By Sherwood Smith
As you may know from my previous reviews, I loved the first two books in this series, Inda and The Fox. As luck would have it, my copy of King's Shield arrived in the mail the very same day that I finished The Fox, and I was very excited to dive into the next book. Unfortunately, something changed between the two books and I found myself not liking this one quite as much. Don't get me wrong, King's Shield is still pretty good. But I just wasn't captivated by it in the same way that I was by the first two installments.
I'm not sure exactly what it was about this one that didn't do it for me. The characters are still complex and they've grown in ways that make sense. The writing hasn't changed, and the pacing is still good, with action happening in all the right places. Maybe it was the change in focus. The first two books are very much about the principal characters growing up. This one is much more about political intrigue and war. I guess I also didn't really like the way the character Sponge changed--the changes are plausible, but I found that I didn't really care for the adult he became.
Whatever it was that rubbed me the wrong way about book three, I'm still very much looking forward to Treason's Shore, the fourth and, I believe, final episode of the series.
Started: 1/31/2009 | Finished: 2/11/2009
This year, our best friends gave me and Juliette gift certificates for a night at the movies for Christmas, along with a promise to babysit while we were out. As you might have guessed from the steep drop-off in movie reviews over the last six months, this was a real treat for us. What with the Oscars coming up and all of the attendant buzz, the choice of what to see was a little daunting, but we were able to narrow it down pretty quickly to either The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Slumdog Millionaire. Benjamin Button being over two and a half hours long, we opted for Slumdog. Well, I don't know how Benjamin Button would have been, but this was a fantastic choice for our night out.
On the off chance you haven't heard of this one--it won four Golden Globes and got ten Oscar nominations, so people have been talking about it a lot--Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a young man, Jamal, who makes it onto the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? At the opening of the film Jamal is one question shy of winning the top prize of twenty million rupees but has been arrested on suspicion of cheating because of the incredulity of an uneducated kid from the Mumbai slums being able to correctly answer so many trivia questions. Much of the rest of the story is told in flashback, showing scenes from Jamal's life that explain how he knew the answers to the specific questions he was asked.
I have to say, I loved this movie. The look it gave into life in the Mumbai slums was gut-wrenching, but there were also laughs and love. None of the performances really stood out as particularly amazing--though I did appreciate Irfan Khan's turn as the police inspector who interrogates Jamal--but everyone was competent, and the story was so compelling, and both Juliette and I left the theater feeling good.
A final note: Slumdog won the Golden Globe for best score, and is nominated for the Oscar in the same category, and I heartily agree with both. The music in this film was just great, and I plan on getting the soundtrack as soon as I have some spare cash.
Viewed: 1/31/2009 | Released: 11/12/2008 | Score: A
By Sherwood Smith
Whew. Seven hundred seventy-four pages in four days should tell you something about how much I liked this book. Picking up right where the first book left off, The Fox had everything I liked about Inda but moreso.
The first book gave us a glimpse at a very rich and interesting world, but most of the major characters are all from the same country, and even when we later get introduced to the wider world through Inda's sea travels, most of his time is spent aboard ship, so all we get of the rest of the world is through bits of dialogue here and there. By contrast, in The Fox, Smith brings us to all kinds of new places, each one with a strongly developed history and flavor, each with plausible national interests and goals. Smith presents them in such a way that you get an idea of the individual culture of each place, but she does it without resorting to the kind of flat stereotyping you so often see in big fantasy worlds. (You know, where everybody from this country is a greedy merchant and everybody from that country is a strong, savage warrior.) The characters and personal relationships introduced at every new place seem genuine and relatable.
The strong character development in the first novel continues in the second, especially in the protagonist. His transition to adulthood is handled very skillfully--you recognize both the child you first met and the ways in which his life has shaped him in the man he becomes. And, as before, you get to see so much of the inner workings of even relatively minor characters that they all come to life in a really compelling way.
Further, for a relatively long book, it's very well paced. Events are neither drawn out nor rushed, but everything seems to happen right when it should. I was certainly never bored--I could hardly put the book down!
In fact, the only problem I had was that I was so into this book that I had trouble keeping up with the other stuff I wanted to do--the hard drive on my Tivo, for example, is getting pretty full. I thought I might get a little break after this book, but, to both my delight and chagrin, the Amazon shipment containing the next installment, King's Shield, arrived on the same day I finished The Fox. So, it looks like I'm going to stay busy for a while. The fourth book isn't scheduled to come out until August, so on the one hand I'll have a little time to catch up on the rest of my life, but on the other hand I know the waiting is going to bug me.
Started: 1/26/2009 | Finished: 1/30/2009