Friday, June 17, 2016

Just Read: "The Eagle Tree," and George R. R. Martin's "A Clash of Swords" and "A Feast for Crows"

These mini-book reviews will also be featured on my Goodreads page soon.  And several new canon Star Wars books and comic books will be reviewed here next time!

The Eagle Tree (Available for pre-order now, or for purchase on July 5, 2016)

By Ned Hayes

In light of Autism Awareness Month, I read The Eagle Tree in its entirety on my string of flights home from my brief trip to Paris (link) in March/April.

Disclaimer: I selected this title as my free book for March from Amazon’s Kindle First program.  Regardless of its promotional freebie status, this book by Northwest resident author Ned Heyes is worth a purchase when it is released next month.

Readers with a personal concern for environmental preservation, autism, and/or good storytelling in general will adore this novel about a 14 year old boy on the autistic spectrum who has a love affair with knowing about and climbing trees.

The plot setup is simple, and I won’t spoil anything here.  Protagonist and narrator (unreliable narrator, if that’s the correct use of that term?) Peter “March” Wong is obsessed with climbing the Eagle Tree, the tallest tree he’s ever seen.  But the emphasis is less about plot and more about the unique lens in which this autistic child sees the world around him:  Relationships, logic, religion, physical injuries, his educational/learning struggles… and of course, climbing trees.

The climbing “action scenes” have a unique mental breakdown that echoed the sample I’ve read of Andy Kirkpatrick's rock climbing bio Psychovertical (on my list of Kindle books to borrow from Katya), which details an unrelated learning disability of climber … which also turns out to be a gift in disguise.  For March, the potential advancement or danger of each succession of climbing moves is plotted out in advance, like a chess game or a puzzle to be solved.

Don’t be fooled by the short length and uncomplicated plot.  Author Hayes transforms seemingly small stakes into something of surprising suspense and ecological significance.  By the time the climax rolls around, you’ll be holding your breath to find out whether or not March will achieve his unlikely dream.

My rating: **** out of 5 stars

Since I haven't seen much of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series, I can’t say how that show compares to these books.  But in the case of A Storm of Swords, the books keep getting more and more engrossing... even considering the occasional graphic content.  Complex relationships, political maneuvering, family loyalty (and disloyalty), and the overall struggle for power are some of the major themes in this shockingly unpredictable story.

Martin has created a fictional world reminiscent of medieval Britain (circa the second century), where every action, good or bad, has the potential for tragic consequences.  No deed goes unanswered.  Marriage serves political purposes only, so the consequences of a certain marriage on the basis of "honor" are heartbreaking.  And even the most horrific actions make sense from the characters’ points of view, though many of those choices require morality to be completely disregarded.

This third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series is easily the best so far.

My rating: **** out of 5 stars

This is the fourth book (of 5 written so far, out of 7) in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  Martin delivers here on many levels:  I loved the characterizations of the inner demon-battling Queen Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth (A rare heroine of complete integrity in this morally ambiguous world), political pawn Sansa Stark, killing machine-in-the-making Arya Stark, and freakishly… Catelyn Stark.  The unexpectedly redemptive path of Jaime is surprisingly engaging.  Also, introducing the parallel Dorne storylines provides a somewhat interesting change of setting.

However, the overall saga’s pace slows and Martin’s writing style is becoming even more repetitive and pointlessly descriptive as the series progresses.  The heart thumping action set pieces of the past three books are absent in this volume.  And most frustrating of all is having to wade through a 753 page book about secondary characters and STILL not learn anything significant about the fates of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Bran Stark, or Daenerys Targaryen.  After all those cliffhangers from Book Three, why are we readers still left dangling?

And yet, I continue reading.  My copy of A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book Five) is already on order from the Beaverton Library, along with my request for the Kindle copy from Overdrive.  I’m anxious to see where these stories are headed.

My rating: *** out of 5 stars

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