Archive for high fantasy

Sandremonde [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2022 by xi'an

A somewhat original fantasy book (in French), by Jean-Luc Deparis, found by chance on a shelf of La Case à Bulles bookstore in Cayenne, with a nice if traditional cover, a first half I enormously enjoyed and read within a day!. and a second one less appealing to my tastes and which took me longer to complete, despite eventually skipping some passages… Presumably because this second part involved more magic, [dreaded!] endless subterranean domains, and the unsurprising revelation of a predestination for the central heroine, which was till then doing well by herself, thank you very much. Although with early and heavy hints of a unique destiny. The beginning has flavours reminding me of The Lies of Locke LamoraHobbs’ Assassin series, and the more recent Red/Gray/Holy Sister trilogy. Despite its flaws, the non-magical universe of Sandremonde is fascinating, with an overwhelming Church of monk-soldiers that has the monopoly of (magical) protections and as such promotes or demotes local lordlings… The end is both predictable and of little interest. More editing and advice from the publisher would have considerably improved the outcome. May a prospective second novel by the author keep the imagination and avoids the clichés!

empire of grass [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2019 by xi'an

It took me quite a while but I eventually went over reading this second volume in the Last King of Osten Ard trilogy. One reason for taking so long is the obvious reason that the book is looong (600+ pages) and heavy and hence not easy to carry during trips. Another reason is that the pace is somewhat slow, most of the book, and complex, with at least nine central characters followed and analysed in their own story. With sometimes a lack of appeal for the level of description adopted by Tad Williams… In particular, some characters are quite irritating in their constant and immature whining, most of all the old king Simon and his grandson Morgan. This was already the case in the first volume, so it feels heavier now, although the grandson seems to improve through his catastrophic journey. In several ways, I actually preferred this second volume since the story starts to bring out a clearer framework. (Even though the lazy choice of absolute evil for the Norn elves does  clash with the description of individuals within this group makes them much more human and balanced.) Albeit rare, there were some humorous lines that struck me, like the two trees fighting for a dog (apparently not an original line from the author). The multiple threads in this book do not help with the junction with the next volume, as the ensuing rich tapestry will become quite dusty by the time it appears. Which is not discussed at this stage. Hopefully it will not join the George Martin’s and Patrick Rothfuss‘ unended series club! And not split again as in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

end of the game

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by xi'an

While I have not watched a large part of the Game of Thrones episodes (apart from the first season I had time to follow while in the hospital), I decided to subscribe for one [free] month to OCS to get the last and final season [unlike a NYT critic who watches the entire eight seasons in five weeks!]. And witness how far it has diverged from the books, at least those already published. The first two episodes were unbearably slow and anti-climactic, the [mentionable] worst part being the endless discussion by a chimney fire of half a dozen of the main characters who would all be better sleeping. And the antagonism between Sansa and Daenerys sounding almost childish…The last battle in Winterfel was both fantastic and disappointing, fantastic in its scale and furia and impetus, a cinematographic feat!, possibly the best in the whole series, disappointing for the terrible military choices made by the best fighters in the seven kingdoms and beyond, for the disproportionate imbalance between the living and the dead, for the whole thing depending on the two seconds it took for the Ice King to shatter  [no longer a spoiler!], and for the absurd and lengthy scene of the zombies in the castle library. I just don’t like zombie movies as I find them a easy lazy plot element, especially when they can be resuscitated over and over… They have not yet appeared (on that scale) in the books and I hope they remain dead still! Some scenes are furthermore too reminiscent of video games, which cuts even deeper into the realism (!) of the battle. The scenario of the fourth episode is definitely botched and hurried, for the sudden and radical reversal of fortune being once again so much against basic military concepts (and basic physics as well!). Contrary to most reviews I read, maybe because I had little expectation about the characters in the show, I found the fifth episode quite impressive, in its vivid description of the sack of a city, the instantaneous switch from victorious to rapist and murderer, and the helplessness of those very few who wanted to stop the slaughter of the inhabitants. (By contrast, I found most of the individual scenes appalling, except for Arya’s which remains consistent with her parabola in the plot. So far. But we could have been spared the white horse in the end!) And then the last and final episode…! Which I definitely enjoyed, primarily for the bittersweet feeling this was the last hour spent with the (surviving) characters, even for the unrealistic developments and predictable conclusions, and the feeling that some scenes were made up in someone’s grand-father’s backyard, by the same someone’s teenage nephews… Although I was hoping for a glorious ending in line with the one of Monty Python and the Holy Grail… Alas, no police van, no delegation of bankers or lawyers showed up at the eleventh hour!

[Uninteresting coincidence: in this NYT pre-finale analysis, I read the very same sentence “Power resides where people believe it resides” pronounced by Mikhail Gorbachov in the daunting Chernobyl series which I watched a few hours earlier.]

The Bands of Mourning [and mourning we should]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2018 by xi'an

While in Brussels last week, I happened to spot a W.H. Smith bookstore near where I stayed and a “new” book on the Mistborn series, namely one I had not yet read. It was actually published in 2016 and is the continuation of the (homely) Shadows of Self, itself a sequel to Alloy of Law. Sounds like endless regress?! This time and this volume, it truly feels like it…

“But that is the sort of statistical anomaly that plagues my life, so I’ll plan for it nonetheless.”

The characters in the Bands of Mourning are pretty much the same as in Shadows of Self, the story being a continuation in another corner of the Mistborn universe. (Truly at a corner of the map printed at the beginning of the book.) Except for a few ones that in my opinion completely ruin the plot and the appeal of the story.

“The proof,” Marasi said, “will be in the numbers.” She leaned forward. “Do you know how many crimes can be proven by statistics?”

The link to statistics is continued as well, although pretty shallow when considering that almost every situation is dealt with by superpowers that get increasingly boring and predictable. When characters can [spoiler?!] resuscitate from about every possible form of death, one starts looking for another story and another book. But definitely not the next one in the series, The Lost Metal, not yet advertised for sale…

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