CLOSE KIN by Clare B. Dunkle -- Pieces Better than Whole (Preeti)
This story about goblins, humans, and elves in Britain in the early 1800s wasn't at quite the same level of Clare Dunkle's first book in the trilogy, THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. Taken bit-by-bit, it was delightful, but the pieces didn't come together as a whole all that strongly.
According to the book jacket, this is the story of bratty 18-year-old Emily, the little sister of the heroine in THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. She's a human who has lived in the goblin kingdom for six years now. When her goblin friend, Seylin--who is actually mostly elf in his genetics--proposes marriage to her, she thinks he's joking and ends up devastating him. Seylin takes off to find the remaining elves--his own people, he thinks. Emily then realizes she wants him and sets off after him. Both their quests allow them to grow up.
But the emotional heart of the book seemed to be in the story of the elf woman Sable, living a hard-scrabble life in the woods with her tiny band of elves. Most of the elves seem to have died out, and the ones who remain have lost most of their culture and magic and reverted to a comparatively primitive state. With elf birth magic lost, having a child is a death sentence for an elf woman. So Sable mutilates her face (in the book's prologue) to make herself repulsive to her prospective groom. Elves can't tolerate ugliness, so she's the most degraded member of her band. It's really her journey to happiness that's quite moving. Emily serves more as comic relief.
Like I said, I liked this book taken in pieces. Scenes of life in the goblin kingdom were a pleasure to read, for example, and the stories within the story were neat. Taken as a whole, though, this book didn't have a driving storyline.
As much as I liked Emily and Seylin, their arc felt rushed. Other characters I wasn't as interested in also get page space. Why? I guess CLOSE KIN was all about tolerance and respect, and maybe you needed a large cast of characters for the point to be made. I would have liked a more coherent plot, though, and less scattering of viewpoints.
And I still don't get this thing about goblins and elves and their notions of beauty. That and the notion of elf and human brides all still feel contrived to me. Seems like no one wants to marry the poor goblin women!
And then the tacked on ending ... What was up with that? It was like a cheap marketing trick to sell a sequel. I mean, it was a great scene but an annoying ending to a story. The impact of the scene was so strong that it diffused the memory of everything that came before. Anyway, the scene did its job; I'm dying to read the third book, IN THE COILS OF THE SNAKE.--Preeti
LKH's INCUBUS DREAMS -- Another Round (Linda & JW)
I almost didn't read this. The number of men in Anita's life had grown so large that I was contemplating not continuing with the series. I was also hesitant about the length of the book. But then I decided to try it anyway and was very surprised to find that I enjoyed it a lot! I agree with all that Shelley said in her review so will just add some of my reactions to it. One thing I had forgotten was how LKH manages to grab you and not let you go. I actually stayed up late reading several nights in a row because of this book!
INCUBUS DREAMS is definitely a relationship book, which is one of the things I liked about it. One reason I had so much trouble with Anita and her men in the past was that she was uncomfortable about it, so I was too. Anita started out resisting having more than one man in her life and ended up having NUMEROUS men. With the ardeur plot device, I can't really blame her, but she was constantly blaming herself and pushing the men in her life away. I understood this at first, but I also wanted her to make up her mind and stick to it! In this book, she has sex with even more men, but she also starts accepting her life for what it is now and learning to embrace parts of it. She also has more changes in her powers and her ardeur.
The serial killer plot was very interesting, especially learning about the Church of the Eternal Life and the vampires that belong to it. And I'm very interested in seeing what develops with Truth and Wicked, some new vampires we meet. :-) I enjoyed the mystery and was surprised that it wasn't completely resolved, but I remember she left a killer loose in a previous book whom I'm surprised we haven't seen again.
I did have an odd thought while reading the book on how the vampires have changed. In the beginning of this series, they were scary. Now, most of the ones we see are involved with Anita and put up with so much from and for her that they should be saints! I actually like most of them a lot. I don't know if it's Anita's influence on them or just that her perceptions have changed since she's become a monster too, but they have definitely taken a huge turn for the better. I do hope in further books that they get a chance to show their scary side, too. Against people other than Anita anyway.
