🌌 Notes from Reading Light Bringer by Pierce Brown

(major spoilers below)

Light Bringer is a bit of a course correction after the Iron Gold and Dark Age flops. Quicksilver and The Figment were ditched. Sevro was quickly freed from imprisonment (without any brainwashing). The Abomination was barely mentioned. Volsung FΓ‘ and the Ascomani turned out to be frauds and not real threats (Darrow defeated them in a day without an army). The story went back to Darrow and his friends against the baddies, and that is a good thing.

Lysander doesn’t work as a character. Brown wants to tell a villain origin story from the villain’s POV, but the villain is an emotionless, vanilla character who never garners an iota of reader sympathy. Lysander is boring and his many betrayals are predictable.

It was obvious from the get-go this would be Cassius’ redemption story. He rekindles his bromance with Darrow. He bonds with lowColors. He makes amends with Sevro. His beauty and fighting skills are brought up ad nauseam. So it’s unsurprising when his death comes, as his arc was wrapped up nicely.

The obviousness of Cassius’ death could be forgiven if he didn’t die for such a stupid reason. Lysander has shown us who he is over and over again. There are no redeemable qualities. Only a fool would trust him. Cassius being that fool takes away from the emotional impact of his death. There were attempted explanations for this — Cassius was Lysander’s mentor and saw him as a sort of replacement for his late brother Julian. It’s just not enough of a justification to forgive Cassius’ stupidity.

Overall, the book was only OK. It’s still riding the coattails of the original trilogy. That’s fine with me. The more Darrow and Sevro content I get, the happier I’ll be.

πŸ“š List of Book Lists

Below is a table of my favorite book lists. The lists include award winners, end-of-year bests, and industry favorites. I will continue adding more lists to the table as I discover them. Newly discovered lists will be added to the top of the table. This is not a comprehensive collection, it’s just a list of lists that I personally appreciate and reference.

Books of Dense Discoverynonfictionsuggestions from the Dense Discovery newsletter
Books Recommended on the Ezra Klein Showallsuggestions from guests of The Ezra Klein Show podcast
The 100 Best Mystery and Thriller Books of All Timemystery, thrillerlist by TIME
The Top Novels of All Timefictionlist by Keith Law
Top 50 Novels of the Century (So Far)fictionlist by Keith Law
Pulitzer Prizefictionawards
Pulitzer Prize for Biographybiographyawards
Booker Prizefictionawards
Hugo Awardssci-fi/fantasyawards
Hugo Award for Novellasci-fi/fantasy novellaawards
Nebula Awardssci-fi/fantasyawards
Agatha Awardsmysteryawards
Edgar Allan Poe Awardsmysteryawards
Bram Stoker Awardshorrorawards
NPR’s list of best booksalllist by NPR
100 Best Books of All Timealllist by Reader’s Digest
Top 100 Crime Novels of All Timecrimelist by the British Crime Writers’ Association
Decoding Carmy’s Cookbook Shelves on The Bearcookinglist from ‘The Bear’
The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Timechildren’slist by the BBC
100 Books Every Man Should Readalllist by Art of Manliness

πŸ‰ Notes from Reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(major spoilers ahead)

The mystery is set up as if it’s a whodunit — island cut off from the mainland at the time of the murder with finite suspects. But really only one suspect ever makes sense. The crimes are sexual in nature and perpetrated towards women, so the suspect can only be a man. There is only one male suspect of an age or physicality capable of pulling off the crimes.

The book goes way too hard on the shock and torture porn. Making the killer a serial rapist, murderer, and animal abuser with his own torture chamber almost pushes the novel into parody territory. It undermines the statement the book wants to make about the reality of violence towards women in Sweden.

The novel is a middle-aged man’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. Let’s look at Mikael Blomqvist’s life by the end of the book:

  • He has an ongoing, no-strings-attached sexual relationship with his best friend.
  • He has a summer fling with a schoolteacher.
  • He has a third sexual relationship with a young, badass, punk-rock hacker chick.
  • He is an expert sailor.
  • He owns an expensive flat in Stockholm and a custom-designed vacation cabin in the woods.
  • He solves a decades-old murder mystery, then gets to play savior to a wealthy family by not ratting them out.
  • He is the CEO of a counterculture investigative magazine with a wealthy and benevolent benefactor.
  • He is considered a martyr for journalistic ethics.
  • He uncovers Sweden’s financial crime conspiracy of the century.
  • He is a best-selling author and media darling.
  • He is father to a mature, self-reliant teenage daughter who loves and worships him despite his abandonment of her.

Despite all of the book’s flaws, I still found it riveting and enjoyed my time reading it. I think I’m going to avoid the sequels, at least for now.

πŸ“• Notes from Reading Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz has quite the rΓ©sumΓ©. He wrote for Poirot, created two successful TV shows (Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders), was selected by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to write two Sherlock Holmes novels, was selected by the Ian Fleming estate to write three James Bond novels, and wrote a bestselling teen spy series (Alex Rider).

(spoilers ahead)

The problem with doing the story within a story is that the reader will prefer one story to the other.

I guessed the Ryeland mystery correctly. I did not figure out the PΓΌnd mystery, but I thought it worked wonderfully.

PΓΌnd comes across as an imitation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with none of the charm or personality. I imagine this was intentionally done considering the picture Horowitz paints of Alan Conway.

Despite Ryeland’s disapproval of Conway’s use of anagrams and Easter eggs, I quite enjoyed them (outside of the distasteful origin of PΓΌnd’s name, but again, that’s the point). I don’t think they “cheapen the writing” at all. The more little puzzles, the better. It only becomes a problem when Easter eggs and references are employed in lieu of a good story (cough Disney cough).

Horowitz’s ability to write a classic whodunit reminiscent of the Golden Age of murder mysteries and a modern mystery crime thriller all in the same book is very impressive. I prefer the puzzle-solving of a classic whodunit to the theatrics of a modern thriller.