Category Archives: magic

MINI-REVIEWS: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Circe by Madeline Miller; and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookmini-reviews

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These are books which I completed during a reading period when writing a full review wasn’t an option as I was too busy – but are still worthy of recommendation and notice.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This offering clearly demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s talent and ability to write in a variety of different styles as this bleak examination of an exhausted society essentially waiting for the planet to die, taking them with it, nonetheless is an engrossing read.

The first person protagonist is completely believable as an academic who has somehow managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore undergo a whole series of dangerous adventures that he never intended to encounter. The worldbuilding is excellent and I loved how the very apt title ties into the overall arc of the book. Yet another accomplished offering by one of the major talents of his generation.
8/10

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
No wonder this one has garnered so much attention and so many awards. The characterisation of this awkward, neglected child in a society where men are prized for their strength and aggression and women are prized for their beauty, charisma and guile, is wonderful. A protagonist who isn’t particularly beautiful or cunning, so develops a skill with potions and witchcraft, instead…

Once more, I was struck at just what a raw deal women got in this very masculine world where might was a done deal and if a woman started running and shouting ‘no’ – she was regarded as a challenge to be chased down… This could have been a bleak, traumatic read, but it isn’t partly because of the beauty of the prose and partly because of the wonderful, layered first-person depiction of a complicated immortal living in a world in which she really doesn’t fit. I found her take on Odysseus absolutely fascinating.

One of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

 

Illuminae – Book 1 of the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I thoroughly enjoyed this roller-coaster dystopian space opera YA adventure, which started with a bang and simply didn’t let up. The epistolary structure worked well, although I did have to whack the font size right up for the text conversations and some of the reports, which for some reason had a miniscule font size.

The plot twists kept coming and the finale worked really well – especially that last surprise. A warning though – don’t get too attached to many of the characters in this adventure, as lots of folks die! Highly recommended for fans of mayhem in space featuring gutsy teens.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 10th December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
67%  The ride was crazy. Miryo wondered whether being a Hunter was always like this – skulking about, climbing through windows, and leaving town in the dead of night. And whether being an Air witch was anything like it. If so, her life was going to be very hard on the nerves.

BLURB: When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. But what happens when the doppelganger survives?

Mirage, a bounty hunter, lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. She always gets her mark. But her new mission will take her into the shadowy world of witches, where her strength may not be a match against powerful magic.

Miryo is a witch who has just failed her initiation test. She now knows that there is someone in the world who looks like her, who is her: Mirage. To control her powers and become a full witch, Miryo has only one choice: to hunt the hunter and destroy her.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this interesting premise. The alternate viewpoints between Mirage and Miryo works really well and the story is racketing along at nice clip with a well depicted world, strong rules for the magic and lots of lovely, layered infighting. What’s not to love?

Review of AUDIOBOOK Fledgling – Book 2 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #Fledglingaudiobookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series – see my review of Changeling – so was delighted when I saw this offering on Audible for a credit. Would I enjoy listening to this next book in the series as much?

BLURB: Days away from becoming completing her first year at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, Changeling-born Sarah Smith might just get away with posing as an upper-class Guardian girl named Cassandra Reed. But strange visions of a Lightbourne destroyed by Miss Morton’s revenant army keep Sarah from enjoying her achievement. Plus, the Mother Book, Sarah’s one secret advantage and the ultimate entrée in Guardian society, suddenly stops revealing itself to her…putting her in a precarious position with the Guild.

On top of all that, her former lady’s maid left Miss Castwell’s, and the new hire is, well, taking some getting used to. If it weren’t for her two best friends, Alicia McCray and Ivy Cowel, who will do anything to protect her secret, Sarah doesn’t know if she’ll make it another year. When the three girls take summer holiday with Alicia’s family (chaperoned by an exacting and very disapproving Mrs. McCray), a relaxing vacation in Scotland is the last thing they’ll find…

That’s as much of the very chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal and if you’re intending to read the book, my advice would be to give it a miss. Another piece of advice – read Changeling first. Because of the nature and progression of the story, it simply won’t make sense, otherwise.

