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[personal profile] ursula
Meme from Book View Cafe.

  • What are you currently reading?

    I am bouncing back and forth between The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay and 1610: A Sundial in the Grave by Mary Gentle. Both are historical fantasies which make many nods to old-fashioned swashbuckling Romance (I mean Romance as in roman, not Romance as in people falling in love, though that happens too). The Lions of al-Rassan is about a thinly disguised version of Moorish Spain, while 1610 is an alternate history which begins with our antihero inadvertently aiding in the assassination of Henri IV. I am finding both books rather slow going, which explains the bouncing.

    I have mixed feelings about Guy Gavriel Kay generally: I hated the Fionavar Tapestry in the way that one can only hate books lent by someone else, but liked his Sarantium books and Under Heaven, although I got tired of the hot-tempered hero with a heart of gold with whom everyone falls in love. I might be impatient with The Lions of al-Rassan because I know the period too well (I don't actually know that much about Moorish Spain specifically, but a semester of medieval Islamic history still unfits me for many fantasy novels). Really, though, I think I'm just tired of heavy-handed foreshadowing. I'm also mildly uneasy about religious and gender stereotypes. In particular, I wish Kay would refrain from inventing female characters who seem cool on paper, and then not letting them contribute to the plot. (Seriously, if your character is a skilled doctor who begins the book by vowing vengeance on a king, why do you let her boyfriend kill the king and her dad perform the impossible surgery?) I also find the small-r romance dull; Flowery and Epic is not really my thing.

    The small-r romance in 1610 is boring me, too, which is really too bad, since a cross-dressing woman with amazing rapier skill ought to suck me right in. Gentle goes in for obnoxious grit, though, and reading about sex from the point of view of someone who's mildly disgusted by it is not much fun. The actual plot is cool, though: scheming mathematician-astrologers try to change history!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope (fluffy, slight, and also overtly sexist, classist, and anti-Semitic, if you're keeping score), and The Wrong Reflection by Gillian Bradshaw (as soon as you know it's science fiction, the plot is somewhat obvious; but I was surprised and pleased by our heroine's eventual romantic partner.)

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

    I just acquired Nate Silver's book from the library waitlist, so should probably read it quickly and return it.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-13 01:37 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
I used to really love Kay (except Fionavar, which I HATED WITH A BURNING PASSION. I think I gave up on it somewhere in book 2), but last time I tried to reread I bounced off. Ambivalence, yeah. Although I feel like I should give Sarantine Mosaic a reread try, since right now I'm craving fiction about Byzantium and there just isn't much out there. I'm not sure how I'd react to Kay's female characters now, but he does have a rather limited range of them.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-15 01:37 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
Yeah, I read Tracy Barrett's novel about Anna Comnena, Anna of Byzantium ages ago; it was lightweight, but decent. And Sutcliff's Blood Feud is one of my favorites and largely responsible for my current desire to Learn More About Byzantium (you may also be thinking of The Shining Company, where some of the characters plan head off to Constantinople, but none of the book is set there).

I shall look for the others! Byzantium seems to be an underutilized historical setting--it's got all the best aspects of Rome (okay, if by "best" you mean "chariot racing," which I do) plus religious drama and mosaics and illuminated manuscripts and medievalness and the Varangian Guard and Russia and Constantinople.

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