Archive for August, 2008

Heaven’s Net is Wide

I moved to WordPress with my other blog, and my procrastinating soul couldn’t bear to leave this one behind. I will transfer my blogroll at some point, can’t say when, for the moment it’s accessible at The Little Book Room, take one.

Heaven’s Net is Wide is the prequel to the Across the Nightingale Floor series (now there are five books in all). I read the other four books last year and adored them. Set in a world modeled on a medieval Japan, the books explore conflicting loyalties and honour codes between three different groups: the warrior classes (their motto is fight and die with honour, even when it means killing yourself), the Tribe (secret families with magical skills who ultimately answer only to themselves but hire themselves out as assassins and spies), and the Hidden (equally secret religious sect based on Western Christianity, who refuse to kill). This is a promising background for a story, but as well as being gripping reads, the real beauty of these books is in the sensual descriptions of the places, the seasons and the characters. Amid the courage, betrayal, and doomed loved stories, these books offer true escapism of the loveliest kind.

That said, I thought this was the weakest of the five. Having read the other books, it was great to get a bit of the back story, and get inside the heads of the characters who were more distant in the other novels. But I don’t think the pacing was as tight as it is in the other ones, and there was sometimes the sense that it filled in background details just for the sake in it. This was most obvious regarding the Hidden – this religion is dealt with quite lightly in the other books, and as it was made more explicit here, it lost some of its mystery. I don’t know what it would be like reading this one first, but I would recommend starting with Across the Nightingale Floor, which dealt with the unfolding mystery and the conflicting loyalties in a much more compelling way.


August 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm 2 comments

My other June reads

Hmmm, I was on a role there for a while wasn’t I, then I forgot about this place… Anyway, to catch up… I picked up Kafka on the Shore by Murakami in an airport bookshop and absolutely loved it. Gripping and funny and elegant and strange. I read this in a hotel in the mountains. It seemed somehow appropriate. And then I read Leviathan by Paul Auster. As I went along I kept thinking it wasn’t his best, but it got quite exciting and clever towards the end. Oh what wonderful nuanced reviews I am giving. You can see why I’m doing a PhD in English literature. Ahem. After that I was in Stansted again, waiting for my train up to Leeds, and bought a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This was partly because I have a soft spot for Russian Literature, partly because I have been meaning to read it ever since I read an essay one of my cousins wrote about it for his year 12 English project several years ago now, and partly because it had a black cat on the cover, as did my copy of Kafka on the Shore. I read it on the train and then in Leeds in between packing up my English life into boxes. But I didn’t finish it. I really liked the strange chapter on Pontius Pilate, but I got bored of the people disappearing for no reason and the rest of it didn’t really grip me. I probably just didn’t give it enough time and I’m sure I’ll get back to it at some point.

August 2, 2008 at 3:36 pm 5 comments

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