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Tag: book review

First Lord’s Fury

by on Jul.17, 2010, under books

I finished reading the final volume of this fantasy mini-series.  I read the first book borrowed on multiple recommendations.  I went out and bought myself the second and third books as I worked through them.  The fourth and fifth I bought simultaneously while on a recent business trip out west.  And this sixth and final tome was my first ebook purchase for my Nook.  I’ve been a fan throughout the arc and I am a steadfast fan to the last.  But if anyone wants to borrow the series, well I can only really partially help out.

Before I even started this book, I noted something that struck me about the series. As I was finishing the fifth volume, I noticed that Tavi did not end up in the role represented by the subsequent title prior to the end of the book (which tended to be the case in the previous books).  As I found, Tavi ends up having multiple struggles to face through the sixth arc in order fulfill said destiny.  As previously established, the realm is in peril of being overtaken by the Vord and the odds are severely stacked in the invader’s favor.  But Tavi proves to have so many tricks up his sleep you wonder where he must keep his arms.  What also bears out is that many of those faithful to him have pretty keen heads on their shoulders as well.

What I find most fascinating about this series is the way that Jim Butcher weaves such a vivid world with so many well developed races and creatures.  On top of that, he has woven in a subtle stitching of narrative and history to suggest that the origin of the story’s human population could have been a lot roman legion – that a full legion and its follower camp mysteriously came to in this strange and hostile land.  And over the course of the millennia that passed  on Earth where we developed advances in technology, they instead came to harness these elemental furycrafting abilities and used them to similar ends (transportation, communication, etc.).  This narrative also bears the subtle suggestion that societies constantly at war could have the tendency to stagnate and to demur progressive ideas.

First Lord’s Fury proved to be a more satisfying ending to The Codex Alera series than I had anticipated.  And while I’m was happy to enjoy a series with a definitive run, part of me wonders what the fictional future could hold for the people of Alera (not that I’m suggesting a continuation or another mini-series is needed, but if Butcher has any such designs already in mind I know I would enjoy the reading).  I guess I’ll have to get my fantasy kicks elsewhere now (at least for a while) and look forward to more Dresden Files novels.  In the meantime I will keep reading something (there is always something to read).

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Princeps’ Fury

by on Jun.30, 2010, under books

Five down, one to go (for me at least – Jim Butcher finished his work quite a while ago).  My only dilemma now is whether to go out and drop the cash for the hardcover of book six so I can start reading right away, or drop hints all over the place for someone to get me a Nook for my birthday so I can download it for half the price … I guess I can attempt to practice patience – perhaps read something else in the meantime.

So far in this series, we’ve seen Tavi progress from a 15-year-old shepherd’s apprentice to a student, a spy for the crown, a captain of an entire legion and finally the heir to the thrown of the realm.  And in that time he has managed to foster peace with factions with whom their realm has been at war for in some cases centuries, defeated foes arguably several times more powerful, and managed to luck his way through some tight spots with little more than quick thinking and good instincts – most of the while doing so without the advantage of the magics that the rest of his kind seem to be able to wield.  In this volume, he has finally come into his power (on multiple levels) and is aims to take on challenges even larger than any so far.

While the previous volumes have all had their degrees of suspense and conflict, this one takes things to a new scale.  Not only are the battles and struggles massively larger and on multiple fronts, but there are many more nail-biter moments.  Many of the main characters seem to play some dangerous gambits which in some cases nearly bring them to deadly ends.  But as usual, the suspense pays off with dividends and in the end Butcher sets the stage nicely for the concluding chapter to come (which only drills home my itch to go read it).

I can honestly say that I would love to see this series realized as a series of movies.  It would likely be difficult to do full justice to the source material, but I think that it is fare that a broad audience would enjoy.  Plus on a practical note, the fact that each book has a built in gap of about 2 years, consistent casting shouldn’t be an issue (easier to manage than the cast of the Harry Potter series who seem to be aging faster than their characters, or the cast of twilight who mostly shouldn’t appear to age at all).  But that is just a dream.  I’m just as content with the reality of the fiction in the form of written word.

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Captain’s Fury

by on Jun.17, 2010, under books

Oddly, this fourth volume had proved elusive (though mostly as a matter of timing).  I attempted to run out and pick it up prior to my trip last week to San Francisco figuring – rightly so – that I would finish the other book I was reading before the week was through.  After visiting 3 bookstores in the immediate area around my house, I threw in the towel.  I finally found it while in San Fran at a Barnes & Noble that was not far from Fisherman’s Wharf (they also had the fifth book, so I picked that up too).  I read half of it during train and plane rides home on Saturday.

