Book Reviews


…news here.

I’m…shocked. Sad. Shocked. I’m not sure which. His was probably the first real ‘epic’ fantasy series I’d read, Eddings and Brooks aside, and decidedly the very first series I was actively ‘following’…he was always so confident and optimistic in his blog, it seemed like if anyone was going to overcome this disease, he was. I loved his writing (The Wheel of Time series) regardless of how they might’ve slowed down later on in the series, and I think I somehow expected him to trump all our expectations with a totally blowoffyafeet last novel, the now unfinished A Memory of Light.

😦

A more fitting title I can’t imagine. Like Pat said, thanks for the experience, and the memories. And that extends to more than the books. Without The Wheel of Time, I’d never have gone on to explore the genre as much as I have.

Note: Robert Jordan’s page at Wikipedia has been updated, if you’d like to go and find out more about what he wrote other than The Wheel of Time.

Advertisements

Part 2 of my, uh, delicate dissection. *wields scalpel*

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Narrative structure. Ahhh… I was honestly confused when I read on forums complaints about Mr. Lynch’s use of flashbacks, and what they called ‘infodumps’. Certainly not! Detect my indignant tone! I loved those interrupting interludes, and the way the book was sectioned into different parts, or books: c’mon, do you really want all the books ever written in life to be written in the same damnably boring straightforward pointA-to-pointB style, which besides being didIsayboring would also mean the death of a huge part of literary study and also necessitate the abuse of authors that dabble in such analepsis for example toni morrison alice sebold yann martel and about half the literary canon? *wheeze* Don’t make me come after you with meat cleavers. I only hope that Mr. Lynch didn’t seriously consider those comments as representative of all his readers’ opinions, and that instead, the lack of good flashback, infodumping scenes in Red Seas Under Red Skies was only because he had a clever interwoven flashbacky structure in The Republic of Thieves, Gentleman Bastard Sequence book 3. I loved the Half-Crown War interlude, for example, very nicely played, kept right until just after the “Complication” part of The Lies of Locke Lamora. In Red Seas, I did like the scenes revealing how Jean and Locke got away from Vel Virazzo, and the abseiling practice session had me giggling throughout, but later on, there weren’t any interludes to check the plot before it went bubbling into pieces. Melted pieces. On a sponge.

Meaning I found the second half of the book messy. In a way, the narrative structure of The Lies of Locke Lamora was so tight and focussed it knew what it wanted to deliver and did just that. It didn’t pretend to debate morals and ethics, nor elements of mythology nor symbols pointing toward some great flaw in humanity that we needs address. It wasn’t trying to win the World Fantasy Award (though getting nominated was probably a nice experience for Mr. Lynch…*jealous*) so much as entertain its readers. Red Seas Under Red Skies, on the other hand, wound up a dance of strangers, no character being really fleshed out enough to get my hate or my lifelong affection, and scenes or ideas being introduced too late – the part where Jean and Locke hurriedly list the members of the Priori confused me, for example. I thought it was my memory telling me it’d gone bust with disuse before I realised Cordo and Lyonis and the others had never been mentioned before. Would it really have been so difficult to include a hint of them earlier? I don’t know. Mr. Lynch is the master; I’m just the disgruntled reader who finds messy writing leads to detached reading, which is never good except when approaching textbooks thicker than an inch.

Since we’re talking in comparison to Lies, another major cause for dismay was the prologue. While Lies‘s prologue set an atmosphere of possibilities – that Locke was highly skilled, highly capable, “and therefore look out! the rest of the book will be as highly skilled and highly capable and you will be shocked”, Red Seas‘s prologue threw a storm over our heads, some bolts of lightning, devastated the landscape and replaced it with a heath, made Locke old and bearded and wearing a crown of thorny twigs and shouting “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” and Jean a Fool tagging along behind. OK, so even if Locke didn’t quite make the definition of Shakespearean tragedy, his apparent ‘betrayal’ by Jean made us wary of everything Jean said to Locke in the book. Only to finally reach that opening scene later in the book, and have it resolve just as quickly as it was introduced. Besides, since some of us were pretty certain Jean would never betray Locke, we spent a lot of time wondering what trick Jean was working, and just how intricate it would be, and perhaps it would be just sneaky enough to prove Jean almost as quickwitted as Locke himself and therefore a better partner than we thought. To resolve all that speculation so rapidly seemed a waste. So putting that scene in the prologue made it all rather melodramatic, and would have worked better left only in the main story, so that you felt that same horror as you did when Barsavi toppled Locke into his cask.

Oh! How could I forget this – I had a pretty damn hard time accepting the Salon Corbeau section. Why? I know some of you loved it, but I really couldn’t get over how it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. It seemed so deliberately contrived to get our sympathy for the sacking of an entire city, and yet, it didn’t seem gruesome enough – not as gruesome as, say, Sage Kindness’s glass-massage in Lies. I almost winced at it; it’ll be some time before I can go back and read it without recoiling mentally. That’s just me, of course, and people who know me will probably say I’m a stickler for the very subtle, over the overt. Go ahead and disagree – that’s what the comment box is for πŸ™‚

That’s the jist of my quarrel with Red Seas Under Red Skies. See earlier post for some of it. Characterisation – Ezri, Zamira, Stragos, Rodanov, flat. Merrain might have been a mystery, but the kind inspired out of an annoyance over loose ends on your carpet, than the Grey King’s implacable, reticent, hatred. Mood and setting – oh, not too bad. Camorr was more tangible. More charismatic. I’d love to go back there one day. Book 5, perhaps, Mr. Lynch? πŸ˜‰ Plot and narrative – the list of names Locke and Jean rattle at one another? Why are these people significant?

Not exactly important, but I did miss the, hm, constructive detail, so to speak. The Lies of Locke Lamora had Camorr’s Beautiful Arts, the Shifting Revel, ‘teeth lessons’, Falselight, crow’s cages, ‘first touch’, and even the mention of Locke’s vocabulary games being a sign that he was confident – it also had references within itself, like having Lorenzo Salvara as a boy appear in the House of Glass Roses interlude. Red Seas didn’t have that. Of course, Locke and Jean were in a new and unfamiliar city, and no interludes into faire childehood had been scheduled, so… well, let’s just say I’m anticipating The Republic of Thieves with more enthusiasm than I usually anticipate books following not-so-hot books. Was that deliberate? I wonder. Are all authors of sneaky con-books as sneaky as their characters?

But there are good scenes, of course. Really good scenes. My favourites have to be the abseiling practice session, which was plain rollicking good fun, the opening Carousel Hazard game, with all of the Gentlemen Bastards’ “look who’s really winning” blithe smart-mouthing, and for some reason, the legerdemain display in Requin’s rooms. I love picturing things like that. Pouring wine for the ‘gladiator’ in the wasp cage under the guise of disdain – terrific. The ‘reverse burglars’ comment had me in stitches. (Actually, that whole break-in scene reminded me of that part in FF7 where Cloud breaks into the Don’s mansion dressed as a girl, and threatens his manhood. Bloody ingenious, that. Still wish it’d been done in literary form. Would have loved to have read it!) And love the ending; Locke must be a step ahead of Jean, or else how can he be garrista? Like someone said on asoiaf forums – another ending where the Gentlemen Bastards wind up “slightly more fucked” than how they started out.

