Book Review: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

I picked up Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis because it had the most fascinating sounding premise: every time Nolan closes his eyes, even to blink, his consciousness flashes to another body in another world.  Which makes life for him extremely challenging!

Nolan is a teenage boy living in our own world, but every time his eyes close, he’s in the body of Amara, a teenage girl who lives in a very different world full of magic and danger.  Amara and her companions are on the run from hostile magicians, guarding the princess of a deposed monarchy.  Princess Cilla is cursed: if she bleeds even a drop, the blood triggers the curse and the world–rocks, grass, anything nearby–will attack her.  Amara has the ability to heal herself, so it’s her job to take the brunt of the attack until the magic loses track of Cilla’s blood, distracted by Amara’s.  So not only is Nolan dealing with distracting flashes of another life, it’s often a very painful life.  Amara doesn’t know anything about him…until he discovers a way to take control. Continue reading “Book Review: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis”

Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I want to start this review by saying how much I respect Scott Westerfeld as an author, due to his Uglies quartet.  That respect is why I kept reading his Afterworlds.  I still respect him…but Afterworlds was very disappointing.

The premise seemed appealing, two alternating storylines.  One is about Darcy, a new author, alternating each chapter with Darcy’s novel.  Cool idea!  However…

The book irritated me right out of the gate.  Darcy Patel is eighteen and wrote her entire novel during NaNoWriMo (not identified by name, but she wrote it all during November, so…), with no clarity on whether she’d written anything previously.  With minimal or no revisions, she promptly got an agent, sold her book to a publisher for a three-hundred thousand dollar advancement and a two book contract.  Which just does not happen.  Okay, maybe it does, but it’s about as likely as winning the lottery.  And the only author I’ve ever heard of it being that easy for was Edgar Rice Burroughs, ’round about 1910.

It doesn’t get better on that front.  Darcy moves to New York (because, of course), gets an apartment on her own in Manhattan and is adored by all the other writers.  She also gets an immediate new best friend who promptly and with no effort or angst from Darcy morphs into an awesome and incredibly understanding girlfriend.  And we are right smack in one of my pet peeves, the Too Beloved Heroine.  Because…really?

One of the best things in Darcy’s plotline, honestly, was when one of Darcy’s friends describes something as “nervous-making,” slang from the Uglies series that has crept into my brain.  Seeing it in a Westerfeld book made me happy.  Not a whole lot else in here did.

While everyone tells Darcy how wonderful her book is, I’m actually reading it in alternate chapters and…it’s just not that good.  Lizzie survives a terrorist attack and, in the midst of this near-death experience, accesses the underworld and meets Yamaraj, a sort of Hindu death god but not.  Ish.  We then fall smack into another pet peeve, Instaromance!  Because despite being midway through a terrorist attack and a near-death experience, Lizzie manages to describe Yamaraj as “beautiful” three times (that exact word) in his first five pages.  And it all just sort of goes from there. Continue reading “Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld”

Book Review: The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41)

The world grew less funny last March with the death of Terry Pratchett, creator of Discworld, my go-to author during blue times, and the reigning king of my “funniest book read this year” category every year.  Honestly, it makes me want to reach for a Pratchett book–which I did near the end of 2015, when I realized that Pratchett’s final Discworld book had somehow come out without my noticing!  That was The Shepherd’s Crown, fifth book in the Tiffany Aching subseries.

This was an unusually fraught read, because the previous book, Raising Steam, just…wasn’t very good.  And it made me really, really sad.  So I am doubly pleased by how much I liked The Shepherd’s Crown!

As to the story here (there’s no way to soften this so I have to just say it) it begins with the death of Granny Weatherwax, who is not the leader of the witches (witches don’t have a leader–Granny wouldn’t allow it).  Tiffany, somewhat to her own dismay, finds herself as Granny’s successor.  She struggles with what it means to walk, not in Granny’s footsteps but in her own.  The Nac Mac Feegle also careen through at times; Tiffany has to make a decision about Geoffrey, a boy who wants to be a witch; and the witches have to deal with an incursion by the fairies (far more scary than you might think). Continue reading “Book Review: The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41)”

Book Review: The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus series)

I finished out my read of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series just before the end of the year with The Blood of Olympus, fifth and final book. It was dramatic and exciting and a good conclusion to the series…if not quite everything I might have hoped for.

