Saturday, December 29, 2012

REVIEW: The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

If you are like me, you have been been awaiting the release of The Daylight War for the last two and a half years and have been contemplating ringing in sick to work when you finally get your hands on a copy. Luckily for me my reception day job pretty much means I stand around and read for eight hours a day, so no 'gastro' or 'dead relative' excuses necessary!

For those who did read The Desert Spear in early 2010, the first thing I would recommend is a reread, or at least a quick skim, which is what I did. The first speed bump I found was that I couldn't remember the specifics of any of the Krasian terms (like the difference between dal'Sharum, kai'Sharum and kha'Sharum). Never fear! The Daylight War comes with a nifty glossary at the back, giving you succinct definitions for all the terminology, plus the extensive range of relatives to boot. Unfortunately for me I didn't discover this until I finished the book, but at least now I can pass on the advice.

A large chunk of the beginning of The Daylight War is devoted to the back story of Inevera (Damajah, and Jardir's wife), much like Jardir's in book two. I know many readers became bogged down in the large amount of time spent on Jardir's life and the ins and outs of The Desert Spear, and unfortunately I think you guys are in for much of the same. Personally I love every'ting (badoom-ch!) Krasian and could have happily read about Jardir for the entire book. While large parts of Inevera's story are interesting and incredibly insightful into the ways of the dama'ting, it can get a little repetitive, especially when some scenes reoccur word for word from The Desert Spear.

I felt that Arlen began to change significantly in this book, and perhaps not for the better. Deciding to shed his mysterious ways in an effort to shake this darn title of 'Deliverer' the commoners have labelled him with, he quickly goes from dark and mysterious hooded man to straw-chewing hillbilly faster than you can say 'apple pie'. Arlen and Renna were always a bit rural from memory, but Brett really lays it on thick with more abbreviated words than you can shake a stick at. 

At the same time however, Arlen (and Jardir) develop some cool new super powers, becoming even more mysterious and Deliverer-like. Pro: they're super awesome. Con: They kinda just seem to come out of nowhere, like Brett only just now thought them up but pretends they've actually been there for a while and the only reason we don't know is because no one thought to bring them up. It does also get a smidge deus ex machina, and the narrative itself begins to rely on these new powers to reveal key details. Brett saves himself a little by making the enemies even stronger, preventing Arlen from simply cleaning up the corelings like last night's dishes.

Leesha is interesting yet annoying at the same time. While she's a strong character and looked to as a leader, she remains indecisive and more than a little lost especially when it comes to her love-life, mooning over one guy, while missing another and sleeping with a third ... and fourth. I couldn't tell if she had the characteristic definition of a wad of gum, or whether she was actually incredibly complex with some really meaty flaws.
We learn quite a lot more about the core and the mind demons from the end of The Desert Spear, which strangely turned the whole conflict between humans and demons from a one sided battle of humans vs nature, to a fully-fledged two sided war between two sentient races. 

Brett's prose and flow remains virtually flawless, providing for a smooth read during which you don't feel guilty for skipping two meals so you can lay on the couch and keep reading. Heck, I ignored so many people coming into work because let's face it, what's more important here?

In the grand scheme of things I don't think enough actually happened in this book, especially given the wait for the next installment we will most likely have to endure. The majority of it was tied up with back story and fleshing out other characters, which while definitely a great experience for all involved, meant the overall story didn't progress as far as I would have like it to. 

I feel that there is not a lot of cohesion between the two main story arcs (Jardir/Inevera and the Krasians vs Arlen/Renna/Leesha and the Hollowers) but I think it's simply because they are so vastly different, predominantly due to the culture and beliefs of the respective people. At times I wished the book would devote itself to one or the other, because jumping between the two really cut some of the build up and reader investment potential. 

And now at the end, because I haven't actually said it, I really, really loved this book (and the series). I haven't read any other fantasy based on Middle-Eastern culture (other than the dismal failure that was Throne of the Crescent Moon) and the methodical and meticulous nature of their hierarchical system ticks all the right boxes for my personality type. The world that Brett has created is rich with detail and innovation and I am itching with anticipation to find out how humans will fare against their enemies from the core!

And best/worst of all, I have to tell you that this one ends in a SERIOUS cliffhanger - you know the ones, where you gasp and then turn the page expecting to see one more chapter (and instead see a glossary of Krasian terms) and scream 'NOOOOOOOO!'. Yeah, it's one of those.

A huge thanks to Random House for sparing me the excruciating wait and sending me an eARC!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

REVIEW: The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Firstly I just want to say that this week I have been rethinking the purpose of this blog, deliberating whether I should start writing more formal reviews that are designed to be read by an actual audience. Currently my 'reviews' are really just a way to document some thoughts I have after I finish a book and are in no way geared towards being anything useful for anyone else.

But then today I thought some more and decided against it - I have quite a full plate with my numerous dance-related projects and I feel that reviews would just become a chore. Plus, I would much rather leave it to the professionals and have my own little happy fun time over here.

I was aided in making this decision by realising that I actually don't have very much to say about The Winds of Khalakovo, and the thought of trying to flesh out a whole review would be akin bamboo shoots under the fingernails. 

In short, it was brilliant and I loved it. I think a large part of my personality and my writing is derived from my sarcasm and humour, thereby making reviews about terrible books so much easier. Maybe I should just read bad books?

I struggled in the beginning with this one, as did many others according to Goodreads. Beaulieu has created a complex, gritty tale that is unrelenting when it comes to handing over the crucial details. Beaulieu refuses to explain outright any elements of the complex magic system, or social, political or geographical elements of the story, instead completely allowing them to unfold naturally. This makes the first 50 or so pages quite cumbersome and bereft of any hooks to really get me invested. 

Once I finally got my head around this though (and the unfamiliar Russian names), Winds became extremely rewarding and engrossing. The mysterious nature of the aether, the hazhan and the role of Nasim to both the characters and myself as the reader gave a much greater weight and realism to the story. By the end there were a few elements that were still escaping me, and a few things that I felt were a little tenuous in their realisation, such as why Nasim had to go to the island of Ghayavand and what exactly happened there.

I loved every character, particularly Atiana and Rehada - in fact, there were quite a few strong female figures in this one, and who doesn't love an overbearing matriarch?

The use of the Russian language and terms throughout, as well as the inclusion of the visually beautiful airships gave Winds a fresh and unique feel, allowing it to stand apart from more traditional fantasy.

