Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Warded Man

Title: The Warded Man
Author: Peter V. Brett
Series: Demon Trilogy, book 1
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2009

Recommendation: A solid epic fantasy novel in full traditions of the genre.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Arlen leaves home at the age of 12 after his mother is killed by corelings, demons who hunt humans at night. He travels with a Messenger to the large city of Miln and apprentices to a ward maker in hopes to become a Messenger himself. However, his destiny may yet be much bigger than that.

Reactions: I have seen a slew of positive reviews when this book first came out and it wasn't a disappointment. The Warded Man is a very well-written debut in the traditions of the genre. The premise is simple.

Three children grow up in three different towns. Arlen is a farmer's son, who after witnessing his mother's death and his father's cowardice runs away from home to learn how to become a Messenger. The only profession that allows a person to travel at night. Leesha is pretty girl who gets apprenticed to the old Herb Gatherer, Bruna, to learn the healer's craft and other secrets. Rojer's parents are killed when he is yet small and he gets apprenticed by a Jongleur who was passing his village when the attack occurred. The three heroes grow and learn their trade, awaiting their role in the events to come.

The writing itself is engaging and snappy and I had no trouble finishing the book. Things progress well and there are adventures as well as character development which I enjoyed. The book is obviously planned as an introduction to a larger story with the world building and character introductions taking up most of the book. The real story is clearly meant to be developed in the next books in the series.

My biggest issue with the book is how much it is a staple of the genre. Child in obscurity grows up to learn of his/her power and take up the arms to save humanity from the great evil. It's like every other epic fantasy out there and while the world building aspect is interesting and slightly different, the book really doesn't have much to make it stand out among other epic fantasy novels out there.

I enjoyed the good prose, fast paced action, and the world building in the book, but the cliched nature of the characters and the story left me wishing for something more unique. I would recommend this book to anyone who's not as burned out on child-turn-prodigy epic fantasy stories as I am.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Use of Weapons

Title: Use of Weapons
Author: Iain M. Banks
Series: Culture, book 3
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1990

Recommendation: Yes, read it. Really. It's worth it.
Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: Cheradenine Zakalawe is an agent of the Culture who is sent to various planets to use his military genius to turn the tide of events on those planets in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. He wins his wars and escapes alive, but his past will not stop haunting him.

Reactions: This book's main character has been nominated as the most interesting SF hero in science fiction by Fantasy Book Critic. And I can't disagree with this; Cheradenine is unique in his experiences and in his problems, and there's a surprising depth to him that the whole book revolves around. The supporting cast is good too, but Cheradenine mostly outshines them in the novel.

The most difficult part of the book is it's structure. It's written in a very fragmented way where each chapter is part of Cheradenine's story, but not consecutive in time. The story telling weaves all over the place and Banks really makes the reader work to keep up with narrative. The way the story is structured is both irritating and brilliant at the same time. The style really works as a complement to Cheradenine's personality and story, but as a reader having to be plunged into completely different places and times without much of a timeline is exhausting. I still really enjoyed it though.

I had no trouble finishing this book, it kept me interested throughout and getting to the very end was absolutely worth it with a twist at the end of it that makes a lot of sense once you think about it, but I didn't consciously see coming earlier in the book.

Banks is a top notch writer and the fact that he was able to pull-off a book this complicated in structure is quite an achievement. His writing is excellent too and despite being a part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone. It's just part of the same universe as the previous books and I would say probably my favorite of his so far (even though I enjoyed The Player of Games quite a bit too). I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And Blue Skies from Pain

Title: And Blue Skies from Pain
Author: Stina Leicht
Series: A Book of the Fey and the Fallen, book 2
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2012

Recommendation: A worthy sequel that I recommend to those who enjoyed Of Blood and Honey.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Liam agrees to be studied by the Milities Dei under the supervision of Father Murray to determine physiological and psychological differences between him and the Fallen. The order and the Fei make a temporary truce, but the study isn't going smoothly and soon Liam becomes involved in more politics than before.

Reactions: After reading Of Blood and Honey, I have been looking forward to this sequel that came out in early March. I lost no time buying myself a copy and was rewarded by the continuation of the adventures in the previous book and the return to the same characters.

This book is well-plotted and kept me coming back to read it early in the mornings and late at night. I enjoyed following Liam's adventures as well as his personal struggles. I definitely enjoy the character-growth and self-discovery aspect of the novel as much as the rich cultural background with the mythological characters and the Northern Ireland independence wars.

All-in-all, it was a good really fast read, though now I am faced with the prospect of waiting another year or so for the next book in the series to arrive. The ending was sufficiently wrapped up to be satisfying with just enough left open to see the possibilities in the next book. I will be definitely looking out for more Stina Leicht.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Title: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
Series: A Flavia de Luce Novel, book 2
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2010

Recommendation: If you liked the first book at all, you will like this one even more.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: A puppet show comes to the small town of Bishop's Lacey and of course Flavia is the first to help out. However, when the puppeteer is murdered in front of the whole town, it's up to Flavia to discover who's done it and why.

Reactions: Despite my somewhat mixed review of the first book, something forcibly drew my hand towards the second book in the bookstore last weekend. There's something about the book covers for this series that I just cannot resist. Plus, I felt like going back to the rustic charm of Bishop's Lacey and 11 year old Flavia biking everywhere and learning everyone's secrets.

Knowing what to expect from the book, I enjoyed it more than the first one and in fact found it pretty hard to put down. I've been waking up half an hour early and reading little bits before heading off to work. The plotting definitely worked well and kept my reading interest strong. The mystery gets unveiled piece by piece and I didn't figure out the twist ahead of time.

The first person narration is still one aspect I am not fully comfortable with. It's hard to see the world through the eyes of a child who is so smart, but at the same time can be so oblivious. Yet, it didn't bother me nearly as much this time around and I really grew to like Flavia and Dogger even better in this book. Flavia's aunt Felicity is a pretty interesting new character with lots of depth whom I hope to see more of in the future.

All in all, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag is a really fun easy read. With lots of antics by Flavia, it had me laughing out loud in some parts and holding my breath in others. It was a perfect read to rekindle my reading mood and I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series as well.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Recap

The shortest month of the year is over and this year its shortness is less of an excuse than usual. Still I may use it so, for I only finished 3 books this month. I enjoyed the books I read, but the last one left me without an idea of what to read next. Despite a mile-long to read list I am struggling to find something I actually feel like reading. I have high hopes for March though since a few book I've been looking forward to will be published. One of them is And Blue Skies from Pain -- the sequel to Stina Lecht's book that I enjoyed this month. The other one is The Master of Heathcrest Hall, which is the last installment in Mrs. Quent trilogy. Let's hope those will get me back into the reading mood.

On to the books I read this month:

  1. Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey
  2. Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
  3. Some of the Best from
Favorite book: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht