Author: Judith Tarr
Publisher: Forge Books
# of Pages: 464
Wow, yet another "Did Not Finish" for a book that I would think to be right up my alley! And, judging by the rave Amazon reviews (5 stars almost the entire way), I'm pretty much the only person who didn't enjoy this book.
Queen of Swords takes place in 12th century Jerusalem and revolves around Queen Melisende, who I'm sure was fascinating in real-life but who seemed very flat in the book. The book mostly focuses on a fictional female character named Richildis, who travels to Jerusalem from France in search of her brother. She finds her brother, but ends up liking Jerusalem far too much to return with him to France. And so they stay and make a life for themselves in the city, going on Crusades, coming to understandings with individual Saracens (but not, of course, the entire Muslim population) and being the reader's witness to many important events.
Really, the making of what one would think to be an interesting story. I was certainly looking forward to it, as I know very little about the time period. But ... it didn't do it for me. I read about 300 pages and then I started skimming, and then I started paging through, and then I just stopped. Maybe it will be your kind of book- but it wasn't mine. I do have another book on the Middle East from about a century later ... hopefully, The Book of Saladin will be more to my liking.
Title: A College of Magics
Author: Caroline Stevermer
# of Pages: 480
Eh. This book failed to rock my socks, too. It was a light, enjoyable read (and, I suppose as it's geared towards a younger audience, that might be all it wants to achieve. Though I'll blow that theory to the wind in my next review), but nothing to write home about. Though, clearly, it is something to write in the blog about. I think Stevermer is a fun author, especially in that she writes in a historical fantasy setting that I adore. This one takes place in early 1900s France.
Stevermer reminds me a bit of Teresa Edgerton, whose writing I adore (see my comments on The Queen's Necklace in an earlier post). But I don't think she's quite at Edgerton's level of entertainment for me. Her story was fairly interesting, the characters were fairly likeable, and the setting was fairly well done. Again, eh.
Title: His Dark Materials Trilogy
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Del Rey
# of Pages: N/A - Three books in the series
Review for The Golden Compass available here.
Well, it isn't often I'll read a full trilogy all in one setting! But I did it for this one. Though I must say that I lost steam as time went on and after starting at a sprint, I finished at a bit of a hobble.
This series is aimed at younger readers- probably around middle school or so. But holy cow, does it tackle adult subjects. Readers tackle everything from armored polar bears to string theory to atheism. We follow a plucky 12-year-old, Lyra, and her friend Will (who appears in the second book, The Subtle Knife) as they travel through alternate universes and attempt to fix every world they come across and save it from - unless I read the books COMPLETELY wrong - God.
Yes, Pullman's books are based on the premise that Adam and Eve did not commit a sin of guilty pleasure in the Garden of Eden, and that the teachings of Christianity (and many other religions) are wrong. Rather, Adam and Eve were acting very naturally but God (or "the Authority" as the force is called in the books) won a terrible battle and since that time, humanity has been plunged into a frenzy of guilt and hypocrisy that only Lyra and Will can save it from.
Very intense, I know.
Would a sixth grader understand these references? I don't know. I think sixth graders nowadays are reading far more intense books than I ever did at that age. But whether a sixth grader would get them or not, I certainly did, and it made for a very interesting reading experience. I am aware that these books offended many religious groups. That is to be expected. It's very ironic, really, as the idea presented in the book was also rejected by the religious figures Pullman includes in the story.
I thought the series started out remarkably strong. I LOVED the first book. The third book disappointed me. It seemed to have so many random parts to it, and so many holes left unplugged (also ironic, if you read the series) that I couldn't really reconcile myself to the ending. It felt as though I was missing a book somewhere. But I'm not.
So, some points docked there. But this author thinks BIG. For that alone, this series is worth a read. It is the sort that will keep you thinking, and arguing, and mulling for quite a while. And really, that's what books SHOULD do, along with adding enjoyment value to your life, of course :-)