Posts Tagged ‘DNF’

gildedcage

“Understanding slid into Luke’s brain and lodged its sharp point there…

‘We’re all going to do our slavedays.’

About :

Luke and Abigail Hadley live like normal teenagers all over Britain until their parents suddenly commit the whole family to their “slave days.” Every British commoner is forced to devote 10 years of service to the magically “Skilled” elite class that rules over Britain, a caste known as the “Equals.” At least the Hadleys manage to score a cushy group deal: all five will serve the richy rich Jardine family on their legendary estate of Kyneston.

At least, that’s what they’re told.

But when the bus arrives, Luke gets marked as “surplus” and sent instead to Millmoor, “Manchester’s filthy, unforgiving slavetown.”

Because in a “state of non-legal personhood,” you have no rights.

You are now chattels of the state.”

Gilded Cage was authored by Vic James and will be published February 14th 2017 by Del Rey Books.

Thoughts :

I requested Gilded Cage mainly hoping to read about the cool “Dark Gifts” of the series title (and based on Vic James’ exciting bio). But the meat of the first 50% focuses instead on the challenges you might find in a British drama. Maybe more like Downtown Abbey? With cruel lords and ladies making life miserable for their butlers, maids and slaves. (I haven’t actually seen much Downtown Abbey, as I don’t watch a lot of tv beyond Cops and 48 Hours, so this guess could be somewhat off.*) The publisher is clearly marketing the book to people who enjoy this sort of story, and I think the target audience would enjoy it more than I did.

I read to 50% before deciding to set it aside.

Why DNF?

The title Gilded Cage perfectly encapsulates the majority of narrative perspectives in this book: Abigail Hadley tells us of life Kyneston; her new masters, the Jardine men, also share their perspectives with us in the first 50%. The “Gilded Cage” refers mainly to a magical wall that surrounds the Kyneston estate, keeping slaves locked inside, although it may also refer to the British society at large that cages its commoners into servitude. So we spend a lot of time in this cage, reading the thoughts of both captors and captives.

This is unfortunate for two reasons: (1) The Jardine men are a largely despicable lot, and (2) Abi’s plot mainly consists of developing feelings for one of them. The plot summary suggests more to her plot, later in the book—she discovers the Jardine family secret and must decide whether to reveal it or not—but I didn’t get that far because I just couldn’t get into the story. The focus stays mainly on domestic and political troubles rather than magical, during the first half, and I had a feeling the focus wasn’t going to change.

But my main problems with Gilded Cage relate to the characters. First of all, I thought there were too many narrators for such a short novel. The first 50% cycles through enough narrators that I don’t remember who they were or how many I met. More importantly, none of the characters feel like authentic people (with the bare exception of Abigail, who feels like a legitimately moony teenaged girl). The Jardine men especially fell flat for me. I had a difficult time buying Silyen’s antisocial brilliance and everyone’s fear of The Young Master. I especially couldn’t believe that the violently angry Gavar cared most in the world about his baby daughter. No amount of Gavar’s POV could convince me of that, after he shot the mother while she held the child in her arms during the prologue. No caring father would do that. The unrealistic psychology and motivations of the Jardine men left me bored and unconvinced.

Luke Hadley is also unfortunately a very wooden character, although his scenes in the slave town of Millmoor are the most exciting to read. Luke takes part in a slave rebellion, and I enjoyed the action scenes in his perspective. Little things in his perspective did make the narrative lose credibility, though, such as when one character gets harnessed up and steps straight off a rooftop, instead of carefully lowering herself down. Ouch! That would give you quite a jolt and likely smash you into the side of the building. I would definitely not recommend doing it thataway.

Overall :

Unfortunately, Gilded Cage doesn’t appeal to the “Fantasy,” “Alternate History” or “British Mystery” parts of me and I couldn’t get into the characters. Very little surprised or interested me about the first 50%. The author focused on Abi’s romantic ambitions or the proceedings of the court of cruel lords when I was hoping for something more magical.

Recommended To :

Readers who like both YA and British dramas. From what the positive reviews are saying, readers appeared to most enjoy the “Britishness” of it. It does feel very British. Lots of class warfare. I can see the Dickensian influence, as another positive review remarked—but only in the class structure and relations. That particular comparison makes me a feel a little sick; Dickens is known for his characterization and this book has terribly un-lifelike characters.

Thank you so much to Vic James, Del Rey and Netgalley for this e-galley!

*In the comments, Maddalena @ Space and Sorcery kindly corrected my misconception about Downtown Abbey: apparently the house staff doesn’t get abused, which is a relief!

crossroads-of-canopuAbout :

The opening novel of Thoraiya Dyer’s “Titan’s Forest” series takes place in the world of a giant forest. Three realms live at different levels of this forest: “Canopy” claims the privileged position at the treetops, Understorey clings the boughs, and “Floor” settles in the shadows at the foot of the trees.

