Friday, December 30, 2011

UPDATE: New Looks & New Books

I spent a little time this afternoon rejigging the look of the blog and making it a little more personalised!

I've also discovered a really awesome site/blog/forum called The Ranting Dragon. Great reviews and articles, great layout/setup and I found the creator and I share the same taste in fantasy books.

I rationalised with myself this morning that I should be able to buy a few books with each pay I get ... and so I headed on over to Book Depository to order some more of my wishlist even though I only got some last week. Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire was definitely on the top of the list followed by Passion by Lauren Kate (I haven't even started the series, but it needs to be complete anyway). I then got City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates after reading a review on The Ranting Dragon (TRD) for a later book in the series, and they're all $8.50, so why not? Finally, Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton because the TRD Forum runs a monthly book club and this is the book for Jan ... think I might join in!

In other boring administrative news ... I'm not sure whether to list my new purchases in the box to the right when I order them or when they arrive, but at the moment it's the latter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in Retrospect

Until tonight I didn't realise that I only created this blog one year ago ... it's strange that it feels both longer and shorter than that in some ways. I started this blog originally just to talk about my reads in my own way, rather than reviewing them in a way that was helpful to others, but I think I have started to move toward something that is geared towards being read (while still not totally a review per se). I think this is because I really enjoy sharing my reading with others and commenting and receiving comments (from my two followers - hey guys!) and while I would really love more followers, I don't want to achieve that by compromising the aim of my blog.

So in 2011 I read eighteen books, most of which strangely start with 'The'. It feels like such a small amount compared to how much I feel I read ... but then again I have a pretty full life with uni, work, and my own choreographic projects and related administration. I feel pretty overwhelmed knowing I will probably only read the same amount in 2012 and I HAVE SO MANY BOOKS TO READ! Here's the list ...
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
The Host by Stephanie Meyer
The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman
The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
The Order of the Scales by Stephen Deas
The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
Across the Wall by Garth Nix
The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
The Sending by Isobelle Carmody
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

REVIEW: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson


I have previous decided that The Name of the Wind was the best book I read in 2011 ... scratch that, because that title now officially goes to Elantris.

Initially buying and reading this because of how much I enjoyed Mistborn and The Way of Kings, I was definitely not disappointed! The story involves what one can typically expect from Sanderson; an intriguing system of magic, a whole lot of politics, the impending collapse of the world, the best foreshadowing I have ever encountered and a climax that then climaxes some more. His novels seem to follow a kind of formula, in at least the way they are structured and in my opinion, it is a total winner.

We follow the perspectives of three main characters; Raoden who is taken by the Shaod in the first few pages and sent to Elantris; Princess Sarene who arrives to find Raoden 'dead' and subsequently takes the country into her own hands; and Hrathen, a gyorn (high priest) with a mission to convert the nation (and then a few others throughout). To begin with I was mostly interested in Raoden and his experience in Elantris and began resenting the other two. I wanted to hear more about his comparatively simple story of the life of an Elantrian and his plight to create a life within the city. Sarene and Hrathen's parts mostly fulfilled the unfolding political dramas and body of the story, yet they were too disconnected to Raoden for it to really interest me. For a time in the middle it became extremely frustrating when I as the reader knew so much more than the characters, but this suspense only made the following events so much sweeter. It wasn't long before the author's intentions were revealed and all three perspectives begin to work together to fulfill the story.

While it took me a little while to warm to the world and characters, I devoured the last two thirds of the book (within the last 24 hours mind you) which had me on the edge of my seat (figuratively, as I spent the entire day in bed). There was never a dull moment and never was I able to guess what was to come next - there were literally times where I gasped out loud and had to take a moment!

Given that Elantris as a stand-alone novel is quite short when compared to Sanderson's other multi-book works, I found I came to know each character quite well, even the minor ones. There was a certain depth to them and their motivations which reminded me of characters from Ian Irvine's Three Worlds series, which is described as a Darwinian fantasy; the characters are not inherently good or evil, but merely trying to survive. This was especially the case for Hrathen, who becomes so much more interesting as the story progresses.

Interestingly in this book, the fantasy/magic element was not the presiding one. While this could arguably be the case for Mistborn for example (with political machinations featuring heavily throughout), Mistborn places great emphasis on its system of magic, magic-wielders and other supernatural figures. Elantris focuses around a similar political-fueled plot, but lacks a magic system that is equally complex and utilised. This is partly due to the story revolving around the downfall of the Elantrians and their magic of course, but also because of Sanderson's strength (in my opinion) to focus just as much, if not more, on elements of the story which deal essentially with a human experience. 

The most impressive part of this book is the incredibly fast-paced yet sure-footed events leading up to a spectacular climax and ending. It actually reminded a lot of the action-filled conclusion of Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy. Just as I thought I had reached the climax and had the ending picked, everything was turned on its head as Sanderson ruthlessly begins to tear everything down, calling in multiple favours from foreshadowing earlier in the story so subtle you would never pick it. In an almost contradiction to my last paragraph, Sanderson shines here, demonstrating a masterful grasp of his original system of magic, never once relying on a suspension of disbelief to get through.

The resolution was quite swift yet surprisingly fulfilling. I find when I am usually this enraptured by a story that the end leaves me feeling empty and wanting more, yet as I reached the final page I was quite content. Of course there were things not wholly answered or explored to their fullest, but not irritatingly so.

I would recommend Elantris to any fantasy lover, especially since it is such a rewarding read without having to commit to a lengthy series.

In other news ... I cancelled my online order of The Land of Painted Caves because I was worried I had ordered the wrong version and I actually found one in a bookstore, which I intend to buy tomorrow and begin reading. I also got the autobiography of Jane Lynch for Christmas and while not fantasy, I think I will enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NEW BOOKS: And My Bookshelf!

Yesterday was a very fruitful day in terms of new purchases. I was a little naughty and ordered three books from Book Depository, but then I also happened across a Books4Less store at Chadstone last night ... now I have made a deal with myself that I will only buy books that are on my list and lo and behold I found three, all $5 each!
  • The Life Lottery by Ian Irvine - The final book in this trilogy ... I gave up on the first one half way through because the sci-fi-ness of it didn't appeal to me, but I had to complete the set anyway.
  • Deadhouse Gates and Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson - I'm slowly buying my way through this series so I can read them in one hit. I really, really wanted to buy The Crippled God which is still out in the large size because its SO PRETTY, but then it will not match the size of the previous books.
  • The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel - FINALLY this was released in paperback so I could buy it and complete the series (I have a thing against hardbacks). I'm a little worried now though that the copy I ordered is actually a lot smaller than the rest of my collection.
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin - the final book in the Inheritance trilogy, not to be confused with Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson - Apparently just been released, woohoo!
So six books yesterday, gotta be happy with that! I will leave you with a pic of my new bookshelf in the new house. I plan to get some fish for the cute little tank too! Please note there are some randoms, which mostly belong to my partner (like the Anthony Horowitz ones) some of which I have resourcefully used as dust covers to my books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

REVIEW: The Sending by Isobelle Carmody


The Sending is book six (or seven in the US) of the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody. The first book was released in 1987 and I have been reading them since I was twelve, hanging out for each new release. This is why I often to refer to Isobelle as 'that bitch who is taking her sweet fucking time and needs to hurry the fuck up.' I say this out of love, let me assure you.

It took me a while to decide whether or not to reread the first five books but in the end I decided not to, as it would take too much time and a friend assured me that this book did a lot of recapping. That it did. I understand that the previous book The Stone Key came out in 2008 and the one before in 1999 and therefore it might be wise to recap for those readers who have forgotten all but the crucial details. I did find this handy being in that category but it went too far. I felt the entire first third of the book was absolute faff and consisted of padding and recapping previous books, turning into a bit of a yawn fest. I would hate to think what this would be like if I had read The Stone Key immediately before.

The second let down for me was that previous books had focused equally if not more so on the plight of the Misfits in their fight against the Council and Herder Faction as well as Elspeth's quests to disable to weaponmachines. In The Stone Key especially, there is a lot of action as Elspeth discovers much about her quest, new lands are introduced and the Council is overthrown in a chaotic rebellion. In The Sending however, because Misfits now live in relative freedom this part of the story has died off and even though Elspeth's journey has always meant to be the focal point, it now seems rather dismal in comparison. 

Originally this was meant to be the final novel in the series but the editor suggested that it be divided into two books as there was a section that was left underdeveloped and the edited version was then too long. I think this is quite obvious when reading The Sending and I get the impression that the underdeveloped part was the 'faff' at the beginning.

About half way through the story changes direction rather violently and an extremely tedious few 'traveling' chapters ensue. At this point I am about to cry and it seems like Isobelle (we're totally on a first name basis) has lost the plot and is now on the bullet train to ruining-the-fantasy-series-of-my-childhood-land, stopping all stations. But never fear - it only get better from here! Action, action, action, plot twists, discoveries, action!

