106 internautes sur 110 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Flight Risk (The Gypsy Moth)
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This is the most atrocious book I could not put down.
In a world as sere and forbidding as M.John Harrison's 'Viriconium', a dusty, misused female child observes her father - whom she does not even recognize as such - imposing his ultimate will on her mother, and telling the woman that the 'she-brat' has to go. A slave train is coming through in the morning, and the girl will go with it.
The young girl - without even a name, she calls herself Hekat when asked by the trader for what she is called - decides anywhere is better than home, and goes with the trader gladly. She sees this journey as an escape, and as the trader does not bind her, and dotes upon her, she learns to love someone for the first time. She is very young, but obviously beautiful; and the trader sees in her his fortune. She thinks he wants her for himself, and does her best to learn all the finer graces, not realizing that she is only a commodity in his eyes. Her final realization of this, what she sees as a complete betrayal, shuts her heart from ever experiencing love again.
A case could be made for Hekat's descent into vileness by blaming her terrible first ten or twelve years of brutal life in her miserable little village, where females are only valued as producers of male children. Another reviewer calls her a sociopath, and so she is; she learns to think for Hekat alone, putting the burden of her decisions on the 'god' that she serves, having learned of the god through her first and only master - a god represented by a scorpion, my least favourite poisonous land creature - and it does seem as though the god not only is on her side but directs her actions. When it becomes clear to her that she is only a commodity in the trader's eyes, she escapes, and exists on her own, observing the city of Et-Raklion, looking for her perfect opportunity.
Hekat is ruthless, self-centered, horrible. She runs rampant over the men she uses to exhaustion; those she goes after to further her ends are hopelessly in love with her, and do her bidding without serious complaint. In this way she works her way up from warrior status, dealing her own brand of justice on those who oppose her, and employing the alliance of men who cannot stand in her way.
This book was absorbing while illustrating a world I really, really hope is not out there somewhere. The writing style, mostly written in run-on sentences, was somewhat annoying, but never boring. I kept waiting for Hekat to experience some epiphany wherein her bloody dealer-of-death scorpion god was conquered by a kinder god, but in this world I guess the scorpion is all. Hekat uses the god to further her own ambitions; the warlord, Raklion, who brings her out of the warrior class and makes her his consort, is convinced that everything she does she does for the good of the world of Mijak. Her ally, the 'godspeaker' (priest) Vortka, continually hopes that good will come of her plans; those who stand in her way are their own breed of vile, so it's hard to work up any real empathy for anyone except Vortka, Hekat's son Zandakar, and the doomed and love-blinded warlord Raklion.
Imaginatively written, visually powerful, this book is quite an accomplishment at over 700 pages,but I was left with a sense of loss, and unfulfilled hope. The ending itself,while being predictable, was brutal and shocking; I knew it was coming, but I kept hoping I would be surprised.
I hear redeeming things about the second book in the series, but I am skeptical. My energy was drained by this first book, and I have never been so glad to reach the end of a story. It was an epic, it was engrossing - but it wasn't much fun.
58 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I agree with the comments made that Hekat is an unsympathetic, borderline insane character and her nation is a hell on earth. I believe this is exactly what Karen Miller wants us to feel. "Empress" is actually a prequel to the main event of the trilogy, which is an ultimate clash between Mijak and the Trading Kingdoms that will take place in "The Riven Kingdom" and "The Hammer of God." Therein lies the genius of this book. An evil empire is a common device in high fantasy, but the authors often only show it is a darkly spreading invading force with a faceless (Sauron) or insane leader and a warhost of half-human beings. Karen Miller has chosen to step back in time and show how Hekat rose to become the mad Empress and how Mijak rises from a remote, dying land to become the invading horde. These people do not seek to conquer people- they seek to take land. Once they take it, they murder or enslave the natives and settle it with Mijakis. This is not world domination, it is world obliteration. An enemy like this needs a backstory through its own eyes to show how terrifying it is.
There is no doubt this is a hard book to read; Karen Miller wants us to understand why the Mijaki are a terrifying enemy. She wants us to see what a harsh land Mijak is with its spreading deserts and how it has created a people equally as hard. Life is cheap in Mijak, and those who are soft hearted suffer heavily for it. Their religion is a harsh one, too, demanding blood sacrifices and self mutilation. It is no irony that the manifestation of this religion is a scorpion. These are people to fear, and it is even more chilling to see the world through their eyes; characters like Hekat are terrifying and yet they justify their actions because they believe they are carrying out a divine plan. They also believe their own people are the only people who deserve to live.
Yet they are people for all that, not orcs. They are an interesting people with unique physical features and their own distinctive culture. I liked the descriptions of everyday life that showed there are some rare times to enjoy life here and there in Mijak- it makes the scenes of slaughter more tragic because that more festive way of life is doomed. The notion of horses that are colored red, blue or black and patterned with spots and stripes like wild cats was interesting as well. I also thought it interesting that, unlike the more civilized Ethera, women are seen as equals to men in some professions, such as the military.
Hekat is an interesting character; she comes from the humblest of beginnings in a remote, mostly abandoned part of Mijak where women and girls (or, in the local vernacular, bitches and she-brats) are seen as less than stray dogs, worthy only to breed more male children. Hekat grows up with no sense of love, only anger and disdain. She first starts to feel love when a caravan master who has seen how beautiful she will become and has purchased her for a great purpose, pampers her and treats her like a special child. She believes he loves her, but when she discovers his real purpose for doting on her, it shatters her ability to ever trust anyone again. Thus she takes life into her own hands and joins the military, rising in rank from canteen slave to soldier and upward. She does work very hard for her rise to power, not through seduction but though training in war arts, personal study and defying death on the battlefield. Her troops admire her because she is willing to face the same conditions they are. And she does seem to have some supernatural talent with divine support from the scorpion god.
That is as much good as one can say about her. She may be clever and a fierce war leader, but she is also manipulative, cruel and obsessed with her destiny. Her devotion to the god is such that she has no room in her for any other emotions but fulfilling its will. This makes her a very terrifing villain. She has no room in her to respect others and no room for compassion, even for herself. Her son Zandakar and the godspeaker Vortka seve as an interesting counterpoint to Hekat, a sense that there are people in Mijak who do believe in compassion and that all is not about sacrifice and death.
I actually like the writing style here. Ms. Miller's writing style has a kind of Old Testament language to it, or even something like reading a translation of Gilgamesh. It does fit the Mesopotamia like setting of the story, even if it seems archaic. The mentions of "god" in everything (godpoles, godhouses,godbraids, godbells, etc.) can be tiring but it does hammer home how dominant the scorpion religion is to these people and their artifacts. When you read the next book, the writing style is much different, reflecting the different culture and world view of Ethera. It is a good way to show just how clashing the views are between Mijak and the Trade Kingdoms.
I do recommend reading this book. Yes, there are parts that are really hard to read and Hekat is despicable. It does set the stage very well, though, for the next books. I think if you skip this one, it will diminish the experience of the other books.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
D. M. Domini
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I typically do not review, because I can often approach books from an oddball angle compared to the typical reader, but I figured I would put my two cents in, because Karen Miller is a very good author, and I'm a bit mystified why they aren't releasing her books in hardcover yet. She should have her books out in hardcover!
Regarding the book proper...Empress has a very...Robin Hobb-esque feel to it, in that Karen Miller is EXCELLENT in writing believable, but unlikable, characters, and in that she's very good at making cultures for her characters, and making the characters react appropriately from WITHIN that culture, even if that reaction isn't a nice or virtuous one.
This book follows Hekat, who starts out as a young girl in an abusive, frightfully poor family. By the end of the book, she is Empress. Now, the standard format for such stories usually centers around a character that is likable--by the time the little starvling works their way to ruling the kingdom, everybody loves them, they are close to being canonized as a saint in the local religion, and the reader is overjoyed that they "got what they deserved" after being mistreated for so long. That is NOT the case here.
Hekat is self-centered, prideful, cruel, determined, a liar, self-deluded, and more. And as a character she is beautifully portrayed. But, as the reviews below show, she's not a likable character, so if you as a reader need characters that you like or love, this is not the book for you. In my case, it doesn't matter that I dislike Hekat--I find her journey intensely interesting, and it's fascinating how she, in a very true-to-life manner, exploits others in her rise to power. Karen Miller has very successfully thrown out one example showing why people who are complete scum can rise to power; reading Hekat's life is like watching dominoes fall, except I-the-reader didn't realize that the dominoes were falling until, to switch my metaphors, the avalanche was barreling down on me. It wouldn't be out of line to say Hekat is somewhat like a female Hitler, except that there's no obvious ham-handed Nazi-influences in the book. There may be some subtle ones, but you have to be pretty analytical or well-versed in history to find them. Personally, Hekat reminds me of an Egyptian Queen for some reason. Probably the scorpion/desert references.
Aside from the excellently crafted characters (likable and not-likable), Karen Miller is also very good at crafting a culture that is alien to us; she shows how the religion is linked to the people, how the government works, how a system of magic might influence a culture and its religion at its deepest roots. This isn't just a "copy what everyone else has done and change the colors so it doesn't look like a total ripoff" that's fairly common in fantasy. I believe someone else mentioned stilted speech from all the characters, but I didn't read it like that--I read it as their speech patterns being affected by their culture. It may sound odd to us, but then, we don't live in that country. Once I adjusted to it, I found that I really deeply liked it, because it took a different approach to culture-creation than I'm used to reading. Usually people just throw in a few goofy made-up words...it takes much more skill to take normal words, but string them in phrases that make the character sound foreign to our ears.
One thing that does confuse me is the cover. The cover is done in a style that indicates the story is much more fluffy than it is. I like the cover art, but I don't think it's particularly suitable to the story, and has probably misled more than one person. But that's not the author's fault, since authors don't have much input on the cover typically...more the publisher's fault, since they have a book that would appeal to Robin Hobb/C. S. Friedman/etc. fans with a cover you might see on a Mercedes Lackey or Tanya Huff book. Totally marketing at the wrong demographic, I think. Someone on the publishing marketing team was inhaling something when the cover was chosen! Anyway...
All in all, I loathed and was depressed by Hekat, but I was totally and utterly excited by the craftsmanship of the book, and by the chain of dominoes that are falling over, affecting everything in their path. And there are other characters in the book that are sympathetic--Hekat's son, for example. I want to know what happens to them too. If you're looking for some fun and light escapism, don't pick up this book...it may make you cry. But if you're looking for interesting characters and cultures, or for a book you might learn something new from, you might want to give this book a try.
I just picked up the next one in the series today; it looks like we'll have a bit of a more sympathetic main character than Hekat in it, but I hope we see Hekat as well, because she's just interesting. :D