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dforres1 has commented on (3) products.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death

dforres1, January 2, 2011

Set in post-apocalyptic Africa, this is the story of a girl named Onyesonwu, meaning "Who Fears Death," who grows up to become a powerful sorceress. There are two tribes. Onyesonwu is Ewu, which means mixed-race; blood of both tribes. Sandy-skinned and biracial, Ewus are shunned by both tribes. Yet she does not let it hold her back, and she meets another person just like herself; Mwita, another Ewu.

She is destined to go on a quest to end the genocide of her people. While doing so, she also exacts revenge for her mother, having been raped by the enemy tribe's general, who is Onyesonwu's biological father. She does a lot of growing up before the book is over, and shows that she truly does not fear death.

The cover of Who Fears Death is the first thing that caught my attention. It is composed of warm colors that stand out, and the figure with the ethereal wings is intriguing. It's definitely a neat cover.

The next thing I noticed was that it had a quote from Patrick Rothfuss on the back:

"Nnedi Okorafor's got the cure for what ails you. Her books are fresh, original, and smart. We need more writers like her."

So then, enticed, I read the first chapter, and I was pleasantly surprised at how readable the prose was. It's the kind of writing I like.

The weightiness of some of the subject matter - rape, violence, and female circumcision - are the only things that are intimidating about it. So the book is definitely not for everyone.

However, I really enjoyed it! There is a lot to like about this book:

-The writing style. It's really very succinctly written. Short sentences always make it easier for me to read. (If this is what Pat's talking about in his blurb, then I concur.)
-The magic. It's really cool that she can turn into a bird. There are other surprises as well!
-It's in first person, which I like.
-The characters. There is a lot to like about them. They don't overshadow Onye, but they are important. Without them, she would go on her journey alone. With that said, they don't seem bound to her either.

Highly recommended!
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The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers
The Horns of Ruin

dforres1, January 2, 2011

The Horns of Ruin is my first foray into steampunk. The novel also has elements of sword and sorcery, which makes it quite an interesting adventure.

There were three brothers who became gods of the city of Ash. They were Morgan the Warrior, Alexander the Healer, and Amon the Scholar. Each was human before they were a god, and has a human cult who worships them.

Eva Forge is the last Paladin of the dead god Morgan. Near the novel's beginning, people in the cult of Morgan are being kidnapped or murdered, and Eva is trying to find out who is behind it.

That is the premise of the novel. It was a lot of fun, really. Here's what I liked about it:

-There is a mythology at play. It is cool to read about the mysterious gods...
-...And the powers bestowed by them. Invokations. Noetic armor. Weapon replicas.
-The writing is interesting. Written in first-person. Sentence fragments are used to good effect. Good word choice. It's sort of dreamlike.
-Action! This book has quite a bit of it. Eva Forge is a true Warrior...and fights like one.
-The city feels alive. It is vast and industrial, yet accessible.
-It is fast-paced. So the plot unravels fast enough that everything more or less comes together by the end.

It is an amusing, fantastical, and technological romp of a book. Strongly recommended!
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Under Heaven
Under Heaven

dforres1, January 2, 2011

This historical fiction novel takes place in China during the eighth century. Under Heaven is an extremely well-told tale.

The story begins with Shen Tai -- the son of a war general -- burying the dead, living by a battlefield. As his supplies are delivered to him, he receives a message: He has been gifted 250 rare Sardian horses. This is a life-changing event, and it could also be a dangerous one. The horses are extremely valuable. After two years spent burying the dead, he leaves his cabin to go back towards the capital.

Kay certainly has a way with words. It's a lyrical style. There's a lot of imagery. It's fairly challenging reading, but it's also very rewarding. At least, it was for me. The writing shifts between exposition and narrative. The narrative voice changes to reflect the viewpoint. There are a few main viewpoints, but it also goes to minor characters to set the stage. It is consistently written with a lot of skill and perceptiveness.

One thing that really stood out to me was how Kay's writing gets you thinking. In this book, the writing strikes a balance between showing and telling. It is very good storytelling. I really liked the narration, and it kept me engaged with the work and deciphering the nuances of it.

Here are some noteworthy points about Under Heaven:

The "Principal Characters" page and the map. These deserve a mention because they are nice to have, particularly at the beginning.
It has a cinematic quality to it. Sometimes a chapter becomes more of a scene. It comes to life.
The interplay of differently stylized passages. There are different styles for different characters or themes. It works.
Finally, the simultaneous interweaving of narrative and history. I thought it was very well done.
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