The Dresden Files #14: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Read: 31 January, 2016

At the end of Ghost Story, Harry Dresden’s tenure as the Winter Knight began. Now, Mab has given him his first assignment, and it’s a doozy!

Butcher’s favourite word this book is “oblique.” There was one page where it appeared three times, and it just kept coming up again and again. It was bad enough to be a drinking game!

Then there was the casual sexism. It’s been toned down over the last several books, but Dresden’s claim that women have up to five levels of conversation at the same time was just ridiculous. Worse yet, it just went on and on, this was only a few pages after Dresden goes to a place where men look for casual sex and has a whole conversation with Titania about how he’s totally okay with the gays because freedom is important. It was so cringe-inducing, and sadly immature.

But other than that, I enjoyed the book. Dresden’s changing roles keep the series from getting stale. And it’s been interesting to see him do without more and more of his standard tools.

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Huntress by Malinda Lo

Read: 9 May, 2015

Summer has failed to come, the land is starving, and strange monsters have begun to appear. When an invitation is received from the Fairy Queen, no one thinks it’s a coincidence.

There was so much about this book that I liked, and so much that made me like the idea of the book, but I found that it just fell flat.

For one thing, there’s the non-stock fantasy backdrop (in this case, Lo has created a classical Chinese-inspired culture). It was very refreshing to see, and would have been interesting if it had lasted for more than a few pages. As soon as the initial quest is established, the questing party heads off into the woods, leaving culture behind, and the remainder was indistinguishable from any other fantasy setting (particularly the fairy town, which had absolutely nothing of note to it at all).

The lesbian romance was a draw as well, but its development felt somewhat clunky. By the end, when Taisin had to finally make the choice between her career or her feelings for Kaede, I had trouble caring much. Perhaps because the characters never felt particularly developed.

I had some problems with the ending. (SPOILERS: The whole ending, for example. The “twist” that the Fairy Queen was actually Elowen’s real mother was not only predictable and overdone, it was also utterly uninteresting. I hadn’t been given any reason to care about either character, since they had occupied such a tiny fraction of what had been, essentially, a long walk through the woods punctuated by occasional attacks, that it felt completely unnecessary. To then send Kaede on yet another quest, apparently for no reason other than to add to the page length, felt rather silly.)

Much of the book felt rushed and unpolished. The easiest example would be the baby the travellers met in Ento. As they approach and then enter the home, the baby is first crying, then begins to cry, then is asleep and coos as it wakes. It’s hard to imagine that this sort of thing survived the first edit.

And, of course, there was the POV jumping. It was all over the place. I understand that Lo wasn’t going for a straight Third Person Limited, but the POV would sometimes jump several times a paragraph, and at least a few times I caught it jumping in a single sentence. It was too much, too abrupt, and it added little to the telling.

My final major grip was Lo’s use of the word “for.” Over and over again, we saw the following construction: “So and so did this, for they wanted to.” Two sentences in a row might have the exact same construction. And it was doubly strange because it’s something that I associated with purple prose formality, while much of the narrative tone was more informal. Which, I suppose, is a bonus complaint: the tone-hopping.

Overall, I enjoyed reading it, but I was disappointed by the overall sloppiness of the writing. I’d still recommend it, if only as short, fun read, but with too many shortcomings to really be taken for anything more.

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The Physics of Magic #1: Magical Deliquents by Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg

Read: 8 January, 2014

Kira is a Walker, a magical race. When she begins her studies at the University of Waterloo, she begins to draw humans into her world – and all of its dangers.

Magical Delinquents is a self-published book written by an acquaintance. Unfortunately, it suffers from many of the same issues as other self-published books I’ve reviewed – notably formatting problems and typographical errors. In this case, the narrative also had an unpolished feel to it, particularly around the time-hopping toward the end, and would have benefited from a good editor and at least one more draft.

That said, the plot was a solid one. It’s the first book in a series, so a lot of time was spent on exposition. Still, the adventure was a fairly exciting one, the characters interesting, and the world-building has fantastic potential. Where this book really shines is in its descriptions of hospital and first aid care – the author is a nurse, and that’s clearly evident. The level of detail is quite a bit higher than is usually the case, and the hospital location used as the setting for several scenes felt very well fleshed out (complete with its own “culture” as the various doctors and nurses interact with each other).

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Bridei Chronicles #1: The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

Read: 5 April, 2009

As a small child, Bridei was given to the powerful Priteni druid Broichan for his education. It soon becomes clear that Broichan has a destiny in mind for his young ward, a destiny that Bridei has no choice but to accept. But the moon goddess seems to have plans of her own as, one Midwinter’s Eve, she sends him a very peculiar baby girl whom Broichan immediately perceives as a threat.

I’m finding it extremely difficult to write this review. The Dark Mirror is by no means a bad book, nor is it a good one. I can think of nothing that Marillier did wrong, yet I can think of nothing that she did very well. This is the epitome of average (though, to be fair, my standards can be very harsh). I can only think to say that the novel seemed very slow-paced, but I can think of no scene that could have been cut. The fat is far too well spread.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, but I can think of very little that was memorable. In that sense, I will recommend it as filler, something to read on a rainy afternoon. This is a book that can be put down without much of a struggle when the phone rings.

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