A Betrayal in Winter, by Daniel Abraham.
The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson, edited by Richard Dalby.
So far on the Gene Wolfe Solar Cycle

My only complaint with A Betrayal in Winter was the fact that most of the action (all but the epilogue) occurred in SUMMER. SUMMER. I think this is a valid complaint.

The second book in the high fantasy The Long Price Quartet, I find the book not quite as striking as the first – the first book introduces the idea that a poet might physically lock an idea into place, after all. And the characters’ choices weren’t as wrenching as in the first book – I’m sure other readers would argue with me, but I just couldn’t empathize with the choice in this book. I kept thinking, “What you call for will come,” and sure enough, it did.

But. I enjoyed reading this book more. The storylines were stronger, less disorienting. I actually liked some of the characters, instead of standing back and admiring them from a distance. The book may be a little further away from brilliance, but closer to clarity.

I recommend the series for anybody who remembers liking high fantasy but can’t pick up the typical, mass-market high fantasy books (e.g., Robert Jordan) anymore. Mature, sophisticated – the kind of books that only in retrospect you recognize as being a retelling of the “chosen one saves the world” story.

E.F. Benson is one of my favorite old-school horror writers. “The Room in the Tower,” “Mrs. Amsworth,” and “Caterpillars” will stick with me until I die.

This collection of his short stories, however, shows his weaknesses rather than his strengths. By collecting pretty much every ghost story Benson ever wrote, I saw the repetitive nature of a lot of his stories – themes that never evolved, characters that never changed, horrors that lost their insidiousness due to their humdrum recurrence.

I really didn’t read anything that met the level of the stories I’d read already, sad to say.

My project in reading the 12-book Gene Wolfe Solar Cycle (which starts with The Shadow of the Torturer) continues. May was The Urth of the New Sun.

TUotNS was a coda to the first four books, The Book of the New Sun, apparently written to clear up the mysteries of the first four books, at least to the extent that Wolfe was willing to clear them up. Ahhhh, says I. TUotNS made for easier reading than the first four books (I only have about 50 vocabulary words to look up for TUotNS, instead of 250 or so for each of the others), but it was less satisfying. Too clear? Too many mysteries revealed? Too easy, the way breaking into the local bank is too easy after you’ve successfully ripped off Fort Knox?

Nightside of the Long Sun is next.