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Book Frivolity.....

Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!

Currently reading

Stone of Farewell
Tad Williams
The Guns of Empire (The Shadow Campaigns)
Django Wexler
Tallwood
Jeremy Kool, Steve Gerlach & Amanda Kool

The Shattered Court: A Novel of the Four Arts

The Shattered Court: A Novel of the Four Arts - M.J. Scott

 

POV's: Two
Narrative: Third person

What an enjoyable read The Shattered Court is! A romance, set in a fantasy court, with the added drama of intriguing magic, politics and power structures! I read it in two sittings, simply because I found it such a gorgeously entertaining novel!

It has such a nice flow to it, you glide right through it without needing to stop and ponder over the intricacies of a overly tricky POV. Halt! That's not a negative! There is a skill in creating a comfortable narrative, just as much as there is in creating a gritty one. There are definitely gritty elements to the storyline, but the narrative always had a consistent smoothness to it, which was actually a nice change!

I really liked that this was brave in it's descriptions during the sex scenes, a thing not often done outside urban fantasy (there's usually a bit of soft focus work in classic fantasy). But Shattered Court dives right in there! It was sexy 'sexy time', yet not hard-core porn! The only thing I'd say is that the descriptive language in those scenes is a bit inconsistent with the rest of the book. It felt like the scenes were set apart from the book as a whole, when it probably would've clicked a little better if the language was dispersed more liberally throughout.

The two main POV characters were thoroughly enjoyable to read in their own right, they had a nice progression and were completely relatable. However, this is really just a two character focused novel, which is great in some respects, not so in others. It works very well for the romance aspect; getting into the minds of love interests in a more specific way allowed the book to be more focused on the blossoming romance and all that follows. As a fantasy, it makes it's progress fall a little flat. When a novel is set in fantasy style court, but the court isn't filled with a few really well rounded characters, that aspect just sputters out a bit. I suppose it will depend on the reasons you have picked up the book; as a fantasy or a romance.

It's definitely a good crossover, but it's more romance with fantasy elements than vice versa. That's evident in the world building as well, it needed a bit more groundwork to give it a full fantasy vibe. Though, the lead out of the novel shows that not all of those cats are out of the bag yet! In fact, I am really looking forward to the next stop! The snatches of information given of the area fascinate me, it looks very magical steampunkery!

This really is an entertaining romance, and with the fantasy elements, it sits right about where I like to read them! I'll definitely be checking out more Four Arts novels in the future!

Harcopy Worthy? Sure tis!

Captive Prince Volume One

Captive Prince Volume One - C.S. Pacat 2.5. I don't know if you need to read all 3 parts to get as excited about this as others seem to have, but I am obviously in the minority in my thoughts on this.. RTC

Book Review: The Silver Witch

The Silver Witch - Paula Brackston

POV's: Two
Narrative: Third person present and First person present.

It has been some time since I have read a third person narrative set in the present tense. I've never been a great fan of the style, I usually find it a bit jaunting if not written with great skill and with careful consideration of the readers perspective. So, it did take me a while to settle into The Silver Witch,  but once I did, I was extremely glad I didn't let it pass me by. This is actually, one of the better TPP narratives I've seen written. Brackston has been able to involve the reader incredibly well with the story line and there was never really a point where I felt like I was sitting on the outside of the novel (which I find I usually do). It was never he says/she says on repeat, it flowed really nicely and I genuinely forgot my misgivings and in turn completely forgot that I was even reading in the perspective.

The interweaving and coming together of the two narratives, a potter living in present day Wales and a Shaman living in medieval Wales at the time of the Mercian invasions (where it switched to first person present), was nicely handled and they didn't drift too far away from each other. The links which connected the two were always well maintained with little tidbits of information, fact, magic and mythology, to keep both pov's relevant to the storyline. The history was really well researched, you can see the amount of time Brackston put in to making this as close as possible to the reality of the region in medieval times.

The imagery in this book was really beautiful. The descriptions of even the simplest things, like snow on sheep, were magical in themselves. I sighed a few times just taking in the words! I wrote down they were 'edible words'. I can't compliment those special moments enough.

There was the occasional time where I felt that things occurred a bit to instantaneously, a little rushed and didn't quite have enough impact due to the rapidness in which they were dealt with.  I can see how it's happened, possibly more time spent on peripheral occurrences rather than focusing on the main plot. There are only so many jogging scenes I need, to see that she is a runner, or people to stare at her, to see that people find her different; that sort of thing. It needed some evening out in places to create a more stable sense of progression. (There also seemed to be a problem with the narrative about the 'accident', hopefully that's fixed before publication?)

Despite that, this was a beautiful book. Magical, historical, gorgeous wordery and extremely un-put-downable. Those who enjoy the interplay between the past and present, will find this book a fantastic addition to their reading lists.

loved-it

Harcopy Worthy? I'd actually like to explore the whole series (standalones, but all witches!)

Starborn: Book One: The Worldmaker Trilogy

Starborn: Book One: The Worldmaker Trilogy - Lucy Hounsom Originally posted on Book Frivolity!

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third person, past tense, subjective.

I am not often completely surprised when I pick up a novel, but Starborn by Lucy Hounsom is such a great debut into the fantasy genre, I was completely and pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the novel and how engrossed I found myself in the story line.

This is classic fantasy all the way! Beautifully rendered locales, a unique but comfortable world building, strong yet flawed characters and lots of running about madly! It has elements that have a feel similar to authors like Rothfuss, Hobb and Canavan, but a plot line that hearkens back to older classics like Eddings. The great thing is, this isn't a rehash, this is all Hounsom.

The main points of view revolve around Kendra the main protagonist, a strong young woman forced to flee her home when her village turns on her, and her rescuers; Bregenne a blind lunar mage that can see with her magic at night and Nadair a healer solar mage, Bregenne's bond partner. They are all really well rounded characters, emotionally and motivationally, and expressive enough to be empathised with. They go through a steady development, and having glimpses into the secondary POV's histories, allows a sense of connection with the reader.

The fractious characters were also well done, they had motive, and the why's for their actions are actually quite understandable. There isn't a character in the bunch that has empty crazy psychopathic overlord machinations to create the malevolence, thank the Gods! The side characters, particularly Kryndra's frenemies, are a bit flat and one dimensional, they weren't much more than devices to move the plot around.

There is a lot of intrigue and mystery surrounding the world and characters of Starborn. Undercurrents of political and faction push and shove abound, and the sense that nobody has a damn clue about what the reality of world actually entails. The thing that kept me hooked was the scattering of clues, little cut scenes or other devices that allows the reader to piece together certain elements, without just throwing a big shock reveal at the end to cover all the bases. There is absolutely a big reveal, no fantasy would be without one, but the little crumbs along the way give groundwork to it, instead of hashing it out of thin air! It's a 'aha!' not a 'what in all the seven hells?' moment.

The magic system is based on lunar and solar powers; each mage only able to utilise one power, only able to access it during the sun or moons presence and losing it at dawn or dusk. It's was not only a great way to show that these mage's aren't all powerful all the time, but it leaves them open to human vulnerability half the day. As the power flows in and out, you can almost see them inflating or deflating, the absence like losing a life spark. To counteract this, they must be bonded to a lunar or solar counterpart, so they can become a complete unit. It's a really smart way of introducing tension to the storyline, not every bond is beneficial and can be manipulated, whilst some can be heartbreaking, especially when it's severed.

The main niggle I encountered when reading Starborn, is the lack of depth and complexity of interaction the main protagonist Kyndra, has with secondary characters. It's not a grand problem in the scheme of things, but it is noticeable in sections. There are encounters that feel skimmed over, when I wanted to see teeth! Enemy to friendship or friendship to disdain, just seemed to slip into place. I want struggle! I want grit! The strange thing is, the secondary Pov's didn't suffer from it, they did have grit and struggle, which in turn made me care about the peripheral relationships more than Kyndra with her friends or enemies. Her internal dialogue is still strong, she isn't a weak character, so it just needs a nudge for it to settle into the sweet spot. Possibly, rounding out those side characters might have helped with this.

