45, 44, 43 His Majesty's Dragon (Téméraire trilogy), by Naomi Novik
Master & Commander with Dragons. A wonderful idea, to have dragons aiding England in its struggle with Napoleon. A young ltnt. Is forced to take service in the Airforce avant la lettre. The dragon is a character all on its own, with strong emancipatory leanings, and an almost romantic attachment to the hero. I almost stopped reading this when I encountered bad POV on the first page, but it's worth going on. To my less than informed ear, the historicized language sounded pretty good. Think Georgette Heyer. A bit too much battle description for my taste, but that's easily skipped and some ppl might actually like lots of battles. Good worldbuilding, not brilliant on a sentence level but extremely enjoyable. Peter Jackson picked up the movie rights and I will certainly be buying part 4.
42 Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
Fits in no known category. Somewhere between literary and sf, but never self-indulgent or inaccessible. The book starts four centuries ago and hops to a new story halfway through, and then again, and then again…but don't let that stop you. I flew through it and it just blew me away. I loved the voice in the composer bit (ca. 1930) most of all. The virtuosity with which he uses a young Oxbridge voice with continuous music riffs is amazing. Go read and be astounded. I can't summarize or critique this book in any way, it's so much beyond my usual scope, but I loved it a lot. Will buy all his books.
41, 40, 39 Deeds of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon
Fantasy setting coming of age novel. The protagonist is a simple farm girl who becomes a soldier and then something beyond that. The POV is so deep that I had a hard time the first few chapters, because she's not very intelligent or imaginative. The only thing that is well developed is her moral sense, which is the center of the story. I'm more the opposite, myself, but that didn't keep my from enjoying this a lot. Very well done, from real soldiering experience, and the reader is very slowly drawn into Paksenarrion's growing and changing, and I became very committed to this work, to my surprise. Not the usual fantasy thing, but definitely recced.
38 Blood & Iron, by Elizabeth Bear, fantasy
Blood and Iron is the story of a secret war being fought under our noses. On the one side are the forces of the Sidhe, the fairies of British and Celtic mythology. These are creatures of glamour and illusion who steal away mortals to use as sport and entertainment. Ranged against the Sidhe are the humans of the Prometheus Club - a secret society of magicians who guard our world against incursions by the fey. They use the strength and magic of iron to keep the enemies of humanity at bay. The "war" has recently escalated with the appearance of a Merlin, a person who acts as a source of magic power. Both sides of the war are seeking to identify and court the Merlin, hoping to bring that strength to their side. (I stole the summary from someone else, I forget who).
Liked this one lots. There is an abundance of pain and suffering and hard choices, and those don't get smoothed over. It's stuffed chockfull of Arthuriana and Fairy lore, and none of it gets explained in short words. You will find it hard to understand if you're not already an avid reader of the stuff. My husband found most of the allusions incomprehensible, frex. But of course there are quibbles. The POVs weren't all that deep; what makes these people tick is implied with the vaguest of penstrokes only. The plot takes up too much room for any depth of characterization. I felt the book should have been longer to incorporate it. The lead is a changeling woman named Seeker; we never get a good look inside her head. First because she's bound by too many geas to have any thoughts, then because she's too busy with the plot. A minor character, the kelpie Whiskey, is actually the most detailed. A good thing the sequel seems to be about him. Most of the characters are a bit Mary Sue-ish – they all seem a bit too heroic and interesting and good-looking.
In spite of these flaws I loved the book. Beautiful language, interesting ideas, great use of old themes.
ETA: Interesting discussion here. I agreed with most of it, but disagree with the conclusion.
37, 36, 35 Hammered, Scardown and Worldwired, by Elizabeth Bear, science fiction.
Interesting books. I like the first one best. We meet Jenny, the lead, a fiftyish scarred Canadian veteran. A whole lot of stuff starts happening, politics, global warming/cooling, war with the Chinese, starships and the navigation of such. Jenny gets patched up, finds her old love back and is a hero.
Apart from the politics, which aren't my thing, the first book is a gripping tale with lots of twists and turns. The second book goes on strongly, but the third book bogs down in its own lack of structure and action.
Jenny is a terrible Mary Sue, though. Everybody loves her and lays his life on the line for her, the man she loves apparently loved her all along, she gets reinstated and is even the only human being fit to steer a starship!
My second quibble is there are too many plots in there, and characters get involved and get POVS, and we didn’t really need any of them. The whole Razorface thing? Fine, fun, but why in this book?
Third quibble: most of the action and the really big happenings takes place off-screen, like alien spaceships arriving, or get a line or two, like when the Chinese bomb Ottawa. (Yes, really…) Sure, that's true in real life for real people too, but why not pick protagonists who're closer, then? The second book has a big shootout which is pretty cool, but the third book is all talking heads until about 70 % through, hopping around in much too many heads for me to recount. Couldn’t find a good reason to have those scientists talk to me either.
I'd wish her POV was deeper. Even Jenny, in first person, doesn’t really show who and what she is. Or maybe it lacks visuals, I don’t know why I feel that way.
I enjoyed reading the books, although I doubt I'll ever reread them, and I will buy her next sf book Carnival. There's something intangible in her books, ideas maybe, that I like.