Martha Wells, The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (The Wizards Hunter, The Ships of Air, The Gate of God)
After years of being recced Wells' books by Teresa I finally found some in English and devoured them. Overall really liked them.
The first qualities are the characters, Tremaine, who is one of the most delightful female main character I've ever read in a book. The fact that she's extremely sarcastic, mildly psychothic, ruthlessly practical, very much into taking charge, and with the wry self-depreciative sense of humour I find so
Second comes setting. Ile-Rien is a wealthy culture enjoying both magical and technological development. It is also under siege by the unknown, seemingly invincible soldiers which were dubbed Gardier, which ends up giving to Ile Rien the figure of a magical London under the Blitz. The merging of early-to-mid-20th century technology with high fantasy magic are very fun to see unfold. Also any book with zeppelins cannot be bad; it is known. And this culture is forced by circumstances to ally themselves with the inhabitants of small, low tech, matriarcal islands where all Wizards and magic are all considered evil, because, as far as they've ever encounter, they are. Much fun ensues.
Cue world hopping, much havoc and adventures & discovery of old secrets. Well, the usual.
Which brings me to the series' low points, the fact that I really didn't care for the plot. I was rather surprised how I could find all the action boring in a story in which I love characters and settings so very much. I'm not sure why it was so. Maybe lack of originality in the plot itself, maybe a bad grasp of pacing. These were still good books, but they could have been very much better given the good ideas already present.
(Teresa by the way I deeply suck and fail at using mail postage. Whack me on the head, please?)
Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade, & Black Powder War
blablahblah, 19th century dragons in CHINA! blahblahblah, 19th century dragons in TURKEY! Bored now.
I was hoping that the Temeraire books would grow beyond the gimmicky nature of its start and badly digested McCaffrey & Lackey... no such luck. While the first book had the benefit of the freshness of the idea to pull you in, the next books don't really add anything apart from the description of dragons in China (boring) and wild dragons of mid-Asia (booooorng, except a dragon is named Arkady which amuses me because of KSRobinson flashbacks, nevermind). The plot is boring and uninteresting as hell, and most of the characters keep being lackluster and actually start getting more uninteresting. Even Temeraire is starting to get on my nerve. I'm not sure I'll take the trouble of reading the next ones.
Patricia McKillip, Harrowing the Dragon
While all of McKillip's writing is a delight and an enchantment to read, it appears from this one anthology that she's even better with short stories. Every one of these stories were stunningly beautiful. Much of it is fairy tale-ish (there's a few fairy tale rewrites as well), haunting and melancholy and extremely wonder-filled.
Megan Lindholm, Harpy's Flight and the Windsingers
I'm starting to get the feeling the books under Lindholm's name are actually better, certainly fresher and more original, than the book under Hobb's name. These are the two firs books of a serie of four, staring Ki and Vandian in a relatively basic fantasy world filled with alien creatures more fitting to a Piers Anthony Space Op book - to a rather odd world building effect. The coolest part is that Ki is just a (stubborn) woman, middle aged, and not very pretty, whose main occupation happens to be being a teamster. I love when these kind of female characters are the main protagonist of a fantasy serie ♥ At the beginning of Harpy's Flight Ki is grieving for her husband and her two children who died very recently. As she comes through her grief with a job carrying something through a mountain's pass. She meets vandian on the road who proposes help in guiding in exchange for passage on her charriot.
It's a rather introspective novel, very unusual for fantasy, and I liked it that way. There's some rough edges, and some of Hobb's usual idiosyncracies (the woman is incapable of writing a good vilain without making them a caricatures ;_;), but it's overall an interesting book. Windsingers is more of the same with only slightly more action.
Michael A. Stackpole, Cartomancy (second book The Age of Discovery)
I reviewed the first tome, A Secret Atlas here. All the good I said there remain true, and the bad have ebeded. I mean, there's still some exotic words for the sake of being exotic, and there's still some bad fantasy tropes, but there's also plently of twists that lef me saying Whhaaaaaat? OMG YAY! This tome was full of good dramatic moments, more original ideas of setting and magic, and excellent characterization. Special plus for the characters of the two warring Prince, enlightened Cyron and barbaric Pyrust
Lois McMaster Bujold, Beguilement
One thing you have to give kudos to Bujold for is that she's never afraid of challenging herself by writing new things. This novel was definitly interesting, well written and with good, lovable characters and some intriguing setting ideas... it was also a bit weak on the plot side and left me hungering for more in the ending. I think I ought to blame it slightly on the fact that me and Romance aren't very good friend (though I did love the Laura Resnick's books, damnit!). Also I was expecting slightly more than your clichéed Mystical!Wandering!People from Bujold. Definitly a very enjoyable book though, and I hope the second tome properly warp plots in a more satisfying manner!