Monday, May 30, 2011

Page 49: The King Killer Chronicles

Patrick Rothfuss has published the first two books of his fantasy series. The first is The Name of the Wind and the second is The Wise Man's Fear. I have been reading fantasy ever since I discovered Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many years ago. I have also read many of the books by Terry Brooks and David Eddings.  Both have created wonderful worlds populated by great characters. Patrick Rothfuss has joined their ranks with The King Killer Chronicles. So, why do I think he is that good?

Patrick Rothfuss has written two books that have not only received good reviews, but have a loyal cadre of followers who are salivating for the third book. In the first book we are introduced to Kote, an innkeeper in a remote village, who is more than he appears to be to the locals. He is in fact "Kvothe the Bloodless", "The King Killer", and several other names that have made him a legend at a young age. A scribe named Chronicler discovers his whereabouts and comes to the Wayside Inn to write down his story.  Kvothe agrees to tell his story much to the surprise of Bast, Kvothe's current student. Book one covers the first day of the telling of the story. There are several pauses or interludes in the story in order for Kvothe to do the kinds of things an innkeeper does.  He prepares food, pours drinks, and banters with the locals.  Here is what Publishers Weekly has to say about the first book.

Starred Review. The originality of Rothfuss's outstanding debut fantasy, the first of a trilogy, lies less in its unnamed imaginary world than in its precise execution. Kvothe ("pronounced nearly the same as 'Quothe' "), the hero and villain of a thousand tales who's presumed dead, lives as the simple proprietor of the Waystone Inn under an assumed name. Prompted by a biographer called Chronicler who realizes his true identity, Kvothe starts to tell his life story. From his upbringing as an actor in his family's traveling troupe of magicians, jugglers and jesters, the Edema Ruh, to feral child on the streets of the vast port city of Tarbean, then his education at "the University," Kvothe is driven by twin imperatives—his desire to learn the higher magic of naming and his need to discover as much as possible about the Chandrian, the demons of legend who murdered his family. As absorbing on a second reading as it is on the first, this is the type of assured, rich first novel most writers can only dream of producing. The fantasy world has a new star. (Apr.)  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The second book continues the story as recounted by Kvothe during the second day. One of the more poignant  themes of the first book is continued.  It appears that Kvothe is losing his ability to practice the magic that has been the basis of much of the legend surrounding him.

As the story moves on Kovthe is still at "the University", but takes a sabbatical after much urging from the faculty.  His travels take him to another part of his world to work for the the most powerful man in Vintas.  He is given the task of leading a group of mercenaries to kill a band of bandits in the forests of Vintas who are stealing from the tax collectors.  While in the forest he manages to enter the realm of Fae when the group sees the legendary Felurian bathing in a forest pool.  Men have not usually survived an encounter with her, but Kvothe manages quite well and returns with a special cloak made for him by Felurian.  He also travels with his friend Tempi, one of the mercenaries searching for the bandits, to Adem.  Adem is a warrier culture that reminds me a lot of feudal Japan.  In Adem he learns both the physical and spiritual art of the warrier.  While in Adem, Kvothe must overcome challenges that are quite different from those he faces at the University. The book ends with a recounting of the three silences that surround the Waystone Inn.  You will find out what they are when you read the book.

Here is the review from Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As seamless and lyrical as a song from the lute-playing adventurer and arcanist Kvothe, this mesmerizing sequel to Rothfuss's 2007's debut, The Name of the Wind, is a towering work of fantasy. As Kvothe, now the unassuming keeper of the Waystone Inn, continues to share his astounding life story—a history that includes saving an influential lord from treachery, defeating a band of dangerous bandits, and surviving an encounter with a legendary Fae seductress—he also offers glimpses into his life's true pursuit: figuring out how to vanquish the mythical Chandrian, a group of seven godlike destroyers that brutally murdered his family and left him an orphan. But while Kvothe recalls the events of his past, his future is conspiring just outside the inn's doors. This breathtakingly epic story is heartrending in its intimacy and masterful in its narrative essence, and will leave fans waiting on tenterhooks for the final installment. (Mar.) 
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

I hope I have enticed you to read these books whether fantasy is your genre or not.  One caveat before you begin.  They are long, but read quickly.  I listened to the Audible version of the second book.  When I downloaded it there were five sections of approximately 8 hours each.  I enjoyed every minute!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Page 48: The Harry Bosch Novels by Michael Connelly

I have been reading many books including a few audio books since my last post.  Sorry for the delay. Thank you to those of you who still visit the blog and also to those of you who are new.  I appreciate your interest and hope you have been encouraged to read some of the books I write about.  Instead of blogging just one book in this post I thought it would be a change of pace to talk about several books by the same author with a brief description of each.

