Aug 252014
 

Cursed Moon: Prospero's War: Book Two MAGIC IS A DRUG. IT’LL COST MORE THAN YOU CAN PAY.

When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone’s emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon’s impact is especially strong for Kate who’s wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.

After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.

So poor Kate is in it up to her neck – secrets, lies, John Volo and Uncle Abe, not to mention the events of the first book threatening to drag her under.  Her promotion to a member of the MEA taskforce is taking its toll on her both personally and professionally.  However, she is trying so hard to make it work and to stay away from magic that my heart goes out to her at every turn.  With the Blue Moon bearing down on them, Babylon is going crazy and she seems to be just one step behind all the time.  Danny, Pen, Baba all think they know what is best for her but do they, especially when she doesn’t know what that is herself.

The task force members continue to grow on me and I especially love Drew Morales, he is so deadpan and sarcastic.  I also love that while there is flirting and heat between Kate and Morales, it’s on a very slow burn and was not a central crux for either Dirty Magic nor this book.  What is developing is trust, understanding and barriers dropping which actually seems more intimate.

Parts of the book are pretty heart-wrenching, with Kate’s best friend Pen breaking down and barriers developing between them.  There are also some very funny moments as well, which balances the book out brilliantly.

The pace is much more even in this second book, now we know how the world works and Kate’s place in it.  The action is pretty full on with the plot being tied to the arrival of the full moon and the threat that is bound up with it.

Some more interesting characters were introduced here – the most notable being Aphrodite, what a perfect creation,  I loved reading the scenes with her/him in it.  I also just realised I forgot to mention Mary and Little Man in the last review but I shall mention them now, as they continued to entertain and become a part of the story.  Again, a brilliant creation that I have come to love (even given the creepiness factor!).

I really loved the ending and the things Kate has come to realise, and I applaud Jaye Wells for her handling of the issues surrounding it.  I don’t think it will be a smooth run for Kate still but it’s a good start, if a little bitter-sweet.

A clever and gripping second book in this series and I can’t wait for the third!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jaye Wells
  • Series: Prospero's War (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

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Aug 232014
 

I’m six books through The Wheel of Time.  I’ve already read something like 8 or 9 books in the series before (I’m kind of vague on exactly which book I gave up on while they were being first published), so this is a sort of re-read followed by new read for the the last few books.

You can follow my reviews and retrospectives of the books as they get published, by checking the ‘The Wheel of Time‘ tag.  Before I embark on book 7, I thought I’d spend a bit of time reflecting on what I hope the last 8 books in the series deliver, and what questions they answer.

For all I know, some of these could have been answered in the books I’ve already read beyond this point, some may get answered later in books I’ve not read, and some may never be resolved, but I thought I’d write them down anyway.  I’ve turned off comments on this post, so that no one is tempted to try and comment with any spoilers for book 7 onwards.  However, be warned, there are spoilers for everything up to and including book 6 below.

When asking these, I’m assuming the Dark One doesn’t win at the end, with the only issue will be how much do the good guys lose in order to win.  As it goes, this is pretty much a boring list of stuff, but when I’ve finished the series I might come back and tick off the ones that get resolved.  So, here goes (don’t forget, spoilers)

  • Does Moiraine survive, who rescues her if she does (does she rescue herself)?
  • What did Moiraine see in Rhuidean, and how much of that is ever revealed to us?
  • Mat – just everything about Mat.  What does he end up doing, does he end up using the Horn? Does his death mean he’s no longer linked to it? Does anyone else realise that?
  • Who is Olver, and is he Gaidal Cain?
  • What is the taint on Saidin?  Does it ever get explained?
  • Just exactly what is going on with the seals?
  • How important was Herid Fel and which of the Forsaken did him in?
  • What is going on with Lews Therin inside Rand’s head.  Are they really talking to each other?  Does Lews hear Rand in his own timeline?
  • What happens in general to the Aiel after it’s all done.
  • Do the Tinkers ever find the song?
  • Do the Tinkers and the Aiel ever forgive each other?
  • Do Moiraine and Thom end up together?
  • Does Elayne ever work out Mat’s fox-head medallion and does that play any role later?
  • Do they ever relearn the art of healing without having to use energy from the patient (i.e. can they heal with just the One Power, like in the Age of Legends)?
  • Just what the hell is Verin really up to?  Who is she, how old is she, and how long has she known about the events leading up to where we are in the books?
  • Does Elayne ever work out how to make angreal and sa’angreal?
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise that if you don’t just talk openly and honestly with your allies, you don’t get anywhere?
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise men and women must work together and trust each other to succeed both in the battle and in life afterwards?
  • What happens with Lan’s heritage, and does it play any role?
  • Do the Ways ever get cleansed?
  • Does the taint get removed from Saidin (I’m cheating, I know the answer to this one already, one of the few things I remember from later books)?
  • What’s going on with Moridin (again, cheating, I’m not sure he’s been introduced yet)?
  • Are some of the characters meant to be stupid for a reason?
  • Is it ever explained that the ability to channel is genetic and hence killing male channellers before they have kids is the reason why fewer people in general can use the One Power, or is it only ever alluded to?
  • Does someone chop Nynaeve’s braid off to save us all from ourselves?
  • Does Elayne ever take up the Throne of Andor?
  • Does Rand end up with all three girls or does that dream ever get abandoned / explained?
  • Does Perrin hold out and remain human?
  • Does the Tower become whole? Do they stop using the Oath Rod? Is that ever fully explained?
  • Padan Fain – what happens to him?
  • Who does and doesn’t survive the last battle (people, nations, structures, cities, etc.)
  • Does Rand fully seal the prison, so that it looks like the bore never existed, is this the age in which that happens, or is it just another patch?