The other slight annoyance, and this may just be preference, was feeling caught ooutside the overflow right at the start of the book. There isn't enough time to get a sense of the characters before all hell breaks loose, so I didn't care what happened to them until further on when it pulled back and the pacing settled down. I was feeling 'meh' when I probably should've been having a stronger reaction.

I really want to note Hounsom's way with adjectives! That sounds a bit strange, but her ability to create atmosphere with beautiful yet precise descriptions can be almost like watching a scene, rather than reading it. You probably won't even notice the skill, because by nature it hides in it's own wordery unless you actually stop to take notice. It's not pointlessly flowery to be cumbersome nor so curt it lacks emphasis, it's quite masterful. Hounsom, I think, was a great reader before a writer!

This really is a fantastic book! Hounsom's début surpasses many authors that have well established careers, so I think she'll be a big name in the future with the right backing.

loved-it

As a side, this is one of those fantasy's that can slip easily into either adult or young adult, like many of the classics can. I don't think I encountered any reason to think it wouldn't be just as suitable for a 15 year old as it would for a 105 year old!

Harcopy Worthy? It's already in April's Wishlust.

- Yes, this review is almost as long as the book. It correlates with how much I enjoyed it!

The Last Quarrel: Episode 5

The Last Quarrel: Episode 5 - Duncan Lay See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective.

With an added dash of reanimated corpses!

So, Duncan Lay is evil. He certainly doesn't deny it, and so the world should know, the man sits in his evil lair, with his evil fluffy cat and his sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads.. I'm joking (or am I?), but if you don't get your 'Oh no you didn't!' face on when you finish this book, you are quite a lot less invested in the characters of this series than I!

This is the last episode of the first book in the trilogy, and all of a sudden, you will be chomping at the bit to know how that intriguing prologue in episode 1 actually comes about, because Lay knows how to write a full blown cliffhanger. I can't even complain about this one, because really, if you want the reader to be in discomfort until the next book comes out, and in turn be compelled to read it, you do it like this does. Oh yes, discomfort. Nothing is really wrapped up, except maybe a characters life, but you are left in the full knowledge, Gaelland is seriously messed up and the shit storm is only really just brewing. I refer back to the Evil.

I have been really impressed with the writing in this series. It's always been clean, concise and so easy to read. Its an understandably hard task for epic fantasy to keep things compact and thesaurus free, but this book is a pretty good example that it can be done! I am unsure who edited the book, but they should be lauded for their work. It is about as streamlined as you can make it, without chopping chunks out of the integral storyline or the relationships between characters, whilst maintaining multiple POV's. Sometimes less is more!

I keep harping on about this, but the portrayal of family really is so well done in this series. The scenes between Kerrin and Fallon in this episode are spot on. It's a strange experience reading a child's POV that is written like a child might actually perceive things, rather than how an adult wishes they would be perceived. There are a lot of child perspectives out the in fantasy land, but none of them ring quite as true as this does. That goes for most of the characters in this book, there is a sense of realism to them that isn't too common around these traps.

Overall, if you are looking for an epic adventure fantasy that is well grounded, well plotted and with characters you could almost pretend are your neighbours, here 'tis!

loved-it

Harcopy Worthy? I think there is going to be a print edition of the omnibus, so probably!

If you want more ramblings about this series, you can checkout the links at the top of this post to see episodes 1 through 4 as well!

-If you are looking for the complete edition, rather than the episodes, it goes on sale the 23/4/2015!

Tower Lord

Tower Lord - Anthony  Ryan Really 4.5 stars.. 3.5 for part 1, 4 for part 2 and 5 for the rest.. I'll update this once the bung eye is less bunged..

Graced

Graced - Amanda Pillar See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third person, subjective.

So, I have a tendency to veer away from Paranormal Romance these days, as I seem to end up reading a lot Paranormal Porn whenever I venture to try. And, I can get that for free thanks to the internet! However, I have seen Amanda Pillar's editing work before, and read some of her short stories, so I figured if if I was going to get back on the horse (Or werewolf) with somebody, this would be a good place to start!

This is far removed from what I had been avoiding. It's actually an incredibly well written, delightfully funny and sometimes poignantly serious romance. It had me snorghing (snort laughing) almost the entire way through and when done, had me contacting the author to find out whether there was a sequel (The answer is a maybe, but hopefully, for all those curious).

The four main points of view consist of a sociopathic vampire, a charming rogue werewolf, a 'cranky puzzle' of a human and a seemingly foppish noble, so all bases are covered! Don't be deceived, it's not a love triangle, partner swinging romp, but each plays an integral role in bringing the 'family' of characters together. And although this is a very cool romance, it is also a pretty good exposition on family, and how not all of them are entirely conventional. Actually the construction of family ties is really unique and interesting!

It does deal with some pretty hefty issues in it's own way, bigotry is there, as is classicism and racism, and also the right to choose. There are some interesting undercurrents going on in this book that I would love to see explored further, in a sequel.

Pillar has this unique way of blending some old time vernacular with modern linguistics that may seem slightly puzzling at first, but it does coincide with the unique world building. You'll need to read it to find out why this is, but suffice to say this isn't an alternate history, no matter what you might go into it thinking (well, it was what I was thinking at any rate!). It's a great little concept that could be well utilised, in a second instalment.

I loved that gay marriage is an entirely acceptable choice and that sexuality has a fluidity to it. I really admire books that are brave with bent content, though sometimes the entirely understandable residual angst can be extremely overwhelming in a romance; here there is simply no need to try and brave those waters.

I also commend the use of the word crotchety, because it truly is just one of those words.. !

The only negative I would mention is some pacing issues in the last third of the book. It seemed a bit rushed over, though it was still entirely readable. I think I would've just liked a bit more depth of character and for things to reveal themselves with a bit less frenetical energy leading into the final showdowns. I love my depth of character..

The ending was nicely handled in consideration of the preceding events, and the lead out was perfect for a sequel

I really enjoyed my time with Graced, and I believe anybody that loves Paranormal Romance with a slightly left of centre view point will too. And I look forward to the sequel..

Harcopy Worthy? I don't believe there is one, but I would if I could!

The Last Quarrel: Episode 4

The Last Quarrel: Episode 4 - Duncan Lay See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third person, subjective.

This series just keeps getting progressively better! Everything is just thrumming along nicely; plot, pace, character development, all the biggies!

The plot doesn't thicken, so much as become bolstered in this episode. Some of the scenes make it glaringly obvious why things in Gaelland aren't doing so well. If you thought the things were slightly off kilter before, well strap on your seatbelts. The action does drop off slightly here to make way for solid story building, but it's come in at a good point. We've seen what's been happening, it's now time to see why it's been happening.

I can't express how much I appreciate Lay's development of the character Bridgit. Writing in the strength and the vulnerability of a woman and mother, really gives credence to Lay's ability to create well rounded characters . Too often do I read books where the characters are either hard arse or princesses, either/or, but this does such a good job of expressing that humans aren't actually all softness or concrete. Being both is not a weakness, and I am glad to see that Lay has written this quality into most all of his characters.

At this stage there is possibly (As I've said before, it's hard to tell in episodes if things will be addressed in the next instalment) a slight skimming over of the focused 'baddie'. It's known who he is, and what he has done, it's the why that is missing. I wouldn't usually pick at this in a limited narrative, but the character is well known to one of the main POV's, so the back story could be stronger. Even if it was just a fuller history, rather than direct reasoning for his 'baddie' actions, the storyline would probably feel more complete. Hopefully the bolstering seen in this episode, will continue into the next.

The ending was a great stopping point too! Essential in episodes!

My previous fears about everything wrapping up to quickly, were put to rest when I contacted Mr Lay (the joys of author stalking on Twitter!) and he assured me that these episodes are part of the first book in a trilogy. All good then!

Harcopy Worthy? I am hoping the full book of The Last Quarrel (due out after the episodes are individually released) will have a paperback edition!

Amnesia: A novel

Amnesia: A novel - Peter Carey See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV's: I'll say multiple, but it's really singular with others embedded into it. It'll make sense if you read it.
Narrative: First and Third person alternating.

Rarely do I have trouble finding words to talk about a book. In fact, I could spout and debate for hours, in most cases. But this has left me flummoxed. It's promoted as "an exceedingly timely, exhilarating novel—at once dark, suspenseful, and seriously funny—that journeys to the place where the cyber underworld collides with international power politics." It is none of those things.

It is a fragmented story about a confused girl/teenager growing up in 80/90's suburban Australia, who likes a boy, finds a social cause and has a marginally messed up family. It's pretty much the story of every girl I ever grew up with, in pretty much the same locations. There is no suspense after the first third (strange pacing indeed!), it's not timely in the least (True, Pine Gap was mentioned but it really could've been anything, it's inclusion was cursory) and if it was humorous, I didn't get the joke. I was certainly in no way exhilarated.

I don't take these words lightly, but I was bored. I don't often use the word bored, and I rarely experience it when reading a book, so for me to put it in a review I must be feeling it.

There were other arcs, but none of them had any bearing on what the book was supposedly about. I don't know what the real purpose of bringing these stories together was, but they don't compliment each other and they don't really have any consequences that overlap (I know a person that knows a person). I can't quite grasp whether they were included to make a statement about Australian history and politics, or simply embellished to try and create a potential 'conspiracy' that was of no relevance. Flummoxed.

The narration drove me up the wall, and the characters drove me to distraction. Flummoxed.

The ending was just galling.. Flummoxed.

I was simply.. flummoxed.

(You're right, this review is out of character for me, but I was just so disappointed, I became thoroughly annoyed. I thought if Carey wrote this story in accords with the synopsis, it'd be a masterpiece! But in the end, it just wasn't worthy of his actual skill, or ability. It truly bewildered me.)

Harcopy Worthy? Nooo..

The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition (Vault of Heaven)

The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition (Vault of Heaven) - Peter Orullian See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

Please note that this review is based on the Author's Definitive Edition, to be released on 7th of April 2015. I haven't read the original, so I can't comment on the whys and wherefores of that particular release.

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third person, subjective.

-'If you get the words right, you can go anywhere - Author proverb, taken as an expression of fancy.'

The Unremembered, in essence, is a book that breathes new life into the classic fantasy of yore. Break it down quickly and there is a desperate journey, some battles, a chosen one, a grumpy old wizard, a pixie lust chick and some corny joke cracking teenagers. However, what makes it break away from the norm, is that it is given a sense of keenness and emotional intelligence that creates a more relatable narrative. Everything has consequences, everybody is emotionally vulnerable and the good vs. evil isn't all that clear cut. The whole novel feels like a romp through your favourites; Belgariad, Riftwar etc, but it is richer in personality, feels more complex in it's expression of vulnerability. It's almost like wrapping yourself in the narratation, rather than simply reading it. I would say, immersive is the word I'm looking for.

I believe a lot of it comes from the depth of psychology Orullian was able to cram into the book. It sound strange to say it, but I enjoyed how emotionally painful some of this book was. There was no throw away lines to express despair and anguish, it was written so you feel it and understand it, just as you might experience it. As an example, Wendra is a singer that can express her emotional pain through song, and subsequently that pain becomes a source of magic. I did choke back ugly sobs at some points, because the imagery used to describe the way her pain rips from her and is melded into music and magic, is incredibly potent. It tugs at your soul, as do many other characters and plot points throughout the book. (Note: I found out after reading this, that Orullian is actually a singer/musician, so he has an unfair advantage in pulling our strings!).

The characters are classical fantasy tropers on the surface, but get a few pages in and that changes dramatically as the reality of the adventure starts to sink in. Tahn is a classic amnesiac chosen farmboy, until the backlash of his past becomes his present. Sutter is the classic jovial companion, until an event literally rips at his soul. And so it goes for all of them. Gorgeous character development in nearly all cases. There are also some little throw in scenes that add to that depth, just by creating a diversion from the journey and letting us into the characters mindset on how they deal with situations away from the main plot. Braethan with the burned widow was a little touch of beauty.

The magic systems of the various wielders (there are a few types in here!) is really nicely structured. I adored the Sheason's gifts. I know, having to give away chunks of your own life force to wield isn't exactly an adorable idea per se, but that sense of sacrifice to give life to power is really stunning. I was able to empathize with the magic wielders in The Unremembered, because they aren't just token magical tanks that pluck power out of the ether at will. In some ways, they are literally killing or purging themselves for whatever cause they set themselves to. That's dedication! And the Authors, creating magic through writing? Very cool.

