Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prince of Thorns: a book review

I just finished reading the manuscript of a debut novel by Mark Lawrence.

Prince of Thorns
The Broken Empire Book One
by Mark Lawrence
UK US

From Mark's website:
"Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse."

Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him. The thorns taught him a lesson in blood...

The Prince  of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging. Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.
Due in August 2011 from
Harper Collins/Voyager - UK/Australia/New Zealand
Penguin/Ace - US


I first heard about this title back in late September and have been sweating to get my hands on it ever since!

When I first got the manuscript I was dismayed - it is written in first person. I don't know why I dislike first person, and I don't even know why I still feel I don't like t when all the books I've read that have used it have been fine and enjoyable novels. But that is how I felt.

The second feeling that came over me reading the first chapter was hesitation.

This is Dark fantasy. Dark Fantasy.

The Prince of Thorns is an apt title for young Jorg - as a character he is not heroic at all. He is twisted and violent, calculating and merciless. Yet I couldn't stop reading - regardless how many times Lawrence's brilliant descriptions made me wince and clasp my hand to my mouth in disbelief. It was freaking awesome!

Lawrence has a very vivid style of writing. It is smooth and compelling and you literally see red on the pages as they become covered with blood from sudden and unexpected episodes of violence. It is gritty and full of wonder. Philosophy walks side-by-side with most base of human emotions, the courtly scent of rose and orange oil mingles with the repugnant odor of unwashed humanity and Machiavellian intrigue gets cut down by daggers punched through throats.

This book is brilliant - it is not at all the type of thing I would normally read (being a fan of the big fat fantasy saga's of heroes and lots of magic) but it's thorns hooked me well and good. I was pissy at the start thinking this was just a thinly veiled excuse for a reworking of medieval history but it is in fact set in a post apocalyptic earth and it is very cool to see Nietzscheanism referenced in the same pages that speak of Plato and Sun Tzu.

There are fantasy aspects to it as well as science - references to the Builders who crafted buildings from stone that was crushed and flowed like water around steel bones (nice!) - but it is subtle, more in the vein of Martin than Jordan. And for those of you who would like comparisons I would have to say Lawrence' style runs to Joe Abercrombie, mixed with Steven Erikson by way of Tim Lebbon and a fascination with Vlad the Impaler. And much shorter in length than a typical Erikson or Abercrombie book.

Like I said, this book is not me at all - and possibly not you if you are squeamish - but it is very exciting, superbly crafted and the start of something fresh and original. And given how long I have to wait until book one is published next August - a lifetime until I can get my hands on book two! (I jest - but I really want the next book now!)

Seriously - buy this book! (US edition here)



Monday, December 6, 2010

Game of Thrones - ican'twait!

Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

The Sun Sword Sequence
by Michelle West

1 The Broken Sword
2 The Uncrowned King
3 The Shining Court
4 The Sea of Sorrows
5 The Riven Shield
6 The Sun Sword

The Sun Sword books tell a complex and detailed story spanning the breadth of the Domain of Annagar in the south - a land of desert and tradition, harsh sun and rigid social courtesies that form a deadly dance of protocol in which the slightest misstep can cause the downfall of a Clan; and the Empire of Essalieyan to the North - a sprawling land of culture and civilisation, commerce and trade in which the Ten Major Houses wield authority second only to the god-born Kings who rule them.













It is a tale of epic narrative and detailed plotting set in a world of rich, vibrant and diverse cultural identities. It is the story of the daughter of a God who refuses to be a pawn in his plans, it is the tale of a woman who shows the world a face of acceptance, but works in secret to change the conventions that make her a slave. It is the story of a Prince who must fight immortal foes to lay claim to the crown that has been denied him and the tale of a young woman whose gift of Sight takes her from city slums to glittering palaces and a position of power that she never dreamed of. Magi battle magi and demi-gods plot for power, warriors fight flesh and blood and the dark sorceries of forgotten legends.













This series is a huge undertaking with a massive cast of characters whose complexity brings to mind the work of Steven Erickson, but is as different to Erickson as he is to Martin. And where readers are willing to forgive both these authors the crime of writing ‘fat’ fantasy I urge you to do the same for West’s work. She is a magical writer of rich and compelling prose and works brilliantly at revealing the history of the world she writes in through character experience, rather than large chunks of ‘info-dump’. This is epic fantasy at its best in which histories and customs collide and not all is as it seems in a world where expectations are confounded and transformation of both events and characters is a delight in a plot of twists and turns.













West writes with insight, thoughtfulness and guts, much in the tradition of Guy Gavriel Kay, Janny Wurts, Tad Williams and Jennifer Roberson and is one of the best fantasy writers I’ve read. And if you do like what you read, check out her work as Michelle Sagara, it’s a lighter read but just as good.




Monday, November 15, 2010

Sea Beggars

From the Archives:

The Mark of Ran
Sea Beggars Book One
By Paul Kearney

The world is dying, seemingly forsaken by its creator. Mankind schemes, plots and wages wars across it, forgetting that another race once dwelled here. To some they where Angels, exiled for a long-forgotten crime; to others they were demons…

So starts the first book in Kearney’s new series, a tale woven with an eloquent style that is hard-edged and gritty. Set in a decaying world filled with legends and fragments of a glorious past, Kearney introduces his readers to fantasy on the high seas, the continent of Umer being a collection of islands, large and small - rather than the forest filled land masses we are typically presented with, although there are those too – separated by huge tracks of wild oceans and brutal seas.

In Rol Cortishane veins runs the blood of the Elder race. Driven from his home, Rol seeks refuge in the ancient citadel of Michal Psellos, where he is trained to be a killer of men, an assassin without pity. After years spent mastering the art of murder, Rol defies Psellos and returns to the high seas.

Kearney is one of the best writers of British fantasy around. His prose is consistently of the highest standard. His use of language is concise, yet vivid - in one paragraph he can paint a picture that would take another author a page to describe. His dialogue intelligently adds to world building, scene setting and distinctive characterisation. In a story set over a period of years, Kearney’s character development is dynamic, clear and, most of all, realistic. The plot itself is tight and never stagnates or wastes pages on unnecessary sub-plots; it is completely driven by character action and resulting consequence that meld together in a snowball effect, taking you on a breathless ride that avoids ‘traditional’ fantasy quests.

