Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

I had heard a lot about this book before I started so I was a little anxious that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I am very pleased to say that it most definitely did.

It begins with our only POV, Thomas Senlin, about to arrive at the Tower of Babel with his new wife Marya for their honeymoon. Things soon begin to go awry as he quickly loses her in the madness of the crowds and so the adventure begins. The story unfolds as Thomas makes his way through the tower in search of her and meets various people along the way. 

It sounds fairly straight-forward does it not? In some ways it is but in other ways it is certainly not. The tower itself is almost another character, it looms large over the whole book. It is a very harsh world which I was not expecting, there are some seriously messed up things going on in it. We only see four levels of it and the mystery is no way near unveiled.

I absolutely loved the character progression of Thomas. It is seems like nothing is changing until you realize that at the end he is really not the same person that got off the train at the beginning. That takes some skill. The writing is amazing. There is one paragraph in particular that really stood out for me. It is a flashback scene when Thomas opens up to his wife about how he feels about her, about never having known loneliness before. It gives the feels. Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it deserves all the praise it has gotten.

5 stars out of 5

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

So we start off pretty much exactly where we left off after Words of Radiance. Urithiru has been found, Radiants have been revealed and the end is nigh. I won’t go into too much detail here about the plot because most of the Fantasy community is aware of Stormlight and also for fear of spoilers.

This is a fairly slow paced book, and compared to some of his other works somewhat light on the action front (at least until the end). We see a lot of character development, especially of Shallan. Hers was a very interesting arc, basically trying to cope with the revelations from WoR. Adolin grew on me in this book, he’s basically just a good guy born into privilege but surprisingly open despite that fact. Kaladin I felt had the least movement though his understanding of both sides was interesting.

Now to Dalinor. This is his book and what we learn about him is great. His flashbacks are one of my favorite things from this book. I knew he’d done some messed up stuff but I wasn’t prepared for how different he was. It is handled well and it is a logical progression to the character we meet in Way of Kings. They are again the main POV’s though we do get others, I especially liked the Bridge 4 one’s and that of Venli. 

As I’ve mentioned it is a fairly slow book. This is not an especially bad thing as we get some major revelations. I really didn’t expect to get so much information so soon in the series. I also really liked how the Parshmen were shown. It was completely unexpected to me and that itself was surprising as I can usually tell how a book is going generally speaking. As usual the last 150 pages or so are totally action packed, going from one amazing moment to another. There’s one thing Sanderson is good at and it’s providing the reader with goosebump moments. I love a book with those. My favorite was fairly near the start when Kaladin goes home and reveals himself as a Radiant to the town, I’d been waiting for that since the first book!

Though still an amazing book, I felt it was the weakest of the Stormlight so far. The pacing was just too off. I love slow paced, character building books as well but I think this definitely had middle book syndrome a bit. I wasn’t bored but I did find myself once or twice wishing it would move a bit faster.

4.5 stars out of 5

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

A nice little novella which is set in between Stormlight 2 and 3. It follows Lift who has a minor role in the interludes in the main Stormlight books. I like the character but I am still not fond of her constant use of ‘awesome’. It is too American in the context and always takes me out of the story a bit.

Apart from that it is a great story, and we see more of some very cool characters, one of whom gets some pretty good insights. As always with Sanderson we also get more questions which I’m sure will be answered at some stage. I think this is fairly necessary for Stormlight 3 as there is some character development which Brandon mentions at the end which will be relevant.

4 stars out of 5

The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

I’d read a review of this on Goodreads and the premise had me intrigued. It is a standalone story of a Golem, told primarily from his point of view.

At the beginning of the story he is already 400 years old and spent most of that time in war. He is tired and jaded of it but has just been sold to a general fighting a civil war that has being going on for 9 years. It is here that he forms a friendship with a stable girl Lesky and this begins to change him, or more accurately awaken things in him that were always there. We also get her viewpoint and a few others: the general that Task is sold to; Alabast, a knight down on his luck; and Ellia, who seems to be playing her own game in the war.

This is a pretty bleak book, there is a feeling of melancholy throughout. The author really makes you feel the pointlessness of the war and how it’s usually pursued by people who are not affected by it. The plot moves at a fairly brisk pace and there are enough twists and turns to keep you interested throughout.

This is the first self published book I’ve ever read but I didn’t notice any errors, it there were they must have been too small for me to notice. I really enjoyed all the POV’s, they all brought something to the story and showed different facets of the war from both sides. The only thing that bothered me was the use of a made up swearword. Seriously every time it came up it took me out of the story a bit, it made no sense.

Overall though I really enjoyed this. It is a standalone but the author mentions at the end that he may write more stories within the world, and if he does I will definitely be buying them.

5 stars out of 5

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

The third book sees Harry Dresden, Wizard face off against even greater odds. I won’t say what he’s up against as that would be spoilers but there were a few times I was wondering how the hell he would get out of it.

The story starts off with a plague of ghosts infecting Chicago and Harry’s working at it with his sometime partner Michael. Michael is a new character, a Knight of the Catholic Church and I enjoyed him quite a lot. I’m not a very religious person myself but I did enjoy his unwavering belief. It also helps that he is seriously bad ass. 

We don’t really see a lot of other returning characters apart from Susan but I’ll be honest I didn’t miss them. This is a pretty action packed book from start to finish and I enjoyed learning more about the Nevernever and rules that govern our world with the supernatural. I also liked that we are still learning about Harry’s past, particularly in relation to his godmother. His whole injury thing still bothered me but somebody told me that this does get eventually explained.

Anyway really enjoyed this, the prose seems a bit smoother, presumably as the author has gained experience, and the story was fast paced and interesting.

