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review 2017-04-16 16:56
Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Naamah's Kiss -

Note: This is the first book in the third trilogy set in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. However, this last trilogy is set a few generations later and stands on it’s own so don’t be afraid to start here if this book intrigues you.

The Bear Witches of Alba are all but extinct but for those few that remain, they do possess small magics and the Great Bear does look out for her own. Moirin grows up in a cave in the depths of a forest and from these humble beginnings she will be tasked by her divine Bear to fulfill a destiny that lies over seas. First she travels to Terre D’Ange to find her D’Angeline relatives, including her father. A D’Angeline lord and healer is intrigued by her small gifts and she’s soon wrapped up in a semi-secret demon summoning circle. She also meets a Chi’in Master and his student/body guard Bao. Perhaps her destiny lies even further than she could imagine.

I read this for the second time as part of a group read and there were weekly discussions which hold plenty of detail on what I think of the book. Once again, I was wrapped up in Carey’s world building. I fell in love with the D’Angelines when I read Kushiel’s Dart so many years ago. I recall my first time reading this book and how it didn’t wow me as much as the first 6 books. However, knowing this round that this is Moirin’s tale, I gave it a better chance. Indeed, I did like this book quite a bit more the second time through. I think with the first read through, I was constantly looking for reflections of the characters I had come to know and love from the first 2 trilogies. Now with the second reading I was focused on Moirin.

I loved Moirin’s small magics. She’s inherited a few from her D’Angeline side as well as her Alban side. Each individual one is rather small, but as we see Moirin grow from a child to a young lady to a woman, she learns to use her powers to great effect. Carey does a most excellent job of showing the reader this growth as the story unfolds.

Moirin is of the Maghuin Dhonn, the Bear Witch people, which we learned a little about in earlier books in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Maghuin Dhonn directly through Moirin. While much of Maghuin Dhonn live in near isolation, they are still a connected people and will come together in larger groups for certain occasions, such as Moirin’s coming of age ceremony. Moirin has to work hard to be acknowledged by the Bear Witch herself, but that acknowledgement comes at a steep price, one that I think we won’t fully understand until the end of this trilogy.

As usual with this series, there are several lovely sex scenes. Carey doesn’t skimp but she also doesn’t toss in throwaway love scenes. These interactions always reveal something more about the characters involved. I found this especially true in the later part of the book where there is a princess and a dragon. I won’t say anything further as I don’t want to be spoilery. Just know that it’s worthy.

I do have one quibble for this book. At the end, there is some drama and death and I did feel there was some deus ex machina involved. It involves the ultimate bad guy and why he wasn’t properly trussed up. Even with this one small criticism, I did enjoy how the ending leaves our heroes in a complicated place, setting us up for the next adventure.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is a joy to listen to. She does such an excellent job with the multitude of accents needed for this book. She’s also great with a voice for Moirin that ages as she comes of age throughout the story. Her male voices are quite believable.

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text 2017-02-21 10:00
Blog Tour and Giveaway for Sons of Kings by Millie Thom
 
Shadow of the Raven
Sons of Kings Volume 1
by Millie Thom
 
Genre: Epic Fantasy
 
The life of Eadwulf, ten-year old son of the Mercian king, is changed forever when his family is betrayed to the Danes by his treacherous uncle. In a devastating Danish raid, his father is killed, his mother raped, and along with his tutor and childhood friend, Eadwulf is captured and taken to the Danish lands to be sold as a slave.
 
As a slave in Jarl Ragnar’s village, Eadwulf’s life is hard, his days unbearably long. But on the return of Ragnar’s eldest son, Bjorn, from his summer raids, his life begins to change. Eadwulf spends the next few years aboard Bjorn’s beloved dragonship, sailing to places he’d never dreamed of, trading and raiding. And although still a slave, he becomes a well-respected member of Bjorn’s closely knit crew. Yet through it all, the smouldering desire for revenge on those who destroyed his family refuses to abate.
 
 
Eadwulf’s story plays out against the backdrop of events unfolding in Wessex in the face of increasing Danish raids. Alfred, the youngest son of the Wessex king, faces family tragedies from an early age, losing first his mother, then his beloved sister when she is married to the new Mercian king: Eadwulf’s treacherous uncle. At his father’s court and the successive courts of his elder brothers, he learns the weighty art of kingship. And, like Eadwulf, he learns the harshest lesson of all … that a trusted kinsman can so easily turn traitor.
 
Goodreads * Amazon

Excerpt
 
The snorting and stomping of the horses was the first indication that anything was amiss, then the panicked shouts; the reek of smoke assailing their nostrils only moments later. They hurtled to the stable door, aware that it could take barely minutes for wood and thatch to burn to a crisp, and reeled in horror. Searing waves of heat smacked into them. The hall was ablaze, its heavy thatch ready to collapse; angry red flames lashed at the wood-planked walls. People collided with each other, precious water slopping from their pails as they raced to quell the towering flames. Yapping, terrified dogs added to the pandemonium.Sigehelm crossed himself, uttering a prayer for anyone trapped inside the blazing hall. ‘Eadwulf; Aethelnoth; stay close to me,’ he ordered, grabbing Aethelnoth’s arm as the boy turned to lead the horses to safety. ‘The stables are far enough away to be safe for now. If need be, I’ll loose the horses when you’re both safe with Morwenna. But may the Lord help these other buildings. The kitchens will probably soon be ablaze. We must hurry. I must help to fetch water.’It was then that the Danes struck.Yowling men stampeded through the palisade’s main gate, their entrance unchallenged as people fought to control the blaze. Yet they had needed neither to burn down nor scale the palisade wall. The gates must have already been open – despite Thrydwulf’s insistence that they be kept locked and guarded.Frenzied screams escalated. Sigehelm yanked Eadwulf and Aethelnoth behind the kitchens and, stooping low, they headed for the women’s bower. Suddenly Eadwulf froze. Burgred stood outside the bower’s door – and something about that was so very wrong.‘Eadwulf, in God’s name, child, we cannot stand and stare. We must reach your mother and try to flee from the manor.’‘Burgred’s a traitor, Sigehelm! He was meeting them in the woods. And he must have started the fire: the hall was ablaze before the Danes came through the gate. He must have opened that for them too. . .’

 
 
Pit of Vipers
 
Sons of Kings Volume 2
 
The ninth century story of King Alfred of Wessex and Eadwulf of Mercia continues to unfold against the ever increasing threat of Danish raids. After years as a slave to the Danes, Eadwulf has returned to his Mercian homeland and settles to a life of calm domesticity, marred only by his incessant desire for revenge. His frequent absences from his new home, connected to his past life, threaten to destroy the relationships he has fostered and alienate the family he has come to love.
In Wessex, Alfred, now a young man, has spent his childhood at the successive courts of his father and four older brothers, learning the skills of diplomacy and leadership. Before too long those skills will be put to the test…
The Danish invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is merciless and relentless. Every year more Norse ships come to join their comrades in a quest to plunder for wealth and gain control over the people. The Danes take kingdom after kingdom and Alfred and his brother Aethelred wait with baited breath for them to set their sights on Wessex. By 869, their worst fear is realised.
 
And Eadwulf follows vital leads to the objects of his revenge.
 
Excerpt

Preparing to do battle…Alfred moved along his own front line, noting that most of the fyrd carried spears, though the pitchforks and staffs amongst them would not fare well against the heavy swords and battle axes of the foe. Body armour was light. Some wore leather jerkins, others thinly quilted gambesons, and most heads were protected by a leather helmet. Better than nothing, he thought grimly, acutely aware of the protective qualities of his own mailshirt and helm.‘On my order, the front line becomes an impenetrable wall of tightly locked shields,’ he shouted above the clamour for the benefit of the new recruits. ‘Shields overlap, left over right.’ His arm swung round to the sides. ‘You five men at each end of the lines – and those at the back – will do likewise if need be. And should a man in the line in front of you fall, you step over his body and take his place...‘You’ll be fighting for your lives, not mourning the dead!’ he snapped at the appalled faces, ‘as well as the lives of the men around you. Thrust and stab through the gaps between the shields with your weapons. Aim for exposed flesh – face, legs, even spaces between armour covering chest, belly, or groin. Your purpose is to kill or maim.’ He swept the men with a commanding stare. ‘We fight as an ordered unit, and no one leaves that formation unless the wall becomes irrevocably destroyed. Only then do we resort to individual combat. Is all of that clear?’Alfred took his position at the centre of the front line, between two experienced warriors, Ealdormen Wybert and Unwine.The racket abruptly ceased. Warriors stood rigid, muscles flexed for the opening strike, the onslaught of spears and javelins. But no missiles flew. Instead, the two men Alfred had identified as ‘kings’ stepped forward a pace.‘So, great king, we meet at last,’ the less burly of the two yelled, his eyes scanning the Saxon forces to locate the Saxon king. ‘We were not introduced at Nottingham. Pity, I like to know the face of my enemy. Wherever you’re hiding in the midst of your piss-poor army, I urge you to look closely at what you confront. We are double your number and hold the higher ground. Surrender – or by nightfall your carcases will feed the scavengers!’

