Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whiskey and Water - Elizabeth Bear

Several years ago, Matthew the Magician ended an age-old war. It only cost him everything-and everyone-he knew and loved. Turning against his mentor, Jane Andraste, in the realm of Faerie left him physically crippled and his power shattered.

But Matthew remains the protector of New York City. So when he finds a young woman brutally murdered by a Fae creature, he must bring her killer to justice before Jane uses the crime to justify more war-and before he confronts an even larger threat in the greatest Adversary of all...

blurb from
I might sound from this review that I didn't like Whiskey and Water. That's not true. I loved this book; maybe not quite as much as the preceding volume, Blood and Iron, but still lots.

But here's the thing. Elizabeth Bear doesn't write a simple, straightforward tale where event A leads to event B which leads to event C and so on. Instead, she takes you on a magical, lyrical, strange and fantastic trip into a complicated and convoluted world where nothing is ever exactly as it seems and the author rarely lets you have anything for free.

The writing is beautiful - I think of it as poetry in prose - but I found myself never 100% sure what was going on. All the same, I didn't particularly care. These books are about the journey more than they are about the destination. It may also be that since I have never really "got" poetry (I have come to suspect my brain doesn't work that way), I have the same problem here. Or is poetry also about the words and the journey rather than A goes to B goes to C? It's not something I have a lot of experience with.

The words Bear uses and the ways she puts them together are beautiful. In the end I only wrote down one quote from the book, but she weaves words into beautiful images. I am not a visual reader, I gather the feeling of a book from the words themselves and these words are beautiful. As an example, this is a sentence that really spoke to me. The imagery and the way the words are put together are lovely.

The loneliness was an ache in her breast, a hollowness like a scooped-out heart, a gasping stillness that echoed when she listened into it.
So while I have to admit that I didn't understand everything in this book and I'm `kind of vague on a lot of character motivation or the exact progression of the plot, I found reading it a delight. I know where the characters are at the end of the book compared to where they were at the beginning and I want to read more about them. You kind of pick up the story by osmosis rather than following a clear plotline.

Maybe the bottom line is that Bear is very smart and I'm kind of dumb. I don't care. These books are beautiful and I'm going to keep reading them. (Although, if anyone wants to send me a quick synopsis to help me with the plotline, I wouldn't complain. I'm also very interested to read some of Bear's science fiction, to see how she writes that and if it is similar or different to her so lyrical fantasy.

I've already pre-ordered the next two Promethean Age books, these two set back in the sixteenth century, and I'm looking forward to getting to read them.

Whiskey and Water
Novels of the Promethean Age, Book 2
Elizabeth Bear

No comments: