Tag Archives: Jen Williams

Favourite Completed Series of 2016

Standard

For a variety of reasons, 2016 has been my best reading year for a long time, and as the year is drawing to a close, it’s time to share my favourite series. I’m going to split these into two groups – series I completed during the year and series I look forward to reading more of in 2017. Today, I’m featuring those series I completed during the year.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE TRILOGY BY LAINI TAYLOR

daughterofsmokeandboneIn general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understoodaysofbloodandstarlightd Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

This one started the year with a bang – Taylor’s lush prose and emotional intendreamsofgodsandmonsterssity, along with her very gritty approach blew me away. I read this series during January and February and now, over a 100 books later, I still regularly find myself thinking of Karou and this savage, beautiful world. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend this series.

 

 

 

THE RED RISING TRILOGY BY PIERCE BROWNredrising

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood golden sonand sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed.

This dystopian science fiction adventure, charting the progress of Darrow, a lowly Red, who determines to bring about change in a very rigid society was another roller-coaster ride. There are elements that put me in minmorning stard of The Hunger Games series – but Darrow’s exploits encompass both triumph and disaster and Brown’s pacey, action-packed prose had wrung me out by the end. An unforgettable reading experience I highly recommend.

 

 

 

THE THESSALY TRILOGY BY JO WALTON

thejustcityCreated as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future–all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and thephilosopherkings1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome–and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo–stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does–has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of necessitythe children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives–the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself–to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

Unusually, I’ve included the whole blurb, because the big challenge is to couch this beguiling, unusual series in terms that make people want to track it down. And saying that Walton has written a tale where Pallas Athene decides to found a society based on the precepts of Plato’s Republic doesn’t guarantee you’ll all go rushing off to read it in your hordes. And of all the series I’ve read this year, this is the one that has lodged in the back of my brain like a burr and won’t leave me alone. Walton throws in all sorts of interesting, gnarly ideas along with an engrossing story such that I’m left with lots to ponder. I finished Necessity enormously moved and uplifted and if I had to recommend only one of these series – it would be this one.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS…

ME BEFORE YOU DUOLOGY BY JOJO MOYESmebeforeyou

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . . Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master afteryouof the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Me Before You is an extraordinary read, with a funny, offbeat heroine, who needs a job in austerity Britain and ends up looking after Will… It’s also heart-rending and beautiful. The sequel takes the story on after the shocking, climactic ending of the first book and although it doesn’t quite achieve the same heights (which is an almighty ask, anyhow) it nevertheless continues to amuse, shock and engross. My favourite contemporary series of the year.

THE COPPER CAT SERIES BY JEN WILLIAMSthecopperpromise

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…
Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.
theironghostFor Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.thesilvertide

If you like your swords and sorcery with plenty of gung-ho attitude, foot-to-the-floor action and lots of mayhem with some really hardcore antagonists, then this is the series for you. Even the final book doesn’t lose the chirpy humour that often disappears as events and backstory stack up sufficiently to wipe the grin off the face of the most hardened protagonist – but then they aren’t madcap adrenaline junkie Wydrin of Crosshaven, known as Cat…

And these are the series I completed and loved during 2016. What about you – which are your favourite series you completed this year?

Review of The Silver Tide – Book 3 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams

Standard

This is the third book in a very successful series where I’ve loved the first two books, The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost. Can Williams sustain the action-fuelled energy that characterised the adventures of this intrepid trio?

thesilvertideTales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother. Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

We pick up the story as the three heroes are still recovering from their previous exploits – and when we encounter Wydrin’s mother, Devinia the Red, an awful lot about the way Wydrin behaves suddenly makes sense. Not there is too much time to analyse the mother/daughter relationship as events once more overtake our hardy group and they are whisked up in a series of adventures that include cursed treasure, vengeful gods, helpful demons, dragons, seers, world-destroying fanatics… It should be a brain-aching mess, but instead rolls into a wonderful escapist read with enjoyable, sympathetic characters.

While there is plenty of death, disaster and mayhem where the stakes become insanely high, Williams’ writing is infused with a joie de vivre that has me labelling this series as gleedark rather than grimdark. I’m delighted to say that vitality is still evident in this the third book at a stage where a series is normally becoming darker as the main characters are starting to count the cost of all those death-defying adventures. Though I wouldn’t want you going away with the idea that Williams’ protagonists are the Teflon-coated type where at the start of each book they spring back into the start of the next adventure totally unscathed by all that has gone before. Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian are all struggling to come to terms with the fallout from The Iron Ghost, though if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading of their previous adventures, you shouldn’t flounder too much. But Williams manages to depict their trauma without losing pace or energy – something harder to achieve than she makes it look.

Despite the plot sprouting off in all directions, there was no stage where I found myself skimming one storyline to try to return to another – something that regularly happens in multi-viewpoint tales and a reason why I often don’t like them. Williams’ smooth, technically accomplished writing and regular dollops of humour keeps the pace whisking along at a fair clip, with the story constantly producing yet another confrontation with some exotic nastiness.