So, if you have been reading this series and were thinking of stopping, you might try one more. Definitely not the place to start the series. A little more sex than I needed but except for one scene, I handled it pretty well. :-) --Linda
Yep, we're pretty much on the same wavelength on this one. In fact, having read your comments, I'll qualify mine. If a reader was unsure about continuing the series after the last couple of books, it might be worth trying this one. I was happy to see Anita coming more to terms with her new life. Although you have to get past the first half of the book before it really starts happening ... And it is very much a relationship book. You just have to realize that there are a lot of relationships. Complicated relationships. :-) --JW
Some news: --Jacqueline Carey delivered KUSHIEL'S SCION, first in her new "Imriel" trilogy, to Warner Aspect. --Judith Tarr turned in historical fantasy KING'S BLOOD to Roc. --Barbara Hambly turned in CIRCLE OF THE MOON to Warner Aspect. --Kim Harrison delivered EVERY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD, third in her "Rachel Morgan" series, to Eos. --Carol Berg delivered DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS, final book in her "Bridge of D'Arnath" series, to Roc. --"S.L. Viehl" turned in AFTERBURN, sequel to BIO RESCUE, to Anne Sowards at Roc.
I just finished listening to Laurell K. Hamilton's INCUBUS DREAMS on audio -- all 30 hours of it. Wow. I pretty much agree with other comments I remember. If you liked the last couple of books, you'll like this one. If you didn't, you won't.
If someone hadn't read the other books, I have no idea how this one would work, but I don't think I'd really recommend it. OTOH, if you recommend beginning at the beginning of the series, you then have to give a bit of a warning about how the series changes over time. Very confusing. It's been a while since I've read the earlier books, so it'd be interesting to go back though the series and "watch" the developments again. In INCUBUS DREAMS particularly, there are many references to how much Anita has changed.
However, my main comment is that LKH made it all work for me, including lots of elements that would be way too high on my "ick" meter normally. This has more to do with the violence and gore, and worse, the *attraction* to violence and gore, than with the multiple sex partners. Although I do find it fascinating that she can write so much sex and yet have it really not be only about sex. And I don't mean the metaphysical stuff that gives the "excuse" for all the sex. I mean that all the relationships feel real and personal to me, even if all the interpersonal dynamics are damn confusing.
Other random comments --
Some really great moments of humor. Loved Jean Claude's comment about how only Anita could keep having "accidental sex", and her musing that "accidental sex" made it sound like she'd simply tripped and happened to land on an erection. What an image.
Somewhere about midway through the book I was getting frustrated with the constant metaphysical/sexual emergencies -- I wanted to see more real "relationship" moments. Then I seemed to get my wish. :-) Still lots of emergencies, but more moments of real emotional connection as well.
LKH does a pretty good job, I think, of reminding the reader of previous events. Enough to work for me, whereas often in a series I'm either frustrated if I haven't recently reread previous books or bored because they keep rehashing stuff.
Can't think of anything else right now, other than another WOW. I really like the way Laurell K. Hamilton writes. I assume the next book is going to be a Merry Gentry book, and I hope it's going to be on audio like the first three were.--JW
Looks like we both finished this at the same time. Funny how it hit most of us the same way. What's really funny is that after writing how I was thinking of not reading the next book because Anita's multiple partners were growing so numerous, I read my review of CERULEAN SINS and found I had recommended it. So while I'm reading, LKH's writing is so good that I can't put the book down even if it's so over the top of what I would normally like. It's only long afterwards my brain starts thinking "enough".
You know, I seriously can't imagine listening to this story. An involving sex scene in print will usually sound silly when voiced out loud. And considering all the sex scenes in INCUBUS DREAMS...it boggles the mind.--Linda
In the course of updating the forthcoming books page, I discovered the cover of Tanith Lee's METALLIC LOVE is up at Amazon as well as the publisher's blurb. Kinuko Craft has created another beautiful work of art. (Aside: I signed up for the 2005 World Fantasy Convention only because I saw Craft is the artist guest of honor.)
I picked up Bantam Spectra promotional material at Noreascon 2004 that included the first chapter of this book. The excerpt was good, but kinda grim. The heroine isn't Jane but a young girl raised in deprivation by an inner-city cult. We learn about her awful life, and her discovery of Jane's diary, through her own journaling. It wasn't a particularly gripping beginning, but I'm still dying to read the entire book. (And as much as I loved THE SILVER METAL LOVER, I hope to god that if METALLIC LOVE has a romance, it isn't heartbreaking.)
