Category: Book Reviews

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – Review

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – ReviewThe Silkworm by J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike #2
Format: eBook
Pages: 455 pages
Genres: Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith follows the mystery surrounding the disappearance of writer Owen Quine.  Strike and Robin are hired by Quine’s wife to find out where he has gone.  As Quine was on the point of publishing a new novel thinly disguised as a tell-it-all peak at the world of London’s literati, the suspects in his disappearance soon add up.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very inspired when writing this review.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book – I did – but I feel I have very little to add to my review of the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling.  In other words, if you enjoyed the first, you will almost certainly enjoy the sequel.  As in its predecessor, I enjoyed the writing style and the brisk pace set by Rowling.

What I liked

The developing friendship between Strike and Robin.  I found myself a little frustrated by their misunderstandings, but that was only because I felt invested in their relationship. I appreciated the fact that they both really respect and appreciate one another.  This continues to be explored and deepened in this second book.  I liked that their relationship remains platonic – at least this far – although I suspect we may see that change in future books.  I’m kind of on the fence on that one.  It’s refreshing seeing a pair who respect each other without the will they/won’t they tension that is all too common.

What i didn’t like

The perpetrator is pretty obvious towards the end.  Now mysteries are not my usual field and I’m usually very surprised at the endings.  However, I found I did identify whodunnit fairly easily.

I would certainly recommend The Silkworm – it’s a decent mystery and I find myself becoming more and more invested in the lead characters.

I gave The Silkworm four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Deviation by Christine Manzari – Review

Deviation by Christine Manzari – ReviewDeviation by Christine Manzari
Format: eBook
Pages: 436 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Deviation by Christine Manzari is the first in an independently published YA dystopian trilogy. In Manzari’s world, following a devastating terrorist attack the US government set up the Sophisticates program of human genetic engineering to produce smarter, faster, better soldiers in the war on terror.  The Sophisticates are divided into two groups, the Vanguard who are the intellectual ones, groomed to be the country’s next leaders and the Mandates who are those designed to be physically strong.  We follow the story of teenager Cleo, who is the product of such engineering as she learns more about the truth of her conception.

I really enjoyed this novel.  I felt it was well written with an interesting protagonist, intriguing setting and good character development.

What I liked

Good concept well executed. The basic concept of the genetic engineering was very well done and interesting.  There was the added interest of Cleo’s special abilities and what that means for her.  I look forward to seeing where Manzari goes with this in future books.

Nerds vs jocks.  It was an interesting take that our protagonist who was raised as a Vanguard suddenly finds herself in a school for Mandates.  There is some fun exploration of a fish out of water nerd in a jock environment.

Twist at the end.  I really didn’t see this coming and, with the amount of YA novels I read and my familiarity with the tropes, that’s not easy to do.  Yet it was well within the scope and concept of the world that Manzari has developed – no deus ex machinae here.  Nicely done.

Pacing.  We learn more about the Program and its secrets as Cleo does.  The narrative kept me turning the pages, and I look forward to reading more.

What I didn’t like

Interesting themes not fully explored.  There were a couple of themes that would have loved so have seen developed further.  Some of these include the reaction of non-Sophisticate people who find themselves pushed out of leadership and other prime positions in favour of the Sophisticates.  I would also like to have read more of Cleo’s attempt to deal with the fact that she has never known her parents and her attempts to find out more about them.

However, as this is the first in a trilogy, I’m prepared to give Manzari a pass on this in the expectation that these will be explored further in subsequent books.

As soon as I finished Deviation I immediately went ahead and downloaded book two, Conviction, to my Kindle, which is a good indication of how much I enjoyed this book.

I gave Deviation four and a half stars out of five.

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four-half-stars

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Review

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – ReviewAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Format: eBook
Pages: 400 pages
Genres: Cutesy romance, New Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is the first in a loose trilogy of contemporary, cutesy young adult romance novels.  It is followed by Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.  It tells the story of Anna Oliphant who is spending a year studying in Paris at the fictional School of America in Paris.  She makes friends and has a romance with Etienne St Claire a young Londoner also studying at the school.

What I liked

The setting.  I adored the setting.  The school sounded fantastic and I loved Anna’s and Etienne’s strolls through Paris.  I’ve only spent a couple of days in Paris myself, and I would have liked to have spent more. Perkins really brought out the sense of the city in her writing.

