kenjari: (mt greylock)
The Hermit of Eyton Forest
by Ellis Peters

In this fourteenth Cadfael mystery, everything hinges on the arrival of a holy hermit and his young servant to the lands surrounding the abbey. When an arrogant and harsh visitor to the abbey is murdered and one of the abbey's schoolboys goes missing, things get quite complicated indeed. Along the way, we get some of the hallmarks of a Cadfael novel: lovers in some difficulty, an obvious suspect who turns out not to be the culprit, and the concealment of true identity. It was good and diverting read.
kenjari: (Default)
Elisha Barber
by E.C. Ambrose

This historical fantasy novel is set in an alternate version of 14th century England and concerns Elisha, a barber-surgeon who, after a serious family tragedy, is dragged to war to treat wounded soldiers. There he discovers that he is a magus or witch, one who has magical powers. He also falls in an ill-fated love with Brigit, a mysterious fellow magus. It's a very gritty story that pulls few punches when it comes to medieval medicine.
Elisha Barber started out unremarkably but became fairly compelling once the plot got going. Ambrose created a cast of interesting characters with varying motivations and principles. I also found the way the magic worked to be pretty interesting. Plus, Elisha's climactic working of magic was a terrific set piece. However, the setting really, really did not work for me. This is all supposed to take place in an alternate medieval England, but the alternate history made no sense. As far as I could tell, neither the king and nobles nor the war were based on real people or events, so it was impossible to tell how Ambrose has changed or branched off from history. There were also some things that didn't quite match up with what I know of the 14th century. I think this story would have worked much better as a secondary world fantasy where the world closely resembles 14th century England.
kenjari: (piano)
Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971
by Stephen Walsh

This second volume of Walsh's exhaustive Stravinsky biography covers the last half of the composer's life in great detail. This period covers the death of Stravinsky's first wife Katya, the tragic death of his daughter Mika, his move to America, Robert Craft's role in his life and work, and the sweeping stylistic changes of his later works. Walsh covers his subject very thoroughly and with great insight; he is unafraid to discuss Stravinsky's struggles and failings alongside his successes and accolades. All of this ably keeps Stravinsky: The Second Exile from becoming the somewhat boring and often monotonous litany of commissions, premieres, prizes, and appearances that the later parts of a successful composer's biography often are.

Book Review

Jun. 3rd, 2013 04:30 pm
kenjari: (Me)
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek
by Michelle Tea, with illustrations by Jason Polan

This book was surprisingly wonderful - I got it in Goodreads giveaway that I'd entered because I was intrigued by the book because of its setting but not sure it would really be my thing. I was happily quite wrong to doubt.
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is about Sophie, a 13 year old who, while playing the passing-out game, has a vision of a mermaid inexplicably residing in her hometown's polluted creek. This leads to Sophie's discovery of the hidden magic in the world and her role as a long-awaited girl of magical power, predicted in a myth that persists in the immigrant communities of Chelsea. The plot revolves around her discoveries of these new realities and how both herself and her friends and family members fit into it all. It's all very reminiscent of a fairy tale, complete with an evil witch, fairy godmother, and enchantments both beautiful and ugly. Since most of the main characters are Polish-American, the magical elements come from Polish folklore and legend, which was immensely appealing to me. I especially liked the way Tea used the fairy tale elements while maintaining a very gritty realism in her portrayal of working class people in a run-down town. Also, the writing is just plain good and the characters are very engaging - I kept wanting to know more and more about all of them.

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