Today we bring you the latest installment in our new feature, “What She Said…” in which we both review books that the other has already read and reviewed. The idea arose because of the dilemma that if one of us reads and reviews a book, the other can’t really post again about it, right? WRONG! Hence, “What She Said…” was born. For those books that we REALLY want to read after the other has reviewed – and gushed – about it.
For today’s post, we take on Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
Roc (US)/Tor (UK), November 2008, Hardcover 416 pages
Original Review November 2008
Original Rating: 9 Damn Near Perfection
What Thea Said:
There are very few books that I have read this year that have left me dreading each turn of the page–not out of fear or distaste with the writing, but out of a passion to keep reading the book. Out of the knowledge that once the last page turns, that inevitable ache of loneliness will settle in–because the book is just that damn good.
Such is Heir to Sevenwaters.
This is a beautiful tale of family, courage, and–most importantly of all–love. I finished this book and was urged to flip back to the beginning just to read it again. I can only hope that Ms. Marillier plans on revisiting Sevenwaters again. And hopefully very, very soon.
What Ana Says: Oh my sweet baby Jesus – this book is made of awesome. Thea was absolutely right about it, this is the sort of book I love to read with its wonderful, perfect blend of Fantasy and Romance. Under Juliet Marillier’s expert writing, I am nothing but a puppet having my heart’s strings pulled. I laughed, I cried, I sighed more times than I can count. At one point, I thought I was going to drown in my own tears only to be rescued a few pages later by a scene that put a huge smile in my face. And this, THIS is what makes her books so damn good, the ability that this woman has to write amazingly emotional, romantic stories.
As with Daughter of the Forest, the author takes her sweet time with the setting of her story. It is not until way over page 100 that the plot gets moving but it doesn’t matter. Because the first 100 pages are the insight into the lives of the characters that you need in order to care: this is where you learn everything about Clodagh, the narrator of the story.
About her dedication to her family and to her family’s stronghold, Sevenwaters. About the family’s connection to the Good Folk who inhabit the forest around Sevenwaters. About how important is this moment in time, when her mother is pregnant once again, at a dangerous age, in the hope of giving birth to a son, who will be Heir to Sevenwaters. Everything is building up to that moment and it is a though things are suspended in time, waiting to see what is going to happen. Her father for example, has to deal with political complications stemming from Clodagh’s sister marriage but can’t concentrate on the matter. There are also visitors staying at Sevenwaters including the current Heir, Johnny and his band of warriors. Amongst them, there is one man who might be Clodagh’s sweetheart and his best friend, Cathal who is rude and distant.
This suspense affects Clodagh as well, who is in charge of the house, doing what she does best: organising the day to day life of Sevenwaters. Because they don’t know if the mother or the baby will survive, Clodagh has to put away plans to maybe one day get married until further notice. Then the baby is born and to everyone’s relief both mother and child, a boy, are well. Then something strange happens. One day Clodagh is taking care of her little brother when Cathal, mysterious, obnoxious Cathal, shows up at her bedroom to say goodbye and kisses her. When she is back inside the room the unthinkable has happened: the baby is gone and in his place, a changeling was left, a baby made of twigs and leaves. With Cathal gone at the same time, suspicions fall on him and on the possibility that the kidnapping was carried out for political reasons. No one thinks that there might a different explanation; expect for Clodagh who is the only one that can hear the changeling baby’s cries. She is convinced that this is not a mere kidnapping and that her brother’s survival is connected to the changeling’s survival; and because she is the only one that can see that he is alive, she is the one that has to make sure that he remains so, because no one will believe her. She is sure an exchange needs to be made soon and she takes the changeling baby in a journey to the Otherworld. She knows that the journey is full of dangers and she might not survive but on the way there, she is joined by Cathal who offers his help. And this is only the beginning.
After those first pages, I was completely INVESTED in Clodagh’s story. Understanding her need to save her brother AND the changeling’s life; compassionately feeling her frustration that one will believe her and her relief when Cathal can too, hear the baby.
All of Juliet Marillier’s protagonists are women, quietly strong and capable of sacrifices and Clodagh is no different. She has a capacity for compassion towards the baby made of twigs and faith towards a man who at first comes across as undeserving and these two traits, compassion and faith are what keep her going, fuelling this amazing woman ‘s actions.
And then there is Cathal. I can not dwell too much on him because I might spoil part of his mystery but let me just say that Cathal is one of those characters who grow on you little by little, as layer upon layer is disclosed to the reader and to Clodagh. But once you see who he is and how much he cares for Clodagh (like in this one scene, when he thinks she is gone and when he realises she is safe, he does something that is completely, totally aw-worthy, sigh-inducing and heart-warming) he is revealed as a Hero of the highest calibre.
Even if I don’t take into consideration the several aspects that make this book an excellent read: the lovely writing, the fantastic elements of Irish folklore, the politics involving the different chieftains around Sevenwaters, and concentrate only in the story, at its purest form and on the characters, it would be enough to put this in my keeper shelf.
There are several twists and turns, revelations and surprises to the point where by the end, the book you find yourself reading is not the book you thought you were when you first started. It also happens that the Fantasy elements are of the variety I most like: there is a Quest (a There and Back journey) with dangerous, scary threats; High Sacrifices; a trickster that needs to be tricked and tasks to perform. But in the end, this is a book about fighting for one’s True Love and Clodagh and Cathal’s story is one of the best love stories I ever read: full of loyalty and passion.
After reading three books by this author, I can appreciate Thea’s devotion to her books and I have now joined the ranks of devoted Marillier’s fans. Heir to Sevenwaters granted me that perfect reading experience and put me on a Book High. This is definitely a M.F.A. (Made For Ana) book and one that I wholeheartedly recommend to Fantasy and Romance readers alike.
Rating: I will see Thea’s 9 and raise it to a 10. This book, it was a perfect read for me.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Daw (US)/Gollancz (UK), March 2007 (US)/September 2007 (UK), Hardcover 662 pages
Original Review May 2009
Original Rating: 10 and I quote: “A solid, perfect 10 which just set the bar higher for everything I read henceforth”
What Ana Said:
If I had any talent for poetry I would write an Ode. If I could compose songs, I would make one for the lute and call it “The name of the Wind knocked my socks off”. But I don’t. As it stands, the ONLY thing I can do to convey how much I love this book, is to write this review, hoping against hope that it will be enough, and say that whenever Patrick Rothfuss takes Kvothe next, I will follow, blindly and willingly.
And I will finish by saying the following: I don’t want to run into any rushed declarations but The Name of the Wind may well be the best book I read since The Book Smugglers’ inception.
What Thea Says:
This installment of What She Said is a tall order – both of the books that Ana and I read were among our favorite reads of 2008 and 2009. In my case, with The Name of the Wind, there’s a little history. See, I bought my copy back in early 2008. I even told Ana about the book. We were SUPPOSED to do a joint review of the book. But then, one day in March, I start getting these emails from Ana, in which she is squeeing over the wonder that is The Name of the Wind! (That hussy, she betrayed me! She and my book were cheating on me!) And wouldn’t you know it – she absolutely loved it. LOVED IT. I’m talking drooling, crying, cradling it near her body when she sleeps at night, obsessed with it. And it is partially out of this situation that “What She Said” was born – because Ana loved this book so much, and I was desperate to read it and review it too.
THUS, “What She Said” was created. And now, seven months later, I finally had the opportunity to read The Name of the Wind…
And I finally see what all the fuss is about – because The Name of the Wind is one damn fine novel. So far as first novels go (not only as the first novel in a fantasy series, but as a debut novel, mind you), The Name of the Wind is undeniably, absolutely, positively brilliant.
This is the story of the innkeeper Kote – Kvothe that was. This is the story of the fabled, revered and simultaneously feared Kingkiller; a man who has done incredible things in his life, and still is not yet thirty years old. He has stolen princesses, fought demons, and slayed dragons. He has defied Kings, and mastered magic and music alike. He is A Hero. The Name of the Wind tells Kvothe’s story as he shares it with Chronicler, the finest story recorder in the land. Though Kote is hesitant to tell his long story, he agrees to let Chronicler transcribe it over the course of three days – The Name of the Wind is the first day.
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? Mr. Rothfuss’s debut effort is a gorgeously work, written in rich, almost musical prose. This is a story to be savored, as it unfolds slowly, following Kvote’s life as a happy child in a troupe of legendary performers, to wretched, impoverished life on the streets after the murder of his family. It is an epic Hero’s Journey, encompassing a childhood full of love and cruelty alike, as Kvothe grows into a brilliant young man. Kvothe is perhaps too good to be true – he’s literally a genius as well as a master musician and an unparalleled talent with sympathy and his other university studies (“sympathy” being the arcanists’ magic in this world). He’s also charismatic, charming, and, judging from the ladies’ reactions, a looker too. He could easily have been an exhaustingly Mary Sue as a character, but he wasn’t, thanks to Mr. Rothfuss’s sure hand. Kvothe’s voice is that of a true performer, and he – through Mr. Rothfuss – knows how to tell a story. A dash of healthy arrogance throughout, Kvothe keeps Chronicler and Bast enthralled as he pours his heart out, and all his impressive accomplishments seem the results of a carefully constructed reputation as well as the fruit of very concentrated efforts. In short, Kvothe isn’t pretentious. I loved him and his story.
To this accomplishment, add the fact that the other characters were solid all around, if a tad predictable and less developed than Kvothe (but, being honest, this is Kvothe’s story, and he is the one we care the most for as readers). The world building, complete with an entirely new mythology and opposing religions was awesome, on a re-interpretive level reminiscent of Jacqueline Carey’s alternate world with the stories of Elua and his companions. The University too was a fabulous new location, where Kvothe learns his magical craft (though perhaps too much time is spent on his monetary woes and inability to enter the mysterious archives). I also loved how Mr. Rothfuss subverts fantasy tropes subtly – taking familiar settings and characters, and spinning them. The entire novel is, in fact, a tale in a tavern. He takes the tavern trope, the tales within a tale, the grand adventure, the Great Hero and makes them all his – as Ana would say, he “takes the mick out of them.”
In terms of shortcomings, there were only a sparse few – my biggest complaint (if you could call it that), is that not much happens in the story. While Kvothe goes through a lot, this first novel barely scratches the surface of Kvothe’s legacy. The promise made at the beginning of the book with Kvothe’s adventures and accomplishments are barely seen in this novel – in a way, it’s a whole lot of set up for action that hasn’t yet come. Also, as far as stories go, Kvothe’s tale is surprisingly mundane, taking a day to day look at his young life. While most fantasy novels that I’ve read spend some time on childhood and move on, jumping even, to the hero’s adult life, Mr. Rothfuss takes his time and shows everything – which is both admirable and infuriating. The way that the trilogy is set up, book 2 is where the great action, where the real meat and potatoes of the story comes in. The Name of the Wind is an amuse bouche, tantalizing the tastebuds with the promise of more to come…and I, along with the rest of fantasy-fandom, am hungry.
This is the greatest strength and curse for Mr. Rothfuss – how damn good this debut novel was, because now we are ravenous for more. I cannot wait to read The Wise Man’s Fear. I need to know why Kvothe became Kote, the reason for the lines on his face and his faded vibrance and lost magic. I want to know what these demon spider creatures are that are invading the land.
I cannot wait.
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection – and it can only get better from here…
Reading Next on What She Said:
Ana: Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore
Thea: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson