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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Round-Up

The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogyby Nora Roberts: I picked this up because I wanted more witchy books after finishing Harkness's trilogy, and it was October, and I generally like Roberts.  Unfortunately, the trilogy was a disappointment.  The structure, the characters, the not-very-conflicting romantic conflicts, even the scenes were too similar to her previous books; I get that Roberts doesn't want to mess with a successful formula, but I'd like to see her experiment more.  Moreover, the witchy plot itself was too thin -- there was little attempt at world-building or describing the magic, and the antagonist was one-dimensional and uninteresting.  Things did improve in the third book, once Roberts was finally free to focus on the final battle.

The Charnel Princeby Greg Keyes: The second in the tetralogy was just as entertaining as the first; Keyes has created both an engaging world and a fascinating plot.  The very short chapters alternating between the characters sometimes made the narrative a little choppy (more than once I'd skip ahead to read several chapters pertaining to the same storyline), but they certainly serve their purpose of making the reader think "just one more!"  I do have two issues:  1) The series fits into the sub-genre of "dark fantasy," which means there is a fair amount of violence and destruction and a high body count, something I don't enjoy, especially when the majority of the tortured and dead are ordinary background characters just trying to live their (fictional) lives. 2) The Catholic Church is, apparently, evil, which at this point is not only annoying, it's a cliche.  It's the same problem I had with Becket's trilogy, and I can't help but think of the storytelling opportunities if there were multiple factions within the Church (like there are in the various governments) or if the Church were not actually evil, just a rival with the same goal of saving/preserving the world but different methods.

Boxersby Gene Luen Yang: This is one half of Yang's masterpiece about the Boxer Rebellion, and is told from the viewpoint of a Chinese peasant who leads a rebellion against foreign influence and abuse.  Yang's clean and youthful illustrations contrast with the complex story, and his spare storytelling elicits both sympathy for Little Bao's experiences and ideals and abhorrence of the actions he ultimately takes.  As soon as I finish the Keyes series I will pick up Saints, which tells the other side of the story through a Christian convert.

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