Pages

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Last Unicorn

I found out that the movie The Last Unicorn is being screened in my city in a few weeks time.  The author of the book (and screenplay of the movie), Peter S. Beagle, is touring along with the movie.  So in preparation for that event, I wanted to finally read the novel.  I've been wanting to read it for awhile now, but The Last Unicorn Screening Tour gave me that little extra push to finally sit down and do so.

The Last Unicorn is the story of a unicorn who overhears two humans speaking.  They say she is the last, and so she goes on a quest trying to find whether or not that is true.  On her way she encounters a diverse cast of characters, including the humans who cannot see her for what she is, the butterfly who gives her her first clue as to where the other unicorns have gone, the Magician Schmendrick who struggles to find his magic, the cook Molly Grue, the heroic Prince Lir, and the unhappy King Haggard.  Along the way she will discover not only what happened to the other unicorns, but what it means to love.

I want to say, it was really weird reading this book.  I've seen the movie many, many times, plus I read the graphic novel two years ago, so I know this story.  I knew what would happen and when it would happen, especially thanks to the graphic novel, which follows the novel even more than the movie.  So even though I've never read this book before, it was a really weird experience reading it.

That being said, I absolutely loved it!  Beagle's writing is beautiful; his descriptions were absolute magic!  I honestly wish I had read The Last Unicorn before I had seen the movie, but since that didn't happen, I am still very glad to have read the book.  This is the type of book that I most definitely plan on reading again one day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blood and Iron

I finished reading Jon Sprunk's newest book, Blood and Iron, last night.  I won the book in a contest about a month ago, which was pretty exciting (I rarely win free books).  I couldn't wait to read it, particularly because I enjoyed reading his Shadow Saga.

Blood and Iron follows Horace, a shipbuilder who joined his country's crusading army as a carpenter.  When his ship is destroyed in a storm, he washes up on enemy land.  He is quickly captured (no surprise there - he is dressed differently than the locals and does not speak their language) and then enslaved with an iron collar.  Along with Jirom, a mercenary who was enslaved after fighting on the wrong side of a war, Horace is brought through the desert by his new master, who intends to gift the slaves to a temple.  But a chaos storm breaks out, and it is Horace who dispels it with magic he didn't know he had. Suddenly, Horace finds himself a free man, brought to the Queen's city of Erugash.  There he finds himself quickly elevated to the Queen's protector, where he now must navigate through the dangerous politics of the Queen's court.

Along with Horace, Blood and Iron follows the stories of a couple other people.  Chief among them are Jirom, the aforementioned former mercenary, and Alyra, a spy who is serving the queen as her personal slave.  The book also has several chapters from Queen Byleth's perspective, among other characters. 

I found the world of Blood and Iron rather interesting.  I believe it is another part of the same world Jon Sprunk wrote for his Shadow Sage (people kept mentioning the Nimean Empire, which I'm pretty sure is where Josephine ruled).  Erugash was part of the Akeshian Empire, which seemed to be rather Egyptian- or Mesopotamian-like.  It was a corrupt Empire beset by a rather interesting religious divide (several cults were fighting each other in the Godwar, which happened before the events of Blood and Iron take place).  There was also a rather interesting magic system that the Akeshians had, using the four elements plus a fifth, rare element, the void.

But despite the interesting setting, I had a really hard time getting through this book.  It took about 70 pages before the story started to get interesting.  A guy washing up on shore and unable to speak the language isn't very exciting when the reader doesn't know what's happening, either.  I didn't really like Horace as a character, which made it even harder to believe that he could be this magical superman.  And I do mean that literally.  The magic system worked in such a way that practitioners get little cuts (known as "immaculata") when they use magic; the longer they are using magic at a time, the larger and more numerous the cuts become.  Horace doesn't have to worry about any of that though.  He is more powerful than the magic wielders who have been studying from birth, commanding that fifth element (which no one has been able to for hundreds of years) without fear of those immaculata.

I thought Jirom was an interesting character.  But his story wasn't that interesting to me.  He was sent to train for the Queen's army, becoming a disposable "dog soldier."  The training for the dog soldiers was practically death (many men were killed daily), but once these fearsome soldiers graduated into the main army, they were literally used as cannon fodder in a siege (which seems quite odd - why bother training them in the first place?  Just send them straight to the front lines!)  Jirom also ended up working with a group of rebel slaves who were rebelling against the queen and the larger empire.  This story might have been interesting, but without fail, Jirom's chapters showed up every time I was getting interested in things happening around Horace, making me resent them.

