Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

What Makes This Book Worth Reading: The Chalice by Robin McKinley

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

The Chalice is ISBN 9780399246760 (C) 2008.

What makes The Chalice worth reading? One good reason The Chalice is worth reading is because it is by Robin McKinley and everything that I’ve read by Robin McKinley so far has been worth reading. If you haven’t read anything by Robin McKinley yet, this book is a great place to start.

The Chalice is a beautifully written, relatively short (263 pages) fantasy with a main character (Mirasol) who lives out her love for her people and her country. The Chalice is worth reading because Mirasol is a good role model: she is strong, intelligent, caring, and dutiful.

The Chalice tells how Mirasol deals with her new found responsibility to bring peace and harmony back to her land after she is unexpectedly chosen (by the magical land in which she lives) to be the current Chalice.

The position of Chalice is the second highest position in the region (the highest being the feudal male Master) and is always filled by a woman. The woman who is Chalice has a magical relationship to the land and all living creatures in the land. The woman who is Chalice acts to bind the people to the land so they exist in harmony. The woman who is Chalice is a type of Earth Mother.

Mirasol, her people, and her land are facing a crisis due to the untimely death of the previous Master and Chalice. The position of Master is normally hereditary, whereas the position of Chalice is not. The previous Master dies without an heir and the previous Chalice dies without an apprentice. As a result, Mirasol assumes her role without any of the training that an apprentice Chalice normally receives. She begins her service while the region awaits the return of the previous Master’s brother from exile (to a mystical religious order where he became something not quite human) so he can assume the role of Master.

In some ways Robin McKinley’s books remind me of Lois McMaster Bujold’s works. Like Bujold, McKinley is a wonderful story teller whose characters are exceedingly sympathetic and likable. Like Bujold, McKinley has won multiple awards. McKinley has won The Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown (a YA novel) and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Sunshine (definitely not a YA novel but very good reading for adults).

The Chalice has a well-deserved 4.5 star average rating at Amazon.

Publishers Weekly said The Chalice is “Perfectly shaped and eloquently told…A lavish and lasting treat.”

School Library Journal said “Readers who long for beautiful phrases and descriptive writing will find themselves drinking in this rich fairy tale as if it were honey trickling down their throats.”

Like many of McKinley’s books, The Chalice is suitable for readers of all ages.

Next in this series I’m going to give credit where credit is due and cover What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton.

What Makes This Book Worth Reading: Prospero’s Children

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

I just finished reading Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Prospero Regained is the third and final book in Lamplighter’s “Prospero’s Children” series. The series consists of Prospero Lost, Prospero in Hell, and Prospero Regained. This post covers all three books.

Prospero’s Children is about the long-lived, magical Prospero family. The head of the family is the mysterious magician Prospero from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The main character of the series is Prospero’s oldest child, his fair daughter Miranda.

For the last 500 years the family has been working to maintain order in a chaotic world by using their magic staffs to restrain various spirit forces from running amok. Miranda is the CEO of the global company that is the public face of the Prospero family.

The first book opens with the disappearance of Prospero at a time when many of his children are estranged from each other. The series is about Miranda’s efforts to unite her half brothers and sisters in an effort to first find their father and then to rescue their father from hell.

Lamplighter is quite creative. She nicely weaves together different mythologies and world history and original ideas. My favorite of Lamplighter’s original creatures is the Cheer Weasel. (A smack in the face from the Cheer Weasel is guaranteed to make anyone laugh.) One of Prospero’s sons was the Pope (twice, actually) so Lamplighter has mythologized some Roman Catholic history and made it an important part of the story.

The plot is interesting and everything is nicely wrapped up in the end.

For me, the main deficiency in the series is in the dialog. Miranda Prospero’s inner voice is almost painful to to read at times. On the plus side, the book is quite tame sexually by modern standards. Although there is no explicit sex, one rape occurs. I hate rape as a plot device, but I have to say that Lamplighter handled it well and it was not gratuitous.

For those of you with impressionable teens who might read the series, be aware that the idea that redemption after death is possible is central to the story.

Some reviewers have compared the Prospero’s Children series to Roger Zelazny’s Amber books. The only real similarity is that both series feature long-lived families, some of whom are magicians. Lamplighter’s writing is definitely not up Zelazny’s standards. But then again Roger Zelazny is one the best science fiction writers of all time and the Amber books are one of my favorite series. If you haven’t read the Amber series, find a used copy of the Omnibus edition that contains all nine of the original books and enjoy.

The three volumes in the Prospero’s Children series have good reviews (averaging 4 stars) on Amazon. I give it 3 out 5 stars. If the dialog was better, I’d give it 4 stars. The series is entertaining but not compelling.

What Makes This Book Worth Reading: “The Scar”

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
ISBN 9780765329936

What makes The Scar worth reading?

Sergey and Marina Dyachenko are award winning Russian authors who were honored as the European Science Fiction Society’s Best Writers of Europe at Eurocon 2005.

I bought The Scar at a library book sale because of the awards that the authors had won and because the description of the plot interested me. The Scar is about Egbert, a egotistical philanderer with an overabundance of courage and self-esteem and no respect for anyone else. Egbert is transformed into a coward after he is cursed by the mysterious “Wanderer” for killing an innocent student in a duel that Egbert arranged so he could have the student’s fiancee.

The first part of the book establishes Egbert’s abilities and un-likability. The rest of the book describes Egbert’s life as a tormented coward and his struggles for redemption.

The Scar is well written, interesting, and unusual in its character development. I would read it again.

Amazon has used copies for reasonable prices.