Posts Tagged ‘Epic Fantasy’

So here we are, after one year of reviews and Reading the lists of the top books of the years have started appearing all around and, since my first post was the top five books of 2013 (all of them amazing, read them right now), with the top five books of 2014 I celebrate a year on Thelordbaelish’s blog, again, thank you for taking the time to read my posts and thank you for the follows, the likes and the favorites.

Well, Time to get down to business! This year has been filled with wonderful books and deciding which ones were the best books of the year hasn’t been easy. Several times I have been tempted to make a top 8 instead of a top 5, but these lists’ aim is to choose a few books among many, so sacrifices must be made!

So, with a Spanish beer on my hand, a hat in my head to I can take it off to honor the writers in this list and my mouth stuffed with Christmas pastries (you have to try the Spanish ones [of course you would say that (shut up)])I present you 2014’s Top Five Books for Thelordbaelish blog!

5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuinn

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This position has been the toughest to decide, but, after much thought, I think The Left Hand of Darkness deserves to be named one of the greatest books I have read this year.

Ursula K. LeGuinn brings us the story of First Contact completely reversed. A human diplomat named Ai is sent by an intergalactic alliance to convince the inhabitants of the frozen planet Gethen to join after they have been deemed prepared to do so. What Ai can’t suspect is that this action will destroy the fragile political balance between Gethen’s most powerful nations, endangering both himself and every potential ally he may find.

The Left Hand of Darkness is an impressive, dark and well written political thriller which takes place in an unknown world, filled with wonders and with cultures so well created and developed that you will feel as if you were reading history rather than science fiction. As the story advances, we witness how these cultures change and become more radical in a wonderful cause-effect scenario, always answering to the stimuli provided by Ai’s presence, which creates a dynamic world subjected to constant change. By the end the reader will have witnessed several allusions to our own 20th century political situation: from the rise and fall of a radical, race-centered movement similar to Nazism to the political development of a nation similar to Stalin’s Russia.

I also enjoyed Ai’s figure, a man bent into doing the right thing even when he knows that it may have tragic consequences for himself and those who defend him, but I admit that I personally would have preferred for him to have a bigger internal conflict. Though it is true that he spends the novel trying to decide who can be trusted, it may have been interesting to see a darker side of his personality, or at least to see some preoccupation about his own well-being beyond the need to complete his mission.

If you enjoy political science fiction, vivid, beautiful and ever-changing worlds and well-written books, then The Left Hand of Darkness is the book for you.

4) The Postmortal by Drew Magary

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I feel that the idea Immortality and what it may entail for the human race is a subject which can produce really interesting debates just as long as it is not discussed in YouTube (seriously, when I am feeling adventurous I read YouTube comments and by the end I always feel that 90% of them are written by crack addict monkeys having a particularly bad day). How would it affect us? Would we be able to function as a productive society or would we sink into utter chaos? Drew Magary offers his own thoughts on this debate and the image he creates is not a pretty one.

The story takes place over 73 years, in which we witness the utter self-destruction of the human race from the point of view of John Farrell, a divorce lawyer whose life is changed forever from the moment he decides to become immortal. John Farrell will try to survive and find meaning to his life in a society without morals, ambition, decorum and, finally, without resources.

Let me tell you now, The Postmortal may be a tragic and depressing story, but it is also a deeply satisfying one due to its great quality and the amazing character work, which makes John Farrell vividly human, a character in whom the reader can see himself and with whom we feel connected.

The Postmortal is, at its core, a tale about humanity, and an intensely fatalistic one, at that. But it also shows us really beautiful moments which give us hope and provide some lights in the great ocean of darkness which is The Postmortal’s society.

If you enjoy dystopian societies, fatalistic futures or original apocalyptic stories, then The Postmortals is the book for you. A book which does not only entertain, but also gives the reader something to think about

 

3) Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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You know a book is good when you read it on January and in December you still considering it one of the best books of the year. It can also be due to a bad reading year, but since that is not the case, we are going to agree that Emperor of Thorns is an amazing book filled with unforgettable characters and spectacular moments. Of course it is not only the story, but also the writer, Mark Lawrence has managed to be on this list for two years in a row (Prince of Thorns, the first installment to the trilogy, was one of my favorite books for 2013), and he has done it through his intelligent, sometimes witty, dialogue, his beautiful world and his great writing style

Emperor of Thorns offers closure to the Broken Empire trilogy and to Jorg’s story, and it does it masterfully, staying loyal to its main character without trying to make him more sympathetic or a better person. Jorg is still a complete bastard, a horrible human being who is one step away from being considered a psychopath (or maybe he is one by this point, not quite sure) and who sees almost everyone else as pieces to be played with to protect those he loves and to reach the throne.

