Author Topic: What are we reading?  (Read 591182 times)

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Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3225 on: September 04, 2016, 08:03:54 AM »
Sounds excellent
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Offline Staggerwing

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3226 on: September 04, 2016, 08:21:53 AM »
Sounds excellent

Yes it does. I got the first one for kindle. Thanks for the intro to the series Steelie.
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Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3227 on: September 04, 2016, 10:39:12 AM »
I will work my way towards the first book eventually.

Just started Justinian's Flea - The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire by William Rosen. 15 pages in and it's already fantastic.
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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3228 on: September 04, 2016, 10:54:02 AM »
Well, yesterday I finished Whispering Woods, the second book of the original MtG novel series, this time written by Clayton Emery.

Arena was a pretty standard hero-revenge tale, leveled up by means of the Fistful of Roman Gladiators plot (so to speak); this is even more of a stereotypical HERO'S JOURNEY (tm) with a farmboy (or rather woodcutter) from a totally backwater rural town being caught up into an adventure where over time he gains experience and grows as a person until he sets out on an epic task to etc.

However, those plots are popular because when they're done well they work well, and this one has a ton of cleverness to it. For one thing, I was hooked fast by the novel (and eventually the mini-series trilogy I already know is coming) addressing one of the angles I would have liked to see in Arena: what about a story set from the perspective of the creatures who are summoned to fight in these duels? I also would have liked to see a version of Arena's story restructured to play out from the interweaving of non-wizard characters drawn into the plotting and counter-plotting of the various factions; and this book nods in that direction, too, although without the intricate plotting.

Which I don't mean as a criticism of this book: you can't get that kind of factional plotting in this setup, so it isn't like Emery misses an opportunity. (Nor does Fortschen really; he's just concentrating on one main character in the wizards' side of the situation, which makes plenty of sense in a series based on a card game where the players are acting somewhat like those wizards.) But this plot does run straight as a string, thanks to its setup, and some people might find that pedestrian if not boring -- I can't imagine being bored by the book, because there's plenty of hair-raising action (in the same "grimgrey" tone as Arena, though not always quite as grimy)! Enough action that the mortality rate for secondary characters ran surprisingly high! And since there are only two groups of secondary characters, those deaths add a lot more meaning to what's going on. Moreover, since the late teen inexperienced woodcutter can't do magic AT ALL, that adds an exhausting amount of threat to what's going on.

The book does have a couple of weaknesses, mainly in that Emery on rare occasion forgets what his characters have already worked out earlier in the plot and treats the re-development as being new. The most clunky version of this happens when Gull, the woodcutter, realizes X must have done Y, and comes to this realization no less than 3 times (or maybe 2-1/2 times since the second time he's interrupted pretty quickly by a nearly fatal threat) -- based on the same exact two pieces of evidence. Plot-details existed which could have allowed this to be angulated into a good in-story explanation, if the author thought the dramatic revelation really did need to happen 2-or-3 times to Gull, but I don't think that could have avoided some eyerolling by the reader who is more likely to have kept this revelation in mind after the first time!

There are also a few compositional/editing blips, some of which crop up thanks to what I otherwise appreciated: Emery's skill at coming up with fresh descriptions and turns of phrases, which overall I regard as a strong success. It doesn't hurt that the author sounds like he knows what he's talking about on various small living details, whether from research or (based on his bio paragraph) experience.

On the continuity/milieu, I might have been a bit annoyed at how the magic system seems to have changed to a clearly different interpretation of the card-game rules. But since I'm reading this in hindsight of knowing that different authors are taking different first-stabs at translating the action coherently into narrative form (and since the card game mechanics would make nearly no-sense in narrative form anyway), I gave that a big pass. It helped that Emery includes a nice bit of angulation accounting for the difference in-story: a character who has lived around a wizard enough to get an idea of how things work, has also lived around the world long enough in her life to have heard about the city and situation from the previous novel -- and so draws the inference that those wizards just do things differently there! Little things like that can solve a lot of friction problems; plus I liked the continuity nod. (I already know enough from researching the novels to have heard that there will be a more direct continuity nod toward the end of this trilogy.) The world is first called the Domains in this novel (later more formally "Dominaria"), and expanded rather beyond the limited plot view of the first novel, which makes it more epic in some ways (certainly more countryside is traveled) even though not yet as epic in others.

