Today’s novel is Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Blood Song is epic fantasy, the first instalment of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. Sadly, this book was one that I really wanted to like but found myself struggling with throughout. Ultimately I finished and found that I was done, that I had no desire to seek out the rest of the series.
The main factor that put me off was how much was happening. The sheer amount of different plot lines that were weaved and introduced, some at very advanced stages of the novel, left me somewhat lost or apathetic. There was so many little things happening but I felt that the overall plot lacked.
The pacing was also problematic for me. The novel is often painstakingly slow at parts, describing days at a time, but then jumps in time. By the end, whole months of the final conflict are flying by.
This brought me to my final gripe, is that I found the ending to be extremely unsatisfying. I won’t get into spoilers but i found that all of the build up and tension came to very little. The characters, which were very interesting and well brought up. Weren’t given much to do by the end. Ultimately, Ryan did not deliver on a premise that is built up throughout the story. For a novel that is over 600 pages, this was disappointing.
However, that is not to say that it was all bad. As I mentioned, the characters are very good. The world is well developed and full. The writing itself is read able. Likely many people would, and do, really enjoy this novel. It’s just not for me. For people who enjoy dense novels, who like to reared or are looking for another epic fantasy series to get lost in. Blood Song would certainly be for you.
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This week’s novel is the The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. This is a Sam Vimes story. Vimesis one of my favourite characters from the Discworld and I’m always excited to read one of his books. This novel stands apart from the other’s because it takes Sam Vimes outside of Ankh-Morpork.
This is intriguing, because Vimes is Ankh-Morpork. The city is the core of his being. He’s comfortable in it, nearly unstoppable. He’s spent his whole life within it’s walls and he knows the streets like the soles of his feet. It’s always interesting to see a character taken out of their depth and put into an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. That Vimes has to travel to a place that is as alien as the moon to him only makes things more interesting.
The novel is takes place largely in Uberwald where dwarves, vampires, werewolves and Igor’s all live together in uneasy harmony. Pratchett uses this to make some interesting points on race relations and traditions. Drawing parallels between the Discworld and our own is not difficult, and is relevant even to this day. As usual, he hides his rather vicious deconstruction of society behind comedy.
The plot is intricate and engaging, with a number of clues and mysteries to solve. All the characters you would hope show up show up and grow and evolve. The novel hums along nicely with each chapter pushing the towards to the conclusion.
Overall the Fifth Elephant had all of the elements that lend the Discworld novels it’s charms without having some of the pitfalls that sometimes show up. The novel was well plotted, charming, and in many parts, hilarious. I would fully recommend this novel to any fantasy lover, even someone who hasn’t read much or any of Terry Pratchett’s novels before.
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Today’s book was Stuff Matters by Mark Midownik. This one was different that what I normally read. t’s a book about everyday materials and their stories of how they came to be and how they have evolved. materials such as paper, concrete, chocolate amongst others are explored.
Midownik masterfully blends history with science. It takes a special writer to keep me as engaged as he managed to. He skillfully keeps the reader interested mainly through the strength and colourfulness of his anecdotes. In today’s world effective science communicators are worth their weight in gold
While most of the information entered one ear and left through the other some stuck which is all I can ask for. The biggest take away was a different way of looking at the world around me. Everything has a story and can be interesting, if looked at the right way.
Not too much more to say about the book, other than it was interesting read. If you enjoy science then you should pick it up! If not you should still give it a go, you might find it interesting!
This week’s book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s celebrating it’s twentieth anniversary so now is as good as a time as ever. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this books and series in my life. This book sits alongside Fellowship of the Ring, as the novels that nurtured my love of reading. Like so many other people this book pulled me in and didn’t let me go for years.
I read and reread the books so many times when i was growing up. I wanted badly to go to Hogwarts, to live in J.K Rowling’s world. As such, it’s impossible for me to take off my nostalgia glasses and properly review this book.
I hadn’t read it in years and yet the magic inside was just as I remembered. The book is extremely charming and witty. It pulls you into the deep world, telling you just enough to give you little glimpses of it.
The characters feel real and you immediately root for them. Coming back and seeing how Harry, Ron, and Hermione all become friends was great. I always love the moments where great friendships are born and this is one of my favourites.