Once again, I enjoyed Sarah’s first person pov. I’m aware some reviewers have been critical of her mature attitude, but given her very tricky upbringing and the difficulties she is currently operating under, I think she would have to grow up very fast. Having spent time with children who have coped in testing conditions, I’m often struck at their maturity compared to their more carefree peers. Initially, I enjoyed the progression of the story and the ongoing threat of Sarah’s enemies, who resent her position as Translator of the Mother Book, an ancient tome of lost magic that chooses its own magical human to communicate with.

The mayhem caused during the dancing lesson was both gripping and enjoyable and settled in to listen to more of the same as the scholars from Miss Castwell’s headed off for the summer break. This is where the pacing went awry, particularly when the plot took a sudden left turn and I wasn’t wholly convinced by Sarah’s actions, or the reactions of those around her. While I don’t mind if the overall pace of a story speeds up, it cannot be at the expense of the characterisation or in apparent opposition to what has gone before. And suddenly Sarah’s actions had me wondering if she really was as two-faced and scheming as she appeared, or if she’d been magically influenced in some way.

Harper did resolve the issue, but it was still a glitch that interfered with my enjoyment and I do agree with other reviewers who feel the ending was rushed. However, overall I liked the story and I am not deterred from reading the next slice of Sarah’s adventures.

Highly recommended for fans of school-based fantasy with a historical twist.
7/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Violent Fae – Book 3 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #TheViolentFaebookreview

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I have read and enjoyed the first two books in this entertaining series, see my reviews of Under Ordshaw and Blue Angel. So when I learnt the third book in the series was being released, I was looking forward to continuing the adventure.

BLURB: They hid among us, until she exposed them. They’ll destroy everything to be hidden again. Pax is discovering that the smallest mistakes can have the deadliest impact. To protect her city, she’s uncovered monstrous truths and involved terrible people. The consequences are coming for her. The Sunken City is unstable. The Fae are armed for war. Can Pax stop the coming disaster?

Firstly, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading at least one of the previous books, then my firm advice is to put this one back on the shelf and go and track down Under Ordshaw. This one hits the ground running and we are in the middle of a complicated situation within an urban fantasy landscape that is both layered and nuanced. You certainly won’t get an appreciation of the stakes involved if you try crashing midway into this series.

That said, it’s hard to overstate the hurdles facing both Pax and the fairy Letty. It looks as though those running the human and Fae factions are determined to lock horns over what is going on in the Sunken City and neither seem in the mood to listen to anyone else.

Due to the complicated scenario, this book does take a bit of time to get going. However, when it picks up the pace and we are back in the swing of the story, I was once again swept along with this cast of quirky and original characters. I enjoyed the fact that both Pax and Letty took centre stage in this slice of the adventure, along with Sam Ward and the man I loved to hate in the first book, Cano…

While there is a lot of action in this original urban fantasy series, I also like the fact that Management is clearly at a loss to know what to do in the face of all the paranormal events and once they are aware of how badly they have misread the situation, send in a colourful character as a fixer. I enjoyed that dynamic as it had a real ring of authenticity about it. I also like the fact that one of the characters who I loathed in the first book has had his come-uppance – to the extent that I genuinely felt quite sorry for him. Williams ably negotiates these nuances so that while his cast of characters ping off the page with their vivid eccentricity, they are also capable of change and growth.

Inevitably, I am not going to be able to say much about the plot, as this is the third book in the series, but what I will say is that the overall narrative arc is satisfactorily tied up and I felt happy with the way all the characters completed this particular journey. However, I am very much hoping that this series will continue as it is peopled by too many fascinating characters with intriguing relationships. I definitely want to know what happens to them next.

Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy with a difference.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Trail of Lightning – Book 1 of The Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse #Brainfluffbookreview #TrailofLightningbookreview

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It was Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy that first enthused about this one and had me scurrying to track it down – to find it was only available as a paperback. So I was thrilled when subsequently, I discovered that not only was it about to become available as a Kindle edition, it was also a Netgalley arc…

BLURB: While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

There’s a snag to a highly anticipated read – it might not live up to my excited expectations. So I was very relieved when I quickly discovered that for all her edges, I really cared about poor, damaged Maggie and wanted her to succeed. This is important, because she spends a great deal of time pushing away those she cares about, convinced that she is also a monster.

In this post-apocalyptic world, everyone has edges. As catastrophic flooding swept away civilisation and families, those that survived had to become tough and resourceful. Roanhorse’s descriptions of this aftermath is well done. I loved the setting of a parched land that has been reshaped once more for the rise of the Native American nations and their gods – the Sixth World.

I was quickly completely immersed in this world and spend a happy afternoon relaxing while the pages turned by themselves as I was caught up in Maggie’s adventures. Alongside the monster-hunting and killing, she is also trying to cope with her own emotional problems. Actually, that’s not quite true – all she wants to do is get on and kill the monsters, but those emotional issues won’t leave her alone, as she has to confront those messing with her head.

If you enjoy richly drawn fantasy landscapes with plenty of action featuring a sympathetic, nicely complex heroine, who battles all sorts of odds without becoming whiny or pathetic, then this one comes very highly recommended. Thank you, Tammy!
10/10

Sunday Post – 17th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a horrible week. Himself sustained a shoulder injury, and has been in a great deal of pain throughout the week, despite a visit to the doctor and two physio sessions. Looking back, I realised that he has increasingly been unable to fully move his neck for a while but because he wasn’t suffering any pain, I didn’t do anything more about it. I wish I had. He is signed off work until Wednesday but barring a miracle I can’t see him returning. I hate seeing him suffer so much despite heat packs, cold compresses, Voltarol rubs, arnica oil massages, exercises, painkillers and using the trusty TENS machine.

To add to the general fun, that wretched headache I’d suffered last Friday hung around until Wednesday, as welcome as a bad smell, leaving me still exhausted and drained. I’ve missed writing group, the monthly West Sussex Writers’ Club meeting, and had to cancel a one-day Poetry Day I was supposed to be running yesterday.

Last week I read:

The Mortal Word – Book 5 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
A corrupt countess. A spy in danger. And an assassin at large.
Peace talks are always tricky . . . especially when a key diplomat gets stabbed. This murder rudely interrupts a top-secret summit between the warring dragons and Fae, so Librarian-spy Irene is summoned to investigate. In a version of 1890s Paris, Irene and her detective friend Vale must track down the killer – before either the peace negotiations or the city go up in flames. Accusations fly thick and fast. Irene soon finds herself in the seedy depths of the Parisian underworld on the trail of a notoriously warlike Fae, the Blood Countess. However, the evidence against the Countess is circumstantial. Could the assassin – or assassins – be closer than anyone suspects?
Cogman manages to successfully evoke the claustrophobic sense of closing timescales as problems multiply when deaths, kidnapping attempts and deadly attacks on the hotel holding the talks all stack up. I love the way we learn a little bit more about both the Fae and the dragon worlds with each book.

 

The Secret Chapter – Book 6 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
As Irene tries to manage a fraught Fae–dragon truce and her overbearing parents, she’s given a hot new mission. The world where she grew up is in danger and only one book can save it. This is held by Mr Nemo, secretive Fae villain and antique dealer, so Irene and Kai travel to his Caribbean retreat to strike a deal. But in return for the book, they must steal a painting from twenty-first-century Vienna. They’ll join a team of dragons, Fae gamblers and thieves, so their greatest challenge may be one another. And some will kill to protect this painting, which hides an extraordinary secret from a past age.
Yet another full-on adventure in this excellent paranormal series. I love the varying settings this portal fantasy provides, with a sympathetic, clever protagonist and wonderful pacing. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Friday Faceoff featuring Robots and the Empire – Book 4 of the Robot series by Isaac Asimov

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Body Tourists series by Jane Rogers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

Teaser Tuesday featuring Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles by S.J. Higbee

Review of Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick

Sunday Post 10th November 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

What happens when a bot writes your blog posts https://thisislitblog.com/2019/11/16/what-happens-when-a-bot-writes-your-blog-posts/ Shruti wondered whether she was replaceable as a blogger – the result is hilarious…

Linguistic Interventions (et tu Bayer?) https://writerunboxed.com/2019/11/15/this-is-not-why-we-scribe-bayer/ How much does the mangling of our language irritate you? Or don’t you care? Porter certainly does…

November 15th, “I Love to Write Day” https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2019/11/15/november-15th-i-love-to-write-day/ Rae throws out the question – why do YOU love to write? Are you up for answering?

Non-Fiction November: Become an Expert… on Gender! https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2019/11/11/non-fiction-november-become-the-expert-on-gender/ Hayley has decided to read a series of books on this complicated subject. What a cool way to investigate a tricky issue!

Ways to cope with a character death (and other unfortunate scenes) https://bookwyrmingthoughts.com/ways-to-cope-with-a-character-death-and-other-unfortunate-scenes/ Have you ever been traumatised by a character death? Sophia suggests ways of coping…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Sunday Post – 10th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last week was another busy one – I taught Tim on Monday and Wednesday and spent Tuesday catching up with a number of reviews, emails and admin that stacked up during Mhairi’s stay. I was delighted to get a text from my son, Robbie, who is now back from LA, asking if he could come down the next day. I hadn’t seen him since last December, so it was a real treat. On Thursday, I was working with a former student on her poetry collection, which was lovely as I haven’t seen her in a while. I miss all my former students… Once I returned home, Rob and I – in between catching up – worked on an audition tape, which was quite intense but a lot of fun. However, everything caught up with me on Friday, because when I woke up, I felt absolutely wiped out with a sick headache, which was a real shame as I was supposed to be driving over to Brighton to visit my daughter, watch Eliza having her swimming lesson and take part in a birthday tea with Oscar, who was celebrating his tenth birthday – when did that happen? I’m sure it was only yesterday, he was bumbling around learning to walk, as Eliza is doing just now… Sadly, I had to cancel because I felt too dire to drive over to Brighton. Fortunately Himself was here to drive Rob to the station to catch his train back to Cambridge. I was really fed up that I’d been unable to make the most of his visit AND miss out on Oscar’s birthday tea.

At the beginning of the week, I got back the notes from my main beta reader regarding Mantivore Prey, so what writing time I’ve had has been spent working through those and listening to the manuscript while following the text on the screen – my final major edit. I picked up a sprinkling of niggling errors and one anomaly, and now feel it’s definitely ready to release at the end of the month. I will be making ARC copies available through Booksprout tomorrow. However, I haven’t written a word towards the current WIP, Mantivore Warrior, which has been rather frustrating – I really need that writing clone…

Last week I read:

New Star Rising – Book 1 of The Indigo Reports series by Cameron Cooper
Bellona Cardenas Scordina de Deluca, daughter of the primary Cardenas family, went missing ten years ago. Reynard Cardenas, Bellona’s father and head of the family, receives anonymous, unsubstantiated news that she has been found. He sends the most disposable person in the family to investigate—Sang, the family android.

Sang’s investigation trips off chain reactions which shift the generations-old luke-warm war between Erium and Karassia into a galaxy-wide conflagration which will engulf the known worlds, including the neutral, fiercely independent free states…unless a hero can be found who will fight to hold the line against the two colossal forces.
I thoroughly enjoyed the twisty plot to this space opera series and will be reviewing it in due course.

 

Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
A desperate gamble…
Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah’s empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world.

A race on the verge of extinction…
Dem’s only goal is to protect his people, especially since a deadly bio-weapon decimated their population. Only a handful of women survived, and every day is a fight to rebuild. With Sanah’s empathy and her sister’s rare ability to heal, they could be the salvation Dem and his people have been looking for.

A dangerous secret that could destroy everything…
But how can Sanah trust Dem with her life? Especially when he’d kill her if he knew the truth.
This was pure escapist fun, with lots of mayhem and tension around some powerful, telepathic personalities and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.

 

The Lost Plot – AUDIOBOOK – #4 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
In a 1930s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.
It’s been a delight to catch up with this entertaining series – I’m so glad that I also have the next book in the series waiting for me… Review to follow

My posts last week:

KU Sci Fi/Fantasy Event

Friday Faceoff featuring Cibola Burn – Book 4 of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

Review of First Flyght – Book 1 in The Flyght series by S.J. Pagonas

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Missing Diamond Murder – Book 3 of the Black and Dod series by Diane Janes

Teaser Tuesday featuring Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke

Review of The Switch by Justina Robson

Sunday Post 3rd November 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

COYER Winter 2019 Sign-up Post https://unconventionalbookworms.com/coyer-winter-2019-sign-up-post/ This isn’t something I take part in – but a lot of bloggers I know do, so I thought I’d spread the word about this year’s event…