The secondary characters are not much better, from his wife, a plotting young woman who could go toe-to-toe against Lady Macbeth in ruthlessness, to his men at arms. The book soon becomes a mix of complex, unpredictable characters that play to fulfill their own goals and ambitions.

The Broken Empire trilogy has been an amazing treat, a dark and thrilling tale which has given me hours of enjoyment, a vivid proof that the Eragon’s effect doesn’t always apply to book sagas with great first books.

I would recommend Emperor of Thorns, and the Broken Empire trilogy as a whole, to anyone who enjoys an original dark fantasy saga set in an enormous and dynamic world filled by possibilities and unpredictability.

2) The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

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As I said when I was reviewing this book, I love it whenever I find a strong female protagonist capable of staying away from overused clichés and who doesn’t need a man in her direst hours. Female characters and fiction have had a complicated relationship, and usually we find the so-called Trinity Syndrome, strong female protagonists who end up helplessly depending on the male hero in the final part of the story. Therefore, it was a great surprise when I read The Thousand Names and found that not only it has a strong female character, but she also keeps her strength throughout the novel.

The Thousand Names is a tale of survival set on a colonist-like period in a fantasy world. Trapped on the middle of a religious uprising, the imperial army stationed in a faraway colony tries to stay alive by any means necessary while the wait for the ships which will get them home. To their surprise, they are not to abandon the colony, but try to retake it following their new commander in chief, the mysterious and eccentric coronel Janus. By his side, Janus will have Captain D’Ivory, a man struggling with his own sense of self-worth, and private Winter, a girl posing as a man who would rather not being noticed.

The author manages to create a set of unpredictable, likeable characters and an entertaining and carefully-built world which offers a realistic reflection on our own colonial period. All of it while managing to develop one of the most enthralling stories I have read this year. The Thousand Names is a book I could read over and over again without getting tired of it, a book I recommend to anybody who enjoys a good fantasy story.

1) The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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This year has been filled by marvelous books and unforgettable stories, but sadly only one can be considered the Top 1 book of the year. That honor belongs to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear.

An amazing tale of adventure, worthy of classical heroes such as Conan or the Company of the Ring, The Wise Man’s Fear continues the story of Kvothe as he remembers the incredible adventures which led to his tragic and mysterious downfall.

Patrick Rothfuss has managed to create a breath-taking world which will entrap the reader because of its enormity and the detail by which it has been created. Once you put down the book, you feel as if you had just contemplated the work of a master craftman, who has managed to pour life into an inanimate object, transforming it in a spectacular work of fiction filled with humane characters and magical situations.

As I said while reviewing this book several months ago, The Wise Man’s Fear is an ambitious tale which will provide any reader with hours of enjoyment, whether they usually read fantasy or not. If you are looking for a book to start 2015 on a high note, look no further: This is it.

So, those are, in my opinion, the best five books I have read on 2014, but I do not want to finish my post without three honorary mentions to the runner-ups which didn’t make it: The Scorpio Races, Steelheart and One Second After.

Now all that is left is wishing you a Happy New Year and I shall see you on 2015

¡Hasta la próxima!

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So, with the New Year almost upon us soon we will have to choose the top five books for 2014, and let me tell you, it won’t be easy. There have been many great novels I have had the pleasure to read in the last twelve months and, while it is true that in the last three months my posts have become irregular, I am ready to retake this beautiful tradition for a whole new year. But, before I announce this year’s greatest books in barely 21 days, I will quickly review those which I haven’t been able to write about due to my tight schedule:

The Woman who rides like a Man

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This year I have discovered the amazing adventures of Alanna of Trebond, a young girl whose deepest desire is to become a knight. Both Alanna, the First Adventure and In the Hand of the Goddess got a 7/10 punctuation because, even if the books usually don’t offer as a deep account of the stories we are presented with, the characters, the writing style and the sheer imagination of Alanna’s world make up for it.

The third installment of the tetralogy  begins with a very promising start, in which our protagonist and her manservant must battle hill people just to be taken prisoner by the dessert tribes and the situations which take place from this point are heartwarming, optimistic and enthralling for the reader, captivating both adults and children alike as Alanna struggles to be accepted and change an old society which ignores women.

Sadly, we find again that the writer just scratches the surface of all the situations she creates without offering us a deep look at the reality which these characters are living in. What’s more, several conflicts which have been several books in the making, such as the love triangle between Alanna, George and Jonathan, are abruptly ended and solved without stopping to think twice about it.

Finally, for the first time in the series I believe character development becomes a weak point of the novel. The characters don’t answer to external stimuli as they have in the last novels and their reactions seem forced. Just a way for to create drama at the expense of a sensible storytelling. One example of what I am saying is the moment in which the male apprentice grabs the sword. Yes, he is proud, but we never seen a trace of sexism in his behavior until the moment in which there needs to be a new conflict.

Final score: 6/10

Annihilation

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Annihilation, written by Jeff VanderMeer, is a delightful thriller which tells us the story of an all-female expedition  to an area known as the Southern Reach, a piece of the United States which, because a never explained natural mutation, has been closed to the general population. After the tragedies which have struck the last expeditions, this group of four women is sent with the mission to observe and categorize everything they see, but their mission will soon be jeopardized as it becomes clear that whoever send them there never thought they would make it back.

Annihilation is a mostly fast paced, captivating thriller, which present us with amazing and complex characters, all of them working to achieve their own goals because of their own selfish motives.

One of the greatest achievements of this small novel resides in its writing, which really creates an atmosphere of tension which surrounds the reader and allows him or her to feel the anguish which these women are experiencing in their own flesh.

The main character is also a complex creation, filled by conflicts between the best and the darkest parts of her personality, debating at every step whether to behave selfishly or help her mates. This makes for an enthralling read which will have the readers on the edge of their seats.

The only weak point that I see to the novel is that the pace sometimes loses its strength and fastness with no apparent reason, leaving us some sections which may interrupt the otherwise great reading experience.

Final Score: 8/10

The Scorpio Races

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The Scorpio Races, written by the incredibly talented Maggie Stiefvater (thanks god I don’t have to pronounce that, tells us the story of a young man and a young woman who leaves on a mythical situated near northern Europe, where every year there is a race in which the inhabitants try to compete against each other by riding cannibalistic sea horses. Each of them has his or her reasons to want to compete, but only one of them can win.

This spectacular novel is a mix of amazing storytelling, enthralling main characters and beautiful writing style which have transformed the Scorpio Races in one of the best books I have had the pleasure of reading this year.

Both characters are complex figures which will captivate the reader, who by the end will just be trying to decide who does he want to win the race (not an easy choice, I am still not sure myself). They are likeable, but at the same time they are far from perfect, creating a couple of human beings with whom you may identify.

The imagination an amount of work put into this novel have been rewarded with several well deserved awards, which are just one more proof of the literary value of this amazing YA novel.

Final Score: 9/10

The Left Hand of Darkness

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The Left Hand of Darkness, written by Ursula Le Guinn, tells us the story of a human ambassador calles Ai who arrives to the frozen planet of Gethen with the mission to convince the autochthonous sentient hermaphrodite race to join the Ekumen, a trade alliance of worlds. Ai will have to maneuver in order to fulfill his goal while surviving among the conniving alien species, being witness of how his presence alter the social and political status quo of Gethen.

The Left Hand of Darkness is a gritty, realistic tale of political science fiction which, if you enjoy the genre, is a must read. The complexities of the characters and the situations in which they find themselves  make for a brilliant experience which always leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.

Probably the strongest point of the novel is the way by which the setting changes and evolves, allowing us to bear witnesses as a society evolves responding to the presence of a recently discovered alien who they consider a sexual freak. The way the different countries react to his attempt to contact their governments, becoming more radical in their own ideals as said government tries to maintain the illusion of absolute control: We witness the rise of a movement similar to Nazism, a government which acts as Stalin’s communist regime… all of it told through a beautiful evolution of events which don’t feel forced or overly dramatized.

Final Score: 9/10

NPCs

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What happen when four NPCs witness the untimely death of the heroes of the story? That’s the premise that Drew Hayes uses in order to create a somewhat enjoyable but sometimes superficial and uninteresting novel. NPCs takes place in a role playing game world ruled by a mad tyrant who goes around giving impossible quests to heroes and murdering anyone who may stand in the way of his little game. Fearing to be blamed by the heroes’ death, the four NPCs will take their places and live the adventure of their lifetime

The premise is enjoyable, and some parts of the book are incredibly funny, especially if you have played classic RPG be.  NPCs  is filled with internal jokes and crazy theories that you may appreciate and it has a fine sense of irony, offering to even the most casual player something to laugh about.

Sadly, that only constitutes a part of the book and the pages between these jokes are filled with a superficial storytelling, sloppy conflict management and non-existent character’s development, which makes this book a slow and irritating page turner with no interest whatsoever for those who have never played role playing games before.

Final Score: 3/10

One of the things I like the most about fantasy and science fiction books are the different races which populate the different worlds in which the stories take place. There is something oddly reassuring about the thought that humans could be sharing this planet, or the universe, with other races, as the Terry Pratchett’s amazing Bromeliad Trilogy reflects. Except if those creatures happen to be Trollocs. (No, seriously, screw the Trollocs, we are not sharing anything with those guys). During my travels as a reader I have come to know and love different races which populate the Multiuniverse such as the Kenders, the dragons, the minotaurs and, of course, the Dwarves.

You may have noticed that it doesn’t matter how many races a book contains, the hero will usually be at least half-human. It has always struck me as a quite an optimistic view of our race, but most authors seem to have an enviable faith in humanity. So when I find a book which breaks free from the Human hero allowing other member of another race to take the position of the main character I usually become incredibly excited.

I found The Dwarves exactly one year ago on a library in London, where, using all my self-control I manage not to buy it (Believe me, it was like Frodo trying to resist the ring’s influence) because it probably wouldn’t have fitted on my luggage. Two weeks ago I came across it on Kindle store and, been unable to find a reason not to, I bought it and started reading it immediately.

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Strong Points: The secondary characters, the descriptions

Weak points: The main character, the story development

The Dwarves, written by Markus Heitz, tells us the story of Tungdil, a lonely dwarf raised by humans (of course, freaking humans) who’s never been able to meet any other member of his race. But when the King of the dwarves finds himself almost on his deathbed and discovers that his appointed successor plans to declare war to the elves, he will send his warriors to bring Tungdil to his kingdom, presenting him as a long lost heir. Now, everything depends on young Tungdil’s skill to play his role because if he fails, if the elves and the dwarves go to war, an ancient evil who has been waiting for its chance will attack and will destroy them all.

Even if The Dwarves as a whole was a rather uneventful book, it still had some very good qualities which made me continue reading, and one of those qualities was, undoubtedly, its secondary characters. While Tungdil is just a quite simple Cliché collection, his companions are interesting beings with some really curious backstories and with their own goals and objectives, making the reader feel closer to them than to the main character himself. They are all painted in different shades of gray, with very distinct personalities and driven not only by their desire for goodness, but also by their own aims, some of them altruistic, such as Andokai’s or Boendal’s and some of them selfish, such as Rodario’s or Boindil’s. Furthermore, all of them experience a transformation through the story which develops their individual personalities and their conscience as a group, resulting on the reader either loving them or hating them, but never being indifferent to this little, uneven group of unforgettable characters.

The descriptions are also powerful and manage to entrap the reader in a way few authors can. The scenery changes as their travel progresses, but Mr. Heitz manages to entrap us in every single one of them, really investing time in helping the reader to understand what the characters are seeing and what are they really feeling as their journey takes them to places they never dreamt to visit. The description of Ogre’s Death, in particular, is quite spectacular, with such a description and such amount of detail that the author really manages to make the reader understand the perfection of the dwarves’ masonry as the image appears vividly on our mind. The characters’ descriptions are also vivid a very different between them, making the chacarters not only unique because of their personality, but also because of their physical appearance. It is surprrising in a good way to find an autor nowadays who allows himself to stop and to provide the reader wth detailed descriptions of the events of the book and Mr. Heitz does that perfectly

Sadly, the book needs to rely on those two qualities to get the reader through the story, because the main character and the story development itself is one big cliché which doesn’t uphold any mystery at all. Tungdil can’t really develop during the novel simply because from the very beginning he is superficial, more a role (the orphan who wishes to meet his people) than a real “person” finding himself in that situation. He is also wise, a gifted warrior and quite a charming fellow, quickly overcoming his minor imperfections so by the middle of the book he is completely perfect. Tungdil doesn’t step out of his role as the “perfect, honorable, savior” during the whole novel. Sometimes the book tries to bring up his doubts about seeing himself as a leader, but by the next paragraph they are completely forgotten and they never become important enough as to define the character.

