Tag Archives: review

Book Review: ‘The Way of Kings’, by Brandon Sanderson

thewayofkingsWhat I decided very early on was that I’m definitely not a fan of audiobooks, though I am willing to concede that this one is done well, with a female reader for the female PoV chapters and a male reader for all the male PoV chapters. While one might think this a superficial detail, I found it made the whole experience significantly more immersive. Having said that, it took a little while to get used to, and I found it a little jarring to begin with. Once I got used to it however, I found myself enjoying it, though there were a few instances of different pronunciations between readers.

Having been introduced to Brandon Sanderson later (partly due to the end of The Wheel of Time, but also largely due to the desire to read The Stormlight Archive), I have by no means read all of his works, starting with the Mistborn Trilogy last year, before trying Elantris earlier this year. Both had a certain flavour to them, and while the subject matter was in places very dark and grim, I felt the overall tone was light and fun, and I suppose a little innocent. I think the best characterisation of how I personally feel about the books is that they came across a little more as YA (albeit incredibly dark YA) in style and tone.

By contrast, I thought that The Way of Kings seemed considerably more mature, far darker (in perhaps a less obvious way), and far more cynical. As well as this, there was a lot more of an explicitly military focus, which I always love, and the scope was, as is common in Sanderson’s work, epic beyond belief. The plot gathered momentum like a tide, and I found the final battle and its immediate aftermath so gripping I listened to almost the last hour in a single go. I particularly enjoyed the numerous teases seeded throughout for the rest of the series. There is a lot to think about, and even more to be excited about for the coming series.

‘The Way of Kings’, by Brandon Sanderson is the first in The Stormlight Archive.

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Book Review: ‘Exile’, by R.A. Salvatore

Exile, by R.A. Salvatore

Exile

Exile is good, and I feel an improvement on Homeland, largely due to the increased interaction with other races, and a greater exploration of the world. While Homeland was good as an ‘origins’ story, Exile is fantastic for its exploration of the underdark. As with the first instalment, it still constitutes ‘traditional’ fantasy, and reading them back to back was maybe a bad idea, as both are somewhat clichéd – something which starts to wear a bit.

A considerable number of well-written, fast-paced battle scenes did a lot to maintain a plot which might otherwise have been slow. Most seemed however to have been fight scenes for the sake of keeping things interesting, rather than necessarily fitting into the plot. The whole trilogy as well takes place on a tiny scale, something which is almost unknown in modern fantasy. The cast of characters is restricted to under 20 or so.

I took a long break about 80% of the way through due to technical issues (I was listening to it as an audiobook). I found it quite easy to get back into it after a break of almost 6 months, which says something good for the quality of the writing.

‘Exile’, by R.A. Salvatore is the second in The Dark Elf Trilogy.

Book Review: ‘The Painted Man’, by Peter V. Brett

[Minor SPOILERS towards the end]

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My initial reaction was that it seemed a little slow to get going, a bit too much ‘stereotypical’ coming of age to begin with. By around the 35-40% mark though, I found myself massively enjoying it, for a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time. Having criticized it for being a little slow to get going, I do enjoy coming of age stories when they are done well, and once the characters all find their feet, it was very entertaining.

The Painted Man gathered speed very quickly, with the plot moving along at a fantastic pace. There were areas in which I would perhaps have enjoyed a little more showing rather than telling, where there were instead some not-quite-jarring time jumps. I spent the whole book trying to work out how the three point of view characters would fit together. When they finally came together I was not disappointed.

As a measure, I read the second 50% of the book (some 270 pages) in one sitting, purely because I got caught up in the adventure. In hindsight, the set-up, while slow going at the time, did pave the way for the fantastic, world-altering innovations made by Arlen in particular in the closing chapters.

‘The Painted Man’, by Peter V. Brett is the first in The Demon Cycle.

Book Review: ‘Best Served Cold’, by Joe Abercrombie

A very good, entertaining read. It’s been coming up on five years since I read The First Law trilogy, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to Joe Abercrombie’s writing. While I’m always slightly sceptical about the amount of worldbuilding which can be fit into a standalone book, the way in which Abercrombie manages it is nothing short of artful, revealing the world a little part at a time. While he is aided by the fact that his books are all set in the same world, the level of detail is breath-taking.The style of writing as well makes it very easy and fun to read, with interesting characters.