That’ll do for now.  I’ll come back and edit this, perhaps after each book going forward to see which questions are answered, and which new questions are posed and need answering.

Update 1: 25th August

Have now finished book 7.  The following questions come to mind (spoilers for book 7).

  • Once again, who’s Moridin?
  • Who’s in the second mindtrap?
  • What was going on with Liah in Shadar Logoth?  How did she survive so long?
  • Do we ever know what happened when the two balefire beams touch?

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Aug 222014
 

The Dragon Reborn: Book 3 of the Wheel of Time: 3/12 The Rambling Introduction

So I picked up and finished The Dragon Reborn in one rainy Sunday.   With a week of work ahead, it’s unlikely that book four will see the same progress (and it’s over 390,000 words, longer than any of the previous three books by some margin).  However, book three was definitely easier going than the second book, with much less loin girding required to get through it.  Whether this is because I got a full clean run rather than having to read in fits and starts I’m not sure, but anytime I have to gird my loin a little less is a good time for me.

The Review

The deep irony of Jordan’s third book in the Wheel of Time series, The Dragon Reborn, is that the Dragon hardly takes part. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is somewhat amusing. Essentially, early on, Rand decides or is pushed towards a goal, a place he has to go to, and the thing the Prophecy says he should do there. To achieve it, after a little bit of preamble with the whole gang, he sets out alone. And other than literally, one or two half chapters, that’s all we see of him until right at the end.

The original book cover basically gives away the ending of the book, in case you’re wondering.

The rest of the story then, is filled with the adventures of Mat, Perrin, Moiraine, Lan, Loial, Egwene, Nynaeve, Min, Elayne and The Bad Guys.

The Dragon Reborn is the shortest of the first three books, but still rolls in at a meaty 250 thousand words. That time is spent covering the separate journeys of three groups, Moiraine, Lan, Perrin and Loial; Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne; and Mat. Sometimes their paths cross, or they travel together, but they spend large periods of the book separate from each other.

The relationship between Lan, Moiraine and Perrin is interesting, and Perrin grows significantly in the Dragon Reborn, discovering more details of his ‘condition’ and some of the dangers it brings. However, close behind in terms of development are Mat and the girls. If Jordan had all this planned out from the start, then my hat off to him, but if not, it does feel like he suddenly realised Mat needed ‘something else to do’, and some quirk, to hang it together and he gets it in spades in this book. From a virtual back seat passenger (always ill) in the first two books, he develops into a significant player in this one.

The majority of the book really focusses on The White Tower and the continuing education (planned or otherwise) of Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve, and their adventures drive most of the story even if it isn’t obvious what’s going on initially. There is intrigue and danger throughout The White Tower and the girls struggle to stay above it.

We get a few new characters thrown in, and some old characters take form properly, and all the time we are driving towards the first big proof of the prophecy.

There are some less exciting moments, and the continual ‘all women think men are stupid and need women to pull them out of trouble and all men think all women need saving and protecting from the world’ thread is bared more than ever and it grates. Sometimes the major players seem to act out of character, and not just because of events forcing them, but because Jordan needs them to; they act dumb when they should be clever. However, as before, those things can be overlooked when the story is gripping, and The Dragon Reborn is mostly just that.

The story is like 20 rivers, all running down from the mountains towards one city, one event, one moment, and it brings together characters, races and creatures from all over the land in that one moment. Like the books before, Jordan spends a long, long time writing the set-up, and then the conclusion is over in less than a chapter. But that chapter packs a punch. The Dragon Reborn feels like the most scripted, and carefully planned of the three books at the start of the series, and shows Jordan’s skill in bringing together many threads at once.

