Monday, February 6, 2012

Reading Journal | 2-6-2012

Got about a hundred pages further into my January non-fiction, but alas, didn't finish it. I think, also, the nature of the topic. Perhaps this week I'll finish it.

Kushiel's Justice (Kushiel's Legacy) - Jacqueline Carey. 2008. (Epic Fantasy, Female, Series)
Imriel de la Courcel's blood parents are history's most reviled traitors, while his adoptive parents, Ph├Ędre and Joscelin, are Terre d'Ange's greatest champions. Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in beauty, art, and desire. 
After a year abroad to study at university, Imriel returns from his adventures a little older and somewhat wiser. But perhaps not wise enough. What was once a mere spark of interest between himself and his cousin Sidonie now ignites into a white-hot blaze. But from commoner to peer, the whole realm would recoil from any alliance between Sidonie, heir to the throne, and Imriel, who bears the stigma of his mother's misdeeds and betrayals. Praying that their passion will peak and fade, Imriel and Sidonie embark on an intense, secret affair. 
Blessed Elua founded Terre d'Ange and bestowed one simple precept to guide his people: Love as thou wilt. When duty calls, Imriel honors his role as a member of the royal family by leaving to marry a lovely, if merely sweet, Alban princess. By choosing duty over love, Imriel and Sidonie may have unwittingly trespassed against Elua's law. But when dark powers in Alba, who fear an invasion by Terre d'Ange, seek to use the lovers' passion to bind Imriel, the gods themselves take notice. 
Before the end, Kushiel's justice will be felt in heaven and on earth.
Incredible read. I ripped through 880 pages in a matter of days. The friend who introduced me to Jacqueline Carey, through Kushiel's Dart (book 1 of 3 in the first trilogy of this ongoing, epic series), noted that her interest fell off with Imriel as the protagonist. When I wrote about the previous entry in this series, back in December, I spent more time praising Carey's skills as a writer and the effects of her prose on my mind.

In the middle book in this second trilogy, Carey's prose continues to shine, soothe, and entertain. This entry is much more provocative than the tales have been in awhile - a welcome change, because expressing sensuality is Carey's absolute finest talent as a writer.

Imriel is of age, and Carey takes him to task. His journey and plight is unbelievably harsh, which made for great storytelling. While the author does an amazing job of portraying well-rounded, intelligent and strong female characters, her men tend to be a little flat or a little too perfect. She's getting better as the books progress, and did quite well with some of the male secondary characters (Maslin and Mavros, in particular, I felt stayed true to their character arcs). Perhaps Imriel is somewhat too circumspect for a man his age - no matter how brilliant and gifted we are, it's hard to imagine an 18 year old boy making all the right decisions for the right reasons. But I guess that's why they become heroes and we read their tales.

Overall, I love the story, and the next (Kushiel's Mercy) becomes a "must read" even though there can be little doubt what will happen in the big plot - the enjoyment of Carey is reading the words that describe how it all comes to pass. Beautiful storyteller.

For her skill in soft, intimate, provocative storytelling that still manages to engage blood, battle, magic, heroic journeys and political intrigue, I can't recommend her enough.

Viewing Journal:

I found Spartacus: Gods of the Arena on sale during Black Friday 2011, and it sat on my DVD shelf undisturbed since. I am revising some fight and battle scenes in my WIP, so this past week seemed a good time to go ahead and take a look.
The House of Batiatus has towered above the city of Capua for many years. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena will explore its deadly history before the arrival of Spartacus, and the death he carried with him. Loyalties will be tested, lives shattered, and battles waged in this thrilling prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
For the sake of continuity, I imported my review of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and simultaneously provide you with a reason why I don't review things for a living. Fortunately, back then, my blog had a couple readers who endured my ridiculous analyses.

Anyway. I didn't realize S:GoA was only 6 episodes. The realization made me sad. The other thing that made me sad was one of the major subplots was all about Crixus, the monotone gladiator who was easily the least convincing character on the screen (maybe in the world).

However! Lo and behold, the experience of a full season behind them - the chemistry and storytelling between the actors, directors and producers in this second season was clearly evident. Since it's a prequel, the viewer already knows how it's going to turn out - but - the telling was very good. Quite a few "ooh ahh" moments as pieces of the puzzle come together.

Production wise, they toned down the homoerotica without hiding either the not uncommon period homosexuality nor the prevalence of sweaty, oily, slave men. In other words, they found their target audience without being dishonest about the reality of ancient Rome.

Also, it's rather curious how the villianous Batiatus' of Season 1 become almost sympathetic as the viewer learns how and why they become what they did. There's something quite charming about an antagonist with depth. 

While there's a megaton of info dump in the first episode, the story picks up well and steams to its conclusion by the end of the sixth hour. You could probably watch the first episode twice, and catch all the nuances - I didn't, because the accents and dialogue and 'telling' made me feel like I was at Shakespeare in the Park.

Overall, Starz' upped their game with this, and showed the ability to take the concept a little further. S:GoA was a strong improvement over the first season. This will never compete with the budget or complexity of The Borgias or A Game of Thrones, but I think it stands well enough on its own as indulgent, fast-paced visual entertainment, reflecting a time in history when troubles were settled with less complications.


What have you read or watched this last week that's worth noting?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I really think you'll enjoy Carey - at least Phedre's arc, which is the first trilogy, beginning with Kushiel's Dart.


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