Thursday, October 23, 2008

General Winston’s Daughter

by Sharon Shinn

Lady Averie tries very hard to be a perfect lady, but she never quite manages. She’s always too impulsive and curious, and it drives her chaperone, Lady Selkirk, nearly mad.
On the journey to join her fiancĂ©—Colonel Stode—in distant Charrin, Averie is bored to tears with life aboard a ship, until she meets Lieutenant Ket Du’Kai. The handsome young lieutenant entertains her and expands her world by explaining the reasons that her native Aebria overtook and colonized Chiarrin.
Although it is said to be a rough place not fit for a lady, Averie instantly falls in love with the bright colors and delightful festivals of Chiarrin. Her feelings regarding Chiarrin and her beloved Colonel Stode begin to change.

I have truly enjoyed Sharon Shinn’s previous books, despite their being somewhat predictable and you can always tell that they’ll end happily. But this one was a huge disappointment.
Averie acted more like a spoiled 12-year-old than her supposed age of eighteen, and didn’t have much depth after being curious and demanding. None of the other characters were developed beyond having some extremely basic personality trait, either.
Another issue I had was the romance. For one thing, it was predictable; I could tell that Averie would fall for Lieutenant Du’Kai literally from page one. For another, I haven’t the faintest idea what Ket Du’Kai sees in Averie. Lastly, aside from their few “meaningful” conversations, their relationship was almost completely built on flirting on both their parts and feeling protective on his.
And the plot...was boring and slightly predictable. Averie “grew” from very spoiled to not so spoiled while in Chiarrin, a time that seems to drag on and on for the reader. When the climax finally comes it seems tacked on, as if Ms. Shinn changed her mind about the conclusion at the last minute, or had a limited amount of pages with which to finish the story.
I’m sorry to say that General Winston’s Daughter was definitely not my favorite of Sharon Shinn’s books.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palace of Mirrors

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Although Cecilia Aurora Serindia Marie has grown up in a rustic little village far from the glamorous capital of Cortona, she’s always known that one day she will go there, to the famous Palace of Mirrors, and claim her rightful title. Why? Because Cecilia—also known as Eels or Eelsy—is the true princess, heir to the throne of Suala. After her parents were murdered when she was a baby, Cecilia was taken away and hidden; and to protect her from her enemies, a “fake” princess (a commoner named Desmia) was put in her place. But when Cecilia is fourteen, it looks like her enemies have found her. One night they attack, unsuccessfully trying to kill her, and Cecilia knows that this means her life in the peaceful village is over: despite the possible dangers, she must go to Cortona and take up her position as princess of Suala. So with her faithful friend Harper, his harp (yes, the name is quite literal), and a bag of food, she sets off to meet her fate—or is it really her fate after all?

Palace of Mirrors was a nice, easy, good read that I finished in a few hours and enjoyed. It isn’t based off a fairytale like Just Ella (although it’s set in the same world; Suala is at war with Ella’s country and Ella is in Suala as part of a peace delegation), but it has a fairytale-ish charm to it and things work out happily in the end, of course—even if not entirely as expected. Fans of Just Ella, Margaret Peterson Haddix, or fairytale stories in general will love this.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Graceling

by Kristin Cashore

Katsa killed her cousin at the age of eight...with her bare hands, and without any training in fighting. Her Grace is killing, and her uncle, King Randa, decides to have her trained by the best warriors and use her for his own purposes. Now ten years later, known as the Lady Killer, and kept in the palace as her uncle’s secret weapon, Katsa has no friends aside from her cousin Raffin. The rest of the court finds her Grace-marked eyes (one blue and one green) disconcerting, and fear for their lives if they angered her. One night, on a mission of her own, Katsa meets another Graced fighter, a Lienid who, strangely, trusts her. Wary, Katsa can’t believe she’ll have anything to do with him other than go back on her stupid choice to let him live.

I really, really loved the first half of this book. Katsa’s character is so well developed—her reactions to new things like trust and finding that she’s not as heartless as everyone lead her to believe are so realistic. And her friendship with Po (whose name unfortunately reminds me of the littlest Teletubby) is completely believable and very sweet.
However, the second half became a lot more generic and didn’t capture my interest as much. Perhaps it was because I was distracted from the book at an inopportune time—right before Katsa and Po’s relationship became romantic—and it made it seem like the two halves didn’t quite fit together. (That was a very slight spoiler because despite the description of Katsa and Po being “insurmountably incompatible,” you can tell right away that they’re not going to be.)
The plot was fast-paced and the characters’ missions changed throughout the course of the story, giving it a good range of situations and keeping it interesting, but at times I wanted to scream at the characters. They could be so dumb! It took them forever to realize things sometimes, while I’d been suspicious about it for the last fifty pages. Graceling is a stunning debut novel, and a pretty darn good novel at all. I highly recommend it, especially for fans of Tamora Pierce. Also, The Hunger Games (which I have yet to read because too many people have it ahead of me at the library) is said to be on some levels similar, so if you’ve already read Graceling, check that out, too.

And because there's a book trailer for it that I actually like (except for Po! He's supposed to be blond!), I'll provide that, too: