This is the first series I read by Kate Elliott, of whom I had previously heard A LOT of good things. But I just felt like the series was really slow moving and I didn't find myself caring for any of the characters very much. Honestly, I felt like a huge portion of each novel could have been cut out and the story would have worked much better, or at least had been a little faster in it's pacing. Although I should say I recognize how well thought out the world and the series was as a whole, which is why I've rated it so high (even though it's reveal of why the bad guys act as they do was... lame).
However, I will say that my lack of feeling any attachment to any of the characters changed in this last novel. I was always ambivalent about Anji, and Mai always seemed too perfect -- seriously give the girl a flaw. Joss just annoyed me to the point where I wanted to yell at him to get over his dead ex-girlfriend already. But I will admit that I liked Nallo and Pil, and Peddo, even Snake. In fact, because of these four I wish we had been able to see more about the lives of reeves; it just seemed really cool to me -- the job, the eagles, the lifestyle, the camaraderie... But I digress.
What I wanted to say was that second-to-last scene between Mai and Anji at the end just really hit me emotionally. In fact that whole last part, Part Seven: Gates, made me really care for Mai, Joss, Bai, Shai, and the Guardians (well, except for the first couple of chapters). And that seals my rating for the series and makes me want to go out and read Ms. Elliott's other novels/series.
Edited to add: I think one of the reasons I wasn't as big a fan of this book as I might have been is because my parents are from a part of the world that was under colonialism for so long, and once the reign of colonialism started winding down the whole region became a giant mess that's still trying to recover and find it's original culture and create a better life for it's people. So, I'm not a fan of reading about something pretty controversial in a fantasy fiction book that actually plays a big part in my daily life.
I was surprisingly impressed with this novel of the series. As usual, some questions get answered and more get asked, but I feel like Seanan McGuire is getting better with every book.
At first, I thought that it was kind of ridiculous that Toby was basically charged with stopping a war before it happens. Yes, she had help, but the fate of two kingdoms being placed on her shoulders was a little far-fetched. But it made sense that she would try and find the two missing children of the Undersea kingdom, since she's a fae PI after all.
Toby is still running around from knowe to apartment to another knowe and back with a side-trip to the Luidaeg's, but now almost all the trips seem necessary. And it seems like her detective skills are improving (or at least the author is writing her character as more competent than before). Mostly I was impressed with the ending. I wasn't a fan of Connor's, I thought he was boring and didn't have much of a backbone, nor did he and Toby have much chemistry. But I was glad that Toby had someone and was somewhat happy in life. So I wasn't expecting the author to kill off his character. And I certainly wasn't expecting to get choked up about it, but then that might also have to do with the choice her daughter made. Because yes, we finally got to meet Toby's ex-fiance Cliff and her daughter Gillian, who manages to get dragged into the mess by the insane Raysel Torquill. I assumed that Seanan McGuire was setting it up to bring Toby's daughter into her world, so I was slightly disappointed that she chose to stay human, but I was impressed that the author took it into that direction and sort of wrapped up that plot thread. I'm still disappointed with the way Toby dealt with her daughter when she came back from being a fish, but I can accept that it's over and she's moving on.
Now I'm really looking forward to the next installment, even though I'm sure that the only motivation of the bad guys will continue to be that they are going mad (which is a cop out, but oh well).
There were so many places Seanan McGuire could have taken this book. If Toby stopped running from place to place, driving like a maniac through traffic, maybe the author could have taken her there. And really Toby, it's time to invest in a cell phone. You've been back in the real world for a couple years now, there aren't any more excuses left. Really, some of your problems could be solved if you had a phone on you at all times.
The antagonist's motivations remain unclear. Seeing as it's the bad guy from the first book that we've been waiting to learn more about, it was a bit of a let down that we didn't really learn anything. This whole giving-answers-while-being-totally-vague-about-it thing that Ms. McGuire does is a bit annoying. For example, we get some answers about Toby's past and her mother, and about what happened to her liege lord's wife and daughter while Toby was a fish, but it's just raised more questions without really answering the original ones. If you're going to have a setup like that, readers expect a payoff somewhere not too far after.
I'm still reading this series wanting to get more answers, but I don't think they'll ever really come. And maybe it's just me, but the characters never react the way I think they should. Like the bad guy trying to kill an important character... Instead of chasing after her, the characters just settle down to watch another character die. It's a bit ridiculous. And does every antagonist's motivation HAVE to be that he or she is mad? That gets boring after awhile, too.
