Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review : The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Synopsis from Goodreads:


Day Two: The Wise Man's Fear.

"There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man."
An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.

In The Wise Man's Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.


 The Wise Man's Fear was an epic of a novel, a whopping near-thousand pages. It is the sequel to The Name of the Wind, released in 2007.

The beginning finds Kvothe (assumed name Kote) in his role as the innkeeper at the Waystone Inn. He continues narrating his life (to Chronicler and Bast) at the University, where he is starting with the second term. Only the first quarter of the book focuses on his time at the University.

At the beginning of the term, Kvothe is drugged with an alchemical substance during the admissions lottery which induces him to do stupid and impulsive things and causes his anger to flare at the slightest provocation. Armed with a recommendation from Thrope, he sets off to Vintas to seek patronage under Maer Alveron.

This books was immense in length and detail but it has a lot of positive aspects to it. It fills up the map, adding more places and generally giving a wider view of Rothfuss' world. His ideas are original and refreshing after the slew of vamps and weres in current YA. His writing is as captivatingly poetic as ever and within minutes, I was hooked.

There is a lot of interaction between previously ignored people in the University, (like Fela, Devi and Manet) and makes it a lot easier to connect with individual characters and understand their motive and reasoning. Fela and Devi are active players in the escapades of our three miscreants. I liked the fact that there was emphasis on a female character other than Denna, who keeps up with her random disappearing acts in the book.

Yet, by the end of the book, Kvothe is no wiser to the identities of the Chandrian and the Amyr, despite the fact that he spends a large part of the book researching them in the Stacks and in Vintas, and endlessly quizzing everyone he knows about their existense. The only thing he does learn about them is in the form of a short poem describing each of them.

Also, Kvothe's time with Felurian in her realm was a tad unclear. I felt like it had just blurred past with him lounging around and alternating between either him or Felurian in a moody temperament. Or that might just be my dislike of Felurian acting up.

On the whole, The Wise Man's Fear was a wonderful if exhaustingly long read, with an ominous undertone that will have you wondering what will come to pass in the sequel. I'm drumming my fingers now, hoping I won't be waiting 5 years for the next book....


 

Review : The Case of the Perjured Parrot by Erle Stanley Gardner

The Case of the Perjured Parrot by Erle Stanley Gardner

Synopsis from Goodreads:


Did the wealthy Fremont C. Sabin divorce his wife before his untimely death? That's the multimillion-dollar question. And the right answer will mean a windfall for either the dead man's angry son or headstrong widow. Each has accused the other of destroying Sabin's will—and murdering Sabin. But with no document declaring who the affable eccentric intended to leave his fortune to, Perry Mason faces a particularly prickly puzzle.
Even more puzzling, however, is the talking parrot. Casanova was Fremont Sabin's beloved pet. But the bird found at the crime scene proves to be a foul-mouthed impostor. Suffice it to say that more than a few feathers will be ruffled as Mason sets out to clip a clever killer's wings. . . .
 


 The Case of the Perjured Parrot is another quintessential Perry Mason murder mystery. Erle Stanley Gardner, in his inimitable style keeps the narrative zingy and the suspense intriguing. He takes us to mid 20th century America, giving us a glimpse of life in a modern city co-existing with that of the countryside.

In the Case of the Perjured Parrot, an eccentric millionaire was found dead in a mountain cabin - shot in the chest and his parrot Casanova loose from its cage. The story revolves around his widow and his son’s battle over his assets with Mason and detective Paul Drake looking into the man’s curious dealings. As the parrot in the cabin is discovered to be fake, a foul-mouthed imposter planted by the murderer, the real Casanova is found in the house of one Helen Monteith, repeatedly squawking the words, “Put down the gun, Helen! Don’t shoot me! My God, you’ve shot me!” The parrot’s incriminating words do nothing to diffuse the situation as Sabin’s wife also shares the name Helen – Helen Watkins Sabin. Helen Monteith claims to have been oblivious to the Sabin’s real identity, knowing him only as George Wallman - a poor, simple and generous man whom she married. Wallman had given her the parrot Casanova for safekeeping.

As the book progresses, subtly woven plots are unraveled and the evidence against Helen Monteith grows. The gun with which Sabin was shot is discovered to have been from a collection in the Santa Molinas Public Library - the library in which Monteith works. Ms. Monteith is arrested shortly after and charged with first degree-murder when caught red-handed trying to dispose off shells of the gun and a beheaded parrot in her apartment. The parrot is later revealed to be a substitute; a switch made by wily Perry Mason, suspecting that the murderer would try to kill the parrot, given the chance, either to truly silence it or to pile more evidence against Helen Monteith or Helen Sabin.

More astonishing facts are uncovered and  the plot gets increasingly challenging while Perry Mason seems to be the one man who remains unruffled to an extent, calm and collected, carefully planning his moves while the police, lead by the Sergeant Holcomb of the Homicide Dept., races to stay one step ahead of the clever attorney. It becomes quite evident that the police try to fit circumstantial evidence to their theories and views on the murder and are left stumped when they get one-upped by Mason with Holcomb fuming in the face of Mason’s cheerful geniality.

