Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 has been a pretty good year for fantasy reading

I decided today to do a tally of all the fantasy books I've read this year and I'm sitting at 11 right now. That's not bad, considering that I've read 24 books this year so far and that's a significant increase over what I read last year. Here's the list:

Stardust - Neil Gaiman
Storm Front - Jim Butcher
A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E. Schwab
Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey
He Drank, and Saw the Spider - Alex Bledsoe
Magician: Apprentice - Raymond E. Feist
Magician: Master - Raymond E. Feist
Silverthorn - Raymond E. Feist
A Darkness at Sethanon - Raymond E. Feist
Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey

I'm pretty happy with this list. I know that some of them aren't considered "top shelf" in quality and that there are other books and series out there that run circles around them, but I love every one of these books. Stardust is probably my favorite of the lot. I didn't think I would like the Arrows books because the main character starts out as a timid thirteen year old girl, but I was wrong.

I don't know if I'll be reading any more this year. I'm in a bit of a slump, which sucks because I wanted to read Emperor of Thorns. Well, there's always next year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

And two more books fall

When we last left our hero, he had just finished reading Silverthorn. But what happened after that? Some say he was assailed by a group of kobolds and bugbears. Others say he was eaten by grues, while still others claim that he was last seen riding into the sunset on the back of an owlbear.

And none of these are correct. The last one would have been pretty friggin' awesome, though. No, after finishing Silverthorn, I took a short respite from fantasy and read two sci-fi novels: Ender's Game (actually a re-read) and Parable of the Sower. I returned after that and dived straight into A Darkness at Sethanon and Arrow's Flight.

A Darkness at Sethanon is the fourth in the Riftwar Cycle and the final in the Riftwar Saga. The plot focuses on the story arc began in Silverthorn with the rise of Murmandamus, a moredhel warleader of a massive Brotherhood of the Dark Path army and probably a greater threat to the Kingdom than even the Tsurani were in the first two books, and the extra-dimensional threat of The Enemy, which we also learn the origin of. Actually, I'd imagine most people figured out what The Enemy is before this book; I had at least an inkling of it in Magician: Master.

I would say that A Darkness might be better than Silverthorn. It had a lot more action and the fortress-city of Armengar and its siege was honestly one of the coolest things I've ever read in a fantasy book. I'll write up a separate post for A Darkness later on because it deserves its own post.

I got an itch while reading A Darkness in Sethanon. An itch that only Arrow's Flight, the second book in the Heralds of Valdemar series could scratch. I had been planning to read it at some point, but the itch didn't make itself known until about two weeks ago.

It was so, so worth it. The Valdemar series is quickly becoming one of my favorite and I will read the books until I cannot stand them anymore. Whereas Arrows of the Queen dealt with Talia being chosen as a Herald and her life at the Collegium with all of it's hardships, perils, and adventure, Arrow's Flight focuses on her internship. She spends a year and a half riding a circuit through the Northern sector of the Kingdom of Valdemar, learning to do what a Herald does and all of the ups and downs that come with the job.

This book was honestly heartbreaking and I'm not going to lie, I got teary-eyed a few times because of all of the torment Talia goes through. There's also a lot of great moments that made me laugh and generally it was a short, but worthwhile read. Like A Darkness, I'll be writing a stand alone post for Arrow's Flight...once I finish the one I started on Arrows of the Queen. So in about 20-30 years.

So what am I reading now? Well, funny thing is that I had planned on taking another short break so that I could focus on Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington #5) and start to go through the literal shit ton of books I bought at a library book sale and Barnes & Noble recently (more on those later). That's what I had planned. My brain had other ideas and I'm not reading, among other things, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. My reading habits are both random and vexing.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another Riftwar book bites the dust (spoilers)

Boy howdy, am I ever on a roll! I kept forgetting to post about it, but I started Silverthorn almost immediately after finishing Magician: Master and finished it just the other day.

A poisoned bolt has struck down the Princess Anita on the day of her wedding to the Prince Arutha of Krondor.

To save his beloved, Arutha sets out in search of the mystic herb called Silverthorn that grows only in the dark and forbidding Northlands, home to the moredhel, the deadly Dark Elves.

Accompanied by a mercenary, a minstrel, and a clever young thief, he will confront an ancient evil and do battle with the dark powers that threaten the enchanted realm of Midkemia.
So how was it? Better than what I had been lead to believe. I actually owned a copy at one point, but got rid of it because I had read some posts on the blogosphere about how it wasn't worth reading and I was easily swayed. I regret that now because Silverthorn was pretty good.

Some thoughts:

Jimmy the Hand is one of the best characters in the entire series, 'nuff said.

I liked how Arutha's quest for the eponymous Silverthorn didn't start until like sometime after page 100. Up until then, the story focuses on him, Jimmy the Hand, and the others trying to flush out the conspiracy against Arutha before his wedding to Anita. The build up towards the assassination attempt and Arutha's quest was exciting and intense and added a lot of emotional weight to what happens to Anita.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moving on from Magician: Master

I finished Magician: Master on Wednesday and I'm still surprised by how fast I blew through it. While four days isn't a speed record for me, I'm still happy. What's more impressive is how much of the book I read in a relatively short amount of time: 324 pages in the span of about 24 hours, give or take. 125 on Tuesday and 199 on Wednesday.

As for the re-read, it was about as good as the one for Magician: Apprentice. Like I said in the previous post, there were plot details that I'd forgotten or had rearranged in my memory so the end result was that I got the same amount of enjoyment out of Master as I did the first time around. I basically forgot about damn near every character in the Kelewan plot line along with the plot itself!

The all too brief exploration of Tsurani and their culture is definitely one of my favorite parts of the book. Their culture is so different from the standard "European Middle Ages" setting of The Kingdom of the Isles and I'm honestly impressed that Feist somehow combined aspects of different real world cultures - Feudal Japan, China during the Sung Dynasty, pre-Columbian Aztecs, and even the Zulu - into a cohesive entity. That's some nice worldbuilding there.

If you want, you can read what I had to say about Magician: Master the first time I read it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Finished my re-read of Magician: Apprentice last night (spoilers)

And I can honestly say that I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I think the re-read benefited greatly from the four years since I read Apprentice the first time. I had forgotten large chunks of the plot and certain events got switched around in my memory. Like, I thought that Pug's capture had happened at the very end, but it doesn't. Instead, he ceases to be the main POV character for the rest of the book and the POV switches over to Tomas, Arutha, Carline, Martin, and briefly a Tsurani. I think this was a very clever way of ensuring that readers would continue reading the entire book back when it was just Magician. It actually becomes an even better hook after the book was split into Apprentice and Master because you're almost compelled as the reader to immediately pick up Master just to see what's become of Pug. The ploy is still effective after a re-read because I'm just about to jump into the next book today!

But yeah, Magician: Master ought to be as good as I remember it. One of the things I'm looking forward to is revisiting Kelawan and the Tsurani culture. Feist says he mixed together elements of Feudal Japan, Sung Dynasty era China, Zulu, and Aztec cultures and it's a major difference from Midkemia, which is the typical European fantasy setting. It's a nice change up and I'm planning on reading the Empire Trilogy (set entirely on Kelawan) later this year, after I finish with the Riftwar Saga.

I'll probably post some of my favorite bits from Magician: Apprentice later today.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Re-visiting Midkemia

So for whatever reason I decided to do a re-read of Raymond E. Feist's Magician: Apprentice, the first (half) book in the Riftwar Saga. I originally read it and it's sequel (second half), Magician: Master back in 2012 and boy, did I ever need a refresher. Like, I'm reading Apprentice and there are just huge, huge chunks of the plot that I simply forgot. I remember important events, but not what happens between them.

An oddity about Magician: Apprentice is that it's only the first part of a book. Both it and Magician: Master are actually a single book call simply Magician, but when it was published in the U.S., it was split into two parts for whatever reason. I'm guessing it was due to size and printing big ass doorstoppers back in the day wasn't optimal. If that's the reason, then it shows how far both book making and the fantasy genre has come because the two halves combined would probably total less than a thousand pages, or one Wheel of Time book. Easily less than a Sanderson. Easily.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Queen in the North

She certainly would be now that a certain fan theory was confirmed on Game of Thrones.

(spoiler, probably still)

There was a fan theory that Jon Snow wasn't Ned Stark's bastard, but the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and the season six finale confirmed it. Currently, only Bran Stark knows this and Jon has apparently been "crowned" King in the North as the last known and eldest son of Ned. Of course, if his true parentage gets out, then it could lead to questions of who the true ruler of the North is. Sansa has the stronger claim as Ned's daughter and is considered (at least according to the GoT wiki) to be Lady of Winterfell. Jon does have a claim through his mother, but Sansa's is stronger as the daughter as and sister of the last two Stark Lords of Winterfell, respectively.

Of course, the question is whether or not the Northern Houses would accept a woman as Queen? House Mormont has been lead by two women so far and Lyanna Mormont seems to be widely respected by the other Houses, so it's entirely possible.

As for Jon, having the blood of Rhaegar gives him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than his aunt, Dany. On the other hand, he's still a bastard and she isn't. He was legitimized by the Houses of the North when he was crowned King of the North, so it stands to reason that the same could very well happen there.

(Pic via HeroPress)

Friday, June 17, 2016

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