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Epic Fantasy Archives - Page 3 of 5 - Canadian eReader

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 12

Realm of the Elderlings: 5/5

100%
Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 12Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
Series: The Tawny Man Trilogy #2
Also in this series: Fool's Errand, Fool's Fate, Fool's Fate - UK Audiobook, Fool's Fate - Canadian Audiobook
Format: eBook
Narrator: James Langton
Length: 25 hours and 56 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Progress: Golden Fool 19% complete.

So, onto a new book, Golden Fool.  Once again I must comment on the cover art – isn’t it gorgeous?

Once again, at the beginning of the book there are lots of lovely character moments rather than fast plot progression.  I particularly appreciated Kettricken’s meeting with Fitz to share his grief at the loss of Nighteyes.  I’m so happy that Fitz – and the reader! – were given space to mourn this wonderful character.  

Other notable character moments were Dutiful’s being torn between reaching out to Fitz as a father figure and maintaining his princely decorum.  I also look forward to seeing more of Chade’s servant, Thick.  If memory serves, he has a large role to play in the story.

The seeds were also being set for the political intrigue around the Narcheska and who is really behind the marriage offer.  I look forward to seeing how that is developed.

At this point I really should mention how incredible it is that I have been able to marathon Hobb’s writing to this extent.  Normally I like to change up my reading – I often have several different books on the go at once – but Hobb’s marvellous world and characters have been able to retain my interest effortlessly.  That says a heck of a lot right there.

five-stars

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 8

Realm of the Elderlings: 5/5

100%
Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 8Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb
Series: The Tawny Man Trilogy #1
Also in this series: Golden Fool, Fool's Fate, Fool's Fate - UK Audiobook, Fool's Fate - Canadian Audiobook
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: James Langton
Length: 24 hours and 47 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Progress: Fool’s Errand 18%

So.  Onto Fool’s Errand.  The first thing I’d like to comment on is, isn’t the cover art for the audiobook simply gorgeous?  I don’t normally pay much attention to covers, but that one really drew my eye. The lighting and the mysterious figures are beautiful.  They are much preferable to the paperback or hardback cheesy images.

Secondly, with moving onto a new series I’m moving onto a new narrator for the audiobooks.  While I’d nothing against Paul Boehmer who narrated The Farseer Trilogy and Anne Flosnik of the Liveship Traders, James Langston seemed to me to be of a completely different calibre entirely.  Of course, that could be that he gave Chade a burr in his accent which reminded me of my childhood!

Here’s a sample

I am reminded that Hobb’s trilogies are VERY, VERY slow to start.  Fitz’s desire to shut himself off from his old life and those he loves to lead a quiet, sedentary life is beginning to annoy me now!  Let’s just get on with the adventure please.  I’ll need to bear that in mind when I start Fool’s Assassin that I’ll need to be patient while the story gets started.

I’ve just finished reading of Fitz’s first meeting with the Fool after 15 years of absence and once again I’m shipping them soooo hard.  It’s beautifully written how Fitz is unaware of the depth of the Fool’s love for him (at this point at least) and also of his own love for the Fool.

More tomorrow.

five-stars

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 2

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update 2Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb
Series: Liveship Traders #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Anne Flosnik
Length: 33 hrs and 38 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Realm of the Elderlings

My Summary Post
Progress: 5/5 (100%)
24 July, 2014 — 16 August, 2014
Completed!

100%

Progress:  Ship of Destiny 17% complete

So, onto book two of my Realm of the Elderlings reading challenge, Ship of Destiny.  Ship of Destiny is the third in the Liveship Traders trilogy. I chose not to include the first two, Ship of Magic and Mad Ship in my reread for two reasons. One was time constraint to meet my deadline, the second is that I had dipped into the trilogy fairly recently (fairly recently being about 18 months ago).  I did a quick Wikipedia lookup to bring myself up to speed.

So, a few thoughts.

Whispersync for Voice, welcome back!  YAY!  I didn’t realise how much I missed it when I didn’t have it for Assassin’s Quest.  Sadly, I see it’s also missing from The Tawny Man.  Ah well.