Still deliberating what to read next ... I've started a few series now, so I should probably start reading some sequels!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

REVIEW: The Thief Taker's Apprentice by Stephen Deas

I picked up this one after having loved Deas' A Memory of Flames series and it's been on my shelf for some time now. At a short 282 pages it was a nice quick read.

As a YA read I give this one top marks. For my personal tastes it was a little too shallow and simplified, but I'm definitely not complaining as this was definitely the aim of the novel - something I think many people tend to forget when reviewing.

Great traditional fantasy; medieval setting, taverns, street urchins, sword fights and some mysterious magic to boot. Berren plays the young male protagonist, but unlike many fantasy tropes, his abilities and maturity are very realistic when considering his age. He is no Kvothe, but instead a very ordinary street boy who has been swept up into a new and exciting life. Syannis is a little unpredictable and temperamental, but in a way that is just a little annoying and leads me to not actually care about him and his mysterious past.

There is some good foreshadowing and a few good puzzles throughout, but as I mentioned, none were really complex enough to enrapture me. It's an entertaining read and the kind of great writing we can expect from Deas, but it's not going to have to on the edge of your seat. I'll definitely be purchasing and reading the following sequels to see where it will all go.

Monday, December 3, 2012

REVIEW: The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams

This review contains a lot of spoilers throughout!

I have to say that The Emperor's Knife has the most gripping beginning/prologue I have ever come across. Absolutely amazing! It is unapologetically morbid and a little chilling, instantly making me want more.

The beginnings of the book were very promising ... royal intrigue, a dark magic looming and just a touch of Arabic flavour to it all. I felt quite drawn to Sarmin and thought his character and storyline had quite a lot of potential.

However, I just felt that things went a little odd.

Firstly, characterization, or lack thereof. Very few of Williams' characters were given any kind of depth or were ever consistent in any way. In fact, I would go as far as saying that in some cases it was so terrible and off the mark, that characters would blatantly act against their nature and start channeling a new personality altogether. Eyul was perhaps the worst - going from a loyal companion and confidant of Tuvaini, being obviously swindled by the Hermit, sort of falling in love with the mage and then killing her and then swapping sides a few more times before being killed in the most anticlimactic way known to man. Lord knows what the hell was going on with Beyon or Tuivani either, because I sure as hell couldn't tell what their motivations were.

Because of this, character relationships were also adversely affected. For instance, a woman in a trans tries to stab Sarmin and five pages later he is irrevocably in love and cannot be parted from her, as if she was an integral part of the story from the beginning, and not just thrown two thirds of the way through. Mesema's crush on Banreh was equally as confusing.

I've read several other reviews of this book that praise the characterization as a strong point ... I don't really know how to respond to this, but I think they may be confused between characters and characterization. The Emperor's Knife has a great cast of characters that had a lot of potential, but none were aptly described or given enough consistency to make them substantial.

While I actually enjoyed the story itself quite a lot, it does move a little too fast and loses a lot of detail that could have made it epic. This is especially the case when it comes to the Pattern Master, who only surfaces in the final pages and is then killed. I would have liked to have seen it drawn out for much longer. Everything in this book, most of all the relationships, needed fleshing out and more time to develop.

Some elements remain a little confusing and unexplained ... I still didn't pick up on the magic and logic behind the Pattern, it's use and creation. The Knife also remains a mystery. I'm hoping however that these things will be addressed in the sequel.

Did anyone else pick up on the uncanny similarities between this book and Feist's Magician? A neighbouring nation called Kesh, a people called the Cerani (similar to the Tsurani) and an elemental called Ashanagur that is one with Govnan (much like Ashanshugar that is paired with Tomas).

I've been quite critical in this review as there are some major flaws and downfalls in this book, but I have to say that in regards to the essential story and the writing itself, it was an easy and enjoyable read. The best I can say about it is that it has/had a lot of potential and considering that it is a debut novel, I'm hoping William's work can only get better from here. Knife Sworn will be on the list to read in the near future!

Monday, November 26, 2012

REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Even though it was not something that would usually call to me, I decided to read American Gods because it's one of those, 'I'm so amazing and well-known that the fact that you haven't read me should cause of a profound sense of shame' books. This year I have added a lot of big names and authors to my to read list out of a sense of obligation to the genre.

The style of storytelling in this one reminded me a lot of Maguire's Wicked series ... the plot itself it not (seemingly) noteworthy or dramatic, it just tells an honest story for the sake of telling the story. I find myself yawning throughout and not being terribly moved, and then by the time the last page has been turned I think to myself ... "that was the best damn thing I have ever read".

I'm still not sure what I actually read, or what actually happened. Gaiman is so mysterious, and even though some things are wrapped up, some things go without further explanation or reference. In a way it's satisfying because as a reader it is always nice to not have your intelligence insulted and in this case, to have a little bit that keeps you wondering.

For a protagonist (or in fact, any sentient being) Shadow is curiously passive in every sense of the term. He seems to just accept every unbelievable event (and there are a lot) that occurs, which is kind of refreshing compared to the usually OMG WTF response we expect from the other 99.8% of the population. Certainly makes the plot move on faster.

What I am still undecided on is how to feel about the gods. Much like Maguire's witches, Gaiman's portrayal of the gods shows them as much more impotent and eccentric than several years worth of religion and history would have us believe. Which is great; rather than following a fantastical trope which is designed to make a gripping fictional tale, he gives a much more plausible example of how gods would manifest if they actually existed in the world. Love it. But ... while Maguire's characters echoed beautifully and poetically with their mainstream representations, the American Gods felt a bit flat. Gaiman subtly alludes to their glorious pasts and quirky brand of magic, but I wanted more, at least from a few key gods. I wanted to know their stories and more about this theory of their existence.

I questioned the motivations of most of the characters, particularly Wednesday and Laura. Most of the time it feels like no one is in control of what they're doing or where they're going ... they just do it regardless of their lack of knowledge or motives. In a way this was strangely interesting and gave a really detached and mystical quality to the story, but when you analyse it, it's a little odd.

All in all I did really enjoy this book. It is masterfully written and is a testament to Gaiman's intelligence and skill. It didn't grip me like a Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson novel would, but then again I think that was purposefully done. I'll definitely be checking out some more Neil Gaiman!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

REVIEW: The Shattering by Christie Golden

My partner, who knows absolutely nothing about fantasy, bought me this is a present after I finished a show because I play WoW. It was really cute, even though I never would have picked this up myself. Anyway, that was two years ago and the other day when I was deciding what book to read, he pointed out that I hadn't read the one he bought me and ordered me to do so.

