May. 27th, 2009

greek_amazon: (Alec - It's three)
Installment two of my book review meme-things!

Just Finished?
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. (Fantasy)

Reason for Reading? As I said before, it's all Sarah Monette's fault. There's a bit more to it than what I suggested last time, though. Yes, Alec as a 'relation' to Felix Harrowgate was a draw, as was the fact that this was a story that did not rely on hetero-normativity. Also, however, was the fact that this was a book of some importance to at least one of my favourite authors (Monette) and that it was read and enjoyed by several other authors that I like. In the course of reading it and exploring how it was related to Kushner's other books, I came to realize that I'd been hearing about the series (which isn't really a series, I gather?) to some degree for at least ten years from a number of different fantasy fans: I just didn't realize it until I was part way through. So it's well-read and well-liked - I'm not sure if it can be considered a fantasy classic, but I would say that it's well on its way to being there.
Oh hell, I'm getting side-tracked, aren't I?
I was talking about why I was reading this. Okay then, here's another thing: I love fantasy as a genre, and for all that I read Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was quite young (elementary school, I think) and watched truly obscene amounts of 80s fantasy films (Yeaaaaaah that explains a few things, doesn't it?) I didn't really get in to READING fantasy in a big way until about about... 2000? A few things here and there before that, but not a terrible lot, however much I may have postured to the contrary.
And of course, when I finally did get into the genre, I typically read stories that were fairly recent. (Some of the works of Mercedes Lackey are the only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head.)

So basically, from the 1950s to the start of this millennium is a great big blank in terms of what I know about the fantasy genre. And if there's one thing I've learned at university (especially in this past year at Trent) it's how important and moreover how interesting it is to track the development of, well, stories. The Lord of the Rings, for example, is better if you've read viking sagas. I've become really quite cognizant of how much I'm missing by not reading good books from years past. I've got a lot of the really (REALLY) old stuff under my belt, but the stuff from my parents' day? Or my grandparents'? Or theirs?
Published in 1987, Swordspoint is only two years younger than I am, so there's no way that I was reading this when it was new.

Was it Good? Yes, though I'll admit that I found it to be a little slow to get into.

Why? Why. It's hard to describe, this one. Why do I like it? Plot, characters, pleasant writing style are all there, certainly. But I'm not absolutely enamoured with the characters, and the plot isn't so wildly different from other works of fantasy that I've read or seen that it is singularly captivating. Likewise, the world that it takes place in is rich and real, but I can't feel it in the way that I can some of my other favourite imaginary places.
And yet, this is a good book. A REALLY good book. As I said, if it's not a fantasy classic yet, it's probably going to become one. Certainly it will hold that role in my heart and mind.
And that, I know, is related to why I like it. It's distinctive. A lot (a LOT) of fantasy novels are crap that blend into each other. This one isn't. This one is... special. And yet I can't quite put my finger on why, except that it is.

What's it about? It is about a swordfighter, in a society which practices dueling. It's ultimately about the lifestyle, and how the lifestyle can and does lead to trouble. In some ways, it is very similar to courtly romances, but it's not too similar, or else I wouldn't like it. But it's an almost-courtly romance in a world where courtly could romances exist, and where they are almost certainly read by the characters of the story.
That sounds stupid.
I'm sure someone out there has said it better than me - I think I'm far too literal.

Who's your favourite character? I really cannot decide between Richard and Alec.

Favourite secondary character The Duchess.

Would you recommend this book to others? Yes. I recommend it to readers of fantasy in the same way that I recommend The Odyssey to anyone who reads books - enthusiastically.

Anything Else? There are three short stories set in the world of Swordspoint at the end of my copy of the book. My favourite of these is easily The Death of the Duke though I found The Swordsman whose Name was not Death to be especially charming. I also thought it sounded like a set-up for a story I would love to read (And since I believe that it IS a set-up for The Privilege of the Sword), I foresee more of Kushner's books in my library.
On that note, I can't decide which book in this series I should be reading next - Privilege which was written later but takes place sooner, or The Fall of Kings which was written earlier, but takes place later! Any advice?
Also, it took me a little while to get used to the writing style at first - ultimately, though, that same style served to enhance the world of the book, so I didn't mind. However, if you pick this up and you are having trouble getting into it, give yourself time to get into it.

Since the lack of hetero-normativity was part of the reason that I picked this book up, I should probably say something on it, huh? I liked how 'bisexual as the norm' was portrayed - it was so well integrated into the book, and so similar to my own concept of sexuality that I almost forgot to mention it.

Also, I made an icon out of my favorite line in the whole book! *Points up* It's Alec saying that, of course. Feel free to use it, if you'd like.





Up Next?
Storm Front (Book one of the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
OR
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, I haven't decided yet.

Why? Oliver Twist partly for that literary roots thing I was talking about, and partly because I feel bad loving the musical but never having read the book. Storm Front because dad's friend gave us his used copies of the series, and they're ones that I've considered buying on and off for a while now. Also, I think it'd be a quick read?

Hopes? For Storm Front - I suspect that I'll like it, enjoy reading it, but that it's ultimately fluff that I will just walk away from when I'm done.
For Oliver Twist - Lower, sadly, than I would like. Apparently the scenes with Fagin are terribly anti-Semitic, which will probably make me sad and confused. (Especially since Fagin is my favourite character in the musical version.)

Want to know who's read this book before you? Sure! Especially regarding Storm Front, as I know nothing about it, except what's written on the back cover.

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