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.
musesfool: a sword (honour demands it)

From: [personal profile] musesfool

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Hmm... I might have to check it out. Sounds like a possible yuletide fandom.
oracne: turtle (Default)

From: [personal profile] oracne

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.

Then you DEFNITELY need more Sutcliff!

These, perhaps:
The Silver Branch
The Lantern Bearers
Frontier Wolf

cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)

From: [personal profile] cofax7

Oh, I'm so glad you liked the Sutcliff! That's one of the best of her YAs; I think only Mark of the Horse Lord is better. My very favorite is the Arthurian sequence, although Sword at Sunset breaks me every time I read it.

I just read The Shield Ring and Knight's Fee, which are both very good, both set about 30 years after Hastings, and at opposite ends of England. Again, vivid sense of place, embedded in the minutia of daily life, with moving interpersonal relationships.

From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com

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.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

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!"

From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com

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.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

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.

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com

I like the sequel much better, as Elizabethan fairies have been done and Charles I fairies, not so much.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

'"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.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

We are not speaking of Fake Chaucerian, ohno.

Ys therre muche?[*]

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

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com

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.
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Kamalei with lokelani)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

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.

Yay Sutcliff! If you enjoyed that one, I suspect there are many hours of happy reading working through her back catalogue ahead of you. (Although alas, the general pattern of the women being interesting and non-cardboard, but neither numerous nor spending a great deal of time on stage, is rather common.)

Have you started in on the Horrible Thing yet? XD

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I mailed it to myself, along with many other books. The horror awaits!

PS. I discovered my Volks "everyone gets one" gift, a silver-colored metal doll necklace with a pretty silver butterfly, still in its original plastic box. Think it's worth something?
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Pualani with rose)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

Hmmm. Right now on Volks USA's web store, most of their new necklaces are going for $11 - $13, but nothing available right now that fits that description. You could definitely get a few bucks for it, maybe even close to or a bit over those new prices if it's something limited/exclusive that was only available at a Dolpa -- I can't find anything similar from Volks on any of the Usual secondhand market Suspects right now, so it's hard to gauge exactly what the value is; being mint-in-box and brand-name Volks does likely make it more desirable to some collectors. Heck, depending on what it looks like I might be interested in buying it for my girls -- or if it doesn't fit the style I usually dress them in, it'd make a nice little host gift for a couple of the local collectors I know who are Volks obsessives. :)
Edited Date: 2010-09-24 09:09 pm (UTC)
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Rosaleen spring matsuri)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

*nods* Their stuff is generally pretty exquisitely made from what I've seen, even if their overall house aesthetic isn't always entirely to my taste.

*iconspams you with more dolly pics*

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

TOTAL Eagle of the Ninth fangirl here - are the sequels good too? And I haven't read her Arthurian novels, altho I think I might have Sword of Sunset around here somewhere.
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (puppy love)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

They're mostly not so much direct sequels in the usual sense, that whole cycle are really more standalone books that have a very subtle thread that links them all across the centuries; there's no real continuity of plot or characters (except for The Lantern Bearers and Sword At Sunset, but even then you don't have to read one to understand or enjoy the other.) And the general consensus in this massive appreciation and rec-fest is that they're mostly all pretty darn good. ;)
Edited Date: 2010-09-24 09:01 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] sienamystic.livejournal.com

I enjoyed Midnight Never Come and am now reading the sequel, A Star Shall Fall, after seeing them recommended just about everywhere. I also enjoyed it, but realized after I'd put it down that I'd put off reading the first one because I expected it to be either a giant block of political fussing that I'd feel stupid about not following, or perhaps something that was too Mary Gentle-ish (I have a weird thing with her, where I love the ASH books but can't seem to read anything else by her.) So I was surprised in a good way at finding it a little more sketchy in a lot of details, and then, when I could think about it a little more, realized that no, I'd really like more details and more things happening onscreen.

Still, a very lovely story, and so far I'm enjoying the next one.

From: [identity profile] sienamystic.livejournal.com

Eep, yes, it is, and what this means is that I accidentally skipped over In Ashes Lie. Will have to go fix that!

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

Eagle of the Ninth was awesome! From what (little) I know, the historical detail was spot on. I know there are sequels, altho I haven't read them (yet).

