The Amulet of Samarkand – Jonathan Stroud

dark

powerful

little twerp

Before reading this book I had heard so many good things.  People (both reviewers and friends) raved.  So I was very I excited when I finally got to read this book.

The story is told through the eyes of Bartimaeus, a demon who was been enslaved, captured, in forced servitude, to a young magician.  He’s very pompous and prone to bragging about his power and prior accomplishments.  This is done through footnotes which I never fully got used to, I found them jarring to the flow and frequently unnecessary.

Nathaniel is the young wizard who has captured Bartimaeus.  He, like Bartimaeus, thinks rather highly of himself.  Yet most of his accomplishments seem to stem from luck (and Bartimaeus), rather than skill.  And he happens to be a brat.

You might have already picked up on this, but I didn’t enjoy the book.  I think that if either Bartimaeus or Nathaniel had in some way been even the slightest bit likeable, I would have enjoyed the book.  But they weren’t.  I never rooted for them.  I didn’t care about them.  Because I didn’t care about them, I didn’t care about the story.

However, reading other reviews, it appears I am in the minority.  If you find yourself enjoying books with less redeeming main characters, give it a whirl.  However, if you don’t like it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh, and there was a very intriguing underlying plot, which no doubt will become more evident in the rest of the trilogy.  And even though I am curious about this plot line, I can’t bring myself to read any more about these characters.  So if anyone has read the whole thing maybe you could give me a brief spoiler.  Or maybe not.  I don’t have a burning desire to know.

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Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

A head’s up, up front, this series started as a trilogy but it has been extended and is now 6 books.

The first book of this series is Daughter of the Forest.  This story is based on The Wild Swans folk tale.  I actually reviewed a version of this tale a while ago, you can find that review here.  It’s a beautiful story about a witch who enchants six brothers, turning them into swans.  Their younger sister has the power to turn them back into humans, but the sacrifices she must make are monumental.

In Marillier’s telling the story is expanded upon.  It’s set in ancient Ireland, where druids still have power and where Celts and Brits seem to ceaselessly battle for lands.

I have absolutely no complaints about this book.  Or this series (what I’ve read, I confess I’ve only read the first four books).

I love that magic permeates the land and the background but that it’s human determination, will, and strength that helps the good prevail.

I love that it’s filled with powerful women, both good and evil.  Especially the first book.  In a setting that is clearly patriarchal it is the women who are the greatest heroes and the biggest villains.  This continues in the rest of the books, but not quite to the extent of the first book.

I love that I’ve read the first three books three times and still can’t complain about the plot, the characters, or the settings.  I’m not saying there aren’t flaws, there very well could be flaws, but I’m so captured by the story that I honestly can’t remember a single flaw.

I think a huge strength of this series is that each book can stand alone.  They are all set in the same family, but the lead character is in a different generation.  So there are references to the previous books’ characters, but making the books jump forward a generation really gave Marillier the freedom to completely change the personality, weaknesses, and strengths of the main characters.  The audience still gets to read about those they fell in love with in the prior books, but we are given an opportunity to meet a slew of new characters.

These books are easy to read, they pulled me in, and two days later I emerged ready to pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend these books to fantasy readers.  I would caution younger readers, there is violence, there is also a rape in the first book.  Marillier, however, does a good job leaving the reader horrified by what happened without getting too gruesome or too explicit.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I’ve currently been holed up reading this series by Stieg Larsson.

I think it’s amazing.  But you’ve probably heard others describe it as such.  Regardless, it is a phenomenal read, the plot line is so intricately woven that it is truly an incredible tapestry of story.

I would highly recommend this series.  But first a word of caution.  I have found each book to start very slowly.  I’m not saying they were boring or uninteresting, they just were laborious to read.  Then, boom! I would get completely sucked in and hours flew by and then I was reaching for the next book, only to be again work at reading the first few chapters.  So be aware, stick with it, because trust me, it’s worth it.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, book review, wasp, Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist

Hunger Games – Not Quite A Review

Breathtaking

Un-put-downable (I don’t think that is a word)

Amazing

I can’t fully review this book (or the whole series) because I became so enthralled with it that I couldn’t put it down.  I devoured the first book in one sitting, seriously, I didn’t even stop to go to the bathroom.  I was completely immersed in the world that Collins created.

