This is another of those books that is most commonly shelved as romance, but is actually a fantasy with some elements of romance in the story. I had t...moreThis is another of those books that is most commonly shelved as romance, but is actually a fantasy with some elements of romance in the story. I had this wrongly shelved as paranormal romance, which I guess I had picked up from other peoples labels and reviews. But as soon as I read the blurb in the shop, it was clear what it was actually about. which just shows you, don't judge a book by it's cover.
Yelena is a prisoner about to be executed for murder. But the Commander needs a new poison taster, and the law is that the job must be offered to one that is about to be killed. And so Valek, the Commanders adviser and spy-master, offers Yelena the position, and she accepts. Valek begins her training by feeding her the poison 'Butterfly Dust', for which she must then recieve an andidote every morning for the rest of her life. Thus securing her loyalty. Yelena's job puts her right in the middle of all the political intrigue, And if Yelena's job weren't dangerous enough, she begins to discover she may have magic abilities, in a country where magic is outlawed and punishable by death. All the while being haunted by traumatic memories of the past.
I thought the setting was very unusual for a fantasy novel, Ixia is a country that has recently been overtaken by a military regime. Each area of Ixia is ruled by a general, and all citizens wear uniforms and must carry paperwork. It's a tiny bit orwellian, But this is all still in a fantasy setting, which is a strange, but interesting new twist for the genre.
I'm fairly sure the book was supposed to be Young-Adult, but after reading it I'm not actually sure what age range I would recommend it for. Parts of the plot were a little easy reading to me, something that I could happily have read when I was 10-12 and in my 'point fantasy' stage. But then some parts, particularly the flash back scenes, would require much more emotional maturity.
The one mistake that I think the author made, was using certain items from real life in her fantasy setting. It wouldn't really have mattered, except one particular item was pivotal to the plot, and was supposed to be a mystery to the protagonist, but since it was taken directly from real life, and not invented for the fantasy setting.. it was no mystery to me as a reader, which was a bit of a let down.
Despite that one problem, and despite it being a young adult novel (which I don't often read), I think I'm definately going to continue to read the rest of the trilogy. Good thing too, since I already bought all 3 books together.
In the seven kingdoms, a rare few people are born with a 'Grace'. A random special ability, that can be skill in combat, a magical touch with cooking,...moreIn the seven kingdoms, a rare few people are born with a 'Grace'. A random special ability, that can be skill in combat, a magical touch with cooking, mind-reading, etc. It's always easy to tell who is Graced, as from a young age when the grace sets in, that person always have two different coloured eyes.
Katsa is a young woman who is graced with killing. She's feared by many, and her ability is exploited by her uncle, the King of Middlun, who uses her to do all his dirty work. Katsa has a few close friends, the spy master Oll, a young lordling Giddon, and her cousin prince Raffin. Together they created the council of kingdoms; a secret vigilante group that go righting wrongs in the seven kingdoms.
We meet Katsa on her latest mission for the council, rescuing the kidnapped princ Tealiff, father to the current king of Lienid. During her rescue of Tealiff, Katsa crosses paths with Prince Po, his grandson, who is also Graced with fighting skill. At first they don't get along, but soon they have to work together to discover the real reason behind the kidnapping.
I was pleasantly suprised by this book, I wasn't expected to like it as much as I did. I'm not always keen on Young Adult novels, although I'm giving them more of a go these days. But this has to be one of the more passable YA I've read. At first the names are a great offput (I mean really? Prince Po?! - Thats the german word for 'bum' by the way - What was the author thinking?!), and the strong invincible super-powered, yet exploited and opressed young lady who yearns to be independent and never marry.. well that threatened to be a bit cliche, but the character was actually quite likeable in the end. I still think she had too much power, but at least she had weaknesses that the author wasn't afraid to show, and she wasn't entirely self-centred and shallow like some YA heroines.