The character development.  I loved seeing how Anna grew in self confidence during her stay in Paris.  The Anna at the end is a very different person from the one who spent her first evening in the school crying into her pillow with homesickness.  I also felt that the development was earned.  Her experiences in Paris and the friends she makes there allow for such a progression to be possible.

The cutesy romance moments.  These were squealably cute.

What I didn’t like

The romantic development itself.  I know that is kind of contrary to my last comment, but let me explain.  I loved the cute date moments Anna and Etienne spent together, but I felt that they were their own worst enemies in terms of their romance.  All their problems came from their own actions and lack of communication.  I felt if they’d sat down at the beginning and really communicated, there would have been nothing coming between them, which really frustrated me.  All too often I wanted to bang their heads together.

I did enjoy Anna and the French Kiss, but I didn’t adore it as much as many reviewers seem to have done.  I will read the other two in the series at some point, though not immediately.

I gave Anna and the French Kiss four stars out of five.

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four-stars

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Back – Review

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Back – ReviewThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Also in this series: The Copper Gauntlet
Format: eBook
Pages: 304 pages
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

In my recent reading roundup I mentioned that I felt The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is a poor man’s Harry Potter.  I stand by that opinion.  It is almost impossible to read The Iron Trial without comparing it to Rowling’s masterpiece.

Let us review;  a young infant born towards the end of a magical war is the sole survivor of a massacre which leaves him motherless and with a physical mark of the attack.  There may or may not be some shenanigans involving souls.  This massacre is the prelude to a decade of truce.  Eleven or twelve years later, the young boy starts to attend magic school where he becomes best friends with a boy and girl, and makes an enemy of another rich and arrogant student.  He is taught by a kindly if eccentric Master and they have lots of adventures.  The one with the power to defeat the enemy has been revealed to the wizarding world.  There is a confrontation at the end, and it seems the enemy may not be as dormant as he seemed.  Heck, the story even closes with the protagonist in the infirmary having a heart to heart with said eccentric professor and being showered with goodies by his grateful classmates.

Does that sound familiar?  It could apply to both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Iron Trial.  The parallels are too obvious not be deliberate.  What is interesting though are the differences.  First of all, the protagonist in the Iron Trial, Callum Hunt, is aware of magic before his entry into the school and, unlike Harry, has to be dragged there kicking and screaming.  This means that we lose the sense of wonder and excitement that Harry feels on his discovery of the wizarding world which is a significant part of the charm of Philosopher’s Stone.  

Secondly, the two protagonists are very, very different.  Harry Potter is decency and courage personified (a true Gryffindor).  One of his first acts on entering school is to defend a fellow student from bullying.  He is direct and open hearted.  He typifies the theme of the series which is about doing what is right as opposed to doing what is easy.  Callum, on the other hand, is a little more complex.  He is less open and trusting and far less inclined to act.  He seems to consider the consequences before acting and frequently has to be prodded into doing so. On the other hand, he is less impetuous than Harry and is more likely to look at the bigger picture.  He is also much more capable of focusing on the task at hand without being distracted.

These changes obviously impact on the way the protagonists relate to their friends and mentors.  Callum is less of a leader in his trio than Harry is in his.  There is a significant power shift in his relationship with Master Rufus compared to Harry’s with Dumbledore.  Dumbledore is the archetype of the wise old mentor and Harry is often left frustrated that he has not been given the answers he was seeking.  In comparison, Callum is the one in possession of information which he must choose to share with his mentor, or not as the case may be.

What I liked

Complex protagonist.  I found Callum as a protagonist interesting.  I appreciated that, unlike Harry, he doesn’t just see things as black or white, there are shades of grey involved.  The same is true of other characters, too.  I enjoyed the way this impacted their relationships.  It was interesting to see what Ron Weasley might have become in different circumstances though the Aaron character.

Pacing.  I thought Clare and Black kept the story moving along briskly and kept me reading.

Chapter art.  Each chapter is headed by an image encapsulating what is going on in the chapter.  These were gorgeous.

What I didn’t like

Harry Potter comparison.  This book is no Harry Potter.  It’s missing Rowling’s warmth, humour and imagination.  

Despite suffering in comparison to Harry Potter, I did actually enjoy this book.  I was interested in Callum’s story and will probably continue to follow it in future books.

I gave The Iron Trial four stars out of five. 

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four-stars

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks – Review

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks – ReviewThe Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
Series: The Lightbringer #3
Also in this series: The Blood Mirror
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 29 hrs and 33 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks is the third and penultimate in his Lightbringer series following on from The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife.  It continues the story of Prism Gavin Guile and his illegitimate son Kip and their attempt to stop the Seven Satrapies from collapsing under the pressure of the Color Prince and his new gods.

My impression of this book was that it was very much a middle book – concentrating more on positioning the characters for the final assault.  It concentrated more on character development than moving the plot forward.  While there were a couple of eyebrow raising moments for me, but nothing compared to the couple of WTF?!? moments of the previous books.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.

What I liked

The magic system.  For this series Weeks has created a wonderfully developed magic system.  I usually consider Brandon Sanderson the master of magic system development, but with this colour-based system Weeks could give him a run for his money.  In essence, Weeks’ magic system works in the opposite manner to a candle.  A candle takes a physical substance – wax – and converts it into light.  Weeks’ magic users (drafters) can take light and convert it into a physical substance, luxin.  Different drafters can convert different colours of the spectrum, red, green, ultraviolet etc – and each colour of luxin so produced has different properties.

Like any good magic system, it has clear limitations.  Drafters need to be able to see the colour they draft.  In Weeks’ world, you can cripple a drafter by limiting his or her access to that colour.  Additionally, it is believed that drafters can only draft a finite amount of luxin in their lives before they “break the halo” and become dangerously emotionally unstable.  This means they must give serious thought before using their magic.    Although drafters can create luxin, that luxin subject to normal physical laws.  More skillfully drafted luxin is stronger and more stable, but lack of skill can be compensated for by amount of luxin drafted.

The character development.  There is some great character development in this book.  Without going into spoiler territory, Kip, Karris and Teia are all becoming the people it looks as though they will need to be for the final book.  On the other hand, Gavin’s character arc has hit rock bottom.  In a standard fantasy, that would mean that his fate is going to take a large upswing.  However, this is a Brent Weeks series we’re talking about here; anything thing could happen.

Setup for final book.  It’s actually really clever that we’re three books into a four book series and Weeks could still go anywhere with his storyline.  That makes it wonderful for speculation.

The narration.  The audiobooks of The Blinding Knife and The Broken Eye were narrated by Simon Vance.  The combination of Weeks’ witty writing style and Vance’s narration is pure gold.  I just ADORED the narration.  In fact, Vance’s narration of book two, The Blinding Knife, was a major factor in my becoming so hooked on audiobooks.  If you’re thinking of checking out this way of enjoying books, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Vance and Weeks.

What I didn’t like

Spot the antagonist. A fantasy series needs a strong villain, and we saw very little of the Color Prince in this volume.  I’m going out on a limb here and assuming the Color Prince is the series’ big bad.  That’s by no means certain when you’re talking about a Brent Weeks series.  The antagonist role in The Broken Eye was played by Andross Guile and for Teia Murder Sharp.  Don’t get me wrong; they’re both nasty pieces of work, but they both operate primarily on the mundane plane.  When you’re getting into territory of new gods being born, you need an antagonist operating in the same sphere.  In some cases it could also be said that the characters’ biggest challenge was their own emotional baggage.  That is fascinating in terms of character development, but less so to create dramatic tension.

In summary then, I would recommend the Lightbringer series – especially in audiobook format.  I gave this particular volume, The Broken Eye, four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Reading Roundup – 29th August 2014

So, I’m back from my vacation at last!  I didn’t read a whole lot – I spent time with family – but I did get through a few things.  My review of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin was published yesterday – go check it out if you like slow burning character driven epic fantasy.

I also finished the Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.  It had been on my TBR list for a while, but I found it slow going because I had been watching the YouTube video series in sync with the book.  I gave up on that and breezed through the book.  I thought it was an excellent companion to the web series, and enjoyed reading it very much.  The trouble is, it’s spoiled me now for The Austen Project series of modernisations of Austen’s works.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved are just so cleverly written and adapted, nothing else can come close.

Reading Roundup – 29th August 2014Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan
Format: eBook
Pages: 336 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

One book I picked up this week and breezed though was Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods.  This is written from Percy Jackson’s point of view and in it he tells the stories of the Greek gods in his own inimitable style.  It was a lot of fun and I found it a great antidote to all the heavy epic fantasy I’ve been reading lately.  I would suggest reading this book in hard copy form or on a colour device – the book is packed full of illustrations by John Rocco which are gorgeous.  I started reading on my eInk Kindle but switched to my Fire to get the full effect.  I would say though that without a strong through narrative as in the rest of the Percy Jackson series, the humour did seem a little forced at times.  For that reason I gave it four stars out of five.

Added to my library this week

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks.  This is the third book in the Lightbringer series.  It’s been two years since we had a book in this series and I am very much looking forward to listening to it.  Simon Vance is a fantastic narrator, and suits Weeks’ witty style perfectly.  I’m relistening to the previous instalment, The Blinding Knife, before I move onto this.  Obviously, I picked it up in Audible format.

L’Eveil – Le Retour de l’Oiseau-Tonnerre Tome 1 by Anne Robillard.  I have mentioned the Quebecoise author Anne Robillard a few times on my blog now.  She writes incredibly real characters in a fantastical setting, and L’Eveil – The Awakening – is the first book in a  contemporary series.  I don’t know much about it other than that the main character regresses through past lives, but I’m happy to give it a try.  I actually bought this in hard copy – it’s not available electronically – so you must appreciate how much I admire Ms Robillard for me to read that format again!

Upcoming releases in September

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas will be released on September 2nd.  This is the third instalment in the Throne of Glass series which is an epic fantasy telling the story of Celaena Sardothian.  The fantasy element has been quite subtle so far. I loved Throne of Glass and have Crown of Midnight, the second book in the series in my library – just not got round to listening to it yet!  I have preordered Heir of Fire in Kindle format.

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is published on September 9th.  I know very little about the book other than that it’s written by two excellent authors.  I love Clare’s Shadowhunter world and although I’ve only read a bit of Black’s Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I’ve read enough to like the style.  This collaboration has potential to be excellent.  I have preordered it in both Kindle and Audible formats.

That’s all for today, folks.  Have a good weekend!

four-stars

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb – SPOILERS Review and Speculation

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Final Update

Realm of the Elderlings: 5/5

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Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Final UpdateFool's Fate - Canadian Audiobook by Robin Hobb
Series: The Tawny Man Trilogy #3
Also in this series: Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate, Fool's Fate - UK Audiobook
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: James Langton
Length: 32 hours and 46 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from iTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Progress: Fool’s Fate 100% complete. Challenge 100% complete

Today I finished Fool’s Fate, the final book in the Tawny Man trilogy and the last of the five books I was reading in my Realm of the Elderlings challenge.

I was right in my prediction yesterday that the section I read today was very much a wrap-up.  Other than the expected resurrection of the Fool it was all about ensuring that the good guys were recompensed for their heroism.  Fitz gets his Molly (sigh), Dutiful gets his Narcheska, Tintaglia gets her Icefyre and they all live happily ever after and raise lots of children.

The scene with the Fool and the Rooster Crown wasn’t as I’d remembered it.  It was a beautiful scene, but it doesn’t quite reach Perrin and his Hammer for epicness.  The secret of the Rooster Crown was very Fool-like.  Some readers have wondered why Fitz didn’t learn the secret of the Fool’s gender during this whole process, but I  easily understand why he didn’t even consider breaching the Fool’s trust in this manner.

The writing of the Fool’s character development with his resignation to his death, his PTSD following his torture and his struggle to adapt to a world where he didn’t know the future and no longer had to struggle to move it into the right path was beautiful – these character insights are Hobb’s real strengths as a writer.

I’m still not 100% happy at a Fitz/Molly reunion.  Hobb had spent too much time emphasising that Molly was the love of his youth, comparing the feelings Fitz had for her to Hap’s boyish infatuation with his Svenja.  She had Fitz realise that it wasn’t so much Molly the woman he was in love with but of the people they were so long ago.  The Hedge Witch states in Fool’s Errand that Fitz’s True Love is on his way back to him.  The VERY NEXT CHAPTER he is reunited with not Molly but the Fool after many years’ separation.  What gives?  I really feel she’s been backtracking on the foundations she has laid.  I suppose I can kind of give her a pass in that the restoration to Fitz of the feelings he’d fed into Girl in a Dragon back in Assassin’s Quest as well as the lack of need for a Catalyst mean he can be the man he might have been had he not sacrificed so much for the Farseer cause.  I still feel his relationship with the Fool is far deeper and more genuine than the one with Molly.

Still I have a whole series on Fitz and the Fool to come to remedy this.  I’m familiar enough with Hobb’s writing style to know to expect wonderful character development, but very slow plot movement.  I can’t wait to read what she has in store for these wonderful characters.  My next full book review will almost certainly be for Fool’s Assassin, but don’t expect that until I return from my vacation!

