Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Anthony Ryan's The Waking Fire, The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri and Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire

I've been inundated with books lately (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong) but I've not been able to get through some of them as fast as I'd like due to Crohns disease flares and other difficulties at home. That said, my summer reading list is quite hefty, just like I like it.

The first book I'm reviewing today was given to me as an ARC by the Ace/Rock "Rockstar" reader program in exchange for an honest review. I've read Ryan's other series, "Raven's Shadow," which starts with Blood Song, moves to Tower Lord and completes with Queen of Fire. Though it's military fantasy, which I am normally not a fan of, (unless the author is John Scalzi), I was intrigued by the characters in that series, and by skipping over the battle descriptions I was able to make it through to the end. I did note in my reviews of those works that Ryan could have edited out many of the battle scenes and other extraneous materials and still had a rollicking good read on his hands.
Unfortunately, his new epic fantasy, The Waking Fire (book 1 of the Draconis Memoria series) also needed a great deal of trimming, of both battle scenes and redundant info-dumps that drag down the pace of the plot to a crawl.
I found the prose to be rather ornate and dense as well. And where Ryan usually excels in making his protagonists fascinating and intriguing, in the Waking Fire, he's got 3 POVs and more sub-stories than you can shake a stick at, so his protagonists never have time to be fully realized and maintain the reader's attention. So while we are supposed to follow the adventures of Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore, we end up being confused as to what each of these people really has to do with each other and the plot. This made the book easy for me to put down in frustration of having to backtrack to figure out what Hilemore's ship has to do with Lizanne's mission and Clay's adventure.
Here's the blurb:
Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.
  As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

The fact that the people of this world have made dragons nearly extinct by killing and bleeding them and then using their blood to enhance themselves is made to seem normal and appropriate, when in reality it is barbaric and cruel, and I was not at all surprised that the dragons want to rebel. I felt much more sympathy for them than I did for the humans, who seemed rather stupid. Clay, who is supposed to be the real hero of the three protagonists, comes off as just another uneducated boy who thinks with his dick and ends up being used by a fanatic. There wasn't really a good ending to the book, yet I felt like I deserved a good HEA after a 580 page slog through this depressing novel.  I'm going to give the Waking Fire a generous C+, and I'd only recommend it to people who are heavily into ships and dragons and battles with a high death toll.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri was a garage sale find, and since it takes place in Ireland (where I've visited) it sounded like it would be right up my alley. It was a far more intricate story that I thought it would be, and the themes of domestic violence and reinventing yourself after heartbreak were well done in nice, clean prose. Here's the blurb: "You can always start again," Kate Robinson's mother once told her. "All it takes is a new thread."Overwhelmed by heartbreak and loss, Kate follows her mother's advice and flees to Ireland, her ancestral homeland, hoping to reinvent herself. In the seaside hamlet of Glenmara, the struggling twentysix-year-old fashion designer quickly develops a bond with members of the local lace-making society—and soon she and the lace makers are creating a line of exquisite lingerie, their skilled hands bringing flowers, Celtic dragons, nymphs, saints, kings, and queens to life with painterly skill. The circle also offers them something more: the strength to face their desires and fears. But not everyone in this charming, fading Gaelic village welcomes Kate, and a series of unexpected events threatens to unravel everything the women have worked so hard for."
The charming village setting was well described, if perhaps described too often, but the characters and the protagonists were so full of life that it was easy to forgive the lapse. Kate and Sullivan were quite the couple, and I loved reading about each of the lace maker's lives, which had not just heartbreak, but also joy and beauty and friendship and love. The plot is like an Irish reel, it's paced but over before you know it. I wish I'd made it to Glenmara, which is somewhere near Galway when I visited Ireland, because it sounds like my kind of town. Small towns are always full of the best characters, whether they're in Ireland or Iowa.  I'd give this book an A, and recommend it as a "beach read" to anyone who is interested in handicrafts or Ireland.

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire is the 4th book in her October Daye series of paranormal urban fantasy/romance. This time Toby confronts her mother and finds out who she really is, while also dealing with all the fae who hate her and want her dead. As usual, our heroine is in grave danger, except this time, she actually dies, and is brought back to life thanks to her mother rekindling her heritage. Here's the blurb:
October "Toby" Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.
Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.
Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can't find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she'd have to face again...
Though I love Toby, this novel has her in constant motion and grieving the loss of Lily while trying to stay alive when Oleander is poisoning everyone and Raysel, the Dukes daughter, is gunning for her. I found that all the terrible things that kept putting her near death to be very taxing to me, as a reader, because we know that she can't actually die, because she's the heroine who is the engine to this series train. So reading about her pain was, well, painful. That said, learning about her heritage and why the evil folks are out to get her (they always take the time to outline their motivation for killing her) was a good way to further flesh out her character. As always, McGuire's prose is lean and clean, and her plots are like a cannonball rolling down the streets of San Francisco...once things start going, you can't stop reading until you're at the end, because the pace is ridiculous (somewhat like the car chases in the book, which are well over the speed limit). Another well deserved A, and a recommendation to anyone who has read the other books in the October Daye series. I'm currently reading the fifth book, and will read the 6th one after that. Then I will probably take a break from these novels for awhile, as they're fun in short doses of a two or three books.

1 comment:

Leeanna said...

I was having trouble with Waking Fire myself, so good to see I'm not alone!