I miss Fitz and the Fool.  We do get to see the Fool’s alter ego, Amber and my heart just about broke when she mentioned the slave pin that had been given to her by her true love.  I’m not certain at which point we are supposed to realise that Amber is the Fool, but once you know she is, it’s hard to avoid picking up these little hints. I’m shipping Fitz and the Fool so hard right now.  I’ve forgotten how they left things at the end of Fool’s Fate, but I’m hoping they’ll get together in the new trilogy.  That could be a very interesting romantic relationship for Hobb to explore.

Anyway, I digress from the Liveship Traders.  After three books of male protagonists, it was a refreshing change to see strong women characters come to the fore, notably Ronica and Malta.  If I remember Malta from Ship of Dreams this shows some real character development.  I enjoyed that their strength of character was contrasted with that of the Satrap’s Companion, Serilla.  Hobb’s skill as a writer were shown in how well Serilla’s actions and motivations are relatable, even though they are working against one of our protagonists.

The whole Bingtown Trader politics confused me, but that’s probably my own fault for not rereading the first two books first!

The whole prologue with She Who Remembers didn’t do much for me.  However if I remember correctly, it’s one of the pivotal points of the series.  Sigh.

That’s all for today.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more updates.

five-stars

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update1

Reading challenge – Realm of the Elderlings Update1Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb
Series: Farseer Trilogy #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Paul Boehmer
Length: 37 hrs and 39 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Realm of the Elderlings

My Summary Post
Progress: 5/5 (100%)
24 July, 2014 — 16 August, 2014
Completed!

100%

Progress:  Assassin’s Quest 100% complete

So this weekend I powered through and finished Assassin’s Quest, the third book in the Farseer Trilogy.  As a side note, this book is not Whispersync for Voice enabled, so switching between the Kindle and audiobook versions was a hassle.

I loved this book.  The two magic systems invented by Hobb – the Skill and the Wit – are tightly drawn and are used in very interesting ways.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a history book which indicates the main theme of that particular chapter.  They tie in very nicely together.

Initially the first book of the trilogy – Assassin’s Apprentice – is very slow and boring, but once the trilogy picks up, it moves along at a great pace.

The Fool is one of the most intriguing characters for me in epic fantasy.  I look forward to continuing the character’s story in The Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies.  Of course now there is the prospect of even more Fool to come in the new Fitz and Fool trilogy :o)

That’s all I have for tonight.  Onto Ship of Destiny!

five-stars

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Review

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – ReviewQueen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: Queen of the Tearling #1
Also in this series: The Invasion of the Tearling
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Length: 14 hours 30 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is a new YA epic fantasy novel which tells the story of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn who must reclaim her birthright of the Tear throne.  To do this she must survive plots against her by her uncle, the Regent, and take a stand against the Mort Queen to protect her people.  The fantasy is quite subtle in this book, unlike HarperCollins’ publicity machine which has been seriously promoting this book.  This has been helped by the fact that Emma Watson has bought the film rights to the book and intends to play Kelsea in an upcoming movie adaptation.  In all honesty, I cannot say that the hype was justified – I had a few significant issues with the book.  But first of all let’s say what I liked.

What I liked

The protagonist.  From various interviews by Erika Johansen I have read it appears she has set out to create a YA protagonist who was more of an Everygirl rather than your typical YA heroine; stunningly beautiful with attractive young men fighting over her attentions while she runs a marathon and slays a few baddies before breakfast.  In that respect I believe Johansen succeeded in this.  Her Kelsea is rather homely, carries a little extra weight, would rather curl up with a good book than hike through the forest, and is refreshingly free (so far) of romantic entanglements.

Social conscience.  I also appreciated that Kelsea has a strong social conscience.  She acts the way she does not merely because she is forced into situations by circumstances but because she genuinely wishes to do what’s best for her people.  

Interesting supporting characters.  The characters Kelsea meets on her journey are wonderfully intriguing.  I look forward to reading more about The Mace and The Fetch, and I suspect we’ll hear more of Barty and Carlin’s backstory before the end of the series.

What I didn’t like

Inconsistent characterisation.  I was especially irritated that Kelsea seemed to be able to assess quickly and accurately the people she meets on her journey.  This is a young woman who has grown up in near isolation for her own protection.  While she has read a lot and has been well taught by Carlin, it seems rather unlikely to me that someone who hadn’t encountered many other people in her life would be able to judge them so accurately and consistently.  I suppose I might give her a pass on that with her training and the possible influence of the magical jewels, but still, it didn’t sit easily with me.

The worldbuilding.  This for me was by far the weakest part of the book.  The important part of any worldbuilding is that it should be logical and consistent within its own framework.  In the case of The Queen of the Tearling that is not the case. From the blurb, I gathered that William Tearling and his followers had left from our modern day world to colonise a new landmass that had appeared and to found a new utopia.  I was left with the question what was this utopia supposed to consist of?  What was their aim?  This appears to have been a planned exodus and not a last minute flight from disaster – the colonists had time to choose and pack books and other resources.  Too often I felt Johansen was trying to shoehorn modern references into a typical epic fantasy mediaeval world with little justification or explanation.  I just could not suspend my disbelief in a world where people understand recessive genes, in which the Harry Potter novels survive, but the colonists have not yet developed a basic combustion engine or remastered electricity.  It’s not as if the Crossing happened twenty years ago; it’s been three centuries since William Tear left our world.  Or were they too busy trying to recreate Harry Potter’s butterbeer to think about electricity? We humans are resourceful and inventive creatures; surely in three hundred years we would have progressed beyond the society Johansen describes?

Perhaps I am missing some key explanation that was given that makes all this make sense.  If I have, please do let me know.

If you are interested in a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy world with oblique modern day references it is far better executed in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series.  

I gave The Queen of the Tearling three stars out of five.

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three-stars

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch – Review

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch – ReviewThe Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch
Series: The Knots Sequence #2
Also in this series: Oathbreaker's Shadow
Format: ARC
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch is the second and final book in her Knots Sequence duology and follows on from Oathbreaker’s Shadow.  I received a free copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.  I have previously reviewed the first in the series – check out my review here.  

The novel takes up where we left off in the earlier book with Raim seeking to learn the history of his mysterious broken vow as well as to rescue his friend Wadi.  It has been a while since I read Oathbreaker’s Shadow and for a couple of pages I was a little confused.  However, McCulloch quickly and skillfully recapped the main points so that I was soon up to speed.

What I liked

Tight narrative structure.  The Shadow’s Curse switches between two points of view, Raim’s and Wadi’s, following two converging main storylines.  Wadi’s storyline also serves to present the main antagonist’s, Kareh’s, story.  This works well to create tension for the inevitable confrontation when these paths come together.  Both Raim and Wadi are working towards specific goals.  In Raim’s case, this aim is explicitly stated early on – to rid himself of his oathbreaker stigma – whereas Wadi’s purpose is not revealed until later.  This structure keeps the novel’s pace moving along briskly and creates good narrative tension,

Payoff from book one. Oathbreaker’s Shadow had left me a little frustrated that there had been so little payoff for the setup.  This is remedied in The Shadow’s Curse in which the central premise of Raim’s broken vow is explored in much more satisfying depth.  For this reason I would suggest that you read both as one long story.

The worldbuilding.  I really enjoyed the world that McCulloch created with the taboo around oathbreaking and the haunts.  In The Shadow’s Curse this is explored in greater depth as Raim and Draikh learn to work together.  We also explore new parts of this world which was interesting too.  The contrast between the nomadic North and the more settled South was intriguing.  

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  I continued to be far more invested in the world in which the characters find themselves rather than in the characters themselves. For me though, the interesting world more than balanced this out.

I thought The Shadow’s Curse was a solid end to the Knots Sequence duology and I gave it four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Series: The Red Queen's War #1
Also in this series: The Wheel of Osheim
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 14 hours and 37 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Prince of Fools is the first in a new series – The Red Queen’s War – by Mark Lawrence who wrote the Broken Empire trilogy.  This new series is set in the same world as The Broken Empire, but focusses on a different set of characters.  Emperor of Thorns was one of my top reads for 2013, so I had high expectations of Prince of Fools – I’m happy to say it lived up to them.

What I liked

The setting.  Both Red Queen’s War and Broken Empire trilogy are set in a world which is strongly implied to be ours many millennia after a cataclysmic event (the “thousand suns”) in which magic plays a part.  Some references to our world bleed through but often in an almost unrecognisable form.  It’s a great deal of fun spotting these references.  These are very subtle – for example our protagonists meet a circus elephant, who is, of course, called Nellie.  A week later I still can’t get the children’s song out of my brain and now you can’t either.  You’re welcome.  