Thankfully Elspeth's quest suddenly becomes interesting with the introduction of the wolves, the reappearance of Dragon, some deaths, some mysterious prophecies and some really interesting new terrains. The last third of the book was really un-put-downable material and thankfully my job as a receptionist allows me to ignore all my duties and read (seriously, the amount of people that I ignored when they came in who then remarked on how good my book must be ...). The book ends with a big cliff-hanger which has never happened before in the series, again making the two-book split clear.

In the end I think a good read, although nowhere near the quality of The Stone Key. I think Isobelle has fallen into the trap of becoming complacent with character development, relying on that from previous books. Having not read the prequels for several years, I found that I knew nothing about characters such as Swallow and The Sending did nothing to rectify or expand on this; he, like some others, ended up just being a name that said some things. The choice to write in first person also has something to do with this I think.

Another slightly annoying trend that kept reappearing was the fact that whatever Elspeth assumed/guessed/thought was going to happen, never happened. In an attempt to create twists and a little unpredictability, Elspeth would continually voice her thoughts on the future and then every time she would be somehow shocked to find out that this was not the case. Every time. "Oh I can't wait to go for a walk in the park today because that totally what I planned ... OMG IT'S A DRAGON AND IT HAS BREATHED FIRE ON THE PARK AND NOW I CAN'T GO WALKING!" Very unsubtle Isobelle, tsk tsk.

In saying all of this, I feel like I now have to be defensive of the series ... it really is quite incredible and the premise of a post-apocalyptic world has been explored and presented exquisitely. For me, it is the perfect blend of fantasy and sci-fi and I would recommend it to any reader. Thankfully the final book, The Red Queen has already been written and is being released next year, because if I had to wait any longer I would hunt the bitch down and lock her in a cellar until she finished it.

In other news, I just moved house and the new one has a big built-in bookshelf which has saved me from having to buy one - photo coming soon!

Ten Must Reads for 2012

Considering that I only read seventeen (if lengthy) books this year, picking a top ten to read will likely take up most of the year, considering I will be traveling Europe among other things. Nevertheless, here is my list which includes some that are yet to be released, some that are and some that I even already own but haven't read yet.

1. The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody
Release: August/September/October 2012
My most hotly anticipated read, this is the final book of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, started in 1987. I've been reading these since I was twelve and in fact just finished book six, The Sending, last night. I've included the cover from the back of my copy of The Sending - I'm confused why there are two versions for each book, given that they're in the exact same style.


2. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
Release: Out Now
I spent the better part of this year reading the Earth's Children saga and have yet to read the final book. This is actually because I refuse to buy the hardback copy as I don't do hardbacks - it has to match with the rest of the series! -- I just now found out it was released in November with a new cover to match the previous books, yay!

 


3. The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin
Release: Out Now
The final book in the Inheritance trilogy (not to be confused with Paolini's Inheritance Cycle) these books were very strange yet fresh and surprisingly good. I especially enjoyed book two, The Broken Kingdoms, when I thought I wouldn't, so I'm looking forward to this!

4. The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Release: 2 February 2012
The final book in The Seven Realms Trilogy, the previous two books were fast-paced and extremely easy to read - nothing groundbreaking but still quite captivating.






5. Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore
Release: 1 May 2012
I really enjoyed Graceling and Fire which are 'companion' novels to Bitterblue, and so I have been hanging out for it's release. I believe Bitterblue is a kind of sequel to Graceling.





6. The Black Mausoleum by Stephen Deas
Release: 17 May 2012
This is a sequel to the Memory of Flames trilogy, which was a truly ruthless read both in terms of the pace and the plot. The Order of the Scales left a lot of questions unanswered (I gather Deas is a big fan of this) which I am hoping to find answers for. I think/hope they will release a different cover to match more with the Australian Memory of Flames covers.

7. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Release: 29 December 2011 (8 Days!)
I will pretty much buy and read anything by Sanderson immediately upon its release. After Mistborn and The Way of Kings I have come to the belief that we are in fact the same person in two different bodies - his books appeal to me that much. I'm currently reading Elantris right now.



8. Vengeance by Ian Irvine
Release: Out Now
One of my most favourite authors, this will be the first book of his I have read outside the Three Worlds Cycle so I am really wondering what is in store!





9. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Release: Out Now/On My Shelf
I really loved the Nightangel trilogy, so I asked for this book for Christmas last year - and now a year has passed and I still haven't gotten around to it! At this point I might as well wait for any sequels to be released first.




10. The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
Release: 26 March 2012
Yet another final book being released in 2012, this one to the Demon Cycle. The premise of these books really made them, as well as the strong character development. The struggling and desperate plight of the protagonists reminded me of Ian Irvine's books, one of my favourites! Unfortunately no cover yet!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

REVIEW: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson


I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. I should preface my thoughts with a few things ... Firstly, other than Ian Irvine's Three World series, the Mistborn trilogy are at the top of my list of favourite books ever. The Alloy of Law is (obviously) not only by the same author, but is set in the same world - a sequel of sorts - and so I had very high expectations. Secondly, I began reading this while on holiday on a tropical island and honestly only got through about ten pages. For other reasons since then it has been a very slow and gradual read. Being quite a short novel to begin with, I think this ruined the flow and fast-paced nature of the story for me.

In terms of writing I think this one sits on par with Sanderson's other works - brilliant. He quickly yet thoroughly introduces a remade Scadrial in the heart of the industrial era as well as a small cast of endearing characters. As with most successful novellas, no time is wasted on unnecessary details, but neither are the crucial ones left out. 

However, this is were I was left a little disappointed. Since the events in Mistborn the physical world has dramatically changed, yet the metallic arts including Allomance and Feruchemy are still present in much the same way. Characters from Mistborn who had the most influence on events have also now become divine to some extent and several religions have sprung up following their teachings (as humans are wont to do). There are mentions of Vindication, the Lord Mistborn, Ironeyes and Harmony and while references were fleeting in the beginning I was sincerely hoping that more would be revealed as the story progressed. Alas I was left crushed.

To be honest I have no real interest in crime and investigation or anything resembling the real world. While Mistborn was a true epic fantasy, I felt The Alloy of Law was a far cry from it and was instead focused on a crime-solving, gun-toting, train-riding shoot up. Sure there was still elements of 'magic', the most obvious being Allomancy, but other than that, it reeked of science-fiction.

I found myself having little to no interest in the primary (well, only) story and instead wanted to know more about Harmony (presumably Sazed), the Originators and all of the religions. Texts and laws set by Harmony are also mentioned but never explored. I wanted more of the history, of the world, of the magic, but instead I was reading about guns. It seems to me that setting this story in a Mistborn setting had little more to do than being able to use the same system of magic.

I also had a lot of unanswered questions which I feel may have been answered at the end of The Hero of Ages (anyone?) such as a mention about creating a whole new set of alloys when combining them with the two 'mythical' God metals, one being atium. What was the other one? And what did the new set do?

All of that aside, I still think it was a good read, but just not wholly what I expected or wanted. What I did find interesting was the ending and how much it smacked of a sequel; while the battle was won, the war seemed far from over.

Not quit sure what I'll read next ... I think I will give The Sending a go and discern whether or not I need to reread the Obernewtyn series before any of it will make sense. If that is the case I think I may wait until The Red Queen is released and do it all in one hit. If that is the case I'll read Elantris.

No new purchases recently, far too poor!

EDIT: Ok I did some researching and found this great site/page: http://coppermind.17thshard.com/wiki/Preservation which explains a lot, some of which I now remember from Mistborn and some that I didn't even get, such as the other God metal was the one that Vin gave Elend at the Well of Ascension and it creates powerful Mistborns. I also never knew that all of Sanderson's world were connected and in such an interesting way!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

REVIEW: HBO's Game of Thrones

 
George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has been on my To Buy/Read list for a while now, so I couldn't resist watching the TV series Game of Thrones.

I don't want to say much other than I freaking loved it! I'm not sure how it would have fared in my opinion had I read the books first and I haven't asked anyone who has, but as a stand alone series, I thought it was highly successful. I think this is mostly due to the brilliance of the novels and their characters and plot, but I also held the actors and direction in high regard. Using a mostly unknown cast was a good move and each held their character superbly, notably Daenerys, Arya and Lady Stark for me.

As a fan of reading fantasy I did struggle a bit with the lack of detail which is inherent in films and TV series. I had to look up a map of Westeros to place all of the events and even some of the characters as it was hard to remember everyone's names without seeing them written.

I definitely mean to get on to reading the series as soon as I can, although I had originally planned to wait until the final two books were released. Upon finding out how long that could drag on for however, I could be waiting a while. I think I might order them for Christmas.

Reading wise, I am only halfway through The Alloy of Law due my graduation, holiday, work and now TV series but I'm enjoying it thus far.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

REVIEW: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Reading this book became a running joke because I had been raving about it to my non-fantasy-fan friends at Uni (one of whom thought I was excited about getting my inheritance ie money) and then spent the entire week in the theatre reading it, including time in the dressing room between pieces.
Seeing as this blog isn't about reviews and is more about my personal responses, I have decided to include SPOLIERS. But I will make these highlighted in white - feel free to read if you have read the book (or don't care).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NEW RELEASES: Drool!

As if the book publishing universe is conspiring against me, some very exciting new books have been released this month when I am extremely busy graduating from University, have no money and still quite a large to be read collection. Oh well, can't complain and good books I suppose!

Inheritance


I picked this up this morning right on 9am! The last book of the Inheritance Cycle, so very very excited! Unfortunately every time I mention it so someone they say, 'Oh, I saw that movie.' I then have to explain that the movie was TERRIBLE and in no way representative of the books.

Not so very long ago, Eragon Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider, was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances. The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaƫsia. And if so, at what cost? This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

Alloy of Law


I pre-ordered this one too and should be arriving in the mail very soon! As the Mistborn trilogy are some of my most favourite books, I have high expectations!

The Mistborn trilogy has become a firm favourite with fantasy fans the world over. The imagination that Sanderson brought to the series and his skill at marshalling epic storylines and dramatic action, his ability to create vivid characters made him a natural choice to complete Robert Jordan's epic wheel of time sequence. But with Mistborn, his standalone fantasies and his new series, The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson has shown his bountiful talents in his own fiction. Now he returns to the series that made his name with a new story set years after the events of Hero of Ages. In a world recovering only slowly from evil, a world where allomancers wield immense power through their ability to unleash the magic bound up in common metals someone who can burn metals that no-one has burned before can tip the balance ... Sanderson has the knack of giving the epic fantasy reader exactly what they want. This ability has thrown him to the forefront of the genre and the dramatic story within The Alloy of Law shows off this skill to its very best.

Vengeance 


Ian Irvine is my favourite author, having written two quartets and a trilogy as a part of the Three Worlds series. While this is a completely new series, I am just as excited. I had to restrain myself from buying it this morning.

Twelve years ago, two children witnessed a murder that still haunts them as adults. Tali, a slave girl in subterranean Cython, saw her mother's head hacked open and something taken from inside. Rix, boy heir to the biggest fortune in Hightspall, watched two shrouded figures do the deed. He did not realise they were his parents, acting for a faceless sorcerer. Tali has sworn to bring her mother's murderers to justice, but now she is hunted by a killer who can only be beaten by magic - Tali's magic that she does not understand. Her dramatic escape precipitates Cython's war on a weak and unready Hightspall. Tali meets Rix by chance and they flee through a land in turmoil, hunted by enemies and allies alike. But before they can solve the crime, and save the realm, Tali and Rix must learn to trust each other. The rebellion is led by Lyf, the embittered wraith of a long-dead Cythonian king whose sorcery has brought Hightspall to its knees. To restore himself to life Lyf needs only one thing - the master pearl his magic has cultured inside Tali's head - and he is determined to take it. As she unravels the conspiracy behind her mother's murder, Tali's quest for justice turns to a lust for vengeance. Unfortunately, only one person can teach her how to use her unruly magic - Lyf himself.

The Sending



I've been reading the Obernewtyn series since I was twelve and often to refer to Isobelle Carmody as 'that bitch who needs to stop taking her sweet time and finish this series'. This is the penultimate book of a truly awe-inspiring series.

In a world where happiness and love are rare, Elspeth Gordie has found both. But in the midst of planning a trip to the Red Land, Elspeth at last receives her summons to leave the Land on her quest to stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing a second apocalypse. Though she has prepared for this day for years, nothing is as she imagined. She will go far from her desitination to those she thought lost forever. To toxic Blacklands to find a pack of mutant human-hating wolves, for only they can lead her to the forgotten Beforetime city which haunts her dreams. Accepting her mission will cost her dearly, but to refuse, or to fail, is to condemn the world to annihilation.

Out of Oz


The last book in a very unique and quirky series, starting with Wicked (which was the basis of the musical). I have a feeling it's going to be epic.

The stunning conclusion to the smash New York Times bestselling series the Wicked Years. Hailed as “bewitching,” “remarkable,” “extraordinary,” “engrossing,” “amazing,” and “delicious,” Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years series—a sophisticated fantasy cycle inspired by the classic children’s novel The Wizard of Oz—became national bestsellers and the basis for a hit Tony-winning Broadway musical. Now, Maguire returns with the final installment in his transformative work, a thrilling and compulsively readable saga in which the fate of Oz is decided at last. Once peaceful and prosperous, the spectacular Land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes. That Dorothy. Yet amidst all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now it is up to Rain to take up her broom—and her legacy—in an Oz wracked by war. The stirring, long-awaited conclusion to the bestselling series begun with Wicked, Out of Oz is a magical journey rife with revelations and reversals, reprisals and surprises—the hallmarks of the unique imagination of Gregory Maguire.