Crossroads of Canopy opens in Canopy, the most privileged of the three realms. Here, thirteen theocracies rule the Canopian citizens and interact through the usual ways of war, trade and peace. When a god or goddess dies, they are reincarnated into the body of a human babe. Unar lives in the Garden, a theocracy ruled by the goddess, Audblayin. Having run from poverty and barely escaped slavery, Unar plans to find glory by winning the position of Audblayin’s next bodyguard. But she becomes sympathetic to the slaves from the lower realm of Understorey, a complication that gets her into trouble with the Gardeners.

Then, suddenly, Audblayin dies. With her death, the magic that bound Unar to service and mandatory abstinence disappears, and new, overwhelming distractions get in the way of her plans…Crossroads of Canopy is fantasy published by Thoraiya Dyer. Published January 31st 2017 by Tor Books.

I requested this one immediately, when it popped up on Netgalley. Look at that cover. And the description?! Sounds amazing, right?

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it and ended up DNFing it at 47%

Why DNF?

When I started Crossroads of Canopy, I expected political divisions among the theocracies, adventure among the trees and a sense of wonder about the gorgeous forest realms. I hoped for some interesting philosophy about the religions, perhaps debated among friends.

But this book focused on other things, and unfortunately I struggled to connect with the characters, who often provoked each other with hostile attitudes; also, most of the action felt uninteresting and incidental to the plot. The purpose of each scene got lost in Unar’s focus on other things, mainly her sexual awakening.

Following the death of the goddess’s abstinence magics, most of the cast seems fixated on sex and sexual organs—and we’re not just talking about during a few sex scenes. One minute, we’re discussing religions/climbing gigantic trees/social inequality, and out of the nowhere, we’re talking about male “organs” and lady “flaps” and unrequited crushes.

Some of this makes perfect sense and would have been fine, had it remained a minor distraction from Unar’s plans; but it goes overboard and we end up spending lots time oogling Unar’s love interest or exploring Unar’s theories about masturbation when meanwhile, we only know the names of three of Canopy’s thirteen theocracies.

Since Crossroads of Canopy is book 1 in a series, the author seems to be taking her time in exploring the world (and adding in sexual tensions and drama-rama to keep us interested) instead pushing forward with the plot. Unfortunately, while the descriptions did a great job portraying the social stratification, I felt like they neglected other areas of worldbuilding—although some of the imagery of the garden flowers blew me away. Clearly Dyer spent a lot of time developing the flora of her three realms. Check this out:

The exotic plot was filled with rare blue and bronze-colored grasses from the places where Floor met the edge of the forest. A messy hedge of maroon guavas, interspersed with purple sugarcane thickets, formed a semicircle around the western boundary.”

Overall :

The worldbuilding has lots of potential, if you find the style appealing, but the book just moved too slowly for my tastes.

Recommended To :

Reads who might enjoy slow worldbuilding through the eyes of a single narrator. Also, readers who really appreciate gender and racial politics might enjoy the book’s diversity enough to keep reading. A couple of Goodreads reviewers really enjoyed the book for that reason.

Thanks so much to Thoraiya Dyer, Tor and Netgalley for this e-arc!

the-eterna-filesIt’s 1882 and an American research group is working to discover the secret to immortality. They’re finally making progress on what they’ve named the “Eterna” compound when an otherworldly force kills the lot of them.

But that won’t stop Queen Victoria, in London, from capitalizing on their work. She employs her own research team, Special Branch Division Omega, to find out what the Americans discovered and to succeed where they failed. Skeptic Harold Spire of the London Police force is assigned to the case by the queen herself, along with Rose Everhardt, who becomes Spire’s chief researcher.

Meanwhile, the Americans investigate the mysterious deaths of the research team. Clara Templeton, whose lover numbered among the dead, won’t rest until she gets answers.

Published February 3rd 2015 by Tor Books.

Thoughts :

I won this book—plus its sequel and another book by Leanna Renee Hieber—in a giveaway on Tor’s book blog. What a nice package! Thanks so much to Tor. I hardly had to look beyond Hieber’s impressive resume before knowing, just knowing I would love this book. The idea is sooo cool.

Unfortunately, it’s just not working out for me.

DNF AT 1/3 MARK

I hate to DNF any book, especially the first in a series or the first of an author new to me; but by page 105, I had read enough of The Eterna Files to know I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. And just to make sure, I read several detailed reviews of both this book and book II and decided I was right to go with my instinct to DNF.

Why DNF? :

The characters are the root cause of my problems with this book. The three or four narrators all sound exactly the same, to me. With the exception of Harold Spire, I can barely tell them apart—even the ones on separate continents—and I don’t like any of them anyway. While reading the first fifty pages, I kept thinking Clara and Sarah (er, I mean…what was her name? Rose, right) were the same woman. “But how does she keep getting back and forth to each continent?” I kept wondering. “And whoa—this American outcast is employed by Queen Victoria?!” You can see why this confusion might put a damper on my reading experience.

Part of the reason the characters all sound the same is because they all—including the males—mentally note the handsomeness of other men or complain about corsets and other social constraints on women. Keep in mind that this is a male narrating:

“‘Maybe that’s what this life is for!’ Clara said with a hollow laugh, hoisting up her skirts and jumping from the deck onto the dock, never letting feminine finery get in the way of an active spirit no matter how much the fashion of the age tried to limit her sex.” (56).