While it has the imagery of a complex plot, one wonders at the simplicity of the solution as it unfolds in the climax. Of course, if you are looking forward to the razor-sharp courtroom exchanges, there is some of that too.

To me, it’s a disappointing fact that so few people read Gardner’s books. The law aspect of the novels seems to usually drive off people, but it is that very thing that makes the books so unique. The characters are original and amazing, and the dialogue is witty, if with more than a few typos.




Tuesday, March 1, 2011

YA Fantasy as of late - boring, repetitive and cliché

Is it just me or is YA fantasy going to the dumps lately? 

The sudden deluge of vampires, werewolves, angels and fae has been flooding the bookshelves of the YA genre for a couple of years now, ever since the release of Twilight, the merit of which, I frankly don't see. It might have a couple of paranormal creatures which were, at that time, rather rare to find, but it certainly isn't deserving of the awed reviews it gets.                       

 There are some major, mutual characteristics in all YA fantasy that just rubs me the wrong way :
          
1. All the aspiring authors out there seemed to have received some great inspiration from this utterly boring book (Twilight) and soon we'll see similar books flooding in. All with a new, mysterious person in town (and 8 times out of 10, the town is some tiny little nothing in the middle of nowhere) towards whom the protagonist feels some indescribable, all-encompassing pull and said cryptic individual decides to snub and recognize him/her whenever convenient. Some find this alluring. I find it rather lordly, uppity behavior. Again, I blame it all on Stephenie Meyer.  Examples of this all too popular situation can be found in Evermore, Fallen, Evernight, Shiver, Beautiful Creatures and more recently Unearthly and Falling Under.

2. It just doesn't stop there. If the new-kid-in-town and minor snubbing of protagonist wasn't enough, we have to have the poor person ignored and desolate and longing (and a million other depressing emotions) for a whole book, just to remind the reader that the protagonist has no spine and courage whatsoever and leans heavily on the other individual. Just as in New Moon. And in Fallen. And in Blue Moon. And in Iron Daughter. Need I go on?

Obviously, all is forgiven in the end, with no apologies except some mild guilt from the ignorer. We can't have our compliant characters showing defiant emotions now, can we? Indignation? Anger? Offense? No way.
3. And thereafter comes the half-faerie daughters. The poor kids who were left in the human world because of the "dangers" of the Faerie courts. It would be extremely  foolish of us to assume that the all-powerful Fae king or queen could protect their kid from the lowly lackeys of the court. Of course not. I won't even get started with the perpetual state of bitter conflict between the Courts. Harmony and friendship? Forget that, peaceful co-existence? Eons away.
               The only exception to this was The Iron Queen where the Seelie and Unseelie Courts united against the threat of the Iron army. Quite miraculous, but it added a nice touch.

4. Another huge problem I have with YA fantasy lately is love. The two characters see each other and are instantly struck by the sheer beauty, strength and deep dark eyes of the gorgeous new kid in town. Pfft. Rubbish. You can't be in love with somebody about whom you don't know the first thing. Of course, said new kid knows absolutely everything about you. Normally, this would evoke a healthy amount of suspicion. Not in YA, apparently.Can you say "stalker"?

5. The main protagonist is - at any given point in the book - torn between two love interests. Books with strong, independent, unromantic characters are practically extinct. Is it so difficult for two people to have a platonic relationship??

Book Releases for March 2011

YA genre has got some rather interesting releases this March. Of course, there's the usual stock of vampires and werewolves in Afterlife by Claudia Grey and River Marked by Patricia Briggs, both eagerly awaited books with the most common paranormal creatures of late. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for these two, as the vamps and weres are turning out to be huge disappointments lately. The most interesting releases would be the dystopian-fiction book named Wither, releasing March 22nd and the fairy-tale retelling Entwined by Heather Dixon.

Two other much-awaited books for the month would be The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss and Steel by Carrie Vaughn. Steel has an intriguing premise - a time-traveling, sword-wielding heroine and pirates. Now that's something you dont see everyday in YA fiction, hmm?

Wither (Chemical Garden #1)
by Lauren DeStefano
 What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.


Steel
by Carrie Vaughn 

When Jill finds a rusty sword tip on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued—and little expects it will transport her through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Will a dark enchantment, salty kisses, and a duel with an evil pirate captain leave her stranded in the eighteenth century forever?

Drawing on piratical lore and historical fact, Carrie Vaughn creates a vivid world of swaying masts and swelling seas, where blood magic overrules the laws of nature, romance is in the air, and death can come at the single slip of a sword.






And of course, there's Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. He's kept a lot of fans waiting for this for a long time, nearly four years, with the previous book,  Name of the Wind released in 2007. Got high hopes for this one. 

 The Wise Man's Fear
 by Patrcik Rothfuss

 "There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man."

An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's road.

All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.

In The Wise Man's Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.