Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards #2)

0553588958.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Gentlemen Bastards are excellent con artists on the land, but then unforeseen events send them onto the waves to become pirates. Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequences as Locke and Jean find their plans upset by politics, the one type of con they tend to avoid.

Locke and Jean are working a two-year con of the owner of the grandest casino in Tal Verrar, the Sinspire, when their plans are upended by the Bondmagi threatening revenge. They decide to get start their endgame with Locke admitting to the owner he and Jean have been cheating other gamblers to set things up only to be abducted by the secret police of Tal Verrar’s military commander-in-chief. The Archon poisons the duo to force them to work for him to become pirates and get allies from the Ghostwind Islands to attack shipping around Tal Verrar so the archon can get money to strengthen the navy from the city’s merchant council as well as gain the political upper hand, but promises them temporary antidotes. Suddenly in the archon’s service, the duo use this new wrinkle as part of their Sinspire con as the owner is an “ally” of the merchants whose wealth is in his vault. After a six-week crash course in sailing, the duo and a ship’s master spring prisoners from a military prison and take an outfitted ship provided by the archon towards with Locke as the charismatic captain. Things go well until the ship master dies just before their first storm and it become obvious that Locke and Jean are not sailors and there is a mutiny with Locke and Jean left on a little boat in the ocean. Two hours later, a real pirate takes their former ship and the duo are rescued through the pirate captain finds their cover story fishy but allows them to stay alive. Locke and Jean prove themselves on the ship and in the raiding another ship thus becoming full-fledge crewmen then reveal to the captain everything. After arriving at the Ghostwind Islands, the pirate captain tells the other major captains of the archon’s plan and her plan to end it by “playing” along until they get a shot at killing the archon, the other captain’s agree either wholeheartedly or begrudgingly. Weeks later, Locke and Jean report to the archon about their adventures and that they convinced a captain to hit the waters around Tal Verrar as well as continue their Sinspire con. The pirates begin doing small time ship raids and mount a massive assault on a town to the northwest where peasants let themselves be put through cruel and humiliating games by nobles for money. The archon isn’t pleased and demands a proper raid or never see him again, but then another pirate captain appears and attacks their ship believing his previous decision to approve the plan unwise. Locke, Jean, and their pirate allies are victorious but at a personal cost to Jean and they decide to end things in Tal Verrar across the board. Locke and Jean enlist the aid of the merchants against the archon then finish their Sinspire job by stealing the owner’s paintings then getting captured by the secret police who are waylaid and killed by the merchant’s operatives who take their masks and then proceed to the archon who attempts to kill them when the false secret police stage their coup though during the confrontation the chemist of the poison is killed and only one vile of antidote is available for Locke and Jean. The two give the former archon to their pirate allies to do with as they please and go to sell the paintings only to find their replicas, getting only a fraction of what they were expecting. Locke secretly gives the antidote to Jean and the duo sail off to the unknown.

While the overall book a good, after the halfway point it felt like there was a series of “add-ons” where people were introduced or events would happen that would be the next narrative turn of events with the set up for the pirate ship-to-ship battle the biggest example. In contrast, the flashback intrudes to the events after the previous book up and during their set up for the Sinspire con not only gave the reader how Locke and Jean got to where they were at the start of this book but also foreshadowed things that you were looking forward to play out in the narrative flow. The further developments of Locke and Jean were excellently written, and the major secondary characters were fun as well which compensated for the narrative “add-ons”.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is a nice follow up to the first Gentleman Bastards book, but also felt like a let down as well. While Scott Lynch continued to develop Locke and Jean as well as creating some good secondary characters, the narrative flow felt off and as the book went along it was telling. Overall a nice book with an ending that makes a reader curious about what will happen next.

The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

0756407915.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How does a man become a myth in his own time, well he does stuff and recounts his adventures to an audience either through stories or songs then lets gossip do it’s thing. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is the second installment of The Kingkiller Chronicles framed around the second day of Kvothe’s recounting of his life with the Chronicler of their agreed upon three-day conversation.

