Friday, 5 February 2016

Northern Lights, Philip Pullman

                                                                                                                          Publishers: Knopf Books

Pages: 399

Main Characters:

Lyra, Iorek Brynison, Lord Asriel, Mrs Coulter

Based in a magical alternative reality, Northern Lights tells the tale of Lyra Belacqua and her animal-daemon Pantalaimon. ‘Pan’ (as he’s known to Lyra) is a magical embodiment of Lyra’s soul and accompanies her in many different animal forms wherever she goes. The two best friends live in the oldest and dustiest part of Jordan College in Oxford. Lyra is like any child living in an old and prestigious college. She loves to investigate and play in the ancient buildings and get up to no good. However, one day her mischief directs her down a path that has been long preordained for her, as she witnesses the attempted murder of her Uncle; Lord Asriel. As a sort of thank you, Asriel lets Lyra secretly watch his presentation to the scholars of Oxford and introduces her to the secretive and fascinating world of Dust.

What Lyra doesn’t know is that the revelation has long been foreseen and many people are looking to her to help guide and protect them. However, for the prophecy to come true Lyra must walk this path alone and discover the meaning of Dust all by herself, without any direct help from other people. Of course, there are also people who want to harm her; chief among these is Mrs Coulter. The beautiful woman with the silky voice and scary monkey daemon is stealing children from families in England to do experiments on them in the far North. When Lyra’s friend Roger is kidnapped by Mrs Coulter’s group, she takes it as her personal mission to go North and find him. With the help of the magical alethiometer, Lyra travels North to the lands of the Aurora and fighting ice-bears. But what she finds there is way beyond her comprehension and she will need the help of her new found friends to overcome the adversity there and discover the secrets of Dust.

Golden Compass Trailer

This book really surprised me because at first I thought I wasn’t going to like it! I’ve seen the movie The Golden Compass which is based on Pullman’s novel and thought it was awful! So awful, I’m pretty sure the movie franchise was dropped as the first installment did so badly. So after reading about twenty pages of The Northern Lights I can happily say that I was hooked! This was because of the world Pullman creates in this novel. Like I said, it is an alternative reality because the book is based in England and the Arctic, but they are very different to the countries we know and love.

The first big difference in this world is daemons. They show a physical embodiment of a person’s soul and you can tell a lot about a person from the form of their daemon. Pan can change form anytime he wants because Lyra is not yet an adult and therefore has not fully matured into the person she is going to be. I really liked this feature as it added a dimension to the protagonist which is not that common. It gave the main character two personalities as Lyra and Pan were the same person but with different views and thoughts. I also liked trying to guess what type of person a new character was going to be, by reading about their daemons and trying to guess if they were a goody or a bady!

In addition, I thought the steam-punk world was very cool and it gave a very scientific and industrial feel to the novel without having to base the world in a modern era. The idea of Zeppelins flying around and huge clockwork machines also gave the world a great atmosphere, as it made me think of 19th Century England with smog in the air and whole cities being covered in coal dust.

This was a great novel and came at a good time for me because I have been looking for something different to read for ages and this series really fits the bill! I can’t wait to check out the next novel in the series; The Subtle Knife! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels like The Name of the Wind or The Promise of Blood.

For author’s official website click here.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Long Time No See!

Sadly over the last few years I've been neglecting my Youtube channel. However I plan to be much more active over there and will be posting book reviews and some other cool things which I think you guys will like!

Please remember to like, comment and subscribe to my channel!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett

Publishers: Random House

Pages: 639

Main Characters:

Arlen, Ahmann, Leesha, Rojer

On the blackest night of the waning of the moon, Ni’s darkest servants rise from the depths of the Earth. The daemon Queen’s partner (the most powerful daemon that has lived for centuries) is tasked to find and eliminate the two humans who killed her precious- though weak Mind Daemons. The Alagai Ka (Daemon Prince) decides to attack the two human leaders at once; dividing his forces and making them reap revenge for their fallen comrades. However, the Prince underestimates the powers Arlen and Jardir have learnt about daemon magic and how willing they are to put up a fight.

Fan art of a Mind Daemon
Being possibly the most powerful and feared women in the whole of Thesa, Inevera feels pretty comfortable on her throne. However, it was not always so. Her life as a basket weaver’s daughter was hard and dirty and even when she gained access to the Dama’tings’ palace, Inevera still had to prove herself to the older girls there. Nevertheless, with hard work and determination she managed to force her will on the other Dama girls and eventually on her future husband Jardir. With The Deliverer by her side, Inevera knows she can lead her people to victory against the daemons and Chin alike.

