Or, as I wanted to title this post: A Splendid Review. Unfortunately, I wouldn't go so far as to call this a splendid book. You might be starting to think that I'm just biased against nonfiction, considering that I think the majority of the nonfiction books I've reviewed on the site have all been described as something along the lines of "mediocre," but I promise there are some that I would call excellent. Chernow's biographies of Washington and Hamilton, for instance, or another splendid biography on Lincoln, or several books on theoretical astrophysics...unfortunately, I read those before I started doing book reviews on the site, and it just so happens that the nonfiction books that I've read since I started have been somewhat disappointing.
I don’t remember if this was a comparison I developed, or if I read it somewhere and expanded upon it, but I’ve taken to using windows to explain different styles of writing to others. What I do remember is that it's based on Brandon Sanderson describing his prose as "transparent." This made perfect sense to me, but when I mentioned it to others, they were confused by the idea, and ever since I've been trying to come up with a better way of explaining this metaphor. In other words, I hope that this post is going to make sense to you.
Like I've said, I try to read broadly, but this book was pretty broad even for me. It's a nonfiction memoir type recollection about someone who buys a wildlife reserve in Africa, and adopts a herd of semi-renegade elephants. There are some really interesting bits, especially for someone who hasn't been to Africa, and then there are some parts that made me raise an eyebrow. So let's get into the review, shall we?
It doesn't come up often, but occasionally I'll have someone ask me to write them into one of my stories. They'll say that they don't care what I do with the character, but that they want to be in there somehow. I refuse every time.
At this point, I'm going to assume that you've already read my reviews for Checkmate and The Ringed Castle, so you should know that this review is going to talk about things like how beautiful Dorothy Dunnett's writing is, how fascinating her tragic antihero is, and how seamlessly the historical context and geopolitical maneuvering is blended with the fictional story of Sir Francis Crawford comte de Lymond and Seveigny, because those characteristics were not unique to the final two books; they were the defining traits of the entire series. One day, I'll have been doing this site long enough that I won't have to shoehorn in reviews of the previous books in the series that I read before the site was up when I do these series reviews, but that isn't today.
I know, I know. I only do one review a week, and Tuesdays are reserved for other thoughts and writings and musings, so that you don't get bored of reading my reviews. Reviews are supposed to come out on Thursdays. Well, don't worry: you'll have your book review on Thursday. I think I deserve a pass, though, since this isn't a book review. Now, I don't review a lot of shows or movies, mostly because I don't watch a lot of shows and movies, but also because this is supposed to be a writing website, not a video production website, and therefore book reviews seem more appropriate. Shows and movies are still story-telling, though, and exceptions can be made.
It's always a little bittersweet to come to the end of a series, especially if its one in which you grew truly fond of the characters. Plus, the end of a series is where all of the questions are answered and the open story-lines are tied up in some fashion, so the final book in a series can in many cases make or break the entire series. Getting the endings right is at least as important as getting the beginnings right. Did Checkmate give a great ending to a great series? Yes, yes it did.
I've determined to re-release The Grounds Warden in the new format. No longer do you have to go to the page, pay, and download the PDF. Instead, you can just click here, and you will be taken directly to the page with the whole story. So if you haven't read The Grounds Warden before, I encourage you to head over and give it a read. You can find a lot more details on it in some of my older posts. This is actually one of the first stories that I wrote on which I received more than just "that's nice" kind of feedback, and I was able to turn it into something that I think is quite interesting.
Honestly, I'm not even quite sure where to begin reviewing this book (it probably doesn't help that I started reading this series years ago, long before I started consistently reviewing books on this website). I will do a full series review after reviewing Checkmate, but let's focus for now on The Ringed Castle. To put it in as few of words as possible, I loved everything about this book, and not just because my fiancee bought the series for me. It's sort of like what would happen if you took a highly educated Jack Sparrow, and plopped him into the middle of Lord of the Rings level writing, and set the entire thing to the beat of 16th century Russia, but that doesn't even begin to do it justice.