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Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Thief, The Eye of Minds, and Poison Dance Mini-Reviews

The Thief (The Queen's Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner
The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

Released: October 31st 1996    Pages: 280
Publisher: Greenwillow Books   Source: Library

I'd heard so much about this book, and how it was a must-read for fans of YA high fantasy (especially fantasy with a more political plotline).  It's been on my to-read shelf for a long time, and I was eager to read it.

Initially, I was prepared to like Gen, as he's the type of character I tend to be fond of.  I could never gain much respect for him, though.  He was more obnoxious and arrogant than anything else.  I wish he was half as witty as he thought he was.  He said things like this:

"Maybe in five hundred years every thief that came here had been as smart as myself, but I found that difficult to believe."

Just a little bit pretentious, aren't we?

I gained a little respect for him at the end, after his big reveal.  Still, though, he was too obnoxious for me to ever care about him.  The other characters failed to make me care about them as well.

I liked the unreliable narrator aspect of this book--it's what redeemed it a little, though not enough to make it into the four-star range.  For most of the book, though, I was bored.  Traveling was all that ever happened, it seemed, which made it move too slowly.  The characters spent huge amounts of time telling stories about the gods and goddesses, and I didn't see the point.  Why distract us from the actual story by telling us other stories that don't add anything?

Overall, I don't see what the big deal is about this book.  I didn't hate it, or even dislike it, but I didn't like it, either.  I'm told that the second book is much better, but I'm not sure whether it's worth giving the rest of the series a try or not.

Similar Books: It features a wayward, wrong-side-of-the-law protagonist like The False Prince.  It's high fantasy that would appeal to both middle grade and young adult audiences, like the Ranger's Apprentice series.  It also reminds me of Starcrossed.

The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner
Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Released: October 8th 2013                                Pages: 323
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers    Source: Library

My first thought after reading the description of this book: "So basically...Ready Player One?"  This book was going for what Epic failed to accomplish, and what Ready Player One pulled off marvelously.  The Eye Of Minds falls somewhere in the middle.

The biggest problem I had was that the characters were flat.  Michael had no personality, nothing to make him unique.  I felt like I was watching a movie where the main character is a cardboard cutout of a person.  Incidentally, I had the same problem with James Dashner's other book, The Maze Runner.  Unlike The Maze Runner, though, the side characters didn't make up for my lack of interest in the main character.  Michael's best friends, Bryson and Sarah, weren't any more developed or interesting than Michael.  Bryson had the most prominent personality of any of them, but more often than not, he was just plain annoying.

My other problem was that the worldbuilding seems weak.  It was never the type of setting that I could immerse myself inside.  The world inside the virtual reality game made sense, but the real world, the outside world, was lacking.  I had too many questions.  Does everybody basically live inside the game, or just people with money, like Michael?  Who is in charge of this game?  Who is in charge of anything, actually?  Because I knew so little about the setting, it never worked for me.  (Also, why would you pay so much extra for super-realistic feelings within the game?  Why would anyone want to play the game if there's real pain involved?  If I want to play a video game, I don't want to have real, physical bruises afterwards.)

Overall, this was an okay book.  The plot was interesting, but the rest of it didn't impress me.  If you want to read a book with essentially this same premise, go try Ready Player One instead.

Similar Books: It's basically a version of Ready Player One, for a younger audience.  It heavily involves virtual reality games or experiences like Epic or The Reality Bug.  The writing style reminded me a little of BZRK.

Poison Dance: A Novella (Midnight Thief #0.5) by Livia Blackburne
James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison.

Released: September 12, 2013   Pages: 54
Publisher: Lion's Quill Press       
Source: review copy received from author

I'm not used to reviewing novellas, but here it goes.  Poison Dance managed to grab my attention almost immediately.  The most compelling part was easily the plot.  It had elements of mystery and intrigue, as well as action and a bit of romance.  The romance--if you could call it that, since it was so short-lived--developed faster than made sense to me.  I'm not sure how James grew so attached to Thalia so fast.

James was a decent character.  I could easily see his personality, though I never had much reason to care about him.  There isn't much time to create immensely complex characters in just over fifty pages, but still, I've read books where I cared about the main character within the first chapter.  Thalia was interesting, and I wish I had the chance to learn more about her.

Overall, I enjoyed this.  It's more of a 3.5 star read, but I'll round it up.  I can see the beginnings of an interesting world, and now I'm eager to read Midnight Thief.
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