As soon as I saw the blurb for The Poppy War, I was sure I was going to want to read it - it's a great time to be a fantasy reader, as there's so much out there now which is not just farmboy-is-secretly-a-prince set in a faux-medieval European setting. Read plenty of those in my time!
Anyway, The Poppy War starts off feeling quite familiar as we're introduced to the character of Rin and the situation she finds herself in at the start of the book - a war orphan taken in by opium traders, Rin is about to be sold off into marriage unless she can find a way out. In this case, her way out is to pass the country-wide examination and get herself a coveted place in one of the empire's military schools. If she manages this (which, of course, she does otherwise it'd be a very different book!) then Rin can decide her own fate in the longer term.
So far, so good. The next third or so of the book follows a pretty well-worn track, especially where moving into a fantasy academic setting is concerned: the outsider maybe makes one or two friends, but also at least one enemy whose vindictiveness will come back to bite her later on. Where The Poppy War diverges from this pattern is with the introduction of a strong theme of shamanism alongside the military training, even if it's heavily frowned upon by the majority of the people Rin comes across. This ability allows someone to channel the power of a deity, at the risk of their own sanity, and if there's one thing Rin wants, it's power.
The whole setting of The Poppy War is more faux-China than faux-medieval Europe and this is made clear when the neighbouring islands (Mugen) mount an invasion. Rin finds herself shipped off to join the other misfits and hone her abilities in defence of a port city, only to discover that their involvement there has not prevented a terrible slaughter taking place in the capital. It's around this time that my willingness to give The Poppy War 5 stars and my accompanying desire to re-read it in the future took a bit of a knock. Things get a bit grisly and, to my mind at least, unnecessarily so - it's too easy to go for graphic rather than thinking about how to use your writing to imply things that are even more horrific, since your reader's minds will make all sorts of connections.
Since this is the first book of a trilogy, it will come as no surprise that Rin finishes the book by making a choice and taking a terrible revenge on the people of Mugen, who are responsible not just for the recent slaughter but apparently also for the genocide of Rin's people. She may be starting to realise just what she's let herself in for, but maybe not, so I guess the next volume will tell us which way she's going to go? The Dragon Republic is due out next year.
The Light Fantastic is a direct sequal to The Colour of Magic. The Discworld needs saving and only Rincewind can do it - something to do with one of the 8 Great Spells slinking around in his head. The adventures of Two Flower, Rincewind and The Luggage continues in this entertaining romp through the Discworld. DEATH is also just starting out as what will one day be a main character. This is an early novel by Pratchett, and also an early Discworld novel. It is quite evident that the author is still trying to find his voice and take his tour around the Disc. The first two novels come across as something of a tour through the Discword, but I still found them enjoyable and the seeing how the Discworld novels develop as a concept is very interesting.
The art on my paperback copy is by Josh Kirby. I love his wild illustrations of the Discworld!
Re-read by audiobook
|I previously read the paperback book in January of 2012. This time I listened to the audiobook.
This book felt completely different than when I read the paperback. I ended up really enjoying it which is great considering I gave it 2 stars. I liked it so much the second time around I already ordered the next book from the library - so there!
Previous review: This book kind of dragged for me and I found I had a hard time finishing it. Georgia "George" Mason and her brother Shaun are professional bloggers which has turned into a legitimate job after a virus has made every person and large animal who dies into a zombie. When the normal news media told everyone it was a hoax, the bloggers gave real information and warnings. George writes news stories and Shaun does shock type blogs filming himself teasing and killing the zombies and their friend Buffy is the technician and also a poet with her own blog. Their group is chosen to be part of the press for a presidential campaign which has given them legitimacy. The only problem is someone is sabotaging the campaign and people are dying and thus becoming zombies. There's a betrayal in this that I still don't understand the reason behind. It didn't make sense to me. So instead of being shocked I was thinking "What?" Also a very sad event takes place and being a natural crier, I was surprised I wasn't really moved. The book drags in places, but when I noted the amount of pages it really didn't drag long however I just couldn't get into to it. The concept was good, but it didn't really deliver for me. I'm in the minority though so my review should be taken with a grain of salt.