My week’s been swell. Got an absolute boatload of reading done (some of it not exactly on purpose), so it’s obviously been a good time. I managed to get through both of my goals from last week – although they weren’t particularly strenuous – and I heard back and was accepted to an MFA program! It was my #2 choice, but odds are it’s the program I’ll be taking courses from due to – just like in undergrad – financial decision-making.
Not that that’s a bad thing, by any means. It still looks like a worthwhile course of study.
As I mentioned, I did a lot of reading this week. I started and finished An Echo of Things to Come in about twelve hours, and I might go back and re-read it to pick up some nuances. I’d like to give it a proper review, so I’ll save most of my comments for now.
But if you like high fantasy, you should try Shadow and Echo. Echo completely blew me away.
In addition to reading Echo, I made an impulse trip to Barnes & Noble this week. As I believe I’ve commented before, while I love how easy Amazon makes it to find good books cheaply, nothing beats a physical bookstore for just browsing.
So, I picked up a few things: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, The Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher, and The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams. Over the last week I read through the first two (in addition to reading Echo), having only just finished Furies.
These books weren’t quite as randomly impulse purchases as last time I went to a bookstore, since I knew all three by reputation (and I’ve read the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn books nigh-on ten years ago), but when I walked into the store I hadn’t expected to walk out with a new stack of novels.
Bookstores are dangerous places.
I enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I’m not actually sure it was, properly speaking, a good novel. The characterization was excellent, and the hints at the history of Camorr – the faux-Venice city which serves as the novel’s primary setting – kept me reading and actively engaged. However, many of the twists were the wrong kind of predictable (there didn’t seem to be any prior hinting or knowledge; there was no ‘Ohhh’ moment) and they often felt as though they were a twist for twist’s sake. The history and backstory of Locke and Camorr were interesting – and the early theme of Locke’s consistent spectacular screwups made for a great hook – but all in all the plot floundered. Locke was enjoyable enough to read about to carry the book, but the story felt more like a sequence of events than a plot. Great title, though.
The Furies of Calderon was nothing new, and I loved it. I’m a bit familiar with Butcher’s work from the Dresden Files, but this felt fairly different. Which is good, because I was only half-interested in Harry Dresden, but I found myself very, very interested in Tavi and company during Furies. Perhaps it’s my own distaste for the ‘grimdark’ styles of fantasy which Dresden dabbles in (and which Lies was pretty whole-heartedly), but even though I was able to predict pretty much all of the movements in the plot of Furies, I still really enjoyed it. Butcher does a great job of setting up expectations and rewards, and masterfully controls the rising and falling tension over the course of the final battle (which is about a quarter of the physical book).
The real winner for Furies is the setting, and the antagonists. While one of them is simply a savage villain, the main cast of antagonists are pleasantly human. Evil, often vicious, but human. The best villains are always relatable. Additionally, the setting is filled to the brim with magic – elemental spirits known as furies cover the land of Alera, and nearly all persons within the land can work with and use them. Apart from the furycrafters of Alera, the barbarian Marat provide a strange and alien contrast to the otherwise familiar Alerans. (Alera takes an enormous amount of influence from the Roman Empire; enough that it was actually a bit disappointing.)
Best of all, it provided a complete plot, but left enough questions unanswered and left enough of a hint at the future to make me really quite eager to read more of the Codex Alera series.
My goal for last week was to revise and prepare a writing sample for application to online MFA programs. This also included writing a purpose statement. I completed both tasks; I sent in the first two chapters of The Rule of Iron, in addition to a philosophy essay from my undergraduate studies. I’m tempted to continue brushing over the first five chapters of Rule since I already started a pass, but I really ought to just continue forward on the draft.
However, that will need to wait another week. This week, I aim to write & publish a review of An Echo of Things to Come.
Last Week: Prepare and submit materials to graduate school programs, and read An Echo of What Was Lost. Both completed!
This Week: Write, edit, and publish a review of Echo. In addition, I’d like to start reading The Dragonbone Chair, or get back to and finish Republic. Or read more of the Codex Alera. I’m not sure – find out next week!