I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed this.

I was immediately drawn into the story because I was instantly familiar with all the characters and settings; Jaine Proudmoore in Theramore, Thrall in Orgrimmar, Anduin and Varian Wrynn in Stormwind ... these are all places and people that I have interacted with while playing World of Warcraft. Having forged my own journey in this incredibly complex world through the game allowed me to be a part of it and invest in the story much more quickly and with greater depth. I could see so vividly the forests of Ashenvale and the fields of Mulgore, and even elements of politics and warfare gave me feelings of nostaliga from my time gaming.

On a more logistical level, it also eliminated the need for lengthy descriptions and backstories, which meant the novel could move at quite a brisk pace. However what I really enjoyed was the greater level of detail that The Shattering gave me, including personal histories and relationships that aren't so prominent in the game.

There was a great amount of action and plot development in such a relatively short novel, which Golden handled with expertise. When considering the scope of the Warcraft Universe this really felt like a short story, even though it stands at 328 pages, but it left me satisfied yet also wanting more - the best place to be!

As a bridging novel between the events of Wrath of the Lich King and the Cataclysm this works excellently. It references key events and characters and also foreshadows what we (now that the Cataclysm has happened in game) know is coming. However, what I loved was that it highlighted some great plot elements that went under the radar in the game, such as changes to key ruling positions within the various races. 

While the incredible range and power of magic systems introduced by the game could potentially be overwhelming for any one story, Golden handles it well, introducing small snippets of shaman, mage, druid and priest magic without letting it get over the top. Sometimes the altruism of the shamans and tauren can get a little tiring, but hey, at least they are staying true to character.

Characterisation was great, and I particularly loved reading from the perspective of Anduin Wrynn, who has quite a complex history and relationship with his father the King, even though he is only 13 years old.

I would really like to hear from someone who has read this but not played WoW at all (although I think that would be exceedingly rare, for obvious reasons) so see how the book stands on its own.

Really looking forward now to reading more from the Warcraft Universe!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

REVIEW: Fallen by Lauren Kate

I had a little peer pressure to read this one from a friend and in fact I own all four (the first couple have been on my shelves for a loooonngg time) from super cheap finds in discount book stores. I actually really enjoyed Twilight for what it was (read them twice!) and this series seems to be the forerunner of those that rode in on the paranormal romance wave.

Scanning Goodreads reviews it's actually difficult to find a review that has more than one star - aided by the fact that the one star reviews have an obscene amount of 'likes'. While I don't agree with most of the comments, most of which are nothing less than slanderous, I was being generous when I gave the book two stars.

Look, I finished it without ever thinking of giving up, so that's an initial few points. 

There were some great things about this book. The setting in the reform school and the small cast of juvenile delinquents were great ... some really interesting personalities and something a little different to the usual urban setting. There were a few chuckle out loud moments for me, particularly from Arianne. I felt it also started very promisingly ... it seemed nowhere near as fluffy as other similar books and had a little bit of dark grit. 

Major drawbacks were that nothing actually happens for the first 75% of the book and the suspense to find out what we actually already know becomes unbearable. It goes from a little less than normal 'girl at school with crushes on boys' to 'full blown supernatural magic with human sacrifices' time before you can say hootenanny, which was a little ... abrupt.

And yes we all liked to have a little whinge about how sickening Bella was with her fascination with Edward, but honey let me tell you she ain't got nothing on Luce (which, for reference I kept thinking of as 'loose' ... what a stupid choice for a nickname). Even I went all doe-eyed and weak-kneed at Meyer's portrayal of Edward, but Kate neglects to not only adequately describe Daniel, but in fact most of the characters. He's just some school kid with blonde hair and velvety white wings. Hence why when Loose Luce is drawn irresistibly to his ... rudeness? ... I have no sympathy or connection. I really felt absolutely nothing for Daniel or their plight against the Universe to be together for all time. Nada.

Still debating whether to continue with the series, maybe one day but not right now.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

REVIEW: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

The Blinding Knife exceeded by far the high expectations set by it's prequel, The Black Prism. I loved Weeks' Night Angel trilogy when I read it in 2008, but this book deserves every star and more for a work that has shown such a huge growth not only from Week's first works, but from the previous book alone.

I don't think I can actually say too much about this book and nor do I want to, apart from it is bloody brilliant.

Both Kip and Gavin's wit and humour continue to create consistent comedy throughout the entire novel which often had me enduring some odd looks on the train as I laughed out loud. While Kip's incessant self-deprecating inner dialogue was still around in this volume, it somehow seemed a little more justified, if not at last toned down. I really came to like Kip a lot more as he became much stronger and began to use his witty repartee for something more useful. Gavin of course was still an incredible highlight, because in addition to his Guile tongue, he is obviously the most powerful person on the planet and likes to use this to his advantage.

While I felt the Liv chapters were a little bit of a drag, there were few of them, so I could manage. Teia on the other hand was much more interesting and a welcome addition to the central cast. In fact, I thought most of the characters were incredibly well crafted, including the White, Captain Ironfist and Andross Guile.

The plot itself is the real bread winner in this book though. There are a few new magical elements introduced and the world is further expanded - but finally the system of magic starts to make some concrete sense and I can now handle it without thinking 'whaaaa ...?'.

Best of all are the incredible and unpredictable (for me) twists, most of which take place in the last 60 pages. Not only do some of the characters take action that literally had me yelling out loud in surprise, but there are more than a few shock revelations that I can't mention without completely spoiling things. But ... wow. Weeks totally turns EVERYTHING on its head by the final pages, ensuring that book three will be nothing less than spectacular.

Bring. It. On!

I would actually go as far as saying that The Blinding Knife has been the best book I have read this year - I was glad I held of on reading The Black Prism until recently, but how am I now going to survive the wait!?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

REVIEW: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

I cannot fathom how respected reviewers that I follow could give this anything more than two stars, let alone herald it as the years best debut release. Are you all on crack? Is the author paying you all off? Only once in my life have I ever not been able to finish a book (and that was in 2008 with Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate). Throne of the Crescent Moon has now brought that tally up to two.

The worst part is that at only a short 288 pages in length, it still took me a week to get halfway because I literally kept falling asleep - and I think if a book hasn't gotten any good by halfway, you know it's time to throw in the towel.