So, by that, I can say it is a great read.  And I can’t emphasize that enough.

But, I also read it so fast that there may have been flaws.  I certainly didn’t see them when I read it.  So now I have to reread it (dang 😉 ) to fully review it.

Regardless, read it, enjoy it, and don’t ponder about whether or not it’s great literature.

Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen

The Farthest Shore – a review

Philosophical

Captivating

Conclusion (of the Earthsea trilogy)

I have only just moments ago finished The Farthest Shore, the conclusion of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy.

I need a moment to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat.

I’m still trying to verbalize my feelings about the book.

Let me say, the conclusion of this book, as with the previous two books, is amazing (if you’re interested in my reviews of those books you can find them here and here).  Le Guin manages to explore philosophical and ethical questions in a manner that drives the stories but never overshadows them.  At the end of this book, I find that I keep thinking about her take on life and death and their inextricable connection.

I’m not going to recap the novel, you can check Wikipedia for that.

The Farthest Shore, Ursula Le Guin, fantasy, dragons, wizards, magic, books,  Earthsea trilogyI would recommend this book, and this series, to fantasy readers.  I would, however, caution potential readers.  These books are not easy reads, they require thinking and hard work.  Like so much in life, there is a lot of work put into building up for the fireworks.  If you are willing to put the work into these books, you will definitely be rewarded.  If you prefer reading books for their face value stories, then I can recommend some others that you will find much more enjoyable.

The Tombs of Atuan: a review

Sequel (to A Wizard of Earthsea)

Slow (to start)

Revealing

The second book in Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy could be a stand alone novel.  As either part of the trilogy or alone it is a masterpiece.

I liked this book so much more than the first (see it’s review here).  I felt the protagonist (not Ged but Arha) was much more relatable.  The majority of the book is developing her character and setting her up for the climax.  Finally towards the end of the book she meets Ged, who is the catalyst for a deep self analysis and through that analysis she makes some powerful discoveries and choices.

Le Guin doesn’t veer from the style she worked with in the first book.  If you find slower, more descriptive books boring this may not be your cup of tea but it’s so well done it might change your perspective on this style of writing. It’s done to such a high caliber that I would encourage anyone to read this book.  It’s rather short, so it’s not a big time commitment, but it is very worthwhile.

The Tombs of Atuan

And now I’m off to read the third book (which I purchased from yet another thrift store).  I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Descriptive

Immense (yet short)

Magical

I’ve looked at the Earthsea trilogy throughout the years but I never read it.  Then I saw that Anna over at Booknotized had read it.  And really, even without the review that was enough to get me to give it a chance.  That and I found the first two books of the trilogy at the thrift store last week.  Boo-ya!

I thought this book was a very slow moving book.  There is a lot of description and often I felt that it was through the description that the plot moved.  Frequently I find slow moving books boring.  However, this book was anything but boring.  The description created an absolutely believable world.  The characters moved, spoke, and acted in ways that fit with the world that Le Guin created.  Even though the book is description heavy, I never felt I was led away from the plot just to read pretty descriptive prose, every word painstakingly chosen to be true to the world of Earthsea.  And while  I can appreciate the challenge of a an epic fantasy tale being told in such sparse language, Le Guin never shows the work it required.  Instead it felt as though she had effortlessly recorded this detailed world.

The protagonist, Ged, in the folly of his youth releases a demon.  And now he is the only that can save himself and possibly many, many others from the evil the demon would unleash.  In the climax of the book the two face.  It is good versus evil.  It is dark versus light (and as I’ve admitted before, that is my kind of conflict!).  And in a beautiful twist the climax is resolved.  The true beauty of the twist is how simple and logical it is yet the twist isn’t predictable or common.

I can’t wait to read the second novel.  And I should probably go get the third (because I hate waiting for books when I’m in the middle of a series).  If you’re a lover of fantasy this book needs to be added to your list.  And this book needs to be discussed.  Have a friend read it too, so you can have someone with whom you can converse.

A Wizard of Earthsea