Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove

Chupacabra slept right thru this photoshoot.
Chupacabra slept right thru this photoshoot.

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Todd McLaren

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2007)

Length: 16 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 Atlantis

Author’s Page

In this alternative history, Atlantis is a sizable land mass that sits in the Atlantic ocean between England and Terra Nova. Multiple generations of the Radcliffe family are followed in this book, starting in the 1400s during the War of the Roses. In Part 1, Edward Radcliffe and his family are the first Englishman to settle in Atlantis. Part 2 is set a few generations later. The family has split and William Radcliff wants nothing to do with his pirate cousin Red Rodney Radcliffe. Part 3 makes another jump in time and we follow Victor Radcliffe as his society comes to terms with slavery.

There was much to enjoy about this book. First, I really like how the author took this mythical land and made it a real place on the map, one to be discovered and settled in the 1400s. Since Atlantis has been isolated from other land masses for some time, there are some interesting critters. My inner biologist reveled in these details. Also, the flightless birds of various sizes made it easier for the new settlers to gain a foothold, the birds being easy to catch and cook. Yet there are some dangerous beasties as well, ones that can tear out a man’s vertebrae!

Since the book is divided into three parts, it was more like reading three novellas set in the same land but during different time periods. Since I wasn’t aware of that going into the book, I think I got the most attached to Edward and his two sons, Henry and Richard, from Part 1. They make the discoveries, set the sailing route to and from England, and also negotiate the first settler rights of the land. Also, this was a time of exploring the land and getting to know the wildlife, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When we get to Part 2, Red Rodney’s daughter, Ethel, is the character that stole the show. She’s being raised by a roguish pirate and has aspirations of captaining her own pirate ship when she is grown. In fact, she is the only female character of note in the entire story. There are a few other ladies that get names; a few even get a few lines. While Ethel is a thoroughly enjoyable character, she doesn’t make up for the very obvious lack of integral female characters for the rest of the book.

Part 3 takes on a pretty serious subject: human slavery. Victor struggles with what he knows of slaves and former slaves he has befriended and what he knows about the economics of the day. Victor truly believes that Atlantis cannot continue to be a financially independent country without slavery to run the plantations that make up the backbone of economy. The author doesn’t turn a blind eye to the nastier side of slavery but he also doesn’t revel in the brutality of the subject.

Throughout the three parts, Atlantis is not solely British. The Spaniards and French also find their way to the large land mass and make settlements of their own. Eventually, there are clashes. Some of these rivalries are continuations of European wars; some of them are purely Atlantis squabbles. These interactions were mostly interesting and only sometimes got a little unwieldy, and hence, a little boring.

The Narration: Todd McLaren did a good job. He had distinct voices for all the male characters and the few female characters that had lines. His various accents were well done. His voice for Ethel was great!

What I Liked: The cover art; a fun ‘what-if’ scenario; interesting animals of Atlantis; multi-generational; conflicts between settlements; doesn’t shy away from addressing human slavery.

What I Disliked: Very few female characters and only 1 of note; sometimes the conflicts between settlements got a bit unwieldy and slowed the pace of the story.

What Others Think:

SF Site

Curled Up With a Good Book

Darque Reviews

Blogger News Network

Em and Emm Expound on Exposition

Kushiel's Chosen Part VI

Tofu kitty with a very good book.
Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is your host. We’re covering Chapters 62-72, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. We had a bit of a discussion about Kazan in the previous week’s questions, about his nature, double crossing, etc, and whether Phedre was right to save him.  What are your thoughts on Kazan now given these most recent additions?  Also, I think we should include his mother in that discussion – it was interesting to finally see her I thoughts. And, in fact his whole homecoming.

I’ve definitely warmed to Kazan in these chapters. Having that weight, the kriavbhog, lifted from his shoulders has done him some good. Also, knowing his mother missed him fiercely and truly regretted putting a curse on him seemed to ease his heart as well. And with those inner changes, he is able to treat those around him with a bit more respect. I especially liked that he had a frank discussion with Phedre about the deal he forced her into and how that didn’t sit right with him now and he planned to make amends for it.

While we only got a little of Kazan’s mother, she did seem to truly regret cursing her eldest son, even though it was done in the madness of grief. Still, the cynic in me wonders what actions she took all these long years to either remove the curse or atone for it. Did she try to find Kazan? Did she try to send him messages letting him know his regret? It is one thing to truly be sorry about something; it is something else to take action to make it right.

