Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa is graced, highly-skilled in a specific activity. Her grace is killing and is used by her uncle King Randa to brutally enforce his will. This leads to her being something of an outcast. Katsa resents being used as a weapon and the world where competing  kings play their games without regard for the common folk  but can't openly defy him. Instead she forms a council of like-minded individuals to do what they can for the people. On one such mission Katsa rescues an old Lienid man who turns out to be the grandfather of the princes of Lienid. This leads to  Katsa meeting with Prince Po the youngest of the princes, and a graced fighter himself ,who wants to discover why his grandfather was kidnapped and who did it.

The strongest point of this novel is that it is very much character driven. Katsa's journey of self-discovery takes center stage and I particularly enjoyed the way Cashore showed the way Katsa upbringing effected the choices she makes and the way she reacts to events.

World-building is solid and I liked the concept of graces, especially how they are often mis-perceived.

Pacing was initially on the slow slide but gets into it's stride about a third of the way through the book.

Overall Cashore delivers a strong character driven novel. 8/10,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Did not finish: The Madness of Hallen by Russell Meek

Being from New Zealand myself I am obviously excited when I come across a New Zealand author writing in the fantasy genre. However that also means when I come across something that doesn't quite work I am doubly dissapointed.

Meeks writing style itself causes problems right from the get go. There is a major issue of telling rather than showing. This is exasperated by the frequent point-of-view shifts, often within a paragraph, which makes things very disjointed and prevented me from being immersed in the story.

The plot  itself is pretty standard from what I read with two brother's in an isolated mountain village whose parents are involved in some mysterious dealings. I can't really add much further as I couldn't get past page 60.

Sadly I found this one adhered to many of the negative stereotypes of self-published writing. While I am loathe to add a rating having only finished a fraction of the book I'd say it was heading for a 3 or a 4.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: Legion:Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

Stephen Leeds, a genius who compartmentalizes different skills by creating personalized aspects that only he can see,  is contacted by on old acquaintance named Yol, a high profile Korean businessman. Yol has recently acquired a new bio-tech company which was working on a way to encode data directly into the human body. Only catch is it can be used to produce cancer. One of the lead scientist recently died in a skiing accident and his body has gone missing, with much of the data encoded within. If its falls into the wrong hands the result could be catastrophic.

Sanderson capitalizes on Stephen unique condition by showing him interacting in everyday situations (for example the book opens up with him on a date) as well has having some of enemies capitalize on it which I thought added clever layers of depth. I also enjoyed the way different aspects accepted/rejected their imaginary status.

Thankfully Sanderson doesn't overplay the humour aspect and what he does include works because of its subtly. This is definitely key for him moving forward.

Pacing is brisk with a clever plot twist.

Overall Sanderson continues to deliver in the shorter formats, combining a well worked story with clever uses of the overall concept. 8.25/10.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review: Master and Fool by J.V.Jones

Tawl is wrongly accused of the Duke of Bren's assassination and takes Meli into hiding. Meli discovers she is pregnant with the Duke's heir making her a very real obstacle in Baralis' plans to have Kylock head a northern empire. Meanwhile Jack learns of the danger Meli is in and decides to cut his training with Stillfox short and journey to aid her but will he be able to match Baralis and Kylock?

As with the previous volume I found the bumbling, overconfident nature of the majority of the characters to be majorly off putting. Many of the dialogue scenes also felt stilled and forced and made it difficult to get into the book. Some side characters motivations also didn't add up. 

On the positive side many of the major story arcs are resolved and it is clear that Jones is skilled at foreshadowing. However pacing certainly lagged in places.

Overall the concluding chapter to the Book of Word's trilogy is a bit of a mixed bag. 5.75/10. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Ghosts 2014: The Snowman

“Bah humbug.” Inspector Brown muttered as he stomped his feet in a futile attempt to force some feeling back. He loathed Christmas. It was like the bat signal for nut-jobs and he invariably found himself freezing his balls off in some redneck’s backyard.
At least his partner was the one having to wrestle the suspect into their car, some pimply kid who kept screaming about a snowman even when his bloody fingerprints covered the knife. Inspector Brown frowned at that self-same snowman, which stared contemptuously back.
“Must be losing it.” He muttered. “Could have sworn he wasn’t so close before.”

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Prince Yarvi has always been an outcast and a disappointment to his parents. In a society which values strength of arms Yarvi disfigured hand has been a major handicap. Nonetheless Yari has used his brains and cunning to study to become a Minister and is about to take the exams before his father and elder brother are murdered. Thrust into kingship Yarvi lacks confidence to fulfill the role, nonetheless he swears an oath to avenge his family. He later learns that his uncle had his father murdered and attempts to do the same to Yarvi who is betrayed and left for dead. Made a slave Yarvi is still intent on fulling his oath and may acquire some strange companions to do so.

This novel is very much a coming of age story at its crux and explains the Young Adult classification. Yarvi is initially consumed by his lack of physical prowess and his status as an outcast but begins to trust his own strength as the novel progress.

While Yarvi is a cconvincing protagonist I found the support cast less fleshed out then I have come to expect from an Abercrombie novel. One of the reasons for this is Abercrombie has steered away from the multi points of view perspectives which he is so good at.

The world building is exceptionally well done and unintrusive. The world is set in a viking like setting with politics and religion well portrayed in particular.

Despite being the first volume in a trilogy the story stands very well on its own and I enjoyed the well foreshadowed plot twists,

Overall Abercrombie has delivered a solid novel but his characterization is somewhat below what I have come to expect. 8/10.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Harry August was born in 1919. His mother was a household maid who was raped by the affluent master of the household where she worked. Harry's mother died in childbirth and while he was not acknowledged as his father's son his aunt ensured that Harry was raised within the household by the groundskeeper and his wife. Aside from his rather traumatic beginning Harry lived a rather ordinary life and the died....only to be born again in 1919 and have his memories from his previous life slowly come back to him and so the process begins again. Throughout his lives Harry meets others like him who form the Cronus Club who abide by a code of non-interference in linear affairs, At the end of one of his lives receives a message that the world is ending or more correctly ending sooner than it should. Knowing that one of his own kind can only be responsible Harry sets out to find the culprit.

The concept is an original and well conceived one. The story takes place as something of a narrative from Harry's perspective and as one might except Harry jumps around from life to life as events which have shaped him effect 'the present' circumstance. This is an appropriate way of doing things as it shows a very real similarity to a real world biography and is an excellent way to explore the central character to an impressive degree.

With such an approach there was a very real risk that the support characters would be left underdeveloped which I am happy to say is far from the case.

Overall an original concept and well developed lead ccharactermake for a compelling read. 8.5/10.