The Retrospective

I try and avoid actual plot spoilers in this section, but I do reveal some of my frustrations with the overall series to date, so you may want to read carefully if you’ve never read the books.

I had completely forgotten how little of Rand there is in book three.  It was a real surprise to me that we’d only seen him a few times by the time we reach the end.  In my mind, I had a memory of him going increasingly crazy – but I guess that must be one of the later books.

On top of that, during the read, I kept remembering things that are yet to happen, and then wondering if they happened in this book or not, which did lead to a little bit of confusion (wait, that can’t happen until the other thing happens, but that hasn’t happened yet, so when does the first thing really happen).  I tried to squash those feelings, because they were getting in the way of enjoying the book, but it’s always going to be an issue with such a complex story over so many books, read so long ago.

However.

There’s a lot in The Dragon Reborn that I look forward to, and a lot that comes after it as well.  These may be more spoilerish than previous retrospectives, so be warned.

I love the Aiel, I love the mythology and their delivery.  So I enjoy anything that has them, and they start creeping into the story here.  Their arrival really cheered me up.  I also enjoy the truth we’ve had hinted at, that the Forsaken are loose and it is they, and not directly The Dark One who Rand et. al. have been battling.  It’s a great reveal, and it adds depth to the story.  Now we know what we’re up against, and the strong hints that the bad guys aren’t all pulling in the same direction counter-balances the truth we’ve known all along, that the good guys certainly aren’t doing that either (for a myriad reasons).

In fact, it’s ever more clear that there’s not much in the way of black and white going on here.

I love Rand and Moiraine developing their powers, Moiraine starting to show signs of being increasingly bad-ass, and Rand showing us (confusingly) how powerful he can be.  He hints at some of my favourite things later in the books where lots of the characters learn new and powerful things to do with the One Power.  No more lighting candles, we get a whole slew of powerful skills.  So the little hint of Rand picking them up is excellent.  Jordan does show his handle a little early here, with the apparently simple defeat of two Forsaken, but there’s a twist in that tail later.

The Dragon Reborn plants its feet firmly and gives Jordan a really solid footing to move on from in the next few books, growing Rand and everyone else in power while increasing the complexity of the threat three-fold.  So that memory of what is to come definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the book.  So it’s definitely a two-sided coin.  I know what’s coming so it enhances my enjoyment, but some stuff I can’t remember leading to confusion.  Overall, the stuff I do remember coming wins out in the end.

The irritation is still there, my memory of it matching the reality.  Too many repeat phrases (okay, we get it, Nynaeve tugs her braid when she’s angry, but once or twice is example enough), too many over-stated themes (yes, all women think men are fools and all men think women are over-bearing bullies who need to be saved), and too many out-of-character dumb moments.  But the story, pacing and reveals in the Dragon Reborn get you past them, still.

The Dragon Reborn was as good as I remember, but not always for the reasons I remembered.  Bring on book four.

The Angry Spoilers

There are spoilers here, for the book and possibly for the series.  Stop reading if, somehow, you’ve never read these books before.

Seriously, spoilers.

Was Jordan an idiot?  Was he a genius?  Was he living in a world where men and women have broken relationships and no shared understanding, no ability to realise their own commonality?  Or, was he just trying to write a world in which that was true?  Intentionally, or accidentally?  Is it a real theme, is the world broken not because of the physical breaking, but because of the sin of the male channelers, their pride, and their subsequent madness?  Is that in some way an allegory for the idea of ‘original sin’, some attempt to redress that balance?  To show men what a dumb idea original sin is?  Or does it just feel like a theme, because it’s some weirdness stuck in Jordan’s head and authors ‘write what they know’?

I still don’t know yet, and it’s irritating me.

I like to try and give him the benefit of the doubt, that the behaviour the two genders have for each other is a metaphor for the broader conflict, a mirror of the male and female channelling breakdown.  That the Age of Legends, when men and women channelled together was better not because of the channelling, but because men and women liked each other, respected each other, enough to work together towards the same goal with open hearts.  Instead of deceit, subterfuge, bullying and contempt?

Is the misogyny and misandry intentional, part of the story, part of the whole point, or is it casual, just something Jordan included, or worse perhaps, unthinking, a revelation about Jordan’s psyche?

Check the ‘net, there’s plenty of discussion about it.  Right – moving on.

There’s the usual collection of Jordanisms.  It could be a drinking game (I bet if I searched the ‘net now, I’d find someone had already created it).  Braid pulling = angry.  Rand / Mat / Perrin all think the others know how to handle girls while they can’t.  Girls mooning over good looking men.  Men mooning over good looking women.  Women who are ‘handsome’ rather than ‘beautiful’.  Men falling into three camps, so boring as to not warrant a description, ugly due to some facial injury or beautiful and being mooned over.