Where did it go wrong? Great title, great cover art and foremost for me a great premise - I was really looking forward to some Middle Eastern flavour after a lifetime of medieval-centric stories. That's really about it on the pros list.

Firstly, there is absolute zilch world building and character development. All I really got to learn was that there was a crowded city, a desert, an impressive palace, a square with cool statues and a green door - that's about as far as Ahmed's prodigious lack of anything descriptive gets the reader. The three main characters are about as three dimensional as a Hallmark greet card, the ones with the annoying, repetitive jingle every time you open them. Every word that comes out of Adoulla's mouth is a complaint about his age, weariness and likely impending death (other than the times he is making unexpected, unjustified wise cracks/wild bursts of outrage). This is great at the beginning for setting up a protagonist that doesn't follow the usual tropes, but by page fifteen it's getting old. Exactly the same situation with Raseed and Zamia, except old and weary was replaced with overly-pious/confused about liking vagina and woe my family is dead/I am constantly insulted, respectively.

It was like each character had one, single, simple thing that defined them and Ahmed chose to harp on about this for the entire story, rather than actually letting the characters, you know, develop and/or express at least one other facet of their personality.

Every time Raseed opened his mouth, all I heard was 'I got a- I got a- I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine.'

And can anyone honestly say what any of the characters looked like, other than Zamia as a lion. Unless I missed it as I was drooling and my head was lolling backwards, this book is like reading from the perspective of a blind person.

As if any of this wasn't bad enough, the plot itself is slow-moving, predictable, unimaginative, incredibly lame and downright boring. Ahmed shows absolutely no skill or subtlety in moving the story along, instead hand delivering information to the characters on a silver platter. The worst example of this is the villain Mouw Awa, who seems to have Tourette's and within thirty seconds manages to divulge his entire identity, nature and plan to the protagonists.

And I'm sorry, but what the hell is Adoulla's magic. He plucks an object out of his skirts (sometimes not even that) and mutters a seemingly random one line of scripture and the enemy just literally falls over and dies. And then he just feels a little tired afterwards. What a freaking cop out.

The story just gets more eye-roll-worthy when they discover the identities of their enemies and it turns all anti-life, anti-existence, so dark and foul and evil that it would make Baby Jesus roll over and vomit. Well, Saladin, I had the same reaction. How about you stop harping on about how nasty these guys are and actually just show us and get on with the story. 

I just put it all in the basket with guys that brag about how big their penises are.

Suffice to say I didn't like the book. I will not be moving on and pretending it never happened.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

REVIEW: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I'm really not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this, I've had it on my shelf since Christmas 2010 and I was a huge fan of Weeks' Night Angel trilogy when I read them in 2008. I like to tell myself that I was waiting for more of the series to be published so I didn't have to wait for so long in between books.

Firstly, can I just say that I didn't get in the end why it was called The Black Prism ... I was expecting some kind of last-chapter revelation a la Warbreaker, but unless I missed something ...? Anyone?

Coming off the back of A Song of Ice and Fire I found the beginning of The Black Prism quite clumsy and unpolished, but in fairness I think this would be the case with almost anything in comparison to GRRM. Whle GRRM is meticulous in his pace and crafting, Weeks throws us instantly and haphazardly into the action of the story. There is a real sense here that anything that isn't essential to the telling of the main story thread has been avoided or culled.

This awkwardness for me didn't last very long however before I was able to readjust to the magic that is Brent Weeks. After reading some dismissive reviews of his works, I wondered if I would still love the Night Angel trilogy today, having initially read it as a much younger and more inexperienced reader. The Black Prism was just confirmation for me that this stuff was sheer greatness.

Week's prose and vernacular isn't anything special and there are always some moments of weakness within the plot, but he writes an enthralling and captivating story that is incredibly hard to put down once you've started. I was very appreciative of the great pace, amount of action and some really great plot twists throughout which kept it intensely interesting.

I struggled a little bit with the magic system in this one, which was incredibly complicated and overloaded with detail, which meant that it became easy to find flaws and holes - but then again, this was also the case with the vague and mysterious system in Night Angel. If someone is able to create and move matter from light, why not create one thousand tiny bullets and spray them at the oncoming army? Then, even matters such as the opposing backwards thrust can be dealt with. Weeks tries to create limitations and barriers to the seemingly omnipotent form of magic, but while they help, they do not stand up completely. I'm sure it's been said, but there are also obviously huge similarities between this system and that of Warbreaker (not a bad thing, just sayin').

Gavin Guile was the real highlight character for me as challenges constantly thrown against him showed his incredible complexity and both his strengths and weaknesses. Kip was a little hit and miss for me. I liked that Weeks created a protagonist that wasn't a cookie cutter young hero, but instead a typical angsty overweight teenager, however his dichotomous personality was both a little far-fetched and overly repetitive. The amount of times he would berate himself for being weak and a failure, only then to go all Super Sayan and/or open up a can of verbal buuuurrrnnn became excessive and predictable. Both Kariss and Liv had potential to be awesome, but I think they were a little under developed and in fact, sometimes I got confused between the two (somehow). And who calls themselves Lord Omnichrome, I mean, really?

I have a feeling that things are really going to heat up in the following novels ... It seems (judging only by the last two of course) that Weeks' opening novels are kept comparatively simple and tame, while (I think/hope) the following become a real roller coaster ride in every sense. Thankfully I now don't have to wait for The Blinding Knife!

If you haven't read any Brent Weeks yet, get to it!

Friday, September 14, 2012

REVIEW: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

I don't usually read anything that isn't strictly fantasy, but given this is by Sanderson, I made an exception. I also don't tend to enjoy or go for short stories or novellas because I find that they aren't long enough for me to invest in the story and if I do, it's over too quickly.

Legion is incredibly brief yet incredibly captivating. Sanderson's effortless writing shines through even outside his typical genre in a way that you easily forget you're even reading a book. 

The premise, which was a slightly familiar combination of The United States of Tara and Monk was still fresh and cleverly thought out and delivered. We learn that Stephen is a genius, whose mind can do and learn things that we mere mortals can only dream of - however the way he copes with this is by dividing his personality into hallucinatory 'aspects' who each take on and provide him with certain skills and traits, thereby offloading his own mental prowess onto them.

This could so easily present a lot of plot holes, but Sanderson is meticulous and subtle in his handling. While Stephen's aspects make observations and contributions that in fact of course are all derived from Stephen's own experience, there are several moments where it is clear that the aspects are not real and do not have any additional influence in the real world, which I really appreciated.

Within the story Stephen has provided constant intrigue for psychologists and I can see why; I was incredibly interested too. It wasn't so much his prodigious skills, but more the way in which he handles them and the way they manifest themselves - the weapons expert aspect physically guiding Stephen's aim as Stephen's 'own aim' is shaky and terrible for instance.

This worked really well as a short story but I think it could so easily be expanded - like all of Sanderson's other work. I won't push for it though, because I'm still of the belief that we should lock him up until he finishes The Stormlight Archive.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

REVIEW: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

"For the night is dark and full of turnips."

So unlike the rest of you who had been waiting for this book since the dawn of time, I was fortunate enough to start reading the series this year and could make my merry way straight on from A Feast for Crows. I say this because I think it has a lot of impact on the reading for me compared to those who sat outside bookstores at midnight. Now I find myself in the queue. Le sigh.

Firstly I just want to say how easy it is to take the brilliance of these books for granted, especially given their length and when comparing them to each other. Saying A Dance with Dragons is crap compared to A Storm of Swords is like turning your nose up prime steak because there is pheasant available. It has also had, I'm sure, a lot to do with the wait and the expectations. And on top of that (this occurred to me as I started reading The Black Prism), ASoIaF runs on a very slow burn; it doesn't get your adrenaline running every other page or have you burning for in anticipation for the next chapter. No, it is more clever and subtle than that.

In this book in particular I could really feel the build up of the whole series as different arcs started to merge and come together. That said though, kudos to GRRM for keeping this shit together, because there are currently so many balls up in the air at this point it would make any juggler run in fear. I hope he had some bad ass visual mind maps pinned up on his walls. If real politics are like this, how are we surprised by the global economic crisis? With only two more books to go (egads!) I still feel like it will be a squeeze to wrap everything up ... it's like we've been going up one giant hill since A Game of Thrones and at some point we need to start going down.

I think a lot of negative opinions of this book stem from the lack of plot movement or any kind of resolution it offers, given the huge amounts of time between book publications. There is also the 'Get Daenerys out of Meereen God Dammit' movement, which I'm sure has it's own fanpage somewhere. I can't say that any of this occurred to me during my reading. I've become really content to travel along wherever GRRM takes us and a dull moment was never had. Some other reviewers described 'lengthy travel scenes' ... obviously they have never read Earth's Children by Jean M. Auel, which is essentially one good book and 5 more LONG books of travelogue.

I have to say I loved ADwD just as much as previous books. Daenerys has been a long time favourite character of mine and I welcomed her return with open arms. I think out of the multitude of characters, she is the one that I associate with most strongly and I love her strength, intelligence and ferocity. I didn't realise it to begin with, but during ADwD she really lost something; she had been cowed and was pandering to menial politics rather than, I don't know, slaughtering wantonly. This was rectified for me on a grand scale during the scene with Drogon in The Pit - I had to put the Kindle down to do a fist pump! FIRE AND BLOOD! YEAH!

I recently learned a lot of people actual dislike Dany and her arc of the story (especially after swanning about in Meereen). I'm totally gunning for a Targaryen victory.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the return of characters from A Feast For Crows about halfway through the book, especially Cersei, Arya and the Dornish. I now understand why GRRM split the books as he did, with Southron characters having substantially more material than others to fit into the same time frame. It offered some nice resolutions that I believe would have had people crying for blood if they had been left to the next book (including me). I have to admit that after Daenerys, my favourite character has become Cersei. Though she features only briefly on ADwD, she makes it a doozy and I'm very interested how recent events will have changed her.

I've been amazed at how much ASoIaF has infiltrated and influenced my life on such a profound level. I think about it on a daily basis, as if the characters were people I knew and I was living alongside them. I think that really says a lot about the skill of GRRM and the 'slow burn' I talked about earlier. These books are just a burst of flame, they are here for the long run and they stay with you. Whenever I think of a lion, I now automatically think 'Lannister' for instance. The word 'leal' also (annoyingly) pops into my head all the time. The whole world and incredibly huge cast of characters has been so well built, I feel as if I believe in it as much as our own. Except for the black horses with red manes, that's just stupid. If Harry Potter was the series of my teens, this is definitely the series of my twenties (and potentially thirties, god help us).

GRRM is really the master of foreshadowing and easter-egging. There are so many little (and giant) links forming everywhere, little hints and tidbits, but can any of us honestly say where the series will end up as a whole? Who will win the Iron Throne? What is the fate of Daenerys and the dragons? What role will all the Stark children fulfill with their individual gifts? He gives nothing away!

Now for some nit picking. There are some repetitive elements that have just become annoying - yes, we all know about them, this isn't groundbreaking news. Firstly, have to say it, 'words are wind.' I believe this only actually surfaced in AFfC and is here to stay. The fade to black death scene at the end of a chapter has happened countless times now and let's face it, have they ever actually died? Not fooling anyone anymore GRRM. While I actually like that some characters have their own little mantras (they're quite beautiful/sad/poetic most of the time), it does become too much, especially given it's not just one character ... If I look back, I am lost/You know nothing, Jon Snow/Wherever whores go/Fear cuts deeper than swords ... the list continues. AND THE WORST ONE ... Why does everyone who speaks Westerosi only ever have the slightest accent? EVERY TIME! Sometimes I feel GRRM has found the formula and become comfortable with it, and now he can just spew out the same thing.

And the names out of Slaver's Bay ... I seriously cannot keep track. The Griff and Young Griff introduction, while an interesting twist seemed to come out of nowhere with not enough pizazz in my opinion. And you can't just invent names for each hour of the night (eg hour of the wolf) in book five and then continue to use them frequently as if they have been around forever.

The only thing I might wish for some of the time are more scenes like The Red Wedding or Drogon in the Pit, something with a bit more urgency and fire. It seems each book is only allotted one each.

All in all I have to say this is another great and epic installment in the series that does not disappoint (unless you have been waiting 6 years and are looking for some serious plot advancement and a swift exit from Meereen). I leave you with my favourite line from the book ... I don't know what it is about Cersei's vicious humour (which seems often aimed towards Septas ...) but I made me laugh out loud.
"I do," she said, "I feel reborn, as if a festering boil has been lanced and now at last I can begin to heal. I could almost fly." She imagined how sweet it would be to slam an elbow into Septa Scolera's face and send her careening down the spiral steps. If the gods were good, the wrinkled old cunt might crash into Septa Unella and take her down with her."

Friday, September 7, 2012

REVIEW: City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates

This one has been sitting on my shelves unread since the dawn of time (or so it feels like) so it was good to finally get around to it! This will also be a quick review because I am currently in Barcelona and let's face it, the beach is calling to me.

I have to admit that I bought this book because it was cheap and had a nice cover, and I guess the blurb sounded alright too. Unfortunately that wasn't enough to guarantee a good read ... and it's usually such a good method of choosing for me!

The concept of this story, while not overly original, was OK. Now that I think about it though, it's actually identical to The Novice by Trudi Canavan in every way imaginable. 

The biggest problem I had was that Whates spells everything out for us, bit by excruciating bit. Every action is explained and justified to us through each characters internal dialogue. Mary Sue knew she could kill the beast easily because she had been trained specifically for this situation and always carried a knife on her personage. She also knew she was having curry for dinner because it was Thursday and on Thursdays Gary Stu always makes curry. You get the point.

Things started of promisingly enough, but by the middle of the book, so many potential villains had been introduced, it became ridiculous. There was even some ominous being cloaked in shadow who had been biding its time in the dark to strike ... It was all I could do to not yell out 'LAME!'. By the last third, everything is wrapped up so quickly and with little to no effort on behalf of the protagonist and his helpers that it became nothing less than unimaginative and boring. 'If you just think really hard while I sit here and enhance your powers with my own mystic powers, we should be able stop global warming, bring about world peace and bakes some nice scones for morning tea.' I'm not even kidding.

This isn't really written like a book, but more like a movie. It's like Whates is describing each scene from some kind of Hollywood action/thriller, complete with all the over used tropes and cliches.

I could have stopped reading a number of times, but I decided to persist out of need for a sense of completion. Don't think I'll be buying or reading the two sequels however.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

REVIEW: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

The masterpiece that is Prince of Thorns continues on in a sequel that truly delivers on all expectations set before it.

I've read a lot of reviews of this book that almost unanimously claim that King of Thorns is much better than it's predecessor. I actually think I am going to have to disagree, but perhaps for different reasons. Obviously the plot and characters thicken quite nicely in KoT and really, I couldn't ask for a better sequel - but there are two reasons that I enjoyed PoT just that little bit more. Firstly, I think part of the magic of PoT was about experiencing the unexpected and the biting freshness of it all; by default and through no fault of its own, KoT was not going to have that. 

Secondly, and more importantly, I felt that Jorg lost a lot of what made him interesting. I loved how unhinged, blase and impulsive he was in PoT, obviously a product of youth and troubled past. In KoT even he admits that as you grow older, you start to care about things and in this case, it means he becomes a lot more normal. In this case, I don't blame anyone - it had to happen for the story to get anywhere at all. But I really lamented the loss of 'lop-of-their-head' Jorg who has been replaced with Jorg who now cares about people, has responsibilities and begins to regret his previous actions.

Right, now with that slight negative out of the way, let me rave about how freaking good this book is!

I loved the structure of the story, which jumps between three main threads; the current day conflict at the Haunt; events beginning four years ago from the conclusion of PoT; and pages of Katherine's diary which run simultaneously with number two. Then of course there is a chunk of unremembered time that Jorg re-experiences during the current day, just to shake it up further.

All of this really lends itself to maintaining the breakneck and no nonsense pace that made PoT so good. The events in the current day perspective only span one day, while the past perspective stretches across years. By 'revisiting' them, rather than telling them in chronological order, Lawrence can cut through to the important bits, like flashbacks. Genius! It's also great for some excellent foreshadowing and suspense.

The whole book is really like one action scene that doesn't end. While there are still highs and lows, there are never points where you are ever in danger of needing a break ... in fact, if I didn't need to eat or sleep (or if I wasn't visiting Berlin) I would have read it in one sitting.

While Jorg has matured a lost a little of his recklessness, his sheer genius and 'plans' (or lack thereof) are once again one of the best parts of the story. Numerous times I chuckled at his dry wit and his unfathomable reasoning and decisions kept me in a constant state of anticipation. One thing that occurred to me while reading this was that Jorg was one of the very, very few protagonists that I did not identify or empathise with - and that is extremely exciting! He is a prideful, reckless boy whose mantra is pretty much 'fuck it' and it is always hard to place how he will react, given his particular lack of sentimentality. I feel like most other authors would make an aspiring Emperor altruistic and with a noble purpose ... Jorg openly admits he wants to be Emperor because it's a challenge and because he can - be damned if he'll be a good one or not.

KoT also features an excellent cast of characters, some new, some old. The band of brothers were once again a highlight for me - they may not say much but they are such an incredible presence in the story. I actually found Miana's brief appearances quite entertaining, especially given that she's like an even younger, female Jorg.

I am a massive fan of post-apocalyptic worlds, and KoT continued to deliver and expand on this. What I loved was that it wasn't what the book was about, but it instead formed the backdrop for the real story and contributed elements that gave it a nice kick out of the traditional fantasy worlds.

I did question the system or reasoning of 'magic' a little more in KoT as it became more prevalent. Elements and key figures were introduced without anything more than vague justification or explanation. Necromancy and fire magic and dream-witches and ice-witches ... it just didn't seem to fit within one whole scope, like there was nothing linking it all. The other thing that bugged me was how crucial it became to the story, and how it is looking to become, without any real time given to it to do it justice. It's like watching a movie about racing cars and in the last third aliens arrive and kill everyone. I just don't feel like these necromancers, witches et. al. really fit in.

And Sageous' role became really, really confusing. So ... what was a dream and what was real and which decisions that anyone made, ever, were do their own or to do with Sageous?

All in all, King of Thorns is epic fantasy on a George R. R. Martin scale, but on speed. How the hell am I going to survive the wait for Emperor of Thorns!?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

REVIEW: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I'm quite annoyed that it took me this long to get around to reading Prince of Thorns, one of the sharpest, freshest and most entertaining reads in recent times for me.

