My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy.  Occasionally, I also read horror, thriller, and mystery stories.  For more info about me than you could possibly want, check the "My Profile" link on the right-hand column.

Review: Necessity (Thessaly Book 3 of 3)

Necessity: A Novel (Thessaly) - Jo Walton

This is the third and apparently final book in the Thessaly series by Jo Walton.  I enjoyed the entire series, although I did think this book was a little weaker than the previous two. 


When the book first began, I had the impression that the story would focus on something that seemed very interesting to me.  Instead, that “something” made up only a small portion of the story because the main characters were caught up in other things that were going on.  The actual story was interesting, and there were some great moments, but I was more interested in the story that wasn’t told.


Aside from that, I really don’t have much to say about this book that I haven’t already said about the previous two.  This series told a story that was different from anything I’d ever read before, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  I’ll have to try more of the author’s other books someday.

Review: The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly Book 2 of 3)

The Philosopher Kings - Jo Walton

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton is the second book in the Thessaly series which began with The Just City. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first book.  This time, my expectations were much higher so I wasn’t as surprised by it, but I still enjoyed it a lot. 


The book started off with an event that I completely did not expect and was not happy about. The book ended with an event that I completely did not expect but thought was a lot of fun.  The middle parts were interesting and kept me reading whenever I could find time this week.  My review of the first book gives more details about the premise, and I’m not going to repeat it, but I’ll just summarize by saying it involves Greek gods, ancient Greek philosophers, and time travel.  There are other elements, but I can’t list them without spoiling one or both books.


The event I didn’t like in the beginning was necessary, I think, to tell the story the author chose to tell. One comment I made about the first book was that it was very character-driven and didn’t have a lot of action.  This book was also very character-driven, but it did have more action.  I wouldn’t call it action-packed, but it had a more clearly-defined plot and a greater sense of jeopardy.  As before, the story rotates between three characters, with each character's story told in the first-person format.  The rotation is less even in this book; one character gets a much larger portion of the chapters than the other two.


This isn't a perfect book. There were some things I thought seemed inconsistent, and a few plot threads that were somewhat less interesting to me, but over-all I really enjoyed it.  As I said, the ending surprised me.  Some of the things that happened were things I hadn’t expected until closer to the end of the series, and the direction it took at the very end was completely unexpected to me, although in retrospect I can see that there were small hints.  The ending left me eager to see what happens in the third book.

Review: The Just City (Thessaly Book 1 of 3)

The Just City - Jo Walton

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to explain why I liked this book so much.  I recently picked it up for free as part of’s eBook of the Month Club.  I believe they offered it in September.  I only read the first couple sentences of the synopsis, and it didn’t sound particularly appealing to me, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.  I vaguely remember liking Jo Walton’s book Farthing reasonably well when I read it several years ago.


The general story in The Just City is that various people across time each prayed to the goddess Athene for a place like the city described in Plato’s The Republic.  Athene decided to answer their prayers and whisked them all together at a specific time on a remote island where she helps them build a city based on Plato’s principles.  The people involved range from ancient philosophers to intelligent women from more recent times who were frustrated by their lack of choices in life.  After being built, the city is populated with over 10,000 children around the age of ten.  Athene’s brother Apollo also plays a major role in the story.  The story opens up with Apollo experiencing a human concept that baffles him.  After seeking advice, he decides to live a mortal life in order to improve his understanding, and chooses to be born as a child who will eventually be brought to this Just City to live.  There’s another plot line introduced a bit later into the book, but I think it’s better left as a surprise for other first-time readers.


So, as you can probably guess, there’s a lot of ancient Greek mythology and philosophy in this book.  I’m not a mythology buff, but this wasn’t one of those books where the author tries to find a way to mention every god ever heard of.  Only Apollo and Athene played major roles in the story, and a few others were mentioned sparingly.  Likewise, the philosophy was presented in an accessible way.  I took an introductory philosophy course in university, and it was actually one of my favorite non-degree-related courses, but we barely scratched the surface of the subject and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to make a career out of.  Some of the things mentioned in this book were vaguely familiar, but most of it was new to me.  However, I was never confused and there were never any info dumps.  The author conveyed the necessary information in such an entertaining way that I was barely aware she was doing it.