We don’t learn a massive amount of new stuff in this book, unless I’m missing something.  We have some things confirmed, we meet another couple of monsters, and we have some stuff clarified, but not a huge deal is new.  We learn more about the cultures, about the prophecy, but nothing substantial about the One Power, or the world.  Jordan has pretty much introduced everything we need to know by this point – and from here on in, it’s how those things are applied, how the world is explained that becomes his focus.

What really happens in book 3?  Rand confirms what we all knew, takes Callendor, and the gang get back together.  Egwene leans how to move around in the world of dreams.  That’s pretty much it basically.

So it’s slowing down, I hope book 4 doesn’t piss me off so much I give up (and then book 5, and then book 6, and then book 7 ……)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (3)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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Aug 202014
 

How To Marry A Marquis: Number 2 in series (Agents for the Crown) Take a woman who needs to marry for money, a Marquis in disguise, a “rule-book”  for landing a man and an interfering old lady, mix it with Julia Quinn’s distinctive writing style and you get a fantastic story full of humour, romance and of course a happy ending.

Elizabeth Hotchkiss has three siblings to support and decides she must marry for money. Finding ‘How to marry a Marquis’ in her employer’s library seems to be a sign and, against her better judgement, she allows her sister to talk her into reading it.

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale has been summoned by his aunt to search for a blackmailer but he must go incognito as her estate manager. His primary suspect is his aunt’s companion Elizabeth, but he soon finds himself intrigued and distracted by her – particularly when he finds her with that ridiculous rule-book.

I love Julia Quinn’s writing style which is quite different from a lot of other writers of historical romance, her sarcasm and wit simply fly off the pages. I love the interaction and banter between the characters and really feel for James who at times is bursting to tell Elizabeth who he really is, particularly when she says “Don’t say any more”, she said laughing. “Really James, one shouldn’t strut like an aristocrat if one cannot carry it off”.  This just after he had used his best aristocratic voice and stare on her.

The aunt in question here is Lady Danbury and those of you familiar with Ms Quinn’s work will recognize her from previous books. She is a fantastic character and really comes into her own in this story. Elizabeth has been with Lady Danbury long enough to give as good as she gets which makes for some funny conversations

The story definitely has some flaws and Elizabeth in particular is a bit of a martyr at times which I can imagine would annoy some readers, but for me, I absolutely loved it so have given it 5 stars. Not because it is perfect, but because for me it is one of those books that just clicked – not entirely sure why but there it is.

If you have read other books by this author you will definitely enjoy this one.

Book Information
  • Author: Julia Quinn
  • Series: Agents for the Crown (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

 

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Aug 202014
 

The King: Number 12 in series (Black Dagger Brotherhood) Long live the King…

After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle- with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything- and everyone- at risk.

Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated with the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response- or the distance it creates between them.

The question is, will true love win out… or tortured legacy take over?

For the most part I loved this book, but there were a couple of things that didn’t work for me very well. The whole Assail and Sola storyline seemed very out of place and disjointed and while I can only assume the storyline will finish in another book, it did take up a fair amount of this one. The characters as well – while I did like Sola, I really didn’t warm to Assail. His actions, apart from when he was dealing with Sola, just made me grind my teeth and hope he got taken out. Honestly, he seemed like Rehv, only despicable.

With that out of the way, the rest of the book I loved. Seeing Wrath’s parents was bitter-sweet but wonderful as well. Beth kicks ass as usual and I thought the arguments between the two of them were spot on – I absolutely got why she was so set on wanting a child. Watching them work it through was a special thing, especially as Wrath comes to terms with everything he is.  I was in tears at the end and loved the way it all resolved.

The Band of Bastards continue to be interesting and I can’t wait for the next book to see how Layla deals with her promise and where that takes Xcor. Are we seeing a possible resolution or alliance with the brotherhood?  I hope so!

The shadows Trez and his long suffering brother iAm feature prominently and I do like them a lot although I’m not sure how iAm hasn’t strangled his brother yet! I do sympathise with their situation though and the Trez and Selena storyline just makes me want to cry – I don’t know where it’s all going yet but again, I can’t wait to find out.

I think any long running series probably suffers this issue but it seems almost the cast that gets covered each book is getting bigger and while that is good, it also detracts from the ‘main’ story or couple. Is it resolvable? Probably not if we want the series to continue (hell yes we do) so I think it’s a case of get used to it. When it was just the brothers it was easier to keep the books tight but when their stories have been told it has to expand or come to an end. Personally I loved revisiting Wrath and Beth, and long live the king!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: J.R. Ward
  • Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood (12)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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Aug 162014
 

The Great Hunt: Book 2 of the Wheel of Time: 2/12 The Rambling Introduction

Despite some crazy long days (and nights) working, I did manage to pick up book two of The Wheel of Time and give it a good read.  Managed only about 1/4 of it during the week, but made a big dent on Thursday night, and then pretty much finished it Friday and into Saturday.  I still have an appetite to read them all – we’ll see how strong that is after the expected food poisoning around book 7 – and I’ll keep reviewing them.

