Sunday, November 7, 2010


The best part about working in a library with an established YA Librarian is the booty. And by booty I mean swag. And by swag I mean Adanced Readers Copies provided for free by publishing houses.

Free books. It's like getting the Beast's library without having to deal with the claw marks/fanged hickeys. 

So. Since I get to read these before anyone else, I think it's only fair that I get to judge them before anyone else. Obviously. And because the idea of ranking things with stars is cliche, we will be using the Harry Potter System of Rankings, which goes like this:
  • Muggle: The author has no idea where their plot went, what their characters are doing, and doesn't seem to be self-aware enough to care. 
  • Squib: The author tries-- seems to have some concept of an idea, but just doesn't manage to get it off the ground in the early planning stages, making the book a confusing and dull thing.
  • Ron: The story has a few cool characters, some decent beginnings of a plot line, and could be cool. However, the author fails to seal the deal and you're left going "Uggh, what a Ron," and enjoying more of what you think the author could have done with it than enjoying the actual book.  
  • Harry: A good book. Interesting story, a few twists and turns, and a nice feeling of satisfaction after you finish. You maybe don't read it again, but you liked it and would recommend it to a friend.
  • Hermione: Not only beautiful done but just damned beautiful and fantastic and a lot of other awesome praise for plot, characters and diction. A story that makes you understand why you read books.
Steel by Carrie Vaughn ranks a solid Ron
Readalikes: Piratica by Tanith Lee

Steel by Carrie Vaughn
Scheduled Release Date: March 15, 2011

The basic premise of this book fulfills the fantasy of every fencer I've ever met, and sends a competitive epeeist back in time to hang out with pirates.

That's right, pirates. Like Eroll Flynn and Blackbeard and Kermit in Muppet Treasure Island.

Jill loses a bout with a better fencer, and while sulking on vacation with her family finds a bit of sword that transports her back to the 18th Century and tosses her onto a pirate ship full of, you guessed it, pirates. Also, a hot lady pirate captain. Also, a hot black pirate who's about her own age. And then there's some kind of revenge plot thing with them chasing an evil pirate who made the sword that Jill found that transported her back in time that the Lady Captain was supposed to have gotten rid of that my father bought for two zuzim.

The reason this book gets a rating of Ron is that it reads a bit too much and too little like a historical romance novel. Most of the story is taking up with graphic details about breaking barnacles off the hull and swabbing the deck and other pirate-y things. And these are actually very well done descriptions that really interested me. But they happened at the expense of making me care about the main character/the plot line.

What could have been interesting plot developments and twists we abandoned early on (e.g. the jerk of a first mate who could lead to a very interesting confrontation/fight scene is set adrift in a boat less than 20 pages later, Blackbeard being in the bar across from Jill, the hot pirate who doesn't really seem to have a personality) or never fully developed. While Jill's experience on the ship is an interesting one, the book doesn't know how to make the major conflict that we're supposed to care about seem interesting or pressing.

Overall, good premise, poor execution. A total Ron.

Advanced Readers Copy provided by publisher to my colleague.

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