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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Round-Up

The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes:this is the third in the tetralogy, and things finally pick up for some of the storylines.  Anne stops reacting to or running away from things and begins to take control of her life and destiny;  Stephen keeps reacting rather than acting, but he also learns quite a bit about the power struggle underlying world events, which means we learn it too.  Other storylines, however, lag -- Leoff's big role was in the second book so he has little to do here, and Aspar continues to bounce around from one quest or task to another.  Given his prominence in the books, and certain hints, I assume he has an important role to play at the climax, but there is little preparation for it, as far as I can tell.

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes:a mostly satisfying conclusion to the story.  Keyes had some unusual ideas and concepts that made for an interesting world (including the idea that the secret, dangerous power kept hidden from man really should be kept hidden).  Unlike some other readers, I was also satisfied with where various characters ended up, Stephen being the only exception.  The problem wasn't his motivation for his actions in the last book (I thought that made sense, given what happened), I just wanted something different for him.  I do wonder how far in advance Keyes plotted out the narrative; over the course of the four books, characters and plot elements that appeared crucial in earlier novels were sidelined (or vanished entirely) at the climax, and there were some abrupt changes in focus, meaning, and significance.  The impression I got is that Keyes had some key concepts in place from the beginning, but that the story got away from him (or perhaps he just changed his mind).  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable series.

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz:a slim novel about Akenaten's rule, told from the perspective of the people around him -- family and friends, supporters and enemies and opportunists.  I've always found this brief period of Egyptian history utterly fascinating and completely mysterious -- how much can anyone truly understand the actions and beliefs of another, whether 3000 years ago or in the immediate aftermath?

Saints by Gene Luen Yang:the companion volume to Boxers, and just as awesome.  Four-girl's journey parallels Little Bao as they both struggle with religious belief, the injustices and cruelties of life, and ordinary adolescence.  Yang is a Catholic, and so it's clear where his sympathies ultimately lie, but his telling of this historical event is nuanced, fair, heartbreaking, and even a little funny.

The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle:I picked this up at the library on a whim; it's the 8th ( I think) in the "Bibliophile Mysteries" about a bookbinder who keeps getting caught up in murder investigations.  The prose was a bit over-written, and there was some serious wish-fulfillment in some aspects of the bookbinder's life, but it was an enjoyable read with some fun tidbits about rare books, which of course I loved.

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