Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Liveship Traders (Trilogy) by Robin Hobb

Book Title: Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: From the author of the classic Farseer trilogy, Ship of Magic begins an epic tale of pirates, sentient ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes and bloody battles.

On the northernmost point of the Cursed Shores lies Bingtown, a bustling hub of exotic trade and home to a proud merchant nobility famed for its extraordinary vessels.

Only Bingtown liveships can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain Wild River and plunder the riches found upstream, but such vessels are made from the most precious commodity in the world – a material with the ability to become sentient – and so are extremely rare.

The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. But the fate of Vivacia – and the Vestrits – may ultimately lie in the hands of the dark and charming pirate, Kennit, who lusts after such a ship and has plans of his own.
This is a trilogy. I'll mostly talk about the first book. There are no spoilers in my reviews!

An overview to the Realm of the Elderlings

I began reading Robin Hobb at some point in the last two years and started with the Farseer Trilogy, which is the first trilogy in her series Realm of the Elderlings. I enjoyed it a lot, but I also struggled with it.

First of all, let's look at the Realm of the Elderlings series:
  1. The Farseer Trilogy (narrated in the first person by Fitz)
  2. The Liveship Traders Trilogy (narrated in the third person, following various protagonists)
  3. The Tawny Man Trilogy (again narrated in the first person by Fitz)
  4. The Rain Wild Chronicles (4 books, just to mix it up a little, narrated in the third person)
  5. The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy (narrated in the first person by Fitz and one of the other characters)
Do they have to be read in order? Yes and no. If you just want to read the Fitz books, you can read the Farseer Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy and the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. However, those must certainly be read in order.

The Liveship Traders and the Rain Wild Chronicles add a lot of depth to the world and the last trilogy ties it all together. I have seen that some people aren't big fans of the Rain Wilds Chronicles and yes it could technically be skipped.

I do highly recommend reading the Liveship Traders, though! I really enjoyed myself. They could be technically read without ever touching any of the other books, they tell a complete story!

Let's talk Liveship Traders

Maybe you've noticed the words "but I also struggled with it" up there while mentioning the Farseer Trilogy and now you want to know why.

Robin Hobb's pacing is glacial. The books are too long. I still love them!

Robin Hobb offers her readers wonderful prose and her style is almost literary. Her books are very character driven and a lot of the protagonists spend many pages doing mundane tasks or contemplating their lives.

I'm not a fan of that aspect. It feels like every book starts with a bang, ends with a bang but has a big drawn out middle section.

This is, however, my only complaint so far.

Ship of Magic is fantastic! The entire trilogy is told in third person from different points of views, which adds a variety that the Farseer trilogy, told only from Fitz's point of view, was missing.

I love, love, love the premise. Ships that are alive and are actual characters capable of thoughts and emotions. I never thought I'd root for a wooden ship.

I especially loved the antagonists Hobb created. There's one truly despicable villain, I wanted to strangle most of the time, but Hobb shows us his point of view and in his own story his actions make perfect sense to him. He's literally the hero of his own story and everything he does, is because he believes it's the right thing to do. This adds so much depth to his character and made him enthralling and at the same time my favourite and least favourite part of the book.

There's another character that gets an amazing development across all three books. Again one that you might want to strangle at first but will slowly fall in love with. 

Hobb created many great female characters in this trilogy. They kick ass and they save the day!

I don't want to say too much about the plot. Let's just say the liveship Vivacia awakens to a troublesome chapter in the Vestrit's family history. And Kennit, the pirate, really wants to own one of these talking wooden ships!

I don't think I have to recommend this series to Robin Hobb fans, they probably have all read it already, but if you weren't a fan of the Farseer trilogy and would like to read something different by this beloved fantasy author, try this one. (If you happen to be a fantasy fan who has not yet tried Robing Hobb...what are you waiting for?)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Tooth And Claw by Jo Walton

Book Title: Tooth and Claw
Author: Jo Walton
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Own a Kindle copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: A family of dragons gathers on the occasion of the death of their father, the elder Bon Agornin. As is custom, they must eat the body. But even as Bon's last remains are polished off, his sons and daughters must all jostle for a position in the new hierarchy. While the youngest son seeks greedy remuneration through the courts of law, the eldest son - a dragon of the cloth - agonises over his father's deathbed confession. While one daughter is caught between loyalty to her family by blood and her family by marriage, another daughter follows her heart - only to discover the great cost of true love...
Here is a Victorian story of political intrigue, and family ties, set in a world of dragons - a world, quite literally, red in tooth and claw. Full of fiery wit, this is a novel unlike any other.
What did I think?

This is unlike anything I've ever read in fantasy.

If Jane Austen, or maybe Charles Dickens, felt the sudden urge to write a fantasy book about dragons, this is probably what they would have written.

It has everything: daughters who need to marry, a lost inheritance, romance, etiquette, a greedy family member, a confession, and charming characters. Only...they're all dragons. And they also eat each other.

If any of that sounds at all intriguing to you, please pick this up. It's short, charming, witty and heartwarming.

