Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Discord's Apple" by Carrie Vaughn (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Carrie Vaughn's Official Website Here
Order Discord's Apple from Amazon Here

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the popular Kitty Norville series. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. This is her first solo adult title. She's also written a YA title which was released this year. The eight title in the Kitty Norville series was published recently & she's contracted for a few more.

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 299 pages divided over Seventeen chapters and seven unnamed-unnumbered interludes. Narration is in the third person and features four characters such as Evie Walker, Sinon/Alex and a couple of others. The plot is self contained and ends with this novel.

July 6, 2010 marked the North American hardcover publication of "Discord's Apple" via Tor Books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Carrie Vaughn is an author with whom I was unfamiliar with. While I had heard about her Kitty the Werewolf series, I haven't had the chance to try them out. So when Discord's Apple came out and had two very appealing qualities: being a solo book and the fact that the blurb mentioned it being associated with the Trojan War vis-à-vis Greek mythology, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to give Carrie Vaughn's writing a try.

Discord's apple is a fusion of Greek myths and apocalyptic thriller with a bit of mild comedic flavor.

The story begins with Evie Walker, a comic book writer who's returning to her small town roots in Hope's Fort, Colorado from Los Angeles. She isn't returning because of a break up or some other reason, her prime reason for returning is that her dad Frank Walker seems to be dying and she must be at her dad's side if this is true.

What she does not know is that her Dad shares a unique heritage. One which has decreed that their ancestors often had to sacrifice quite a bit of their lives either in the form of re-location or extreme hardships.

Evie also has another small query on her hands in the form of her comic book as she seems to be at a crossroads as to the direction of the main character in her comic, Tracker, the solo female in a special ops unit and who is as confused as her creator.

On returning back she finds that her town in an upheaval of sorts due to the current world events (the time frame seems to be a few years into the future from now). The US homeland has been attacked again and has lead to a tremendous increase of security measures. Upon her return her father decides to pass on a family mantle to her which comes in the form of a special room which houses certain very very special artifacts. There are several people who will be returning to collect them, some of them patiently, others rather crudely. She also meets a stranger named Alex who has met her dad and seems to be in the search of something which is beyond his means.

Inserted in this tale is also the story of a certain Greek warrior who caused the fall of Troy with his words. The Achaen warrior Sinon, who lied to the Trojans about the horse and caused the downfall of Troy is the focus of this thread. Since there's nothing mentioned in further annals about Sinon as in this story it's shown what happened to him and how he literally becomes a plaything for the gods. Sinon's struggles to survive and retain his humanity then unfold in parallel chapters as those with Evie.

In the Central storyline, Evie and Alex have to face a nemesis of legend that even Hercules feared. This person wants the apple [Of Trojan fame] which is stored with Evie's Dad and will do anything to get it. Thus begins the string of events which will lead to the world's eventual conclusion however its up to Evie, Alex and their allies to prevent a total rout and shepherd humanity into a favorable outcome. We also are treated to what happened in Sinon's timeline which also affects events in the present timeline.

Weaving Greek mythology within contemporary settings, Carrie Vaughn has written a very delectable story. Although the story appears to be very fast, at the same time it manages to slow the reader down with its intricacies. I had a chance to re-read this story and found several things that I had missed when I had read it the first time.

Although the story has a very light tone, it deals with a lot of very heavy subjects. Carrie Vaughn has to be appreciated for the way that she weaved certain heavy scenes within the narrative. These parts were so smooth the that reader rarely realizes the gravity of the situation until that particular scene is over.

The only downside to this tale is that the ending is a bit ambiguous as to what actually happened. Even though there are lines given to indicate Evie and Alex's future, the tale is left open ended which might not be to every reader's liking. After finishing this book I'm definitely tempted to check out Carrie Vaughn's other titles and I'm sure she will find lots of new fans with this book. Whether you are a Carrie Vaughn fan or just trying her out for the first time, Discord's Apple will give you a sample of her writing style, try it out for yourself and see what you think!

Odds and Ends: My New Top 10 Anticipated Novels From the Rest of 2010 - Updated with Comments

Edit October 2/2010

As another case study in book selection, I will bring forward the original post from May, now that I have almost finished the list; I added comments and review links when available to all the books below. I also made a Goodreads list with my top 25 2010 novels which I plan to keep updating as needed - there are 27 books since I put two combos as below, with #26-27 being the second book of the combo, so the true position is with their "pair".

As an additional remark, out of the 27 books there, only Passion Play and The Noise Within are books I rated below my top A++ rating, since they are very good and with extraordinary but not-yet-fully-realized potential for the series. All the rest have my top rating and the ranking reflects mostly my priorities as novels go in general and sff in particular, rather than any "objective X is better than Y"; those novels are the cream of the crop of 2010 releases for me so far.

There were some big surprises for me since May. Most notably my current #1 novel of the year The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer, the Booker shortlisted Room by Emma Donoghue (#3 mainstream, #12 overall) , the #2 sf (#5 sff and #6 overall) Aurorama by Jean Christophe Valtat, and the #4 fantasy (#6 sff and #7 overall) Cold Magic by Kate Eliott.
I still do not know why I forgot about The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett in the post below since that should have been there and as expected it became a top fantasy (#6 fantasy, #9 overall) .


Here is the original post with comments added in italics:

From my original
Top Ten Anticipated Books of 2010, I have read 7 so far (3A++, 1 A+, 2 A, 1 A-, no major disappointments) and the 8th (The Evolutionary Void/PF Hamilton) has just made its way to my house to be read asap; there is also more information available - including confirmation of publication for 2010 or of moving to 2011 - for some of the books in the extended Anticipated Books post, so I thought of doing a new post with the New Top 10 Expected Books which *I do not yet have* and which *are confirmed for 2010.*

While there are several debuts I am very interested in, I will not list them here since my record so far with predicting my degree of interest in such is mixed (see
Tome of the Undergates vs The Last Page).

However since I loved
Ms. Bernobich's collection "A Handful of Pearls" (FBC rv soon), I will make an exception for her debut which intrigues me a lot by its association with the Jacqueline Carey Kushiel series which is still my number one completed fantasy series of the 00's. I will cheat a bit and mention 14 novels since I cannot stop myself...


1. The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers (utterly loved Heart of Veridon, so Horns of Ruin is the one novel I give best odds to top The Folding Knife as #1 sff of the year for me now that the new IM Banks Culture is confirmed for 2011 as is the new Mary Gentle novel)

This turned out to be very "not for me". Great narrative energy that kept me reading but a comic book plot with the 100 repetitions of "in the name of Morgan I smite you" incantation of superwoman on steroids Eva Forge made me thankful it was short enough so I could finish it. Well, Dead of Veridon comes out in 2011 and hopefully the subtlety missing here, will come back since the author writes too well for comics.

The Half Made World by Felix Gilman (now that the blurb is available in the Tor catalog(pdf file), this one is even more intriguing and I give it second best odds for #1)

A++ and top 10 fantasy; only half a duology though which lessened a bit its impact;
full review soon;

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich (see above why)

A+ and great debut with extraordinary promise; full FBC review

Empire of Light by Gary Gibson (end of series and a dark horse for #1)

A+ and good ending of the series, but I still think the series could have been awesome and stalled slightly after the excellent first volume. FBC Review

The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky (beginning of new sub-arc in the Kinden series; hard to believe it will top the awesome Salute the Dark, but one can hope)

A++ and top fantasy (as a combo with Salute the Dark) of 2010; FBC review

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (still of great interest and very curious if Mr. Weeks can keep the freshness and exuberance of his debut trilogy)

A++ and #3 fantasy of the year;
FBC review

7. Wintertide by Michael Sullivan (another #5 in a series like the Tchaikovsky novel above that will be hard pressed to top the awesome #4, in this case The Emerald Storm)

A++ and #5 fantasy of the year (as a combo with The Emerald Storm which yes, it tops) FBC review soon

Empire by Steven Saylor (now confirmed for August; my favorite living non-sff author is always a must; I may do a dual review with its precursor Roma)

A++ and #4 mainstream novel of the year;
FBC review


9 (tie).
Absorption by John Meaney (early reviews were somewhat mixed; on preorder from BD)

B- and disappointing; hope the next novel brings the scattered stuff here together; FBC Review

Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding (loved Retribution Falls, let's see if the author can keep the freshness and the pace)

B and somewhat disappointing; has some great stuff, but a lot of farcical stuff too which worked in Retribution Falls sometimes because it was new, sometimes because it was just slightly on the other side of the farce, while here it tips over; I may do a full review or not depending on how other novels line up; I am in for Iron Jackal

Transformation Space by Marianne de Pierres (another end of series and a book that can get very high in my end of year lists)

the only 2010 one I am missing so far; hopefully will get it soon

The Immorality Engine by George Mann (cannot wait to see how the first arc of the Newbury/Hobbes series ends)


Skywatcher by Jon Connington (loved the author's debut quite unexpectedly a lot and I really, really want to see what's next)

reading it now; seems as good as the first one;
edit 8/10 Skywatcher (B) was what I expected and more almost to the end, but then the author dropped the ball badly in misjudging the emotional balance of the novel and while it did not quite ruin my experience of the series, it definitely took it a notch down. Full FBC Review soon.

The Blood of Alexandria by Richard Blake (same as above, except that this is book three in a pretty anachronistic series that nonetheless managed to hook me by the narration of its irrepressible and cynical (anti)hero and which I plan to review soon - for fantasy lovers, this series is what I imagine Joe Abercrombie would write as historical fiction)

still unread, but will get to it sooner rather than later

Edit 6/30/2010 - a little update

The new IMB Culture novel has been brought forward to October 2010 so Surface Detail should be #1 there

Surface Detail should have been #1 since as expected it became my #1 sff and sf of the year and #2 overall. FBC Review soon

Absorption (FBC Rv, B-) was somewhat disappointing though i have high hopes for the sequel because its main fault was too many threads, too little pages

Passion Play (A+, first impressions here) was not quite what I expected and the Kushiel's comparisons area bit misleading since this one is almost pure romantic fantasy; loved it once I realized the way it goes and the series has great potential but the sequels will decide how great it will be.

Got Blood of Alexandria which is the same cynical fun of #1/#2 and will read soon and got Black Prism too which starts very well, also to be read soon