Here's what Tanith Lee had to say about the book on her website in 2003:
I'm now well into Metallic Love (sequal to The Silver Metal Lover). It's surprising me all the way, which is fascinating and often uncomfortable. You may agree, if and when you read it. It's a very different work to the first, but then, although I partly accept that many writers really write the same book over and over in (one hopes) utterly different ways, I never had any intention of reproducing the first novel. This is a spiky, glittering mirror image, with a dark-haired narratrix out of the slums. But Silver is there... oh boy, is he. The same, and not the same. We all know, there is more than one kind of angel...
For thousands of years the people of Alera have been strong and united against the threat of the aggressive races surrounding them. But now their land is in political turmoil. Their leader is getting old and no longer has an heir. Other High Lords are power hungry and looking to take advantage of any weakness.
All the people of Alera practice furycrafting and use it in their daily work. They bond with an elemental fury when they are young, but Tavi seems to be the exception. Tavi is a 15-year-old boy who lives in the Calderon Valley with his Aunt Isana, who is bonded to a water fury, and her brother Bernard, who is bonded to an earth fury. He's had a good and loving upbringing, but he is also aware that others look at him as a kind of freak. To have no fury...he could never find a job in which someone with a fury wouldn't excel more. But Tavi has his secret dream of making money to go to the Academy, a place where it's intelligence that counts most.
One simple promise takes Tavi and his Uncle Bernard into the wrong place at the wrong time and makes him a target that must be eliminated.
Amara, meanwhile, is on her first mission as a trained Cursor with her teacher. They are to infiltrate a camp posing as a slave and a smuggler, respectively, to find out if an insurrection is in the making and get proof. But betrayal and capture await her, and it soon becomes a struggle for survival for Amara and Tavi and the people who care for them.
I've enjoyed all of Jim Butcher's contemporary fantasy books--a total thrill ride--but haven't been reading as much epic fantasy. Once I started FURIES OF CALDERON, however, I didn't want to stop. The plot never had a dull moment. I felt more emotionally involved in this story than with his other books, and I came to care about many of the characters. None of them are one-dimensional. Tavi and Amara are courageous and loyal, but you even get to know the traitorous enemies and see good in some of them.
The story had me in its grip so much that I set a personal record of staying up until 4:00 a.m. reading it! Not only that, but the battle at the end (reminiscent, in my mind, of the huge battle for the castle in the Lord of the Rings movie) had me biting my nails to the quick (which I noticed only when it was too late!)
And to add to my pleasure, there is a romance that develops between Amara and Tavi's uncle, Bernard, that is very believable and satisfying. And there is possibly something going on with Tavi that may progress in another book.
I've left out huge amounts of plot that I could never begin to find room for and don't want to give away. I just want to say FURIES OF CALDERON was a joy to read from beginning to end. The book is complete in itself with some threads left hanging for completion in another book. A high recommend from me!!--Linda
Kelley Armstrong's DIME STORE MAGIC--Rare Good Read (Laurie)
Hey, I finished an actual book in its entirety without skimming! For this fact alone I give Kelley Armstrong's DIME STORE MAGIC a "highly recommended" tag. ;) Because I still haven't gotten around to reading BITTEN (which I bought when it was first released in hardcover) or its sequel, STOLEN, I had to pay very close attention to the first few chapters to get acquainted with Armstrong's world.
It also took me a few chapters to figure out who was who and what they had to do with the current story, but once I got caught up, the pages began to fly. There were a few conversations between Paige and Elena that I thought added nothing to this story, but I may change mind when I go back and read the first two books.
I liked Paige early on. She's tough and gutsy and vulnerable as well but a little too trusting of certain people (though I'm betting this aspect of her personality changes in the sequel). Savannah was also a very believable teen dealing quite well with all of the gore and upheaval in her life. I particularly enjoyed the wise-ass humor and the non-stop tension (sexual and otherwise). It reminded, in a way, of the earliest Laurell K. Hamilton books.
Armstrong's world, where witches and cabals work behind the scenes while modern day life ticks on, was interesting. The fact that the "supernaturals" have to hide their abilities from normal folks was a nice touch but the jabs at Wiccans who are all portrayed as stereotypical loonies who live to rip off their clothing and romp in the woods got old quickly.
DIME STORE MAGIC was a page-turner despite my little quibbles. Now I'll have to dig out BITTEN....--Laurie