Monday, November 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

 

OK so firstly I want to talk about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms predecessor. An extremely easy, fast and ruthless read and some really interesting and original concepts. Plus with me, anything that involves anything religious- or god-orientated is already a winner. Even though I'm an atheist, I have this strange fascination with theology and mythology. But I did find in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms there were some parts of the story that just didn't sit right.

I remember writing after reading it that "even though it's fantasy, you can't just make shit up." By this I mean that even though everything is fictional (and because it's fantasy pretty much anything can happen) but you still need to abide by the rules of your own story/universe. I found that towards the end, the business with the Stone of Earth became a little messy and it sounded like it was being made up as the story went along. There was also a lot of things I felt that were not reasoned properly and it was clear that it was only that way for convenience, rather than being true to the characters or plot.

That being said, I feel like The Broken Kingdoms not only improved dramatically on this but also retrospectively cleared up those issues from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This leads onto what I felt was the best part of this novel. I loved how Jemisin continued the series with new protagonists, including one which was able to tell his side of the story from 100K (an abbreviation I picked up from the author's website). However, even with these new characters and setting, it still felt like the perfect sequel and continuation from book one.

Jemisin's writing has definitely improved in this book and she has truly mastered the art of the  seamless, fast-moving plot. I remember reading 100K in just one day and I read this one in just a handful of days. The beginning had me a little frustrated and on edge because as a reader I knew what was going on and who this mysterious man was but it took so long for the plot to acknowledge it and finally satisfy me. This wasn't a total negative though and added some nice suspense. I also think this book solidifies the universe she has created when 100K didn't - it very clearly defines the laws, the reasoning and the motivation of key characters.

I appreciated the originality of the characters and the departure from archetypes (to some degree). I enjoyed how the godlings (and even the Gods) had inherent weaknesses/fallings rather than being all godly and omnipotent. Oree being blind also added a nice touch and allows the reader to view the story and the world in a unique way. 

Cannot wait to read book three The Kingdom of Gods but it will have to wait a bit because a) I'm too poor to buy it at the moment, b) INHERITANCE IS NIGH and c) my Alloy of Law pre-order will be arriving soon and this will obviously take preference.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

REVIEW: Across the Wall by Garth Nix


Across the Wall is a collection of short stories by Garth Nix, author of The Old Kingdom series (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen). While I don't usually do short stories - I find the lack of long term character and plot investment challenging and unrewarding - I really loved The Old Kingdom series and as this book purportedly contained an Abhorsen tale, I decided to give it a go.

First of all it took me ages to buy this book because I had purchased the new edition covers of the trilogy and in Australia, they did not sell the new edition of Across the Wall. www.bookdepository.com.uk was able to remedy this.

I have to say I really, really enjoyed every short story in this book. All were instantly and completely engaging and gave enough information for me to instantly connect with the story and characters but withheld information in a way that provoked healthy curiosity. Most of the stories had potential to become a novel unto themselves, while the rest felt complete as short anecdotes similar to a fairytale.

Reading Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case brought back a lot of memories from Sabriel and also reminded me that I have pretty much forgotten them entirely. I would really like to read them again, but that's unlikely to happen any time soon.

My favourite story was Under the Lake, which was a different take on the Arthurian character of the Lady of the Lake. Nix was able to take a classic character and give it a fantastical spin, hinting at ancient peoples and magics previously unknown. He shows the other, darker side of the character (much like Elphaba in Gregory Macguire's Wicked) which highlights that what we knew before was just what had seemed to be the truth. All this and more in just a few short pages.

Quite a relatively short book but I am very glad I read it - would recommend to anyone who wants to try short stories!

In lieu of the release of Inheritance I think I am just going to knock of another shorter book from my list - The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (which funnily enough is book two of the Inheritance trilogy) as I spotted book three in Dymocks the other day.

PS ... I saw The Sending by Isobelle Carmody in Target the other day and almost wept. I have been waiting for that bitch to finish the series since I was FREAKING TWELVE! Although this is still only the penultimate book, it's still a pretty big step. And even thought it was on sale my partner refused to allow me to buy it because of the fact that I still have thirty odd books to read. He obviously doesn't understand how this works.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REVIEW: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini


This is the second time I have read Brisingr (this time in preparation for Inheritance, released Nov 9) and I found my response to it this time quite interesting after having read so much more since the first read. All of the books I have read this year have been quite long and what I consider more of an 'adult' read (Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Jean M. Auel) and it strikes me now how much simpler the Inheritance series are in comparison. I guess the series is considered more of a 'teen-fiction', or at least that's the basket I would put it in.

