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Epic Fantasy review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #2)King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant.

I was twenty pages from the end when I had to stop to write this review before I forgot what I had to say. I have never done that before.

King of Thorns is better than the first book. It is brutally brilliant, gruesomely good, and amid the carnage offers slivers of a rainbow before snatching it away in a world and future as grim and real as any out there.

Amid the wickedness that is Jorg Ancrath, you will find wit and wisdom to match. Sometimes almost too much for a young man of eighteen. But then, he is not a normal young man, or else why would Lawrence tell us his story? He is special in every way and so is this book.

From characterization, to prose, to style, to setting, King of Thorns is carefully laid out in ways that capture the imagination, whether good or bad or ugly. The writing just feels so natural, so Jorg. Take the two passages below.

“It being Sunday, the cook prepared a special treat for us. Snails in garlic and wine, with saffron rice. The snails came from local cliffs. A big variety as thick as a child’s arm. But let’s face it, snails are just slugs with a hat on. The main dish looked like large lumps of snot in blood.”

“But they’ll sing songs about Quick Jorg for years to come. Fast with one sword, faster with the other,” she said.

Those two are just miniature snippets of hundreds of passages in this book that speak to the style, and in fact, are nowhere near the best there is, but are worthy examples.

Whether in act of defense, murder, or the twines of manipulation, Jorg tells his story in gripping fashion without any apology. Simply put, his will is indomitable, his hunger for revenge and power near insatiable, he’s conniving and cruel, but he is no less spellbinding to read. At times, he has the tiny touches of compassion that make you think he’s coming around, that he is human after all, before he disabuses you of the notion.

Five days it took me. This is the fastest I remember reading in a long time. I was simply transported into this boy, this tale, this world. And I want more. No. I NEED more.

There will be naysayers as there were for Prince of Thorns. To them I shrug. They simply do not understand Jorg or the condition of humanity than when driven to extreme circumstances, might surface in any one of us.

Thank you, Mr. Lawrence.

P.S I read those last twenty pages. The ending was nothing short of amazing with a great plot twist and some classic unscrupulous Jorg.

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White Night : Urban Fantasy Review

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)White Night by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll keep this simple. This is a great addition to the series. If you know Dresden then it continues much of the same. Great dialogue, awesome insight, witty banter and a way of writing that makes you feel a part of the man. You become attached to Harry’s plight and his issues. At times when he speaks on aspects of the human condition, I found that I could relate. Example at one point when he’s speaking about love, life and pain, I felt that pain. The plot twists and turns and is so well laid out that I kept turning page after page not wanting to put the book down. The magic was astounding and the attention to detail was there, that made me believe in the things that were being done.

If you are a fantasy fan and you have not read Dresden, pick up the series. I promise you won’t regret it.

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The Dragon’s Path : Epic Fantasy Review

The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin, #1)The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm. Where to start. Well let’s say the rating system here on Goodreads won’t reflect this one correctly. I consider it a 3 and a half. But I’ll have to tag it with a three. Why not at least a 4?

Well, not that it wasn’t a good book, because a 3 says it was a good book. Let’s start with what I loved.

The world and most of the characters fascinated me. The plot was well-laid out and offered some nice surprises and fit together quite well throughout.

The many races, the histories behind them and the descriptions, foreshadowing and setting kept me going and made the world so believable. I could have used some more on the religions for me to better understand them since they ended up playing a big role at the finale.

Cithrin was a wonderful, amazing character. I was hooked on watching her maneuver, grow and change. The whole aspect of banking and dealing was phenomenal. She was so well done I felt for her and in ways, the book could have been just about her, Marcus and Geder and I would have been fine with it.

Geder had his good points but in the end he just seemed the same guy oblivious to the fact he’s being used. When will he learn did I keep asking myself? For a well-educated person, he came off more than a little … dumb, may be too harsh a word.

Marcus Wester, I enjoyed seeing him play the father figure and relive that old pain.

Dawson did little for me. He was basically “This is where status x person’s should lie in society.” Not once did he waver from that. He was simply too predictable.

