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Monday, June 18, 2012
Enjoyment **** Plot *** Interactions *** Characters **** World ***** Originality **** Grammar **** Style ***
With Distant Star, Author Joe Ducie has produced a book that is a cross between Jasper Fford's Thursday Next series, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart and Roger Zalazny's Nine Princes In Amber series. That's a good pedigree.
Mr. Ducie has written an interesting and dense story that requires careful reading. It evokes Zalazny's style more than Fford's or Funke's.
In the opening scene, the reader is introduced to Declan Hale's life when the young bookstore owner is challenged to an old western style gunfight, but with books. Hale lives in True Earth and for those with Will stories and words have power and books written with Will can tap into the primal forces of the universe and create entire new worlds.
Most of the unfolding story revolves around the War of the Tomes which Declan single-handedly ended five years ago. Apparently no-one is happy with what he did to end it, especially not Declan. Now Declan has been banished to True Earth and spends his time drinking and writing an endless book. He is bitter, tired, and cynical and most of the action in the book consists of reactions by Declan to repercussions from that war.
As this fast paced story unfolds, Declan's history is told in bits and pieces. The history that is revealed is intricate and interesting with an epic feel and by the end, the reader can fully sympathize with Declan's dark side.
Upon reflection, the history was more interesting than the actual story which is perhaps why Mr. Ducie told it the way he did.
- The author is too frugal with information. This makes the story hard to read and leaves a lot of questions about what exactly happened.
- Some of the terminology felt misplaced and used more because it sounds cool than because it makes sense. The worlds created by the books is referred to as 'The Forgotten' which is anything but forgotten. He refers to the worlds created by Willful writers as the 'Infernal Worlds' and the powers used to create them 'Infernal'. That one still has me scratching my head. Even the title Distant Star which sounds cool would seem more at ease on a space opera than this multi-worlds urban fantasy.
- Some of the interactions and dialog between characters seem designed to be evocative and fraught with innuendo and hidden meaning without ever revealing what the characters intended.
- Using books as weapons to evoke gunslinger images was a stretch and felt more goofy than interesting. It felt like maybe that was the genesis of the book: 'Hey, wouldn't it be cool if these guys dueled with books?' But, when the story evolved beyond that goofy concept, the author couldn't bring himself to let it go.
- Interesting story with good pacing.
- Sympathetic characters
- Strong engaging writing style.
- Deep and complex world. There was a great feeling of depth to it.
If you were to just read the pros and cons you might think I didn't enjoy the book, but that is not the case. I enjoyed the story and have found myself reflecting on it a lot. In my book, that means it was worth reading.
After perusing some of the other reviews, the things which I felt were shortcomings obviously didn't have the impact on other reviewers that they did on me. If you enjoyed Zalazny's Nine Princes In Amber series, you will enjoy this. This is book is a fun read and Mr. Ducie is an author to watch.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Murder in the Boughby Jamie Sedgwick
Enjoyment *** Plot *** Interactions *** Characters ** World *** Originality ****Grammar **** Style ***
Murder in the Bough is an urban fantasy detective mystery. To most people who know him, Hank Mossberg is a San Francisco private investigator with a skin problem. To the rest, he is known as the Warden and his skin condition is quite normal for an ogre. In this case, 'the rest' is the magical population of San Francisco. This population is actually quite large and varied and is filled with Elves, Dwarfs, Pixies, Nymphs. Pick a fairy tale, they are probably lurking around somewhere.
As the Warden to the magical fae, Hank Mossberg is the law. Being an Ogre makes him uniquely qualified for the job. He is large, strong and immune to most magic. He gets a small stipend and a small apartment in the 'Mother tree'. The Mother tree is a one hundred and fifty foot tall tree that the magical population has moved into a warehouse in San Francisco. It is the tree from which all other trees spring and it is home to hundreds of fae. Besides homes, the Mother contains is a five star restaurant and Hank's jail.
Hank has a few problems: he is an ogre - the last of his kind; a key piece of evidence his case against a drug running Elven mob family has disappeared from his impenetrable safe; the mob boss has been murdered and Hank's taking the blame; his latest PI case seems to be a dead end; and, last, but not least, his love life is on the rocks. Whenever he touches a magical fae woman, she passes out. It makes it hard to get a second date.
The story follows Hank as he attempts to solve his problems and not get dead while doing it.
Mr. Sedgwick is a little too spare with his descriptions. For example, we find out that Hank has an apartment in the Mother tree, but we don't come away with any real sense of the place. I'd have liked to read more about the unique settings and more descriptions of the characters. As it is, Mr. Sedgwick relies on stereotypes and fairytales to provide that detail for the reader.
This sparcity is also evident in the characters in the story. They struck me as stereotypical without a lot of surprises.
Hank is a likeable protagonist in an interesting world. He has a strong sense of justice with an unfortunate tendency to lose his temper and make rash decisions. The storyline is straight forward and entertaining and the story is overall a fast, light and fun read. Mr. Sedgwick has an interesting new take on the underground magical world that is the base of so much urban fantasy and his writing style is clean and transparent with some good humorous highlights.
Overall, it is a decent, fun read and I enjoyed my time in Hank's world. If this becomes a series, I will probably buy the second book.