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“Ranger’s Apprentice book 6: The Siege of Macindaw” – J. Flanagan

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This is a review of “Ranger’s Apprentice book 6: The Siege of Macindaw” by John Flanagan.

This is a continuation of the previous reviews for book one, book two, book three, book four and book five.

The kingdom is in danger. Renegade knight Sir Keren has succeeded in overtaking Castle Macindaw and now is conspiring with the Scotti. The fate of Araluen rests in the hands of two young adventurers: the Ranger Will and his warrior friend, Horace. Yet for Will, the stakes are even higher. For inside the castle, held hostage, is someone he loves. And now the time has come for this onetime apprentice to grow up.

There are definitely more politics going around in this book – just like in the last one – but never does it take over. It’s still a story for children. It is also a good thing that not all of Will’s plans work out just the way he wanted them to. It isn’t often that main characters can make mistakes like this.

Will and Horace act like the young men they are, talking about girls and teasing and joking with each other. Their friendship has matured just like they have. And Malcolm and his skills and knowledge truly come into their own. And Orman turns out to be a good surprise all around.

The only thing I can maybe complain about, is the very convenient way that the Skandians from the previous book showed up in this one. Just a bit too perfectly placed happening. It would have been better if it had been a totally different crew that had heard about Will helping the previous one and was willing to return the favour.

Other than that, this is a wonderful book and well worth the read as usual!

Definitely recommended!

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Books

 

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“The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring” – J. R. R. Tolkien

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This is a review of “The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring” but John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

The dark, fearsome Ringwraiths are searching for a Hobbit. Frodo Baggins knows that they are seeking him and the Ring he bears – the Ring of Power that will enable evil Sauron to destroy all that is good in Middle-earth. Now it is up to Frodo and his faithful servant, Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it can be destroyed: Mount Doom, in the very center of Sauron’s realm.

Certainly it is impossible not to compare the book and the movie. For example, Gandalf was the one who wanted to go to Moria, Aragorn against it. Caradhras was a sentient-ish mountain that defeated the fellowship, not Saruman’s spell (at least not as far as I’ve been able to find in the Appendices, but I might be wrong). And a whole host of dialogue has changed ownership. Not all of these latter ones are bad changes, but they do shift one’s view of a certain character sometimes at least a little bit.

Sam, Merry and Pippin planned to come along from the start, gives them more credit. Movie ruins that a bit I think, as does the fact that they exchanged Glorfindel for Arwen. She would never be strong enough to face the Nine all alone, but the movie had a certain amount of time to build up the romance, and Arwen is barely even mentioned in this first book. It is understandable why the movie makers made the choices they did.

Of course, there are some minor negatives as well, it has to be admitted.

There is surprisingly little difference between personalities of the different characters, except for Sam. It takes a long time to really differentiate between the Fellowship and get to know them since everyone sounds more or less alike. It also has to be admitted that Tolkien likes taking his sweet time in getting from one point to the next, and it can get a wee bit annoying occasionally, especially if one isn’t prepared for it. His writing style is also old-fashioned and can be a bit difficult to read.

It is fully understandable why Sir Peter Jackson made the choices he did for his movie, it would have been impossible to make the movies if he was going to stick to the book 100%. I am amazed at just how many seemingly tiny, insignificant details from the books that he managed to pack into the movie.

In the end, I have to say that both book and movie have their bad and good sides, and that is okay.

I still like them both equally.

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Books

 

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“The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold” – J. Hollins

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This is a review of the book “The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold” by Jon Hollins.

It’s not easy to live in a world ruled by dragons. The taxes are high and their control is complete. But for one group of bold misfits, it’s time to band together and steal back some of that wealth. No one said they were smart.

There isn’t much focus on the world-building on the whole in this tale, but it isn’t neglected either. There are few details but it fits the entire writing style of the book. The story is full to the brim with good action scenes and fights. They are fast-paced and quick, and there is no repetition from fight to fight which can be a possibility in a book of so much violence. The fact that all dragons die in different ways is also a noteworthy detail.

Balur as a character is well-developed and constant. He sticks to his opinions and he is funny to read about even with his odd way of speaking. His fight scenes are also quite imaginative and amusing to read, and even the budding possibility of romance between him and Quirk was well-written. It was a cute addition to the story and I wish there had been more of it.

The main characters are, unfortunately, generic and wishy-washy. It is difficult to care about them or what they do. None of them have any real development that isn’t forced upon them from an outside source, and even then the development is tiny and unimportant. Apart from Balur they flicker back and forth in their opinions, and they don’t really serve a purpose. All characters – whether the main characters, the dragons, the soldiers or the civilians – sound exactly the same. Everyone uses exactly the same language all the time, and there is an annoying focus on balls. All. The. Time.

It must also be mentioned that all the things that happen are too obvious windfalls of lucky happenstance. Yes, the characters get into unexpected trouble, but even then everything goes well and their plans come to fruition. There is no need to pull back and regroup and try the plan again on the same dragon. Everything works out the first time around.

The book is simply too much. It tries too hard to be funny at every turn, it tries too hard to have characters not care – or, at least, focus too much on what’s going on around them and the situations they’re in. But because this is done all the time in the book it stops being funny and it stops being noticeable. I don’t mind humour in my books, I don’t mind a slightly irreverent way of writing or storyline, nor do I demand that everything should be deathly serious all the time. I expected the modernised language and comparisons when I picked the book up. And at first I was amused but then, when it simply continued in the same manner without breaks, I just got tired of it and longed for something else.

This is an OK book that could have been so much better.

I will not be reading the sequel.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Red Knight” – M. Cameron

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This is a review of “The Red Knight” by Miles Cameron.

Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men – or worse, a company of mercenaries – against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder. The Red Knight has is determined to turn a profit, so when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with. Only it’s not just a job. It’s going to be a war…

The world was simple and easy to get a grasp on. It was well built up with perhaps a bit too obvious nods to medieval France and England and Spain. The fact that the story takes place in medieval times with all the trappings and clothes and food and all that belongs to that time period, was excellently done. There was no comfotable Renaissance clothing or technology here!

It was also at once very clear that the author knew what he was talking about when it came to armour, weapons, movements and how long a person could fight in armour. There were no hour-long fights here and characters got hurt despite armour. They were bruised and got broken bones and were exhausted afterwards. It made it far more believable than most fantasy does it.

The King and the Queen were honestly in love and fond of each other, and – in this book at least – weren’t plotting to kill each other or to take over the kingdom or to have lovers on the side. That was a fresh breath of air in today’s fantasy. I really liked that even if the Queen herself did irritate me occasionally.

There is little to say about the other characters since there were so many of them. Bad Tom was a favourite of mine, as well as Sauce simply because there was little drama around them. The Red Knight was a good military commander and interesting to read about, except during his infatuation with Amicia. Gaston, Harmodius, the Abbess were likeable characters, and even De Vrailly was a pleasant surprise at one point.

Some the sentences (at the start of the book at least) seem a bit oddly structured, and there are a lot of technical terms used when it comes to armour and fighting. Both of these things make reading a bit more difficult, especially when one has to spend time looking up a particular piece of constantly-mentioned armour to know what the book was talking about, but this was a minor annoyance compared to the following two points: religion and characters.

The religion was Christianity through and through. Certainly it was slightly changed, a bit closer to paganism than true Christianity but there were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Jesus, God, the whole lot was there, and that constantly kept throwing me off. I kept on expecting to read about Henry VIII or the Wars of the Roses rather than a fantasy world. If only the names had been changed then it wouldn’t have been as bad.

There are also way too many characters are introduced way too quickly, especially since all these character have their own plots and plans. It is quite difficult to figure out who’s who and who’s allied with whom. And then the characters simply keep on coming, and in the end there is simply far too many of them. The time given to each character and the constant changes in point of view give the illusion of things taking far more time than they actually do and it can be a bit jarring when the realisation hits that only a few days passed in-book rather than the month it seemed like.

The sheer amount of characters also made it seem like the ones that got less show-time were being forgotten or weren’t important which made you wonder A) what were they doing during whatever happened, and B) what was the point of that character in the first place? One simply couldn’t get to know any of the characters because of the switches, and they all started to blurr together after a while. This is definitely a story-driven plot rather than character-driven plot.

