Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Industrial Magic, Tooth and Claw, The Iron Council, and Nice reviews

Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong--Although Armstrong is one of my favorite urban/contemporary fantasy authors ( along with Emma Bull and Charlaine Harris), Dime Store Magic, this book's predecessor, almost lost the magic. Protagonist Page Winterbourne, billed as a rebellious young woman, spent the majority of the novel cowtowing to the insufferable old biddies of her witches coven. This despite the fact that she was their leader. It was like watching someone beat her head against a brick wall until the creamy filling poured out.

In Industrial Magic, Armstrong is back in the swing of things. Now living in the Pacific Northwest and far from her coven, Page, sorcerer boyfriend Lucas Cortez, and her adolescent ward Savannah are starting a new life. Although the story starts off with a worrisome scene--Page pointlessly trying to convince a group of wimpy witches to try big girl magic--it's soon off and running. Someone is murdering the children of Cabal employees (think Mafia, only bigger, badder and with magic) . Lucas, the unwilling crown prince of the Cortez cabal, and Page are hunting down the perp. Where Page and Lucas's relationship felt contrived and forced in the previous book, it works here. Savannah, annoying by nature, is kept out of the picture for most of the book; when she shows up, she's actually useful. As with all of Armstrong's books, there are no tired black-and-white bad/good guys and there is plenty of character growth.

Obviously, very recommended.

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton--Billed as Jane Austen with dragons, Tooth and Claw follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a five dragon siblings after the death of their father. Having never actually read Jane Austen or seen any of the movies inspired by the books, my basis of comparison is naturally weak. I would say that the novel does a believable job of portraying dragons in a Regency-esque world, with all the accompanying class struggles. (Dragons wearing hats, however, stretched my suspension of disbelief a little thin.) Among dragon society, inheritance implies the very flesh of one's loved one. When Bon Angorin, patriarch of the Angorin family dies, his children's inheritance, a chunk of dear old Dad, is stolen by a greedy inlaw. The story chronicals the consequences, working in the expected commentary on social injustice, women's/female roles, etc. Though some have suggested that the issues are explored sufficiently, I found it all a little...thin. One sibling discovers how poorly the working classes are treated, but in no way becomes the crusader for worker's rights as suggested on the cover blurb. The book is short; too short and the ending feels rushed.

I once read an interview where Ursurla Le Guin disparaged Harry Potter by saying it was an English boarding school story with magic. If that's the case, then I must like stories about English boarding schools. I guess a similar conclusion can be drawn about Tooth and Claw. If the social machinations of Jane Austen are your thing, than you'll likely enjoy this book. Otherwise...not recommended.

The Iron Council by China Mielville--I shouldn't like China Mielville's writing. He writes "original," concept-driven, weird-ass shit. Pretty much everything I hate about most much-lauded-by-the-critics books. And yet, me likes. A lot.

Characterization has never been Mielville's strong suit. In Iron Council, he almost creates compelling characters: Judah Low, the crusading golem maker, for one. All the expected elements of Perdido Street Station and The Scar are here: the cacti people, the khepri (insect head woman), the grotesque and tragic Remade, but the story also ventures out beyond the city of New Crobuzon, introducing even more fantastical peoples and creatures. Some are just frightening--the inchmen--others poignant--the stiltspears, a doomed race of swamp dwelling golem makers.

Though heavy with political themes--imperialism, fascism, conquest, and Marxism--the novel never loses its strange sense of the fantastic. As with all Mielville work, don't expect a happily ever after ending.


Nice by Jen Sacks--Sociopaths in love. Pretty much sums it up. Found this one via Mrs. Giggles. Sam is a hitman. Grace kills her boyfriends because breaking up the usual way would hurt their feelings. And it's a romance, yep. Short, fun, and for the most part tightly plotted--although it does go a little off track with a maiming at the end. Was this the author's ways of not letting one murderous protag off too easy? Neither character is particularly likeable, but then, they're killers. As one blurb on the back cover suggests, Grace has a kind of Bridget Jones neurotic girl thing going on. Bridget Jones goes Lizzy Borden.

Almost, but not quite recommended.

In the TBR pile:
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean--Some awkward prose and dialogue, but okay so far.
Skyfall by Catherine Asaro--Has failed first pages test. Typical carefully-crafted, colorless prose of most epic F/SF. Probably going back to lib unread.
Rhythms by Donna Hill--Lovely prose and engaging characters. So far v. good.

Speaking of epics, George R. R. Martin finally finished the next book! Happy Snoopy dance.

Back to work..


Graphics and Content Copyright © Patricia Kirby 2005