This book reminded me of Ursula K Le Guin's writing. Something about the descriptions, the pacing, the plotting, the characters, echoed that author's mode and style. Not that I think Wild Seed is derivative in any way - it is one of the most unique stories I've come across recently - merely that the author happened to have similar style and preferences to Le Guin. Also like Le Guin, Butler takes a fairly common concept - that of immortals interacting with mortals - and follows through on it in a way that makes it compelling and original. This is, in many ways, what I've always wanted to see in a book that tackles that concept.
As you know if you've been following along with the weekly reviews for awhile, I've been spending a lot of time reading this past year or so books that deal with either myth or ancient history, whether its the mythology of Iceland or Tolkien, and that has led me to my own thoughts about mythology and history, including a rapidly growing novel that draws from such ideas and formats for much of its inspiration. In many ways, Gaiman's Norse Mythology feels like a similar project, a retelling of old myths in a new way. Instead of telling a new story inspired by those older sources, Gaiman actually retells a sampling of real, classic myths.
Not to be confused with Bloodline, by Conn Iggulden, which we reviewed last year. I'm sure that won't confuse the search algorithms for the site at all. This happens to also be the first book whose title is not strongly reflected by a component in the book; the closest I came up with for the name's inspiration was a vision Lindon has at almost the end of the novel. All of that, however, is getting ahead of ourselves; the relevancy of the title was far from the only thing different about this latest instalment in the Cradle series (I will link to the reviews for the previous books in the series at the bottom of the post).
There have been so many different takes on dragons over the years (and, indeed, centuries), and I have read so many different books about dragons, that you would think that I would eventually get tired of them, or stop finding books that have anything really original to add to the topic. You might think that, but you would be wrong; it seems that there will always be more stories to tell about these majestic creatures in all of their various forms, which for some reason loom so large in our imaginations. Dragon's Blood is another fine contribution to the massive body of human literature on the compelling subject of dragons.
I really wanted to like this book. I thought going in that I would like this book, because it seemed to have so many things that I look for in new fantasy novels: originality, unusual inspirations, intriguing characters with conflicting and mysterious motivations, really unique world and magic, et cetera. In fact, I wanted to like this book so much that I managed to convince myself to keep reading through to the end, despite the fact that at least once per chapter I was about ready to put it down, so I guess you could say that's a testament to it being a better novel than my rating would imply, since it kept giving me just enough of what I liked to keep me from walking away from it in disgust.
In my most recent reread of The Lord of the Rings, I expressed that there is a certain mythical quality to the story and its manner of telling, and that is even more so present in The Silmarillion, which makes sense: according to the letter of Tolkien's included with the text, Middle Earth was intended to be a sort of original mythology, evolved from the languages he had invented.
I've said it in every other post about these books so far, but I will say it again: you should read The Lord of the Rings. If you haven't read them, then a) I'm very sorry for the sad life you have heretofore lived, and b) you should read them immediately. If you have read them, then you should reread them. These are the kinds of books that spoil you for everything else that isn't nearly half as good as they are.
At the end of The Two Towers, if you're not familiar with the plot already, you'd probably believe that this story is not going to end well. Of course, the biggest spoiler of this book is its own title, which Tolkien did not pick. His original choice for the title of the third part of The Lord of the Rings was The War of the Ring, but he was persuaded to change it to the more positive, and arguably more descriptive, The Return of the King. Knowing this history, I'm not entirely certain which title I prefer. However, I am entirely certain that I enjoyed this part of the story just as much as the others.
There is a fair consensus amongst those who come to consensuses about such matters that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings primarily as a way of exploring Middle Earth - that is, this is what is known as a milieu story, in which the setting, the world, drive much of the plot. In The Two Towers this is on fine display again. One of the more interesting things to do with a copy of The Lord of the Rings is to sit down and look at just how much ground is covered by the various journeys; you then realize just how large a world Middle Earth is, and how small a section is explored in these tales. The distance covered by Frodo and Sam through such great peril and difficulty in the entirety of their chapters in The Two Towers is essentially a tiny corner on the map.
As I said in my review of The Hobbit, during this reread I was surprised by how light that novel is; I suspect that my memory of its tone from my last reading was affected by my intermediate viewing of the movies. Or, perhaps I was merely linking it with the core Lord of the Rings books, which very quickly take on a markedly different tone from their prequel (and yes, I know that technically there is just one "book," which was split into three parts for the convenience of readers and publishers). The implications of a darker turn are heavy throughout even the early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, but are pivotally confirmed with the events of the chapter A Knife in the Dark.