Continuing the narrative where he left off in The Name of the Wind, Kvothe recalls his education at the University and feud with fellow student Ambrose that culminated in Ambrose getting him arrested on charges of Consortation with Demonic Powers, a capital crime, for having called the Name of the Wind. Despite successfully defending himself in court, Kvothe his tuition will be extremely high for the new term tuition due to the negative attention he has attracted to the darker aspects of the University. Kvothe decides to take a term off during which Count Threpe arranges for Kvothe to aid the Maershon Lerand Alveron in Vintas in hopes that Kvothe might earn a writ of patronage. Arriving in the Maer seat in the city of Severen, Kvothe tricks his way into a meeting with the Maer and is contracted to write songs and letters to woo a young noblewoman that the Maer wants to marry. During this shadow courtship, Kvothe saves the Maer’s life by discovering and thwarting a plot to kill the Maer thus earning the nobleman’s respect. After saving his life and helping win his bride, the Maer charges Kvothe to lead a group of mercenaries to hunt bandits that have been waylaying taxmen in The Eld. It takes a month, but the group find and kill the bandits. A few days later they stumble upon the Fae Felurian, Kvothe travels after her, has a lot of sex, is able to use the Name of the Wind to combat her power, and convinces her to let him go but only after speaking to The Cthaeh about his future. Upon his return to the “mortal” world Kvothe learns he endangered the life and career of an Adem warrior by copying and learning the Adem way of fighting. The two travel to Ademre where he earns the right to train and learn the Adem way of life and fighting then earning the right to enter the school for further training if he wanted but in doing so saves his friend’s career. After being given an Adem sword, Caesura, and learning the Adem legend of the Chandrian, Kvothe sets off for Severen once again. On this way he comes across robbers posing as Edema Ruh that kidnapped and were assaulting two young women from a nearby village, Kvothe kills the robbers and returns the two young women to their village then races to the Maer’s court before the news reaches him to present himself, the waylaid taxes, and his deed in person. The Maer’s new wife makes her thoughts on the Edema Ruh clear—utter contempt—to which Kvothe knowledges he is one and his days at court are over. The Maer shows his gratitude by pardoning him for killing the robbers, providing a writ of performance, and ensuring Kvothe’s University tuition is forever compensated. Upon his return to the University, Kvothe and the bursar make a deal so both Kvothe and the University will get money from the Maer’s coffers achieving financial independence for Kvothe. In the present day during pauses in recounting his life, Kvothe and Bast help out the townspeople from around the Waystone Inn before Kvothe is beset by two soldiers prompted by Bast to rob him in an attempt to revitalize his friend but Kvothe loses and waits his apparently soon death while Bast kills the soldiers.

Unlike the first book, this book did not become tedious as Kvothe’s time at the University did not last long and throughout he was doing different things that set up things later in the book. The only time the book became a tad annoying was Kvothe’s sexual adventures with Felurian that was basically read like Rothfuss writing his teenage fantasy. The contemporary scenes at the Waystone Inn did not seem as engaging in this book, but I feel that it was because the flashback narrative was a lot more engaging than the previous book with everything Kvothe was doing.

The Wise Man’s Fear is clearly superior to its predecessor that began paying off things Patrick Rothfuss set up in the initial book. As the final book is taking a while to be written, I don’t feel a rush to know how Kvothe’s story ends but I’d like to read how it ends whenever it comes out.

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1)

0756404746.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some innkeepers are just friendly entrepreneurs, but some had lives before and one is a myth in his own time. The Name of the Wind is the first book in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles as the mysterious innkeeper Kote recounts the actual events of his life to a chronicler whose come looking for him.

