The series continues to be engrossing. Hale uses a very unusual structure which I love and only see occasionally. I don't recall ever seeing anyone else do it with Hale's particular twist. I'll cut for a structural spoiler which is also a moderate plot spoiler - you don't realize what the structure is until the beginning of book two, I think.

It's two parallel time-tracks, with the same characters in each at different time periods. In the later one, you see what happened to everyone; the fun is finding out how and why. Offhand, I can only think of two other works which do this, Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia and Kathleen Duey's dark YA fantasy A Resurrection of Magic.

This one is especially complex because there's time travel and world-travel involved. The chronology seems to go something like this:

- Kahlil travels to Earth, where he becomes John's roommate.

- John travels to Kahlil's world, Basawar. I am pretty sure this is the past, from Kahlil's perspective as of the time when he first departed for Earth. In Basawar, John meets a young man named Ravisham, whom I am guessing (this has not been formally revealed) is actually the young Kahlil - Kahlil is a title, not a name. John gets involved with Ravisham's magician training school. John doesn't recognize Ravisham, but I think this is because Ravisham is way younger and hasn't yet gotten Kahlil's extremely distinctive scars and tattoos.

- On Earth, Kahlil pursues John back to Basawar. Due to, essentially, technical difficulties, the crossing leaves him badly wounded and amnesiac. We realize, though Kahlil does not, that this is some time in the future - maybe about ten years - from John's period. The magic school has been destroyed, and we meet a bunch of the same characters, older and radically changed. I am concerned that, unless I didn't recognize them, we have seen no sign of Bill, Laurie, or (my favorite) Hann'yu in this period. Uh-oh....

I am trying to figure out when in the timeline Kahlil left to be John's roommate on Earth. Did he know about future!John at the time? I should re-read his first POV sections, before he lost his memory.

It's so well-done and clever! I love the creeeepy magic system. The supporting characters have gotten a lot more interesting as the book goes on. I like how the villains have comprehensible motives and generally aren't too over-the-top.

My main quibble at this point is that I'd like a little more clarity on some matters, given the sheer complexity of the story; sometimes stuff is mentioned that seems important, in a way implying that I should already know about it, and I have no idea if it was poorly or just very subtly set up.

For instance, I could have sworn that John delivered Fikiri to the school, and then the next we saw of him, it was two years later and he'd learned some magic. Then people kept mentioning that Fikiri had "walked the God's Road" and cheated death or been resurrected or something. What are they talking about? Did I accidentally skip some pages? I have no recollection of this.

There are also some odd choices about what to show and what to tell. John gets a job as a magical healer's assistant. At last, he will learn some (creepy and dramatic) magic! I eagerly flip the page...

...and it's several months later and he'd already learned it and is doing it as a matter of course. I wanted to see him do it for the first time!

But, in general, this is pretty awesome. Very immersive. I like that the characters are adults who generally behave like adults (and the teenagers behave like teenagers.) The dark bits are nicely spooky, and the comedy makes me laugh. ("So you let him poison you because you thought it would be easier than breaking up with him?")

There is a great bit that I am pretty sure is a nod to The Stars My Destination.. Ravisham tells John he first entered the Gray Space when someone put a gun to his head. Just like how jaunting was discovered!

Black Blades (The Rifter)

Witches' Blood (The Rifter)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu

My ebook of volume three starts with chapter 22, whereas volume two ends with chapter 19. Is this a production error? Are the paper books the same?

From: [identity profile]

Yes! This, too, is very likable. And, though there are some wobbles, it feels very confident.

Please post on this if you read it! I want to talk about it!
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile]

Trying to figure out if I can get it onto my phone for reading while I fence-judge tomorrow!
ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile]

First chunk down! Not sure I think it's actually _good,_ exactly, but this is exactly the right sort of thing for me to be reading right now -- not so demanding as to overtax my poor stats-friend brain, but engaging enough to keep said brain from wandering off. Thank you for the tip.

From: [identity profile]

I loved Wicked Gentlemen! Very different but really good.

From: [identity profile]

Oh, good, you're still hooked! And you wrote more about it!

I loved the structure too, though it took me longer than it probably should have to realize there were two time tracks. Another thing I really liked is how she used point of view, in that once John and Kahlil go their separate ways, it stays in only their points of view. It allows things to be revealed in a way that feels natural instead of "hiding" information from the reader in clumsy ways. I thought

I also found the Gray Space descriptions really effective. But you're more widely read in sff than me.

I'm embarrassed that I can't remember who Hann'yu is.

I would occasionally feel I'd missed things, and I couldn't figure out (without going back, which I didn't want to do) if I had missed things, or it was there and I hadn't caught it. Some stuff does come clear to support choices that seemed, to my mind, a little wonky. There's a lot that is thoughtful here, even while it's not perfect.

One day I will have to reread it. I actually had thought I'd written up a long post about this, but I can't find it, and I guess I never did. Maybe next time.

From: [identity profile]

Hann'yu is the doctor who patches up all the ushiri students who have been slashed up by the Gray Space. (I also found the descriptions of that really vivid and cool.) The first magic John ever consciously learns to do is to take on other people's wounds, so I was bummed that the chapter where he first does that is skipped.

If you re-read now, you can follow along with me!

From: [identity profile]

Oh, yes, I did like Hann'yu a lot.

That's an idea. I'm as usual scrambling for time, but it's tempting to reread! (I'm not one of those readers who enjoy reading 5 minutes here and there; I like to be able to sit down and read a good chunk. Otherwise I get frustrated.)

Once you reach the end of book five, you might have fun reading this Dear Author review.

From: [identity profile]

thanks for getting me to finally start reading these series! i've been putting it off for ages, and it's just amazing.

re: fikiri: when john hauls him to school, he learns (from overhearing ravisham talk to his nun friend via grey space and later from talking to him) that the creepy bone oracles predicted fikiri will unquestionably die on the thousand steps. this didn't happen, most probably due to john's powers, although nobody suspect it - they think fikiri is something special.

From: [identity profile]


Huh, I wonder what would have happened to Fikiri if it wasn't for John. It seemed like he was ready to flee the steps - was there some mechanism or magic that killed people who tried to climb and then bailed?

From: [identity profile]

this (i wouldn't put any creepy and terrible practice past these people, really; especially given that we know that john will eventually side with the revolution), or whatshisname - pivan? pavin? would've killed fikiri if he attempted to return.

i must say, i find kahlil chapters kinda easier to handle; firstly because the biggest catastrophe already happened, apparently, and secondly because it's easier to take kahlil's amnesiac bewilderement than john's confusion at the whole scary new world.

i'm nervous about lack of laurie and bill in the future chapters, though :/

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