I seem to have somehow fallen behind in my bookloggly duties, mostly because I've been reading up a storm. On the plus side, the books I've fallen behind on are series books, so I can consolidate what would otherwise have been repetitive reviews. It's all about the efficiency, here at Weasel Words.
So, first up are Terry Moore's Brave New World and Heart in Hand , the eleventh and twelfth volumes of the Strangers in Paradise graphic novel series. The series started out as an interesting story focused on personal relationships and character growth -- still something of a novelty in the action-packed world of comics -- but its ongoing serial nature has turned it into a soap opera. The story lines by now are convoluted, implausible, repetitive, and inconsistent. I won't be reading any future volumes of this series, and probably should have stopped earlier than I did.
Next, we come to Patricia Wrede's Shadow Magic and Daughter of Witches , which comprise the first two thirds of an omnibus entitled Shadows Over Lyra. With copyright dates in the early 1980s, I'm guessing these are some of Wrede's earliest works, and it shows.
Shadow Magic in particular is very first-novelish. The rather generic story is about how a princess of peculiar ancestry (and her elven buddies) search for the Magical Thingies that will allow them to defeat The Ancient Evil Rising In The North. The world-building is inconsistent (at the beginning, magic is a thing of legend; halfway through, it's a commonplace thing that's been around in well-documented ways forever), the obligatory romance abrupt, and the resolution ex machina. Despite these flaws, though, it's very readable; I breezed through it quickly and enjoyably enough.
Daughter of Witches is significantly better. The pace of the story is still a bit uneven, but Wrede is a much more assured writer. While it takes place after Shadow Magic, it's not a direct sequel -- instead of being set in the Generic Medieval Kingdom of Alkyra, it's set in the Generic Oppressive Religious Empire of Chaldreth, and focuses on the liberation of a bonded servant girl who had unwillingly drawn the attention of the Temple. In tone and broad outline, it reminds me of Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan. Compared to Shadow Magic, the characterization is more nuanced, the plot solider, and the world-building more consistent. Daughter of Witches is still not a great book, but it maintains the readability of Shadow Magic and substantially improves on the weaknesses of that first novel. If nothing else, the upward trend in quality bodes well for the third volume of the trilogy (and Wrede's subsequent output).