This book really propelled the series for me. It was the step up I’ve been looking for and had me anxious and agitated to read on and find out what was going to happen next! I loved that Brett revealed Alagai Ka and his underlings. This is because it showed who the real enemy is in the series; not just the idiotic daemons we’d been introduced to in books one and two.

Moreover, I also enjoyed reading about Inevera’s past and her rise to the leadership of the Dama’ting. I especially liked this because Brett develops our understanding of Hora Magic and how it is used to help humans fight the daemons. I thought it gave credibility to aspects of the book such as Wards and Arlen’s tattoos. Brett did this by actually teaching the reader how Wards work in his universe whereas before, I felt like the reader just had to assume that they worked. This is because there was no real explanation to what Wards were in the previous novels, other than fancy symbols that people used to protect themselves from the daemons. For me, it made the novel much more accessible and in some ways believable because you could understand why Arlen and Jardir had become so powerful. In addition, the ending to this novel is truly epic and will make you want to start reading The Skull Throne as fast as you can!

This was a great book and would suggest it to anyone who loves a great fast paced novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, I would read The Painted Man and The Desert Spear first to get your bearings in this novel. I honestly haven’t read a book like this in a while that has made me this excited to want to read  the next novel in the series- I can’t wait to pick up The Skull Throne!

For author’s official website click here.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Warriors of the Storm, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 320

Main Characters:

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Aethelfead, 
Ragnall Iverson

Warriors of the Storm is the ninth book in Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Tales series and picks up the saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

As a fragile peace is held between the Saxons in the south of England and the Danes in the north, Uhtred feels that his life can finally gain some normality in his aging years. However, when news spreads from over the sea that the Irish tribes have expelled the Viking Lords that had once ruled there, Uhtred knows that war will soon come to England.

The Danish warlord Ragnall Iverson (who once carved out a Kingdom for himself in Ireland) comes to England to dispose of the weakened King of Jorvik and unite the Danes in the north of England; preparing them for war against the Christian Saxons. By using his cunning and cruelty, Ragnall manages to outfox Uhtred and accomplish his goals.

The Last Kingdom TV show based on these novels

However, though he is old, Uhtred is still a warrior and has a brilliant military mind and with some bluffing, quick thinking and bullying, Uhtred manages to outsmart Ragnall and bring him to battle. Nevertheless, a shield wall is a place for a young man and with the fighting more intense and desperate than ever; can Uhtred survive this epic battle?

There’s not much I can say about this novel. It was another enjoyable Uhtred tale from Bernard Cornwell with a similar plot to most of the other books in the series. You know: peace time, war time, looks like they’re gonna lose time, Uhtred turns it around at the last second time. Honestly, I’m just reading these novels out of loyalty to the author and because I have invested so much time into reading them, I actually want to see how they finish!

Example of Saxon shield wall
I’m starting to get a little deluded with historical-fiction writers making these long, drawn out series. There are so many good books out there that I want to read, but year after year I return to these types of series to read the next installment because I always hope it will be the final one in the series. That isn’t to say that these books are bad, it’s just that they are getting a little predictable and because they have been going on for so long, they are starting to make me feel a little resentful.

It’s like the author/publisher is using these series as a cash cow, bringing out a new book every year and not really adding any effort to develop the overall plot, which for The Saxon Tales is Uhtred regaining Bebbanburg. The most excited I’ve been in this series was a few books ago when I thought Uhtred died. This is because I thought, ‘oh, the plot is going to go somewhere totally new and different’, but it didn’t. He magically comes back to life in the next novel and the cycle continues. I just honestly think it’s ok to end something at its peak. It leaves fans with a sense of nostalgia and respect for a book, movie or TV show, which I think is always lost if that form of entertainment is constantly shoved down your throat every year!

To conclude (because I feel like I’m ranting) this was another enjoyable book in The Saxon Tales series. I think if you’re like me and have read all the books this far then you will enjoy it. However, for a new reader, don’t expect to be blown away by this book; go and read its predecessors first. In fact, if you’re totally new to Bernard Cornwell, stay away from this series for a while and go and read books like Azincourt, Harlequins or even Crackdown, they are my favourites!

For author's official website click here.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Prospect of this City: Being a Novel of The Great Fire, Eamonn Martin Griffin

Publishers: Eamonn Martin Grifffin

Pages: 298

Main Characters:

Tom, Challis, Daniel

This year (2016) is the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London. New £2 coins are going to have a really cool impression on them that marks the anniversary. Therefore, I thought I should read Eamonn Martin Griffin’s novel The Prospect of the City; Being a novel of The Great Fire first this year, as it is set during 1666 and gives an interesting twist on the fire’s origin and the people that lived through it.

New £2 Coins

The novel is based around two main characters; Tom and Challis. Challis is a mysterious rake who is hired by the Dutch Government to sabotage London. The Dutch are extremely angry after their naval defeat to the English and hope through his cunning and cruelty, Challis can gain some pay back against their enemy. An ex-soldier with an extremely religious ethos and moral code, Challis does not think twice about killing in God’s name. Upon entering London and discovering the cesspit that it is, Challis murders a prostitute to start his cleanse of the once great and virtuous city.

Living across the road from a well-known pub/whore house, Tom is contemplating his life as a baker’s apprentice. However, his fairly simple life becomes much more dangerous as he witnesses the murder of his friend Lizzie at the hands of Challis. Tom decides to take judgement into his own hands and plots to have Challis killed and gain revenge for Lizzie’s murder. However, Tom underestimates Challis’s skill with a blade and his ferocity, leading to Tom’s assassins easily being dispatched. Challis now knows he has an enemy in London and this triggers him to hasten his sabotage. Yet, when Challis gains an opportunity to wreak his own revenge on Tom, he takes it and causes a knock-on effect that quickly brings London to its knees.

The Great Fire of 1666 burned 2/3 of London

I really enjoyed this book and I think that is mostly down to Griffin’s writing style, but I think it needs to come with a warning! That is because Griffin writes this novel as if it was written in 1666 using ‘ye olde’ English. I loved this, I thought it added so much character to the novel and depth to Challis. However, at first when reading the novel and not knowing its style, the writing can seem quite long winded and confusing. Nevertheless, when I realised Griffin was writing in a 17th Century style of English, the book became more enjoyable and easier to understand. In addition, I thought the premise of the book was really interesting and put in to the context of the time, actually seemed very plausible. It always disappoints me when historical-fiction writers move around dates to accommodate their plot lines. Griffin does not do this and makes a very compelling and believable story out of the historical facts.

However, I did have some small points that I didn’t like about the book. Firstly, is its cover art. Now, I have to admit that I was sent a copy of the book by Griffin and don’t know if it’s a preview copy or the finished piece so the cover may have changed. The copy I received has a plain white background with the title written in black ink in the style of an old printing press. Now if I saw this book on a shelf I would automatically assume it was a non-fiction book about the Great Fire and would not buy it. I think Griffin needs to make the cover much more eye catching to try and draw new readers into his very good novel. Throw a few flames on the front, maybe make the cover look like it’s a burning page of a bible (which gives a hint to some aspects of the book), anything that makes it more appealing to readers  than a plain white page.

Secondly, I really wasn’t a fan of Challis’s Christian rhetoric. He seems to drone on and on about the damnation of this and the righteousness of that, which sometimes really slowed the book down. I get the impression that Griffin is trying to make a point using the bible and religious rhetoric but it goes totally over my head! Maybe that’s my fault, but as a casual reader of this book it confused me and sometimes felt like it was there just to add to the final number count.

To conclude, The Prospect of this City was a very good read and a good starting point for my 2016 reading list. It is available in ebook or as a paperback via Amazon. I’d suggest it to fans of historical fiction, or to anyone who is interested in Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.

Make sure to check out Eamonn’s website and twitter by clicking here

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett

Publishers: Del Rey

Pages: 579

Main Characters:

Ahmann Jardir, Arlen, Leesha, Rojer

The Desert Spear is the second book in Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle series. The novel can be basically split into three parts. The first is the tale of Ahmann Jardir- the Sha’Dama Ka (roughly meaning The Deliverer). Ahmann’s story tells of his rise from a dirty street urchin to the best fighter in the desert kingdom of Krasia. During his short and violent days ‘running the maze’ and battling the daemons of the night, Ahmann meets his wife-to-be Inevera. Inevera is a Dama’ting and is blessed with magical dice that can tell the future. The dice tell Inevera that she can mould Ahmann into the Deliverer and that he could unite Krasia into one kingdom, leading his people in a great war against the Daemons. Inevera uses all of her power to direct, manipulate and help him achieve this goal.

The second part of the book focuses on Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, picking up after the first novel The Painted Man. After returning the battle wards to humanity and being betrayed by his closest friend Jardir, Arlen focuses solely on sharing his new wards with the world. Along with Leesha and Rojer, Arlen helps form the Cutters of Cutter’s Hollow into and elite daemon killing army.

With the Hollow defended against daemons, Arlen sets out on a solitary life, as he comes to terms with what daemon magic has done to his body and soul. On his wanderings Arlen returns to his home village of Tibbet’s Brook. There he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Renna Tanner, who convinces Arlen to let her accompany him on his travels.