The Review

Book two of The Wheel of Time picks up literally where book one left off. We are with Rand and the others in Fal Dara, near the Borderlands after the battle at the end of The Eye of the World. From here, things progress at a reasonable clip, and Jordanisms aside, are pretty interesting and engaging until about a third of the way into the story. Then however, it becomes hard going.

I found it hard because the characters are inevitably split up, which happened in book one as well, but it’s not handled as smoothly in the early parts of The Great Hunt. In The Eye of the World there was always an obvious goal for the whole group – get to Tar Vallon. It drove all their decisions (right up until it changes, for reasons I’ll leave to those who’ve not read the first one). In The Great Hunt though, the reasons are less well defined in some ways. Or they are well defined, but less interesting, I’m not entirely sure which. Despite the obvious risks that Jordan introduces if the goals aren’t achieved, it’s just not quite enough to flow properly.

Along with that, a new character is added, and her presence irritates me because I never like significant personalised deception as a plot device. That’s odd I admit, but I just never enjoy it. I don’t mind the deception of politics or war, and non-personalised deception, but when I know there’s some deception going on, and can see a character being fooled by it, I struggle.

However, once beyond the middle of the book, the plot tightens up again, the pace improves and it’s a much more enjoyable rush to the finish than it feels like it might be in the middle.

There are some moving moments in the book, and some really touching scenes as well. If you like honour and justice there’s plenty of that to go around too. We follow all the characters from the first book, we learn more about them, and most of them grow, we meet a few more legends, and for the first time (I think) we get point-of-view pieces for Moiraine.

Also, Verin makes an appearance, and I love her.

The book features my favourite scene so far, out of both the first and second books, where Lan takes Rand under his wing and teaches him a little Borderlands pomp and ceremony to bolster him against the Aes Sedai.

Of all the major characters that transfer from book one, Egwene and Nynaeve make the most progress in terms of character development, they also suffer more than the other characters (along with a friend or two that started as possibly minor characters in book one). Rand, Mat and Perrin do make some progress, but it’s more subtle overall. Moiraine and Lan even show a little bit of development here as well, which is good considering how static they are during the first book. The end though, as so often in Jordan’s novels drives all of the characters forward in a big leap, and changes them for ever.

The Great Hunt isn’t quite as polished as The Eye of the World, and the annoying habits that Jordan brings get in the way more than they did in the first one, but it’s still worth a read, it’s still entertaining, and it’s still unique.

The Retrospective

I try and avoid actual plot spoilers in this section, but I do reveal some of my frustrations with the overall series to date, so you may want to read carefully if you’ve never read the books.

I don’t remember anywhere near as much of this book as I did the first one.  I remembered most of the basics, how it started and roughly how it ended, but the detail eluded me until I was in it, which was a surprise.  In some ways it was good, I saw a lot more than I did the first few times I read it, and in other ways it was frustrating because I knew something was going to happen, but couldn’t remember when.

I’ve already alluded to the most frustrating bit for me plot-wise in the review section, which is basically the introduction of Selene.  Because I know who she is and how that plays out, I found it harder to cope with than normal.  Also, I sometimes think that Jordan assumed his readers were as stupid as his characters.  If you have to make it that obvious that someone is lying or behaving oddly, but not let your characters notice it, then you need to think about it and give your readers more respect.

So overall, not as memorable as the first one, and I think it suffers from ‘middle of a trilogy’ syndrome.

The Angry Spoilers

There are spoilers here, for the book and possibly for the series.  Stop reading if, somehow, you’ve never read these books before.

Seriously, spoilers.

Jordan allows his main flaw (in my view) to really show through during parts of The Great Hunt.  At times, his characters behave as though they have no common sense or are plain stupid.  However, we know that’s not true.  We know his characters can be clever, and intelligent and observant, so when they step out of character and act dumb for plot reasons, it’s really quite infuriating.

I’ll give you a specific example.  In book one, we witness the descent of Mat into madness thanks to carrying the dagger.  Egwene and Rand, among others, see this and know it to be true.  Egwene isn’t stupid.  Yet Egwene upon visiting Fain regularly, a man she knows to be a darkfriend and who Morgaine has described as dangerous, comments on but otherwise ignores the fact that the guards around Fain are becoming more surly, more rude every day.