In conclusion (What’s my word count, sir? Funny how I’m using time I’d set aside to write my philosophical essay to write this. Scott Lynch now owes me about 4 hours), I was disappointed, yes, but no more than I was with Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy – like her trilogy, this sequel carries the same writing style, the same quirks that mark each author as separate entities and not growing appendages off one pulsating blob of authorship, and also the same unravelling of tight plot structure. To me, anyway. Argue with me as you wish. …Actually, I was bitterly disappointed, downright pissed, with the Soldier Son trilogy, so my relatively mild dissatisfaction with Red Seas Under Red Skies is really just that – mild. Nothing to stop writing over, Mr. Lynch. *winning smile*

Nice book, all in all. 3.5 star rating. Wouldn’t reread it all that much though.
What is written, is irreversible. You cant take it back. So, even though I’m in all kinds of excitement to read book 3, I do so hope Mr. Lynch takes his time, as much as is possible, with book 3: to slow down, reread, feel it out, explore his characters and his cities, show them to us in all their full, vibrantly coloured exteriors and rotten, corrupt interiors. Reading is one thing. You got to get your readers rereading. *goes off to buy new version of The Lies of Locke Lamora, replete with sexy French cover*

***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)
Some extra speculation. Sabetha and plays. Obvious link. Three line synopsis on Mr. Lynch’s official webpage: very, very suggestive. Interview with Mr. Lynch, mention of the Falconer of Karthain’s mother. Ooh. Named Lady Patience. …she better not have an attendant named Lacey. Plus, poison hanging over Locke. All this makes me just as excited to read book 3 as I was to read book 2. And here’s a question for you to think about … I reread Lies’s chapter on Locke travelling to the farm he was to ‘apprentice’ on, and caught in Chains’ voice what seemed like emphasis on “country bandit“, when he explained to Locke the benefits of learning the country people. I instantly thought: aHA! Trav! … πŸ˜› What do you think?

The second novel in the Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence, following The Lies of Locke Lamora. Erm, ‘ware spoilers. This isn’t a review so much as a dissection. πŸ˜‰

Red Seas Under Red Skies - II

I hate that Australia, despite being one of the first countries to experience ‘tomorrow’ as ‘today’ compared to the rest of the world *cough* the US *cough*, always seems to get her books last. It’s like the other countries carry out clandestine transactions behind her back while she courageously essays forth to greet the day first; and only when she’s bludgeoned the night away do her followers offer her the dregs of the deals. Bah! See, Red Seas Under Red Skies finally hit local bookshelves just a week ago, here in Brisbane. September! Damn! September!

But it was worth the wait. Psyched myself to the point of breaking tradition and buying the large paperback version, tackily shimmery as it was. (I’m even going to buy the recent Gollancz SF version of The Lies Locke Lamora, with its remodeled-French-version cover – sexy figure on cover, sexy.) I actually stood there in Borders for a few minutes, exulting that it had finally come. Then I got home, swept with supreme carelessness PHIL2140, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad off my desk, grabbed French Onion Kraft dip and some Arnotts and thenceforth seated myself beside Locke and Jean at Carousel Hazard. There was a prologue, but my version of Lies already had it as a teaser at its very end, so it wasn’t going to stop me much or make me go “GAH! Betrayal!!” since I’d already gone and done that.

It was a pretty good book. Entertaining, funny, occasionally clever, more lighthearted than epic-dramatic and that’s a darned good thing, when you’ve been like me and read Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, and Robin Hobb on end. Mr. Lynch definitely has a knack for writing good dialogue, and he knows it well; he doesn’t need to put in flowery adjectives or long unintelligible monologues in the stream-of-consciousness style to get across what his characters are experiencing. *points smug smile at Molly Bloom* But I’m afraid, good as it is in its own rights, it definitely didn’t match the standard set by The Lies of Locke Lamora. Yes, I know there are glowing reviews saying Red Seas Under Red Skies is either almost just as good as, equally good as, and even better than, Lies, but I just can’t agree.

“Well, why? C’mon, you incompetent, half-pint, mangy little girl-whelp, Locke was awesome when he charged the Jeremite Redeemers all by his scrawny self!”

