02 January, 2011

Book Review: The Cup of the World

Title: The Cup of the World
Author: John Dickinson
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 419
Rating: 3.9 out of 5
Cover Rating: 4 out of 5. I like it--it says Fantasy to me.

Inside flap:

On the eight day of the New Year, wait for me in this place on the eighth hour after noon. If I come in that hour, I shall give you what help I can. If I do not, I cannot help you at all.
Phaedra, daughter of the Warden of Trant, puts her trust in a man she has only met in dreams. He can see far, speak far, and pass where no man should be able to pass. With him she may escape to a new beginning, as the Kingdom collapses into war.
But why should he choose to help her?
And what price has he paid for his power?

My expectations: Average. I started a book by Peter Dickinson--who is Robin McKinley's husband--and couldn't finish it, but I love McKinley's work; I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book besides Fantasy.

My expectations were exceeded.

About the book: I enjoyed this book, despite not liking the characters or the events.

How, then, did I manage to like this book? Because the writing style is excellent, and I have to admire John Dickinson's command of language. I love the setting, and the rest of the Fantasy aspect of this book. The plot is complex, something I appreciate nowadays since so many books have a transparent plot with loose ends and holes. The characters, while I did not like them as people since many of them had questionable aims and motives, were realistic and 3-dimensional.

  • Plot:

This book is full of subtlety; little things that if you don't pay attention to, you will lose track of what happens later on. I love that kind of plot--it keeps me thinking and I found myself turning the pages quickly once I had gotten beyond 70 pages or so.

  • Characters:
Phaedra, the main character, is a mix of naivete, intelligence, and a rebellious nature. On one side, she wants to have her freedom and independence--she wants to be her own person, with control over what happens and to marry who she wants to marry, not some political/social climber. On the other hand, despite that part of her that I liked, she is also stubborn and naive--she believes, a lot of the time, what she wants to believe and does not listen to those who contradict her. She is also self-centered; I wanted to shout at her occasionally for not realizing that other people exist and have their opinions.

Ulfin is the man who appears to Phaedra by witchcraft--or, as he calls it, "under-craft". He is a complex character with contrasting sides and an interesting personality. He has hidden layers beneath what he appears to be, and the mystery behind it plays a major part of the plot.

Prince Paigan, also known as The Prince Under the Sky, is an excellent villain. He has the proper motives to be a strong antagonist, and he is creepy and dark. He has the perfect mixture to create a character that has depth and intelligence--something that you need if the villain is to be believable.

  • Setting/Elements:

I loved the world-building in this book. I could picture the world well, with all the different houses and their lords, the mountains and the lake, the magical counter-world, the people with their culture and society.

Other: Mild language, sex, some violence.

I have read the two sequels to this book (it's a trilogy) and they're even better than this one--if you read The Cup of the World and enjoy it, I do recommend The Widow and the King and The Fatal Child.

Do I recommend this book? Yes.

-----The Golden Eagle
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Madeleine said...

I'm interested in the idea that whilst you didn't like the book you enjoyed it. I find that happens with some films, they have an edge which makes them compelling and on subsequent viewing you see it in a completely different light. I admire your perseverence reading a book you didn't enjoy though if the style is good it sounds like it was easier to read because of that. :O)

mist of the blossom rain said...

I agree with you about the cover. IT definitely catches my eye. I also like the characters names;)

Mason Canyon said...

It says a lot if you can enjoy the book without liking the characters. Enjoyed your review.

Thoughts in Progress

Sun Singer said...

Very interesting review. I used to read fantasy all the time, but haven't for a while. I'll put this book on my "maybe" list.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Although I love YA and teen fantasy, I always have a lot of trouble getting into adult fantasy. It's hard, so it needs to grab me early.

I do have to say, however, that the cover art for this book is really good. As a reader who has been known to pick a book by its cover, I'd be tempted to give this one a try.

Paul C said...

I appreciate the fact that his book has 'subtlety.' It suggests to me that the writer is working on several levels.

Old Kitty said...

Lovely review!!! I'm trying to think of books I've read where I too wanted to yell, strangle, destroy, the character who is supposed to be the hero/heroine but who only grates on my nerves!! I can't at the moment!! LOL!!

Thanks for the info on this book! Take care

Lynda Young said...

sigh...another one for my TBR list. Oh well, I did say I wanted to read more for this year. I liked your review and the book sounds intriguing. Thanks :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for the review. I read a lot of fantasy, but not enough adult fantasy. If you read the other 2, that's a good sign. I'll look for the series.

Happy 2011.

Kari Marie said...

I'm intrigued by your review and the cover art is cool. I will add to my always growing TBR pile.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Agree with you about the cover. Like it.
This is such an interesting and thorough review. Thanks for the honest thoughts.

The Golden Eagle said...

Madeleine: I agree on films--sometimes, despite a whole host of other things, there's just something compelling about them . . .

Style is important--if it's awkward or stilted, I have trouble reading it. Dickinson is quite good at writing, though, so The Cup of the World was definitely easier to read than it could have been.

Emily: I thought that about the names, too!

Mason: Glad you liked it! :)

Malcolm: You must be organized! I just have a really long, single list. :P

Patricia: YA Fantasy is different from Adult, true. This is actually kind of borderline between the two--it could fall into both genres.

Paul: He is, particularly in the last book in the trilogy, The Fatal Child. It's a nice touch.

Old Kitty: Glad you liked the review! :)

It happens to me a lot. I can think of several instances (such as Finnikin of the Rock) where I just wanted to throw the book across the wall . . . :P

You're welcome!

Lynda: I'm glad you liked my review! If you do read The Cup of the World I hope you enjoy it!

Theresa: You're very welcome!

I wanted to know what happened, when the book ended--it's not a cliffhanger, exactly, but there were definitely loose ends that had to be picked up.

Kari: Mine is rapidly expanding as well--there are so many books out there! :)

Terry: Glad you like the review! I prefer it when the reviewer says what they really think--therefore, I don't truncate my reviews and I try to go over any issues a reader might have.