Not-a-review: The Night Circus

I’ve been feeling a bit jaded with reading of late, having come up against a couple of books that just didn’t draw me in at all.  I read Some Kind of Fairytale, which was amazing, but then kind of flailed about trying to figure out what to read next.

I’ve been trying to keep up with reading along with the Writer and the Critic podcast, and have fallen somewhat behind.  I’m pretty much finding that I love or like most of the books Kirstyn recommends, while Mondy’s recommendations aren’t always for me, but I do appreciate reading every book that he does recommend.  Which is a long way of saying that his taste isn’t always mine, but I feel like Kirstyn’s taste and mine converges somewhat.

Anyway.  I am a few podcasts back, and so I picked up The Night Circus.

Fun fact: reading through the acknowledgements, there’s a referral to thanking Purgatory.  Ho, says I, someone who posts at Absolute Write. and specifically the No News Is Good News thread (known as Purgatory to its denizens).  Now, I used to hang out at AW a lot back when I was querying Shaede, mostly posting in Purgatory.  For me and for that book, it was close but no cigar, of course.  And I realised, very belatedly and after a bit of searching, that I’d actually been active in the thread at the same time as Erin.  My brain = boo, hiss.  Erin = squee!

Anyway, onto the book.

I’d heard a bit of hype about this book, but hadn’t really looked into it much.  I bought a copy on my Kindle and promptly forgot about it, as I am wont to do when I get distracted by too many other books.  And, in a general mood of ennui, I started to read.  And read.

This book is just gorgeous.  Like Kirstyn and Mondy, I wasn’t taken so much with the characters (though I think I like Celia a little more than they did) – but neither did I dislike them, per se.  I loved Poppet and Widget though.  I did have a few times when I got confused about characters, but I think that says way more about my own state of mental fogginess than the book itself.

Honestly, I didn’t read this for the characters, or the story so much.  It was the circus, and all the lush imagery of the circus and the magic being used.  I am not surprised at all that this has been optioned for a movie, but I’m not certain that any movie is going to do justice to it all.  It was just breathtaking, and wonderful and gave me such a sense of awe while I was reading.

Also, Morgenstern, you get a general frowny face for part of Bailey’s storyline.  No spoilers, but when you read, you will know.

I read this on Kindle, but I have now ordered the glorious UK hardcover, which I shall be very happy to have on my shelf.

And because I am a fool, I’ve also ended up with a paperback copy (don’t ask, just know that my brain is not to be trusted).  To reward anyone who’s actually read this entry, I shall be happy to post it to a random commenter (On livejournal, dreamwidth or at the website).  Happy to send anywhere in the world, so comment away!

EDIT: I will be picking a winner on Friday, my time, 9am, so you have until then to comment.

Not-a-review: Some Kind of Fairytale

Here I have to make a small confession: Until now, I’d not read any Graham Joyce.

I grabbed a copy of this book mostly because Gary K. Wolfe talked about it on the Coode Street Podcast (I swear I get enabled so much by podcasts, and have never regretted any such enabling) – to paraphrase, I think he put it into the same kind of circle of awesome as Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Drowning Girl, which remains one of the most amazing books I’ve read over the last few years.

And so I bought it, and popped it on my shelf to languish for a little while.  I’m at the point where I’m going to have to start forcing myself to read everything on my TBR mountain soon.  It’s gotten a wee bit out of hand.

Feeling a bit disillusioned with some of the stuff I’ve been reading (or, more properly, picking up, reading two chapters and putting down again), I picked this up.  And noticed what I’d missed when I received it – the fact that I’d actually received a signed limited edition.  Thank you, Book Depository, you are kind of awesome.

And that’s a lot of rambling to get to actually talking about the book.  Which, when you look at it, has a fairly simple premise – Tara vanished in the woods when she was sixteen, and turns up twenty years later, looking no older than she had on the day she disappeared.  Her return sends ripples through the lives of her family – especially her brother, Peter and her boyfriend (when she vanished), Richie, who was actually a suspect for her murder and has pretty much been frozen in time since then.