Here’s my issue with The Dragon’s Path. I’m a magic and action man. When you have a book with such a vivid world, created by dragons and goddesses, I expect the magic to be more upfront. In this book, it was so downplayed as to be irrelevant although it wasn’t. It is what made the difference in the end.

Lack of action. I like my sword fights. There wasn’t a single one that stuck out for me in this book. In fact, my best memory is of Marcus practicing with some others and the very brief fight to hold the gates of Camnipol. The book just seemed slow at times because of this. All the nice plots and characters should eventually culminate in some nice action is how I feel. For the most part, this didn’t.

For a lover of action and magic, this just did not bring enough especially considering the incredible potential there to do so. However, most of the main characters provide enough and the scope of the world and what is to come has made me get book 2 and I will be reading it. I’m hoping he goes more into what I enjoy in the next one.

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YA Fantasy Review: The Between

The BetweenThe Between by L.J. Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Often, if a book doesn’t capture my interest within the first few pages, I lose interest. That wasn’t the case with the Between. It’s really my first YA book and I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

The beginning grabbed me with intrigue and action. In Lydia, I could tell there was a character for me to care about. Clive gave me that added mystery of a man battling to be more that what he appeared. Watching these two characters grow was fascinating to say the least. Their challenges, frustrations, losses, and triumphs were woven so well into the story that you could not help but feel for them.

I’m one who loves magic and a great world. Sprinkle in some mystery and a great story and I’m in. This book gave me all of that. The world created here in Faerie was one of political intrigue, darkness, all things magical, and one that was so well thought out that you will believe you are there. You will believe in the glamours you see upon the pages. You will feel the tenseness of the world, the grip of its King, the fear those of power instill upon others.

As for style. LJ has it nailed. Her prose flowed well. Not once did I get bored or wished to put the book down. Her descriptions were crisp and rich and kept you right there, living in the world of the Between.

From beginning to end, the Between makes for good reading. As I often do when I read a good book, all I can say now is: go get your copy.

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Epic Fantasy Novel, A Dance of Cloaks Review

A Dance of CloaksA Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let’s start this off saying I enjoyed this book immensely. When I first read Dalglish’s Half Orc series, I felt it could have been better. I stopped after book 2. Then I got into a sudden need to read about assassins and I included A Dance of Cloaks in that list. When I finally got to this book, I thought, ‘Judging from Halforcs it will just be o.k.’

Surprise. It’s a good book, a really enjoyable book.

Dalglish and I had a conversation on facebook after I read this book about how his work has grown. I started the conversation asking him about that very thing because I was so surprised by the difference between this book and the first two in Halforcs. He then told me the last 2 in Halforcs are actually better, and he wrote this after book 2 of Halforcs BEFORE he finished that series. Wow.

To see a writer’s growth is an amazing thing.

From prose to characters to setting to the plots, you are drawn in by A Dance of Cloaks. You see a troubled boy with a ruthless father leading him down a path to murder and destruction. You see those struggling to help him, their own internal struggles, the battles between guilds for rule over a city, an inept king, others plotting for control, and underlying it all the magic and power gods can give to men.

You see people struggle to survive, sometimes trying to achieve the greater good while others plot and scheme for their own benefit. It all leads to a plot where you’re not quite sure who should be considered evil or who should be considered good. There’s a lot of gray areas to work with and in a book like this, gray makes for intrigue and a read you won’t want to end. The first chapter alone caught me so off guard that I had to continue.

Dalglish said in this book and to me on facebook that reading G.R.R.M inspired him for this book and the way his style has changed. And it’s not a bad thing. It is a good thing. The prose and the plots reflect that. The best part is knowing that unlike one of my other favorite series, Dalglish has actually concluded this one, and shortly I will be off to the read the others.

If you haven’t read this book. Go get it.

 

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Epic Fantasy Novel, Princep’s Fury reviewed

Princeps' Fury (Codex Alera, #5)Princeps’ Fury by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start this review by saying that I am a Jim Butcher fan. I love the Dresden files. I like the Codex Alera series. On to the review.

Princep’s Fury is a good book.

However if you’re expecting the witty, grit of the Dresden files, and the surprising outcomes Dresden has to offer then you may be disappointed. This series so far did have a couple twists but at this point, Princep’s Fury is a straight forward all out action, war, magic with some wartime strategy added that takes you along for a fast ride.

