Friday, October 26, 2012

DNF: House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Did Not Finish Explanation

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley 
Read pages: 120 of 352

This is one of those times where I DNF a book and still have every intention of picking it up again soon. The problem was that I was reading this as an e-galley, and I have to read all my e-galleys on my computer. That led me to DNF for two reasons:

First, the pacing of this book is languid. I guess technically I could call it "slow" but that doesn't feel right. The pace is just right for the book and anything faster would have felt rushed and wrong. But, it is not a fast moving plot. It takes a long time for things to happen and there is a lot of showing and telling.

While none of that was the least bit boring, it was difficult to keep my engagement while dealing with the constant "I'm not comfortable" interruption that goes through my head whenever I read on my computer.

Second, a computer is the wrong medium to use for this book. I'd even go so far as to say an e-reader feels wrong. House of Shadows is the kind of book that is too beautiful and the fantasy world too immersive to be juxtaposed against such modern technology. I was enjoying House of Shadows too much to continue sullying my reading exerience with this wrongness.

BUT, what I read was wonderful. Readers who don't mind taking things at a slower pace will be rewarded with a truly enrapturing experience. All of my senses were engaged to the point where I felt like I could smell the air the characters were breathing, feel the things they were touching, and hear the sounds around them. The world building is practically a character in its own right.

Over the pages I read, the third person narrative switched focus between Nemienne, Leilis, and Taudde.

Nemienne is the type of character I tend to love—a little off-beat, but brave and stubborn with her nose always finding its way into a book. She finds herself living with a mage and learning magic. An enchanted cat and labyrinthine home rounded out my experiences with Nemienne, and to my mind it doesn't get much better than that.

Leilis is a sort-of servant at what sounds like a courtesan's guildhouse. I'm not sure what to think of her character yet except that she seems very tragic and I want to know what happened to her to land her in such a position. There's a definite backstory there and I feel like Leilis will turn out to be far more than she ever expected.

Karah, one of Nemienne's sisters becomes a courtesan in the house Leilis serves, and so I got to follow along with her during these sections as well. Karah is so serene, kind, and beautiful and she reminded me a little of Rose in Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball (the large number of sisters in both books might have sparked that comparison).

Taudde is the only character I didn't like very much, but I think that's partly because I don't entirely have a handle on him. He's up to something and keeping lots of secrets, but at his core is a festering hurt and that rarely turns out well.

At the time I stopped reading, each character thread felt almost entirely separate from one another and I'm not sure how they will come together. With the exception of Taudde's sections, I quickly fell into the rhythem of each narrative and it almost didn't matter to me what would happen next so long as I could continue spending time with these characters in this world.

Bottom line

Definitely something I'm going to pick up again just as soon as my library gets a copy in. Because of the pacing and level of description and immersion, I think I'm going to need to set aside a large chunk of time to devote to reading House of Shadows. It does not seem like the kind of book where I could get away with reading small snippets at a time without negatively impacting the experience.

I originally picked up House of Shadows after reading Charlotte's excellent review

Recommended for readers who enjoy Sharon Shinn and Juliet Marillier. 

Have you read House of Shadows?
How did you like it?
Have you ever put down a book because the situation you were reading in was not ideal? 


  1. I can understand DNFing a book because it's an egalley. I had that with Stormdancer. There are just some books that need to be read from a hard copy (I much prefer that way anyways). Hope you can get back to it soon and that's its better for you :)

  2. Hope you are able to lay your hands on a copy soon!

  3. I'm reading this one now. So far I'm really enjoying it. I can't wait until you pick it up again. :-)

    1. Update: I finished this one. Its a character driven story that reads like a fairy tale, but is really a fantasy/sci-fi mix with just a pinch of historical fiction. The writing style is lyrical. I fell in love with the descriptive passages and the way the author taught me about each and every character involved in this. It does involve a bit of complicated politics, but I still think its a story you will enjoy.

  4. Sounds good, even though it does seem like it's slow.
    I do understand that some galleys don't lend themselves to the e-medium. I remember a couple of months ago I kind of deducted a few points from this book I read because the galley was in manuscript format and it was just tiresome to read.

    Hopefully you get a hard copy of it soon!

  5. I was all yoiksy when I saw the DNF, but I'm glad it was for good reason, and hope you have the chance to get back to it soon!

  6. I really like what you had to say here about it almost feeling wrong to read such a beautiful fantasy world on an ereader because I often feel that way about certain books - that I am so happy that I have the physical book to read, to really immerse myself in the world. I'm glad your reason for DNF-ing wasn't for a bad reason and I'll be curious to read your thoughts once you've had the chance to read the entire book!


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