Tag: Naomi Novik

WWW Wednesday

Posted May 8, 2019 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Dreamer's Pool by Juliet MarillierWell, it’s mid-Wyrd and Wonder and I’ve been reading up a small storm, so right at this second I’m partway through Dreamer’s Pool (Juliet Marillier), for that. I forgot I kind of found Oran’s story a bit embarrassment squicky, so I kinda stalled for a day or two, so I should get back to it.

Other than that, I am reading at least two other books currently. One is A Short History of Europe, by Simon Jenkins. It really is short; it’s an absolute whistle-stop tour of history, pausing at the most obvious moments before tearing on again. It’s not bad, but I might not finish it if it weren’t for a reading challenge. The other is J.S. Weiner’s The Piltdown Forgery, which is about how Weiner, Le Gros Clark and Oakley figured out the Piltdown Man forgery. It’s pretty fascinating, because the forgery seems so obvious now, but it was those three who figured it out when most others were credulous.

Cover of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Snowspelled, and before that Trail of Lightning. I want to read the second book for both! Which is lucky, since Storm of Locusts just arrived in the post for me today, and I can’t see any reason not to get Thornbound as well. Trail of Lightning… I had some doubts, but I’m still interested in the world. Snowspelled is sweet, and I want to know what happens, though I’m a little mad about… well, I shan’t spoiler. (I’m not mad at the author, I should clarify. I’m mad at the book for not turning out the way I wanted.)

Cover of Spinning Silver by Naomi NovikWhat will you be reading next?

Pretty sure it’ll be Spinning Silver; it’s the most contrary thing to read on the bingo card I’ve got, so naturally I’ll be drawn to it. Also contrary because I was waiting for the paperback, I even have a preorder of the paperback, so it’d be totally natural and normal for me to go ahead and read the eARC I got way back when now, because… why not?

What are you reading? What’s next on your stack?

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Review – Uprooted

Posted May 7, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted, Naomi Novik

In a peaceful valley in Polnya, Agnieszka has grown up with her best friend Kasia, knowing that all girls their age will be lined up for the magician who rules the valley, the Dragon, to choose one of them. It seems obvious that the choice will be Kasia: she’s brave, beautiful, and somehow everyone has known all along that it will be her. Needless to say, things turn out rather differently, and Agnieszka finds herself dragged off to the Dragon’s tower, there to cook, clean, and… learn magic?

Nothing goes smoothly at first: Agnieszka’s main talent in life has been getting dirty and running wild, and the Dragon’s rather rough on anything that isn’t perfect. The magic exhausts her, and the lack of freedom wearies her. And then the Dragon has to leave, and just as he does, a call for help comes from the village she was born in.

It’s Beauty and the Beast, but not as we know it, Jim.

I love the way this draws from Polish folktales, creating a setting that is a bit sideways from the usual European medieval fantasy. I enjoy Agnieszka, and the way she keeps her hope alive throughout, keeps trying. I’m not entirely sold on the Dragon, nor Agnieszka’s relationship with Sarkan. There’s almost enough to show that behind it all, he’s awkward and hindbound but still able to grow, still able to be reached by Agnieszka… but it’s just not quite enough for me to believe in him. That he’s on the right side is undoubted, that he wants to do right for right’s sake also, but whether he’s a likeable person beneath the stiff attitude… there’s only a few glimpses, and that’s not enough for me to jump right into “zomg I ship it”.

The story itself works for me, as a whole, though. Even Agnieszka’s attraction to Sarkan works for me — I’m just not quite ready to believe it’s a thing that will work. Even though I’ve read the book before, though, it pulled me right in, seduced me into the flow of the story; even though I remembered what happened, I still needed to keep reading, needed to see what the next thing would be.

I’m still not quite ready to give it five stars, but it’s close.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Temeraire, His Majesty’s Dragon

Posted March 19, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Temeraire by Naomi NovikTemeraire, or His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik

I’ve read this before, quite a ways back, and always intended to visit it anew, and finish the series as well. Imyril’s reviews of the series (for example, this first one) had a big part in making someday now, and I’ve got to be grateful for that. Temeraire is a lot of fun, just as I remembered it to be. It’s the Napoleonic War… but with dragons! And with a whole alternate history around the dragon corps and their officers, along with an alternative culture. It works very well, and produces a rather epic adventure… which nonetheless has plenty of tender moments, as Laurence comes to understand and cherish the dragon who has changed his entire life.

Temeraire himself is just the best character: he likes to read, he’s very curious, he’s polite and protective and worries about all things Laurence — which results in rather funny scenes in which Laurence discovers his dragon has learnt about prostitutes, or things like that. The insatiable curiosity is both funny and, at times, touching.

And come on, if Temeraire weren’t a dragon, everyone would be calling his relationship with Laurence what it is: a bromance.

The reason this really works for me is that it doesn’t just add in dragons, and expect everything else to be more or less the same. Instead, the dragons have an effect on society and Novik worked out exactly where they, and their riders, would stand. And the other thing is, people don’t always get what they deserve, despite the temptation: there’s a horribly touching emotional arc involving one mistreated dragon, and it does not end the way you hope it will. Which makes it all feel more real, and like bad things can genuinely happen — a wise thing for a writer to establish when otherwise things might look just a bit too easy.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series, though I do recall I didn’t love the later books as much, however far I got with reading them.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Uprooted

Posted August 31, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted, Naomi Novik

I notice other people comparing this book to The Goblin Emperor in reviews, because there is a distinctly hopeful tone to it. I think that’s probably why I enjoyed it and made that parallel myself: this isn’t grimdark, even though it could be. It’s a Polish-ish medieval setting, with feudalism and magic and armies, and with a great big encroaching wood which is second cousin to Tolkien’s Old Forest, but bigger and badder. And yet it turns out to be not so clear-cut, and there’s room at the end for growth and hope, rather than just destruction and violence. A chance for two worlds to meet.

It may not feel that way in some parts of the book, though: there is plenty of horrible moments, where corruption reaches out to touch everything and the only answer seems to be violence. People don’t get off lightly: there is death, there is a price paid. In that respect, it doesn’t feel quite as hopeful as The Goblin Emperor, which largely avoids outright violence.

Uprooted has a somewhat slow pace, at least at first; the narrator takes her time introducing us to the world, even with that corker of a first sentence: “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.” Every detail means something, but it takes time to come together, and in the meantime the writing is what pulled me on — not just the build-up of the magic system, the building up of the characters, the mysteries revealed bit by bit, but also the quality of the prose. It felt solid, structured, knowing — I felt like I could trust the narration to get me where I needed to go, so I didn’t mind about the pace — another book I’m reminded of is Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood, which makes sense given that both books grew out of fairytales to some degree or another, without being slavishly attached.

I also love that one of the big drivers of this book is Agnieszka’s concern and love for her friend, her home, the people around her. No grim swearing of vengeance here; in fact, that blind impulse to avenge, to push back when pushed, is explicitly criticised, while Agnieszka’s slower understanding proves the important part.

I enjoyed it a lot, and it stands alone beautifully, with an ending that has just enough room to breathe. It’s not quite The Goblin Emperor for me (the narration did feel like it slowed down a bit too much here and there), but it’s good.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted December 2, 2014 by in General / 6 Comments

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “top ten books you’re looking forward to in 2015”. Now, I actually don’t keep a very good track of this, so I might not manage the full ten, but we’ll see how I do…

  1. Jo Walton, The Just CityYeah, I know I have an eARC and I’ve borrowed someone else’s ARC, but I’m still looking forward to it being out and getting to discuss it more widely.
  2. Maria V. Snyder, Shadow StudyMore Yelena! I still need to do my reread, but these are totally my popcorn books and it’ll be nice to have more to look forward to. I might actually manage to read the Avry trilogy when I know there’s more awaiting me…
  3. V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of MagicI don’t know that much about it, but it sounds awesome, and I keep being recommended Schwab’s work.
  4. Joe Abercrombie, Half a World. I still need to get round to reading Half a King, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it, and this is another in the same world.
  5. Catherynne M. Valente, RadianceFrom reading the summary, I’m not quite sure about it, but I adore Valente’s way with words, so it’s going to be worth a try.
  6. Naomi Novik, UprootedI remember enjoying the Temeraire books, and I love reading retellings of myths/legends/folktales/fables, so this sounds right up my street.
  7. N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season. Gimme! Gimme!
  8. Marie Brennan, The Voyage of the Basilisk. I need to read the second book, but still. Still. Badass Victorian lady!
  9. Nicole Burstein, Othergirl. Just spotted this on someone else’s list of upcoming 2015 books. Sounds like fun, and there’s superpowers, sooo. I’m a sucker, I know.
  10. Brandon Sanderson, Firefight. Another one where I still need to read the previous book, but shush. Superpowers!

Oof, I managed it. What’s anyone else looking forward to?

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