Crazy thing, that. Only about two more weeks until teachers go back to school here in our district. I’ve actually already been in to the library a few times to do some deck-clearing before the actual “pre-planning” week.
I said when I got back from Florida I’d at least have read some books. I did! I read The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen mostly because My Lovely Bride said it was a good one but also because it’s part of our district’s Reader’s Rally and I was hoping it would be a good candidate for my other online project. I’m not sure it is, though. It’s a great book and it has many fantasy tropes but doesn’t it have to actually have some sort of magic to qualify? This has kings and queens and princes and princesses and high and low born folks in imaginary lands with typical fantasy fiction names and swordplay and secret passages and possible treasure and all kinds of cool stuff. But as far as I can tell there isn’t a bit of actual magic. So what do you think? Is it Fantasy with a capital F?
It was good and I’ll probably read the rest of the trilogy at some point but then I read this month’s pick for my other online project and man oh man was it ever just as good if not better. It’s The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. It’s also the first of a fantasy trilogy. It also has kingdoms and royalty and adventure and swordplay and all that stuff. They both have interesting meditations on identity and deciding to take your place in society. They both have surprises at the end. This one, though, has actual magic and other supernatural elements. I like how they were handled, though and not overdone. That isn’t to say that just because this has magic it makes it the better fantasy. To me they are equal in that regard. It’s just easier to say this is a Fantasy with a capital F since it has magic in it.
The reviews on Goodreads are slightly higher for The False Prince than for The Thief but I gotta say, the “surprise” at the end of The False Prince wasn’t that surprising to me and while perhaps slightly more complicated in The Thief the surprise there seemed somehow slightly more plausible. But that’s just me. It’s not like either one is entirely plausible if you start thinking about it too hard.
I liked both of the main characters. Sage in The False Prince is an orphan, one of three a scheming nobleman has recruited to train to imitate a lost prince. He knows the royal family has died, king queen and heir, and when it is announced to the public the only possible way to avoid war is for the heir’s younger brother to show up and take the throne or the kingdom will be torn apart in squabbling and probably be invaded by other nearby kingdoms. Problem is, the younger brother of the prince was lost at sea in a probable pirate raid years ago and is probably fish food. But there’s just enough uncertainty that he hopes to train three possible look-alikes and pick the best one when the time comes. Sage is one of the three orphans and is also the most badass. He’s not necessarily the strongest or smartest or even the one that wants it the most. But he’s got the most personality and seems to enjoy breaking the rules and messing with the nobleman the most which is quite entertaining. Apparently the former young prince was known to be a bit of a rule breaker himself so that seems to be why the nobleman keeps Sage around even though herdoesn’t even try that hard to pretend to be right handed which is going to be kind of a big deal if he wants to seem like he could be a right-handed prince in front of a bunch of nobles looking to dispute his claim! You don’t really care who becomes the prince. You just worry what’s going to happen to the other two since the nobleman will most probably have them done away with.
Gen is the main character in The Thief. It’s not a nobleman removing an orphan and training him to become a possible prince in this one. It’s an imprisoned thief released by the king’s head scholar, the magus, who needs a thief to help him retrieve a treasure for the king. A treasure with at least rumored mythical power that will shore up the king’s legitimacy and help him in avoiding possible future conflicts with two nearby kingdoms. Problem is, the treasure is in one of these other kingdoms and Gen isn’t sure that the moment he retrieves the treasure that the magus and his men won’t drop him with a knife or arrow right there on the spot. It actually didn’t grab me until chapter five. That’s when the traveling party started telling different versions of mythical tales of their gods. Creation myths and such that also involve the tale of a magic stone which will ensure an undisputed line of heirs for the royal in possession of it. Turner both satirizes and delights in the power of this kind of religious mythology and it’s good.
I also finished Heat by Bill Buford for my real life book club and the three collected volumes of the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Vaughn wrote the Y: The Last Man series and for the television show Lost so he knows what I like and I really like this so far. It’s wonderful and weird and gorgeous and heartbreaking. It’s the story of some star-crossed lovers and their infant who are all on the run with many folks who would like to see them dead. They come from two worlds (a planet and a moon) who have been at war as long as anyone can remember. He was a prisoner of war in a labor camp where she was a guard. They fell in love, went on the run and had a baby together. Now they have all kinds of folks trying to find and kill them. It might not sound like it form this brief description, but it’s fun, funny, shocking and twisted in equal measure. A definite achievement I’ll be following as long as it goes.
I also read Sourcery, the fifth Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. I think I mentioned that I’ll be spending the rest of my life reading all forty some books in that series between all the other things I read. This one is a brilliant political satire with squabbling wizards taking the place of venal politicians. And the librarian at the magical university library is an ape and my most favorite character of course. “Oook,” he’d say.
Ok, back to reading before school kicks in and takes away my lounging around time.