Jo Walton takes dragon lore and mythology and makes it work with the customs in Victorian society. The world building is delightful. The characters are charming. The society is, frankly, amusing. We've got lords and ladies, only they're all dragons (did I mention everyone in this book is a dragon? But they sit at tables, drink tea and travel in carriages. Just making sure, I definitely mentioned that.) and they all attempt to thrive in society either via their profession or the party they marry. They go to church, they have servants, oh and, they eat the weak and the ill to better their race. Dragon meat helps smaller dragons grow, only to eat, you must already be big and strong...and please don't forget to wear the proper hat.

I've enjoyed this read a lot and recommend it to fans of the Classics just as much as I recommend it to fantasy fans.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts

Book Title: The Curse of the Mistwraith (Wars of Light and Shadow #1)
Author: Janny Wurts
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Own a Kindle copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: The stunning first volume in Janny Wurts’s epic tale of two half-brothers cursed to life-long enmity.
The world of Athera lives in eternal fog, its skies obscured by the malevolent Mistwraith. Only the combined powers of two half-brothers can challenge the Mistwraith’s stranglehold: Arithon, Master of Shadow and Lysaer, Lord of Light.
Arithon and Lysaer will find that they are inescapably bound inside a pattern of events dictated by their own deepest convictions. Yet there is more at stake than one battle with the Mistwraith – as the sorcerers of the Fellowship of Seven know well. For between them the half-brothers hold the balance of the world, its harmony and its future, in their hands.
What did I think?

4.5 Stars.

I loved this first book in the Wars of Light and Shadow series. I will definitely re-read the entire series once I'm done with it, and I can imagine that it'll turn into a five star read. There's much between the lines to be discovered, and there are definitely things I missed.

This isn't an easy book. It's not a quick read. The prose is dense, beautiful, descriptive, and the author, Janny Wurts, asks the reader to pay attention and to be patient. No word is wasted, no paragraph can be skimmed. It's all there from the very start, and I found it extremely rewarding to put in the time and immerse myself in the world and the characters.

The Curse of the Mistwraith offers a richly detailed world, filled with lore and history. It feels like every word is hand picked, and I must admit I fell in love with Arithon, Master of Shadow, who just wants to play his music and instead gets pulled into an epic conflict.

I recommend this to everyone who enjoys high fantasy, is looking for an epic series, maybe even for a bit of a challenge, and who doesn't mind reading slowly, absorbing the prose and putting in some work.

On top of that, the author, Janny Wurts, is such a wonderful person and keeps answering our questions over on Goodreads and also interacts with fans on Twitter and Reddit. I can't wait to dive further into this world and discover more of her writing.

Friday, 16 March 2018

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

Book Title: The Shadow of What Was Lost
Author: James Islington
Genre: Fantasy, (On the YA side, but not marketed or sold as YA)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: It has been twenty years since the end of the war. The dictatorial Augurs - once thought of almost as gods - were overthrown and wiped out during the conflict, their much-feared powers mysteriously failing them. Those who had ruled under them, men and women with a lesser ability known as the Gift, avoided the Augurs' fate only by submitting themselves to the rebellion's Four Tenets. A representation of these laws is now written into the flesh of any who use the Gift, forcing those so marked into absolute obedience.
As a student of the Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war fought – and lost – before he was born. Despised by most beyond the school walls, he and those around him are all but prisoners as they attempt to learn control of the Gift. Worse, as Davian struggles with his lessons, he knows that there is further to fall if he cannot pass his final tests.
But when Davian discovers he has the ability to wield the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. And to the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…
What did I think?

I loved this book. I had a ball reading it. I devoured it in a few days. I did not want to put it down.

It starts out as a straight-forward fantasy adventure. Youth finds out he has the ability to wield a forbidden power and ancient evil stirs at the edge of the map. However, it quickly evolves into a complex tale with countless twists and turns and a bunch of lovable characters.

My main issues with the book were minor ones. You can tell this is James Islington's debut. If you're a seasoned fantasy reader, you will spot repetitions and moments where the pacing is off. Nothing bad, just something that shows, yes this is a debut.

Caeden is my favourite character. They're not all as well developed as they could be, but it's only the first book in a trilogy...there's time.

The world building is intriguing, and I loved the extensive back story Islington built. The magic system is fascinating. I've seen the book compared to Wheel of Time and I can imagine this is how it must have felt to read those first few books back in the early 90s.

It's not a difficult plot to follow for fantasy fans, but it does require some attention. I do think it's a great introduction to the genre for non-fantasy fans and would (obviously) recommend it to all fantasy fans. I've also read the second book in the series (the third is not yet out, as of spring 2018) and it gets even better. Definitely one to pick up!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

TTT (26) - Top Ten Books That Surprised Me

Books that surprised me, is this week's great topic chosen by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Read up on the rules here and join in on the Top Ten Tuesday fun.

I'm going to choose books that made me gasp at some point. Perhaps because of a twist, or because of a loss or simply because they took a turn I did not expect.