True, that. And also true that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with the book. In fact, there’s nothing at all ‘wrong’; it tries very hard indeed to please its readers with the same plot, character and wit mix that the first book gave us oh-so-pleasingly. And that, I think, is where the problem lies. It seems to try too hard to have all those things. I got the impression that the book was written too hastily, too feverishly, and without enough of the backward glance that checks to see if the world it left in its wake is really a complete and three-dimensional one. So let’s see what gave me that idea…

The characters lacked real depth this time around, especially the female characters. There were a couple of people at asoiaf.westeros.org that thought the same thing I did, that is, that the female characters were remarkably predictable, and flat, and that Ezri and Zamira, the two females that accompany Locke and Jean for most of the book, were disappointingly simple – Ezri tellingly so. Her past was glossed over, her appearances were mostly used to complement Jean’s character, and you already knew that because of how straightforward these things made her character, she was going to die. It was kind of a vicious cycle thing – you knew she was going to die, so it seemed kind of pointless to really attach yourself to her, which made her seem even more superficial. I spent most of the time wondering what Locke was doing and thinking during those Ezri/Jean scenes, than concentrating on Ezri. Zamira…her initial showing, when threatening Jean to see Locke’s response, was brilliant – sharp, intelligent, very efficient: a female Barsavi with double his mental clarity. She seemed to fade after that though. I expected her to do something interesting at the pirates’ meeting. She didn’t though. Just talk. Pity.

Selendri was probably the most appealing female character on scene. Only half a real woman, but twice as dangerous as any other. And she oozed a bold pride to match Locke’s; flaunting her scarred side as disconcertingly much as her whole one, was just fantastic. She was underplayed of course, being Requin’s sidekick. That was another pity, putting Requin and the Sinspire game aside for most of the book, since Requin was much more charming a character than Stragos, who just seemed a little Hitleresque for my taste, what with his dreams of the future. This is part of what gave a fair number of readers, including myself, the strong feeling that the first half of the book being much better than the second.

An aside: why do I keep thinking of non-protagonists as NPCs? Weird. The peripheral characters here were certainly not NPCs, a fact which bugged me a great deal. They were more PC than I ever wanted. I hate reading the other characters’ points-of-view, especially when they’re on the ‘enemy side’ – it reminds me of those children’s books that attempt to teach us that nobody is truly evil. Really now, by the time you get to reading Lies and Seas without having your parents gasp at the amount of liberal (but very amusing πŸ˜€ ) swearing in them, you’ll have understood that moral very well, and you’d expect books to be describing the difficulty of dealing with the problems that cause such ‘evil’ to be done, rather than explaining it. And that description won’t involve POVs from their side. I admit Requin’s narrative at the end of the book was pretty necessary, to explain succinctly what was going to happen to the government of Tal Verrar, however, the effect of Strago’s POV, and Merrain’s, took away the latent danger of atmosphere that Lies so effectively gave Camorr. Barsavi’s potential to absolutely ruin Locke and Jean’s life had no parallel here – you expected Locke to stay on top.

– ok, this post is getting too long. If you’ve been a patient reader, click here for the next part.

…no seriously, I was thinking that was a hell of a hilarious name, until I realised Locke would never use that name. *pouts*

Still, Leocanto Kosta has a nice ring. And I was giggling again when I saw them using the old ‘Tavrin Callas’ persona. Wouldn’t be too surprised to see the name tossed around in every subsequent book, so that by the end of the sequence, all the powers that be in Locke’s world will be trembling at the varied talents (which includes dying several times, and reappearing nevertheless, and often in places rather far away) of the elusive Tavrin Callas. Hah!

But more on Red Seas Under Red Skies after I ponder on Sabetha and plays. Not that we actually get to see Locke’s lady-love just yet. I wonder at Scott’s self-control – and mine, as a dear, desperate reader – in introducing her on the first book’s very first page, and never letting us hear more than a fragmented barebones mention of her before Locke throws his sullen glares and heavy sighs around and everyone shuts up. She’d better turn up in the next book. In some Locke-worthy sneaky way. On a stage perhaps. *muses*

***1/2

Full dissection/review coming up next.

Update! (SpoilerFULL) Rowling turns to selling encyclopaedias for next source of income! …Kidding. But seriously now…

When I was writing that last review on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it looks like I missed out on some fairly important news from the current reigning Queen of Fiction (whether we like it or not, she is queen, just as in the good ol’ pre-20th century days. Well, actually, it’s not ‘whether we like it or not.’ Apparently the masses decided to ‘vote’ her queen, and the sadly outnumbered saner few had their protests drowned out), J. K. Rowling.

Refer to Epilogue, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Recall vagueness and abruptness and severe dissatisfaction. Master feelings of confused rage. Click here. Apparently Rowling did intend to write a detailed description of all the events and children that spun out of the Harry-Voldemort showdown, but for reasons I can’t fathom, she decided to not to publish it, but rather leave it for her post-coronation greet-the-masses-on-yon-royal-balcony interview. Why ever would you not publish the part of the book that people spent years reading for? It’s rather like opening Forrest Gump’s memorable box of chocolates of which life apparently resembles, only to find nothing inside. But never mind that – let’s see what Rowling intended for her characters (that we never got to see). (more…)

(Spoilers blanked out)

Of course, that could be a doubtful statement. But only if you wanted to discuss the credibility of rumours such as the one saying J. K. Rowling signed a contract for 8 Harry Potter books, not 7. Saying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows IS indeed the last book with Harry in it will do for now, and in my current kindly and condescending mood (likely due to my sage knowledge of what it is like to come to the end of a beloved, long-followed and vicariously lived series … I sat for hours staring out my window after finishing Fool’s Fate, the last of Hobb’s Fitz-Fool books. God, I loved those books.) I’m in no mood to start arguing that Rowling hasn’t had enough of the bespectacled boy-hero.

So what do you think of it?

Mixed feelings. Generally, though, I have a negative response to it. I’m pretty disappointed. And I’m disappointed that I am disappointed.

In retrospect, I’ve been rather unfair to Rowling and Harry Potter. My responses to the books tend to swing between the apathetic to the caustic, but then again, most of the time I have reasons for my aversion, solid reasons that others share with me. I was carrying this unfriendly history and a rather sceptical frame of mind when I began reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – so if you don’t care to read yet another disparaging review by a weary reviewer who’s firmly convinced she’s read better books, and better fantasy, then perhaps you should start looking elsewhere…but no, WAIT! I started this paragraph with a veiled apology for being prejudiced against Rowling. I shall conclude this paragraph by explaining why I’m apologising: because Snape’s revelations was a pretty masterful piece of writing.

Let’s talk about what I’m more comfortable talking about. The BAD aspects. (Rowling fans, skip this and go straight to my reluctant obeisance to the Snape Revelations) Overall, I think it did fair enough as an ending novel. Tied up all the loose threads, summarily and efficiently addressed the Snape question, both killed and let live Harry Potter, destroyed evil and restored calm and even threw in a couple of kids named after fallen warriors- ah, wizards and witches. In other words, it fulfilled its role as a typical closing book; nothing controversial or extraordinary that will have the masses arguing and throwing forks at one another. Rowling didn’t have all of them die in a tragic train accident that locked them all into some parallel wizards/witches only world *thinks Narnia*. Then again, to my disappointment, she didn’t do anything in particular at ALL. She just ended it. It was kind of like going for the firework extravaganza back on the eve of the new millennium, if the fireworks had all stopped after the third second into the year 2000. Let’s see…*does a bit of mousework and window-popping* …approximately 1/80th of the book was devoted to the aftermath of Harry and Voldemort’s showdown (which turned out to be mostly a tossing back and forth of words that boiled down to ‘You got pwned!’ ‘No, see, I did THIS weeks ago and therefore pwned YOU then!’). What happened to the teachers at Hogwarts? McGonagall? Flitwick? Did they go on teaching? Who took over as Headmaster? What eventually became of the Dursleys? What happened to Dean, Lavender, Seamus? And what about Luna Lovegood, in my opinion one of Rowling’s (few) fine creations – whose fate we so dearly want to hear involves lots of triumph and pride and success? Most of all – how does George Weasley endure never having his twin around again? I’m sure that was a thought passing through a lot of our heads when we read Fred’s death: “Oh NO! What about George now?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that you can’t take one twin from another, without any consequence at all to the other twin. All those questions are left, frustratingly and depressingly, unanswered.

Instead, we get a brief snapshot that tells us only that Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione at least are happy, and hints that Teddy Lupin isn’t as sad an orphan as he could have been, that Arthur Weasley is still alive, that Hermione’s daughter is also intelligent, that Draco married and has a kid, and has never seemed to achieve friendly terms with Harry, Ron and Hermione; and the only bit of real other-character info we get is that Neville is Herbology Professor at Hogwarts. Hey, I like peripheral vision just as much as I do what’s right in the centre. Others do too.

There was some passably clever logic involved in the real showdown though. I had to read it a few times to work out exactly how the threads fell, which is good, especially for a plot-reliant book like Harry Potter (let’s face it, the language isn’t going to win a Somerset Maugham prize anytime soon), but it wasn’t brilliantly executed, just smart enough to prevent the fight from devolving into the brainless melee. Basically, Harry wouldn’t have stood a chance in a real duel, and he was just lucky that he’d happened to have disarmed Draco Malfoy a little earlier on. It was still followed by a fairly predictable exchange of greenlightredlight icurseyouyoucurseme, though. *Sigh*

So the showdown, aftermath and epilogue was mediocre, felt incomplete, and was, uh… *searches for tactful word – and gives up*…cheesy.

The reason I’m not fuming mad is that for me, the book had already had it’s cork-popping conclusion for me: Snape’s revelations effectively concluded my Harry Potter experience. You see, I’ve only been reading Harry Potter for Severus Snape. He is by far and away the most intriguing character in the series, and I’m sure a great proportion of you readers agree with me that you always thought there was more to him than meets the eye. (You did, didn’t you!? *attempts a piercing glare*) And Rowling did an admittedly very good job in resolving Snape’s mysteries. In fact, she did a *grudging tone* really good job with Snape. Somehow, after hiding the truth from us for all those years, a single chapter explaining Snape’s motivations didn’t seem too much, too late; it fits in with Snape’s presentation to date, and you might recognise a subconscious suspicion of the truth within you all this while. And yes, after 7 books of pretty unremarkable text and dialogue, I finally found something that clings quotable to my mind, even if it may be limited to how long I adore Snape… (and this is from memory… πŸ˜› )…

Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded, he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. “After all this time?”

“Always,” said Snape.

Ah, now there I had to grin. Isn’t that beautiful? Terse, smooth, very simple, and very definite, and indefinite, all at once. Snape couldn’t have meant more and said less. And with that single word, he wins millions of real human hearts to his side. Awww. Wait, I’m not done being impressed with J. K. Rowling. She even threw in a little wit, doing in Snape by snake-bite. *wry smile* And the fact that Snape still had a few choices on hand when Voldemort expressed his ‘regrets’ and lifted his Elder Wand – Snape could have revealed that he and Dumbledore had planned Dumbledore’s death by Snape’s hand, and therefore Snape didn’t really have the Elder Wand’s power after all. But of course, that would have revealed Snape as a double agent, and Voldemort could never have let him go alive, now could he? There was also a little sad irony in that he only got his reprieve as a good guy after all, after his death. Though he probably didn’t care about being seen as good or evil at all; from his memories, it looked like Snape only really cared for Lily Evans and what she thought of him. Hmm, and Snape’s sensitivity about being thought cowardly also stems from his love for Lily – the Slytherins’ reputation as cowards versus the legendary bravery of Gryffindors. Hence you have Snape’s ‘stricken’ expression when Dumbledore muses that perhaps they Sort too early. Oh, I did have a great time reading The Prince’s Tale.

