Monday, December 26, 2022

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

I've had Clive Woodall's One for Sorrow, Two for Joy for a very long time (I suspect at least 15 years). I was going to read it several months ago, but for some reason never actually started it (though the bookmark I was going to use was still in the book!) So a few days ago (after reading a decluttering book that I didn't write about here), I decided to actually start reading it, otherwise I was going to send it on its way. Luckily I was hooked within the first few chapters and decided to finish it.

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is split into two books (kind of like how Dune was split into three). The first one tells the story of Kirrick, the last Robin in Birddom (which I believe is England). Kirrick escapes the genocidal magpies and makes his way to the wise old owl, Tomar. Tomar has a plan to stop the magpies, but he is too old to make the needed journeys. But young Kirrick is brave and undertakes the dangerous quest on the owl's behalf.

I really liked the first book of One for Sorrow, Two for Joy. I really liked Kirrick, and was routing for him to succeed. I also enjoyed the villain Traska hunting him down (though Traska was at times far too brutal, like how he would hurt and maim others when he was upset). The narrative felt really focused and fairly tight, even when moving between the characters. Sure, there were aspects I wasn't fond of, like how quickly Kirrick fell in love (he seemed to very quickly forget his mate who he had literally just seen killed at the beginning of the book). But overall I found this to be an interesting and fairly enjoyable story (again, minus some of the more violent aspects).

Unfortunately, everything sort of fell apart in the second part. After the defeat of the magpies, Birddom needs to rebuild. Specifically they are in need of new songbirds after the annihilation many species suffered at the wings of the magpies. So they send an emissary to Wingland (I think that's Europe) to try to convince some songbirds to relocate now that Birddom is safe again. Meanwhile, Traska has slunk off to Ireland (I think) in search of new allies. Traska's son, Venga, (born from a magpies he raped and raised for a single purpose - to kill his father) is hunting for him. And Tomar is watching over the two children of Kirrick. These four narrative strains feel rather unconnected (though they do eventually come together) and overall they're really unsatisfying. I found this was most true of the Venga storyline - this could have been cut and the story would have lost nothing (except a few unnecessary violent events). But even the quest to Wingdom was fairly uneventful and boring - while in the end, presumably songbirds wouldn't have returned to Birddom without the emmissary's quest, it really felt superfluous. 

So while I enjoyed the first half of One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, I really wasn't fond of the second half. The second half was a slog to read, and felt like an unneeded add-on to the more interesting first part. There was also a surprising amount of unnecessarily graphic violence, which also, for me, detracted from the book as a while.

Monday, December 19, 2022


I bought Dune many years ago, having heard that it's an excellent science fiction book. But it's really long - about 800 pages - so I kept putting off reading it because I can read like 2 or 3 books in the time it will take me to read it. So Dune languished on my shelf until a month and a half ago, when I finally took the plunge (mainly because someone wanted to watch the new movie with me, lol. I didn't want to watch it until at least attempting to read the book!)

Dune is the story of a noble family, the Atreides, who is betrayed after their Emperor asks them to run a desert planet called Arrakis. While Duke Leto is captured and killed, his son, Paul, and concubine (the woman he loves but never married), Jessica, manage to escape and disappear among the native Fremen of Arrakis.

I found Dune to be an interesting read. It is a bit slow-paced in order to set up the story (for example, it takes about 200 pages for the betrayal to happen, even though it tells you from the very beginning that the betrayal is going to happen). But it has a really rich setting, and is full of a lot of really fun political intrique. Overall I enjoyed reading it, though I doubt I'll be reading any further in the series.