Thursday Recommendation: A Slip of the Keyboard

Terry Pratchett is one of the writers I most admire.

A few posts ago, I wrote about adding humor to your writing. Pratchett doesn’t simply ‘add’ humor; he weaves social commentary into his impressive body of works — Discworld and otherwise — and then proceeds to mask it with satire and sharpness that can kick your arse seven ways towards Eureka!

But I am getting sidetracked once again. The book itself is a collection of Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction writing,which covers a variety of topics important to the man during his life — both personal and private ones, ranging from musings on his career as a journalist, PR and an author, to his passionate work to protect orangutans from extinction, to a deep-rooted appreciation for libraries and librarians (akin to Neil Gaiman), and wrapping up with his battles against Alzheimer’s and for the legalization and broader acceptance of a sick person’s right to die.

This is the man who described his disease as an “embuggerance.”  His non-fiction captures the weirdness and the ridiculousness, and sometimes the cruelty of the world we all inhabit, of this wonderful, sometime twisted reality we all share.

He fought injustice; in his writing, and outside it. He enjoyed life, and books, and I often think of how much the world could use him now.

 

Thursday Recommendation: Half a King

Joe Abercrombie is a master of subverting expectations.

I have yet to touch Abercrombie’s most well-known work, the First Law trilogy, although I have only heard good — Nay, great — things about it. Now that I’ve read the first book in the Shattered Sea trilogy, I am more than looking forward to that experience.

Half a King is just this good. The tale of Prince Yarvi, cripple king twice betrayed, is not a light one by any means. Cruelty will be your near-constant companion, and descriptions of filth and stench and the near-unfathomable depths of human hatred described will surprise on more than one occasion.

At its heart however it is a book about camraderie, friendship and loyalty. Loyalty to a myriad of oaths of vengeance, often enough…but loyalty none the less.

Let’s see what our characters are like…We’ve got:

  • a merry band of slaves running away from their owner;
  • a likable main character by the name of Yarvi who learns cunning and survivability the hard way;
  • unexpected growth in characters who seem sleazy and selfish to begin with;
  • plot twists enough to make you step with one leg in the grave;
  • and more!

Half a King is an emotional tale of a young man finding hidden reserves within himself, strength enough to survive where few in his place would, time and time again — all to take vengeance on a monstrous act of betrayal.

I bought it in a Kindle Deal of the Day for $2 dollars on a whim, and at the recognition of Abercrombie’s name; if I knew I’d enjoy it this much, I would’ve bought it long ago, for its full price.

A warning, though — the beginning is somewhat slow, and it took me a few chapters to get hooked. As soon as that first major plot twist happens — that’s when I was in for the long haul.

I am very much looking forward to reading the second part in the trilogy!

Book Recommendation: The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is one talented sunuvabiscuit.

It’s impossible for me to think of a title that has Sanderson’s name on it, and is also bad. There’s no higher accolade I could give an author.

Sure, there’s always something to get annoyed about, if you’re looking for reasons to do so — Sanderson’s near-constant avoidance of actually using curse words is my personal pet peeve; he instead elects to make world-specific cussing which sometimes works and sometimes…doesn’t.

I could write a dozen essays on Brandon Sanderson’s style and works, but that detracts from today’s recommendation. So, have at it!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t follow the ‘epic fantasy’ scene at all, Sanderson’s most ambitious project yet goes by the name “Stormlight Archives.” It has been dubbed by some as the spiritual successor of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series — which Sanderson stepped up to complete after Jordan’s untimely death — and one could certainly make some parallels.

That said, where WoT seems to have aged in terms of characterization and theme, having drawn heavily from Tolkien in one aspect or another, the Way of Kings is its own beast — and a most impressive beast it is.

With multiple Point-of-View characters, the novel flashes out a beautiful — albeit hard to live in — world of stone and war. Roshar, as it’s called, is a world ravaged by highstorms, which are both blessing and a curse; destructive natural storms, which provide Stormlight — currency and magical resource, both.  Everything on the supercontinent on Roshar has developed protective shells of one sort or another in order to survive.

It’s an imaginative place, Roshar…even if it’s not the number one spot on my list of fictional worlds to visit during a storm.

If the worldbuilding alone doesn’t intrigue you enough to pick this title up, the characters most certainly will. There are many of them, and I found them all absolutely delightful to read about.

  • Kaladin, an ex-soldier made slave, is broken by the mistakes of the past. His journey to remaking his shattered self is fraught with pain and tragedy, and is absolutely brilliant.
  • Shallan Davar is desperate to save her family. So desperate that she would lie, cheat and risk making an enemy of one of the most powerful women of the land…
  • Dalinar Kholin, a High Prince of Alethkar, is going mad. Every time a highstorm comes, he is besieged by visions…or hallucinations. Do these have deeper meaning…or are they a sign of an old, once-mighty warrior slowly losing his mind?
  • Jasnah Kholin is a scholar of great renown, a brilliant thinker…and an atheist. One who does not compromise her beliefs, no matter what. She is also one of my absolute favorite characters in the world, which says something.

These are but a few of the main characters; rest easy, there are many more, all of them interesting in one way or another. There’s no shortage of action, political intrigue and mystery in this first chapter of Sanderson’s epic fantasy. I am currently listening to the second book and it’s fantastic. More’s to come about that over the next couple of weeks.

If you enjoy audiobooks,I would point you towards Graphic Audio’s version of the Way of Kings. It’s really good, with a full cast. It’s more expensive than the unabridged audiobook, but the production value more than makes up for it. (It’s not abridged either, for the record.)

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this piece, feel free to follow me for more! I love books and fiction, and I would love to discuss away!

And now, before I sign off for the day, a lightning round of awesome stuff in the Way of Kings:

  • Shardbearers!
  • Jasnah!
  • The Cosmere!
  • Betrayal!
  • Honor!
  • Flashbacks!
  • Interludes!
  • Crying assassins!
  • Wit!
  • Duplicitous people!
  • High Princes!
  • Bright-eyed people!
  • Dark-eyed people!
  • People whose eyes are bright even if they’re dark-eyed!
  • Bulletpoint lists!

Bye!

 

Thursday Spotlight: Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire is one hell of a ride.

Never had I touched a Brian McCllelan book before this one, although his Powder Mage universe has received critical and fan acclaim alike–enough of both, anyway, even for someone like me, still too bloody busy reading classic works of fantasy (like the wonderful Black Company series.

I’m not certain how I ended up purchasing Sins of Empire for my Kindle; was it an AMA by the author, whose promise of gunpowder, blood magic and political intrigue caught my attention immediately? Or rather, was it simple word of mouth from the Fantasy community on Reddit?

Either way, I chose to take a risk and pick Sins of Empire up, electing to ignore the preceding trilogy; hoping that it wouldn’t cost me much in the way of entertainment and deeper meaning amongst characters and events to come.

I am happy to report that at no point in the book did I lack enough context to the events within Landfall (the city within and around which action takes place for the entirety of the novel), numerous as they were.

We follow four different points of view, excluding the prologue, and I can’t admit to anything but adoration for each of the major characters in the novel; we’ve got Michel, a spy in the employ of the Lady Chancellor’s Blackcoats — secret police of the nasty variety; Styke, a wrongly-imprisoned cavalryman, maimed and crippled by a failed execution; and Vlora Flint, my favorite character and the only returning major POV from the original trilogy. She’s a powder mage, and one hell of a badass — and a general of her own private company, the Riflejacks.

And we all know how I like mercenary companies…especially ones with certain principles guiding them.

The secondary characters are a fairly diverse cast of memorable arseholes, with the Lady Chancellor Lindet’s ruthless pragmatism and Fidelis Jes’…peculiarities. But if anyone takes the cake, that’d have to be Vallencian, the Ice Baron; a man with a silver tongue and a heart of liquid gold. Loved that guy.

But don’t take my word for it, have a quote or two!

On Lindet: “The Lady Chancellor was a thin woman of medium height with blond hair and a pair of spectacles that she removed every so often to rub on her sleeve. The newspapers often described Lindet’s eyes, and Vlora waited for some time for a good view before Lindet turned to face her. Vlora’s light powder trance allowed her to see Lindet as if they were standing nose to nose. Lindet’s eyes did not disappoint. Deep-set, darkened by makeup, Lindet’s gaze moved across the crowd again and again over the shoulders of her Blackhats. They were studious, critical, like a master craftsman checking her tools. Vlora remembered Taniel’s letters mentioning how Lindet might easily be mistaken for a librarian if not for those eyes, and how they had made his throat go dry every time they lit upon him.”

On Fidelis Jes, the commander of the Blackcoats:  “In Michel’s experience, everyone had at least one peculiarity. Powerful people tended to have more extreme peculiarities because of their wealth. Some of them were hidden, some out in the open. Fidelis Jes’s was extremely public; even advertised. He had a standing invitation for anyone to try to kill him in single combat. No sorcery, no guns, no quarter.”

McCllelan’s prose, as you might’ve noticed, is clean and easy to follow; his style is pleasant, and Brandon Sanderson-esque in those most wonderful ways, if you will, without shying away from cussing — as Sanderson is prone to do.

Gunpowder adds a very welcome feeling of swashbuckling and adventure and adds a uniqueness to the Powder mages’ universe, which is rightfully the reason for the cult status the first trilogy received.

It’s a great piece of fantasy literature, and I’ll be looking forward to going more in-depth with a review over the summer; for now, though — this is one 2017-published book that is certainly worth your attention, dear reader.

I just can’t wait for the sequel.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this book morsel, feel free to follow me for more in the realm of fantasy, comedy and all-around ridiculousness.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight Thursday: Uprooted

untitled.pngThere is something about the woods, some primordial fear that has been nagging away at all of us, at the entirety of humanity, long before we learned to create fires, long before we began making tools; a fear that’s been with us since our very inception, as evident in that most precious of folklore – fairy tales.

Uprooted blends fantasy and fairy tale seamlessly, in rich and imaginative ways. The young protagonist, Agniezska, is a completely charming protagonist, and above all else, she is completely, and absolutely real. The novel is written from her point of view, and it couldn’t be the better for it.

While I enjoyed the protagonist one other character stole the spotlight from Niezsa once or twice – The Dragon, Sarkan!  I’ve a penchant for characters who use a moniker, and being a powerful sorcerer doesn’t hurt. This one starts off a bit undignified and even cruel with the help, but there’s hope yet; and it is when the two main characters find synchronicity that Uprooted develops

There is so much to love in Uprooted, even if we disregard the main characters for a moment. Here’s a few bullet points:

  • Agniezska’s best friend Kasia, who goes through a shock when the Dragon doesn’t choose her for ten years worth’ of maid duty. In another book, Kasia would’ve been our point of view character. She is beautiful and smart, and entirely larger than life, and as soon as The Dragon’s choice is made, she is also a stranger in her own home.
  • Naomi Novik captures the essence of Slavic mythology well, and builds a world that is true in tone to Eastern European folklore.
  • The Woods are a terrifying force that slowly grows, overtaking all in its path. It’s seriously creepy.
  • There’s a fat wizard called the Hawk, or the Eagle, or the Fat Wizard. He’s fun.
  • If you’d like to read Naomi Novik, I suggest you don’t start with Uprooted. It’s just so much better than her first “Temeraire” book.
  • That last point isn’t a drawback—just keep it in mind.

The novel is, at times, far darker than you’d originally assume; that doesn’t stop it from being a delightfully amusing read. Uprooted is something of an emotional roller coaster, but I enjoyed every page of it.