This is a very character-driven story, focusing on three main characters.  One of the characters is Apollo.  Another is Maia, one of the people who prays to Athene and is brought to help build the city.  The third character is Simmea, one of the children brought to the city.  I really enjoyed all the characters, especially Apollo.  Each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of one of the characters.  Even though the chapters were clearly labeled with the character’s name, I did have difficulty sometimes because two of the main characters were often together in both of their sets of chapters.  Sometimes I forgot whose perspective I was reading from, especially if I took a break from reading in the middle of the chapter.  It never took long before something rang false with the perspective I thought I was in and I’d get straightened back out, but it was a little jarring sometimes.


Plot-wise, there really isn’t a lot of action in this story.  It’s quite heavy on dialogue, and has some serious discussions about things like consent, self-determination, self-awareness, trust, and truth.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some people found the book quite boring, but for some reason this wasn’t the case for me.  I was interested from the beginning, and I only occasionally began to feel a little restless as I neared the end.  There were a few things I found questionable in terms of characters having more knowledge than I thought seemed likely and there were some things that felt a bit too convenient.  Still, it isn’t too often that I inhale a book within a day and a half, so clearly I enjoyed it.


This is not a stand-alone story.  It’s the first book in a trilogy, and nothing is really wrapped up at the end.  The ending was fairly dramatic, actually, and I suspect there may be quite a bit more action in the second book.  I plan to find out very soon. :)

Review: Wild Seed (Patternmaster Book 1 of 4)

Wild Seed - Octavia E. Butler

I spent the majority of this book trying to decide whether or not I liked it, and debating whether or not I would want to read the rest of the series.  The omnibus containing this series had been on sale for $1.99 earlier this month, and I bought it, so I already had the next book available.

Early this year I’d read the author’s Xenogenesis trilogy, also sometimes referred to as Lilith’s Brood, and I really enjoyed it.  This book shared a lot of similar themes, although the story and setting are quite different.  Slavery is a particularly big theme in this book.  With this book, unlike with the Xenogenesis series, I didn’t feel like there was much of a story beyond the themes being explored.  It’s very possible I would have appreciated Wild Seed more if I’d read it first.

The story in Wild Seed is set in our world, ranging from the years 1690 through 1840.  There are two main characters: a woman named Anyanwu and a man named Doro.  Anyanwu is a caring, warm woman for whom her family and community mean everything.  She’s able to see inside her body and makes changes to it.  For this reason, she’s been able to heal herself and remain alive for hundreds of years.  Doro has been alive even longer, but he has different “talents”.  He wears a body until it dies or until he gets tired of it.  He then takes over another body, killing the original owner in the process.  Doro’s entire existence is devoted to seeking out people with special abilities and breeding them with each other.  He’s completely amoral, concerned only with meeting his own objectives.  To whatever extent he treats people kindly, it’s only because doing so will help him meet his goals more effectively.  Shortly after this book begins, Doro discovers Anyanwu.  Her abilities far surpass that of the other people he’s collected, so naturally he wants to start breeding her ASAP.

Most of the story consisted of different people being mated with each other as dictated by Doro.  I wouldn’t call this a romance novel exactly, especially since some of the relationships in the story were quite disturbing and not at all romantic, but it sometimes felt like one because the story focused mainly on relationships.  I definitely wouldn’t say this book didn’t have substance, though.  It absolutely had substance, and it brought up important issues in a non-preachy way.  These issues aren’t new to a modern audience, though, and I wanted a more interesting story to go along with the exploration of those issues.

The book did have interesting aspects to it, and I wasn’t really bored by it.  Since I already have the rest of the series, it’s tempting to keep reading and see where the story goes next.  To try to make up my mind, I read a little bit about the other books and ultimately decided to stop here.  There are too many other books I’m more interested in reading.

