Title: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 21 October 2011
Goodreads Status Updates: Click here. Contains spoilers and lots of ROFL-ness.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (It was amazing!)
Review in a nutshell: It was epic.
Moral of the Story: I want a Shardblade.
Title: The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Read Date: 10 October 2011
Goodreads Status Updates: Click here.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (I really liked it.)
Review in a nutshell: This one’s a procedural, as Riordan novels go, but Percy’s reappearance and the introduction of a new Camp gives it a boost.
Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth
Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem – when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.
Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery – although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely – enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
When a book opens with the hero being chased by Gorgons–one of whom, carries a tray of poisoned Crispy Cheese ‘N Wieners as a murder weapon–you know you’re going to have a lot of fun.
The Son of Neptune is a procedural as Riordan novels go, but yes, it does pack a lot of alter-mythology fun. We get the time-tested Three-Heroes-Go-On-A-Quest formula, but this time with amnesiac!Percy Jackson, and a new boy (Frank) and a new girl (Hazel) from The Other Camp for Demigods (a.k.a. Camp Jupiter).
Riordan does what he does best, giving us a world where modern mortals exist side-by-side with creatures and elements from Greek and Roman mythology. I love how he is so attuned to pop culture and what kids are into, and how he manages to incorporate mythology into those.
[Spoiler Warning for those who haven't read the book] Honorable mentions for imaginative incorporations of mythology are: the Amazons running Amazon.com; Iris’ health and wellness shop, R.O.F.L. (and I was so surprised Riordan even knew ROFLcopter!); and Thanatos’ iPad App for Reaping Souls. I really like Thanatos, he’s…intriguing. I suspect he’s gonna have tea with Steve Jobs soon to discuss how to improve that app. [End Spoiler]
Riordan also dishes out his trademark action-packed side-quests and obstacles. But while they’re exciting, the Quest formula reduces the overall suspense of the book dramatically because, obviously, everyone’s going to make it out alive anyway. There’s a bigger Prophecy to fulfill, after all.
The first Percy Jackson and the Olympians series also suffered from the same problem, but Riordan does manage to drop surprises along the way as he develops his characters and their relationships. So while I may not worry much about whether they will live or die, at least I can worry about how they will escape their predicament and how it will affect them as characters. If the Olympians series is any indication, then the first 3 books of The Heroes of Olympus will be like the uphill climb on a roller coaster before the big drop.
Percy’s reappearance grounds this book as Jason Grace wasn’t able to do as effectively in The Lost Hero–readers already have a history with Percy, and are therefore more invested in his Quest. It’s easy to root for him despite his new allegiances and alliances.
This isn’t to say that I prefer Percy over Jason at this point. I know many people think Jason is but a shadow of Percy, but I don’t believe he was intended as a substitute–it’s just that he was placed in the position Percy has long occupied in the Riordan Hero Troika Template in the first book because he is the most important character then. I’d like to think Riordan has a more interesting plan for Jason than that.
This isn’t to say that Percy’s characterization in this book is perfect either. While he does ground the story because he’s a familiar character, I felt disconnected from him–like he was there, but what he thinks and does do not resonate much.
This problem may be a result of the multiple point-of-view format. The first series was written purely from Percy’s general perspective, but The Heroes of Olympus has chapters that focus on specific characters. It’s good for moving the plot forward and for providing back story, but I miss the more solid connection with the main character that the one-POV format provided. And since we already know so much about Percy, there wasn’t as much development on his part compared to Frank and Hazel, and even Jason, Piper, and Leo from The Lost Hero.
Also, when did Percy ever learn to talk Valley Girl? I don’t recall him using “like” and “dude” that much before. Is this what happens when Juno/Hera decides to give you Temporary Amnesia?
Speaking of the new characters, I’m not very happy with Riordan pairing everybody up, to be honest. I liked it back when it happened with Annabeth and Percy, and it seemed like a necessary plot device with Jason and Piper. I’m a hopeless romantic, but does everyone have to pair up?! Even Tyson?!
I’m not happy with the love triangles that are sure to pop up in Book 3 either. If this is an attempt to get older readers into the series, then it’s a cheap shot.
In addition, while it was sweet, it was weird to read Percy contemplating his Future with Annabeth. I find it weird mostly because he’s only 16. I concede that it may be believable considering the context; however, I still think it wasn’t something that Riordan really needed to touch on right now. Percy had enough of a motivation to ally himself with Camp Jupiter without those thoughts of a future in New Rome.
One of the big pay-offs of the cliffhangers from the first book is finally seeing the Roman camp. Camp Jupiter is wonderfully imagined by Riordan, and presents enough of a contrast with Camp Half-Blood that I seriously thought about which Camp I would prefer to be in, given the chance. (For the record, I think I’ll remain a Daughter of Athena and stay in Camp Half-Blood. Unless Riordan thinks up cooler stuff in the coming books.)
Praetor Reyna and Octavian from Camp Jupiter are interesting additions to the roster of characters. Octavian seems like he could be the Luke Castellan parallel of the Roman side, though I can’t be sure he’ll follow a similar path–the Oracular Teddy Bear Stuffings aren’t very clear on that. :P And while Reyna may be caught up in one of my Love Triangles of Doom, she may actually be the character that romance won’t be wasted on here.
