Monthly Archives: July 2016

Review of The Dragon Round, by Stephen S. Power

The Dragon RoundI was granted an e-copy of The Dragon Round, by Stephen S. Power, from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
He only wanted justice. Instead he got revenge.

Jeryon has been the captain of the Comber for over a decade. He knows the rules. He follows the rules. He likes the rules. But not everyone on his ship agrees. When a monstrous dragon attacks the Comber, his surviving crew, vengeful and battle-worn, decide to take the ship for themselves and give Jeryon and his self-righteous apothecary “the captain’s chance:” a small boat with no rudder, no sails, and nothing but the shirts on their backs to survive.

Marooned and fighting for their lives against the elements, Jeryon and his companion discover that the island they’ve landed on isn’t quite as deserted as they originally thought. They find a rare baby dragon that, if trained, just might be their ticket off the island. But as Jeryon and the dragon grow closer, he begins to realize that even if he makes it off the island, his life will never be the same again. In order for justice to be served, he’ll have to take it for himself.

Nope, this one was not for me. Or rather the second half wasn’t. If it had continued in the same vein as the first half I probably would have liked it. But there is a definite difference between the first and second half and I found the second half excessively long and boring. About a billion characters were introduced out of nowhere, while the original two were basically dropped. One never reemerged until the last couple pages for no purpose but as a set up for a sequel. So there was no satisfying closure between them and the reader.

Even as unhappy as I was with the latter half of the book, I still would have called the book ok (just not to my liking). Then it reached the end and I was most displeased. I mean, the tagline of the book is he only wanted justice. Instead he got revenge. I don’t feel like he got either and the futility of it all left me feeling like I’d wasted my time reading it.

Add to that the fact that major, life altering events happened with so little fan fair that I occasionally had to read them twice just to be sure I should at least assume they held importance. And the fact that the mutiny happened so early in the book that I didn’t yet know or care enough for it to make sense in context of the characters and the town leaders were such Ebenezer Scrooge caricatures that I found them unbelievable. There were a lot of detractors here for me.

I did appreciate that the relationship between the Poth and Jeryon remained platonic and I thought the dragon had a lot of personality—as did the crabs, oddly enough. (Yeah, there are killer crabs, BTW.) But I’m just glad to finally be done with the book. At one point I thought it might go on forever.

Review of The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusI picked up a hardback copy of Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus somewhere. I’m not even sure where. I imagine I’m not the only one this happens to. Right? Right!?

Description from Goodreads:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

This is one of those books that has been on my radar for a long time and a lot of my friends loved it. I thought it was ok, though I certainly see what its die-hard fans love so much. It’s very descriptive and has a pleasant, sedate narrative pace that is easy to fall into.

But as a reader, I most appreciate getting to know characters deeply and the only character I felt I knew well in this book was the circus. Every detail seemed to be described. And it’s pretty to read, but I wish the same attention had been lavished on the living, breathing, human characters and their interrelationships. I never felt I knew them well enough to care particularly about them.

Similarly, leaping back and forwards in time, which is just what this book does, personally always annoys me. There’s nothing wrong with either of these things. It just meant I wasn’t an overly happy reader, even if I could objectively see that it is a cleverly written book.

In the end, I thought it was a fine book, just not one that matched my own preferences well.

Review of Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Love #1), by Heidi Cullinan

Clockwork HeartClockwork Heart, by Heidi Cullinan, is one of many books I bought in the sale Samhain Publishing had last year, when they claimed to be closing.

Description from Goodreads:
As the French army leader’s bastard son, Cornelius Stevens enjoys a great deal of latitude. But when he saves an enemy soldier using clockwork parts, he’s well aware he risks hanging for treason. That doesn’t worry him half as much, however, as the realization he’s falling for his patient.

Johann Berger never expected to survive his regiment’s suicide attack on Calais, much less wake up with mechanical parts. To avoid discovery, he’s forced to hide in plain sight as Cornelius’s lover—a role Johann finds himself taking to surprisingly well.

When a threat is made on Cornelius’s life, Johann learns the secret of the device implanted in his chest—a mythical weapon both warring countries would kill to obtain. Caught up in a political frenzy, in league with pirates, dodging rogue spies, mobsters and princesses with deadly parasols, Cornelius and Johann have no time to contemplate how they ended up in this mess. All they know is, the only way out is together—or not at all.

It kept me entertained for an evening, but I didn’t love it. I struggled with the first half a lot. I felt like the challenge of narrating a story in English, with one character that spoke French and another that spoke German left Cullinan no choice but to tell everything and show almost nothing. Honestly, I almost just gave up on the book. But eventually, after the two men had lived together for months, one finally mentioned he spoke English and the other went, “Oh, I do too.” As if you wouldn’t try every language you know, especially if you speak several, to communicate with the person you’re living with!

Basically, that is the level of believability with this story. I had to suspend a lot of disbelief as either irrational, overly convenient, or just basically unbelievable things happened over and over. This extended to the characters too. I couldn’t get down with Conny’s kinky side. I actually really like that Cullinan allowed a main character to be a slutty, exhibitionist, submissive and allowed a successful romantic pairing that didn’t end in monogamy, but was still presented as good. However, outside of the bedroom (or wherever they were getting down) he came across as a fairly staid, straight-laced sort of chap. So, when he broke out the dirty talk and kinky sex it was jarring. Similarly, I struggled with Johann’s age. He felt much older than 18, but having been in both the army and a pirate, I couldn’t really believe him to have been as oblivious to sex as he is presented as. The villain is evil just because he’s evil. Side characters make amazing sacrifices for unknown reasons, etc.

Again, my point is just that there were a lot of things I had to consciously tell myself to overlook in order to enjoy the story. I did enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong. The writing is good, outside of the clunky language issues. The characters are likable, even if their love for one another is a little too solid a little too easily. I like the pairing that was set up for the sequel. I’d read it, happily. But the book didn’t stand out as stellar.