I liked this book in the series better than the previous one. We learned a bit more about the world that Seanan McGuire has created, and a little bit about the background of one of the characters. I enjoyed it, but there were aspects of this book that weren't so great.
For instance, how many times is she going to go into the lands of the villain? I think once was enough, twice I could see, but THREE times? And the third time wasn't really explained too well. I mean, I get why she did it but really she didn't need to. And that's probably my biggest issue with these books. Toby just keeps running from here to there and back again, without thinking or planning. And while that may work in other series, it doesn't really work with someone who comes across as dense as she is. And she is dense, because some things that are right in front of her face take her far too long to notice.
I really want to like Toby and this series, but being told over and over again what a hero is and what a hero should and shouldn't do, and how she decides she might as well be one since no else is... it just gets tedious. We get it, she's a hero but at the same time she hasn't gotten over her depression and she's sort of trying to get herself killed, meanwhile her friends who she's somehow drawn to herself (I can't imagine why, since she's never really let them in) don't like seeing her get herself hurt but she does it anyway. I don't know. I feel like something is missing from these books but I can't really place it just yet.
I was really hoping we'd get more answers about Toby and her past, and see her resolve some of her current issues. But her daughter and former fiance are barely mentioned; neither are the events surrounding the disappearance and return of her liege lord's wife and daughter. All we get instead is a really obvious murder mystery.
If Toby is as good at her job as a PI as she says she is, how is it that I solved her mystery (at least the whodunit part) within the first 100 pages? Sure, I didn't see the why coming, but that's because it's not somewhere that I was expecting the story to go, which is a very good thing. The rest of it, from the Countess' adopted daughter, to the potential love interest Alex...I kind of saw that coming from a mile off. I think Seanan McGuire does a good job of world-building and setting up a compelling back story for her heroine, but she just isn't able to pull it all together. It might just be that she's dragging out the overarching storyline over a few books, but I think the slow reveal is actually working against her. Most of this book was about Toby running around two buildings looking for a killer among a very limited number of suspects and going nowhere. There was too much over-explanation and she kept getting hurt, something I noticed in the previous book too. I think the author should take a step back and work on giving us some answers rather than giving us a pretty mediocre murder mystery. I have a feeling she can do better, so I'm looking forward grudgingly to her next book in this series.
Good start to what looks to be a promising series. This book definitely had the best prologue I've read in a long time. But the author doesn't take the story in the direction I thought it was going to go.
Toby Daye gets turned into a fish while out trying to find out what happened to the wife and daughter of her liege lord, who were mysteriously kidnapped. She remains a fish for 14 years and when she finally breaks the spell, she winds up becoming an aimless, goal-less, depressed cashier at a local Safeway. From the prologue, she struck me as a strong and tough woman. But as the book moves along, you realize that she's pretty much given up on life. And after the second mystery is solved, the one that pulls her back into her old world, I got the feeling that that hasn't changed. I was hoping that the first mystery would be solved, that she would somehow reunite with at least her daughter if not her fiance, and that she would get out of the funk she was in. I'm guessing that all of that is going to be part of the overall story and won't be resolved yet, so I'm giving this 3 stars in anticipation of where the author will take the story.
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars. Really. I finished it satisfied, maybe even wanting to know what happens next. But...Look, I really think Ms. Jemisin needs to rethink having a love story in every book. Or she at least needs to consider making the characters involved in the romance be likable. Right from the first meeting Sieh has with Shahar and Dekarta, I cannot stand the little girl. And as she grows up, she just gets more obnoxious. I really don't see what Sieh sees in her. And Deka? We don't really learn anything about him in the whole book. He's pretty one-dimensional, and that was very disappointing. There's a few other things I've noticed about Ms. Jemisin's novels.
First, when there's a threesome/trio involved, why is it two males and one female in both instances? And why is it that the female is always seemingly the odd one out? Shahar was the third wheel in the Sieh-Deka-Shahar instance; she wasn't really wanted in the end, regardless of what we are told about the bond the three of them have. And Enefa was spat out of the Maelstrom long after Nahadoth and Itempas, and though she ended up breaking those two apart, she was the one who was the most lonely when it was the three of them together. I felt like Ms. Jemisin doesn't like having women "interfere" in male-male romantic relationships (look what happens when Enefa succeeds in taking Nahadoth away from Itempas).
Second, none of the main characters really seem to actively take a role in the events happening around them until they are left with no other choice. Yeine just reacted to the events in her life until she agreed to become the third member of "the Three". Oree had things happen to her until she saw no choice but to use her magic to bring Itempas back to his full power long enough to defeat Dateh. But that was it. The only other thing she chose to do was raise her baby after Itempas was forced to leave her. And Sieh? He just lets everything happen to him, the aging, the events, everything until he decides to die to save the universe.
And third, none of the gods have good relationships with each other. I get it, they've been alive for a long time, and in that time they've had to adhere to their true natures or they were forced to choose sides in the great war that they had, and everyone's feelings were hurt a bunch of times. But it seems like none of them even like each other. They are incapable of forgiving because they all want to hold onto their anger. Their sense of betrayal was so great that they just cannot forgive each other. It's pretty ridiculous. You'd think that because they're immortal, they would realize how ridiculous they are behaving and just get over it. Or at least try to be friends with each other. And really, I have a hard time believing that Sieh, as the oldest of the godlings, doesn't have at least one sibling that doesn't hate him. He took care of all of them at one point or another.
Clearly, I had massive frustrations with aspects of this novel and the other two in the trilogy. But despite all of that, I really do think this was pretty great for a first outing, and hopefully Ms. Jemisin just gets better from here. I definitely look forward to her future novels.
This was definitely better than N.K. Jemisin's first outing, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The writing was better, the characterizations were better, and the plot was better. However, I still felt like there was something missing.
First off, Ms. Jemisin does not write romance well. This happened in the previous book of this trilogy, where there was no chemistry whatsoever between Yeine and Nahadoth, and it happened again here between Oree and Itempas. In fact, the romance between Madding and Oree was much better. Even though we only get a glimpse at Madding (I would have preferred to learn much more about him than what we got to know), this romance feels authentic. The two love each other but hurt each other, yet they want to remain together even though there are reasons not to. It was mature and it made sense. I admit to feeling a little upset when Madding died.
However, the romance that Ms. Jemisin tries to set up between Oree and Itempas falls flat. I understand now (after having read Book #3) why this romance had to happen (though I will admit that with some tweaking, it would have been rendered unnecessary). But I felt as though these two characters were much better as friends. Their friendship (or at least the growth of their relationship into a friendship) rang true to me, and was really compelling. The sudden love, at least on Oree's part (makes sense, she's the narrator) didn't feel right.
I will say that this novel was unique in that it told a story from the POV of a mostly blind narrator. It was an interesting viewpoint, but one that got frustrating awfully fast. I kept hoping some miracle would gift her with eyesight because I wanted to "SEE" the world and the characters. And one last nitpick: the author's writing style. I'm not a fan of her asides written in parentheses. They detract from the flow of the story, and can sometimes even be unnecessarily put in as an aside in brackets. It took me out of the story and made me think that this is what the author is feeling at this moment, or she felt that as an author she had to explain her reasoning. It was weird. I'm also not a fan of the narration being explained. In the previous book it was a story being told from Yeine's soul to Enefa's soul. In this, it was a story that Oree was telling her unborn child. I'm glad the author touches on this in the first pages of the next book. It made me laugh.
For awhile now, I've been hearing good things about N.K. Jemisin. So I had high expectations for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Maybe that's the problem here: my expectations were so high, they had nowhere to go but down.
While reading this book, there was something about it that just didn't sit right with me. It wasn't until I was reading some of the other reviews that I realized what it was: this felt like an anime. Now, I don't actually watch anime but I have seen one or two, here and there. And that's exactly what this book felt like. The sudden arrival to a grandiose and very unlikely setting (a palace that floats high above a city, with nothing to support it but magic and a pillar?); the main character's background, in which she hails from a matriarchal warrior culture (one that isn't fleshed out very well and if anything, seems a bit cartoon-ish); the male lead being an all-powerful being with a dark aura surrounding him (I had a hard time picturing Nahadoth as anything other than a cartoon sketch with a black cloud hovering around him). Add to this the fact that I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. Not even Sieh, who I'm guessing we are supposed to deem adorable because he's so childlike and lovable. And Yeine just didn't seem to care much about anything. She supposedly came to Sky for vengeance over her mother's untimely and suspicious death, but I never felt as though her emotions were strong enough to make this a likely driving force for the character. As for Nahadoth, I didn't feel any chemistry between him and Yeine, and in fact the way he was portrayed just completely turned me off of the character.