Anyway to return to the setting.  One very interesting choice Lawrence made with the Red Queen’s War trilogy is to set it concurrently with the events of Broken Empire.  Certain events make it clear where in the events of the narrative of the first trilogy this second series is set.  Indeed, the protagonists of Prince of Fools actually cross paths with those of Broken Empire at one point.  This intersection of storylines doesn’t seem to have affected either at this point, but it will be interesting to see if there are more such instances.  

Choice of antagonist.  Another interesting aspect is that it is implied that both series share the same Big Bad.  Given that those of us who have read the first series believe we know how this ends, some  good questions are raised.  Did Broken Empire end the way we think it did?  What will Jal’s role be?  Will there be a different threat for Jal to face in the end?   I should point out that it is not necessary to have read Broken Empire to enjoy Prince of Fools, but it will add extra layers to the enjoyment.  

The characters.  One of Lawrence’s real skills as a writer is in writing three dimensional, fully developed characters and he has done the same here for Jalan Kendeth.  Jalan is very different to Jorg Ancrath of the Broken Empire, but still a very engaging character.  Whereas Jorg was a broken spirit even from when we first got to know him, Jal is perfectly content with his life and focussed on little more than his own pleasures and self preservation until he is drawn into this adventure against his will.  At this point, Jalan himself wouldn’t claim much depth of character beyond his interests in women and wine, but there are hints of good character development and knowing Lawrence’s writing, there is an interesting character arc ahead of him.  I look forward to seeing where it goes.

I also enjoyed the contrasts between Jalan and Snorri.  They are portrayed as being complete opposites in every way, both physically and character wise.  Jalan is dark haired and better suited to running away than fighting, whereas Snorri is tall,  blond and built like the Hulk.  Personality wise, Snorri is straightforward, honourable and focussed on others, whereas Jalan is definitely more self centred.  There are many light/dark references to the two of them and I look forward to seeing how that plays out in future books.

The narration.  The narration was done by Tim Gerard Reynolds and while I enjoyed it, I would say it was competent rather than fantastic. 

What I didn’t like.

There was nothing I didn’t like about Prince of Fools.  I gave it four and a half stars out of five,

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four-half-stars

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – ReviewThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Series: The Throne of Glass #1
Also in this series: Heir of Fire, Empire of Storms
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I actually found this review of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass quite difficult to write.  It tells the story of assassin turned prisoner Celaena and her participation in the competition to become the King’s Champion.  I LOVED the book and got caught up in the story and characters.  However this made it rather tricky to analyse why I liked it so much and what made it work.  Nevertheless I’ll give it a go.

What I liked

The characters.  I found our protagonist Celaena Sardothien very engaging and fun to follow.  She is strong-willed, smart, resourceful – and very funny.  It’s clear her experiences in the prison of Endovier have left their mark on her, both physically and emotionally.  Maas did however add in a few quirks to keep her real.  I liked that she wasn’t immediately up to full physical strength after her imprisonment and had to balance physical weakness with smarts.  The fact that she was terrified to stand on the glass in the glass castle was interesting.

The setting.  Now, I am a person who has a stronger affinity with words than with pictures, but I loved the mental picture that Maas conjured of the glass castle at Rifthold.  I really wish I could visit it.  I liked that the fantastical aspect of the story was kept pretty low key.  The magic is more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.  

The love triangle.  Again this was very low key.  Unusually, both love interests seemed valid partners for Celaena – often it’s clear which one is the “right” one.  That’s not true in this case.   I look forward to seeing how both relationships develop in future books.

The pacing.  The plot is pretty straightforward with few subplots or diversions.  Maas keeps it moving along at a good pace, with always a reason to keep turning the page.

What I didn’t like

The only thing I might have to say negatively about Throne of Glass is that the King seems somewhat of a moustache twirling villain.  I like my villains to be more subtle.

I gave Throne of Glass five stars out of five and look forward to reading the sequel, Crown of Midnight.

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five-stars

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly – Review

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly – ReviewDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 373 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly is the first in the Waterfire Saga and tells the story of mermaid princess Serafina, who, along with several of her friends, is called to fulfil an ancient prophecy and prevent an untold evil from rising.  

What i liked

The worldbuilding.  There are not that many mermaid books around that I’m aware of – Anna Banks’ Syrena Legacy series excepted – so I found this a fresh change.  I loved the world Donnelly created, complete with languages and histories and mythologies.  The little fishy reference such as merlfriend instead of girlfriend were rather amusing.  

The pacing.  Donnelly keeps the plot moving along briskly with something always happening and a new danger to escape.

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  While the characters were OK, and their mermaidness added some interest, other than that they were cookie-cutter YA heroines with little depth to them.

Generic plot.  The plot is your generic teens have to bind together to track down the McGuffin to prevent the Big Bad from doing what he or she wants to do.  So far there were no interesting twists to this.

The narration.  I started listening to the audiobook, but within a short time Bea Miller’s narration had irritated me to the point that I chose to continue in ebook format.  I don’t think she was a bad narrator – she did well in distinguishing the voices for the characters – however the voice she chose for the protagonist just grated on my ears.

Despite these gripes, the charm of the worldbuilding and the smart pacing was enough to keep me interested in the story.  I will certainly continue with the series.

I gave Deep Blue three and a half stars out of five.

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three-half-stars

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist – Review

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist – ReviewSilverthorn by Raymond E. Feist
Series: Riftwar Saga #3
Format: Paperback
Pages: 343 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist is the third book in the Riftwar Saga and together with A Darkness at Sethanon forms a kind of duology within the series.  This first part tells the story of Prince Arutha’s search for the magical silverthorn plant to cure his beloved Anita from magical poisoning and of the growing threat of Murmandamus,

I consider Feist to be one of the master storytellers of his generation.  Let me tell you a story to prove it.  I studied language and literature at university and after four years of deep literary analysis sucking all the enjoyment out of reading I refused to read anything more complex than a Cosmopolitan for many, many years after graduation.  Not until, that is, a colleague loaned me Feist’s Shadow of a Dark Queen, the first in his Serpentwar saga.  I completely DEVOURED it and the rest of the series.  I was immediately drawn into Feist’s world of Midkemia and it reignited my love of reading that I’d all but forgotten.  When I bought my first Kindle and made the switch to ebooks, a book by Feist was also the first book I bought to ease my transition to the new format.

So, onto Silverthorn.

What I liked

Worldbuilding.  Feist has been writing in his world of Midkemia for over 30 years and knows it inside out.  Each of the nations in his world has its own distinct character, flora and fauna and customs.  The world feels real.  The magic system is what Brandon Sanderson would call a soft magic system in that it’s not always fully explained to the reader.  Feist is good at avoid using magic to create a deus ex machina which can be a strong temptation of a less well defined magic system.

Characters.  The characters, too, feel real.  While Arutha is the hero of Silverthorn and displays many heroic qualities he can be a really moody son of a gun which keeps him real.  The young Jimmy the Hand too, could be annoying, but his occasional moments of real vulnerability keep him endearing to the reader.  Admittedly,  in Silverthorn his female characters aren’t my favourite.  Carline comes across as shrewish and Anita is your stereotypical damsel in distress.  We don’t have a kickass Brienne of Tarth or Egwene al Vere.  Still, Silverthorn is one of Feist’s earlier works, and his female characters are better written later on.

Pacing.  Feist knows how keep a story moving along at a brisk pace and to keep narrative tension.  In Feist’s books there is always something going on; always an obstacle to overcome or an enemy about to try to kill our protagonists. 

The humour.  I adore Feist’s writing still with its not infrequent humour.  it is a rather dry, understated humour which is often expressed in quips by the characters and  really appeals to my British sense of humour.

What I didn’t like

Not available in ebook format.  Here I have to have a rant.  It seems that the publisher for the English version of Raymond E. Feist’s Silverthorn in North America doesn’t have the rights to produce an ebook version.  The only ebook version available to us Canadians is the French version.  I see that the UK publishers to have an ebook version available, but can we Canadians buy it?  Nope. We can easily buy hard copy books from Amazon.co.uk, but not ebooks.  Grrrr.  I look forward to the day when digital rights are less restrictive. I started reading Silverthorn in French as ebook, but in the end I found I was missing too much of Feist’s nuance and humour so switched to the paperback version.  (Note, the links above are to the French ebooks.)

Few female characters.   See above.

All in all I loved Silverthorn and gave it four stars out of five.

 

Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist – Review

four-stars
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