Monthly Archives: August 2011

Review of The Way of Kings – Book 1 of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Standard

A health warning comes with this book – it is a beast at just over a 1000 pages. So if you enjoy curling up in bed with your fav read, you may have to rethink how you hold/balance this breeze block edition – I know I did.

wayofkingsRoshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilisation alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches and grass retracts into the stony ground. Cities are built only where the land offers shelter.  It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders, known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armour that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leads who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is drawn to an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.  And across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure…

And there you have the synopsis. The book follows the adventures of all three of these characters through this engrossing and enjoyable world. Initially, it was Kaladin’s story that drew me in and had me wanting to read on, however as I got further into the book, I found myself enjoying the inconsistencies and puzzles around the other two characters, who are just as contradictory and well depicted.

It is a mark of Sanderson’s writing skill that I was held throughout this monster – huge tomes of high fantasy are not high on my list of favourite reads, and I picked this up fully expecting to get about halfway through and then lose interest. It has certainly happened with other popular fantasy writers – including George R.R. Martin. However, effective characterisation isn’t Sanderson’s only strength. His world is fascinating. I loved the landscape, complete with original ecology and unusual wildlife – as well as a complicated, tortuous history and conflicting religious beliefs.

While I may have to get some serious weight training in before attempting the sequel when it comes out, I’m definitely going to track it down – although I’m not promising I’ll get right to the end of this ten part series. However, this intriguing, complex story has lodged in my head and despite the fact that I am now more than halfway through another excellent, enjoyable book since I completed The Way of Kings, I often find myself thinking about the world and the protagonists. Who knows – Sanderson may be the author who thoroughly converts me to joining the ranks of epic fantasy fandom!
10/10

Advertisements

Review of The Radleys by Matt Haig

Standard

This intriguing take on vamps is one of the selections of More 4’s TV Book Club 2011. Although, I had to grit my teeth as Jo Brand et al hastily assured us with much eye rolling and disgust-gurning that initially the vampire aspect had them all terribly worried, as who’d be caught dead reading anything with vampires? I think Jo even shuddered… But once the unedifying spectacle of such literary snobbery was put to one side and our plucky panel actually picked up the damn book – surprise, surprise, they all loved it…

theradleysLife with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self denial. Loads of self denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clare gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.  With a visit from their lethally louche uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Sookie Stackhouse it ain’t. Haig manages to encapsulate the sheer predictable dreariness of British middle class life for local G.P. Peter Radley and his stressed wife Helen. Meanwhile, Clare and Rowan struggle not to get bullied at the local comprehensive for being prone to headaches, skin rashes and feeling constantly sick in the sunshine. As Jo was at pains to emphasise – the vampirism of the Radley family is a cipher for any kind of difference within a community. Or not. I don’t really care.

What I do know, is that the writing is aptly sharp with a thread of black humour running through the book. Haig’s descriptions are vividly arresting, as the gripping storyline keeps the pages turning until you reach the end. If you wish to regard the vampires as some kind of extended metaphor because your literary friends will look down their pointy noses at you if you don’t, then by all means go ahead. I don’t get the feeling that Haig was sweating over such distinctions all that much – he was too busy having fun with wicked, wicked uncle Will, while peeling back the hypocrisies and misunderstandings of daily life, highlighted in stark relief as the protagonists stumble through their days and nights in the grip of a terrible addiction. The extracts from The Abstainer’s Handbook are funny and poignant. The ending is very well executed, providing a really satisfying conclusion to this dark edged drama and nicely tying up any trailing ends.

All in all, reluctant though I am to find myself agreeing with Jo Brand – this, after all, is the woman who claims 1984 is her favourite book, while professing to hate science fiction as a genre – I found The Radleys a highly entertaining, darkly enjoyable read.
9/10

Review of Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee

Standard

I’ve been increasingly impressed at the quality of writing coming out of Baen – so when I noticed this book on the library shelves, I immediately picked it up.

The hidden world lurking in the shadows of coastal Maine outside the tourist season, is where Black Dogs hunt the night and selkies carousel tidestoss unpleasant truths over their shoulders before diving into the next wave. In the center of this, Kate Archer tends and guards one of the spookiest carousels this side of Ray Bradbury and wonders what has happened to her grandmother. The old woman sent her a letter, left papers deeding over the carousel, house and Land (meaning much more than property), and vanished, telling the spirits of the land and sea that she expected to be back before the turning of the year.  Now March has come and gone and Kate must return from self-exile to take up powers and responsibilities she has renounced, or dying will be the least of her problems.

Whether this is magic realism, or contemporary fantasy is a call for someone else – what it definitely isn’t – is a crime/thriller set in a modern city where the protagonist is ranged against vamps/weres while fighting an undeniable physical attraction with said supernatural beasties… In other words – it is different from the general run of modern fantasy – to the extent that I would be very reluctant to park it on a shelf labelled Urban Fantasy.

Kate Archer relinquished her responsibilities to the Land and walked away, believing that it was her duty to do so. She has returned with reluctance, ailing and angry, to find that everything is not as it should be. Right from the start, Lee plunges us into the action in this atmospheric corner of Maine and has us completely identifying with her protagonist as Kate has to confront a range of enemies, some human and some definitely not…

The world is beautifully conveyed with cinematic sharpness without any loss of narrative pace – not an easy thing to pull off. However, it all appears effortless in the capable, talented hands of Lee. From the first page, I realised that I was in for an enjoyable ride in an engrossing world, peopled with a cast of interesting, eccentrically different people. The mention of Ray Bradbury isn’t as random as it might appear – I was reminded of the Great Man in the characterisation and feel of this story – the batwing horse is definitely one I’m going to remember for a while… Lee is clearly thoroughly familiar with this area of Maine, although the actual town of Archers Beach is a conglomeration of a number of similar places. Not only does she know this part of the world – she loves it. That affection resonates throughout the book, giving her writing an extra depth and grounding.

The plot whisks along at just the right pace – not so much that we lose out on the wonderful setting and interesting characters, but providing plenty of impetus to turn the pages… I should have stopped reading and settled down for an early night – but I read on until the small hours to discover what happened. And these days, I don’t do that very often.

This enjoyable gem will linger in the mind for a long time with a grin of pleasure to accompany it – and let’s face it, with the constant bad news crowding our papers and tv screens – anything that can achieve that is worth reading.
10/10

Review of Imager – Book 1 of The Imager Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt, Jr

Standard

When I came across this relatively new fantasy series by Modesitt, I decided to hunt down the first book.  After all, anything written by this experienced and prolific author is always worth checking out – and this one is certainly worth the effort.

Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar and the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist. He is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan – in another two years. In a single moment, Rhenn’s entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire and Rhenn discovers he is an imager – one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who possess the power to visualize things and make them real.

imagerNow he must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle, where because of their powers (including the ability to do accidental magic even while asleep) and because they are both feared and vulnerable, imagers live separately from the rest of society. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the ‘truths’ he knew were nothing of the sort and that every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong and begins to learn to live a life doing magic in secret.

This is an intriguing, layered world that closely resembles the Renaissance period in its technology and cut-throat attitude to other states and religions. Politically, Solidar is powerful but isolated by its religious belief that Naming a deity is well on the way to blasphemy – but the dealbreaker is Solidar’s tolerance of imagers. As Rhenn learns more during his highly specialised training, he discovers that Solidar’s supremacy comes at a very high price…

I’ve read grumbles about the relatively slow pacing of the storyline – however I didn’t find this a problem.  Modesitt’s strength is establishing textured, believable worlds where his characters can discuss and critique their experiences of different forms of governance. This is grown up fantasy – where notions of tolerance versus enlightened dictatorship, colliding religious views, and the consequences of power and its abuse can all be examined.

However this book isn’t a philosophical musing on politics and religion – it’s a fantasy adventure about a powerful magic-user who is coming to terms with what he is capable of doing. And once more, Modesitt gives us a demonstration of how to construct a magical system. Imagers don’t live in the city of L’Excelsis – it’s too dangerous. They cannot even have a normal married life, because when they fall asleep, they cannot control their dreams… I love the world. I love the way that Modesitt builds the layers and complexity throughout the book without compromising the pace and narrative tension.

Any niggles? Well, we access the whole book in Rhenn’s first person viewpoint, and while he is a well defined character, I would have preferred to have seen a bit more angst when he finally walks away from the ashes of his career as an artist. His initial time at the Collegium seemed a bit too smooth. I also feel that he deals with some of the events with great coolness and resourcefulness – and I’d like to see him flounder, showing more vulnerability and horror at the situations with which he is having to cope. Having said that, set against the overall quality of this first book in the series, it isn’t a major flaw – and I’m sure Modesitt has plenty of nasty experiences in store for Rhenn in future. One thing I do know – I’ll be hunting down the second book in the series to find out exactly what happened, next. If you enjoy intelligent, well written high fantasy with interesting things to say about the human condition in amongst all the mayhem and magic, then I’d advise you to look out a copy of Imager – you’re in for a treat.
9/10

Review of The Devil’s Edge – Book 11 of the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry series by Stephen Booth

Standard

This is the latest offering by Stephen Booth, in his crime series set in the Peak District and featuring his two police officers, Ben Cooper and Diane Fry.

The newspapers call them the Savages: a band of home invaders as merciless as they are stealthy. Usually they don’t leave a clue. This devilsedgetime, they’ve left a body. To DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, the case appears open-and-shut – a woman in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor. But then another victim turns up, dead of fright. As the temperature rises, so does the body count, and soon Cooper and Fry realise they’re just pawns in a twisted game… a game that ends in the sinister shadow of the mountain ridge called the Devil’s Edge.

Don’t let the above blurb fool you – the storyline isn’t all about blood, gore and fear. For me, the strength of Booth’s writing is that it is more edgily relevant and contemporary than many crime novels. There is a real feel that this book could only be set right now – featuring the preoccupations about the economic crisis causing police funding cutbacks and stretching resources as widely as possible. As Cooper – who is the main protagonist in this book – struggles to work out just why his instincts are twanging about this case, we are given a ringside seat in the stresses of policing a rural area. Booth’s slow-burn build gives us slices of Cooper’s daily routine, along with the steady accumulation of information and evidence as residents in the exclusive village of Riddings are questioned in an attempt to get to the bottom of the murders.

We learn of the tensions within the small, isolated community perched at the foot of one of the stunning beauty spots that gives the book its name – the Devil’s Edge. As ever, the characters are wonderfully complex and those of us who are fans of Booth’s work also get reacquainted with Fry’s edgy aggression and Murfin’s cynicism that can only be assuaged by another sausage roll…

Meanwhile the stark Peak District landscape pervades the novel, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the unfolding drama which eventually leads to the dramatic climax during a thunderstorm. I’m not surprised to hear that Cooper and Fry’s exploits are in the process of being televised – the mystery for me has been that no one has thought to do so, sooner.

Any niggles? While I do appreciate the wonderful setting – the Peak District happens to be one of my favourite places – I do think Booth needs to take care that he doesn’t overplay it. For the first time when reading a Booth novel, I did find myself skimming the descriptions of the scenery during the second half of the book.

Overall though, it’s a relatively picky point – and in a year that hasn’t, so far, been the best, getting my annual fix of Booth’s moody whodunit while the rain batters at the windows, certainly has me feeling more like facing the gale-force winds to try and weed the sulking vegetables…
9/10

Review of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Standard

It isn’t that often I come across London-based Brit fantasy – as it happens, I was reading this as poor old London was still reeling from the depredations of a bunch of thieving mongrels. I’d pounced on this offering with some anticipation, particularly when I read Ben Aaronovitch’s c.v. The man is an experienced screen writer, with a number of tie-in novels under his belt – not that you’d need the biog on the back cover to tell you that. Just open up the book and read the first two paragraphs and you know you’re in the hands of someone who knows what he is doing…

riversoflondonMy name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – We do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I’m dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden – and that’s just routine. There’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying. Which, I don’t mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.

There you have it – a quirky, enjoyable adventure with lots of pace and humour, which nicely leavens the gorier moments. Peter is a coolly unflappable mixed-raced young Londoner with a very low boredom threshold, who is good at thinking on his feet. His laconic narrative, along with the long suffering observations about the labyrinth of police paperwork and procedures adds an extra twist of enjoyment to this tightly plotted piece of supernatural high jinks. As this is the first book in a series, I think Mr Aaronovitch has been very savvy in starting off in chirpy mode as in my experience, these urban fantasy serials tend to get progressively darker in tone. Just think of the difference in feel between Storm Front and Ghost Story in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for instance.  Peter’s relationship with his enigmatic superior Detective Inspector Nightingale has clearly got legs. For starters, they live in a spooky neo-Gothic fortress, complete with a creepy housekeeper, (think Mrs Hudson with sharp teeth…) and a running gag about the odd combinations that turn up in the packed lunches.

One of the major characters in this book is mentioned in the title – London. Not only does Aaronovitch use some of the major tourist sites as backdrops to some of his set pieces, he also casually drops in actual café names and walks his readers through real neighbourhoods. In addition, he has woven the city’s history into this very contemporary tale – a really neat trick, as London’s past is part of its everyday richness. The patina of history lies as thickly as the traffic fumes along many of our capital’s streets – and Aaronovitch deftly mines this historical treasure trove to underpin his tale of mayhem and chaos. All in all, this is an enjoyable and accomplished novel, crackling with energy and humour and I forward to reading the next book.
10/10

Review of Architects of Emortality by Brian Stableford

Standard

This is the first time I’ve come across Stableford, though having seen his looong bibliography, I do wonder how I’ve managed to avoid his output thus far.

This particular book is set in his Emortality series, which envisages an earth where global warming has caused our current civilisation to collapse and gives rise to a human race where biological reproduction is no longer necessary – or even regarded as desirable.

Set hundreds of years in the future and peopled with characters who can hope and expect to live for at least two hundred years – and a architectsofemortalityfortunate few whose lifespans will stretch into thousands of years. So this is a society on the edge of dramatic change and into this mix there are a series of gruesomely imaginative murders. These killings are sufficiently shocking that MegaMall, who controls most official events, puts a temporary embargo on the publicity machine. This means police officers Charlotte Holmes and Hal Watson are under a serious time constraint to solve them and need help, which they get from the plant designer and historian Oscar Wilde.

However, this is far from being a straightforward science fiction whodunit. Stableford uses the classic crime scenario as background to some lengthy expositions about the nature of posthumanity – mostly when in the viewpoint of Oscar Wilde, who is by far the most entertaining and intriguing character in this cast of eccentrics. This is, I feel, the true engine that runs this novel and although I’m not a huge fan of this harder type of science fiction, Stableford is sufficiently skilful to pull it off. He manages to get the correct balance between his musings on the impact of increased longevity and keeping the pace up necessary to keep the reader turning the pages. In fact with was a refreshing change to read something a little more leisurely than the mandatory breakneck speed that science fiction crime novels seem to require, these days.

The flashes of tongue-in-cheek humour also helped to keep me entertained – again, something that isn’t generally a feature of the genre. Stableford has some interesting points to make, while his long-suffering police officer, Charlotte Holmes, struggles to keep some kind of order in this sprawling investigation. The world is well constructed, with some nice touches in there.

All in all, a polished, well crafted book by a very able writer. And if proof were needed that Stableford is all that is the fact that this book comes in the middle of the Emortality series. Yet I wasn’t aware that it was a series. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read any of the other books, I was still able to immediately access the situation and the characters without needing any prior knowledge. Neither did Stableford assume I was a former fan. Yipee! As it happens, I was so impressed with this enjoyable read, I shall certainly be looking out for more of Stableford’s prolific output.
8/10

Review of Ghost Story – Book 13 of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Standard

So… you’re Jim Butcher with a best-selling series on your hands in the shape of tough-yet-vulnerable PI wizard Harry Dresden, whose adventures just get more and more apocalyptic. Come the thirteenth instalment, what do you do to up the action? Well… continue the jaw-dropper that confronted all Harry Dresden fans in Changes would be a good idea.

Firstly, though – if you’re just dipping your big toe into the genre of Urban Fantasy and haven’t yet come across this series, then please stop reading. Now. And rush off to the library to pick up the first book in the series, Storm Front, put up your feet and start reading. It’s an excellent series and I envy your pleasure as you gradually get to know Harry and the characters that accompany him on his adventures. If you ignore my advice and continue reading this review, you’ll be very, very sorry – because even the blurb contains major SPOILERS which I’m normally quite nifty at avoiding. However this time around, I cannot sensibly discuss this book without revealing a couple of doozies…

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.

Harry Dresden forgot his own golden rule: magic – it can get a guy killed. Which didn’t help when he clashed with unknown assailants intent on his murder. And though Harry’s continued existence is now some doubt, this doesn’t mean Chicago’s resident professional wizard can rest in peace. Trapped in a realm that is now quite here, yet not quite anywhere else, Harry learns that three of his loved ones are in mortal danger. Only by discovering his assailant’s identity can he save his friends, bring criminal elements to justice, and move on before he becomes trapped in his own unending nightmare.

It would just be easier if he knew which three friends were at risk. And had a (working) crystal ball. And had access to his magic. Instead, he must accomplish his mission unable to interact with the physical world – invisible and inaudible to all but the most specialised of magical talents. He’s also far from the only silent presence roaming Chicago’s alleys. Hell, he put some of them there himself. And now, they’re looking for payback.

ghostsotryI have to say I started this book with a fairly major grizzle. My fan-struck husband rushed out and bought the anthology of Harry Dresden short stories, Side Jobs. With a constant mountain of books piled up at my bedside, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it – until he plonked the final novella-length story in front of me, Aftermath, with strict instructions to read it before starting Ghost Story.