Review: Interesting Times (Discworld Book 20 of 53ish)

Interesting Times - Terry Pratchett

Interesting Times is from the Rincewind subseries of Discworld.  It’s been quite a few books since I’ve seen Rincewind, so it was fun to see him again.  He always makes me laugh. 


If you’ve read the earlier books, you may remember that Rincewind once had some adventures with Twoflower, a visitor from the Counterweight continent.  In this book Rincewind finds himself, quite against his will of course, dropping in on the Counterweight continent and getting caught up in a revolution. 


It was a lot of fun seeing Twoflower again, although we didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked.  Cohen the Barbarian, an elderly hero, also shows up in this book along with his “horde” which consists of a bunch of other elderly barbarian heroes plus a former school teacher.  I thought the horde was really funny.  The book alternates, for the most part, between the stuff happening with Rincewind and the stuff happening with the horde. 


There were some really funny parts in this book.  October is full of business travel for me, and I was sitting in a hotel room trying very hard to stifle my laughter while reading the section where Rincewind tries to read a story written with pictograms [urinating dog, urinating dog].  It just got funnier the longer it went on.  The story itself was ok.  I didn’t think it wasn’t anything special, but the humor made up for it.

Review: Troll Bridge (Discworld "Book" 19 of 53ish)

Troll Bridge - Terry Pratchett

Troll Bridge is a short story in the Discworld universe.  It can be read for free from here:

The story features Cohen the Barbarian, a character we met in previous books from the Rincewind subseries.  Cohen is a well-known hero in the Discworld, modeled off of Conan no doubt, who’s well past his prime.  Cohen remembers his father telling him as a child that, if he could defeat a troll in single combat, he could do anything.  He decides it’s time to cross that task off his bucket list, but naturally things don’t quite go quite the way he expected.

This one was pretty cute, although short.  I think it has a continuity error in terms of how cold affects trolls as compared to what we learned in Men at Arms, but I guess it depends on how you read the sentence.

Review: The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir

I really enjoyed The Martian, more than I expected to.  I’ve seen this book discussed and reviewed quite a bit, although I had managed to skim past most of the plot-related info.  I didn’t know much more than “astronaut in trouble” and “probably has something to do with Mars”.  Yes, once again I have cleverly deduced a critical plot point by reading a book’s title.  You’re all astounded, I know!  Actually, I think somehow along the way I’d not-so-cleverly gotten the info I’d read about this book mixed up in my head with trailers I’d seen of the movie Gravity, which I never watched.  I was picturing a completely different kind of “astronaut in trouble” story, which made this story more of a surprise for me than in probably should have been.


So why did I enjoy it more than I expected to?  One of the things I did remember seeing mentioned frequently about this book was favorable commentary on its math and science.  I’m moderately interested in both of those things, so I’m not opposed to a book that features those things heavily, but I was a little skeptical about a book that provoked everybody to comment on its math and science.  I was afraid this might be one of those books that make people feel smart for having read and understood them, but aren’t necessarily that entertaining to read. 


The book does have a lot of science in it.  I would argue that it really doesn’t have much math, except for very simple math that any elementary school graduate could understand.  I was expecting complex equations written out in the book, but there wasn’t anything like that.  Everything was conveyed in an interesting and easily accessible way, building from information you probably remember from school.  The science never got boring because the details weren’t overdone.  The character who was telling us most of the science stuff was funny and he interspersed it with plenty of less-sciencey stuff.


The larger portion of the story is told in a diary format by Mark Watney, the “astronaut in trouble”.  The story opens up with him regaining consciousness on Mars to find himself completely alone on the planet with no way to communicate with anybody or to get himself off the planet.  During an emergency evacuation from Mars, Mark appeared to have been fatally wounded and his crewmates had to leave him behind to get off the planet alive themselves.  Aside from Mark, we also spend some time reading from the third-person perspectives of various other characters who are invested in Mark’s survival. 