Pacing is a real strength of this novel, the plot speeds along at breakneck speed. At their core Harry Potter books are mysteries and this one is no different. Rowling leads the readers to ask certain questions and provides clues to keep them guessing.
I know people have issues with the series but I feel that they come along in later books when the plot becomes more complicated and the magic more involved.
Overall the Philosophers Stone is a great read, easy and addicting. If you haven’t read it yet I can’t recommend it enough. The magic that resides within it’s pages is too good to not be experienced.
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The Warded Man by Peter V Brett is this week’s novel. Well, It finally happened, I ran into a book that I didn’t like enough to finish. I almost always finish every book I start. Even if I dislike it initially, the though that it might get good drives me on. I made it 250 pages into this novel before I gave up.
Honestly, I’m unsure exactly what i didn’t like about. The setting was interesting, demons rising each night, humanity struggling to survive their relentless attacks. The magic was cool enough.
Yet I couldn’t get into it. More than that, I found myself annoyed, struggling to turn each page. I feel like two things mainly contributed to this. One was the age of the protagonists. I find it’s hit or miss with children protagonists for me. If they’re too smart, too perfect i find it hard to believe. Something about these children did that for me, though I can’t exactly say what it was. I just found them off putting.
The writing style, mainly dialogue also put me off of this book. Like the characters this is a personal grievance, it wasn’t bad by any means. It just didn’t jive with me. It felt very on the nose, leaving nothing up to the reader to figure out.
It should be said that this is a highly regarded series, many people like it. It has a 4.27 rating on GoodReads and has a multitude of gushing reviews behind it. It just wasn’t the book for me, though I could see why many people would like it.
This reminded me of the Wheel of Time books, which I also couldn’t get into. Though if i’d found them when I was younger i’m sure I would have. It’s very likely that the Warded Man is similar. The book may have just come to me at the wrong time. Still, if you like horror fantasy you should give it a look. My opinion certainly seems to be in the minority.
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This week’s book is The Price of Valor by Django Wexler. It’s the third instalment of his Shadow Campaigns series. This novel picks up the story where the second left off. In fact, I found that this one is even stronger that the second novel. The few complaints I did have were largely fixed.
The conflict in this novel comes from both outside and within. Both in terms of the characters struggles and the overarching conflicts. Moreso in this novel than the others I felt the fingerprint of history. I would hazard that Wexler took lessons learned from revolutions and social uprisings and brought them to bear. Certainly this novel echoes the French Revolution’s bloodthirstyness.
Overall the stakes are raised nicely, forcing the characters to develop and grow. My one grip with this book is a certain love situation grows repetitive and frustrating, though that very well may have been the goal.
The star of this series for me has been the battle scenes and this novel is no exception. The action is fast and vivid, both large scale set pieces and more intimate personal conflicts. Though I’ve found that the characters started to feel invincible. With so much combat this kind of plot armour can be problematic.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It carried and advanced the story ahead and made me really hungry for the next one. I would fully recommend this series to anyone who likes military fantasy, as this is one the greatest examples of it that I’ve read recently.
This week’s book is Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies. I was looking for a quicker more comfortable read then the past few novels. I’d heard a lot about Granny Weatherwax, having seen her top a number of lists about favourite fantasy characters.
This novel fully delivered on the praise heaped up it. Pratchett was in great form, filling the pages with jokes, interesting ideas and a variety of complex and interweaved plots and subplots. There was as much ridiculous shenanigans as I was hoping for, balanced against a number of serious critiques and criticisms.
However, my favourite part of the book was it’s interesting take of elves. In most of the fantasy that I’ve read, elves are clearly superior to humans. They live forever, often have powers, aren’t likely to have the same weaknesses as plain old humans. It was fascinating to see Pratchett take this notion and bring it to it’s conclusion. This mixed with a number of ideas about folklore and multiple dimensions kept me stimulated and interested throughout the whole novel.
Honestly, theres not much I can say about his novel that I haven’t already said about other Discworld books. It had a lot of heart, was well written and was just uniquely Pratchett. It hit all the beats that I wanted it to and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone who has any sort of an interest in fantasy.
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The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings is this week’s book. I’ve read a number of his novels but not in any seeming order. They just tend to slip their way into my bookshelf via some sale or another. They are in many ways, the essence of fantasy novels. Nigh invincible knights mixed with magic, intrigue and deep world building.
