Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP Ann Rule, Shattering the Ley by Joshua Lamatier and City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

Though I am not a fan of true crime books, by all accounts Ann Rule was a kind and generous person who helped nearly every writer she encountered.
Rest in Peace, Ms Rule.

True-crime author Ann Rule
who wrote 35 books, "including a profile of her former co-worker, serial
killer Ted Bundy," died Sunday, the Associated Press reported. She was
83. In addition to The Stranger Beside Me, Rule's books included Small
Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder and Too Late to Say
Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal. Her latest book, Practice
to Deceive, was about a murder on Whidbey Island in Washington State.
Her books have 50 million copies in print in 16 languages.

Noting that the FBI and the Justice Department eventually "started
turning to Rule for her expertise on serial murders," the AP wrote that
"she aided the Green River Task Force as that group sought another
Seattle-area serial killer, passing along tips that her readers shared.
She wrote a book about the case, Green River, Running Red."

The Los Angeles Times noted that Rule "was truly the 'Queen of True
humanizing the victims as she told their tales."

"By deciding to focus her books on the victim, Ann Rule reinvented the
true-crime genre, and earned the trust of millions of readers who wanted
a new and empathetic perspective on the tragic stories at the heart of
her works," Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster,
commented. "She will be remembered not only for her many books, but also
for her ongoing and tireless work on behalf of victims' rights. We are
proud to have been her publisher for many years, and we will miss her."

I picked up City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (from Barnes and Noble clearance), assuming it was written by a man with a pretentious name and that it was YA fantasy fiction. I was wrong on both counts.According to Goodreads, "Magnus Flyte is a pseudonym for the writing duo of Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch. Howrey is a former dancer with the Joffrey II and the winner of an Ovation Award. She is the author of the novels The Cranes Dance and Blind Sight and lives in Los Angeles. Lynch is a television writer and former Milan correspondent for W Magazine. She lives near Sequoia National Park in California." 
I also discovered, early on, that there's a great deal of raunchy sex, drugs, swearing and violence in this book, totally unsuitable for anyone under the age of 21. Oddly enough, the book is written in a rather light style, and the prose reads of "green" authors, whose enthusiasm sometimes outstrips their writing talents. However, this doesn't make City of Dark Magic a bad novel. It's actually fairly entertaining, if a tad uneven. Here's the blurb: 

 Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.
Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

I found Sarah to be an interesting protagonist, plucky and a talented music scholar, but her rampant libido seemed to be a bit unusual, in that it kept getting in the way of the plot moving forward, because, as the saying goes, "girl's gotta have it." The intrigue of the evil senator vs the good young Beethoven scholar with a nose for a mystery was a bit cliche, and falling in love with the prince of the castle only made it more so, yet I enjoyed the sleuthing around the castles, finding bolt holes, secret rooms, tunnels and soforth, and I was fascinated with the alchemically-aided foray into the past to see LV Beethoven himself. The whole "magical handicapped girl" with a big dog and a stupid huge servant was also cliched and somewhat ridiculous, but the authors managed to make it work, weaving it into the plot so that there were only a few flinches when the little blind prodigy appeared to play music at a competition in Prague. The city of Prague itself plays a major role in the novel, and anyone who reads this book and doesn't hanker for a trip to Europe is a stronger person than I am. So I'd give this book a B+, and I'd recommend it to fans of Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches series, or those who are classical music scholars who have a nose for a good mystical mystery.

Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier was another book I picked up on the recommendation of a friend and Goodreads. I was intrigued by the young female protagonist and the idea of a city that runs on magic ley lines as a power source in every aspect of the word. Here's the blurb:

Erenthrall—sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day.
At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of  a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen (dogs) and unnatural assassins (hounds).
When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Alan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined...and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction—or its salvation.

I was surprised at the sheer amount of political and social intrigue and plots that the author managed to stuff into this hefty paperback of around 550 pages. I felt that a good editor could have trimmed about 50 pages out of the manuscript, but I'm not a fan of political fiction or military fiction, so that could be my own prejudice speaking. I find discussions of revolution and the brutality of war and those who wage it utterly boring. I was much more interested in the magic of the "wielders" and the protagonist Kara Tremain, who shows an inordinate ability to control the ley at an early age. Though she's smart and talented, there's more than a little sexism in the way that she's treated, and the way that her childhood friend covets her, and her co-worker uses his romantic feelings for her to keep her in line and "protect" her from his alliance with the terrorist Kormanley groups. The Kormanley want to use Kara in their cause, but realize that because one of their bombings killed her parents, that this won't happen, so they make an end-run around her and recruit her boyfriend, who then chooses the Kormanley over Kara for some weak reasons that aren't fully explained. Kara is a bit too innocent and naive, and she makes decisions that seem to put her further in trouble, though whether that is on purpose as a handy plot device, I'm not sure. The prose is clean and dense, and the plot makes a few detours but still manages to march along apace. While I'm not sure I'd be up to reading the sequel, I would still give this book a B+ and recommend it to those who enjoy political/military fantasies with a magical bent.

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