Archive for Chronicles of Elantra

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.

Newest?

The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

Where (not) to end a book

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy with tags , , on October 16, 2012 by Cara Marie

I read Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Peril last week. It’s the eighth book in her Chronicles of Elantra. As of the last book, the Hawks have agreed to send our heroine Kaylin on a journey to the West Marches – perhaps it is more a pilgrimage – to observe a Barrani ceremony that takes place there. This book, for the most part, follows that journey.

The Elantra books all have mystery/crime novel elements, but in this book they’re not at the forefront. It’s not quite as eventful as some of the others, but that’s not a bad thing – it’s actually quite relaxing, and for the characters too I think. We learn a lot about the world, about the history of the Barrani, about Kaylin’s friend, colleague and mentor Teela. Also Kaylin gets an awesome dragon familiar. I enjoyed it a lot.

And, as the book drew to a close, I realised – hang on, they’re not actually going to get to the West Marches in this book, are they?

So, in some ways, it’s half a book: because the end of the journey, and its goal, have yet to come. On the other hand, it does resolve the mystery from the beginning, and connects it to what’s been going on in the background of the earlier novels. And because it concludes that element – we get a confrontation, and see Kaylin survive it – the book is still satisfying on its own.

Also, once you’re eight books in, I think you’ve earned the right to cut a major narrative arc in half!

The reason I point this out is because the feeling I had at the end was so different from that I had at the end of another book I read recently. With Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, I had that same feeling of: hang on, this isn’t actually going to finish, is it?

(Non-specific spoilers ahead.)

I hadn’t realised Unspoken was the first book in a series; I was expecting a stand-alone. For the most part, it’s the story of a teenage wannabe-journalist, Kami Glass, who sets about uncovering a mystery in her town. But towards the end, the whole scope of that mystery widens. The novel doesn’t end with our heroine winning, for today: she and her friends survive, but they haven’t defeated anything, and the conspiracy is bigger than they had realised.

So that’s a downer. But on top of that, the person who is closest to Kami in the world basically dumps her. Sarah Rees Brennan could not have picked a lower point to end on.

This didn’t make me excited for the next book to come out. Instead, it spoiled the whole thing for me. And I had been enjoying the book. But it’s not a complete story, and it ends in such a dark place that I cannot accept it as the first novel in a series.

It’s half a novel instead. You can chop a book in pieces if you’re Tad Williams and your novel is several thousand pages long. But it didn’t work for me in Unspoken.

And with the story split in half like that, I feel like the second book is going to be quite different from the first one. Which is a natural part of changing the scope like that, and which I wouldn’t mind if I were reading straight on. But it’s not what I signed up for when I started Unspoken, and the ending of that soured me enough that I don’t really want to read on.

I haven’t been this annoyed at the ending of a book since The Knife of Never Letting Go, which tagged on a cliffhanger in the last scene. It would have ended quite satisfyingly without, and I would have looked forward to the follow up. I don’t need to be tricked into reading a sequel with a cliffhanger, or a false ending. If I enjoy a book, I’ll naturally want to read the next one. But if you end at a place where the story is unfinished (and if you’re not an ongoing series with enough going on that you’ve earnt that) … well, that just feels like a cheat.