While I still enjoyed the book immensely and couldn't put the book down this morning until I finished it, at times the simplicity of the story became a little annoying. Eragon is a strange character and one I found hard to reconcile with. This is further compounded for me after reading about Kvothe in the KingKiller series who is so gifted and extraordinarily powerful. In comparison Eragon should be as such, but instead is a little bit immature and daft. To be honest, while this very well may be in the spirit of good writing (Eragon is still only very young and inexperienced and his flaws show as much), he does make a lot of mistakes.

Also in comparison, I kind of felt that not much actually happens in the book. There's a battle, a short trip to Farthen Dur, another trip to Ellesmera and then another quick battle (punctuated by some other chapters from the POV of other characters) and then the end. I don't think this detracts, after all a quick read is a good read (I totally just stole that saying from a completely different context).

Speaking of Patrick Rothfuss' series ... I found a lot of similarities in Brisingr and am wondering if he was a fan too. Elements such as the use of true names are quite common in fantasy so this can be excused, but at one point the narrative mentions a 'Tinker' which I didn't know was common and Eragon suggests that he calls his sword Kingkiller. Hmmm ...

I still cried at the end of the book this time around, as I remember doing this first time. When a book can do that, it really is quite amazing. Here I am, all fine, then there is this one line that is so heart-wrenching and so saddening that I literally sobbed involuntarily and then had a few tears. Hats off to you Christopher Paolini.

So now I am hotly anticipating Inheritance and the end of the series. I am a little annoyed I read Brisingr so fast, as I wanted it to line up with the release date. Ho hum. So in the two weeks I have I think I will read Elantris and/or Across the Wall. I've decided to not start any more series until I have bought all of them/all of them have been released. This re-reading business is too time consuming. Plus not to mention all the series I have started and not finished!

On a final note ... I noticed that Brisingr has a very flexible cover and spine! While I lamented every inevitable spine-crease during The Wise Man's Fear, after two reads, Brisingr has not one crease ANYWHERE and it has been bashed around a bit and constantly laid open on tables. Why don't they make all books like this?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

UPDATE: To Be Read ...


Thought I would take a picture (or three, it wouldn't fit into one) of my To Be Read list, which is down to an all time low of 33. I have made a pledge to read these books before I go crazy buying more, although there are a couple that I will probably only read if I'm desperate. For instance, I have no real desire to read Ian Irvine's Human Rites trilogy - I only read half of the first book and it was too fictionny for me.

In other news, I decided not to reread Eragon and Eldest ... after reading the first page it all came flooding back - not to mention that Brisingr included a very handy synopsis, just what I needed!

Friday, October 14, 2011

REVIEW: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss


I think I read this in record time (11 days) ... but this can mainly be attributed to my lack of classes at the moment. I've been finishing at 12 everyday and coming home to read the afternoon away.

I don't really want to say much about The Wise Man's Fear ... having read it back to back with The Name of the Wind I don't remember much distinction between the two and they have melded into one. Still an amazing and engaging read. I really enjoy novels that are lengthy but continue to move at a pace that never feels slow and laboured and Rothfuss really succeeded at this.

I did get a little impatient for two reasons ... Firstly because present day Kvothe is known as The King Killer, one who has spoken with Gods etc etc, and I feel like there will come a point in the story where he will become truly amazing and accomplish truly great deeds, rather than incidental ones ... and I want it to hurry up and get there. Then again, I also have a strong feeling that none of these things actually happen and are just a product of his growing reputation and gossip, such as the 'dragon' of Trebon. Then in the end we find out that Kvothe is not really what he is cracked up to be after expecting some grand, magical quest which has left him a battered and broken middle-aged man. Which would definitely be an interesting twist, but I would still feel kind of robbed.

Secondly, it annoys me that Kvothe can leave things unfinished. The whole time he spent with Maer Alveron I was thinking, 'but when are you going to get back to the University?'. Then when hunting bandits and spending time in Ademre I was becoming impatient as to when he would return to the Maer to resolve that matter. Although still a realistic story-line, I found the non-linear fashion annoying. Plus, the training in Ademre was a little half arsed.

All in all, an incredible story ... but ... I don't know, it didn't have the magic I have felt from my favourite books. I didn't feel like an empty shell when it ended, I didn't have to trawl through the final chapters at 3am in the morning ... there just wasn't a fire to it. Book three, The Doors of Stone has no release date yet, but I'm not on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

With the upcoming release of Inheritance I have decided to reread Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr instead of starting Fallen as I had intended. I might have to leave off Inheritance for a few weeks and then I can take it on holiday with me to Hamilton Island ... but then again, if I do that, all I will do is read instead of sipping martinis on the beach.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

REVIEW: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


I just finished The Name of the Wind about three minutes ago, just three hours shy of the end of my twelve-hour shift at work ... and now I am wondering how I will make it to 7:30 without dying of boredom and without starting The Wise Man's Fear.

