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on 4 September 2009
Act of Will. Where to start? Well, I can honestly say that this book surprised me. Look at the cover, read the blurb - I got the very distinct impression that this would be a medieval based, Shakespearean-type story with a fantasy twist in the tale. What I got was a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp that, once it got past the initial stages, turned out to be an action packed, funny and thoughtful story.

Will Hawthorne is a young actor who always ends up playing the female roles, when he suddenly finds himself in some serious trouble with the law and on the run. Stumbling into a private meeting of notorious adventurers he falls, literally, into their debt for saving his behind. With his options limited he takes up their (rather reluctant) offer to join and travel with them for the time being. The group consists of Lisha, Mithos, Garnet, Renthrette and Orgos, all individually skilled and deadly in their area of specialty. Act of Will follows Will as he joins and travels with this bunch of adventurers while learning a lot about the wider world.

While there are a good handful of main characters, the whole story is told from Will's perspective - and what a perspective it is! I'll be honest and say that his character at the start didn't do much for me. I thought he was full of himself and very grating because of his attitude. Thankfully Will grows as a character throughout the novel and his unique perspective allows some rather interesting and humorous situations and conversations. Orgos is by far the second 'main' character and has the strongest ties to Will through the friendship that slowly comes together between them. There is also a rather funny-but-predictable relationship between Will and Renthrette that slowly builds up during the course of the story which helps to flesh out the dynamics in the group. I guess that's what is enjoyable about Act of Will - the group dynamics, how each one fits their role with Will as an outsider coming in to an established band of adventurers.

The story is interesting in itself and flows along at a modest pace with one thing or another always going on. Once I got used to reading from Will's sometimes distorted viewpoint I settled down to enjoy this story. Hartley has created a great world filled by plenty of interesting things, although sometimes we skim along these rather than get a deeper look into the history and detail of the world. Above all the story is an adventure romp that is genuinely funny at times and allows the characters to shine through and be the focus. I won't say it is faultless, but it certainly manages to entertain and is a worthwhile investment. Recommended.
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on 22 June 2013
It's very rare for me to give 5 stars to a book but this one definitely qualifies. Great plot, wonderful characters, clever prose. This has it all.

Told from the point of view of the main character, his voice has a wonderful reality albeit in a fantasy setting. He has a great sense of humour and a gift for words that saved his life on several occasions. I was reminded of "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him' a couple of times. Very cleverly written and a joy to read.
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on 30 April 2009
I read this book on holiday and and did nothing else for the next two days. The main charactor got you hooked after the first chapter. You had to know what situation he was going to have to talk himself out next. Although set in an ancient time the language was modern and not out of place in today's society. If I had to compare the humor it reminded me of 'Mash',sad and serious but hilarious.
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on 1 April 2012
I must say that at first glance at the cover of this book I wasn't very impressed or keen to read it. But within one chapter the phrase 'never judge a book by its cover' was proven to be true! A wonderful, funny and engaging book. Can't wait to read the sequel!
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on 25 April 2014
for anyone who has a sense of history, storytelling, and humour, this is a must. Cleverly written, and the central character, Will, is a joy
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on 25 November 2016
Very Good, most enjoyable
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on 24 September 2013
The prologue told me that this was some sort of cover for a badly pitched fantasy story. I made a start and thought it got off well, but Will was too much of a smart-arse for my liking. I persevered as it was our Book Club choice. It was supposed to be pitched around the time of Shakespeare but I accepted the premise of it being 'translated' into a modern idiom. However, the author had not a trace of knowledge of the times. Lager? Coal wagons? I think not. It was a hoot of a travesty of an adventure story all the way through. Steer clear of this self-indulgent claptrap. And don't even think of getting hooked on this 'knightly valour' hogwash.
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