Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Fantasy”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #15-#18: His Dark Materials, Books 1-4 by Philip Pullman


A bit of a cheat on this one in my rush to get some more up for the CBR4 deadline. Review combining Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Books 1 thru 4, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and short story, Lyra’s Oxford is at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #48 – A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Ok, Book 5 and the most recent one.  No one seems to know when Book 6 (The Winds of Winter, ooh, ominous) is coming.  Everyone’s still scattered to the four winds: Jon Snow’s still in charge at the wall, but some people aren’t happy about that; Bran Stark (one of Ned’s younger ones, the one that was paralyzed by Jamie Lannister) is North of the Wall, being led by some creature (and I have theories about who that may be); the horrible Boltons are in the north-Winterfelly areas, being horrible (poor Jayne Poole); Theon Greyjoy has been through quite a bit, most of it deserved; Davos is alive and still working for Stannis; people want to go looking for little Rickon Stark (the baby) who may be hiding on an island somewhere; Cersei’s still in King’s Landing, paying penance for (some of) her bad deeds; Jamie’s working his redemption arc in the Riverlands; Tyrion’s back in the west with a potential Targaryen; Arya’s still in Braavos, learning to be faceless; Daenerys is having trouble with slaves, dragons, and a Dornish prince.

I’m sure there’s more, but I keep losing track. According to Wikipedia, this book is told from the point of view of 18 people. For comparison’s sake, the first book was told from the point of view of eight.

We’re left off with a number of cliffhangers, so we’re now stuck for as long as it takes. And from what I’m told, it might take a while. Martin’s teased us with a couple of chapters, just to keep us on tenterhooks. And there we shall remain.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #47 – A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Book 4 – the War of the Kings is pretty much over, since pretty much all the “kings” are dead. Stannis is still alive, but he’s gone North to help out Jon Snow, the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.  He’s made it back from north of the Wall, without most of his troops, who were decimated by the White Walkers (who aren’t very nice).

Our main characters are scattered all over Westeros and the East, everyone running away from or after pretty much everyone else. Most people want to kill the other ones, even some of the ones that are already dead (after a fashion). This is the book where I started to really lose track of everyone – not only because everyone was so scattered, but because Martin keeps adding more and more characters. He may have deleted some (I won’t say killed, see above), but it’s not a case of 1-out, 1-in here. In fact, some thought to be long dead may be alive, and may be making their way back to Westeros.

See? It hardly makes sense, and yet it’s still freaking compelling storytelling.


Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #46 – A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Oh lordy, these books just keep getting longer and more complicated. I know there are lists of the whos and the whats in the back of each book, but even that runs into dozens of pages and there’s really no way to keep track. I have no idea how Martin does it. Or if he does it.

The war of the kings is still going on, although there aren’t as many kings as there were at the start. The civil war is destroying the whole country, but none of the “kings” seems to give a crap. Mance Rayder is in the North, and “the king beyond the wall,” so I guess that’s one more king. Oh, and Daenerys is trying to work her way back to Westeros and claim her crown. Seriously, what’s so special about this place that everyone wants to rule it?

Jamie Lannister was a captive of the Starks, and Catelyn strikes a deal to trade him for her daughters. That doesn’t sit well with her son Rob, as well as a bunch of other people. Regardless, Jamie heads toward King’s Landing in the custody of Brienne of Tarth. He’s not great company, but as they travel, they come to grudgingly respect each other. And there’s so much more. There’s the Brotherhood Without Banners, which gets interesting later. There’s Harrenhal, which is awful. Oh, and there’s the Red Wedding.

This book marked a massive turning point in the series. It was already clear that Martin has no mercy – not for women, children, or noble people. I was so pissed when it ended, for a number of reasons. But, of course, there was the next book.


Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #45 – A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Oh yes, the kings, they do clash. Not just Robert’s son Joffrey (don’t get me started) and Ned Stark’s son Rob. Oh no.  There are Robert’s brothers: Stannis, the rigid, conservative, weirdo who rules some islands or something; and Renly, whose claim to the throne makes no sense at all. Oh, and then there’s Balon Greyjoy, some random who rules some other islands.  His son Theon was raised (hostaged?) by Ned Stark after Ned and Robert squished Balon’s rebellion.

And let’s not forget Daenerys Targaryen, recently widowed and the mother of three baby dragons (just go with it). And the guys at the wall in the North (the last thing beyond civilization and whatever scary things are up there) head over the wall to deal with the scary wildlings and whatnot.

