Sep 012014
 

Thankless in Death: 37 Murder doesn’t stop for Thanksgiving. As the household of NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke prepares for an invasion of family and friends, an ungrateful son decides to stop the nagging from his parents – by ending their lives. Soon Jerald Reinhold is working his way through anyone who has ever thwarted him in his path to an easy life.

This is the 37th full length offering from J.D. Robb and it does not disappoint. Yet another murderer cutting down people for his own twisted pleasure, but in this story we spend a lot of time inside the murderer’s head as he justifies his actions – what a selfish sick bastard he is. There is no mystery as to who has done the killings, the plot is all about trying to catch him.

This book is much more about the main police story and does not focus so much on the relationships of our favourite characters, although we do get to see Eve and Roarke in their home environment and of course they have sex!  Eve has a big decision to make in this book and comes to an acceptance about herself and her role in the NYPSD.

As always, the author manages to inject emotion into the story and I found myself laughing and crying at some points particularly towards the end when we have Roarke’s entire Irish clan descend, along with some characters from previous books.

It is really difficult to keep coming up with things to say about this series as each book is as good as the last. There is little to no romance in this book, just Eve and her team doing good police work and as always having just a bit of luck – although at times it seems luck is very much with the perpetrator and against Eve.

Overall another great ‘In Death’ story with smatterings of humour that do not detract from the main story and indeed the books would not be the same without the quirks that make up Eve and Roarke’s life.

Book Information
  • Author: J.D. Robb
  • Series: In Death (37)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

 

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Aug 292014
 

The Shadow Rising: Book 4 of the Wheel of Time: 4/12 The Rambling Introduction

The mighty book four, The Shadow Rising.  Fifty-eight chapters, 393 thousand words, and in the paperback edition, near on 1000 pages.  It is the longest book in the entire Wheel of Time series, the next closest come in at around 350 thousand words and are books 5 and 14 (the final one in the series).

Even holding this paperback is hard work, it’s pretty much at the limit of what can be held in one hand.  It’s taken 5 days to finish it, reading at lunch times and in the evenings.  The last stretch, Friday evening, was around 200 pages in a four hour sitting.  Most of the time I was able to just read through, but a few sections had me taking short breaks to think things through or to calm down due to annoying characters.

The epic nature of the overall story is finally revealed here, and some important links are made.  Onward!

The Review

The Shadow Rising is absolutely a story of two halves. One half (which covers more than half of the physical book) picks up where book three left off and sets up a number of threads.  The second half of the story, in roughly the last third of the book brings them all to a climax of sorts.  It’s a formula that should be familiar to anyone who’s read the previous three books, because it’s pretty much how they play out as well.

Sadly, despite the very enjoyable ending, the start of the book begins to display serious pacing issues.  After around 150 pages, pretty much nothing significant happens in the story.  We get a little bit of background, some hints at the ongoing struggle, and a bubble of evil causing havoc – but that’s it.  In most fiction, 150 pages would give you something pretty significant.  It’s fair to say, in my view, that after 300 or so pages, there’s still very little story progression overall.

The protagonists are all in Tear, as they were at the end of book three, and despite talking about it and planning it, they don’t actually start leaving Tear until around 300 pages in.  Some of the events in those first pages are interesting, but they’re not defining moments, and it’s at this point you have to make a choice with The Wheel of Time.  Either you’re reading a fantasy story about Rand al’Thor battling The Dark One, or, you’re reading a book about the world inhabited by Rand al’Thor and the others, and about the epic struggle affecting all nations of the land.  If you’re here for the former, then you’re going to get bored quite quickly.  If you’re here for the latter, to be immersed in the epic struggle, to hear about nations and groups and individuals who might never be mentioned again, and to watch their struggle against the Dark One, then you’re probably in the right place.

When the main characters finally leave Tear, the story splits into three threads.  I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.  We follow Rand and those that travel with him in one thread, we have Perrin and his group in another, and finally we have Nynaeve and friends in the final group.  The book weaves between those three primary groups from around 350 pages in. all the way until the end, with minor diversions to visit other locations and individuals.  Depending on who you like most, and what you like reading about most, you may enjoy the three threads differently to me.

Personally, I absolutely loved Perrin’s tale, I enjoyed Rand’s section, and I tolerated the story of Nynaeve.  Those impressions remained until around the last 100 pages, at which stage, the Rand and Nynaeve elements finally picked up and approached, but never quite attained, the level of enjoyment I had from the Perrin tale.

The story of Perrin is full of emotion, courage, duty and love, and I’m pretty sure it would have made an excellent 200,000 word novel in its own right.  It does so well because it builds on everything that has come before it, and it contains a whole array of the most interesting characters.  We get to meet some we thought we’d left behind, and it really pushes the development of Perrin and those with him forward.  It also speaks to the wider story, and we really begin to see what being Taveren might mean beyond causing mass weddings.  The climax to this story is simply superb, supported by an excellent beginning and a thoroughly enchanting middle.

Rand’s tale is no less interesting, but it is less emotionally impacting.  His journey reveals a significant amount of new information about the Aiel, The Age of Legends and the Breaking of the World, and it’s fascinating from that angle if nothing else.  I do so love the Aiel and so I was continually pleased to come back and read about them, but Rand is closed and alone, and that not only comes over in the story but it makes it hard to empathise with him at times.  Still, the outcome of his tale in book 4 is brilliant, and the Aiel sections make it engaging and funny (as well as thrilling).