So, that’s really all I have to say from my wanderings through the Realm of the Elderlings.  I’ve really enjoyed my reread of the series and thank you all for joining me.

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 18

Realm of the Elderlings: 5/5

100%
Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 18Fool's Fate - Canadian Audiobook by Robin Hobb
Series: The Tawny Man Trilogy #3
Also in this series: Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate, Fool's Fate - UK Audiobook
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: James Langton
Length: 32 hours and 46 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from iTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Progress: Fool’s Fate 71% complete.

Happy book birthday to Robin Hobb and Fool’s Assassin which was published today!  The Kindle and Audible version hit my download queues overnight and I had to exercise great strength of will not to dive in immediately but to complete my reread of the Realm of the Elderlings series first.  Actually, that reminds me; those of you who have read Fool’s Assassin, please would you let me know in the comments if it contains spoilers for the Rainwild Chronicles?  Thanks!  I was also exceptionally pleased that Fool’s Assassin is Whispersync for Voice enabled.  Yay!  It’s one of those services that you don’t think you’ll need or use, until you have a book/audiobook combo without it.

Speaking of audiobooks, after my whining yesterday about the North American version of Fool’s Fate not being available until the end of the month I was astounded to find it available on Audible.com today.  Mutter, mumble grumble.  I wish I’d known that before I bought the UK version.  I gave in and completed my collection.  I am used to the Audible app and prefer using it to the music app for audiobooks.  This now moves Ms Hobb up into joint third place with David Eddings as the author whose works take up most space in my digital library (according to Delicious Library.)  For the curious among you, the Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson combo takes the top spot.

So, back to Fool’s Fate.  Things are definitely picking up pace now.  In fact at 71% of the way through, it seems to be mainly over bar the shouting.  Once the Pale Woman’s plot was laid bare it didn’t take long for it to be dismantled.  I loved the fact that the Skill stone dragon was destroyed by what is clearly a wizardwood (i.e. real, live dragon based) arrow.  I also liked that its “death” restored the humanity of the Forged ones nearby who had been Forged in its making.

I loved the writing of the Fitz/Burrich/Swift/Web interrelationships.  They were very well done, as was the dilemma which divided Dutiful’s party. I am sad for Burrich’s imminent demise, as much as because it will be sad to lose such a great character.  His family’s backstory with the slavers was particularly touching.  However, I’m pretty annoyed that it’s paving the way for a Fitz/Molly reunion.  I will rant about that when/if it happens.

I also do not believe for one second that the Fool is dead.  I seem to remember a Skill healing involved, to rival the forging of Perrin’s hammer Mah’alleinir in Wheel of Time.  I guess I’ll find out tomorrow if my memory has served me correctly.

See you then!

five-stars

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlngs Update 17

Realm of the Elderlings: 5/5

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Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlngs Update 17Fool's Fate - UK Audiobook by Robin Hobb
Series: The Tawny Man Trilogy #3
Also in this series: Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate, Fool's Fate - Canadian Audiobook
Format: eBook
Narrator: Nick Taylor
Length: 31 hours and 40 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from iTunesAudible

Progress: Fool’s Fate 50% complete.

OK, confession time.  I was disappointed that Brilliance Audio isn’t releasing Fool’s Fate in audiobook format in Canada until later this month so I used an iTunes UK gift voucher from my parents to pick up the book from iTunes UK.  The narrator is different – Nick Taylor rather than James Langton – and I would have preferred to have had them all the same.  Still it does mean if I don’t quite finish in time I’ll be able to finish the book during my coach trip on Friday. I may still pick up the North American one just so I have the set.

This was another hard slog of a section, mirroring the hard journey our intrepid hero undergoes to reach the dragon Icefyre’s icy lair.  Lots of being cold, miserable, and hiking through treacherous snow and ice.  We’ve finally arrived at our destination, so hopefully things will start to happen soon.

Only a couple of things to note: we still don’t know who our antagonist is yet.  We’re half way through the final book of the series!  It’s becoming more strongly implied that it’s the Pale Woman.  It’s also clear that the antagonist is familiar with the Skill given the way he/she manipulates Fitz and Thick to almost kill each other.  Fitz and the Fool are becoming more comfortable with the depth of their connection.  Let’s hope Fitz’s loss of the Skill is only temporary.

More tomorrow

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