The world building on the ground level was pretty classical. It isn't really a piece of grand architecture, but it is a limited narrative, so you can only rely on the experience of the characters to see the picture, rather than having information thrown at you in an omnipotent way. I have no objection to this type of building, but if you are looking for every type of meteorological and tidal phenomena explained in detail or every back story of the noble families told in minutia, it might be a sticking point.

The battle scenes were sufficiently brutal, but worded in a way that made them gritty yet beautiful at the same time, They weren't altogether technical, but it wasn't necessary to make them such.

I will admit it took a few chapters for this The Unremembered to settle for me. The introduction felt slightly off kilter, as you are thrown into the book after the adventure had started. I did feel somewhat adrift until everything started to come into focus a few chapters later, when the party is broken up and we get to meet the characters on an individual level. It also seemed to leave a gap in the relationship between the characters for a while, because you aren't privy to how or why they have met up until further along. It was the weakest part in my opinion, but quickly forgiven once it started to gather it's strengths.

Honestly, as I get older, The Unremembered is the type of fantasy I want to read. It has all the groundwork of my favorites before I got into the 'over 25's' age bracket, but with the emotional investment of a novel not all that often seen in this genre. So, if you love your epic fantasy adventure canon, but just need that extra something to make it a bit more D&M, this is really worth checking out! I'd suggest it for WoT fans that are looking for a bit more grit and edge (and don't want to reread the whole skyscraping series again!).

Harcopy Worthy? My giddy Aunt, yes!

Stolen Child

Stolen Child - Felicity Pulman

 

POV's: Singular
Narrative: Third person, subjective, limited.

This series really is delightful so far! The word 'flurry' comes to mind. Or, torrential downpour on occasions. Pulman stacks quite a lot in 268 pages, but it works nicely in this sort of limited third person narrative mystery. There isn't a lot of of peripheral noise to get backlogged in, so every thing you do get to be privy to seems to garner greater importance and can be told without unnecessary wordage. It looks like each instalment is going to be set in a different locale visited by Janna, which seems to figure in quite nicely with the short mystery format.

Generally, my feelings for Stolen Child don't differ much from Blood Oath. The storyline is different as Janna has to struggle through as a 'youth', in a homestead she's never been to before. With a companion she doesn't trust (Not that she trusts anybody really!) and surrounded by people she doesn't know, she is forced to pull her fiery ways in. That is until the past she's running from is brought into full focus and with it the mystery of the Stolen Child..

Janna had matured her sleuthing ways in this instalment. She doesn't fire at every suspect caught in her cross-hairs, and she takes the time to consider how each action will reflect on her and the people around her. Even if she still does land in hot water quite a bit! It's great to see that development take place, and I think that it will continue throughout the series. Well I hope it does!

The herblore is still there, that urgent inner dialogue of continuous questions still runs rampant and the history of Britain (the Norman invasion especially) still plays a large part in the whys and wherefores. The heavy foreboding of religious issues was tucked away mostly, which made it slightly less weighty, but it doesn't hamper the over all feel.

The romance is still a bit of a sticking point, but at this stage, I am not even sure if either of the 'interests' have that big a role to play in the upcoming plot line. Time shall tell! I do have Unholy Murder in my reading list, so we shall see!

It really was the perfect rainy autumn Sunday read; not to heavy, not to light, it was just right.. (yes, I did just quote a breakfast cereal ad!).

Hard copy worthy? Well, there isn't one. But! I did discover that this series was published before! I plugged around and found that Blood Oath was Rosemary for Remembrance and Stolen Child was Rue for Repentance! I actually like the old titles better, but such is life! Anyway, if I can still get them, I'll add it them my basket!

