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Neil J. Pearson (London, UK)
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Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of The First Law
Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of The First Law
by Joe Abercrombie BA
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have to be realistic about these things, 3 Jun. 2016
I think it's important to go into this realising it's a collection of short stories and not a new novel set in the "First law" world. If you go into it knowing this you'll enjoy it more. Joe blurs the boundaries a little by having several of the stories connected in what's almost a novella within an anthology. It provides a bit of contiuity over the stories but lacks the resolution/coherence of a genuine novella. There's a nice mixture of Joe's styles highlighted throughout the book from farcical (two's company) to chillingly grim (made a monster/hell). 3 of the stories made the collection worthwhile for me, "A beautiful bastard" and "made a monster" forces the reader to rexamine what they thought they knew about characters like Glokta, Logen and Bethod while "two's company" is hilarious from start to finish and establishes Javre as one of Abercrombie's most fun characters.
Definitely worth a look for hardcore fans but probably skippable for the more casual reader and definitely not a good starting point as I think a lot of the stories rely on previous exposure to get the most out of them.


Spider-Verse
Spider-Verse
by Dan Slott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £36.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun story, terribly compiled., 27 April 2016
This review is from: Spider-Verse (Hardcover)
The main part of the story (that which was present in Amazing Spider-man) is actually really good fun. Dan Slott has somehow crafted a story that is little more than a kid playing with all of his spider-man action figures and making it work as an actual Spider-man event. It's also great seeing all of these alternate versions along with characters we thought were dead (eg Ben Reilly, Superior Spider-man, etc). Slott also has a lot of fun with some of the weirder versions of Spidey eg the old cartoon or the paper strip that shows he can do Morrison-style weirdness when the opportunity arises. The main art is pretty strong and they do a good job of handling the different spidey's and dimensions. Where the book falls apart somewhat is in the tie-in material. The first issue is that they aren't presented in the book in the order the story occurred and have rather lazily being thrown in at the end of the story. This is stupid because the main story (presented in Amazing Spider-man) spoils the events of the tie-in comics before we even get to them. So I know the fate of the Scarlet Spiders or Spider-woman before I even got to read their issues. I'm sure that took some of the shine off the latter half of the collection - although i must admit that I found them inferior overall. Maybe this is why they omitted them from the main story in order to "preserve" it? I really don't know. Given I read the e-format an ideal solution would be the choice of either - allowing the reader to jump into the next relevant part of the story if you wish or stick to the main event. Besides that the collection is excellent value for money.


The Spider's War: Book Five of the Dagger and the Coin
The Spider's War: Book Five of the Dagger and the Coin
by Daniel Abraham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and unpredictable finale, 27 April 2016
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Daniel Abraham has a knack for ending books/series well and the last 30 pages of this book are incredibly touching, giving readers an ending that highlights how the story never ends but continues in different directions. Tears were actually shed in places not due to it primarily being sad but more it evokes that sense of loss with change/endings and sometimes from the joy of a well earned victory.
The meat of the book is also very interesting mainly in that it's nothing at all what i was expecting. The title even suggests this was going to be about winning a war but it's very much about winning a lasting peace. I like things panning out differently especially when it makes complete sense within the narrative.
Fans of the main cast will not be disappointed with them all showing us in spades what makes them tick. Once again, it's the supporting characters who often steal the show such as Yardem and Vincen to name but two.
Is it as good as "the long price"? I don't know but it's much more consistent. Fans who may be tired of darkness being the driving element in many of today's Fantasy should really give this one (and daniel in general) a try!


Sword Of The North (The Grim Company)
Sword Of The North (The Grim Company)
by Luke Scull
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A strong sequel that may have benefitted from less POVs, 8 Dec. 2015
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Book two of the series but while it's still a "middle" book I'd say it offers a lot more than the previous book which was good to begin with.
Scull wisely shifts his focus onto Kayne who for me is the standout character even if he initially appears to be "another noble barbarian" but he is well realised and his "side-kick" works excellently and provides some humour. The other POV characters pale in comparison making me wonder if it would have been better to have this a solo book. There are instances in the other POVs where the humour is puerile and tonally different from Kayne's story which could be argued as providing variety but I found a bit jarring.
The world-building is really interesting and Scull has already created a world that is ripe for many stories including the past which is quite an achievement after two relatively short fantasy books. The writing has a good pace to it and he can write a good action scene along with the occasional horrific one.
I'm eager to find out what happens to Kayne in the next book but less interested in the fate of the other characters.


Royal Assassin (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 2)
Royal Assassin (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 2)
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy where character is more important than action, 4 Dec. 2015
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It's a bit of a "middle" book but this one is less about training and more about setting the stage for the main conflicts. Not that this doesn't allow Fitz to spend a lot of time sounding like he'd love listening to "the smiths" and "the cure" but it fits a young character - especially one he is a bit self-obsessed. Characters continue to grow such as my favourite Burritch and there are some great new additions mainly in the form of non-human characters and the interesting viewpoints they provide. I did enjoy a lot of the court politics particularly those surrounding who Fitz can and can't court (with Patience providing amazing insight on the subject). I still find the political system rotten (intentional by Hobb) in the sense the protagonists tie themselves in honorable knots and long-term strategies so that the book's villain, Regal has an incredibly easy time of it. He's a good villain to hate.
While there isn't a great deal happening in terms of action the characters are excellent, I particularly like how characters can behave very differently given cirumstances making them much more real than in most books (not just fantasy). A noble man can be ratty if a nerve is hit or they are in pain for instance.
I was planning on reading another author after this one but the ending was such that it felt like the next installment could go in a variety of directions which has me more curious than if I thought I knew what the next book would be about. Hobb is very good at presenting a logical outcome and then tearing it shreds.


Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
Price: £6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting first book in a series, 5 Nov. 2015
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I've heard many bill this as "up there with A song of Ice and Fire" so I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised - I don't think it has much in common with GRRM's work at all other than they are both expertly written with strong world-building and characterisation. I think the difference is more in plot, GRRM has events throughout the book that shakes things up while Hobb seems to have quieter moments which makes things feel more grounded despite being much more like a traditional fantasy. The characterisation is excellent as well, a good example is that the reader should realise that one character loves the protagonist but the protagonist doesn't realise this - a tricky move considering the story is all from the protagonist's POV.
Minor complaints are that it really is just the start of a bigger story and that the character seemed to be indulging in some pretty dark activities without much thought on the matter. I also thought the names-as-a-characteristic was a bit on-the-nose and made it seem too much like a fairy tale.
I'll certainly be reading the next book.


Half a War (Shattered Sea, Book 3)
Half a War (Shattered Sea, Book 3)
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe brings his "Shattered Sea" trilogy to an exciting, surprising and satisfying close, 18 Aug. 2015
. As has been the case with the earlier books the story wastes no time in getting started and introducing us to the new characters and conflicts. Joe switches POV characters again and while I didn't like them as much as the previous POVs they still get the story across and feel distinct. One thing Joe has excelled in with this series is making the previous POV characters shine brighter when we only observe their actions as opposed to their thoughts. This works best with Yarvi in the sense it is fascinating to wonder how his thought processes work from where we saw him in "half a king". Brand and Thorn don't feature heavily but have great moments too.
The plot works really well in that things never go entirely as expected and Joe does a good job of building up certain expectations only to shatter them in what almost seems anticlimactic but feels more honest because of it. There are also a few interesting revelations for the reader to uncover at the end and the level of surprise will depend on how familiar you are with Joe's other books.
The ending is satisfying but there's clearly room for further instalments should the author wish to revisit this setting. I certainly hope he does.
The series also deserves credit for telling the whole story in 3 relatively short books with a release schedule of a mere 12 months. In an age where a reader can wait 5 years for 1 book in a series to be released it really is a breath of fresh air and I think the story benefits from being told in such a short space.


Dangerous Women
Dangerous Women
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A gold standard for anthologies - pointing me in the direction of several new authors., 17 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Dangerous Women (Hardcover)
Anthologies can usually be a bit of a risk (I've been burnt before) but this is one that shows the best elements of the "genre". There are several authors I will be checking out thanks to their samples presented here. I don't think there was a single "bad" story present although there were some that didn't gel with me eg Lev Grossman's tale and Carrie Vaughn. The most pleasant surprises for me were the non-fantasy (or low-key) stories eg Megan Abbot, Lawrence Block and Joe Lansdale. I also need to move Robin Hobb and Jim Butcher further up my reading list - although the Jim Butcher story should have come with a massive spoiler warning as it ruins what I'm sure would have been a massive development in the main series.
In terms of GRRM's instalment (which was the main draw besides the cheap price)it's "ok". It reads a bit more like a well put together wiki overview or a real history which is clearly the intention. While it's a great info dump I can't help but feel how powerful it could have been with GRRM's well known ability for drama. Obviously it'd never have been completed but it almost makes me wonder if some elements of ASOIF could be handed over to other authors in the same way of "wild cards". The book also provided my first taste of Wild Cards and I think that's another series I need to check in on.
The audiobook has to be one of the best produced I've encountered. There are some well known voice actors - some in roles I wouldn't have expected eg Jake Weber who I now would love to see in a noir role. All the narrators were really compelling and it reminds me of how lazy other audiobooks can be at times.


The Liar's Key (Red Queen's War, Book 2)
The Liar's Key (Red Queen's War, Book 2)
Price: £5.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ... second part of the "Red Queen" trilogy is another good instalment from Mark, 2 Aug. 2015
The second part of the "Red Queen" trilogy is another good instalment from Mark. We get a lot more background on the world and on Jalan and his family, thanks to a fun narrative trick employed by Mark to maintain the first person narrative. Jalan is as selfish as ever but it's becoming more apparent that heroes can (and maybe do) think exactly like him - it's the end results that are often important, not the motivation. The events in the present were a little less exciting and largely fell into the "wandering around" category of fantasy. The section regarding baking was interesting though as their interpretation of justice was different and fit in with their focus on money.
The characters were generally good although Snorri was somewhat subdued and not as fun as he was previously although there was a justified reason for that so it was actually good characterisation. Jalan is up there for the award of "Flashman of Fantasy" and I do find him more likeable than said character. Some of the new characters didn't really grab though "kara" and the majority of the antagonists. The Red Queen and her siblings become more interesting with every page Mark dedicates to them though.
It's a tricky one for me to score as it's harsh to judge the book as a victim of Mark's own success. Because of this, I'd say it was his "least great" rather than "weakest" book. I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to long-term readers of Mark's books and I'm certainly still urging new readers to try it out as there has yet to be anything approaching a bad book from this series.


The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella (Kingkiller Chonicles)
The Slow Regard of Silent Things: A Kingkiller Chronicle Novella (Kingkiller Chonicles)
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming way to look at the world., 17 July 2015
One of the best "fairy tales" I've read in a long while. It's a bit like reading a story from the POV of someone who sees and experiences the world in a completely different way (it's not autism but it's as different as that). To anyone else it Auri's actions would be mundane or crazy but through her eyes everything is magical and all her actions are with purpose. I have to admit it would be nice to occasional glimpse her world for myself.
There's not much there for those expecting new revelations to the main series (although I'm sure those who look hard enough have)and the only character featured is Auri, although you may feel as if some of the objects are characters too.
The writing is great, Rothfuss fully embraces the fairy tale format and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is chanting his repetitive sentences before the books end (she washed her face, her hands and feet).
The whole thing is just very charming and magical and sometimes that's enough.
I certainly have no problem with these side stories if this is the quality we can expect.

I listened to the audiobook version and I was really impressed that Rothfuss performed the reading. There's not many authors have that additional skill set but it's always a treat to hear the words from the Author's mouth.


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