After Ned is murdered, his elder daughter (Sansa) is pretty much trapped with the Lannisters, and his younger daughter Arya escaped with the help of a Night’s Watch man and pretending to be a boy. Ned’s widow Catelyn gets involved in the war, and trying to work some diplomacy between all the putative kings. That doesn’t work out, and she ends up on the run with Brienne, a really big chick.  Theon Greyjoy turns against the Starks and takes Winterfell, mostly because his sister is more a man than he is.

Anyway, when this book ends, Stannis tries to take King’s Landing, but is outsmarted by Tyrion Lannister and most of his army (navy) is wiped out (again, Tyrion kicks ass, and is totally shit on by everyone but Jamie and kinda Sansa). Daenerys wanders the desert and then burns the shit out of Quarth, Jon Snow goes undercover, and I’m sure there’s a bunch more stuff.  I think I’m going to have to re-read all of these before the next book comes out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #44 – A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Oh boy, where to start?  This epic saga is epic and sagacious (yeah, I know, just humour me).  We’ve got the Starks in the North, with Ned and the gang being all kinds of noble and cool, including his bastard (his?) John Snow.  Ned’s friends with the king of all the lands, fatass Robert, who’s married to a not-nice lady named Cersei, who’s fucking her twin Jaime. All of the king’s kids are actually Jaime’s, but no one seems to notice or care that they look nothing like him.

Ned gets dragged to work for the king, and brings his daughters with him for some ridiculous reason. Ned’s not stupid, but he’s so freaking honest and noble that it makes him do so very many stupid things. His elder daughter is a vapid tween who cares for nothing but boys and clothes (and is betrothed to the heir apparent, little bitch Joffrey); his other daughter is a total badass who knows which end of a sword to stick people with. Oh, and I almost forgot Tyrion Lannister. What was I thinking? One of the best characters across literature, not just this genre stuff.  I also almost forgot about the Targaryens, brother and sister who may or may not be heir to the throne of Westeros. She gets basically sold to a barbarian by her nasty brother (seems like a lot of the royals in this series are a bunch of loonies). Long horse rides and dragons may be involved.

There is no way to encompass everything that happens in this book (and the subsequent books) – no. freaking. way. That’s why it’s taking Martin so long to write these bastards. One thing that I like, that I’m sure makes his job easier, is that each chapter is written from a different character’s point of view.  I think he could work on a character, figure out his/her through-line, and write a good chunk of the book without having to worry about continuity. At least that’s how I’d approach it.

Anyway, this book ends with Ned’s beheading; civil war; stuff at the wall up North (long story, scary stuff up north, maybe the end of civilization, all kinds of crap); dragons being born; things in the Aerie; and with Ned’s son being declared “King in the North.” I’m just glad that I found this series way after the first 5 books had been published, because I needed to dive right into the next one.

meilufay’s #CBR4 reviews #79-81 the Phèdre trilogy by Jacqueline Carey

Last year, I reread one of my all-time favorite series of books – Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre trilogy (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar).  I highly, highly recommend this series.  I’m a lifelong fantasy reader but I have to admit that I find the whole white guy on a horse carrying a sword aspect of fantasy highly problematic.  What’s so great about a white guy on a horse carrying a sword?  That’s the last thing the American Indians saw before their entire civilization was destroyed and their populations completely decimated.  In this trilogy, Carey subverts the tradition of the warrior hero.  She still tells a broad, sweeping, epic adventure story about a chosen one who saves the world in a time of epochal war but in her story the chosen one is a woman whose power is the ability to transmute pain into pleasure.  Phèdre is an anguisette – a woman gifted by the gods with the ability to turn pain into pleasure.  Yup, basically her magic is all about sex.  Which means these books are chock-full of sex scenes and there’s a strong BDSM element to those sex scenes.  But before you write this book off as another 50 Shades of Grey, let me emphasize that the books are well-written and that Jacqueline Carey thinks very carefully about the implications of what Phèdre’s abilities mean and these books are as intelligent as they are fun.

The theme of these books can easily be “that which yields is not always weak”.  Fantasy heroes and heroines tend to be warriors.  A sword is an inescapably masculine object.  Warriors, regardless of sex, are yang.  Their success depends upon aggressive action.  But the heroine of the Phèdre trilogy is not a warrior.  She is completely yin.  Her strength lies not in her ability to use overwhelming force, but in her ability to love, in her intelligence, in her resilience.  Jacqueline Carey uses the idea that “that which yields is not always weak” and takes the heroine and the reader on a surprising journey over the course of these three books.

I wish I could write more about these books but I have 20 books to review in two days so I’ll just have to hope that someday I’ll do Jacqueline Carey justice and write a better, deeper review of her amazing series.

