Archive for trilogies

la belle sauvage [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2018 by xi'an

Another book I brought back from Austin. And another deeply enjoyable one, although not the end of a trilogy of trilogies this time. This book, La Belle Sauvage, is first in a new trilogy by Philip Pullman that goes back to the early infancy of the hero of His Dark Materials, Lyra. Later volumes will take place after the first trilogy.

This is very much a novel about Oxford, to the point it sometimes seems written only for people with an Oxonian connection. After all, the author is living in Oxford… (Having the boat of the two characters passing by the [unnamed] department of Statistics at St. Giles carried away by the flood was a special sentence for me!)

Also, in continuation of His Dark Materials, a great steampunk universe, with a very oppressive Church and so far a limited used of magicks! Limited to the daemons, again in continuation with past volumes…

Now, some passages of the book remind me of Ishiguro’s buried giant, in the sense that the characters meeting myths from other stories may “really” meet them or instead dream. This is for instance the case when they accost at a property where an outworldy party is taking place and no-one is noticing them. Or when they meet a true giant that is a river deity, albeit not in the spirit of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novels.

The story is written in the time honoured setup of teenager discovery travels, with not so much to discover as the whole country is covered by water. And the travel gets a wee bit boring after a while, with a wee bit too many coincidences, the inexplicable death (?) of a villain, and an hurried finale, where the reverse trip of the main characters takes a page rather than one book…

Trivia: La Belle Sauvage was also the name of the pub in Ludgate Hill where Pocahontas and her brother Tomocomo stayed when they first arrived in London. And The Trout is a true local pub, on the other side of Port Meadow [although I never managed to run that far in that direction while staying in St. Hugh, Oxford, last time, the meadow being flooded!].

Looking forward the second volume (already written, so no risk of The Name of the Wind or Game of Thrones quagmires, i.e., an endless wait for the next volume!), hoping the author keeps up the good work, the right tension in the story, and avoids by all means parallel universes, which were so annoying in the first trilogy! (I do remember loosing interest in the story during the second book and having trouble finishing the third one. I am not sure my son [who started before me] ever completed the trilogy…)

ancillaries [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 5, 2016 by xi'an


“When you’re doing something like this (…) the odds are irrelevant. You don’t need to know the odds. ”

After completing the first volume of Anne Lecke’s Ancilary books, I bought both following volumes in the trilogy. Alas these two books were quite disappointing when compared with the first one. Even though there still was some action present in those volumes, the scope was awfully limited, mostly filled with dialogues between the ship AI and characters on the spaceship and on a local planet. And endless cups of tea that bored even the tea addict in me. The space opera somewhat turned into a closet opera with about the same level of action as when brooms fall out of the said closet! The last book ends up (small spoiler) with the creation of a local republic and the move to more autonomy of the AIs involved in spaceships and space stations. There are a few interesting digs into this direction of what constitutes intelligence and sentience, but the pace is way too sluggish and I had trouble completing the books, as the excitement of the initial book was lost. I think this is another trilogy that would have truly benefited from a global editing, rather than (apparently) building from the first volume…

The Traitor Spy Trilogy

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on August 23, 2015 by xi'an

“Add the new threat along with a mystery or two. Cook slowly for three novels, increasing temperature slowly. Pay attention. Threats and mysteries tend to disintegrate all of a sudden if you cook them too long after they are resolved, and all you will get is a bland, disappointing mess.” T. Canavan, Orbit Newsletter

When Trudi Canavan published her first (?) trilogy, The Black Magician, I enjoyed it very much. This second trilogy, The Traitor Spy, is a sequel, taking place in the same universe with almost the same characters 20 years later, i.e., one generation later… Recycling the universe (and the cover) of a previous trilogy is fine provided enough novelty is infused into the new series and this is simply not the case here… There are several stories interleaved in the novels, at different locations, with different characters, and I for once regret the classical (at the time of Corneille and Racine) rule for unity of place, time, and action..! Most characters sound incredibly childish and immature all along the three novels, including the senior black mage Sonea who was the heroin of the previous series and had enough of a strong mind to overcome the difficulties that faced her promotion to magician. And to make “black magic” acceptable to the magicians’ community. Here, when she should be a clear leader of this community, she hardly contributes to the major debates taking place in the first volume and does not seem able to argue against changes she does see as prejudicial. The same issue applies to other senior characters, who seem to spend their time wondering about others’ sentiments. And [spoiler alert!] I have not yet mentioned the Traitors’ uprising against the Sachakan regime, which is managed by an handful of individuals, managing to topple an entire society by a single street battle. As quoted above, the author wrote a self-mocking recipe for writing a sequel on the Orbit Newsletter: either she did not follow the recipe properly or there is something fundamentally flawed with the recipe…