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The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Took me a while to get into it but I ended up enjoying it.

We start with Yaz living on the ice with her family and tribe. There is a ritual that all kids have to go through twice, where they are tested by a priest and if they are not deemed strong enough they are thrown into a pit in the ice to die. Yaz is convinced she will be found unworthy and when her worst fears are realized, she finds that down that hole there is a whole new world and it is far older than she can imagine.

I was very much looking forward to this book as I really enjoyed the Book of the Ancestor trilogy and wanted to know more about the tribes on the ice and the world of the Missing. I definitely got what I wanted. We find out a lot about the Missing and what the world was like before and what may have happened. We find out the hard choices that the tribes have to make to survive in a world that is on average around -80C, without taking wind into account. It’s a brutal world and that’s without taking into consideration the technology of the Missing, of which most is actively lethal.

Saying all that, though I enjoyed the book overall, I was frustrated with most of the read. I think the issue was the main character Yaz. Basically I just found her rather bland and boring and struggled with how every other character around her thought she was the best thing ever within a minute of meeting her or hated her because she was so good at everything. I read another review that said she is basically the Mary Sue of some Young Adult novels and I broadly agree with that. The events of the book take place over only a few days but she’s basically running the place in that time and has a group of people who would do anything for her. There is also a love triangle (well rectangle).

The pace was also non-stop. That’s not always a bad thing but I think a bit of time for Yaz to have settled and developed proper friendships would have helped with some of the issues I mention above. I think the whole arc with Pome could have been dropped without affecting the story too much and given the story a bit more time to breathe. This is the least enjoyable read of Mark Lawrence’s I’ve had so far but honestly even a ‘bad’ Mark Lawrence book is still pretty good. I’ll continue the series of course and looking forward to it actually as I believe it’s going to tie into the Book of the Ancestor series as well.

3.5 stars rounded down

The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

A very Cosmere heavy book, but a good conclusion to this series.

A few years have passed since the events of the previous book. Wax is now in politics and Maresi and Wayne are both still working for the police. The threat of civil war is getting bigger, along with potential conflict with the southern countries. Into this pot of trouble, the Set’s plans are coming into play with potentially devastating consequences for Elendil.

Well we’ve been waiting a while for this one. I was expecting answers and we definitely got them. It was both bigger and smaller than I imagined, events definitely ramped up but not quite as much as I thought.

As mentioned above this is an incredibly Cosmere heavy book. I have read most of Sanderson’s work but most of it only once, some twice, and there is so much of it now that unless you are constantly re-reading it, or have a much better memory than me, then quite a lot of the connections go over my head. Yeah some of the stuff reminded me of Elantris but most of it I hadn’t a clue. I still don’t think you need to know everything to enjoy it but at this stage you definitely need to know of the existence of the Cosmere and how most of his books are related. I find myself spending too much time wondering if I should really know what they are talking about or whether I’ve met this character before etc.

I also found all the talk of the different realms, how they interact etc is hard to follow for the more casual Cosmere fan. It is cool to be honest and if I were still in my teens, early twenties I would be all over it but it’s hard to find the time now for basic reading, let alone deep dives into how all the magic systems are related etc. It takes just a little shine away from a very good book. Sanderson even made me care about Wayne in this one, which I didn’t think would happen!

Though it is an end, it really is the start of something else as there is so much going on, and looks like so much more that is coming, it feels more like a joining series than an outright self-contained series. I enjoyed it a lot, the author’s imagination cannot be doubted and I am constantly amazed at how well thought out the ‘magic’ systems are in his books. It’s a very different series than the original, and it grew on me more than I expected. Now the wait begins for Mistborn Era III.

4 stars

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Still good on a re-read though still lacks some of the epicness of his other series.

There is the threat of civil war in the air as the cities outside of Elendil resent the taxes and controls that are imposed on them. Wax is on a mission to track down his uncle and bring down the Set whereas Maresi takes up a mission from Harmony to track down a spike that was taken from a Kandra and restore its memory. All the signs are pointing towards a confrontation in New Seran.

Steris finally comes into her won in this book and it is great to see. Very weird but in a good way whereas Wayne has grown a little more palatable he still doesn’t seem real. Her and Wax are well suited. I still don’t get all the love I see Wayne get on posts etc. It was a fairly straight forward book until the end when things really expanded, we find out about people from other areas outside the Basin and a very major reveal right at the end. It’s here Sanderson recommends reading Secret History and it’s a good point though I still think it’s better after finishing Era I.

There’s still quite a lot left unsaid here. We still don’t know who or what Trell is, what’s the real purpose of the Set and there is a lot of talk about investiture etc that I only have a shallow understanding of. The cosmere connections are getting bigger, and it is starting to feel like you really need to know more about all the books to make sense of everything. I do admire what the series is attempting to do and broadly succeeding; that of showing a world changing and starting to expand into technologies and exploiting the rules of the magic system in the world. It really is quite cool and I don’t really recall any other series that has taken it so far, and this is still early days, two more era’s to go!

Another good solid read, not too demanding and quick to read. Looking forward to finally getting some answers in the final book.

4 stars

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Very fast paced, though not quite as good as I remembered.

Not too long has passed since the events of the previous book. Wax is now a kind of unofficial officer to the Elendil police force whereas Maresi works for them properly. Wayne just kind of hangs around being annoying. When a threat to the mayor becomes apparent, things start to escalate and Wax, Wayne, and Maresi start to realize that there is much bigger things going on in the background that could affect their whole planet.

Well this book is much more tied to the original trilogy than the more standalone Alloy of Law. We get to meet Sazed again which is cool, and mix with the Kandra, even our old friend TenSoon. The references are well done, you don’t want to do too much but you need to acknowledge it and I think it was done gracefully.

Our main characters are still struggling with their roles in their lives, and their past is teased out more, especially Wax’s. Steris is also more than a one dimensional character as she was in the first book, I’ll be honest she’s probably one of the best characters Sanderson has ever wrote. She’s still not there yet but she’s getting there! Wayne I still almost actively despise, he’s a bit better but honestly it’s not saying much.

I’ve read this before and enjoyed it much more on the previous read, think it was a five star read then. It’s still good but lacking some depth or something like that. The end is still great though and is a proper setup for the rest of the trilogy (or quadrilogy depending on how you view Alloy).

4 stars

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Oh wow that ending, didn’t see it coming!

Various cases and threads lead Peter and Leslie to think that there is something going on with the Faceless Man and a block of towers in Elephant and Castle. What it is they don’t really know but they decide to go undercover and see what they can find out.

Well for quite a while I didn’t really know where this was going. It was less straight-forward then other books, with lots of disparate elements going on but the author really managed to bring them together. I loved the relationship between Peter and Leslie though I did not see where it was going at all. Maybe it will be obvious on a re-read, and retrospectively I do notice a few things but at the time it seemed to come from nowhere.

I kind of forgot how awesome Nightingale was in this book. You think the fight between him and the Russian wizard/witch was the climax of the story but it wasn’t! That was some chapter and he definitely gave off some strong James Bond vibes after it.

I’m itching to find out what happens next though if it follows the same pattern as the previous books then I think the next will be more standalone. But let’s see.

5 stars

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

It’s a good light read though I find Wayne quite annoying.

Wax is the heir to an old but slightly impoverished noble house that has spent most of his adult life being a lawmaker in the Roughs, outside the civilized Basin. After the death of his uncle and sister, he is called back to Elendil to take over the house. While there, his old friend Wayne comes calling to ask for help with a case of train robberies and kidnappings, and he quickly gets pulled back to his old ways.

So this is set around three hundred years after the events of the original trilogy. The world is prosperous and is accelerating technology wise pretty quickly after the world ending events that happened, we’re at the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century technology level I’d imagine. Basically think a Western, guns, trains etc. However what is very cool is how the magic system, Allomancy, Feruchemy has evolved over the years and the innovative ways it is now being used. The era of Mistborn with people holding all the powers has gone but it’s still cool how people use more limited gifts.

The story itself is pretty straight-forward. It moves quickly and has lots of action, gunfights etc with Wax flying through the air all the time. Wax is an older POV, racked by guilt and remorse but I liked his chapters a lot, which is good as he spend more time with him than anyone. Wayne has to be one of the most annoying characters I’ve encountered. He’s supposed to be weird, in a funny way, but he’s far from funny, I knew I was reading a ‘character’ every time and it takes you out of the story. Maresi is callow but earnest, not too deep as of yet but interesting enough and fairly appropriate considering her age.

There’s not too many references to the events that went before or the bigger picture, mostly a few hints at the end. All, or most anyway, of the original characters have become mythic figures, and initially can be hard figuring out who they’re talking about but you cop on pretty quickly. It is a good introduction to the new era and a fairly quick read. It was supposed to be standalone I think but has now developed into its own series of four books.

4 stars

Memory’s Legion by James S.A. Corey

Pretty high standard throughout all the short stories/novella’s with a couple of great ones thrown in.

Drive: A story based on how the Epstein Drive was invented which is core to the setup of the Expanse series. Interesting to see a very early Mars and how the relationship with Earth was put in place for the start of the series.

The Butcher of Anderson Station: The story of how Fred Johnson became disillusioned with his military career and was recruited by the OPA. All pretty much from Fred’s POV. I think the show did this much better by focusing on the people in the station rather than Fred. Still have images of the father and daughter in space.

God of Risk: Honestly this was just of meh. About Bobbie and her nephew who gets involved with some dodgy people. The only reason for this was to see what Bobbie was up to after book two.

The Churn: Absolutely brilliant. Set on earth in Baltimore before everything kicks off. Features the youth of our favourite sociopath. Quite long and fairly messed up in places. Couldn’t get enough.

The Vital Abyss: We find out how Cortazar ended up the Laconians after the events of Phoebe. A good read, always interesting to read on a POV that is so far removed from a ‘normal’ person.

