The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Standard

513btllomvl-_sx328_bo1204203200_

This is one of those rare instance where I wish the book had been longer.  In, fact, I wish this book had actually been two or three books instead of just one.  It wasn’t a bad book, but there were issues that I think would’ve been fixed if there’d been more to it.

The book starts with a young Baru, living with her family unit – two fathers and a mother – in the nation of Taranoke.  Taranoke starts getting visitors from a distant empire referred to as The Masquerade.  It’s a slow invasion, starting as harmless trading, then the Masquerade’s currency is introduced, and then soldiers start trickling in, and then Masquerade schools are built.  Without a real battle ever being fought, Taranoke is colonized and controlled by The Masquerade.  When one of Baru’s fathers is killed, Baru knows it is because The Masquerade considering homosexuality “unhygienic.”  She vows to topple The Masquerade from the inside.

Sounds like a lot, right?  That’s actually only a small part of the story, making up at most one quarter of the book.  The idea of seeing a nation be conquered through economics and politics is interesting, and I think this part could’ve been a book on its own.  It’s good for people with a short attention span, but not so good for those that like to escape into books because there’s simply not enough there.

Once Baru completes her schooling, The Masquerade sends her to act as Imperial Accountant of Aurdwynn, another land they are trying to control.  There she must deal with political intrigue and power games to squash rebellion and keep her life.  Again, while, interesting, this left me wishing for more. Baru’s time in Aurdwynn could easily have been another two books.

If the book had been longer, it might have also smoothed the ending.  I’ll go into more detail about that in the Spoilers section.  Suffice to say, the book is almost a cliffhanger and begs for a sequel.

Was it entertaining?  Yes.  Was it great?  No.  It was good, and it had the potential to be great, but it fell short.

Rating: 7/10

SpoilerAlert

This is a book of acts. Act 1 is Baru in Taranoke.  Act 2 is Baru as Accountant in Aurdwynn.  In Act 3, Baru turns traitor against The Masquerade and joins the rebellion.  And in Act 4, Baru is revealed to be a double traitor, and that her participation in the rebellion was a ruse to draw out all the malcontents, thus positioning them elimination and proving her loyalty to The Masquerade.

Somewhere between Act 3 and Act 4, the book seemed to make an abrupt turn, and for all of Act 4 I was confused.  Not the good, “how could this happen” sort of confused, but the suspicious, squinty-eyed confusion of a reader trying to decide if they’re staring at a story hole or just missed something.

d3e0a1221de8cca4601b8885af1b6f39

Perhaps it’s because I never felt really connected to the characters, but I wasn’t that shocked or horrified by the ending.  Instead, I spent the end trying to figure out how the book even got there.  We spend the whole time in Baru’s head, but there didn’t seem to be any obvious clues that she was planning this double-cross.  Since we were privy to her thoughts and emotions, shouldn’t we have at least known something was off, even if we didn’t know what?  Of course, I admit to not being particularly aware of such clues, but I just feel like the book leaped from point A to point E and skipped all the stuff in between.

Ryria Revelations

Standard

Ryria

I read all three of these books – a total of six stories – in a short period of time.  This will be a short review, partially to keep the first part spoiler-free, and partially because I actually read these a couple of months ago, so my impressions aren’t as sharp anymore.

The main characters of the series are Hadrian and Royce, a pair of mercenaries/thieves-for-hire.  They agree to take a job that turns out to be a lot more than they bargained for, and we get to enjoy the inevitable shenanigans, banter, and fallout.

Each of the six stories has its own, self-contained plot, but they all also play into a larger over-arching plot.  I liked this structure because it kept you wanting more without any one ending being too much of a cliffhanger.  There is also a set of prequel books that the author wrote later, which I believe have the same set up.

Do these books have the depth of Tolkien, Sanderson, or Martin?  No.  It has world-building/history, but it’s not particularly deep, and there are not revolutionary of ground-breaking characters.  In fact, most of the characters are stereotypes or archetypes.  But that doesn’t make this a bad book.  It has action and humor and is a fast, enjoyable read, like a book version of a popcorn-flick.

Rating: 8.5/10

SpoilerAlert

There is one character that I have to say really bugged me, and almost made me knock a couple of points off the score.  She is introduced in either the second story or second book – I can’t remember which – and is originally named Thrace.  She comes across as ridiculously naive and innocent, especially for what she’s been through.  Then after her father and she becomes Empress Modina, but she’s in mourning.  Like, ridiculously deep mourning; she’s basically a mute, walking doll for months.  I think she was supposed to have catatonic depression – that’s a real thing, apparently – but nevertheless, I found her mourning phase to be very grating.  She mostly redeemed herself once she finally snapped out of it, but I thought this was a point that needed to be addressed.

Age of Misrule

Standard

Misrule

Ancient gods and beings from Celtic myth are rising up and starting to walk in the modern world.  Technology starts to fail, and modern life as we know it seems to be at risk.  A small group of people – dare I call them a fellowship? – unite and go on a quest to seek out magical items to help face this threat.

Sounds great.  I had this book on my Paperbackswap wishlist for months, and was excited to finally get it. Unfortunately I couldn’t even finish the book.  I gave up on page 54, after the main characters – Jack and Ruth – spent a page discussing Jack’s taste in music.  In a word, the book is boring.

By page 54, Jack and Ruth have had one unpleasant encounter with a mythical being and have started to investigate what might have happened.  However, we don’t know what they encountered, or what it might forebode.  We know far more about Jack’s wife, his depression/mourning, and even his musical tastes than we do about anything mythical.  The focus of the story is obviously going to be on the characters rather than on the plot idea of re-emerging Celtic gods, which would be tolerable if the characters were interesting, but I couldn’t care less about Jack or Ruth.  If the main interest of the story is supposed to be the characters, then the characters need to be interesting.

The pace is slow, the characters are dull, and at times the writing is pretentious.  The book seems to aim for intellectual entertainment, but it missed the mark and it put me to sleep.  I’ve given up and am moving on.

Rating: 2.5/10

The Shadow Throne

Standard

ShadowThrone

It’s probably been almost a month since I’ve read this book, and as is typical for me, a lot of the specific details have already faded.  This will be a sort of mini-review instead.  You can read my review for the first book in the series here.

The main trio of characters – Winter, Marcus, and Janus – have made it back to the capital.  Political shenanigans are afoot, and they most help thwart the ambitions of the Duke Orlanko.  Princess Raesinia is introduced as a new character that the readers follow, and she too is trying to undermine Orlanko’s schemes.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I liked a lot of the soldiers from Winter’s regiment, but most only appeared briefly in this book, assuming they appeared at all.  Winter was given a task to do separate from Marcus and Janus, and when she actually left to do it, her character felt isolated from the rest of the story.  I didn’t like her as much in this book as I did in the previous.

Janus’ pragmatism is awesome to the point of being almost comedic.  If I had to guess, I’d say the time/world in this book would parallel the East India Trading Company and The Three Musketeers; so 1600’s.  Some of things women got to do – and that Janus allowed/supported – are highly unlikely for such a time period.  Even Marcus’ “old-fashioned” beliefs aren’t realistic.  But then again, there are plenty of books stuffed with sexism, violence, and other such things, so if you need that in a book to enjoy it, just read a different series.

Winter’s plot was disappointing, but Marcus and Janus had some funny lines and the end of the book was exciting.

Rating: 7.5/10

SpoilerAlert

Winter is sent by Janus to infiltrate a group of women, where she crosses paths with her former [female] lover.  They had some drama and some flirting, and I had just as little interest in their romantic story line as I do with the vast majority of romantic story lines.  In the first book Winter had to put on a brave face and be smart and creative to overcome obstacles, but in this one it felt like she was Nero, fiddling over stupid emotional “dilemmas” while Rome/Vordan burned.  I’m very unforgiving regarding romance though, so some may like it.

Mistborn: The Final Empire

Standard

FinalEmpire

[First half spoiler-free, then spoilers after warning.]

This is the second series by Brandon Sanderson that I’m reading, and it does not disappoint.  The book is 600+ pages, and while it is descriptive, it does not spend seven pages describing a forest or a building.  Because this is a longer book, the set-up takes longer, so it takes a while for the story to gain momentum.

The main character of the book is Vin.  She starts off as a beaten and untrusting street urchin, and at first I didn’t like her.  Over time she gains some confidence, and turns out to be a very powerful Allomancer.  I generally like strong female heroes, so I really wanted to like her and was rooting for her to save the day.

Girl power!

Girl power!

Kelsier becomes a sort of secondary main character a bit into the book.  He’s charismatic and daring with a tragic past; not unique, but still fun.  Other characters I like were the enigmatic Sazed and the quirky Elend.

The story takes place in a rather depressing world, with most of the action centered on Luthadel, a sad, sooty city with a large population of slum-living “skaa,” peasants treated like slaves.  The Big Bad – an immortal tyrant – lives in the pointy, many-towered building called Kredik Shaw, located in the center of Luthadel.

Ok, Luthadel isn't THAT bad, but there are similarities.

Ok, Luthadel isn’t THAT bad, but there are similarities.

The Lord Ruler maintains his rule in part with Allomancy, the magic of the land.  In a lot of books, magic is very vague; lots of wizards tossing fireballs and lightning around with nothing but some gibberish words.  On the other hand, Sanderson gives Allomancy clearly defined mechanics and parameters.  I think this makes the magic more interesting and unique.  He does spend a fair amount of time describing Allomancy and having Vin learn Allomancy though, so some might find it boring.

Buckle down, there's learning to be done.

Buckle down, there’s learning to be done.

I liked that the book was more thoughtful with its magic system, and that the story wasn’t the epic quest tale typical of many epic fantasies.  It wasn’t a page-turner, but I was entertained throughout most of the book.  This is part of a series, so I plan to read the next book.

Final rating: 8/10 (0 = die in a fire, 5 = average, 10 = amazeballs)

SpoilerAlert

So Vin was awesome and disappointing at the same time.  Awesome because she managed to go from a downtrodden girl I didn’t like, to a girl with a bit more confidence and spunk, not to mention cool abilities.  She’s starts off as a short-haired, pants-wearing, dirty-faced urchin, and eventually embraces luxuries like perfumed baths and fancy dresses without losing sight of who she is.  A lot of books/movies seem to be afraid to make a kickass girl that likes dresses and girly things, unless she’s a sexy/flirty femme fatale type character, so I’m glad Sanderson didn’t shy away from that.

You can kick ass AND wear dresses!

You can kick ass AND wear dresses!

However, she suffered from Harry Potter Syndrome in that despite all the hype around her, how she won the showdown with The Lord Ruler had nothing to do with her gifted Allomancy abilities.  In fact, it was really nothing special at all, just circumstantial luck/resources: she had the Eleventh Metal and knowledge of the logbook.  Given the same resources, any relatively intelligent Mistborn Allomancer could’ve done the same.

Just keep telling yourself that.

Keep telling yourself that Harry/Vin.

I don’t understand how The Lord Ruler managed to have a young version and an old version, and I can’t remember anything being done to the old version.  I assume that’ll be in a sequel, so I shall read on.