In the larger milieu continuity, again I know that different authors are hashing together a loose continuity in these early novels for a property that in its main form won't be trying to do epic coherent continuity for a while; so I loosely appreciated the start of references (no doubt contemporary with what were the start of loose worldbuilding in the card sets) to the Brother Artificers and what will eventually be the first (and also somewhat second) macro-huge overarching plot. The reference also gives me, from this later perspective, a rough confirmation of the setting in the overall milieu: several thousand years after the Brothers and the fallout from their shenanigans. (Maybe around the time of what will eventually be the "Legends" setting.)

As always, it was fun to see card references go by, some of them simply in colorful swearing -- also for me nostalgic, since my physical deck mostly comes from this early period!

As a quick novel in a popular fantasy property (both books so far have run 300 and 275 pages respectively, in small pages and relatively large font), I haven't been disappointed yet. Onward to the second book in this first trilogy, Shattered Chains.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2020, 08:21:18 PM by JasonPratt »
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in chronological order. Lots and lots of order...

Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

Offline Steelgrave

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3229 on: September 04, 2016, 03:05:31 PM »
Sounds excellent

Yes it does. I got the first one for kindle. Thanks for the intro to the series Steelie.

Half the joy in discovering a good book is sharing    O0

Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3230 on: September 04, 2016, 09:23:40 PM »
You're like Mr. Frickin' Rogers...😎
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Offline airboy

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3231 on: September 05, 2016, 09:10:32 AM »
"The Thousand Names" by Django Wexler.  The first in a low fantasy series of four books (I'm actually on book 3 now) complete with muskets, sorcerous goings on, assassins, dark priests, well fleshed out fantasy kingdoms immersed in geo-political and military struggles.....pretty much everything a grog/geek could ask for in a novel. It's much easier reading than "Game of Thrones" (which I love) and the musket era of the novels caused me to fire up Pike and Shot again as I'm reading them  :smitten:

Ordered the Kindle sample. 

Offline airboy

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3232 on: September 05, 2016, 09:15:02 AM »
Thanks B_C, I just grabbed book 1, but book 2 is not free in the UK atm.

Bob - you can get The Honor of the Queen at the baen free library - even in the UK!
http://www.baen.com/the-honor-of-the-queen.html

Offline JasonPratt

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3233 on: September 05, 2016, 10:16:21 AM »
Before I forget, again, I wanted to call attention to a funny marketing inadvertence on the back of these MtG books so far.

Naturally, the publisher (not originally Wizards of the Coast by the way, who took over publishing later to set the books into true long-form continuity) was instructed by WotC to market the card game in marketing the books. One form this took was offering one or two free "unique" cards for those who purchased any book and sent in the coupon in the back. (Both of Emery's books had theirs cut out; Arena doesn't! -- and I was tempted to snip it and send it in, even though the offer has expired literally a few decades ago nOWWWW I FEEL OLD AGAIN AAAHHH!)

Another form, which I suspect (but don't know) is related to that offer, involves the back cover, where beneath about 1/3 a page of plot description there's a depiction of several cards scattered around flipped face down and two face up.

For the first book, Arena, the cards are "Arena" (a card I think I might own in my collection somewhere) and a black card I didn't recognize. But since one of the cards was "Arena" I figured the second card had some connection to the plot, too.

After finishing Arena, I went back to study that card more closely, and after some squinting I made out the font at the top of the card to read "Sewer of..." some city I couldn't quite decipher. Okay, that made sense: I joked in my review upthread that it seemed like 1 in 5 pages was either set in the city's sewer or might as well be! Being familiar with the tendency to make up foreign/exotic sounding names for places and things on the cards, and not remembering the name of the city anyway, I didn't pursue the matter more closely, but went away satisfied with the cute plot / marketing connection.

Comes the second book, which starts its own separate story, where the connection to Book 1 is just a quick bit of plot-angulation to acknowledge (by what story-trope students now call "lampshade hanging", calling attention to a problematic detail voluntarily) that the wizards of that city and the areas nearby seem to practice magic differently, and that the world of the "Domains" is a vastly larger place than that book's plot suggested, with tons of areas not involved in that story at all. Yep, fine. So out of curiosity, what cards are being presented in the back-cover's marketing tie-in?

... ........ lol! "Arena" and the "Sewers of..." some city card! Wow, the marketing department faceplanted on that one!

Now comes book 3, the second in the current series, and the first thing I do is check the back: there they are again, "Arena" and "Sewers of..."!

