What's not to like about Harry Dresden? Think of all those hard-boiled PI novels and now imagine that one of those PIs is the only publicly practisingWhat's not to like about Harry Dresden? Think of all those hard-boiled PI novels and now imagine that one of those PIs is the only publicly practising wizard in Chicago whose bread and butter work is being the go-to guy for the local police department's special investigations unit. It's a good set-up premise and as this, my second Dresden novel, keeps up the pace of the first one, I think I'm going to enjoy working my way through the whole series.
This time it's werewolves... or is it? When a thug is found at full moon, ripped apart, Murphy, Harry's police employer, calls him in. The conclusion seems obvious, but Murphy's investigation is somewhat hampered by an elite FBI squad. Undaunted she instructs Harry to dig up all the information he can on werewolves. It turns out that's a lot. There are three different kinds, some of them mad, bad and dangerous to know, others magically induced who retain some semblance of their own humanity.... Er, right, that makes them madder, badder and even more dangerous under certain conditions. And then there are shapechangers...
Harry goes through the mill, falls out and back in with Murphy, make a few mistakes and finally solves the case – as we all knew he would. It's just the route he takes to get there that's the meat of this story. Highly recommended. ...more
Hayley's parents are dead and she has been raised by overly restrictive grandparents who seem to be ruled by Uncle Jolyon. Suddenly she is sent away tHayley's parents are dead and she has been raised by overly restrictive grandparents who seem to be ruled by Uncle Jolyon. Suddenly she is sent away to live with the Aunts in Ireland because she's done something wrong. What she's done and the consequences of it are revealed gradually in The Game as Hayley finds a whole new world (the Mythosphere) waiting for her when she meets the Aunts and her previously unknown cousins.
Interweaving story strands from myth, legend and literature (even Tolkien gets a passing nod), Diana Wynne Jones takes extraordinary concepts and makes them feel not only normal but right. You don't need to know your Greek myths to keep up with this (there's a glossary at the end) but if you do you might get more out of it.
As you might expect from Diana Wynne Jones, this is beautifully and economically written and well worth a read. ...more
Wow... just WOW! I make no excuses for this trilogy taking from mid October to Mid December to read because it's big, it's densely packed and it's fasWow... just WOW! I make no excuses for this trilogy taking from mid October to Mid December to read because it's big, it's densely packed and it's fascinating with a broad sweeping plot, a cast of complex characters and cataclysmic action. Like life it's not tidy, and like life nobody's perfect – even the heroes. In fact perfection is far from the state any of this bunch of assorted misfits achieve and there are no heroes, though at times people do heroic things. Yet at other times they run away.
So take a bunch of assorted people who barely know each other and like each other even less and throw them together for great purposes and at the end of the day you have a bunch of cohesive comrades? Yes? Well, actually no. At the end of the day they may have achieved things, but they still hate each other and don't like looking in the mirror much.
So – first things first – or maybe second. This isn't really a trilogy, it's one huge book split into three volumes. Don't think you could pick up book 2 or 3 without reading book one. How many pages? 422 + 570 + 695 (1600 give or take a few and the first one was a trade paperback so at a rough word count I'd say something like 250k per book).
How many main characters? Well Abercrombie adds a few as we get into each new book, but for starters we have three, starting with Logen Ninefingers, the Bloody Nine, berserker barbarian. Logen is a humane, intelligent, uneducated warrior who will kill his enemies at the drop of a hat, but when Ninefingers takes over he'll kill anyone in his way – and that includes his friends, too.
Then there's Glokta, once the Golden Boy of the Union, master swordsman and brave colonel in the Union army, but a few years on the receiving end in the torture chambers of Gurkhul soon changed him into a twisted cripple, living in constant pain, whose purpose in life is now to inflict pain on others in the name of the King's inquisition. If you're guilty Glokta will make you confess. Actually if you're innocent he'll make you confess, too. His latest swathe of victims may well have unearthed major corruption in the government, but if he exposes it, he's pretty sure that he'll be the next body found floating in the harbour.
Then there's Jezal dan Luthar, the Union's current Golden Boy, but if this is the best the Union has, it might as well give up now when the barbarians in the north attack at the same time as Gurkhul in the south. Luthar can swing a sword a bit, and he turns a pretty leg in a uniform, but he's never seen real action and would probably sprint a mile if he did.
