Book Review- The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Hi Blogland!

I’m finally here to discuss The Obelisk Gate. Though I fear it won’t be in quite as much detail as usual, because I’ve read five more books since then. It’s just no that fresh in my mind right now, and that’s totally my fault for taking so long to get this review out.

First I would like to strongly suggest you read my review of The Fifth Season, because I outline the general characters, magic system, and world there. I won’t be doing that again here, so read up. Also, if you haven’t read The Fifth Season yet, you really should. It won the Hugo for Best Novel this year, and deserved to 100%.

Now, without further ado, The Obelisk Gate!theobeliskgate

This book picks up directly where the first left off. Essun is with Alabaster and Antimony in Castrima’s makeshift hospital, discussing how she must catch the moon and return it to its proper place in orbit around the Earth.

Since Essun has never even heard of such a thing as a moon, the concept takes a bit of time for her to digest. Alabaster begins training her to use the Obelisks. How to call them and commune with them, so that she can amplify her powers in order to be strong enough to capture the moon. This training is slow, mainly because Alabaster is dying. Bit by bit he is turning to stone, and will be eaten by Antimony.Any time he uses his Orogeny, more of him calcifies.

While this laborious training takes place, the book bounces between Essun’s point of view, Nassun’s point of view, and Schaffa’s point of view.

Nassun is a very talented Orogene. Better even than her mother. She learns intuitively what Alabaster struggles to teach Essun, that all Orogeny is actually magic. There’s something in them, in the very Earth that isn’t quite quantifiable. A silver thread runs through them and the the Earth, through all living things, and it is able to be manipulated by Orogeny.

As Essun learns this, Nassun experiments with it. And Schaffa battles it. It’s this silver thread that pulses within Guardians. It controls them, gives them their unnaturally long lives and the ability to silence Orogeny. But it also craves Orogeny. Their power is almost like a food source and the Guardians need it to feel less pain. Nassun learns this because she and Jija go to Antarctica and find Schaffa. He takes her under his wing, and teaches her to become a better Orogene than even her mother.

When Schaffa went after Seyenite and nearly killed her, we thought he’d drowned. But, he succumbed to the “evil” Father Earth, and sacrificed much of himself in order to survive. He has fleeting memories of his life before drowning, and he’s spent the last decade traveling and collecting young Orogenes, creating a small, fledgling Fulcrum of his own, off the grid in Antarctica.

And he has his own plans.

Central to all of this are the Stone Eaters. It seems that extremely strong Orogenes are irresistible to Stone Eaters. But once a Stone Eater has claimed an Orogene, that person is off limits to other Stone Eaters. Alabaster has Antimony. Essun has Hoa. And now Nassun has Steel. These creatures remain the most enigmatic element of Jemisin’s books. I’m still not sure what they want. What is their stake in all of this?

JemisinHiRes1.jpg

The lovely N.K. Jemisin

Hoa is aligned with Essun. And Antimony is too, via Alabaster. But Steel? He nearly killed Hoa, and would have killed Essun too. And now he’s attached to Nassun.

As much as I enjoyed this book, it left me with far more questions than answers. There are so many moving pieces, and I feel like I was handed the tools to figure it all out in this book, but lack the knowledge to actually use them.

I don’t understand Schaffa’s motivations right now. I like him a lot, and his tenderness for Nassun is touching. And his quiet brutality is riveting. It seems like he has very similar goals as Essun and Alabaster, which seems counter to what I know about him. But, all told, I don’t actually know that much about Schaffa, or Alabaster for that matter.

But, I know that those three all want to do something to/with the moon. And according to Hoa, some Stone Eaters want that too. However, they are not a united people. There are Stone Eaters who want to harvest Orogenes, and basically slaughter them all. Steel is one of those Stone Eaters.