4 stars out of 5

The Power by Naomi Alderman

A very interesting book. The basic premise is that women suddenly begin to manifest a type of electricity through their body that they can then discharge as they wish. This has profound impact on society as women become the ‘stronger’ sex. Roles are reversed, there are revolutions, men first demonstrations etc. It is also strangely framed as if it were a historical fiction document from the future.

We have four main POV’s: Allie, an orphan who goes on a religious journey; Roxy, the daughter of an organised criminal; Margot, an older woman involved in politics; and Tunde, an aspiring journalist. I’ll be honest I wasn’t very fond of most of the people except for Roxy but I did find all of them interesting and that’s more important than liking them really. My only real grievance with the book is the rapid change in society. I think it all happens over less than a decade and the change in women seems a bit too forced. Maybe I’m being naive.

It definitely has a message, and parts of the book are really disturbing, especially towards the end. It could have been a dry book, or preachy, it definitely wasn’t. It’s a real page turner with a great story and character development. I’d thought at first it was going to be gimmicky but though the in-world explanation for it is a little far fetched, the story and framing of it meant it wasn’t an issue.

4.5 stars out of 5

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Another very solid book, I think I preferred it to the first book. This book, as you may guess from the title, revolves around werewolves. We have a series of gruesome murders, which all lead Harry to a mad series of situations with different groups of the aforementioned werewolves. We have the same cast of regulars: Marcone, Murphy, Susan etc along with new characters; I particularly liked the mysterious Tera.

This one is pretty brutal on Harry, and I think Butcher fails on that familiar theme I see quite often in Fantasy; the unrealistic recovery times of injuries. Seriously if half of what happened to him in this happened to you, you would take months to recover if at all. I also feel that Murphy distrusts Harry way too quickly, it bothers me he withholds so much, seems to be too much of a plot device, but still.

With that I still enjoyed it, it is a fun read and we still have only glimpses of Harry’s past. I am very much enjoying the slow reveal, it seems like the author has a very long term plan in his mind for these books if we have gone through two books and still shown so little. It is also very promising that the general agreement is that it starts coming into its own in the next book, and since I’ve enjoyed these so much I have high expectations for it. Hopefully I haven’t built it up too much.

3.5 stars out of 5

Storm Front By Jim Butcher

I’d heard a lot of things about this series, it’s often mentioned as the best urban fantasy around so I thought I’d finally give it a go. I’d also heard that the series doesn’t really get going until the third book so my expectations weren’t too high.

It centers around a wizard PI called Harry Dresden, the only openly practicing wizard in Chicago. Harry gets two cases in a short period of time (after what sounds like a long dry spell) that quickly lead to a lot of crazy things going on. 

The whole book is written from Harry’s POV and he has a very world weary detective noir viewpoint. It’s fairly generic from my limited experience of this genre but I still enjoyed it. This book has wizards (good and bad), vampires, demons, monsters, gangsters, pretty much the whole shebang. It is the author’s debut so it is a bit rough around the edges prose wise.

A bit cheesy in places but overall a fun read. If this is considered the worst of all the books then I have a lot of good reading ahead of me. I doubt I’ll read them all at once but I think they could be good palate cleansers between denser series.

3 stars out of 5

The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts

A somewhat strange book. Describing it it seems to be like a RPG game, where our protagonist completes tasks, each getting harder and more implausible as it continues. We start the story from the viewpoint of a slave on a ship where he is shackled beside our hero. Apparently he’s been a slave for five years at this point and from here the adventures begin. It is a rich and detailed world and as a this book is a standalone it is almost a shame that there are not more stories to come from it as I would like to know more. 

Why I described this book as strange is that our protagonist Korendir is basically insane. I have no idea why there is a friendship between Haldeth (the aforementioned slave) and Korendir as it is not really reciprocated. We are told of the great compassion of Korendir but there is very little evidence. He’s been obviously broken by a great tragedy in his life (which we find out about) but he is quite hard to relate to. He does mellow somewhat as the story progresses but still, I would not have stuck around.

Now this seems like I did not like it, I did. It has elements of sword and sorcery books but written extremely well. Janny Wurts is a master of the written word. The glimpses we have of the world are very engaging and I liked all the characters except kind of the main one. This is not an issue as much as it should be as most interactions we get of him are external. The ending is also beautiful and sad. There is a sense of melancholy running through the book that I really enjoyed and the fact it is a standalone is kind of refreshing even though I would like more stories set in it. A beautifully written, deceptively simple book.

4 stars out of 5

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Well that was a very enjoyable read. I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk for a while now so to get totally immersed in a book again was nice. It’s set in a pretty depressing future about 30 years from now. Due to a global energy and environmental crisis the world is a pretty bleak place. People are packed like sardines and life seems to have not much value. Corporations rule the roost and I particularly was repulsed by the idea of ‘indentured’ corporate employees who are basically slaves because they couldn’t pay their bills. The only happiness people seem to have is playing in OASIS, a virtual reality game they gives users full immersion with headsets, bodysuits and gloves. It is a seriously cool place, whole planets/systems devoted to people’s favorite games/movies/books etc.

So the premise is that the founder of OASIS dies and leaves his entire fortune, including the future of the OASIS to anybody you can find the ‘Easter Eggs’ and solve the puzzles he’s left somewhere in the game. And so sets up the story of our hero and his friends to find the clues while battling against the evil corporation. It sounds fairly generic but it’s put together well. The founders obsession with 80’s geek culture means that there are loads of cool references throughout, even to me who was never much of a gamer. I really liked all the characters and particularly liked the twist with Aech at the end, I wasn’t expecting that!

The story flows at a nice pace and though I didn’t really enjoy the whole romance thing, I didn’t mind it either. A very good read and I would recommend to almost anyone, even people who aren’t up on their 80’s music/movie/games trivia.

5 stars out of 5

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