At no point does she connect to the two things together.  At no point does Rand make the connection when it’s described to him.  Yeh yeh, I get it, they were both under stress, but it’s out of character to not even question it (unless there’s some great mystery yet to be revealed to me).

Equally, Ingtar’s behaviour descends towards the same kind of crazed intensity in the search for the Horn, and yet Rand pays it no attention.  Rand, a man who knows he’s going to go crazy, who has watched Mat do it basically twice, ignores Ingtar’s increasing switch from ‘we will find the horn’ to ‘I MUST HAVE THE HORN FOR MYSELF’.

It grates on me.

Moving on.

The second book once again reveals a bunch of stuff, the plot moves forward a great deal (eventually).  We learn about ter’angreal, we learn about a bunch more cities, the Seanchan, loads of channellers every-fucking where, the Aiel make a show, other worlds, other possibilities, portal stones, and a whole bunch of other things.  Not as much as book one though, never as much as book one.  The flood of stuff has slowed ever so slightly to only a strong torrent.  As the books progress it will eventually turn into a wasteland of nothing new happening (in my memory).

One final thing, and I’ll expand on this in the book 3 rant.  If you search the web for ‘Wheel of Time Feminism’ or ‘Wheel of Time misogyny’, you’ll get a million hits.  There’s a theme here, with Jordan, of men and women failing to work together.  It sneaks everywhere in his writing, and he’s either trying to introduce themes and concepts and make us think, or he’s got the oddest world view ever about how men and women operate.  We’ll keep an eye on how that progresses.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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Aug 142014
 

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2) Fall deeper under the spell of Diana and Matthew in the captivating second volume of the No.1 internationally bestselling ALL SOULS trilogy, following A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

In a world of witches, daemons and vampires the fragile balance of peace is unravelling. Diana and Matthew’s forbidden love has broken the laws dividing creatures. To discover the manuscript which holds their hope for the future, they must now travel back to the past.

When Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont. Now the coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened. Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot. Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…

Shadow of Night is the second book in the All Soul’s Trilogy and follows straight on from A Discovery of Witches.  It opens with our beloved Diana and Matthew having travelled back in time to the year 1590 in search of the mysterious and undamaged Ashmole 782 manuscript.

This book was utterly fascinating and I can only imagine how fertile Harkness’ imagination is, combining documented historical events with her own prose to make something so rich and believable and make you feel as if you were there!

Diana progresses so much in this book, she really comes into her own, as witch, wife and historian. Matthew is a complicated character, having lived so long (and through this time period once already) he does struggle with possessiveness, misogyny and at times needs a good smack on the back of his head. Balancing that out though, he is also extremely loving, clever and underestimates his wife so when she takes matters into her own hands, his reactions can be amusing.

The love they have for each other is undeniably sweet, even when they lose their way a bit, you know that is at the core.

I loved most of the new characters in this book, except Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, he was just a jealous little toad! Gallowglass, Jack, Annie, the coven were all superb and Elizabeth 1st was awesomely erratic.  I also loved the magic that Diana wields, the threads of life using a skein of embroidery thread and knots to represent different things.  I look forward to finding out just what she can do!

I’m not well versed in history but Deborah manages to bring characters to life that I’d only heard about in vaguely remembered history lessons at school and it even led me to do further reading. Of course that just increased my respect for the author’s talent at blending fact and fiction.

The plot moves along nicely at the same pace as the first book but with an added sense of urgency and tension. It’s not a quick read but it is extremely engaging and hard to put down. The majority of this novel is set back in time with a couple of glimpses as to what is happening with the families back in modern day. I expected those to feel disjointed and jerk me out of the story but actually they happened quite organically.

Now, at the end of the book, they have returned to present day and its time to find out if everything they went through was worth it. It’s time to finish this and open the final book in the All Soul’s Trilogy, The Book Of Life!

Book Information
  • Author: Deborah Harkness
  • Series: All Soul's Trilogy (2)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

 

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Aug 072014
 

The Eye Of The World: Book 1 of the Wheel of Time: 1/12 The Rambling Introduction

Is there any value in reviewing books that have been out for a long, long time?  I don’t know.  There are probably several hundred thousand reviews on the web for The Eye of the World (Book 1 in the Wheel of Time series).  This is true for many old books, but given the history of The Wheel of Time, it’s even more likely to be true.

The Wheel of Time is a series of books that grew up with the Internet.  It was really the first time I’d seen a community (rec.arts.written.sf.robert-jordan, or rawsfrj) form around a set of books, grow, flourish, expand and then collapse again.  The politics, emotion and inquisitiveness of that community is forever tied to my experience of reading the books themselves.  The community was almost bigger than the books.  That community was all over the Internet, web pages, ftp sites, usenet, irc, and so the web is littered with reviews, polemics, papers and discussions of the series ad infinitum.

