The Kane Chronicles

A couple weeks ago I tried reading Rick Riordan‘s latest complete series, Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard. It didn’t go well. Despite that, I decided to give The Kane Chronicles a try. They were published before Magnus Chase, so I was hoping the cultural issues I experienced in those books would be absent in these.

I’m currently on book 3, The Serpent’s Shadow. Like all his other works, this trilogy follows teenagers as they interact with the world of the ancient gods. In this case, the Egyptian gods. I’ve actually been fairly impressed with the series. Several issues I noted in Magnus Chase, despite the cultural ones already mentioned, are not present in this story. It differs enough from the original Percy Jackson storyline that I don’t feel like I’m reading the same book twice. A big reason for that is the main characters, Carter and Sadie, are not descendants of the gods. They’re descendants of the ancient pharaohs instead. They still have to save the world, but the dynamics are slightly different. The level of research the author must have done before writing this trilogy is impressive. The story dives deep into the minor gods of Egyptian mythology, and he manages to tie them all together into an intermingling plot.

Despite enjoying the story, I’m still having trouble getting through the books, and I’m having difficulty pinpointing the reason why. Several things spring to mind, and my reluctance is probably a combination of all of them. I still find the writing style incredibly juvenile. It was fun the first time around, with Percy Jackson, but I think I’m just over it. I’ve outgrown Rick Riordan, and that’s not a bad thing. It just is. My overall concentration is another issue. I have a lot going on, and curling up with a book is just not something I want to be doing right now, which is honestly something I never thought I’d say. I also have trouble getting comfortable. Spending a whole day engrossed in a book requires a lot of sitting still, often in the same position, and that’s just not in the cards for me right now.

All in all, I’m glad I’m nearing the end of this trilogy. I’m also glad I read it. Reading new things will always be beneficial for me, professionally. It’s good to see how the people who made it do things, even if they do them differently than I would’ve done them. And it’s another story to float around in my head, giving me ideas and encouragement. So, it’s a good thing. Now I just need to knock out the last hundred pages or so.

Magnus Chase

This past week, I did exactly what  I said I was going to do. I took a break from my young adult project, and got a stack of library books. The problem was, I didn’t particularly want to be reading library books. I wanted to be working, so it was really hard for me to get invested in something else.

Sticking with my young adult genre, I got 2 different Rick Riordan series’, and by random selection, began reading the first book of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy, The Sword of Summer. I was looking forward to these books, because I’ve read both the Percy Jackson series (twice) and the Heroes of Olympus series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. A new series with the Norse gods seemed like a fun adventure.

Right off the bat, I was struck with how nearly identical Magnus Chase’s story is to Percy Jackson’s, and that was really disappointing for me. I already read about Percy Jackson. I wanted something new. The basis of this trilogy is exactly the same as the others: kid finds out his dad is a god and suddenly he’s in a lot of danger. He has to go on a quest or the world will end. Magnus Chase even finds a magic sword almost immediately that’s destined to be his, which mirrors Percy Jackson exactly.

It’s understandable that the same author would have the same writing style across multiple works, but in this the series is also just like the previous ones. It’s fairly campy, and sarcastic, and most paragraphs end with a joke. The mythology is also similar. The gods are completely disconnected with who they’re expected to be, and are overly involved with petty, twenty-first century life. For example, Odin is obsessed with making power points and Thor neglects his giant-fighting duties to binge-watch Game of Thrones. The Olympian gods were portrayed in similar ways.

Through all that, I finished the first book in an embarrassing three days, because I kept losing interest and watching TV instead. But, persistent as I am, I started book 2 today, The Hammer of Thor.

One thing that struck me in book 1 was the fact that one of the main characters was a Muslim girl who wears a hijab. In general, I don’t have a problem with this, except for the inclusion being simple pandering to shifting cultural expectations. It wasn’t a big deal, and I continued reading the book. Book 2 went too far for my tastes. I was about an hour in this afternoon when a new child of Loki is introduced who is both gender-fluid and transgender.

I do have religious convictions about this issue, but since this is a writing blog, I’m not going to make that the focus of my opposition. I put the book down, and I will not finish the series, because I have no desire to read about transgender characters or to pretend that this is “normal”. But, like the Muslim girl in book 1, I do see this character as pandering. The Hammer of Thor was published in 2016, and transgenderism and all related issues have been hot-button topics for a while now. The addition of this character is culturally relevant and trendy and, again, pandering to popular political expectations. I can’t say why Rick Riordan decided to include this character, but I do disagree with writing something specifically to strike a cultural chord. Percy Jackson didn’t include transgenderism. The Heroes of Olympus didn’t include transgenderism. It is only now, in our current cultural climate, that he decided to include the issue.

Rick Riordan has the right to write his characters however he sees fit. I have the right to decline to read his works if I disagree with him. And this is only the most recent reason causing me to set this series aside.

Kelley Armstrong

Normally, I title these posts after the book I’m reading, in which case this post should have been titled Frostbitten. But this post isn’t about the book specifically, but rather, what the book represents. So, I’ve titled this post Kelley Armstrong, after the author, because of the impact her books have had on my life.

I first discovered Kelley Armstrong as a freshman in college, prowling through the campus library, looking for something new to read. I started at the beginning of the alphabet in the fiction section, and found her first novel in the Otherworld series, Bitten. It was about a reluctant female werewolf who was trying to live a normal life and leave her werewolf nature behind her. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. Bitten was my first werewolf book, and my first foray into the world of urban fantasy.

I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and already had a fascination with werewolves, but my literary tastes were more fantasy-driven. I was reading Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, Everworld by Katherine Applegate, as well as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Magic. Fantasy. Adventure. But no werewolves.

Bitten changed that. I fell in love with that book, and lost track of how many times I read it in the coming years. I own it now. It sits on my bookshelf with various other books of the Otherworld. The series is complete now, spanning thirteen novels, along with various novellas and short stories. They’re not all about werewolves, either. Kelley Armstrong was very careful not to fall into the trap of writing herself into a specific trope or story. In the second book, Stolen, the werewolves are featured, but she expands the universe to include witches, sorcerers, necromancers, and half-demons, among other, smaller races. The rest of the series focuses on each in turn, and how they interact and play into the other main characters the readers have already fallen in love with.

I enjoyed all the books in the series, but the ones that resonated with me were the ones about the werewolves, so those are the only ones I’ve bought. I recently moved my bookshelves from my office into the living room, and while re-shelving all my books Frostbitten caught my eye. It’s one of my favorites, even among the few I’ve chosen to own. I was trying to figure out why as I was reading it last night, but I don’t have a clear answer. It takes place in Alaska, which is wild and enchanting. The characters have experiences in that wilderness they can’t explain, which is fascinating to me.

The book is also closer to the end of the series, so the characters have a rich history that I already know, and they’re established in how they relate to each other. The other miscellaneous characters come into play, because they’re all friends now, and it’s cool to see how they interact. I also know what’s ahead for them, and this book does a good job of setting up a few key things that will hit them later. Regardless, I love this book. Besides BittenFrostbitten is probably the ones I’ve read the most. The creases in the spine can attest to that.

A Court Of Mist And Fury

Last week I wrote about how I was less than impressed with Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and RosesThis past weekend I decided to give book 2 a try, and I’m glad I did. A Court of Mist and Fury had the original storylines that book 1 was lacking, and I found myself drawn deeper into them.

As soon as I started reading A Court of Mist and Fury, I had no sense that I had read this book before. I found the events interesting and refreshing, and completely original. Predictable, because I found the author very obvious with her foreshadowing, but still original. And I was thoroughly impressed by the ending. She threw in a spin that I truly had no idea was coming, and it completely threw me. After I finished this book, I actually had dreams that night about what might happen to the characters afterward. It was pretty exciting.

Since this post is going up late, I’ve also already finished book 3, A Court of Wings and Ruin. I’m not going to devote an entire post to it, because it would say mostly the same things. I found the storyline original and interesting, although I think the ending was a bit rushed. With only a few chapters left, the characters were scattered and involved in their own plots. Using a few cheap literary tricks, the author very quickly brings them all together again and sums everything up with a handful of descriptive lines. I think the ending could have been drawn out more, to fully explain the stories of those that got passed over, but it would have either made the book much longer or required a fourth book to wrap everything up. Either way, I did end up enjoying the series a lot more than I expected to after I was so disappointed in the first book.

Now I have a dilemma. The trilogy is finished. Everyone lives happily ever after, and I feel free to move on to something new. However, there’s another book coming out in May. It’s listed as a companion piece, but there’s always the chance that it’s going to spin off into a series of its own. The problem is, I don’t typically start a series before all the books have been published. It drives me nuts having to wait to read the next one. I much prefer to rent them all at the same time, and consume them one after the other. I just need to make up my mind if I’m going to read this new one or not.