As the books progress we get a series of additional characters unfolding which include Byaz, a master mage with a power complex and a determination to steer the Union to victory even if it kills everyone in the way – including the Union's own citizens. Ferro, carrying demon blood in her veins and a raging desire for vengeance over the Gurkhish which has consumed all she ever was a might be. The Dogman, left leading the Northmen's resistance in Logen's place against their new king who is bent on cutting the heart out of the Union and slapping down the resistance from his own people. Hard! Colonel West, honest soldier from common stock who has risen because of his talent, but he has a temper which will get him into trouble if he's not careful, especially with his sister, Ardee, a wilful, bored fish out of water, perpetually drunk and none too discrete with her favours.
And this is all there is to save the Union. Can they do it? Maybe they can, but there's a price – a terrible price. Good deeds have terrible consequences. Quests come to nought. Sieges bravely defended depend on money from shady sources, blackmail. The least trustworthy prove their resilience and the most trustworthy fail. Last minute rescues don’t exactly save anyone.
To say this is a dark work is an understatement of the word dark, but it's not without it's quirky twisted humour and its sympathetic characters, foremost amongst these being Glokta whose world-weary commentary exposes wry humour and a deep intelligence. Despite his job and his willingness to detach body-parts from innocent men with rusty pincers, he may be the most honest and honourable soul in the hierarchy of government – which may not be saying much, but it night have to be enough.
It may have taken me two months to read 750,000 words of the 'First Law' trilogy, but it was well worth it and I highly recommend it to anyone who's got a strong stomach. The Guardian quote says it's 'Delightfully twisted and evil,' and I reckon that's spot on the money. ...more
Fun, fast-paced and sexy, this is the sixth and possibly final outing for Raine Benares, elf and magical finder who found one thing too many and endedFun, fast-paced and sexy, this is the sixth and possibly final outing for Raine Benares, elf and magical finder who found one thing too many and ended up getting magically hitched to a soul-sucking stone of immense power, called the Saghred. Books one to five have involved variations on Raine trying to divorce the stone without dying in the process, alternately trying to lose it, trying to keep it and trying to reclaim it (all while trying to keep herself, her family and her friends alive) while some of the supposed good guys make life difficult and before evil goblin mage Sarad Nukpana finds a way to use the Saghred to make himself goblin king and an immortal, invincible, evil semi-god. Oh, yes, and while she's at it she's about to take part in a goblin political coup to exchange an evil king for a slightly less evil one.
At the end of the last book Nukpana had succeeded in getting the stone, but while Raine is alive and still connected to it magically he can't use it. He needs Raine dead. Nothing new there, then. Except that since losing the stone Raine's magic has taken a holiday - not just the mega-magic that came from the stone - but all the magic she ever had.
Raine; her lover Mychael, captain of the Conclave Guardians on the magical Isle of Mid; her friend, Goblin dark mage Tam; Tam's son, Talon; Imala, head of the Goblin SS. and Raine's little-brother-figure, Piaras, are thrown in at the deep end risking everything to retrieve the Saghred from Sarak Nukpana in the Goblin capital and put Prince Chigaru on the throne. To make life more complicated than it already is they're accompanied by Carnades Sylvanus, talented Mirror Mage, but currently on probation for betraying the good guys in the last book.
Because this takes place in the goblin kingdom we shed some of the usual supporting characters – Raine's nefarious pirate relatives and her recently restored father, for instance – and have a much tighter focus on Mychael and Tam, the two (once competing) men in Raine's life.
The plot leaps and lurches from one near-death experience to the next, always keeping the reader breathless. Raine is well drawn and since everything is in her first person viewpoint we get a very up-close-and-personal view of events.
Unlike the other six books which always have an obvious hook into the next adventure there's a definite and satisfying conclusion. This could be the last of Raine Benares adventures, but there are enough promises of future storylines that if the author so chooses she can continue. I've looked on her website but there's no indication of what she's currently writing. I guess I'll just have to wait, but from my experiences with Lisa Shearin's books so far the next one will be a 'buy-on-sight'.
Just one disappointment and that is that this book was not immediately available on kindle....more
The fifth Raine Benares book continuing her struggles against Saghred, the soul-sucking stome of limitless power that she accidentally bonded with inThe fifth Raine Benares book continuing her struggles against Saghred, the soul-sucking stome of limitless power that she accidentally bonded with in book one. Sarad Nukpana is still on the loose and Raine is still facing enemies in both the goblin and elf camps not to mention the slimy mage Sylvanus Carnades, but on her side she has semi-reformed dark goblin mage Tam and uber-powerful spell-singing boss of the Conclave Guardians, Mychael, with whom she has bonded in more ways than one.
This picks up barely a couple of weeks after 'Bewitched and Betrayed'. Raine is cautiously supporting pretender to the goblin throne, Chigaru Mal'Salin who despite being a bad guy in the first book now presents the least bad alternative contender in the twisted goblin political system, but someone's out to kill him - and Mychael as well.
There are some new players in town. On the plus side one of them is her sneaky banker cousin Mago who's popped in to lend some underhand Benares family support. (The Benares are the most criminally active family on the planet, but in the nicest possible way.) On the minus side there's also her ex-fiance, an elven assassin with a grudge.
Another fast paced, amusing fantasy romp with sexy goblins, gorgeous elves and a kick-ass, leather-clad wisecracking elven heroine with a unique character voice that hooks you right in. It feels as up to date as urban fantasy but not as we know it, having no connection to out world at all. However the worldbuilding is vivid and detailed and you feel as though these characters are getting up to tricks even when they aren't on the page. ...more
The fourth Raine Benares book and Raine is still having major trouble with the Saghred, the soul-sucking stome of limitless power that she accidentallThe fourth Raine Benares book and Raine is still having major trouble with the Saghred, the soul-sucking stome of limitless power that she accidentally bonded with in book one. Sarad Nukpana, onetime evil dark mage and inhabitant of the Saghred's soul-prison is free again and trying not only to regain his power but to take more for himself with the ultimate intention of killing Raine and taking back the stone.
The fourth in the series, this is more of the same, but Raine's enemies are not only evil soul sucking dark mages, there are goblins and mages who should be on her side, but seem to be batting for the bad guys without meaning to.
At last we discover something about whiter-than-white Guardian Paladin Mychael Eiliesor - who is not quite what he seems.
It may be more of the same, but hugely entertaining. Lisa Shearing doesn't let the pace drop and the stakes remain about as high as they can be. The big finish is tight and exciting, but last section is a bit anti-climactic and feels like an over-long build up for the next book, but knowing that Lisa Shearin likes to start novels with a bang, it's opening the way for a corker of a book 5. ...more
The third Raine Benares book which follows on immediately from the other two, picking up where 'Armed and Magical' left off with Raine on the Island oThe third Raine Benares book which follows on immediately from the other two, picking up where 'Armed and Magical' left off with Raine on the Island on Mid having escaped from the clutches of the Elvan Embassy and various Goblin hoardes, having discovered that an earlier keeper of the Saghred (soul-sucking stone of unimaginable power) is alive after all and Wants It Back. Rain is caught between two gorgeous men, Goblin dark mage Tamnais Nathrach and brighter-than-white leader of the guardians, Mychael Eiliesor. She's powerfully attracted to both of them - and them to her, though she doesn't quite believe Mychael, since lawmen are not generally after her, but more likely after her larcenous family.
So in this book there's an attack of demons. Someone is opening a hellgate and trouble is pouring through. It's all about the Saghred, of course. Everyone wants it and Raine together with her few friends - Mychael, Tam, Piaras, the young spellsinger and pirate Cousin Phaelan and Uncle Ryn - have to keep it away from all the many factions who would use it for bad purposes - and that even includes some of the mages who are supposed to be on their side. There's a key that will unlock the Saghred and release some of the trapped souls, but when those souls include the Demon King and Sarad Nukpana, the Big Bad from book one, Raine would rather keep it all locked up tight. Please.
Hijinks ensue. Raine's wonderfully wisecracking voice is infectious, her larcenous family is delightful and the two love interests... err... interesting (and sexy). Magic, action and a touch of romance. This series just keeps getting better. What's not to like? ...more
I read the first one of these: 'Magic Lost, Trouble Found' last year and though it didn't entirely rock my world it was good enough to try a second onI read the first one of these: 'Magic Lost, Trouble Found' last year and though it didn't entirely rock my world it was good enough to try a second one. Glad I did, whether it's because I'm already familiar with the world or whether this really is a better book than the first one, I enjoyed it enormously. It picks up just days after the last one ends. Raine Benares, daughter of the criminally active Benares clan, is a small-time sorceress, a seeker, who has just, in the last book, become magically twinned with the Saghred, a soul-sucking Goblin stone of unimaginable dark power. She's either its guardian or its servant. Which one of them will come out on top is by no means clear.