In terms of content, I do always enjoy –as non-sensical as it might sound- fantasy which does not emphasise magic, as it is all too easy nowadays to find books with poorly thought-out systems. The plot develops very quickly, in the potentially predictable arc of a classic story of revenge. The setbacks encountered are entertaining and unpredictable however, and there is no shying away from maiming main characters – something which, in the least morbid way possible, I also tend to enjoy in books.

In short, I would certainly recommend Best Served Cold, and am looking forward to starting on The Heroes. I cannot believe I’ve managed to read so many other authors without reading Joe Abercrombie again, and it will not be another five years before I read another of his books.

‘Best Served Cold’ by Joe Abercrombie is a standalone.

Book Review: ‘Night of Wolves’, by David Dalglish

Having been disappointed by David Dalglish in the past, with the first of his Half Orcs Series, I was hoping that Night of Wolves might be slightly better. Unfortunately, it was not. The story was different, and had potential, but it was hampered by poor character development and some weak writing.

The thing I found worst about this book was that the point of view from which the story was told jumped around a lot, which meant that I struggled to form any kind of emotional attachment to them. The only characters which seemed to have any kind of personality were the two paladins, Jerico and Darius but even then, only when it served the story.

As with The Weight of Blood, the story had the potential to be good, with the plot maintaining a suitable pace throughout, something which made the book readable.

I’ve now read two books by Davd Dalglish, from two separate series, and enjoyed neither. I’ll not be reading any more of them.

‘Night of Wolves’ by David Dalglish is the first in The Paladins Series.

Book Review: ‘Magic of Thieves’, by C. Greenwood

As I perhaps expected from a YA book, Magic of Thieves is very simply written, with not many long words. While this is not a problem necessarily, I found that it contributed in part to descriptions and exposition not being particularly vivid.

Alongside this, I found the narrative a little ‘clunky’, with sentence structuring feeling a little off to me. When combined with the lack of streamlining put into the dialogue, it makes the whole experience feel a little unnatural. Some of the sentences in the book also contain oxymorons, and the voice of certain characters seems a little changeable too.

In terms of storyline, I think that the whole plot is maybe a little ‘easy’ in spite of the fact that not much happens. Part of this is that the protagonist seems very trusting despite her harrowing past, and almost everyone she meets seems to be inherently good to a certain extent.

The combination of jarring time jumps, and stunted character development also meant that by the climax of the book, there had been no real sense of her developing caring or meaningful relationships with anyone. As such, this left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

In spite of these flaws, I thought it had all the basic ingredients of a good, old-fashioned fantasy story. Overall though, I felt it did not quite live up to its potential.

‘Magic of Thieves’ by C. Greenwood is the first in The Legends of the Dimmingwood Series.

Book Review: ‘The Thousand Names’, by Django Wexler

A new subgenre of fantasy for me, I have to say I enjoyed my first foray into ‘flintlock fantasy’ an enormous amount. Having never read anything of the subgenre, all I had to go on were the amazing reviews of this, and those of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy. I had no idea what to expect, and I am glad that the gamble paid off. The book was fast-paced, and I seemed to blow through it very quickly.

I’ve come to find –recently in particular- that I am a great fan of military fantasy, which I think The Thousand Names should certainly be classed as. The fact as well that it challenges the traditional ‘sword and shield’ fantasy trope, made the read a voyage of discovery for me.

I engaged with the plot quickly, enjoying the fact that ‘magic’ was considered mysterious by the protagonists and was therefore side-lined to a certain extent. While the twists were a little predictable in places (at the risk of spoilers, one of the characters not being what (s)he seemed), the ingenuity displayed by the protagonists in various of the tight spots they found themselves in was incredibly entertaining.

Overall I found the book very entertaining, in large part for its focus on the military and campaigning aspects. The way the sequel was set up in the last chapter makes me wonder whether or not I will enjoy it to the same extent. On the strength of The Thousand Names however, I am certainly willing to give it more than a chance.

‘The Thousand Names’ by Django Wexler is the first in The Shadow Campaigns.