2. What did you think of the whole ‘tribute’ ship idea – is that your idea of a good plan or your worst nightmare??

I don’t have any particular fear of small, enclosed spaces. However, I don’t think I would ever look forward to traveling in the false bottom of a tribute chest, knowing  full well the ship would be searched thoroughly. I do think it was clever for Kazan’s men to have planted something for the port authorities to find so they wouldn’t look too closely at the rest. Just like clever modern-day drug smugglers.

3. Let’s just talk about the reunion with Joscelin and Phedre.  Oh my word!  More to the point, the changes in both of them and how you think their relationship will now move forward.

Very, very sweet. I especially liked how Joscelin had finally made up his mind about what he wanted. For a while now, he has been a little bit of a lost puppy, not really knowing what he wanted and bollocksing it all up.

Still, I  have to say that while Joscelin says that Phedre could take 1000 patrons or even marry a Stregazza and he would stand by her side, she doesn’t reciprocate by saying she will give all those things up….. so, after all our discussions about how Phedre can be a bit conceited or even selfish, I am not sure how I feel about that.

I really, really liked the little winter roses strewn inside their tent and how the small thorns pricked at her flesh as they made love – AND how Joscelin was not disgusted by her enjoyment of that.

4. Lastly, what do you think Phedre’s plan is? It’s in a temple, she spoke about making retribution in earlier chapters and yet her latest plan seems to have caused gasps of surprise.  What do you think we have in store?

When I first read this all those years ago, I really wasn’t sure. I mean, it’s a sacred temple, and we know Phedre always does her best to respect the customs surrounding deities no matter where she is. But how can her eclectic crew infiltrate the temple, while being respectful, and somehow warn and/or save the queen while upholding Phedre’s vow to cleanse the temple of false servants? Plus, Phedre and crew have already killed at least 1 temple guard and 3 acolytes. So, that isn’t off to a good start and I am not sure how Asherat will view that.

Having read this book several times, I will say that we are in for some breathtaking scenes!

Other Tidbts:

I liked Phedre’s discussions, although brief, with the leaders of Minos concerning slavery. I hope that plants the seeds for future change.

Hooray! It looks like La Dolorosa is no longer used as a prison. It seemed to be a bit of an insult to Asherat in the first place, and just a terrible nightmare of a jail in the second.

It’s quite the eclectic crew Phedre has surrounded herself with – ex-Casseline servant, Illyrian pirates, militant Yeshuites.

I was very glad to see Ti-Philip after all this time.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel's Chosen Part V

Tofu kitty with a very good book.
Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. We’re covering Chapters 50-61, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) This week we learn plenty more about Kazan Atrabiades and his personal demon, the kriavbhog. What do you think of this demon and his blood curse?

I really like this element. As in Book 1, we have very little truly fantastical elements. In Book 1, it was the Master of the Straights and his strange abilities. Here, we have the kriavbhog, this serpent demon type thing that only a handful can see. Makes me want to go look up fan art of the beastie. Alas, a quick search turns up nothing. 🙁

2) On the island of Dobrek, even Phedre has to admit she had some harsh pre-conceived notions about pirates in general and then Kazan specifically before she was brought to his home. How do you think this experience will affect Phedre going forward?

So through out the Book 1 read along and now in this read along a  few readers more astute than I have pointed out Phedre’s conceitedness or snobbery. It wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into before these read alongs, but now I really notice when Phedre herself takes note of her incorrect pre-conceived notions about people or cultures.

So, she’s had some pretty tough experiences for the last 200 or 300 pages and some of those have been nasty surprises she didn’t expect, in part, due to her ideas about folks or cultures. I think it was Emma or Allie last week who pointed out Phedre’s notion that D’Angelines would be her instant comrades in arms in the hunt for Melisande…. and we all know how that turned out.

So, here she is, once again, kind of slapped in the face by karma over her notions about pirates in general. I think these world travel experiences are going to teach her to pause and rethink any instant notion she has in the future. In Terry  Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels, Tiffany and the other witches call this look, and then look again. If you look a third time, I think Pratchett called it Third  Sight at some point in the books. Anyway, it is a worthy notion that has stuck with me since reading those books and I wish I could scribe Phedre a note and pass it on.