Let’s be honest, the only reason why the story develops is because the characters happen to be the luckiest guys on the planet, literally. The book is written for them to win, and that is obvious from the very beginning, as every minor difficulty they come along in their journey is basically solved by sheer luck: suddenly someone (be it an army, a magician, an ancient ghost or a companion they believed long gone) burst into the scene and makes everything right or they group discovers someone among them has a skill that can help them (without this skill having been hinted before, of course, and then being forgotten as soon as they use it). Furthermore, the story’s plot twists and surprise are quite unsurprising, as they can be seen a hundred pages before they occur, add up an uneven pace and events which feel random and by the end you get the feeling of a lacking story development.

As I said before, the book felt rather uneventful and, quite frankly, quite forgettable, without anything to put it apart from the other books except the nature of his main character. Even though is hasn’t been the amazing story I expected, I will continue reading the series, out of an honest desire for it to improve.

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

I admit it; I’ve got a soft spot for Wizards Of the Coast and their two biggest books series: Dragon Lance and the Forgotten Realms. The reason for this undying fondness is that my adventures as a book reader and a massive nerd started with one little book lots of you may have never heard of: The Black Wing. Not a big book, not a narrative jewel, but an entertaining little spin-off from the Dragon Lance Chronicles. That was when I was in sixth grade and for three years I only read Dragon Lance novels. When I reached ninth grade I decided to try to get a little bit of variety in my literary life so I started reading the Forgotten Realms (what did you expect? I was a high school freshman, I probably didn’t even understand the full meaning of variety).It could be said that Wizard of the Coast ruled my literary tastes with an iron fist until I was in eleventh grade, when a little book called Game of Thrones found its way into my hands. This is the first time since then that I have read one of their books and it felt just like when I eat something I loved as a kid. Its taste is never as good as I remember.

By the way, I am curious. Which was the first book that really got you into reading? Which is the one responsible for you to hook up? (Because, let’s face, none of us would be in a book review blog if we weren’t crazy about reading).

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Strong Points: Action narrative.

Weak points: Character development, story development.

The Reaver, written by Richard Lee Byers, tells us the story of a continent scourged by what seems a never-ending rain. This has caused people to abandon their gods and to turn to Umberlee, the evil goddess of the ocean, making her church the most powerful political force in the land. Moved by the reward offered by this church in exchange for the capture of the god of light’s chosen, Anton Marivaldi, a fearsome and merciless pirate, must find a way to carry the chosen boy to Umberlee’s temple while surviving mutiny, rival political factions and corrupt church officials. If he succeeds his reward will be more riches that he could dream of, if he fails hos reward will be death.

The first thing I must point out is that Richard lee Byers knows his business when it comes to narrating action sequences. Lots of writers seem to shy out of narrating battles, being very general or superficial when it comes to put them on paper; several times I have felt that some final battle of some very good novels were anticlimactic. In The Reaver, though, the author manages to bring us a precise, delicious narration of the events without affecting the pace of the action. Everything the character feels or does finds its way into the pages thoroughly, giving us always a good picture of the fight and managing to make almost every combat an epic explosion of action and description (except the one with the lions… was that one really necessary?) The result is some amazing chapters that make the book enjoyable at some points and keep us reading through the weakest part of it.

I like dark selfish characters as much as the next guy (provided the next guy likes dark, selfish character a lot), and I don’t mind a good redemption story once in a while (neither does the next guy), provided that such redemption and the needed process to achieve it make sense. It is never quite clear where Anton’s starts. Suddenly a bloodthirsty pirate who has not qualm about sending men who have served under his command for years to their deaths starts feeling bad about betraying a boy he just met. These shorts of paradoxes can be found all over the novel, transforming Anton’s development in an awkward process full of unorthodox advances which make no sense in the eyes of the reader. There is not fluidity in his internal development, just emotional objectives he must reach for the narration’s sake, which he does without a continuous evolution to get him from one point to another.

