book review: the king’s fifth

Scott O’Dell’s book The King’s Fifth is about Spanish conquistadors seeking gold in the New World. It bounces between the young map-making narrator languishing in jail for trying to defraud the king of his share of the gold and telling the story of how they found it. It’s a tale of casual brutality towards the native people, and abandoning your dreams for greed (but then redeeming yourself in the end once everyone has died).

It wasn’t bad, just predictable. The blurb on GoodReads seems to be from a time when casual genocide was still considered heroic. Hm. I didn’t realize until just now how old this story was since my copy was an ebook. I don’t think that makes much of a difference to my response.

book review: mercury

Mercury is a comic by Hope Larson that takes place in Nova Scotia in two timelines. In 2009, Tara is new to Grade 10 in the town she grew up in. Her mother is off in Alberta working in the tar sands. She meets a boy who looks just like her and they go looking for buried treasure. In 1859 Josie’s farming family (Tara’s ancestors) take in a young prospector who Josie’s mother thinks is shady and up to no good. The intersection between the stories comes in the form of a quicksilver filled pendant.

It’s a very cleanly drawn book and the similarity in appearance between Tara and Ben works well. I liked the jumps between the timelines, but on the whole it felt like the story needed something more. It wasn’t quite understated enough to play that as a strength but not enough happened. I do feel we got to know Tara well, but Josie much less so.

But yeah. It wasn’t bad. Good Canadian content and all, but nothing I’d be rushing to put in people’s hands.

book review: the eternal smile: three stories

Gene Yang and Derek Kirk Kim’s The Eternal Smile is a collection of three stories about layered realities.

Duncan’s Kingdom is a sword & sorcery tale of a young knight who is trying to win the hand of a princess, though he’s haunted by dreams of an older woman and a cola bottle. Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile is about a greedy (to Scrooge McDuck kind of levels) frog who wants a pit of gold deep enough to swim in without hitting his nose on the bottom. When a smile appears in the sky, he builds a church to exploit it and further his dreams. Urgent Request is about Janet, who is a shy worker at a telecom company who responds to a Nigerian email scam when her request for more responsibility falls through.

All three of the stories start off as one thing and then once you’ve bought into the concept they change. And they’re all kind of beautiful.