I also enjoyed the fact that the main antagonist who is the chief cause of all this mayhem is not some pantomime villain. While she is madder than a box of frogs, there are sound reasons for her mania and we get to see the unfolding story in her viewpoint, so while I regularly wanted to shake her till her teeth rattled, I did understand her motives. For those of us who have read The Iron Ghost there is an additional bonus. One of the main antagonists is reincarnated in a time-travelling twist so we get to see him before he becomes the power-hungry, twitchy individual that nearly does for our heroes.

You may have gathered I am still fizzing after completing this book, which I highly recommend.
10/10

Sunday Post – 13th November 2016

Standard

Sunday Post

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

It’s been another hectic week – a sentence I think I shall have to start to pin on the beginning of this post. On Monday, Sally and I attended a local school where they are using the CoPE syllabus we are intending to use with Tim, the fourteen-year-old with autism I tutor. A couple of teachers generously gave up their time to talk us through the pros and cons of the system – the biggest downside being the amount of admin it entails. I was teaching Creative Writing on Monday and Tuesday as usual, though classes were significantly depleted this week by various germlins hitting my students particularly a nasty cough that is going the rounds. On Wednesday, I had a planning meeting with Sally, where we worked out how to best apply the CoPE syllabus to Tim, then in the evening I attended my fortnightly writing group where once more I received valuable feedback on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest.

On Thursday, my mate Mhairi came round for the day and in amongst talking about the life, the universe and swapping ideas and advice on our various writing ails, helped me set up the necessary technology for a talk I gave on Thursday evening about the joys of reviewing books and how to share those reviews online to the West Sussex Writers’ monthly meeting. It seemed to go down well, and afterwards Mhairi came back and we talked waaay into the night.

On Friday morning I was teaching Tim, then in the afternoon over to Worthing for a meeting with two writing friends as we are planning a project for 2017. I can’t say much about it right now, but hopefully will be doing so in due course… Yesterday we went down to Ringwood for a gathering of the clan, as it was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. It was lovely catching up with family members and great to see the birthday boy in such fine fettle after his cancer diagnosis last year.

This week I have read:
penricsmissionPenric’s Mission – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems…

Do avoid the blurting blurb at all costs as it will really spoil the opening act of this plot-twisting treat. Once more Bujold provides a cracking adventure with a side-order of wry wit and a delightful protagonist.

 

The Silver Tide – Book 3 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams
thesilvertideTales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother. Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

It was a treat meeting Wydrin’s mother after following her madcap escapades through two previous books – and explains a lot. Williams’ gleedark, adventure-filled style hasn’t calmed down one jot with this third addition to this series, I’m delighted to say.

 

An Empire Asunder – Book 2 of The Scourwind Legacy series by Evan Currie
The coup that won traitor General Corian the Scourwind throne has been overturned, but his ongoing anempireasunderrebellion has left the empire divided. Lydia’s birthright regained, she adjusts to her role as empress at war, while Brennan begins training as an elite Cadreman soldier. With tensions rising between the empire and the Alliance, this momentary lull seems to portend a gathering storm…

I thoroughly enjoyed the start of this intriguing series that reads more like epic fantasy than a sci fi adventure and this sequel is equally filled with adventure and mayhem – fortunately, looking through his publishing history, it appears that Currie writes fast. Yippee!

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 6th November

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Teaser Tuesday – featuring The Silver Tide by Jen Williams

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Silver Road – Book 2 of The Shifting Tides series by James Maxwell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Penric’s Mission – Book 3 of Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Faceoff – Falling off the rails… featuring Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Review of Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Advertising Books Online: Getting the Best Value for your Money https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/advertising-books-online-getting-the-best-value-for-your-money/ A brilliant, informative article for indie authors trying to work out where to spend their hard-earned cash on publicity.

Brilliant Book Title #61 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/brilliant-book-titles-61/ The award-winning Ballyroan library blog has nailed it again – and friends and family please note – there will be a TANTRUM on Christmas morning if this book is not in my Christmas stocking…

Romeo and/or Juliet (A Chooseable Path Adventure) Book Review https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/romeo-andor-juliet-a-chooseable-path-adventure-book-review/ Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek wrote this quirky, enjoyable review about this enjoyable, quirky book. With Christmas looming, I thought I’d feature yet another book that might hit the spot with family members…

Leonard Cohen – Musician and Poet https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/leonard-cohen-musician-and-poet/ As you must already know, I’m a regular visitor to this site and Jean’s tribute to Leonard Cohen, along with this amazing video which I keep revisiting, is not to be missed.

Waterford Walls 2016 https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/11/11/waterford-walls-2016/
Inessa is a gifted photographer, who regularly takes us on wonderful walks through the lens of her camera. This is the latest offering – enjoy…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Teaser Tuesday – 8th November, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
The Silver Tide – Book 3 of the Copper Cat series by Jen Williams
p. 229. Oster glared at her. ‘I am Oster. That is all you need to know.’thesilvertide
Wydrin gestured wildly with the root vegetable. ‘That’s all you have to say? You don’t think the turning into a dragon bit requires a bit more explanation?’