‘You really, really need to read this first,’ he said. He was right. And for my money, Butcher has significantly short-changed his large fan base by not inserting Aftermath either at the end of Changes, or the beginning of Ghost Story. The story gives a very useful update on what has happened to Chicago during Harry’s inevitable absence, and explores the full emotional impact of his death on those closest to him – something that cannot be adequately done from Harry’s viewpoint. Aftermath also establishes the grimmer, more muted tone that pervades Ghost Story. As it stands, Butcher needs to take a significant amount of time at the start of Ghost Story to set the altered mood and setting of Chicago in Harry’s inevitably confused and fragmented viewpoint. To the extent, that I was beginning to wonder whether Butcher’s huge risk in killing off his protagonist had paid off.

However by a third of the way in, the pace picked up and Butcher’s deft storytelling skills fully kicked in. One of the outstanding aspects of this particular series, is that it isn’t only the protagonist who is on a major journey. His companions and friends suffer and grow alongside him. So, we see how Harry’s death has affected Molly, his apprentice and Karin Murphy, his accomplice and would-be lover. The large supporting cast are not merely paraded in front of us in a never-ending procession of paper-thin constructs designed to fit the current plotline – the author gives them weight and thought and provides them with sufficient complexity that they provide page-turner appeal of their own over a number of the books. After all – Harry’s tale is told in first person point of view, and if we don’t fully engage with the characters that he’s willing to risk all for, then the point of the story would fall flat. And it doesn’t.

Once Ghost Story gained momentum, the story rocked along with all the verve and excitement Dresden fans have come to love and expect and the ending was suitably climactic – with a twist that I didn’t see coming. On balance, I think Butcher’s big risk in killing his protagonist worked… but I do think he unnecessarily jeopardised the whole venture by not including Aftermath in either Changes or Ghost Story.

8/10

Review of Wise Man’s Fear – Book 2 of The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

Standard

While a number of people have been staggering around with George R.R. Martin’s monster A Dance With Dragons, I’ve been risking my tender back by tackling another brick-sized tome – the sequel to The Name of the Wind.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.

The man was lost. The myth remained. Kvothe – the dragon-slayer, the renowned swordsman, the most feared, famed and notorious wiseman'sfearwizard the world has ever seen – vanished without warning and without trace. And even now, when he has been found, when darkness is rising in the corners of the world, he will not return. But his story lives on and, for the first time, Kvothe is going to tell it…

It is the second day of the Chronicler’s visit to the small country tavern where our hero has tucked himself away, with his loyal Fae companion, Bast. The second day when he continues to tell his own life story – the true version… Or is it? Kvothe is the classic unreliable narrator, several times admitting that he has a habit of embellishing his reputation. At the start of this very long narration, we return to the University where we last left him battling enemies and pernicious poverty. To be honest, I started the book with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. I’m not a fan of overblown ‘epic’ fantasies – to the extent that I abandoned Martin’s epic halfway through the third volume and I’m not the slightest bit tempted to give it another go.

However, it didn’t take long before I was once more caught up by Kvothe’s charm to relax and let the Rothfuss magic do its stuff. He is a remarkable writer. At a thousand pages, this doorstop should be a lot stodgier and boring than it is. We have Kvothe’s recollection of a multi-talented, vibrantly youthful version of himself interspersed by a number of interruptions, where a poignant counterpoint is the burned out innkeeper, whose motivation in telling his tale seems to be to setting the record straight before his death. Or is it? Bast, his concerned companion, is still something of a puzzle – although we get a strong sense that he isn’t what he appears to be… The central theme of what makes a reputation and the nature of fame – a classic for fantasy fiction – is approached with intelligence, while the world is a masterpiece of interesting details that ensure it is convincingly complex.

Kvothe’s character is so full of charm – so vitally alive – he leaps off the page and into my heart. The odd anomalies and the disturbing gap between the young Kvothe and the exhausted, older version have still not been explained. Any grizzles? Well, I do feel the adventure with Felurian was a tad longer than it should have been – but I didn’t skip any of it and I’ll bet you cannot guess what the wise man’s fear is…

Despite this one niggle, I’m not knocking off a point. This fantasy tale has – for me – the X factor. I know that I’ll be remembering this story long after many others have faded into the abyss of my shocking memory.
10/10