After dealing with polite bandits, a chronicler finds a man building up a fire off the road and the two are attacked by spider-like monsters and the chronicler is knocked out. Waking up two days later the chronicler finds that the man is the innkeeper where he’s sleeping and who he was looking for to write down his life. The innkeeper, Kote, says the chronicler has the wrong person only to be confronted by his real name, Kvothe, and agrees if he tells it over three days which the chronicler agrees to. Throughout the next day around the events of patrons and Kvothe’s fae student Bast, Kvothe tells the events of his early life from travelling with his parents among the performing troop they led, their murder by the mythical The Chandrian, and his three years surviving in the streets of Tarbean before finding a way to the University and being admitted thanks to the yearlong schooling—in both mundane and “magical” disciplines—he had from an arcanist Abenthy who travelled with this troupe. Once in the University, Kvothe gets on the bad side of several Masters and another student, Ambrose, in his first few days through he rises through the ranks of students quickly but is also banded from the University’s Archives. Kvothe describes his studies and battle against poverty over several terms, as well as his rivalry with Ambrose, before adding the element of his lute and singing at a nearby tavern where he meets Denna who begins becoming an obsession to him. After escaping an attempt on his life by Ambrose, Kvothe learns about a Chandrian attack and travels to the village meets up with Denna and has a run in with a drug-addled draccus to save the village. Returning to the University, Ambrose destroys Kvothe’s lute which results in Kvothe using “the name of the wind” wounding Ambrose which results in his getting whipped though advanced in the standings of the University with a new Master sponsor. The book ends with the leader of the bandits that stole from Chronicler come into the inn though it’s a demon in the man’s skin, killing one of the patrons while the blacksmith’s apprentice kills it. Later that night, Bast confronts Chronicler that his job is to make Kvothe a hero again over the next two days or something unpleasant would happen to him.

The hype surrounding this book made me cautious as I began reading it not wanting to heighten my expectations, which resulted in me getting interested in the story until the scene shifted to the University resulting in the book become tedious until Kvothe finally left for his excursion and interaction with the draccus. Frankly a lot of this book I felt was a different version of Harry Potter, which isn’t fair to Rothfuss especially when the action picks up in the flashback narrative or the Waystone Inn scenes of which the later I back looking forward too because they were more engaging.

The Name of the Wind is an overall nice book and hopefully sets up a lot more exciting stuff in the next two books of Patrick Rothfuss’ trilogy. While I personally didn’t buy into the hype that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t finish the trilogy, at this point at least, because there are very engaging scenes that Rothfuss writes that make the book a page turner.

White Sand (Volume I)

1524104868.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand Volume 1 by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The desert planet of Taldain is locked between two suns so that that with one side is constantly in light and the other in constant darkness with powerful magic apparently only occurring amongst the sands on the dayside. The first volume of Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand graphic novel trilogy is an introduction to a new world of the Cosmere and another unique magic system.

Kenton, a weak but skilled sand master, tries to earn a higher-ranking position in the guild of sand masters by running the Mastrell’s Path, despite the disapproval of his father, the Lord Mastrell. The day after Kenton proves himself on the Path, the sand masters gather for a ceremony where new rank advancements will be granted. One man, Drile, is demoted for having attempted to sell out himself and others as mercenaries. Just as Kenton is grudgingly granted the highest rank, his father is shot with an arrow, and an army of Kerztian warriors attacks. The sand masters, being surprised and unprepared, are soundly defeated. Just before his death, the Lord Mastrell unleashes a wave of power that leaves Kenton buried beneath the sand. After waking, Kenton is joined by Khrissalla, Baon, and two Darkside professors who are lost. They are searching for information about Khriss’ late fiancé and the “sand mages” he sought. On the way to the nearest city, they are attacked by a small group of Kerztian warriors. Kenton’s sand mastery suddenly proves to be inaccessible, but Baon drives the warriors away with his gun. Upon arriving in Kezare, Kenton’s powers return with greater strength than ever, and he stands before the Taishin, who plan to disband the Diem of sand masters. He is granted the position of acting Lord Mastrell and is given two weeks to convince the Taishin otherwise. Kenton returns to the Diem and drives away the rebellious Drile, who Kenton believes was responsible for betraying the sand masters to the Kerztians. Elsewhere, Trackt Ais works to catch a crime lord, Sharezan, amid threats to her family. The Lady Judge meets with Ais and asks her to spy on Kenton. Meanwhile, Khriss inadvertently locates Loaten, an infamous Darksider, in her search for information. He offers little direct help but sets her on a path to meet with the leaders in the city. Ignorant of the role of the sand masters, and of Kenton’s new station, she arrives at the Diem just as Drile returns to do battle with Kenton.

The story has all the hallmarks of Sanderson book with excellent execution of character introduction and conflict amongst the important members of the cast. The art of Julius Gopez and coloring of Ross A. Campbell bring this unique world and environment alive very well. However, while the elements that makes Sanderson, well Sanderson, are there the book also doesn’t feel like Sanderson. I do not want to blame scriptwriter Rik Hoskin for this, the change of format to graphic novel from the usual book could be the main factor and Hoskin could very well be the reason this story still reads like a Sanderson story but there is a noticeable difference from other Sanderson works. The other main issue I somewhat have is more biological than story, the color pigmentation of the characters is reversed from what it should be given the planetary environment they are living in unless there was a cosmic shift that changed things.

White Sands Volume I is a wonderful addition to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere and is given a unique place in it with the graphic novel format. The art and color are amazing, yet the change from word medium to visual does have an impact on how Sanderson’s style comes across. Overall a very good beginning with story, characters, and atmosphere.

Cosmere

Warbreaker

0765360039.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Princesses, an atheistic god, two near immortals who have history, a zombie army, and an interesting magic system that involves color can only result in something very interesting happening. Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker follows two princesses in a strange land, a grumpy near immortal, and a god that doesn’t believe in himself as politics, religion, and personal conflicts swirl together to either bring peace or war.

Idrian princess Vivenna has been prepared her entire life to marry the God King but at the last moment her father sends her unprepared and carefree youngest sister Siri instead. Vivenna follows hoping of save her sister and meets with Lemex, her father spy in the city, and a team of mercenaries in his employ led by Denth. However, Lemex dies shortly thereafter, though not before bequeathing his large sum of BioChromatic Breath to her. Vivenna and Denth’s team begin making guerilla attacks against Hallandren’s supply depots and convoys that will hopefully give the Idrians an advantage in the seemingly inevitable war all the time watched by one Vasher, a mysterious man who can use his Breath to Awaken objects and wielder of a sentient sword called Nightblood. Siri, after spending many terrified nights waiting for the God King to consummate the marriage, finds that he is not actually the feared entity that she thought, but has actually had his tongue cut out by his priests, making him nothing more than a figurehead. They bond as Siri teaches the God King to communicate, however she comes believes that the priests are secretly plotting to kill her and the God King if she produces an heir, and fears that Hallandren will soon launch a war against Idris. Siri finds potential allies in the unorthodox god Lightsong, who is plagued by nightmares of war and is struggling to discover his purpose, and the Pahn Kahl servants headed by Bluefingers. After being temporarily kidnapped by Vasher, Vivenna discovers that Denth is not working for her but against her, having been hired by an unknown third party to instigate the war with Idris, and she barely escapes their custody with her life. Vasher finds her after weeks hiding and living destitute in the Idrian slums of Hallandren. Together, Vivenna and Vasher work to undo the damage done by Denth and avert the war before Vivenna convinces Vasher to try and save her sister. However, Vasher is captured and tortured by Denth, who is revealed to have been working for the God King’s Pahn Kahl servants, who are trying to incite war between the Idrians and Hallendren so that they can take gain their freedom. The servants capture Siri, kill many of the God King’s priests, and throw the God King in the dungeon along with several gods including Lightsong. The Pahn Kahl, having gained the Commands to control the city’s undead Lifeless army, send them to attack the Idrians and start the war. Lightsong sacrifices himself by giving the God King his Breath, which heals the king, giving him his tongue back and allowing him access to his godly cache of BioChromatic power and save Siri from being murdered. During this Vivenna uses her own budding powers to break into the God King’s palace and free Vasher, who kills Denth. Vasher reveals that he is actually one of the Five Scholars, ancient beings who originally discovered the Commands for using BioChromatic Breath, and bestows upon the God King the code to awaken the city’s secret army of nearly indestructible D’denir Lifeless soldiers that sent to destroy the Lifeless army before it can reach Idris. While Siri and the God King begin a new rule and life together, Vivenna joins Vasher as he sets out on another quest to a distant land.

