The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul Review

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This week’s novel was The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. I picked up this book at Value Village, solely do to who the author was. Those of you who know that it was a Dirk Gently novel, might have though I chose it to because of the current T.V. series that is based on those novels.

This was not the case. I knew nothing about the story, I didn’t even read the blurb at the back before I starting reading. Thus I didn’t even know it was a mystery. As you might imagine, I spent much of the first few chapters completely confused!

However, despite these impediments, I rather enjoyed the novel. As with his other books, Adam’s writing was hilarious and engaging. The characters had depth and were interesting, and the novel’s pace never slowed, speeding along to it’s conclusion.

To me, the plot seemed a bit muddled, especially when I was fresh from finishing it. There were a number of plots, and subplots which were wrapped up quite suddenly. At just under 250 pages, there was little time to really become immersed in the story.

However, the more I reflect the more I appreciate the subtlety to which Adams brought the story to a close. Rather than bashing the reader over the head with all the details, he trusts that they have the ability to comprehend what has happened. A test I nearly failed.

Overall, the novel is quite short compared to others I’ve read and as it is a mystery novel there is not much more I can say about it. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul was a delightful read. I has inspired to me to give the show a chance, and I would recommend anyone looking for a tight, well written novel to buy it!

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Sharp Ends

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This week’s novel was Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie. Sharp Ends is a collection of short stories that are set in the world of the First Law Trilogy and it’s standalones.

Joe Abercrombie is my personal favourite author and the First Law Trilogy is my favourite all time series. In fact, those books were what originally made me want to start writing fantasy. I harbour a deep love for the trilogy and the standalones, and all the characters that live inside the world.

So if you were looking for an unbiased review you probably came to the wrong place for this one.

Sharp Ends jumps around the well worn world of the First Law books, jumping all around it time. Some stories give the reader alternative viewpoints of events that are shown in the books, while others provide completely new tales.

However, all the stories feel familiar and well fitted in the world that Abercrombie has already established. The characters are particularly memorable, though some are only with the reader for a short time.

My favourite part though was seeing certain characters before we meet them in the original books, most specifically Logan and Glokta. Though there was a smattering of familiar faces, all of which were enjoyable to meet again.

The writing is typical Abercrombie, his masterful use of repetition out in full force throughout. In fact, I would say that some of my favourite of his writing takes place within these stories.

  Overall, I felt that Sharp Ends could be read by someone with no knowledge of past works and they would find it extremely enjoyable. However, this book is likely best enjoyed by readers who have at least some familiarity with the novels that came before. I found that it scratched my First Law itch as well as adding even more depth to the world which Abercrombie has created.   

The Goblin Emperor

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This week’s novel was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This was one of those books that I knew I was going to have to read just by sheer virtue of how often it was recommended to me. People ranted and raved about it’s brilliance, yet on paper it was not something I would typically be interested in. A novel that was nearly all court intrigue with very little physical action. In fact, the story is almost entirely conversation and inner dialogue. So much so that it almost reads like a play.

Yet despite this, I still loved the novel and was sucked in immediately. The Goblin Emperor was an enjoyable read, one that I was sad was over so quickly. In fact, though I generally an happy for a standalone, I am sad that this one has no sequels.

This novel stands on two strengths, character development and world building.   

Firstly, the world building is done very well. Addison cleverly sketches out a world through small hints, without being heavy handed. The world seems lively and complicated, with much more to it than is show in the story. The court in which the novel chiefly takes place is satisfyingly complicated and rewards careful reading. In fact, at times I felt out of my depth with all of the details.

Though, in my opinion, the true standout in this novel takes place in the character development of Maia. Maia is the main character and we spend the whole novel inside of his head, seeing what he sees and struggling along with the complexities of court politics with him. Maia is one of the most relatable and likeable characters I’ve ever read.

His almost excessive desire to be good and fair to all is well tempered by his very considerable weaknesses. Being along for his journey and seeing him grow to meet the almost herculean challenge give him was deeply satisfying. Often in novels the characters grow and change massively by the end of their stories, becoming magnitudes better than they were. Maia’s growth is much smaller but just as if not more meaningful. Every small stride he makes seems all the more worthy of celebration due to the difficulty of achieving it.

Overall, I would fully recommend this novel to just about anyone. Thought at times it is difficult to read, and the sheer volume of character names alone can be overwhelming. Despite this, Addison guides the reader competently and while some details may slip by, the main plot points are impossible to miss. If you enjoy reading deep, complicated fantasy that is heavily character driven, I would recommend adding The Goblin Emperor to your TBR pile!

Men at Arms

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This week’s book was Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. This novel takes place entirely in Ankh-Morpork, the centrepiece of the Discworld and easily one of my favourite fantasy cities. All of the usual characters make appearances, though the story is centred around Sam Vimes and the City Watch.

Men at Arms is largely a murder mystery story, with a myriad of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. The novel is told through a few different plot lines that slowly feed the reader clues as well as keeping them fully engaged. The eventual reveal is as satisfying as you would hope for and as usual my guess was completely wrong.

Before I read this novel, I had already read Night’s Watch, and Feet of Clay. Both of which I really enjoyed, so it was very interesting seeing how the Night’s Watch became the City Watch. Vimes, Carrot and Nobbes and all the rest are some of the most enjoyable characters to read and it was interesting seeing part of their journey, after seeing where they end up.

However, the aspect of this story that stuck out the most to me was in it’s underlying theme of acceptance, and the dangers of bigotry. Pratchett explore and comments on racism, by showing the ridiculousness of a centuries old race war between Dwarves and Trolls. Throw in prejudice against the undead by the novel’s principal characters and you get a story that is surprisingly relevant in todays world. After all, if a troll and a dwarf can put their differences aside and become friends, why can’t all of us do the same?

Overall, Men at Arms was a very enjoyable read, full of the usual Pratchett humour and biting social commentary. The plot was fast paced and engrossing and the all of the characters had enough to do to keep their chapters interesting. Perhaps I wouldn’t recommend this novel as the first Pratchett book to pick up for a first timer, but for anyone familiar with his work it would be a good pickup.

The Lions of Al-Rassan

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The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay is a difficult novel to sum up in a sentence. Set against a world clearly inspired by the history of the Crusades, Kay crafts a tale that is both wide in scope but also painfully personal at times.

Set amidst warring nations and a vast landscape, this novel in my opinion is the story of two men. It is the tale of Bromeo and Dudliet. I will write no more than that, as to not rob a new reader of the experience.

The inevitability of violence and the cycle of life and death are themes that emerge throughout the novel. Before long, the reader begins to despair along with the characters at the hopelessness of it all. Slaughter, mutilation and other vicious and bloody acts all stain the pages of the book. Where another novelist might give a side to cheer for, Kay does not allow this release. All factions are shown to be what they are, made up of good and evil, at times it is impossible to separate the two.

The characters are complex and interesting, and pulled at me easily through the pages. When they were in danger, I felt fear for their wellbeing. Though some were larger than life, there was a palpable vulnerability that was apparent in even the mightiest of them.

As like the characters, the prose was complex and layered. I learned early on not to considered anything written as irrelevant or of little consequence. Kay puts a great deal of trust in the reader, not only to keep up with the names of places and characters, but also to remember small details for later.

On the whole, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a novel that feels much tighter than it has any right to be given it’s length and scope. Every character introduced has a purpose and does not feel wasted. The plot moves along at a pace that seems breakneck at times, dragging the reader along to it’s climax.

I will write little of the ending of this novel as it is best experienced fresh and I am loathe to give anything away. I cannot remember the last time a novel left me feeling so gutted but also so satisfied. Perhaps not since closing the pages of the Death Hallows by J.K. Rowling have I felt such a range of emotions.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of epic, wide reaching fantasy. The Lions of Al-Rassan is a phenomenal novel, well worth your time and money.