“A stunning conclusion to the Broken Empire Trilogy. Easily one of the best books of 2013 – and a book that’s well worth the wait.” ~The Founding Fields
If I had to make a most anticipated list of Novels coming out this year, Emperor of Thorns would be in the Top 5, there’s no question about it. Mark Lawrence really impressed me with the first two books in the trilogy, both of which I own in hardback – so that I knew that Emperor of Thorns was always going to be a release day-buy for me. This will explain why I was so happy when I was able to get an Advanced Review Copy, so I’d like to start this review with a massive thank you to the kind folks over at Harper Voyager, and the author himself, so we could work something out. And does the book live up to my expectations? Oh, hell yes. It’s easily one of the best novels of the year, and with a year of some excellent books and we’re just over halfway through, that’s certainly saying something.
"To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.
The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.
This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.
Follow me, and I will break your heart."
This is it, then. The last adventures of Jorg. Whilst I’m somewhat sad that there won’t be any more Broken Empire novels, as noted by the author himself, prequels or otherwise, it’s probably best that it ends at Book 3 rather than becoming an over-bloated series that readers quickly start to lose interest in the longer it goes. However, there is also the danger of a fantasy trilogy ending ‘too soon’ if you get what I mean. But thankfully, Lawrence brings it all to the table with a satisfying conclusion (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it), that really brings an end to this epic tale that will most surely be among the best fantasy works that I’ll read. I loved this trilogy, and I think with each instalment, it just gets better and better.
Emperor of ThornsJorg’s character growth is incredible. He’s a rather unique main character for a story, often coming across as more of a downright villain than an anti-hero, and indeed – written by almost any other author, he would be. But the character himself is still as awesome as ever, and if you’ve enjoyed the last two books – then that’s what you should come to expect. It’s a strong, epic conclusion to the trilogy that really pulls out all the punches, where nobody is safe – and as we’re now all used to the major game players involved, Lawrence can waste no time with setting up future events (of course, no time was wasted setting up future events in the previous books as well), and instead create a compelling story that will draw the reader in, and not let up with the breakneck pace that this book moves along at.
The author’s characters are well created, complex and far from the standard one-dimensional ones that litter poor novels. You’re not going to forget any of them in a hurry, and neither are you to forget The Broken Empire Trilogy anytime soon. It’s immense. Unpredictable. Captivating. A fitting conclusion. However you want to put it, the last adventure of Jorg of Ancrath is his best outing yet. Over the course of the trilogy, Lawrence has made himself a name to watch in fantasy, up there with the likes of Peter V. Brett, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie & George RR Martin. I can’t wait to see what he throws at the reader next, but it’s one that I’ll certainly be on board for.
THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns ...more
Winter is keeping Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the longed-for luxuries of his southern palace. And although the North may be home to his companion, the warrior Snorri ver Snagason, he is just as eager to leave. For the Viking is ready to challenge all of Hell to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has Loki’s key – now all he needs is to find the door.
As all wait for the ice to unlock its jaws, the Dead King plots to claim what was so nearly his – the key to the underworld -- so that his dead subjects can rise and rule.
The Red Queen’s War Trilogy is quickly shaping up to be just as strong as the previous Broken Empire novels by Mark Lawrence as The Liar’s Key is a fantastic second entry in the trilogy, which will not disappoint fans of the previous novel as Lawrence continues the adventures of Jalan Kendeth and warrior companion Snorri ver Snagason. Two books in and it’s reminding me very much of the Gotrek & Felix Warhammer Fantasy series, but in a very good way indeed because both are fantastic. We are reintroduced to our characters in the aftermath of their journey to the Black Fort, and Snorri is restless. He wants to get back into the game to search for his wife and children to bring them back to the world of the living, and he now has a means to an end, Loki’s Key. Now all he needs to do is find the door to the afterlife, which is going to be more difficult in practice than on paper.
The quest continues in The Liar’s Key with the addition of two new interesting companions who help shake up the main cast dynamic and keep it fresh. Joining Jalan and Snorri are Kara and Hennan, latecomers who are a witch and an orphan boy respectively. It makes for a nice lineup especially with the fact that the four characters all have their own reasons for being there, and the interactions between the cast is handled well as Lawrence gives them plenty to do.
I mentioned earlier the comparison to Gotrek & Felix, and both share a similar approach that makes both series feel very much like old school fantasy novels with quests as their backdrop (although obviously the motivations for each character are different, Gotrek wants to die a warrior’s death as a Slayer, whilst Snorri wants to find his family in the afterlife), and both are quite fun to read, and I couldn’t put them down while reading them. The Liar’s Key is its own unique beast though, offering an interesting, compelling approach that’s fresh and exciting. Lawrence knows how to keep the reader engaged and this book feels more confident and engrossing than the previous book, and with a fascinating backdrop, we just can’t help but read on.
The characters continue to be so rich and compelling, and easy to get behind and support. Both Jalan and Snorri are flawed and make for well-rounded characters that have some excellent interactions throughout the book and Jalan’s narration is just as good as in the previous novel. The Liar’s Key itself has a grimdark feel despite the old school focus on a quest, but those who aren’t necessarily a fan of the darker approach shouldn’t be put off by the contents within this book. There’s enough there to satisfy everyone, and fans of the previous novel should certainly welcome a second outing.
“An excellent novel that should please fans of the Broken Empire Trilogy and newcomers to Mark Lawrence’s work alike. You really should check this out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.
The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.
After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.
I really enjoyed the debut trilogy by Mark Lawrence, his Broken Empire novels – and was really looking forward to see where he would take Prince of Fools, the start of The Red Queen’s War series – and thankfully, he didn’t disappoint, with this novel serving to be another strong contender for the most enjoyable books of 2014 – with a confident narrative that doesn’t disappoint.
Prince-of-FoolsWith the return to the world of the Broken Empire, Lawrence instead shifts his focus to a prince with slightly less ambitions than Jorg Ancrath – Jalan Kendeth, a grandson of the Red Queen, who is one of the most dreaded rulers of the Broken Empire – and has been at war since she was crowned. However, Jalan is completely unlike his ancestor – a drinker, gambler and womanizer, and a far different character to Jorg. He’s tenth in line to the Throne, but unlike most members of the Monarchy in fantasy series – is content with what he’s been given.
Jalan is a character that undergoes a lot of growth over the course of this novel, and the fun is in witnessing his transformation. He joins up with a Norse Warrior after escaping a death trap set by the mysterious Silent Sister, the Red Queen’s Greatest Weapon – and sets on a journey across the Broken Empire. The Norse Warrior is called Snorri, and acts as a good companion to Jal’s endeavours. As before, the book is told in first person – and we get to see Jalan’s growth the most of all. He’s a very different character to Jorg the more we learn more about him – and it’s great to see that we haven’t simply been giving a carbon copy. He’s flawed, but has a level of morality and loyalty that don’t make him completely despicable – and serves as a powerful lead character who carries the narrative well.
The book serves as more of a straightforward fantasy read than the previous trilogy, but balances a strong element of horror to keep a fresh feeling. At the same time, the plot manages to be great, well balanced and action packed – with there never being a dull moment, with a greater exploration of the Broken Empire in a way that can appeal to both newcomers to Lawrence’s works as well as old ones – if you want to jump in here then this is as good chance to get involved as any.
If The Broken Empire was an epic, conquest-driven series, The Red Queen’s War is shaping up to be focused more on the characters – both Jalan and Snorri get developed very well and it’s interesting to see their journeys throughought the book. The interaction between the two characters is great to read as well, with some strong dialogue pulled off by Lawrence.
Fans of the previous Trilogy will no doubt be already up for buying this book, but it’s newcomer friendly and easily accessible. It’s powerful, entertaining and deeply engrossing – and comes highly recommended. When this book hits, if you don’t have it preordered already, you’ll want to go and grab this one as soon as you possibly can.
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn't, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Naomi Novik is the writer of the Temeraire series and it’s something that I’ve been meaning to catch up on for a while now, ever since I really enjoyed reading the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon. So when I saw Uprooted show up on NetGalley recently I leapt at the chance and once I got stuck into it, I quickly devoured it, finishing this spellbinding young adult novel as quickly as I could. It’s just got everything you could want from a YA Fantasy, a well developed world, some strong character focus, no boring, Chosen One clichés, and enough awesomeness to keep you entertained right the way through. If you love epic fantasy, then this is certainly something that you should consider reading, because it’s certainly one of the stronger ones that we’ve had this year.
Most stories take a while to truly get into but that’s not the case with Uprooted – you’re drawn in quickly from the start and Novik refuses to let you go, weaving a compelling, entrancing storyline that focuses on the main female character, Agniezeka, giving her some fantastic depth and making her the strong focus of a character driven story. It’s refreshingly optimistic for a fantasy novel as well, and will come as a breath of fresh air in a market where grimdark fantasy rules. It’s a fairy tale for the modern era, and really impresses in its delivery, serving up an excellently paced standalone novel that leaves a lasting and memorable impression on the reader.
The characters are rich and compelling. Agniezeka, a girl who lives on the border of the corrupt woods, is someone who knows and understands that the Dragon, a cold, wise wizard, demands a terrible price to keep the woods at bay, a young girl from the village that she loves. Agniezeka, much like everyone else, expects the Dragon to take Kaisa, a brave, graceful girl who’s her best friend, and has everything that she doesn’t, serving as the most beautiful girl in the village. The Dragon would be mad to take anyone else but her, right? Wrong. The Dragon’s choosing spell lands on Agniezeka, and her life is changed forever, kickstarting the plot for Uprooted as she finds herself now in the service of the Dragon for the next ten years. However, she has to be watchful, because the threat of the woods is ever present.