Fall of the Fair Isle

Fall of the Fair Isle - Rowena Cory Daniells

As Fall of the Fair Isle is actually a three book omnibus, I decided I'd break the review down into 3 separate parts, 1 part per book...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imoshen, namesake of the first Empress, is the last pure-blooded T’En woman, left behind when her kinfolk went to die in defence of their homeland. The savage Ghebites, barbarians from the warm north, have conquered Fair Isle, and their general, Tulkhan, claims her as his right of conquest.
Proud and fierce, trained in arts of war and possessed of extraordinary healing gifts, Imoshen must choose to submit to the barbarian soldier and save her people’s heritage… or to die in a futile gesture of defiance.

The last T’En Princess would bow to no one.

In light of my ever fading sanity, and my need to preserve what’s left of it, I’ve decided to tackle this behemoth in three parts divided over the three books within The Fall of Fair Isle.

 

The first book, Broken Vows, is quite the introduction! Daniells has successfully written what I like to think of as knife’s edge fantasy, everything teeters so precariously that it only takes a soft breeze for everything to topple into the mire. I think I may have had a glean of sweat on my brow through some parts, simply because destruction is always so close to the surface.

 

Imoshen is one strong young woman. Every sacrifice she can make to keep her life and those of her people safe, she takes on with a force of will that would make most cower at even the thought. Intelligent, cunning and self reliant, yet tender, ingenuous and fearful. Her powers still unknown to her, now quickly burgeoning, are a source of constant worry, that not only affect her sense of self, but sow seeds of fear and disgust in the invading forces.

 

Tulkhan, the general of the invading force, is also all of those things, but his human power comes from the determination to conquer, invade and maintain a new Kingdom for his people. His worry, is Imoshen.

 

Imoshen and Tulkhan’s relationship is so volatile; slamming from passion to hate, trust to doubt, from one moment to the next. It’s actually quite frightening in places. There is a bubbling rage in Tulkhan that clashes constantly with Imoshen’s strength and defiance that causes rash action and violence. It’s not really pretty, though on the occasions they do meet in the middle, it’s strangely tender. It’s terribly abusive, yet it’s incredibly interesting to watch play out. I feel somewhat gritty about that fact! This is definitely not for people with trigger issues, or anybody under legal drinking age!

 

The pacing was nicely done, the wordery strong yet supple. There are a few jarring moments in the flow as we flick from Imoshen’s to Tulkhan’s point of view, as it sometimes occurs without warning and in strange points in the narrative. It can take a few seconds to realise who’s eyes we’re looking through. But generally, the characters are well defined and developed, though there isn’t much to see beyond the two main POV. I would have liked to see some more development in the characters that bolster those two (Wharrd and Kalleen) just to broaden the scope a bit more.

 

The real theme of Broken Vows is passion. Whether it’s between the two main characters or the character’s drive for their ultimate goals, it’s all done with such vehemence, I constantly worried they might burst a fuffle valve and bleed out from their force of will.

Would I like to be friends with them? Probably not. Did I love reading about them? Yes.

It is a fierce read, definitely not for those looking for farm boy with latent powers fantasy, or happy go lucky romance. Definitely for those that are looking for something that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that will accept this war is blood red ardentness.

 

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The Last Quarrel: Episode 3

The Last Quarrel: Episode 3 - Duncan Lay See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV's: Multiple
Narrative: Third person subjective

Contains chapters 19 through to 29.

Alright! Now we are  thrashing in the quagmire! The Last Quarrel starts hitting it's stride in episode three! The plot, character development and pacing all start ramping up and their off! Bridgit has a good start and is pulling out in front, with Kerrin and Fallon right behind.. It seems the Prince has got himself confused and is running around the track in the wrong direction! Look at his stable hand chase him down! What is his brother shouting in the stands? What a ruckus! Hold on!? Who is that mystery horse galloping down the field behind?

Ok, I make a extremely shoddy race caller, but, it's a pretty fun race! This sort of pacing and forward movement works the episodic form to it's best. Quick off the mark, nice strong pace in the middle, bastard of a cliffhanger at the end. The first two episodes lacked that snappy format and I think that's why they seemed weaker, even though there really isn't any difference in Lay's writing style or skill. You can read about my thoughts on them on the links provided above if needs be.

This is a really nice set up for the last two episodes, though how everything will be wrapped up in approximately 280 pages hence, I don't know! A lot of loose threads to plait together!

