February reading-reviews and TSS negative review

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cold and snowy morning in Quebec, time to post a little update.

During this year first month, I posted three reviews for fantasy novels I read that were released prior to 2010. Today, I finished reading The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan and yesterday my listening to the audiobook of Midwinter by Matthew Sturges was concluded. Having said that, it means that I now have three reviews to write (with the addition of The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks). I hope to have all of them posted in the two following weeks.

Following this, for my listening pleasure while I walk to work, I'll try A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans and I will start reading The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd. This brings me to my next subject, the books of February.

Last month, no books caught my attention and in February, there were three. One of them can only be on my 'To read' list since it's the fourth book of the Shadow of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Salute the Dark, and I still haven't read the first three. Soon I hope. Here's the blurb :

The vampiric sorcerer Uctebri has at last got his hands on the Shadow Box and can finally begin his dark ritual - a ritual that the Wasp-kinden Emperor believes will grant him immortality - but Uctebri has his own plans both for the Emperor and the Empire.

The massed Wasp armies are on the march, and the spymaster Stenwold must see which of his allies will stand now that the war has finally arrived. This time the Empire will not stop until a black and gold flag waves over Stenwold's own home city of Collegium.

Tisamon the Weaponsmaster is faced with a terrible choice: a path that could lead him to abandon his friends and his daughter, to face degradation and loss, but that might possibly bring him before the Wasp Emperor with a blade in his hand - but is he being driven by Mantis-kinden honour, or manipulated by something more sinister?

Next on my watch list will be my first 2010 released novel. With some great reviews from fellow bloggers so far, N.K Jemisin debut novel The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms could live up to it's 'not so exaggerated' hype. The blurb you say? Here you go:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably.

In conclusion, an aside about a novel that made much noise last week, at least from Niallalot (N.R. Alexander) at The Speculative Scotsman. There was tremendous hype for The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman, and then Niallalot posted a negative review of the book (here). No problem there aside from a few comments about readers that mentioned they were not going to bother with the book after reading his review (myself included). The reviewer was not really surprised by the power of a negative review but by looking at the reaction about the comments from author Sam Sykes and other readers, he thought that he ought to clarify the situation. I think this is completely understandable, although maybe stretched a bit too far.

I do not know anybody who would read a criticism of a book and be influenced by it without taking account of the opinion of the critic in comparison with his. At least, as Sam Sykes states, (and if I understood correctly) it would be a shame. Sometimes, a negative review can even have the contrary effect, i.e. give the desire to certain readers to buy the book because by judging the criteria which made the critic dislike the book, they would find out that it is in disagreement with what they seek in a book. For my part, after reading the review of Niallalot, I knew that this book would probably not be to my taste. I believe that I share several interests with the critic about what I'm looking for in a fantasy novel. Moreover, this is invaluable to have reviewers who are able to explain in details what they don't like about a book and who stand by their belief.

Being able to avoid a poor book according to what I perceived in a review and be able to read one of the numerous and excellent novels which are available is a necessity. So again, thanks Mr. Alexander.

You can read the follow-up and Niallalot take about the situation on The Speculative Scotsman here.


Yagiz [Between Two Books] said...

I'm currently reading The Left Hand of God, so I'm going to have my own opinion about it soon, which is hopefully going to be reflected in my review.

I think reviews serve two big purposes:

They tell about a book from the reviewer's point of view. Then it's a matter of trusting this person's tastes etc.

They also generate publicity. And even if it's about a bad review, when it's properly done, it can tell about a book in a way to generate enough curiosity.

Phil said...

That's a good way of summarizing the issue. The two points you mention are probably what created the talk over at TSS and at Sam's page.

In my opinion, the matter of trusting the person's tastes is what was misinterpreted in this whole situation. This is the most important element.

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