So obviously this is a survival story, but it’s not one of those stories where ridiculous event after ridiculous event happens to ensure non-stop jeopardy for our hopeful survivor.  It’s also not one of those stories where the main character acts like a moron so that his own stupid mistakes can help create jeopardy.  Mark is smart, he’s practical, he thinks things through, and he tests his theories in incremental stages before relying on them to keep him alive.  I really liked the way he thought, and I found his thought process easy to identify with.  It’s not that he never makes mistakes.  He does, but they were made in a believable way and for believable reasons.  The problems he encountered seemed realistic and his solutions for them seemed equally realistic.  I completely bought into the story with minimal skepticism.  Mark's also pretty funny.  He's maybe a little immature at times, but he felt like a real person.


There was a point, around 10 or 15%, where I started to worry that the story would get tedious.  It was still interesting, but I felt the threat of tedium looming.  Then there was a perspective change that opened up the story a bit and that was when I went from interested to really interested.  I could barely put the book down from that point on.  I liked the ending ok, but I was hoping for a more detailed ending than what we got.


There was only one thing I was really skeptical about, but it didn’t really relate to Mark’s dilemma in itself: 

I had trouble buying into the huge expenditure of money to save a single life.  I can understand why the public was so invested in such a dramatic story that they could empathize with.  I also get that this public obsession, in combination with the NASA employees who knew Mark personally and were fighting for anything they thought would lead to his survival, made it difficult for NASA to abandon Mark.  I just find it hard to believe there wasn’t more of an outcry over spending millions of dollars to save one man when that money could have been used in so many other ways to save a much larger number of lives.  Mark himself seemed to take that in stride when he thought about it toward the end of the book, whereas I would have felt horribly guilty.

(show spoiler)

Review: Diary of an AssCan (Prequel to The Martian)

Diary of an AssCan: A Mark Watney Short Story - Andy Weir

This is a short story of only about seven pages, set before The Martian by Andy Weir.  It can be found for free here:


The story is written in the form of three entries from Mark Watney’s diary.  The first entry was written after he found out he was selected to go to Mars.  The second entry tells about one of the training scenarios he and his team had to endure.  The third entry was written the night before the launch.


I haven’t yet read The Martian, but that’s next up on my list.  There wasn’t much meat to this story, but it served to introduce me to Mark, who I assume will be a main character.  I also gained some insight into the team dynamics and learned a little bit about the plans for their mission to Mars.  Mark seems like he’ll be a fun and enthusiastic character to read about. 


As a standalone story this would seem pretty pointless I think, but I enjoyed it since I knew it was just the beginning of a larger story.  It made me eager to dive into the actual book.

Review: Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning is an anthology of 24 short stories written by Neil Gaiman.  I often find short stories entertaining but ultimately unsatisfying, and I think that pretty much describes how I felt about most of the stories here.  I bought this on sale for $1.99 earlier this year.  I like Neil Gaiman’s writing so, for that price, it seemed worth a try.  Many of the stories had odd endings, usually with some sort of small twist at the end.  The problem with an anthology full of twisty endings is that the reader quickly begins to anticipate the ending and they lose their impact.

I was expecting the stories to be a little scary based on the introduction, or at least disturbing, but they really weren’t.  “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” is a little creepy, but only because I’d heard the story before and I knew what was happening this time.  Otherwise, the creepiness doesn’t show up until the very end of the story and, by then, the story is over and you’re moving on to something else.  I thought “Feminine Endings” was also a bit creepy.

There was one very pleasant surprise in this anthology.  The very last story, “Black Dog”, features Shadow from American Gods.  It’s set after The Monarch of the Glen which is a novella found in a different anthology.  I hadn’t realized there was another American Gods story out there, and I enjoyed this one.

I enjoyed nearly all of the stories while I was reading them, but I often felt disappointed by the endings.  A lot of them had interesting and clever premises but left me wanting more.  More story, more closure, or more answers.  Some of them could have made an interesting basis for a full-length story.  The stories I enjoyed the most tended to be the longer ones.  Aside from the aforementioned “Black Dog”, I particularly liked the Sherlock story called “The Case of Death and Honey” and “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain”.

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny

This is my first time reading anything by Philip K. Dick, a classic Science Fiction author.  Being an observant person, I deduced from the title that the book would probably be about androids.  However, aside from that, I didn’t have any idea what to expect.  I know the movie Blade Runner is based on this book, but I’ve never seen it.


I was pleasantly surprised, at least in terms of the story’s entertainment value.  It’s a post-apocalyptic story set on Earth.  The main character, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter whose job is to destroy rogue androids who have escaped and possibly killed their owners.  The androids look and act very much like humans and are difficult to detect.  Learning who was and wasn't an android was one of the more interesting aspects of the story, and I also liked the parts that discussed how to prove an android was really an android and what made them different from humans.


The story held my attention well and there was a section around the middle where I was especially riveted.  The story got a little twisty and I wasn’t really sure what was what for a while.  Where it fell apart for me was toward the end.  It got a little weird, with strange occurrences that were really just left up to the reader to try to interpret and make sense out of, and I felt like some things weren’t satisfactorily explained by the end.  At only 250 pages, this book could have used several more pages to fully explore and flesh out the many ideas and plot elements it introduced. 


I usually know what rating I’m going to give a book from the moment I finish it, if not sooner.  With this book, I had a lot more trouble deciding.  I enjoyed most of it at a four-star level, with a brief rise to the five-star level around the middle.  The ending, however, was three-star at the best.  An ending carries a lot of weight with me because it retroactively affects how I see the rest of the book, as well as how I remember it.  I think I’m going to give this book 3.5 stars, but round up to 4 stars on Goodreads.


I have a bunch of additional comments that would spoil the story for anybody who isn’t familiar with it, so the rest of what I have to say will be in spoiler tags.  It’s a bit long, sorry.  This is one of those cases where I thought I only had a couple things to say and then I ended up writing a book.



The main thing I disliked about the ending was all the Mercer stuff.  It just didn’t seem to have any logical explanation.  We learn, not surprisingly, that Mercer was a fraud.  Then, shortly after that, we have two very different characters at separate times and places believe they’re having a personal experience with Mercer.  Given that we know he’s a fraud, I find it unlikely that these were real experiences.  I find it more believable that these characters, given what they had recently been through, each had a mental breakdown and imagined what they experienced.  On the other hand, two people having a similar type of breakdown with a similar type of experience within such a short time span?  That doesn’t seem realistic.  Maybe the author was trying to say that people’s belief in Mercer gave the religion a life of its own, which kind of fits with the way people would get wounded by imaginary rocks when using the empathy machine.  That still seems kind of "out there", though.


It seemed like there was something going on with Dave Holden, Deckard’s fellow bounty-holder.  Deckard never did manage to talk to him, always getting the brush-off when he tried but without any solid explanations.  I can think of several speculative explanations, but I wanted a real answer or at least some sort of closure.  The author kept bringing it up, after all. 


I wanted to know more about what life was really like for the people who had emigrated.  There were hints that all wasn’t as it seemed, but it was difficult to trust any of the people who gave us glimpses into life on the other planets because everybody had their own agenda and the reports were contradictory.


I expected the androids to be the sympathetic characters in this story, as has often been my experience with stories featuring androids.  I didn’t find that to be much the case here.  Admittedly the humans weren’t very sympathetic characters either, but that doesn’t make the androids any less awful. Sometimes they acted in sympathetic ways but then, as the story progressed, we’d see that they had actually just been manipulating the humans they were interacting with the whole time.  Pris was horrible to Isidore, calling him names and treating him like a mindless servant.  The scene where she cut off the spider’s legs one-by-one was just disturbing.  Heck, I think the spider (and the cat!) were the most sympathetic “characters” in the whole book. 


Rachael was full of contradictions.  After Deckard tests her, he’s told she didn’t know she was an android.  Later on in the story, however, it becomes clear that she probably did know because she refers to events that only would have made sense if she knew she was an android, that had to have taken place prior to her meeting Deckard.  I guess it’s possible her memory had been wiped and then was restored immediately after Deckard exposed her, but it would had to have happened fast because I think it was less than a full day between the two times he met her.  Also, why did she kill Deckard’s goat?  If she were a human, we could easily explain it away as revenge, but we’re repeatedly told and shown the androids don’t have empathy, not even for their fellow androids.  What did it accomplish?  There had to have been a specific objective, especially if the company she works for really values living animals as they claim.  On the other hand, the animals at their offices might all have been fake like the owl, so who knows if they really did care about real animals or not.  Maybe she was trying to break him to ensure he would give up bounty hunting, since having sex with him didn't seem to work out the way she'd hoped.


