The Good, The Bad, and the Undead

I sometimes find that when I’ve really enjoyed a first book in a series, the second can be a bit lacking. I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case here!

The book picks up a couple of months after the end of the first, bursting back into action right from the first page. You learn more history about the characters, making them more rounded and easier to empathise with. The main characters can be a little irritating at times but in all honesty it is part of their charm. They can make bad decisions in moments of stress and do what they think is right, even if it is at odds with their ‘good’ natures. The interactions between Rachel, Ivy and Jenks often produce laugh out loud moments which is always nice.

The plot moves along nicely, with entertaining new characters being introduced of which a few of them you hope will become regulars. I enjoyed this second book as much as the first (Dead Witch Walking) and when I finished, I was eager, again, to dive right back in to number 3.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Ravenheart

Without doubt, one of David’s finest books, and now my favourite, just edging Legend into the second place spot. David gives us more emotion, characterisation and heroism of all kinds stuffed into 250,000 words than any other author I know. The characters in this book leap from the page, they are fully rounded, interesting, believable and easy to empathise with. Gemmell presents battles of a different kind in this book, including a court scene which is just excellent as the more conventional battles. There is, a seige, kind of.

The plot clips along at his usual pace, takes slightly unexpected turns, and delivers us to the destination weeping and rejoicing at the same time. I enjoyed this Rigante far more than the previous two [Sword in the Storm and Midnight Falcon], mainly because the number of major characters is lower, the prose is less abrupt, and the story feels more personal.

A fitting tribute to David’s late step-father, and sadly of course, now to David himself.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

An entertaining read, capturing the imagination and providing for me, the one totally essential ingredient in any book. Empathy. I could empathise with the characters, I cared about them and what happened to them. Even a jaded old git like myself has to admit that the book was easy to read, good value for money, and entertaining. Ok, I didn’t spend hours thinking about it, nor did I cry at the end, but never-the-less, the book was well written, colourful, and full of people that mattered.

A boy discovers he isn’t a waste of space after all, learns about his past, discovers his inner strength, and grows. A typical story, presented in refreshing way. Let’s hope it leads a whole bunch of kids [and not-kids] to start reading more.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: J. K. Rowling
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Well, well. The second Harry Potter book (Chamber of Secrets) isn’t anywhere near as good as the first. It feels contrived in too many places, slow to pick up and then rushed to finish at the end.

The same characters are present, and they are still interesting. The story is weak however, and it feels as though the author felt the book had to have the same pattern as the previous one – of course it is set within the timetable of a school year so some things are bound to seem regimented.

Some funny moments, lots of long not interesting moments, some nice dialog, plenty of annoying dialog.

Overall, not impressed, but then it had a lot to live up to with the first one being rather good. Let’s hope the third one (Prisoner of Azkaban) is better.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: J. K. Rowling
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

J. K. Rowling is either amazingly lucky, or a brilliant genius (or, stating the obvious, some combination of the two). The fourth in the Harry Potter line of books is, without doubt, her best yet. Darker and more emotional than the previous three, The Goblet of Fire focusses on the conflict between Harry and you-know-who.

Three magical schools come together to compete in a triwizard tournament, and Harry finds himself involved, whether he likes it or not. The plot is intriguing and engrossing, the young characters are as good as ever and growing older by the book and the older characters reveal a little more each time we meet them.

We have humour and moments of real emotion, interspersed with tension and moments of real concern. It’s still a book that kids can read and enjoy, and that has implications about it’s depth and complexity. But if there’s one thing it has in buckets, it’s writing which encourages empathy with the main players.

I’ve read all four Harry Potter books on the trot. For the first time in ages, I’ve read a book which isn’t by David Gemmell as my main recreational activity, rather than as a tiring out manoeuvre before going to bed. It might actually help me to get back into reading more often. Praise indeed.

And, the best praise of all, I’m looking forward to, I’m eager for, I’m anticipating, the fifth in the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: J. K. Rowling
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

After the second Harry Potter book, I wasn’t holding out much hope for the third one. I mean, authors usually just get worse, I’ve never seen one have a dip and then recover.

Until now.

[Was that too melodramatic? Sue me 😉 ]

J. K. Rowling pulls herself together and delivers a riveting read, with many of the weaknesses from the second book stamped out. Gone is the totally obvious formula, gone are the long periods of boredom. We have a gripping story about Harry and his friends, and another bunch of new and weird adults. We have touching moments and thrilling scenes. More background history is revealed, and Harry gets to learn more about his past.

Well worth reading, as good as the first one, and ever-so-slightly more mature. Roll on book four.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: J. K. Rowling
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Age of Misrule

I originally wrote this review after finishing the third single book in the series, however there’s now a single anthology which includes the three first books, to which the links in this review point, and for which the review is now appropriate.

Having just finished the third book in this series I felt I should write up a review. At the time of writing, I’ve been struggling with reading. The Harry Potter books may have kickstarted my reading habbit, but before I started those, I’d read the first two in Mark’s Age of Misrule series. Picking up the third one was easy, and it felt good to be back in the world, with Church, Ruth, Laura, Veitch and Sharvi, the five main characters in this modern-world-turned-mythic adventure.

The writing is clean, crisp and easy to read, although Mark has a tendancy to enjoy the word frisson, and he ensures you get to enjoy it too. The characters are believable, and easy to empathise with. The story is well paced, interesting, deep, puzzling in places, and funny in others. I was kept guessing as the final outcome all the way through, and enjoyed it all the more as a result. I certainly felt a frisson each time Church declared ‘he felt there was some deeper meaning, but it was just beyond his grasp’, because I felt the same way during much of the book, that if I just thought hard enough I’d work out where it was going, but I was never able to, and as I said, enjoyed it all the more.

Our protagonists are forced together to help out in a world gone mad, thanks to the ‘return’ of all those things we thought were myth and legend. The Brothers and Sisters of Dragons (the five mentioned above), must fight for a cause, although it’s not clear which one or why, early on, and help the world survive the change that is underway.

Interesting, entertaining, thoughtful, emotional, and well paced. I recommend it, especially if you like your British Mythology.

Book Information
  • Author: Mark Chadbourn
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dead Witch Walking

Rachel Morgan is a witch. A witch who is under a death threat for daring to leave her employer, rooms with a still living vampire, shares her garden with a pixie family and is a bounty hunter of the supernatural, keeping the normal world safe from the creatures that would prey on them. Welcome to The Hollows in Cincinnati.

I actually picked up the third book first and when I found it hard to follow what had happened before, I put it away again until I could get this first book. I’m glad I did as so much became clear. I liked the history about how the world came to be what it is today, humans and the supernatural Inderlanders co-existing in a world that is vastly different yet so similar to our own. The main characters are flawed yet eminently likeable and you very quickly come to care about what happens to them.

The story centres around Rachel and her desire to be her own boss which becomes her struggle to stay alive. Her friend and room-mate Ivy is a still living vampire, who refuses to give in to the desire for blood. As she is still living, it’s a craving rather than the necessity it would be if she had died. Then there is Jenks, the six inch high Pixie, who helps Rachel and Ivy in their bounty hunting. He and his wife and fifty four kids live in a tree stump in the garden.

The story flows very well, even when filling in history and the action is fast paced, often leaving you tense along with it. It’s written in first person which is good as there are a lot of characters coming in and out and I think third would have been too chaotic. I liked being in Rachel’s head.

By the end I was eager to pick up the second book straight away and plunge right back into it and I was very happy to find there were five books so far!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kim Harrison
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)