I do need the next episode you know, I needs it! I am pretty sure who the mystery horse is, but I need confirmation.. I needs it..

The Last Quarrel: Episode 2

The Last Quarrel: Episode 2 - Duncan Lay See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

POV: Multiple
Narration: Third Person subjective.

This episode includes chapters 10 through to 18.

So, the plot starts to thicken in episode 2 of The Last Quarrel, and the real foreboding of Gaelland's situation is starting to seep into the narrative as the Prince visits Baltimore with his retinue to examine the Duke's ship. All of a sudden, it's very obvious that more than one game is being played and Cavan is being swept along with it. And who exactly is on his side? Less people than he thinks me thinks! The main suspect is still there to ponder, but the little extra intrigues are broadening out the story line and giving it some more life.

I really admire how Lay has written Fallon's situation. This may be the first adventure fantasy I have read, in which the 'hero' has a realistically portrayed family life. He is the husband of a fretting wife that isn't supportive of his quest to become the man he wants to be; her fear overwhelming her ability to move forward or see him in danger. His son is young and vulnerable, so Fallon as frustrating as it is, is stuck in his village life because he genuinely cares about his family. When he does try, his wife's seeds of doubt take hold and thwart him from progressing.

At first it annoyed me, no doubt it's because I am used to never really seeing the hero being held back from the quest, 'go forth and conquer my brave love!'. But then it struck me that this, is actually a bit of a gem! I honestly don't know another book in this particular genre that takes the pains to show how this type of marital conflict might play out. How much easier it is to write an orphan, outcast or bachelor/ette, with no real familial ties to hold them back as they begin their journey! Kudos Mr. Lay!

The secondary characters aren't particularly well fleshed out, but most are still given enough background and personality to make them feel a part of the book and storyline. There are some characters, such as the Duchess, I would have liked some more solidity to, but it's hard to say whether that sort of thing might be addressed in future episodes.

My initial annoyance with the world building from episode 1, wasn't an issue in this installment. The cultural references to Ireland are toned down now the story moves forward, so I didn't feel the need to get out my trusty dissecting knife. I think if you were to read this as a whole book, rather than episodes, the similarities might not have seemed so intrusive.

I do think there are issues with releasing a fantasy in episodes. TV you can get away with, because you don't really need to use your imagination too much to see the grander picture.  However, in fantasy novels you need something more substantial to latch on to for the world to build and flow, and then you can take breaks at natural junctures. It's quite disjointing to have that broken up into small pre-portioned chunks (though it probably affects me more because I tend to read over prolonged periods. 1 hour snippets probably confuse my brain!). As an adventure it does work well as an exciting cliffhanger though. I am still undecided as to whether I like the idea or not..

Time is still telling, but no matter my doubts on the structural issues, I am definitely intrigued by the plot and I have episode 3 lined up for the reading!

The Broken Kingdoms

The Broken Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

I actually read this the first time a few years ago, but I felt the need to revisit Jemisin’s works. She always inspires me when I'm in a creative writing slump, due to her immense ability to create such unique world's and characters. She plucks out the most terrifying prospects for a writer, (in this instance, the main protagonist being blind) and makes them work to her advantage.

I admire her and I admire her work, and I would buy copies for all my aspiring fantasy author friends, if somebody simply gave me the money to do so.. (hey, I'm not Oprah ok!?).

Dreamer's Pool

Dreamer's Pool - Juliet Marillier See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well!

I've forgiven Marillier's overly long, plodding paced books before, because the surroundings, history, magic and intrigues of the Priteni were always so beautiful and lush. Dreamer's Pool lacked that lushness but still had that plodding paced, underedited feel. I couldn't really forgive the repetiveness of notion and narrative, or that it was about as mysterious as what black t-shirt I'll put on in the morning. It was bland and brittle.

I was genuinely bored, I even started to speed read it, and that's really unusual for me. Cut the book in half and you would still have just as much sense of character and plot, without the nagging sensation that the whole book is completely underdone and underachieving.

I feel a sense of disappointment, because Marillier's work was some of the first adult historical fantasy I read, that made me fall in love with the genre. The Sevenwaters series and The Bridei Chronicles are far superior works, look them up instead.