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Epic Fantasy Archives - Canadian eReader

Genre: Epic Fantasy

King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist – Spoiler free review

King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist – Spoiler free reviewKing of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist
Series: Firemane Saga #1
Format: ARC
Pages: 512 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

King of Ashes is the first in a new series by fantasy author Raymond E. Feist and is the first not to be set in his Midkemia setting.  My thanks to HarperCollins Canada and Raymond E. Feist for the early eArc.  King of Ashes is released on May 8th and as such I will keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.

On a personal note, I credit Mr. Feist with reawakening my love of reading; after studying literature at university I couldn’t stand to read anything more involved than a Cosmo magazine. Then a friend put a copy of Shadow of a Dark Queen into my hands and I’ve not stopped reading since.  He is a master storyteller.  It’s always “have to read one more page, one more chapter.” then before you know it, it’s 6am and you have to get ready to go to work…

For those of you unfamiliar with Feist’s earlier work, there are 30 novels in his Riftwar series starting with 1982’s Magician and ending with 2013’s Magician’s End.  My personal recommendation is to start with Magician as a good introduction to the world – be aware it does drag in parts – or the four books of the Serpentwar Saga – storytelling at its finest.

Anyway, onto King of Ashes.  This is set in the new world of Garn and centres around two young men, Hatu, the unknowing secret heir of the betrayed King Steveran and Declan, a young blacksmith at the peak of his craft.  Events force our two protagonists to flee their homes and plunges them into an adventure that promises to change their lives and the future of Garn itself..

Worldbuilding.  Naturally, it’s not reasonable to expect a world that is as fully developed as Midkemia, on which Feist worked for over 30 years.  That said, there are clear indications that a lot of thought has gone into Garn already and that it is going to be a wonderful place to get to know.  There are distinct cultures, history and religions and I look forward to seeing how the place grows.  One aspect I would have liked to have seen developed more fully at this point is the magic system.  In the whole 512 pages, it is only touched upon briefly, although there are definite hints of magical forces.

Characters.  I enjoyed spending time with both our protagonists, probably more so Declan than Hatu.  Both characters had distinct arcs in the story, although it was clear they are both still at the beginning of their journeys.  I look forward to seeing where they go from here.  The supporting characters were also interesting, and well developed, and a couple of them led to intriguing hooks for book two.  it’s too early to say yet whether either of them will be a Pug, a Jimmy the Hand or a Miranda from the earlier series.

Plot.  I would say that the focus of King of Ashes is on worldbuilding and character development, somewhat to the detriment of plot.  As the first book in a new series, especially one set in a new world, there is a great deal of heavy lifting to do in order to set the scene.  Much of the storyline seems to be focused in getting characters and plot points in place for the next stage of the saga.  As as self-contained story, I didn’t find King of Ashes particularly satisfying, but I have great faith that it will pay off in future books. 

In summary, if you are hoping that King of Ashes will be a great stand alone story you may be disappointed.  It is very obviously the setup for greater things to come and as such I personally feel it is worth the investment.  

four-stars

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – First Impressions NO SPOILERS

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – First Impressions NO SPOILERSAssassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool #3
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest
Format: ARC
Pages: 864 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Those of you who follow my blog will know that Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series is one of my all time favourite fantasy series and that the relationship between Fitz and the Fool is one of my most invested in fictional relationships.  Further, you will know that May 9th marks the release of Assassin’s Fate, the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and the apparent conclusion of the 16 book Realm of the Elderlings series.  

Assassin’s Fate is one of my most anticipated and yet dreaded releases of this year, so you can imagine my pure delight when yesterday I received an email advising me that I’d been approved for an early e-galley of said book and that I could download my copy now.  Thank you so much Random House!  I immediately put everything else on hold and have sped read through it already and am here to give you my first impressions, spoiler free.  I intend to do a more spoilery review once I have reread it.

The first question I had going into this book was, would Hobb provide an ending worthy of Fitz and the Fool, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that yes, she does, and how.  She completely knocks it out of the park.  It is not, perhaps, the ending I would have wished for for Beloved and his Fitz, but it is appropriate, beautifully written and altogether perfect. As promised, Hobb has brought to a conclusion many of the storylines across all four of her series set in the Realm of the Elderlings.