The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, who we learn has become one of the most infamous arcanists the world has seen in recent times. Set in a world rich with history, most of which has been lost to legend, myth and hearsay, Kvothe, now in hiding, retells his story from his childhood as a traveling performer to his teenage years as one of the brightest at the University.

While this book is a monster to carry around, it was deceptively short, especially in comparison to the Earth's Children novels. I'm not sure whether this was because of the faster pace and higher level of conflict, or whether I just had more time and read it faster. Nevertheless, The Name of the Wind was incredibly engaging and one I couldn't put down. I have in fact been reading it without break since 7am this morning - simultaneously neglecting my duties at work.

From the onset, the archetype of the bright yet disadvantaged boy that is the protagonist Kvothe really appealed to me. While I also appreciated his many flaws which balance out his incredible talents, at times his decisions were a little hard to reconcile. There are time in any story where as the reader we think, "No, don't do that!" but there were several times during TNotW where I could not see the reasoning behind Kvothe's decisions, such as suddenly leaving to investigate the slaughter in Trebon, pawning all his possessions to do so. A very minor criticism I guess, but one that also highlights how well I thought of the novel.

The history and magic system were quite interesting and introduced in an organic way which I really appreciated, and bore some resemblance to that of The Way of Kings, although described much less in depth. I was still a little confused about the principles of bindings by the end of the book as I felt the concise explanation given at the very beginning didn't stick with me.

TNotW was one of those stories that are set in a fantasy world but that concern themselves essentially with humanity and the very relate-able, human problems they face. I have to say I am a fan of these ... much like Llian and Karan from Ian Irvine's The View from the Mirror series, the protagonist is constantly down-trodden and struggling under the weight of responsibility, poverty, bad hygiene and a supernatural beast that wants to kill them. They are obviously extraordinarily gifted, but this comes at a high price.

I appreciated how the story remained mysterious about certain plot elements without becoming frustrating - the nature and history of Bast and his relationship to Kvothe for instance, I felt content to wait to discover. Foreshadowing was handled with subtlety and care and was predominantly dealt by the structure of the narrative, essentially a story within a story; the circumstances of the present day Kvothe retelling his life's story hint at what is yet to be told.

All in all a very satisfying read and one of the best books I've read this year. The one thing holding is back from making my favourites list is that is was not quite as gripping/exciting as some other series,  although I think this may be remedied in the sequels as the story heats up!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

REVIEW: The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel


This novel, the fifth in the Earth's Children series, was a definite step-up from its two predecessors in my opinion. Auel spent the majority of the last novel, The Plains of Passage, describing foliage at length and throwing gratuitous sex scenes at the reader faster than a death eater throwing jinxes. I found The Shelters of Stone was more similar to The Clan of the Cave Bear in that through Ayla, the reader is able to discover and explore a entirely different race of people and their way of life. Although not as interesting at the Clan, the Zelandonii had to be an improvement on the grass and sex.

One part that made this book more enjoyable was the coming together of events that had been set-up and foreshadowed since book two. We have been hearing about Jondalar's family and people, his planned mating to Ayla and their potential negative response to her Clan heritage for some time and it all comes to fruition in this book. It was these elements that saved The Shelters of Stone from the lack of any kind of antagonist or conflict as with most of her books. Of course there were some members of the Zelandonii community that created problems for Ayla and Jondalar, but these were quite superficial and were set up in such a way that they seemed forced and obvious.

The first two thirds were a slow read for me, simply due to being busy, but I read the last third in two days, mostly because of my anally retentive nature. I went home to Tasmania this morning and didn't want to lug the book over just to read the last 50 pages, especially because I also took The Name of the Wind AKA the biggest book I own.

After spending the better part of this year reading the Earth's Children series, I am now anticipating the end. It's not that I didn't enjoy them, but they didn't have the same intensity as other fantasy novels I've read, such as those by Ian Irvine, Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks. I'll probably read a few others before The Land of Painted Caves because I have to wait until the paperback comes out before I'll buy it. Curse you hardbacks!

I've managed to cut down on the book buying in the last two weeks, but it took some effort. My partner even refused to stop at a Dirt Cheap Books we drove past, even though I was screaming at him to pull over. I tried to complain to my friends but they sided with him.