BLURB: Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

This is every bit as much fun as the other two book in this series – if not more so. I’ve always been a sucker for a good pirate tale and there is everything here to guarantee my happy face – pirate ships… enchanted islands… dodgy treasure… weird monsters… I’m currently hunting around for a buckle to swash.

Review of KINDLE EBOOK The Iron Ghost – Book 2 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams

Standard

There was a time not so long ago when I’d open up an epic Fantasy tale half expecting to abandon it before the end of the first chapter, as yet another turgid trek through a medieval landscape with a bunch of charmless Tolkien wannabes trudged across the pages. But that was before I encountered the passionate writing of Sophie E. Tallis, the vivid characters depicted by Sammy H.K. Smith, the intelligent plotting of Joanne Hall. And Jen Williams’ The Copper Promise. So does this sequel sustain the high standard Williams set in her success debut?

theironghostAfter their defeat of the dragon-god Y’Ruen, the trio of mercenaries who call themselves the Black Feather Three find that demand for their services as swords for hire is high, and it’s the lure of money (the copper promise) that entices them to the northern city of Skaldshollow, high in the mountains. They have been asked to retrieve a stolen artefact, but this relatively simple job takes on multiple levels of complication as our sellswords find themselves embroiled in a war between the stone-crafting Skalds and their neighbours and rivals, the cold-blooded Narhl. They are fighting an ideological war for the very soul of the mountains, in a land steeped in ancient magic, while below the surface of the earth something even more ancient, more magical, and more evil, is stirring…

Oh yes. This is a cracker. Williams’ smooth, deft writing style means that she manages to make this triple-stranded storyline look seamless, as we continue to follow the adventures of Lord Frith, Wydrin and Sebastian. I did wonder if Williams was going to be able to sustain the full-on pace of The Copper Promise after the climactic ending with the dragon. And I can confirm she certainly does. While there isn’t quite the same blithe breeziness that had me categorising the first book as gleedark, we are immediately plunged right into the middle of yet another, apparently routine adventure, which rapidly turns into a mess. We also have flashbacks showing Sebastian’s time with the Dragon Brood and his struggles to civilise them and keep them safe from retribution for their previous bloody deeds. I really enjoyed this nifty device to get us up to speed without slowing the pace of the unfolding crisis.

As the full-tilt adventure continues, we also get steadily more information about all three complex, cagey characters, particularly Wydrin. Each character is well developed with strong flaws as well as bravery and a hatred of injustice – Lord Frith is very aware of his station in life and can appear cold and rather remote, Wydrin’s refusal to address her inner sorrows makes her stupidly reckless and Sebastian tends to feel overly responsible for everyone and everything around him. Williams uses these weaknesses to deftly pull the plot forward which means the characters in the middle of the action are engaging and easy to care about.

Williams also writes evil characters with splendid relish that had me engrossed, while wondering if this is the instalment where the Three Feathers becomes Two… The stakes, once more, get insanely high as all three adventurers become the only hope for civilisation.  There is no trace of the dreaded second book hiatus during this slice of the unfolding story, as the climactic ending had me hooked, unable to put the book down until the end. I’m now looking forward to the next book, The Silver Tide, due out next February.

The book was provided by Netgalley, while the opinions in this review are my own.
9/10

Review of The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

Standard

This is a really good swords and sorcery fantasy, with all the necessary ingredients to make it a fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining read…

thecopperpromiseThere are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel: some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths. For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him… and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done. But sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes it pays to listen. Soon this reckless trio will become the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

If the blurb sounds like this is a rip-roaring adventure with plenty of swash-buckling action, fuelled with oodles of blood, guts, nasty villains and big nasties crashing around. Yep. All of that. Along with three interesting heroes. Well, three and a half, really… and this isn’t so much grimdark as gleedark. There is a boisterous energy that doesn’t diminish the danger or unpleasantness or threat facing the world, but I put the book down with a grin on my face.

Williams has managed to pull off a really tricky feat – and make it look easy while doing so. Her trio are an odd bunch – and for my money, Wydrin, the copper cat, is by far the most compelling. She is a greedy adrenaline-junkie with a tongue on her sharp enough to slice and dice the villains confronting her before they are even aware they are being properly insulted. Great fun.

Her companions are no light-weights, either. Lord Frith spends the book reeling from the action that opens the book, while Sir Sebastian has his own particular issues – which only get more complicated as he becomes an unlikely father… The narrative is mostly powered through the third person viewpoint of these protagonists, though occasionally we get slices in the point of view of one of the host of antagonists they find themselves facing.

The pace doesn’t let up as the trio find themselves bouncing from one tricky situation to another as they slide towards the main confrontation, which brings the book to a triumphant conclusion. I read this offering in three greedy gulps, unable to put it down until I’d discovered what had happened – something that hardly ever happens with fantasy featuring sharp pointy weapons. Or hardly ever used to…

If you haven’t yet encountered it, get hold of a copy. It’s an enjoyable feast of a book.
9/10