This is the beginning of Cortishane’s story. A tale in which he journeys across the breadth of this teeming, wicked world and finds a legendary Hidden City where the desperate and the dispossessed fight for survival. This is the first of the chronicles of Rol’s great voyages, and those of his compatriots; a band of outcasts who took to the wide oceans of the world when every nation of the earth set its face against them. Ussa’s Orphans they were called, the Beggars of the Sea...

Though it is a comparatively short novel for the epic fantasy market, so much happens you could swear you’d read a book twice its size. It’s fun, original and enthralling, and sure to appeal to fans of Steven Erikson, R Scott Bakker, Glen Cook and even George R R Martin. This book is a must for serious readers of fantasy fiction.



What I'm Reading

So. I was reading Corvus by Paul Kearney - and I inend to finish it - but my rep from Random House got me a bound manuscript of Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont and I just have to read that.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Urban Fantasy - noir

Nightfall
Jack Nightingale Book One
by Stephen Leather

'You're going to hell, Jack Nightingale': They are words that ended his career as a police negotiator. Now Jack's a struggling private detective -- and the chilling words come back to haunt him. Nightingale's life is turned upside down the day that he inherits a mansion with a priceless library; it comes from a man who claims to be his father, and it comes with a warning. That Nightingale's soul was sold at birth and a devil will come to claim it on his thirty-third birthday -- just three weeks away. Jack doesn't believe in Hell, probably doesn't believe in Heaven either. But when people close to him start to die horribly, he is led to the inescapable conclusion that real evil may be at work. And that if he doesn't find a way out he'll be damned in hell for eternity




I loved this book Loved it.

At the height of my untreated sleep apnoea I was given a proof of this to read by my (then) Orbit rep Amy and i practically read it in a night - was a big deal for me at the time because I was barely able to stay awake for more than five minutes if I attempted to read.

Mix some Harry Dresden with John Taylor, add a dash of Felix Castor and you come close to the type of character that is Jack Nightingale - and the secretive world of magick he inherits from a father he didn’t know he had. This is a tightly woven novel with a high-speed plot that kept me up very late; Leather offers urban fantasy packed with devil worshippers and the darker side of the Occult, grounded in solid police procedure and told with a fine flair for dramatic tension.

My current Orbit rep Robert was foolish enough to tell me that book 2 - Midnight -  will be out soon and that he will have an ARC for me. I've already called him about that once since he said it... i wonder how much of a nuisance I will make of myself *looks innocent*.


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Last Stormlord

In celebration of the release of Stormlord Rising in the UK this week, here's my revew of the preceeding volume:

The Last Stormlord
Watergivers Book One
By Glenda Larke


It’s rare that a fantasy novel sets itself up in a world so obviously influenced by the idea of climate change. Usually such issues are left for science fiction. Yet in her latest blockbuster, Larke sets herself firmly in territory that few fantasy novels have dared to tread. Rather than traipsing through a ‘medieval’ past, she reveals a bold, original world that could possibly be our future, albeit one without technology.

In a world where water is more precious than gold, the men and women who can sense its presence, and manipulate it at will, hold the ultimate authority and political power in the land. The Stormlords are an aristocracy of Rainlords of varying ability who administer the distribution of water and rule by right of water-sensitivity, rather than talent for government. The Cloudmaster, the highest ranking Stormlord, has powers that enable him to draw water vapour from the ocean and send it across the desert, where the clouds it forms break upon distant mountains and rain down into massive cisterns, sending water back to the cities on the coast. When the current Cloudmaster lies dying, without an heir to bring water to the desert land, he sends his Rainlords out in search of any child who shows the potential of a ‘water sensitive’, even if it be a child of the poorest of Quarters. But not every Rainlord wants to bow to another Cloudmaster, and so starts a power-play that will change the face of the Quarters and their Rainlords forever.

Shale, an uneducated Gibber boy who displays a powerful water talent, may be the Quarters’ best hope for survival. But before he can be found, he is stolen away and his whole village slaughtered - man, woman and child. Terelle, a slave girl purchased to be a handmaiden in a brothel, runs away to discover she has talent with water that not even the Rainlords understand. As water becomes increasingly scarce, the coastal cities are threatened by drought. The tribesmen of the Red Quarter see a chance to finally rid the Quarters of Rainlords and bring back the time of Random Rain.

The common link in Larke’s novels is her ability to craft worlds that are vibrant and vivid, immersing us in a world that has depth and substance in a way that few writers can match without bogging down in ‘info dump’. This story is no different and I think is her best work to date. That she can also tell a sweeping saga that runs the gauntlet of human experience, immersing us – quite disturbingly at times – in that white water rapid of joy and despair, unmistakeably marks her as one of Australia’s best speculative fiction writers and one you should not miss.



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And this was only the beginning!

The Innocent Mage
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker #1
By Karen Miller
BUY IT



Enter the kingdom of Lur, where magic is wielded by few and others are imprisoned if they dare try. The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since they arrived centuries ago after fleeing Morg, the mage who started a war in their homeland.

To keep their lands safe the Olken - Lur's original inhabitants - are forbidden to use magic. Any Olken who breaks the law will be executed. Gar has come to Lur's capital city to make his fortune. He finds himself working in the royal stables and in time becomes a mediator between the Olken and the Doranen. Soon, he will have enough money to return home and set up his own fishing fleet.

But there is unrest among the Olken. It has been prophesied that the Innocent Mage will be born, and the Circle is dedicated to preserving the magic of the Olken until the saviour arrives. The Circle have been watching Gar, and as the city streets are filled with Olken rioters, his life takes a new turn...


_________________________________________________________

Ms Miller weaves a delightful tale, bringing a distinct style, flare and sense of drama to her first fantasy novel.