Bloggers Wanted https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2019/11/bloggers-wanted.html For those who want to take their book blogging to another level, becoming a Caffeinated influencer is a really good option – the blog always professional with a high quality of reviews and plenty of activity…

When You Lose Someone You Love by Joanne Fink https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/when-you-lose-someone-you-love-by-joanne-fink/ I don’t normally include reviews of books in this round-up, but this one felt important, for obvious reasons…

Pete Seeger, Eric Bibb, Johnny Rivers & Harry Belafonte: An Archangel, A Sacred River, A Spiritual & The Folk Process! https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/11/04/pete-seeger-eric-bibb-johnny-rivers-harry-belafonte-an-archangel-a-sacred-river-a-spiritual-the-folk-process/ Thom is revisiting some of his most popular posts from his first year of blogging – if you enjoy popular music and haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting The Immortal Jukebox, it is a joy…

Read for the Record https://jenniefitzkee.com/2019/11/07/read-for-the-record/ It’s important for a whole host of reasons to encourage new generations to love books, too – so inspirational teachers like Jennie are to be treasured…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Deeplight by Frances Hardinge #Brainfluffbookreview #Deeplightbookreview

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Those of you know who know me won’t be shocked when I admit it was this lovely cover that prompted me to request this one – and that I’d heard a lot of good things about this author…

BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

At long last – a really good blurb that gives a sense of the world and the stakes without deciding to spill all the major plotpoints in the first half of the book. And it would have been a crying shame if they had Spoiled this one, because it’s a real gem. I very quickly fell in love with dear little Hark, a streetkid who has been forced to live on his wits from a very early age. The main reason why he is still alive is because his bigger, smarter best friend Jelt has always looked out for him. Of course, nothing is for free and in return, Jelt expects him to fall in with his schemes to earn more. More money, more of a reputation… the kind of life that Jelt believes he should have – and Hark needs to be there alongside, whether he really wants to or not.

The story of these two boys unspools against the backdrop of a busy port, an increasingly profitable trading post now the savage sea gods who used to roam the Undersea are now all gone. Though there are still traces of them littering the seabed, or caught up in the barriers to keep out some of the more normal sea monsters, so there is a brisk trade in their remains littering the bed. As society is still adjusting to the apocalyptic changes caused by the death of the gods, more merchants arrive from other parts while there are factions still mourning the loss of the gods…

The depth of the worldbuilding is impressive and engrossing, given it is achieved without any holdup in the narrative, which gripped me throughout. I also loved the unpredictability, as just as I’d figured in which direction the story was going – it suddenly changed direction, dragging poor old Hark in its wake. The cast of supporting characters were all beautifully drawn, adding to the enjoyment and drama. I may have been initially attracted to this one because of the lovely cover, but it was the amazing writing that held me. I’ll definitely be tracking down more books by this talented author. Highly recommended for fantasy fans of wonderful worldbuilding and great storytelling.

The ebook arc copy of Deeplight was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of LIBRARY book The Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFallofDragonsbookreview

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I’d read the previous books in this series and enjoyed them – see my review of The Dread Wyrm, The Red Knight and The Fell Sword – then somehow this one slipped through the cracks, so when I saw it on the library shelves, I scooped it up, despite blanching at the prospect of reading 600+ pages of reasonably small print…

BLURB: In the climax of the Traitor Son Cycle, the allied armies of the Wild and the Kingdoms of men and women must face Ash for control of the gates to the hermetical universe, and for control of their own destinies. But exhaustion, treachery and time may all prove deadlier enemies. In Alba, Queen Desiderata struggles to rebuild her kingdom wrecked by a year of civil war, even as the Autumn battles are fought in the west. In the Terra Antica, The Red Knight attempts to force his unwilling allies to finish the Necromancer instead of each other. But as the last battle nears, The Red Knight makes a horrifying discovery… all of this fighting may have happened before.

One of the reasons why I’d hesitated in getting hold of this one, was my concern that I would have forgotten too many details about the series that would make getting back into this world something of a struggle. In the event, that didn’t prove to be a problem. Cameron’s smooth writing and delivery ensured that I was quickly brought up to speed where necessary, and at no time did I flounder in trying to work out what was going on. This is a feat on his part, because just like in George RR Martin’s a Song of Ice and Fire series, the action takes place in a variety of locations and the viewpoint shifts between a wide cast of characters. I often find this structure to be annoying, as my preferred scenarios tend to play out in tightly confined backdrops featuring a small number of well-developed and highly nuanced characters to get the depth of story that I really appreciate.

Given that most of the book is concerned with an ongoing war, wherein an increasing number of skirmishes lead up to a large set-piece battle, this clearly wasn’t going to happen. Yet I was pulled into the book almost from the first page and found the pages turned themselves as I was swept along by the action, identifying with each character’s motives.

One of the reasons why this worked so well was Cameron’s mastery of the pacing. Just as I was beginning to wonder what would be filling the rest of the book, there was a sudden twist in the story that gave the whole world a completely different dimension. I’m not going to say more on the grounds that it would be a real spoiler, but it certainly worked well and added an extra layer of poignancy to the current struggle. One of my difficulties with epic fantasy is that it frequently lacks that layer of emotional connection that I particularly enjoy – hardly a surprise when the action is often the driving force in the narrative with each character playing a relatively small piece in the overarching battle plan. Cameron manages to make his characters matter to the extent that one of the reasons why those pages kept turning was that I really cared about a number of his cast and was keen to see what would happen to them. Inevitably, in this war scenario a number of them don’t make it – something else that I generally heartily dislike. And yet this time around I took a deep breath and just kept on reading.

Of course, the catch in this form of writing is that the final battle has to deliver with plenty of heart-stopping action and a huge climax that also packs an emotional punch sufficient to satisfy the reader who has slogged through the previous 600+ pages to get here. Again, Cameron triumphantly succeeds. I finished this book with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, feeling hollowed out by the resultant drama. This book is a marvellous end to a really high-quality series. Recommended for fans of epic and high fantasy.
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRithmatistbookreview

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I’d just finished a rather intense read and was away on a weekend break, so I wanted something a bit lighter. Browing through my Kindle, I came upon this offering and dived right in. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

I was looking for a school adventure with a bit of a difference, but to be honest, I hadn’t expected too much of this one, so was absolutely delighted when it delivered a really enthralling read with a fabulous premise. In this alternate fantastic world, Rithmatists are those who are able to attack and kill using chalk drawings. Their chalklings are able to strip the flesh from bones, cause fires and destroy. Sanderson’s straightforward, flowing prose quickly drew me into this world, where Joel is obsessed by the geometric designs that will keep the chalklings at bay.

Joel is a scholarship student whose rather blinkered approach to his studies means that he is regularly in trouble with his tutors. And while he isn’t necessarily bullied or hassled (which I liked, because it made a very nice change), neither is he ever invited home during the holidays to stay at the families of the rich and powerful. Being the son of the school cleaning lady means he isn’t well connected enough.

I liked his lack of self pity, as he deals with this dynamic, and his rather spiky character. The supporting cast are also well done – there is a pleasing mix of adults, so that while some are not particularly sympathetic or kind, there are a number who are all of those things. But the relationship that rolls this lovely story forward is his friendship with Melody. While Joel would give anything to be a Rithmatist, Melody hates her gift as it forces her into a life she resents and fears. Not surprisingly, this dynamic creates a lot of sparks between these two and I loved that it wasn’t a relationship that ever settles down into something easy and straightforward. She is also a strong, vibrant character with a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to draw cute unicorn chalklings.

As for the story – well, that’s a doozy! I had, of course, realised the identity of the antagonist creating all the havoc and kidnapping the promising young Rithmatists, until it became apparent that I’d got it completely wrong… The pages flew by as I was gripped by the plot, desperate for Joel and the kindly professor to succeed.

While the main puzzle is solved, the conclusion clearly sets this one up to be followed by another book, which so far hasn’t seen the light of day. It’s a real shame – and I’m glad I didn’t know the second book hadn’t appeared before I tucked into this one, or I might never have started it. And if I hadn’t done that, then I would have missed out on one of my most entertaining, quirkily clever reads of the year so far. Highly recommended, even if the second book isn’t available…
10/10