She did have a little too much opression forced on her for realism tho. The way I see it, the Uncle should have been Either exploiting her for her abilities, OR trying to marry her off, but not both. Surely he loses control over her if she's married? Pick one method of opression for the heroin, but not both please. Other than that and the names, I have few real complaints.
At least one of the bad-guys was an interesting character, well, we didn't see a lot of his personality and motivations, he was clearly a bad guy, but his abilities were certainly interesting. It could have been more interesting to see him have more page time though, I would have liked to have known what his motivations were and whether he really thought he was doing wrong or not, but then, it might have got moe creepy and non YA suitable if the creepy bad guy were actually allowed to do and say more, hah.
I wished also that some of the other character had been padded out a bit more, Raffin and Giddon particularly, I didn't feel that they had enough personality separate from their interactions with Katsa. But I can't complain too much, then it wouldn't have been such a quick and easy read.
I wouldn't highly recommend it, but if you particularly like YA fantasy, then it's actually not bad.(less)
Lore is half human, seminus demon, brother to Eidolon Shade and Wraith. He is also an assassin, enslaved to pretty...moreThe 4th book in the Demonica series.
Lore is half human, seminus demon, brother to Eidolon Shade and Wraith. He is also an assassin, enslaved to pretty nasty Demon. Lore has only one more kill to earn his freedom, and his newest assignment is Kyrian. But Kyrian is a sentinel, a close friend of his newly found brothers, and is a primori - a human being important enough to be guarded by an angel. If Lore doesn't complete the kill, his sister Sin is going to be killed.
Idess is an angel, a memitim, a class of angels that have to act as guardian angels to the primori, sometimes for hundreds of years before they can earn their wings and ascend to become true angels. Idess's current charge is Kyrian. But when Lore makes his first attempt on Kyrian, Idess gains another Primori to protect - Lore.
Now Idess has a big problem, how to protect two Primori, one of whom is attempting to kill the other. Her first solution is to chain Lore up in her bedroom... which is a risky thing to do with a seminus demon.
Considering how cheesy that last bit sounded as I wrote it.. it sounded more cheesy on the blurb of the book, and yet it really turned out well. This is because Larissa Ione is such a great writer. Because yes it's about sexual tension, but she also builds her characters enough for it to be more than that..
Lore especially was a very interesting and complex character with hidden depths. Longing for a relationship with his brothers, but desperate to save his sister.. he feels so much guilt about her childhood without him, and has a constant need to protect her, despite her independence. And as he becomes more involved with Idess, things become so complicated for him.
Reading this novel after a few really cheesy ones in the same genre, really made it clear to me what a good romance novel is about. And if it's not well written, or if it's too cliche it's just going to be boring. But this one was a clear 5 stars, and I'm glad I came back to the series. Can't wait to pick up the next one on Lore's sister Sin.
Just the other day, I discovered an astonishing fact: Scott Lynch keeps a Live Journal.
This is just not possible.
Scott Lynch is not a mere mortal li...moreJust the other day, I discovered an astonishing fact: Scott Lynch keeps a Live Journal.
This is just not possible.
Scott Lynch is not a mere mortal like you and I. He should not keep a blog. He should not be seen at conventions. He should not have relationships with other writers. He should not live anywhere mundane and earthly like Winsconsin.
Scott Lynch is not a man, he's a legend. His books are not written by mortal hands. They are written with unicorn hair quils, inked with dragons blood, suffused with the breath of elves, carried to us by the hands of angels, who float on sunbeams drifting across the universe to us from far distant galaxies.
Thats why they take so bloody long to arrive.
The plot: The city of Camorr is a fantasy city reminiscent of a mediaeval venice. Composed of several islands and networked with canals; from the filthy squalor of the slums to the shining spires of elderglass. Street thieves, pickpockets, gangs, merchants, priests, alchemists and nobles all packed into one interesting city. Locke Lamora and his group of gentlemen bastards began as thieves, but were taught to be something better and brighter. Now they spend their time conning noblemen out of their riches, and conning Capa Barsavi into thinking they're still just honest street thieves. Locke and gang are in the middle of their biggest, most elaborate con job yet, when the elusive Grey King decides to use them in his own nefarious games.
