Though my thoughts were mixed on the first two books of The First Law trilogy, I feel that "Last Argument of Kings" may very well just be the book to...moreThough my thoughts were mixed on the first two books of The First Law trilogy, I feel that "Last Argument of Kings" may very well just be the book to significantly raise my opinion of the series. Unfortunately, it also has the effect of making the first two in the series appear as all prologue, but the payoffs here are beyond worth it.
In what I can only describe a stunning, shocking, and ruthlessly brutal conclusion, Abercrombie's trilogy ends on the highest note it could have. Twists and turns continue to abound, and the intricate planning of the series becomes more evident as truths and lies are revealed. It's simply marvelous how every story element comes into play within this final 700 page stand - and how monumental each of the major events feel.
This book is just packed full of action, which Abercrombie writes with a brutish style perfectly crafted for his world. Limbs fly and blood flows constantly, nary a chapter going by without some form of violence or ghastly image described on the page.
And then there's the characters, the wanderers and warriors, torturers and the tortured, all finalising their development and continuously evolving throughout the action.
What is most remarkable about "Last Argument of Kings" is just how well it ties the story together - how all those insignificant seeming events become important, how truth and lies blend, how the revelations never seem out of place or tacked on. Rarely do I ever feel that a series ends in such a complete way - character journeys come full circle, deserved and undeserved fates are dealt, both positive and negative. There's a strong sense of resolution, despite Abercrombie also playing a late card that attempts to trivialise the importance of the story in the world. Regardless of how petty the plot appears in the eyes of some characters, it still comes across as a magnificent, devastating event for most of the cast - the loved and the not-so-loved, alike.
Some may find the somber tone of the final chapters overwhelmingly depressing, as favourite characters meet unfortunate fates. There's a distinct late of clearly defined happy endings, but that does not mean it is all doom and gloom. The final act plays out in such a way that you know these characters still have a world to grow into.
There's no neat gift wrap here, and that wouldn't fit the tone of the series at all. And like Abercrombie and his characters keep telling us, when it comes to your expectations... well, you have to be realistic. (less)
Grave Peril is definitely the best of the The Dresden Files that I've read so far, filled with intense action, intriguing plots, and a wry and witty n...moreGrave Peril is definitely the best of the The Dresden Files that I've read so far, filled with intense action, intriguing plots, and a wry and witty narrator that is a pleasure to read. Minor faults in the plotting undermine some of the very strong work at hand, though some of the twists and turns are well worked in. Grave Peril also seems to promise the beginning of a bigger story for Harry Dresden's world, after the first two novels had been relatively self-contained. New characters are all fairly strong, Michael in particular being well-developed, and returning characters are a treat. It's all a damn good, fun time. (less)
Any time I read a novel or short story collection of Kurt Vonnegut's, I know what to expect. First of all, I know that I'm going to enjoy it. I know t...moreAny time I read a novel or short story collection of Kurt Vonnegut's, I know what to expect. First of all, I know that I'm going to enjoy it. I know that there'll be pretty simple prose, I know there'll be tight plotting, I know the protagonist will often feel like a minor character, and I know that there'll be a moralistic ideal in there somewhere.
In that regard, While Mortals Sleep does not disappoint. Despite not being his best effort, this collection of short stories is engaging, filled with fun stories of varying concepts, and true to Vonnegut style from start to finish. Fans of Vonnegut will get exactly what they expect. The weakness of some stories, however, does make this one not his best effort, and not a good place to start - but there are definite gems within. (less)
"The Blade Itself" is the beginning of a trilogy of novels, and boy, are we sure glad it is the start. The problem here is exactly that; the book, as...more"The Blade Itself" is the beginning of a trilogy of novels, and boy, are we sure glad it is the start. The problem here is exactly that; the book, as a whole, is little more than an introduction to the world and its inhabitants. Plot takes a backseat to developing the protagonists as human beings, and the result is a book with frustrating pacing issues, segments that seem to lack any real relevancy, and details that are unnecessary or worthless.
The big positive, on the other hand, is that these characters are crafted well. Very early, the main three protagonists can be easily thrown into a fantasy novel stereotype - the brutish warrior, the crippled torturer, the arrogant soldier - but develop in interesting ways. Though, this also brings a problem, as many of these developments are hinted at or revelations are only made later in the piece. What's left is a mish-mash of solid character design that could use better execution. Regardless, the characters are engaging.
It's just a sad state of affairs to say that the plot is not. The novel reads like a series of B-stories - here is Logen's journey to Angland, here is Jezal's training to become a fencing champion. The main story, or what I assume is the main story, only becomes apparent 75% of the way through the novel, and even then only dominates two or three chapters. Furthermore, the book lacks a climax - though it includes a well-written chase and fight scene, it just doesn't have any gravity or impact as it just suddenly happens.
The world of the First Law trilogy is one that promises greatness, but fails to tell a story that is compelling in any meaningful way. The final product is one that seems to be begging to be enjoyed, and yes, it is definitely enjoyable - it just lacks any of the punches you would assume or come to expect from a fantasy novel. (less)
If anything can be said in favour of this novel, it is that it's one of pure, undiluted imagination. Lewis Carroll's Wonderland is a fascinating place...moreIf anything can be said in favour of this novel, it is that it's one of pure, undiluted imagination. Lewis Carroll's Wonderland is a fascinating place - the kind that can only exist without the fundamental laws of nature. It's a chaotic and nonsensical world, and Alice's journey through it follows a similar path - one that makes no sense, but continues on nevertheless. The whole thing reaches an abrupt climax just as a hint of a coherent narrative begins to develop and leaves the reader underwhelmed at the resolution of the story.
Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is an achievement in imaginative brilliance, but lacks other fundamental elements that would have made it a compelling adventure.
The traditional swashbucklin' adventure feels just that - traditional. It is comparatively boring to later stories of pirates and fabled treasures, bu...moreThe traditional swashbucklin' adventure feels just that - traditional. It is comparatively boring to later stories of pirates and fabled treasures, but the book is not without its charm. A lack of foreboding danger for the leads - as the early narration reveals this is being retold well after the fact - contributes to a failing to captivate and thrill. Instead, the novel relies on its strong writing and somewhat confusing characterisation to tell it's tale. The result is something that is both engaging and isn't, and feels as old as it really is. Worth a read, and classic for a reason, but it can't escape from these few nagging flaws. (less)
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend a couple of hours inside Karl Pilkington's head, this book would be perfect for you. Filled wit...moreIf you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend a couple of hours inside Karl Pilkington's head, this book would be perfect for you. Filled with anecdotes and extracts from Karl's diary, the deadpan humour and sheer oddness of his thoughts, this is an engaging, but short read that shares a fascinating world view that just has to be read to be believed. Just a little bit brilliant, and always hilarious, Karl Pilkington is a man unlike any other. (less)
Whilst Terry Pratchett is clearly a very imaginative and clever writer, this novel has far too many misses, and often scenes are self-defeating in the...moreWhilst Terry Pratchett is clearly a very imaginative and clever writer, this novel has far too many misses, and often scenes are self-defeating in their own absurdity. Characters feel remarkably similar with none standing out, instead it is the bright ideas of the universe itself that are what you'll remember most about this book. The Colour of this Magic is a slight hue of disappointment, with an inkling promise of brighter days ahead. (less)