I don’t know if it’s a gender bias, or something else, but I just find Nynaeve’s behaviour so frustrating, so annoying, that I always feel a bit reluctant to read the sections with her in them.  That goes for her female companions as well.  However, it’s an important part of the story in The Shadow Rising, and there are plenty of reveals, and some exciting moments.  The story of Nynaeve and her gang doesn’t really peak until very late in the book though, but when it does, it is just about worth the wait.

In my view, The Shadow Rising starts to show that the story is just getting away from Jordan.  The scale is just so epic, so vast, and so intricate, that he struggles to contain it within the format of a typical fantasy book.  I don’t know how it could have been avoided, if he felt everything in the book needed to be presented.  I do wonder if a series of smaller books with more focussed stories might not have worked better.

Despite that, and despite the lack of progress, bad pacing and frustrations at the start, The Shadow Rising has the most thrilling ending of any of the books so far, without a doubt.  We really are starting to get a sense of how big this whole thing is going to be.  Worth reading, but give up any notions about this being a story of Rand al’Thor, and instead, accept it’s the story of the world he inhabits, and everyone else within 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.

When I started the re-read, I had assumed that I pretty much remembered everything in the books.  I was wrong.  As the story progresses, and I get further through the series, I realise it has been a very long time since I read them, and the latter books are far less memorable to me in their detail.  So it’s sort of good news, I’m enjoying detail that I don’t remember even if I kind of know where the overall story is going.

The Shadow Rising contains my favourite story thread so far, Perrin, Faile and their arrival in The Two Rivers.  I looked forward to any chapter which started with Perrin or Faile’s name, and despite knowing how it kind of turned out, every single page with them in it was a joy.

My memory of the sections with Nynaeve and Elayne was particularly blank, and I know why, because their treatment of other people, especially Nynaeve’s treatment, just annoys me so much I don’t like reading it.  Who wants to read about bullies?  That’s the only way to describe her, and I don’t like it.  The others try and temper her behaviour, but the bottom line is she’s offensive.  I know that eventually she calms down a little and that is the only reason I can get through the sections.

Rand’s story is great, and I was looking forward to reading about him learning of the birth of the Aiel.   I had forgotten how sidelined Moiraine was in this book, and I was a little sad we don’t get more from her PoV because she’s so interesting.  She seems to have so much scope that I wish Jordan had dropped one of the other women and given Moiraine more PoV’s.

I had totally forgotten that it’s this book that Rand obtains a teacher (and it happens only right at the end).  I knew it was coming, but felt sure it was book five or later, so that was a pleasant surprise.  However, knowing about the tinkers in advance took some of the shock out of that section of the tale.

When I started reading the series again, there was one event that I wasn’t looking forward to reading about and that’s the betrayal of Suin Sanche.  I will say no more, about which way that betrayal flows or what happens, but I was still sad when it did take place.

One new thing that struck me while I was reading, were comments from Verin and Moiraine (may have been in the previous book, not just this one), that they had been stupid not to realise all three Taveren would be important, rather than just Rand.  It strikes me that this could be Jordan admitting he didn’t expect Perrin and Mat to continue being such central characters, or his way of telling us we should have expected it as well.  Or a bit of both.

Overall, The Shadow Rising confirmed my fears but gave me plenty of enjoyment as well.  As I said in the review, I think this is the point where the story explodes away from Jordan’s control, and despite trying to show us all the threads, he struggles to keep it contained.  There’s a sense of spending too long building up to each ending, as if it’s become a caricature approach based on the first three books.  The redeeming feature is that the endings are very good when they finally arrive.

Another bitter-sweet read, so much to love, but plenty to frustrate, annoy and irritate as well.

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.

There are three things that make me angry about The Shadow Rising, and I’ve hinted at two of them already.  Firstly, why does it take so long for the characters to get moving.  There’s no good story reason, only that Jordan felt he had to include detailed descriptions of everyone who wears clothes and what everyone eats for every meal.  Or that’s how it feels.  I get that he wanted Moiraine to be chomping at the bit, frustrated by Rand’s lack of action, but that doesn’t mean he has to make us feel like that.  300 pages before anyone even leaves Tear, without much actually happening, is just too long.

Secondly, Nynaeve.  To a lesser extent Egwene, then Elayne.  They’re bullies.  Nynaeve especially so.  I don’t know if this is a gender bias on my part, or intentional on Jordan’s part, and I don’t know if female readers (or other male readers) get a different feeling.  To me though, Nynaeve among them all is a bully.  Maybe it’s fear on her part, maybe it’s just a personality trait, but it makes reading about her interaction with other people really hard work.  If Jordan was trying to make us dislike her, he did quite well.

Lastly, general stupidity again.  I wrote a long blog post on this one on my personal blog.  In summary though, despite Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve knowing about the Forsaken in Illian and Tear, they totally fail to spot the obvious reference to Morgase’s new advisor even though they discuss it in the same flipping conversation.  I refuse to believe these people can be that stupid.  Jordan either has little respect for them, or little respect for us.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (4)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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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)
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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)
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Rating: ★★★★½ 

 

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