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Heavy, heavy subject matter. Blunt-force dialogue. It puts you inside the characters’ heads immediately and effectively, and these are not pleasant places to be.

I don’t know how I feel about the art style. It’s light and messy, splayed across the page and rarely contained in panels. Not a lot of detail.

It’s a pretty fast read. I like it, but I don’t really have a desire to seek out anything else by the author.

I want to say contemporary fantasy, but fantasy is the wrong word, maybe. Spiritual. I mean, the fantastical elements are there, but not central, and more a subtle mythology textured across the world than any set of governing ideas. The moments of strange are stronger for the space between them. Reminds me of superhero stuff in Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude. It’s a slow, somber build of a story.

Central characters are very well-developed, but the rest are sketches and the villain/s especially lack/s any solid threat. Their mission is ill-defined and inconsistent, which is interesting, but not as interesting as it could be.

Lots of flashbacks. Works well through the first 2/3, but the last third sees too many of varying lengths and structure and even dips into another character’s perspective for an extended one. It dicks with the pacing.

Revelations toward the finish feel inevitable and unsurprising.

Still, I enjoyed it for the strength of Ricky Rice’s character. He comes out of it stronger. Also, almost all the characters are black. I wouldn’t recommend reading it for that one reason, but it adds to the argument for me, having little exposure to that perspective and especially in fantasy. You can feel it in the character’s voices & vocabulary and there’s no a descent into stereotype or caricature. Refreshing.

Ending ties up the central story, sort of, but leaves plenty others hanging. Sequel? Thinking just of the character arc of Ricky Rice, it’s satisfying.

alright, so here’s my problem with looking for alaska:

i haven’t read twilight, but one of the complaints i hear most often is that bella is just a placeholder for the reader. she just has a few basic character traits (clumsy, low self-esteem, etc) so the average reader could easily identify, but somehow a super handsome bloodsucker falls for her.

pudge is totally the same. we barely find out anything about him (he memorizes last words and he’s skinny, or something) and he’s totally average in every other way. he starts smoking and drinking because his new friends do. he’s a very passive member of their group. his character is defined ALMOST TOTALLY by his big ol’ crush on this girl. i can’t quote it, but one line somewhere in there is “she’s so magical and beautiful and great and i’m just so lame and boring ho hum.”

(i do appreciate that her character works as a deconstructed mpdg. her quirks and erratic behavior/moods are depicted as unhealthy as often as they are endearing, more than can be said for a lot of similar characters.)

when she dies, it’s actually pretty emotionally effective because i’m accessing my own grief, because pudge isn’t enough of a character to have his own. i like that he’s forced to confront his idea of her vs. the reality of her, but that second part of the book feels rushed and all over the place tonally.

i think i might like it better if it started with her death and he reflected on their time together in flashbacks. would mix things up a little better, maybe.

of course, i’m not even in the same neighborhood as the target audience for this book.

A misdirect followed by a fantastical tour of the diabolical.

What does the Devil mean to us? Along with his companions (the jester, the knight, the fool, the witch) he swivels the whole of Moscow on its axis and shakes loose the city’s structure. His efforts are more unrelenting than evil. But I mean, really only slightly less evil than what you might expect from typical depictions of Satan.

It’s cut through with passages of a novel (written by the titular Master) about Pontius Pilate, and describes an alternate but recognizable crucifixion, along with subsequent events and those leading up to it. These were less interesting to me. But I’m sure they mean something.

I liked it. Not too long. Vivid and unexpected in atypical places.

 

That isn’t 100% accurate. I finished Game of Thrones and have moved on to Clash of Kings.

I don’t think I can offer any entirely original praise for Martin’s series, but I’m sure I can rehash what millions of people have already discovered they love about it.

This is fantasy post-fantasy. Westeros is a world where the “elves” are long-extinct, enchanted swords are no longer made, and even any concrete magic is absent. There are supernatural elements to these books—and, as a spoiler-free new reader, I don’t know if the standard fantasy tropes will come more into play in later books—but they take a backseat to the complex political machinations that provide the backbone for these stories.

And I love it.

I’ve read plenty of fantasy novels, and I have every intention of doing so again. A Song of Fire & Ice is refreshing because, where genre novels all too often rely on the fantastic or absurd to bolster paper-thin plots, Martin writes historical war fiction that just happens to take place in a fantasy world.

The characters, divided by various factions and rivalries, are fully-realized and well-written, playing with your loyalties as a reader. Evil characters, even when totally unsympathetic, are interesting and and possessed of clear motivations never as simple as they originally seem.

Martin writes a world of gray morality, and I’ve never been so happy to read in monochrome.