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.

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Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde (Book Review)

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Though never reading any of his books previously, I am aware of Jasper Fforde. This book was recommended by a friend strongly enough to persuade me to buy it:

Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.

Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane – a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.

For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .

This book is a dystopian fututre where society has been divided into classes based upon the individual’s colour perception: from Purples at the top, to greys at the bottom considered little more than savages. Relationships are determined almost exclusively by who will benefit your hue, with strong blues and reds looking to marry for the purpose of a purple child, leading them into a higher social standing.

Eddie is sent with his dad to a small town where corruption is evident in what is known as ‘loopholery’; still adherence to the rules, though a questionably one.

As it becomes clear that not everything people are told is true, Eddie strays dangerously close to Rule-breaking to seek the truth.

This book is bizarre to describe but incredible to read – it is a book that is certainly difficult to put down. With so many hidden secrets and unsolved questions, the reader is lured into the solution as much as the characters – hoping for a more emotive society than what is currently there.

I haven’t read many dystopian future books, and this is certainly a great introduction to them – thankfully it is also a series so I look forward to the release of the next volume!

Highly recommended – the humour is spot-on on the plot fascinating.

The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch (Book Review)

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Following on from reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, the Republic of Thieves is the third in the Gentleman Bastards series:

Locke and Jean barely escaped with their lives from what should have been the greatest heist of their career, in the port city of Tal Verrar. Now they head north, looking for sanctuary and an alchemist who can cure the poison that is slowly killing Locke. They find neither, but with their luck, money and hope exhausted, they receive an offer from a power that has never had their best interests at heart: The Bondsmagi of Karthain.

In exchange for the chance that Locke might be saved, the Bondsmagi expect the two Gentlemen Bastards to rig an election in their home city of Karthain. They will be opposed. The other side has already hired the services of Sabetha Belacoros, the one person in the world who might match Locke’s criminal skill, and the one person in the world who absolutely rules his heart.

Now it will be con artist against con artist in an election that couldn’t be more crooked, all for the benefit of the mysterious Bondsmagi, who have plans within plans and secrets they’re not telling…

The third book takes part in the city of Karthain, city of the Bondsmagi. Every 5 years, the Bondsmagi battle for power by backing one of the human political groups within the city, selecting an outside “adviser” to the group, and putting the city under a spell to be obedient to these advisers – a sort of game to watch too.

Locke and Jean are chosen to back one side, and their long-missing fellow Gentle(lady) Bastard, Sabetha, is chosen to back the other. As past relationships and new challenges arise incompatibly, the three must serve their masters who will accept no trickery in the elections – the one thing seemingly sacred to Bondsmagi.

We also learn more about the history of the land, past characters, and even some of Lockes origin.

Like the rest of the books in the series, this one continues with the amazing quality of writing, intriguing plot-lines, and unguessable twists caused by the genius of the main characters.

The ending of the book had me disappointed that the next has not yet been released for me to read immediately (here’s to hoping for a soon release!) With the return of old characters and clever explanations for Locke’s interest in Sabetha; the whole thing is left wide open for the fourth!

Overall the series has been a great introduction to fantasy writing for me, and will definitely lead me to read similar books in the genre. The large size of this volume seemed less intimidating due to the previous books in the series being so well written, and I found myself saddened when I neared the end.

Well worth a read if you haven’t done so already, and don’t be put off by the genre or length!

Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch (Book Review)

After enjoying The Lies of Locke Lamora a lot, I immediately bought the second book in the Gentleman Bastards sequence:

Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire.

The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist…

…but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.

Someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.

This book begins 2 years after the events in The Lies of Locke Lamora – with Locke and Jean in a whole new setting, no longer able to live in Camorr safely.

The storyline, much like the first book, is very engaging, and with twists and turns along the way, keeps you guessing as to how Locke and Jean are going to get out of it. With the head of the gambling house, the political nobility, the leader of the navy, and the bonds-magi, Locke and Jean find themselves to be the most wanted men in Tal Verarr, for various purposes.

A lot of this book (as you might have guessed by the cover) takes place on the sea, aboard a ship called the Poison Orchid. Lock and Jean become embroiled in lives of piracy, and the setting of the wide ocean lends to this book a very unique and desired aspect – so few books seem to go for this setting.

With the humour and camaraderie of Jean and Locke, this book has a lot of genuinely funny and heartfelt lines, and the writing, as with the first book, is fantastic. I will be purchasing the third in the series shortly, and then will be up to date!

I enjoyed this book perhaps a little less than the first, but only a little: the first had such a unique debut into fantasy that everything was new and developing. The characters, though developed further in this book, are not to the same degree. The focus narrowing to just two of the Gentlemen Bastards, however, lends to a deeper look into their life and friendship.

Overall, a great second installment, and one I couldn’t put down.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch (Book Review)

I bought this as, this year, I am trying to explore genres which I have previously avoided. This was suggested as a good fantasy series, and I was interested enough in the premise to give it a go:

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the oor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves: The Gentleman Bastards.

The capricious and colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they’ve ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a mudererous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling to stay alive…

As an introduction into the fantasy genre, I certainly chose a good one! The Lies of Locke Lamora is likely the best book I have read so far in 2017, and I look forward to continuing the series.

The setting is unique too many fantasy books, being set in a single city, where the noblemen live in comfort, whilst the majority either have to steal to survive, or become slaves.

The magic system isn’t too convoluted either – some characters are capable of magic, either for destruction or (more commonly) healing for a price – none of the main protagonists have magic abilities, and so it is very much a scenic fact for the setting.

The writing style is very captivating too, with each chapter ending with an ‘interlude’, flashing-back to The Gentlemen Bastards childhood, as they are apprenticed into becoming master thieves. My hesitancy with fantasy books is that, with their being so many, they are often badly written, and the use of language is either underwhelming, or intentionally overwhelming. Lynch strikes the perfect balance, and the intermingled humour was spot on for the tone of the novel.

The characters are well developed and very unique – not veering down the cliche fantasy-thief types that (I admit) I was half expecting. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and feels well thought out during the reading. The story-line kept the motivations and plans of the characters well hidden though, leading to some great reveals as the plot unraveled.

I have already bought the second in the series, and look forward to starting it later in the month!

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre (Book Review)

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This was one of the choices for this months book club. Being a crime book, and assured that it doesn’t rely on a twist ending, I thought to give it a go. I usually avoid crime novels due to cliches after all…

Alex, a young woman, finds herself kidnapped and hanging in a cage from an abandoned warehouse ceiling; the abductor saying he only wants to watch her die.

Verhoeven is assigned to the case and must track down a girl who seems to have no connections to anyone, and who seemingly moves about France a lot.

A fairly simple premise, but a quite complex story-line as it gets going.

The crime in the book is described quite graphically, which though it could have worked, felt somewhat forced in the writing. I got the impression that I was supposed to be more shocked than I actually was (perhaps I am desensitised, but who isn’t today?)

Alex was a very interesting character, and by far my favourite in the novel. For a victim, she had none of the cliches that are common in crime novels, and I for one certainly appreciated that.

Verhoeven, however, did carry some cliches. Widowed, angry etc. But perhaps if I read more of Lemaitre’s books, I’d grow to like him more (being a recurring character).

The story-line was complicated and the ending very clever. In fact, it dawned on me what had happened at exactly the same time it did another character, which I felt was novelty: the writer had managed to keep me in the dark as much as the characters, despite knowing all the clues.

Overall, certainly a unique crime book, and for lovers of the genre, one I would recommend. Perhaps I will develop a love for crime fiction eventually, but until then, books like this certainly make an argument in favour of the genre to me.