The Plot: The Vord are about to crush Alera unbeknownst to Tavi who has ventured off to the Canim lands as an ambassador. Tavi must find a way to deal with the Canim while the issue of him being the First Lord’s heir is up for debate in Alera. In Canea, they find out just to what extent the Vord incursion has expanded while at the same time having to deal with the ever aggressive, warlike Canim. In Alera, the First Lord sends Isana to seek the help of Antillus from the Shield Wall and broker peace with the Icemen after hundreds of years of war. A daunting task indeed. Amara and Bernard are given their own covert task which can make or break First Lord Gaius’ defense. Thrown in between is Aquitane’s move to finally consolidate power to himself. This simply all leads to war. And I loved it.

Scenes and Style When it comes to laying out the world, its creatures, his magic, the strategy used incorporating both the land itself and the furies, Butcher does an excellent job that at times makes me go “WoW!”. I simply love the furies, but then I’m a fan of almost all elemental magic.

The style of writing though at times left something to be desired. In the space of a couple pages, he must have used “he said quietly or she said quietly” about 6 or 7 times. This happened all throughout the book and sometimes the repetitions like this grated me. There were just too many examples for me not to notice.

Characters The meat and potatoes of the book. Combined with the scenes, the action, the magic and at times the plot is why I gave this book four stars. Seeing Tavi grow from having no magical power to what he is now, seeing him learn to lead men, learn to solve problems both small and large and seeing him strategize is an absolute pleasure. Of ocurse there’s his relationship with Kitai and seeing that grow gives us a few laughs, but also helps to establish Tavi even more. Reading Amara and Bernard and seeing them work as one shows the bond they’ve developed and touches me in many ways. Isana is as concerned as ever for her son, her peoples and others she doesn’t quite understand but does not arbitrarily throw them under the bus. Fidelias is as slick as ever, hiding what he truly is. The comparative differences between Marcus and Crassus are a nice touch. Of course watching the Vord Queen and the Canim as a whole are like individual characters and I find myself engrossed in both their worlds and trying to understand them. You will too.

Overall There’s not much more to say here. If not for the tendency to be repetitive during some parts of the dialogue and at times the constant attachment of adverbs to dialogue tags and repeating those, I may have given the book a 4 and a half. As it stands, everything else makes up for that hiccup and Princep’s Fury makes for an engrossing read that leaves you breathless from its neck breaking pace and had me wanting to read First Lord’s Fury. Which of course, I did. Pick up the series if you haven’t read it yet. It’s worth it.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Reviews

 

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Epic Fantasy novel, Shadow’s Lure review

Shadow's Lure (Shadow Saga, #2)Shadow’s Lure by Jon Sprunk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Death, despair, political intrigue, sword and sorcery, plots intertwined within plots. Sinister characters who will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals, those who believe in the greater good and suffer for it, clans on the edge of eradication unless they succumb to the will of evil. In the middle again is our man Caim, now in the North, seeking out his past and his future, drawn by the very darkness and shadows that are his birthright. Kit, in love and torn away from her beloved Caim and caught in her own perils. Josey, struggling to become what she feels it takes to be a good ruler as the remnants of the Church and the True Faith pit the people themselves and a dark, near unstoppable assassin against her.

The above is a small portion of what Shadow’s Lure brings to the table. Weaved in a dark, gritty tale of intense action scenes, intrigue, deception, and men and women calling into account the things that drive us: love, survival and defending what we believe, the book quickly becomes one that you don’t want to put down.

Whether you side with evil, good, or the grey, it’s there for you in gobs and gobs of excellently written prose. In Shadow’s Son, I thought Jon Sprunk outdid himself with his ability to weave action and description together. Well, this is even better. Last time, I was so caught up in the action, I didn’t harp on the plot and characters. Well this book pulls me in so many different directions, I cannot begin to say which part of it is better.

What I can tell you is if you haven’t read this series, go get it. Dive into the world. Feel Caim and Josey’s pain and loss, relish in their victory and cringe in their despair. You won’t regret it. I didn’t and look forward to Book 3 of Shadow Saga.

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Authors, Reviews

 

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