In the Kingdom of Lur the Doranen, an elegant, magic-wielding race have brought an age of peace and harmony to the native inhabitants, the Olken. But while they use their gifts and more advanced society to rule for the benefit of both the simpler Olken and themselves, the Doranen hide in their history a dark secret. The kingdom they left behind was devastated by a war of black magic’s and the survivors, who have taken refuge in Lur, seek to forget the legacy of the evil mage Morg that stains them. In an effort to protect themselves and the Olken, the ancient Doranen constructed a wall of glistening magic and light, cutting off all access to the outside world and the horrors they left behind. In return for the protection of their kingdom, the Olken have abandoned their own traditions of magic; but the Olken have secrets of their own.

A secret society known only as ‘the Circle’ holds safe the forgotten Olken magic, and a prophecy awaits the coming of the one called the Innocent Mage; destined to save their world from destruction if he retains his innocence, or to herald its doom if he falls.

From the sweeping vistas of Restharven Harbour, the tale unfolds as a young man, Asher, leaves home in search of his fortune, only to find himself saving a prince and taking a position in the royal stables. This is traditional fantasy at its best as Miller masterfully weaves Asher’s struggle with his own self worth, and his practical nature against the demands of prophecy and magic. While Asher rises to fame and fortune, the Circle watch him from the sidelines.

Abounding with vivid characterisations and contemporary dilemmas, Miller adds a strong human touch that is lacking in many books of more standard fantasy fare, while marrying the tale to a forward-moving plot with a momentum that carries the reader into the small hours of the morning as they find themselves having to read ‘just one more chapter’. (I write from experience!)

Miller’s debut is a blockbuster story crafted with a strong sense of wonder and told with whimsical charm. I have no doubt that all readers will be left wanting more when Book One reaches its astounding conclusion.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

So many things to do/read!

My awesome rep from Orbit brought this little goodie in for me yesterday!



I'd actually asked him for it a while back - but I don't like to complain ;)

Unfortunately I can't start it right away. This weekend I need to finish a beta read for an awesome Aussie author, I want to make more headway into ToM and I need to nail chapter 37 of my own nightmare book, as well jump back into Azeroth and try and get more quests done so I can get my Loremaster achievement before Cataclysm comes out.

I'm also 'reading' Side Jobs, and want to finish The Quantum Thief so I can get onto Corvus, Before They are Hanged and Crown of Crystal Flame.

So many things to do... work is so overrated :P

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The end is in sight!

Woohoo!
I have so many other things to read, I have to finish beta reading for Karen and I have my own work to do (I embarked on chapter 37 on the ferry this afternoon) and my US copy of Towers of Midnight arrived today.



Taunting me, tempting me... how can I not read it?

/cry

BUY IT

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Worldbuilder

From the Archives:

The Heart of the Mirage
Mirage Makers #1
by Glenda Larke
BUY IT

One of the things that excites me about a writer is when life philosophies - whether the author’s own or not – and personal wisdom, insightful commentaries and generosity (or even meaness) of spirit is fleshed out in distinctive characterisation that has the story, as well as the characters, leaping off the page. Coupled with an amazingly vivid world that has been painstakingly constructed, yet is expressed with such ease that it never overwhelms, but rather creeps up on you, Larke has granted the reader a near-perfect escape into a breathtaking adventure.
Heart of the Mirage is so real, your pulse will race and your breath catch as nail-biting tension and hard-hitting action abound, giving you a book that takes hold of your heart and mind.

Set in an empire that spans the known world, the Exaltarch rules Tyr with an iron fist of devastating military might and socially unjust laws that are hidden behind the veil of ‘civilisation’. Among the Empire’s many enforcers, none are more feared than the secretive Brotherhood, a legion of spies and interrogators whose word is law.

Ligea Gayed is one of the Brotherhood’s most successful agents. Though not a native Tyran by birth, she has lived a privileged life as the adopted daughter of the Empire’s most celebrated General. In a world ruled by men, she has left behind a legion of enemies because she is an educated woman, a foreigner and has a preternatural ability to always know when she hears a lie. Having been crafted unknowingly, by both her father and the Exaltarch, as a secret weapon of retribution for their most humiliating military defeat, she is sent to her native homeland of Kardiastan to find a rebel leader and bring him to Imperial justice and in so doing, betray her native heritage. But the long sands of the Kardiastan Shiver Barrens hold many secrets and ancient powers and a separate destiny awaits her that has little to do with the honour of the Tyranian Empire.

Larke has composed a compelling tale of duty, honour and redemption set in a Byzantine empire filled with betrayal, passion and greed. There are only a few Australian writers, I believe, that can stand up against the big international ‘name’ authors. And yes, by now I have reviewed at least one book by each. So let me add Ms Larke to that illustrious, but short, list. To my mind, Larke’s self-assurance, insight and guts - much in the traditon of Robin Hobb, Carol Berg and even Elizabeth Moon - firmly places her on the list as one of the very best Australian writers of fantasy fiction.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm such a Geek

I play World of Warcraft.

Not as much as I used to - hell if I was raiding like I used I would not have hit the 220,000 word mark on my manuscript (but that's another post entirely).

But I do play, I'm still an Officer in a Raiding Guild (albeit one who is an 'administrator' rather than raider) and I am 37 quests of my Loremaster achievement - which I have to get before the cataclysm expansion comes out in December.

What does this have to do with books?

Well.... we received in the shop today The Shattering by Christie Golden, a World of Warcraft novel and prelude to the events of the Cataclysm!



Squee!

So, now I am finishing The Blade Itself asap and starting The Shattering! :D

Monday, October 18, 2010

If you ask, she will answer

The Steerswoman's Road
By Rosemary Kirstein
BUY IT


When the steerswoman Rowan discovers a small, lovely blue jewel of obviously magical origin, her innocent questions lead to secret after startling secret, each more dangerous than the last—and suddenly Rowan must flee or fight for her life. Or worse, she must lie.

With every wizard in the world searching for her, Rowan finds unexpected assistance. A chance-met traveler turned friend, Bel is a warrior-poet, an Outskirter, and a member of a barbaric and violent people. Or, so it would seem.

For Bel, unknowing, possesses secrets of her own: secrets embedded in her culture, in her people, in the very soil of her homeland. From the Inland Sea to the deadly Outskirts, surrounded by danger and deceit, Rowan and Bel uncover more and more of the wizards’ hidden knowledge. As the new truths accumulate, they edge closer to the single truth that lies at the center, the most unexpected secret of them all. . . .

If you ask a Steerswoman (and some Steersmen) a question, any question, she will answer. If a Steerswoman asks you a question, any question, you must reply. A Steerswoman will speak only the truth to you (provided she knows the truth) and you must do the same for her. If you refuse to answer her question, you will be placed under the Steerswomen's Ban and no Steerswoman will answer your questions - ever. So for centuries, the Steerswomen - questioning, searching, investigating - have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander, the Inner Lands. All the knowledge that the Steerswomen possess is given freely to those who ask and they have assisted mankind's expansion through the land, pushing their boundaries - physical and mental - ever outward.

This is an interesting world and the reader would be easily forgiven for assuming it was medieval. I did. But as the story unfolds, it turns out that the Inner Lands are far more than they seem. I find myself pausing here, wondering just how much I can say without venturing into the dreaded realm of the spoiler. It's not so much that I'm worried about giving away huge twists in the plot, but rather that I don't want to spoil Kirstein's wonderful way with the slow reveal. One thing this book is not is high fantasy. From the blurb on the back, you may think so, but no it's not. This by no mean detracts from the story. In fact, when it took such a dramatic turn from what I was expecting, I was too caught up in the tales unfolding to care.

Let me explain. You see, Steerswomen are not the only holders of knowledge. Other men and women (called wizards by the people) hold sway over a knowledge that gives them miraculous powers. Called magic, the wizards won't share their knowledge. For centuries, they have been under the Steerswomen's Ban for refusing to answer the Steerswomen's questions. So when the Steerswoman Rowan begins to search for the origin of a small blue jewel that hints at the magical, her questions spark a chain of events that see the wizards of the Inner Lands seeking her death. The precise sets of questions and formulae used by Steerswomen to draw the truth out of story and observation are part of what made this book so appealing to me. Moving through a world with no means of instant communication, Steerswomen rely on highly trained powers of deduction, matched with a broad education in basic science and the principles of logic.

Part adventure, part detective story, this book is a fantastic read that actually kept me up till the wee hours. Kirstein displays a great sense of plotting, vivid characterisation and sets her tale to explore contemporary themes.

Hurry up with the rest of the series Ms Kirstein - please!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Snippets

From the Archives:

The Fall of Lautun
Arrandin Trilogy Book 3
by Marcus Herniman.

In this triumphant conclusion to The Arrandin Trilogy, the author completes the weaving of his tale with a sure hand. The stirring of the Ancient Enemy gathers in strength and armies of the Souther Empire threaten the Six Kingdoms from across the sea, while the movement of the Vashtar priesthood to eradicate the worship of the elder gods gathers momentum, spilling over into the enclaves of the Mage Council itself.

Kellarn and his companions continue to search for the pieces of the Old World weapon that, once united, will give the Lautun Empire a chance to defeat the Enemy and his minions.

Mage Councillor Rhysana continues on the path to discovering the key to the teachings of Archmage Illana, which will unlock access to a magic unseen since the Golden Age of the Council.

This is a great story and I can't wait for more from Mr Herniman.



Gilfeather
The Isles of Glory Book 2
by Glenda Larke.

The second book in the Isles of Glory Trilogy continues Blaze Halfbreed and Flame Windrider's dangerous quest to rid the Isles of the evil dunmaster Morthred.

Picking up where we left off in The Aware, Larke introduces us to a new character, Kelwyn Gilfeather, whose remarkable gifts in sensing both Sylv and Dun magic make him as impervious to both as one of the Aware folk.

In this book, Larke reveals more of the Isles unique and treacherous beauty, while the sharp prose and witty dialogue creates a steady pace that moves this unique story along without a hitch. This is a great series and quite different to your run-of-the-mill quest Fantasy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hold on to your hats!

From the Archives

To Ride Hell's Chasm
by Janny Wurts
BUY IT


A stand-alone novel - written by Wurts while taking a break from the mammoth Wars of Light and Shadow series - this rollercoaster of intrigue and mystery is not a book you could call a light read. Set over the period of one week, so much happens in this novel that you question just how much you can fit into one day! The Kingdom of Sessalie is a land-locked mountain Kingdom that longs for an outlet to the sea. To this end, its King and Chancellor have arranged a marriage for Princess Anja with the High Prince of Devall, which will give Sessalie access to Devall's seaport, as well as offer a Royal Alliance between the realms. As Devall's High Prince arrives for his upcoming nuptials, the city opens its arms in welcome and wild celebration. But when Princess Anja suddenly disappears before her betrothal banquet, King Isendon assigns the task of recovering his missing daughter to two men - and for them to determine if she has been kidnapped or has simply run off.

The warriors charged with recovering the kingdom's beloved daughter are Taskin, Commander of the Royal Guard, and Mykkael, Captain of the Garrison. As the Crown's right-hand man, Taskin's competence and lifelong record of service to the Kingdom has earned him the respect and support of the court. Mykkael, though, is a stranger. He is unproven and new to the post of Captain and to the Kingdom itself; though he is a veteran soldier with a legendary reputation in the field of combat, his foreign breeding is held in suspicion by court society. As the princess's trail vanishes outside the citadel's gates, anxiety and tension escalate. Wurts' masterful use of language, rhythm and pace grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go! Mykkael's investigations lead him to a radical explanation for the mystery, but he finds himself under suspicion from the court factions. It remains to be seen whether Commander Taskin's famous fair-mindedness will be enough to unravel the truth behind the garrison captain's dramatic theory (that the resourceful, high-spirited princess was not taken by force, but rather fled the palace to escape a demonic evil?)

Wurts writing is always multi-layered. On the surface, you have the intriguing mystery and the engaging adventure, as well as vivid descriptions and superb characterisation that create a real world and believable characters. Every character you encounter has their own insight and vision. Limited or experienced, their passionate views and choices are woven seamlessly into the tale, with high-stakes action and more than survival set on the outcome. Below the surface of this high fantasy adventure, there is the opportunity for the reader to explore - in as little or as much depth as they wish - larger questions that are as pertinent to our own society today as they are in this medieval fantasy setting: Where does the right and true course of the warrior lie, when the man bearing both sword and responsible knowledge must tread a collision course between the ethics of human justice and law, when not all things are as they appear and the disappearance of a young princess catapults a small kingdom into a crisis beyond precedent? This book is a fantastic read. Each time I re-read it, I pick up more. It is also the perfect place for anyone new to Wurts writing to jump on board.

Enjoy the ride!



Monday, October 11, 2010

Currently Reading

I've had this book for nearly two years in my TBR pile. Given that the sequel Corvus is coming out at the end of the month I figured I should give it a read.

So I am reading The Ten Thousand


And I am enjoying it (*gasp* - am book without magic?!). yes, really.

I really like Kearney's writing - for the most part. I loved The Mark of Ran, but was disappointed with it's sequel.

Gotta have my fix!

Of Michelle Sagara that is...

HARVEST MOON
Short Stories by
Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara and Cameron Haley
BUY IT


A Tangled Web by Mercedes Lackey
Kidnapping Persephone should have been an easy task. But in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, nothings ever simple—and the wrong blonde goddess is stolen by mistake, leaving Prince Leopold without his new bride. At least until he braves the realm of the dead to get her back….



Cast in Moonlight by Michelle Sagara
Barely a teenager, Kaylin Neya is a thief, a fugitive and an attempted assassin. She also has a smart mouth, sharp wits and mysterious markings on her skin. All of which make her perfect bait for a child prostitution sting in the city of Elantra—if she survives her first meeting with the Hawks!


Retribution by Cameron Haley
In the underworld, there are tricks to killing. Like executing rivals at crossroads so ghosts won't follow you home. But sometimes retribution is hard to avoid—and now a supernatural hit man has a contract on Domino Riley's life. Luckily she knows a thing or two about death….
Okay, normally you present me with a short story and I'll just smile politely and put it aside.

I don't get short stories. I don't know how to write them and I don't want to read them - but if it's a short story by an author I love... well. I love short stories!

The author whose work I adore here? Michelle Sagara of course!

It took me a while to pick up her first Cast book - Cast in Shadow. I had had a bad experience with two other Luna authors and when I'd her that Michelle (aka Michelle West) had written for them also I was very upset. But I needn't have worried. The Elantra Chronicles (the Cast books) are brilliant. Go and buy them!

This story here is Kaylin's introduction to the Hawks - an arm of Law Enforcement in the city of Elantra - and there introduction to her, as a thirteen year old girl from the slums of the city.

It held all of the magic that Michelle manages to poor into the full length novels, but while those books are written very tightly from Kaylin's  POV, in cast in Moonlight we are allowed to view things from the eyes of some of the other characters - all of whom appear in the full length novels - making it a very special treat.

It is a very different Kaylin who first meets the Hawks - and here Michelle demonstrates just how brilliant a writer she is for while the younger Kaylin is different you can still see in her the young woman she becomes. Cast in Moonlight is a perfect introduction to Elantra (and Kaylin) if you haven't read any of Michelle's work before (and if you haven't - *gasp* - get thee to a good bookstore and buy them now! Now!) and if you have (yay you!) then it offers a very cool and entertaining episode that is well worth the read.

AND - you get to introduce yourself to Cameron Haley - who's debut came out about a month ago, and I will be having a look at that.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I had to start again

The Stormcaller
The Twilight Reign #1
By Tom Lloyd
BUY IT


Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan.
Lord Bahl is also a white-eye, a genetic rarity that produces men stronger, more savage and more charismatic than their normal counterparts. Their magnetic charm and brute strength both inspires and oppresses others.
Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish . . .


I can't recall if I've made mention of this before or not. And while  a quick flip through my past posts would tell me I can't be bothered right now.

I read The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd a couple of years ago when it was first published by Gollancz. I liked it well enough - more so than I'd originally expected to. I read book two, fine. No problems, from what I can recall it built well on book one and everything was fine and dandy. But then book three came along and he lost me. Literally.

I had no idea what was going on. And THAT never happens to me when reading a story. Even Erikson and Jordan have not caused me this problem... but I pushed through and got to the end.

Recently, a month or so ago, book four came out and I of course grabbed it because - despite everything - I am enjoying the story. Then I opened the book and began to read through the 'What's gone before'... and I was again, completely lost.

So I have gone back to the very beginning.

I don't want to talk so much about plot as anyone can get an idea of what the book is about from the blurb. What I'd like to talk about with this book is the execution.

Now let me say up front that I do like Lloyd's writing. He writes very well. His world building is great, he is inventive with a wonderful turn of phrase and has strong characters - even if he does on occasion change POV in the middle of a scene (I don't actually find that so much of a problem if it's clear - but so many writers have made it seem to be a 'no no' that I feel I have to frown at it when I notice it [but I don't really care]).

What I have discovered about his writing and this story - and this is what has made it so difficult for me to remember what happened (or what's even going on) is that he is very very light with the pen when it comes to the foreshadowing of events. Now I don't expect any writer to have to hit me over the head put up a neon sign in their story to make sure I pick up the hint, but it is only now that I have read books two and three that I am even seeing the possible hints of foreshadowing in book one. And that can't help but make it hard for any reader - especially one who can't be bothered going back to see what they missed. And I have to wonder if this is in fact the story as Lloyd wrote it or if he had to edit down for size/word count.

To my mind it could have used another one hundred odd pages dedicated to fleshing this out - and in fact if this wasn't an issue it would probably be the sort of book I'd scream about from the roof tops. As it is I find it a little frustrating because it's almost there... but not quite.

Is it worth you time to read? Absolutely, It's a strong book, it has a strong narrative and grreat ideas and regardless of any issues I might be having I haven't given up, I am still reading (and re-reading) this series. And who knows? Maybe you won't have the same issue I had, but if you do ever find yourself scratching your head at the inconsistencies or sudden (seeming) leaps of logic then I think you'll find the author mentioned something about the particular scene/event once and in such a way that it doesn't stick or ring any bells for the reader (well this one anyway).


Monday, October 4, 2010

The sort of book that makes me want to write

Where do I start? I picked this book up for the first time about 18 years ago and from the start it firmly established Ms Rawn as one my top ten favourite authors. Who are the others you ask? Well stick around because I’m bound to review them all at some stage. To be honest, the first thing that drew me to the book was Michael Whelan’s exceptional artwork, but it wasn’t long before Rawn’s magic caught me in its spell.

From the Archives:


Dragon Prince
Dragon Prince #1
By Melanie Rawn
BUY IT


Opening in the desert kingdom of The Long Sand, Rawn demonstrates that she isn’t one to shy away from violence or tragedy, and that she holds the ability to delve deep into the full spectrum of human emotion. While the story is large in scope, it moves with an assured pace that doesn’t pull any punches.

Revolving around Rohan, the Dragon Prince of the title, and the sunrunner witch Sioned, an initiate of the Goddess Keep, Rawn builds her world with a precision and flair that is matched by the style and grace of her writing. Rohan is a man of character, breeding and intelligence. Brought up in a world where a man’s right to rule is based on his skill as a warrior, his inclination to the finer arts of reading and education is a cause of concern to his family when the mantle of Prince is thrust upon him by his father’s untimely death. Having been sheltered from court life by his mother’s wishes, he is pushed into the public eye as an unknown player in a dangerous game. To his side comes Sioned, a young woman as feisty and strong-willed as she is beautiful and accomplished in the magical art of sunrunning. Presented to Rohan on the night of his father’s death, there is a marriage arranged by his aunt and her mistress, Andre, the Lady of the Goddess Keep. At first apprehensive, Rohan is struck by Sioned’s beauty and sensitivity, finding her a match for him in intelligence and passion, a person he can love and share his secrets with without fear of derision. This is the tale of their courtship, bound together by the machinations of fate and the intrigues of noble houses; it is an intelligent read that balances romance and magic with cunning and bloody politics.

Well-drawn characters and vivid descriptions accompany Rohan and Sioned in the unfolding of their story. Personal relationships between family and friends lend the book a welcome relief to bloody infighting encouraged by the realm’s powerful and manipulative overlord the High Prince Roelstra. One thing that struck me about this book is the intelligence that is evident in the laying of every plot and the turn of each phrase. Both the prose and the verbal sparring between characters is lively and holds a distinct style that is Rawn’s own and has grown with every book she’s gone on to write. This is a great book and one that doesn’t sit on my shelf long enough to gather dust.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I should be writing

Yes, really I should.

As days go today was not the best and I find I am not in a mood conductive to getting work (writing work) done.

However I will sit down at my laptop after dinner and attempt to finish my daily quota.

Speaking of Epic Fantasy I saw a post on A Dribble of Ink today about the cover of a forthcoming title from Tor called The Unremembered, Book One of the Vault of Heaven by Peter Orullian.

I love Epic Fantasy. I know people poo poo it as rehashed and boring - and sure a lot of it is - but I don't mind so much the retelling of a particular story line so long as the writing is good, captures my attention and gives me something fresh.

Naturally I have no idea what The Unremembered will be like but I do like the sound of it. here's the blurb as found on Aidan's site:


The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.

Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….

The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey. Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world.

BUY IT

Now that sounds right up my alley! But it's not due until April 2011 /cry.

I wonder if Tor would send me a an ARC? Pan MacMillan distribute Tor locally - I'll have to harass ask my rep.

In other exciting new my hardback copies of The Painted Man and The Desert Spear arrived today. Yes, I've read both books before but I didn't have hardback editions. When Peter V. Brett was in Sydney a couple of weeks ago we had a signing at the store (and I got to have dinner with him too!) and I grabbed a couple of bookplates and ordered my HB copies to put them in. And my copy of The Painted Man turned out to be a First Edition - score!

And tomorrow my new PC is meant to be delivered - now that's exciting!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Born of Empire

US title - Empire's Daughter
From the Archves:


Third Prince Maddyn Kevleren is one of the few members of his royal family who cannot Wield-cannot access the realm of magic. When he crosses the most powerful magician in the empire, he will be forced to set out across the sea to find the new colony of Kydan to escape her revenge...but even the wide ocean may not be enough to protect him.


Although a comparatively small book for the fantasy genre, Brown packs a surprising amount into this tale of politics, families and intrigue. Set in a wonderfully detailed world that revolves around two expansionist empires and their brutal intrigues, Brown flexes his pen and proceeds to present to the reader ideas that are intriguingly different to the flood of medieval fantasy currently in the market. Not that medieval fantasy is bad, mind you, but great ideas in this genre seem to be few and far between these days. In the world of the Kydan Chronicles, political power has been held exclusively by the Kevleren family for over 240 years. Distinct in appearance, the Kevlerens also stand apart from the people they rule by virtue of their gift - the ability to Wield the Sefid, a magical power that is untouchable to most people. But to Wield the Sefid requires a sacrifice, and the greater the sacrifice, the more powerful the Wielding. The Kevleren horde their gift and Kevleren law restricts any marriage outside their family, nor may offspring from unions with non-gifted subjects be allowed to live.

Opening with the crowning of Lerena as the new empress of themighty Hamilayan Empire, the start of her reign is marked with conflict as General Third Prince Maddyn Kevleren defies his family and takes a commoner as a lover. In an effort to prevent disaster, Lerena offers him the posting of Commander on an expedition across the Deepening Sea to establish a colony in the politically troubled land of Kydan, thus moving him far enough away to effectively exile him, while also matching the expansive moves of the empire’s greatest enemy, the Rivald kingdom. Maddyn, Hamilaya’s most gifted military leader, accepts his cousin Lerena’s offer in an attempt to protect the life of his lover, Alway, and their unborn child from both the brutal law of the Kevlerens and from his last lover, the Duchess Yunara, sister to the empress. Beautiful, wilful and unstable, Yunara is the most gifted Wielder of the Sefid. Betrayed in love by Maddyn, she will stop at nothing to avenge her broken heart.

As the dramas in her family play out, a revolt against the ruling Kevleren family in Rivald forces Lerena to confront a threat not just to that branch of the family, but Kevlerens everywhere. With twists and turns that keep you guessing, Brown has produced a gem of strong characters and vivid locales in a world bordering on a type of alternate industrial revolution.

This is a tale that delights in the unexpected and begins really well - uinfortunately, for me, Brown took his suprises to far and I was very disappointed with the end of the book. So much so I have yet to pick up book 2. I'm not sure I will.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Passing

From the Archives:

When mirror twins Seth and Hadrian Castillo travel to Europe on holidays, they don't expect the end of the world to follow them. Seth's murder, however, puts exactly that into motion. From opposite sides of death, the Castillo twins grapple with a reality neither of them suspected, although it has been encoded in myths and legends for millennia. The Earth we know is just one of many 'realms', three of which are inhabited by humans during various stages of their lives. And their afterlives. In the tradition of Philip Pullman and Ursula K. Le Guin and inspired by numerous arcane sources, the "Books of the Cataclysm" begin in the present world but soon propel the reader to a landscape that is simultaneously familiar and fantastic.



The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams is a prequel to The Books of the Change trilogy and sets out to explain how the world of the previous trilogy came to be.

As a huge fan of the previous trilogy, I was really looking forward to this book, but I was disappointed. While the ideas are great and it does answer some questions, I found it rather confusing and lacking the same vibrancy of the earlier series.

The best part of the book was the last quarter. Nevertheless, fans of the previous trilogy should enjoy this book and the tale of how magic returns to the world.

BUY IT



The second book in a fabulous trilogy of power and violence, love and hatred, slavery and the call to freedom.


Shana is sent to the marble mines of Ashua. She is the top gladiator in Vechwer but has angered too many influential people. Eventually escaping, she raises an army against those who feed her people to the dragons. Sukaal Veskesh, an Ashuak provincial governor and military leader who is trying to bring reform to relations between the Jaru and the Ashuak, is nearly defeated by Shana’s band.


Sukaal’s moderate stance is obliterated when he is posted elsewhere, and his replacement institutes the cruel and violent rule that had been in place before Sukaal came…crucifixion is a new and even harsher punishment for the Jaru people.


And the dragon priests of Ashua are looking after their own interests…they believe Alwyn is the key to finding the Genesis Stone, the stone the priests have promised to recover from the Alfwyn for the dragons. And time is running out for them all…

Passion (The Ashuak Chronicles #2) by Tony Shillitoe, picks up where Blood left off. The author throws the reader back into the crumbling world of the Ashuak Empire. The story continues to chart a course through blood thirsty imperial politics, as Sukaal Vekesk faces hidden enemies to his moderate reign as military governor of Sekesu.

Without a doubt, this second novel in the trilogy is just as exciting as the first. Shana, the legendary Jaru gladiator, though enslaved, continues her plans to avenge her brother’s murder. Alwyn, the teacher, learns more of the Dragon Priest’s magic than the Dragon Priests know themselves. And all the while, the wheels set in motion by the Great Dragons to find the Genesis Stone and their ancient enemies the Alfwyn, continue to turn towards a brutal climax. I love this series!

BUY IT

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's not you it's me

The Chathrand - The Great Ship, The Wind-Palace, His Supremacy's First Fancy - is the last of her kind - built 600 years ago she dwarves all the ships around her.
The secrets of her construction are long lost. She was the pride of the Empire. The natural choice for the great diplomatic voyage to seal the peace with the last of the Emperor's last enemies. 700 souls boarded her. Her sadistic Captain Nilus Rose, the Emperor's Ambassador and Thasha, the daughter he plans to marry off to seal the treaty, a spy master and six assassins, one hunderd imperial marines, Pazel the tarboy gifted and cursed by his mother's spell and a small band of Ixchel.
The Ixchel sneaked aboard and now hide below decks amongst the rats. Intent on their own mission. But there is treachery afoot. Behind the plans for peace lies the shadow of war and the fear that a dead king might live again. And now the Chathrand, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons has gone missing.
This is her story.
I was recently told, for a second time, to read The Red Wolf Conspiracy by my friend Karen.

She loved it and couldn't stop singing it's praises. I had looked at it before and passed it by, and while Karen is a great mate it's only about a third of the time that we actually enjoy the same books. That should have been my second warning.

But I went ahead and bought it, and I've made my way through 88 pages but can do no more. It's just not my cup of tea.

It's not at all poorly written, in fact it has the kind of prose I would normally get excited about. It's packed full of world building and references to historical events that are scattered like pieces of a broken puzzle readers have to find and piece together.

It has some strong characters and very cool , obscure references to what is obviously technology but now lost to the current civilisation. And I really like that kind of thing.

But unfortunately it also set in the equivalent to... oh I don't know, the late 1600 hundreds? There is gun powder and great navies that are 'expanding the empire' and doctors with 'medical marvels' and the progression of science. There are proper deportment schools for young ladies of a certain class and great trading houses with aristocratic patrons/owners or benefactors and... and it gives me hives.

I just can't do this time period, I could barely do The Pirates of the Caribbean, and certainly not 2 - I haven't even bothered with 3! Chris Evans utilised this setting in the Iron Elves series and I was able to get into that.

The setting wasn't nearly as thickly depicted, as strongly accented in the story as it is in Redicks book. And I just can't get through it, which is a shame because I am sure it would be a great story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Archives

Are getting a spring clean... so to speak.

Because I ahve been so lax in getting posts up I am now reaching into my own reveiewing past and shaking the dust off some old faves... these don't fair too badly (given I dislike being told I have to write a review rather than just writing one because).

So, The Seige of Arrandin review has just gone up, more will follow.

I have not stopped writing new material, it's just sometimes weeks a can go by what with running the shop and doing my own work before I can get something up.

So in the meantime.... enjoy, new books are great but there are some older titles that are still well worth a read too.

An oldie now

... but well worth the read if you can find it. I wrote this reveiw many many years ago, and while it is more flowery than I (like to think) I write now it still represents how I feel about Herniman's work.


The tyrannous ambition of the Emperors of Lautun has all but swept away the ancient traditions of the Six Kingdoms, and the gentle harmony of the elder gods of the Aeshtar is being uprooted by the advent of the imperial Vashta faith.
When an army from the barbaric Eastern Domains brings sudden war upon their borders, the leaders of the Lautun Empire struggle to bury their own differences and counter this new threat. It falls to High Councillor Rhysana and her fellow Magi, aided by the priests and knights of the old religious Orders of the Aeshtar, to hold the strategic city of Arrandin until such time as the Emperor Rhydden and his armies can arrive to drive the enemy back.
Meanwhile, Rhydden discovers that warships have begun to burn and pillage along the coast, as the powerful God-King of the South makes his own bid for the lands and wealth of the Lautun Empire. The imperial armies are faced with the prospect of having to fight two wars on separate fronts.
As the Easterners advance, and the border manors fall through treachery and dire battle-magic, the survival of Arrandin rests on the slender hope that Rhysana and her friends can find and awaken the legendary magical defences hidden somewhere within the city. But the growing fear of the Magi and the Aeshta Orders is that the demonic forces accompanying the invading Easterners herald the return of a far more ancient and deadly adversary, banished from the world over fifteen hundred years before.
Marcus Herniman has written the type of tale where you are instantly thrown into a fully realised world; it has history, depth, character and a weight behind it like few first novels that I've read. With a scope that rivals Erikson's Malazan books and Feist's Magician, this tale blends both High Fantasy Adventure with a real social commentary as conveyed by characters who are both human and believable.

The story opens with terrifying assaults on the border manors of the Empire of Lautun. The dark magics of the Eastern Wizards overrun defences and barbarian armies are swiftly camped around the walls of the city of Arrandin. The Lord of Arrandin seeks help from the Council of Magi and the Emperor, and so begins the adventure. In the border city of Arrandin and the coastal city of Ellanguan, Herniman weaves his tale around a small group of core characters.

Political in-fighting and manoeuvring is enacted in the court plots of the Houses Noble, spilling over to the bitter rivalry between the priesthoods of the elder gods, the Aeshtar, and those of the newer gods, known as the Vashtar. Emperor Rhydden, himself a follower of the Imperial Vashta gods, moves his subjects - allies and opponents alike - with the ease of moving pieces on a chess board. With dubious intent, he commends the military Orders of the Aeshtar and the Council Magi, of whom he has a deep-seated mistrust, ahead to Arrandin's aid while he gathers his own army.

Kellarn, a scion of the House of Dortrean, becomes entangled in the plots of the Souther Empire. In Arrandin, the High Councillor Rhysana leads a team of magi in search of a key to the ancient magical defences of the city. There she discovers that even the lofty heights of the Council of Magi do not provide defence against treachery and intrigue, from both within and without, and that beneath the surface of the Easterner invasion lies a darker, older menace.

Packed to bursting with characters you can both love and hate, this story is set in a world that is new and hauntingly familiar. More than one writer has fallen beneath the weight of their own creation when world building, but in the delivery of his first published work, Herniman pulls it off and more. There is fine attention to detail and the natural rhythm and eloquence of the writing deftly handles the complexities of the story, encompassing an ease of style - a voice - that is often the hallmark of more experienced writers.
Marcus - you have got to do more writing :-/


Monday, September 13, 2010

The start of something exciting...

And I am very pleased to say that about something written by Brandon Sanderson (at last).

The Way of Kings
Stormlight Archives #1
By Brandon Sanderson
Buy it

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
Ok, so previously I have not enjoyed Sanderson's novels. But I did, for the most part, enjoy the work he's done to date on completing the Wheel of Time.

So when I heard the big announcement about the Stormlight Archives ten book deal I was unimpressed. Particularly with the early 'gushing' of some people and his own disingenuous blogging about the praise and his being unworthy of it (all the while repeating it) on his website - now I have to admit that reading authors blog post can cause a lot of misunderstanding, so I was in fact prepared to accept that I have misinterpreted the tone(s) of those postings and move on.

To which I began to harass my Hachette rep for a reading copy - and subsequently a got a 400 odd page (incomplete) early manuscript - having seen that the book was coming in at 1008 pages I was pretty sure that the manuscript I was given wasn't the finished product. So I was very good and held off even looking at it until Daniel was able to bring in for me the finished product a week before general release (and yes I have only just finished - hey! I did have WorldCon in the middle of it all you know).

I really enjoyed it.

It travelled very well through three main story lines, as seen through the eyes of three different characters and I was bored with none of them, although I did find his 'jumping back in time' chapters for Kaladin really irritating. This in turn, however, made me think a lot about the momentum of narrative. Thanks Brandon!

Unfortunately my favourite character - Shallan - had the fewest chapters :-( And I must admit for the first time ever I skipped chapters to get to the end of her chapters before going back.

The setting is inventive, but as ever with Sanderson’s work I found the inventiveness almost too much like a ‘look at me, I am so clever and original’, because ultimately – but for the great storm’s that sweep across the land – this story could have been told in any ‘traditional’ setting (read medieval) just as well as it was in this one. Too much emphasis seemed to be placed on what was ‘different’ about his world rather than the storytelling, which was enjoyable in and of itself.

There were parts of the story that seemed to be added in for no real purpose other than to demonstrate just how diverse Roshar is, and how different it is to anything else you might have read to date. If they were being used to set up or foreshadow some future event – which I suspect they might be – then I have to think they were wasted efforts because either they didn’t get resolved in this book or they are going to be picked up in the next. And given we’ve just read 1008 pages I am not confident that they will have as much ‘punch’ in a future book as they would have had in this one.

But for all that I thought the book was great; I have been doing a lot of hand selling it in the store and it’s really inspired me to keep pushing forward with my own work!

I’m glad Sanderson is going to finish the Wheel of Time before we get the next instalment of the Stormlight Archives but I am also a little annoyed because – damn it! – I want book two now!