Does that sound like a guy to you? A Victorian guy? Heavy-handed condemnations of female oppression crop up multiple times throughout the first third of the book. It’s not that I disagree; it just gets old.

Aside from the characters, the handling of homosexuality—which was obviously very controversial at the time—doesn’t appeal to me. A gay woman character remarks, with a “winning” smile, to a clearly heterosexual and much younger woman,

“And don’t worry, if it’s a concern, I don’t seduce coworkers.”

I mean, good for you? Seriously, that would be sexual harassment. I don’t excuse sexual harassment just because you’re socially oppressed. This weird and uncomfortable humor didn’t help me warm up to the characters at all.

Beyond these concerns, I was also bored. The 100+ pages I read never sparked an interest in me. The narrative lacked tension and suspense.

Basically, the book underwhelms. I just didn’t feel like I was in the hands of a master storyteller and the mystery quickly lost interest, for me.

If you want to read a review from someone who actually finished the book, check out Mogsy’s great review over at The Bibliosanctum. (Seriously, go check it out. It’s one of my favorite blogs!)

Recommendations :

Other reviewers have been generous enough to say that The Eterna Files might appeal to a certain type of reader. It might. I’m not sure. If it sounds interesting to you, by all means give the first 100 pages a sniff and see if it might be up your alley. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if the style works for you or not. But I would recommend The Parasol Protectorate series over this book; Soulless is a much more fun example of Victorian fantasy. I do have my eye on one of the other books from the Tor giveaway, Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which just sounds amazing. I know, I know, The Eterna Files did too, but I can’t resist the all these awards, can I?

Anyway, all three of the giveaway books are now on the shelves of my local library, so I expect plenty of readers to find and enjoy them. In fact, one man already told me he enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker!

Premise :

Ramagar, the self-styled Thief of Kalimar, and his partner Mariana, accompany a mysterious stranger on a quest to free the land of Speca from its dread conquerors.

About :

This is an older book, originally published in 1979; but Endeavor Press is republishing it, along with several other books by the author, Graham Diamond, whose book The Haven apparently has a cult following.

I confess to some confusion about why Endeavor republished this one. I think a lot of men must have read and enjoyed it as youngsters (which I gather by reading the Amazon reviews, not through Goodreads where the current overall rating is a rather low 3.22), so perhaps Endeavor expects these nostalgic readers to buy copies for old times’ sake. Fortunately or unfortunately, stories and storytelling have changed a lot since 1979, and this book had little staying power, at least to my tastes.

I enjoyed the first half of this book quite a bit more than the latter half, even though none of it is really “my style” (by which I mean, “has a fast-moving, but character-driven plot and atmospheric prose”). In the beginning, the middle-eastern feel attracted me, and I found myself subconsciously nabbing books about Sindbad and Aladdin from library shelves.

But when the story leaves Kalimar for the north, all the charm stays behind. Soon after that point (perhaps some 15% later), the cardboard characters and the predictable plot got the better of my patience and I gave up reading this one.

DNF at 61%. Why?

The Characters :

They have no personal ambitions; or, when they do have personal ambitions, the plot quickly overpowers them. They also have no consistent personalities—they all hang their heads, sneer coldly, nod gravely and purse their lips in grim smiles. Needless to say, I couldn’t, could not connect with them.

I’m also not sure why this book is titled “The Thief of Kalimar,” since it’s really more about “The Prince of Speca.” (Except, of course, because the former title sounds way more epic and eastern. But the plot revolves around the prince’s agenda, not the thief’s, so the title doesn’t makes sense to me.) Perhaps the final 39% would have enlightened me, but even that (not so) compelling question won’t convince me to finish this one.

The Plot :

It was fun, at first. The heroes mentally and physically overcome a few entertaining obstacles, such as swimming through waist-high sewage; they also outwit a few clever antagonists, such as a terrifying and warlike race of baboons and a bevy of soldiers who, thankfully, do not have the benefit of fingerprint criminal databases.

But after about 50%, I lost interest. The “planning” sessions always go like this: someone suggests a “crazy!” plan; everyone pelts him with baboon poop; the man with the plan points out x, y & z, which clearly make the plan necessary; everyone else grudgingly agrees. I mean, if it were a bit…cleverer…I might still enjoy these scenes. But it was too formulaic to keep me interested.

Other Complaints Because I Spent Hours Reading This Thing :

(1) The new cover does not fit at all. (2) I would have like a map. (Maybe the finished version has one?) (3) Feminists, you will hate this book. Don’t even try it. (4) “Over the low wall jumped Ramagar, thief of thieves.” This is an actual sentence from the book. And I respond, “At the book laughed Christy, reviewer of doom!”

Overall :

The first half has some nice moments and adventures, but everything goes downhill in the second. I can’t imagine that anyone who has read much fantasy would find this book very interesting. Although…it’s actually not at all inappropriate for children and teens. It might be a bit long for the MG crowd, but if those Amazon reviewers are any indication, boy readers might eat this book up.

Read at your own risk.

1.5/5 STARS