Thursday 30 July 2009

Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light by Michelle Sagara West

The fourth and final book in the Sundered Quadrology, Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light concludes the story of Stefanos the Servant of the Dark Lord and Erin of Elliath. It seems that finally the Dark will succeed as the power of the Light fades. But Erin is determined to free the light whatever the cost. This will be the last confrontation between the Light and the Dark.

I don't know if it's because I've left it so long between book 3 and book 4 but I found it harder to get into this one. The story also starts slowly as the various players move into position for the final battle. There's quite a lot of politicking going on and I was really struggling to keep all the council members, priests and lords straight in my head. And I admit here to not understanding everything that was going on. Saying that, I greatly admire how Michelle Sagara West is able to slot everything together, there is the ultimate confrontation between dark and light, but within that individuals manipulate situations to their own advantage and pursue their own ends.

Perhaps the most fascinating and tragic character introduced here is that of Amalayna. And I feel that Chains of Darkness,... is worth reading if only to read her story. Michelle Sagara West captures perfectly the conflict that Amalayna feels - the need for vengeance balanced against the decision to take it. Her need is so powerful but not without doubt and uncertainty, very well written scenes.

Maybe the main problem I have is that as with the previous book Erin and Stefanos are separated. (Right until the end). There isn't the quest plot here to sustain the interest as there was in Lady of Mercy (the third book) and it makes for much harder going.

Erin is an emotionally distant heroine - completely in keeping with all that has happened to her, but a little frustrating at times. Bethany perhaps best explains the situation when she explains to Darin what will happen when Erin and Stefanos meet:-
...the Sarillorn of Elliath must carry the battle to its logical end. What she brings is war and death. Could you face him easily, with only that to offer? Could you face him so, knowing that he would not lift hand against you?
Erin doesn't really grasp until she is told that she is the last hope of a desperate people. And the scene of her torture at the end was I think just one too much for me. (It took me back to the scenes in Book 2 which were also very disturbing).

Stefanos on the other hand has maintained my interest perhaps more than any other character. This is one of the few series I've read with a true anti-hero - a protagonist who stands opposed to everything a hero should be. (Urban fantasy writers currently writing about demon heroes should take note). Even in this last book when we anticipate that he will somehow be redeemed he is still sacrificing and murdering people. But, importantly his motivation has changed, he has changed. His, has been the journey that kept me reading the books.

Would I recommend the series? Yes. The first book I still feel is one of the best introductions to a series I have read, and Stefanos is one of the most interesting and disturbing (anti-)heroes. I believe this is the first series Michelle Sagara West wrote and whilst (for me) the ending has let it down slightly, I cannot imagine any other ending than the one I have read. I think for anyone who loves dark fantasy, this is a series they should read.

Monday 27 July 2009

Currently Up to 'B'

Following the unsuccessful visit to Borders. I have determined to sort out my books once and for all.

It is taking forever and is not the most thrilling thing I've ever done. However, I'm discovering that I am way behind on a lot of series.

I have just completed the letter B. And the only authors whose series I have managed to keep up to date with so far are - Kelley Armstrong (though not her YA series) and Anne Bishop.

All the others I've either not got the books or they are currently lost somewhere in the TBR pile or on various other bookshelves. A job to be tackled after this one.

So currently behind on the following authors:-

Lara Adrian, Ann Aguirre, Ilona Andrews, Jennifer Armintrout, Jenna Black, Patricia Briggs*, Suzanne Brockmann, Lois McMaster Bujold (Chalion), Meljean Brook**, Jim Butcher***

This is only up to B, and whilst I'd console myself with the fact that perhaps most of the authors whose series I like to follow have names beginning with A or B, I know that the first author in C is Rachel Caine.

* - I blame this on the fact that I bought the fug ugly UK cover and just can't bring myself to open it.

** - Not sure I have the strength to catch up on this one. I really enjoyed the first book, but it was very long. The second book is in my TBR pile I'm sure and I seem to remember it being quite thick as well.

*** - I fell behind on this one when the publisher changed from US to UK and it was a real pain in the ass to get hold of the books. I seem to remember this is also why I intially stopped reading Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris as well.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Yay, made it to another film. I think this is either the third or fourth one of the year.

The cinema was packed. For the first time in ever, they'd sold out of the showing we wanted to see ( we wanted four seats together, there were still a few odd seats left though the show sold out a few minutes later) so we got seats in the next showing.

Just to illustrate how slightly odd I am and the way my mind works. When someone started sneezing during the trailers I did think what a bummer it would be to catch swine flu at a Harry Potter screening. And how perhaps coming to a packed cinema during a flu pandemic was not perhaps a smart thing to do.

