Friday, December 30, 2011

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

The books in the Inheritance Cycle series are Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance.

Plot: A teenage boy named Eragon struggles to stay alive in a dangerous world with his young dragon Saphira. As the only surviving dragon Rider, this inexperienced boy faces deadly challenges and terrible enemies. Together with his beloved Saphira, Eragon meets dwarves, elves, and the Varden, an army dedicated to overthrowing the tyrant King Galbatorix. Fighting against all the odds, Eragon and Saphira continue down a treacherous road ultimately leading toward the impossibly powerful king.

Comments: The story weaved through the pages of these four fat books is incredibly complex and captivating. Each character breathes with such convincing life that you may lose yourself in their world, caught in the elaborate web of stories. There is fast-paced, heart-pounding action as well as poignant moments of love and loss. Many realities are entwined with the fictional events, and lessons are taught surreptitiously.

However, the complexity of these books works against the overall enjoyment as well. The sheer enormity of subplots and characters and places overwhelms the reader. The words in the ancient language, used in magic, are nigh impossible to pronounce and therefore must be skipped over when reading. Similarly, the names of places and characters contain too many apostrophes and other symbols to be easily understood. This is very annoying. On several occasions seemingly random events occurred which left me confused and wondering at the significance. These books were complicated to an extreme. I found myself ignoring most descriptions of battles and inventions simply because I could not follow what the author meant.

I loved the story in these books. That Eragon was not perfect helped me appreciate the story even more, though I still felt he was becoming a god far above anyone else. After a while, I learned to enjoy the story and ignore the complicated details that only slowed down my reading and comprehension. Furthermore, the plot was fairly predictable in its largest elements and I did not feel emotionally attached to any of the characters. Finally, Paolini ended the series with about one hundred pages of wrapping up loose ends, an anticlimatic finish to a dramatic book. I was rather disappointed with the ending; it left me unsatisfied.

Overall, the Inheritance Cycle was a fair series of books, but perhaps too long and not enjoyable enough to be worth reading in its entirety.

Rating: I rate the Inheritance Cycle a six out of ten.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Strongbow Saga by Judson Roberts

Plot: Halfdan used to be a slave but was unexpectedly granted freedom by his dying father, a viking chieftain. Suddenly Halfdan is thrust into a completely different world. His new brother teaches him how to fight as a viking warrior, and Halfdan gains the deadly skills which will later keep him alive. When unthinkable tragedy strikes, Halfdan embarks upon a journey of war and adventure with only one emotion in his heart - vengeance.

Comments: I have read the first three books in this series and can't wait to continue with the next installment. The Strongbow Saga cradles an amazing story of a compassionate viking warrior striving to honor his family. Halfdan is fearless, cunning, and an entirely lovable character. I feel sad for him, but a child who was forced to grow up too quickly. I also must respect him as a formidable warrior and one who never backs down. His youth is evident at times and may create amusing situations which embarrass Halfdan to no end. New friends among the vikings love to tease Halfdan, adding humor and a light-hearted sense.

Halfdan's romance was unsurprising and perhaps too predictable. It was, however, sweet in its innocence. Every great adventure needs a bit of love, right? Of course not. But the romance certainly fit well into this particular story. Through the eyes of the girl, I was able to see different elements in Halfdan more clearly. His honor and virtue redeem the vengeance that drives him, in my eyes. I find myself cheering for Halfdan, and I can't wait to read more about his adventures.

Rating: I rate the first three books in The Strongbow Saga as a nine out of ten.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Plot: Daniel Sempere reads his first Julian Carax novel as a young boy, only to discover that a mysterious man has been seeking out all of Carax's books and destroying them. In attempting to protect Carax's works, Daniel finds himself on a journey where he discovers love and uncovers the truth of Julian Carax's past.

Comments: Truly a dramatic, intriguing novel, The Shadow of the Wind is complexly twisted and entwined upon itself, stories within stories building on one another. The truth hides under many layers of lies. You will be shocked with silent awe for the mastermind of an author who created such a complicated story.

However, I thought the first half of the book mediocre. Not quite three hundred pages took me a couple weeks of effort and disinterest to read. The second half was a gripping page turner. These other not quite three hundred pages I read all in one night. What a contrast! I was incredibly surprised that night when I realized I'd read through a whole chapter without putting the book down, and from there on the story only became better. The plot thickened, lies were revealed, and the truth began to leap out in small, critical chunks like bullets riddling my metaphorical body. It was amazing.

I loved the characters in The Shadow of the Wind. David somehow did not appear to have much of a character though most of the novel was from his point of view. He felt insubstantial, less than human to me. Despite this, the cast interacted splendidly together in engrossing manners. I particularly loved Fermin, as I believe you are meant to do. He is loyal, witty, spectacularly sexual, and a hilarious aspect to the story.

The Shadow of the Wind was an interesting story. I loved the second half, and believe that it is worth slogging through the first half.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten.