'Chasing Odysseus' is essentially a retelling of Homer's 'Odyssey' from a new perspective. The protagonists of the story are a young girl called Hero'Chasing Odysseus' is essentially a retelling of Homer's 'Odyssey' from a new perspective. The protagonists of the story are a young girl called Hero and her three brothers, raised by the herdsman Agelau .When their kinsmen are falsely accused of betraying the city to the Greeks, Hero and her brothers set out to reveal the truth of the matter. In order to do so they must seek out Odysseus and find a way to make him admit the herdsmen's innocence. This task turns out to be easier said than done and has them chasing the Ithacan king literally to Hades and back, with many adventures in between.
Despite having read 'The Odyssey' and having often been disappointed in modern authors attempts to rework old classics I found this book extremely refreshing and addictive. Although I had some idea of the lands or events that were likely to appear in the next chapters I was nearly always surprised and often delighted at the twists Gentill added to the tale. The character of Odysseus, and his actions throughout the story paint the Ithacan king in a decidedly less favourable, but possibly more believable light, than the mighty hero depicted in 'The Odyssey'. On the other hand, Hero and her brothers Machaon, Cadmus and Lycon are very human and endearing characters and it is easy to sympathise with their plight.
There are also some genuinely witty and humorous parts in the books (some great one liners) where I found myself actually laughing out loud. By necessity the book touches upon some more serious content such as the bloodshed and gritty realities of war. For instance, she doesn't try to gloss over the treatment of women taken as prisoners and we are fully aware that the reason Hero's brothers are worried about her being captured by the Greeks is not because they fear they will teach her unladylike turns of phrase. Gentill somehow manages this without becoming explicit or alternatively insulting the readers intelligence.
Overall I found this book to be a extremely enjoyable read and will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the trilogy. I would recommend it to anyone whether they have read 'The Odyssey or not. ...more
The Mistborn trilogy has to be one of the best series I have read in a long time and one of my all-time favourites. I enjoy its unique world and systeThe Mistborn trilogy has to be one of the best series I have read in a long time and one of my all-time favourites. I enjoy its unique world and systems of magic as well as the intricate plot and well developed characters. Working at a bookstore I constantly and wholeheartedly recommend it to customers. I intend to attempt to write a longer in-depth review of each of the books at some stage, but to be honest I'm a little daunted by the task. Overall, a masterpiece. ...more
This review contains minor spoilers for The Nameless Day.
The Wounded Hawk is the second installment in Sara DouAlso published under The Ranting Dragon
This review contains minor spoilers for The Nameless Day.
The Wounded Hawk is the second installment in Sara Douglass’s epic historical fantasy trilogy, The Crucible. The winner of Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2001, this impressive novel is much more than just a placefiller leading up to the trilogy conclusion, The Crippled Angel.
Many of the major plot developments in the series take place here, as well as substantial world building and further characterisation of each of the many participants in the dangerous game playing out between various factions both earthly and celestial. This is where the series really comes into its own as Douglass takes her readers on a gripping journey, dazzling in its scope and encompassing countless unexpected twists and turns.
The Wounded Hawk begins a few months after the events of The Nameless Day, with Thomas Neville having narrowly escaped serious reprimand for casting aside his vows to the church, and continuing his search for the mysterious casket that holds the key to wiping the demons off the face of the earth. Although he now shelters under the protection of his childhood friend Hal (Henry) of Bolingbroke, and his powerful father John of Gaunt, Neville has many enemies both known and unknown to him. Some seek to prevent the success of his quest while others act upon their own, more personal vendettas. Furthermore, the war between England and France continues, while beneath society’s surface stirs civil unrest, sowing the seeds of rebellion amongst noblemen and peasants alike.
Superb writing Once again Douglass showcases her remarkable talents for genre blending and combining multiple narratives while maintaining pace and keeping the reader interested. Innumerable subplots simultaneously unfold in various locations throughout Europe, yet all interweave and their various repercussions significantly impact the story as a whole. Her prose flows effortlessly and contains just the right amount of description to absorb the reader in the sights and sounds of this alternate fourteenth century without becoming tedious or excessive.
Dynamic characterisation Throughout The Wounded Hawk, Douglass does an excellent job of developing and offering further insight into the characters we met in the previous novel while introducing many more into the fray. Our perceptions of certain characters are challenged as they reveal further motives and ambitions and develop in response to the events that unfold around them. A cold-hearted political player may reveal a softer, more human side, while a previously irreproachable character may act ruthlessly when their interests are threatened. Even the most despicable characters are, more often than not, a product of their environment and just as prone to manipulation by their peers.
Alliances can change in a heartbeat and almost no one is really who they seem. Neville, the protagonist who so irked readers in the first book, begins to show some redeeming qualities as he is torn between what he has always believed is right and what is now revealed to him.
Heightened action The Wounded Hawk outdoes its predecessor tenfold when it comes to action and pacing. What’s more, it does this without neglecting other elements such as world building and charater development. Various schemes and promises, the foundations of which were laid in The Nameless Day, finally come into fruition in The Wounded Hawk. Battles are waged throughout England and France alike, countless plots unfold, and civil dissatisfaction within the English peasantry reaches breaking point. Do not make the mistake, however, of assuming that this novel only builds upon previously constructed narratives. Many exciting new developments are introduced to be resolved either within this novel or in the trilogy’s epic conclusion.
Gritty and confronting The Crucible trilogy, in essence, is an extremely bold and gritty work of fantasy that doesn’t balk at the thought of gore or attempt to shirk possible controversy. The Wounded Hawk does contain a number of particularly confronting scenes and depictions of graphic violence, some of which are sexual in nature. Those who are averse to such content may want to give this one a miss. For those who are not deterred, most of these scenes are not merely gratuitous, but serve a purpose within the greater context of the story and aim to provoke thought in the reader. For instance an elaborate and rather shocking deception takes place in the course of the story that, while serving its distinct purpose, causes substantial hurt to various individuals. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but do the ends really justify the means in this case? Or could a better way to the same goal have been found? One should also be aware that Douglass presents a unique reimagining of Christian mythos throughout the series that may be considered sacreligious or offensive to some readers. While some religious icons are portrayed in a sympathetic, though unconventional, light, many others come across far more negatively.
Why should you read this book? This brilliant and daring example of character driven historical fantasy more than fulfills the promises of the previous book. It is an engrossing, well-plotted, and thought provoking novel with an interesting premise that is relatively unique in the fantasy genre. Even if you were unsure about The Nameless Day, The Wounded Hawk is definitely worth a look and has previously converted many critics of the series. If you have enjoyed The Crucible trilogy so far, I would strongly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of this as soon as possible. It may also be wise to grab a copy of the third installment, The Crippled Angel, while you’re at it, as once you start reading you may find yourself not wanting to stop or endure a tortourously suspenseful wait to find out what happens next....more
Wolfsangel is the debut fantasy novel from M. D. Lachlan, a pen name for author Mark Barrowcliffe. Lachlan’s first foray into the realm of epic fantasy is a dark and enthralling alternative history involving Norse gods, sinister magic and a unique take on the werewolf mythos.
Wolfsangel begins with Viking King Arthun leading a raid against an Anglo-Saxon settlement. However, he and his men seek much stranger plunder than mere slaves or riches. Arthun acts to fulfill a prophecy of the child witch queen, Gullveig, who assures him that in doing so he will find not only the son and heir he so desperately requires, but one that will inevitably lead his people to glory. However, things do not go entirely as planned as Arthun finds not one child but twin boys, and has no way of knowing to which the prophecy refers. Furthermore, the witches have their own reasons for aiding the king, reasons that involve an eternal battle between gods, the monstrous Fenris wolf, and the death of the god Odin at Ragnarok. Thus begins a bloodthirsty conflict that will carry through the ages and sweep up many lives in its wake.
Vikings and mad gods Overall, Wolfsangel is a tale of human rebellion against a callous and bloodthirsty god. Lachlan’s unique take on the Nordic pantheon was particularly fascinating and stirred in me a new-found desire to learn as much as possible about the fascinating gods and monsters that feature throughout the narrative. I also enjoyed the fact that the novel focused on a mythology that remains relatively unexplored throughout fantasy fiction, especially compared to that of some other cultures and religions (such as ancient Greek, Roman or Christian). Likewise, in much historical fiction, Vikings only appear as the bad guys, so it was a refreshing change to see a story written from their perspective.
A fascinating hybrid of history, horror and myth One of Wolfsangel‘s greatest assets is Lachlan’s ability to seamlessly blend elements of history, mythology, fantasy and horror alongside a truly human story of love, jealousy and struggle against destiny. From all accounts, Lachlan pays close attention to historical detail and adds his own spin on Norse mythology instead of engaging in mere ‘lazy borrowing’ or resorting to cliché. The horror elements of the story are also masterfully done and genuinely disturbing. In addition, I have to give Lachlan credit for creating both witches and werewolves that feel original and are capable of unnerving the reader despite the fact that the horror impact of these fantasy staples has been diluted through many different incarnations in modern literature. The novel is also very well written and Lachlan excels in creating atmosphere, whether he’s describing the eerie and claustrophobic caves of the witches, the warm hearths of a cottage, or the wild lonely places. The prose is darkly poetic and flowing, though never overly wordy or distracting, thus allowing the reader to become fully immersed in the story and invested in the characters and the events that take place.
Disturbing yet intriguing magic The bizarre and sinister magic system depicted throughout Wolfsangel is one of the most interesting and unique aspects of Lachlan’s worldbuilding. In order to obtain prophecy or perform magic one must bring themselves to the very precipice of death or madness. Only then may one walk the realms of gods and monsters. This erosion of sanity is usually achieved through pain and deprivation, and thus the witches frequently engage in various forms of self-torture. The gods, Odin in particular, also require devotion through pain and sacrifice. An exception is Loki the trickster: often an enemy to the gods but an occasional friend to mankind. Overall, I found this element of the novel particularly well-realized. Although such magic features heavily in the novel and is integral to the plot, its specifics are revealed slowly enough to maintain an air of mystery and allow new developments to still shock the reader.
Characters that come snarling to life All in all, Lachlan’s characters are well developed and believable. The protagonists are believable and human while the antagonists are crafty and threatening. Our main viewpoint characters are Vali, an intelligent young prince who prefers the company of women to warriors and stories to warfare; Adisla, a strong-willed farmers daughter; and Feileg, a young man raised among wolves and wolfmen. Many characters, Vali and Feileg in particular, display varying degrees of moral ambiguity throughout the book. Although you may not always agree with their actions or their decisions, they manage to remain relatable and their motives are understandable within the context of the story. This attention to detail also extends to the minor characters throughout the novel, who also display quite distinctive personalities and never feel like empty plot devices. Another highlight came in the form of some particularly strong characters, both male and female, who do what they can to make their own destiny within the restrictions of their society and against overwhelming odds.
A brutal and surprising tale Wolfsangel is a bold, gritty and thrilling work of fantasy with enough action to satisfy even those possessing shorter-than-average attention spans. It also has an admirable propensity to surprise the reader. Just as you begin to think you can see where the plot is heading, some new revelation will emerge, sink its teeth in your expectations and tear them to shreds. The events depicted throughout the novel are frequently violent and often quite gory, yet they make sense within the story and never seem to be included purely for shock value. Nevertheless, there are some particularly gruesome scenes that may not still well with more sensitive readers. Characters are also put into situations where they must make some exceedingly tough decisions. For instance, would you kill a loved one to spare them torment at the hands of raiders? Can you betray a kinsman if the occasion calls? Overall, I found these brutal elements provided contrast to the more tender moments, making them feel more poignant and helped define the characters and their relationships.
Lachlan contains a fast paced and complex story in relatively few pages so the reader must be sure to keep their wits about them if they are to keep pace with the narrative and experience this novel to its fullest. Consequently, although Wolfsangel is perfect for those who prefer their fantasy intricate, gritty and thought-provoking, I would not recommend it for light reading. Personally, I really enjoyed the ending of the novel; nonetheless, some readers may be slightly annoyed by the cliffhanger. Despite the fact that some conflict was left unresolved, I thought that this suited the overall story perfectly and set up some interesting issues for further exploration in the following books.
Why should you read this book? All in all, Wolfsangel is a brilliant and fascinating novel that I would recommend to all fans of dark, epic or historical fantasy or those with any interest in Norse mythology. It represents a refreshing departure from more usual epic fantasy fare and breathes new life into some old fantasy staples. Lachlan’s excellent fantasy debut begins what promises to be an extremely unique and worthwhile series, and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on the next book. ...more
Prince of Thorns is the spectacular debut novel of talented new British author, Mark Lawrence. The first installment in the Broken Empire trilogy, it promises to be one of the most exciting releases of 2011. Dark, captivating, relentless and haunting, this brilliant epic fantasy more than delivers in all regards.
Imagine the earth as a desolate wasteland. The dead rest uneasily and hundreds of claimants battle for various thrones across the Broken Empire. Now you’re getting close to the world portrayed in Prince of Thorns. The story revolves around Jorg Ancrath, the warped 14-year-old heir to the kingdom of Ancrath. When he was just ten he was forced to watch, held fast in a hook briar, as his beloved mother and younger brother were brutally murdered at the behest of a rival lord. When his father, the king, chose political gain over retribution, the injustice drove Jorg to abandon his place and pursue vengeance as an outlaw. Since that fateful day something inside Jorg has been broken. He watches and perpetrates acts of violence with cold indifference and lives by a simple philosophy, “Care about no one and you have no weaknesses.” Surrounded by his deadly band of Brothers, survival is merely a game to the young Prince, and one he intends to win by any means necessary.
Fast paced, exhilarating and absorbing Lawrence’s fast paced and relentless narrative wastes no time on introductions, plunging the reader headfirst into the aftermath of Jorg and his brother’s latest bloodthirsty foray. Readers will soon decide whether they can stomach the graphic violence and dark humor that define the novel, and those that can are in for an exhilarating ride. Prince of Thorns shares many qualities with the thorns for which its prince was named. By the end of the first chapter it had well and truly sunk its hooks into me and I was in for the long haul whether I liked it or not. I had more than one night of lost sleep which I blame entirely on Mark Lawrence. In addition, like the scars covering Jorg’s body, the echos of the story remained with me long after I turned the last page.
A warped yet relatable protagonist Prince of Thorns is narrated in the first person and thus we watch events unfold through the eyes of Jorg himself. This offers a unique and somewhat disturbing perspective, as Jorg sees human life as expendable and lacks empathy for those around him. He considers anyone he may grow to care about as a liability that must be removed before it can be used against him. Despite these sociopathic tendencies, and the fact that he is responsible for almost innumerable atrocities, Jorg is decidedly charming and remains unnervingly relatable. This must be considered a remarkable feat by Lawrence as he makes his audience feel sympathy for a character so morally ambiguous it verges on flat-out evil. A significant reason for this is Jorg’s very realistically wrought background. While a reader may not always relate to the choices he makes or the person he has become, the emotions that lie behind Jorg’s decisions and the events in his life can be identified with.
The secondary characters are also very well developed, from the stoic Nuban to the rather despicable Rike. All have their own distinctive flavor, perform their own roles and feel believable in the context of Lawrence’s world. Most importantly, while most of the characters of Prince of Thorns may be labeled as “bad,” they are never stereotyped. These are real people with realistic emotions who have come to where they are now through events and decisions we can all relate to.
A gritty tale for a broken world This captivating tale plays out against a haunting, vividly realized backdrop: the desiccated corpse of a once technologically advanced civilization. Lawrence excels in creating an intense and oppressive atmosphere, enveloping the readers and drawing them further into his world with each new revelation. Magic and science are interwoven, becoming almost indistinguishable in many cases, such as the origins and powers of the monstrous leucrota. This desolate landscape, coupled with the cruelty of the narrator, makes Prince of Thorns a captivating yet undeniably gritty and confronting experience. Some readers may be disturbed by the way it plunges mercilessly into the darkest corners of the mind. Others will revel in the depravity and delight in this exploration of the most sinister aspects of the human experience.
These dark elements, however, are never explored more than necessary. Rather than overloading the narrative with excessive explanation, Lawrence proves very skilled in dropping hints throughout the narrative, showing us the world through Jorg’s eyes and allowing us to piece the puzzle together ourselves. This adds a whole new dimension to Prince of Thorns, enhanced even further by seemingly effortless intermingling of familiar elements with the distinctly foreign.
Kvothe’s evil little brother While many may compare Prince of Thorns to other gritty and epic works like Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy or George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire—and be quite right in that comparison as well—I’d like to compare it with Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Although Jorg doesn’t fill his autobiography with stories of how he charms the ladies or lament the fact that he has extreme superpowers he can’t use, both books are coming of age biographies of extraordinary boys far too wise for their age, and the hardships of their lives.
Why should you read this book? Dazzling in its brilliance, Prince of Thorns is a must read for any fan of gritty, epic fantasy that delves into the darkest depths of humanity. I was left feeling slightly bereft and a little shell shocked when it ended. Luckily, this is only the first in the trilogy so there’s two more books to come. It may quite possibly turn out to be the debut of 2011, and Mark Lawrence is definitely a name to watch in the future. While I could easily write another few pages on how much I loved this book, I’d much prefer you go out, grab a copy, and read it for yourself. You can thank me later. ...more
A Few Right Thinking Men is the absorbing debut novel by Australian author Sulari Gentill. Published in 2010 by Pantera Press, this intriguing historical mystery is definitely well worth a read and I must admit that Gentill is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Australian authors.
It’s Sydney 1931 and Australia is in the midst of the Great Depression. While the wealthy upper classes do their best to maintain their lavish lifestyles, unemployed line the streets and unrest brews in all levels of society. In the face of their hardships many citizens seek political reformation and look to the communist party for a solution to their troubles. Rising tensions allow radical factions from both sides of the political spectrum to gain power and there are whispers of revolution and civil war. Sheltered from the effects of the economic crisis by his inherited wealth, Rowland Sinclair tries not to get embroiled in politics despite the numerous entreaties of both family and friends. While his brother decries the threat of the ‘Red menace’ and many within his social circle have communist sympathies, Rowland prefers to spend his days indulging his artistic passions with his friends and house-guests. Nevertheless, a brutal crime will draw Rowland into a dangerous and unfamiliar world of communists, fascists, suspicion, secrets and murder.
A character driven historical fiction with a mystery at its heart
I must admit that it’s been a while since I’ve read a decent mystery novel. It’s not that I dislike the genre, just that my tastes are skewed elsewhere so I don’t often get around to reading any. In any case, I would consider A Few Right Thinking Men to be more of a character driven historical with elements of crime and a mystery driving the plot than a conventional crime/mystery novel. The mystery plot is well realised and interesting but I found the characters and setting to be the true highlights of the novel. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the believable yet slightly eccentric characters and found myself drawn into an interesting period in Australian history that I’d never truly explored before.
Pariahs and patriots
A Few Right Thinking Men is rich in historical detail, and allows you to get a real ‘feel’ for the era. Gentill achieves this without resorting to the kind of excessive ‘information drops’ that can make some historical fiction seem like it’s been taken straight from the pages of a secondary school text book. The Depression era atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia is captured in all its insane glory. Patriotism is the order of the day, good citizens check their closets nightly for spying communists and German model cars are frowned upon. I’m ashamed to say that in the past I’ve only had a very cursory interest in the history of the Great Depression. I knew it was an important part of Australian history that I should know about, it just seemed a little…depressing. However, after reading this novel I find myself viewing this era in a different light and feel much more inclined to research it further.
Characters you can’t help but love
As I mentioned, I found the characters very endearing and easy to relate to. I especially liked the protagonist, Rowland Sinclair, and his house-guests; fellow artist Clyde, the flamboyant aesthete Milton and the free-spirited sculptress Edna. All have their own distinctive personalities and roles to play. The secondary characters, both historical and fictional, are also well developed and interesting. Even those who I felt less sympathetic towards had both good and bad aspects and never felt like clichéd villains. The novel was also well written, the prose flowing and the pace well maintained. I found the dialogue quite witty, with some genuine laugh out loud moments, and overall I thought the novel maintained a refreshing balance between drama and humour.
Some readers may find the ending slightly anticlimactic. Nevertheless, I thought it suited the rest of the story well and set the scene for the next novel A Decline in Prophets quite nicely. I would certainly recommend A Few Right Thinking Men to any fans of historical fiction or mystery and consider Sulari Gentill a definite name to watch in the future. Furthermore, I would further urge readers with any interest in Australian or Depression era history to pick up this novel as soon as possible. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did....more