Yarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither holdYarvi is a prince, but a younger son, so not expected to inherit, which is just as well because he was born with a deformed hand and can neither hold a shield nor scale a fortress wall. He's never going to be the man leading an army into battle. He's destined to be a minister and has almost completed his rigorous training when his father and older brother are killed and he's dragged into the limelight - and not to his advantage.
Betrayed by his uncle and surviving only by good fortune and his quick wits, Yarvi is sold into slavery, strapped to a galley oar where he seemingly will stay until he dies, but Yarvi is clever. He's only ever had his wits to rely on in a land where physical prowess counts for everything. And despite the hardscrabble world he's been thrust into Yarvi is essentially kind, though not weak. He's determined to survive and determined to get revenge on his uncle.
When eventually he gets his chance for freedom, he takes a bunch of shipmates with him on a gruelling journey back to his homeland. There's a surprise twist at the end which means Yarvi gets what he wants, but not in the way he expected to get it and not without consequences.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I see some reviewers have dubbed it Abercrombie-lite because compared to the author's earlier books this is nowhere near as grimdark, however they don't seem to have taken into account that it's written with young people in mind. The story is more simple, more accessible than the First Law Trilogy, but no poorer for all that. It's a coming of age story with a physically flawed protagonist that kept me hooked. In fact - I only intended to read a chapter but I couldn't put it down. I read the whole lot in one sitting without even coming up for air or coffee. That's a real page turner....more
This is a prequel novella in Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series detailing her first meeting with Tam Nathratch, the one-time dark Goblin mage turnedThis is a prequel novella in Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series detailing her first meeting with Tam Nathratch, the one-time dark Goblin mage turned casino owner. Raine is a magical seeker, finding goods and people that have gone astray. Between them Raine, Tam and Raine's piratical cousin, Phelan, get involved with reclaiming jewels that have been used to store the stolen souls of children.
It's a fairly straightforward plot, but Shearin's strengths are character, pace and voice and this has all of her trademark quirks in good measure. It serves as a good intro to her world and a nice revisit for those of us who have read all of the Raine Benares series beginning with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. A quick read. Recommended....more
A literary fantasy set in the final years of the nineteenth century, ostensibly about a mysterious and wonderful circus which appears suddenly and isA literary fantasy set in the final years of the nineteenth century, ostensibly about a mysterious and wonderful circus which appears suddenly and is only open from dusk to dawn. But the circus - a collection of sideshows rather than the three-ring variety - is only half the story. The underlying story is a contest between two magicians, played out through their students acting as the protagonists. The reason the circus has been created is as a venue for the ongoing contest, a somewhat confusing affair in which neither the students nor the reader knows the rules.
The contest is basically a nature versus nurture contest. One student is the genetic daughter of Prospero an actual magician masquerading as a popular stage magician. His bastard daughter, Celia Bowen, is dumped on his doorstep when her mother commits suicide and Prospero quickly binds her (magically) into a lifelong competition with his rival's protegee, Marco, an orphan picked up off the street.
SPOILERS AHEAD: The circus, weird and wonderful, is the venue for their contest which (we learn later) will only end when one of them dies. In the meantime, though both are told of the contest neither is given a list of rules. Marco goes to work for Chandresh Lefevre, the rich impresario who owns the circus (and believes it to be his own idea, not realising how much he is being manipulated). Marco works on creating magical illusions from the outside. Celia, in the meantime, becomes the circus illusionist, travelling with the circus and working from the inside. Marco knows who Celia is, but it's many years before Celia discovers who her opponent is.
Despite this being a contest to the death, there's no sense of urgency, little dramatic tension and the whole thing in more like a collaboration than a competition. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace with sumptuous descriptions of the magical circus attractions, side-forays into the team of people Chandresh draws about him to create mechanical marvels and elegant costumes, (resulting in around fifteen point of view characters which dilutes any focus you might expect the novel to have). There's a sub-plot about American farm-boy Bailey and his growing relationship with the circus-born twins, Poppet and Widget which eventually ties into the solution to the contest.
The viewpoint shifts between omniscient and all these (15) characters. The tense shifts queasily between present and past. At times reading this book is like walking on quicksand while wearing a pair of sparkling magical fairy slippers.
Did I enjoy it? In a way. I enjoyed the imagination, but the playing out of the actual storyline was slow. Marco and Celia fall in love (eventually) and there is a resolution but there's no triumph or tragedy and the sociopathic magicians who started the whole process get neither a real result nor a comeuppance. ...more
Following on from the events in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Cormac is in jail and Kitty is living with her lawyer and new-made werewolf, Ben.
Kitty and BenFollowing on from the events in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Cormac is in jail and Kitty is living with her lawyer and new-made werewolf, Ben.
Kitty and Ben are drawn back to Denver when Kitty's mom is taken ill, which puts Kitty back in a confrontation situation with the pack (and alpha) that she fled from less than a year ago. She's also landed in the middle of a vampire takeover bid and it seems that Arturo, Denver's current master vampire, is using the werewolf pack as foot-soldiers. There's also a new vampire player in town (or rather, passing through) and some hints at vampire politics and a wider supernatural plot that will likely resurface in a future book.
Kitty as usual is just trying to get by, but ends up taking the initiative when her family is threatened.
This is unexpected in that Cormac, pretty much set up as Kitty's reluctant love interest in previous books, is now out of the running and Kitty has mated - in every sense of the word - with Ben. I miss Cormac, though he is still in it - being visited for advice. Vaughan's Kitty books are fast reads, but always absorbing. Kitty is an excellent character and this sees a major development in her story arc as she has to face the werewolf couple who bullied her when she was first turned, and who killed her best friend TJ in the first book. ...more
When sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a pWhen sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a penniless officer estranged from his good family, who is more or less forced into the marriage of convenience. Within half a day the two are separated as Henry heads back to sea, leaving Anna under the protection of Lady Hamilton. But war is flowing through Europe in the shape of Napoleon's armies and soon Anna is left alone - with her faithful maid - and determines to make her way using her only skill, music. She takes up singing in an opera company. It's six turbulent years in war-torn Europe before Anna and Henry are reunited and a love story begins.
This is a book in two halves - the opera years and the regency romance and both have theitr appeal. Ms Smith says that the novel came about because she originally intended to novelise the journals of Betsey Wynne, and, indeed, there's lots of rich detail in here and an underpinning of authenticity. The story is a slow-burn romance despite the early marriage of convenience. Anna survives post-revolutionary France, a theatre fire, touring with the opera company which at times is nore hazardous than the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly more terrifying still is Anna's introduction to Henry's English family and the woman who spurned him for his older brother.
Packed full of ideas, but not falling into the trap of unlikely melodrama this is an engaging read. Highly recommended....more
I'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-MorporI'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-Morporkian, or maybe that should be that Ankh Morpork is very much based on London. Dodger lives in the Seven Dials and makes his living as a tosher, i.e. trawling through the city's sewers, true Roman relics, for valuables that have been washed away down the city's drains (at this stage more for rain water and detritus than personal waste). He's a geezer, known by and knowing all the likely coves in his orbit and he's not above finding the odd item that the owner didn't know was lost, however, Solomon, his landlord, friend and mentor, far from being a Fagin character, strives to keep the lad on the straight and narrow.
And indeed, Dodger's not a bad lad, though he's no soft touch, except perhaps where the vulnerable are concerned. Emerging from his sewer one night he sees a scuffle, an attempted murder maybe, and rescues a young lady who has been severely beaten up, possibly a young lady of quality by the ring on her finger (which amazingly Dodger leaves there). Close by, a certain journalist named Charlie Dickens grows interested in the happening and thus begins an adventure to rival anything the Discworld has to offer. The stews of London, the Peelers, nobby gentry, Solomon's wisdom, Onan the (very) smelly dog, a lethal assassin, Benjamin Disraeli and even Queen Victoria herself are all in the mix, plus Dodger's attempts to find out who is trying to harm the young lady that he's rapidly falling for, and a plan - which doesn't go entirely... err... to plan. Dodger's wry voice is appealing and his view of his surroundings and the people who inhabit them is amusing if not laugh out loud funny. A lively read. Highly recommended. ...more
This is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target auThis is Joss Whedon so it gets three stars before I even start, but it's a graphic novel so it probably loses one because I'm really not the target audience for graphic novels. I don't interpret the picture panels well, I'm all about the words. So words first. Yes, a good little story and a continuation of the Firefly arc, so OF COURSE I'm going to like it. It's Firefly for goodness sake - the best cancelled TV show on the planet - or any planet for that matter. But the artwork - while it looks good, is not all that easy for my word-hungry brain to sort out. I literally cannot follow all the action from some of the panels without text. Is it me or is it the artist? I don't know. That's why something with Serenity in it written by Joss Whedon is only getting four stars. ...more
Think not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yeThink not what you can do for Mars, think only what Mars can do for you. (Sigh!) Yes, this is colonialist, imperialist and racist in equal measure, yet it's probably not fair to condemn it for that since it was Written in 1934 and is of its time. It would be cruel to review it through the lens of 2014 because it simply doesn't stand up.
A expedition to Mars which Weinbaum imagines as a dry desert with thin but breathable air and low gravity. It has plants and creatures consistent with the world and Weinbaum's imagination is not lacking. One of the expedition members is separated from the others and this is his recounted story about his (first contact) meeting with a sentient alien, an ostrich-like being, Tweel, who manages to learn half a dozen words of English and communicate quite complex concepts, but at the end of the encounter human and Martian are no closer to understanding each other than they were at the beginning. This is what lifts it to two stars in my opinion, because the rest of it, (the journey across Mars) is largely first-they-did-this and then-they-did-that. The interest lies in Jarvis and Tweel's attempts at communication.
Sadly there is no attempt to understand a third race which is quite benign until Jarvis steals the egg-like-thing which seems to be the focal point of their civilisation. Why? Because he can and because he believes it may be a powerful healing device. There's no concept of leaving well alone. No theft-is-wrong. No Prime Directive. Mars is there to pillage for whatever the humans can appropriate.
This is interesting only from a historical perspective. Available free from Project Gutenberg....more
I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn'I really *really* wanted to like this book. The blurb was superb and it sounded like immense fun, especially "bravely going where they really shouldn't...". As it turned out there was much to recommend it, with Captain Hadrian Sawback plunging into a series of ever more improbable and impossible Trekkie-type situations and trying to sleep his way around every female member of his crew. (This guy has no concept of what constitutes sexual harassment.) It was, however, relentless, and I found I could only read it in small chunks. It works excellently on the level if a Star Trek spoof, but less well in its own right. I know I'm not comparing apples with apples, but as Star Trek spoofs go it's no Galaxy Quest....more
I really admire Karen Traviss' writing and so the opportunity to revisit some of her early short stories in this book was not to be missed. Thirteen sI really admire Karen Traviss' writing and so the opportunity to revisit some of her early short stories in this book was not to be missed. Thirteen short stories including some classics such as 'Suitable for the Orient' and 'Does he take Blood?', and my personal favourite, 'Evidence' which is the powerful tale of how an archaeologist interprets/misinterprets the evidence in the find of an alien burial on a remote planet. All the pieces have speculative fiction content, mostly science fiction, some of it social, some of it alt-historical, some of it alien/extra-terrestrial and (unusual for Traviss) a smattering of fantasy. All of it speculative in the widest sense of the term.
A short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause hisA short adventure for the Third Doctor as he's struggling to get 'home' to Sarah Jane after suffering a fatal radiation overdose (which will cause his regeneration into the Fourth Doctor). The Tardis dumps him into the perfect English village where, it seems, his ailments are (temporarily) cured. But all is not as it should be. Daily wellness parades and a terrified queen presents this doctor with one last problem to solve. Written by Joanne Harris (Chocolat) this is an elegant little story, but shorter than I would have liked.
Note: I received this as a review copy from Netgalley....more
The story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercThe story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercy of her uncaring, grasping children due to the terms of his will. When Etta's home is sold out from under her and she's installed in a cramped little house close to her son and daughter-in-law, she's expected to be cook and full-time nanny for her spoiled brattish grandchildren, but the village into which she's propelled, Willowwood, has a cast of interesting characters and--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel--romance eventually blossoms, and not only for Etta. On the way Etta rescues Mrs Wilkinson, a battered, half-starved thoroughbred filly, who turns out to be a courageous little National Hunt racer. Etta and Mrs Wilkinson save each other, and the filly is a catalyst redeeming or condemning (each according to their worth) a whole cast of characters. Or maybe that should be cariacatures--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel. It's long, complex and tremendous fun featuring a few recurring favourites such as Rupert Campbell-Black.
Cooper's immersion in the world of jump racing is complete and very believable and I absolutely trust that she has the details of the sport accurately depicted. It's well researched, but not laboured.
Jilly Cooper is not a subtle novellist--her plots are twisty, her characters larger than life--but she delivers page-turning, emotion-packed stories, perfect for a bit of self-indulgent reading when you really should be getting on with something else, but, oh, never mind. Just one more chapter....more
I confess I should have read 'Writing the Breakout Novel' before going on to the workbook. That had bDonald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
I confess I should have read 'Writing the Breakout Novel' before going on to the workbook. That had been my intention all along, however it was thwarted by putting down WTBN and not being able to find it again, so I picked up the workbook first. What an excellent and concise book with short, apposite chapters using a number of examples from 'breakout' books, both genre and non genre to illustrate techniques for deepening character, layering plots, finding the right first and last lines. Each chapter contains an explanation followed by an exercise.
This is not a book offering shortcuts, in fact it encourages authors to go back through their finished manuscripts and revise a lot of the things they already thought were pretty darn good -- because they can always be better. It's not offering a formula. There is no formula, there's just hard work and many, many tweaks to bump up the quality of your book. In fact there are 34 worksheets, each one asking you to consider one aspect of your novel, pull it out, tweak it and slot it back into place.
Yes it's going to take time to do all that and no, I didn't do the worksheets, but I did find points where I thought, 'I can do that right now!' I certainly applied some of the principles to the book I was just on the point of delivering to my publisher and will have it all in mind while writing the first draft of the work in progress. I hope to have time, then, to apply some of the principles in more depth as I go through the editing process. ...more
George R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows A Song of Ice and Fire # 4
This is half a book, the companion volume to A Dance with Dragons and therefore only hGeorge R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows A Song of Ice and Fire # 4
This is half a book, the companion volume to A Dance with Dragons and therefore only has half of our beloved characters in it, those still remaining in Westeros. We don't get to see anything of what's happening north of the wall, neither do we see what's happening to Dany and her dragons. Regular viewpoint characters include: Jaime Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Arya Stark and Sansa Stark. New viewpoints go to Queen Cersei, Aeron, Asha, and Victarion Greyjoy, Brienne of Tarth, Areo Hotah, Aerys Oakheart, and Arianne Martell.
Of course this book is seriously lacking any Tyrion Lannister viewpoint and the cliffhanger we left him on at the end of A Clash of Kings is not resolved. It's almost surprising to realise that while Cersei has such a lot of on-screen time in the TV show and is instrumental in quite a lot of plot, that she's not been a viewpoint character before. Now we see her descent into instability fuelled by the loss of Joffrey, the desire to protect Tommen and the resentment that her daughter Myrcella, has been sent off to Dorne where Cersei can't protect her. Cersei makes some really bad choices, but bad choices make for good fiction.
We also get Jaime's viewpoint and having started out as the king-killer who is prepared to toss young Bran Stark out of a high window in order to protect his incestuous relationship with Cersei, we see a transformation. Martin might make a hero out of Jaime yet, a respectable one if not a flawless one.
We get to follow the two Stark girls as they each make their own (very different) way in the world, Sansa with Littlefinger finally learning a few street smarts, and Arya out on her own to learn about death and how to inflict it. At one point Arya frustratingly crosses paths with Samwell Tarly on his journey to take elderly and ailing Maester Aemon Targaryen to safety, but neither recognises the other. That's two of Jon Snow's siblings Sam has met without being able to let Jon know they are still alive.
Through Brienne of Tarth's wanderings across war-torn Westeros in search of Sansa we get to see the effect of the War of the Five Kings on the people and the countryside. Sadly we lose all element of tension in Brienne's quest because we know she's looking in all the wrong places.
There's a subplot about the throne of the Iron Islands which honestly didn't excite me, but I'm prepared to concede this may well weave into other plot strands later.
Altogether, while not my favourite book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, it's certainly still a must-read. I've only got A Dance with Dragons to read now and then, like many longstanding fans, I'll be eagerly waiting for George to finish the next one. ...more
Though it's getting long and drawn-out I'm sticking with A Song of Ice and Fire because I love so many of the characters (mostly the original ones thaThough it's getting long and drawn-out I'm sticking with A Song of Ice and Fire because I love so many of the characters (mostly the original ones that GRRM hasn't killed off yet), but can't help wondering how and when it will come to a conclusion. A Dance with Dragons runs alongside the previous book exploring (mostly) a different set of characters, but there are some frustrating cliffhangers at the end, leaving some of our characters in an 'are-they-alive-or-dead?' scenario and, of course, no follow-on book in sight. We're moving steadily towards a confrontation between Targaryan and Lannister with a side order of Baratheon in the struggle, but if GRRM is going to tie it all up neatly I reckon it will take at least another two books.
Characters explored include Arya, Bran, Daenerys, Jon Snow (which is perhaps the most interesting story arc going on here as he continues his relationship with the Wildlings) Cersei, Tyrion (my favourite character because he's brain, not brawn), Theon (who might just be about to redeem himself) and his sister Asha. We also get Davos Seaworth, who has not quite managed to capture my interest. There are new characters, such as Quentyn Martell, who is charged with finding and marrying Dany and bringing her dragons to Dorne, and a new Targaryan player about to make a bid for Westeros. (Trying to avoid s[poilers, here.)
So, A Dance With Dragons is more of the same. If you liked the previous books in the series, you'll like this one, too, but there's no way this is a stand-alone, so don't start here. As a few other people have mentioned in reviews, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are really two halves of one very long book since many of the story arcs parallel each other. Bonus happening: at last someone gets to ride a dragon....more