Like The Painted Man I listened to this book as an audiobook. I have to say that I thought the quality of the audio was much better in The Desert Spear than it was with The Painted Man. Plus, I really enjoyed listening to the voices of the characters I hadn’t heard from in over two years (since I last listened to The Painted Man).

Fan art of Ahmann Jardir

I know some people weren’t a massive fan of it, but I really enjoyed reading about Jardir’s upbringing and learning more about the customs of Krasia. Some people complained that it took too long to get back to Arlen’s story; however I actually like the bravado and intensity of Jardir. Much like other great characters from literature (such as Boromir), Jardir’s flawed personality and his dilemma of choosing his people or his friend appealed to me, and I found him the most interesting character in the novel.

However, one character I couldn’t stand was Reena Tanner. The farm girl-turn-daemon hunter continually got on my nerves throughout the book and whenever she got in trouble, she would pretty much just sleep with someone to try and get away with it. This keeps leading me to think; how can this idiotic, annoying farmer’s daughter really manage to keep up with Arlen Bails? I hope her development over the next few novels makes her a bit more grown up and likeable because in this book I just mostly wanted to skip her parts!

This was a really enjoyable read and is a bit different to the standard fantasy novels out there at the minute. I think the series has a lot of potential and I’m very excited to start the next book; The Daylight War.

For author’s official website click here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Stasi Child, David Young

Publisher: twenty7

Pages: 406

Main Characters:

Karin Müller, Werner Tilsner,
Klaus Jäger

When a mutilated corpse of a young girl turns up within meters of the Berlin Wall, Kriminalpolizei officer Oberleutnant Karin Müller's life is set to drastically change. The year is 1974 and tensions between the East and West are on a knife point. Officials say the girl was fleeing from the West into the East and was shot in the back. However, the involvement of the East German Stasi leads Müller to believe that something much more sinister is amiss

Müller and her deputy Werner Tilsner are introduced to Oberstleutnant Klaus Jäger; a high profile member of the Stasi. Jäger tasks the pair with finding out who the girl was and how she ended up dead on the East side of the Wall. The detectives must tread lightly as they prod into the girl's past, as their ally Jäger is not the only Stasi member interested in this case.

Irma is a young girl forced into living and working at the notoriously cruel school of Jugendwerkhof on the island of Rügen. After being punished for looking out for her friend Beate, Irma is determined to get her and her friend out if the hell-hole. Her plan is simple, out-think their captors and escape into Western Germany.

The two women's tales intertwine as Müller discovers secrets from her past which link her to Irma's fate. The detective must act quickly and decisively to save an innocent girl's life and face her own inner turmoil to solve the murder and satisfy the Stasi.

Berlin Wall
The start of this book was great! The murder, the mystery and the inclusion of the Stasi had me gripped on the story from the very start. I found Young's description of a 70's Eastern Berlin immersive and intriguing to read about and he set the scene perfectly for the mistrusting and covert feel of this novel. I thought the pace at the start of the book was excellent, dragging me into Müller's life with her own personal mystery which created an underlying narrative that again intrigued me and made me want to read on.

However, the thing that disappointed me about this novel was that this pace never really increased throughout the remainder of the book. At the start I was indulged in the story but midway through I felt the pace and emphasis tailed off with Müller going backwards and forwards to Jäger in search of clues. Interlinked with this is Irma’s story, which was added towards the middle of the book and again slowed the narrative and always made me feel like I getting bogged down in a plot I wasn't really enjoying. I kept waiting for a revelation that would burst onto the page and make me read the next 100 pages without even thinking about it (like the start of the novel had) but sadly it never came. I thought it was pretty clear early on who the murderer was and for me there was no big reveal at the end of the novel like I believe most Crime novels have. However, it was interesting to read why the bad guy did the things he did.

What I really enjoyed about this novel was the atmosphere Young creates in Eastern Berlin. The sense of fear and paranoia, along with a misguided and naive sense of pride to the State immersed me in the period in which the novel was based. In addition, adding actual German names into the novel personally engaged me! This is because I am learning German and it was a nice little bonus to the atmosphere and setting.

To conclude, I did really enjoy this book. I thought the Muller's story was strong and had a lot of depth to it which I want top know more about. Plus I really liked Young’s writing style and they way he portrayed Eastern (and Western) Berlin. However, I just wished the final two thirds of the book were as good as the first, as they failed to grab my attention and really make me think who the villain was. I like that Young leaves the end of the novel very open and I've read that Young has signed a three year deal to publish more novels, so I'm very excited to read the next installment!

For Young's official Goodreads page please click here

I'd like to say a big thank you to twenty7 for sending me a pre-release of this novel. You can get the e-book on Amazon Kindle but the paperback won't be released until February.
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