Despite several spelling mistakes and usage of wrong names, this is a good story – otherwise I wouldn’t have finished reading it – but it has to be admitted that I skimmed from about halfway through the book. There were simply too many characters to really care about, and even the last fight at the end couldn’t make me interested again.

This is a story to read if you like lots of characters and a story-driven plot.

I think that I may read the sequel – or skim through it – but I honestly don’t know.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Books

 

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“Dragon’s Ring” – D. Freer

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This is a review of “Dragon’s Ring” by Dave Freer.

Tasmarin is a place of dragons, of humans (who often end up as dinner), and other magical denizens. It is a place of islands, forests, mountains and wild oceans. Fionn calmly tells anyone who will listen that he’s going to destroy the place. Of course he’s a joker, a troublemaker and a dragon of no fixed abode or hoard. No one ever believes him. He, however, is dead serious. While others drive to refresh the magics that built this world, they need a magical representative of all species to accomplish it. Even a human mage – the very thing the dragons made sure to exterminate centuries ago. They do find one, however, she has fallen in with Fionn and he has his own reasons and dark designs. Chaos, roguery, heroism, theft, love, kidnapping, magic and war follow. And more chaos.

The entire universe of this world wis very well made up, and very complex. It reaches across several paralell worlds even though the story takes place in only one, and there are a lot of species on this one world alone. All the habitats of the various species were visited, and all of them vary enough to be interesting and relevant to the species that lives there.

Out of the characters, Fionn was the most complete one. Sarcastic, small and smart, he flies rings around everyone else. Literally in some cases! It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time on him, and he was a very funny character to read about. Meb was almost as good, marred only by her very sudden change. The love story between mountain and sea was a nice touch, and Vorlian had potential but kind of fell flat at the end.

The end itself, though, was very good.

I did find a few spelling mistakes, and some of the sentences are short and sudden. It is as if the thought was only put down quickly and not elaborated on. The story is a bit confusingly written and built up, as well with far too many characters showing up but then simply sliding away. I don’t mind many characters in epic fantasy, but this story is a humourous one and the constant plans within plans within plans within plans breaks with that.

The plans and the characters don’t get enough time to be properly built up, to be what they were supposed to be. Evil characters didn’t stay evil, didn’t get the chance to stay evil, and that was a bit annoying. The war that was being hinted at, the end of the world that was being hinted at, it never happened. Everything was solved just a bit too smoothly to be properly believable.

We also get odd bits of info-dumping in places we don’t need them, and not enough information about the things we need or should know about. All together this only adds to the confusion of the book. The sheer luck the main characters have in avoiding danger is a bit ridiculous. Meb herself can be a bit annoying in her wishy-washy way at the start, but then suddenly towards the end she has a rather sudden change of character into something more confident. Like the rest of this book it’s jarring and doesn’t quite fit.

All in all it is an amusing adventure and has potential, but it isn’t the best that I have ever read. I am doubtful if I will ever read the second book in the series, the story seems fine enough as it is to me. I don’t feel the need to read anymore of it.

It was an okay book.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Books

 

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“Assassin’s Apprentice” – R. Hobb

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This is a review of “Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb.

The kingdom is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and he is despised by pretty much everyone. Raised in the stables in the company of animals, the king’s fool and the ragged children of the lower city are his only companions until he is suddenly apprenticed to the king’s assassin. But with a teacher determined to discredit or even kill him, Fitz might find it harder to survive than expected – especially since he might just be the only one capable of saving the kingdom in the end.

Excellently imagined and described even though it is supposed to be through the eyes of a six to fourteen-year-old boy, this is a world that comes alive as one reads, and the journey of a young child until he becomes a teenager isn’t as uninteresting as one might had expected it. The politics are rife and rampant and it is fascinating to watch as characters are dragged along helplessly, but it is a relief that not everyone in politics is a bad guy.

