This unusual and lovely fantasy makes use of some genre concepts, like elves and goblins and a young man who unexpectedly ascends the throne, to tell a completely different story than the one you might expect.

Maia is the half-goblin son of the Emperor of the Elves and a wife he never wanted. Since he was never expected to rule, he was relegated to the middle of nowhere and raised by an emotionally and physically abusive courtier who didn’t want to be there. Then an airship carrying the emperor and all his immediate heirs blows up. Maia is whisked off to the capital to ascend the throne.

This is a slow-paced book, meditative and thoughtful. Almost the entire story is about Maia adjusting to rule and to culture shock, learning how to relate to people, and trying to use his power wisely and well. Maia is a genuinely good person who wants to do right; reading the novel, I realized how rare that is as a central motivation for a protagonist of fantasy. I found it extremely refreshing.

Though not a secret garden book, it has many of the traits of that genre: the focus on place, the meticulous attention to detail, and the inner blossoming of the protagonist as they negotiate that new thing, friendship. I should mention that this is one of my very favorite genres. Not all stories have to have things exploding every few pages. Sometimes the planting of a seed, or the selecting of a signet ring, is more compelling than any amount of sword fights.

It’s not a flawless novel, but its flaws are not the sort that spoil the book. The food seemed somewhat random; I kept trying and failing to piece together a coherent cuisine from eel casserole, egg-drop soup, chamomile tea, and curry. That’s not remotely a major issue, but I would have enjoyed a more inventive look at elven food.

Slightly more seriously, the villains are sometimes hilariously inept, making the heroes’ victories over them seem less triumphant than they should. There’s one exchange that goes more-or-less like this:

Good guy: “You’re conspiring to murder the emperor! Admit it!”

Captured villain: “I don’t know anything about any conspiracy!”

Good guy: “Okay, maybe you’re not involved, but your buddy John definitely is!”

Captured villain: “Huh, what? John’s not the conspirator, Peter is. …oops”

Maia is also awfully lucky in that the majority of the people who he either gets assigned or semi-randomly selects to be in his inner circle are absolutely exceptional people, intelligent, kind, ethical, likable, compassionate, and bent on doing their best for the young emperor.

But those flaws show what sort of book it is: it’s one in which sorrow and injustice exist, but good people also exist, and appreciate goodness in others. Kindness is not the domain of chumps, nor does it get characters squashed under the bootheel of the author. Doing the right thing tends to be appreciated and bring about good results. For a book whose hero is frequently tormented by loneliness and grief and social anxiety, it's strangely comforting.

If you’re looking for fast-paced excitement, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a well-written, engrossing novel that will make you feel good, you’ve come to the right place.

This novel was written by Sarah Monette under a pen name, but it’s not much like her books about Felix and Mildmay, and only a little more like her short stories; liking or not liking those won’t indicate how you’ll like this novel. But if you’re a fan of Pamela Dean or Jo Walton or Ursula LeGuin, you are very likely to also enjoy The Goblin Emperor.

The Goblin Emperor
Due to extreme busyness, I not only failed to write up most of what I read, I also failed to write down most of what it was. I know I read more than this in a month, however busy. Oh well.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition by Oliver Sacks. If you like Sacks, you will like this; if not, you won't. I do like Sacks. Case studies involving patients with conditions involving or relieved by music, including several variants on Hell's own earworm; musings on the meaning, power, and neurological effects of music. Several of the most touching and powerful stories involve the nostalgia of music heard in childhood -- a nostalgia which is not always positive.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Techno logy, by Lawrence Weschler. Nonfiction (or is it) about the world's strangest museum, or perhaps an art installation on the theme of museums (and truth, and legend, and belief), Culver City's own Museum of Jurassic Technology. Amazingly, it does not dispell the spell of the museum itself; at one point I began to seriously wonder if Weschler had completely invented a large portion of his seemingly irrelevant but bizarrely fascinating research. Absolutely in the spirit of its subject.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Volume 1 (v. 1), manga by Eiji Ohtsuka and Housui Yamazaki. Gruesome but very funny manga about a crew of misfits, some psychic, some possibly just crazy, who deliver corpses, solve mysteries, and lay the souls of the restless dead. One guy either channels an alien via a hand puppet, or is a psychic who is also a crazy person with an alternate alien personality, or maybe just a very consistent prankster. Some of the best dialogue I've read in a manga; should appeal to fans of Kazuya Minekura and Brian K. Vaughn, if they can take the gruesome corpse drawings, which are sometimes nude for extra creepiness.

A Companion to Wolves, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette. Gay Vikings, violent man-on-man (and wolf-on-wolf) gangbangs of dubious consent, man-wolf bonding, and trolls -- if this sounds good, I promise you will enjoy it. I especially liked the last third, which delves fascinatingly into the underpinnings of the world. The supporting characters could have used more development, especially the hero's sexual partners other than his first (who was great and could have used more pagetime.) Loved the trolls.

