Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: "The Scar" by China Mieville

When her beloved city of New Crobuzon turns dangerous, linguist Bellis Coldwine lies her way aboard a ship bound for the distant colonies. Unlike the other passengers, she has no desire to make a new life anywhere new--only to lie low until the threat passes. But all hope of returning home is brutally ended when pirates attack the Terpsichoria. The ship and its passengers are forcibly integrated into the floating pirate city of Armada.

While Bellis rages at the loss of her way home, others of the Terpsichoria's passengers find Armada to be an unlooked-for reprieve. The convict Tanner Sack, cruelly surgically altered as punishment for his crimes, was destined to a life of slavery in the colonies--but Armada welcomes him with open arms. In a floating city, Tanner's amphibious modifications are a gift, rather than the curse the New Crobuzon judges intended.

But the rulers of Armada have set their sights higher than mere piracy. A tangled web of secrets, absurd myths, and arcane research surrounds their purposes. Willing or unwilling, Armada requires Bellis and Tanner's skills--even if their service could mean the end of everything they know.

4.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Aside: "Phantom" Search Terms

Dear unknown visitor who came here on the trail of the search terms "the phantom of the opera explained book grumps act 2":
  1. I'm really touched you remembered Act 1. Honestly.
  2. I'm sorry to disappoint. I do intend to give you your wish and finish my retelling... sometime. But I'd had other priorities for the past few months. But thank you for the reminder!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: "Alphabet of Thorn" by Patricia McKillip

McKillip's covers are so alarmingly twee.

A labyrinthine library tunnels through the cliffs beneath the castle of Raine, overflowing with the written flotsam and jetsam of lost civilizations. The foundling Nepenthe has spent her whole life translating these ancient texts. 

When one of the castle's mages delivers a puzzling new book in a new language, somethings in its twisting script speaks to her. Rather than turn the project over to her superiors, Nepenthe hides the book and translates it on her own.

While Nepenthe sinks further into the curiously unfinished record of an ancient conqueror-king, real conquerors threaten Raine's security. The squabbling lords of the realm view Raine's absent-minded young queen as no impediment to their ambition.

But the queen seems more inclined to hide from the threats than to deal with them.  

3.9 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)