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

Slightly OT - I didn't actually like Living Dead Girl much, but the author, Elizabeth Scott, has written a maybe-dystopian YA novel that you might find interesting? http://www.elizabethwrites.com/grace.php

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Hmmm. Sounds very awesomely depressing. So did Living Dead Girl. I peeked at the ending because I really only wanted to read it if it ended with some hope, and...

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

YEAH. That book shot straight from 'possibly awesomely depressing' to 'sorry I wish I ever read that and want to scrub it from my neurons'.

From: [identity profile] tekalynn.livejournal.com

Sutcliff tends to be a bit light on lead female characters, but do, do check out The Shield Ring, my very favorite, because the protagonist is both female and gets to do very cool stuff. There's also a tiny continuity nod to the Roman Britain novels, of which Eagle of the Ninth is the first. The other two in the trilogy are The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers. All excellent.

(Reposted to correct HTML errors.)
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Saiyuki Gaiden: history repeating)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

Oh, there's more to that linked cycle than just those four titles -- those are just the beginning and end points, there are actually *eight* books all connected by the emerald signet, the most recent one having been published posthumously in the early 1990s!
Edited Date: 2010-09-24 09:21 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] klwilliams.livejournal.com

I adore "eagle of the Ninth". Hmm. Maybe it's time to reread it again.

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

I just read 'Midnight Never Come' a week or so ago! I liked it a bit less than I had thought I would, though; I wished the big secret had been something other than a literal deal with the devil. For some reason I find Satan more unbelievable than fairies, though who knows why!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I usually loathe plots involving Satan, but in this case I thought it fit with the unusually realistic treatment of religion - many of the characters are Christian and their beliefs strongly affect their actions - and to a certain extent, their beliefs are literally true.

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

It's absolutely really well set-up in the book, and looking back, I can see all kinds of foreshadowing and relevance. It's just a funny personal thing that threw me out of the story.

From: [identity profile] neery.livejournal.com

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.

Have you ever read any David Gemmell? He pretty much single-handedly gave me that kink.

From: [identity profile] neery.livejournal.com

He's a Fantasy writer, and he writes a lot about gruff, noble warrior guys - or cynic, embittered gruff warrior guys who find themselves making the noble choice against their better judgment in times of need. I think my favorites of his were Dark Moon, Waylander, and Winter Warriors, in that order. A lot of his books are set in the same universe, but they usually stand on their own. Dark Moon is, I think, set in its own universe and would probably be a pretty good place to start.

From: [identity profile] cat-i-th-adage.livejournal.com

Ooh, I just reread Eagle. It seems to belong to that class of books that kids and adults can both enjoy.

One thing I noticed on rereading was how many of the characters were displaced, and how they ended up putting down roots in the new place.
sovay: (I Claudius)

From: [personal profile] sovay

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff.

I remain sad that when Peter Bellamy was setting as much of Kipling's verse to music as he had time for, he didn't make an exception to the catalogue and include "The Girl I Kissed at Clusium." I have always wanted to be able to sing that one, and you know it was popular right around the same time as Parnesius' "Rimini."

As you can tell, I love the book. I am praying the film adaptation is not going to be stupid.

From: [identity profile] neery.livejournal.com

I just finished reading The Eagle of the Ninth and came back to this post, because I like to reread reviews when I'm done with a book. I just wanted to thank you for the rec, that was a really enjoyable read.

Have you seen the trailer for the upcoming movie? I'm really not sure what I think about those changes they made.
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Gojyo botan hikae-gobu)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com

[livejournal.com profile] chomiji and I saw it together last week -- if you don't mind film spoilers, there's an extensive post-mortem discussion here. Nutshell version, there are a lot of decent-to-very-good things about the movie...unfortunately, the script isn't one of them. But if you can separate the two canons in your mind well enough to accept the film as a sort of darker-and-grittier, less nuanced AU, it does have a lot of enjoyable elements -- Jamie Bell, in particular, while he doesn't look the slightest bit like my mental image of book!Esca, and is playing a part that's written very differently, delivers a really marvelous performance and I can see a lot of flashes of book!Esca in his courage and defiant pride and stubborn sense of duty.

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