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Naithin (Jonathan) (Auckland, New Zealand)

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Shadow's Edge: Book 2 of the Night Angel
Shadow's Edge: Book 2 of the Night Angel
by Brent Weeks
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars [Review] Shadow's Edge (Night Angel #2) by Brent Weeks, 16 Jun 2012
"Love is a fragile, corruptible thing. And yet I have seen it evince a curious strength. It is beyond any comprehension. Love is a weakness that once in a great while triumphs over strength."

The first in this series -- The Way of Shadows -- while not a perfect book and very much had the 'debut' author feel to it in some respects, I couldn't help but to truly enjoy the book a great deal. I had to pick this one up immediately afterward which is high enough praise in my book.

Still, I just felt that not all aspects of the craft were quite to the point of excellence yet. It was Brent Weeks' debut book and it was a particularly strong and enjoyable one at that yet still lacking a certain element of refinement. It wasn't there yet.

Shadow's Edge is.

I laughed, I got a face full of onion juice. I was kept on the edge of my seat (figuratively at least, I don't often read while seated you see) almost from start to finish.

'Almost?', I hear you ask? Observant li'l blighters ain't ya's. But yes, 'almost'. You see, for the most part this is quite a high intensity and high action somewhat fast paced book. Whenever things do slow down it is to give you a bit of a breather while the stage is being constructed before your very eyes and a muttered, 'Oh no...' is out before you're even aware of it.

Even throughout the very beginning -- which picks up essentially immediately after the end of the first -- you can feel this sense of building tension and the escalating clash between the worlds of a pair of the main characters. I was interested because the first book -- for all it's grimy darkness -- did a good job of making us care for these characters. But it still didn't seem to ... hmm... engage quite as well as the rest of the book.

A minor niggle, but one nonetheless.

Once things really get going, the machinations and manipulations of the new players involved, the brutality of the oppressing force, the desperation in the actions of those strong enough to rebel... They will not let you rest until the book is completed.

And after you're done, the consequences will ring in your mind until you either go crazy or begin the third and (currently) final book in the series.

For me, while this book doesn't quite eke its way onto the pedestal containing the works of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss, it comes remarkably close.

The Final Empire: Mistborn Book One: 1
The Final Empire: Mistborn Book One: 1
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.82

5.0 out of 5 stars [Review] Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson, 10 May 2012
I've read this twice now, second time being quite recently as part of a Group Read which has the natural ability to make reading almost anything fun.

However this is a book that stands as an enjoyable and engrossing read in its own right. Sanderson manages to achieve a seemingly perfect blend of action, intrigue and character development.

In the context of a group read, we found plenty to speculate upon and discuss as we went through. We found -- upon reflection, mostly -- a great deal of extremely well written foreshadowing for the books many big reveals and twists so that even as you experienced that, `Oh snap!' moment, it didn't feel completely out of left field.

In fact, for one of the bigger events, there were threads linking it right back to extremely early sections of the book. So if you're wanting something to really dig your teeth into, Mistborn: The Final Empire delivers.

This is not to say you require a degree in English Literature to appreciate the story however! Sanderson has such a way with writing that even the most action heavy sequences where Mistborn are fighting with all the powers of their Allomancy with metal flying in a storm, bodies pivoting around spires through the air and more, you can form a crystal clear image in your mind and follow it blow for blow.

Then when the fighting is done and they're back picking up the pieces of their crew, you can see it change them. You can see the struggle to find courage in the face of what surely seems to be impossible odds. You can witness the transformation in Vin from untrusting and ill-used street kid to powerful woman struggling to trust someone yet so desperately wanting to be able.

If you're a fan of fantasy already, or simply looking for a place to begin, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire comes highly recommended. For existing fans, Sanderson turns many of the tropes completely on their heads by asking a simple `What If?' question. What if the hero lost, and evil won? How would this world look 1,000 years later? For those looking to get started, this is a well-written highly engrossing story which won't do double duty as a doorstop and has a definite end point, being a trilogy rather than a gargantuan 12-books-and-counting-yay! experience.

-- Originally posted at the blog, Once Upon a Time.

Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One)
Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One)
Price: 0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars [Review] Nimbus (Part One) by B.J. Keeton and Austin King, 4 May 2012
I've never read anything which could even be remotely classed as being, `Steampunk' before. I know some people go crazy for the aesthetic and idea of the whole thing, but it was never really for me.

I don't mean to say I hated the genre, I just wasn't in any particular rush to go try it out. Ditto for anything indie or self-published for that matter. I didn't have any first hand experience upon which to carry anything quite so heavy as hatred, again, just not in any particular rush to test the waters myself.

Several stars came into alignment to make Nimbus my first read within both realms, Steampunk and self-publishing. For one thing, this is a Steampunk and Fantasy cross-over genre-mashing thinger. And that sounded far too intriguing to pass up. Secondly, each part of Nimbus is roughly novella length. I needed something novella length to see me with sanity intact through the span of time between Mistborn Group Read sections.

Finally -- and in the interests of full disclosure -- B.J. Keeton (aka @professorbeej) is someone I have followed for a while and interacted with in the past. We've never met in real life, and I wouldn't constitute us as bestest of buds or anything of the kind, but nonetheless an acquaintance I have great respect for. It was his advice which finally tipped me toward buying a Kindle instead of any of my other eReader options!

So I offered to review his (and Austin King's) work after seeing it published on Amazon. It didn't even occur to me at first that I mightn't like it and thus put myself in an awkward situation. That worry came later. Then I started to wonder if I'd need to create a new online identity, because man, drama.

When I started reading, I discovered I needn't have worried.

It's important to note that Nimbus is being serialised into 4 parts, which will ultimately constitute a full novel length work. Keeton and King's backgrounds in TV culture seem to shine through, as by the end of Part 1 I felt like I had just done the reading equivalent of watching to the end of a pilot episode.

It introduced the critical elements to the story early and slowly revealed more through the course of the `show', bringing in more elements of intrigue, answers questions which in turn simply reveal yet more questions. To end, it caps off on a high note leaving you really hankering after the next episode.

That is essentially what the experience of reading Nimbus (Part One) was like!

I teeter back and forth between thinking the first sections dragged a wee bit in terms of pacing. On the one hand, despite there being interesting elements introduced early -- such as Hosing and the fog that consumes flesh below the Skyline -- it wasn't until nearer the midway point that I saw any edge-of-my-seat content. On the other, as a proportion of the whole story? This is actually slightly less than one quarter. And there was edge-of-my-seat stuff already.

The quality of copy-editing in Nimbus (Part One) is also most excellent. I had heard some absolute horror stories of other self-published works mistaking their/there/they're, getting the wrong homophone, being riddled with typos... None of that here, I was never once jolted out for reasons a good ol' copy-editing session could fix.

However, there is the very rare occasion where a turn of phrase seems to break its ankle rather than dance. "Fritz talked with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of an elderly man in a borderline coma," particularly stood out to me. What is this saying? It seems a bit contradictory even.

Rare issues like that aside, I enjoyed my time with Nimbus and eagerly await the release of the next parts. I really need to find out how Jude and Rucca fair after happenings so far, and see the almost inevitable moment that their paths collide! This part really did feel like a pilot episode to me, replete with not-quite-but-almost-sort-of-cliff-hanger ending.

Ultimately, Nimbus worked for me. The fantastic elements of the story fit like a glove into the steampunk aesthetics. The world constructed is interesting and certainly no run of the mill Victorian-era Earth. I want Part Two, I want to be able to continue this story.

You can pick-up Nimbus (Part One) yourself from Amazon provided you have a Kindle, although B.J. and Austin hope to have the story available on the Nook store and perhaps others in the near future. Or! You can read Part One for free on B.J. Keeton's Blog, as they're releasing it chapter by chapter each week!

Be on the look out for the interview I'll be posting with B.J. Keeton and Austin King shortly! There will be a giveaway! :)

-- Originally posted on the blog, Once Upon a Time.

Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
Price: 6.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars [Review] Assassin's Quest (Farseer Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb, 17 April 2012
Robin Hobb is clearly a believer in, `spare the rod and spoil the child', at least when it comes to her characters. FitzChilvary rarely knows a moments peace. This is a constant throughout the series and it is interesting to see the changes in Fitz' reactions as his story progresses. Even as late as the early acts of Assassin's Quest, he responds with the heat and impulsiveness of a child. Rash. Very, very, rash.

There is little regard for consequence of action or word, and more than once he is offered warning from those closest to him that soon must come a point where he cannot so quickly apologise it all away. Truthfully, Fitz may come across as a foolish character during these earlier sections, one that makes it such you cannot help but to throw up your hands and exclaim, `When will you learn?'

Not a unique response to a character. Poor writers often have their characters be `stupid' to serve the purposes of the story. The worst writers have otherwise brilliant characters pull these stupendous feats of stupidity only at convenient times and then have them return to solving the fantasy equivalents of multi-variable calculus on the very next page. Such writing has surely made my teeth a few millimeters shorter over the years from the grinding.

Hobb's approach to Fitz is much more believable. As mentioned, he is rash and impulsive rather than truly being denser than an old forest log. There is an internal consistency, so more often than not when you are throwing your hands up in the air over his decisions, it is born out of an exasperation for the character. For a wayward child you hope will one day begin to make better choices, but you can't help but to fret and worry that they may never get the chance. Fitz is a character that you will come to care and worry about due to the power of Robin Hobb's writing. You will want him to do better with his relationships and you will ache at some of the isolating decisions he sometimes makes.

As you may have gathered then, this is a character driven story through and through. Much of the enjoyment comes from seeing Fitz -- and indeed other characters too, albeit through Fitz' eyes -- grow and develop as we go. Relationships are made important and the people are brought front-and-centre. Hobb will make you care for her characters and then punish you for it with the ordeals they go through. There are some truly harrowing moments where the pages flip with your heart riding up in your mouth.

Suffice to say, it is not always the lightest of reads. It is an emotionally bumpy ride that will bring you right in and have you feel it all.

Personally? I love this. It is one of the most engaging books (and series) I've ever read and thus is why I've rated it so highly. I do however also offer up a warning for those who prefer their books to be lighter and happier in nature. This one isn't.

I must confess that the early to middle sections of this book do drag a little. It takes the whole `Hero's Journey' thing to a ludicrously literal level. Fitz treks an extremely long way and we feel every step of it. I don't mean to suggest nothing happens during these stretches, just that perhaps the book could have been a stronger, tighter finish to this series if one or more of the interim stages of the journey had been cut. By this point we know the character quite well and so it all seemed a trifle unnecessary. I suppose to be fair though, that I should mention that we begin to see perhaps the first hints of the subtle changes to FitzChilvary's way of thinking over and about things. It is from this portion of the book I took the above quote from. Still. I did feel it dragged, but on my first read years ago and again now, so I must mention it.

As a final point, I would differentiate Hobb's Farseer Trilogy from other attempts at `grit'. In fact, despite the emotional roller-coaster agreeing to read this series embarks you upon, I'm not even entirely sure that characterizing the story as `gritty' is accurate. Or rather, it is achieved in a natural feeling way. This is a dark time for the Farseer line and their people. Even so, there aren't any incidences I can point to of people needlessly slain just to show the author is willing to be merciless. There really don't seem to be any scenes that leap out at you as being present simply because the author has thought, `Ooer, that'd be edgy'.

All told, I would highly recommend a read through of this series. Go along with Fitz on his journey from bastard child to hero -- even if he is incapable of viewing himself in that light. He is the catalyst, the changer. The means through which ends may be achieved. The pebble in the path of progress, able to turn that ever moving wheel aside even slightly toward one path or another.

Assassin's Quest marked a satisfying -- albeit bittersweet -- ending to the Farseer Trilogy. This particular adventure is wrapped up in full, so while there is more to be found within the follow-up Tawny Man Trilogy, you could stop here and be at peace.

...Perhaps. More FitzChilvary Farseer? Who wouldn't want that? ;)

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