The characters are as varied as one could wish for, and display many kinds of strengths and weaknesses. It is a good ensemble for this story, and with Fitz’s skills to bond with animals we as readers get yet another layer of characters to possibly have to keep in mind. The Skill is also useful but not all-powerful and it certainly isn’t easy to learn at all.

Chivarly, what we are told of him, seems to be a good man and Patience’s position and opinions are understandable. Burrich is gruff but kind, though prejudiced when it comes to the Wit. Verity is doing his best when suddenly saddled with things he wasn’t really prepared for. King Shrewd is doing his best for the country as a king should. Regal and Galen are a bit archetypal but they were interesting to read about so it didn’t really matter, while Chade and the Fool are both very interesting and I hope there will be more of them in the future books.

Fitz is like any young boy who doesn’t really under stand everything around him, but he grows and it is nice to see him realising and understanding things better around him and make use of what he was taught despite youthful impulses. However, our understanding of him might be a bit biased since it’s the elder Fitz actually telling the story – though he doesn’t seem to be actively trying to downplay embarrassing or horrible moments.

There are only two teeny, tiny complaints about this book. One is the plot of the Red Ship Raiders. I would have liked more about them in this firs book. Secondly the story can seem a tiny bit slow, but that is merely an afterthought because it certainly didn’t feel like it while reading the book. The fact that the book is told by an older Fitz now looking back at his life leaves readers with lots of tantalising clues and hints and remarks at what might or might not happen in the future, which seduces the reader into simply continuing. So only nitpicking and personal preference speaking here.

I am eagerly anticipating reading the next book in the series.

Definitely a book that I recommend to everyone.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Lascar’s Dagger” – G. Larke

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This is a review of “The Lascar’s Dagger” by Glenda Larke.

Saker looks like a simple priest but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. It’s a dangerous job, and more lives than merely his own depend on his secrecy. When Saker is wounded by a lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, or the sense of responsibility that comes with it, Saker can only follow its lead. It will put him on a journey to strange shores, on a path that will reveal terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he serves, and likely lead to his own destruction. The lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

This story takes place in a vast world that is well thought out. Political and religious borders are well defined, and easy to understand. There is obviously a large history behind this world. The author has taken some pains in making a believable religion that spans the globe. It is understandable and even comparable to the religions of the real world that we live in.

Excellent secondary characters. Princess Mathilda had such vast potential and I really enjoyed reading her machinations of the people around her. Lord Juster was a wonderfully sassy sailor reminiscent of Jack Sparrow and that, coupled with the fact that he has smarts, made him a joy to read. Ahdri was always someone I wished to know more about, especially about the situation that led to him being on this journey of his in the first place. And Sorrel was a strong, loyal, powerful woman who rose far above her circumstances.

There are, however, some bad things about this book.

For all the hype about Saker’s spying, he hardly does any of it. He could have been any witan priest (or baker, or tanner, or whatever other occupation you want) in the world who was given the information before being sent out on a mission for all the spying that he does. Not only that but for being a spy he’s a complete and utter gullible, naïve idiot. Not only does he not know his own religion and the possibilities therein, but when he does have his sudden epiphanies he totally ignores them.

He is also warned about Matilda several times, and still he fell for her painfully obvious plots. The stupidity continues when he makes a decision that he shouldn’t even think about making in the first place. For page after page we get to read about this and it completely kills the story or any desire to know more about him even though he is the main character. And all these supposedly special Va-given witcheries suddenly started popping out all over the place.

There was also the horribly stereotypical Valerian Fox who was painfully obvious as the bad guy long before it was actually confirmed. Matilda also managed to lose my respect when her manipulations stopped being political, and instead she was turned into a whiny brat. Not to mention that the magical dagger that forces Saker on adventure, isn’t very forceful at all and simply seems to stalk him more than actually forcing him to do anything. Despite the title and the description on the back of the book, the dagger doesn’t actually need to be there at all. The story could have easily progressed without it. The agents of A’Va, though interesting, are far too late to actually save or even doom the book. The last 150 pages of almost-a-litte-bit-of-action came too late, my interest was long since lost and nothing could truly regain it again.

Generally speaking the story is good, the pacing, however, killed it stone dead.

Okay-ish book, but I will not read the sequel.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Books

 

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