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review #11: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley


I am a big fan of the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series. Well, slightly obsessed, actually. They have everything: history, romance, swordplay! Well written characters, unpredictable outcomes. And who wouldn’t want to go back in time, meet a handsome chivalrous stranger, and have sexytimes/adventures? Unfortunately, Gabaldon’s books are LONG. They take years for her to write, and while there is a big payoff, this also means big gaps between the books.  (See also: Martin, G.R.R.) So when someone suggested I read Susanna Kearsley in order to fill my Outlander-less days (and get my time travel fix), I figured I’d give her a try.

The Rose Garden is the story of Eva Ward, a successful Hollywood publicist. Devastated by the death of her sister, she travels back to the place where they had spent their childhood summers – the rocky, mist shrouded coast of Cornwall. There, Eva reacquaints herself with the area and renews old friendships. She stays at the rundown mansion of family friends. Here we meet a familiar cast of characters: the bickering brother and sister duo, the wise free-spirited stepmother, the artsy shopkeeper, the former playmate (who’s grown up into a hunk).The estate has fallen on hard times, and Eva agrees to help out.

While she heals her heart and starts to reassess her life, strange things happen. One day, while out walking, Eva finds herself transported back to the early 18th Century. Just as abruptly, she’s transported back. This begins to happen more frequently and without warning. The time she is sent to is dangerous, especially for a woman alone. The Jacobites are gathering for their first (failed) rebellion. Fortunately Eva meets a handsome, chivalrous stranger (of course!), and he becomes her protector. As she finds herself pulled back and forth, romance and adventure ensue. Will she choose to stay in the 18th Century, or go back to her Hollywood life? Can you guess? C’mon, guess.

The book is filled with detail: the lush countryside, the Gothic mansion. The characters, while stereotypical, are likeable enough.One thing that I found very strange was the lack of description of the main character. What does she look like? We’re never told, and it’s kind of frustrating, especially when you consider that she’s flouncing back and forth 300 years. You’d think her appearance would inspire some kind of comment, other than “Woman, your hair is not dressed!” It must have been a conscious choice by the author, but it’s a curious one.

The Rose Garden is a romance with a little adventure, tied up neatly at the end. It’s more romance than adventure, while I enjoy my historical fiction with a side of romance/sex, not as the main focus. But that’s just me. (Gabaldon fans may argue with me that her books are romance, there’s still a LOT of swashbuckling going on there, as well as a wealth of historical detail.) I did enjoy this book, even though I thought it slight and very predictable. I found myself trying to figure out how it would end, and was mostly right.

This is a cozy read, if not one that will stick with me.

Jen K’s #CBR 4 Review #36: The Rook

Yes, another review of The Rook. I enjoyed it – it was a bit quirky and humorous while also having a mystery. Kind of comparable to The Eyre Affair in tone. 3.5 stars.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #50: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

*Audiobook Review*

My dad used to read the Hobbit to me as a kid.  I grew up on Tolkien.  I hadn’t read the book in about 20 years, so when they added the unabridged audiobook to Audible, I thought it was about time to catch back up with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves.

Bilbo Baggins is a typical, unassuming Hobbit, just chilling out in the Shire.  One day he gets an unexpected visit from the wizard, Gandalf.  Then a bunch of dwarves show up and off Bilbo is coerced into going on a quest to rescue the dwarven gold from the evil dragon Smaug.  It’s a cute story, with some interesting characters.  Obviously there is Gollum, the creature who sits in the dark and obsesses over his “precious”.  The riddle scene between him and Bilbo was always one of my favorites.  There is also Beorn, a kind of were-bear who aids Bilbo and his companions.

I really enjoy this story.  After all, this is the granddaddy of epic fantasy.  Without The Hobbit, there would be no Lord of the Rings, and without that, there would be no Dresden Files, no Game of Thrones, no Harry Potter.  However, I am just not a fan of Tolkien’s writing.  I can never make it through all of the Lord of the Rings, no matter how hard I try. There are too many damn songs.  I hate reading poetry, and reading songs is just torture for me.  The dwarves sing about their treasure, the elves sing to Bilbo’s party, Bilbo sings to the spiders, and on, and on, and on.  Just get on with it!

This is not nearly as epic as The  Lord of the Rings.  I believe this was originally written as a children’s book.   I haven’t seen the new Hobbit movie – I’m planning on going next week.  I just don’t see why they made this into 3 movies (other than an obvious cash grab).  I’m just glad I get to watch some more Ian McKellan as Gandalf.

4/5 Stars

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