For her part, Alyra doesn't show up until around 100 pages into the book.  And I was never really sure what was going on with her (beyond that she was spying on things).  Which is weird to say; I knew Alyra's backstory pretty much right off the bat.  But I didn't get a good sense of what her spying was actually doing for anyone, herself most of all.

I was originally going to write something else about Byleth, but upon reflection, she was probably the most interesting character of the lot.  Byleth was powerful (being Queen), but weak (she was being forced into marriage, at which time she would become merely the wife of the king).  She seemed to be one of the bad guys (sending her own brother to be drained of his magic), but at other times she was a good guy (she cared first and foremost about her people).  I think she was a bit bewildering because it's very unusual to see such a well-rounded character, especially when that character is female.

Having thought a lot about Blood and Iron (especially before and while writing this review, I think a large issue is that too much was going on.  There were so many characters to jump between, that details got missed.  Like with Alyra, she and Horace started spending a lot of time together once she became his slave girl, but I felt like I was only told about their relationship, not shown it.  Or even when Byleth lets her brother's magic be drained - one minute the prince is in the court, saying he disproves of the enemy savage being in their ranks, and the next he's strapped to her vizier's strange device, accused of treason?  That didn't make sense to me.

And then there were other issues, like Horace's meteoric rise within the Akeshian Empire.  Why would the Queen make a foreigner her chief of security when he is just learning the language of the people?  How will he be able to navigate the deadly politics of her court when he can barely talk to anyone?

I really wanted to like this book.  Like I said, I loved the Shadow Saga.  Heck, Shadow's Son caught and held my interest from pretty much the first page.  And while Blood and Iron has some great things going for it (from the world to the characters of Jirom and Byleth), sadly, the story just never came together for me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fairy's Return

I saw Gail Carson Levine's The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales at work the other day.  I've previously read Ella Enchanted, so I know that Levine is an excellent author.  I've never heard of these other stories, and I was in the mood for something silly and fun, so I decided to give them a shot.  The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales is made up of six Princess Tales, all set in the land of Biddle.

In The Fairy's Mistake, twin sisters Rosella and Myrtle look alike but are polar opposites personality-wise.  Myrtle is the spoiled favourite child while Rosella is the sweet and kind sister.  When Rosella goes to fetch water from the well, she gives an old lady a drink.  That old lady is actually the fairy Ethelinda, who rewards Rosella for her kindness; every time Rosella speaks, jewels will fall from her mouth.  When Myrtle hears of this, she runs off to the well in search of the same thing.  But Myrtle is mean and ends up cursed; every time she speaks, snakes and bugs fall from her lips.  But things go awry when a greedy prince spies Rosella; he whisks her off to the castle and makes her keep talking so he can fill chests with the precious stones.  Meanwhile Myrtle terrorizes her village, threatening to speak unless people give her things!

The Princess Test was a retelling of "The Princess and the Pea."  The blacksmith's daughter, Lorelei, is the fussiest baby in the village.  Nothing can be too hot or too cold; everything must be perfect.  To make matters worse, she easily gets sick or hurt while playing or doing chores.  Her loving parents do their best for her, but after her mother dies, her father brings on a housekeeper, Trudy.  Trudy finds the girl useless, and soon plots to kill her.  Meanwhile, Lorelei catches the eye of Prince Nicholas.  The prince loves her and wants to marry her, but his parents have decreed that he can only marry a princess that passes all of their tests, including feeling a pea through twenty mattresses.  How can a blacksmith's daughter possibly pass such tests?

Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep is a particularly funny retelling of "Sleeping Beauty."  At her naming ceremony, the fairies bless her to be beautiful, graceful, and brilliant, meaning ten times smarter than other humans.  So Sonora grows up as a very a-typical child - she speaks perfectly when she is still a baby, she reads all the books in the library, and generally spends her time coming up with ways to improve the lives of those around her.  Of course, no one really wants to listen to a child telling them how to do their job.  Sonora was also cursed to prick her finger on a spindle and die, which gets softened to meaning she and her castle will sleep for 100 years.  So Sonora grows up refusing to sleep, figuring she will have more than enough time to sleep once the curse happens.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill is of course Cinderella, but with a twist.  Ellis is a boy who grew up with his two older brothers, Ralph and Burt.  He earns the nickname of Cinderellis when he is testing out one of his inventions near the fireplace.  All Cinderellis wanted was the love of his brothers, but they barely seemed to notice him.  So he grows up inventing things, all the while hoping that one of his inventions will earn their love and respect.  When their fields of hay are eaten, Ralph and Burt blame goblins, but Ellis knows it's actually a horse.  Over the course of three years, he ends up finding three beautiful mares, one copper, one silver, and one gold.  By touching their bridles, he breaks the spell binding them to an evil magician; the mares love him for it and will do anything for him.  Ellis would have gladly given the mares to his brothers, but as usual, they won't even admit that he had anything to do with the hay problem.  So Ellis keeps the mares happily fed with his horse treats in a special stable he made by his workshop.  Meanwhile, Princess Marigold is also lonely.  Her father goes off questing for things, staying for maybe a week before he is off again.  He was planning on looking for a suitable husband for her, but when he is cursed by an imp to stay put for five years, he comes up with a crazy scheme to bring the eligible bachelors to him: Marigold will be placed on top of a glass pyramid with three golden apples.  If anyone with armor and a horse can ride up the pyramid to get the apples, he will become a prince and marry Marigold. Of course, Marigold isn't too keen on this arrangement, and brings her own secret weapon to stop people from making it to the top!  Cinderellis and the Glass Hill was a really cute take on the classic "Cinderella."

At first I thought For Biddle's Sake was based off of "Rapunzel."  While the beginning might have been, the story was actually based off of "The Frog Prince."  Of course it was with a twist, for this time it wasn't the prince who was the frog!  As a baby, Parsley (Patsy by birth) would only eat parsley.  Her father had to get it from a fairy's garden.  Eventually the fairy, Bombina, came home to find him stealing her parsley.  She demanded to see the baby, and promptly fell in love with Parsley's green smile.  She adopted the girl and brought her to live in her fairy castle.  Bombina was good to Parsley, but had a habit of turning people into toads.  She promised the girl she wouldn't turn any more people into toads in an effort to get Parsley smiling again.  But when Bombina sees Parsley smiling at the three princes of Biddle, she grows jealous.  Preparing to turn them into toads, she is horrified to discover Parsley went in front of her spell; Bombina turned her beloved girl into a toad!  And plead as she does with the fairy queen, Bombina discovers that the only way the spell can be undone is if someone proposes marriage to Parsley.  Meanwhile, the three princes are sent on three quests: first to find linen fine enough to fit in the King's ring, second to find a dog small enough to fit in a walnut, and third to find the most beautiful bride.  The king believes that his youngest son, Tansy, is a terror and doesn't want him to participate, unaware that his older twin sons have been blaming all of their mischief on him for years.  He reluctantly allows Tansy to participate.  While the tasks are impossible, Parsley, discovering she can do magic like Bombina because she is now a magical creature, helps Prince Tansy with the tasks.  All the while, they discover they have much in common, and Tansy falls in love with the toad's beautiful smile.

The last story, The Fairy's Return, was probably my least favourite.  Robin is the baker's son.  On a routine trip to the castle with his father and two older brothers, he wanders into the Royal Gardens and befirends the princess.  Princess Lark has always had people behave very carefully around her - they don't want to anger her, and they don't want her to lose at games.  So when this commoner comes in and starts telling her jokes, treating her like a real person, she finds herself falling in love with him.  But neither of their fathers want them marrying. Because robin makes her laugh, King Harrumphrey decrees that any prince who can make his daughter laugh will have her hand in marriage.  As a baker's son, Robin cannot compete.  But with the help of Ethelininda, who has lost all confidence in herself after her reward and punishment went so awry in The Fairy's Mistake, ad a golden goose, Robin sets out to win the hand of his princess, all the while dodging the arranged marriage his family has set up for him!

Overall, The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales accomplished exactly what I wanted: it was both silly and fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the land of Biddle.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cruel Beauty

I honestly don't remember how I initially discovered Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty.  But the library ordered it, so I put it on hold.  I found it to be an interesting book, so I'm going to talk about it with some spoilers.

Cruel Beauty is the story of Nyx Triskelion.  Before she was born, her father made a bargain with the Gentle Lord, prince of the demons, for children; the price was that one of those promised daughters would wed the Gentle Lord when she became 17.  Nyx grew up knowing that she was the sacrifice because her younger twin, Aststraia, is the splitting image of their deceased mother.  Under the instruction of her father, she trained to kill the Gentle Lord, feeling always like a weapon and never like a loved daughter.  And so she grew up with poison festering within her heart.