Frank and Hazel have more compelling back stories than Leo or Piper. They also seem a lot more powerful than Leo and Piper. If it ever comes down to a team rivalry, the cards will be stacked in Percy’s favor.
While he’s very likeable as a character, Frank’s little family secret–his secret power–seems too convenient, especially since he learns to use it only during a crucial point towards the end. And Frank had so many other interesting things happening to him for the rest of the book, I felt like he overshadowed Percy sometimes. Maybe the book should have been called The Son of Mars. :P
Riordan sets the next book up well with the arrival of Jason’s team at Camp Jupiter aboard the Argo II. It’s time for the Great Camp/United Nations Mixer!
I fear for my sanity in case Riordan decides to give the Seven Heroes of the Prophecy a POV chapter each. o_O
A special thank you goes out to Sis Lianne, for lending me her copy of this book. I suspect her generosity was tinged with the desire to have more people to discuss the book with, and thus, the desire to make me cheat on the book I’m supposed to be “dating exclusively” providing the impetus for this little “flirtation”, as Sheila calls it. I have evil friends. :P
You know you’re a fangirl when you start talking metaphorical relationships.
Title: The Romanov Prophecy
Author: Steve Berry
Read Date: 30 September 2011
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars (I liked it.)
Review in a nutshell: Did someone say Fabergé easter egg?!!!
Publisher’s Synopsis: Atlanta lawyer Miles Lord, fluent in Russian and well versed in the country’s history, is thrilled to be in Moscow on the eve of such a momentous event. After the fall of Communism and a succession of weak governments, the Russian people have voted to bring back the monarchy. The new tsar will be chosen from the distant relatives of Nicholas II by a specially appointed commission, and Miles’ job is to perform a background check on the Tsarist candidate favored by a powerful group of Western businessmen. But research quickly becomes the least of Miles’ concerns when he is nearly killed by gunmen on a city plaza.
Suddenly Miles is racing across continents, shadowed by nefarious henchmen. At first, his only question is why people are pursuing him. But after a strange conversation with a mysterious Russian, who steers Miles toward the writings of Rasputin, he becomes desperate to know more, most important, what really happened to the family of Russia’s last tsar?
His only companion is Akilina Petrova, a Russian circus performer sympathetic to his struggle, and his only guide is a cryptic message from Rasputin that implies that the bloody night of so long ago is not the last chapter in the Romanov story . . . and that someone might even have survived the massacre. The prophecy’s implications are earth-shattering, not only for the future of the tsar and mother Russia, but also for Miles himself.
Like Dan Brown, Steve Berry is a guilty pleasure kind of read for me. And for the record, I don’t care much about historical accuracy (or inaccuracy, in Brown’s case,) I just like alternate history and the way these authors spin their stories.
I’ve read only 2 other books by Berry so far: The Amber Room and The Venetian Betrayal. I’ve come to like Cotton Malone as a protagonist in Venetian, so it took a while to adjust to someone different, like Miles Lord here in The Romanov Prophecy.
I got used to him alright, but I didn’t really like Miles all that much. The Romanovs, Rasputin, and the other historical side-characters were more interesting, which says a lot, considering most of them are dead throughout most of the book. Miles just seems to serve as a focal point for the plot to move forward, and that’s pretty much it. Heck, even characters who appear only during the last few chapters were more interesting than Miles. (Sorry, Miles. I mean, if you haven’t figured out who was really after you after all those security breaches, then… *shrug*)
I also had a problem with the first half of the book, which, although it began with a murder attempt (which is as good a beginning as any,) seemed to drag. Berry got into the more intriguing part of the plot–the “treasure hunt”–only about halfway through.
What pushed me to continue reading, though, were my interest in the conspiracy surrounding the alleged survival of Anastasia and Alexei, and several years’ worth of fascination with the Imperial Easter Eggs.
Did you say Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs, Steve? Now you have my attention.
Ever since high school, when I read about the eggs in Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy (my mother liked Judith Krantz, and there was a time when I had to rely on her for books to read,) I’ve read up on them and Googled them several times. I like looking at the pictures and reading about the history of each egg and finding out where they are now.
In this book, Berry used the Lilies of the Valley egg as a plot point:
This egg was given by Tsar Nicholas II to the Tsarina Alexandra on Easter (April 5) 1898. It is made of gold, rose pink and green enamel, diamonds, rubies, and pearls.
All the Imperial Eggs have a surprise; this one’s are miniature portraits of the Tsar and their 2 elder daughters painted on ivory, which are revealed by turning a pearl knob.
The egg is now part of the collection of The Link of Times Foundation (Russia). And that’s all for today’s Imperial Easter Egg lesson.
The ending of the book felt a bit rushed; I wanted more of a closure between Miles, Akilina, and the mysterious Semyon Pachenko, who served as the starting point for their quest, as well as some kind of crackdown on the people behind the manipulation of the Tsarist Commission. A royal coronation is well and good as endings go, but I wish Berry provided a few more details to wrap things up.