Sunday, May 11, 2008

Retropost: Books for May So Far

  1. Immortal, Traci L. Satton. Dull, episodic travelogue through Renaissance Florence complete with name-dropping and heavy doses of theology and Neoplatonic philosophy, with a light dusting of unsatisfying fantasy on top. Leonardo da Vinci comes across as a kid with ADD; Lorenzo de' Medici is an inexplicable choice of antagonist; and our hero Luca, despite his strange longevity and unearthly beauty, lacks wisdom and charm. When at the end he asks whether he brought his tragedy on himself, it's impossible not to scream: "Well, duh, you stupid putz!"
  2. The Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill. Excellent, absorbing police procedural/thriller about several missing people, possibly shady New Age practitioners, and the mind of a serial killer. Hill feeds the reader plenty of clues about the identity of the villain and doesn't make the mistake of many authors of trying to sustain the mystery past the point of plausibility; at the appropriate point, the story changes focus from "whodunnit?" to "how will they catch him?" The various characters are all vividly sketched (although in the end there are many unanswered questions about the killer) and add to the sense of an interlocking community in the charming town of Lafferton. The final murder is a shock and genuinely sad because you've come to care for the character so much.
  3. Amberlight, Sylvia Kelso. This book has a very interesting premise and at times the prose is beautiful, but it is seriously underwritten. There is not enough context to understand the different cultures of the area or the tensions within the city of Amberlight itself. And the names are confusing -- for example, is Shia or Shuya the housekeeper of Telluin House? Is Dinda the adjective describing a resident of Dasdhein or the ruler of another country entirely?
    The most basic problem with the book is that the economic structure of the city makes no sense -- everyone seems to be either directly involved in working with the stone qherrique, in the Navy, or else a casteless, unemployed outsider. Where are all the construction workers, tailors, weavers, pastry cooks, actors, fishmongers, booksellers, and countless other occupations needed to support the central industry and population of a city that size?
    Neither do the sex roles in the book make sense. Men do not have the ability to work with querrique. How exactly this led the women to systematically exclude them from all public life and professions, artificially restrict their numbers by exposing male babies at birth, and incarcerate them in harems is never made clear. Nor is it inevitable, as the heroine seems to assume from her hard-fought struggle to protect the querrique-handling "secret."
    And that brings us lastly to the motivation for the plot, which makes sense least of all. If the querrique (or the Mother goddess, it's not clear) senses that it's being used for evil purposes and it has the power to destroy itself, why drag four nations into a bloody and unnecessary war?
  4. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen. Of all the Austens, I think this is my least preferred, perhaps because I identify with Elinor so strongly. Marianne drives me crazy, and Edward is a dullard unworthy of Elinor's devotion. She'd be much better off with Col. Brandon.


Jill said...

Hi! I thoroughly enjoyed "Various Haunts of Men". The twist to it provoked great discussions in my library discussion group.

And I am *totally* with you on Marianne. She is a bit of a nitwit, isn't she?

Muse of Ire said...

She IS only 16, but come on, now . . .