Usually in those moments my gf is sitting on the sofa, suddenly confronted with a NOOOO! and for a moment she wonders whether or not I'm okay before spotting the book in my hands. She then proceeds to ask what's up, but it's usually far too complicated to explain and hello? I'm obviously reading a good book, let me continue!
I've chosen three Fantasy/Sci-Fi books. Three Thriller/Suspense books. And three literary books. The links lead to my reviews.

Fantasy first.We got Golden Son by Pierce Brown, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Wool by Hugh Howey.
Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy and the one that elevated the series from Hunger Games in space to a simply mind-blowing three books.
The Fifth Season is the first book in a trilogy. It's an amazing series. Post-apocalyptic in a way. In this world some people are Orogenes, who can control seismic activity and hence move mountains, create earthquakes or even still earthquakes. Because humans fear the unknown the Orogenes are feared and often killed or trained and treated as slaves. It's extremely well written and told from the point of view of three amazing female characters. To say more would be to spoil the story.
Wool...well, Wool is an amazing post-apocalyptic tale, the first book in the Silo trilogy. Originally told in smaller instalments, but then brought together in this Omnibus. People live underground in silos, because above ground has been made uninhabitable.

Let's move on to Thrillers. We got I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
I Let You Go, a mother lets go of her son for just a moment and seconds later he's dead, run over in a hit and run. To say more would spoil everything and all three books are best experienced blind.
He Said / She Said is about a couple hiding from the past and the plot truly surprised me. Both books have a slow start but turn into an amazing read once everything unfolds.
Big Little Lies, do I even have to introduce this one? Amazing story, so fast paced and addictive that you won't be able to put it down.

And finally, the literary stuff. I chose Atonement by Ian McEwan, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
Atonement is a book filled with amazing prose. A misunderstanding, a teenager with an over-active imagination, repercussions and atonement. Very touching, and a punch to the gut. It's set around World War II.
Fingersmith had a twist so mind-blowing I think I threw the book across the room. And you know what's funny? I read it when I was quite young and a few years ago I realised I loved this novel, but for the life of me could not remember the twist??? I got to read the book for the first time a second time! And, yes, threw it across the room again! This one is set in Victorian London.
We Need To Talk About Kevin. Did the lack of motherly love create a monster or was the child born without empathy, and hence the mother was incapable to build a relationship with her son? After killing several of his classmates, Kevin is now in prison, and his mother is working through her trauma in a series of letters to her estranged husband. I devoured this book and the film and years later it still makes me want to cry.

What about you? What books surprised you? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Book Title: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, (On the YA side, but not strictly YA)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Own a Kindle copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields.
But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy - the magic that lies in all metals.
What did I think?

Brandon Sanderson. For some the best fantasy author currently writing. For others a great introduction to fantasy but ultimately a gateway to more complex books. I stand neither here nor there. We simply haven't connected yet. I attempted The Way of Kings, back in 2016 and gave up halfway through (in the UK it was published in two volumes and I only read the first).

I finally decided to read the first Mistborn novel...and I liked it. I guess?

Brandon Sanderson is an author I highly admire for his interactions with fans and his writing lessons. Any aspiring fantasy authors should check out his YouTube channel and watch some of his classes. He's inspiring, a machine, plots like no one else and his magic systems are intricate and extremely well developed.

With Sanderson you know the next book is just around the corner and you also know his plot will have a huge payoff, because he's an extensive planner.

To me it feels...sterile? Formulaic? At least to a certain extent. I enjoyed the book, but I didn't fall in love with any of the characters and so far I haven't felt the need to pick up the sequel. His writing is very functional. His characters feel just developed enough, and the plot comes across as meticulously planned. Maybe that's the problem? I'm a chaotic being at heart and maybe I can just feel the planning ooze from the pages and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

I'm in the absolute minority, so don't listen to me. Every fantasy fan will tell you to give this a try and it's a great introduction to the genre. So, go ahead and do the only right thing: try it for yourself.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Book Title: Stillhouse Lake
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Own a Kindle copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK 

Goodreads Summary:
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.
With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.
But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.
What did I think?

This was a book I swallowed in more or less one sleepless night. The premise is very interesting: the wife of a serial killer, who can't believe she didn't realise her husband had a secret life hidden away in the garage, must protect herself and her children in the aftermath of her husband's conviction.

The plot is fast-paced, heart-stopping and Gwen/Gina is a wonderfully developed protagonist. The atmosphere is spooky, gripping and tense. The opening alone makes the book worth a read. It opens with a literal bang, and I just had to know what happens next.

One aspect that makes the book quite scary is how careful Gwen is when it comes to the Internet. Even though she's changed her name, is hidden away in a remote place (uh-hoh, right?) and cut all ties, Internet trolls still find her. The time and effort these trolls invest, hunting someone down just because it's fun and they're bullies...and such people are real.

I recommend this to everyone who likes their thrillers dark and twisted and thankfully the sequel is out.