The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ambitious and dramatic–a riveting story of how a group of people are changed by their traumatic childhood, told through the filter of a speculative fiction novel about a woman who is trying to become God.

To understand my review, let me put it this way: I would describe Lilo and Stitch as a story about a girl being taken away by social services, told through the filter of aliens and monsters.

It’s that kind of thing but darker and for adults.

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Assassin's Fate (The Fitz and the Fool #3)Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some good dialogue between the characters, but seriously poor overall.

The narrative was feebly constructed, and events seemed to occur mostly as a vehicle for fitting in as many series cameos as possible even though it made little sense for those people to be there half the time.

Hobb routinely did multiple bait and switches (they’re dead! Oh no they’re not. Yes they are! Nope, just kidding. For real this time!) to the point of tedium, even apathy. I no longer really cared if they’d died or not at the end.

The actions weren’t thought through. For example, Fitz spends the latter two books convincing Fool to embark on a certain course of action, which they agree on multiple times is the right thing to do, and is set up to be so; this is reversed in the last moment by one line of dialogue from Bee. I almost think Hobb changed her mind last minute.

So many things were like that. The book feels unfinished, rough second draft stage, perhaps in need of a good edit. As a long term fan who found the original series influential, I was extremely disappointed.

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The Etched CityThe Etched City by K.J. Bishop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply brilliant.

It does require a lot of patience, this novel, since around 60% of it is setup for a series of events which, at the beginning, seem to bear no relation to anything else that is going on.

My advice is to read it as you would read a Wolfe book: by which I mean, sit back and enjoy the exquisite prose, and stop worrying about what you are supposed to be focusing on. The author has a goal, the story does go somewhere, and everything is included with a purpose.

I fear that we are losing the ability to read books like this in the mainstream, despite its relatively recent publication (although it’s been 11 years since it came out–not that recent I guess). I notice that many readers and writers want to be able to see a book’s direction, from the get go, which always puzzles me. Why on earth would you want to read something where you are basically invited to guess the thrust of the narrative in advance?

Enjoy the surprises, the allegories, the musings, the carefully constructed scenes.

Oh, and the head hopping. I’m loving that. I love books which break rules in this way and I think the head hopping here is brilliant.

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