Despite all this and other issues I had with the book, I just couldn't bring myself to rate it any lower than 3 stars. The writing is decent, though I never could fully picture the settings in the book (something which almost automatically happens for me when reading any novel). The characters are okay, they just needed some reworking especially in regards to their motivations and back stories (this was seriously lacking; I couldn't bring myself to care about ANY of them). But I really do think that because I had such high expectations, I was so disappointed. So I added a star to be fair.
This series could have been so much better if it was less about the romance and more about...everything else. The malices/mud-men/mages and all the back story with the Lakewalkers and their magic and whatnot was really compelling. The world was really interesting, and a lot was made of how dangerous the north is but we never get anything except for a vague reference to the character Dag's time spent up there. The whole story with how the Lakewalkers essentially need two deaths to be shaped into a knife, and that knife to be used to teach a malice how to die was really interesting. There was so much potential story here...Too bad we instead only get to see how to destroy a pretty great character: when Dag gets mixed up with a farmgirl who has absolutely no personality.
All I learned about Fawn was that she was curious (well, enough to get herself pregnant, which is how we meet her running away from home), tottered a lot (which puts me in mind of a toddler, and then makes me think of the age difference between her and Dag -- 37 years!), and tossed her head all the time like a self-involved preteen. There's absolutely no character growth for her. And her brother, who we're supposed to basically hate right from the start, becomes a more compelling character as the story drags along.
If this series had been about the war between Lakewalkers and malices, with Dag and some of the other characters figuring out along the way that farmers need to be in on it too, this story would have been fantastic, especially in the hands of such a proven talent as Ms Bujold. If the romance had been a side-story it would have been interesting. Heck, if the female character had been less of a Mary Sue and more of an actual person, this story would have been fantastic! But it's not.
And 3 stars because I read all four volumes, and why would I stick around just to give the whole thing a bad rating?
I gave it 4 stars because I recognize it for the great work that it is, but in terms of how much I liked it...? I really wanted to like it and read on in the series but I just felt a disconnect. Maybe it's because the book involves a lot of words, thoughts, religious practices/sayings/ideas, settings, etc. that I've associated with my childhood growing up in the Middle East. So I felt like the details were taken from something that does exist and twisted to fit (seemingly falsely) into a new narrative.
Basically, I felt like the author just wanted to focus on a setting not often seen in fiction and because it's one I'm semi-familiar with (at least the Earth version) I had a hard time willfully suspending my disbelief to go along with the story. However, I recognize that it's about so much more than just the surface story, so maybe one day I'll come back and read it again and see that it's as brilliant as the majority of people say it is.
I really liked the story and want to give it more stars. But you can tell this is the author's first novel, which isn't a bad thing. It's a pretty amazing start to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career. Places he could've improved on:
- The lack of descriptions; the author gets better at this with his other books, but for a lot of this story, details of the setting aren't described; the author will just state that the character walks into a room, but then doesn't give a feel for what the room looks like, what the atmosphere of the room is like, what the characters do in the room other than talk to each other (do they stand, pace, sit, stare out a window, scan the walls, stare fixedly at a rug, etc.)
- The lack of VARIED descriptions; we are told over and over that Sarene is tall and that she always felt like an outsider in part because of her height; one scene of "show" (possibly in flashback) would have accomplished this, or even just a mention near the beginning of how she can see over the heads of the other women
- More "tell" rather than "show"; I'm inclined to forgive the author for this one, because his magic systems are very "scientific" in that they are methodical, make sense, have set rules, and no one violates the rules in some grand deus ex machina way just to bring the plot to a satisfying ending; and as I know by personal experience, when you have more of a science background, you've ultimately been trained to state the facts without the colorful descriptive language; it's possible that in this novel, the author was beginning to back away from this habit (even though I know he's not got an actual scientific background) and more towards a literary background (which he does possess)
All in all, this is a solid first novel, and I can say that though it wasn't the first of his that I read (the fourth, I think) it definitely shows what Brandon Sanderson is capable of.