M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Breaking the Cliche. Do Stick or Stock Figures March Through Your Plotlines?

Okay, I admit it. I read lots of cliched books with one- or two-dimensional characters. But, I prefer three-dimensional ones. Stick figures instead of people, if you prefer. Why? Because the world the author creates is also three-dimensional ... usually. Anyway these are the books I reread, many times over.

One of the exceptions: The Lord of the Rings, which is all world and politics and stereotypes. [Though I can see part of the arguments that Tolkien set the stereotypes in concrete.]  I still read it every other year ... and I think most of the characters are two-dimensional. But ... oh!, the adventure.

So I recently found myself re-reading a couple of books: one I didn't intend to, Mary Balough's The Arrangement, and one I did, Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen. To make this blog a trio of "reviews" I'll add Charlaine Harris' Dead Ever After. All three met my "just one more chapter and I'll go up to bed" challenge, which is hard to do when it's after midnight.

Balough's The Arrangement. Balough is a Regency romance writer, pure but not simple. She knows her time period and is a master at drawing well-defined characters. In this book, a blind veteran of the Napoleonic Wars is pushed to marry his mother's and sisters' choice, someone who would tolerate his being blind in exchange for becoming a Viscountess. The hero wants more and runs away and ends up determining his own life's course. Sounds simple, but Balough adds layer upon layer of personal traits on her two main characters as they find love the same way an accomplished oil painter creates a canvas. -- I remembered the story line from the sample in the back of the book and grabbed the book in haste because I remembered I wanted to read it. Glad I forgot I had read it since I had traded the previous book. 5 *****

Pierce's Trickster's duo is another story. It's one of the Tortall groupings I've kept and reread regularly. This story line involves another cliche: the teen/stripling finding their way in the world until they reach adult standing. Here, the frivolous daughter of Allana, the Lioness, discovers her skills as a spy master when a god throws her into a rebellion to replace an invader's royal house. Not only does Pierce add depth to that cliche, but in a world filled with werewolves and other mammalian weres, Pierce creates Nawat Crow as the love interest and co-conspirator -- with a convincing corvid viewpoint. 5***** 

Harris' Dead Ever After earns coudos because she avoids prancing the same old characters across the stage doing the same old things. The main characters and the secondary characters grow in this end-of-the-series ... if not always in the way the fan-readers expected. Yeah, Sookie Stackhouse grows up and survives as a human after her run-ins with vampires, but doesn't avoid the preternatural all together by settling her interest on Sam and the possibility of children, which is totally consistent with Sookie's important druthers. 5*****

So there, you have my opinion of the last three books I've read. Boy, how I wish I could write like that. Still, have about a third of Trickster's Queen left to read. In the meantime, I've bought three more books. From my dabbling at the beginings, I may end up reviewing one or two of three.

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Got a surprising review for Troublesome Neighbors. [A novella about how Renna protects her people from a predatory neighbor who lusts for her lands, without fighting on the battle field.]

"M.K. Theodoratus has managed to capture an entire world in less than forty pages. ... We have a new system of magic that seems to be available to many if not all. There are elves in this world, but they have some differences to them that I didn't expect. It's good to see a new adjustment to a classic race. ...  Tolkein and Paolini fans should read this."


You can see my newest [and nice] review on Amazon 
The novella is also available at Nook, iBookstore and on KOBO and E-Sentral.
And then, there's BLIO where you can download to read on your computer.

New writing? The ending is on Crossings, but my critique group will be getting the first chapter of Dark Solstice Turning Point. The last title is too long for Twitter, but I don't care ... or at least, I don't care enough.


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