Strange Dogs: Of all of these, this is the most necessary one to read as events in the last three books make way more sense. The author’s notes at the end really nailed it. To me this was almost a horror story but to someone younger it probably does read more like a rebellion story against old fashioned parents. Great story and if you read nothing else, read this before the last three books.

Auberon: Set on one the new worlds from the POV of the new Laconian governor and his wife, as well as a smaller character of note. Not strictly necessary but an interesting read on politics, greed, and what makes a person compromise their values.

The Sins of Our Fathers: Set after the events of the series on a planet that has now been cut off with only a few people on it. Also features a very prominent character who we’ve heard nothing about since book six. I didn’t care at all what had happened to him but still found the dynamics of the story good.

4 stars

Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey

Man, what a ride. Great book, amazing series.

So this is more of a review of the series than this final book in particular. It has been some adventure. The first book is almost a standalone, with Miller’s chapters feeling completely different than the rest of the series. Then we have the duology of the next books which bring us to the opening of the gates. We then have another standalone in Cibola Burn before another duology detailing Marko Inaros and the Free Navy before ending with this trilogy and the fight with Laconia and the enemy of the protomolecule builders.

I also think that this is one of the best cast of characters I’ve ever read and then says something. Yes each can be annoying but that’s realistic yeah? They’ve grown and changed but still seem recognizably themselves which reminds me of my own friends, some I’ve known over thirty years and though obviously they’ve changed, they still remind me of the kids we were. I also really like how many potential conflicts between them were solved fairly easily, usually by talking it out; mad stuff I know!

The story is also truly epic. I’d thought it was big at the start with most of the solar system colonized to some degree but obviously that didn’t last after book 3. Yes there were outright ‘villains’ to deal with but honestly most of time I could see where they were coming from. They might have come to some crazy solutions (looking at Marcos here) but they mostly all had legitimate concerns and problems with the establishment they were fighting against. It all gave a very realistic vibe to the series, sometimes depressingly so.

On a related note, I think the show was hard done by as I found the last series a bit of a letdown. It was too short and I still don’t know why they included the Strange Dogs short story unless they were going to do something with these last three books. It needed more time to spend with these characters like we got here and because they had to leave the whole protomolecule part completely out, it felt like you were missing half the story. Thankfully we got nearly all our questions answered here. It was sad but not unexpected.

This is one of the first science fiction series I’ve truly gotten invested in and I am so glad the author’s nailed the ending, for such an epic series it deserved it.

5 stars

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Started a bit slow but ramped up to an amazing end.

The Laconians are fully in charge. The crew of the Rocinante are split up; Jim’s captive with the Laconians, Amos is trying to rescue him, Bobby and Naomi are both leading the resistance but in very different ways, and Alex is Bobby’s pilot but not on the Rocinante. All in their own way are trying to stop the Laconians, though also starting to wonder if it’s all worth it and whether more death and violence is the answer.

As I mentioned it started slow but that is not a negative really, not when it means that we really get to know how all these characters are feeling that we’ve gotten to know so well. This book is really about the women, Naomi and Bobby dominate and I love to see whom they’ve become. Bobby has always been a kick ass and it’s no different here, she does what she does best and takes no prisoners. Naomi bloomed here, she was always a leader but did it from the backseat. No longer though, and it was great to see. It’s also a pretty emotional read this, not everyone is making it through and it hits after reading so many pages about characters you like.

It was a nice surprise to get Elvi back from book 4 (though hinted at at the end of the previous book), she’s been manipulated into working for the Laconians to investigate what took out the protomolecule builders and see if they are threat to humanity. Spoilers: they are. We also have POV’s from Teresa, the great and noble leader Duarte’s daughter and she’s good to get perspective from the other side.

All the questions we had from the start of book 1 are beginning to be answered and the book ends on a massive high, though obviously we don’t know where it is all heading yet. Let’s just say I’m really glad I waited until the last book was published before starting these final books!

4.5 stars rounded down

Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

Wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this last series within a series with the big time jump. However I should have known, it was a great read from start to finish.

There’s been thirty year’s of relative peace since the fall of the Free Navy. The Space Guild controls the slow zone and humanity has spread to multiple worlds. Some of these are flourishing while others are scrapping by, relying on supplies from Sol and other worlds. There are tensions but things are generally stable. Then Laconia makes its play.

Man it was great seeing the Rocinante crew all grown old together. They still have problems of course, Holden still making some stands, but generally things are quiet and there is even talk of retiring. Then Laconia comes into the frame and messes everything up. Their Martian/Spartan military culture, using Protomolecule technology is like nothing we’ve seen in the series and it’s truly awesome (in the awe derivative of the word).

Seven books in and it is still as strong as ever, that is so impressive. This is a bit of a downer of a book, but in a good way. We have a bit of an Empire Strikes Back ending here. There are deaths, no getting around it with the crew and their allies as old as they are, and it does hit. It’s hard to see how things are going to be overcome with the overwhelming might of Laconia but I can’t wait to find out.

4.5 stars rounded down