There were just so, so many minor plot threads left up in the air.  They were interesting threads too, which is why I wish they’d been developed better.  On the one hand, I enjoy a book that makes me think.  I don’t necessarily need every little thing spelled out for me throughout the story, but I do like to feel like it all comes together into a pretty clear picture by the time I get to the end.  It felt like the book needed to be twice as long to sufficiently develop all the plot threads the author wanted to include.

(show spoiler)


Review: Soul Music (Discworld Book 18 of 53ish)

Soul Music - Terry Pratchett

Every now and then, we get one of those “real world stuff bleeds into the Discworld” books.  For example, Moving Pictures involved, as you might guess, a sudden discovery of and obsession about movies.  With a Discworld flare, of course.  Those books are the ones I seem to enjoy the least.  Soul Music is the third book in the Death subseries, and it was one of those types of books.  In this case, the sudden discovery and obsession is for rock and roll music although, in Discworld, it goes by the name “Music with Rocks In” and includes some trolls using rocks as drums.

Maybe part of the problem is that I just don’t seem to get a lot of the jokes in these types of books.  I’ve never watched a lot of movies, so a lot of the stuff in Moving Pictures went over my head.  Likewise, I’m not terribly knowledgeable about rock and roll, and I think most of the references were probably from the 50’s and maybe 60’s, and I’ve never listened much to the music of that era. 


I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me before I finally got the constantly-repeated “he looks elvish” joke.  I’m pretty sure I was at least halfway through the book.

(show spoiler)

In addition to that, we have Death once again going off the grid and shirking his responsibilities, leaving other people to deal with the repercussions.  This is only the third Death book and yet it already feels repetitive.  Part of the reason it frustrates me is because Death is a fun character, and I want to see more of him actually being Death.  I think I actually enjoy him more when he shows up in the other subseries books.

I guess it sounds like I hated the book, and I really didn’t.  It’s just easier to write about my complaints.  So, what did I like?  I enjoyed the humor that didn’t relate to rock and roll music.  Pratchett has a great way of coming up with funny descriptions for common things.  For example, this one made me laugh enough that I took the time to highlight it: "And people got up and started cheerin’ and dancin’ and stampin’ their feet like there was a plague of cockroaches."  I also really enjoyed the concept of the character of Susan, who was one of the aforementioned characters who had to take up the slack for Death.  I say “the concept of” because she really didn’t get nearly enough page time and her part of the story was too similar to another story in an earlier book.  Despite that, she captured my attention when she was first introduced and I really liked the idea of her character.


Review: The Other Wind (Earthsea Cycle Book 6 of 6ish)

The Other Wind - Ursula K. Le Guin

The Other Wind is the sixth and final book in the Earthsea series.  I really enjoyed the series, although I thought this last book was the weakest.  The story started off very strong, and I especially enjoyed the first 25% or so.  After that, while there were still good parts and I was still interested in the premise, I thought the story itself became kind of slow and repetitive. 


One thing I enjoyed was that we had the chance to revisit a lot of favorite characters from past books in addition to meeting some new ones.  A lot of plot threads from the various books were brought up and woven into a bigger picture.  The problem is that I thought that bigger picture was blurry.  We learn a lot about what happened in the distant past that made the world the way it is now, and what the price was, but I felt like it was all too light on logical reasoning and rational explanations, even for a fantasy world. 


This book has a lot of scenes with people gathering together, in small or large groups, catching each other up on recent events, or sharing what they know about things that happened in ancient history from stories they've heard.  The reader had to sit through some of those stories being told multiple times, if slightly differently and with different levels of detail each time, and it started to feel repetitive.


