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[personal profile] cahn
4/5. I really, really liked this book. It's about a biracial (elvin/goblin) boy, Maia, who becomes emperor of a somewhat complicated court and then has to deal with it.

I would never have read it if not for [personal profile] rymenhild's review (general, unspecific spoilers), because I hated Felix so much in Monette's other books.

D saw me snarfing it up and asked if he should read it. I told him I didn't know. He decided to read it and stayed up until 2am the next two nights... I can't remember the last time he did that reading a book.

So yeah. And it's the kind of thing I just want to talk about, because I have lots of thoughts about it!

I think one of the things I loved most about it is that it's such a hopeful book. Not a happy book -- lots of unhappy things happen -- but it's awfully hopeful, and I am a sucker for hopeful. I read an essay Monette wrote where she points out her Labyrinth books are much more noir, and... yeah. This one, while not light fluffiness for sure, is not noir.

Various other things I loved about the book:

-Gosh, I really just loved how present Maia's mother is in the story. I feel like a lot of times the dead parent is played for Hero Motivation only, with no other real impact in the story or character. (I feel like FMA is an exception to this, very subtly -- partially because Al looks so much like his mother, and partially because we're told so many times that Ed is just like this father. So you get a real sense that their mother must have been very much like a grown version of Al.) But in everything Maia is, in the reactions he has, the way he tries to think about things, you get a real sense of how his mother tried to teach him and how that differs from the culture of his father.

I'm rereading the Judith Tarr Avaryan books right now, and in Fall of Princes Hirel is in the same sort of situation (mostly-absent father, explicitly stated in text that he was raised by mother the way mother wants)... except... right after reading GE, it was starkly noticeable how much I had no idea what Hirel's mother was like, or how her upbringing affected her son.

-I adore Csevet and may have a total crush on him, in that way that I do with super-competent understatedly-awesome characters. I think Csevet and Simon Illyan would like each other a lot. I can't help thinking that he and Esavan will end up together even though there's basically no indication of this in the text, just because Esavan reminds me of a grumpy Alys in her awesome competence. LOVE HER.

-I also rather adored how Celehar was a priest and all, but really basically he was a noir detective. My mental picture of him totally has him slouching around in a trenchcoat. Don't disabuse me!

-I adored the arc with Setheris. I loved that Maia never really forgives him (because, um, yeah) and admits it, but at the same time moves past it.

Other things (I don't mean these to be negative, precisely; this is the kind of book where it's good enough that I want to talk about and dissect all the parts I didn't love, if that makes any sense?):

-For a political intrigue book, it had... curiously... little political intrigue. I didn't really notice until after finishing the book (since her writing is good enough that it covers it), but... the plotline turned out to be pretty simple, after all, even if getting at the plotline was circuitous and involved. I mean, basically, there's a bad guy. Who does progressively worse and worse things until his badness is clear. (D also pointed out that the last bad thing he does is incredibly stupid... which... I can handwave around, but he's right. It is.)

-I felt like the deck was totally stacked in Maia's favor by Csevet turning out to be basically the best and most competent person he could possibly have hired for the job of his secretary -- and Maia does this completely randomly; he knows the names of two people and one of them he hates, so Csevet gets the job by default. It just seems... unreasonably lucky to me. (Berenar being interested in teaching him stuff, by contrast, I find lucky but not unreasonably lucky; it seems not unreasonable that one person out of the entire court might notice Maia was out of his depth and offer to help out.) I mean, I don't mind that Csevet is so competent, obviously! I would mostly have just felt a little better if Maia's super luckiness had ever been addressed. It is vaguely addressed why a courier in general might have been good for the job... but... I should think that Csevet is probably atypical in his talents even for the couriers. And I don't think it's ever addressed as to why he left Chavar's service so willingly!

-Completely silly objection: Both D and I felt cheated out of a description of the clock that Maia got for his birthday! CHEATED, I TELL YOU. It was just as marvelous and unique as the descriptions had made it sound! SO UNIQUE THAT WE CANNOT GET A DESCRIPTION OF IT.
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