That’s pretty much where the book leaves off. Obviously there’s much more interpersonal drama that fills the pages. Like Essun and Alabaster getting closure on their doomed relationship, and even enjoying one another’s company again. Or, Tonkee and Essun nearly getting kicked out of Castrima as tensions rise when food rations shrink. There’s the tense, fragile relationship between Nassun and Jija, as she convinces him time and time again not to kill her like he did Uche. And there’s the burgeoning parental love between Nassun and Schaffa.

Character development was huge in this book. Much more so than world-building. Characters and the magic system were the headliners here, and it does not disappoint. In the moment, The Obelisk Gate is very good. I enjoyed every moment. It’s when the veil falls away, and you start looking at the book with closer scrutiny that it starts to fall short in comparison with its predecessor.

But, The Fifth Season is a hard book to compete with. I think I can give The Obelisk Gate a break there. Still a great book, and I can’t wait for the last title in the series!

Thanks again for reading this far Blogland. I should be back tomorrow with a goals update. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t go that well this week. I’m also looking to write the A Monster Calls book review, as well as catch you all up on what I’m reading now. I’ve been burning through books, so hopefully I can keep the reviews coming.

See you soon,

 

BZ

 

Advertisements

In Which the Thing is Sent

Humans and Blogbots, gather ’round, for I have a tale to tell.

Tonight, I took a daring plunge into writerdom by sending my first ever query letter!

The joyous jitters coupled with a simultaneous wave of nervous nausea at clicking the “send” button was a very intriguing sensation. I’m freezing, mainly because the apartment is really cold right now, partly because I’ve been up for the better part of 17 hours, and because of the uncontrolled nervousness rolling through me.

But, I’m exhilarated. I just did this crazy thing, something I kept thinking of as far away. Something for someday. And then, through some research and encouragement from my friends and family, I figured, why shouldn’t someday start today?

Well, I figured that a month ago, when I set out to write the query letter, but I had to perfect the letter and really hammer out those edits before I’d feel all right with querying anybody.

But, someday is here and it’s now!

And in the spirit of seizing the day, I’ve sent the manuscript out to my wonderful Beta readers! I’m not sure they realize what they’re in for, but I appreciate their willingness nonetheless.

Anyway, I just wanted to swoop in and write to you all  while the adrenaline was pumping. I look forward to sharing all the nerves, joys, and absolute despair of querying and editing with you  in the weeks to come.

Talk to you soon,

 

BZ

Book Review- House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Hello Blogland!

Just a quick update before we dig into this book review. Edits on The Steel Armada are now complete!

(insert applause)

I’m just writing up a quick epilogue, mainly because I’m not sure about the ending. Granted, I’m not sure about the epilogue, but that’s what Beta readers are for, amiright? I should have the novel sent to said Betas this weekend, and I can hardly believe it.

Stories are still coming in for The Audient Void, and since I’m editing them as they roll into my inbox, I feel confident that we’ll release Issue #1 in a timely manner. If you enjoy Weird Fiction, à la Lovecraft and Bierce, check us out here. We’re accepting submissions of short fiction and poetry, through March 20th. So if you want to submit, you still have some time, and if you’re waiting for the issue, like our page and keep an eye out for sometime in April.

The What I’m Reading page has been updated, so take a peek, and follow me on Goodreads to see real time updates and annotations.

Anyway, enough gibber jabber! On with the review!
House_of_Many_Ways

House of Many Ways is the third and final installment of the Howl’s Moving Castle series. I’m not sure if it was intended to be that way, because the ending definitely leaves the door open for Sophie and company to have further adventures.

Published in 2008, 18 years after its predecessor and a whopping 22 years after the original title, House of Many Ways is a very different book.

Instead of a whirlwind love story, as the two previous books, this one is more of a coming of age story. It follows teenage Charmain Baker on an unexpected, and rather unwanted adventure. You see, her Great Uncle William, the Royal Wizard of High Norland, has taken ill, and needs someone to watch his house while he’s away being treated.

