Just a quick post from me today, because I actually only really have one book to talk about here… but I’m still counting this challenge as a success!
As you’ll know if you saw my mid-month check in post, I finished two trilogies in the first half of March, one YA and one a sort of MG/YA crossover. So for the second half, I thought it was a good time to tackle something a big chunky adult fantasy, and my friend Kshoni from A Page Full of Books also fancied reading The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, so we read along together. I decided not to reread the first book, as it was pretty fresh in my mind, and there was a great plot summary at the beginning of book two, so I found it easy to catch up. I set off into book two, The Ikessar Falcon, with a ton of enthusiasm… and then found myself really struggling.
I remember enjoying The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, though I had a few criticisms (as you’ll see in my review). I particularly noted the lack of important women besides Tali, the main character, and just how much time she spends thinking about or reacting to men – well, The Ikessar Falcon dialled all the issues I had with the first book up to the max, until I was so incredibly fed up with Tali’s narration that I could quite happily have shaken her. I understand that this is fully intended to be a portrait of a woman in a man’s world, but my god, by 250 pages in I was begging for her to have an active thought of her own – or at least to stop being so incredibly naive about politics! I was also desperate to see her reunited with her son – a mother as the lead of an epic fantasy was a huge selling point for me, but she doesn’t actually do much differently from a non-parent main character, except occasionally think “hey, I miss my son”, or get mad when someone threatens him (and for a not very graphic book, there were some really unnecessarily gross sexual threats made towards a child – threats only, but it was still pretty awful). There are a few flashbacks to their time together when he was a baby and toddler, but really, the motherhood side of things was underplayed for me.
However, I fully admit that other people may find Tali far more sympathetic as a character, and therefore may be way more emotionally engaged in not only her motherhood but her other relationships, which left me cold. If you do enjoy her as a character as much as I did in the first book, you’ll probably have a fantastic time. I just found nothing about Tali likeable this time around, and I feel like it’s because although she was endearingly naive in the first book – her fish-out-of-water role led to exciting plot shenanigans! – by this point in the series I found it frustrating that she didn’t seem to have grown, and she didn’t start to take responsibility for herself. Where I thought she was interestingly unreliable as a narrator in book one, in book two, with the mystery peeled away, I just found her stupid and self-centred. Perhaps it’s me – my tastes have certainly changed in the last two years, and maybe I have less patience for characters who don’t take charge! In a book like this, one that is so incredibly deep-set in a single character’s voice and viewpoint, not getting on with that character is a fatal flaw. If we hadn’t been buddy reading, I think I would have DNFed The Ikessar Falcon before the halfway mark – as it was, I decided not to continue on with the third book as I was just too fed up (though I did look up spoilers on how it all ended).
Call it cheating if you want, but the aim of the challenge this month was to move full trilogies off my TBR list, so I’m still happy with my decision. That’s three series no longer hanging over my head! A trilogy can be so hard to motivate yourself to finish if you have to wait between books, so I’m definitely planning to do a challenge like this again sometime to tidy up the ones I have left!