Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

That cover is stunning! I’m not normally one to squee over covers, but this one features an actual scene from the book, give or take some artistic liberties with the fire in the sky, and still catches the eye.

The books centers around two well-drawn cultures, one Eastern and one Western, based loosely on Japan and England. In one, dragons are revered, in the other, reviled. The world has primitive guns that don’t work very well, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “flintlock” fantasy.

Magic users gain their magic from the titular orange tree. They eat it to obtain the magic, and can keep that magic if they carefully hoard it for months or even years. They also train extensively in the martial arts.

The characters are good, Sabran the Western queen, Ead the bad ass warrior monk/spy from the East, a dragon rider named Tané who actually has a saddle, unlike certain folks on TV shows with blue-eyed bad guys and a high body count. She rides one of the eastern dragons, the more serpent-style ones featured on the covers. They are the good dragons: the Western ones look more like traditional dragons and are evil, a nice touch.

Oh yes, most of the main characters are women. If you find dragons realistic but strong women who excel at fighting or leading unrealistic, you will hate this book. It’s not for you.

Similarly, if you can handle magic fruit but can’t handle characters who are attracted to folks of the same gender, you will also have a bad time. For instance, another main character is Niclays, an ethically-challenged alchemist who, before the events of the novel, lost his lover, a prominent nobleman. Clearly, Niclays never really gotten over him. Refreshingly, no one in the world has any hangups about same-gender relationships.

Speaking of which, a relationship grows naturally between Sabran and Ead, and there are few sex scenes with a sprinkling of detail. It’s clear what’s going on, but not too clear. The primary focus of the novel is a well-done version of the epic fantasy end of the world scenario, but it’s possibly a bit too much for YA readers depending on their age.

About YA: Samantha Shannon’s other work, a series, is a YA series. I could not get into it, it wasn’t bad, but was rather different in tone and not my cup of tea.

The writing is fluid and clean. Despite its length (800 pages), the story keeps a good pace. There are 4 viewpoint characters, and all of them are interesting. The book is a standalone, which is nice in this day of 17 book series. It has a trilogy’s worth of action and world-altering events.

Apparently the plot is a gender-bending retelling of St. George and the dragon. I did not realize that while reading it, so clearly knowledge of that is not needed to enjoy it. It may add a nice layer to those who enjoy retellings.

1 Weird Trick to Stop Random Bots from Britain From Hosing Your Ruby on Rails site

Add this to your apache configuration (assuming you have mod_rewrite enabled, and assuming you are not using nginx)

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} MJ12bot
    RewriteRule .* - [F]

Story: This stupid Majestic 12 bot from Britain with a User Agent string of “MJ12” that is totally not a spambot was hammering a Ruby on Rails site on this VPS, causing the system load to shoot up as high as 15.

I have used robots.txt for this kind of thing in the past, but I wanted to make sure. The request is told to go away before it even hits the Rails server. Now, the load is under 1, and the VPS is not using 95% of its swap space.

Much better.

I am also using the WP fail2ban plugin along with a bit of server configuration to stop the constant stream of bots trying to hack into this WordPress site.

Final Fantasy XV Random Note

In the boss battle against Leviathan, the part in which you are warping around from one platform to the next, I had a long period in which I was not able to hit the boss. I believe that I had to use the targeting function (R1 on the default setup for PS4) and then hit Triangle for the warp attack. So after 10 minutes of wasting potions and the like, I went out to the next stage, which was a lot more fun.

Book Review: Last Song Before Night

Last Song Before NightThis review contains MASSIVE SPOILERS.  So skip if that bothers you.

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer has ruined me for other books.  I’m reading another book and it’s OK I guess, but the writing just doesn’t sing like it does here. The writing flows lyrically in a clean, smooth way.  I’m not much of a re-reader, but I have the sneaking suspicion this book will make that short list.

Continue reading “Book Review: Last Song Before Night”