The other two main characters fare no better. Umara’s evolution makes even less sense than Anton. She experiences two major stages throughout the novel: the “I am your enemy” stage and the “oh, ok, let’s be friends” stage without any short of development in between. Since the first moment she meets Anton she switches stages without there being a real process in between to make this friendship anything special for the reader to look forward to. The worst part, though, goes to poor Sven, whose character’s development doesn’t exist. Doesn’t matter what he gets dragged to, the kid never changes, nor does his vision of life or his faith in the god of light who has screwed his whole life because he couldn’t just pick and older chosen. Sven behavior doesn’t respond to the external stimuli he gets from his surrounding, making this character a behavioral anomaly whose actions keep us from accepting the “truth” of the story. One example would be his reaction after being betrayed by Marivaldi, it doesn’t affect their relationship, doesn’t cast a shadow of doubt upon them, Sven acts as if it never happened.

Finally, the story development feels uneven and badly put together. It feels, in a similar way to fireblood (still ranting), as if we were reading about a role playing game someone played, the events feel as encounters decided by dices. The solutions are similar between them, there being two major groups: “let’s kill the enemy” or “let’s exorcise the enemy”. As a result, the novel becomes repetitive and predictable, knowing every spot in which there will be some of this “events”. The directions it takes, the presentation of subplots later left untouched or the characters or actions given importance when they appear but later forgetting completely about them of having them killed anticlimactically leaves us with the feeling that the author wasn’t really sure which ones to choose and decided to forget about them, leaving just the basics but without completely erasing the mark of those sub-stories.

The Reaver is definitely not one of my favorite forgotten realm novels, which is a pity for Iw as really looking forward to read the novels of the Sundering. I would recommend it to the fans of the forgotten Realms or Dragon Lance. To those of you who aren’t fans but are curious about those worlds I recommend to start with other books such as those written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in Dragonlance or RA Salvatore and Elaine Cunningham in the Forgotten Realms.

FINAL SCORE: 4/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

My acting teacher once told my class “we live in a period in which is fashionable to acclaim the villain”. I believe that is true, since it started with Wicked several years ago (Years already? Good god) we have seen various examples such as Breaking bad, the internet musical Twisted or the upcoming Malefic movie starring Angeline Jolie (soon there will be a movie about the hunter who kills bambi’s mom. A poor, unfortunate soul who just wants to feed his ten children and make them coats. Let’s see how you feel about hating him now).

Now, in modern times, there is definitely one Villain/antihero who is raising above all others, and that is Loki. The Gospel of Loki has nothing to do with the watered down marvel version of the Trickster god; this is the real thing, the Nordic god straight out of the pages of Nordic mythology, as savage and merciless as the original one.

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Strong points: writing style, Loki, narrative twists.

Weak points: story development.

The Gospel of Loki, written by Joanne M. Harris, is a retelling of the Nordic mythology, specifically of the events that led to Ragnarok, from the point of view of Loki, the Trickster God. From the consolidation of Odin as the King of the gods to the arrival of Chaos, going through Loki’s recruitment, his adoption as Odin’s brother and the breach between them, the story unfolds towards its tragic ending as the father of lies offers us his version of what really happened.

If I had to choose only one quality that made this book worth reading I would have a really hard time, but I would probably end up deciding it is the writing style. The work that Ms. Harris has produced can only be graded as astonishing. Following a first person narrative format the writer has managed to embody the character in such a way that it is absolutely believable that Loki is telling the story himself. Sometimes I feel that most of the time an author chooses to use first person narrative, he or she tends to “drop character” when it comes to provide description of events or explanations, producing then two narrative voices in one character (the “personal” one and the information provider). The Gospel of Loki manages an impressive feat: every little detail, every character, every action is presented from Loki’s point of view the whole time, producing a captivating universe full of subjectivism which manages to entrap the reader.

Loki himself is a rich and charismatic character full of lights and shadows who captivates the reader almost from the very first page. This is not a tale of how a good but misunderstood person is pushed by his peers to commit unethical actions in order to change the world for the better, as it happens in Wicked or Twisted. Loki isn’t particularly good or ethical; he is presented to us as a chaotic character, moved by his passions, his narcissism and his selfishness, effectively dodging all possible clichés and bringing us a fresh character full of mysteries and possibilities, surprising us at every step and keeping the audience on guard.