I really wanted to give this book four stars on the strength of the rest of the series, and I'm rounding up to 4 on Goodreads, but this was really a 3.5 star book for me at best.  There are a few short stories set in Earthsea that I haven’t read yet, hence the "ish" in my post title, but I think I’m ready to move on now.

Review: Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle Book 5 of 6ish)

Tales from Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin

Tales from Earthsea is an anthology of five stories that take place at various time periods before, during, and after the previous four books.  In the author’s introduction, she says these stories should be read after the first four books. I would definitely agree; I think some of these stories would be less meaningful without already knowing how they fit into the larger story.  I normally find anthologies to be pretty unsatisfying, because the stories are so short and I like longer, meatier stories.  However, I really enjoyed this anthology because the stories felt more like they were just part of the larger series and that larger series added the depth and context.

The first story, The Finder, is the longest story and represents a third of the book.  It’s set long before the first Earthsea book during a time when people with magical abilities were feared and either killed or forced to work for powerful men for ignoble purposes.  The story focuses on a boy known as Otter who has magical abilities.  Although this book takes place too far in the past to have any familiar characters, it does give us some history directly related to some very familiar aspects of the main series.  I enjoyed this story, and I liked Otter.

The second story, Darkrose and Diamond, didn’t have any direct connection to anything from the previous Earthsea books.  It too tells the story of a young boy with magical abilities, but it’s a pretty different story.  The boy, Diamond, is also gifted with music and he’s in love with a girl he grew up with.  His potential wizardry, his father’s expectations, his love for music, and his love for the girl all seem to be in conflict with each other.  This story was a little too romance-y for my tastes.  It wasn’t a bad story over all, but it had some of those romance tropes that really drive me nuts such as one character automatically assuming the worst, and the other character somehow failing to spit out the three-word explanation that could have quickly set things right.  I hate it when characters are made to act like idiots for the sake of increasing romantic tension.

The third story, The Bones of the Earth, was a good one.  We gain insight into Ogion’s past and we learn the details behind the event he’s famous for.  The story is mostly told from the perspective of the master that Ogion was apprenticed to, and I think it left me with more questions about Ogion than answers, but I really enjoyed it and I wish it had been longer and more detailed.

The fourth story, On the High Marsh, introduces us to an adult sorcerer who seems to be half out of his mind.  He’s good with animals, bad with people, and just seems generally confused.  Eventually we learn his story and it ties to a familiar character from the main books.  I enjoyed this story and I had fun trying to guess what was up with the sorcerer.  

According to the author’s introduction, the fifth story, Dragonfly, is intended as a bridge between the fourth and sixth books.  We’re introduced to a new character, a girl called Dragonfly.  Like most of the main characters throughout this series, she has power.  However, there’s some confusion as to just what kind of power she has.  I really liked this one, and I look forward to seeing what happens to Dragonfly next.  I’m assuming she will be a major character in the sixth book.

The author really tells a lot of different “coming of age” stories within this one series.  We have Ged in the first book, Tenar in the second, and Arren in the third.  One could arguably count Therru in the fourth book, but the meat of the story was far less about her than it was about Tenar and Ged so I wouldn’t count it.  Then in this anthology we have Otter, Diamond, and Dragonfly.  I’m not counting Ogion since the glimpse we were given was so brief and limited.  One might expect this common theme to get repetitive, but it really didn’t for me.  Each of the characters were distinctive and interesting, and the stories were all different.

Only one more book to go!  I’ve actually only been reading this series for about 10 days, because the books are so short, but it feels like I’ve been living in this world longer.

Review: Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle Book 4 of 6ish)

Tehanu - Ursula K. Le Guin

Tehanu is the fourth book of the Earthsea Cycle, written 18 years after the third book.  It tells a different type of story and has a different tone from the earlier books.  It’s a direct sequel in that it continues where the third book left off.  It actually starts slightly before the ending of the third book and then continues with the story of two of our main characters, Ged and Tenar.  The larger focus is on Tenar, the girl first introduced in The Tombs of Atuan.