Michael Connelly has been writing great crime fiction since his first Harry Bosch novel entitled The Black Echo. The next three in the series are The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde and The Last Coyote.

The Harry Bosch novels are about a homicide detective who is a loner, butts heads with the "brass", is as persistent as a dog with a bone, and is very very good solving murders. The scene for most of the books is Los Angeles. Connelly portrays the city in a straightforward way. He takes you from the towers of Universal City to the back alleys of Hollywood. I keep checking a map of LA to try to follow where his investigations take him.  So far I have read the first four Harry Bosch novels and am working on a fifth novel, but more about that one in another post. The fifth is not part of the Harry Bosch series.  Once I find a series I like, I prefer to read them in order. I am glad I am doing this with the Harry Bosch series since the character development has been a continuous thread throughout in these first four books.  In addition, more is revealed about Harry's past that helps explain his doggedness and being a loner.  This is especially true in The Last Coyote.

Here is a brief description of the first four books:

The Black Echo introduces Harry Bosch.  Harry has been demoted from an elite investigative unit to the Hollywood Detective Division.  A body is found in a a drainage pipe near a reservoir off Mulholland Drive.  The deceased was once in Harry's platoon in Vietnam.  Their job was to go down into the underground tunnels of the Viet Cong with just a flashlight and a pistol to kill as many as possible and still come out alive.  Then they would blow up the tunnel in order to collapse it.  Tunnels are the theme for this story and Harry ends up working with the FBI as he tries to solve the murder.  The FBI is trying to solve a bank robbery that is connected to the murdered man.  The robbers dug a tunnel and came up into the vault on Memorial Day weekend.  This one has a lot of surprises and the plot moves along at a very good pace.

The Black Ice involves an investigation into the death of a narcotics agent that apparently committed suicide in a run-down motel.  Harry goes against the suicide conclusion and pursues his own theory of how the agent was killed.  As he follows the clues they lead him to Mexico and the discovery of a connection between a Mexican drug lord and an LA cop.  The story is fast-paced with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing the outcome until the very end.  Even when you think you have it figured out, forget it, you don't.

The Concrete Blonde has a very creative plot.  It follows Harry Bosch during a trial where the city is being sued by the family of a man Harry killed prior to the timeline of the first book.  This is what got him demoted to the Hollywood Division. Harry shot and killed a man he thought was "The Dollmaker", a serial killer who put makeup on his victims after they were killed.  Harry followed a tip that "The Dollmaker" was in a second floor apartment.  Harry went to the apartment, kicked in the door and found a man standing by a bed.  The man reached under a pillow, and Harry warned him to stop, but he kept reaching.  Harry shot and killed him.  When Harry checked, he found the man had been reaching for his toupe.  While Harry must be at the trial every day, he is also conducting an investigation when another body is found in concrete under a storage building that burned during the riots in Watts.  Questions start popping up.  Did Harry shoot the wrong man?  Is there a second killer imitating "The Dollmaker"?  All questions will be answered, but only after a plot that moves so fast you will have trouble keeping up.

The Last Coyote reveals the most about Harry's past and the forces that drive him.  This book finds Harry  suspended for striking his supervisor and pushing him through the window of his office.  He is required to see the police department psychiatrist.  As the book progresses we find that Harry's mother was murdered in the early 1960's and her body found in a dumpster.  The murderer was never found and the case quickly ended up in the unsolved files.  His mother was a prostitute and Harry spent most of his youth in institutions after he was taken away from her.  After Harry visits one of his mother's old friends, he decides to try to find out what happened.  Some of those involved are still living so Harry tracks them down and tries to get answers to his questions.  Some are cooperative, others are not.  In fact, people start dying and the plot rockets faster and faster from there.  All I can say is that Michael Connelly gets better with each book.  If you like crime fiction, Michael Connelly is one of the best.