Only this time something is different. Something about the sewer card... oh, they left off the whole title!  :o

Now, it happens unexpectedly that the author (Clayton Emery), or possibly his publisher or (more likely than the book's direct publisher) WotC, decided to connect this 2nd book in the "Greensleeves" trilogy back a lot more strongly to Arena, much more quickly than I was expecting, too: the whole second or third chapter hot-patches the first book's plot directly into this story's own ongoing plot!

Huh. So, I guess, in a way the cards on the marketing art in the back do tie in after all? Except no Sewers? -- and only a tangential connection to the Arena now?

The city's name (Etrarsk I think? -- book's in the car at the moment) gets thrown around enough in Book 3 that now I'm wondering if I did see it before in the first book and just forgot it because there were so many exotic place names that it didn't mean anything. (A common fantasy-author problem, one that's hard to work around as I know from experience.) So, huh... why didn't they print that name on the "Sewers" card on the back cover? Was it something else and they now knew they'd have to change it, but the name hadn't been decided on when the cover went to printing (not impossible considering production schedules) and so they just left off the card-title altogether rather than change it?

That led me to look back to Book 2's back cover, to see what the city's name had been.

...

......

OMG, now that I care enough to squint to clarify the name, I can see: it's "Sewers of Cityname"!

I'm not joking! -- I even went back to the first book's back cover, and it's the same thing! "Sewers of Cityname"!

I hadn't even noticed! I was so used to the name being an exotic non-meaning (to me) that my mind just parsed the city's name as an exotic meaningless name, and I never even noticed the name is the most generic possible placeholder graphic!

 :2funny: :2funny: :2funny:

Whoever designed that back cover, that was pretty dang clever as a desperate trick to get past a production snafu! I bow in your general direction, wherever you are and whoever.


Edited to add: "Estark" is the name of the city; and indeed there was a production card named "Sewers of Estark" -- but not named that on the back of those books.  :2funny: It's a powerful, but still legal, card, too! It makes any target attacking creature unblockable this turn, or prevents all damage to a blocking creature regardless of how many creatures it's blocking.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2016, 11:19:04 AM by JasonPratt »
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in chronological order. Lots and lots of order...

Dawn of Armageddon -- a narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse: The Hunt Begins: Insert Joke Here!

Survive Harder! In the grim darkness of the bowl there is only, um, Amazons. And tentacles and midgets. Not remotely what you're thinking! ...okay, maybe a little remotely.

PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Season One complete; Fantasy Wars AAR, lots of screenies.

Offline bob48

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3234 on: September 05, 2016, 02:52:38 PM »
Thanks B_C, I just grabbed book 1, but book 2 is not free in the UK atm.

Bob - you can get The Honor of the Queen at the baen free library - even in the UK!
http://www.baen.com/the-honor-of-the-queen.html

Yup, thank you - I did get it and now I'm hooked. I've actually finished them and just started on book 3.
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Offline Pinetree

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3235 on: September 05, 2016, 09:12:47 PM »
I'm currently in the second book of the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. This is now up there with the Black Company books as my favourite fantasy series. The characters in this series are just brilliant, Inquisitor Glokta has to be one of the best characters in a fantasy series ever.
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Offline Gusington

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3236 on: September 06, 2016, 06:57:56 PM »
Black Company rules!!
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Offline Steelgrave

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3237 on: September 06, 2016, 07:04:34 PM »
I'm currently in the second book of the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. This is now up there with the Black Company books as my favourite fantasy series. The characters in this series are just brilliant, Inquisitor Glokta has to be one of the best characters in a fantasy series ever.

I love how Abercrombie manages to give even Glokta a sympathetic background and how he fleshes out each and every character he writes. None of his character's just suddenly appear in his novels as who they are, each has a history that contributes to who they become. Great series!

Offline airboy

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3238 on: September 06, 2016, 08:49:40 PM »
I've finished several books in Eric Flint's 1632 world:
1636: The Cardinal Virtues - Which was excellent
1635: The Papal Stakes - Which was excellent
I reread parts of Ring of Fire and Grantville Gazette 1.

also:
1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz  - which was bad enough I wrote a negative review:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RULXZEJ4GY0AO/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01II4MSZE#RULXZEJ4GY0AO

Offline WallysWorld

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Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #3239 on: September 11, 2016, 09:03:20 AM »
Finally finished Robert K. Massie's "Peter the Great: His Life and World". What a book! I learned so much about Peter and Russia for that time. Very much recommend it.

Next up is V.M. Yeates' "Winged Victory". After playing Rise of Flight quite a bit lately, I want to read this book and switch to a bit of fiction for a change after Massie's book.
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