Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett Review (No Spoilers)

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Today’s book is Monstrous Regiment By Terry Pratchett. This novel follows the adventure of Polly Perks, a young woman who joins the army to search for her brother. Like many Pratchett novels, this book uses ridiculous situations and just general hilarity to discuss serious issues such as gender equality, religion and nationalism.
The characters are really the star of the story, and the reader quickly falls in love with them. Plunged into an impossible situation, they have to figure their way out, as only they can. This book also introduces Sgt Jackrum, who quickly became one of my favourite Discworld characters. There are also some appearances from well known characters, though they play only a small part.
It’s difficult to talk too much about the characters and plot of the novel without getting into spoiler territory so I won’t linger. I’ll just say that the character grow delightfully and the plot is fast paced and very interesting, full of twists and turns.
What really sticks out to me when I think about this book is the way that Pratchett mercilessly attacks certain topics, as I mentioned previously. Gender differences, the insanity of nationalism and warmongering, as well as religions fervour and fundamentalism. All these topics are attacked by Pratchett, so much so that you can feel the anger below the pages, disguised by comedy. The fundamental question that is asked in the book is this; is it possible for a whole nation to be insane and what would that look like? Despite being over fifteen years old, the novel feels timely, as many of these issues are at the very prevalent today.
Despite the heavy undertones and subject matter, the novel is still a very enjoyable read. Pratchett doesn’t come off preachy, as it would be easy. Perhaps parts of the book are a bit repetitive but that is fine, it only drives home the message further. Overall, I loved this book. The characters were great, the plot was engaging and the conclusion satisfying. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, and Terry Pratchett in general.

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James Reads Jingo By Terry Pratchett (No Spoilers)

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The Pratchett’ing continues this week with Jingo. Jingo is the 21st Discworld novel and the 4th in the City Watch series. Personally, I love the City Watch books. The characters feel like old friends, and the City of Ankh-Morpork is one of my favourite locations in all of fiction, right up there with Hogwarts and the Shire.

This novel really gives the characters of the City Watch room to do their thing.The plot focuses on the reemergence of an atlantean type continent which promptly begins to be fought over by Ankh-Morpork and a rival nation, despite it being a desolate, blasted rock.

This book is surprisingly relevant to current day politics on the global stage. The books title Jingo is a direct reference to Jingoism. Jingoism is defined as “extreme patriotism, especially in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy.” This is clearly something that is growing even more present in our current society.

In this book Pratchett dissects and makes fun of aggressive patriotism, racism and xenophobia. The rival faction Klatch is an obvious analog for the middle east and by facing them against Ankh-Morpork, you get a pretty robust comparison. Thought the novel Pratchett shows the dangers and folly of extreme aggressive patriotism, mainly by highlight the character ignorance and also showing how a like people can be, despite living in wildly different places.

Honestly, it’s a bit eerie and more than a little depressing how spot on this novel is, being that it was written in 1997.

The story itself is classic Discworld fun. Vimes is on a case, hunting for criminal, accompanied by the Night’s Watch. What’s more, they get to go traveling to a distant land, creating some ridiculous and hilarious situations. The plot is engaging and has enough twists and turns to keep you more than engaged. The characters live and grow throughout, learning lessons and passing trials.

Overall, this is a very good book, even by Discworld standards. The combination of delightful, entertaining plot combined with the biting satire create a novel that is as relevant today as when it was published. I would recommend this book to anyone, be they a fantasy fan or not. It contains an important lesson, one that many people need to hear in the times we live in today.

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James Reads: Maskarade by Terry Pratchett (No Spoilers)

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This weeks book is Maskarade By Terry Pratchett. It is the 18th disc world book and the 5th in the Witches series.  In this novel Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg hit the road and travel to the wacky metropolis of Ankh-Morpork!

The easiest way to sum up this book is that it is a buddy travel movie mixed with a parody of phantom of the opera. Theres lots of opera shenanigans and tropes, many of which probably went over my head. The heart of the story is a murder mystery which is fun. In fact many of my favourite Pratchett books are when he does mysteries.

In any mystery the most important aspect if it can keep you guessing until the end. Personally I’m a terrible detective so I never see twists and turns coming.This was no different, I had a dozen different theories until the big reveal happened. Overall it was a very competent murder mystery, lots of good twists and turns.

As far as how it stacks up against the other books in the Witches Series and the Discworld at large, I would say it was one my favourites. I’m a sucker for a tight plot that forces you to pay attention and plays off of your expectations. This novel delivered on all of that. However I would say that to fully enjoy this novel it would be good to read the other Witches books first. I usually don’t say this with Discworld books but in this case I think it would be helpful! Other than that, Maskarade was a delightful read, one that I would recommend to any fan of the Discworld or Terry Pratchett at large!

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Wyrd Sisters Review (Spoiler Free)

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The Terry Pratchett train continues with Wyrd Sisters. January is such a bleh of a month that I guess I just needed to read something lighthearted and easy. Wyrd Sisters fits that description perfectly. It’s the sixth Discworld novel and the second in the Witches series.

