rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
rachelmanija ([personal profile] rachelmanija) wrote2010-09-24 10:38 am

Books read on airplanes

Midnight Never Come, by Marie Brennan.

In parallel stories which eventually mesh, a tale of parallel courts closely joined unfolds. In London, an ambitious courtier tries to uncover a mysterious influence affecting Queen Elizabeth, and in the Faerie Onyx court, a disgraced faerie courtier tries to win back her position by impersonating a human woman in the court above. This seemed very well-researched, and the politics are laid out so clearly that even I could follow them. It's interesting but a bit meandery at first, but becomes quite gripping about halfway through. There are sequels but the conclusion is satisfying and feels conclusive.

My big nitpick was that the main relationship in the story, between the human and faerie courtiers, begins as one of deception and then grows into something real. But the deceptive relationship, which lasts a year and is very intense, occurs almost entirely off-page, and so the change from fake to real loses much of the power it could have had. We also miss Lune manipulating the man she will eventually love, and watching him fall in love with her human front. Nor do we get to see much of what her human persona is like, and get to judge for ourselves how congruent it is with her real self. I would have liked a longer book that spent some time on that missing year, rather than simply skipping it.

Overall though, I enjoyed it a lot, even though faeries are a very hard sell to me nowadays.

First Light, by Rebecca Stead. Extremely readable and quirky middle-grade sf with parallel stories (again) following a boy who goes with his scientist parents to Antarctica, and a girl living in an underground world beneath the ice. Clever and compelling, but suffers a bit in comparison with Stead's own When You Reach Me, which uses some similar plot devices better, and also has better characterization. Still well worth reading.

The Cats of Seroster (Piccolo Books), by Robert Westall.

Again with the parallel stories! An old British fantasy, in which sentient cats in a medieval human kingdom embark upon a complex plot to restore the deposed king (who will treat them well) to his throne, and get rid of a usurper (who hates cats.) The story threads follow the cats from own point of view, and also the hapless traveler magically forced into the role of the legendary savior of the kingdom. Very readable, with excellent battle sequences and an unusual perspective in general, but marred by casual but persistent and creepy misogyny: rape, rape threats, the only major human female is unnamed and does nothing but have sex with the hero, etc.

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Beautifully written historical adventure set in Roman Britain, which reminded me a bit in prose quality, atmosphere, emotional and political complexity, and characterization of A Wizard of Earthsea, though there's no magic. Roman soldier Marcus is severely wounded in a battle with the native Britons and forced into a very early retirement. When he sees a terrified young man his own age forced to fight as a gladiator, Marcus buys him as a slave. The young man turns out to be a captive British warrior, Esca. The two young men end up traveling in search of the lost legion of Marcus's father. Lots of warriorly bonding ensues, along with adventure and a complex look at the colonialism of the time.

I am a complete sucker for Noble Warrior Guys bonding and adventuring and "He was such a great fighter, I was honored to kill him," and this book is all about that. (Slash fans, don goggles now.) I loved the language, the vivid setting, and basically everything about this book. I wish there were more women, though the ones we do meet are interesting and non-stereotypical. The very beginning was a little slow and heavy on historical detail, but I was soon grabbed and thereafter didn't put the book down till I had finished it.

[identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 06:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I enjoyed Midnight Never Come (which I read recently, mostly in prep for Sirens) tremendously despite being very picky about faeries and being very picky about things set in Elizabethan England. Which is a pretty good feat.

[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 06:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I read it because of Sirens too - normally I would have skipped on the exact same grounds* - but I'm very glad I did. Did you read the sequel? Apparently it's set a generation later.

* It is very hard to make faeries rise above the indistinguishable mass of third-generation copies. As for Elizabethan England, my two problems are incomprehensible politicking and "Forsoothely my leige, it is a right merry horn cockscomb of a cuckoo's egg, and a rum derry diddle!"

[identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 06:31 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't read the sequel yet, but I'm planning on it. I'm delighted that she's moving the setting forward in time (the third one is set yet another generation later, I do believe), because I rather like the idea of providing a continuity from Elizabethan to modern faeries (although I have no idea how modern she's planning on getting).

(Admittedly this is partly because I like the idea of dealing with less-used historical periods: you get Celtoid Faeries With Optional Evil Romans, Celtoid Faeries With Optional Evil Saxons, Vaguely Medieval Faeries With No Actual Time Period, and Elizabethan Ye Olde Faeries, and then you skip a whole bunch and get Faeries in New York/at the Renn Faire.)

[identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 06:49 pm (UTC)(link)
It is very hard to make faeries rise above the indistinguishable mass of third-generation copies.

Amen. My usual attitude is, unless you're Diana Wynne Jones or Susanna Clarke, don't bother. But this sounds pretty good.

[identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 08:01 pm (UTC)(link)
I like the sequel much better, as Elizabethan fairies have been done and Charles I fairies, not so much.

[identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
'"Forsoothely my leige, it is a right merry horn cockscomb of a cuckoo's egg, and a rum derry diddle!"'

//chokes on tea

Yeah, Fake Elizabethan is awful, and if you are used to real Elizabethan at all, even not-so-horrible Fake Elizabethan can really grate. It's such a supple expressive flowing juicy language, and really has a different mindset than modern English.

(We are not speaking of Fake Chaucerian, ohno.)

[identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com 2010-09-24 09:08 pm (UTC)(link)
We are not speaking of Fake Chaucerian, ohno.

Ys therre muche?[*]

[*]This was deliberate. Please don't kill me.

[identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com 2010-09-25 03:39 am (UTC)(link)
I wish to find a context in which I can quote that masterful summary of cod-Elizabethan.

...actually it reminds me a bit of Mistress Masham's Repose---specifically when the schoolmaster meets Nurse...he says something like that, doesn't he?

I am burnt-out to char point on faeries, fairies, fae, and all their ilk.