So, is there any point?  No, probably not.  But it’s not going to stop me.

You didn’t think it would, did you?

Of course, that doesn’t make reviewing it easy.  I’ve read the book at least twice, maybe three times before my current re-read (which at the point of starting this review, I haven’t quite finished).  I know what’s coming up, both in terms of the story and in terms of the quality.  The Wheel of Time is famous for many things, but not least among them is the debate about the quality of the books in the middle of this long, long series.  Greatest among them of course, is the untimely and tragic death of Robert Jordan himself, and then eventual completion of the series by Brandon Sanderson.  So while I have not yet read all the books in the series (and starting with book 1 is my attempt to fix that), I have read many of them.

Reviewing a book you’ve already read is hard enough, reviewing it objectively when you know how later books turn out is problematic, and this is further coloured by the question of who cares now anyway, and why am I reviewing a book that’s so old?

Is this a review then, or a retrospective?  It’s both! I promise, and I’ll try and be at least a little bit entertaining.

The Review

The Eye of the World will feel familiar to anyone with a love of epic high fantasy.  Queens, wizards, farm boys with prophecy in their veins, Kings, ancient evils and quests abound from start to finish.  The world is rich, filled out, complex, political and deadly.  The story is engaging, interesting, and feels as though it’s grounded in a solid mythology that can only bode well for the following books.

The Eye of the World tells the story of a small band of would-be not-quite heroes from a small village, guided in their journey by a powerful magic wielding woman and her powerful warder companion.  The pace is pretty solid, despite the size of the novel, and the adventures take the characters through many places and cultures, before culminating in what all good epic high fantasy books culminate in, a fight, and a cliff hanger.

It’s not all roses.  Jordan has a tendency to use the same phrases over and over again, and you will constantly hear about how two of three of the boys in the group are much better at talking to girls than the others, and the girls will constantly rail about how the boys are wool headed.  There will be braid pulling, and there will be repetition.  If you can deal with that, then there’s a lot to be found in the book.

If you get into it, and start feeling like it’s familiar, you’ll be forgiven if you’ve ever read Lord of the Rings.  A quest, an evil artifact, a powerful wizard guide, a stern taciturn warrior of noble heritage, and a collection of young farmhands, at least one of which likes to get into mischief will set off alarm bells.  Jordan himself said he ‘styled the first 100 pages on Tolkien to give people something familiar to get into the story’.  I suspect he actually styled the entire first book on Tolkien, but have no fear, it’s a homage not a rip-off, and he wouldn’t be the first, or the last (The Sword of Shannara <cough>).

If you like epic fantasy, if you like prophecy riddled rich worlds, then read The Eye of the World,  you’ll enjoy it.

The Retrospective

I try and avoid actual plot spoilers in this section, but I do reveal some of my frustrations with the overall series to date, so you may want to read carefully if you’ve never read the books.

The Eye of the World is a bitter-sweet experience for me.  It’s really quite good, as far as epic fantasy goes.  It has some lovely mythology, some careful and clever connections, and the characters, magic and places are engaging.  It clips along at a fast enough pace, and loads of stuff happens (seriously, loads).

But in that regard, it’s like watching the first Police Academy movie, knowing the steaming pile of shit they turn into.  Are the later books steaming piles of shit?  Probably not quite that bad (read later reviews to find out) but certainly I know in my heart (from memory, I may change my mind) that Jordan loses his way.  His tight story becomes flabby, his characters become caricatures, and the world gets too complex for its own good.

So reading it, I found myself longing for 10 more books like it, knowing it’s not to be.  But I was also surprised at just how good it was, and just how much happens.  The later books had skewed my memory and left me feeling sad about The Eye of the World, when it fact, it’s a very good read indeed.

The Angry Spoilers

There are spoilers here, for the book and possibly for the series.  Stop reading if, somehow, you’ve never read these books before.

Seriously, spoilers.

Argh! Jordan!  Why?  So so much happens in the first book.  I had forgotten how much of the world is revealed to us.  We learn more in the first half of the first book, than in all of books 4 to 8 (as far as I can remember).  In book one we have, in no order (excuse my spelling, I’m writing these through the red haze of anger in my eyes),

steddings, ogier, saidin and saidar, the taint, the ways, warders, aes sedai, fades, trollocs, draghkar, Aiel, travellers, the ages, forsaken, dream walking, darkfriends, red ajah, blue ajah, black ajah, the heroes of the horn, the horn, machin shin, shadar logoth, mashadar, loads of ancient place names, loads of history, plenty of prophecy, false dragons, wolf brothers, old skills, angreal, gentling, whitecloaks and so much more.