What I’ve come to respect in the writings of Jim Butcher is his ability to craft a story with a long-term vision in mind.  He knows how to take his time and build the larger arc while constantly including several smaller arcs along the way.  The pace is never too slow or too rushed and I have yet to notice any loopholes or stretches of the natural suspension of disbelief.

In this fourth book in The Codex Alera series, Tavi is continuing in his role as the Captain of the First Aleran legion, but not without challenges on multiple fronts.  The battles with both the Canim and Kalarus’ army rage on.  In addition, Tavi comes to discover a third force in play that seems to be allied with the Canim – a huge legion of freed Aleran slaves.  Additionally he must content with his own ‘allies’ – his own troops are joined by those of the Senatorial guard forces who seem to be led by a pompous, fool-hardy senator who is a puppet for yet another less overt enemy of the Crown.  All the while, he must keep from getting overthrown or killed as well as contend with some startling truths being revealed to him.

As usual, I was buckled in for the ride.  Besides Tavi’s story, I was engaged and riveted by each of the characters’ tales.  And as usual, I’m already on board to read the next volume (good thing I picked it up already).  I am starting to feel like a fanboy, so if anyone has an criticisms I’d be eager to hear them.  I’m curious who well these books might translate to the big screen, though I worry that a larger audience might have trouble buying into such a tangential version of Earth.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife

by on Jun.11, 2010, under books

I’ll admit that this book was not at the top of my reading list.  I’ve been reading a few series’ of books and found myself zooming through a few books faster than expected, leaving me with nothing on hand to read.  While I was itching strongly to run to the nearest bookstore to pick up the next volume in of something else, my wife suggested I take a detour and read something we already owned that may not normally fall on my radar.  She had read this book recently and found it interesting and thought-provoking and suggested I give it a try.  And so I did.

First, Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel is not what I would have expected.  The novel is composed as if it were a collection of diary entries from the two main characters – Henry and Clare.  And while you might assume that a book about a man who experiences many parts of his life out of order would suffer from spoilers or paradoxes, this story suffers from neither.  The way that the author unfolds events – even events that come from the past or the future – there is no truth revealed before its time and no instance of discontinuity.  So above all else, I have to give Ms. Niffennegger kudos for weaving the tale of such a non-conventional and disorganized romance in such a fluid manner.

As for the substance of it, while it is easy to assume that this is a story about a man who randomly travels through time and the consequences thereof, it is just as equally about his wife and how his travels impact her life.  And despite the supernatural twist, many of the struggles that Henry and Clare traverse are life and relationship struggles that are common and easy to relate to.  Whereas I cannot travel through time, I can certainly relate to many of the thoughts and emotions Henry experiences as a son, a man, and a husband.

I am aware that a movie was made of this book – a movie I may opt to watch in the near future as a result (and I couldn’t help but picture the main characters as the actors who played them in the film).  But I have the expectation that while there is plenty to visualize well in a film, there will be important elements missing from it.  There are too many instances in the book of thoughts, fears, and emotions being expressed that wouldn’t necessarily come across visually.  There is something about narrative writing that works best on the page and not as well on the screen.

In summary, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.  It had me near tears on more than one occasion (both of sorrow and joy).  While it may not have been on my list of books to read, it is certainly on the list of books I’m glad I read.

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Cursor’s Fury

by on Jun.01, 2010, under books

Wow.  Jim Butcher manages to continue amaze me with his writing.  I’d grown addicted to The Dresden Files, and now I’ve been drawn into The Codex Alera series hook, line, and sinker.  My only hope is the fact that there are only six books in the series, so I have a definite end in sight.

The first book slowly drew me into the canon – having not read a book of this genre in so long, this took a bit of time – but leveraged my sense of intrigue to.  The second book kept pulling me through on the hooks of anxiety and anticipation.  This third book had plenty of intrigue and dramatic tension, but most of the draw through this story came in the form of excitement and elation.  There were so many small pay-offs through the story (and some big ones towards the end), that I found myself becoming outwardly happy and almost giddy as I progressed through the book.

In this volume, we are once more taken a few years forward.  Tavi, the primary protagonist, is studying some ancient Romanic ruins – the reminiscent of a preceding civilization that did not have furycrafting abilities (which sort of suggests that this realm is an alternate progression of Earth history) – and is then retasked to join a newly formed legion as an officer (despite his lack of military experience or requisite furycrafting).  In this he manages to blend in more than well and the turn of events presents him with unexpected challenges.

Cursor’s Fury is an exciting and satisfying read from start to finish.  It is full of compelling twists and turns and is both fantastic and believable.  And the end, in true Jim Butcher form, leaves you salivating to dive into book #4 (which I most likely will do shortly).

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