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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: The Initiate Brother 
27th-Apr-2011 10:00 am
Read Irresponsibly
The Initiate Brother is a hefty novel written in 1990 or so. It has plenty of interesting Eastern mysticism, but what caught my literary attention was the careful building up of each separate person's house of cards.

The plot is... ordinary. A powerful, intelligent man is set up by an animous emperor to go "save" the northern lands while everyone around him plots self-aggrandizement or others' ruin. What makes this book fascinating is the pagentry of the characters. We are almost all-knowing in our external observation of the action, as Sean Russell's story slides from from monologue to aside to sotto voce to subtle confrontation and back again. Violence is explosive and apologetic at the same time. Manners and mannerisms are constantly on stage, and verbal manipulation is a requirement. To me, my enjoyment was in each exchange, with motivation entirely secondary to the presentation.

While I definitely enjoyed reading The Initiate Brother, I may or may not bother with the next book. This book was entertainment in the present tense, and I have no drive to find out what happens next.


-- New-to-me books read in 2011 (as opposed to re-reads) --

January
Little Dee vol 2
Little Dee vol 3
Unusual Suspects
Harvest Moon
The Black Stallion (yes, I know, I should have read it with Black Beauty)
Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard's Name, with a pre-finished commentary here
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Fang Bangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love
Must Love Hellhounds
Truthseeker

February
Dark and Stormy Knights
Tortall and Other Lands
River Marked (2/28 - it arrived a day early)

March
Questionable Content, vol 1
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Lifeblood
Magic Bites
Skinwalker, A Jane Yellowrock Novel
Running with the Pack
Magic Burns
Blood Cross

April
"Skyblaze" Adventures in the Liaden Universe #17
Kings of the North
Goblin Tales
Do Not Sniff the Bees, Two Lumps book 6
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds
Mercy Blade
The Initiate Brother
... Battlestations
... Wise Man's Fear

-- Books abandoned rather than completed in 2011 --

February
Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff

-- Books Still in Progress --
These are books that I haven't totally given up on, I've just... put them aside... for now. And gee, look at how many of them are non-fiction!
The Brand Within
Gamestorming
If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails
Swords and Dark Magic
Battlestations
Wise Man's Fear
Comments 
27th-Apr-2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
Heh, the duology of the two are a pair of my preferred readings.
27th-Apr-2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
These happen to be two of my favorite books. The writing style and tone are perfectly matched to the deliberate pagentry and philosophy of the world Russel creates. The ethereal language evokes, for me anyway, the Zen no-mind of the two key heroes. And in the second book, they all have to live up their sense of honor and ethics. And Russel doesn't let them cheat.
27th-Apr-2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
in the second book, they all have to live up their sense of honor and ethics. And Russel doesn't let them cheat

Now that is quite appealing. Having built up a world of such rigid codes, it could be interesting to see how the major characters come into (and resolve) conflicts of honors, so to speak.

Did you read Shards of Honor?
27th-Apr-2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
I really liked Initiate Brother when I read it, but I'm pretty sure I didn't bother with the second one either.
27th-Apr-2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
It is a very subtle plot that you have to be hungry for. There's nothing particularly compelling to it - it is sort of like a Henry James (jr.) novel in that way.
27th-Apr-2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
Really? I found very little about the plot to be subtle. It was a complex weaving of characters and motivation, true, but the plot seemed rather straightforward.
28th-Apr-2011 12:12 pm (UTC)
Subtle in the not flashy sense, versus subtle in the subterfuge with twists sense. There are twists, but they are minor ones. This is why I likened it to Henry James - who did a lot with psychological realism, which meant he wrote several hundred page stories where nothing happened from a flashy sense, they tended to be novels of people doing things - thing Seinfeld, but without the (attempts at) funny gags - a story about life, and people living it, rather than events happening. It isn't quite that extreme, but what draws me into the story and keeps me there to reread every so often is rooted in that.
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