I begin my quasi-review (let's be honest, I don't actually write reviews, I just spew forth unchecked opinions) with an excerpt which demonstrates why I loved this book.
""What in feck's name was the point of stealing a horse if I have to drag the damn thing up the slightest incline we meet?"
"To be fair, Prince, this is more by way of a cliff," Makin said.
"I blame Sir Alain for owning a deficient horse.""
Of course it's not as entertaining without the context of the rest of the story, but rest assured I had a good chuckle. This is really one of the strengths of Prince of Thorns for me; the easy flow in which Lawrence moves between the ofttimes macabre and the amusing, the latter in a very droll kind of way. His handle on humour reminds me a lot of Pratchett's Discworld novels, some of the only books to have me laughing out loud. Especially in fantasy I find the key to a good laugh can just be a simple real-world reference or colloquialism, and its often the surprise of it and the simplicity that makes it funny. For instance:
""For Christ's sake" I drew my sword and swung on a rising arc in the same motion. His head came off clean. I let the momentum carry me round, and brought the blade down with all my strength, overhand on the pulsing stump of his neck. The blow cut him before he could fall and cut deep, splitting his sternum.
"I'm not interested!" I shouted the words at his corpse as I let its weight pull me to the ground."
The casual manner in which Jorg deals with this foe as if he were a door-to-door salesman might not be that funny on its own, but of course it takes place after a harrowing battle in which a favoured character meets their end. The swift transition between exhaustion-fueling-hopelessness and exhaustion-fuelling-an-impatient-rage is one I appreciated.

Jorg is really one of the things that makes this book. Thankfully Lawrence has no time for woeful and angsty heroes or simpering maidens fair. Rather than lamenting his losses and considering at length the problems that plague the world along with his own inner-torments, Jorg is prone to simply lop off someone's head and be done with it. That isn't to say he's a happy-go-lucky teenager though - far from it. Jorg is cold and more than a little unhinged, but somehow his extreme sociopathic tendencies do little to sway us from his side; in fact his brusqueness and honesty are a breath of fresh air and quite endearing.

However, even with his dark past and unpredictability, it is sometimes difficult to truly believe in Jorg and his actions. Most 10-year olds I know are sitting on the couch eating Coco-Pops and watching Cartoon Network and still cry if they fall over (wow, still sounds like 25-year old me). Yes, different world, different circumstances, but what bugged me a tiny bit was how unapologetic Lawrence was about his teenage-genius-killing-machine. Of course there are many strong similarities between Prince of Thorns and Rothfuss' KingKiller Chronicles, both in terms of the style and story, but also the protagonist. But where Rothfuss continually points of how extraordinary Kvothe is, taking pains to detail how he actually got that way, Lawrence just lets us assume that it's totally normal for pre-pubescent boys to hatch plans that decimate entire kingdoms.

I read some tidbits about this book containing shocking violence and rape ... I'm sorry, but is there another version of this book that those people read? I'm no horror expert (in fact I totally steer clear), but I think a quick viewing of something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will get some perspective happening. In fact, it was so toned down that I didn't even take note of it while reading the book. All we really experience is some run-of-the-mill gore from one-on-one combat and some hinting at rape, that is never actually experienced on described. I make it sound like I'm unimpressed, but of course this is just my case against the bemoaners. I thought the violence was handled with a masterful stroke and genuineness. Some parts were even given over to the black humour mentioned earlier ... this was one of my favourites:
"The combination of a woman and time on my hands wasn't one I'd tried before. I found the mix to my liking. There's a lot to be said for not being in a queue, or not having to finish up before the flames take hold of the building. And the willingness! That was new too, albeit paid for. In the dark I could imagine it was free."
The pace of Prince of Thorns was something I really appreciated, especially after spending the better part of this year reading A Song of Ice and Fire. Traveling scenes? Lengthy descriptions of times gone by? No, no, not for Mark Lawrence! In my opinion he really has created the perfect balance; hints and tidbits of exposition are delivered gradually throughout, building a dark and desolate world and characters which leaves us satisfied yet intrigued, stroking our ego's like a house cat as it let's us begin to fill in the gaps. Not weighed down, this leaves the storyline free to race on ahead!

The way the foreshadowing, or lack thereof, is handled has something to do with this I think. Lawrence doesn't set up some grand quest or ultimate goal to be achieved and so we have no expectations or holes that need to be quickly filled. We don't necessarily need to know all the details yet, which keeps us from going mad with curiosity, which would usually be the case in this situation.

This mystery of this formerly technologically-filled, post-apocalyptic world checked all the boxes for me and was handled very similarly to Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God, with just enough info being casually mentioned to make you question where the story was taking place. Even more so however, it reminds me of the setting for Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles, in which the technological remnants of the past remain to plague, mystify leave their mark on the current population. Whereas Carmody's series was a little bit more believable in terms of the mutations that occurred in human-kind, teetering on the knife-edge of fantasy and sci-fi, Prince of Thorns is like a child on red cordial, taking every liberty to introduce some fantastical elements which just seemed a little too far fetched for me. 

The only downside to this break-neck pace and lack of foreshadowing for me however, is that when new elements or plot-twists are introduced later on in the story, they seem to come out of nowhere and the absence of justification or strong-grounding within the plot is keenly felt. This is especially so in the last two thirds of the book as they depart severely from where the first third was going and if you were like me and didn't even read the blurb, this is quite a jolt. There is a point where the story goes from band of vagabonds making a living by smashing heads of all kinds, to dealing with sorcerers and alien-like creatures that look like they should be Pokemon.

By the end of the book though I think we all come to terms with it and finally get to settle down in the world Lawrence has created, with hopefully a clearer view of what to expect next ... buuuuttt also hoping for more of the unexpected! King of Thorns has definitely been bumped up through my to-read list!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

REVIEW: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

I've been reading a lot on my Kindle recently, on which the only way to tell how far through the book you are is the percentage in the corner. Of course, I keep forgetting how freaking long the appendices are for A Song of Ice and Fire and every time the ending catches me totally unaware because I still have a good 8% to go. It's very unsettling.

Being quite a recent ASoIaF fan, it took me a while to cotton on that half the characters had been waylaid in this book, to appear later on A Dance with Dragons. About two thirds of the way through I was having Daenerys withdrawals and decided to Google it, where I learned that in fact a lot of fans had been resentful of this when reading A Feast for Crows, especially given the wait between books.

I think in that context I too would have been disappointed in this book, but as it stands, being my first reading, I thoroughly enjoyed it and hold no ill feelings at all. In fact, apart from it having a little less action, I would say that it was just as good as it's prequels - although A Storm of Swords was pretty epic. Having read it without any knowledge of it's history or the general consensus of the fans and knowing I could go straight onto the sequel made for a much better read for me I think.

Jaime and Cersei were the real highlights in this book for me. Jaime really begins to become a crowd favourite as he follows a path to restoring his honour and morals, ferrying him from the shores of contempt and scorn over to the sunnier bank of redemption. Having him as a viewpoint for the reader is obviously the key stroke in executing this - no one really believes they are evil after all - and seeing Jaime's sincere regrets and changes from his own thoughts helps win us to his cause.

