This Week, I Read… (2020 #43)

#159 – Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb

  • Read: 11/4/20 – 11/7/20
  • Mount TBR: 137/150
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I love it, I love it nearly unreservedly. I was so invested, so quickly, and I guess I’ve finally wrapped my head around the way foreshadowing and clues to the mysteries in these stories work, because I figured out many of the things that were available to be figured out, while still being surprised by several turns of events.

Fitz is still, in many ways, the half-feral and bumbling idiot we’ve watched grow up and mature from his mistakes, but now he’s got a shiny new arena to flail about in–fatherhood. I’m sure he made a credible stepfather to Molly’s children, but they were already out of babyhood by the time he came along, and by the time this story is set, they’re adults and all out of the house. This is the first time Fitz has to play a real, direct role as a parent in a child’s life, and you really see the conflict between his genuine love for Bee and acceptance of who she is (eventually) with the expectations of the society around him, and how that goes against the way he was raised himself, which he both recognizes was often unconventional and harmful, yet in some ways still thinks is good enough. He would never want Bee to be hurt in the ways he was hurt as a child, but he sees little problem for most of the book allowing her a large amount of freedom to dress and act and spend her time as she likes. It’s a really interesting dynamic, that when Fitz feels he had to impose rules on her, for her safety or to meet the expectations of others, that’s when the two of them show the least understanding of each other. Despite being mostly under Molly’s care for the first years of her life, Bee still turned out to be a half-feral kid, talking to cats and hiding in spy-ways and not getting along with her school mates because they (mostly) don’t understand her.

I could talk about plenty of other things, because WOW did a lot of this book punch me straight in the chest repeatedly, but it would just be more gushing thinly disguised as book analysis, because if the point of this deeply detailed domestic tale was to reinvest me in Fitz and his life so that the cliffhanger ending hurt as much as it possibly could, this book was a runaway success for me, and I am still reeling the next day as I write this. (So glad I don’t have to wait for years for the next one!)

#160 – Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

  • Read: 11/8/20 – 11/10/20
  • Around the Year in 52 Books: A book related to time
  • Mount TBR: 138/150
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

Nope. DNF @ page 145. I slogged through the introduction of the first three narratives in this “sextet”–and boy does Mitchell love that word, once it starts showing up, everything is a freaking sextet–but I’m not invested. This book is clearly not for me; I value character over style, and I found the experimental structure tedious. Why have just one cliffhanger when you can have several? The first narrative breaks off in mid-sentence, and I actually turned the page back over to see if my used copy of this book had pages stuck together, but no, that’s intentional.

So my first cliffhanger was “is this random dude whose narrative purpose I don’t understand going to die from a real brain parasite or is this quack doctor telling him he’s got a parasite to make him buy drugs?” Except he was treating the guy for free, I think, so…

The second was…I’m honestly not sure. “Does this adulterous little shit get caught by the husband first, or the guys after him for the money he owes?” Maybe. There was more direction to that bit of the story, but not by much.

The third was at least solid, with our intrepid reporter getting run off the road and at great risk of drowning in her car. Legitimate cliffhanger there. But that’s when I realized I didn’t actually care. These story bits are so short and heavily stylized, and I’m too busy scratching my head trying to figure out the meaning of the obvious-but-unexplained linkages between them, that I never managed to care about the characters themselves (even the reporter, who was clearly trying to Do Good) so I really don’t have the energy to wade through three more story styles, then do it all again in reverse order, to find out if the reporter doesn’t drown or what becomes of the musician or if the dude from the first story actually has a brain parasite.

I started the fourth section but immediately disliked the character voice after only a few pages, so I knew it was time to give up. I always knew I was either going to love or DNF this book, because it seems to be so divisive among readers and their reviews; and I came down on the DNF side.

#161 – His Bride for the Taking, by Tessa Dare

  • Read: 11/10/20
  • Around the Year in 52 Books: A book with a silhouette on the cover
  • Mount TBR: 139/150
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Cute, quick, charming. My only complaint is my usual one for novellas I enjoyed–I liked it enough that I would have preferred it to be a full length novel! There’s enough going on here in terms of plot and backstory that got shorthanded to fit the bite-size format, and I think a lot of it would have benefited from more space to breathe.

That being said, it was still well-characterized and interesting, and as my first exposure to Tessa Dare, it more than justifies all the praise I’ve heard of her. Historical romance still isn’t my favorite subgenre, but I’d read her again.