Nyx lives in Arcadia, a continent torn out of the real world and forced under a false paper-like sky.  She was raised knowing that if you stare in the shadows too long, the shadows will stare back.  It was the Gentle Lord who tore Arcadia out of the real world, and so the scholars of the land surmise that killing him will set the world right. Or at least stop the demons so they can figure out how to bring Arcadia back to the Earth.

But once Nyx is married and in the Gentle Lord's castle, she finds that the demon prince, Ignifex, is not what she expected.  And though she has trained and sworn to kill him, she finds herself falling in love with him.  For Ignifex is the only one who has seen the poison in her heart, and yet he loves her still.

The plot of the story is very "Beauty and the Beast" (referring to thJeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont version rather than the Disney one).  Even though it is clothed in a new skin, I knew the story beats Cruel Beauty would follow.  And so I found it good but relatively predictable.

Or at least until the end.  The end had what I call "time-travel shenanigans."  The spell on the Gentle Lord is undone, and so Arcadia returns to the real world, with the 900 years of its time in the shadow realm undone.  But of course, after Nyx is born and becomes 17, she manages to remember Ignifex and so save him.  The initial bargain stated that if he looked in Pandora's Box, Arcadia would go back to the real world and he would be imprisoned in the Box forever.  But the Kindly Ones (the beings who made the deal with him), allowed him out of the Box once every year to ensure that Arcadia remained safe from harm.  It was on this day that Nyx found and saved him from his eternal torment.  

Overall, I really did enjoy Cruel Beauty.  While the end was a bit too weird for my liking, I think the book gets points for being unpredictable.  Cruel Beauty was a fun and different take on "Beauty and the Beast," full of interesting characters like Nyx, Ignifex, and his shadow, Shade; if you like new takes on classic fairy tales, then Hodge's book is definitely for you!  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Storykiller

A little while ago, I came across the Kickstarter for Kelly Thompson's Storykiller.  I loved the premise and decided to kick in some money, scoring myself an ebook copy.  There was a really quick turnaround time on Thompson's part, and so I had my copy a week or two after the Kickstarter ended.  So after finishing Hounded, I decided to give Storykiller a try.

Storykiller is the story of Tessa Battle, the last Scion.  Tessa has moved back to the town of Lore, which is where the boundaries between the Mortal world and Story world are thin.  Story is made up of every character from every story mortal people have ever told.  Well, with the exception of those stories that have been killed by the only person who can kill them: the Scion, who is descended from both Mortal and Story.  And Tessa is the last.

Storykiller is very heavily inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Tessa is the chosen one who has super powers.  She's still in high school (her superpowers manifested on her 17th birthday), dealing with normal teenage drama while having to save the world (and fighting things off practically every night).  She has two best friends, a guy and a girl (in this case Micah and Brand) who have known each other forever.  Oh yeah, and Tessa had an Advocate, who seemed to have a similar role to Buffy's Watcher, Giles.

But there are differences, too.  In Storykiller, every character from a story exists (until killed by a Scion, at which point their story disappears, too).  So that meant Storykiller had a whole host of interesting characters to play with.  These ranged from Snow, the Snow Queen who gets stuck staying in the Mortal world against her will, to Fenris, Frankenstein's Monster, Morgana, and Robin Hood.  All of these characters were interesting as they were both bound by their fictional stories, yet trying to fight them, too.  They set the story very firmly in the world of Lore as opposed to Buffy's Sunnydale.

While I enjoyed the story, I had a big issue with the writing of Storykiller.  During the first half of the book in particular, I felt like the book was written very amateurishly, especially thanks to the repetition and phrasing of things.  More than once I kept wishing the book had been delayed in favour of further editing, especially since the Kickstarter was so successful (Thompson raised $57,000, wildly exceeding her $20,000 goal).  I had less problems with the writing in the later half of the book because the story was getting super good.  But there were many points in the beginning where the writing knocked me out of the narrative.  I actually almost stopped reading a few times; while I am glad I kept going, I felt this really hurt both the book and my feelings towards self-published stories.

Writing-style aside, as I said, I enjoyed the story.  If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or just want a fun romp with fairy tale characters, Storykiller is for you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hounded

A friend from work recently recommended Kevin Hearne's Hounded to me. She told me it was a fast and fun read. And then a couple of other people started recommending it to me as well so I had to read it. I wasn't originally planning on it, but I started the book yesterday and finished it earlier today - definitely a fast read!

