Sunday, July 18, 2010

Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon's Pellinor series begins with "The Naming" (released outside the U.S. as "The Gift").

There is nothing remotely original about the series, drawing heavily on LoTR and Harry Potter (right down to defeating a sea dog monster by singing it a lullaby in the second in the series). But, the writing's better than average and the characters are interesting.

I read the first one really quickly but am having a hard time getting through the second in the series, "The Riddle." I am struggling with the same issue I faced when reading "The Historian" -- I just feel like the same stuff keeps happening over and over again, without really going anywhere. Maerad and Cadvan are traveling. They're faced with a force of evil and banish it. She talks about the weather and landscape. They get to where they're going. They hear bad news, then they travel again. They're faced with a force of evil and banish it. They travel some more. They meet another bad guy. They travel some more. She talks about the weather and landscape. Then they get to where they're going. (In "The Historian" -- oh! another dead end and lost clue. Noooo!). "The Historian" dragged forever without really going anywhere -- Croggon's second is just repetitive.

This series has been recommended to be several times; a good bookseller friend of mine raves about it. So maybe I'm the only one who thinks it is a little too Lord of the Rings/Star Wars (don't go to the dark side, the light is all about "balance"/Harry Potter?

Ah well. With any luck, it will get better as the series goes on (again, like HP).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Melissa Marr's Latest: "Radiant Shadows"

When I started working at Borders, Melissa Marr had just released her first young adult novel, “Wicked Lovely.” Since 2007, she’s released one a year. Her latest came out this spring, “Radiant Shadows,” and I have yet to really be disappointed by the series.

Marr keeps the storyline and fantasy world fresh by having each story focus on a different character. A character that may be present only in a chapter or two in one of the earlier books becomes the main character in the next.

Such is the case in “Radiant Shadows.” The Unchanging Queen’s brother, Devon, is also her Bloody Hand -- he does all her dirty week, serving as the eyes and ears of the high court outside of Fairie.

Ani is Gabriel’s daughter, half fey and half mortal. Both characters were introduced earlier in the series, but in “Radiant Shadows” they come together when readers learn that Ani is only alive because of Devon’s interference.

Don’t get me wrong: it is still just another young adult fantasy series. But it can be rather challenging to find one that is actually written with some skill. Most are so badly written they jar you out of the plot with the awkward transitions and poor diction (House of Night, anyone?). That is not the case with the “Wicked Lovely” series. Marr does an excellent job of keeping all of the threads of each character up in each new installment - e.g. a character doesn’t just drop off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again.

Personally, I find faeries more interesting than vampires (probably because they’re generally witty and quick, rather than just blood-sucking), and will keep watching for Marr’s take on the world of faerie. The final book of the Wicked Lovely series is slated for publication February 2011.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Abundance of Katherines

Continuing down the line of John Green works, I finished “An Abundance of Katherines” a few weeks ago. Though vastly different from Green’s debut, “Looking for Alaska,” "Katherines” is another coming of age novel centering on learning how to survive in one’s skin. The age old teen struggle of learning to like yourself and like yourself enough to show other people who you really are - not shirk away from your perceived flaws. Learn to be OK with how people see you, because it is often only a reflection of how you see yourself.

In “An Abundance of Katherines,” the narrator -- a washed up child prodigy named Colin -- has dated a lot of girls for his 17 years -- all of them named Katherine. 19 of them, in fact. And Colin has been dumped by every one of them.

After Katherine XIX dumps him -- inevitably, in Colin’s mind -- he can’t shake the stupor. His best friend (e.g. his only friend) cajoles him into taking a road trip: destination anywhere.

They are lured to Gutshot, Tennessee, the final resting place of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and find jobs to keep them there for the duration of the summer.

OK, so I've only read the first two of Green's books, but even simply going off of the first two I would recommend him to anyone who appreciates a well-written, quick read. I cannot put them down. It is rare to find an author who can actually write good, believable characters and a good story, but Green does it. Character-driven and still an interesting plot.