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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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“Ranger’s Apprentice book 5: The Sorcerer of the North” – J. Flanagan

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This is a review of “Ranger’s Apprentice book 5: The Sorcerer of the North” by John Flanagan.

This is a continuation of the previous books. You can find book one and book two and book three and book four here.

Will is finally a full-fledged Ranger with his own fief to look after. The fief seems sleepy – boring even – until Lord Syron, master of a castle far in the north, is struck down by a mysterious illness. Joined by his friend Alyss, Will is suddenly thrown headfirst into an extraordinary adventure, investigating fears of sorcery and trying to determine who is loyal to Lord Syron. As Will battles growing hysteria, traitors, and, most of all, time, Alyss is taken hostage, and Will is forced to make a desperate choice between his mission and his friend.

It is always interesting to see more of Araluen and the way the various fiefs are governed. Even the various

This book is set after a timeskip of about three to four years. Will now has his silver oakleaf and he is no longer an apprentice, but Alyss still is. She has grown up and has more responsibilities than before though, so she seems to be on the cusp of becoming a proper diplomat. There are tiny hints of the romance between Will and Alyss and how it has developed so far, and the slowness is good. They aren’t jumping into things.

Becoming a Ranger in his own fief and then being sent on a special mission to another, Will shows that he has grown from boyhood to adulthood since the past book. He is more mature than before, but he is still quick to laugh. He also does occasionally wish to or does ask for help from people who know things better than him, and it’s good to know that he isn’t an all-knowing superhero now.

The book is a little bit slow and maybe not quite as full of action as the previous books. There is a lot of time spent on what seems to be nothings where Will plays at inns and other places to entertain common people. However, it is building up to something big and it is obvious that it is part of an arc with the sixth book of the series.

Other than the slight slowness, there is nothing bad to actually say about the book.

Definitely recommended as usual!

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Legend of Nightfall” – M. Z. Reichert

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This is a review of “The Legend of Nightfall” by Mickey Zucker Reichert.

He has been known by countless names and terrifying deeds throughout the lands, yet though Nightfall has always escaped his pursuers even the cleverest of beings must occasionally slip. And when this master of the night falls prey to a royal trap, he finds the consequences beyond even his ability to evade. Bound by magic Nightfall will need all his talents to keep himself and his new charge alive and avoid the hands of unknown betrayers.

Good world-building and a vast world to explore. The focus of the book is more lighthearted even though it deals with the potentially heavy themes of slavery, free will and greed. The only way the sorcerers of the world can gain powers is incredible, and it is incredibly fun to read Nightfall’s sarcastic thoughts about his charge and the way his life is currently going.

Nightfall is an amusing character to follow as he scrambles around trying to keep them all alive and get rid of a spade, while Edward is utterly set on his grand mission and totally misled by his faithful servant. Being hounded by both evil sorcerer and binding magics, the story that follows is a delightful romp of misadventures and frantic plotting.

But for being such a completely feared thief and assassin Nightfall is incredibly stupid at times. At the start this could be attributed to such a large and sudden change in occupation, but it simply persists throughout the book. And for all his many fears and amusing thoughts about all the trouble the prince will get them into, it is in fact Nightfall himself who creates the most trouble for them.

Prince Edward was, at the very start of the story, a bit too stupidly naïve to be believable even with his sheltered life. Then there is Keryn. I had sincerely and fervently hoped that she would be what Nightfall thinks her to be initially, and that she was no tortured damsel in distress.

The last thing I have to complain about is that in a book of almost 500 pages, 350 of said pages are spent on nothings. Amusing as they are, those 350 pages have very little to no actual bearing on the rest of the plot, and there is only so many times one can read a funny anecdote or Nightfall’s sarcastic thoughts without starting to wonder when we will get back to the plot. And as for the plot, well, 150 pages are hardly enough to deal properly with the problems and enemies built up throughout the rest of the story.

All in all, though this is most definitely an amusing book to read, it isn’t anything really special.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Last Wish” – A. Sapkowski

the witcher

This is a review of “The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Geralt would always stand out, either for his appearance, his personality or his job as a witcher and the powers that it grants in the fight against the vile fiends that ravage the lands. As guardian of the innocent, Geralt meets incestuous kings with undead daughters, vengeful djinns, shrieking harpies, lovelorn vampires and despondent ghouls, and none of them are exactly what they appear to be.

This is a large, medieval world that doesn’t shy away from the uglier or more difficult side of living in such a time. It is brutal, it is scary, it is ever-changing and the humans are just trying to get by no matter if they live in small villages or in big castles protected by thick walls.

The author obviously drew heavily from folklore for the various creatures, and familiar, old fairytale show up during some of the stories, changed to fit the grim world of Geralt of Rivia but still recognisable in the end. There is also a slew of strong, independent female characters who aren’t afraid of or brought down by their sexuality and, in fact, use it to get what they want.

The short stories didn’t exactly provide lots of opportunities to get to know the various characters well. While even a good deal of the secondary characters were well-rounded, it was much easier to get to know the characters that showed up more than once. Dandelion and Nenneke are well written and interesting enough to want to know more about them.

Geralt is rough and ready for fighting – or something more pleasurable – but he also has a brain and knows how to use it. He knows that sometimes it is simply better to retreat or not react, and I like that about him. Yennefer is still a bit of a mystery though.

There are few things about the stories that bother me. First there is the amazing amount of knowledge about the body, its organs and functions. This is supposed to be a medieval world after all. The relationship between Yennefer and Geralt was a bit too sudden and forced considering how important it is, and some of the characters seem to suddenly change their opinions at the end of the story for no real reason. This could, however, simply be a drawback of the short-story format since the author avoids this in the other stories about Geralt.

All in all this is an interesting world and with interesting stories.

I recommend this.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Books

 

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