I had a bit of a problem starting this post. I could not for the life of me figure out what to write about. One book? Several books? Find a few books I read this month that have the same theme?
Instead, we’ve got three great books. Well, one really good and two great books.
I read “Japanese steampunk” in the description of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff and I was sold. One part mythology, one part environmental diatribe, and all parts Japanese steampunk awesomeness, Stormdancer weaves together elements of Japan’s gods and spirit animals and gives us the story of Yukiko, sixteen year old daughter of the shogun’s hunt master. The shogun gets it into his head that thunder tigers, or griffins, still exist, and he wants one for his very own. He sends his hunt master off to secure him a griffin, and in the process Yukiko, who’s along for the ride, ends up stranded with a very angry thunder tiger.
What keeps this book firmly in the “really good” category and out of the “great” category are two things: point of view and overwriting. Every sentence contains two descriptive words, minimum. Think “Her hair fell in a tangle of black rain down her back, flowing over alabaster skin.” Not so bad, right? Now imagine every sentence like that. It’s trying, to say the least.
The other problem I had, and it’s possible Kristoff did this on purpose, was he couldn’t settle into a point of view. While it’s all in third person, we shift from Yukiko to Masaru (her father) to Buruu (the thunder tiger) to the shogun to Kin to…well, you get the idea. Too many, and often times, we’re only in one person’s head for a few paragraphs. It feels too close to be omniscient, and after a while, you get annoyed.
But! This is the first story I’ve read in a while, possibly ever, where the sheer creativity overcomes the style problems. Chainsaw katanas, spirit beasts, and the friendship that grows between Yukiko and Buruu make it worthwhile. Also, Kristoff looks like Dave Grohl’s younger, hotter brother. Just sayin’.
I never would have thought of comparing Kevin Hearne’s Trapped to Jennifer Estep’s Widow’s Web, but oh look, I am. Two completely different stories share one major similarity: character growth and the fact that they go there.
We’ve got a bit of a time warp going on in Trapped. It’s twelve years after the end of Tricked, and Atticus is finally ready to bind Granuaile to the earth. Twelve excruciating years of learning and lust. Searching for a place to commence tattooing his apprentice, he learns the only place he can get to, via the faery portals, is at the base of Mount Olympus. Remember a few books back, where Atticus managed to piss off Bacchus? Mount Olympus isn’t such a great place for the world’s remaining Druid to be. To make matters worse, the events of Hammered come back to bite him on the ass, and Atticus and Granuaile will be lucky if they can stay alive, much less get her bound to the earth.
Widow’s Web picks up shortly after By A Thread ends. On our last outing with Gin and Friends, Gin and Owen had to deal with Donovan, Gin’s ex, and their unresolved past. Now it’s Owen’s turn, when his ex-fiancee, Salina, shows up. Salina’s supposedly in town to take back her rightful place in Ashland’s underworld, but Gin can’t help but be suspicious of her. And, more painful, it’s obvious Owen’s still got a soft spot where is ex is concerned. Getting him to open his eyes might be one of the hardest things Gin’s ever had to do.
Both Atticus and Gin were due for some introspection, and we get it. While Atticus had been denying his feelings and the connection he shared with his apprentice, Gin was doing her best to not do the things she knew would push Owen right back into Salina’s arms. In some ways, Gin had it harder-it went against every instinct she had to let Salina continue to walk around Ashland instead of taking her out (she is, after all, the Spider), but this was Owen’s show. In opening herself up to loving Owen, Gin knew she had to let Owen find out about Salina’s evil ways all by himself. As for Atticus, he’d gone so long hiding who he was that finally getting to be himself took some getting used to. And in typical Atticus fashion, he puts his foot it in a few times, and Oberon and Granuaile never fail to let him know. Especially Oberon 🙂
So what am I talking about when I say both books go there? To tell you would ruin the stories. Suffice it to say, it was time, in both cases, for the personal events to happen, and they happened masterfully. Estep, in particular, keeps turning Gin into a fuller, more complex character with each story. And Hearne, as usual, entertains with his trademark wit and weaves in the bits of mythology that make each story a history lesson you never saw coming. Plus, Oberon. As usual, he just about steals the show.
Sigh. Now on to the ginormous stack of library books taking over my coffee table…