Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Reviews 30/11/10

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - Some authors have a way with the English language that looks almost effortless. David Mitchell is one of those. His novel 'Cloud Atlas' was a huge success and I imagine this will be considered just as good.
Set in Japan at the end of the 18th Century, the reader is transported to a country with people and customs closed off from the outside world. Protected and yet stunted by ideas disharmonious to the country, Japan is a place of secrets and lies. The only connection it has with the rest of the world is through the small port of Dejima, a holding and trading post of the Dutch. Into this world comes, Jacob De Zoet, a young clerk in search of a livelihood so that he might marry his love on the other side of the world. Japan has a profound effect upon him, so much so, that his life is forever changed.
The story shifts and alters as it spans eighteen years, focusing on both Dutch and Japanese characters. It never goes in quite the direction you expect as outside forces mold the action from off the page, the same way history changes Japan from the outside. It is both an adventure story and a love story; a historical work and one of fantasy.
It is in the clear writing that Mitchell's book really works. It's never an effort to read and yet you can smell the lives of the people of Dejima. You feel close and yet removed from the action, you understand and are confused by characters actions as if it were the reader in an alien country.

The Midnight Mayor is the second book by Kate Griffin (also known as Catherine Webb) in a series telling the life of sorcerer Matthew Swift in modern day London. Swift died once and was been brought back to life merged with the sentient beings 'the blue electric angels'; creatures of magic and technology. Now someone is trying to kill him again.
The style is reminiscent of Mike Carey's Felix Castor books, though the magic she has created is wholly her own. It's clever and modern. - the magic of the city; and it's the city that shines through. Griffin has a great understanding of modern London (read her blog Urban Magic) and this is displayed in her writing.
A few scenes I found a little over written, particularly when describing magical creatures thinking, but on the whole this is a good second book in a series which I hope continues.

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