What I Read in March

Another month with four new books read, which I guess is the fastest pace I can manage when I am rereading the Wheel of Time. Usually my WoT rereads are fast, slapdash things where I read only the parts I want, the Perrin parts early and the Mat parts late, while skipping the storylines that I don’t like quite as much, surprisingly Rand’s part. This time I am giving as close a read as I have since I first read them, which means each one is taking me about twice as long as it usually does. So four other books a month is about all I can manage.

The Blonde Lady
Maurice LeBlanc

This is apparently the second of LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin detective-ish stories. Lupin is something like Robin Hood mixed with Sherlock Holmes. What Holmes is to solving crimes, Lupin is to committing them. There are two stories in this volume, which is all about Holmes, called Holmlock Shears, matching wits with Lupin. There are some what I am going to guess are translation issues, where words don’t mean quite what the characters seem to think they mean, but otherwise it is solidly entertaining. I don’t want to get in depth on the plot since this is a mystery. Lupin is wisely kept on the sidelines for most of the book, letting most of the story come from the detectives trying to stop his announced robberies. Lupin is a great character, dashing and dangerous but he has enough of that Robin Hood noble thief in him that readers can still root for him.

The Alloy of Law
Brandon Sanderson

Since I first discovered him a few years ago, or more appropriately when I was forced to discover him because it was announced that he would finish Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Brandon Sanderson quickly became one of my favorite fantasy authors. Even though Mistborn is not my favorite thing he has written, I really like the first book but I think books 2 and 3 are flawed, when I heard that he was writing a follow up with a Western setting I was excited. The magic system in Mistborn is one of the most original I’ve encountered, especially when you weed out the ones that come off as weird for weird’s sake. Putting that in a Western, a genre that I unabashedly love, sounded perfect. Too much fantasy takes place in the same sort of faux medieval time period. It is always good to get out of that. Fortunately, Sanderson did not disappoint.

Alloy of Law is short for a fantasy novel, running just around 300 pages, but it accomplishes a lot in its short time. Since the world was not new, much of the usual world building could be eliminated, allowing for a greater focus on character and plot. Both of which delivered. Wax is a pretty great character, competent and brave but not with the sort of Godlike powers that many fantasy protagonists have. Wayne is perfect to complete a buddy cop routine with Wax. And Marasi doesn’t get quite enough time, but she is an interesting catalyst. The story follows Wax trying to solve some mysterious train robberies and kidnappings that seem to be impossible, which leads to him uncovering a plot involving corrupt cops and even more corrupt noblemen. Plus, Snaderson avoids spending too much time on the mechanics of his magic system, as he sometimes does.

Alloy is an adventure about magic cowboys trying to stop ghost trains. Conceptually, it is perfect. Even with its short length, t manages to be a meaty, enjoyable adventure. Its only real flaw is that it leaves the reader really wanting more, and the internet seems to be telling me that this is a stand alone entry in the series. Stand alone books should not have cliffhangers! More, I want more.

The Shadow Rising

Robert Jordan

The Eyre Affair
Jasper Fforde

You know how sometimes something just really clicks with you immediately. To experience a piece of media that seems almost perfectly tailored to your specific interests. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, of which The Eyre Affair is the first entry, has so far been one of those special experiences for me.

The Eyre Affair is a smart, inventive and often silly detective novel set in an alternate reality. A reality with time travel and cloning and a much greater appreciation for literature. Once all the fun sci-fi/fantasy fluff is stripped away The Eyre Affair is a rather standard-ish noir tinged detective story. But the fluff is the substance. The plot is clearly secondary to the fluff. The plot is merely an excuse for Thursday to keep moving through the world. More important than the over arching story is a side-story where Thursday helps hunt down a vampire.

Fforde throws tons of concepts against the wall, but the parts that resonate best are when he’s playing with literature. Perhaps it is just that the works he references are some of my favorites, Jane Eyre and Dickens. I simply loved the Eyre Affair.

Lost in a Good Book
Jasper Fforde

With the second Thursday Next book, Fforde focuses more on the book jumping skills that were key to the last books finale. It is also less of a stand alone book than the previous one. The Eyre Affair told its story and ended, Lost in a Good Book is clearly the start of a larger story. Numerous plots are started and very few of them are finished.

Despite that Lost feels more focused than Eyre. The first one was about throwing stuff against the wall, this one is just playing with the stuff that stuck. I didn’t like it quite as much as the previous one, but it was still pretty good. Especially the greater use of other fictional characters as living characters in this series. They are clearly different than the “real” versions of those characters, but they are reminiscent enough to be fun. Another really good novel.

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