The narrative of the story is divided between point-of-views of Siri, Vivenna, Lightsong, and Vasher thus giving a wide swath of the two distinct cultures and religions that have vast misunderstandings not only with one another but within themselves. Sanderson’s creation of such a unique magic system is by itself a reason to read the book because of just how innovative it is and how it’s still not completely understood by those who use it even a long-lived individual like Vasher who helped shaped what is already known. Sanderson’s princess swap at the beginning of the story caused instant character reexamination and growth that helps drive the narrative while at the same time Lightsong’s quest to figure himself out while the populous believes him to be a god was another unique perspective that helped pushed the narrative forward in many locations. There is so much that was good, that it’s hard to find something to criticize.

Warbreaker is a unique standalone book within Brandon Sanderson’s larger Cosmere that blends fascinating characters and cultures with a stunning magical system to create an amazing narrative. If you’re interested in reading a Sanderson book and don’t want to be stucked into a series, this is the book you should read.

Cosmere

Elantris (Elantris #1)

5c6946d599ea69959676c646a77444341587343Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The city of Elantris was home to magical individuals that ruled Arelon for centuries then the magic died and there was chaos. Elantris the first novel by Brandon Sanderson follows a cursed Prince, his “widowed” Princess bride, and a foreign Priest come to Arelon to convert it from it’s pagan ways before judgment falls.

Raoden, the beloved Crown Prince of Arelon, wakes up to find himself transformed in a “cursed” Elantrian and escorted into the city by the priests with funerary offering as he is considered already dead. Days later, Princess Sarlene arrives from Teod to find out that her betrothed is dead and due to the marriage contract she is now the daughter of the Arelon King but sees the arrival of the Derethi priest Hrathen came to convert the Arelon in three months or it would be destroyed. As Raoden comes to grips with is now fallen home, Sarlene and Hrathen duel one another for the future of Arelon until eventually Elantris and its residents become part of their political game. Meanwhile Raoden has used his political savvy to begin “New Elantris” within the city to make life worth living among the cursed inhabitants and gives him time to find out the old magic still works but weakly and begins trying to figure out what went wrong. Through numerous interactions with another Raoden figures out what happened to the magic and begins “repairing” it thanks to Sarlene falls in love with him then learns who he is only to be separated thanks to Hrathen who is almost able to convert Arelon and Teod only to learn they were meant to be murdered because only citizens from those two nations can become Elantrians. Raoden is able to “cure” the Elantrian magic and now empowered goes to Teod to save Sarlene and battle the Derethi warriors alongside Hrathen who feels betrayed by his religious superiors.

Unlike Sanderson’s future books, the plot literally starts at the book’s beginning without a little buildup which was both different and nice. Yet this is a first novel and has problems that go along with it as Raoden and Sarlene are essentially perfect with any mistakes they make coming back to work out in the end while Hrathen’s inner struggle between having faith in his god and the leaders of his religious shows the maturity of writing that Sanderson would show in future books. Another quality that Sanderson is known for is connecting everything together at the end is present here making a very engaging finish to the book.

Elantris is the first novel of the prolific career of Brandon Sanderson that has an engaging plot that has a quality climax. While having some problems that are typical of a first novel there are the wonderful writing elements that Sanderson is known that makes you want to read the next book he writes if this is your first.

Cosmere

Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth

0544337999.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is vast and not everything was fully written out, however that doesn’t mean the incomplete material isn’t interesting. Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth is a complication various stories begun and partially revised by J.R.R. Tolkien then edited into a somewhat readable fashion, along with alternate versions, by his son Christopher that reveal backstories from all Ages of Tolkien’s world.

The first two-thirds of the book covers the First and Second Ages with focuses in the former on Tuor journey to Gondolin and more details to the Children of Hurin while the latter focused on various elements of Numenorian history and the history of Galadriel and Celeborn. The last third of the book focuses on the Third Age with background stories and histories to various events and people that feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from the disaster at Gladden Field when Isildur dies and the One Ring is lost to the foundation of the friendship of Gondor and Rohan to the Battles of the Fords of Isen and Gandalf’s view of the Quest of Erebor and the Nazgul’s hunt for the One Ring. And on top of those backstories are histories on various people and items featured in the four books, namely the order of the Wizards.

Unlike The Silmarillion in which Christopher Tolkien edited his father’s writing into narrative chronicle, he left his father’s work unfinished and supplemented them with alternative versions that his father hadn’t rejected. This decision made the first two-thirds of the book a chore to get through or simple something to skim, however in the last third of the book the tales and histories were essentially complete with only some details not decided upon by the elder Tolkien before his death thus making for a better read. Frankly it’s this final third which is the highlight of the book especially anything related to the elder Tolkien’s most famous works, in particular is “The Quest of Erebor” that connects The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together than just the One Ring.

Like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales is for hardcore Tolkien enthusiasts that want every detail they can get from J.R.R. Tolkien. Though the final third of the book has material that general readers might enjoy if they loved the author’s two well-known books, it might not be worth the money to buy this book new for it.

Tolkien

Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland

1536209414.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchanged for an honest review.

Created to entertain one night and retold over the years then centuries, folktales came down to the early modern times in oral form before being written down before they were lost forever. Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland is collection of nearly 50 tales that cover a variety of fantastical territory. Amongst the titles that I personally liked “The Dead Moon”, “Fair Gruagach”, “Mossycoat”, and “The Dauntless Girl” while the entire section entitled “Wits, Tricks, and Laughter” was a waste. While the primary audience is for middle school children, as an adult I did have a nice time reading the book overall though there were some stretches where I was just making it through several stories until a decent one came up.

The Silmarillion

0544338014.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The creation of Middle-earth and its First Age is presented in both mythical and historical accounts that set the stage for The Lord of the Rings in the world’s Third Age. The Silmarillion is the posthumously published collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s worldbuilding tales concerning the creation and history of Middle-earth focusing on the First Age but also delving into the relevant history leading to the War of the Ring.

Middle-earth was created through song by the Ainur, though one of their number—Melkor—attempts to disrupt the tune three times but it overpowered by Eru (God). Eru then showed the Ainur a vision of the world and offered them the chance to enter it and rule, many took up the offer including Melkor. While many of the Ainur, the more powerful Valar and lesser Maiar, attempted to create a world for the Elves and Man, Melkor repeatedly destroyed their work and seduced some of the Maiar to his side, including Sauron. The book then shifts into the Tale of the Simarils, which were three jewels crafted by the Elf Feanor that glowed with the light of the Two Trees that were the only source of light before the Moon and Sun were created by the last remnants after their destruction by Melkor who then killed Feanor’s father and stole of the Simarils. Feanor long duped and corrupted by Melkor’s lies leads the Nordor Elves out of the West to Middle-earth to regain the jewels and do terrible things while Feanor and his sons make a dark oath to recover the jewels. Over the next 500 years, the various Elven groups in Middle-earth battle the now entitled Morgoth and his minions while later to be joined by Men. But the curse of Feanor devastates the Nordor and all that become related to them or allied to them or that touch the Simarils. Eventually a Elf-Man, Earendil arrives in The West to beg for help against Morgoth and the Valar with those Elves that hadn’t join the Nordor attack Morgoth and overpower him but the Simarils are lost in Space, the Sea, and the Earth until the End of the World. The book then gives an overview of the Second Age and the time of Numenor, their glory and fall by the lies of Sauron who’s defeat by the Last Alliance ends the Age and disperses his power for a time. And finally, the book ends with the overview of the creation of the rings of power and the Ring by Sauron then an overview of the lead up to and through the War of the Ring as seen in The Lord of the Rings.

While Tolkien did have some wonderful worldbuilding ideas, the mix of mythical and historical tales were hit-and-miss with a lot of dryness poured on. While there is a somewhat narrative framework to the book, there is no narrative flow. Though some of this can be attributed to the intermixture of tales that bent towards the mythical or the historical, they weren’t meshed together very well and that is probably because of the posthumous nature of the book as Tolkien’s son Christopher put the book together and added sections using his father’s notes to bridges things within a large framework but there was a randomness to things.

Overall The Silmarillion should be seen a collection of mythical and historical tales within a large framework, but one that doesn’t mesh well and at times is disjointed. This is a book for hardcore Tolkien fans not general readers who would be stratified with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien

The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)

0312890184.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Wandering towards the North and the ongoing war with a broken, the former torturer Severian nears the end of his journey just to begin another.  The Citadel of the Autarch is the final installment of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun tetralogy following the exiled torturer Severian’s journey away from the Citadel and how he returned.

Severian continues his wandering North towards the war when he finds a dead soldier and brings him back to life using the Claw.  They find the Pelerines Camp and are cared back to health as Severian had picked up a bad fever.  While recovering he is selected to judge a storytelling contest, but before he can render his verdict, he returns the Claw to the Pelerine alter and is asked by the Camp’s leader to find a holy man close to the front and save him.  Severian goes, meets the man in his house of multiple time periods, but the man disappears while Severian is leading him away from the house.  Returning to the camp alone, Severian finds it has been attacked and abandoned.  Finding the new camp, he sees his new friends either dead or with worse injures than original.  Severian wanders again and falls into an auxiliary cavalry unit and joins an attack on the Ascians but is injured and saved by the Autarch himself after the battle.  The Autarch, the androgynous brothel guide of Shadow and Vodalus’ agent in the House Absolute in Claw, gives Severian a lift in his flier which is shot down and tells Severian to eat a piece of him so he can become the new Autarch.  Severian does so but is captured by Vodalus’ rebel forces which as Agia in the ranks wanting to kill him.  But after joining up with the Ascian army, Severian is rescued by the green man he saved in Claw via a time tunnel where Severian meets aliens that as Autarch he’ll be tested to allow man to return to the stars if he success or neuter him if he fails like the previous Autarch.  Dropped off on a beach, Severian finds a new Claw of the Conciliator and makes his way back to Nessus and the Citadel.  Using the memories off all the previous Autarchs, Severian sends the Citadel into an uproar of activity.  He returns to his first home in the torturer’s tower, figures out that Dorcas is his grandmother who died soon after giving birth to his father who was sent a warning message in Shadow, and has a philosophical rant about what his position is before being whisked off the planet to be tested.

This story was engaging up until the Autarch returned to the story and Severian awful philosophizing began in earnest.  Though Wolfe wrapped up several storylines or wrote things to just end, I really didn’t care because of how much I had disliked the previous two installments especially Sword.  Severian is an unreliable point-of-view character, which wouldn’t be bad if he wasn’t the only point-of-view or completely nuts or stupid or whatever Wolfe decided to have him be in a given chapter.  The cosmic philosophizing by the aliens or Severian’s attempt at it becomes unreadable because I by now don’t care and just wanted to see the story ended or interesting things happen.  Honestly, each story in the storytelling contest were better stories that this one or the entire tetralogy together.

The Citadel of the Autarch ends Gene Wolfe’s classic The Book of the New Sun as well as my interest in anything written by Gene Wolfe.  While this final installment is better than its immediate predecessor, the series went into a decline right after the first book.  I don’t get the hype of this fantasy-science fiction “classic” and feel it’s overrated.