Rain Wild River. The marshy banks and mud bars offered easy hunting as river mammals emerged on the shores to root and roll and as the forest creatures sought water. If she were fortunate, as she had been last night, she could combine a stoop on a large meal with a safe landing on a marshy riverfront strip.

If she were unfortunate, she could always land in the river shallows and crawl out onto whatever bank the river offered. That, she feared, might be her best option this evening. And while she did not doubt that she could survive such an unpleasantly cold and wet landing, she dreaded the thought of attempting to take flight from such a place. As she had to do now.

Wings half-extended, she walked down to the water’s edge and drank, wrinkling her nostrils at the bitter taste of the water. Once she had sated her thirst, she opened her wings and sprang into the sky.

With a wild flapping of her wings, she crashed back to earth again. It was not a long fall, but it jarred her, breaking her pain into sharp-edged fragments that stabbed every interior space of her body. The shock jabbed the air from her lungs and crushed a hoarse squawk of pain from her throat. She hit the ground badly, her wings still half-open. Her tender side struck the earth. Stunned, she sprawled, waiting for the agony to pass. It did not, but gradually it faded to a bearable level.

Tintaglia lowered her head to her chest, gathered her legs under her and slowly folded her wings. She badly wanted to rest. But if she did she would awaken hungrier and stiffer than she was now and with the daylight fading. No. She had to fly and now. The longer she waited, the more her physical abilities would wane. She needed to fly while she still could.

She steeled herself to the pain, not allowing her body to compensate for it any way. She simply had to endure it and fly as if it did not hurt. She burned that thought into her brain and then without pausing, opened her wings, crouched and launched herself upwards.

Every beat of her wings was like being stabbed with a fiery spear. She roared, giving voice to her fury at the pain, but did not vary the rhythm of her wing beats. Rising slowly into the air, she flew over the shallows of the river until finally she lifted clear of the trees that shaded the river’s face. The wan sunlight touched her and the wilder winds of the open air buffeted her. The breezes were heavy with the threat of chilling rain to come. Well, let it come, then. Tintaglia was flying home.

 Blood of Dragons © Robin Hobb 2013

mardi 5 mars 2013

Daw books March releases

Daw Books, publishers of Patrick Rothfuss series The Kingkiller Chronicles, as announced it's March release list. We will be able to get our hands on the new Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Children of Kings, A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, Midnight Blue-light Special by Seanan McGuire, Intruder by C.J. Cherryh and The Books of Barakhai by Mickey Zucker Reichert.

So plenty of books this month and for every tastes.

A turn of light by Julie E. Czerneda

A turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda is finally out. I have only heard good things about the book until now. I will buy my copy very soon and try to give you a little review on it. Of course my reading list right now is a bit long, but I will try to give you something to have a good idea of what to expect. You can buy the book here;

Barnes and Nobles

You can find a excerpt on the author's website.