Sunday, June 28, 2015

What I'm Reading: Roundup

Some of my recent reading:

The Little Prince  My son read this book in his fourth-grade class this year for a class project, and since the book was lying around I picked it up. I probably haven't read it since I was his age! If you're not familiar with it, it's a child's fantasy book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a Frenchman, and has a definite French flavor to it. It concerns the Little Prince, a boy who is visiting Earth on a visit from his own planet, a very small asteroid, and the man he encounters here, an airman who has crash landed in the Sahara desert. The boy is confused by the strange ideas of the man and some other adults he encounters, who busy themselves with figures, or drink, or ruling over others, when in his view the important things in life are flowers, sunsets, and friends. Quite a charming book and with a good message communicated to the reader in a subtle way. I had forgotten the ending is so sad!

Harrow County  Emmy just turned 18 and lives on a farm with her father. She has never traveled far from her homestead and has little idea about the world beyond a handful of distant neighbors, but she is intimately familiar with the woods and marshes around her farm. Now that she's of age, mysterious men start visiting the house and talking in hushed tones with her dad. She's seen people hanging out by the big scary old tree she's supposed to avoid out on the edge of their property, too. And her dreams the past months have become vivid and frightening, full of witches and dead children. Out on a walk in the woods one day, she follows a path she's never seen before and discovers a "haint"-- something like a ghost. She's scared at first but when she realizes it's only the lost spirit of a little boy, she picks it up and takes it home. Harrow County is a new comic series written by Cullen Bunn and beautifully, and so, so creepily, drawn/watercolored by Tyler Crook.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What I'm Reading: The Hand of Oberon

I recently finished The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny, the fourth in the series of Amber novels (see here and here for write-ups on previous novels in the series). Last month I also read the third book in the series, Sign of the Unicorn, but did not write it up. Alas, I've been extremely busy lately and have neglected this blog!

In SotU and THoO Corwin has finally achieved his goal of becoming ruler of Amber, though he has not had himself crowned. At the beginning of SotU he finds his brother, Caine, murdered and realizes he was set up to find the body so it would look like he committed the murder himself. And as designed, his other siblings do suspect him of the murder, despite his protestations, with only his youngest brother Random firmly on his side. This is very bad for him as he has so recently taken control of the realm, only for court intrigue to switch into a high gear. To figure out who did it, he decides to contact long missing brother Brand, who Random believes is still alive but imprisoned in some distant shadow realm. But when they do locate Brand and bring him back to Amber, his story brings up more questions than they answer.

Like the first two books, this plays out much more like a mystery than like a typical fantasy novel, as Corwin tries to figure out how committed the murder, framed him, and what their motives are. His memories now are fully recovered, yet because he was out of commission for so long he still has too little information on the histories and intentions of his siblings. His search for clues and information provide the narrative thrust.

Yet, the setting is firmly fantasy, as his search takes him to places like the the Courts of Chaos and involves artifacts like the Jewel of Judgment. This hybrid is masterfully carried out by Zelazny, resulting in suspenseful novels that are truly unpredictable and fresh writing. I would recommend this to any fantasy fan, and mystery fans may enjoy these slim, fast-paced volumes as well.