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
Not bad. Not quite as engrossing as Nathaniel Philbrick's The Heart of the Sea, but very interesting to read nonetheless. Don't recall Napoleon beingNot bad. Not quite as engrossing as Nathaniel Philbrick's The Heart of the Sea, but very interesting to read nonetheless. Don't recall Napoleon being quite so weaselly in the history I was taught in school, but I guess the Anglophone world has quite a different perspective on him. Shame the book outlined everything in the prologue. I think it could have been more gripping had it retained a bit more mystery.
I'll probably write a proper review later. If you like popp history near-novelisations, this is a worthwhile one to read....more
In summary: The high-concept story mulls big questions around (artificial) intelligence, humanity, and identity / souls, while depicting a society that's sliding towards collapse. It does so while retaining a sense of surreal whimsy and some humour, which makes it a very accessible read. If you've never read any Adam Roberts novels, I think Bête might be the best one to start with, because it lightens the load of its thoughts with a wry sense of bemusement. ...more
Jolly good, frivolous fun. A guilty pleasure, really. Marred slightly by the huge number of named characters (mostly, Red Shirts, many of whom barelyJolly good, frivolous fun. A guilty pleasure, really. Marred slightly by the huge number of named characters (mostly, Red Shirts, many of whom barely get a name before coming to a bad end, or, in one case, get named after meeting their end), which makes it a little confusing. I liked it enough to buy the rest of the series, but sneakily hope that things will get a little less... scattershot... as it continues. In particular, the way time passes between missions (and the composition of the historian team) is quite bewildering and unsteady.
If you like cheerful tales of adventure, magic and librarians, this is the book for you! Big adventures, clever detectives, magic, fey folk, cyborgs, dragons, zeppelins, secrets, conspiracies... rollicking good fun!...more
In summary: it's a rare treat, to see Star Trek do a comedy of errors / farcical opera, and the sense of whimsy is delightful. Unfortunately, it lacks glue holding the different adventures together. It could make a wonderful play / film, but as a book, it's a little too disjointed. Still, well worth reading if you like whimsy and farce and light-hearted humour and Star Trek....more
This was the first Terry Pratchett book I ever read. I read it in German, and after that, I tried one of his books in English, and then I became an adThis was the first Terry Pratchett book I ever read. I read it in German, and after that, I tried one of his books in English, and then I became an addict.
Reading it now (16 years, or half my life so far, later), in English, I am surprised at the fact that it's not actually as amazing as I thought it would be.
There are some things I still love about it. And I really like that even Granny Weatherwax is a bit younger at heart than she is in later books - blushing, and twirling, at some points - but on the whole, it was just fairly pleasant book, rather than a great one.
I love Greebo in this - it's probably his most memorable appearance. And I like the fairy tales, the travelling, the voodoo, and the way the stories end... but somehow, the elements don't quite blend together as well as I thought. The witches travel through Discworld France, Spain and Italy, but these fairly simple adaptations of Earth cultures don't quite fit with the universalness of folk tales, and the Caribbean voodoo doesn't quite gel with the pseudo-Italian setting. If the book (gently) mocks its protagonists for their island mentality, it doesn't quite fit that all "foreign" cultures are blended and superimposed quite so randomly.
It's still a lighthearted, broadly uplifting read (although the wolf and the execution are as haunting now as they were when I was 16), and I am eternally thankful for the fact that this book made me a Pratchett fan, but, with the benefit of hindsight, it is definitely not one of his best....more
Then, I re-read the book and Goodreads disappeared my review on GR (apparently, Goodreads does not understand the concept of re-reading!)
I loved this book on the second read, too.
It's a book that makes me feel a bit funny. It's as if someone set out to write the perfect romance novel just for me: the female protagonist has a personality very similar to that of someone I've been painfully in unrequited love with for many years. The male protagonist has a personality and hang-ups that I strongly identify with. The book shows them becoming very slowly closer to each other (and I, too, am very slow at investing emotions, so that, too resonates, big time). It is a very bittersweet read for me, as it makes me all emotional and shows me a happy ending that sadly does not match my own experience. Oh, and there's a grand tour of different cultures and adventures and travelling and science fiction and the book is intelligent and funny. So yeah. If anyone wants to know what I'd perceive as the perfect romantic novel which makes me feel all mushy and more than a little sad inside, this is it....more
In summary: if I had to think of any other novel matching this one for its mixture of warmth, humour, and issue-tackling, it's To Kill a Mockingbird that springs to mind. Jasmine Nights is that rare thing – a novel on a par with To Kill a Mockingbird, with the added benefit of being set in a place and culture somewhat less familiar to Western readers. Very enjoyable, very funny, very smart, and with a warmth about it that makes it a joyful read. ...more