Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[Lisa's Take] Mechanique - Genevieve Valentine

The world is at war. It has been at war for as long as anyone can remember - maybe a couple of generations, maybe a few hundred years; it's hard to say. One woman, a singer, survives the bombing of her opera house and discovers that she suddenly has the ability to meld gears and metal and human bodies; suddenly she could restore and control life. So she started a circus.

Mechanique is not a lighthearted tale. It is not a story of clowns and laughing children. It is a story of a bleak world filled with vivid, gritty, real characters with fantastic bodies and amazing abilities. It is a story written by an author who has thought through all of the implications of her premise, and who doles out the details little by little - a literary flower slowly blooming.

Rarely have I seen an author use perspective so skillfully. When I first started reading I was skeptical of the changes between first, second, and third person. Once I got into the rhythm of the novel, however, this device served as a subtle and smooth way to transition you between characters and viewpoints. What I initially thought as a contrivance instead melted seamlessly into the background and added unexpected depth to the narrative flow.

Surely Mechanique had flaws - it is, after all, a first book - but they've melted away in my memory. I keep returning to the vivid images evoked throughout the novel, and these mental pictures chase away anything but a wash of grey, stormy emotion. Genevieve Valentine might be the next China Mieville - don't take your eyes off her.

[Lisa's Take] The Night Angel Trilogy - Brent Weeks

Ok, Lisa, it’s time to admit that you’re finally over Wise Man’s Fear. You’ve moved on. It took a long time, but you’re back to enjoying fantasy again. This also means you need to stop neglecting your book blog and start writing reviews again. So here it comes – the motherload of catch-up posts.

After a whole litany of failures, the book that finally snapped me out of my fantasy-malaise was The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. I picked it up on a whim going into a week of vacation, and then proceeded to devour all 3 (quite hefty) novels in about a week. This included leaving a tropical island in order to find a bookstore so I could immediately read books 2 and 3. Talk about an excellent week: nothing but mai tais, poi spinning, and reading 14 hours a day.

The Night Angel Trilogy (Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge, Beyond the Shadows) is everything I like in a fantasy novel. Big, interesting world; intriguing magic system; a wide range of flawed characters; a wry sense of humor; love, hate, revenge… you get the idea. Imagine Brandon Sanderson meets Peter V. Brett, mashed up with Joe Abercrombie’s unwillingness to pull punches, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture. The pacing of the novels is non-stop, and it is disgustingly easy to sit down with the book, then look up and realize 3 hours have passed.

The trilogy is not without its flaws; some of the romance aspects were a bit overwrought (think early Robin Hobb, or Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody as a comparison). Sometimes the main character grates on your nerves a little, and sometimes the author stretches believability for just how clueless people can be. One plot element in the 3rd book (moon dragon? What??) wasn’t explained well enough.

But those are all minor gripes, and can be 100% ignored. This review isn’t going to be long or rambly: get these books, read them, and then start slavering for more Brent Weeks. He’s a keeper.