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Lizreader's Blog

Also known as Liz on GR. I am here, but really just planting the seed. I am a student who likes all kinds of books, and I'll be honest about what I think about them.

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The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill First off, I want to say the positives first before I go into everything that went wrong with this book. The Positives1. One of the main characters is named Ewan...after Ewan McGregor the actor. He is so named because one of his parent's favorite nights was when they saw Trainspotting. This made me extremely happy since I am a fan of Mr. McGregor.2. The writing is descriptive, which is nice. It does paint a fine picture in a person's head. The writing isn't what is bad with this book, but there are ways the author could have written this story better.That's pretty much it. The negativesOh boy, where to begin? First off all, when marketing a new book publishers should be extremely careful how they compare authors to other authors. This book was billed as something a fan of Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, and Erin Morgenstern (among others) would like. Let's put it this way the author in no way had any of the subtlety or ability to weave a tale like the authors mentioned (well I haven't read Lev Grossman, but I have read Neil and Erin). He was way too forceful with the themes of the book. In writing the idea of "show versus tell" is normally repeated when describing events or characters, but a little known fact is when it comes to themes and ideas. Authors should be able to weave the themes throughout the novel without hitting a person on the head with it. In those situations, a book becomes extremely preachy. Sometimes, this isn't that badly done (Harper Lee in "To Kill a Mockingbird). It can be pleasant, if the characters are pleasant. In this case it wasn't. It was too preachy, too self-indulgent with philosophy (and I like philosophy by the way, but the author could have been a bit more subtle and artful in his presentation of it), and extremely dull given its fantastic nature. I had pretty high hopes of this book going back to the roots of urban fantasy. I was hoping of a harkening back to the days of Borderland series, Charles De Lint, Neil Gaiman's (Sandman or Neverwhere), and Emma Bull (War for the Oaks) who all were kind of the forefront of the genre (especially Ms. Bull). However, the novel by Mr. Cargill was nowhere near what it could have been.Besides being way to obvious with its themes and with what you are supposed to take away from reading this book (and being pretty pretentious about it too) the characters were not that great at all. Ewan might be named after an actor I like, but in no way does that mean I like him. He's taken away from his family by faeries, grows up as one of them as a tithe, and then grows up and becomes a third-rate musician in Austin because of certain events. He's extremely naive when he is growing up, even if he is a child. He likes the prettiest faerie, who happens to like him back (what a surprise 0__0) When he is an adult, he is still pretty naive and dull. Even with certain events happening in the book, one can't feel really that sorry for him. You're only sorry that he got taken away from his parents (who, and I won't say why, where probably the most interesting characters later on in the book--even if they are screwed up). Colby, the other main protagonist, starts off as a likeable enough character as a kid. Although, he is too naive about his mother and her habits. Although, once he meets Yashar things quickly go down hill. He wishes Yashar (who is a djinn--which can be thought off as a genie without the lamp) to show him the world beyond the veil (a.k.a everything magical). Yashar refuses at first, but then relents because Yashar knows for him to stay alive he needs Colby to believe in him. The problem with Colby is, unlike Ewan's innocence, is that he quickly becomes unbelievable once he meets Yashar. He meets Ewan (and they become best buds in a moment's notice--I mean come on how realistic is that?) and the girl he likes, Mallaih (pronounced Molly) and they play tag. Then Colby finds out the truth about Ewan and puts his life into danger to save him, becoming a sorcerer by wishing Yashar to make him so. So, you put your life on the line for someone you've known for less than a few hours? Oh please...Anyways, then there is the character of Ewan's doppelganger double who is a stillborn faeries and becomes a changeling that nobody likes. So he harbors a dislike for Ewan because Ewan is perfect and he is not. Normally, I like characters like this to have depth and he has absolutely no depth to him. He's a one tracked mind and does not change throughout the entire story. Neither do the other characters for that matter, even Colby who's whole worldview has changed.I can't say anything bad about the plotting, which actually stands to reason to be a better part of the novel. However, there are problems with the pacing (especially in the beginning to the middle, and even parts of the end). This is a problem because most of the time I read fantasies pretty quickly, and this one I felt like I had to make myself finish it. There were parts where I was pretty sure I wanted to get rid of the book and to not finish it. I am happy I finished it, but not because I liked it--just so I could say I did. The mythology, if one is not new to the genre, is nothing new by bringing in a lot of folklore both from English/Scottish/Welsh and Native American (with Coyote)...and it can't be supernatural without angels (which really did he even add anything to the story? Don't try to throw everything together if it isn't going to advance the story). I didn't really like how after everytime a type of faeries was mentioned there would be a whole chapter of dumping information on the reader about that particular faerie. If someone is knew to the genre they might like this, but if not it's a roll your eyes moment because it's a lot of info dumping. Just like the dumping of paragraph after paragraph of philosophical ramblings by certain characters. I also don't like how much in the beginning the author was trying to paint a "fairy-tale" sort of picture, which is really annoying since you know from the blurb this isn't going to end well. Don't try to rip off the Grimms unless you can do it with style, which is where Mr. Cargill fails.Now, this might only be me and my idiosyncratic tendencies, but I wouldn't recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy only because there are much, MUCH better books out there. Save your money for Mr. Gaiman's new book coming out in June or on Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" which has a better atmosphere. Or better yet, read "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull for a great faerie urban fantasy. I also thought this book was excessively violent, and I don't mind violence but it needs a good reason. Anyways, not one of the best urban fantasy books I've ever read. Also, this was a complete let down for me.