Sunday, February 28, 2016

This Census Taker, by China Mieville. Del Ray, 2016

A young boy lives in a dystopian future; he and his parents live on a lonely hill outside of town. The mother scavenges things and grows vegetables that she trades for other foods in the run down town where a pack of feral children run. The father is a key maker; his keys are magical and can bring money or love to the purchaser. The father also occasionally kills animals- and maybe more- and throws the bodies down a pit in a cave. One day, the boy runs into town in a panic: he has seen his father kill his mother. Or vice versa. He’s not really sure. But the townspeople rule that he must be returned to his father- there is no proof the mother didn’t just leave. So he lives in constant fear of his father. Is the father a killer, or did the mother leave?

There are no answers in this book. There is no answer to the disappearance, there is no answer as to why the world is so broken, there is no answer to why the boy, now grown, is in prison, writing his memoir. Nor is there much depth to any characters; even the boy whose eyes we see the story through (changing from first to third person constantly) is not a person but bundle of fear, tension, and despair. The book is almost nothing but atmosphere. This is not a world any reader would want to live in. It’s a world without hope.

It was a kind of interesting read- I kept reading, trying to find some answers- but not one I’d put in the same class as Mieville’s other work. It’s a tone poem of despair, not a novel.

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Moonlight Over Paris, by Jennifer Robson. William Morrow, 2016

It’s 1923, and Helena Parr- Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr- has recovered from a serious illness that the doctors didn’t think she would survive. She has also survived having her 5 year long engagement broken by her fiancĂ© so he could marry someone else, and London society has frozen her out. Now she is going to live with her aunt in Paris so she can go to art school and live a life for herself rather than for family or society. There she meets other ex-pats, including Hemingway and the F. Scott Fitzgeralds, as well as an American journalist who is handsome, troubled by his past, and perfect.

The book has all the elements to make a really interesting read, but somehow it failed. Helena never really came to life, despite being the focus of the narrative. She seems very flat, as do most of the other characters, even including the avant-garde aunt who lived in sin for many years before marrying. Everyone acts perfectly mannerly and delightful all the time. I felt like I was reading a book proposal rather than a completed book; the characters needed filling out, there needed to be more emotion, a little more conflict. Some parts are just lovely; the author excelled at describing clothing, buildings, and even meals. It’s too bad the characters aren’t as well drawn as the settings. I guess maybe this book could be called a cozy historical romance, as that seemed to be the focus. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Black City Saint, by Richard A. Knaak. Pyr, 2016

You could call this book historical urban fantasy noir. Set in Chicago in the 1920s, the narrator is a sort of exorcist. He puts ads in papers that only those who need him can see, then goes and removes the ghosts and demons that are haunting them. His unusualness goes beyond this, though; his body is host to the dragon that he slew 1,600 years ago- he is, in fact, Saint George. He and the dragon share an uneasy alliance. Also, he is the guardian of the gate that separates our world from that of Feirie. His companion is a shapeshifter who can no longer shift, trapped in his canine form.

The hero finds himself set up against Oberon, long exiled from Feirie. Oberon plans on taking over again, conquering his former mate Titania. This will drag our world into the the fight, something Nick, the protagonist, must stop at all costs. He finds himself fighting demons, speaking with the ghost of the Emperor who ordered his execution, trying to avoid bootleggers and Al Capone’s gang members, trying to protect a woman from his past who won’t agree to stay where it’s supposed to be safe, and battling with magically enhanced goons before actually getting into it with Oberon.

Nick narrates almost like your typical hard-boiled noir detective, except he’s frequently talking about magical things. The pace moves quickly and never lets up; Nick can’t even sit down to rest without the house turning into something else or demons coming to the door. There is a lot we don’t find out about Nick, Claryce- she really doesn’t get a chance to develop her character-, Fetch, and the ghost of the Emperor Deocletian; the ending leaves it possible that there will be a sequel. I would definitely read a sequel; I liked the characters (particularly Fetch the shapeshifter) and like the era. It’s fast and fun. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for a review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.