Secondly, if you have any investment at all in these characters (and how could you not, given Hobb’s skill in character development?) be aware that this book will really hit you in the feels.  In terms of emotional impact there are scenes in this book that rank right up there with Frodo’s departure from the Gray Havens, Harry’s final walk through the Forbidden Forest or Game of Thrones’ Hold the Door.

What I love most about Hobbs’ books are the characters and their relationships.  In Assassin’s Fate these shine as brightly as ever.  Hobb has a true knack of writing characters who change and develop as a result of the events of the books and what has happened to them.  The dynamics between them also are ever changing and it’s beautiful to read.

There’s little more I can say without going into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave things there.

Naturally, I gave Assassin’s Fate five stars out of five.

five-stars

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Now that 2016 is almost done, it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2017.  Here in date order are the books I’m most looking forward to in 2017

Series continuations

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hours and 16 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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The first book I’m really anticipating next year is Wayfarer, the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travelling duology Passenger.  Bracken has created some wonderful characters and a solid and fascinating time travel story in this series.  As you’d expect with Bracken, the author of The Darkest Minds, the worldbuilding is incredible and the time travel system is beautifully developed and intriguing.  I love when magic/timetravel systems have clear limitations, which impact the story and characters.  I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion.

Wayfarer is released on January 3rd 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #3
Also in this series: The Bone Season, The Mime Order
Format: eBook
Pages: 380 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in the Bone Season series.  Now this is a series that has really grown on me.  It is a mixture of genres.  There’s a bit of fantasy, a bit of dystopian, a bit of politicking.  I will say though that this series may not be the easiest to pick up.  The worldbuilding (and associated jargon) is incredibly detailed and Shannon doesn’t ease the reader in gently.  Our protagonist, Paige Mahoney, is familiar with the world of the clairvoyants right from he beginning so the reader is expected to hit the ground running.  Once you get over that hurdle though the series is amazing.  It is very easy to get immersed in the world once you get to know it and our protagonist is very engaging.  I found the novella On the Merits of Unnaturalness extremely useful for getting into the world, and I would suggest you may want to pick this up first.  I’m very excited to read what’s next for Paige, Warden and their allies.

The Song Rising is released on March 7th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool #3
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest, Assassin's Fate
Format: eBook
Pages: 976 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb is probably the book from 2017 I’m most anxious to get my hands on, but at the same time I’m dreading the most.  This is the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy and, likely, the conclusion to Fitz and the Fool’s story.  Their relationship is one of my top fictional relationships, so I’m expecting to need a box of tissues while reading this book.  Their bond is so beautiful and exquisitely written by Hobb.  I’m certain Hobb will give us a perfect ending to the story, but it may well be bittersweet.  I see from Amazon that the book is over 900 pages; that’s up with GRRM or Brandon Sanderson territory.  Excellent!

Assassin’s Fate will be released on May 9th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices #2
Also in this series: Lady Midnight
Format: eBook
Pages: 704 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Lord of Shadows is the second in Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series, set in her Shadowhunters world.  I loved Lady Midnight and am really excited for book two.  The world is awesome and the new characters are wonderfully engaging. This was a pretty easy autobuy for me.  Bring it on.

Lord of Shadows is released on May 23rd 2017.

The Core by Peter V. Brett
Series: The Demon Cycle
Format: eBook
Pages: 448 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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The Core is the fifth and final book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle.  Things are now in place for the final confrontation and Arlen and Jardir are ready to take the fight to the Corelings.  Rojer and Leesha will also have a role to play.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one ends.

The Core is released on August 15th 2017.

New Series

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve the Mark #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
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Divergent author Veronica Roth has a new series coming out next year starting with Carve the Mark.  This is young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel set in a world in which a Force-like current pervades the universe and grants special powers or currentgifts to inhabitants.  We follow two teens, Cyra and Akos, whose worlds collide and who must decide whether to aid or thwart the other.  Although it’s one of my most anticipated reads, I do have some qualms about it.  It has a dual PoV, which Roth didn’t handle so well in Allegiant.  The world could either be amazing or it could be a mess.  I’m still intrigued enough to add this to my most anticipated reads of 2017, so time will tell on which side it falls.

