Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Bloodfever, in review

We had a long weekend here for MLK day and that meant I got to read not just one, but two books this weekend. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and Bloodfever by Karen Maire Moning.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)It's been a long time since I read a second world fantasy*.  Probably a year or more.  And it took me reading Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to realize that.  I used to consume these kind of novels and only these kind of novels in a near gluttonous fashion, but lately I've been on an urban fantasy  and old science fiction kick.

Anyway, back to the book.  There's something about it that really puts me in mind of Sara Douglass's Wayfarer Redemption books.  I think it's the closeness of the world of the gods with the world of men and that notion that the distance between gods and humans is vast, but the line that divides them is thin and porous.  The spends a great deal of time learning about her own world, getting sucked into political intrigue (some of it a generation old, some of it millennia old), and trying to decipher what people's true natures are -- a worthwhile task as all is not as it seems.

The writer has an incredibly successful and unique, if abrupt, way of structuring the narrative.  She mixes the more immediate storytelling method of being "in scene" with the characters, with recapitulation of history and need-to-know information which interrupts the scene with section breaks to deliver the knowledge, with sections of conversation not enclosed in quotation marks.  And for probably four fifths of the book we're not allowed to figure out who the narrator is talking to in those sections or if she's talking to herself.  The narrative also stops and starts as the narrator remembers things, which made the first chapter feel jerky but intriguing.  The narrative intrigue however, doesn't start until two or three chapters in once the narrative style has been established.

It was a good read.  It kept me up through most of the night on trying to finish it (I didn't succeed), and then awake midmorning the next day, trying not to nod off before I could get to the end. Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was put out by Orbit, and I have to say that every fantasy novel I've picked up with their little orbiting orbs logo on it has been really good.  This series goes on, but it's main characters change, so I'm not running out to get the next one just yet.

Bloodfever: The Fever Series (A Mackayla Lane Novel)I needed something to pick up immediately or I was going to be thinking about and rehashing Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for the next few days.  So I went and grabbed a copy of Bloodfever.  Bloodfever is the second book in the "fever series" of five books, starting with Darkfever and ending with Shadowfever (which comes out today coincidentally).  This is an urban fantasy series (shelved under paranormal romance because that's where Moning's career is most stable) set in contemporary Dublin and an extension of Moning's Tutha De / sidhe-seer world.  The series stands on its own, but by the end of book two you can already see that it's going to come crashing into the plot lines left open with her previous characters.  And news is that she's writing another series set in this world with different main characters.  Hey, whatever makes you comfortable.

One of Moning's books was the first romance novel I ever picked up -- it was on assignment for my feminist theory class.  I picked up The Highlander's Touch because the cover (the original cover) had no nudity (male or female) and no compromisingly positioned anything.  There was no way I was going to bring in something embarassing to a college class that was (at the time) way above my head.  Meanwhile, some of the students not struggling with the theory aspect of the class had gone for the attitude of the-trashier-the-better.  In the end the class had a good conversation.  I was annoyed because the book sets up one supernatural premise -- time travel -- and then 4/5 of the way through introduces the thing that will save them all!  Not time travel, but a fairy.  Major WTF moment.  I despise books where the author establishes a premise, solidifies it, then changes it when it's convenient for her.  (JR Ward, I'm looking at you.*cough*ghosts?srsly?*cough*)

But with the fever series, Moning has a world that is fae-centric.  Of course a fairy's going to show up, they're here to destroy the bloody world!

These novels are good enough that I keep reading them but I'm coming to think that I may have learned many of the habits Odyssey tried to break me of from one author.  Particularly that of having a character alone thinking about her life.

I went Monday night to buy the third book and they didn't have it.  Poo!  But they had dozens of copies of the fourth one because it just came out in paperback.  And the helpdesk chick was a fricking fluff head who didn't understand the layout of the fiction area.  Why the hell is the person who doesn't understand how the store is laid out manning the help desk?  Shouldn't she be shelving and shelving until she realizes that the "new arrivals" are face out under the sign "new arrivals" and the "regular" books are spine out in a different section? Whereas she told me that only two sections of the "regular" books are "regular" and then proceeded to be confused with why the "regular" books section ended with J-named authors.

I am calm.

So I went home and downloaded the nookbook version.  I like the nook-for-iPod software much better than I like the kindle-for-iPod software.  I figure I'll try it out on the computer as well.  Nook also has the advantage of retaining the original page numbers no matter how you change the font, and it doesn't reconfigure the page ever time you go to your bookmarked page -- hey, finding where I was  has a lot to do with visual/physical memory.  I remember where I left off spatially because that's the way paper has trained me to be.  And you're supposed to work with my paper-trained brain.

Heh, paper-trained.  :)

In other news this weekend, I changed the blog layout.  As you may have noticed by this point.  The old look had begun to feel too cluttered.  I'll be updating and tweaking this look in the near future; for one, I'm definitely redoing my header graphic so it centers.  Though I love that it's updated, and cleaner feeling right now, I mean to find an interesting -- simple -- photo for the background.  I looked through Blogger's options but just wasn't feeling any of them.  I thought about making it the old school washing machines but then decided not to go there no matter how semi-amusing I find that.  But I've got a few ideas, so we'll see how it works out ... unless anyone knows of some great coffee mug stock art.

*Second world fantasy is the term for fantasy located in a world that is not our own.  So Lord of the Rings is a second world fantasy, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not.  Actually, I think "second world fantasy" might be a term coined by Tolkien, or at least one he used in his seminal essay "On Fairie-Stories."

Highly Recommended