Archive for August, 2010

Vacation preparations

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

For my coming vacation I will be camping in Hungary. It starts and ends with a day long journey by train and I expect there will be plenty of waiting and dallying around. Most of the times I don’t like having nothing to do, so for me, in such cases, there is one best solution: books. The problem is that I’m travelling and camping and I am always careful in my treatment of books. So when I want to take books on vacation they have to be (preferably) second hand and no great loss if something happens to them.

As I did not have anything at hand I decided to go downtown and check the second hand bookstore. There I obtained no less than six books, all fantasy. There was other stuff around, but if there is some fantasy I’m willing to try, I will pick those first. Two books by Chris Bunch: The Seer King (1997) and The Demon King (1999). Four books by Jim Butcher: Furies Of Calderon (2004), Academ’s Fury (2005), Cursor’s Fury (2006) and Captain’s Fury (2007). As the Bunch books are the first and third volume I will probably take the Butcher books along. Six books is way too much add even four is already more than plenty.

Books for travelling

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

I like to browse through my collection of books in my bookcases and as it happens I stumbled on a few books I was reading, but put on hold, and as usual, somewhat forgot about. These are Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (1996) and The Shadow Eater by Adam Lee (1998). These books fall under a different category than the earlier ‘on hold’ books. These are actually travel books; books that are less important to me and which I mainly use to fill up time while travelling. I don’t have a car, so I mainly use public transport, so if it’s a longer trip (more than an hour), then I like to have a book along. If I want I can finish them any time, but I like to keep some books in reserve. These two are currently for that, in case I don’t have a book that I don’t want to read more.

Dave Duncan – Emperor and Clown

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Emperor and Clown by Dave Duncan (1991) is the fourth and final book of A Man of his Word. The previous books I have reviewed before this one, so I will leave out the introductory comments and move on to the actual review.

As stated in the previous review, book 3 ended in such a climactic cliffhanger that I was happy to have the next book at hand. Duncan really made the situation very complex to make it to the expected ending. One situation was quickly resolved, and in a way I had clearly missed because one could have thought about it in book 1 already. The second situation took longer and was well done.

The pacing was similar to that of book 3, but everything was clearly converging to one location so that meant the pacing would slow down again by that time. Not much time was wasted for getting there, so one could say the final started early in this book, although this book was 1.5 times longer than the previous ones. The final held many surprises. There was not much mainstream fantasy here. Duncan took the story in much different directions with some good character development that had been little in book 1, absent in book 2, more substantial in book 3, but clearly there in the final book. Book 4 was also different because it took one some new point of views. This was done to prepare for certain later developments, but it was also well done.

The conclusion of the story was somewhat prolongued, but also required, while holding some small surprises. Although it was entertaining it did take out the tension from the final events, thus weakening the overall strength of the book. Because of this I feel that book 3 is the best book of the series, then book 4, after that book 1 and book 2 was the weakest.

Now that the series is done I can look at the overall quality of the series. It was well balanced with decent world-building with little detail. Many races were presented, but most played a minor role. Of those which were more present the culture described was rather simplistic, not going further than basic characteristics with hardly anything that was unexpected, as the races were taken from earthly lore. It was nice to have them there, but they were so many that there was little space to really present them. So nothing above the average here.

Character development I have already discussed. It is of course not always required in my opinion. Such things always depend on the story, but they should be there when required and that was the case. The main characters were well done and sufficiently original for a tale of a quest.

The series is a fun and easy read. Somewhat mainstream, but Duncan manages sufficient twists and developments to not stick to the cliches and lift the series above mainstream. Still there are some weak points, but that could be seen as a matter of taste in how complex one wants the world to be. As a lot of ground is covered there could’ve been a bit more, but it was sufficient for the story which clearly kept focus on the two main characters and their impression of the world they saw. Certainly recommended for those preferring mainstream but looking for something refreshing but also for those (like me) preferring original and complex stories who like to enjoy some light stuff once in a while.

Dave Duncan – Perilous Seas

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Perilous Seas by Dave Duncan (1991) is the third book of A Man Of His Word, a tale of words of power and a romantic quest in a world populated with many races from fantasy folklore.

In book two I had complained that the pacing was too slow. Only at around one third of the book things started to get going. Book three continues where book two left of and this time there is no lack of pace. There is no rushing either, but unlike book two, events unfold quickly and not much time is wasted on travelling, something which can become tedious as it is a common thing in mainstream fantasy novels, as the quest is often all about travelling, but many words are spent on the actual travelling while it’s all about the stopping points and the final destination. This time Duncan chooses to skip the boring parts, and it creates a nice effect during certain stages. Events are now really unfolding in unexpected ways and Duncan is moving away from falling into possible cliches of mainstream fantasy which books 1 and 2 still had a certain amount of.

I think this is certainly the best book in the series until now. I read it with much more joy and interest, whereas the previous books were entertaining enough but easy to lay aside for other things, it was much harder to do so for this one.

As this is a short series with books of no more than 330 pages, they all end with a certain cliffhanger. The third book ends in one of the most astounding cliffhangers that I have read. Duncan plays out the characters of his main characters daftly. By now we know how they behave and it all makes things complicated. The main and side characters are now also developing more strongly, which also was something which book 2 lacked. We see new and different sides and that certainly deepens them more.

The review of book 4 will follow soon.