1/9/13

Thoughts on trying to read a book for grown-ups, City of Dark Magic

I like reading fantasy books written for middle school girls (and boys, to a lesser extent).  This does not mean that I don't also enjoy books for grown-ups, and I am willing to try those that sound good.  Such as  City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte, which promised Prauge, and alchemy, and music, and academia, and dangerous magic.

If I had read its blurb on Amazon more closely, I might also have realized that it promised "tantric sex in a public fountain."  I might, at that point, have passed on it.

I have no particular issue with sex in fiction, especially when it comes after spine-tingling build-up of tension between two characters I care about.  Sadly, that wasn't the case here.

Sarah, the main character, is a musicology grad student who loves her physical frolics, and this is fine, although I don't see why I had to read details about past frolics that aren't relevant to the plot at hand (yes, it tells me a lot about Sarah, but not subtly).   More off-putting was that her main worry when meeting her new colleagues is that, because of clogged airplane sinuses, her preternatural pheromone sensitivity is not going to be in evidence.   Off-putting as well was the unsubtle introduction of a lesbian character (an expert on antique weaponry) who, like so many people, is attracted to Sarah for no clear reason other than to bring sex into everyone's mind again and demonstrate the marvellous health of Sarah's libido.

But what I really never wanted to read were the details of how Sarah found masturbation incredibly helpful when studying for her SATs so many years ago.  Distasteful, and irrelevant.

I could not help but feel that the author was finding his sexy babe character incredibly titillating, and this made me feel squicky.  So that was the end of me reading City of Dark Magic, before I really got to the dark magic part.  Sigh.

Undeterred, I've started another fantasy grown up book--The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.   And I've realized that I don't like it when I'm compelled to visualize the main character peeing in the shower.

This doesn't happen in middle grade fiction.

38 comments:

  1. Hmm, I've been considering picking this one up but it may not be my thing either. I don't mind sex positivity in my books, but I am not one for sex sex sex.

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    1. Maybe you will make it farther than I did, though, and she will actually have sex in the present of the book that will advance the plot (or at least be interesting) and everything will be worthwhile! I would be curious to see what you thought....

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  2. //speechless//

    (and giggling in a thoroughly immature fashion)

    Here are some grown-up book titles with fantasy or science fiction details which I have recently enjoyed:

    WEARING THE CAPE, Marion G. Harmon
    THE IRON BUTTERFLY, Chandra Hahn
    DIGNITY and FEALTY by Eva Caye
    THE DEMON'S LIBRARIAN, Lillith Saintcrow
    THE LADIES OF MANDRIGYN, Barbara Hambly

    This is just a random sampling... and I realize that there are no male authors. Huh. I'll have to look harder and give you a list of novels with some men thrown in (Devon Monk?) But, female authors definitely cuts down on the shower peeing...

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    1. I think this was the first time I've ever read a shower peeing scene in a fantasy book, so my sample is too small to generalize from....of course, so many fantasies are quasi medieveal, so it's not an issue.


      Thanks for the recs! I've heard of Hambly, but not the others.

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  3. I'm so sorry that this didn't work out for you (and I will stay far, far away from it) but boy did your post make me giggle. I really enjoyed this post, even if you didn't enjoy the book. So thank you for putting a smile on my face today when I have been having difficulties putting one on myself.

    (I lost it when you wrote about the SAT part! hahahahah!)

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  4. Well. I'll just push this one to the back burner for the foreseeable future then. Too bad, really; it seemed to have potential.

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    1. so many people seem to have enjoyed it...

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  5. LOL. I have the same issue with adult fiction. By the way, Magnus Flyte is actually two women. Go figure that. (I figure this one should be a big hit with the Fifty Shades crowd, which means I probably won't go near it.)

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    1. well, I do feel less squicky knowing it's women! So that's something.

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  6. I felt absolutely the same about The Magicians! You know, that book *wouldn't exist* without Narnia and Harry Potter. And the main character is such a whinger! I really did NOT need to read poetic descriptions of the exact shade of his pee. :(

    I retreated to middle-grade reads quite happily after that.

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    1. truly it was the level of detail that was so UNWARRENTED!

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  7. I haven't read any adult books in a long time. This one certainly doesn't make me want to read any though I am curious about adult fantasy.

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    1. I'm going to keep trying--I feel that there must be good stuff out there! One of my favorites of the year, The House of Shadows, by Rachel Nuemeir, was published for the adult market...

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  8. I tried to read the Magicians and didn't make it past the first chapter. I did read all of Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches, but I was stuck in an airport at the time and remember very little of the book. But it had lovely (if rather dense) language. I just finished some Lilith Saintcrow books, the Jill Kismet series, but they were pretty violent, dark and grim, I don't think you'd like them...what about Patricia C. Wrede's adult fantasy novels, the Lyra books? I especially like The Raven Ring. Can't think of anything else - most of the adult books I read (other than British mysteries) are very trashy urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Although I have not yet encountered tantric sex in a fountain...

