Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday, I finished Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb.

This is the third book of a trilogy, and I wrote about the second book here. The general things I said in that post are still true, i.e. Hobb is one of the best writers in fantasy today, partly because she writes complete books instead of books that are really just part of one larger book, and trilogies instead of endless series. Also, this trilogy, while quite good, is not quite as good as her other ones. Another interesting feature of Hobb's work is that it is not very derivative. She creates unique worlds, unique magic and then populates them with realistic characters.

Renegade's Magic is a good closing of this trilogy, resolving the open issues from the first two books and resolving the over-arching problem of the conflict between two cultures.

Hobb is a master of creating impossible, or tragic, situations for her characters and then having them struggle their way through them. In this book, that takes the form of the protagonist being trapped in his own body as part of him that was split off in the first book controls it. The only problem is that this plays into one of Hobb's few weaknesses, that her characters can be too indecisive and passive, like Hamlet, endlessly debating their options and suffering along the way. This book felt a little too passive for large portions of it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I just finished The Victorian Underworld by Donald Thomas.

Thomas synthesizes a lot of first hand researchs from sources like Henry Mayhew into a very interesting account of the seedy parts of the Victorian world, from crime and poverty among the costermongers (street vendors), to the ever present prostitution and sophisticated forgers and pornographers.

He gives a lot of good anecodtes, most drawn directly from sources like Mayhew. I'll have to track down one of Mayhew's works to see how much Thomas adds to it, or if the source is better.