I’ve seen many people praise the witches novels as Pratchett’s best. More specifically the character of Granny Weatherwax. If you’d asked me my opinion before reading this book, I would have told you that Death was my favourite character and it would have been an easy choice. Now, I find doubt creeping into my mind. Weatherwax and the other witches are such deep and interesting characters. You can’t help but love them.

Sir Terry is known for using the disc world to satirize fantasy tropes and the world at large and this novel is no different. Here the concept of destiny and the traditional story of the hero coming to save the kingdom from a evil usurper. Essentially Wyrd Sisters is the first Lion King movie if there was three Rafiki’s.

The plot is interesting and moves at a quick pace. The characters face a real challenge that they have to overcome and they do. Everything ties in together well without the ending feeling cheap. The word satisfying comes to mind, and that’s really what this story is. It’s one of the most well crafted Pratchett novels I’ve read.

Really, there isn’t much more to say about it. The characters are great, the plot and setting are vibrant, the satire is sharp enough for any fantasy fan. Essentially, the hype around the Weatherwax books is extremely warranted and so I would have to recommend this novel to any fantasy fan, especially any that love witches, and magic and all that occult goodness.

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Building a Fantasy Franken-Author

There are no perfect authors. No one can be the best at every aspect of writing a novel. For a while I’ve been kicking around the idea of creating the best possible fantasy author, Frankenstein style. My ground rules are no more than four authors. Five seemed to many and three too few. Also each author can only bring one aspect of their game. Without further ado here are my picks.

The Humour of Terry Pratchett: I think this is the least controversial of all of my picks. Terry Pratchett’s books are a goldmine of stellar jokes and gags. His novels are jam-packed them. The ability to write jokes on a page and not have it come off as too corny or out of place is rare, and that’s why Sir Terry gets a place on my list. 

The Characters of Joe Abercrombie: It’s no secret that Joe Abercrombie is my favourite author of all time. He was going to be on this list, no matter what. However that doesn’t mean that his place is undeserved. Abercrombie’s character building is my favourite aspect of his game. He manages to write character that are both larger than life but also believable and relatable. In my opinion, it’s this that makes his stellar First Law Trilogy as good as it is. Due to this, Joe Abercrombie gets the second place on my list.

The Prose of Mark Lawrence: I hear a sound. It’s the cry of thousands of Patrick Rothfuss fans crying out in rage. I get it. He writes good. I just prefer Mark Lawrence. His writing is gritty yet beautiful. Poetic and grounded, prose that pulls you in and holds you tight. This was the hardest category for me to chose but I feel confident in my pick. Lawrence gets the nod due to his strong, consistent prose.

The Worldbuilding of J.K. Rowling: First Rothfuss fans and now the Sanderson army. At first it seemed like Sanderson’s category to win but in the end I had to give it to Rowling. Sanderson’s world-building is almost too deep, so much so that I feel it would dominate the novel. Rowling however, brings an amazing balance of whimsy and magic with well thought out worldbuilding. Some may argue this, say that there are elements that don’t make total sense. *Cough* Time Turners. *Cough* The rules of Quidditch don’t make sense. But to those haters I say phooey. The world of Harry Potter is magical and real all at once. I feel I could do no better than the biggest, most important writer of my childhood and so I choose J.K. Rowling to round out the last spot of my FrankeAuthor.

What do you think? Do you agree? Of course you don’t! What would your picks be? Let me know!

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The Light Fantastic Review (Spoiler Free)

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The Light Fantastic is the second novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. For a while now, I’ve had this novel sitting on my bookshelf, gathering dust. I’ve heard, as many of you probably have, that it doesn’t measure up to the rest of the Discworld. That Sir Terry was still finding his footing and readers should avoid it until they’ve read more.

Having finished the novel I can see where these people are coming from. If I were to measure The Light Fantastic against some of my favourites from the series, it would definitely suffer by comparison. However, I don’t think that should be held against this book. Novels likes Small God’s and Reaper Man are amongst the best and most clever books I’ve read. That this book doesn’t measure up, shouldn’t mean that it should be kept of of your reading list.

I enjoyed this book. There, I said it. You can fight me if you want. I thought the plot was interesting, the character fit together well, and there were enough jokes to keep me grinning like a goof on my lunch breaks at work. Sure it pales in comparison to some of the other Discworld books but I still think it’s a good enough read on it’s own.

There isn’t much more that I have to say about this novel. I agree with many people when they say that it is not where they would recommend people start if they haven’t read any Discworld. There are better books, much better ones really, that would hook a newbie reader into the world of Pratchett. Still, the book doesn’t deserve to be avoided like I did to it. It was a quick, fun read that many would enjoy! So don’t be scared and grab yourself a copy today!

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Guard! Guards! Review (Spoiler Free)

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This weeks book is Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

First book in the City Watch series. Hard to pin down my favourite of the “series” but after the Death books, it might be my favourite. Though just by chance I did something strange. Most of my Discworld books I bought on sale or at a random second hand bookstore. There was no rhyme or reason, I just grabbed what I could get my hands on.