Joyce doesn’t play with the mystery of Tara’s disappearance overmuch, and the reader is never really in much doubt about what happened to her, but this really isn’t a bad thing.  It really does feel like Tara’s reappearance is a stone thrown into a pond (or maybe a carpet of bluebells), and he moves through different characters’ points of view and timelines to show just how much that rippling affects.

There is so much gorgeous writing in this, and so many sentences that I literally stopped and reread about a dozen times, just savouring them, before I moved on.

And after I finished reading this book, I promptly went online and ordered a bunch of Joyce’s other work.

If you like literary fantasy, and fairy tales, I can really, really recommend this one.  I think it’s going to be a book that I reread many, many times.

Not-a-review: Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule, Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent

I’m not usually a reader to become intrigued about a book based on the cover alone.  This series is the exception – one of the blogs I follow posted an image of the cover of World’s End, the first book of Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy, and I was immediately drawn in.  Reading more about the trilogy and the two that follow on, and I was hooked.

As an aside, if you get a chance, check out the covers for the other US rereleases – they’re all as gorgeous as this one.  If I was Mark Chadbourn, I would be so stoked with the cover art.  Unfortunately, my books are a mixture of UK and US releases, based on what was available when I was searching out the books.  I’m sorely tempted to rebuy them all in the US covers, to be honest.

Anyway.  The covers are gorgeous, right?  And the subject matter is so up my alley – technology fails around the world, and all of the figures from fantasy and myth come back into the real world.  These books are set mostly in Britain, so it’s the Celtic gods we mostly see (though later books reveal that the gods of other countries also come back), as well as dragons.  Some of the imagery of the gods and fantasy creatures is amazingly breathtaking, and it would be very easy to imagine this series as a whole becoming a very successful television series.

I did have some issues with the books, most of which are character based.  All too much of the time the main characters come across as feeling more like stereotypes – there is effort made at rounding them out (usually in the form of tragedies that shape them), but it often feels like too little against the grandiose backdrop of the storyline.

The females also get pretty short shrift of things.  I found it frustrating that they were clearly delineated as powerful characters, but they never really ended up feeling like they grew into that power.  None of the characters ever really seemed to grasp the enormity of what was going on, and too often sank into petty squabbles.  Which, sure, are going to happen, but when the world is ending and you’re supposed to be one of these amazing powerful people who are supposed to save it, you should rise about that, right?  Hell, this is fiction, after all.

That said, I found the characters interesting enough to keep on reading for nine books.  I still found myself frustrated with them many times – there are places where they all act out of character, and there are a couple of completely meaningless deaths and acts of violence against the characters (women especially, who very much end up being damsels in distress a lot of the time – though, to be fair, they do their own share of saving others as well).

I feel like Chadbourn has really made an effort to try to make all the characters feel human – flawed, making bad decisions, and all of it.  Which makes them feel more real in one sense, but also makes them frustrating as heroic characters.

The whole series feels very much like it’s been written as a script, rather than a series of novels.  This does allow for some amazing visuals, but it does at times, feel like there’s far too much reliance on showing and not telling.  That said, telling the story instead of showing it isn’t the be all and end all of everything, but it does tend to make characters feel more like cardboard cutouts than real people.  And yes, I know that I’m pretty much contradicting myself here, but this series kind of lends itself to contradiction.

If you love Celtic myth and dystopic fiction, likely you’ll find enough (as I did) to keep you reading this series.  I will most probably come back to this for a reread at some time in the future when I don’t have a wall of books to be read.  And I do think it could make an amazing television series, if the characters were worked on a little more.  Some people might find the characters too frustrating for words, and find that they want to toss the books against the wall.

For all of my complaints, the characters made enough impact on me that I find myself thinking about them a lot, even while I want to slap the lot of them upside the head 😉  I can definitely recommend giving this series a go, just don’t blame me if you throw the book against the wall 😉