Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Heartless

From the back-cover:

"Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil."

The Bad:

About the first half of this book sounded like it was trying WAY too hard to sound like a fairy-tale. I like fairy-tales and all, but the word choices got in the way. Fortunately, around half-way through it stops trying so hard and gets caught up in the story. That's where I got really interested.

The book's also got some bad poetry. Disclaimer:  I'm not a poet, and in general, I don't like poetry, so I can't really tell if it's good or not. In an interview I read, the author stated that at least some of that is intentional, as she thought it'd be funny if one of the most famous poets of the land wasn't terribly good. And that does fit the character...

The other thing that annoyed me was the main character, Una. Boy is she whiny and stupid...

The Good:

Once the story forgets it's trying to be a fairy-tale, it really gets rolling. The pace and plot both pick up, and I was really hooked from there.
As far as characters go, yeah, I didn't like Una, but just about every other character was awesome. One of the minor villains was almost a cardboard cut-out, but then he was supposed to be as the real villain using and manipulating him.
Prince Aethelbald is a fascinating character. At first, I wasn't sure if he was the good guy just because the story said so, or if he was going to turn out to be a cheap Aslan clone.... then we got out of Una's viewpoint and into his and Una's brother's... and we get all kinds of character complexity.

Said bad poet from above is also a fascinating character, and funny too. Can't say much more about him without giving away spoilers, but I want to read more about him.

At the beginning of the story, I wasn't sure if I was going to give it two stars, or stretch for three. After about that halfway point (possibly a tad before it), I'm comfortable giving it four, and now I really want to see what the rest of the series has to offer. It helps that Una's character does develop by the end of the book...

I give it four stars:

In case your curious, here's how I break down my ratings:
1 star: I hated it, loathed it, and didn't finish it. Possibly even burned it. (Example: Rhapsody)
2 stars: Meh. Nothing really wrong, but I just didn't like it. Probably finished it, but might not have.
3 stars: I liked it, but thought it was just average. Might or might not re-read, or get more books by this author.
4 stars: I really liked it, enjoyed reading it, most likely will get more books by this author. Only one or two things in the book I didn't like.
5 stars: Congrats, you've joined the ranks of Anne McCaffery, Jules Vern, et al. The book is very close to perfection. I WILL re-read this book, and buy everything you sell. (Examples: Dragonflight, I, Jedi, Armored Hearts, Remnant in the Stars)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

Last's month's book club book was Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson. I had mixed feelings for this, as I loved Elantris, and the first Mistborn book... but by the last Mistborn book Sanderson was almost added to my "Never read anything by this author again, EVER!" list. (I like happy endings. If you want to lose me as a reader forever, just kill off one of my favorite characters... or all of them...)

The beginning of the book wasn't that gripping, for me. We start off in one characters viewpoint, then jump right away to someone else's.
It's a tad jarring, and the first character just wasn't working for me.
After we meet Siri and Lightsong, though, things start picking up. Like most Sanderson books, there's almost constant switching of veiwpoints. This technique really works for me, as it allows you to get to know multiple characters. It's just about the only way you can do that, now that omniscient point of view is considered a big no-no. Another plus, is that you're not stuck inside the head of a character you don't like for too long. Case in point, I couldn't stand most of the Vivernia scenes (until almost the end). My wife, on the other hand, thought she was one of the best characters.

There's also a lot of quotable dialog in this book:

"There's one thing I haven't figured out. How juggling lemons fits into all this."

"What in the name of you are you doing?"

... and tons more.

The ending is where I think this book really shines. (we do lose one character, but it'd been forecast enough that I didn't mind it... that much...) There's a whole bunch of twists in the story that seem to come out of nowhere, but the more you think about them, you can see the clues were there from the beginning.

I give it four stars.