Roar of Sky by Beth Cato
Roar of Sky is the third book in the Blood of Earth trilogy and my second-favorite of the series. I still like the first one best when Cato gets really into her world-building, introducing us to characters and how they’re functioning. I think I wouldn’t read this without reading the first two, because those are when you come to know the characters. I did read them and I like Ingrid and her friends, and I like the love story. I do wish more had been done with Fenris, who I feel is still something of a mystery, and perhaps could have more adventures ahead.
The world Cato constructs is rather nasty, with rampant, socially-approved racism and sexism, constant war, and various abuses of power. I appreciate Cato’s optimism and humor in presenting these topics and desperate situations. The heroes worry and suffer but remain determined to do what they can to help those they love and somehow make things right or better.
I found the paranormal aspects pleasing – fantastic creatures, magical objects, God’s and goddesses and Ingrid’s own goddess-derived abilities with energy. Power does not create good or evil, and some of the powerful creatures are simply neutral from a moral standpoint. An interesting take on natural phenomena and the abuses that might result.
I hope Cato returns to this world and explores it more with Fenris, Roosevelt, and the struggling Chinese people.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
The Fifth Season is a well-rated book, but for me, reading it felt like a slog and a tease, with unnecessarily convoluted timelines, major items hinted at or but never explained, and lots of details that didn’t make sense.
I wish the chapter order were chronological. It was intended to be a slow reveal (I think) but for me the jumping around merely confused the issues and stunted the emotional impact of the individual chapters. A character dies horribly, you read along a few pages, then bam, you’re somewhere else. Multiple times. Each separate storyline gets to the Really Horrible Part and then … nothing. Follow-up on the main character’s emotional response to the things happening to her in all but one of the storylines is spare and lacking.
And boy. What a surfeit of horrible things. Too much. Needed editing down.
The story is imbued with a sense of dread about geological catastrophes, but the timelines had major issues. As a historian, I found the perpetual dread the people lived in quite unlikely.
The paranormal element: first, the geomagnetic/energy powers of the semi-human characters seemed to be oddly free of consequence for the wielders. Second, the hatred those semi-humans encounter, given the purported fear of quakes/volcanoes, seems off. Wouldn’t they be valued for being able to calm quakes, not hated? Wouldn’t you want one in your village? Baffling.
Finally, after hundreds of years of this civilization, why are the semi-humans still enslaved? They are acknowledged to be incredibly powerful beings, and humans are not. Did not a single one break free or rise above the system? Why were none of them, in all that time, able to break free via being power-hungry, devious, charismatic, manipulative, fed up, or even too stupid to know better? I found it unbelievable that only one dude ever struck back, and then only after being painfully pushed into it his whole life.
I get the self-fulfilling power of believing yourself subservient and powerless and lesser. Yet … it’s one thing to not rebel if you’re uneducated, isolated and powerless. But if many of you are educated, communal, powerful and unsupervised, then why no sparks of rebellion? I don’t know. I struggled with that. Maybe I just don’t understand? I think the details creating the situation were unbalanced.
I lost my ability to suspend disbelief with this book. I couldn’t get past what I saw as major problems. It would have helped to not be continually thrown out of the story by shifting timelines, but probably not enough.