Thing is, I have a love-hate relationship with these kind of anti-heroic, tortured souls. My weak feminine heart turns to marshmallow mush around them, because I love them so. Too much…and if I do, I end up subscribing to fanlistings and my hand threatens to involuntarily write fanfiction about them. So you’ll understand just how impressed I am with Rowling that she can induce me to be so attached to one of her characters that I now refuse to speak more about Snape in this review. Ahem.

The rest of the novel was disappointingly mundane – it lacked the tension of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. You might think that since the circumstances are much more dangerous than they were in book 4, it’d have a great deal more tingling suspense, thrumming immediacy, or just – you know, presence to it, but I felt curiously detached, and was in fact annoyed on several occasions where Ron and Harry and Hermione spent their precious time bickering like kids over the last cookies in the jar, instead of being those last cookies in the jar, fighting to live. (OK, cookies don’t exactly get to fight for the their right to life. They’d expire anyway.)

I did like the change in atmosphere – there was distinct new flavour to the book, having the majority of the scenes set outside of Hogwarts. It was release for both the characters and the readers.

One thing that bugged me was that I couldn’t see much point for there having to be a race of Giants at all. What is the point of having giants if they don’t have a gigantic effect? They were hardly more noticeable than the house-elves. (Go, semi-hobbits!!)

Oh, and I must mention the deaths. Rowling went a little mad, I think, in her last book – she seems to have felt an urge to write a ‘mature’ last novel, now that her readers will have grown up since the first book’s publication, and her idea of maturity involves plentiful fresh corpses. Never mind that Snape’s death was an elegantly manufactured thing. I didn’t quite see the need to kill one Weasley twin without detailing the effect that must have had on the other twin – why kill a twin, if not to demonstrate the duality/unity relationship between twins? And while I suppose a death couldn’t have been avoided during Harry’s move from the Dursleys, the later deaths of Tonks and Lupin were a bit hard to digest. I felt rather like they had become immaterial, rather than they were actual characters who were now dead characters. I didn’t feel their deaths, if you know what I mean. I suppose they also suffer from the ignominy syndrome – being left out of the aftermath. There wasn’t even much of mourning, other than a brief cameo in Harry’s exhausted afterbattle daze. What a pity. Lupin was another fascinating character.

Finally – Albus Severus Potter? … … …

… … …

I don’t think Snape would have been too pleased to have known his name was being combined with the family name of his hated foe, James, the man who’d stolen his childhood sweetheart…Nor would he have been pleased that he’d been sandwiched in between so thoughtlessly.

Perhaps there’s some more of Rowling’s cheek in that Albus Severus Potter makes the initials A.S.P… asp. A snake. … … … heh.

*sighs* A series concluded. Let’s get this over with and stick a rating on it.

***1/2. (inclusive of an additional whole star and a half for Snape’s Revelations)

Now go ahead and lambast me for being a dreary and exhausting and prejudiced conceited @$)*!. Just bear in mind that I scored The Lies of Locke Lamora ****, a mere half a star more than Harry Potter Book 7, and I wholly, end-to-end, enjoyed Lynch’s tale of high adventure in a gritty fantasy world. I may have found criticism, sure, but it was found with a much more discerning eye than the one I glanced Harry Potter over with. Of fantasy novelists, only Robin Hobb, and Susanna Clarke have ever scored the full ***** from me, and that was because I could very practically conceive writing a whole thesis on character, theme, imagery, and concept – each. I suppose you can’t fairly and reasonably compare modern England with a few magical enhancements to historical England with a whole footnoted elaborate history of its own English magic, or to the alien richness of the Rain Wilds – but you can just put Harry beside FitzChivalry, beside Stephen Black, and see what little you have left of Harry after these heroes of true narration are done with them.