3) Nikanor’s ship returns and Phedre is once again off on the high seas. But, alas, she is not ransomed safely. Were you angry at Kazan for not telling Phedre who she was to ransomed to? Or angry at Phedre for not having told Kazan the whole of it in the first place?

Ah, well 20/20 hindsight isn’t so useful in the moment, now is it? So, no I was not angry at Phedre. She doesn’t know Kazan and the knowledge she carries is pretty sensitive top secret stuff. Plus Kazan was pretty much of an ass up until the final 2 or 3 weeks before this unfortunate event.

And, yes, I was a bit ticked with Kazan for not telling Phedre who she had been ransomed to. After all, that was part of the bargain. I think Phedre would have understood his dilemma with the blockade and some of his men being held as surety. But I also think she would have come up with some plan to get the men, and perhaps the rest of the gold.

4) Nearly to Epidauro & safety, Phedre can see the kriavbhog is killing Kazan and orders the ship about into the storm. Was there really no other choice?

Ah, another tough situation. And Phedre had to do the thinking in a desperate moment after a very lengthy chase in which many men were lost and the rest were dead tired. I guess Kazan could have jumped overboard and sent his ship ahead into  Epidauro…. but I  don’t know if he ca swim, plus the pursuers would probably have killed him.

5) Now in the land of Kriti, we meet Oeneus, Hierophant of the Temenos along with the Kore, Pasiphae.  What do you think of these two and the small amount of aid they offer Phedre and Kazan?

This makes me think of the Vatican City a little in that they have full say-so within their tiny little sphere of influence (much of which is this spiritual temple and the thetalos) and very little sway outside of it. So I think they truly are offering up what aid they can – fixing of the ship and a favorable introduction to a more powerful political entity.

We got to see more of Pasiphae and she seemed to be genuinely found of Phedre. Should be interesting to see what she thinks once everyone knows she entered the thetalos without a proper blessing.

6) Kazan enters the thetalos to be cleansed of his blood guilt. Of course, Phedre is pricked by Kushiel to go comfort him as she might. There she faces her own guilty demons. Would you be concerned if you had to pass through the thetalos?

Yes. I think the rude things I have occasionally done in ignorance I could view and then forgive myself over. But there are a handful of things I wish I could have handled things better. Nothing like what Phedre has been through, so if I am worried, then I can only imagine her despair at being caught up in that grief.
Other Tidbts:

 

Kazan’s little ‘trade’ of sex for speedy messenger service didn’t really seem fair to me. Though  I think Phedre carried out her part of the bargain in better spirits than I could have. Also, I wanted to slap Kazan upside the head as he could have offered up the speedy messenging as a nice gesture and then traded for Phedre’s special attentions later on… or even tried to woo her? Maybe wooing is not in his nature.

When Phedre wandered the house and checked out Kazan’s personal room and his personal affects! OMG! I was pretty sure Kazan was going to take a switch to her or hand her over to his men or make her a cleaning slave or something awful.

OK, when Phedre was on that ship about the be beheaded, I really wish she had taken up carrying at least some small knife or such at some point. I know it probably wouldn’t have saved her in that moment, but it might have given her some satisfaction to take out 1 or 2 assailants before she went down.

It was a grand, touching gesture that Kazan was willing to sacrifice himself after cheating Phedre on the ransom and getting so many of his men killed in the horrid affair. I think this is the point in the story where I start to like him.

Rouging of the nipples and formal dress code that calls for an exposed breast or two…. Has anyone tried this for a Halloween costume?

Various kinds of grief seems to be a theme for this book – grief between her and Joscelin, grief at La Dolorosa (both Asherat’s and her own on loosing her chevaliers and Joscelin), and now the grief faced within the thetalos. Oh and Kazan’s blood guilt grief over his brother.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Pirates of Mars by Chris Gerrib

GerribPiratesOfMarsWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Hadley Rille Books (2014)

Narrator: Gary McKenzie

Length: 7 hours 50 minutes

Author’s Page

This not-so-far-future scifi story has humans settled on Mars and up to nefarious deeds. The pirates of Mars are quite a mixed crew (which was entertaining) who end up kidnapping a volunteer space rescue man (Peter). But his agency doesn’t have the funds to ransom him. Luckily, he has friends who improvise a rescue. Over all, the book had a Wild West feel to it, kind of a nod to the TV series Firefly.