Hounded is the story of Atticus O'Sullivan, the last of the Druids. He may look to be 21, but in reality he's 21 centuries old. Atticus has possession of a magical sword called Fragarch, the Answerer, which can cleave through any armor. Of course, a magic sword like that is bound to attract trouble. And in Atticus's case, that trouble is the Celtic God Aenghus Og, who has been hunting for Fragarch (and therefore Atticus) for centuries.  Currently, Atticus is living in Arizona with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon (who has a penchant for movies and French Poodles). When Atticus isn't shape shifting and hunting with his dog friend, he's running an occult bookstore and tea shop. Of course this idyllic lifestyle is shattered with Aenghus Og tracks the Druid down and starts sending all manner of creatures after him in an attempt to get the sword.

And then there's the matter of the other Tuatha De Danaan, who keep visiting and making Atticus's life interesting. Unfortunately it's never really clear whose side they're on (except maybe the Morrigan, who has been helping Atticus stay alive all these years mainly to piss off Aenghus Og!)

Luckily Atticus isn't alone in dealing with all of these complications. Along with the sword and Oberon, he's got both a vampire and a werewolf lawyer helping him out, plus the cute barmaid who just happens to have an ancient witch living inside of her head.

All in all, I have to agree with my friends: Hounded was both a fast and excellent read.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Orenda


I don't know if you're familiar with Joseph Boyden's The Orenda, but the book has been getting a lot of press lately.  It was longlisted for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, and won this year's Canada Reads competition.  I went to see Joseph Boyden speak at my local university (prior to the book wining Canada Reads this month).  The talk was entitled "'The Past and the Future are Present': Race Relations in Canada."  So I thought the talk was going to be focussing on race relations.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was going to focus so heavily on his newest book, The Orenda, which I hadn't yet read.  So after hearing him speak, (and asking him to sign one of his older books, Three Day Road, which I purchased there), I borrowed The Orenda from my brother and started reading.

This post is going to have spoilers.  There's a lot I want to talk about it in, so if you don't want to know what happens, you may want to stop reading now.

The Orenda is a historical novel that looks at the conflict between the Iroquois and the Huron Nations.  The Europeans have come to the New World, and have begun trading with the Native People.  The French have allied themselves with the Huron, but part of that alliance means the Huron must let a Jesuit Missionary live among them.

The novel follows three people: Bird, a Huron warrior who lost his family to the Iroquois, Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl adopted by Bird after he kills her family, and Christophe, the French Jesuit Missionary who is brought by Bird to live among the Huron. 

Of the three main characters, Bird was my favourite.  He was haunted by the loss of his wife and children, and so he adopts Snow Falls in the hopes of alleviating some of that pain.  He is the one who brings Christophe into his people, recognizing that bad may come of it.  And despite nearly killing the missionary several times, he doesn't (even saving the man's life when he knows it might be best to let him die).  Bird is complicated, growing and changing as he struggles to ensure his people's survival against the Iroquois. 

Snow Falls was a very interesting character, especially in the beginning of the book.  She saw her parents and family killed before her eyes, and then was supposed to become part of the family of the man who killed them.  That is an extremely difficult situation, and so she behaves like a wild animal, trying to keep her new people (who are supposed to be her enemies) away.  But slowly she becomes one of them, even finding to her shock that she has learned to love her new father.  Unfortunately, around this time she became a lot less interesting in a way, being relegated to a woman who does women's work (like have babies).  While it's stated that she has her own magical/special abilities, beyond being told she'll learn to use them, we never actually see her learning them.  This is a real shame. 

Snow Falls also helps the man who becomes her husband kill an Iroquois band, which I thought was an interesting point within the book.  But nothing much comes of that either, which was another shame.  When that happened, I thought that maybe Snow Falls would actually take up arms to help defend her new people against her old people.  I think that incident brought to mind this essay by Kameron Hurley, in which a history professor tells her that women have always fought in battles throughout all of human history.  If ever there was a point when women should be fighting alongside the men, it was most definitely the climax of the book, when the Iroquois attack the Jesuit Missionary, which is where the remaining Huron have fled to.  And sure, maybe Snow Falls and Sleeps Long wouldn't be fighting because they recently gave birth.  But why were ALL of the other women hiding along with the children and the elderly?  Shouldn't some of them have been fighting for their survival, too?

