Bad idea of the day: “I’ll be back before the rain starts again. No need to bring my umbrella.”

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

I actually would have made it if I hadn’t decided to finish re-reading The Briar King. Three pages from the end — WHOOSH! Instant cloudburst!

So I finished the book, zipped the full-sized hardcover into my jacket, and proceeded to run from Coffee Bean to the parking structure, pausing under overhangs when I found them. There’s a surprising lack of shelter at the Irvine Spectrum, not counting the stores themselves. It wasn’t until I got to the structure that I realized I’d been running with a coffee cup in my hand.

Amazingly enough, even though I got soaked, I managed to keep the book dry!

(Reposted from LiveJournal.)

About a year ago I posted a list of authors I wanted to catch up with. I read quite a few books last year, but how did I do with this list?

In the Company of OthersJulie E. Czerneda — I read the Trade Pact Universe trilogy last year, and I’m about half-way through the stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, which means I’ve read just over half her novels. That leaves the Web Shifters trilogy and the two books so far of Stratification.

RollbackRobert J. Sawyer — since last year I’ve only read two of his books: Rollback and Flashforward (reviewed here). Though I made a point of attending his panel at Comic-Con International in July.

Robert Charles Wilson — Somehow managed not to read anything of his last year.

The Hounds of AshGreg Keyes — Re-read the first three books of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, then read the final volume, The Born Queen, after it was released. Received The Hounds of Ash for Christmas, a collection of short stories set in the same universe as The Waterborn and Blackgod, and I got two stories in before I decided I wanted to re-read the novels.

The Graveyard BookNeil Gaiman — I read The Graveyard Book when it came out last fall (thanks to my brother for sending a signed copy from the SF reading!), but I can’t think of anything else (other than his blog) that I’ve read during the past year.

Other authors/titles I’ve read over the past year: Connie Willis (Bellwether), Robert Asprin (several Myth Adventures books), Naomi Novik (Fifth Temeraire novel, Victory of Eagles), Larry Niven (entire Ringworld series), George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, sorry, not a fan), JMS (various B5 scriptbooks). Soon I Will Be Invincible (reviewed), Gateway, Night in Times Past, The Flash Companion, plus bunches of comics and tons of stuff online.

The Born QueenWe’ve both finished reading The Born Queen, the conclusion to Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Yesterday we spent the day reading in tandem on the couch: I read book 3, Katie read book 4, and finished within an hour of each other. Determined to catch up, I read 100 pages last night and spent this morning and afternoon reading the final book.

It was well worth the wait.

The series is set two millennia after humans, led by Virginia Dare (explaining where the lost Roanoke colonists went), overthrew the demonic race that had kept them as slaves for generations. Virginia had discovered how to harness the sedos power, essentially magic. The last of humanity’s oppressors warned them that the sedos would eventually destroy their world. Of course, no one believed him.

2200 years later, this corner of the world is not unlike Europe in the early Renaissance. Except that the church is based on the sedos, in the person of saints, and its priests walk the paths to harness the sedos powers.

The world is also beginning to rot. Things of nature are dying, human alliances are crumbling, and terrible creatures thought to be myth are walking the earth. There are several factions who claim that they want to save it, but their true goals are suspect, and their methods differ greatly. The various viewpoint characters are thrust into the middle of things without any real sense of what’s going on: a holter, a princess, a novice priest, a knight, a swordsman, a composer and a queen.

One of the things I find so fascinating about this series (as I mentioned when I first read The Blood Knight) is the fact that everyone is acting on partial information. This makes them screw up, sometimes mildly, sometimes horrifically. And there’s a curveball that comes about 1/3 of the way into The Born Queen that turns everything on its head.

I don’t think it’ll give too much away to say that one of the key struggles in this book is for control of the sedos. Even 100 pages from the end, I wasn’t sure which faction would give the world a better chance of surviving.

Music also figures importantly, starting with the second book, where it’s learned that certain combinations of sound can have a profound effect on the human psyche. I found myself wondering whether Keyes had someone set any of the songs to music.

By the end of The Born Queen, most of the major questions about what’s really going on have been answered. Of course, they’re answered in pieces, by different characters with different agendas. The major characters’ arcs reach (mostly) satisfying conclusions, with some finding what they want, some finding what they need, some doing what needs to be done, and some getting what they deserve.

It’s weird to finally be done with the series, which started around the same time as this blog. The first post that I made that wasn’t “Hey, look! I have a blog!” was a review of The Waterborn and The Blackgod, Greg Keyes’ first novel and its sequel. In it, I mentioned looking forward to The Briar King when it came out.

The Blood KnightAfter working my way through The Briar King in bits here and there, I made time for The Charnel Prince.  I finished the second book Tuesday evening, and I’m currently 100 pages into The Blood Knight.

Meanwhile, I’ve been talking about the books (Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone) a lot, trying not to drop spoilers in case Katie might read them at some point in the future.  The night I finished book two, I had come home to find her on the couch, reading the first book.  Since she not only reads faster than I do, but has more time on her hands these days, she’s caught up.

It’s nice to really be able to talk about the books, especially since I remember so little of the one we’re both currently reading.

The funny thing is, at this rate, she’ll probably finish the series before I do!

Well, my copy of The Born Queen has arrived via UPS, and I’m nowhere near finished re-reading the first three books of Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. I’d hoped to start at the beginning of March, but I was in the middle of the Trade Pact books and wanted to finish that trilogy. Then I figured I could read one book each week like last time and be ready at the point that book 4 arrived…and I promptly got swamped with stuff to do at both work and home, so I found myself reading mainly at lunch (and half the time I ended up eating at my desk instead) and in 20-minute chunks. Now I’ve got the concluding novel, but I only just finished book 1 last night, and I’ve gotten only a handful of chapters into book 2.

I’ve enjoyed re-reading them, though, and while I remembered The Briar King quite well, it’s clear I’ve forgotten enough of books 2 and 3 that it will be well-worth having them fresh in my mind.

Now that I’ve got the final volume here, I think I’ll look for more of those 20-minute chunks of time.