Once the characters were set, there wasn’t much growth. But that was OK as this was a fast-paced action flick. I really liked that none of the women were wall flowers or simply there for pretty scenery. There was a lesbian sex scene which could be a bonus or a distraction depending on your view on sex in books. For me, the sex scene was OK, bringing a slight heat to my cheeks but nothing beyond that.

There’s plenty of fun tech in ships and weapons and protective gear. I don’t need it all to be true to life functional for me to enjoy the story. I was a bit skeptical of the human race being capable of having Mars settled and infested with pirates by 2074. But that was easy to set aside and simply pretend it was 2274 instead.

The storyline was predictable but for a quick action flick, I wasn’t looking for any deep mystery or great twists and turns. Over all, I would give this book a solid 3 out of 5 stars. My biggest issue was with the narration.

Narration: I hate being negative in my reviews, but I have to be honest and say that this was a pretty rough narration. McKenzie had a limited range in voice, so many of the characters blended together. His feminine voice was almost non-existent (which was an issue as about half the cast were ladies). Also, I could occasionally hear the pages being turned as he narrated. There were some words that were pronounced oddly and I had to stop and puzzle out what he meant. Also, his words were not always clear. For example, one of the characters is named Jack. So several times there is this phrased, ‘Jack asked….’. Well, the ‘asked’ part was not enunciated so it often sounded like ‘jackass’ and I thought the characters were joking with each other or insulting each other, when in fact Jack was being inquisitive. I felt that the story was being announced, like in some sports announcer voice, for much of the book. With such a narration, I have to rate the audiobook lower than 3 stars.

What I Liked:  Fun story line; Wild West feel; plenty of ladies who are active members of the story. 

What I Disliked: The narration; storyline was predictable.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Why I Read It: Book 1, The Lies of Locke Lamora,  was excellent and we also did a readalong on Darkcargo.com.

Where I Got It: Used paperback from Amazon.com.

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone who enjoys a great pirate adventure, with cats, assassins, mist creatures, and impatient military leaders.

Publisher: Bantam Dell (2007)

Length: 760 pages

There were lots of pirates and also, surprisingly, kittens. I did not see either coming based on the previous book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora. Scott Lynch took his readers for a turn, not just in location, but also in background and main plot points. In The Gentlemen Bastards Book 1, the guys get to call a lot of the shots; they still have some control over their lives. In Book 2 of the series, it seems everyone wants to give direction and meaning to Locke and Jean’s little lives. Well, they have plans of their own and are stubbornly clinging to them.

After the mayhem that ended Book1, Locke and Jean needed some place to keep a low profile and for Locke to sulk in some booze, which he does until Jean snaps him out of it….with a brick wall. (That was a very funny scene by the way). Then they are off to Tal Verrar islands for a highly-planned, well equipped, yet poorly timed scheme that runs 2 years in the making. Tal Verrar is a gambler’s paradise, with gambling houses of all sorts, exotic nightlife, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Locke and Jean have a scheme that calls for looking into one of the most impregnable vaults in town, which happens to belong to a very ruthless man named Requin and his bodyguard/lover Selendri.

Things start to go awry when it becomes apparent that the Karthaini Bondsmagi know exactly where they are and they want revenge – slow revenge. To add to that, they are hauled before the Archon, who runs the local military force for Tal Verrar. He has a task for the two of them, and it is not a request. In short, these two land-lubbers have to learn some seamanship and pretend to be pirates and then convince some other pirates to …… well do what pirates do. If you read Book 1, you can already tell there will be all sorts of issues with this. Add to that some unknown entity keeps throwing assassins in their faces.

It was a great ride. Because of the fast pace, this book reads way quicker that others of the same girth. There is lots of great dialogue and some roguish humor, even at our heroes’ expense. Jean and Locke had some great character development plot points too. While we don’t get to meet Sabetha, Locke’s heart-breaking love we heard about in Book 1, we learn more about her.

What I Liked: Seamonsters; kittens; that scene with the failed highwayman and Locke and Jean dangling over a cliff; the mysterious Morraine; Locke and Jean get ordered around a lot; Sea pirate Captain Drakasha and her first mate Ezri; a little surprise at the end.

What I Disliked: I felt that the last 100 pages were rushed and thought that Lynch should have been given some leeway to expand on some of the storyline instead of cramming in the finale.