Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Couple of Good "Ends"

The last couple of months have seen the end to a few trilogies that I have enjoyed. I mentioned Westerfeld's Goliath a week or so ago. This time I have two adult series - Head Rush, the long-awaited end to Carolyn Crane's Disillusionists trilogy, and Kingdom of Gods, the end to NK Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy. I am going to attempt to write about both without being horribly spoilerific, but come on, these are the last books in a series. Some stuff is going to spill if you haven't read book 1 yet, so enter at your own risk...

Head Rush by Carolyn Crane

I was so, so glad that I re-read this series before the last one came out (and thanks to all of you who came along). This is hands down my favorite of the three, I even think that this cover is the best of the three as well. I've mentioned before that Justine "gets on my nerves" - this is one of those series where the lead character has a lot of growing to do. Book 1 to some extent, but especially book 2 showcased a streak of the self-righteous attitude (especially in the case of one Otto Sanchez). I get where it came from, her whole life has been abnormal, with a family history of mental illness, her own hypochondria, and so on. She craves a "normal life" so bad that she can't always see what's really there. And the POV is in first person, so even if as a reader you are not convinced that Justine is "right" you are along for the ride in her head. In Head Rush, though, you really see how Crane's choice of POV (1st, present tense) is the only way to really tell the story, and I thought it was masterfully done.

Many times in 1st person tales, you get the truth that the main character "knows" that is then negated or twisted in someway by the "real story." This book is different, given the ending of book 2, in that the reader knows more than the main character, and we're seeing everything through her eyes, leading to some definite, gut-churning, holy crap moments. Chapter one was disturbing - as it should be. The level of betrayal here is high (and that's an understatement).

I am not going to go into specifics, but I will say that I was very happy with Justine's character arc. Fear has been her nemesis her whole life. It's more of a danger to her than any other character, revisionist, sleepwalking cannibal, or criminal. I also really liked that we got to see Justine's dad - I really loved those scenes. Of course, Simon and Shelby, my two favorite Disillusionists were there too (looking forward to that Simon novella).

This is an Urban Fantasy that is also high on the romance spectrum (but doesn't necessarily follow all of the "romance rules").

[I received an Advance Review Copy of this book.]

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

That I had been waiting for this book for over a year might tell you a little something of the giddy excitement I felt when I finally held it in my hands. I love Jemisin's writing. The events that befall the characters are tragic at times (I have cried reading these books - I seldom cry while reading), but I always found some rays of hope. Broken Kingdoms (book 2) will always be my favorite, but I thought this one was very well done.

In this world, gods, godlings (children of the gods) and humans exist together, a fact that is not always good for the humans. It's not always good for the gods and godlings, either, but at least they are tougher to kill. In book 1, we come into a world out of balance. It is still out of balance in book 2, but the path to redemption and reconciliation has started. In book 3, the effect of this imbalance, as well as nature's eventual evolution (even gods change sometimes), comes to a conclusion.

An important thing to remember about the gods and godlings in this world is that they are restrained by their natures. Sieh, our narrator in Kingdom of Gods, is the god of childhood. He is cute, mischievous, a bully, a brat. He can be kind, he can be malicious. He acts without thinking. He craves the love and acceptance of his parents (and the big 3 - Nahadoth, Enefa/Yeine, Itempas are all his parents). He wants to be one of them, but he never will be. In his loneliness, he meets Shahar and Deka, children of the current Arameri ruler. Shahar is the future heir. Deka, her brother, is destined for mage school. His interaction with them leads to strange changes as the god of childhood grows up. He loves both of them, is betrayed, learns that he didn't know everything, and finally that he must take responsibility for what he has done.

Spending the book in Sieh's head, it really hammers home how different from humans the gods are, how after many millenia of existence your worldview would be so different, and also how easy it would be to fall complacent, believing in your own invulnerability. Then everything comes to a head.

I enjoyed Sieh's individual character arc, as well as the changes in this world that started in book 1 and are concluded here. The book blurb made it sound like this book followed Shahar, but while she is important, this is Sieh's book.

This is not a series that follows one group of characters around as they battle a big bad. It is character-driven versus battle heavy. Also, if you have a problem with gods as characters, or your gods must act in a very specific way, then this might not be for you. Also, if you must have a romance that follows the "romance rules" then this is probably not for you either. If you are looking for a sweeping fantasy that delves into the characters, then you should try it out.

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