In summary: It's a masterpiece. It's a wonderful work of complex characters that the reader connects with. It's also a fiendishly intelligent work about the Middle Ages, and, better yet, it's a thrilling read that packs real emotional punch. It's an impressive novel - the sort of book which makes me think, with a tinge of sadness and a dollop of envy, I will never write anything as great and real as this......more
Blackout is the third volume in a trilogy - you need to read the others before this one. I'll just say that this final volume will not let you down. The entire series is superbly entertaining and great fun, even for people who are not fanatical about zombies to begin with. ...more
Agnieszka lives in a slightly alternative historical Poland, in a village between The Dragon's tower and the sinister Wood between Poland and Russia. 'The Dragon' is a title, not a species. He is really a powerful wizard.
Once every ten years, The Dragon picks out a seventeen-year-old girl from one of the surrounding villages. The girl has to stay with him in his tower, unseen for ten years, and she is only released when he picks her replacement.
The Wood, meanwhile, is a forest fuelled by a monstrous will, fighting a long and brutal battle against the people. The Dragon is the bastion that keeps the Wood at bay and protects Poland from its malevolent influence and infectious monstrous creatures.
So starts Uprooted, a novel seeped in archetypal fairy tale aesthetic. The atmosphere of the setting is quite rich while the first person narration is more down to earth. Agnieszka does not tell her stories in melodramatic tones, but in the voice of a girl who is a bit of a tomboy, permanently messy, and perfectly disinterested in her appearance or girlish behaviour.
So far, so good. But Uprooted is not just a setting; it is a story. It's a story of apprenticeship, of magic and of courtly intrigue. Most of all, it is a story of a young woman and a very powerful wizard.
That's where I quickly find myself suspecting that I am not the target audience. The dynamic between The Dragon and Agnieszka is not one I enjoyed reading - in fact, I rather disliked The Dragon even though I suspect the reader isn't supposed to. On the other hand, as soon as Agnieszka was having her own adventures, I was totally engrossed. Fortunately for me, Agnieszka does have plenty of exciting adventures, so there was much for me to enjoy.
I suspect that not all readers will share my dislike of The Dragon. Even those who do will find the world of the story and the adventures delightful. I'd go as far as saying Uprooted is slightly superior to the Temeraire novels I've read so far - and for readers who feel differently about The Dragon, it may be an absolute favourite....more
In summary: Feed grabs you right from the start and keeps you engaged all the way through. The characters are interesting, their adventures get progressively more exciting and by the end it's a tense page-turner that might rob you off sleep and give you bad dreams. All the while, there's some banter and humour and a real buzz. These are young people, excited to make their mark on the world, and the excitement catches. It's fun and thrilling and at times even scary - everything a zombie story should be....more
In summary: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's original, quirky, and heartfelt. It's fastYou can find my full review of The Twyning on my book blog.
In summary: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's original, quirky, and heartfelt. It's fast-paced and a page-turner. I would highly recommend it to everyone (except those with a strong phobia of rats)....more
A Darker Shade of Magic is a book that knows what it wants to achieve: swashbuckling adventure, likably spunky but tough heroes, plenty of energy andA Darker Shade of Magic is a book that knows what it wants to achieve: swashbuckling adventure, likably spunky but tough heroes, plenty of energy and fun. With magic. It doesn't do too badly.
There are four parallel Earths in this book, each just a quick dimension apart. Each has a city called London in the same place on the Thames, but they have different languages, different countries, different histories. The biggest difference, however, is the level and role of magic in each city.
Grey London has almost no magic - and matches our London under Mad King George. Red London is rich in magic, and people live in harmony with the magic. White London is poor in magic, and people strive to steal, control, and dominate the magic as much as they can. Black London is dead: here, people had let themselves be controlled by their magic, and the world had experienced a mysterious apocalypse as a result.
There are only two magicians left who can travel between worlds: Kell, from Red London, and Holland, from White London. They act as messengers between the royal families of the three Londons that are still accessible. Black London has been sealed off to prevent its apocalypse from spreading into the other dimensions.
Kell is our hero, and the story really kicks off when he smuggles an artefact (which is treason) that turns out to be a relic from Black London (which makes it powerful and dangerous). Suddenly, all kinds of nefarious characters and thugs are after Kell. To make things worse, he gets entangled with Lila, a tough teenaged orphan girl from Grey London who wants nothing more than to be a pirate captain and see the world...
A Darker Shade of Magic has all the right ingredients: a good pace, repartee between the good guys, sinister and creepy baddies, adventure and magic... it's great fun to read.
It's not flawless: there are some holes in the plot, and while it is nominally set in (four) London(s), Grey London doesn't quite feel like UK London to me. In terms of plotholes, it's never quite clear what the royal families in the different Londons have to say to each other / why any connection continues to exist, and what magic can and can't do is quite nebulous. It feels a little as if the author hasn't quite worked out the workings of magic in her worlds. Still, these are flaws only some (overly pernickety) readers will mind: I think most readers who like to read the occasional fantasy novel will thoroughly enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic. I certainly did. ...more