In true Wynne Jones style, Charmain gets very little say in the matter, and before she knows it, she’s at Great Uncle William’s house, forced to take care of it, the multitude of chores left behind by the ill man, and his dog, named Waif.

Sadly, Charmain is pretty miserable at first. Both as a character in the book, and as a character for the reader. She’s cantankerous, entitled, and snobbish. She doesn’t clean anything, which is the whole reason she’s been brought to the house, and just complains the entire time that she can’t read and eat all day. Brat. It doesn’t help the that house is giant, full of magical hallways that require precise movements to navigate, and a long, 3-Dimensional map to keep track of everything. There are even segments that haven’t been mapped yet! Charmain is mostly annoyed by the house, and refuses to learn more of its secrets, until she’s forced to.

If you can’t tell, Charmain and I didn’t quite jive. I identified much more with Sophie’s determination and optimism than I did Charmain’s bitterness and laziness. But, I agreed much more with the book when Peter showed up.

Peter is the son of the Witch of Montalbino, good friends with Great Uncle William, and his new apprentice, which of course is all unbeknownst to Charmain. She immediately takes a stern disliking to the boy, and yet he weathers her various stormy moods, and helps take care of William’s house. Though, he’s a bit clumsy and accident prone, so he often causes Charmain more trouble than he is help.

Serves her right!HouseofManyWays

Anyway, Charmain, in the midst of supposedly caring for the house, has taken up a job with the King, sorting through and cataloging the vast Royal Library. This is where the plot really comes in. The Royal family is in a bit of a pickle. Their fortune is disappearing, to the point where they’re selling artwork off the walls.

Usually, they would consult William, him being the Royal Wizard and all, and yet they sent him off to the Elves, on account of his illness. So, in their desperation they’ve called upon a dear, old friend.

Sophie Hatter. Or, rather, Sophie Pendragon, as she’s now called. And in tow she has not only toddler Morgan (who we met in the last book) but small, eerily golden-haired boy, with a very suspicious lisp. And attitude.

I knew early on that this Twinkle, as he calls himself, is none other than Howl in an infuriating disguise, and felt rather badly for Sophie who now had to pull double mother duty. Between Howl’s antics and Morgan’s demanding nature (he takes after his father) Sophie is hardly much help to the Royal Family, but true to her nature, she does her damnedest to find the missing money.

So, Charmain realizes that the King is near destitute and that the gold has been hidden somewhere. Through a vast series of interlocking coincidences, which are never actually coincidences, Twinkle (Howl) finds the gold, Charmain discovers who’s stealing the tax money, and Peter and Charmain out the Prince and his waiting man as Lubbockins.

Lubbockins, for the record, are inherently evil, half humans identified by purple eyes or patches of skin.

There’s much running about and yelling as Twinkle fights the Lubbockin Prince in order to free Morgan (who was taken hostage by said Lubbockin) and Sophie chases after him promising murder. If she means the Lubbockin or Howl, I’m still not quite sure.

But, in the end, the evil is vanquished, the money returned, Uncle William is restored to health, and Sophie and her family return to their castle, still yelling and arguing, as is their way. Charmain learns valuable lessons in patience, kindness, and the joys of a job well done, and Peter gains an unexpected champion and defender in Charmain.
Howl Jenkins

As per the usual storytelling of Diana Wynne Jones, every detail comes together at breakneck speed in the last 20 pages or so, living you laughing, mystified at the perfect, shiny bow that is the ending.

Usually these types of ending seem convenient and unsatisfying, but I’ve yet to feel that way with the Howl’s Moving Castle books.

I will say, this was my least favorite of the three. Maybe because I knew it was the last one, so my expectations were set pretty high. I expected this massive sendoff for Howl and Sophie, a grand adventure. Instead I saw them in glimpses and spurts, while I was forced to follow along with Charmain and her complaints. Perhaps I’m too far removed from her and her concerns, and much closer to Sophie and Howl’s. I don’t know. But, it was a little difficult for me to care about Charmain.