…thoughts on actually finishing the book. (4 stars/5)

So classes begin again next week, and I have this annoying problem with my timetable – everything clashes. Almost. Half my subjects clash with the other half, and I’m not about to give up my beloved Victorian Literature, oh no, and certainly not the Philosophy of Language, and unfortunately another subject is compulsory, and the fourth subject is highly recommended. So, I’m stuck for a while, until the powers that be reply my emails regarding clashes. I’ll probably have to drop something, and that’s putting me in a very depressed state of mind. Boo hoo.

At any rate, I finished Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, with mixed feelings. (Check here for my initial reaction to the book) I was completely captivated right up until Locke and Jean’s last meeting with the Bondsmage of Karthain, i.e. the one with a knife and a flame. Locke’s ‘defeat’ of the Falconer’s spell was a nicely done thing, though I’d anticipated that thing about Locke’s first name, but after that, everything was just too easy. I kept reading feverishly after that, waiting for more of the suspense and clever that’s-cool! twists that Lynch was, until then, delivering with punch. I read. I read. And then the book ended.

Well, it wasn’t quite that dramatic (uh, I mean dull). It just seemed that everything from Locke’s return to Raven’s Reach, even the fairly unimpeded flow of truths from the previously -arrogant-as-hell Falconer, fell in to place too conveniently, without much effort on Locke’s side, apart from some blind, rash dashing about. Sure, it portrayed both Locke’s flaws, in his assurance in his own abilities, and also Locke’s skill (in proving those abilities), but compared to the struggles of the past 9/10’s of the story, it just felt like a letdown. And frankly, while I very much enjoyed Locke’s rather unfair match with the Grey King, and ‘bleeding to death’ is a very agreeable phrase to put in the ending chapter of a book, I can’t imagine how many more times Locke will be near death in the future six books of The Gentleman Bastard sequence. I’m sure it’s possible to maintain the atmosphere of danger and constant need for wariness that Lynch marvellously created here in his Camorr, in the future books without more near-death scenes, but I can’t quite imagine it myself. I’ll have to think harder, I suppose. So will Lynch, I hope.

I did read through the ending bits several times, very closely, to see just why Locke had it so easy, and if there was any place his actions might have been countered. Perhaps here: Vorchenza might have never recovered her memory of what really happened when Capa Raza visited her with his Bondsmage, and Locke was just lucky when she did. Reynart might have been so loyal to his adoptive mother, or so suspicious (probably rightly so) of the Thorn of Camorr that he might have just locked Locke up somewhere secure and soundproof. Or Conte might never have believed Locke. These are possible obstacles, but I suppose no more possible than Locke getting his own way, as he did. *grudging nod* I did find some conflicting bits of detail: at two points in the part after Locke gets floored by Reynart does Locke get back ‘on his feet’, and there’s quite a bit of time in between them. Not a point to write essays over, just a sulky whine from a fussy reader who likes envisioning everything in the story, and who can’t find any other detail to pick on.

But all of what I’ve said is really just quibbling. Nothing really brought the book down to that status where one dithers over changing ‘great promise’ to ‘great read’. It was a great read – I loved the wit, the unadorned and yet sometimes even poetic prose (a starry night as a jewel-merchant’s rug of wares? I love it!), the effortless switch between the seriously sombre and the seriously comic, and most especially, the constant presence of the backdrop. Camorr came alive by the end of the prologue, and never died. (The Last Mistake was a fantastic idea. Vaguely familiar from somewhere else, but as long as I don’t remember that ‘somewhere else’, I say it’s original and I’m impressed.) God, if I wasn’t such a helpless coward myself I’d wish myself in Camorr for a day. So, on the whole, I liked the book, and hope Lynch keeps his pen nib wet and pages fresh. Or wordprocessor program running and fingers flying over keyboards.

Revised Rating: **** (4 stars)

Next Page »