This Week, I Read… (2017 #41)

149 - The Last Light of the Sun

#149 – The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay

This story suffered from a lack of focus. The blurb tells us Bern, son of an exiled Viking father, is the protagonist, but he probably gets less page time than King Aeldred or Prince Alun. There are too many characters to track easily (in general) and there are certainly too many potential protagonists.

I was never sure where it was going, either, and not in a good or suspenseful way. It wandered into tangential, side-character stories to make an occasional point, something I’ve seen often enough in Kay’s other works. But there was one side-POV scene late in the book that seemed, to me, completely unrelated to anything, let alone (what I guess is) the central theme of the complicated relationships between sons and fathers.

Some of the action was well written, but overall I felt the style was weak. Ellipses in odd places, both in dialogue and narration. Lots of overloaded subjects– “X does Y, goes to Z, falls of his horse, eats a sandwich.” That’s four clauses attached to a single subject without any conjunctions. I’m not saying I never do that–I do–but here, it’s practically the rule.

I did feel strongly for some of the characters–the better-developed ones, at least–and I liked the setting well enough, that mix of blood-and-mud reality with a touch of spooky-ethereal Faerie. But I’m definitely more likely to reread Tigana for the dozenth time or try an unread Kay work before I’d ever read this again.

150 - Many Waters

#150 – Many Waters, by Madeleine L’Engle

Last week, I complained that nothing happened in the previous book in the series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.


The Murry twins Sandy and Dennys accidentally travel back in time, landing smack in the middle of the story of Noah and the Ark. It’s not clear to them immediately that that’s what happened, because they’re too busy being blithe idiots about how to live in the desert and getting themselves sunburned to the point of heatstroke.

Then they spend the next few months recovering with some kind people who take them in and just happen to be two different branches of Noah’s family tree. Seriously, it’s 150 pages after the unexplained time travel that they’re finally healed enough to do much of anything.

Then it’s another 100 pages of incredibly murky, poorly-defined intrigue on the part of the nephilim (bad Angels) who, for some reason, want to get their hands on the twins. The seraphim (good Angels) sort of protect them, and sort of not. It’s not all that clear what the seraphim’s goals are, either.

Oh, yeah, and both twins are falling in love with the same girl.

In fact, for a middle grade novel, there was an awful lot of allusions/innuendo about sex. No explicit scenes, obviously, but a big deal is made (too often) about how the twins are both still virgins, so they can touch the unicorns (OH MY GOD I FORGOT TO MENTION THE QUANTUM PHYSICS UNICORNS), and also their pseudo-love-interest, Yalith, who is repeatedly harassed and outright propositioned by one of the nephilim. “I’ll teach you all about how to find pleasure as a woman,” and all that. Gross.

I’m not particularly a prude about sex, but that strikes me as inappropriate for the target age group of this novel.

And after all that, in the last thirty pages, Noah finally builds the ark, and Sandy and Dennys (somehow) manage to leave just as the rains of the Flood start. And when they get home, months have passed (I don’t think they give an exact number, but if I’ve got the timeline straight in my head it’s at least eight or nine, since a woman announces her pregnancy early in the book and has the baby most of the way through, then other stuff happens)–AND THE SERAPHIM CHANGE THEM BACK TO EXACTLY HOW THEY LOOKED WHEN THEY DISAPPEARED SO NO ONE IN THEIR FAMILY KNOWS THEY WERE EVEN GONE.

Talk about a no-consequence ending.

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