She's come to the Isle of Mid, where the Conclave of Mages rules, in order to find a mage wily enough to unhook her from the stone. All she wants is her life back, but the stone has other ideas, and so do the factions that want to use it through her. The Goblins, sexy dark and dangerous, think it's theirs. The Elves, gorgeous, light and equally dangerous want to keep it out of the Goblins' hands and since Raine is an Elf they think she's theirs. The Mages and their Conclave Guardians (think: magical police force) want to keep it locked away where it can't do any damage. Rival mages just want to see Raine dead because they think she's as dangerous as the stone. And its previous owner, nutty as a really poisonous fruit cake and supposedly dead a thousand years ago, wants it back and he doesn't care how many souls he has to sacrifice to get it.
On Raine's side is her dashing, piratical cousin Phaelan, her young spellsinger friend Piaras, now a student at the magic college, and (probably) the archmagus himself, plus Mychael, head of the Conclave Guardians, a hunky, spellsinging elf who is obviously head over heels in love with Raine, but that won't strand in the way of his duty. If the Conclave says lock her up, he'll do it.
This seems much more focused than the first book with a simple but twisty get-out-of-this-if-you-can theme. Raine has to avoid all attempts to gain control over her and the Saghred while keeping Piaras safe, protecting her own hide and thwarting the plans of at least four different factions. There's a slow-burning romance, almost unacknowledged, between Mychael and Raine and a passionate attraction between Raine and her old friend/adversary Tam, a reformed Dark Mage – or is he? (Reformed that is.)
One of the blurb quotes calls this book funny. It's not funny in the least, but it's got a witty quirkiness that's hard to resist. Raine's viewpoint voice is endearingly honest. If I still had reservations after reading the first book, this one had me convinced to order the next three Raine Benares books without delay. ...more
This was one of those books that kept cropping up on the Amazon site under the list presented as: If you liked X you'll also like Y. Eventually I cracThis was one of those books that kept cropping up on the Amazon site under the list presented as: If you liked X you'll also like Y. Eventually I cracked and bought it.
Raine Benares, an elf, is a sorceress of moderate powers. Her chief skill is finding things which have been lost. For lost read stolen (or possibly kidnapped). When Quentin, her some-time employee and supposed friend, does a little illicit thieving, he picks the wrong target and almost gets himself killed. Luckily Raine and her pirate cousin are there to save his bacon, but in the process the amulet that he's stolen bonds itself to Raine. This draws all sorts of unwelcome attention from too many quarters.
What is the amulet? What's its purpose and why can't Raine remove it without killing herself? There are two warring factions from the Goblin royal household trying to get their hands on it (and now on her) and a hunky Guardian who never quite gets to be a true love interest – though there are hints that the next book will develop that.
Her presence is putting the people she cares for in danger and if she can't get some answers soon, she's toast.
It's a good enough plot with plenty of action. My chief beef is that every person in Raine's world seems to be a thief, a pirate or (most likely) a magic user of extraordinary ability. In fact there don't seem to be any ordinary people living in Mermeia at all. Sometimes it's a little too convenient. Why can't they just be magic users of average ability, or maybe just a few ordinary humans?
I'm also puzzled as to why she needs to be an elf. It doesn't seem necessary for the plot and she seems to be a very down-to-earth human. maybe that will become evident in Book Two. Despite my minor reservations I think I'll give it a try: Armed and Magical. ...more
I've been looking forward to another Sam Vimes book for the longest time and so as soon as I got my Kindle, this was my first purchase. It's a minor iI've been looking forward to another Sam Vimes book for the longest time and so as soon as I got my Kindle, this was my first purchase. It's a minor irritation, but Kindle doesn't handle Pratchett's footnotes very well. They are all lumped together at the end of the book, not at all easy to refer to as you go along. But that aside, this did not disappoint. Sam Vimes is dragged off to the countryside by his wife Sybil for (she thinks) a much needed holiday, but Sam should have had his suspicions when Vetinari sanctioned the trip.
To start off with Sam's not very happy. He doesn't do bucolic. He can't tell a bullfinch from a bull and doesn't particularly want to, but for young Sam's sake he'll grit his teeth, try country walks and a spot of fishing even if it kills him.
But Sam's policeman's nose isn't on holiday and he thinks he can smell a rat. It seems to be a truism that wherever there's a policeman there's a crime. The local law is a shambles with self-elected magistrates expecting the one and only constable to live quietly in their pocket. But Constable Feeny has the makings of a pretty good copper once Sam has licked him into shape and together they try and solve a murder which, in turn exposes a dark crime and a terrible injustice.
I've never read a Vimes book I didn't like but this one is particularly lovely for showing both Sam the family man and the darker Sam that understands the criminal mind because he has one himself.
There's a brief appearance by Vetinari and various members of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, but it's Willikins, Vimes' gentleman's gentleman who takes a turn as chief supporting character in this book, to great effect.
I love Pratchett's Discworld and Tiffany Aching is one of his most endearing characters, a young proto-witch who lives in 'the chalk' where people keeI love Pratchett's Discworld and Tiffany Aching is one of his most endearing characters, a young proto-witch who lives in 'the chalk' where people keep sheep and life is simple... until the Nac Mac Feegles, the Wee Free Men get involved. In this, the fourth Tiffany book, she's already doing the regular duties of a witch, (you know, cutting old ladies' toenails, bending for them as can't bend and wiping for them as can't twist) though still in her teens. It's a cross between being a district nurse and a family guidance counsellor with very little actual witching involved but a lot of headology.
Bur something's stirring, something nasty, that's insinuating itself into people's minds... something that tells them a witch, any witch, is Not To Be Trusted. Tiffany fears it's All Her Fault because she drew the attention of the thing when she kissed the Wintersmith, so it's up to her to deal with it because she's a witch and that's what witches do. They deal with what's in front of them when no one else will.
This is a beautifully crafted book, economical but thoughtful, everything you've come to expect from Pratchett, and it brings Tiffany's story to a well-rounded conclusion. I hope it's not the last we see of her, but if it is, it's a satisfying end. Highly recommended. ...more
I should have got round to reading this sooner, but football is not my favourite sport. Let's face it, sport is not my favourite sport! But this is TeI should have got round to reading this sooner, but football is not my favourite sport. Let's face it, sport is not my favourite sport! But this is Terry Pratchett and, of course, it's not just about football.
What is it about? Race, tolerance, outsiders, mob psychology, bullies, fame, old rivalries. And it's about The Shove – the crowd – volatile, dangerous, a character in its own right.
Set in the Unseen University, it introduces some of the below stairs characters, Trev Likely and Mr Nutt, candle dribblers, whose job is to make sure that the sculptural waterfalls of old wax adorning the sconces are picturesque. There's also homely Glenda Sugarbean and beautiful Juliet Stollop, from the UU's kitchens. Plus, of course the usual assortment of Wizards including old favourites, the Librarian, Ponder Stibbons and Archchancellor Ridcully.
To retain a bequest the University must field a team in a goodwill match of foot-the-ball. Trev Likely, son of the famous foot-the-baller Dave Likely (deceased) is determined not to follow in his father's footsteps, but he has the talent for it. Juliet has the face for fame and stumbles into modelling dwarf armour and is an overnight success (though disguised behind a beard). The surprisingly well educated Mr. Nutt and Trev form an unlikely friendship. But the biq question throughout the book is who is Nutt or even, what is he? Vetinari Knows and he's watching not only Nutt's progress, but also the progress of the rest of Ankh Morpork in relation to Nutt.
All is eventually revealed and resolved, of course. Highly recommended. ...more
Not exactly a disappointment because Terry Pratchett is (nearly) always good reading value, but Moist von Lipwig is not one of my favourite charactersNot exactly a disappointment because Terry Pratchett is (nearly) always good reading value, but Moist von Lipwig is not one of my favourite characters and banking offers even less opportunities for thrilling adventures than the post office. Still, Pratchett is Pratchett and this gave me plenty of gentle amusement if no laugh out loud moments. I do hope Vetinari's comment about letting Most loose on the tax gatherers is not the portent of a book to come. Please, Terry, can we have another one about Vimes, Vetinari and the Guards, or maybe another Witches book, with or without Tiffany Aching....more