This book seems to be a polarizing book among fans of the original books.  I actually enjoyed it a lot, but I wonder if I’d have felt differently if I’d read the original books when they were published.  If I’d lived for years with the story in my head as it was written, especially seeing the third book as the end of the story, I might have had more trouble accepting this book.  Without spoiling the story, the third book brings about a major change that affects Ged and then the story ends with a sort of vague implication of a “happily ever after” ending.  That ending wasn’t too terribly difficult to accept, but it did feel a little unrealistic.  In this book we get, in my opinion, a more realistic story that deals with the repercussions from the third book in a more serious way.


This book doesn’t have a strong story, especially not a strong fantasy story.  There’s an underlying but not strongly-fleshed-out story thread with more of a fantasy feel to it, but it represents only a very small portion of the book.  Most of the book felt almost like a contemporary fiction story set in a rural environment.  It focuses a lot on the “ordinary” concerns and fears and day-to-day lives of adult characters. There’s also some not-so-subtle discussion of power, what power means, what it’s worth, and especially power as it relates to gender. I found some of that to be a little too obvious, pulling me out of the book to make me consider what the author herself wanted to say rather than thinking about it in the context of the story.  However, I didn’t think there was so much of it that it bogged the story down.


I still really enjoyed the author’s writing style which, despite a slightly different feel, held my interest just as well as the previous books had.  She also made me care, or continue to care, about the characters.  Although the actual plot was a bit sparse, it was interspersed into the book well enough to keep me interested in the story when combined with my interest in the characters. 

Review: The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle Book 3 of 6ish)

The Farthest Shore - Ursula K. Le Guin

On average, I would say I enjoyed this book about as much as I had enjoyed the previous two books, but maybe less in some ways, and more in other ways.

In the very beginning of book one, we were told Ged would eventually be an Archmage.  At the beginning of this book, we find that this has come to pass and Ged is now the Archmage at the school on Roke.  Prince Arren, a teenager introduced in this book, has traveled to Roke to tell the wizards that people seem to be losing their ability to work magic.  Ged and Arren then travel together to try to discover the source of the problem.

Ged and Arren had nearly equal “page time”, and I was happy to see more of Ged than I had in the second book.  I also liked the character of Arren, and Arren’s hero worship of Ged and Ged’s affection toward Arren was very nice to read about.  The story started off quite interesting, although I think the second book had the strongest story of the three.  In this book, particularly in the second half, some of the plot points and character decisions became a bit too nebulous.  Our characters sometimes did things because they felt right, not because there was any solid, logical reason for doing them.  I do think most of that was explained or at least explainable by the end, though.

This book was published 18 years before the next book in the series, and it has a very definite “this is the end of the story” feel to it.  It would be easy to stop here and be satisfied, and some people have in fact suggested doing just that, but there may have been a cat somewhere in my distant ancestry because I’m too curious to stop here.  The mixed opinions about the later books have me curious to see what I’ll think, and I’m also curious to see what the author’s later writing style is like, and I’m curious to see how she chose to continue the series.  So I plan to move on to book four, and then decide from there whether or not to continue.

Review: The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle Book 2 of 6ish)

The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin

This is the second book in the Earthsea Cycle series, and I enjoyed it as much as the first one.  I was a little disappointed at first because I had hoped to continue reading about the characters who had interested me so much in the first book, but this book focuses on a different main character.  I soon got caught up in this new story, though, and forgot my disappointment.  After all, if an author can make you care about one set of characters, then she’s likely to be able to do the same for a new set. 


This book focuses on a girl by the name of Tenar who, based on the time of her birth, is believed to be the reincarnated soul of a high priestess.  She’s taken away from her home at the age of six and raised to fulfill her role of high priestess.  Eventually we do see a character from the first book, which I expected to happen eventually based on the reference to Atuan in the first book, and that just made a good story even better.


I thought Tenar was a more ambiguous character than Ged had been in the previous book.  Tenar’s motives, attitudes, and decisions were often questionable and, although I sympathized with her, I didn’t like her very much at first.  She grew on me as her character developed.  I also thought this book had the stronger story of the two.  It was equally short and it too left me wanting more, but this time I felt like everything was fleshed out well enough to tell the story at hand in a convincing way.

Currently reading

Terry Pratchett