The waking of Gaea, the terrifying Mother Earth, has been drawing closer and closer throughout the series and now is only days away. Most of our (several) heroes are aboard the flying Argo II, heading towards the Parthenon, site of Gaea’s waking, fighting monsters and questing for the ingredients of the Physician’s Cure along the way. Meanwhile, the motley band of Reyna (Roman praetor), Nico (antisocial son of Hades) and Coach Hedge (war-mongering satyr) are trying to deliver a giant, ancient statue of Athena to Camp Half-Blood in time to prevent a war between the Greek and Roman demigods.

Everything that was here was good, and my biggest disappointment was what wasn’t here. Namely, anything from Percy or Annabeth’s point of view, because they’re my favorites. I actually flipped through when I was somewhere near the beginning to see what the POVs were going to be—and it turns out to be Jason, Piper, Nico, Reyna and Leo. To be fair, Percy and Annabeth got a lot of play in the last three books, especially 2 and 4, and there is a certain appropriateness to returning to Jason, Piper and Leo in the final book, when they were the focus of book 1…but I like Percy and Annabeth. And don’t get me wrong, they are here…but not the primary focus this time around. Continue reading “Book Review: The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus series)”

Classic Review: Enchantress from the Stars

Since I’m branching out from my usual fantasy into science fiction for NaNoWriMo this year, it seems appropriate to revisit one of my favorite books that exist at the perfect intersection between the two genres…

*******

Science Fiction and Fantasy get lumped together all the time, in discussions, in “Best of” lists, in the bookstore.  But you rarely see them together in a single novel.  Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl is a brilliantly-devised story that could be in Earth’s distant past–or even more distant future.

The story is told by Elana, who belongs to a society far advanced beyond present-day Earth.  She is part of a Federation of many planets, joined together in peaceful cooperation.  They study less advanced worlds, but have a strict non-interference policy, believing that it’s best for cultures to develop without knowing about more advanced races.

(For the Star Trek fans–I know, I know.  All I can tell you is that this was written in 1971, but feels less like Star Trek when you’re actually reading it.)

Elana is training to be one of the scientists who studies Youngling worlds when she stows away on a mission to Andrecia.  Andrecia’s native people are at roughly a Middle Ages level of development.  Their future is threatened by colonists from another world–the Imperials have developed space travel, but have not yet achieved the level of Elana’s people, either technologically or culturally.  The Federation team’s mission is to induce the Imperials to leave, without harming either race’s culture.

Elana ends up taking on the role of Enchantress, to relate to the Andrecians in a way they can comprehend–she especially connects with one, Georyn.  She teaches him magic spells (combinations of technology and telekinesis), so that he can go fight the dragon (the Imperials’ digging machine).  The hope is that if an Andrecian uses powers the Imperials can’t understand, they’ll be convinced to give up their colony.

The brilliance of the story is that it’s told from three very different points of view–Elana, from her advanced, enlightened perspective; Georyn, who tells a Brothers Grimm-style story about a beautiful Enchantress, a dragon served by terrifying demons, and magical spells; and Jarel, an Imperial who questions what his government is doing but doesn’t know how to act–and is probably the closest to all of us who are reading.

The three perspectives are intertwined and so different, yet work so well together.  It’s emphasized, in Elana’s sections, that Georyn’s perspective on events isn’t wrong either–he simply has a different understanding, a different way of viewing what’s happening.  In some ways, he proves to be the most intelligent and the most insightful of any of the characters.

Elana is very interesting too, because we see her as the uncertain, often naive girl she is on the mission; as the strong and wise enchantress Georyn sees her as; and as the more mature voice telling the story after it’s all over.  Her character growth, throughout the story and from the after-perspective, is very excellently done.

This is a good adventure with compelling characters, and it’s ultimately a very hopeful story.  Engdahl is careful to place Andrecia, Elana’s home world, and the Imperials’ home planet all in the position of third from their stars.  It notes in the introduction that any of them could be Earth–this could be a story about our past, or a story about our future.  Ultimately, I don’t think it matters.  We’re all of them.  The hopeful part is that the book makes it clear that Georyn’s people, and Jarel’s, and us, can all learn and grow and eventually reach the wisdom of Elana’s people.

In that way I guess it is like Star Trek, as a vision of a hopeful future.  But if you want to take this as science fiction, as fantasy, as philosophy, or even as something with some of the same elements as Star Trek, it’s worth reading–it’s a wonderful book.

Author’s Site: http://www.sylviaengdahl.com/index.htm

Other reviews:
Book Snatch
Jenna St. Hilaire
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