The Sapphire Rose is no exception. Eddings stuffs the book full of well worn and familiar cliches. From the start you can guess the path the characters will take and what will happen to the obstacles and antagonists that stand in their way. In fact, Sir Sparhawk may as well have just crushed them with the might of his plot armour.
Despite this, the book is both comforting and extremely entertaining. The writing is so earnest and the treatment of the genre so loving that you can look past it’s shortcomings. Endless cheesy banter and a pace that could give you whiplash aren’t enough to make me dislike this book. Sure the characters might be thin and certainly lean towards stereotypes but you still like them, even when their murdering just for the convenience of it.
The plot is perhaps where Eddings shines the brightest in this novel. It is engaging and sharp, with enough odds and ends to keep you both intrigued and focused. The antagonists have reasons for their actions and the ending is satisfying.
Overall this is a difficult book for me to recommend, not because it is in any way bad, but because it is so far from where the current fantasy meta is at the moment. This novel was published in 1991, two years before I was even born and the age shows. Still, I loved it as I have loved all of Eddings work that I’ve come across. I would say it is at the very least worth picking up, if you can find it for cheap and seeing if you like it.
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This weeks book is The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler. It is the second novel in the Shadow Campaigns series. Second books often tend to struggle. Executing them properly can be extremely tricky.
Firstly they have to keep the momentum of the first book going, while simultaneously raising the stakes. This is key to keep the readers interested in the characters. They must be given room to show their growth while still remaining underdogs. Furthermore, they must continue to develop and grow, which can be a challenge. Finally, the second novel must end strong, in order to keep interest building for the next book.
I found that the Shadow Throne was largely successful in accomplishing these goals. The pace remained as quick as the first with the plot chugging along at a good pace. New and interesting characters and locations are introduced while meshing well with the characters from the first. Wexler manages to keep many of the same strengths from the first book in this one. The characters are immensely root-for-able and interesting. The battle scenes crackle with energy and the conclusion leaves you wanting more.
However, in my opinion it is a weaker book than the first. At times the chapters did drag as the book’s momentum was ground to a halt. This was only for a short time but I did find myself struggling. The first book was filled to the brim with the discovery of the unknown. This is not as evident in The Shadow Throne and the book suffers for it. In addition, the antagonists fell a little flat when compared with the ones from the debut. I felt as though I was not delivered what was promised in that regard.
Despite this, I still really enjoyed the novel and I am looking forward to continuing the story. If you are a fan of military fantasy, I would strongly recommend taking a look at this series!
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You can pick up this book up on amazon here
This week’s novel was Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. The last few books that I’ve read have been long, dark, and full of complicated intricate and complicated plots. Pyramids was a much needed and enjoyable palate cleanser. Lighthearted and hilarious, Pratchett takes you on a memorable romp through it’s pages.
As in all of his books, Pyramids is chock full of interesting and ridiculous characters that play off of each other very well. Jokes that at times make you laugh and groan are scattered like mines throughout the pages. In particular I found that the dialogue was particularly sharp in this novel, requiring the reader to pay close attention.
Pyramids takes a very close, and critical look at religion, royalty, and tradition and the lies that must be told to keep them in check. With almost vicious abandon, Pratchett tears them apart, uncovering the folly that lays beneath. As you would expect by the title, the ancient civilization of Egypt is largely the butt of the joke. Mummies, cat worship and the like are all examined and found silly.
In fact, this may be the most silly and absurd of the disc world books that I’ve read, which is saying quite a bit. The intersectionality of time and different dimensions make for a variety of truly ridiculous situations and encounters.
Overall the novel was extremely enjoyable and I sped through it happily. While it was at times quite lighthearted, I was left with quite a lot to think about. What traditions and dogma’s exist in my mind, only because they have always existed? What in our society do we believe in whole heartedly because we have always done so? As always when you look through the microscope you inevitably see some part of yourself. Pyramids was Pratchett at the height of his powers, weaving charming characters with a engaging story, topped off with a generous helping of gags and jokes. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would fully recommend it to anyone who enjoys his work or fantasy at large!
As always you can follow my reading adventures at James Bee