Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

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The next in the Discworld series I have been sporadically working through, and one which actually carries some recommendation!

Witches are not by nature gregarious, and they certainly don’t have leaders.

Granny Weatherwax was the most highly regarded of the leaders they didn’t have.

But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more difficult than certain playwrights would have you believe…

Whenever I mention to people that I’m reading a Terry Pratchett book, it is either met with “Oh, I read them when I was younger”, or a response which indicated indifference towards his writing. So far in the series, I have found the books to be hit-and-miss, but this one was certainly one of the better ones!

The story is essentially a spoof of Shakespeares Macbeth. The kingdom (literally) is at unease due to the new king, after killing the old king, has no interest in caring for it. The Witches are put in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with this by finding and putting on the throne the son of the old king, who is now a travelling actor.

The story itself is quite engaging and has some of the more memorable characters of the series in it. I particularly found funny the references to the guild of Fools which trains unwilling people in their inescapable fate of telling the approved jokes to kings across the disc.

The series is overall just a bit average though, but I will continue. These books are acting as a break between heavier reading, and perhaps that is purpose enough to read them – they aren’t too taxing.

I’m sure many will remember the Discworld series well and if nothing else it has certainly paved the way for more comedic takes on fantasy universes.

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Grey Sister – Mark Lawrence (Book Review)

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After finishing Red Sister not so long ago, I pre-ordered the sequel as I was interested enough previously to continue with the characters:

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.

There will be blood.

The novel continues where the previous in the series left off – Nona, now in the next year at Sweet Mercy convent, continues to struggle with coming to terms with a friend’s death, all the while training at the convent. Her new peers in Mystic Class are mostly unwelcoming, and one in particular wants to remove Nona from the convent completely.

To make things worse, the Inquisition has set up in Sweet Mercy to route out rumours of heresy. Eventually, driven from the convent, several of the novices and nuns seek to find out the plans of the Emperor’s sister, and stop the complete destruction of Sweet Mercy.

Though not as gripping as the first, I still enjoyed the continuance within the character’s story-lines. The new characters are all unique, and the development in the relationships between characters gradual. My only gripe so far with the series is the frequency with which Nona seems to be either near death or in the hospital wing of the convent – it’s just getting a little repetitive in that regard.

I will continue reading within the series, and hope for the story-line to answer many questions as it progresses. I do appreciate the twist on the typical “prophecy trope” however, and it seems it is being pieced together bit-by-bit by the characters, many of whom have conflicting views on the exact meaning of the prophecy.

Red Sister – Mark Lawrence (Book Review)

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My next step into fantasy:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

I bought this book for 3 main reasons: the cover caught my eye, the authors name is familiar, and it is the first in a new fantasy series! As I have mentioned before, fantasy isn’t really my go to genre (though most people assume so!) and so I’m venturing out. Joining a new series early on seems like a good idea to not be playing catch up!

The story follows a young girl called Nona as she is rescued from the death penalty by the abbess of a convent. Nona, a poor girl, joins the convent so often reserved for those whose parents can fund their unique education there. As time progresses and friends are made, enemies seek after control through a prophecy foretelling the coming of person with 4-bloods – having the unique ability of the 4 tribes who landed in Abeth.

The book has a twist on the typical prophecy trope which I really appreciated – it wasn’t as predictable as many are, and left me trying to work it out along the way. The characters are all very unique, and Nona is very likable and the type of character you just want to win.

Though at first I found it hard to get into (though I admit that may be my fault – as I said, I’m not used to reading things not set within the realms of reality), by about a quarter of the way through I was hooked and could not stop reading.

I felt at times that I wasn’t quite clear on the “rules” behind the use of magic in the book, but I didn’t too left out of it – I suspect this will become clearer in future sequels.

I pre-ordered the next in the series, Grey Sister, before even finishing this book. I am excited to continue the journey with Nona, Ara, and friends.

Sourcery – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

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The fifth of Pratchett Discworld series: Sourcery – one which people correct me on when I told them what I was reading (“Sour-cery”, “Sorcery”?)…

There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we’d better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son … a wizard squared … a source of magic … a Sourcerer. Sourcery sees the return of Rincewind and the Luggage as the Discworld faces its greatest – and funniest – challenge yet.

The book brings us back to Rincewind in Ankh Morpork as a new member joins the university – a ten-year-old boy with seemingly unlimited magic potential, set on the goal of immediately achieving the highest rank in the university.

With the danger apparent, Rincewind escapes with the Arch-Chancellors magic hat, and travels abroad led by the voices of the late arch-chancellors. With the wizards blinded by power led into declaring supremacy over the land, the end of the world nears (with the 4 horsemen drinking at a bar in preparation, led by Death of course).

The book as a whole reads a lot better than some of the previous books by Pratchett: it just seems to flow a lot better and generally be better thought out. The humour too seems a lot less forced and more on level than before, and some lines were genius in the setting.

The ending is satisfying too, and I didn’t find myself rushing to the last page. A criticism perhaps though is that quick introduction of the sorcerer, who even to the last I felt like I hardly knew despite, in a manner, being the main antagonist.

I will be reading the next shortly, as I continue to make way through War & Peace at the same time!

Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames (Book Review)

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I was interested in this book when I first heard about, though never actually got around to buying it until recently, and am I glad I did!

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

The book follows a group of mercenaries, who were once regarded as the greatest band of fighters, coming out of retirement for one last mission: to rescue their leaders daughter from a city under siege.

Gabriel, once “Golden Gabe” is now a nervous, middle-aged man and seeks the help of his friends for what is essentially regarded as a suicide mission. Clay “Slowhand” has since settled down and has a young daughter; Moog the magician has retired to his tower to search for a cure of a disease regarded as incurable; and Matrick, their former rogue has become an over-weight king. Ganelon, they assume, hates them all. Gabe sets out to recruit the team again and cross thousands of miles of treacherous terrain to return his daughter home.

The book contains all sorts of great fantasy tropes and nods to popular series, and the “band” dynamic of mercenaries, though strange, works really well!

There are parts in this which are genuinely hilarious and I found myself re-reading paragraphs that were so great. The characters are all unique and I wish we had access to their old adventures often alluded to as well. There are also some moving parts of the book which, intertwined with the comedy, works seamlessly, making it hard to believe that this is Eames first published book; and well deserved it is!

The next book in this series is due for release this year and I for one can’t wait for it to be published – a book I’m very likely to re-read; a genuine pleasure.

If you are a fan of fantasy books or games, then this book is definitely worth your time. Eames writes like someone who knows how to make you laugh and pull your heart-strings too, and seemingly effortlessly draws out a story which makes finishing the novel sad for the reader.

Mort – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

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The fourth in the Discworld series which I began earlier in the year:

It is known as the Discworld. It is a flat planet, supported on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of the great turtle A’Tuin as it swims majestically through space. And it is quite possibly the funniest place in all of creation…

Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job.

After being assured that being dead was not compulsory, Mort accepted. However, he soon found that romantic longings did not mix easily with the responsibilities of being Death’s apprentice.

The book centers around a young man named Mort who has found that he has little to recommend him in many professions often undertook by people of his age. After unsuccessfully waiting in the market to be offered an apprenticeship, Death arrives at midnight and invites him to work in his unique profession – ushering people into the afterlife.

Mort accepts and begins learning the profession, and exploring much of what lies beyond mortal understanding in the afterlife.

Death, finding himself with some free time, also begins exploring new avenues, and finding himself quite apt at being a chef, begins working in a kitchen in Ankh Morpork

The book contains much of the comedy as the other books but feels a lot more structured, which is a good thing. That being said, the storyline is still very simplistic, and though identifiable, it isn’t particularly captivating.

Another positive though is that the comedy in this book feels a little bit less forced than it does in the previous one: the jokes seem to fit the context a lot better, and often simply wordplay on the situation is employed.

I will continue to read the series, however, finding them a good “light” read in-between other books. They are certainly worth a read for fantasy fans looking for something other than the typical high fantasy doorstop books.

Beren and Luthien – J.R.R. Tolkien (Book Review)

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I’ve been following this books release since early 2017, with the prospect of reading more Tolkien, and furthermore illustrated by Alan Lee, being a hopeful one:

Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril.

The book is essentially a collection of writings from Tolkien showing the story of Beren and Luthien, a story which foreshadows Aragorn and Arwen’s love in Lord of the Rings: a mortal man and an immortal elf.

This is done through a mixture of poetry and narrative, all illustrated by Alan Lee; the original illustrator of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Overall the tale is well written and very high fantasy – I would say that anyone who has not read Tolkien, however, may find themselves a it lost as to what is happening.

I try not to sound harsh when saying this, but I feel like I would have enjoyed this book more with less interruptions by Christopher Tolkien talking about the text – to some this is likely very interesting, but to myself it meant I could barely keep immersed for long enough.

Necessary for any Tolkien fan to add to their collection, and something which was clearly very dear to the authors heart. As an introduction though perhaps stick with The Hobbit for a more narrative structure than curious one.