Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Book Review

It’s time for the Friday Book Review. I managed to make it through two books this week. One of them was very slow going so I didn’t get as much read as I usually do.

Sadly, I speak of ”Sword of Orion (Beneath Strange Skies, Book 1)” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. As previously mentioned in this blog, I’m a huge fan of their ”Liaden Universe” series so I was really looking forward to this new series they’ve started. And well, um, no longer looking forward to it quite so much. Things start out promisingly enough with a space battle between the ruling Oligarchy’s fleet vs. a rebel fleet (wait, where’ve I heard this one before?). During said battle, both fleets vanish from known space thanks to the implementation of a device invented by a brilliant rebel scientist. There are only two survivors – the scientist’s infant daughter and a loyal retainer who carried her to safety just before the battle began.

Cut to 15 years in the future when the infant, Jerel, has grown into teenagerdom. And by the way, I couldn’t get over the fact that her name sounds so much like Jorel – as in Superman’s dad. Coincidence? I dunno, but it was distracting.

Anyway, the Oligarchy is trying to rise again and both factions are on the hunt for Jerel as she seems to be the key to re-inventing her mother’s device and potentially returning both fleets from wherever they went away to. Jerel goes on the run with her friend (and obvious boyfriend potential), Kay (another name coincidence with the Sir Kay who was King Arthur’s foster brother and seneschal?), her uncle Orned and a few remnants of the former rebel group.

And really, I swear I’ve read all this before. Teenage characters, lost rebel fleets, fleeing one step ahead of the bad guys…yawn. On top of all that, NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS. The group on the run jumps to a couple of different planets, but we learn next to nothing about those worlds. Encounters with the natives are little more than rest stops and re-provisioning during which nothing interesting happens. Finally, the book ends with an extremely predictable “cliffhanger” ending which is an obvious set up to the next book in the series. To which I say – don’t bother.

Yet, I love Lee & Miller so much that I feel incredibly guilty about saying all this. So, please, go pick up the Liaden books and fall in love with them. Hit the Korval website and purchase their downloadable e-books and forget that “Sword of Orion” even exists and especially forget that I had to give it a bad review and then maybe I can sleep at night…someday.

Whew! Okay…shake it off! Let’s move on to the other book, shall we?

I used to be a big fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. I was crazy about them and read every one I could get my hands on – and there are LOTS of them. The “Arrows” trilogy, the “Last Herald-Mage” trilogy, the “Gryphon” books, etc. are all good. Eventually, however, I started to notice a certain “sameness” to them all and I was having a hard time identifying with all the teenage main characters. See, when I first started reading these books, I was a teenager myself, but now I’m 40 and I guess I’m just out of patience with the teenage set – even in fantasy books. Finally, by the time the “Owl” series came out, I was starting to get a little disgusted. By the end of that series, I vowed to stop wasting money on Valdemar books any more (or at least to not buy the hardback versions). And, I’ve pretty much stuck to that vow for the last few years.

Then, I noticed there was a new anthology coming out and I thought “well, hey, it’ll have other authors in it and they might have something fresh to say.” Er, of course, it was also a slow week as far as new books coming out and okay, so I didn’t have anything else to read. Anyway, I picked up ” Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar” and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Other than one story that I thought was a little overdone on the violence and suffering, all the stories were really well written. There are some big names from the fantasy community as well as some lesser-known writers, but all have done a great job. If you’ve never read any of the Valdemar books, this probably isn’t the best place to start because all of the stories seem to assume a basic familiarity with the “world” including the Heralds, the Companions, etc. Go pick up ”Arrows of the Queen” if you want to get a sense of what Valdemar is all about. Just be prepared for a 13-year-old heroine and a talking horse.

Oh, and if you get concerned about this sort of thing, I should mention that Lackey’s world is one in which homosexuality exists and is not necessarily frowned upon (especially among the Heralds). The hero of the ”The Last Herald-Mage Series”, Vanyel, is openly gay, so avoid that particular set of books if that bothers you.

It never really bothered me except that, since I read them as a teenage girl and since Vanyel was always described as being quite the hottie, well it was frustrating to know that it was pointless to fantasize about him because he’d never be interested. And really, what’s the point of having a handsome male character in a fantasy novel if he’s only interested in other guys and his big white horse. What a waste ;-)

In other news, the embroidered flame bracelet is ALMOST done. I’ve got a teeny bit of background beading to fill in and then just need to attach the beaded section to the bracelet blank and do the edge stitching and that’s it. I cannot stress how much I want this project to be finished so I can move on to something else. I’m eager to put all the lessons I’ve learned on it into play on a new project and, frankly, I’m just tired of looking at it after all those hours.

This weekend I’ll be doing chores although I don’t know why that’s news – no matter how many times I do them, they’re still there and just have to get done again next week. Why is that? Blech! I’ve also got some orders to ship out and a customer coming by the house for some custom order work.

I’m taking Ryan on a special adventure on Sunday, but it’s a surprise so I’ll post the details next week.

Have a marvelous weekend, everyone! Au revoir.



Jenie said...

Have fun on your special adventure. And will you please, please, please, please, please (pretty please, with sugar on it) cut and paste those reviews into my forum? PLEEEEEZZZE?!!! (you can just make 'em one post...pleeeeeze?!) xo, j

Silver Parrot said...

I'd be happy to - d'you want them in the "book nook" section or where? Remind me on Friday when I write the next one...