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fantasy

Mistborn, The Final Empire : Brandon Sanderson

… pacy and intriguing …

On holiday I finally got round to reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.  As I hoped from such a well received book, it has a solid plot, satisfying world building, and some interesting story weaving with a passages from an unintroduced “memoire” at the head of each chapter.  00a_mb_ukI enjoyed the protagonist, Vin’s, development from lowly skaa to Mistborn and thought the various secondary, but very important characters, well drawn. My eyes did glaze over all the Allomancy explanations and metal technique in the fight scenes.  I just don’t think it’s necessary to go into the mechanics.  Character and plot are more important than the world in any fantasy and I am now interested to read a later work to see how his writing style has developed.  However, a great pacy and intriguing start to this trilogy.  Recommended.

Brandon Sanderson is the award-winning American author, best known for his Mistborn and his Stormlight series.  He is very prolific and seems to be working on loads of projects at the same time.  The Mistborn series has been followed by the Wax and Wayne series which sets the Mistborn world in a future, Western type arena.

Cover design moment: The UK covers for the series are an outstanding set by Sam Green, a London illustrator.  They really enhance the Mistborn concept.  Well done whoever commissioned them.

Mistborn was published by Tor back in 2006.

 

 

Revenger : Alastair Reynolds

… perfect escapism …

An entertaining adventure about the sisters, Adrana and Arafura, who escape a genteel bankruptcy by signing up on Captain Rackamore’s sunjammer, travelling through space scavenging ancient technology from highly protected planets.

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The girls are both “bone readers,” who can pick up traces of spacecraft communication using skulls from an ancient civilisation and so are valuable members of his hard-bitten crew.  Experienced writer, Alastair Reynolds has developed a beautifully constructed universe with plenty of room for sequels and introduced a likable protagonist in Fura as she grows up fast amidst treachery and bravery, robots and alien artefacts.  He uses a fair bit of Victorian slang to suggest a pirate/sea dog atmosphere which I found slightly irritating but the story romps along to a satisfying climax.  A perfect escapist read.

Alastair Reynolds is the award-winning author and astrophysicist best known for his Revelation Space and his Poseidon’s Children series.

Cover design moment: The UK cover is a stylish update on the standard and old fashioned hard boiled SciFi design with a stand-out spine in contrasting red.  The designer has not been credited in the ARC and I couldn’t find any reference to them – even in the Cover Reveal GollanczBlog post … UPDATE : Thanks to a heads up from Carole Heidi the design company is the brilliant Black Sheep.  Their website is here.

Revenger will be published by Gollancz on 15 September 2016.  I read a copy lent to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

Vigil : Angela Slatter

… dazzlingly inventiveness with smart as a whip one liners makes Vigil a sheer delight …  

Vigil is a brilliant urban fantasy from an accomplished Australian writer.  I read it too fast and had to force myself to slow down; I carried the book around just in case I had time to sneak a couple of pages … now, I can’t remember the last time I did THAT.

Smart and sassy detective, Verity Fassbinder, walks between the two Brisbanes, accompanied by (and bickering with) an assortment of entertaining characters such as Ziggi, the three eyed taxi driver; the Three Sisters who keep Little Venice cafe; and the grizzled Inspector McIntyre.

Damaged by memories of a dark Weyrd father and sore from an impossible Weyrd romance, Verity still feels duty bound to keep the peace, making sure the Weyrd remain hidden from the normal city.  Now multiple problems are clamouring for Verity’s attention including snatched children; an urban golem; a witchy wine maker and some seriously damaged sirens.

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Angela’s dazzlingly inventiveness of plot and character combined with smart as a whip one liners make Vigil a sheer delight to read.  I highly recommend it.

Angela Slatter is the award-winning author of various story collections. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award and five Aurealis Awards. Vigil is her first solo novel.

Vigil was published was Jo Fletcher Books (a Quercus imprint) on 16 July 2016.  I read a copy lent to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

 

 

Nevernight : Jay Kristoff

… exceptional world building …  with dazzling fights & unexpected treachery …

Like the inky shadows that swirl around the heroine, an undercurrent of darkness is never far away from this wonderful epic.  The story traces the story of sixteen year old Mia as she pulls herself and her fear drinking non-cat, Mister Kindly, up from despair and into the school of the Red Church.  With other student assassins, Mia battles through knife fights, blood pools and poisons, through staged trials and unexpected treachery, hoping to become a Blade in the service of the dark Mother – and then avenge her family.

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An exceptional world building talent, Jay has created a fascinating backdrop of setting and history in which to place his complex and likeable heroine, Mia.   Set amongst a well drawn array of secondary characters, the story has some great plot twists – with some dazzling fight and chase pieces – and a tremendous ending, with enough trailing lines for another book or two.

I enjoyed Jay’s deft use of flashbacks to create the past narratives, and his occasional move away from Mia’s point of view to create a particular effect. However, his footnotes!  After the first couple, I ignored them as they slowed the pace too much for me.

Apart from that, Nevernight is a real pleasure to read and I highly recommend it.

NB: Nevernight contains scenes of graphic sex and extreme violence and so is definitely Adult rather than Young Teen territory. 

Cover design moment : The UK cover is by Philippines-based illustrator, Kerby Rosanes, and is absolutely brilliant.  A real asset to the novel.  Well done whoever at HarperVoyager sourced and chose it – and for crediting him on the back.

Jay Kristoff is the author of the award winning Japanese Steampunk series, The Lotus War; and a second well received series, The Illuminae Files. With his work, Jay has been a winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Fiction and a nominee for the David Gemmell  Award.

Nevernight will be published by HarperVoyager on 11 August 2016.  I read an ARC lent to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.

Children of Earth and Sky : Guy Gavriel Kay

… beguiling alternative Renaissance saga …

This is a beguiling historical yarn set around the Mediterranean during an alternative Renaissance.  The novel follows multiple characters: a female archer, a young portrait painter, a dismissed daughter, a merchant’s younger son,  who meet and part, weaving their way through the political, religious and commercial themes of their time.

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This is a slow yet rewarding read with some genuinely interesting characters and themes that linger for days after I finished. It’s my first GGK and now I do understand the passionate commitment his fans have for his work.  This is not so much fantasy as a well-constructed alternative history.  He has a remarkable way of recreating a credible texture and depth to background events whilst stitching the personal lives of his characters into the broader geopolitical narrative.

It is also graced by a particularly fine cover design by Ben Summers, though he is not credited on my UK hardback sleeve.

Children of Earth and Sky was published by Hodder & Stoughton in May 2016.

 

The King’s Revenge : Philip Womack

… exhilarating quest, resonating myth and rich characters  …

This is the concluding part of Philip’s fantasy trilogy, The Darkening Path.  Simon and Flora have saved their siblings and now the four children and their companions are in a desperate race to reverse the Broken King’s trap which has severed the connection between the worlds.

8727446Set in the mysterious and fantastical Silver Kingdom, the quest rattles along at a tremendous pace and is studded with some marvellous scenes (joining a Roman legion, anyone?) and characters (the huge bat-crab creature is a favourite).  It has a exhilarating conclusion with an unexpected, yet satisfying, twist.

Philip’s deft use of mythic images sets strong themes resonating throughout the novel whilst the delicate interplay of the different characters, and their gradual character development, keeps the emotional side of the story alive with possibility and significance.

Definitely to be recommended for lovers of fantasy, The King’s Revenge is pitched at 11+ readers and was published in paperback on 16 June 2016 by Troika Books.

Many thanks, Troika Books, for the review copy.

The Graces : Laure Eve

graces… brilliant thriller of claustrophobic relationships and dark magic …

This is a brilliantly constructed thriller of claustrophobic teenage relationships interwoven with dark magic.  It is written from the point of view of River who comes to live in a Cornish town and slowly, inextricably, gets drawn into the allure of the beautiful, self-assured Grace family.

I particularly liked the extremely well drawn character development of River.  She is not an entirely sympathetic figure – there are hints about her past – but River grows into a courageous teenager with a dogged self belief: “we can fix this, right?”

Laure has an intense, fluid narrative style which gets the reader very close to River’s hopes and anxieties whilst keeping the plot racing along through a thicket of lies and deceit to an intense climax  – definitely one of my favourite reads of 2016.

I only have one quibble: there was an elemental strand which didn’t mesh very tightly with the rest of the story and was an unnecessary distraction.  I also feel the book has a weak cover design – the US cover is slightly better.  (But cover designs in general may be a topic for a completely different post … !)

The Graces will be published in September 2016.  The writer has a background in YA publishing; her first novel, Fearsome Dreamer, was longlisted for the Branford Boase Children’s Prize and Waterstone’s Children’s Prize.   On the strength of The Graces, I’m now off to buy it.

NB: I would say this is firmly older YA with descriptions of rebellious British teenagers, ie a bit of swearing and quite a lot of underage drunkenness.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass : Jim Butcher

windlass  … steampunk adventuring with added cats …

A master of adventure fantasy is having fun in a new steampunk playground.

Jim is an expert at weaving his storylines around the multiple viewpoints of his assorted cast, from the noble Captain Grimm, who was drummed out of the Fleet, to the hazy etherealist, Folly, who talks to people via her collection of crystals.  It is a delight to relax into this bright-as-a- brass-button page turner.  Yes, the characterisation maybe stereotypical and the plot might fade away a little towards the end, but it is a very pleasurable read and, judging by his other series, we are in for a long ride so the slightly muted ending is because there’s an overarching storyline.  I particularly liked the Patrick O’Brian “Master and Commander” hommage.  And it might just be me but Bridget is Game of Thrones’ character, Brienne of Tarth, right?

One of the characters is a cat.  Some chapters are told from his point of view.    I found this amusing, particularly the scene describing cat diplomacy though I can understand if this makes some potential readers put the book down immediately.

The Dream Snatcher : Abi Elphinstone

… a great adventure from a wonderful storyteller …

As fierce as her wildcat companion, Moll fights the terrifying dark magic which is calling dreamsnatcto her through dreams.

This is a great adventure story which rattles along at a tremendous pace.  Abi is a wonderful storyteller who can conjure up Moll’s forest world with an array of characters, painted with a few memorable brushstrokes: Siddy with his worm, Porridge the Second; Hard Times Bob and the sturdy Oak.

I particularly liked the gypsy atmosphere and manner of speaking which adds a unique charm to the book.  The sequel, The Shadow Keeper, is out now.

Some of the passages are very dark and may frighten some more nervous readers …

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