Trailers - I'm hopeless at remembering these. I get out of the cinema and have already forgotten them. But here are the ones I remember. The Proposal, not a huge Sandra Bullock fan but I'm tempted by this because I love Ryan Reynolds when he's snarky. Up - the trailer had me laughing my head off. New Moon - was the last trailer and my niece sat up and had a great big grin on her face (lol) We will be coming to see this in November, I'm sure. I'm sure there was at least one other but I cannot remember what it was. (Edited to Add - it was GI Joe).

Here I admit to not reading the Harry Potter books. I have tried several times to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and have never got past the first few pages. I do like the films and therefore my main hope is that I'll be able to follow what's going on without having to ask someone who's read the books. So far with the exception of Goblet of Fire (I found the film very confusing and thought they relied to much on the assumption that the audience would have read the books) it's been okay.

I liked this one. I liked it more for the comedy - the scenes with Ron and Hermione, Ron and Harry, Harry and Hermione. Favourite scene in the movie is when Hermione smacks Harry (I AM the chosen one) on the back of the head with the book. I'm not sure the balance between light and dark moments was right, but having not read the book I don't know how true they're being to the source material. It could be that this is the last opportunity for a little humour before everything goes down the pan and becomes unremittingly grim.

Looking forward to seeing the last two films in the franchise. :)

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Chains of Darkness, Chains of Light - so far

So I'm struggling a little with this one. It's the fourth in the Sundered quadrology by Michelle Sagara West, and when I started reading I found one of my notes/bookmarks which indicated I'd already read to page 58 once. (I make little notes on scraps of paper as I go along and use them as bookmarks).

It took a littl getting into, but I'm now well over halfway. More thoughts on why I struggled at the beginning in the main review. But I am still impressed by the skillful (skilfull? skillfull?) way Michelle West weaves her story together. At the moment the reader is in the privileged position of witnessing the machinations of every character, whilst the characters remain unaware. Very much along the lines of the reader knowing something terrible is going to happen and being unable to stop it.

Hopefully will have it finished by the weekend.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Hero by Perry Moore

Hero tells the story of Thom, a secret teenage superhero, as he struggles to grow up, deal with his powers, his relationship with his father and find out who he really is and what he stands for.

This has been one of my favourite books of the year so far. Fast paced and emotional the story pulls you in from the first page. And whilst the character types will be familiar to anyone with only the barest familiarity with the superhero genre - healer, precog, strongman etc. - seeing the story through Thom's eyes shows it to us from a different perspective.

Now I think this is YA, but I am not 100% positive, maybe the older end of YA? My copy has 'not suitable for younger readers' printed on the back. There is strong swearing and sexual situations though nothing overtly graphic.

Anyhoo. I picked this up after it was recommended on several blogs, I believe it was Kris who described it as fan-fucking-tastic. Told in the first person, from Thom's point of view, for me the story works best when it deals with the relationships he has with those close to him - his father, Goran, Ruth. Initially the style is very stream of conciousness and backtracks when Thom realizes he has left an important part of the story out. It's realistically written and we share Thom's experiences with him. Some of them absolutely cringeworthy and probably familiar to most of us who hated high school.

He and his father seem to communicate on different wavelengths, no one understands him, and on top of everything he likes guys rather than girls.

Thom is finding his place in the world and finding out that having super powers doesn't necessarily make it any easier. He's finding out you have to make your own place and be prepared to fight for it - and not necessarily with your fists. He has to 'wake up' and realize that life is something to be lived and that not everything can be achieved without experiencing pain. Okay, I don't mean to make it sound completely angst-ridden because actually a lot of it is very funny, Thom has a very self-depracating sense of humor. Possibly my favourite line:-
"Aim for his nads!" Ruth screamed. Aim for his nads with what? My strong sense of integrity?
What I like most about the story is the relationship between Thom and his father. Maybe because my own dad died very recently but some of this hit close to home. Thom has to deal with the fact that his father is somewhat homophobic, but Thom is not (initially) in a position to know the problems and prejudices that his father has to deal with on a day to day basis.

One of the most interesting things about the book for me - was how it highlights how our parents can live separate lives that we aren't even aware of. How the biggest thing they may have to deal with in a day is not that we pranged the car or broke the home computer but that they lost their job or that their best friend died. I think this will be a future comfort read for me and a book that I highly recommend.

I'm not sure Perry Moore will make it as my breakout author for 2009 after all there are still six months to go, but Hero will definitely be ranking in my top 5 books of the year.