Friday, June 28, 2013

Dreams and Shadows Review

Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill


First, I just want to say that I think we've reached a saturation point in regards to books about fairy/faerie/faery and whatever other spellings there may be. I mean, the whole seelie/unseelie/Tithe thing has be come a bit, at least in my humblest of opinions, overdone. Particularly as most of these books seem to follow similar plot lines.

However, it's a little hard to describe the plot of this book in particular because I feel like it was never quite fully fleshed out and while there was definitely a lot of sequential action, the exact point of the story isn't immediately apparent. Part of me thinks Cargill was just jamming every supernatural creature he could think of--changelings, djinn, redcaps, Sidhe, nixies, angels, Coyote...--into one story and then come up with something for all of them to do. He even references "the La Llorona", which awkwardly translates to "the the Weeping Woman".

Back to the story: a child named Ewan is stolen from his human parents and replaced by dastardly changeling named Knocks, meanwhile a child named Colby runs into a djinn named Yashar and makes some poor choices in wishes. Eventually they all end up together and become embroiled in a violent revenge plot.

In terms of world building, Cargill does a pretty good job. As I mentioned before, stories about Fairy Land, called the Limestone Kingdom in this book, are nothing new, but Cargill still manages to make the world his own. So kudos to him for that. The problem, is that there isn't quite enough plot to support that world. Knocks, as the villain, was probably to best fleshed out character, who's motivations were the most thorough and believable. However, the other aspects, Ewan and Mallaidh's romance along with Ewan and Colby's bromance, weren't really given enough description and time to grow and felt more like rather than showing us Ewan and Colby's deep-felt, decade-spanning friendships, we're simply told, "oh by the way, they're BFFs now." As for the side characters, their motives and actives are also given poor explanation, and where they are explained, the reasons aren't terribly substantial.

That all said, it was an entertaining read. There's a fair amount of disembowelment, dismemberment, decapitation, so depending on how you generally feel about violent books, may or may not be your thing. Personally, I've read so many violent books at this point I didn't really give it a second thought, but I had read some other reviews where people were complaining, so I figure I ought to give a fair warning.

I suppose it's a good read for those fans of Faerie who haven't quite gotten sick of the genre yet. Otherwise, it's nothing to race off to the library for. 2.5/5 Fancies.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Obsidian Blade Review

The Obsidian Blade - Pete Hautman


This book was thoroughly underwhelming. I’ve already mentioned that I approach YA fiction with a certain level of hesitancy because a lot of the time I’ll start one that has an interesting plot, but then it just disappoints me in the end due to either poor plotting or inadequate prose. Unfortunately, this book was no exception.

I think I originally read about the upcoming sequel to this book and that seemed interesting, but of course I have to read the series in order, so I picked up the first book. 

Basically, Tucker’s dad disappears one day, and then reappears a few hours later wearing strange clothes and with a strange space-girl with a poor grasp of the English language named Leeloo Lahlia. Weird things start happening, such as his father, the town preacher, declaring he no long believes in God, his mother going steadily crazy and dysfunctional with a mounting obsession with Sudoku, and weird shimmery disks and ghosts appearing around roofs, until finally his parents flat out vanish. He then proceeds into a time-warping adventure chased by homicidal future-priests.

I suppose this book isn't necessarily bad, so much as simply not engaging. Certainly Hautman has his world building down, and while there were still a lot of open questions at the end, as I mentioned, this was just the opener to a series (an inevitability, it seems, to YA books these days), so presumably, there will be answers to come. But as the story progressed, I was enjoying it less and less and reading it became almost a chore and I only finished because I'd already invested so much time into it.

The beginning moves slow, I mean, you're practically halfway through the book before it really gets going. But that's almost okay, because the whole time it's building up, you keep reading because you're just waiting for something to happen. The problem is, the prose is very sparse. It's a lot of "He did this. Then this. Then he did that. And that." Which didn't draw me in and didn't make for very interesting reading, regardless of the action going on. Plus, Tucker was rather bland--really just standing in as a blank slate asking questions for the readers, and Lahlia, who was a bit more interesting, remained a vague and mysterious figure throughout, so I didn't really end up caring about any of the characters enough to be invested in the story.

Although the sequel is what initially attracted me to the series, I won't be continuing on. 2/5 Fancies. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The War at Ellsmere/Zombies Calling Review

DUO REVIEW! Because both of these are short, graphic novels, written by Faith Erin Hicks, that I read over the course of a half an hour, it seemed better sense to stick them together. This is a little tough because I have met Ms. Hicks and she is super fun and super nice so I don't want it to seem like I'm just gushing (even though I am, a bit, because I just love her art), but I also don't want to say less than positive things because she is super fun and super nice. Luckily, she hasn't given me reason to say too many less-than-positive things.

The War at Ellsmere


Juniper (Jun) is the new scholarship student at prestigious (and expensive) Ellsmere Academy. She befriends her roommate, the weird girl, and goes head to head with the bitchy rich girl who is mean to everyone.

Okay, so maybe that description doesn't quite do the story justice. So, We've all seen this plot before. But then, technically, we've see EVERY plot before. At this point, it's all about execution. I always tend to give graphic novels a bit more leeway in terms of literary ability because I feel like they exist in a space where it's slightly easier for me to suspend my belief because of the pretty, pretty art.

I suppose my main beef is that it's so short! There was good build-up, and while the wrap-up was cohesive and mostly comprehensive, I feel like there could have been more. More build up! More character depth! MORE PRETTY PRETTY ART. It seemed this story really just scratched the surface of the characters and the setting and then it was suddenly over. I think there could have been a lot more to it and the ending does seems a little contrived, though Hicks has admitted this herself. But it's a fun, quick, read.

Read-a-Likes: The Dreaming by Queenie Chan


 Zombies Calling 


So we jump forward from high school to college in this one. I'll admit, when I first picked this book up, my initial reaction was "Oh god, another zombie book?" Because lets be honest, I feel like zombies have reached a certain market saturation point. But Zombies Calling is fully aware of this and part of the point is that the characters are aware of and utilize zombie-tropes.

Joss loves zombie movies and has the "rules" of the genre memorized. Which is lucky for her because suddenly there's a zombie outbreak on her college campus and now she and her friends have to try to stay alive, using the "Rules" of zombie movies that Joss knows.

It's a pretty simple story and delivers exactly what it promises.As with The War at Ellsmere, the story has a decent amount of build-up, but then the ending sort of rushes on, right after a great deal of exposition about what it all means. This is her first (formally) published book (Ellsmere was second), and she says her main goal with this book was so that she could have some tangible piece of accomplishment at the time, and so with that in mind she met her goal.

I would definitely say that she has improved as a writer and an artist, and if you're interested in getting in to her work, start with her graphic novel Friends with Boys, which is a later work of hers and reflects how she has stylistically grown.

I'd say 2.5/5 for both, but toss in an extra .5 for the art so 3/5 Fancies.