melita66: (AK blue)
I've been dipping into the Raksura collections of short stories/novellas by Martha Wells while biding time until The Edge of Worlds comes out. The official release date is early April, but I've had an alert set on several sites and an ARC finally showed up on one of them. It arrived yesterday, and somewhat fortuitously, I'm sick enough that I stayed home today--after a several hour wait at urgent care, and a leisurely trip to the supermarket.

Prior to that, I finished Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip. Interesting milieu, there's a king, and witches, and knights, but the technology is around current day. I liked it, but had trouble caring about the characters (there's a lot) and it felt like some willful blindness. It's a Arthur/round table analog, but no one's heard of the fisher king, or the wild goose chase quest? Not as opaque to me as, say, The Sorcerer and the Cygnet, but it didn't feel as tightly plotted or interesting as some of the her other books.

I've discovered the joy of Murdoch Mysteries, a police procedural set in Toronto at the end of the 19th century. Murdoch is an inspector who's savvy to all the latest crime-fighting technology, and often reproduces ingenious devices that he's heard about (like a seismograph). His faithful constable, Crabtree, is enthusiastic about fantastical reasons for a crime (it must be mole men!) and wants to become a mystery writer. I turned around and read the first book of the series it's based upon, Except the Dying, by Maureen Jennings. Eh, it's fun, but at $7 - $10 per book, I'll be spacing them out.

I'm also reading Desert Rains by Jana S. Brown which was recommended by...sartorias, I believe. It's a western romance set on another planet. Technology is mixed (horse and wagon and cars, sophisticated irrigation systems and weather moderation). Another eh, I'm still reading, but it'll be in between books I want to read more.
melita66: (raven)
I've been on a re-reading kick for the past week or so. After REAMDE, I decided I wanted a book or books that I knew I loved with excellent writing style. I went with Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy. Because these were published in the 1970's each book is relatively short and I ripped through them pretty quickly. The three books are The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind. They're set in a post-apocalyptic world that has since recovered. The apocalypse was caused by the abuse of (magical) power, and is now controlled in a benign way by the High One. A ruler of a kingdom has "land-law" and "land-sense", particularly when one ruler dies and the heir takes over, the heir often has knowledge of everything within the boundaries of the kingdom.

Both music (mainly harping) and knowledge are very important. The college teaches riddles and the books are liberally sprinkled with them as one character points out a flaw in reasoning or decision by another character. Morgon is the land-ruler of the island of Hed, something like rural England, where everyone cares only about the crops and weather and nothing of import ever happens. Before he became the land-ruler, Morgon trained at the college, and would have become a master if he'd stayed. He also has 3 stars (birthmarks?) over one brow. The first book is his story and he's forced to find out about the three stars and what his destiny might be. The book ends on an incredible surprise, so make sure that you have the second book handy!

Now I can see some faults in the writing style, and sometimes I just want to smack Morgon upside his head, but there are still passages that just make me sigh in pleasure. Here's one that I love. Morgon and the High One's Harpist are traveling to see the High One. One night while camping:


...His [Morgon] eyes moved to Deth's harp, its pale, carved pieces burnished in the firelight. It was adorned with neither metal nor jewels, but the oak pieces were finely scrolled on all sides with delicate carving. "Did you make your harp?"

   Deth smiled, surprised. "Yes." He traced a line of carving, and something in his face opened unexpectedly. "I made it when I was young, by my standards, after years of playing on various harps. I shaped its pieces out of Ymris oak beside night fires in far, lonely places where I heard no man's voice but my own. I carved on each piece the shapes of leaves, flowers, birds I saw in my wanderings. In An, I searched three months for strings for it. I found them finally, sold my horse for them. They were strung to the broken harp of Ustin of Aum, who died of sorrow over the conquering of Aum. Its strings were tuned to his sorrow, and its wood split like his heart. I strung my harp with them, matching note for note in the restringing. Then I retuned them to my joy."


McKillip usually writes what I think of mythic stories. The characters have a destiny to fulfill, or have been caught up in someone else's destiny. The trilogy is full of very memorable characters, although you may find them a bit hard to keep straight when you read the series for the first time. There is a glossary of people and places.

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November 2016

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