Review: The White Road, Lynn Flewelling

Two things I enjoy in fantasy books: Chicanery.  And political machinations.  Preferably at the same time, like when people use their wits to effect the toppling of regimes or noble houses.  I have no particular books in mind when I mention this, of course, although now that I mention it, I do seem to recall that there is a series of books by one Megan Whalen Turner that possess both of these elements.  IN SPADES.

Two things I tend not to enjoy in fantasy books: Lots of made-up words.  And fuzzy-edged pseudo-mystic religions.  And look, it hurts me to say this more than I can tell you, but Lynn Flewelling’s newest Nightrunners book, The White Road, has fewer of the enjoyable two things, and more of the less enjoyable two.  Moreover, it has a creepy little critter in it.  I don’t like creepy little critters, and I have a hard time believing that any of the characters would like them either, ALEC.

Alec and Seregil are dealing with the fallout from Shadows Return, trying to decide what’s to be done with the creepy little critter made from Alec’s blood.  Alec’s people, a weird and violent branch of the Aurenfaie, are trying to track it down themselves, for what reason we don’t necessarily know; and an old enemy of Seregil’s, Ulan, wants the books that explain how the critter was made, plus of course the critter itself.  Altogether too much focus on the creepy little critter.

As ever, you do not necessarily want to read a very good book (or series of books) of a particular kind, and then read another book with the expectation that it will be similar.  That way madness lies, bloggy friends.  I was going back and forth between reading The White Road and rereading The Thief.  (I know, I just read it.  But I felt like I would appreciate A Conspiracy of Kings more if I read the first three books again; and besides, I felt like reading them over again.)  I do not recommend this as a means of gaining maximum enjoyment from The White Road.

I like the Nightrunner books, and I enjoyed the book that came before this one, but I feel like Alec and Seregil have gotten too far from their roots.  At this point, we are hearing far more about their brilliance in secrecy and spying and crafty escapes than we’re seeing.  They’re spies and thieves!  I yearn to see them doing some successful spying and thieving!  I’m mad for spying and thieving, particularly when they are spying and thieving for political reasons.  Lynn Flewelling, I recall from Traitor’s Moon and the Oracle’s Queen books, manages political machinations very nicely.  You know, where there are questions of succession, and warring factions of nobles, and sneaky dudes born on the wrong side of the blanket, and y’all, the phrase “the wrong side of the blanket” – more of that, please.

In short, Alec and Seregil have spent the last two books being reactive rather than active, and I’m ready for them to make some independent decisions about what they want to be doing.  And I would like those decisions to send them in the direction of bringing down corrupt regimes.  They can do it in Skala if that’s what they’re feeling (probably not, at this point), or they can do it in Bokthersa.  I do not mind either way.  I like the word machinations, and I really cannot have enough opportunities to use it.

If you are a fantasy-lover, what things do you like to see in your fantasy?  Dragons, social allegory, ragtag bands of rebels, tall elves, short elves, gender issues?  And what do you wish the genre has played to death and might consider steering clear of for a while?

Review: Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert

Not a reflection on the quality of Committed, but just something I thought of when I started reading it:  I feel like the premise of the book could be tweaked a bit to make it into an obnoxious little romantic comedy starring one of those actresses that do “quirky” roles.  Elizabeth Gilbert, successful journalist and bestselling author, never wants to get married again!  Until a US immigration officer gives her a deadline: Get married in the next year or be an exile forever!  If this were a movie, she would spend the year meeting wildly unsuitable guys and ignoring her bland but adorable next-door-neighbor/coworker/classmate, before finally realizing that her heart’s desire was in her own backyard.

That’s not really the plot though.  Gilbert is in a serious long-term relationship with Felipe from Eat Pray Love, and neither of them wants marriage.  Felipe gets told by immigration he can’t keep coming back into the country for ninety days and then leaving, ninety days and then leaving, and if he wants to stay, he should just marry Liz Gilbert.  And then she spends the year reading all about marriage.

I find this endearing because I expect that’s exactly what I would do.  In fact that’s what I do do.  When I feel suspicious of something, I go a-hunting for things to read about it.  In a-hunting down the facts in the case of De Profundis, I discovered Oscar Wilde was a screaming over-dramatizer.  In a-hunting down the facts about the oral polio vaccine, I discovered the only correlation between it and AIDS was geographical (like, the places that had medical facilities giving out the oral polio vaccine were the same places where AIDS was getting diagnosed more frequently).  In a-hunting down the facts about free speech as it applies to corporations – I am still looking into that actually.  It is very complicated and makes me feel stupid but I will persist because if Justice Stevens (my favorite Justice, y’all, because he is old and extremely brilliant and he wears a bow-tie) feels it is worth a ninety-page dissent, then I suspect it is worth a ninety-page dissent.

(Yes, I have a favorite Supreme Court Justice.  DEAL WITH IT.)

(That last thing, DEAL WITH IT, that was a Better Off Ted reference.  Any of y’all watch Better Off Ted?  Will anyone besides me miss it when it inevitably gets cancelled?)

Gilbert writes about speaking to wives in other countries, as well as to the wives in her own family, about their experiences of marriage.  She writes about the strain on her relationship with Felipe as a result of their being in limbo.  (She wants to travel to Cambodia, and he wants to settle somewhere and have a coffeepot.  I am totally with him.)  Although this book is not as full of action as Eat Pray Love, Gilbert’s wry wit is still in evidence.  She’s a little bit crazy, but she knows that she is crazy, and in what ways, which is nearly as good as not being crazy in the first place.  Plus? She doesn’t talk trash about her family.  Hurrah!

If I had one complaint, it would be that there is not enough of Gilbert talking to people.  She is good at capturing voices, just like John Berendt, and she should do it more frequently.  Indeed all the time.  If I were in charge of the world, that’s what would happen.

Read for the Women Unbound Challenge.

Other reviews:

Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Book Addiction

Let me know if I missed yours!