Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Paragon Lost

I enjoyed a nice long Memorial Day weekend and even extended it an extra day because I was having so much fun. Well that's not the whole truth...I was, indeed, having lots of fun but my workplace actually was down for four whole days so I reaped the benefits. Besides catching up on my main World of Warcraft character and watching lots of episodes of my current TV series DvDs, I managed to do quite a bit of reading as well.

Yesterday I finished up Paragon Lost by Dave Duncan. This is the fourth published novel in his loosely connected King's Blades fantasy series. The first trilogy, "Tales of the King's Blades" all take place in the same time frame and the plots are fairly well interconnected. The second three, "The Chronicles of the King's Blades," appear to be much more stand-alone novels taking place in the same general era. Mr Duncan himself states these novels can be read in any order without losing comprehension. I would recommend, however, that you read that first set of three books prior to reading any of the last three. I think it would enrich the experience since he doesn't go into much historical detail and why things are the way they are. By the way, three young adult shorter novels called the King's Daggers also exist but I have not read them.

I really enjoy the concept of these books. The King's Blades are basically graduates of an academy of sorts where the students learn swordplay among many other aspects of life in this medieval setting. Eventually most are assigned a ward to whom they are "bound" for life. They dedicate their lives to that person's protection, sort of a medieval secret service bodyguard. There is an intriguing binding process which I will not spoil for you but one of its side effects is that the blade himself no longer requires sleep. This novel follows the life and times of Sir Beaumont, or "Beau" to his friends. Beau is one of the very best swordsmen to ever come out of the school but now his other skills will be put to the test. Beau needs to use wit and charm and guile, and even some downright dirty politics to succeed. The story is told largely in flashback. The reader first encounters him as a simple small village trainer of sword fighting techniques but we quickly get thrust back to his glorious school days followed by his difficult assignment. I tend to enjoy these sorts of plots, always intrigued to get answers to the question of how our protagonist got to a particular predicament or station in life.

Mr Duncan writes this engaging story in a most satisfactory manner. He mixes action with characterization fluidly, never allowing the plot to get bogged down nor his characters to act, well... uncharacteristically. I like the way he builds intrigue and how the characters must rely on other skills than fighting prowess to solve situations. There is quite a bit of political mechanizations involved here which makes the plot complicated and yet we never lose track or focus on what is occurring. The conclusion is satisfying and definitely wraps up the story although I, for one, am happy there are still two more to be read, even if they involve different characters.

I also completed the second short story in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew. "Here There be Tygers" is probably the shortest of all of the stories in the collection at only about 3-4 pages. A little boy in the third grade, scared of his teacher, must go to the bathroom, and encounters a tiger there. Huh? We never know what is real or what is in his imagination and the story just isn't long enough to build any suspense. But Mr King certainly does have a knack for characterization, even when give little time or space to work with. That little boy is scared! I just wish the ending was more satisfying.

I'm also making a lot of progress on my morning reading biography of Lord Nelson as well as a few other reading projects.

Next up for my main book is Walter M. Miller Jr's A Canticle for Liebowitz.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire