Radiance (by Grace Draven): Falling in love eventually

Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)Radiance by Grace Draven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brishen is a Kai prince of no significance to the line of succession and Ildiko is a Gauri noblewoman of little importance in her uncle’s court. They are both beautiful among their own kind but to each other they are ugly and repulsive. The Gauri are humans who live under the sunlight, the Kai are an elder race who thrive at night. Their new alliance is tentative and full of distrust and the marriage of these two otherwise insignificant pawns is a show of good faith between the races. When Brishen and Ildiko first meet they find each other unattractive but interesting. They begin with honesty and over weeks and months this builds to friendship. Eventually neither Brishen nor Ildiko can remember why they found the other disgusting. They fall deeply in love and form an unbreakable bond that no one in either kingdom expected.

I love all marriage of convenience stories where the pair discover the worth of the other and fall in love quietly, through every day gestures and conversations. It’s a difficult trope to build into a narrative without slowing down the pace too much, but thankfully, once in a while, authors like Draven manage to execute it perfectly.

I’ve always held that we fall in love with people, not faces. If there’s something worth falling in love with, you find it after you stop looking at the facade. (Of course I also extend this theory to gender/sexuality, but that’s another discussion). And both Brishan and Ildiko, affectionate and honest individuals with great capacity for love, tread this path together and find all they wanted in a partner in each other. It’s a great read.

I tend to extend the bechdel test to all pieces of fiction I come across. This books passes easily. There are several named female characters, one of whom has several exchanges with Ildiko about something other than a man. So that’s great. But I got the feeling that Draven created Anhuset simply to provide one other strong female in the narrative. I couldn’t really parse out whether Anhuset was the only warrior female among the Kai or if her calling was a normal one for women of her kingdom. I choose to believe the latter.

I had one complaint though. Ildiko tells Brishen that she’s not a maiden, that she’s had a lover before. As befits a well written male character, Brishen doesn’t care but he teases her about her carnal knowledge. To this Ildiko explains that her lover had been a clumsy young man and she didn’t much care for the experience. So she never took another lover.

This. This felt like a cop-out. So the author goes as far as to make her heroine a sexually experienced woman, giving the hero the best reaction to this news – which is indifference and maybe some curiosity – and then promptly diminishes the value of said experience by making Brishen the only lover to have brought her to orgasm. Oh come on. Seriously, now. COME ON. We’re surely beyond this kind of tokenism.

And now we wait for the sequel. =)

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Fortune’s Pawn (by Rachel Bach): Magic in space! Woot!

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox, #1)Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved it. This was one of the books Ilona Andrews recommended on her blog and it had been sitting in my kindle since that day. I’ve found she rarely goes wrong with her recommendations.
Deviana Morris is a mercenary with impressively high ambitions. She’s had a very successful career and just recently left an impressive post because they would have sat her behind a desk next. Deviana wants to be a Destroyer. The elite of the elite, and answerable to the King alone. She wants power and action and doesn’t want to wait two more decades to gather enough experience so the Destroyers finally come calling. Instead she takes up a post as security for an intergalactic trading ship with a reputation for getting into bad trouble, because each year on the Glorious Fool counts as five for those in the know.
Out to impress, Devi takes the guard’s job, something she’d avoiding for years for the sheer dreariness, and expects to be bored out of her mind.
Instead she faces inexplicable monsters, frustrating secrets and deadly knowledge that even the good guys can’t let her know and live.
She also meets Rupert Charkhov, the ship’s cook with a military bearing and an affable charm that she finds irresistible. But Rupert is far from the uncomplicated lovers Devi has always preferred and soon his are the secrets that she becomes most interested in uncovering. (Innuendo. Har har.)
I like Devi a lot. She’s slightly cocky but genuinely good at what she does. She’s a hero through and through but not infallible. She admits her mistakes and learns from them, but her stubbornness could rival mountains. She adores her battlesuit and her weapons, and cares for them almost as much as for her own life. She’s also cynical in the way she looks at her fellow beings, but her prejudices are not so deep that she can’t see past them. One of the ways the author chooses to show the dichotomy of human beliefs here is the way Devi, along with all Paradoxians, have an almost naive belief in the miracles of the godking who rules them, but view all other mentions and evidence of magic or ‘plasmex’ with suspicion.
The world building has a peculiar inconsistency in that there are advancements like travelling through Hyperspace and healing broken bones in hours, but ice packs are still ice in a plastic tied to the limb with gauge. The fact that there is still plastic confuses the hell out of me. Thousands of years from now, if nothing else changes that one thing definitely will. Also the existence of blatant sexism was odd. Perhaps a case can be made that any new civilization would go through many of the same social changes that ours did, but somehow in an age of battlesuits where gender is no bar to fighting against bigger and badder opponents, the idea that gladiatorial fights had female fighters in mandatory bikinis was a little odd. Okay, very odd. Also the slutshaming. Really? Deviana has spent years as a mercenary, and as a culture they celebrate life through sex and war. Her honour is in her work. How often and who she has sex with shouldn’t even have been an issue in this world. But even so a macho skullhead calls her a slut and Devi thinks in her head that that’s not an insult she’s heard for the first time.
The society is rather feudal too. They have nobility and peasantry and deep rooted classism. In a way Paradox is no better than present day earth and maybe in a lot of ways much worse. It’s not what I think of when I imagine an advanced society.
But Bach has done a pretty good job of melding sci fi with elements of fantasy. The science is never distractingly wrong and the fantasy never jars you out of the unfolding space opera. I liked the first book and am off to get the second. It’s action packed and the pace never lags. I wish Rupert was slightly less tortured but then the poor guy has a lot to lose. Now all I want is to see Devi get back at everyone who thought they could control her. This’ll be fun.

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The ubiquitous myth of the Tooth Mouse

So some weeks ago I was putting into writing all the mouse/rat related folklore of my country that I knew about. Continue reading

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Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik (review)

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The trouble with this book is that it reads like a school text book. A textbook that has abridged an epic to the point of turning it into a series of interconnected fables. The kind with morals. Minus the animals. Mostly.

Maybe this only bothers people like me who’ve read so many masterful translations of Mahabharat before this. I really only bought this book because the cover intrigued me. And also because Pattanaik called his book ‘Jaya’ which was the original title of the epic. It was clever and caught my attention. Continue reading

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More frequent posts?

Hopefully, yes. I read a lot of books and think up reviews and criticisms in my head, but most never get posted here. Just in goodreads where a rushed job doesn’t hurt my blogger pride.

But recently I’ve been getting a lot of books (okay, three) from authors and agents to review. One actually arrived yesterday addressed to my goodreads username Honour and I swear I was about to send it over to the next street where a judge lives before remembering that it could very well be me.

I know it’s unsolicited book sending and I should have higher standards as a book reviewer but meh…free books!!

And since my parents taught me never to take freebies, the least I can do is write up a few honest reviews eh?

We’ll see.

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Review: God is Disappointed in You

God Is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thing readers of this book should know is that it really is an abridged version of the Bible and not a mockery of it. The title and the funny doodle might turn some away who’re looking for a serious work that tells you the stories in the Bible without patronization but I think the author does a good job here of striking a balance between appreciation for and examination of the lessons the old Book has to teach us.

I’d forgotten many of the stories (not being a Christian and having read it out of curiosity at sixteen) but with the illustrations and the funny narrative it’ll be a long time before I forget them again. This is a book that’ll tell you the stories simply, keeping the essence of the morals from the original. But readers should be warned that the author has not only rendered the stories in modern tongue but retold them through the lenses of modern sensibilities a well.

My history professor tells us that we shouldn’t judge actors of times past from contemporary perspective just because we know what turn history takes subsequently. While I agree with him completely, in a book like this that very same ‘fallacy’ makes the narrative even more relateable to a reader like me who is less interested in the spiritual value of the tales and more focused on the bits of history that is hidden between the lines.

For instance I’m looking into this online course on the Rise and Fall of Jerusalem and reading the Old Testament was excellent preparation for it. I’ll have to refer to the unabridged version to study quotes but as far as well connected narrative goes, I’m keeping God is Disappointed in You right beside me.

The final word of appreciation I can give this book is the effort made by the author to keep the stories flowing and somehow preventing them from mixing up in my head. The personality he gave the well known characters was absent when I’d read my school’s hard-bound copy of the Bible. This is also the reason that certain momentous hours held more meaning and evoked more emotions in me than the original ever did.

This book is by no means the best abridged version out there, but it’s one of the more entertaining and therefore more engaging retelling of the old parables.

Now, a short note on the only thing that seriously annoyed me: The illustrations (doodles?). Sometimes they were funny and worked in concert with the text and sometimes they were just random and seemingly unconnected with the story the author was telling. I wish a different artist had been chosen or a better job of editing had been done. They added very little to my enjoyment of the book.


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Green Rider – a sub plot called Romance

So on the recommendation of a good friend I started this new series. There are four published books and since the first one came out in 1998 I was reasonably sure that it was a completed series.

Ahahahaha! Ha.

Halfway into Green Rider by Kristen Britain (the first book in the series) I thought to look up the author’s blog. Turns out the fourth book which came out in 2011 ends on a cliffhanger (thank you goodreads reviewers, really) and the author still doesn’t know how many books this series has left in it!! Gah!

As if I didn’t already have Megan Whalen Turner to alternately curse and adore. As if the rest of the world didn’t have G.R.R. Martin! Continue reading

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