What I’m doing now

So while volume 2 of my own series is in the hands of my editor, I decided to take time off to read some books. See, there’s a novel I wrote – the very the first one, in fact – waaaaaay back in 2003. It was absolutely awful, but since I loved the plot so much, I tried to rework it. I’ve rewritten that sucker 4 times from start to finish since 2003, and I mean literally rewrote it. The first three iterations were first person and the last was third with two POV characters. But at no time did I get the story right.

However, over the past 6 months or so, a nugget of an idea has taken hold, and I’m excited to see if I can finally bring the island of Arylyn to life.

Thus, the books I’ve been reading are young adult. I don’t know the sensibilities of that genre anymore, so I thought I’d re-familiarize myself with the type of books that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. The first series I picked up was The Seven Realms quadrology by Cinda Williams Chima.

The setting is the northern city of Fellsmarch, a place always ruled by queens and never a king. Enter the thief, Han Alister, who has done many bad things in his life but wants to do good. Early on, he and his friend Dancer end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and Han gains an amulet that leads to tragedy. Then there’s always the witty, but at times witless Raisa, heir to the Queendom. She’s just trying to find her place in the world. You know, save her mother, save the Queendom, and figure out how to marry the boy she’s always loved. The first book plods along and finally becomes interesting when Han meets Raisa. After that, the next three volumes go by quickly. Some of the characters are cliched, like Raisa’s bratty sister who reminded me of Dawn from Buffy. Shudder. Otherwise, the characters were likable, and I was especially happy to see the thought the author put into the plot. Trouble loomed in unexpected ways, pain followed, and the characters had to grow. I liked it.

The other series was The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas, the first book of which was The Burning Sky. This was an intimate novel. What I mean is that it’s really about just two people, Titus VII, Master of the Domain, and Iolanthe Seabourne, the elemental mage that Titus has waited to find his entire life. That’s it. Sure, there’s other characters, but they’re secondary at best. All the focus is on the relationship between Titus and Iolanthe. They don’t like each other or trust each other, but circumstances cast them into an uneasy alliance. As expected given that it’s proudly labelled a romance, love blossoms between them, but by the second book, the equally well done The Perilous Sea, that simple attraction and affection is put to the test by amnesia of all things, and the prophetic visions of Titus’ mother. The setting is a fantasy world that is separate from, but overlaps our own and filled with high level magic that is indistinguishable from science and Eton College in 1883 England. Odd, right? But it works because of the intimate nature of the writing and the fact that Iolanthe is instantly attractive as a character, and Titus, who some might find detestable at first, I found sympathetic. I liked these books a lot and am looking forward to the finale.

My mini-review of Curse and Raveler by John D. Brown

Long ago, John D. Brown wrote a book titled Servant of a Dark God for TOR, but due to some snafus with the publication of book 2, and the interminable delay of its release, John regained the rights to his series and decided to self-publish (I know this because of John’s blog, which I regularly read since he offers great advice on writing and now, self-publishing).

The result are books 2 and 3, Curse and Raveler, in the series now titled Dark God (the first book is Servant).

These two books are a strong continuation of the story begun in Servant. It is large scale epic fantasy with a large cast of characters, but the focus is really on just 3 individuals: Talen, a young man with a hidden and disturbing past; Sugar, a young woman with a hidden and disturbing past; and Argoth, a forty-something soldier and sorta noble, with a hidden and disturbing past. Ok, that’s not meant to be snarky, just a little amusing. And the characters and their pasts are really much more interesting than my snark laid out. That’s one of the things I enjoyed about this book so much: while the tropes of young boy with hidden greatness etc are there, the tropes aren’t the characters. The characters are real and feel real and there’s a twist to how all of their truths. It’s not straightforward and cut-and-dry.

I enjoyed both books (all three actually). In the two sequels (Curse and Raveler), the dialogue remains smooth and even witty at times. What I found particularly appealing was the hidden dystopian nature of the world, which I thought was well done as well as the questions John raises about the choices we make when it comes to safety, or even the nature of slavery. Also of note, the two books are really just two parts of a larger whole. Not a crit, but while the narrative flow is crisp, I would have preferred more Talen in book 2 rather than so much of his viewpoint left for book 3. However, none of that detracted from the IMMENSE action sequences at the end. Non stop but it wasn’t like a Hollywood film where the action simply serves to show off the special effects. This was action with purpose. Loved that. Additionally, John spent the money on a good editor because the typos in both books are few.

I am really enjoying this story, and I look forward to reading the next one as much as anything on my To-Read-List.

Back to writing!

Now that my stupdenously annoying and difficult ten year recertification exam is over – HUZZAH!!! I get to get back to writing volume 2 of The Castes and the OutCastes.

But not until I finish reading The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper. So far this year, in just these four months, I’ve probably read more than I had all of the last two years, nearly all of it epic fantasy, and most of it rather large misses. My favorite book thus far was actually a book of poetry, Inside Out & Back Again.

So it was with trepidation that I purchased Ms. Cooper’s latest book. I really enjoyed the first novel in her series, Songs of the Earth, but didn’t care as much for Trinity Rising, but I find myself enjoying this latest edition quite a lot – other than wanting to whack Gair upside the head for being such a sniveling whiner.