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.

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.

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.