Novik uses a few clichés in Uprooted, primarily in the character department, such as the elder mentor to the younger main character (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf and Dumbledore all say hello), and the love interest to the main protagonist who acts like a jerk. However, when clichés are written well it doesn’t really matter that they’re clichés at all, and that’s very much the case with this novel, with the characters feeling so real that they somehow manage to feel fresh and exciting despite the fact that we’ve seen so many of their kind before. It’s also helped that it’s not just the clichés that are written well, everything is. The magic system is well developed and the world building is fantastic, with the plot having enough depth and moving along quickly enough to keep the reader hooked.
Uprooted is an incredibly captivating read and is something that comes highly recommended for not only fans of Novik’s Temeraire novels, readers looking to try out her work for the first time, but also fans of fantasy and young adult fiction in general. There’s an excellent depth to this novel and it works incredibly well as a standalone, and this is probably another read that’s going to end up on the ‘Best Of’ list come the year’s end.
“There are some series that I wish could go on forever, and The Expanse is one that fulfils that category. James SA Corey delivers another stunning entry with Abaddon’s Gate, and therefore Book Four cannot come fast enough.” ~The Founding Fields
James SA Corey is the penname of Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank, for those people who do not already know – if you’ve been following the series or at least have read the first volume, then you’ll know this by now. Daniel Abraham it seems can turn everything he touches into awesomeness – I’ve really enjoyed his The Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy series, whilst his urban fantasy Unclean Spirits under the penname of MLN Hanover has made me want to read more of that series, although I have not picked it up in a while, which is something that I really need to get around to.
"For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them."
We’re back with the crew of the Rocinante, and it’s very interesting to see how the main cast develop over this instalment, with Jim Holden, Naomi and Amos being the main crew memebers, but there’s also strong showing from other returning characters too. Newcomers, such as Bull, Melba and Anna, also present an interesting, fresh look in the series, and we’re starting to understand for the first time for why this series is called The Expanse. It’s big. There are several characters alongside those already mentioned and the book rarely stays from the POV of most characters for long, which can be jarring for readers who favour one character over the other, but Corey has managed to make each viewpoint enjoyable and there wasn’t a dull one. Another point in favour of the Expanse goes to the Space Opera setting itself, it allows the reader to explore a wide variety of concepts and setting so that we never feel like Abaddon’s Gate is simply just a re-hash of Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War, with Corey coming up with new ideas to bring to the table.
Middle novels in series can be sometimes of a chore to get through. All too often, they are spent setting up the final act, continuing on from the first, and not much really happens. Not so with Abaddon’s Gate, it’s page-turning action all the way through – and even this novel brings a certain sense of conclusion to the book, as the series was originally planned as a trilogy before being extended. I haven’t been finishing novels as quickly as I would like to lately, mainly due to exams (which are now out of the way), but Abaddon’s Gate was one novel that I have been waiting for since Caliban’s War and exam the next day or not, I could not resist staying up slightly later than normal to get as much reading done. So, if I did fail my exam – I blame James SA Corey for crafting such an impressive and mind-blowingly awesome novel.
Seriously. This series has to be among the best of the Space Opera at the moment, up there with the likes of Iain M. Banks & Alastair Reynolds. Corey’s novels keep getting better and better. Whilst I’m no expert in politics, everything seems pretty realistic here, with humanity not being presented as a unified force, which is the problem that I have with such things in other media, Independence Day and Halo being two notable examples, it seems as though we’re never going to put aside our differences at any point. Not even for a big massive alien invasion.
Another thing that I love about this series is the lack of Hyperspace Travel/Warp Drives etc. This is a series not set 40,000 years into the future like the novels of Black Library, and it’s a little closer to home. Technology is still developing, and there isn’t a massive influx of alien races in Star Wars. Fans will be pleased to know that there’s no change here, and Corey continues so that Abaddon’s Gate is still recognisably part of the same series, although it probably isn’t the best jumping on point for newcomers – you’re better off just playing catchup. Whilst it may not be the cheapest option, it’ll certainly be the most rewarding one.
Fans of the series will not need any convincing to buy this book – but I’m going to give this book my strongest recommendation anyway, as it currently stands a contender for one of the best novels of 2013 so far. Count me on board for Book #4 for certain.
"The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.
Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy. Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it."
I wasn’t too keen on The Emperor’s Blades, the first novel from Brian Stavely’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, and I wasn’t initially planning on reading the second book, but given the vast amount of praise that the sequel was receiving with positive reviews from pretty much everywhere, I thought I’d give it a shot and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, with this novel emerging as a strong contender to be among this year’s best come the end, even though it is only the start of February.
The book itself follows from the aftermath of the first novel, with the Conspiracy against the ruling family of the Annurian Empire far from over. Thebook continues to follow the adventures of Adare, Valyn and Kaden, all caught up in their own troubles which are rapidly escalating as each character continues to get plenty of development. Adare is on the run having escaped the Dawn Palace in the aftermath of the coup, but has nowhere to turn to with few people willing to trust her until she starts to claim that she’s being touched by Intarra, the patron goddess of the empire. But to make matters worse, and unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has joined up with invading barbarian hordes, a threat so terrible that it is forcing the rivals to combine against a common foe. And finally, caught in between the two, is Kaden, the rightful heir to the throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two mysterious allies.
If you’re looking for an example of a sequel that beats the previous book in terms of quality, then The Providence of Fire is certainly one that I’m going to point you in the direction of. It’s a step up in every sense, of the word, bigger, wider and more expansive with greater attention to not only characters but also the world that they inhabit. What could have been a book designed to only set up a third installment instead becomes a defining novel that pushes this series into the status of “must-read” novels. It’s just that good.
The book itself gives Adare plenty of things to do after she spent much of The Emperor’s Blades doing little whilst Valyn and Kaden got up to all the action. Her part in The Providence of Fire turns out to be one of the most exciting and engaging, with Adare shaping up to be one of the more enthralling characters of the book with a great element of political intrigued added to her, and it’s good to see that the development of the character has really paid off. On top of that, her supporting cast is fleshed out as well with plenty of interesting characters that help give her section of the story a massive, welcoming improvement.
With The Providence of Fire being larger than The Emperor’s Blades in terms of page count, there’s a lot to work with. As well as Adare, we spent plenty of time with Kaden and Valyn and all of these characters get some great development as their parts become more interesting and more engaging as this book starts to have a greater feel of epicness than the first. There’s a sense of urgency, unpredictability and several moments of great tension. It’s what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, and those of you who know just how better the former film was to the latter then you’ll know what to expect from this book.
For such a large novel some writers can fall into the trap of making parts drag, particularly towards the middle section, when they expand their world further, but Staveley makes no mistake here and keeps the pacing spot on for the most part. There are a few transitional problems that don’t quite work as well as they should, but despite this, they’re only minor issues and won’t detract from your reading experience as a whole.
As a result,The Providence of Fire is very good indeed. It’s a far superior second novel to the first one, and if you were put off by The Emperor’s Blades (or even if you loved it), then I can strongly recommend that you give Staveley’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne a second shot. Because trust me, you won’t regret it. Expect this to feature on the top 25 books of 2015 come the year’s end for sure. It’s such a shame that the next novel doesn’t come out until 2016.
And here we are again with the conclusion of another Mark Lawrence trilogy. Only this time it’s The Red Queen’s War and not The Broken Empire, but either way, they’ve both been great reads and Lawrence successfully makes it six out of six. If you’re browsing this review and for some reason have not read any of his work before then get on it as soon as you can, because he’s one of my favourite fantasy authors right now. If you have read the first two novels in The Red Queen’s War then you can be rest assured that Lawrence kills it here again, and delivering an excellent conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.
The Wheel of Osheim is a mind-blowing read, with a novel that reveals all and doesn’t shy away from delivering a book that handles everything really well, including one of the best ways that a character has gotten out of hell that I’ve seen in a novel. The story develops nicely overtime and explores Jalan’s best attempts to go back to his old life of a drinker and a gambler as though nothing has happened only for him to ultimately fail. Wisely putting the focus on the main character for the final book, we get a thrill ride that showcases just how much Jalan has grown as a character. He’s changed as much as what he’s left behind, and it’s interesting to see his growth over the course of the three books.
The characters that aren’t Jalan also get enough attention in this novel to leave you satisfied with the Red Queen making the biggest impact of them all, which will reward readers who have been waiting to see what all the building up has led to. Mixing in the Red Queen with the Silent Sister and Lady Blue we get to see a great payoff with these characters in particular, and even Snorri gets a satisfying conclusion to his storyline even if the main attention is on Jalan.
One thing that’s interesting to note is the connection that this book shares with The Broken Empire. It’s been something that’s been present in the previous two novels but here we get to see more of this than before and learn more of how the rest of the world views Jorg’s actions and how they have shaped Jalan’s world. It’s a fantastic way to tie things in and really works, not feeling cheap or unnecessary.
The dramatic fight sequences allow for plenty of action that is pulled off well, fitting in with the tone of The Wheel of Osheim strongly. The whole book is paced really well and flows perfectly from page to page, and I had a hard time putting it down as I wanted to see how Lawrence brought everything to an end. It’s safe to say that readers will not be disappointed, and I can’t wait to see where the author take us next, because based on his stellar track record so far things can only get better from here.
Heist fantasy novels are always fun to read. The most popular example in the genre may be Brandon Sanderson’s awesome Mistborn books and it’s good to see another instalment in the subgenre, with Leigh Bardugo’s young adult Six of Crows, the opener in the trilogy, being labelled as Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven. As I love both of those, and the praise for Six of Crows was mostly positive, I thought I’d give it a shot and as it turns out I was blown away, with it rapidly becoming probably my favourite young adult novel of 2015, because this book really is that good, even if there are a couple of problems that it has to overcome at the same time.
The book itself is set in the same world as the Grisha trilogy but I wasn’t aware of that until shortly after I brought the book and didn’t need to know anything about what went on, even though I’m fairly sure I missed a few references. The new cast and characters make an interesting jumping on point for new readers as the epic fantasy genre continues to encompass young adult books. The characters themselves that are presented here and interesting, with a gang known as the Dregs run by Kaz Brekker, a criminal prodigy, brave and bold. When he’s ordered to rescue a scientist who has the power to break down the walls of the Ice Court, Kaz recruits a group of fellow thieves to participate in the job with him. Sounds simple enough, right? However, the characters that we met don’t always get along, despite the fact that they all work for Kaz.
We link up with a vast group of characters for the heist. Nina and Matthias both share a linked story that often comes heavily with the clichés of the genre, particularly in the forbidden romance angle, however their abilities as a magic user and Witch Hunter respectively benefited the team. Wylan acts as the wild card, the Matt Damon of the series if we’re sticking with the Ocean’s Eleven comparisons, whilst Inej brings stealth to the table and finally, Jesper brings along a combination of long range cover and comic relief. The story however suffers from the same trap that Ocean’s Eleven fell into by only making us care about certain characters, with the rest feeling not as well developed as they probably should have been. However, equally Six of Crows avoids being a simple fantasy clone of Ocean’s Eleven, spending plenty of time with flashbacks to explore the characters’ past. However, given that this book is the first in a trilogy, I’m sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to explore more characters going forward. The ones that are given the most depth here all seem to be the most developed, and refreshingly in young adult fantasy are flawed humans that often develop well.
The world building on display here is fantastic and Six of Crows really immerses you in the atmospheric fantasy landscape from the get go. There are plenty of twists that propel the story forward and it moves at a nice turn, with the character shifts working well. Sometimes poor heist movies and books can rely on deus ex machina to leave the audience feeling cheated but thankfully, Six of Crows doesn’t fall into that trap. Something else that it also brings to the table is an actual diverse cast of characters that’s refreshing in a young adult novel, and works really well.
You’re going to want to get on the hype train that’s surrounding this book as soon as possible if you’re not on board already. It’s easily the best young adult novel of 2015 and will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next book in the trilogy.
“An excellent novel that’s one of 2014’s best. Joe Abercrombie is one of fantasy’s strongest authors no matter the target audience, and Half a King is an incredible success that fans of both adult and young adult fiction alike will enjoy.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…
Joe Abercrombie is one of my favourite epic fantasy authors so there was no way that I was going to miss Half a King, the start of Abercrombie’s latest series, The Shattered Sea. His First Law Trilogy is amazing and the standalone novels of Red Country and Heroes have been superb as well. It’s good to see that Half a King was no different, and if for whatever reason you haven’t jumped on the Abercrombie bandwagon yet, then this is the perfect place to start.
Prince Yarvi, the main character of Half a King and its main narrator, is a crippled teenager who was put on the throne following the death of his brother and father. It’s a position that he never expected to be in, but when he was betrayed and sold into slavery, he’ll do anything to win it back. Suffering from a handicap since the start of the novel, it allows an interesting and unique lead character as rarely you will find a novel featuring a major character with a disability such as Yarvi’s. Abercrombie handles it incredibly well and gives it that strong voice that keeps the character sympathetic as well as packing enough punch to hold the story.
Despite the fact that Half a King may be young adult, it is certainly one of the darker young adult novels that I’ve read and that is no surprise when you consider Abercrombie’s adult fiction. Despite the darker tone, the novel is very much a coming of age tale, and you can tell that although it sounds like familiar ground (I mean, how often have you heard a coming of age young adult fantasy book been described to you before?) but Abercrombie adds an interesting twist that keeps this book feeling fresh and at no point over the course of the novel did it feel dull. Abercrombie has a captivating way of engrossing readers and he did not disappoint at all, and as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if Half a King were to end up in my Top 10 books of 2014 come the end of the year.
I breezed through Half a King in three separate sittings, limited only by the length of my bus journey. If I didn’t have a stop to get off, I probably would have kept reading (I almost did towards the end) because the novel reads like a thriller, and you’ll be turning the pages desperate to find out what happens next, which is rare in a fantasy where attention to detail can often bog down the pace. Not so with Half a King. There is plenty of world building and you get enough details to keep you going but don’t let that put you off. The balance is handled well and Abercrombie, a veteran author, rarely puts anything wrong.
There are so few young adult novels that manage to maintain a certain level of unpredictability all the way through and Half a King is very much one of those. Its constant twists and turns, ramping up to a higher level near the end, had me hooked from start to finish and I couldn’t see what was coming next. The fact that Abercrombie manages to juggle all of these elements as well as allow for some great character development makes Half a King a must read that can’t be ignored. It’s just that good.
Even if there was nothing new about the coming of age premise, the way Abercrombie executed the narrative made the book compelling and engaging. It focuses more on the characters than the plot, and gives plenty of room for Yarvi and the others to grow. The villains are fleshed out as well and it’s great to see what Abercrombie has done with this. It’s always a bit of a risk when an author moves out of his traditional stomping ground (yes, Abercrombie may still be in the fantasy genre, but young adult fiction is a different beast to adult fiction entirely) and the author has adapted confidently, handing the new element well. As a result then, this book comes highly recommended, and if you’re a lover of fantasy in general then you can’t go wrong with Half a King. Let’s hope the rest of The Shattered Sea continues to be this impressive.
"Paolo Bacigalupi, New York Times best-selling author of The Windup Girl and National Book Award finalist, delivers a near-future thriller that casts new light on how we live today—and what may be in store for us tomorrow.
The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and its boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust.
When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There, Angel encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist, who knows far more about Phoenix’s water secrets than she admits, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky.
As bodies begin to pile up and bullets start flying, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt, and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. With Phoenix teetering on the verge of collapse and time running out for Angel, Lucy, and Maria, their only hope for survival rests in one another’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.
Ever since I first heard about The Windup Girl, Paulo Bacigalupi has been on my to read list so when I saw a copy of The Water Knife on NetGalley I knew I couldn’t resist requesting it and it did not disappoint when I got the chance to read it, with Bacigalupi creating an awesome standalone novel taking place in a dystopian world unlike any other, offering a different take on the future that is handled very well indeed, exploring the water drought and its consequences that led the American southwest decimated. Now a fight over water is beginning, with Arizona and Nevada skirmishing over the lapsing Colorado River, with California watching, deciding whether or not it should just take the whole river for itself. And a Las Vegas Water Knife, Angel Velasquez, a detective, spy and assassin, steps into the fray to ensure that his boss Catherin Case continues her monopoly on any water developments in the desert, and when rumours of something in Phoenix crop up, Angel is sent out to investigate and finds himself crossing paths with a hardened journalist Lucy Monroe and Texas Migrant Maria Villarosa.
It’s an interesting blend of characters and a unique take on a dystopian future with most novels preferring to head so far into the future so that planet Earth is almost unrecognisable. The names of states are often gone, and any mention of the present day is brushed aside in favour of usually a ruthless dictator and some teenagers trying to overthrow his regime. If you’re tired of the normal dystopian tropes then you’ll want to turn your attention to The Water Knife, which is a brilliant, fascinating read that’s rich, well developed and well written. It’s one of my favourite dystopian that I’ve read in recent years, matching the likes of Emily St. John Mandel’s excellent Station Eleven in terms of quality.
The Water Knife focuses on three different main characters all mentioned in the blurb above who all share POVs. They’re each flawed, well rounded and well developed characters who have fascinating storylines and it’s great to see them interact with one another as interaction is something that Bacigalupi nails. Angel Velasquez, Lucy Monroe and Maria Villarosa are all great characters, and really make for fantastic narrators and it’s great to follow the path that they travel, with nobody ever really being safe and the tension always being kept high. It’s a pretty violent book that’s not for the faint of heart, packing enough originality to stand out from pretty much everything else on the market right now.
It dares to tackle current themes, with Water droughts in California being prevalent in America right now making this book almost feel as though it actually could be a vision of the future, offering a fresh approach to something that we haven’t seen before. There’s enough attention to the world given in The Water Knife as a fantastic backdrop and we find ourselves fully immersed in the setting. However, the human story at the heart of the book is the most prominent, and really drives the narrative forward.
The Water Knife isn’t exactly the lightest novel around, dealing with some heavy content, but the many areas that Bacigalupi handles are executed well. I didn’t really have any major problems whilst reading this and I think this is something that should certainly appeal to fans of Station Eleven, as I’ve mentioned above, as well as fans of Bacigalupi’s previous novels and anyone looking for something different in the dystopian genre. Regardless, it’s certainly something that comes highly recommended, whichever reason you’re buying the book for.
“An excellent novel – Charlie Fletcher has certainly crafted one of the better reads of 2014 so far. If you’re a fan of the likes of Neil Gaiman or China Mieville then this is a must read – and with some fascinating prose, this is something that you won’t want to miss.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side.
Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand.
When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight’s London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled – but the girl is a trap.
As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.
This gothic fantasy from Charlie Fletcher (the Stoneheart trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all."
I was first drawn to this book when I saw it compared to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and as that is my favourite all-time book, I thought I’d give it a shot, and thankfully, I was not disappointed, with Charlie Fletcher’s The Oversight turning out to be one of the best novels that I’ve read so far this year. In fact, it also manages to be different from the majority of other novels that I’ve read this year as well, so if you’re looking for something that has that originality factor then you can’t go far wrong with this book, which hits shelves tomorrow through Orbit.
This novel serves as the first outing in the Oversight trilogy and is handled very well. The Oversight are a secret organization that policed the lines between normality and magic and once sported hundreds of people amongst its ranks. Now though, that number is down to just five, with the society being a shadow of what it once was.
When a screaming girl is brought to the Oversight’s headquarters in London they believe they might at last have found a new recruit. However, Lucy Harker is not who she seems, and is part of a plot that could have catastrophic repercussions for not just the Oversight, but the world.
Charlie Fletcher is an accomplished young adult writer and The Oversight is the first time I have read a full novel by him, but I remember back in Secondary School flicking through Stoneheart in the Library – and it’s certainly something that I intend to get back to at one point. However, back on the subject of The Oversight, it gets almost everything right – my only real complaint being that it gets off to a slow start, but even that changes – as it quickly becomes engrossing as the pages go on and by the end you won’t be able to put it down. The book spends plenty of time in creating the atmosphere and developing the world, giving a great look into the magical side of London, which normally brings out the best of Urban Fantasy novels. However, The Oversight isn’t just your average Urban Fantasy novel. It’s a gothic, historical and beautifully written masterpiece that deserves your attention – with incredibly strong prose and an attention to detail that doesn’t bog down the narrative.
There isn’t really any main character in The Oversight, with the Last Hand (the last five members of the Oversight supernatural law enforcement) getting similar amounts of pagetime to Lucy, who also gets a key role in this book. Whilst the book may be clearly focused more on the world than the characters, that’s not a bad thing, because Fletcher still manages to weave a compelling narrative and on top of that, the world is awesome and it’s easily something that I can see myself returning to.
If you’re a fan of the likes of Neil Gaiman or China Mieville, then this book should be right up your street. Charlie Fletcher has crafted a smart and intelligent novel that kicks off what should really be a strong series, with a compelling plot and some interesting characters. There’s very little where this book goes wrong, so it’s certainly something that you should devote your time to. And if it helps, out of the Advance Reviews, I’m yet to see a single one below 4 stars (although at least one is ranked 3.5 on Goodreads), so it’s clear that I’m not the only one who loves this book. Highly Recommended.
“An excellent second act in the Riyria Chronicles. Michael J. Sullivan’s The Rose and the Thorn manages to be even better than The Crown Tower, making this book, and the duology – one of my favourite reads of 2013.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
As soon as I finished The Crown Tower I knew I had to get into the second instalment sooner or later, and thanks to NetGalley, I didn’t have to wait, even if I did end up taking a break in the middle to read a different novel, after all – I didn’t want this series to be over too soon. Fans of the first book, or readers of The Riyria Revelations waiting to see if both novels are strong before delving in will be pleased to know that The Rose and the Thorn is just as excellent as The Crown Tower, and I don’t think Michael J. Sullivan has written a bad book yet with this spectacular second outing (story-wise, not publication wise – this is now their seventh novel) for Royce and Hadrian, allowing for a stunning conclusion that not only wraps things up very well, but leaves readers eagerly wanting to read The Riyria Revelations, whether they have or haven’t already read it. Even though I’ve read all of them, that ending really wanted me to embark on a re-read, especially as it wraps things up nicely, really setting the stage for Theft of Swords.
"TWO THIEVES WANT ANSWERS. RIYRIA IS BORN.
For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception — Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn’t realize is what the two are capable of — but she’s about to find out.
The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two separate, but related series, and you can start reading with either Theft of Swords(publication order) or The Crown Tower (chronological order)."
The characters have always been one of the high-points of this series for me and the main focus of Royce, Hadrian and to a certain extent Gwen DeLancy works wonders for the book, with some great character development that takes the characters from their early days in The Crown Tower to Theft of Swords, and actually proves that this is one of the rare cases where prequels written after the main series actually work. Whilst the first book may have focused on the origin of Royce and Hadrian’s partnership, this fleshes it out a bit more, really developing the key figures that continue to grow as characters over the course of the main Riyria Revelations series.
The Rose and the ThornThe Rose and the Thorn deals with a lot of characters introduced in this sequel that weren’t given as much page time in the first that might prove a bit daunting to readers who have not read the main series, but Sullivan allows for an interesting split on the focus between all of them, to the point where you never feel like there’s too much or too little of one character. The fleshing out of the characters and seeing their origins before the main series really is pulled of superbly, and I think that all people who want to write prequels for their main series could learn something from The Riyria Chronicles, as both novels in this duology are executed with very minimal flaws and easily provide the reader with some of the best fantasy works to hit shelves this year. The Rose and the Thorn will be in the upper half of my Top 25 novels of 2013 for certain, as not only is it a great tale on its own, but it also manages to beat The Crown Tower.
I was slightly surprised at just how different The Rose and the Thorn was from The Crown Tower. More world-building is on display here, but the book still manages to move along at a very fast pace after an initial slow start, where we find ourselves introduced to a completely new character, Reuben Hilfred – whose story seemingly follows a separate thread from the main events until later on in the book when you start to see things coming together, and his tale is an interesting break from the main event of Royce and Hadrian. The plot is strong and consistent throughout, and despite the fact that this may be a prequel, there are several twists and turns that you won’t be able to see coming even if you’re familiar with the Riyria Revelations.
The richness of the setting is great, as is the content of the overall storyline and The Rose and the Thorn proves to be a stunningly executed sequel that as I’ve already stated, resides among the best work that I’ve read all year so far. People who have read book one but not the Riyria Revelations should enjoy it as equally as those who are reading this in chronological order. Let me know if you’re reading this novel without knowledge of what happens in the main series – I’d love to hear if you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have – as so far, I’ve only heard perspectives from readers who have read the Ryria Revelations and your reaction to this as a newcomer would be pretty interesting.
THE RIYRIA CHRONICLES: The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn ...more
“Hands down, the best book of the year so far. Unputdownable, engrossing and imaginative, I can’t recommend this enough. You’ll love it.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.
Melanie is a very special girl.
I’m a massive fan of Mike Carey’s work. The Unwritten: Apocalypse was my first exposure to his comics writing and I’ve loved every second of it, so when I heard that he was putting out a new book under the penname of MR Carey, there was no way I was going to pass this opportunity by, and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s very little where The Girl With All The Gifts puts wrong, and it’s going to take some beating to be knocked off the “Best Book of the Year” status which this title currently holds.
In fact, scratch that. It’s not just one of my favourite novels of the year. It’s one of my favourite novels in the zombie genre period – the only thing that comes close out of what I’ve read is the equally incredible The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell. However, The Girl With All The Gifts is something entirely different. It doesn’t look like a zombie novel on the surface, maybe about a girl with special abilities at a stretch, but when it becomes apparent that you are in fact dealing with the undead, things really get interesting.
I went into The Girl With All The Gifts with virtually no knowledge of what was going to happen. Heck, I didn’t even know that it would be about zombies until I started reading. The less you know about it, the better – because this title will really surprise you, with its unpredictable narrative and a fantastic pace. You’d be hard pressed to put it down once you get started, and I blazed through this one really quickly.
The Girl With All The Gifts isn’t your typical zombie drama though. It’s not quite I am Legend, but neither is it the movie version of World War Z. It deals with plenty of science elements, and it handles them well, in a way that doesn’t bog down the narrative. It also allows time to make you care about characters, for example, Carey really makes you feel sympathy for Melanie as well as the others that we get to meet. He’s an experienced writer and it shows here with this book.
Whilst the book deals with a small band of survivors, it avoids many of the common clichés associated with zombie novels. I love the genre but they get noticeable after you’ve read one too many book, and thankfully for the large part clichés are something that The Girl With All The Gifts avoids. It feels like a breath of fresh air so if you’re someone who has been falling out of love with the Undead recently, then this book should be certainly right up your street. If you’ve never read a zombie book before and want to try out the genre than this book is equally accessible, working well as a standalone.
What some zombie novels put wrong is that they throw their main characters into one too many life threatening scenarios and don’t kill off any major leads, leading you into the scenario where you think everyone you care will survive, and thus rob the tension. This book avoids that, keeping the tension high – and the horror remains relevant throughout. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, and that’s why it’s just so thrilling.
I’m struggling to find anything wrong about this book. It’s just simply too good, unputdownable and a masterpiece. In short, if you haven’t already brought it you’ll want to pick it up as soon as you can, because The Girl With All The Gifts is not just the book to beat in 2014, it’s the book to beat in the entire zombie genre.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs was one of my favourite fantasy novels of 2015 and it was always going to be inevitable that the sequel would be read as soon as possible and things just keep on getting better and better. It has several similar elements that City of Stairs fans will recognise, keeping the mystery theme to the fantasy novel going but instead switches the focus to General Turyin Mulaghesh, who has just been called out of retirement in order to try and find a secret agent who’s gone missing. The book takes place years after the events of the first novel so don’t go in expecting a direct follow-up, but City of Blades handles expecations well with a strong replacement lead character and an interesting plot to boot, filled with plenty of layers of intrigue.
