Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading, and also Aargh there goes my writing holiday —

Recent Reading: A TURN OF LIGHT by Julie Czerneda.

Turn of Light

It’s not as well written as all that, and it’s not as catchy as it might be, and the protagonist has a certain Mary Sue specialness about her — I don’t really see the appeal, and yet people fall in love with her left and right. Love triangles are a bit tiresome these days, surely! Yet the story has a certain charm. I like the house toads. Actually, I rather like a lot of the details: the bone hills, and the way cows at Meadowdell just know to stay out of the grain, and, I don’t know, the atmosphere. I read about half of it and then took a break, but I expect I will probably finish it.

But I already know I will give this one away. I suspect a teen reader might fall into this story better than I have, though as far as I know it wasn’t marketed as YA, perhaps partly because of the length.

Oooh, but!

THE THOUSAND NAMES by Django Wexler.

Thousand Names.indd

I thought something grittier might make a nice break from A TURN OF LIGHT, and OMG did I pick a great one off the TBR pile!

I loved THE THOUSAND NAMES! The writing is excellent, the characterization is excellent, the plotting is edge-of-the-seat exciting, this book has it all. More than once, I literally felt my heart rate speed up while reading this book. (I do mean literally, not figuratively.) It’s a bit gritty, but not actually dark. I mean, obviously some violent stuff happens — it is military fantasy, after all. But this is less gritty than Scott Lynch’s LOCKE LAMORA series and less dark than Brent Weeks’ LIGHTBRINGER series and more fun than either (I like both of those, but I like this better).

Winter is a wonderful character: a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to enlist in the army, and who at the beginning of the story is rapidly promoted to lieutenant, but who is NOT a kickass heroine. It is such a pleasure to see a “strong female character” who is complex and wonderful but not actually physically strong. Winter suffers more than a bit from “imposter syndrome”, but she is a very! good! officer.

Marcus is a wonderful character: he’s the guy you can really identify with — not brilliant, but smart enough; not flashy, but dedicated and steady; sometimes cautious, but never wavering. Marcus is defined by his great integrity.

Janus is a wonderful character, the kind who is improved by Wexler’s decision to keep him opaque. We never get inside his head, and it’s a good thing, because it’s more fun when Janus pulls another rabbit out of his hat. Mind you, he is also a bit scary! What’s he got behind that imperturbable calm, anyway? We get that he’s ruthless; is there anything to him besides cold practicality and perhaps colder ambition? The uncertainty actually adds to the reading experience.

Lots of great secondary characters, too.

I was torn between ordering the sequel on Kindle (and thus getting it instantly) and ordering it in paper (to match the first book). I finally chose the latter, but it was a tough decision! Now I won’t get the sequel till Monday!

And in fact I may not read it right away. Does anybody know whether Wexler’s THE SHADOW THRONE stands alone? Because if it ends on a cliffhanger, it may be practical to put off reading it till the third book is out.

Especially because I have gotten my head’s-up about incoming editorial comments: Early next week I should get comments from my editor about KERI (THE WYVERN KING) (Actually still working on the title). There’s no help for it: when those comments arrive, I’ll just have to sigh, hide my TBR books, put my Kindle away, and see if I can briskly complete whatever revision Michelle wants and get that out of the way. Because the second half of November has been earmarked for other tasks, so I would like to get this turned around with reasonable speed.

Anyway! I’m thinking THE THOUSAND NAMES may be my second-favorite fantasy title of the year. If it stands alone, it may be something I would like to nominate for the Hugo and Nebula next year.

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8 Comments Recent Reading, and also Aargh there goes my writing holiday —

  1. Estara+Swanberg

    That thousand names book sounds good via your selling ^^ – not something I’d have looked into otherwise.

    Turn of Light is Czerneda’s first fantasy (and while I also think it’s not a very strong work, I do want to read the second book). I think her sf space opera is her strong point, because she’s a marine biologist by trade and does amazing stuff with her alien species. I especially like her Webshifters trilogy and the Species Imperative series. She also has edited quite a few anthologies.

  2. Kristina

    Yeah, A TURN OF LIGHT was a recent DNF for me. I appreciated the lush details and the level of imagination that went into the setting, but I could not abide the main character. This book was a true lesson in showing rather than telling for me. The main character is praised over and over (and over) again for her “good” heart, but what we SEE from her is a string of selfish, impulsive decisions that hurt the people she’s closest to, and I eventually lost patience. Check out the reviews on Goodreads when you finish – some of them are quite amusing. (If only I’d read them first….)

  3. elaine t

    Had much the same reaction as Kristina to AToL. Elements of it were excellent but the character was too frustrating to read. i think it had a ‘dumb plot’, too. The sort of plot where if people only provided information the book wouldn’t happen.

    OTOH, I passed your review of the Wexler on to my husband who has been quite frustrated with the lack of SF he can find, and he said based on your review, he’ll buy it. He also liked the Cambias you wrote about recently.

  4. Rachel

    Kristina, I’ll have to check out those reviews! I usually try to avoid reviews before reading a book, but sometimes that does backfire. Elaine, YES, hate that couldn’t-we-just-talk-to-each-other kind of plot. I hope your husband likes The Thousand Names! And I’m looking forward to trying the Cambias title.

  5. pamela

    I wouldn’t say the Shadow Throne stands alone, it’s definitely part of series, however it does not end on a cliffhanger. There’s also a prequel short story “the Penitent Damned.”

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said on the Wexler, but every novel I’ve read by him (Thousand Names, Shadow Throne, Forbidden Library) reaches a point of overwhelming frustration for me. I finish them, but feel like I’ve been promised something more complex that never comes to fruition. Maybe in book three?

    Thanks for the caution on A Turn of Light – I’ll get it from the library.

  6. Rachel

    Thanks, Pamela! Good to know that The Shadow Throne would be more or less safe to read without the third book in hand. It’s interesting that you barely finish Wexler’s books. I think I read the entire first book thinking that something complex is probably happening with Janus and we’re just not being let in on it yet. I guess we’ll both find out in Book 3.

    Thanks for the tip about the short story.

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