Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Scarab

also called "Day of the Scarab"

by Catherine Fisher

Grade: Good
Summary: Everything has gone wrong since the climax of the last book. Even more wrong than it was in the last book. The present evil ruler, General Argelin, is slowly going crazier and crazier. Foreign mercenaries are taking over the land. Everything's a mess. Luckily there is a priestess who speaks to the god, a boy with the god inside him, an ex-drunk musician, an aristocratic lord of thieves, and a clever and ambitious scribe to save the day.
Sequel to The Oracle and The Archon

Review: Awesome, awesome. I think now that I've finished the series, the second book might be my favourite, what with the agonizing journey through the desert. But I finished this one way faster, and this one was by far the easiest to get into, and besides, it was the big finale.

The characters are still awesome. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how her books never properly have villains. Even the very evilest people are somehow sympathetic, and not only to us, but to the other characters as well. And even the most wonderful of the heroes has some rather unlikable flaws. In this case, a good example would be the horrible General Argelin, but also Chryse, the traitoress! That was cool. In Incarceron and Sapphique, almost all the characters are either good but seriously flawed (like Claudia, and the blood-brother guy of Finn's--can't remember his name), or evil but hugely sympathetic, like the Warden and Incarceron itself.
Anyway, as with the other two books, Rhetia and the Jackal are still my favourites by far. Rhetia was not in it quite enough for my liking, but I think the Jackal was firmly established as one of the principal characters. I just wish we got to find out a bit more about what happened to him. Anyway--thieves!!! Did I mention I liked them?

I only really have two small complaints. One is the notion which creeps in (I see it in Terry Pratchett a bunch too) that the gods are somehow dependent on their worshipers' belief in them. I don't like this idea at all. And it's not only because it seems to reflect on my personal beliefs, but also just because I think the gods aren't quite as cool if they need us to exist.

And the second:
Ok, so Fisher obviously isn't completely against Romance. However, it still is rather unusual that in a whole series of books, the only obvious Romance is between the guy who's basically the villain of the whole piece, and a lady who died in the second book. There were definitive hints of it between Mirany and Seth, but not more than hints. And that was it. Rather refreshing, but as I said in an earlier Catherine Fisher review, I actually find it a bit bothersome. Maybe because I like her characters so much, and NONE of them are described as sexy, and I think she could do it tastefully.

Other books with cool thieves: Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale, also its sequels; The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, and its sequels (The King of Attolia in that series is one of my favourite books OF ALL TIME); the Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton (Flambeau forever!); The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (also other Robin Hood retellings, but this is the best); The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones; the Vicky Bliss series with the Lord-Peter-Wimsey-ish art thief, Sir John Symthe (starts with Borrower of the Night, but I skipped that one because it doesn't have Smythe in it, and moved right to Street of the Five Moons); also many, many more that I can't think of at this time.

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