When I first started this book it took me no time at all to settle back into the world, and was instantly at home. The pace is strong and will have you turn the pages, and there are plenty of colourful characters that we meet over the course of the book. Shara is now the Prime Minister but don’t expect her to be the main focus of the novel, which puts Turyin front and centre, and it’s interesting to see the differences between the cast. Whilst Shara was an accomplished spymaster Turyin is a General, and it’s interesting to read how they go about tackling their respective subject matters. Turyin also has a problem, she’s handicapped, and missing an arm, and doesn’t qualify for a pension due to an error. Therefore Turyin has no choice but to throw in her lot with Shara, who wants her to accomplish a task. Go undercover. Complete the mission. Retire.
The blend of mystery and fantasy is fantastic and as a result the novel feels very much like a crime thriller that happens to be set in a fantasy world. Too little do these genres combine and when they do it’s always great to see, with Robert Jackson Bennett bringing experience in the genre (check out The Company Man if you haven’t already, I loved it), to the table that brings out the best in the book. It never feels dull and is constantly fast moving, with the elements of modern technology really adding an interesting mix to the book, it’s rare that you see things like phones and guns in any sort of fantasy. Yet in City of Blades, Bennett can make it work.
Turyin Mulaghesh quickly emerges as an early contender for the best new character of the year and makes a powerful lead, it’s rare that people with disabilities and middle aged women get to be the protagonists of fantasy novels and it’s even rarer when both get to be the protagonist of one. Her character journey is handled so well that she leaves a fantastic impression on the reader, and when you consider the excellent combination of two of my favourite genres, mystery and fantasy, there’s a lot of things here to like. City of Blades is a must read.
Stephen King is the master of the horror genre and one of my favourite writers, however oddly, most of the stuff that I’ve read by King hasn’t been part of the genre that he’s most renowned for, 11.22.63, The Dark Tower series – they’ve all come from different genres, with a few exceptions. And when I spotted Revival on the bookshelves of my local supermarket, I knew I had to check it out and for the most part, the book is a success, even if it is a little flawed in places and not quite as memorable as I’d hoped for, which is a shame, but then again, it’s still a Stephen King novel, and at the end of the day, even if a fairly average Stephen King novel is still going to be a pretty good read.
Told like a few of King’s previous novels, Revival follows the protagonist looking back and narrating past events that happened to him, a device that’s often frowned upon as a way of telling stories but there is an exception to every rule and King handles the narration incredibly well. The book tells the story of a guitarist named Jamie Morton, who finds himself crossing paths with the mysterious priest Charles Jacob, who has a deep obsession with electricity and sees it as the be all and end all.
Revival focuses a lot on character and it feels very much like King’s works in the past – you know you’re reading a King book as he does nothing to break the norm of his writing. The character Jamie himself is an interesting protagonist and his lifestyle from rock musician to the studio overtime allowed for a good backdrop of the story, but Charles Jacobs was by far and away the most mysterious character here and the story kicked up a gear whenever he showed up with his mysterious intentions. However, that said, his character development didn’t always feel even, often changing gears completely depending on the scene, always being incredibly inconsistent.
The plot itself was unfortunately, mostly forgettable, and I wasn’t shocked or especially left jaw-dropped by Revival as I probably should have been. There were enough fascinating elements about the book to make it worth reading regardless, with the style of writing and its quality being the main draw as King’s pageturning narrative managed to keep my attention throughout.
The first act is where the best part of Revival is as King portrays Jamie’s character development and coming of age childhood incredibly well. We really got an insight into his life, but then, when the second act comes into the picture, everything starts to go wrong. Revival feels predictable and dull as it struggles to the finish, and even though it almost redeems itself in the final act, building on the fantastic atmosphere that runs throughout the novel, Revival never quite reaches that stage unfortunately.
The book almost feels like a victim to its own hype. It’s far from the greatest horror story that King has ever written and I actually enjoyed Joyland more than I did this, so it’s not his best novel in a while yet either. But it’s still an entertaining one and should be worth a look anyway, especially if you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work.
"DAY ONE The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%. WEEK TWO Civilization has crumbled. YEAR TWENTY A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild. STATION ELEVEN Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything - even the end of the world."
The dystopian/post-apocalyptic genres can be pretty hit and miss for me. However, I’m still drawn back to them and that is the case with novels such as Station Eleven. It’s smart, compelling and engaging and really not just one of the better novels of 2014, but also one of the best books to come out of this genre in a while. Written by Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven is very much a different beast to your usual post apocalyptic novels, and packs some unique qualities that keep this book feeling fresh and original. The prose is confident and the narrative is compelling and there’s enough good stuff here to make Mandel a must read author going forward, because I was simply blown away by what Station Eleven has had to offer.
Station Eleven is hauntingly real. There isn’t anything too outlandish about the new world, and this isn’t the sort of book where you’ll find evil overlords or ruthless police states. It’s smart, compelling and unlike most post apocalyptic novels that I’ve read, looks back into the past as well as keeping a firm eye on the present. Flashbacks, designed to tell what life was like leading up to the outbreak of the Georgia Flu are handled incredibly well, and with a unique structure that balances that with looking at what life was like not just immediately after but also twenty years into the future from the collapsing of society, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s incredibly well plotted and at no point do the transitions feel jarring or out of place, with some great character work over the course of the novel that is really handled well. No part of this book overstays its welcome – it isn’t a fast thriller that completely overlooks characters and world building in favour of creating suspense and neither is it a dull, character study with not much going on. It’s the perfect blend of everything needed to make a good book and it really pays off in the execution.
Let’s get onto the characters, and they are incredibly awesome indeed. Station Eleven charts the lives of six various different people, both before and after Society’s collapse, exploring the interlinking lives of Arthur Leander, a famous actor, his oldest friend Clark and his first (of three) ex-wife Miranda. The journalist Jeevan is thrown into the mix as well alongside Travelling Symphony performer Kirsten and to top everything off, a self-proclaimed prophet. So it’s certainly an interesting bunch of characters to say the least and the way they’re interconnected across the novel is incredibly well thought out. They’re all richly developed, given their own quirks and flaws in a way which helps them stand out from the other bland, boring and faceless characters that you’ve seen in the genre before.
If you’re looking for something new, fresh and exciting in the post apocalyptic genre then you’ve certainly come to the right place. Literally, the only thing wrong with Station Eleven is that it ended, because I finished this book just wanting more. It’s one of the best novels of the year with some great themes overlaying the book. The character work is great and the Shakespeare connections – including the links to King Lear, are handled very well indeed. So as a result, I can’t recommend this novel enough – this is one you’ll really want to check out.
“An awesome debut, if you’ve enjoyed the likes of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie - Promise of Blood is a book that you’ll want to get on board for. Unputdownable.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.
It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king… Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.
It’s up to a few… Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.
But when gods are involved… Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…"
I think if I were to do an award for debut novel of the year, then there’s no question about it – The first book in the Powder Mage Trilogy from Brian McClellan will almost certainly be up in the Top 5. It’s stunning, well crafted, compelling and engaging, with some well written scenes throughout the whole novel with a powerfully built world allowing to enhance the story and create a greater impact on the reader.
Whilst some may dismiss the opening of yet another fantasy trilogy, especially with all the previous trilogies that have come before The Powder Mage, - The First Law Trilogy (Initial three books) by Joe Abercrombie, The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks, and thousands of more fantasy trilogies out there right the way through The Lord of the Rings and beyond – there comes a point where the reader starts to wonder if fantasy has anything new, fresh and exciting to throw at the reader. And I will respond to that question with a firm yes. There’s always going to be new fantasy titles on the market, and Promise of Blood is among the best of the new debuts that I’ve read since my introduction to the fantasy genre, not just in 2013.
The book itself is fairly dark, certainly darker than Brandon Sanderson’s, but it never quite reaches either Abercrombie or Martin levels of grittiness. This is an excellent debut that manages to draw several different things across from a variety of genres – for example, there’s guns and technology here as well as magic. In that category, it very much falls in with the same sort of style of novels as Brent Week’s second series, The Lightbringer, and even to a certain extent the Warhammer Fantasy tie-in novels published by Black Library. Regardless of that however, – you will find yourself hooked in right from the start, and find yourself unable to put the book down as you are dragged on a fantastic adventure that will leave you begging for the next installment in the series, particularly when it comes to the awesome conclusion.
Promise of Blood is an epic read, and it’s one that starts of strong and gets better as the story progresses. The more you find yourself engaged in the narrative, the less you find yourself able to put it down. The world, the magic and everything is very firmly established and there is little room for anything that feels like it could be a “deus ex machina” moment. The characters are strong as well, adding another strength to an already impressive load of them, for the book’s characters are varied, diverse, creative and are, like all the best fantasy novels, flawed. They each have struggles that they must overcome, and the world itself is also quite different to the standard fantasy fare – having the feeling of perhaps a revolutionary France, especially when the King gets booted off the throne in the very beginning of the story, providing a great momentum for things to come.
It’s a complex and compelling debut, and although may not be as good as Abercrombie or Weeks, it’s very, very close. I think the only major flaw here is that the characters aren’t as memorable and engaging as the fantasy favourites – Kylar Stern, Logen Ninefingers etc, but Tamas, Taniel and Adamat are among the better crafted fantasy characters that a reader can be entertained by, and as a result – the book itself still manages to be a very strong read. There’s just one minor flaw that I’ve found that barely detracted anything from the reading experience.
Released last year, The Vagrant was one of the many fantasy novels that begun a new series that I never got the chance to getting around to reading so I was delighted to finally get the chance to pick it up especially as it had been on my to watch list for some time. Yes, it may have the traditional man in the hood cover that all fantasy novels seem to have, but it did manage to have an interesting premise with the lone drifter type that when you look at examples in the past, have often worked out well and not just in the fantasy genre.
Newman’s lead is the Vagrant, a friendless warrior that carries a legendary weapon. His sole objective and purpose is to reach the last outpost of humanity, the Shining City, in order to deliver the sword that could play a difference in the war to come. It’s an interesting if simple plot that is played out effectively and works pretty well, creating the main character as an enigma who we don’t actually get to know that much about. And his only companions are a baby and a goat, which allow for moments of comedy that really added to the whole unexpected feel of the novel.
The book blends the premise of epic fantasy with a post apocalyptic style similar to what Mark Lawrence employed in his Broken Empire novels yet also feels like it shares element with the Fallout games. There is technology here but the main focus is on the fantasy, and there’s a lot of darkness that makes the book work. If you’re a fan of Lawrence or Abercrombie then chances are you’ll dig The Vagrant, which moves quickly and I often struggled to put it down.
The action is written incredibly well and right from the start you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into with some great sequences that work, feeling very immersive indeed. The fights stand out and it’s clear Newman knows how to write them, and the fact that he can combine this with the strong development of the world pays off in his favour. As a result a powerful novel is created that’s instantly memorable and incredibly gripping. Therefore it’s safe to say that The Vagrant is a definite must read for fans of darker fantasy, kicking off what is hopefully a promising new series from the author whose work I will be returning to for sure. ...more
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.
The Invisible Library is a novel with very interesting ideas and has plenty of things going for it. It’s fun,imaginative and entertaining, and feels very similar to several TV shows that most people will enjoy. It’s kind of like a mix of Doctor Who, Fringe and The Librarians (a New TV Series on SyFy – that’s awesome), and will certainly be worth your time if you intend to check it out.
The characters themselves are part of what makes the book so enjoyable. Irene, our main female lead, is an excellent protagonist and her chemistry with her assistant, Kai, is pulled off very well. The characters both have a nice dynamic and it’s good to see their development changing over the course of the book. With Irene having spent all her life in the library and Kai being a relative outsider, it’s clear to see how their different worlds have changed the characters. Their development was strong and I suspect for many, the characters will probably be the highlight of this series.
Genevieve Cogman has crafted a well paced, smart and fun novel that will certainly be a quick read for most people. There aren’t any elements where the pacing feels off and neither is there any major flaws that detract from other books. It certainly feels like a welcome break from any grimdark fiction that you’ll read lately, and if you’re looking for a book with a lighter tone than The Invisible Library will be right up your street.
With some great humour, The Invisible Library also benefits from a well developed world that will be interesting to explore in the sequels – of which I will be looking forward to reading for sure. The titular library has a very powerful effect on the book, and its presence is felt indeed, feeling like a character in its own right.
There’s a lot of magical and supernatural intrigue that’s packed into this series and due to Cogman’s writing it never feels like the author is trying to cram too much in, too quickly. The plot moves along at a rapid pace and whilst it’s enough to stand on its own, the book has plenty of unanswered questions that could be expanded upon in future novels.
Genevieve Cogman offers an addictive start to a new series that can only get better as it progresses, with The Invisible Library only touching the surface of what we can get from this new world that readers will find themselves in. As mentioned above, if you’re a fan of the likes of Doctor Who, Fringe or The Librarians, or in fact, just fun urban fantasy in general, you won’t want to miss this.
"When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father's last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father's murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion's bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world."
The first novel that I picked to read from the next batch of SPFBO novels sent my way was Bloodrush, Ben Galley’s entry, and the western/fantasy blend instantly drew my eye along with the intriguing cover. The Western and fantasy genres are something that you’ll see blended together rarely, and it was the potential that attracted me to this book coupled with an interesting sounding plot of a man named Tonmerion Hark finding his life turned upside down when his father is found dead. As per his father’s last will and testament, Tonmerion is forced across the Atlantic to Wyoming, however, it’s not the Wyoming that you’ll be familiar with in the present day. This is a Wyoming that’s on the other side of the Iron Ocean, and stands at the edge of the Endless Land. Dark things haunt Fell Falls, combining fascinating beasts like railwraiths with intriguing plots and conspiracy. It’s a richly developed, compelling fantasy novel that twists our own history very well. I loved reading about the world, and it’s something that I’m going to return to for sure in the future. The book could have easily fallen short and not hit all the high notes, including almost too much stuff for one novel to hold, but thankfully, Bloodrush is well written enough to avoid that trap, blending the characters and pacing strongly together with the richness of the world building to create a compelling story.
Tonmerion Hark is the son of the Prime Lord, the recently deceased equivalent to the Prime Minister. The backdrop of the alternate version of Victorian Britain is handled very well and the era suits the novel perfectly. Tonmerion allows for an interesting protagonist, who also happens to have a best friend who isn’t exactly human, but a faerie named Rhin who is on the run from the rest of his race. This is a world where despite knowing that the Fae exist, few people have actually seen one in the flesh. It’s not the only change to the history of the world that readers can come to expect when they read Bloodrush, but for obvious reasons, is the most important one. Other touches like Red King Lincoln are also mentioned, providing some great depth the scope and scale of the world and plenty for Galley to explore in the future. From the beginning you’ll find yourself supporting and getting behind the lead character, as Tonmerion undergoes a coming-of-age transition when he journeys to America, with Rhin, a secondary character who works just as well as the other additions to the cast do. His Aunt Lillian, the reason behind his travel across the Iron Sea, and Lurker, Lillian’s friend, are other more prominent people who you can expect to feature. It’s an interesting mix of characters that work really well together and is something that's pulled off effectively.
Ben Galley’s Bloodrush then, is an incredibly strong read that fans of fantasy and or westerns should check out. It blends the two genres together very well, pitting the characters against the backdrop of an intriguing world that will appeal a lot to fans of the likes of Neil Gaiman (particularly if you’re a fan of American Gods) and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I can’t wait to see what Galley comes up with next and as a result, this is something that I can highly recommend.
Wolf by Wolf has been a novel that I’ve heard a lot about since its release last November and when I finally had the chance to read it, I was quickly taken aback by just how good and original it is. It’s an alternate history young adult novel that can be described as a mix between The Man in the High Castle, Inglourious Basterds and oddly, Mad Max: Fury Road, with the main action sequences taking place over the course of one long race. The book is set in a dark future where Hitler, the Germans and the Japanese won World War 2 and it’s been over 10 years since it ended. Yael, who has gained the ability to change her appearance at will in the aftermath of dark twisted experiments at Auschwitz, finds herself with one goal in mind, killing Hitler.
However, killing the leader of the Third Reich is never an easy challenge but she might have a shot at doing so, by completing the legendary Axis Tour, a long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo that weeds out the strongest and the smartest from the weak and the poor. The winner gets an audience at close quarters with the Fuhrer, and if he gets killed on screen whilst the whole world is watching, then history could change forever. To make things more complicated, Yael has to undergo a transformation into Adele Wolfe, Germany’s most famous female rider and previous winner of the Axis Tour, and with her character comes problems of her own.
There was so much to love about Wolf by Wolf. It’s rare that you see alternate history tackled in young adult fiction and even rarely as good as Ryan Graudin’s Wolf By Wolf. The premise is the biggest draw and it delivers admirably, plunging readers into a very quick novel that doesn’t hold anything back in regards to the pace, it’s virtually nonstop. And it’s not just the action that Graudin excels at, it’s the character development and storytelling. Yael is an extremely well developed character and her complexity is fully realised in this novel, instantly striking a cord as a memorable protagonist who has to deal with her own problems when she’s trying to fit into Adele Wolfe’s life. What happens when her brother asks her questions about events that she should remember but because she’s not Adele she doesn’t? The suspense is there throughout the book, and whilst due to the subject matter may be difficult to read in places, is effective enough to work.
Wolf by Wolf is one of the most original things to come out of the young adult genre in ages and I haven’t read anything else like it in a while, and only really The Man In The High Castle and Inglourious Basterds (both of which are seriously worth watching – I haven’t read TMITHC novel – by the way, if you haven’t already) come anywhere close in the subject matter. Sure, there’s probably more out there like this but I haven’t stumbled across it yet. The fast pace, the fascinating uniqueness of the insane premise, Wolf by Wolf is a novel that makes me regret making my best of 2015 list so soon because this would have been on there for sure.
As far as I’m concerned, this book alone makes Ryan Graudin a must read author for me and Wolf by Wolf is pretty much essential reading in the young adult genre. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is indeed a sequel to this novel, and you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be reading it as soon as it comes out, or as close to the release date as possible.
Sebastien De Castell’s Greatcoats series so far has been really fun to read and the first two books have ended up as among my favourites in the respective years that they were released in and this latest release is likely to be no exception as I was blown away once again in the latest instalment which pits Falcio, Kest and Brasti against someone who has killed one of their friends, a Saint. It turns out that the Saints are turning up dead left right and centre, meaning that the planned agreement to put Aline on the Throne may not take place if the Dukes have their way.
In order to stop the country from turning into a theocracy following the influx of religious soldiers to protect Churches, Falcio and company must find the killer who is capable of turning Saints mad through the use of an Iron Mask. Of course, finding the killer won’t be the hardest challenge, but killing him will be.
De Castell manages to up the stakes for the third Greatcoats novel that sees the characters and their relationships are as fun and enjoyable as ever and it’s great to see that the usual exchanges have returned. We even get to see characters who use to fall on the villainous side of the spectrum in a new light, and this allows for a nice change in the character dynamics as they continue to grow throughout the course of the book.
The pace of the book is solid and it continues the fine form of the series, with a smooth narrative that makes the best use of the fantastic action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The humour pays off strongly on top of this as well with De Castell bringing everything that he can to the table to make a really enjoyable book that’s incredibly fun to read.
Saint’s Blood builds on the worldbuilding that begun in the first two novels. The focus of religion being pushed to the forefront gives us time to explore Falcio’s reaction to it as he begins to question his belief, and it’s interesting to see how De Castell tackles the subject of faith in this novel. This goes some way to helping create a fully-realised world that along with the character growth makes the final act all the more rewarding, and I really can’t wait to see where De Castell takes the audience from here. There’s too much potential to continue to explore and I can’t wait for the next novel in the Greatcoats series, and hopefully it continues the form of all the novels that we’ve had so far.
David Baldacci has always been an author whose work I have wanted to read more of but he keeps putting out too many novels for me to stay on top of. He’s of the same breed of the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Lee Child, thriller writers who churn out at least one new book each year and you always know what you’re going to be in store for, a fast paced, quick read that more often than not, will be at the very least entertaining. Whether it’s part of a long running twenty book series or a new one, like Memory Man, these authors will keep you hooked from page one to the end of the book for the most part. The author himself may be hit and miss for me and I have never found his books too brilliant, but having only read the first King & Maxwell book as well as the first Will Robie novel, there’s always something more to explore and Memory Man, the start of a new series centred around new protagonist Amos Decker, is one of them.
Decker himself is an interesting character who didn’t originally start out life as a Private Investigator. He was in fact the only person to come from Burlington, his home town, to ever reach the level of professional football, however, with the very first play, a collision knocked him off the field for good and left him with an unlikely side effect, the ability to remember everything, which naturally, two decades later, has disastrous consequences when he returns from his day job as a Police Detective to find his wife and daughter murdered after a break-in. Winding up on the street after quitting his job, he’s now a P.I, and has been for a year. When he is pulled into a horrific murder at a school that brings his hometown to his knees, Decker is called into the investigation which may have terrifying ties to his wife’s death.
Baldacci’s characters are often pretty strong and easy to get behind. Decker is a well-crafted main character and you quickly find yourself wanting him to succeed, even if he is still cut from the same mould as your stereotypical lead men in thriller novels, however his unique ability allows a somewhat fresh take.
The plot is pretty fast moving as per normal and it even ranges into the creepier elements at times, creating a great, plot twisting mystery that deals a plot that seems ripped straight out of the headlines, a school shooting. The mystery is successfully presented and will really keep you guessing until the reveal, which is fairly satisfying and is wrapped up well allowing for the start of a series to come. Yes, some of the plot twists may be fairly unrealistic for a slightly grounded novel but if you can put that aside, Memory Man still remains a fairly engaging read that is pretty intense indeed.
Now onto the negatives. The characters themselves, the supporting cast, are totally generic and forgettable. You get a stereotypical obsessive reporter type character and a couple of generic sympathetic police officers. Only the villain is fairly developed, but everything else feels bland but that more often than not is the problem when the writer decides to focus entirely on one character as we don’t get any other perspective than Decker throughout the novel. They don’t really add anything to the book and you get the feeling that Decker would have been able to do pretty much everything that he did without their involvement, which is a shame, because Baldacci has proven that he can create powerful, compelling secondary characters in the previous novels that I’ve read.
So on the whole, Memory Man is a solid start to a new series from David Baldacci. It’s an addictive, engaging read that will keep you hooked from start to finish but at the same time, there are a few problems here and there. It’s not perfect. But am I going to read the next novel in the series? You bet I will.
“Mark Lawrence follows up to Prince of Thorns with a cracking, compelling, unpredictable sequel that succeeds in almost every way. My new favourite Fa“Mark Lawrence follows up to Prince of Thorns with a cracking, compelling, unpredictable sequel that succeeds in almost every way. My new favourite Fantasy novel of 2012.” ~The Founding Fields
You know in my review of The Blinding Knife, I mentioned that I’d found a favourite fantasy of novel of 2012? Well, as it happens, the very next fantasy novel that I read beats a Brent Weeks novel. Something that I’d never thought possible unless the name of that author was George RR Martin, Peter V. Brett or Brandon Sanderson, (I would put Abercrombie in there as well, but I’ve only read the first First Law novel). Lawrence produced an awesome trilogy opener with Prince of Thorns, which I didn’t get around to reviewing (But I loved it nonetheless), and has now followed that up with a dramatic, enthralling and captivating sequel that you will be unable to put down. Mark Lawrence has made it two out of two, and he’s jumped to the top of my favourite fantasy authors list (along with the aforementioned Martin, Sanderson, etc).
"The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan."
In any other book, Jorg would be the bad guy. Some of the acts that he commits in Prince of Thorns were enough to put some readers off, as he’s far from the normal “Knight in Shining Armour” that you see in your average fantasy novel. Jorg is flawed, but despite the issues with his character, Lawrence has somehow managed to weave a compelling narrative that will actually leave you wanting Jorg to emerge victorious. You want to follow him, no matter what he’s done. He’s developed as a character over the course of the two books so far, and it will be interesting to see how he changes in the third book.
King of Thorns takes place four years after the ending of Prince. It’s clear that Jorg is older now, but nonetheless still in his teens. He’s not perfect. He will make mistakes. This allows the novel to be more believable, and Lawrence writes a gritty, dark world that readers of George RR Martin will be familiar with. Nobody is safe, and anybody can die. There are no cliches here folks, and King of Thorns provides a very unpredictable read.
“An epic conclusion that reinforces the fact that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy authors out there. Jaw-dropping stuff.” ~The Foundi“An epic conclusion that reinforces the fact that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy authors out there. Jaw-dropping stuff.” ~The Founding Fields
Do not read this review unless you have read the first two novels in the Trilogy, The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension, as there are spoilers for the previous books in this series.
And so it ends. Three books, a lot of reading and a lot of catching up later, Brandon Sanderson’s finale to the first three Mistborn novels and the conclusion of Vin and Elend’s story arc - The Hero of Ages ends with a bang rather than a whimper, and proves why he’s one of the best living fantasy authors alongside George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie. It’s not often that you read a book with more than 500 pages that you find yourself struggling to put down.
"Who is the Hero of Ages?
To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness—the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists—is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.
Having escaped death at the climax of The Well of Ascension only by becoming a Mistborn himself, Emperor Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by the Lord Ruler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been tricked into releasing the mystic force known as Ruin from the Well. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans!"
I couldn’t put this novel down. I’ve read a lot of epic fantasy novels this year including the entirety of the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and I can safely say that The Hero of Ages is easily among my top 5, due to several reasons. The level of world building and depth that Sanderson puts into this series is a very enjoyable one, and you can tell that he hasn’t made this ending up on the spot. This was planned, and I am really glad to see that Sanderson’s conclusion has met the promise set by the last two books, and given us a series that I’m not likely to forget in a while. And it’s not even over yet. Well, the adventures of Vin and Elend are. We won’t be seeing anymore of them especially after the titanic conclusion that will leave the reader breathless, but a new story by Sanderson set in the future of the Mistborn world, The Alloy of Law, is a novel that I set an aim to myself to read before the end of this year, but now – I don’t really want to.
Bradley P. Beaulieu is an author who I’ve been wanting to read for a while so that when I saw Twelve Kings on Amazon when I was in France over the summer as part of Gollancz’ pre-ordering ebooks for £1.99 deal and I snapped it up without hesitation. When it was released, I eagerly dove into it looking for a good new fantasy novel, and the book didn’t disappoint, serving up as one of the better releases of the year in the genre, making use of an imaginative world that isn’t just your standard medieval, Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy. It’s different, original and unique, with a fantastic backdrop and some great characters that keep the novel fresh and engaging.
The desert city of Sharakhai has to be one of the most captivating locations that I’ve read in a fantasy book, immersed in so much detail. It’s surrounded not by water or grass but by sand, and serves as a trade centre for visitors from across the world. It’s an interesting backdrop for a story and is fully brought to life here as we get a fantastic sense of world building brought about by Beaulieu, who captures the city in all its glory. However, the city itself is not quite an ideal home, for the Twelve Kings have ruled its land for four hundred years, immortal and cruel. Most can only pray for their destruction, as to do much more would only invite destruction. The book hones in on one major protagonist over the course of the novel, the well developed Çeda who serves as a way into this world. Having gone through an interesting background, she knows the cruelty of the Kings all too well, with them being responsible for her mother’s death. Determined to take down the Kings, she may find answers in a book left from her mother, that hold mysterious, enigmatic writings, and only by answering the puzzles can she learn more about its contents.
The rich mythology present in Twelve Kings is fantastic, as Beaulieu really handles everything well. However, the writer never lets any of it overshadow the characters, and although there are others involved, the main focus is on Çeda. If you like the character, then chances are, you’ll like the book, because even though the pacing is a tad inconsistent at times, there are draws in pretty much every other area, and there are even a couple of twists that work fantastically within the novel, and the fact that Beaulieu keeps Çeda at the heart of the book really works, making the reader more likely to care about the character given the amount of time the author gets to flesh out her character.
Twelve Kings feels like it sets up a series and given what we’ve seen, it serves as a teaser into the rich and imaginative world that Beaulieu has to offer. He’s one of the few authors who actually manages to handle flashbacks, which are present, well, weaving them into the story to enhance it rather than simply provide chapter breaks. Yes, it may not quite be perfect, with the pacing issues that the book has preventing it from being a flawless book, it is still a very, very good one that has created a world I can’t wait to return to. Hopefully, the follow up, With Blood Upon The Sand will be just as good.
I’ve been looking to find this book for ages and was finally able to get ahold of a copy whilst I was in the Forbidden Planet Store in London, I knew It would take me long to start reading and I quickly devoured through its pages on the journey home, and was really blown away by what may be the best Star Wars novel from the new Expanded Universe so far.
The book itself adopts a very Romeo and Juliet feel to Star Wars as it Forrest Gumps its way through the events of the Original Trilogy, featuring several cameos from various major players in both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Whilst Luke, Han and Leia are referenced in name only, characters like Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, Wedge Antilles In the hands of another writer it might be seen as though they are trying to cram in so many big names just for the sake of it but no, every appearance works and everybody is portrayed in character.
Claudia Grey’s newcomers are both perfect additions to the Star Wars Universe as well, as we start on the planet of Jelucan, on the Outer Rim, where the Empire has just reached the planet. It’s interesting that at the start when the characters are both young and idealistic how the Empire is presented in an entirely different light from the films, viewed through two children’s eyes. These two children are the aristocrat Thane Kyrell and the rural villager Ciena Ree, who share nothing in common at first aside from their love of flying, and quickly become fast friends as they move up the Imperial Academy. However, once the events of A New Hope happen, with the Death Star destroying Alderaan, the characters, particularly Thane, starts to have doubts about the Empire, and eventually quits, leaving Ciena behind.
It was very interesting reading about the Point of View from the Imperial side of things which is a rarity in Star Wars fiction, especially in the new canon. Usually the rule of thumb means that the Imperials are presented as the bad guys, but peel back behind the curtain and the shades of grey become clearer. Ciena, whilst remaining with the Empire from her arrival on Jelucan to its downfall and then even at the Battle of Jakku, which is featured as a backdrop to the events in The Force Awakens – Rey’s home planet – is not necessarily a villain herself. Unlike Thane she’s more in the background and isn’t at the forefront of the many Imperial atrocities, preferring to believe in a galaxy where at least the Empire brings Order rather than Chaos. These two characters are extremely well defined personality wise and leave a lasting impression on the audience, and I strongly hope that this is not the last we see of these two characters in the Star Wars Universe.
The action takes us to pretty much every location that was visited in the Original Trilogy for brief periods of time and shows us what was happening just to the left of say, the Imperials who were responsible for letting R2D2 and C3P0 getting away from Tantvine IV at the beginning of A New Hope, and also takes us into the action on the Battle of Hoth, as well as Endor. The action is well written and the romance is handled strongly, not overwhelming the plot. It avoids the normal tropes and offers compelling reasons why characters might join both the Empire or the Rebellion, keeping a diverse list of characters that develop well overtime.
In conclusion then, Lost Stars is a very solid book that’s definitely worth a read. It’s great to see that Claudia Grey will be writing more novels in the new Star Wars Universe going forward and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next – Goodreads has it labelled as Bloodline: New Republic, which should be a very interesting read indeed. I’m also inclined to check out her non-Star Wars novels as well, A Thousand Pieces of You looks pretty interesting and has an amazing cover on top of that. Certainly something to keep an eye on.
A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY.... "The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos.
Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.
And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting. . . ."
The new Expanded Universe has so far been a positive experience for me despite my love for the previous one. Tarkin, Lords of the Sith and Dark Disciple were all very strong reads, and I’m yet to read Heir to the Jedi or A New Dawn but both look like very appealing titles at the same time. And then there’s Marvel’s Comics, which are very strong indeed, with the main Star Wars title, Darth Vader and the rotating mini-series all being super impressive. With Force Friday behind us and The Force Awakens ahead, It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan, and whilst Aftermath, the latest novel from one of my go-to authors, Chuck Wendig, (responsible for the awesome Miriam Black novels) may have been met with fairly divisive reviews, it remains another good offering that provides a welcome look into life post Return of the Jedi, because as should be clear by now, the war against The Empire is not over yet. They may have been dealt a severe blow, but there’s still enough threat there to return and strike again, with a new leadership against the newly formed New Republic.
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath literally deals with the Aftermath of the events that readers will have seen in the films. The Empire has collapsed without a clear leader and there are plenty of power struggles and whilst the Rebel Alliance have formed the New Republic, they’re struggling to find out to maintain the peace in the fallout as the Empire try to start anew through Admiral Rae Sloane on Akiva, in order to bring it back to its former glory. Sloane is one of the many varied characters that we meet in this book, and there’s plenty of them there, as Wendig makes use of both recurring characters and new creations very well indeed. We spend more time with the likes of fan favourite pilot Wedge Antilles, and on top of that, there’s also a fair amount to do for Admiral Ackbar, which came as an unexpected but welcome surprise for the man commonly known for the “It’s a Trap!” line in Return of the Jedi. The new cast also have Norra Wexley to offer them, a Rebel Pilot who wants nothing more than to go home to her son after years of fighting for the Rebellion, but it isn’t going to be as a warm homecoming as she would have hoped for. It’s a diverse bunch, offering some excellent variety to the Star Wars books that may have given us one too many cheap Han Solo knock-off characters in the past.
The decision to focus on unknown characters rather than the more established stars may frustrate some who want to know immediately what their favourites are up to, but fleshing out the new cast always helps. Yes, Han and Chewie may feature, but only in brief cameos, which makes the book a bit more unpredictable than it otherwise would have as we don’t necessarily know that these new characters will make it through to the end. They don’t have that star power that keeps them safe, and with so many books out there that put the main cast in the spotlight, it’s refreshing to see a book that avoids doing so.
The writing style that Wendig uses, third person present tense, will be familiar to fans of his Miriam Black books, but for the readers who haven’t checked them out before his prose will come as a surprise, a break from what the normal Star Wars books have given us in the past. This is refreshing and offers a different look into a familiar universe, and Wendig’s narrative weaves a compelling structure that really feels at home and is something that I'd like to see explored further. Don’t go in expecting too much hints towards what’s going to happen in The Force Awakens – this book doesn’t significantly move forward the events in the Expanded Universe and if you go in with that in mind then you shouldn't be too disappointed. Instead, Aftermath uses an opportunity to tell us how the common people are reacting to the fall of the Empire. Different people with different views and backgrounds all across the galaxy are presented throughout the book and it makes for a far less black and white situation than we’ve had presented to us before, told to us primarily through various interludes in which explore characters who might not necessarily be part of the main struggle.
The story really picks off when Wedge Antilles is captured by Sloane and it never really slows down after that, eventually turning into a fast paced action novel that has a variety of fight sequences that are strongly entertaining, with battles taking place both on land and in space. The atmosphere perfectly hits home with the tone, look and feel of the original trilogy, and whilst the novel may have its doubters, Aftermath is something that I really enjoyed and I hope that we get to see more of Wendig's novels in this Universe in the future. There's loads of potential for some great new stories to be told.
The Copper Cat Trilogy has been one of my favourites of recent years in the epic fantasy genre. It’s fun, engaging and well-written, feeling a lot like David Lynch’s Gentleman’s Bastard series and working really well as a result. The characters have been really fun to follow and it was great to see Aaron Firth Wydrin, and Sebastian Caverson return even if this is the conclusion to the Trilogy. We follow them on their latest assignment from the deadly pirate (and Wydrin’s mother) Captain Devinia the Red , and it’s great fun to read as the novel never slows down, making use of an active imagination to tell a fascinating story.
The Silver Tide sends our protagonists to an island that nobody had ever returned from, and it’s interesting to see how the setting shapes how the book plays out, making uses of a Nassau-like location. However even the bravest of pirates knows that to venture beyond the Two Birds boundaries is to not return, and it’s interesting to follow the three through this journey that splits up the three, sending Sebastian on one mission whilst Wydrin and Frith on another. This blend of narrative allows for an incredibly entertaining read, and it’s not often nowadays you see fantasy that isn’t afraid to use pretty much everything that the genre has to offer.
The pace is electrifying and manages to make use of the fantasy creatures in such a way that doesn’t feel cheap. The sheer range of things that are featured in this book is fascinating, there’s Dragons, Gods, and Time Travel, and that’s just for starters, as Williams holds nothing back in order to create an amazing finale.
The interactions are great throughout the book, with some brilliant exchanges between the characters that only makes you miss them more when you finish the novel. There are plenty of themes that are used here to great effect that really help develop the characters, making them all the more captivating and ensuring that I won’t forget them in a hurry.
I really didn’t want this book to end as these characters have been so much fun to read over the course of the Trilogy, and there was also the worry that the ending would be a letdown. However, any doubts were quickly pushed aside. Williams manages to make everything work together so well and as a result, that makes it three out of three for The Copper Cat, making the Trilogy as a whole a must-read for fantasy fans. ...more