There is so much promise in the first book, so much content, so much to interest you, and yet within 4 or 5 novels Jordan will have utterly lost his way and the story will become flabby.  New characters turning up well past the point where we need to start resolving threads.  I know it’s coming.  It’s hard to read the book knowing that is around the corner.

Why Jordan!? Wwhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

But seriously, read book one, it’s good.

Book Information
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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Aug 042014
 

Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One MAGIC IS A DRUG. BE CAREFUL HOW YOU USE IT.

The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realises she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.

Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble with Urban Fantasy lately in that it all seemed quite similar and nothing was really grabbing me.  I was already a fan of Jaye Wells’ Sabina Kane series, and the back blurb on Dirty Magic seemed a little different, enough to grab my attention and want to give it a go.

It did start a little slowly but it was a new version of our world to build and it was really interesting learning how potions have become part of normal, everyday life alongside conventional medicine.  I thought it was a really clever alternate commentary on how pharmaceuticals have done the same in our reality.  You have clean potions (legal) and dirty potions (illegal) and the alchemy adepts who brew or ‘cook’ them.  Covens instead of drug cartels, but it all results in addicts needing another fix and another dirty potion hitting the streets for those who are looking for the next big thing.  Addicts of clean potions like vanities, youth, weight loss or pain also hits home.

Kate Prospero is an excellent heroine – a former adept with a talent for making magic potions turned cop with a young brother to raise.  I understood her issues and felt for her for trying to make something good out of a life that dealt her a bad hand.  She isn’t a hugely powerful magic user, nor a clairvoyant, vampire etc.  In fact she goes out of her way not to use magic (sometimes a little too far) but for very good reasons (you have to read the book to find out what those are!).  She became a cop in order to balance the scales for what she had to do as a kid and that is where the brilliance of Dirty Magic comes in.  It’s a police procedural as much as an urban fantasy and it works very very well.  Wells’ research was meticulous and having read a lot of crime and thrillers, this was spot on for me.  Obviously the fantastical elements were included and I loved them!

I also thought I could see where the book was going to go when we were introduced very early to Kate’s ex, John Volos – fabulously rich, bad guy turned philanthropist (and I admit I rolled my eyes when I made that cynical snap judgment).  Full credit to Jaye Wells for completely surprising me in that regard!  The team of MEA agents were brilliant too and did much to flesh out the feel of this book – Mesmer and Morales in particular were my favourites but also Gardner for her sarcasm and no nonsense attitude.

I really liked the plot – seemed pretty simple at first but there were several layers to the story and it kept things interesting right to the end. So in spite of the slow start, everything else worked wonderfully and it was a really good book.

If like me, you have become a bit Urban Fantasy jaded – take it from me, this is something different that will really grab you!

Book Information
  • Author: Jaye Wells
  • Series: Prospero's War (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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Jul 232014
 

Loving Rose: The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair: Number 3 in series (From the Casebook of Barnaby Adair) Miraculously spared from death, Malcolm Sinclair erases the notorious man he once was. Reinventing himself as Thomas Glendower, he strives to make amends for his past, yet he never imagines penance might come via a secretive lady he discovers living in his secluded manor. Rose has a plausible explanation for why she and her children are residing in Thomas’s house, but she quickly realises he’s far too intelligent to fool.

After the disappointment of the previous book in this series, Ms. Laurens has returned to form with this one. The only thing I didn’t like was the confusion over Thomas Glendower/Malcolm Sinclair. I gathered he had appeared as a villain in a previous Cynster book (I later discovered it was the ‘Taste of Innocence’), but as it was not one I’d read I found it a bit confusing over what he had done that was so bad. I therefore started the book feeling like I was missing half the story. It would have been useful if the book blurb had stated where we first met him, so readers could go back to that book if they chose.

Once I put that aside though, it didn’t take me long to get into the story and I really enjoyed it. The first half of the book is very much about Thomas and Rose, their developing relationship and the secrets they both hold. Rose is guarded and unwilling to trust but finds it difficult to resist Thomas, particularly with how he is with the children. Thomas is also surprised at how quickly he feels protective towards them, and seeing his younger self in Homer, he seeks to guide him as he himself never was.  Once Rose trusts Thomas with her problems they move to London, and that is when Barnaby Adair and his (growing) team get involved to solve the mystery. For me this book is a perfect blend of intrigue and romance, and focuses very clearly on the protagonists whereas the previous one didn’t.

Ms. Laurens does not disappoint with her bedroom scenes – steamy as always! But at least this time they focused on the characters that matter.

Overall a great book and having prepared myself for this one to be another thriller with little romance as in The Masterful Mr Montague, I was very pleased to find that was not the case.

Book Information
  • Author: Stephanie Laurens
  • Series: Casebook of Barnaby Adair (3)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

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