It has been a long time since I could put surprising story twists as a strong point in a book review, but this book manages a series of breath taking twists which leave the reader gasping for air. There is something wonderful on being surprised by a story nowadays and Ms. Harris manages it perfectly with her unique narrative skills.

Sadly the novel has a major weak point: a chaotic story development makes it difficult to understand what is happening. It feels as if the author couldn’t decide what events set Loki on movement, so every time the gods of Asgard turn against him Loki seems to decide for the very first time to betray them. This complicates the character development because every time Loki seems to take a step backward and then another one forward, which results in a lack of differences between pre-event Loki and post-event Loki. This results in over-repetition, which can be quite irritating and quite confusing.

Despite its disorganized development, The Gospel of Loki is a good book which will provide the reader with hours of enjoyment and a narrative to remember. I would recommend this novel to any person who enjoys a good fantasy book or who is interested in Nordic mythology. If you give it a try it won’t disappoint you.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Two weeks ago I happened to be talking with a friend abut fantasy books (shocking!) when The Name of the Wind made its way into our conversation. I had read Patrick Rothfuss book two years before and, while I liked it a lot, I believed that people exaggerated a bit about how good it was until now. The next Monday she brought me a copy of The Wise man’s Fear. How much I liked it? Well it took me a week to read a thousand and two hundred pages and it was a busy week.

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Strong points: The characters, The setting, the development of the story.

The Wise Man’s fear, written by Patrick Rothfuss, picks up the story right where The Name of the Wind left it. Kvothe, now a broken man living the rest of his days as an innkeeper under the false name of Kote, retells his story to Chronicler, a man who has managed to find him. Kvothe will tell us about his years in the arcane university, his adventures serving under the maer Alveron, his romances, his triumphs and his failures all of which are tragically connected to the wars which are ravaging their world.

The characters are probably the strongest quality of this novel and that’s saying a lot for them. Every single one of them is unique and unforgettable, bringing something of their own to the story and making it richer by their presence and alluring personalities. Kvothe captivates the reader through his point of view of the events and his unique self, which sets him apart from other fantasy characters. As a young man, he is imperfect, full of qualities but also victim of the arrogance that comes from knowing how talented he really is, with a subtle greyness in him, a dark side hinted in some of his actions. As his older self he is pitiful, wise beyond his years but also depressed, full of cynicism and fragile as only a man who has lost everything can be. And between these two opposite poles we are witness to a slow transformation that will enthrall the reader as the character becomes more complex and more difficult to predict.

Denna is also a superb character full of lights and shadows that give her an incredible humanity, her desire to remind free from any bonds but her complete dependence to her abusing patron is just an example of how complex this character really is. Her relationship with Kvothe is difficult to define and is full of hues which add up to keep the reader wanting to know more about this mysterious girl and what relationship does she have with the events to come.

The rest of the characters, from the eccentric master Elodin to the evil Cthaeh, are full of twists and complexities that won’t leave you indifferent to any of them. The way they fit in the story and how they fulfill the roles they are given is simply masterful.

The world where the book takes place is rich and variable, full of cultures carefully built to the utmost detail. Patrick Rothfuss world reminds me to the worlds of masterpieces such as Conan the Barbarian, Hawkwood and the kings, Game of Thrones, Malazan Book of the Fallen and the Discworld. It is so vast, so well-constructed, that will keep you wanting to know more about its wonders and dangers. The game of the rings in the court of the Maer, the Lethani of the Adem and the marvelous world of the Arcane University are just some examples of the wonders a reader is going to find in the pages of this novel.

Finally we can’t forget to talk about the development of the story, which unravels with a sense of timing and elegance which feels incredible. While some parts of The Name of the Wind felt a little bit dense, I didn’t notice any dull moments in The Wise Man’s Fear which only by the size of the book is incredible. The adventures that Kvothe lives, even if out of context would seem as if they had nothing to do with one another, follow a rational path which perfectly connects one chapter after the other until the amazing and heartbreaking ending of this amazing book.

So finally someone got the maximum score in my humble blog. The Wise Man’s Fear is an amazing book which I would recommend to every living soul, even if the Kingkiller Chronicles it their first immersion into the fantasy genre. Mr. Rothfuss, I take off my metaphorical hat and raise a cup of (Spanish) beer to your health and to the third installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles, may it be as good, if not better. (Or I take off my metaphorical cup and raise a hat full of Spanish beer. Once you start drinking you never know…)

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Ps. Thanks to the wonderful Nuria for putting this book on my hands.

There is a saying you have probably heard before: “never judge a book by its cover”. Well, I have heard it too but I always thought that its meaning was planned to be metaphorical, not literal. When I saw Fireblood’s cover I liked it so much I decided I was going to read that book. Two weeks later I don’t know whether to admire or to hate the cover designer, the only thing I know is that love is definitely not in the mix.

FB

Strong Points: the lore.

Weak Points: Story development, character development and over explanation.

Fireblood, written by Jeff Wheeler, brings us to a continent which is ravaged by a mysterious magical plague once every generation, decimating its population and leaving civilization on the brink of disappearance every time it strikes. The independent city of Kenatos, built by the joint efforts of every kingdom with the aim to create a place where all knowledge can be stored, has become a beacon of hope for all the races and is ruled by the Arch-rike and his rikes and Paracelsus. Now Paracelsus Tyrus, who failed in his quest to end the plague years ago, is trying to get support for a second expedition and his web will trap a group of unlikely heroes who will become the only hope to end the vicious cycle that the mortal races are trapped in. But in the Arch-Rike’s court no everyone is who they seem to be and soon the lives of everyone in the group will be endangered.

This is the basis of the plot of Fireblood and, in my opinion, it could have made for a story full of potential and unforgettable moments. Sadly, by the time you have managed to end the first three chapters the only thing you will be looking forward to are the small paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter which contain the lore of the world that Mr. Wheeler has created. Once you have finished it you will have read the best part of the chapter. The lore that the author has developed around the world he has created is complex, deep and alluring and helps us to understand the whole situation of what is happening from the point of view of an archivist of the city of Kenatos. These paragraphs are full of subtlety and, even when we know for a fact that the archivist is wrong, we can still find small clues about what is really happening.

Then you keep reading the chapter and you think “what the hell happened with the subtlety and the complex and wonderful world the author promises me in every chapter?” Well, your parents promised you a fat, white bearded man was going to bring you presents every Christmas and look how that turned up, this is very much the same case-scenario.

The story becomes a chaotic, badly pasted puzzle full of overused clichés and random events that would have worked in a RPG, but definitely not in a novel. That’s how it feels, that the author just kept throwing dices to decide what was going to happen next and didn’t bother to double-check the result to see if it made sense. There is not a construction towards a climax simply because there is not climatic event in the whole novel making this a slow and dense read. Finally, whenever a conflict appears that the group doesn’t know how to solve suddenly the author brings forward a new rule or just decides that one of the characters has a skill or magical hability which hasn’t been named before and that is perfect for the situation at hand. The story isn’t interesting because you know that the heroes will always overcome the odds without effort; they are too perfect and complement each other too well to keep the reader turning pages for any other reason than to finish the book.

The characters and their development don’t fare any better: Annon, who is introduced to us as a guy with anger issues, can control his anger quite well and is probably the calmest person in the whole group. Paendrin is wise, young, handsome and one of the best warriors of the kingdoms, he is also boring and doesn’t evolve in the whole book. Hettie is an unbearable spoiled brat which is introduced as fiercely independent but, just as Annon is as calm as a Buddhist monk who has reached Nirvana, she is useless and does everything her brother tells her to do. That’s it, these are the characters and that’s the way they stay for the whole book; no change, no evolution whatsoever neither in their relationships nor in their ways of life.

Over explanation is everywhere in this book and, at least for me, it kills the few good moments it may have, such as the twist concerning Hettie’s intentions which then the author proceeds to use a whole chapter to describe; meaning he repeats his explanation over and over again until the reader feels tempted to throw the book out of the window. Everything is explained, you know all the possibilities and, therefore, the book contains no mystery as it makes its way towards a predictable and uninteresting ending.

As you may have guessed, I haven’t enjoyed this book much and I am not ready to recommend it. Of course this is an opinion and I may have become a little pickier after reading The Postmortals, but Fireblood has been a huge let down almost from the first page, tempting me many times to put it down and forget about it. On the other hand, I have heard that it is probably the worst book written by the author so I will probably check more books from Mr. Wheeler in the future.

FINAL SCORE: 2/10

¡Hasta la próxima!