Monday, September 30, 2013

The Warrior's Apprentice

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Grade: 5 stars
Story summary: Sequel to Shards of Honor and Barrayar (chronologically speaking--the order of publication is quite different), starring Miles, the son of the magnificent main characters from those books. Also features battles in space, manipulations, lies, and the "accidental" creation of an entire mercenary fleet.

Thoughts: Miles Vorkosigan. I am fully and completely in love with him.

He's the sort of person that will cover up his small lies by telling really massive lies, and then somehow, through all the plots and chaos and manipulations, the lies will end up true. He's one of the the few people that can match Moist von Lipwig (from some my favourite Discworld novels, Going Postal and Making Money) in pure, brazen audacity and "manic 'forward momentum'"*. As Moist himself says, "If I am going to fail, I would rather fail spectacularly".

He's the sort of person that has this strange effect on the people around him. In this way, he's one of the only people I've met (perhaps the only?) whom I feel like I can properly compare to Eugenides, from the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. (You might not realize how important this is, but it really is! Eugenides pretty much tops everybody as a character for me.) There's a similar sort of charisma and presence. If he for a moment switches his entire attention on you--well, you're not going to come out of that the same.  And somehow, people find themselves following all sorts of insane schemes that they'd never dream of trying normally.

To sum up in the words of one of his men: "Your forward momentum is going to lead all your followers over a cliff someday. On the way down, you'll convince 'em all they can fly. Lead on, my lord. I'm flapping as hard as I can."

Really, this book is all about Miles. I could talk about the plot and secondary characters, as they are quite excellent. But the plot events are pretty much all brought about through him, and many of the great secondary characters are put into focus through his relationships to (and manipulations of) them.

There is one thing I want to discuss briefly that is a huge spoiler. Visit to decode it:
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P.S. I've heard lots of talk about how horrible the covers for this series are. Are they really that bad? I mean, they could be better, obviously. But they never struck me as being that horrible... Anyway, I was just mentioning it in case anybody was turned off by the cover image up there. Please, in this case at least, follow the old proverb about not judging books by their covers.

P.P.S. I also want to emphasize that these are adult books, and widely acclaimed throughout the SciFi community (winning lots of Hugos and other awards). In other words, although you might get the impression that this is more similar to my usual fare of YA and children's SF/Fantasy, there is depth and excellent writing--especially as the series progresses. (Not that YA and children's don't have that, of course.) Basically what I'm trying to say is, they're fabulous and you should read them, even if it might not seem like your type of book. I keep getting terribly worried that something I say in this review is going to turn you off, and it really shouldn't!

*Quote taken from the Goodreads description.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


by S. J. Kincaid

Grade: 3 1/2 stars
Story summary: Sequel to Insignia. Kids with computer enhancements in their brains train to fight in virtual wars. Also there's awesomely geeky geeks and star-crossed romance.

Thoughts: More computery goodness, more plot, more other things. But because this is my blog, I'm going to skip all that stuff and just comment on the characters.

Wyatt is simply the best. Genius programmer, socially awkward (really socially awkward, not the pretend kind you see sometimes), and often rather hilarious (usually accidentally). I love her enormously, and she is perhaps my favourite thing about these books.

Medusa. Love her too. Very unusual for a romantic interest, and is one of the primary reasons why I actually like the central romance. It reminded me a bit of Anna Dressed in Blood, actually. Main boy falls for brilliant, dangerous girl on the wrong side of the fight, who has a serious physical issue. Main boy doesn't fall for main girl who is his sidekick, and who would be his love interest in most books and movies. Medusa would be just as awesome without the romance, obviously. She's just not seen much outside of it, and it was different enough that I wanted to comment.

Yuri and Vik were great too--Yuri especially (I rather wished Vik had gotten a little more screentime). But the awesomeness is dominated by the girls, imho.

(Oh, and since I haven't mentioned him yet, perhaps I should say that Tom is good too? It can be harder for me to become attached to the main male character, so perhaps that's why I find myself not quite as fond of him as of the rest of the gang.)

Basically, it was loads of fun, and I'm greatly looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

by Christopher Healy

Grade: 2 1/2 stars
Story Summary: Sequel to The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The four Prince Charmings (or Princes Charming) have saved the day once already. But now the minstrels have got it all wrong so everyone thinks the princes are idiots (I mean, they actually sort of are...but that's beside the point). So obviously that needs to be fixed. Also Briar Rose has an evil plan, and is roping the princes into helping her.

Thoughts: Like THGtSYK, this was very funny, with great characters, and really great illustrations. Also like THGtSYK, it was a bit too long, and would have been much better cut down a bit. This time around, however, I couldn't overcome  the padding issue. I ended up very tempted to skim through a bunch of it, and basically forced myself to read through a bunch of it. Mind you, this could have been partly due to my particular mood at the time. (It does feel weird to have rated this one so much lower than the first one, even though they are quite similar in style and humour.)

Still, as I said, it could be quite funny in parts. I'll read the sequel when it comes out, and hopefully be in a better mood to enjoy it this time.