 
 
Millie is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a passion for the Anglo Saxon period. Since retiring a few years ago, she has been indulging this passion by writing her historical fiction trilogy, Sons of Kings, of which she is currently writing Book 3. Millie has also become very fond of writing flash fiction, something that developed from joining in with various challenges on WordPress. As a consequence, she has also recently published a book of 85 flash fiction pieces of 100 to 1,000 words, entitled A Dash of Flash.
 
Millie is the mother of six grown up children, and after living in a number of places in England, she and her husband now live in a small village in Nottinghamshire. When not writing, Mille enjoys long walks in the countryside and visiting historic sites and re-enactments. She is also an avid traveller, swimmer and baker of cakes! Originally from the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire, she still misses the smell of the sea.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You may find us here !
 
 

 
 
 
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text 2017-01-21 08:58
First Book Loot for 2017!

 

 
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New Arrivals at appear Midu Reads as the new year starts. I have 3 nonfiction books in the pile & am really excited about those! You can also see Assail by Ian C. Esselmont, a Joe Abercombie, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, and  Monster Island by David Wellington--all of which are going to be awesome. There's also Dragon Horse by Peter Ward, which I bought because a) shiny, b) hardcover, c)it had the words, epic, fantasy, & China written on it!
 

Book Synopses

 

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1. Dragon Horse by Peter Ward

 

"Set in ancient China, two brothers fight the classic battle between good and evil as the Shadow-without-name attempts to break free from eternal imprisonment by utilizing the strength and power of the famed dragon horses. Rokshan and An-Lushan are drawn into this centuries-old struggle, along with a young girl destined to become the Spellweaver of her nomadic tribe.
 

As An-Lushan is pulled towards the dark, Rokshan must embark upon a dangerous journey and learn the innermost secrets of the dragons."

 

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2. Assail by Ian C. Esselmont

 

"Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region's north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor's tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait -- hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history's very beginnings." Read more.

 

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3. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

 

"Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods--World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, crypt analyst extraordinaire, and gung-ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first... Of course, to observe is not its real duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed... Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious." Read more.

 
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4. The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Obsession, Commerce, and Adventure by Adam Leith Gollner

 

"Tasty, lethal, hallucinogenic, and medicinal – fruits have led nations into wars, fueled dictatorships, and even lured us into new worlds. Adam Leith Gollner weaves business, science, and travel into a riveting narrative about one of earth’s most desired foods." Read more.
 

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5. A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm by Dave Goulson

 

"In A Buzz in the Meadow, Goulson returns to tell the tale of how he bought a derelict farm in the heart of rural France. Over the course of a decade, on thirty-three acres of meadow, he created a place for his beloved bumblebees to thrive. But other creatures live there too, myriad insects of every kind, many of which Goulson had studied before in his career as a biologist. You'll learn how a deathwatch beetle finds its mate, why butterflies have spots on their wings, and see how a real scientist actually conducts his experiments." Read more.
 
 
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6. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

 

Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.


But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself - all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.


Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi's path may end as it began - in twists, traps and tragedy...

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7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

 

In An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don't visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff. Read more.

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8. Monster Island by David Wellington

 

It's one month after a global disaster. The most "developed" nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive — in places rife with high-powered weaponry, such as Somalia. In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. One amongst them is different; though he shares their appetites he has retained his human intelligence. Alone among the mindless zombies, Gary Fleck is an eyewitness to the end of the world — and perhaps the evil genius behind it all. From the other side of the planet, a small but heavily-armed group of schoolgirls-turned-soldiers has come in search of desperately needed medicine. Dekalb, a former United Nations weapons inspector, leads them as their local guide. Ayaan, a crack shot at the age of sixteen, will stop at nothing to complete her mission. They think they are prepared for anything. On Monster Island they will find that there is something worse even than being undead, as Gary learns the true price of survival.
 
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-21 08:50
Weirding It Out with Weird Enough: Dune Re-Read Update #1

 

 
I started re-reading Dune with a friend of mine, who is reading it for the first time. Thinking that I would compare what I thought of it before with how I feel about the book now was no good. I have completely forgotten the story! In a way, that is a good thing since I am unable to re-read books, if I remember the story too well.
 
One thought hit me as I started reading Dune -- there is a confidence and certainty in the way Herbert writes. It lends the story and the universe that it is set in more credibility. As I read, I didn't doubt whether such a place could exist. I knew it did!
 
Since we divided the book into several parts, this is an update about the parts that we have covered until now. The easiest way to point out which parts we read is through the "excerpts" that are given at the beginning of every chapter -- if we can call them chapters.
 
As devices, these quotes are so clever! The reader knows the exact frame of the events that take place and yet do not have to sit through info dumps.
 

We started with:

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
–from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

and read till here:

Over the exit of the Arrakeen landing field, crudely carved as though with a poor instrument, there was an inscription that Muad’Dib was to repeat many times. He saw it that first night on Arrakis, having been brought to the ducal command post to participate in his father’s first full stage conference. The words of the inscription were a plea to those leaving Arrakis, but they fell with dark import on the eyes of a boy who had just escaped a close brush with death. They said: “O you who know what we suffer here, do not forget us in your prayers.”
—from “Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

 

A summary of what has happened until now:

 

  1. Paul is tested by the Reverend Mother, the leader of the Bene Gesserits.
  2. We meet the Atreides and their enemies, Harkonnens. 10, 000s of years ago, Harkonnens were stripped of their titles for showing cowardice in a war. That is just one of the reasons they hate the Atreides who took over and won the war.
  3. Atreides are being sent to the brutal desert planet, Arrakis, where the precious spice is mined.
  4. That the Emperor wants to see the house fall and Duke Leto has plans of his own to counter that.
  5. The Harkonnens have plotted the downfall of Atreides and they will be betrayed by Paul's doctor, Yueh.
  6. The blame is to fall on Lady Jessica (Paul's mother) who is a Bene Gesserit (BG).
  7. The BGs perform myth-seeding to keep their operatives safe and they have created a legend about Paul in Arrakis.

 

My Thoughts

 

 

Here I found yet another book where the author jumps from POV to POV within a single scene! Herbert does this in a way that does not feel unnatural plus there's the advantage of knowing what motivates multiple characters to behave in a certain way.

It is amazing that the author has the villains well defined right from the start. There is no dithering about who the bad guys are and yet it does not make the reading any less fun.

I found out that there was a re-read going on at Tor and in this second installment, the origins of the names and the various terms used in the book are discussed. You can read the whole thing over there, so I won't be repeating it.

Reading the comments for the third installment on Tor led me to a comment where someone compared the Aes Sedai from the WoT series to the BGs in Dune. I think the fact that the BGs are constantly trying to make people think they are less smarter than they actually are makes them the exact opposite of the Aes Sedai!


The 4th installment brought this, which made me laugh:

The Harry Potter connection invites a mashup… with a villain referred to as “he who cannot be weighed”…

Some fun remarks about how Brian has ruined the Dune universe also made it into the comments, along with this comic:

1.jpg


If you are having trouble pronouncing any of the Arabic -- and other -- terms in the book, this guide can help. It includes sound bites in Herbert's voice!


Weird Enough’s Musings

So, my book dealer and my office partner-in-crime, Midu, announced that we were going to do a buddy read. She wanted to re-read Dune, while I would be reading it for the first time. This is also my very first blog about a book review. It is going to be all over the place. You have been warned.
So let’s begin!
 
The first part of the book that we divided was from the beginning to just before the “chapter” starting with this quote:
 
“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh.”
—from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib” by Princess Irulan
Intriguing, no? There are no chapters in the book. Instead, each part starts with a “quote” retelling the tale from a historical aspect about Muad’Dib. The first part that struck me was the Arabic-esque setting and the language which included many words rooted in Arabic. (btw, Muad’Dib, in Arabic, means teacher).
 
The story starts by dumping you face-down into the mysterious grim setting. There is no forewarning. This, I admit, was a little unsettling at first, but I got used to it. Paul, the prince of the Atreides family, is our 15-year old protagonist. The Atreides family is packing up from their home in Caladan to move to Arrakis, the desert planet which harvests spice, the most valuable commodity. Paul’s mother, we find, is from the Bene Gesserit (at this point, all I could assume was that this is a sisterhood or a tribe with great power, plus they have Sherlock-like observation skills). The “Reverend Mother” is a mysterious old hag who comes over and “tests” Paul with a torture device. Paul passes the test (yaaaay!) and we have the old hag thinking about the possibility of Paul being the “Kwisatz Haderach” (I just assumed this is a prophetic being that the Bene Gesserit has been waiting for).
 
The next part reveals the people we are supposed to hate—the Harkonnens. And oh, the plotting! Nice! We also get to know about what a Mentat is—a cool-ass mercenary.
 
Later, the Atreides family reaches the Arrakis, and we learn about Paul’s teachers: Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat (a Mentat). Also about Dr. Yueh, who is being forced by the Harkonnens to betray the family. The first night at Arrakis, Paul is attacked. He only survives because he didn’t sleep as he was supposed to, and uses common sense to stay live. Smart kid.
 
Okay, so I really like Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother. In an interaction with a Freman woman (Arrakis native), I loved how she used the nuances of the conversation to take control of the conversation. Total badass!
 
The Duke Leto Atreides is a man stuck in the politics of the Houses, facing the evil Harkonnens on his own. He’s tired by all the shit. He’s also a leader who cares about the lives of his people—he actually sacrifices a whole stock of spices to save the workers who got stuck in the desert with the notorious desert worm. He’s going to die soon, poor sod.
 
So, that’s all for now. Overall, I’m really liking this book. I haven’t read something like this before, so it’s a refreshing read. The author really goes into detail about the politics, the geology and all other details that make this book seem so close to reality!

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-01 17:35
Eight Reasons Why You Should Not Read The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson
The Bonehunters - Steven Erikson

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a review. This is me gushing about the fact that The Bonehunters did not disappoint. However,  you should avoid reading this series, if you are not interested in the following:

 

It Has Dragons:

 

The book had two ghosts who haunted lizard skeletons, were compulsive liars, had a secret agenda, and were actually dragons! This is how they talk:

 

"Beauteous mistresses, curvaceous, languid, sultry, occasionally simpering..."

 

 

It Includes Practical Concerns:


An assassin who would be wearing concealed weapons on her person, 

 

"a score of aches from knife pommels and scabbards attested that they remained strapped about her person..."

 

 It Could Make you Think:

 

You'd be reading and suddenly, there'd be words that just make you stop and read them over and over again! 

 

"A single god, no matter how benign, is tortured into a multitude of masks, each shaped by the secret desires, hungers, fears, and joys of the individual mortal, who but plays a game of obsequious approbation."

 

It Rewards its Readers:

 

"And gods run when they see a Bridgeburner." 

 

If you have stuck with this series so far, then you will reap the rewards with one-liners and zingers like the one mentioned above. 

 

It is Unique:

 

This is a world where gods are as good as their worshipers. 

 

"Mess with mortals, Poliel." he said, wheeling his horse round, "and you pay."

 

Old deities fall and new ones ascend all the time. There are layers upon layers of complications that you won't even grasp at until much much later. This is why, the books can still manage to surprise and delight readers re-reading them for the 7th or 8th time! 

 

Oh, the Humor can Earn you Stares if Read in Public:

 

Part of it comes from insane situations. To be able to inject humor into situations that'd otherwise leave a reader weeping is one of Erikson's amazing qualities. You might think that a person about to die cracking a joke is unrealistic but this is military humor. As we follow soldiers who see things that would drive any other person insane, they use this kind of gallows humor to keep themselves functional. The other part comes out of love -- or hate -- for the characters.

 

"Saw your mouth moving -- some kind of spell or something? Didn't know you were a mage..." "I'm not. I was saying, "I hope this works".

 

It has Well-Written Female Characters:

 

Firstly, there are a lot of them. Just in this book, there was the Empress, her Adjunct, the Adjunct's lover, a drunk captain who was bad at her job when sobered up, the trouble-maker soldier who loved throwing knives at people, the deity who was going around possessing people, the assassin who murdered most of the empress' team of elite assassins by herself, and so on. They're just there...within the story, just as you would find them in real life.   

 

You Will Feel Pain:

Erikson can clue a reader into the significance of what is happening and how it is related to what has already happened with just one sentence. This one made me cry:

 

"You fight for the Wickans and for the Khundryl Burned Tears this night. We choose to witness."

 

  If you love epic fantasy, then the MBotF is one series that you just cannot miss!

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