• Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Into a Dark Realm

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    Book two of the Darkwar trilogy, which I plan to read all of this year, just not in a row. A middle book, according to common wisdom, often has issues. I’m not sure if all of the issues I had with this story are the standard ones projected for a middle book, but they make me hope for an exciting conclusion to the trilogy, mostly to make up for the first two books.

    I said that Flight of the Nighthawks wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. Into a Dark Realm is even less so. I’d actually go so far as to say boring.

    First, the standard middle book issues: there are characters and storylines that don’t appear to matter in a wider context, there’s a whole new storyline added that doesn’t mesh up with the primary one until late in the book, and there are more questions asked than answered.

    And then I have other issues.

    The Dasati, who start out as the supposed big bad but who get humanized (to a degree) through this new plotline, are wasteful. I have a really hard time believing that a species who slaughters each other so well, so few of the elite making it to adulthood and then most of those not surviving their first year before the survivors turn to hunting down their own children and the children’s mothers, could manage to effectively populate one world much less a dozen. Sure, the ones who make it are going to be the biggest badasses you’ve ever met, but there aren’t going to be that many of them.

    And everything is still Macros’ fault. Remember Macros the Black? Pug’s occasional mentor and frequent manipulator, and also father-in-law, he’s set everything up, manipulated whole worlds, whole dimensions, to bring things together at the right time and place to fix the universe. Again.

    Not that he remembers all of it. Or even much of it, if we’re to believe him, and I don’t.

    I’m also still not thrilled with Bek as a character. He’s not just completely amoral, he’s aggressively amoral, and the author takes great pains to make sure we see him pointing that out again and again. I have to be honest in saying that drives me a little crazy. I don’t mind hating a character, but I hate finding one I want to skip over every time they’re in a scene.

    Overall rating: 2 stars. At this point, I’m only going to read the third book in the trilogy because I want to have all of the background moving towards the end of the series. I don’t know if I can quite answer why I want to read the entire series when I’ve abandoned several others from my teenage years that I enjoyed just as much back then. Maybe I’ll find the answer along the way.

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  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Flight of the Nighthawks

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    Book one of the Darkwar trilogy, which I plan to read all of this year, just not in a row. I’ve found in the last few years that I need the smorgasbord of my reading to have a lot of variety in it. Too much of one thing, no matter how good it is, can get, if not boring, then temporarily stale. And this start to a new trilogy isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped, so we’re not exactly starting in a great spot.

    I started this story with the anticipation of visiting some favourite characters I hadn’t spent time with in years. I got a bit of that, but not as much as I’d hoped. Not nearly as much.

    This is a strange book with a lot of shorter story arcs, some introducing new characters who will probably become important later in this trilogy. But those story arcs are only loosely held together. I felt all the way through that this was only barely a complete story on its own. It reads a lot more like set up for the book that comes next and reminds us of all that has gone before. There are actually a lot of references to previous stories, maybe too many.

    Add to the weakness of the overall plot, there were significant moments, especially near the climax of the novel, where I Mr. Feist was deliberately hiding things from me. Well, not just me, but any reader. Now, an author is supposed to hide things from the reader, building the plot, building suspense, building anticipation. This is good storytelling. Things should be hinted at, happen off screen, or be misrepresented through the eyes of the characters.

    But it’s not good storytelling to have one character tell another character something without actually telling them. “Bob explained his plan to Mary, who thought it was a great idea.” End scene. Or something similar. A very weak storytelling device and one that always leaves me flat. This was how we got from setup of the climax to the climax itself so that everything happening would be a surprise. I spent a little time being irritated with the author.

    And the Pug of this story, the master magician, while still having hints of the previous character, is a brooding, slightly full of himself, less edgy version of his original mentor, Macros the Black.

    Overall rating: 3 stars. With the scattered storyline, mediocre storytelling, slightly disappointing characters, I still enjoyed it while I read it. Less because of the book itself and more because of the feelings of nostalgia it generated. I read the original Riftwar saga as a teenager repeatedly. It’s sometimes a wonderful thing to catch up with favourite characters, but I wonder if I should just do a Riftwar reread instead.

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