Carve the Mark is released on January 17th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Format: ARC
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: n/a
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I admit I cheated here somewhat; I’ve actually already read Caraval by Stephanie Garber and LOVED it (I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at BEA).  It was one of my top reads of 2017 – the characters, the world and the twisty turny plot was breathtaking.  Don’t miss this one.  I’ve added it to my most anticipated reads of 2017 as I’m looking forward to experiencing it again.  I will pick it up in audiobook format as it’s being narrated by Lunar Chronicles narrator Rebecca Soler.  

Caraval is released on January 31st 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a new series by Broken Empire writer Mark Lawrence.  It’s set in a different world to his previous series and centres on young nun assassin Nona Grey.  It immediately made me think of the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers.  Lawrence is especially skilled at writing interesting, morally gray characters, so I’m very much looking forward to this.

Red Sister is released on April 4th 2017

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Format: eBook
Pages: 512 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
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Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray is a new YA sci-fi series. I don’t know much about it other than the premise that young teen must work together with cantankerous AI to save her planet.  Gray is now an autobuy author for me and I trust that in her hands this will be a fantastic read.

Defy the Stars is released on April 4th 2017

Honorary mentions.  

There are a couple of books which don’t yet have release dates but which may, possibly, if the Fates are kind, be published in 2017.  

The first of these is, of course, George R. R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, book six in the Song of Ice and Fire.  The HBO TV series has bypassed the currently published books at this point, so certain things will be spoiled.  However, I still need to read Martin’s take on things.  Should WoW be be published in 2017 it will go straight to the top of my most anticipated reads.

Finally we have The Thorn of Emberlain, the next in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series.  This was originally scheduled for October (I think) of 2016 but was postponed indefinitely.  I’m hoping it will be published in 2017, so let’s hope.

That’s all for this year – which of these upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read two pretty good books which I’d like to share with you.

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Also in this series: Court of Fives
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 13 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott at BEA.  It’s been on my TBR for a while, but it’s only recently I read it.  The Poisoned Blade is the second book in a planned trilogy (I believe) and continues the story of Jessamy, a young woman caught between two cultures whose passion in life is playing the game of Fives.  In this second book, Jes is drawn into court politics and has to deal with the fallout of her decisions in book one.  I listened to The Poisoned Blade in audiobook format and very much enjoyed Georgia Dolenz’s narration.

What I liked

The characters.  I really liked our protagonist, Jessamy.  Her conflicts between her love for the Fives, her need to protect her family, the limitations placed on her by her heritage and her affection for Kal were expertly written.  

The pacing.  The Poisoned Blade didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome at all.  There were enough conficts and resolutions to keep me well satisfied.  I will certainly be picking up the final book in the trilogy.  Personally, I’ve found Elliott’s series lose steam as they go on and for that reason I’ve not finished many of them.  This one I do intend to finish.

The worldbuilding.  Continuing on from Court of Fives, Elliott has created a wonderful world for our characters to live in.  

What I didn’t like

There was little I didn’t enjoy about The Poisoned Blade.  It is my favourite of Elliott’s series.  

I gave it four stars out of five.

My review of Heartless Reading roundup – November 12th 2016Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Probably my most anticipated release of the year, Heartless is Lunar Chronicles author Marissa Meyer’s origin story of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts.  I really wanted to listen to this in audiobook format, however technical issues meant that it wasn’t available to Canadians on Audible.com for several days after release.  This was rather disappointing as i loved Rebecca Soler’s narration of the Lunar Chronicles.  I ended up reading it on my Kindle.

What I liked

The writing style.  I really loved Meyer’s, fresh, immediate writing style from the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless is no different.  This time it’s spiced with Lewis Caroll whimsy and the blend is magical. As a note, it probably does help if you’re familiar with both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

What I didn’t like

Somewhat predictable.  Of course, as an origin story, it’s tricky to be completely unpredictable.  There’s no escaping the fact that Catherine becomes the cold hearted Queen of Hearts.  However, certain other plot points were more easily guessed than I would have liked them to be.

Character development.  I felt this was better done in Fairest.  There was a more logical progression in Levana’s transformation to the wicked Queen than Cath’s becoming the Queen of Hearts.  Cath is much more of a positive character at the beginning, so her transformation was always going to be more difficult to plot.  At times I felt each step in Cath’s journey was a little unexpected, unearned or not wholly justified by the steps before.

In summary, I did enjoy Heartless, but I prefer the Lunar Chronicles.  I gave Heartless four stars out of five.

In other news:

I am currently obsessed with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Yes, I know, it’s not released until next week, but everything I’ve seen and heard about it indicates it’s going to be absolutely magical.  Rowling’s Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Sign me up!  I’m especially loving all the hints about Grindelwald and his rise to power in Europe.  There must be some wonderful stories to tell there. I can’t be the only bookworm who has planned a day off work around a book release, surely?  Not only is the movie released on November 18th, but we also get a book of the script and a LEGO Dimensions Story Pack!  I can’t wait!

Also this week I have been watching Netflix The Crown, the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and the first few years of her reign.  I’m enjoying it very much; Clare Foy has taken the role of the Queen, with former Doctor Who Matt Smith as Prince Philip,  Both are giving excellent portrayals and I recommend this series.

That’s all for now folks.  Back soon!

four-stars

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – Review

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – ReviewThe Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks
Series: The Lightbringer #4
Also in this series: The Broken Eye
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 20 hrs and 30 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks is the fourth in a planned series of five epic fantasy books.  The series has a wonderfully imaginative magic system in which magic users can turn light into a physical substance. luxin.  Each spectrum of light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) produces luxin with different properties and uses.  If you’ve not yet started this series, I heartily recommend it.  Go start with The Black Prism.  I strongly suggest experiencing this series in audiobook format due to the excellence of the narrator, Simon Vance.

Initially, the series was planned to be a trilogy; then four books and recently Weeks announced he would need five books to tie up his series.  The Blood Mirror is the penultimate entry and sets up things for the finale.

What I liked

The romance.  While it is not a focal point of the series or book, there is a love story in The Blood Mirror and it is beautiful.  It focusses on that very first serious/sexual relationship in which a character must learn to love another real life person, warts and all, and not just a fantasy crush.  Our protagonist’s learning to accept his partner, emotions, needs, strengths and all was so perfectly written it was a joy to read. This was one of the real highlights of the book for me. Of course it helped that the partner concerned is a pretty awesome, kick ass new character in her own right.  I am 100% on board this new ship.

Gavin’s storyline.  One of Weeks’ strengths as a writer is an ability to pull the rug out from under his reader’s feet, and Gavin’s story arc in this book is no exception.  This particular storyline is intended to leave the reader wondering what is truth, what is madness and what is manipulation and it succeeds perfectly.  This was also the storyline where I found myself thinking “ah, crap he’s really going to to go there, isn’t he?”  While it’s not confirmed in this book, it definitely looks like he will go there in the final book.  Darn.

Strong female characters.  The Blood Mirror gives us some amazing, strong female characters.   I loved reading about Tisis, Karris and Teia and look forward to reading (or listening) how their characters progress in the final book.

 What I didn’t like

Some characters merely treading water.  In certain ways some key characters in The Blood Mirror suffer from Daenerys Targaryen syndrome in that their storylines aren’t ready to progress yet until other characters have progressed.  This means that they do very little in this book other than pop up to remind us of their existence from time to time.

Kip’s character arc.  One of my pet peeves in YA literature is when the protagonist becomes an expert at something just because he or she is the protagonist, it suits the story and without doing the necessary groundwork.  For me Kip’s development wasn’t setup satisfactorily enough.  

Despite these minor flaws, I gave The Blood Mirror five stars out of five.  I am highly anticipating the conclusion of the story, although I confess to some anxiety that it’s going to be a traumatic read, having seen what Weeks has set up.

five-stars

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – Review

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – ReviewEmpire of Storms Series: The Throne of Glass #5
Also in this series: Throne of Glass, Heir of Fire
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Empire of Storms is the fifth and penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass in which a former assassin uses her skills and her magic to save her kingdom.  Being the second to last book in the series, it focusses very much on getting our protagonists into the right place for the finale.

What I liked

The pacing.  Despite the fact that Empire of Storms is primarily focussed on getting the team into place for the final confrontation, Maas managed to keep the pacing brisk and the tension high.  There were several points where I feared for our characters’ lives.  There are several confrontations adding to the tension, even if the end result is moving the pieces across the chessboard.

The characters and their group dynamics.  This is clearly one of Maas’s real strengths as a writer.  I loved the relationships between the characters and their journeys.  It was wonderful that each of our characters has a unique skill set, developed over the course of the series, which will be vital in the cause to defeat Erawan.  If even one person fails to play his or her part, the world is doomed.  I personally have not read the novellas, but I enjoyed the “new” characters who made an appearance and who also must do their part.

Manon’s story.  Once again, as in Queen of Shadows I found myself more engaged with Manon’s chapters than with Aelin’s, at least until the ending.  It is noticeable that Manon’s arc mirrors Aelin’s.  Both start the series as cocksure employees of a leader whose moral bankruptcy does not sit well with our heroines.  A crisis ensues causing a break with said leader, a confrontation which leaves our heroines in a pretty dark place.  Both must now accept their heritage in order to claim their birthrights to aid the cause of freedom.  I really look forward to where Manon’s journey takes her, although I can’t help wishing she’d had as much page space to develop her character as Aelin.

The increase in scope.  In Empire of Storms we learn just how long the confrontation between Team Terrasen and Erawan has been brewing and how much has already been sacrificed.  The potential cost of the war is also laid out, and I have even more love for Aelin now.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final book.

Setup for final book.  I really liked loved Maas has set the pieces for the final book.  Each character is faced with a task or a role to play and each must perform to have a hope of defeating Erawan.  It’s clear that the cost will be high.  She has achieved a wonderful balance between bringing existing plotlines to fruition while leaving a great deal of possibilities.

The narration.  I picked up Empire of Storms in audiobook format specifically for Elizabeth Evans’ narration.  She brings exactly the right amount of sass to Aelin, and her Manon voice is pitch perfect, too.  I would recommend this format.

What I didn’t like

Some modern phrasings.  Occasionally, Maas will use some modern phrases in her writing, such as “haul ass.”  While this probably fits in well with our sassy, modern heroine, the style of the novel is still epic fantasy and such expressions really, really bugged me.  Each time they threw me out of the story.  You may not have the same experience.

The number of romantic pairings.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED the individual pairings in the series.  They were beautifully developed, with each partner both giving and gaining something from the relationship.  What did frustrate me though was that almost every character seemed to be paired off in some way.  It came across as a little too neat for me.  Of course maybe the gods have put a perfect partner in each of their paths to make up for the hardships and pain they must endure!

Despite these minor quibbles I loved Empire of Storms and gave it five stars out of five.

Speculation on the sixth book

I liked that the story could still go in many different ways in this last book.  Maas could opt for a happy ending or it could be bittersweet.  In any case, I’m calling it now; Lysandra and Dorian won’t make it out alive :o(  The tasks ahead of them are simply too dangerous.  That is only my speculation though and I would be happy to be proven wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.

five-stars

Game of Thrones Season Six – Spoilers

Game of Thrones Season Six – SpoilersGame of Thrones Season 6 by George R. R. Martin, David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Format: Video
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

One of my pleasures on a Sunday evening has been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones season six.  This is the first time that the show has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s books which made it a particularly fascinating season.  The season was for me a mixture of highs and lows, with more highs than lows.  I will split the post here for those who don’t want any spoilers about season six.

(more…)

four-stars

Reading roundup – all over the place

littledribbling

Gosh, it’s been quite a while since I last posted.  My apologies.  I seem to have been going through not quite a reading slump but a lack of focus in my reading – I’ve been all over the place.  I’ve started so many books and not actually finished them before moving onto another book.  Sigh.

Some of the books that I have managed to finish have been by Brandon Sanderson who published not one, not two but THREE books in the last couple of months.  These are: Bands of Mourning, Mistborn: A Secret History and Calamity.  Bands of Mourning and Mistborn: A Secret History are both set in Sanderson’s Mistborn world, the first being the third in the four book Wax and Wayne series and Secret History a short novella set just after the events of the original trilogy.  While I very much enjoyed Bands of Mourning – the pacing, characters and plot were all wonderful, and an incredible ending – I was less happy with Secret History.  For those of you unaware, all of Sanderson’s adult novels are set in the same world, which he calls the cosmere.  In other words, Mistborn, Warbreaker and the Stormlight Archives are all happening in the same universe.  At this point in the Mistborn story the worlds are beginning to collide and I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that.  I gave Bands of Mourning five stars out of five and Secret History four.

