Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REVIEW: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

This is the second time I have read Brisingr (this time in preparation for Inheritance, released Nov 9) and I found my response to it this time quite interesting after having read so much more since the first read. All of the books I have read this year have been quite long and what I consider more of an 'adult' read (Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Jean M. Auel) and it strikes me now how much simpler the Inheritance series are in comparison. I guess the series is considered more of a 'teen-fiction', or at least that's the basket I would put it in.

While I still enjoyed the book immensely and couldn't put the book down this morning until I finished it, at times the simplicity of the story became a little annoying. Eragon is a strange character and one I found hard to reconcile with. This is further compounded for me after reading about Kvothe in the KingKiller series who is so gifted and extraordinarily powerful. In comparison Eragon should be as such, but instead is a little bit immature and daft. To be honest, while this very well may be in the spirit of good writing (Eragon is still only very young and inexperienced and his flaws show as much), he does make a lot of mistakes.

Also in comparison, I kind of felt that not much actually happens in the book. There's a battle, a short trip to Farthen Dur, another trip to Ellesmera and then another quick battle (punctuated by some other chapters from the POV of other characters) and then the end. I don't think this detracts, after all a quick read is a good read (I totally just stole that saying from a completely different context).

Speaking of Patrick Rothfuss' series ... I found a lot of similarities in Brisingr and am wondering if he was a fan too. Elements such as the use of true names are quite common in fantasy so this can be excused, but at one point the narrative mentions a 'Tinker' which I didn't know was common and Eragon suggests that he calls his sword Kingkiller. Hmmm ...

I still cried at the end of the book this time around, as I remember doing this first time. When a book can do that, it really is quite amazing. Here I am, all fine, then there is this one line that is so heart-wrenching and so saddening that I literally sobbed involuntarily and then had a few tears. Hats off to you Christopher Paolini.

So now I am hotly anticipating Inheritance and the end of the series. I am a little annoyed I read Brisingr so fast, as I wanted it to line up with the release date. Ho hum. So in the two weeks I have I think I will read Elantris and/or Across the Wall. I've decided to not start any more series until I have bought all of them/all of them have been released. This re-reading business is too time consuming. Plus not to mention all the series I have started and not finished!

On a final note ... I noticed that Brisingr has a very flexible cover and spine! While I lamented every inevitable spine-crease during The Wise Man's Fear, after two reads, Brisingr has not one crease ANYWHERE and it has been bashed around a bit and constantly laid open on tables. Why don't they make all books like this?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

UPDATE: To Be Read ...

Thought I would take a picture (or three, it wouldn't fit into one) of my To Be Read list, which is down to an all time low of 33. I have made a pledge to read these books before I go crazy buying more, although there are a couple that I will probably only read if I'm desperate. For instance, I have no real desire to read Ian Irvine's Human Rites trilogy - I only read half of the first book and it was too fictionny for me.

In other news, I decided not to reread Eragon and Eldest ... after reading the first page it all came flooding back - not to mention that Brisingr included a very handy synopsis, just what I needed!

Friday, October 14, 2011

REVIEW: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I think I read this in record time (11 days) ... but this can mainly be attributed to my lack of classes at the moment. I've been finishing at 12 everyday and coming home to read the afternoon away.

I don't really want to say much about The Wise Man's Fear ... having read it back to back with The Name of the Wind I don't remember much distinction between the two and they have melded into one. Still an amazing and engaging read. I really enjoy novels that are lengthy but continue to move at a pace that never feels slow and laboured and Rothfuss really succeeded at this.

I did get a little impatient for two reasons ... Firstly because present day Kvothe is known as The King Killer, one who has spoken with Gods etc etc, and I feel like there will come a point in the story where he will become truly amazing and accomplish truly great deeds, rather than incidental ones ... and I want it to hurry up and get there. Then again, I also have a strong feeling that none of these things actually happen and are just a product of his growing reputation and gossip, such as the 'dragon' of Trebon. Then in the end we find out that Kvothe is not really what he is cracked up to be after expecting some grand, magical quest which has left him a battered and broken middle-aged man. Which would definitely be an interesting twist, but I would still feel kind of robbed.

Secondly, it annoys me that Kvothe can leave things unfinished. The whole time he spent with Maer Alveron I was thinking, 'but when are you going to get back to the University?'. Then when hunting bandits and spending time in Ademre I was becoming impatient as to when he would return to the Maer to resolve that matter. Although still a realistic story-line, I found the non-linear fashion annoying. Plus, the training in Ademre was a little half arsed.

All in all, an incredible story ... but ... I don't know, it didn't have the magic I have felt from my favourite books. I didn't feel like an empty shell when it ended, I didn't have to trawl through the final chapters at 3am in the morning ... there just wasn't a fire to it. Book three, The Doors of Stone has no release date yet, but I'm not on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

With the upcoming release of Inheritance I have decided to reread Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr instead of starting Fallen as I had intended. I might have to leave off Inheritance for a few weeks and then I can take it on holiday with me to Hamilton Island ... but then again, if I do that, all I will do is read instead of sipping martinis on the beach.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

REVIEW: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I just finished The Name of the Wind about three minutes ago, just three hours shy of the end of my twelve-hour shift at work ... and now I am wondering how I will make it to 7:30 without dying of boredom and without starting The Wise Man's Fear.

The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, who we learn has become one of the most infamous arcanists the world has seen in recent times. Set in a world rich with history, most of which has been lost to legend, myth and hearsay, Kvothe, now in hiding, retells his story from his childhood as a traveling performer to his teenage years as one of the brightest at the University.

While this book is a monster to carry around, it was deceptively short, especially in comparison to the Earth's Children novels. I'm not sure whether this was because of the faster pace and higher level of conflict, or whether I just had more time and read it faster. Nevertheless, The Name of the Wind was incredibly engaging and one I couldn't put down. I have in fact been reading it without break since 7am this morning - simultaneously neglecting my duties at work.

From the onset, the archetype of the bright yet disadvantaged boy that is the protagonist Kvothe really appealed to me. While I also appreciated his many flaws which balance out his incredible talents, at times his decisions were a little hard to reconcile. There are time in any story where as the reader we think, "No, don't do that!" but there were several times during TNotW where I could not see the reasoning behind Kvothe's decisions, such as suddenly leaving to investigate the slaughter in Trebon, pawning all his possessions to do so. A very minor criticism I guess, but one that also highlights how well I thought of the novel.

The history and magic system were quite interesting and introduced in an organic way which I really appreciated, and bore some resemblance to that of The Way of Kings, although described much less in depth. I was still a little confused about the principles of bindings by the end of the book as I felt the concise explanation given at the very beginning didn't stick with me.

TNotW was one of those stories that are set in a fantasy world but that concern themselves essentially with humanity and the very relate-able, human problems they face. I have to say I am a fan of these ... much like Llian and Karan from Ian Irvine's The View from the Mirror series, the protagonist is constantly down-trodden and struggling under the weight of responsibility, poverty, bad hygiene and a supernatural beast that wants to kill them. They are obviously extraordinarily gifted, but this comes at a high price.

I appreciated how the story remained mysterious about certain plot elements without becoming frustrating - the nature and history of Bast and his relationship to Kvothe for instance, I felt content to wait to discover. Foreshadowing was handled with subtlety and care and was predominantly dealt by the structure of the narrative, essentially a story within a story; the circumstances of the present day Kvothe retelling his life's story hint at what is yet to be told.

All in all a very satisfying read and one of the best books I've read this year. The one thing holding is back from making my favourites list is that is was not quite as gripping/exciting as some other series,  although I think this may be remedied in the sequels as the story heats up!