Review: The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie


Sword and sorcery fantasy has taken rather a dramatic shift in recent years. No longer is it the rag-tag rabble of heroes tasked with saving the world. Now it’s the dark and gritty storyline filled with shady grey characters. Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself is littered with some of the more memorable characters you will ever see.

Jezal dan Luthar as the dashing yet arrogant fencing master, lavishly dressed and a part of the Union’s nobility. I had always pictured him as a dandy that could handle a sword.
Logen Ninefingers is a bloodthirsty killer with a likeable good side. A barbarian with a true Jekyl and Hyde persona.
Sand dan Glokta is the crippled Practical in the Inquisition. Somewhat an antagonist without him being on the enemy’s side.
Of course there is the wise wizard, Bayaz, who has seemingly been around since the beginning of time.

This has all the right ingredients for an epic story.

Although it felt like parts of the book were overwritten, (sometimes long tags and too much description disrupted the flow of action and dialogue), the gritty realism of Abercrombie’s world left me hungering for more. I can’t wait to read book 2.

Review: Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie


Where book 1 left me wanting more, book 2 was just left wanting…
If you are a fan of the grittiness and realism (which I am) then Abercrombie still sets the scene well. If you liked the first then this is still a must read – just don’t expect it to get better.

In book 2 all those wonderful characters Abercrombie created are “normalized”. The handsome arrogant noble learns humility. The bloodthirsty barbarian becomes really likeable. The feral demon-woman tolerates her companions. The powerful magi doesn’t really do much to make us think he is at all powerful.

This “motley crew” head out on a quest to retrieve the seed which will bring an end to the war once and for all. Quest fantasy – not all that original but then again where would the fantasy genre be without this popular cliché?

The saving grace of this book is the elevation of Sand dan Glokta and the intrigue he faces in the city of Dagoska. How many blades did he avoid in his back?? Also, the matter-of-factly appraisal of each situation from Dogman’s POV coupled with Collem West’s struggle to juggle an ailing superior, two opposing Generals and factions of the Union playing nicely with Northmen militia, makes three reasons why you should read this book.

Review: Harry Potter Series – J K Rowling


It was the year 2000, I had been writing a fantasy novel for about a year and a big story was breaking on TV regarding the success of a new series called Harry Potter. It had made millions, had a movie deal signed and a fourth book to be released in a matter of months. Naturally I was interested.

100 pages in to The Philosopher’s Stone and I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. I wanted to put the book down. It was a simply written book for an 8 year old, and I wondered if the TV story had it wrong when they said it appeals to all ages. Despite my initial feelings, I was not about to ignore the fact that Rowling had already cracked the million dollar mark, so I continued reading. In this instance I am happy to admit when I am wrong. I loved the ending and the twists that JK Rowling expertly weaved into the storyline. Better yet, The Chamber of Secrets built on the characters, the story and the world of magic set up in book 1. And you know what? The series kept getting better and I became a massive fan!

In a nut shell these books detail the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione as they learn magic and battle dark wizards in Hogwarts – a school of witchcraft and wizardry. The complexities and nuances of each character are colourfully told in explicit detail. Even though the overall plot of the series is not difficult to guess that it all ends with the inevitable confrontation between the dark lord Voldemort and our young hero Harry, getting there and experiencing the adventure with the characters is fantastic.

People will have their favourites but for me Harry Potter plateaued with number 4 – The Goblet of Fire. This was a monstrous tome, much larger than its predecessors, yet the book moves along at a breathless pace. Book 4 has everything that we loved from the first three but ramps up the intensity by a factor of 10. The start opens with a quidditch game but instead of the usual Griffindor v Slytherin it’s the World Championships! Deadly tournaments, dragons, dark lords returning to power, brutal murder and love interests make this book the most memorable in my opinion.

The Harry Potter series is a tale of friendship, camaraderie, self discovery and above all, it’s really good fun. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone who loves reading. To everyone who loves fantasy, this is a MUST read. Give it a go!

Review: Saucer – Stephen Coonts

I once thought that if a book was published then it had to be good. Stephen Coonts proves this theory wrong. Saucer is about a young man, Rip, who discovers a UFO that has been buried in rock since before civilization began. Throw in the Lybian Army and a rich Australian entrepreneur, each wanting the aircraft for themselves and you actually have a solid idea.

I think Coonts falls short with his predictable story line and lack of character development. Rip and Charley are paper-thin with no real depth of character. One line in particular makes me remember this book for all the wrong reasons: “it’s your dime, mate” – random Australian on the phone. Dime. This particular American term is never uttered in Australia by an Australian.

This book is terrible but I’m giving this one star for Coonts detailed descriptions to do with any and all things flying. I think I read on the inside cover that Coonts himself was in the airforce? That knowledge is demonstrated in Saucer and it is the only time where I really felt Coonts was comfortable with the narrative.

Review: Last Argument of Kings – Joe Abercrombie

I only finished this book a couple of weeks ago after a 1-2 year hiatus (I was in no hurry to finish the trilogy after reading book 2). In a nutshell I would say that Last Argument of Kings is on par with Before they are Hanged. Thinking back I can’t help but think that nothing much happened in the third book. A major battle went on forever but I guess at least there was a decent resolution to all the characters.

I was really pleased to see Logen Ninefingers show off more of the Jekyl and Hyde character that was missed in book 2. He will go down as one of my favourite characters. Also for some reason the loathsome Glokta became someone I was rooting for in the end (maybe I’m warped or maybe his storyline was simply the most interesting).

I have heard some say the ending is quite a letdown but I don’t think so. It is fitting in the world that Abercrombie has created and in my opinion he does a neat job at wrapping up everyone’s story.

I have seen The First Law trilogy climb into the ranks as one of the top fantasy series in the world. In my opinion its justified. So why the three stars for book 2 and 3 you might ask? Purely because Abercrombie set a high bar in the first book and books 2 and 3 didnt live up to the standard. The Blade Itself is clearly the best of the three.

Review: The Way of Kings Part 1- Brandon Sanderson

Toffee. That’s how I saw shardplate. Mystical armour that had a dirty translucence to it. I like the concept.

The world of Roshar is masterfully created from its culture to its religions to its people and how the high storms shape the land and literally effect how creatures and life evolves. Sanderson’s world building is top notch. So after this praise why the low score?

The Way of Kings is an epic volume (and volume is the right word) about … well here’s the thing, I thought it was about an assassin, then I thought it was about a lowly soldier in the army before I realised that it was about Kaladin – an officer turned slave and Shallan – a minor noble woman. THEN I thought it was about Dalinar – a concerned General. The point is that Sanderson introduces a few characters and takes his time doing it. Shallan and Kaladin become the two main characters but just when I felt like the story was going somewhere, Sanderson introduces another main character. I found this to be terribly frustrating. Just when I’d started to make an emotional connection to the character it felt like I was re-starting the book (and this was around page 150).

After a mercilessly slow build up and further detraction from the now three main characters in the form of interludes, I finally got to chapter 17 (page 256) a chapter that rewards the reader for the time invested in getting this far. However, beyond this point the pace moves back to a crawl broken up with more interludes and flashback chapters – pages and pages often illustrating very minor points.

I found the character of Shallan to be clever but boring and perhaps the author thought so too. Shallan starts as a major character but her last point of view chapter is at page 128 and then we don’t see her again until page 499. Why? Her objective is fairly straight forward and plot says she can’t achieve that objective until the end of the book.

A lot of pointless chapters, info dumps and stage direction littered this book with far too many words that broke up action sequences and dialogue which I found to be jarring. I was really looking forward to this book. I wanted to like this book, but at too many stages I wanted to put the book down. About a 5th of this book was brilliant and engaging – a real page turner, but sadly not enough for me to invest in continuing to read the series.