Friday, March 5, 2010

What I've Read Lately

What I've Read Lately . . .

I apologize to my readers (if there are any? Please comment if you are reading this so I know I am not talking to myself) for being so behind on my reading. I've been too busy and burned out from school to do any pleasure reading but without further ado, I bring you a post in which I review the last few books I have read.

Legacy by Cayla Kluver -- YA Fantasy
Sixteen years ago, the kingdoms of Hytanica and Cokyri were at war. Sixteen years ago, forty-nine newborn boys disappeared from Hytanica and only forty-eight bodies were returned. Since that time, hostilities have ceased and life has gone on as normal in Hytanica, where Princess Alera is celebrating her seventeenth birthday and her last before she must chose a husband who will take over her father's crown and rule the kingdom. Alera's father, the king, has hand-picked the handsome Steldor, a member of the King's Elite Guard, as his hair and Alera's husband-to-be. Alera has little say in the matter, for women are not highly regarded in Hytanica. However, Alera's independent nature rebels against a match with the cocky young man and she strives to make her voice heard. The only person who listens is her bodyguard, London. When a Cokyrian is found in Hytanica, a teenage boy with a mysterious past, Alera is immediately drawn to him. The boy, Narian, begins to show Alera how to find her voice because in his country women are regarded as better than men. Soon danger threatens the kingdom and Alera is faced with the difficult decision of whether to carry out her duties or live her own life.

This is the same old fantasy story you've probably read 100 times already and not a very original take on the prophecy plot (see Harry Potter and Firebringer by
David Clement-Davies for examples of how the story is done right). Nothing much happens in the book and it took a long time before I could even get into it and then when I couldn't put it down, it ended unsatisfactorily in the middle of the story with nothing resolved. Some reviewers are calling the book's ending a cliffhanger, but in order for it to be that, there needed to be a plot. I would say the book stops in the middle of the story rather than it being a cliffhanger. None of the characters were particularly remarkable. Alera is the usual independent princess being forced into a marriage she doesn't want and experiencing a coming-of-age journey that will help her face her future. Narian is sufficiently mysterious enough to capture my attention, at least until the mysterious surrounding him are revealed. Steldor comes across as disgusting and despicable most of the time but it's hard to tell what he's truly like. The King is benevolent but unyielding and totally clueless and most of what's actually happening. The Queen only has a few lines until she retires early to bed and is nothing more than a vehicle for introducing some of the mystery. Overall, this book is not a great effort though I am dying to read the sequel but probably won't because by then I will have forgotten all about this unremarkable book.

Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede -- YA Historical Fantasy
Kim has lived on the streets her whole life and is sharp and cunning as they come. Disguised as a boy, she lives by her wits, doing what she can to survive. When a wealthy gentleman offers her a large sum of money to case a street magician's wagon, Kim thinks it will be an easy job. She gets more than she bargained for when she becomes involved with Mairelon the Magician. Soon, Kim is on the run with Mairelon as they search for the magical Saltash Set of dinnerware and uncover a plot that could threaten both Kim and Mairelon. This book is filled with excellent period details about the gritty realities of 19th century London. There are also good descriptions of upper-class life, as seen through the eyes of an outsider. Kim and Mairelon make a good team and I enjoyed their witty dialogue. There are many light moments in this novel, including a screwball comedy scene that will have you laughing out loud. My biggest complaint with this book is that there are way too many characters. I had a really hard time following who they all were and what they wanted. Another problem for some readers may be the excessive use of street slang. For someone who isn't experienced in reading it, it could be difficult, but I've read that type of slang before and can usually understand the meaning from the context. This book is set in a world just like the one Wrede and Caroline Stevermer created in Sorcery & Cecilia. If you've read that and you're looking for more of the same, then you should definitely pick up this book.

The Magician's Ward by Patricia C. Wrede -- YA Historical Fantasy
In this sequel to Mairelon the Magician, Kim is back, this time as Mairelon's ward, and facing the previously unknown horrors of London Society! Kim enjoys her magic lessons with Mairelon but dreads Society. Chaperoned by Mairelon's strict aunt and eccentric mother, Kim is unprepared for Society's reaction to their newest debutante. She tries to appeal to her guardian, but he is mostly interested in the mysterious nighttime prowler who is attempting to steal a rare, magical book from his library. When something terrible happens, Kim must draw on her newfound magical knowledge, as well as her old street smarts to solve the mystery and save her guardian. Romance lovers will also be delighted to learn that there's time in her busy schedule for courtship and perhaps romance as well. This sequel is every bit as good as the original. It's more of a straightforward period/fantasy mystery than screwball comedy, but there are lighthearted moments. Kim is even more interesting now that she's a wizard and Mairelon is just as charming as ever.

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