I did thoroughly enjoy Waif and Peter, who ceaselessly made life difficult for Charmain, who thoroughly deserved it. And of course, the moments shared by Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer were magical. They will forever be some of my favorite characters, and they will always have a warm spot in my heart and memories.

Again, House of Many Ways was not my favorite installment, but it was an extremely quick read. I will say that this one felt more like a children’s book than the last two, and that could be another reason why I didn’t enjoy it as much.

I’m glad I read it, mainly because there’s never a good reason to leave a perfectly good series unfinished. I can now say that I’ve read them all, check them off the TBR list, and move on with my reading life. Howl's Castle Series

Right after I buy a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle

Tomorrow’s my long work day, but I’m planning on finishing the Epilogue for The Steel Armada tomorrow night. Then I’ll send it to the Betas on Saturday. Book Club meets Wednesday to discuss Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I usually don’t post book reviews for those until after the meeting, but I leave for Disneyland the next day, so I’ll probably post it before Thursday.

So, if all my planning goes well, there should be some activity here before Thursday! See you then, Blogland!

 

BZ

Good News and the Itch

I feel like it’s been forever.

Forever since I had free time to just think about and enjoy my writing. School is the primary obstacle here. I am so sick of classwork that I could puke. Or consider giving up. Like, seriously consider just ignoring the mountains of responsibility I’m treating like molehills, and move on with the next phase of my life.

What started as this wonderful opportunity, this chance to do something for myself that would matter, has suddenly become a burden. The thing that must be overcome before anything else can even be brought to the table.

Trevor and I are preparing to buy a house. I think we’re ready. The money is close enough to the goal we set last year, and I am tired of living in a tiny, wore out apartment, and walking through rain and snow to wash clothes. I want a place that’s truly ours.

And a space that’s mine. With a desk and bookshelves, and maybe a tiny reading nook.

But, now we’re thinking that we should wait until school is over. Until I’m done. And I’m angry at the very idea. And not just because it would keep us out of a house. I’m angry at school in general. I want to finish the edits on The Steel Armada. I want to write Jordinn’s Story. I want to edit Cards. I want to work on side projects, and read all kinds of books.

And even though I’m doing some of those things, there’s so much I’m still unable to do. And school is the most readily available scapegoat.

But, besides my general dissatisfaction with my productivity, things are good.

I sent my query letter and first five pages to my best friend Bill (aka Brittany) a couple days ago, and have been waiting anxiously all this time. Every notification on my phone made my heart pound, thinking it was her email, telling me how terrible my story is.

I sent it to her because, although I know she loves me, I also respect her taste in literature. She’s intelligent, and writes a little herself, and enjoys editing. So, when I told her about my intent to query an agent, she offered to look things over if I wanted her to.

She got back to me today.

She loved it! I asked for more details, and she gave really great feedback. I trust her input, and I’m trying my best not to talk myself out of believing the compliments she gave my work.

I suddenly understand the gnawing doubt inherent in being a writer. No matter how much I trust, respect, and like what she said, there’s still a part of me that doubts it.

I’m telling that part of me to go to hell.

… I’m also getting a second opinion.

I’m going to send the same exact email to both my best friend, and Sister from another Mister, Patty, as well as Trevor. Believe it or not, he hasn’t seen a single word of The Steel Armada. We’ll see what they say.

After all their feedback, and any necessary changes thus, I’ll send it to the agent. And that has me beyond nervous. Even though I’ve told myself a thousand times that it won’t come to anything more than feedback at best. Showing my work to a professional has me tied in knots.

Anyway, I’m ignoring pretty serious amounts of homework for this. I don’t mind personally, but my guilt is eating at me. If I don’t do my homework tonight, or at least a big chunk of it, it’ll cut in to my time with Trevor tomorrow, and that’s not fair.

So, I’ll see you soon Blogland. Probably Monday, with a review of Mistborn: Secret History.

 

BZ

Book Review- The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Blogland!

I literally just finished reading The Bands of Mourning, and I’m at a loss for what else I could possibly do besides talk about this book, RIGHT NOW!

Now, I realize not everyone can read with the fervor I did, so if you’re not finished yet, and don’t want to be spoiled (and you don’t), then turn back now. No one will blame you.BandsofMourning_cover.jpg

After his wedding is sabotaged by a tumbling water tower Wax and Friends find themselves on a sort of Archaeological expedition, hunting down the fabled Bands of Mourning. They’re said to be the Lord Ruler’s bracers (bracers being the metal forearm bands that store Feruchemical ability).

Ok, I just realized that, unless you’re pretty well versed in your Mistborn lore, this is going to get confusing.

Anyway, the Kandra tried to get Wax to hunt down Mr. Suit (Wax’s Uncle, and the main villain of the series so far) in order to retrieve one of their brother’s Hemalurgic spikes. That’s the deal-y that grants sentience to the Kandra. ReLuur lost his when he was attacked by the Set, the folks Mr. Suit works for, after discovering the lost temple of the Lord Ruler. Insane and rambling without his spike, ReLuur is less than useful in providing information that could lead the Kandra to either his spike or the temple.

But, since the events of the last book, Wax is less than amenable to the whims of the Kandra or Harmony. He staunchly refuses, and so they turn to Marasi. Which really isn’t fair, because she of course says yes, which of course means Wax and Wayne are going too. Damn, sneaky Kandra.

So, Wax ends up traveling with Marasi to New Seran. Which means that Wayne, MeLaan, and Steris all went too. Which was nice. A nice big group on an even bigger adventure!

20160128_213617

Had to snap this one myself, apparently the internet hasn’t consumed it yet.

This book only spends a very small amount of time in Elendel, and focuses mainly on the Southern reaches of the Basin. New territory for the series thus far, and very interesting to see. While New Seran itself was charming, and place I’d love to see explored further, Wax and Co. don’t linger long. As endearing as a town built on a series of waterfalls is, it’s pretty hard to sight-see when you’ve been framed for murder.

Poor Wax can never just enjoy himself…

So the group flees in the night, heading Northeast toward the last known whereabouts of Mr. Suit. But what they find there isn’t Wax’s Uncle, but something far more interesting. And world-shattering.

Hidden in a remote warehouse, the Set is working on refurbishing a humongous ship. But Dulsing, the village the Set commandeered, is as landlocked as they come. Well, as the gang soon discovers, this is no ordinary ship. It doesn’t need water, seeing as it flies. And how does it do that?

Why, with Allomancy, of course!

So, after a wild gunfight, Wax and Friends load onto the ship, adding Wax’s sister Telsin to their company, as well as a man named Aliik. He’s a “Southerner”, someone who lives outside of the Basin, and it’s his people’s ship they’re stealing.

Now, a moment to discuss Aliik and just how crucial he is. While his understanding of Allomancy and Feruchemy are unique, showing that the Southerners view The Metallic Arts quite differently than those in the Basin, he’s much more important than that. Aliik’s very existence pulls the entire understanding of Scadrial into question. Wax and Marasi feel this most keenly, being the most intellectual ones of the group. There’s an entire race of folks whose entire history and customs are different than their own. And they have their own technologies and religions. This is incredibly important and mind-bending stuff for the people of the Elendel Basin. The ramifications don’t really get explored here, but by the end of the novel, it’s plain it’ll come up in the next book.Elendel Basin

Ahem, back to the topic at hand. So, they fly away, and though it’d probably be best to head back to Elendel and get reinforcements, there’s not really time. So they fly straight to the mountaintop temple thanks to Aliik and Telsin’s knowledge after being held captive by Mr. Suit and Co.

They get there first, just barely, and proceed through various booby-traps to get to the chamber where the Bracers should be. Except they’re not there. And they never were.