The Myriad: Tour of the Merrimack #1, by R. M. Meluch. Marines and Romans in spaaaaaace! Loved the main Roman character; unfortunately, was completely allergic to the prose and dialogue (except the dialogue by the main Roman character.) Darn.
Due to extreme busyness, I not only failed to write up most of what I read, I also failed to write down most of what it was. I know I read more than this in a month, however busy. Oh well.

Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks. If you like Sacks, you will like this; if not, you won't. I do like Sacks. Case studies involving patients with conditions involving or relieved by music, including several variants on Hell's own earworm; musings on the meaning, power, and neurological effects of music. Several of the most touching and powerful stories involve the nostalgia of music heard in childhood -- a nostalgia which is not always positive.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders, by Lawrence Weschler. Nonfiction (or is it) about the world's strangest museum, or perhaps an art installation on the theme of museums (and truth, and legend, and belief), Culver City's own Museum of Jurassic Technology. Amazingly, it does not dispell the spell of the museum itself; at one point I began to seriously wonder if Weschler had completely invented a large portion of his seemingly irrelevant but bizarrely fascinating research. Absolutely in the spirit of its subject.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service # 1, manga by Eiji Ohtsuka and Housui Yamazaki. Gruesome but very funny manga about a crew of misfits, some psychic, some possibly just crazy, who deliver corpses, solve mysteries, and lay the souls of the restless dead. One guy either channels an alien via a hand puppet, or is a psychic who is also a crazy person with an alternate alien personality, or maybe just a very consistent prankster. Some of the best dialogue I've read in a manga; should appeal to fans of Kazuya Minekura and Brian K. Vaughn, if they can take the gruesome corpse drawings, which are sometimes nude for extra creepiness.

A Companion To Wolves, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette. Gay Vikings, violent man-on-man (and wolf-on-wolf) gangbangs of dubious consent, man-wolf bonding, and trolls -- if this sounds good, I promise you will enjoy it. I especially liked the last third, which delves fascinatingly into the underpinnings of the world. The supporting characters could have used more development, especially the hero's sexual partners other than his first (who was great and could have used more pagetime.) Loved the trolls.

The Myriad, by R. M. Meluch. Marines and Romans in spaaaaaace! Loved the main Roman character; unfortunately, was completely allergic to the prose and dialogue (except the dialogue by the main Roman character.) Darn.
[livejournal.com profile] truepenny's Melusine is an intense fantasy novel with alternate narrators, the victimized and crazy wizard Felix and the cat burglar Mildmay. Felix is magically forced to break a valuable magical artifact, the Virtu; the enchantment he's put under also drives him insane, and no one believes that someone else made him do it. Meanwhile, Mildmay has very entertaining adventures which slowly draw him closer to Felix, until they meet about halfway through.

To get a taste of Mildmay's voice, read the prologue; I vividly recall reading it from [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink's advance copy, in a hot New York cafe, and having to restrain myself from snatching it from her and running away with it. Mildmay speaks in one of the very few slang dialects that is not only not annoying, but a delight to read. He's also one of the more lovable protagonists I've come across in a while; you can call him an anti-hero, but that's only because he's a criminal, and criminality was thrust upon him from birth rather than something he sought after.

Felix, unfortunately, spends about half the novel suffering from repetitive hallucinations while locked up in various institutions, visited only by people who accuse him of crimes in a repetitive manner. His sections don't pick up until he meets Mildmay, at which point I still liked Mildmay much better, but could at least tolerate Felix, since he was interacting with Mildmay.

Though there were large stretches of Melusine that I found fairly dull, the good parts (everything with Mildmay) were so good, and also happened to hit some of my particular buttons so hard, that I re-read them repeatedly. (Everything with Mildmay; the tower; the Kalliphorne.)

Mild spoilers for The Virtu )
[livejournal.com profile] truepenny's Melusine is an intense fantasy novel with alternate narrators, the victimized and crazy wizard Felix and the cat burglar Mildmay. Felix is magically forced to break a valuable magical artifact, the Virtu; the enchantment he's put under also drives him insane, and no one believes that someone else made him do it. Meanwhile, Mildmay has very entertaining adventures which slowly draw him closer to Felix, until they meet about halfway through.

To get a taste of Mildmay's voice, read the prologue; I vividly recall reading it from [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink's advance copy, in a hot New York cafe, and having to restrain myself from snatching it from her and running away with it. Mildmay speaks in one of the very few slang dialects that is not only not annoying, but a delight to read. He's also one of the more lovable protagonists I've come across in a while; you can call him an anti-hero, but that's only because he's a criminal, and criminality was thrust upon him from birth rather than something he sought after.

Felix, unfortunately, spends about half the novel suffering from repetitive hallucinations while locked up in various institutions, visited only by people who accuse him of crimes in a repetitive manner. His sections don't pick up until he meets Mildmay, at which point I still liked Mildmay much better, but could at least tolerate Felix, since he was interacting with Mildmay.

Though there were large stretches of Melusine that I found fairly dull, the good parts (everything with Mildmay) were so good, and also happened to hit some of my particular buttons so hard, that I re-read them repeatedly. (Everything with Mildmay; the tower; the Kalliphorne.)

Mild spoilers for The Virtu )
.

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags