Posts Categorized: Review

Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

Publisher: Orbit Books - Pages: 560 - Buy: Book/eBook
Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

The first book in the Millennium Rule trilogy, Thief’s Magic is set in a different world – or worlds, rather – to Canavan’s previous works, and as such makes a good entry point to her writing for any new readers. In the interests of full disclosure, Trudi is a friend, which means I’m potentially biased; that being said, Thief’s Magic is definitely a book which kept me engrossed on its own merits.

When Leratian history student Tyen Ironsmelter discovers Vella, a sentient, magical book, while on an expedition with the notorious Professor Kilraker, he knows he should turn such a valuable artefact over to the Academy. Instead, rather than see Vella doomed to decades of neglect and obscurity by those who don’t appreciate her – or worse, destroyed – Tyen keeps her for himself. But Vella, as the creation of a legendary magician, knows magical secrets, and when her powers are discovered by Tyen’s masters, their treachery forces him to flee. Meanwhile, Rielle, a dyer’s daughter from the city of Fyre, struggles to conceal her ability to see Stain, the shadowy absence of magic. Men who can see Stain become priests, using their powers to serve the Angels, but for women, such work is forbidden. After being attacked by a tainted, an illegal magic user, Rielle is pushed into the company of Isare, a handsome artist, and exactly the sort of person her family doesn’t want her to marry. But as her connection to Isare grows – and as her ability to see Stain forces her to keep secrets from him – Rielle’s position becomes more and more dangerous. What is the true nature of magic? What does it mean to travel between worlds? And how does it change those who do? Read More »

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 480 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

As epic fantasies so often do The Emperor’s Blades, a debut novel from Brian Stavely, begins with the death of a ruler, and continues to follow the fall-out as it consumes his realm and children. This pattern should be familiar to readers of everything from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, to David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy. In this case, Staveley begins with three children — two male heirs, Kaden and Valyn, and a daughter suited to rule in all ways but her gender, Adare. The boys are gone from court, sent away by their father to learn at the feet of other masters, both to groom them for rule and protect them from the court’s conspiracies. Kaden, first in line for the throne, is a monk. Not the sexy D&D-type, with fists of stone, but rather a contemplative ascetic seeking to understand the world from a different perspective. Valyn lives a different life among the Kettral, the Empire’s special forces. Most of the Staveley’s narrative is concerned with the brothers’ conflicts: Kaden to realize a state of mind his father sent him to learn, and Valyn to find acceptance in an elite brotherhood. Of course, the impact of their father’s death resonates throughout their stories, but only in an overarching way. The Emperor’s Blades is very much a coming of age story, and less about the epic struggle for the Unhewn Throne and the fate of the world. Read More »

The Martian by Andy Weir

Publisher: Crown - Pages: 384 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Martian by Andy Weir

I have a confession to make.

I read Andy Weir’s The Martian because of the cover. It’s shiny and dramatic, features an astronaut, and, well… it’s really shiny.

Earlier this year, I read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, the autobiography of Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, and Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, a non-fiction examination of what it takes to survive in space. So, after two non-fiction books, The Martian seemed like the perfect cap-off to my mini-tour of our solar system.

The difference between the three books is obvious from the get-go, most notably the backgrounds and first-hand experiences of the three authors. Hadfield’s book draws on his own personal knowledge of being an astronaut, including a harrowing tale of a time when he was literally blinded while doing a spacewalk. Roach’s book is a well-researched examination of the amusing and relatable aspects of human life in space. Weir, on the other hand, is an admitted hobbyist, and his novel combines Roach’s obsessive level of research with the a mile-a-minute plotting of Michael Crichton’s best science thrillers.

“I’m the sort of geek who will stay up all night to watch the news and see a Mars probe land,” Weir told Shawn Speakman, in an interview with Suvudu. “So I started out with a pretty heavy hobbyist knowledge of the material. Then, while writing the book I did tons of research. I wanted the science to be as accurate as I could possibly make it.” Read More »

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Publisher: Amulet Books - Pages: 400 - Buy: Book/eBook
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Every time Nolan Santiago closes his eyes in Arizona, he opens them in another world. There, he sees through the eyes of Amara, a mute servant tasked with protecting Cilla, a renegade princess threatened by a terrible curse. Though Amara doesn’t know it, Nolan has been bound to her his whole life, a silent passenger who nonetheless sees her thoughts and feels her pain as though they were his own. Nolan’s family think he has epilepsy, seizures and hallucinations, but no matter how many pills he takes, Amara remains real. Until, suddenly, a new medication gives Nolan the power to take over Amara’s body. For the first time, he can communicate with the Dunelands – and with Amara. But Amara has enough problems without learning about Nolan: her life is a misery of torture and servitude, she doesn’t know how to feel about Cilla, and the assassins chasing them are closing in. How can Nolan help with that? And why does Amara’s master, Jorn, seem suddenly to be in league with Cilla’s enemies?

This is going to be a review in three parts: a spoiler-free overview, some spoilery analysis, and a spoiler-free conclusion – because, as you may have guessed, Otherbound is a tricky book to discuss without giving away the ending. Or so I found it to be, though others may not – it’s very much a Your Mileage May Vary issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Read More »

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 1008 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Just one look at the cover of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings tells you everything you need to know about it. If you’re a fantasy virgin, a passerby in the grocery store, you can tell that it’s about knights and vivid fantastical set pieces. If you’re a long entrenched fantasy reader, you can see that, for all of publisher Tor Books’ will to make it so, the first volume of Brandon Sanderon’s The Stormlight Archives is the “next big fantasy, ” the heir apparent to Robert Jordan’s legendary and flawed opus, the Wheel of Time.

The Way of Kings is big. Thunderously huge. Sanderson might be best known for his work completing the late Robert Jordan’s series, but before that he was known to fantasy fans as one of the more exciting upcoming epic fantasists. His most popular work up to that point was the Mistborn trilogy, a self-contained series that, while applaudable for Sanderson’s eagerness to develop fascinating magic systems, suffered from poor pacing and bloat in both the second and third volumes. The longest of those volumes was two-thirds the length of The Way of Kings, the shortest about half.

Most writers are expected to write an epic fantasy in less than 200,000 words, The Way of Kings flirts with 400,000.

Since then, Sanderson’s star has risen to heights reached by few other working fantasy authors, and as a result the editorial department at Tor has slackened their reins, hoping to nurture the novelist as he attempts to fill the enormous hole left by Jordan’s passing. Even in the early pages The Way of Kings, while Sanderson is busy introducing readers to fallen gods, it’s easy to recognize his excitement at being given the reins to write an epic fantasy in the vein of Jordan, et al. Most writers are expected to write an epic fantasy in less than 200,000 words, yet The Way of Kings flirts with 400,000. Though this immense privilege and freedom for Sanderson’s ambitions hurts the novel, it also allows for a refreshing boldness and scope that the genre has been missing since the completion of the Wheel of Time and Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. Read More »