Thoughts: Locke is one of the best anti-heroes I've read. He has a wit to rival that of Tyrion Lannister. And his ability to plan so intricately and meticulously, with every contingency prepared for, and with twists upon twists, is just awe-inspiringly beautiful. The lure of the character is that even the omniscient reader doesn't know what Locke ultimately has planned until it all unfolds, and he does it with such a hillarious sarcastic wit too. But don't worry, Locke is saved from the terrible fate of becoming a Gary Stu, by being remarkably not at all tall or handsome or strong. And by the fact then when he does get foiled in his plans, things have a tendency to go horribly messily wrong.
The story is told in a really interesting manner, as an alternating series of flashback episodes (Locke's childhood learning his trade as a con-artist) and 'present day' episodes (The gentlemen bastards current con job). At first I was inclined to be a bit frustrated by this, as each part ended just as it was getting really interesting and flicked to the alternate time. But the brilliance of this soon becomes clear because each flashback links directly to the next 'current day' episode, for example, showing how locke learnt a particular trick of the trade that will shortly be useful in the present con-job.
The Lies of Locke Lamora also contains one of my absolute favourite fantasy tropes; that of the ancient but long-lost, highly advanced civilisation which has left behind some mark upon the world, but on which very little is known. In the world of Gentlemen Bastards there are structures made of elderglass, a magical, beautiful and super-strong glass; including impossible tall towers. The citizens happily make use of elderglass, and some claim to understand the properties, but yet no one knows how it is made and who made it. Did I mention I love this device in fantasy novels? As if Locke's fantastic personality were not already enough to keep me reading, the mystery of the elderglass and it's alien origins is sure to keep me begging for sequels.
In summary: I loved, loved, loved this novel. It was just all shades of fantastic. Highly recommended to any fantasy lover.
This particular cover had on it a shining recommendation from George R.R. Martin himself, so that should tell you particularly how good it is. Because everyone knows that GRRM's books come from another Galaxy too. If you're a fan of Tyrion Lannister - you're probably going to like Locke Lamora too! (less)
Jhereg is a fantasy with a sort of reverse murder-mystery twist; where the protagonist's dilemma is not 'Whodunnit?' but 'How do I do it?'.
Vlad Talto...moreJhereg is a fantasy with a sort of reverse murder-mystery twist; where the protagonist's dilemma is not 'Whodunnit?' but 'How do I do it?'.
Vlad Taltos is a skilled assassin, but his latest target is a little tricky to tackle and a little hard to find. But luckily Vlad has a small cadre of friends of varied talents to call upon, including his assassin wife, and his psychically bonded pet jhereg (a sort of miniature dragon).
Vlad is also living proof that not all assassin characters have to be darkly brooding, friendless loners. And the banter with his pet jhereg shows how lighthearted a character he can be. Not that he doesn't ever have questions about what he does, but the overall tone is quite light. I suppose in a world where death is not generally a permanent state, this certainly makes some sense. Most assassinations, (if not done with a morganti weapon) can be easily remedied by a sorceror, and the assassination serves more as a threat or a public humiliation than anything else.
Brust has built an interesting world for his series. The incredibly long-lived race of dragaerans, with their occasionally pointed ears, and love of sorcery are reminiscent slightly of elves. But their infighting and their tendency to be not always good guys certainly makes them different. Normal humans do live quite comfortably in this tumultous empire, but are often looked down upon by the 'superior' dragaerans. Vlad himself is a human, but has set himself up quite well, and made some good allies. One major reason why I'm likely to read more of this series is to find out just how Vlad is such an ally of questionable dragaerans like the character Morollan. Hopefully later books in the series will explore Vlad's past in greater detail.
In summation, this is a lighthearted yet detailed fantasy romp, with some good worldbuilding and a troop of interesting characters. If a little tiny bit deus ex machina in places. Recommended to fantasy lovers, especially if you like antihero types.(less)