Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins. Broadway Books, 2015

 This book was *not* what I expected. With ‘library’ in the title, I expected something like ‘The Librarians”, or perhaps books of magic. Something with a professorial main character. I was very, very, wrong.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book! I admit I was very confused at first. A woman covered in blood walking down the road. Then backstory; she was indeed raised in a giant library, complete with ancient handwritten books and a handful of other orphan children. But their “Father” who took them in was cruel and violent beyond all normal versions of cruel. The ‘catalogs’, the divisions of the library, are things like languages (which our main character studies and includes the languages of animals, storm clouds, and volcanos), murder and war, healing, death, and other things that never really get mentioned. Each ‘catalog’- which covers one floor of the library- is studied by one-and only one- of the orphans. And it warps them. Horribly. Human at the start, they become both more and less than human.

The book centers on Carolyn, the language specialist; Steve, a former thief gone straight; and Erwin, a former military man turned government agent who does not follow the book. Carolyn has a mission and she needs Steve for it. She keeps Steve in the dark - the mission has him in prison for killing a cop, rescued by a ‘human’ killing machine, savaged by dogs, teamed up with a lion (who thankfully seems to understand English), and just generally not having a good time. Erwin is trying to figure out what both Steve and Carolyn are up to. What it turns out to be was nothing I could have ever thought up.

While there is near constant action, things are revealed slowly; what the library is, who Father is, what and why Carolyn is doing what she is. It’s more science fiction than fantasy. It took me a while to get into it and figure out who was who, but once I did, I became very engaged in the story. It *is* very violent and very bloody, which I wasn’t wild about. I liked Steve, and eventually Erwin, but couldn’t warm up to Carolyn. There once the entire story is told, though, I was able to see why she was like she was. 

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

I received this book free from the publisher in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard. Saga Press, 2016

Sisters Imogen and Marin had horrible childhoods, victims of a narcissistic, controlling, physically and emotionally abusive mother. Both fled home at the first chance, and became very good at what they do: Imogen writing, and Marin dancing.  When Marin applies to an elite arts program, she convinces Imogen to do the same, and they are both accepted, and even housed in the same building: a beautiful Victorian, complete with tower room.

As soon as Imogen arrives, things start to seem strange. The campus is huge, with buildings spread far apart. Each building at Melete is different and amazing- there is a castle with a moat as one lodging. The studios are equally unique. A river runs through the property, with unique bridges at intervals. There is even one bridge that stops abruptly halfway across the river. On certain nights, a sort of market is held, and people appear who seem…. different. On All Hallows Eve, all the residents take a ride across the river- over the suddenly whole broken bridge- and Imogen realizes that Melete is run by Faerie. And that there is a prize they give, but with a steep price: a chance at amazing success at their art, but they must live in Faerie for seven years, allowing the Fae to feed on their emotions. Suddenly, Imogen and Marin are in competition against each other.

The characters have to work through their issues; Imogen and Marin have the insecurity their mother beat into them, as well as issues with each other that she instilled with lies. Other residents have parent issues, as well as the decision as to whether they want to succeed on their own terms or vie for the prize. And romantic issues. It’s complicated.

I enjoyed the book, and the concept of the tithe and the Fae needing to feed off human emotions. It’s a modern fairy tale, with one dark sister and one golden. But something seemed lacking. The Fae and their world were never developed at all; except for the King, they are pretty much off stage. We know their world is dark and that is about it. They seemed like a gimmick to power the sibling rivalry and other issues. The characters seemed rather 2 dimensional. The whole book seemed to lack depth. This *is* a first novel, so I hope to see more work from this author, and hope that her work will grow. 

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. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Relic Master, by Christopher Buckley. Simon & Schuster, 2015

When I picked up this book at the library, I somehow missed that it was a comedy. From the description on the cover, it sounds like an adventurous historical fiction. Fake shroud of Turin? Relic dealer? Albrecht Durer? Sounds good to me! A quest? Great!

Dismas, a relic dealer (a person who deals in Christian talismans- splinters of the true cross, various saint’s bones, the Virgin Mary’s breast milk, and the like) is about to retire. He has finally saved up enough money, carefully invested with a person of good repute. Then said person embezzles it all. That said person is executed helps not at all. Artist Durer proposes that Dismas sell something that one of his top customers has long desired: the burial shroud of Jesus. The fact that Dismas does not have a shroud does not deter Durer; he, artist that he is, will create one. And he does; it seems perfect. Dismas takes it to the Archbishop of Mainz and sells it, and receives enough money to set himself up. Except that a chance happening reveals that the shroud is a fraud; Durer could not stop himself from putting a hidden signature on the shroud.

Needless to say, the Archbishop is furious. Dismas and Durer are tortured, and then set upon a quest: to get the shroud everyone is sure is real, which is in Savoy under lock and key. To make sure they stick with the task, three violence-happy guards are sent with them. The resulting quest includes a couple of run-ins with a Count with evil on his mind, a runaway woman, more fraud, impersonation, and lots of blood and fighting.

I enjoyed the book even though it wasn’t what I thought it would be. There is a lot of blood and gore- it was a pretty blood thirsty age- but it’s tolerable, if sad at times. Durer comes off as a bit of an effete narcissist whose ego keeps getting them in trouble. I did like most of the characters, and the pace was good. Somehow, the author kept the tone light even with all the horribleness.

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.