Surprisingly this is not the case when we finally get a glimpse behind the mask of Cersei Lannister. This bitch trogg from hell is a piece of work. Yes she claims that her motivations are to protect her children (read also between to the lines as 'to protect her own sweet ass') which does in a way justify all her actions, but more than ever before we can see how messed up she actually is. In a way there is a strange sense of sympathy for her ... for all her foul deeds they really are just products of her life and upbringing. That aside however, she is still one twig short of a cuckoo's nest.

With the unfolding of events by the end of A Feast for Crows, I feel that I may be left hanging until The Winds of Winter to find out what happens ... and in that case, I'll be joining the fans with the pitchforks.

Now that I think about it, my Kindle really did trick me out of enjoying the ending for this book. Brienne, Arianne, Cersei, Samwell, Sansa, Arya ... all had cliffhanger moments that I thought would be resolved in the following chapters. In saying that though, I think some were a little bit washed out because they happened so far from the final pages, especially in the case of Arya.

Speaking of Brienne ... although her quest seemed a little dry to begin with, I started to enjoy it. Her battle at the crossroads was actually one of the few points of action and had me as excited as I had been since the Red Wedding. Prince Doran's revelation to Arianne was also extremely juicy!

The only small (very small) criticism I have of this book is the overwhelming amount of names that get introduced and bandied about. Some would pop up and I could not for the life of me tell you who they were. Most of the time this really wasn't important anyway and didn't affect the story, but still. Even when Littlefinger is explaining part of the history of the Arryn line to Sansa in very plain terms, I struggled to keep up. And spending most of the story within the court at King's Landing with more Sers than I care to count, it gets a little baffling. No wonder the appendices are so long.

All in all, I really enjoyed A Feast for Crows, probably just as much as A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings - I did manage to plow through it at a good speed which always says a lot.

I think I'll take a small break to read another book or three before moving onto A Dance with Dragons, especially as I'll then be joining the cue for the next book with everyone else!

Most entertaining excerpt from this book goes to the droll wit of Cersei Lannister. I apologise for the language. She does not.
"Cersei did not intend to squander Tommen's strength playing wet nurse to sparrows, or guarding the wrinkled cunts of of a thousand sour septas. Half of them are probably praying for a good raping." 

Friday, August 3, 2012

UPDATE: A Comprehensive Wishlist

As I am lacking the time and resources to be buying my usual weekly haul of books (currently being abroad) I have found myself suffering withdrawals and scrolling longingly through my Book Depository wishlist nightly, each time resisting the urge to buy just one little book. To combat this in my own anally-retentive way, I made a comprehensive wishlist with I will now share with you all to further offset my addiction.

Please note:
1. I already own some of these titles on my Kindle, but it is extremely important for me that I own the physical copy too - weird? - especially the ones that are close to moving from trade paperback to mass market size ... we can't have series comprised of mismatching sizes!
2. This list only includes books that are released or about to be released very soon.
3.They're in no particular order.

Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
With the release of the latter, I am a little tired of not being on the bandwagon - time to get on it!

The Emperor's Knife and Knife Sworn by Mazarkis Williams
Like Lawrence's books, I think it's about time to get into these.

 The Winds of Khalakovo and The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu
More hype, another bandwagon.

Embassytown and The Scar by China Mieville
Thought it was time to give Mieville a go and after reading through all the blurbs, these two sounded the most appealing to me. Can someone please tell me the correct way to pronounce him name so I can stop feeling so awkward?

The Warlock's Shadow, The King's Assassin and The Black Mausoleum by Stephen Deas
I really loved the Memory of Flames novels by Deas and so The Black Mausoleum has naturally been on my list for a while - although I refuse to buy it until they release a matching cover. The first two are the last of the trilogy that starts with The Thief-Taker's Apprentice, which is on my shelf waiting to be read.

City of Ruin, The Book of Transformations and The Broken Isles by Mark Charan Newton
Again, I have The Nights of Villjamur on my shelf (unread) so feel obligated to buy the rest. My problem is this series has ten bajillion different cover editions so I'm struggling to find all three to match my book one ...

The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe
Saw these at the bookstore and thought they looked good.

Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
Heard good things about this series, plus I like the covers.

The Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan
A prequel to The Black Magician trilogy which I finished reading earlier this year.

The Ambassador's Mission, The Rogue and The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan
A new trilogy following on from The Black Magician trilogy. In the name of duty and loyalty I thought I best get them. Plus, nice covers.

Priestess of the White, Last of the Wilds and Voice of the Gods by Trudi Canavan
Another trilogy by Canavan's I thought I would try.

The Written and Pale Kings by Ben Galley
Let's be honest, I'm getting these for the amazing covers.

Stardust and American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I thought it was time I tried some Neil Gaiman and picked Stardust because I loved the movie and American Gods because it seems the most popular/loved/awarded.

The Stormcaller and The Dusk Watchman by Tom Lloyd
I gradually picked up books two, three and four of this series at bargain bookstores, so now just need book one and five, the latter being a brand new release.

The Dark Divide and Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon
I bought the prequel to The Dark Divide (The Undivided, still unread) last year so need to get this one. Wolfblade is the first book of the trilogy following the one I finished this year - I already have books two and three.

The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun by N. K. Jemisin
I have a very strange relationship with N. K. Jemisin. I was undecided on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, absolutely adored The Broken Kingdoms and thought The Kingdom of Gods was utter trash - so much so that I started coining Jemisinitis as a term for fantasy gone wrong. But I'll give these a go and get back to you.

City of Hope & Despair and City of Light & Shadow by Ian Whates
I've had the first novel in this series, City of Dreams & Nightmare for a while and while I haven't actually read it yet, I'd like to complete the series ... plus they're only $7 each!

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, Debris by Jo Anderton and Rapture by Lauren Kate
I've been wanting to read the first since it was released, but I refuse to do hardbacks and there is (to my knowledge) no paperback out yet. Enough said. Please no judgement for Rapture ... my friend has been hounding me to read this series for so long and I already have the first three, as yet unread.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I love the covers for Novik's series, but I'm not convinced that the story itself is for me, so I'm going to try the first book. As for The Song of Achilles, I went through a phase where I was listening to and loving the soundtrack of the musical Paris, watching Troy and loving all things Achilles/Iliad - and this book sounds great!