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review 2017-12-13 08:56
Kings of Paradise- Richard Nell

 

Using stars, if books can ever be fairly classified in such a blunt way, this book requires five.

The first thing to note is that there isn’t much paradise here, even in the relatively mild climatic conditions of the south. Secondly, there are kings, legions of princes and princesses, and every kind of human ogre, and all have very tough lives, many characters hardly rising above the shitpits of crude existence. Generally, this is a story about the brutish nature of humanity, seen in the evil waves of real history and not just in these dystopian pages. The knife cuts every bit as deeply, with just as much pain, as in any human conflict. Little of it is truly fantastical, though we get a glimpse of fantasy spells in the final chapters, though nothing as far-fetched as fire breathing dragons in the first long tome of this eventual trilogy. The overall tone of the book is a plausible if dark read, and not at all one I recognise as fantasy genre. In fact, when fantasy elements crept in they didn’t seem to fit well at all. The balance of reality and wizardry is not my biggest problem here though, that being the overall weight of words.

There are two excellent 80,000 word stories in this long volume, plus 40,000 words of material to save for later. The quality of the writing easily sustained this reader, but as two books in a series, one about the south and one about the north, what is good reading could have been brilliant. The two main stories might be better weaved separately in the proposed series of books, rather than threading separately around each section by section. A minor grievance, as is often the case with indie authors, is that the editing isn’t always quite up to the quality of the descriptive writing, but all in all the production is very good. Some sections of the book, which may have faced late rewrites, are certainly less well chiselled.

I can see one reason for putting all this into one book, that being because the story of Ruka is just too bleak even for the dark side of grimdark, however that could be lightened considerably without losing the terror in his character. The story of the priestesses could easily be written lightly enough to act as a counterfoil, which to some degree it is anyway. I have to admit that a book focused simply on Ruka would have many readers reaching into their drug cabinet.

As mentioned, the book moves further from a classic dystopian genre towards fantasy as the abilities of Kale ‘mature’. In my view the ‘game of thrones’ feel of the script is strong enough without superpowers, and certainly Nell writes great storylines that really don’t need the escapology of supernatural talents. Exaggerated human skills, even out of body experiences, fit the foundations of the book’s world very well, but the creeping in abilities of Nordic gods, in my opinion, don’t.

My interested was sustained, I really wanted to get to the conclusion. However, when the end came we had already passed several far more powerful climaxes. That was certainly a disappointment, if one that isn’t uncommon in planned trilogies. Authors need to hold back some storylines of course, but the biggest ‘bang’ in every book in a series should be in its final chapters.

Would I read more by this author? Yes, for sure. But also note that I already feel I’ve read at least two of his books.

AMAZON LINK

 

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review 2017-12-02 03:01
The Third Sequel of The Queen's Thief Almost Fall Short.
A Conspiracy of Kings (Queen's Thief) - Megan Whalen Turner

This was a hard decision on whether I would give it a 3 or a 4 star rating but in the end, the overall of the book won a 4. It took me a while to finish this (again, I am beginning to delay in reading) when I began since October and now its December already! Anyway, once again I love how the world building is but the 3rd sequel focus on a young Sophos, last seen in The Thief, in his perspective on how he became the King of Sounis. After been captive by Medes (twice), slaved and fought back, A Conspiracy of Kings has every thing as it turns out except that I felt the first few chapters were very slow. As how it was delivered, the promising part of unexpected events turns out well in the consistency of writing, character and plot. While (been bias now) I rooted for more Eugenides to appear in this book, his appearance is much lesser but when he does appear, its once again a favorable wind that perks up the reading. Still, this is one series I am still in any way following due to its writing and world building. Of course, I can't wait to see what will happen next and I am one book away to read Thick as Thieves and hope I can read it when time permits. This, again, is a book I would recommend to anyone who started from the beginning.

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text 2017-11-26 16:07
Square 10 Task - 5 Favourite Books this Year
The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett
On a Red Station, Drifting - Aliette de Bodard
Forest of Memory - Mary Robinette Kowal

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. 

–OR–

Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

 

I'm afraid I can't really do the second part because most of my chosen books are ebooks. 

 

It was also pretty tough to figure out what should make the cut. I stuck mostly with my higher-rated books and ones that have stuck with me or led me to try out more of the author's work.

 

1. The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

This one was a no-brainer. I keep telling everyone I know to read it because it was awesome. It's basically pure escapist fun and it was like a breath of fresh air after Frederik Pohl's Gateway which I was reading at the same time. It was also the first novel that I read by Kameron Hurley and I've been slowly working through her back catalogue. It's basically a story about a bunch of people who live in dying worldships trying to find a way to gather enough resources to keep going. It's a fun adventure romp, basically. And the best part is that there are no whiny males who beat up women in front of little kids and justify it to themselves with a bunch of pathetic psychobabble (see Gateway). Don't get me wrong; these aren't all nice, peaceful people. But it was a nice break from the patriarchal norm.

My review of The Stars are Legion.

 

2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This was a reread but I liked it so much I went out a bought my own copy of the author's preferred text. Neil Gaiman doesn't always work for me in the sense that although I usually like his books, I frequently don't love them. This one works for me though. I like the creepiness and the Marquis de Carabas.

My review of Neverwhere.

 

3. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

This first book in Dunnett's Lymond series was well-constructed and riveting. Not an easy read, but still pretty awesome. I'm including this because I'm slowly working my way through the series and so far the first has been the best (ok, so I've only read 2 of the 6 books so far). Lymond is a great example of a protagonist who's almost too awful to like but does actually have redeeming depths. I need to get back to this series, actually.

My review of The Game of Kings.

 

4. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

This novella was my introduction to Aliette de Bodard's writing and a great atmospheric read. It was a kind of family drama, really, which isn't usually my cup of tea, but this world with its far-future Vietnamese empire was just neat. Plus throw in a faltering AI, politics, and a slow-burn narrative... Aliette de Bodard seems to like to create science fiction and fantasy worlds with unusual settings. Here we have a futuristic Dai Viet Empire, and in one of the other series of hers that I'm reading, the books take place in the Aztec Empire.

My review of On a Red Station, Drifting.

 

5. Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

This was another read that just clicked for me, and it was also my first introduction to Mary Robinette Kowal's writing. It was a creepy and thought-provoking tale of a woman who drops off the grid in a hyper-connected world when she's kidnapped by a man whom she surprises tranquilizing a deer. A lot of questioning of how much we can take data for granted and did I mention it was really creepy?

 

So...three sci fis, an urban fantasy, and a historical fiction. I guess I really do like science fiction. :)

 

Some honourable mentions:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World - Peter Wohlleben This popular science book with its descriptions of how trees in a forest communicate and share resources was so close to making the cut but I went with Forest of Memory instead. I do think a society that could actually communicate with its forests and negotiate with them would just be downright cool, and so I still say this should be mandatory reading for science fiction writers.

 

There's also a bunch of stuff about how trees that don't grow up in a mature forest get short-changed in how their wood develops because they aren't forced to grow slowly. The book explains it better. Go read the book.

 

My review for The Hidden Life of Trees.

 

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story - Angela Saini This was a great concise overview of the issues that have set back women’s rights, societal expectations, and health. It was an interesting read, and I used it to find more interesting reads via the references it makes. I've even started to go down a bit of a rabbit hole because those books have led to other books which have led to yet other books right down to my current read, Alas, Poor Darwin.

 

I thought it was so good that I bought a copy for my shelf and ended up with two copies because Canada Post was so slow that the first copy took two and a half months to get to me. Still haven't figured out what to do with the extra copy.

 

My review for Inferior.

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review 2017-11-22 20:04
A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

One warning. Don't expect any happy endings in this book! This book is full of the brutality of war and all it entails.

This book has pulled me further into the world of dragons, fire and ice! I can't wait to read book 3.

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text 2017-11-14 22:41
Reading progress update: I've read 52 out of 336 pages.
The River of Kings: A Novel - Barbara Brown Taylor

So slow. I've been on this for a week and only got 50 pages. I don't know if it's life or lack of drive that are the cause. Life has been running at a fiendish pace, I tired, burned out and just can't get more than one page read before I fall to sleep. The story is fascinating, but I am spent. I may need to pick something lighter up, and slowly march through this when I can

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