Anyway, that was Snow Falls.  The final main character was Christophe, the Jesuit Missionary who came from France to convert the Native People to Christianity. While reading Christophe's chapters, I was struck again and again by the arrogance of the Europeans.  It reminded me a lot of reading Sir Richard Burton's First Footsteps in East Africa back in 2009.  I didn't really say much about that book back when I read it, but Sir Richard Burton is very down on the people in East Africa.  He goes into the continent thinking the people are stupid because they are amazed by the most simple European things.  Christophe is very much like Sir Richard in that regard.  He thinks the Native Americans are simple savages, people who have the possibility of one day becoming great (ie European), but who are hopelessly misguided by Satan.  Christophe believes he must bring them into the fold of Christianity.  It was at times very hard to read his way of thinking and his arrogance, even knowing that it is historically accurate (again, look to Sir Richard Burton's book for proof). 

Christophe is joined by two other missionaries, Gabriel and Isaac, part way through the book.  Gabriel is rather stern, and becomes Christophe's right hand man, especially after the sunnier Isaac is tortured by the Iroquois.  While Isaac is returned to his people, he is a broken man (both literally, as they destroy his hands, and mentally).   The interplay between the missionaries was at times interesting, especially since Isaac seemed to understand the Huron better than the other two men ever could.

The other two characters I'd like to mention are Gosling and Fox.  For her part, Gosling was a very mysterious Ojibway woman who lived with the Huron.  She helps Snow Falls find her way with her new people, while at the same time annoying Christophe to no end.  Fox is Bird's best friend and brother in arms.  The two are always out hunting together, and they know what the other needs without having to speak.  Fox had an amazing end in the book, single-handedly harassing the Iroquois army and returning when it seemed like he had surely perished!  As the book went on, Fox easily became my favourite character over even Bird.

The Orenda is told in three parts.  The first part was easily the best, telling of how Snow Falls came to be part of the Huron people.  This was also how Christophe came to learn their language, and how Bird strengthened his people's ties to the French.  The second part was mainly about the hardships that befell the Huron, particularly the diseases that killed many of them after the Europeans arrived.  This is also the story of Snow Falls growing up into womanhood.  The final part is the fight for survival against the Iroquois.

While reading The Orenda, I was struck by how much the Native People reminded me of Vikings, in their way.  They were stuck in a circle of violence, where they were constantly trying to avenge themselves of wrongs the other inflicted (which were likewise the other's revenge).  Sure, the methods and beliefs of both people are very different (I've never come across torture in viking literature the way it was present within The Orenda), and I'm not trying to paint them in a similar light.  But to me, that circle of violence was one and the same.

The torture was something I'd like to comment on as well.  Along with Isaac, several characters are brutally tortured within the book.  Bird brings three captive Iroquois back to the village; two are tortured to death (while the third Bird adopts at the request of Snow Falls).  During the third part of the book, the characters (especially the men) worry about surrendering or being captured, knowing that they will be tortured to death if they do.  And Christophe meets his end being graphically tortured for three days by the Iroquois.  These were all very hard sections to read, no matter who was on the receiving end of the torture.

One last think I'd like to comment on is the interesting tie-in within The Orenda to another book I read for school, Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers.  Okay, it's not necessarily a tie-in per se.  It's just that if I had never read Beautiful Losers, I would never have picked up on the references to Catherine Tekakwitha (who is apparently Snow Falls' child within The Orenda).  Right when Gosling first told Snow Falls about her vision of Snow Falls' daughter and how she would be a Holy woman for the Crows (the missionaries), I knew who Snow Falls' daughter was supposed to be.  And this was later confirmed when the Iroquois chief, Tekakwitha, adopts the child at the end of the book.

So now that I've read The Orenda, I'm not really sure what I think about it.  Certainly it was an interesting historical epic, especially in the first part.  And sure, there were many characters I liked, and others I didn't (which is to be expected).  The beginning was quite good, but the middle really dragged.  And then the end happened.  I already mentioned the torture of Christophe, which I wasn't fond of.  But the end in general was  rather strange.  None of the main characters died through most of the book (even when facing raiding parties and disease).  But then the end happens and a bunch die quite suddenly, from war (understandable), to poison (which while you can say was somewhat foreshadowed, it still seemed weird, especially when shown from Snow Falls' perspective - she ate a poisoned wafer, but didn't want to be rude and spit it out).  Overall though, I was intrigued by the story, and I am glad I read it.