Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Avid Reader - May 2011

Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson

Dark Apprentice is the second part of the Jedi Academy saga by Kevin J. Anderson. Last month, when I wrote about the first third of the trilogy, I panned it pretty seriously. Dark Apprentice is more of the same. The Jedi Academy ends up being set up in the ruins of an old Sith stronghold, and one of the new Jedi is killed while trying to fight the disembodied Sith lord, and shortly thereafter, another, the overly-powerful Kip Durron, is corrupted. There is a subplot with Lando Calrissian and Mara Jade – who, in the Zahn trilogy, was aimed at Luke as a romantic interest – flirting with a relationship. It struck me wrong. Anderson also tried to make the Solo twins more lovable and mischievous. I found the interlude where they evaded Chewbacca and Threepio more annoying than cute; it was played for humor, and seemed out of character for Chewbacca. I give Dark Apprentice a C-.

Camber the Heretic by Katherine Kurtz

The third book (in-story chronologically) is really like a Shakespearean tragedy; by the end of the novel, almost everyone is dead. It is a book that really focuses in on racism between the magic using Deryni and the ‘normal’ humans. Within the first several chapters, the old king Cinhil passes on, leaving his young, frail son on the throne, in care of his phobic council. The Deryni could see the writing on the wall, and started to quietly prepare themselves for the on-coming purge from the humans. As with any set of preparations, though, not all of those who should be allies were allies, and worked against each other. Overall, Camber the Heretic was well written, though as your favorite characters died in various hard and painful ways, it was a hard read as well. I give Camber the Heretic a B+.

Guardians of the West by David Eddings

After one kills the evil god, where does one go in the story? I have to admit, when Eddings came out with his second series ‘The Mallorean’, I was wondering that. The Guardians of the West starts one sea voyage after the end of the Belgariod series. The first half of the book follows Errand, the foundling boy who carried the Orb of Aldur until Garion did. It follows him growing up, continuing to develop the world and the characters. Guardians of the West is essentially a transitional book, leading up to the next big quest. I’ve enjoyed almost all of Eddings’ books, and this was no exception. It really does talk about what happens after ‘happily ever after.’ I give Guardians of the West a solid B.

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

The Second in the Vampire Academy Series is Frostbite. It continues along the same line as the previous one. It is truly a teen drama, with the distrust of adults and the balance between adolescence and the responsibilities of adults. Of course, the adults in the books are perceived as untrustworthy and judgmental beings. We also get to meet Rose’s mother; now there is a truly dysfunctional relationship. Both the main female characters stretch their romantic relationships as well; Rose tries to move past her love of her trainer and starts dating her best male friend Mason, and Lissa moves forward with her relationship with the other outcast royalChristian. The story does have some holes, and some typical teenage angst genre blunders, some of which in this book are fatal, but overall I enjoyed Frostbite. B+

Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson

I have to admit, I was a little desperate to be done with the Jedi Academy Trilogy. I did not particularly enjoy the first two books. I felt the main characters were not always ‘in character.’ I disliked the main new character that was introduced - Kyp Durron, and I did not particularly like the spirit of the dark Jedi Exar Kun. While I felt the characterization of the characters were better in this final novel, there were still places I did raise my eyebrows in disbelief. In particular, the victory of the Jedi Academy novices over the ancient evil spirit of Exar Kun, and the survival and redemption of Kyp Durron. It’s terrible, but I didn’t really care if he survived or not. There were characters that were introduced I really liked, such as the Jedi Healer Cighil. This novel also shifted Mon Mothma out of office and ushered Leia into the role of Republic Leader. I did find that very appropriate and one of the highlights of the series. While this is better than the previous two, it still is not one of the stronger Star Wars books. I give Champions of the Force a C+.

The Vatican Rip by Jonathan Gash

In the fifth installment of the Lovejoy had more twists and turns than any that I have read. First of all, Lovejoy met someone more ruthless than he was, and significantly more powerful. The Vatican Rip was a set up to steal something from the Vatican, and Lovejoy was strong-armed into it. He used his smarts and sneakiness to do it, with the aid of a couple allies – both women who fell in love with her. Throughout the novel, he met women who were at some point or another, overly ‘interested’ in Lovejoy. The novel was not without weaknesses. The biggest weakness was that Lovejoy, as an antiques dealer, should have known a lot more than more about the Vatican than he did. He had no idea that it was a whole city, not just a church. He was amazed at the size of it; it was a little ridiculous that he knew so little about the place that has more antiques than just about any place on the planet. Despite the weakness, it was still a lot of fun and a good read. I give it a B.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

Talk about a complete switch in what I normally read. It was actually quite refreshing. All Creatures Great and Small is a heartwarming series of stories about a noobie veterinarian in Britain in the mid-1930s. The various chapters are each like a short story that are loosely fitted together into a novel. The book is full of humor about the vet business, his co-workers, his clients, and his romantic life. He becomes the ‘uncle’ to both a Pekinese dog and a pig; his dilapidated car plows through a outbuilding, and his first three social endeavors with his future wife are unmitigated disasters. The style is conversational, the descriptions cleaned up when they need to be (talking about reaching inside cows and such for various reasons), and his ability to laugh at himself is in short supply these days. I enjoyed it immensely and give it my only A for the month.