This is where the avalanche happens. Not a literal avalanche, although that was likely, seeing as they’re on top of a frigging mountain. I’m speaking of the Sanderson Avalanche. That wondrous whirlwind of plot points and details, where everything you thought you understood comes together in ways you never could have imagined.

As usual, Sanderson’s novel took a turn that blew my mind, and had me screaming as I read along. Characters are tested, and thus do things you didn’t think them capable of. Wayne in particular has such a moment, and I was at once proud and utterly heartbroken for him.

In fact, looking back, this is a very transformative story for Wayne. He grows a lot, and in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Seeing as he’s my favorite character, possibly of all time, this was an emotional story for me.

Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the avalanche. That’s just asking for bad juju. And if you think the avalanche was mind blowing, just wait for the epilogue. It basically takes everything you think you know about the Mistborn series and says, “There’s always another secret.”

Wax and Co

Awesome cartoon featuring (left to right) Steris, Marasi, Wax, and Wayne. By the talented Maki- check her out  here!

So, some points that aren’t spoiler related. Things I can talk freely about. This book was back in the swing of a high-action, Wild West train ride. The Bands of Mourning felt much more like The Alloy of Law. It was fast-paced, fun, and full of great banter and character interactions. There were tender moments, and much more crassness than I remember in the first two. It was just an incredibly fun book. Unlike Shadows of Self, which was straightforward, very dark, and soul-searching.

And The Bands of Mourning sets the tone for the final book in this series, The Lost Metal. As Sanderson calls it in his Postscript, “The epic finale of Mistborn: Era 2“. I guess that’s the official title for the Wayne and Wax books, now.

Another thing, this book is incredibly lore heavy. I remember thinking that Shadows of Self was a sharp swerve from the episodic and casual manner of The Alloy of Law, instead delving into the depths of Scadrial’s history and legends. Well, The Bands of Mourning makes Shadows look more like the kiddie pool. Events from the original Mistborn trilogy aren’t just mentioned, they’re critical to the plot and continue to be fleshed out. By the end of this book, things I thought were fact at the end of the original trilogy are now entirely up in the air.

Secret-History-coverWhich is where Mistborn: Secret History comes in. What’s this, you ask? Why, a novella that Sanderson is releasing, via ebook only, on Saturday. He didn’t announce it until Bands released, and he added a warning. That, though this novella is set during the original trilogy, it does contain spoilers for The Bands of Mourning.

Whaa..?

Basically, I ordered it immediately, and am now so grateful. If I had to wait a whole year (or more) to get any sort of answers after that epilogue, I would be about as sensible as ReLuur sans spike.

So, all in all, I adored this book. It was a return to the tone and pace that made The Alloy of Law my favorite book. Although I think I can safely say that The Bands of Mourning has usurped its predecessors in that regard. That wild west roller coaster feeling, where every page promises some new development. The faith that Wax can solve every problem, even if we’re not sure how he’ll do it just yet. And in this book, Wax’s decimated heart is rejuvenated. Watching him rise above such anger and loathing was really satisfying for me, especially since the last book had such a powerful effect on my emotions.

So hurry up and get caught up already!

 

BZ

Book Review- The Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Hello Blogland,

As promised, I finished The Castle in the Air this weekend, and so I’m here to review it before my entire life is absorbed by The Bands of Mourning (out tomorrow!).

It’s late, so let me get right to the point.
Castle_in_the_Air_Cover

First, this book follows much in the same vein as the first book. Though Howl and Sophie play much smaller roles, they are present, and they warmed my heart as ever.

This book follows Abdullah, a carpet merchant in far away Zanzib. He’s a man of daydreams, whose childhood was full of disappointment and derision. His father’s only son, he was to follow in his footsteps, except a prophecy at his birth foretold that he would not carry on the carpet business, and would in fact rise above all others in the land.

In Diana Wynne Jones typically cheeky way, this happened both literally and figuratively.

Abdullah’s dreams begin to come true after buying a magic carpet. The carpet whisks him away in his sleep to a beautiful night garden, where an enchanting princess is kept in solitude. Thinking he is but dreaming, Abdullah tells the princess that he is a lost prince, kidnapped at birth and brought to Zanzib to lead a dreadfully mundane life.

But, when Abdullah realizes that the princess, named Flower-in-the-Night, is in fact real, and that they both love one another very much, he is determined to marry her and fly off into the sunset. But, nothing is ever so simple.

A Djinn, leathery and winged, scoops up Flower-in-the-Night, just as she’s running to join Abdullah on his magic carpet, kidnapping her. Abdullah pursues her, and through various mishaps, comes across a Genie in a bottle. This Genie is cantankerous, and overall an unwilling character of the story. He grants a wish a day, but does so in such a way that no matter the wish, something bad will happen.

As Abdullah travels, he arrives in Ingary (home of Howl and Sophie), where he joins the company of an old Soldier, and they travel together to Kingsbury to speak to a Royal Wizard. Along the way the Soldier adopts a cat and her kitten, who wield their own brand of magic.

All of this so Abdullah can reach the castle in the air, which floats disguised as clouds. castle in the air2.jpg

Well, they finally all arrive, and it turns out Sophie was the cat this whole time, her kitten being Morgan, her and Howl’s son. They are returned to their proper form, but Sophie’s not giving up until she finds Howl.

So once in the castle, thanks to the magic carpet, Abdullah is reunited with Flower-in-the-Night, and they devise a plan to be rid of the Djinn’s who have captured the various princesses of the world.

In the usual way of Ms. Jones, the final scene play out in a whirlwind of loose ends tying up in fancy, neat bows. You see, once the Djinn’s are vanquished, we see that Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer were in the story all along. Sophie, as Midnight the magical cat, Calcifer as the Magic Carpet, and Howl as the cantankerous Genie!

So, after much turmoil, Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night are married, but are unable to return to Zanzib, since her father doesn’t approve of the union. So, through some favors and bribery, Sophie and Howl convince the King to appoint the newlyweds and Ambassadors to Ingary. They more or less live happily ever after in a modest house with magical gardens that bloom year round.

And they are visited often by their magical friends.

This was another fantastic tale from Diana Wynne Jones. All the magic, humor, and whimsy of the first book asserted itself in this one. Though no characters can compete for with the love I have for Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer, I found that Abdullah’s patience and adoration for Flower-in-the-Night was endearing and powerful in its own right. I laughed out loud often, and read well into the night, curious to see how everything played out.

But, this one didn’t make me cry, so I can’t rate it quite as high as the first one.

However, I really appreciated the way Howl and Sophie are depicted. Though they are separate through much of the novel, once they are reunited, they are perfect. Just as I remembered them, they bickered good naturedly. Howl teased Sophie, and she yelled at him, though she smiled through it. They argued, and though their voices were in it, their hearts weren’t. Sophie and Howl are two sides of a coin, constantly at odds while relying and depending entirely on the other. Seeing them together, with their child for the first time, and witnessing their subtle admissions of doubt in their new roles was so touching. Despite the magical world in which they live, Howl and Sophie are a very real representation of a married couple.howl and sophie

I love them for that.

But, this story wasn’t really about them. It’s about Abdullah, and his devotion to Flower-in-the-Night. He worked tirelessly to find her, the only man to even attempt a rescue of his princess. And his patience, determination, and devotion all paid off. Since they lived happily ever after.

Talk about the perfect fairy tale!

If you find yourself craving a quick and easy read that keeps you smiling way passed your bedtime, I suggest you give this book a try.

Since I finished Castle in the Air on Saturday, I found myself with spare time before The Bands of Mourning released. Since I didn’t have time for a full book, I read both Saga Vol. 1 and Sanderson’s short story Dreamer. I don’t make a habit of book reviews on short stories, because really, what’s the point? By the time you read the review, you could have just read the story yourself! But, I plan on doing a review for Saga, once I’ve read it in its entirety.

So, not any time soon.castle in the air alternate

Tomorrow I’m waking up early to hit the bookstore when it opens, that way I have The Bands of Mourning all ready to go before work tomorrow. I figure it will only take a couple of days for me to plow through, and then I’ll be right back with a review.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

In Which I Did a Thing…

So, for the first time, in such a long time, I’m posting a “Craft Discussion” post! But first, a confession.

Yesterday, on my ten minute break, a certain famous author with whom I am obsessed tweeted that his literary agent is accepting queries for the first time in years. Several things happened in a very small space of time.

  1. I squealed. I admit it, shamelessly. The opportunity to share my work with one of the best agents in my genre opened up, and I squealed.
  2. Then I read the blog post, outlining the submission requirements. I soon convinced myself that I must write a query letter for Vessels.
  3. I then worked for another two hours, trying not to puke from excitement/nerves.
  4. Then I dashed through the minimum requirements of my homework in order to research and draft my first query letter.

So, I did it. I wrote a query letter for Vessels, which is now going under the title The Steel Armada. I spent the remainder of the evening giddy with the sheer weight of it all. I wrote a query letter! Me! It’s so… professional! And, given the examples I used as a template, and general feedback so far, it’s not a bad query letter.

All that’s left are some tweaks to the hooks, and to slim down my author bio, and I feel good about the letter. But, this agency also wants the first five pages of the manuscript. Initially, this was not a problem. I just finished the first round of edits on the first four chapters, so these pages are pristine and ready to rock.

Then I pasted them into the same space as my letter and read them in the vacuum that would be an email to a person I don’t know from Adam.

And suddenly this new outlook on my novel appeared, and it crushed me. All of the things that my gut said weren’t working became glaring, and stupid omissions. How could I not use such and such words to describe this? This part here doesn’t fit in with the rest. This is awkward. I hate this. Add in the occasional, that’s not bad, and my first five pages were suddenly a daunting workload to be combed over and perfected.

Which leads me to my real conundrum: I cannot, in good conscience, submit The Steel Armada, when I know it still needs so much work. The submission deadline is February 14th, and at first I had myself convinced that I could get most of the manuscript up to snuff by then.

Now…

Now, I’m not so sure.

With school and work, I’m not at all confident that I can make the necessary edits in so short a time. I could get maybe half of it done, and get the other half done while I wait for a response. And really, as much as I know I’m a good writer and that my story is good, it takes ages to get a literary agent. I know I’m not snagging this one right out of the gate. So maybe getting all these tweaks done before someone might ask to see more shouldn’t be such a concern.

But, it feels unfair. If they did ask to see more, I’d only be wasting their time, and shooting myself in the foot. The last thing I want is to present a product that isn’t the best possible representation of my chops as a writer.

So, I’m undecided. I still like the query, and I might just send it as a sort of “Fuck it”. Shrug of the shoulders and a silent plea to the writing gods as I click the intimidating “Send” button. But, I’m hesitant, now that the high of writing the thing has faded.

But, what I really wanted to say is that, if you haven’t written a query letter before, do it! Even if you have no intentions of sending it to anyone anytime soon. Write it. It forces you to boil down your book into the briefest descriptions, and makes you look at your work much more objectively than you might otherwise.

I spent quite a bit of time editing The Steel Armada, and though I knew there was something lacking, it wasn’t until I looked at the novel as a submission that I could hone in on the real problems. Because of this exercise in querying, my novel is going to be that much stronger.

So, in closing, I don’t know if I’ll be querying any agents anytime soon. But I’m glad I took the time to write a query letter and to consider, quite seriously, submitting The Steel Armada. The experience has been most instructive.

If you have experience, thoughts, or advice for my Query Quandary, please feel free to share them!

Anyway, I’ll talk at you all soon. Hopefully Monday, if I can manage to finish Castle in the Air by then. For now, I’m off to do homework, as usual.

 

BZ