Monthly Archives: September 2014

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

Once, the city of Bulikov, the Seat of the World, was ruled by the powers of six gods, Divinities of unique and diverse abilities. With the guidance of the Divinities, Bulikov is able to dominate other countries, including the distant country of Saypuri, which has no Divinities of its own. Yet, a Saypuri named Kaj is able to kill the Bulikov Divinities, and free his people using a mysterious new weapon. The act that frees Saypuri causes mass destruction in Bulikov as the powers of the Divinities, which supported the city, vanishes. Whole portions of the city disappear, and parts are re-imagined in a catastrophe known as the Blink. The city lies in ruin, its people in desperate need of help. And the Saypuri, now free, offer help. But their help means that the citizens of Bulikov must forget their history and forget their gods. And while the city is rebuilt, it is a poor imitation of what it was. The people are poor, the city without much hope.

Then, a Saypuri historian is killed. Murdered. Enter Saypuri agent Shara and her secretary, Sigrud. They are in Bulikov to solve the murder of one of their own, but they find that the death may only be a symptom of a deeper problem. The Divinities may not all be dead, it seems, and the citizens of Bulikov might not be so powerless as they appear. Soon, Shara and Sigrud find that the search for a murderer sets them on a course that may mean life or death for both the peoples of Bulikov and the citizens of Saypuri.

Robert Jackson Bennett has provided one of the most richly imagined fantasy worlds I’ve encountered in a long while. The ruined city of Bolikov is overflowing with mystery and tragedy, with glimpses of altered realities visible from the corner of ones eye. Shara and Sigrud are vivid, wonderful characters. And while I won’t give away any of the plot, I urge you to make sure you get past the first scene in the book, which opens during a legal hearing. I almost put the book down at this point in the story, but I’m very glad I didn’t.

And Mr. Bennett? Shara and Sigrud are such fabulous characters, I would love to see a sequel.

 

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Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Deviana Morris has one goal: to become a Devastator, an armored guard and fighter under the direct command of the Sainted King of Paradox. But to become a Devastator, a girl has to get a serious reputation, so Devi sets out to do just that. With her own Lady Gray armor, Devi can kick ass better than just about anyone. She joins Captain Cardswell’s ship, The Glorious Fool, because he has a reputation for finding himself in the deepest of trouble, and overcoming trouble will help Devi achieve her goal. At first, Devi is sure she’s made a mistake, as her first days on the ship are boring, without a hint of trouble in sight. But then, trouble arrives, and in spades. Devi soon finds herself dealing with angry aliens, mysterious missions, invisible creatures, and muddled memories. And to top it all off, Devi finds the most confounding trouble of all: Devi finds love with the hunky ship’s cook, Rupert. Can Devi manage all of the drama and turmoil and stay alive to become a Devastator? Can she and Rupert be happy in spite of it all? Devi is sure going to give it her best effort, but even her best effort may not be good enough.

I loved this book! This is a space opera with interesting aliens, love, and lots and lots of fighting. This was the type of story that made me fall in love with science fiction stories in the first place. As I read, I had that giddy, happy feeling that I felt while reading my favorite Andre Norton books when I was younger. I know that the latest scifi books try to be different–grim and gritty or stories told from an unusual point of view. I like those, yes. But I loved the scifi of decades past, and this book recaptures all the best qualities of some of those books. I look forward to more titles from Ms. Bach. I’ve already read the second book in this series, titled “Fortune’s Knight.” It’s just as good, and I’m ready to dive into the third book, “Heaven’s Queen.” Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

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The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny

The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny

The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny

I have been a huge fan of Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache mysteries since her first book, “Still Life.” I have begged people to read her books, and honestly, her works are so wonderful, so full of deep insight and art and food and literature that they make other notable mysteries pale in comparison for me. Her books have only gotten better with each successive title, and I thought that last year’s title, “How the Light Gets In,” was absolutely brilliant. However, at the end of “How the Light Gets In,” Ms. Penny changed the rules of the game: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache retires from the Quebec Sûreté, to settle down in the idyllic town of Three Pines. I wondered, even then, how Ms. Penny would continue with this series, as the books are police procedurals at their core.

The newest book, titled “The Long Way Home,” was released this month, and I immediately, eagerly dove in for a dose of my favorite characters. How was Inspector Gamache handling retirement? How would we solve the latest murder now that he was no longer on the police force?

The book starts in Three Pines, with the mystery of what happened to Peter Morrow. Peter, husband to the village’s brilliant artist, Clara Morrow, left a year ago when Clara asked for a trial separation. Now, the year is up, and Peter was supposed to return so the couple could decide if their marriage has a future. Except, Peter doesn’t return, and Clara is worried. Lo, she has a friend who once was a Chief Inspector, and of course, he decides to help her find Peter. The hunt begins.

I won’t say more about the book’s plot than that. The book lets you visit with all our favorite Three Pines residents. I especially enjoyed seeing more from Ruth. However, for me, this was not a mystery. The hunt for Peter had no special urgency, and after a while, I found myself skimming just to get to the end. And the end… Wow, but I hate to say it, but the ending was cheap, and deeply unsatisfying. What was accomplished by this end? I really don’t know. And how the various characters “deduced” what happened was unbelievable. A person can only look at a painting and infer so much.

So, here’s hoping that the next book has a murder, some police work, and some real narrative drive. Perhaps others will see this title differently. The book has some lovely bits, and as usual, Ms. Penny’s writing style is lyrical and full of heart. Yet, I was disappointed by this one. Hopefully, in the next one, Gamache and Company will be back in fighting form.

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