The final Sanderson book I read was Calamity, the final book in the Reckoners trilogy.  I had high expectations of this one as one thing Sanderson does very very well is end a series.  His endings to the Mistborn trilogy and his work on ending Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time have been among the most memorable for me.  I must admit Calamity didn’t quite live up to expectations, although that was more of a personal choice for me; I just didn’t enjoy where Sanderson took the story and characters as much as I’d hoped.  I gave Calamity four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – all over the placeThe Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Nathan Osgood
Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Travelogue
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

One book I did very much enjoy this month was Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling.  This is a travelogue in which Bryson takes a trip around the UK.  Bryson is an American married to a Brit who lived in the UK for many years.  It’s always refreshing to see one’s home country from a foreigner’s perspective and this is no exception. This is one to enjoy in audiobook format.  The style of the book is as if Bryson were sitting down over a cup of tea with the reader talking about his travels, which makes this an excellent choice for listening and Nathan Osgood does a great job as narrator.  Each chapter is introduced by some music typifying the region which adds a little something to the experience, too.  Be warned though.  The audiobook includes a song “The Bryson Line” written and performed by Richard Digance which is a real ohrwurm.  I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. I gave The Road to Little Dribbling five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – all over the placeUprooted by Naomi Novik
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Julia Emelin
Length: 17 hrs and 43 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a book I listened to this month which very nearly went into my did not finish pile.  This is a stand alone epic fantasy about a young woman who is chosen against all odds to serve the local magician as he works to contain the evil Wood.  Novik has created a wonderful, magical world, and the characters are interesting.  However the pacing and buildup is very, very slow.  For quite some time I kept saying to myself, OK one more chapter and if I still amn’t hooked, I’ll leave it.  Eventually I realised I was finally becoming invested in the story and characters and was happy to finish the book.  I did very much enjoy the audio performance of Julia Emelin.  The book is worth persevering with and I gave Uprooted four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – all over the placeThe Diary of River Song by Big Finish Productions
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 2 hours
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

This is a production I’ve had on my radar for a while.  As I’ve mentioned, the relationship between River Song and The Doctor is one of my favourite fictional relationships and I was intrigued to see how she would pair up with the Eighth Doctor.  Big Finish has long been known for Doctor Who audio productions – indeed most of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures take place in this medium – and their production quality is absolutely stellar.  For this particular adventure they hired Alex Kingston and Paul McGann to play River and The Doctor and both really get their characters.  I must confess to a slight disappointment that River did not reveal her true identity to Eight; but then again that would have broken the internal logic of the TV show.  All in all these productions are wonderful and if you like Doctor Who you really should check them out.  I gave The Diary of River Song five stars out of five.

And now onto books I started but did not finish this month.  The first of these was White Queen by Philippa Gregory.  At first, I found myself being really sucked into this story – it is written in a very engaging manner.  However, historical dramas is not my usual genre and I found myself leaving it aside for my more usual fare.  I imagine I will return to White Queen at some point in the future.

Next up was The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey.  I really loved the narrator and her sassy attitude in the face of alien invasion.  However, I read the rest of the synopsis on Wikipedia and decided I really wasn’t interested in where the story was going.  

I started listening to Star Wars Darth Plagueis at the gym, but the story never really grabbed me.  I had been hoping for some insight into the world of the Sith and maybe I didn’t give it long enough, but the first few chapters really didn’t grab my interest at all.ianna

Having watched a couple of episodes of Outlander, I dived in once again to the fourth book, Drums of Autumn.  These are real doorstops of books and much as I love the characters and story, I find I cannot read them all at once.  I read a few chapters, wait a few months, then go back in again.  I did enjoy the chapters I read which focussed more on Brianna’s and Roger’s adventures.  

So there you have it – my update for the last month.  Hopefully in March I will be more focussed.  We do have Cassandra Clare’s latest Shadowhunter series starter Lady Midnight being released as well as the conclusion to Danielle Paige’s modern adaptation of the world of Oz, The Yellow Brick War.  I’m hoping they will keep me out of trouble!

five-stars

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015

The final part of my reading catchup series in which I discuss Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Winter by Marissa Meyer and Soundless by Richelle Mead.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 15 hrs and 25 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a new series set in the same world as her Grisha Trilogy, which I loved.  One of Bardugo’s strengths as a writer is her worldbuilding – and that continues in this new outing.  Instead of a Russianesque setting, the action moves to a place reminiscent of Amsterdam in its Golden Age.  The characters were interesting, but in an ensemble book like this, they aren’t always given the time to be as fully developed as a single protagonist novel.  I look forward to seeing where the series goes and will certainly keep up with it.

I gave Six of Crows four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Winter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 23 hrs and 30 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Winter by Marissa Meyer is the fourth and final book in the Lunar Chronicles series and was one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  This final book was loosely based on the Snow White fairytale and tells the story of Princess Winter of Luna as well as continuing the stories of Cinder, Scarlet and Cress and their attempt to overthrow the evil Queen Levana.  I must admit I was ever so slightly disappointed in Winter – perhaps my expectations were a little too high.  Meyer had done her setup so well in the previous books, so at times it felt as if I was just watching things play out as expected.  On the other hand, this being the last book in the series did mean that all bets were off and I was concerned for our protagonists’ survival at various points.  Once again though I did love the fairytale mashup – the way in which Meyer has adapted the various fairytale tropes – like Snow White’s glass coffin into a sci-fi setting is brilliant.  Our heroines continue to be kick-ass and I did enjoy how it all came together.

I gave Winter five stars out of five, mainly for my love of the series as a whole.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Soundless by Richelle Mead
Format: eBook
Pages: 272 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

I admit I’d been initially reluctant to pick up Soundless by Richelle Mead, despite my love of her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series.  This is because some of the reviews I’d read were mixed at best. I had originally been intrigued by the concept of a deaf girl living in a soundless world begins to hear again and embarks on an adventure to save her community.  

As an exploration into discovering a sense of which your community has no concept, the book is wonderful.  I just loved the way in which Fei comes to terms with her new hearing.  The way in which she struggled to conceptualise the new experience was beautifully written.  I’d have liked to have read more of this.

However the whole community rescue plotline is not developed to nearly the same extent.  The book is very short – well under three hundred pages – and this is the aspect which suffered the most.  The book could have done to have been twice as long.

I gave Soundless three and a half stars out of five.

In other news, I am particularly excited this week as my husband and I have booked our tickets for Chicago in May 2016 to attend BEA, the Book Expo of America.  Yay!  This will be my first time attending and I’m so looking forward to it – I’ve heard BEA described as Disneyland for book nerds. If any of you have been before and have tips, please let me know in the comments.

four-stars

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015

And here we go for the second part of my reading catchup in which I discuss Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #5
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Shadows of Self is the second in Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne series (or the fifth Mistborn, however you like to look at it) and is set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy only several hundred years later at a point in which the society is on the cusp of becoming industrialised.   It has a deliberate steampunk feel to it.  Sanderson is known as a master of worldbuilding, plot, pacing and magic systems and that is certainly borne out in Shadows of Self.  The plot is imaginative, the pacing excellent and the magic system/worldbuilding outstanding as always.  However, the more (recent) books of his I read, the more I realise I’m not very fond of his writing style.  For me, personally, the informal style does not match the setting.  It could be this is a deliberate choice by the writer – I know from his work on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive that he can use a more formal style when necessary – in which case I have to disagree with his choice for these recent books.

Alternatively, it could be that he’s under pressure to crank out too many books – he’s a massively prolific writer – and perhaps each book is not receiving the full care and attention to detail it needs.

Because of this, I gave Shadows of Self three stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 608 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents.  We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say;  PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format.  Pick up the hard copy instead.  Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text.  This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example.  More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story.  I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time.  The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read.  So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format.  The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful.  I highly recommend it.  However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.   

The only other comment I would make is that some of the attempts to create tension fail because of the structure.  We know from the “briefing notes” that the collection of documents that make up the book were put together after the fact.  This makes things like the countdown til various events rather pointless.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.  

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful.  For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.  Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed.  I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On.  Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum.  As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz.  The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

More mini reviews later!

three-stars
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