Due to this, I managed to read all the City Watch books in reverse order. I grew to know and love Vimes, Carrot and the rest for what they became. I hardly knew what they had started as. Maybe my favourite part of the book was the first half, when the Night’s Watch was nothing but a joke, a dilapidated, shadow if it’s former self. Knowing what it becomes only made this more interesting.

Seeing Vimes at his lowest point was particularly fascinating. Throughout the other books, Vimes is a force to be reckoned with. A rock. Yet at the start of this novel his is none of these things. He’s actually pretty pathetic. In later books you hear about his alcoholism and what it did to him, but reading about it really drives home how far his character developed

Another great thing about this novel is that it’s Pratchett’s take on dragons. It was inevitable, he had to write them into a book and he takes apart the trope wonderfully. He skewers the age old story of the hero that defeats the dragon and becomes King. The City Watch book are always full of critiques of human behaviour and this one is no different.

Overall, I really liked this novel. I can’t say it’s my favourite, but it was very good. It gave birth to some of the best characters in the Discworld and was an engaging read in it’s own right. Some of the jokes and gags felt a bit repetitive but there were enough hilarious ones to make up for it. As for recommendations, I would say that anyone who likes fantasy, especially comic fantasy should pick up this book. If you’ve never read any Pratchett, then this would be a great place to start!

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My 3 Favourite Books of 2017

 

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One of my resolutions this year is to blog a lot more, so I decided to start the year off with a quick rundown of my 3 fav books of the year.

1.Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: If I had to categorize this year with something, it would be the year that I really discovered Terry Pratchett. Having heard about him for so long, I finally decided to dive into his intimidating bibliography. I actually read Good Omens twice this year, I loved it so much. It’s funny, comforting, and thought provoking. I fell in love from the first chapter and stayed that way throughout the whole story. It’s one of those books that I know I’m going to read over and over again, catching new jokes and little tidbits with each re-read.

2.   Small Gods by Terry Pratchett: Following the Pratchett theme is Small Gods. My personal favourite of the Discworld books. Simply put, I think that this books is brilliant. The satire is razor sharp but still hilarious. The whole books hums along, pulling you with it. It’s Sir Terry at the top of his game and this book became my go to for getting people into the Discworld.

3.  The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence: Sometimes an author comes along and you just know that your going to love their work, whatever it is. Mark Lawrence was one of those writers for me. The Broken Empire Trilogy is one of my favourite fantasy series of all time. I love gritty, dark, fantasy with horror elements. I will repeat, Mark Lawrence is my kind of a writer. The Red Queens War series was no different. I fell in love with Snorri and Jalan and voraciously read their books. (Don’t ask me why it took till 2017 to finish the series.) The Wheel of Osheim did what many series fail to do, finish well. I loved the whole series and I loved this last book.

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Good Omens Review (Spoiler Free)

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With my first novel coming out and the struggle to get the next one ready, my blog writing has taken a hit. However, I’m coming back strong with one of my favourite books, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. For those of you who don’t know this novel was a collaboration between the two authors when they were still in the earlyish days of their careers. Theres an adaptation coming so i figured i better get at it.

My love of Terry Pratchett is well documented, I looked at my Goodreads list for this year and half of it is Pratchett. I’m more lukewarm of Gaiman, some of his books I really like and others don’t grab me as hard.

This novel however, is a masterpiece. That’s really the only way that I can describe it. It’s hilarious, both in the prose and in the plot. The characters are good and there is enough interesting concepts and plot points to keep you interested throughout. Overall it’s just an extremely pleasant and comforting book. It’s like the novel version of chicken noodle soup, for me at least.

However, it’s also extremely thought provoking, with some pretty cool thoughts on humanity and the difference between good and evil. Religion, mainly christianity is skewered and spoofed to within an inch of it’s life. Pratchett and Gaiman bring both of their skills and they created something special.

It’s just one of those books that you know that you’ll always love and is easy to recommend to others, no matter their taste in books. Honestly, I like it so much that I don’t want to write that much about it here. I want people to go into it blind, so they can enjoy it like I did. I cannot recommend this novel enough, so if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and go out and grab a copy! Do it now!

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Interesting Times Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s novel is Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times. Lately, I’ve been on a run of books that I didn’t particularly enjoy, so I went back to the Pratchett section on my to be read shelf. Interesting Times was great. Theres not much else I can say about it than that. That could be my whole critique and it would pretty much sum up my feelings.

The plot was engaging and easier to follow than some other disc world ones have been in the past. Pratchett tends to be ruthless in his parodying of cultures and civilizations and this book is no different. It takes place on the counterweight continent, the disc world analog for Asia. It’s full of funny little critiques and commentaries on their past ways of life.Throw the worst wizard on the and a band of the oldest barbarians on the disc world there and you have yourself a good time.

The jokes were plentiful and funny. The story zipped along quite quickly. There were also many moments to genuine emotion, that made me feel feels that I wasn’t ready for.

Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about this book that I haven’t already said in previous disc world novels. Interesting times is a very fine example of what makes people love Terry Pratchett’s work. This book is very much a standalone, though it does have call-backs to previous works. In fact, it would be a great introduction to someone looking to get into Pratchett.