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two reviews and a picture

The Guns of Avalon, Roger Zelazny

Corwin, Lord of Amber, escapes from the dungeons of Amber to fight back against his brother Eric, who has usurped the throne of Amber, slipping between shadow worlds.

This is an extremely peculiar book. Corwin can 'walk in shadow', which means he can move between what amount to parallel universes. The novel opens with him walking out of prison and meeting with a wounded man named Lance (i.e. Lancelot). Corwin proceeds with Lance to Lorraine, a place that bears similarity to Corwin's own land--but this is a shadow of the other one. It's sort of Avalon, but not. Then they go off and have a battle...and Corwin unwittingly tells an impostor how to use the Pattern of Amber.

To be honest, this novel confused me a great deal. I see now that it is a second novel in a series (...this would explain rather a lot) but as I complained in a previous entry (here) the language wavers between very modern and archaic. In a way that might have been deliberate, but to me just sounded muddled. As well, the references were mixed too--there are references to our world (except one where there is no settlement on Africa) but also names like Ganelon (Song of Roland!) and of course the Arthurian influences (most notably Lancelot.)

I don't know if I want to try any of his other books. It was a tiny book but I didn't come out of it really liking anyone, except maybe Benedict, who seems to be the most level-headed of the bunch of brothers.

*

The Floating Islands, Rachel Neumeier

I also read The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier some...months...back. Fortunately I still have a copy and some of my thoughts written down.

The Floating Islands follows Trei, an orphaned boy, as he searches for his distant relatives living on the Floating Islands. These islands, adrift dozens of miles above the sea, are their own principality, defended by their geography. Arriving by boat, Trei is immediately struck by the kajuraihi--winged men that fly with crimson wings supported by dragon magic.

When he arrives at Canpra, the capital city, he meets and is accepted by his uncle into the family. He discovers he has a cousin, Araenè, who is a skilled chef, but he isn't in the household for very long when he successfully passes the initial test to become a kajuraihi. The test involves jumping from stepping stones to stepping stones between two islands, and then a further test by the dragons on the island.

Meanwhile, Araenè has a secret life of her own--when her parents are absent, she dresses as a boy and sneaks to the lectures at the university. On one such trip, she comes back and finds a door--walks in and finds Master Tnegun, a mage, who offers her a Dannè sphere and the assertion that she is a mage, if she won't stifle her magic.

Both of them become significant when the political tensions between the Floating Islands and the militant Tolounn, where Trei comes from, begin to heat up. Seeing the Islands as a new land to annex, their mages have found out how to suppress the magic that keeps them floating and protects them, and try to take over.

To be fair, this is YA. I liked the worldbuilding very much. I liked especially the kajuraihi, since Trei is so enamoured with them, but finds out that becoming one involves a lot of difficult and exhausting work. The main conflict is the war with Tolounn--or rather the battle, because Tolounn is a landmass vastly bigger than the Floating Islands and also has a more warlike society, an expansionary culture. The magic that the different mages in Araenè's school wield (that's what's behind the door) are also very interesting; they're channeled through stones, and Araenè finds to her dismay that there are almost a thousand of them. She experiences magic through taste, which ties into her skills as a chef. The writing is beautifully done as well. My biggest objection is probably the emotional complexities of the characters. It's not that they weren't emotionally complex, but that a lot of their relationships with others was elided, or they followed very formulaic patterns. Take Trei's relationship with Ceirfei, a prince of the Islands; it's the usual path of noble-yet-frustrated with his position, unexpectedly normal, etc, but not much more than that. And the Tolounnese soldiers are honourable, hating to break their word, unexpectedly. Arguably, you could say it's because the Islands' perception of them is wrong...but to me it read as more of a way to get Trei out of the pit he's thrown into.

I didn't like the ending (there was too much honour for me to really find plausible) but all the rest, liked very much. Neumeier also writes very delicately and well about grief, which was wonderful. I think part of it is because it's YA and therefore somewhat constrained by length too. Still, enjoyable, and I liked the worldbuilding and everything else.

*

And lastly, a picture. I was out today and saw this thing. I stared at it, and then walked by, and then turned around and had to take some pictures because...what?


statue with a banana peel stuck into his hand
That's a statue...with a banana peel stuffed into his hand. What?


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/135432.html.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
gothrockrulz
Aug. 4th, 2013 05:57 am (UTC)
Wow, that is one crazy statue. O.o
silverflight8
Aug. 4th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
I don't understand the banana. Why.
bluegerl
Aug. 5th, 2013 08:56 am (UTC)
THAT little bronze statue is of the God of Sittavara or (haven't got it right, but something like that.... I think one of the Indian ones...) he would be holding a stave to throw...

but someone with a lovely sense of humour has him hurling a banana skin - whirling it round and round his head to HURL!!!!!!... I MEAN... bloody banana skins... they're a pain to get rid of. oh he's LOVELY.... LOVELY.

Oh I do hope he's appreciated.
silverflight8
Aug. 5th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure which deity it is--I actually thought it was one of the random Chinese deities/demigods (this was near a large Chinese population) but either way...BANANA. :D Unexpectedly effective!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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