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    1. I will keep the Lyra books in mind! Thanks! (I kind of regret not flipping through to the tantric sex before sending this back to the library....)

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  9. Oh dear. I thought the Magicians peaked during lunch on the day of the entrance examinations--wasn't it a pear, and dark chocolate? You may want to avoid the sequel (Magician King)--there is a truly awful scene involving a fox.
    Will look for House of Shadows, though!

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    1. Yes, I enjoyed that lunch very much!

      Do try House of Shadows--I bet you like it.

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  10. Have you read Among Others by Jo Walton? It's got some magic and boarding school and a lot of love for fantasy/scifi books. Not at all like what you just described...

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    1. Indeed it is a much more appealling book.

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  11. Oh Charlotte! I have had moments like that with adult books, but usually not fantasy. I recently liked The Silvered recently, though it had some plot similarities to a YA fantasy...

    (very few books are perfect, eh?)

    Better luck next time!

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    1. Oh yes--I just hopped over to Amazon, and I remember liking the cover of The Silvered lots. I'll add it to my list!

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  12. I completely agree! One of the big reasons I like YA and MG so much is because I know I wont be blindsided by unwarranted sex. Like you said, I'm not opposed to a tastefully done, relevant sex scene between two characters who have developed a relationship throughout the book. But that's not what a lot of sex in adult fiction is like. It's more like it's just thrown in their to be shocking and Adult.

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    1. Truly! It's hard to care when it seems gratuitous, and ends up making me dislike the characters.

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  13. Ew, remind me to avoid that one for sure.

    The Magicians does have a few moments - and as a previous commenter mentioned The Magician King has a rough scene, which it totally does. BUT - that being said, I kind of plowed through The Magicians and his whinyness to get to The Magician King, which was stupendously awesome. As long as you are prepared for that scene. :) I really, really loved that book.

    As for non-sexy fantasy - have you read Naomi Novik? Her Temeraire books are a lot of fun.

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    1. I am still pressing onward with the Magicians! And no, I haven't read Novik, though I did give her Temeraire books to my mother the Christmas before last, and she's now lent them back to me....

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  14. When I saw City of Dark Magic on Netgalley, I was amazed by the pretty cover. An interesting take on some history that makes it feel more real, dealing with Beethoven. It was not too paranormal, but just enough to give it kind of a fun, quirky feel.This book had a lot of good things going for it: mysterious alchemical symbols, ancient artifacts, well-known historical figures given much due credit via flashbacks, an intriguing setting, a cast of quirky supporting characters, and a smart heroine.

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    1. It is a lovely cover! And it did sound so awfully good....maybe I should have kept going. Sigh.

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  15. Aaaand...this is why reading adult books scares me and I avoid them most of the time. Both of these looked interesting to me, so thanks for this. (and for the laugh)

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    1. This year I have vowed to read more adult fantasy. In a week or so, I am going to try A Game of Thrones...

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    2. I'll be interested in your thoughts on Game of Thrones. I haven't read it yet because of some of the stuff I've heard, but if you like it I might. (Here is me using you shamelessly.)

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  16. Now I see why you're willing to write negative reviews, Charlotte! You make them so entertaining!

    Have you read Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear? I don't usually read adult fantasy fiction, but those are outstanding. However, in the second book, he gets waylaid by a faery creature who drives men mad with her insatiable appetite for sex (or some such)! And survives! It made me roll my eyes, but the whole thing is written so well, I could forgive him.

    I also like Sherwood Smith's books for adults. Coronet of Steel is swashbuckling fun. Oh, and Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series are outstanding. They feel a lot like middle grade fiction -- only with sex! :) The magic runs off The Tradition and plays off fairy tale tropes. Very very fun. http://www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/fairygodmother.html

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  17. hm.. I have this on my TBR. I will be interested to see what I think of it...

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  18. Oh, my, yes yes yes! I had this same reaction when I read the book in December.
    (And I'm busily copying down other commenters book suggestions. Many thanks.)

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    1. I am orgnizing them into a seperate list post, and I hope more will follow!

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  19. That is hysterical!

    I agree with you. I loved the Laurel K Hamilton urban fantasy books about Anita Blake at first - but as the series progressed it became ALL about sex instead of the sex being just part of the plot line. That's when I dropped it. But the first 5 or 6 books are really fun!

    http://www.goodreads.com/series/49083-anita-blake-vampire-hunter

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  20. Oh dear. I like "grown-up books" too, but I think it's books like this that occasionally send me back to the kids and YA sections at a run!

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