Paladin of Souls (Chalion #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Kate Reading
For some reason last time I read this, I not only didn't review it but only gave it 4/5 stars. I also remember almost nothing about it, so it's possible I had the flu or something. Clearly my judgement was impaired.
In any case, this is a fantastic book, partly for the reasons I loved the first one, the thought to world building, the relationship with the gods, and a middle-ages secondary world that actually feels like the middle ages. But mostly it's about the emotional journey of the characters. You root for these people like no others because they're so gloriously imperfect, but still trying.
I love Ista and her path to redemption. The book doesn't shy away from her having done something wrong, even under extreme circumstances, but it's also all about second chances, even for people who don't want them. And, hey, it's about a middle-aged mother and widow who goes off to get away from it all and ends up saving the world. Which is pretty great and not something you see that often, especially in high fantasy.
The reader of the audio version is very good, incidentally. Now I'm off to listen to the third one. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
On the whole, I loved this book. It's about a tiny bespectacled secret agent and her hulking Viking PA trying to solve mysteries while negotiating local politics, international politics, religion, family loyalties and a long history of colonialism. Also the history of history. Plus the fought sea monsters, which was great.
The characters were smart, interesting, conflicted and felt very true to life. I loved the author's way of describing people in a few often humorous lines so you got a real sense of them. The book had a great sense of place as well, with the partially and miraculously destroyed city, and its possibilities of magic.
The tech level was interesting, probably late-19th century, but along side a ferociously repressed magic system, and it all fit together neatly. The author obviously put a lot of work into getting the consequences of the changes and overlaps to work, which I appreciate. It's not a world of stasis.
I will say that our token bisexual character was somewhat heavily drawn. Half the time it felt like he was queer because it was symbolic (he's divided between two things, GET IT!?) And I'm kind of over tragic queers who are picked on by their religion. I don't need them in my secondary world fantasy.
Otherwise, excellent book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
I'm up through "The Dancing Men" in Sherlock Holmes. Still the best adaptations.
Listened to a bunch of Eight and Lucie adventures since I last mentioned them.
"The Cannabalists" by Jonathan Morris: Fairly entertaining if you like goofy robots. The evil robots were possibly too mean to make enjoyable listening.
"The Eight Truths"/"The Worldwide Web" by Eddie Robson (who is letting me down here!): like with having women involuntarily morphed into monsters, I feel like there should be limits on the number of episodes in which the main companion is brainwashed for the majority. Though poking fun at Scientology is fun I guess, and it was nice to hear the Headhunter again. Plus we're rid of the series' arc plot which was annoying and pointless.
"Death in Blackpool" by Alan Barnes: This is a really good episode, and very well acted, and drives the plot of the rest of the series, which is interesting and gets into the Dark Eyes
storylines later. It is however premised on the Doctor's very questionable actions a couple series back, and that bit always seemed a bit like plotites. However, mostly I really like this one.
"An Earthly Child" by Marc Platt: Poor Susan. She always gets in terrible predicaments in the spin offs. Here she is many years on, widowed, with a teenaged son who doesn't know he's half alien (played by PMG's own son), and stuck on an Earth utterly ruined by the Dalek invasion she helped defeat. This is somewhat a story of how that gets better, through her own and the Doctor's efforts, and it's lovely to see her and Eight interacting, but still very sad.
"Situation Vacant" by Eddie Robson (back to usual standards, yay!): Total comedy gold. The Doctor having (apparently) put out an ad for a companion does interviews, fights giant robots, and gets into all kinds of trouble. We meet Tamsin Drew, who I like a lot. The plot moves forward.
"Nevermore" by Alan Barnes: I must remember to skip this on relistens in the future. More or less entirely without redeeming features. They're trying to have fun with Edgar Alan Poe and being creepy, and mostly failing really really badly. I did like the comedy bit with the Doctor trapped in the Pit and the Pendulum situation, but otherwise, MEH.
"The Book of Kells" by Barnaby Edwards: Fun historical with Tamsin getting to actually do stuff, and the plot moving along. I especially liked the reveal at the end.