Book Review

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest

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****Spoilers Abound****

Man, what a ride. This book was so long, but it was all good. Everything that happened and that was described felt absolutely necessary in the scheme of things, and I didn’t skip a word. It completely absorbed me and when I finished I felt like I had finished a journey of my own.

In fact, it could have been even longer, because I’d have loved to have more detail of when Verity and Kettricken swooped down on Buckkeep and how they finally defeated the Red Ships. I’m not completely satisfied with Fitz’s recounting of it, and the explanation of how Forging was done doesn’t feel right. I mean it kind of makes sense if you stretched your belief within the scope of the world, but no… I need to know more.

And I need to know more about Fitz’s journeys as well. I want to know more about his year with Black Rolf and what he learned. Suddenly six years have passed and he’s acting like an old man when I make him still in his 20’s. Only six years have passed but now Nighteyes is graying when that would make him less than 10 years old. I mean surely wolves live longer than that!

The quick overview of what happened feels like a teaser and after spending so much time and emotional energy on this journey, I feel cheated out of a satisfying closure. There’s enough teased at in the last chapter to fill another book at least! My only consolation is the fact that I know there is more Fitz in the future books.

Coming back to the actual quest, I must say it was a good one. I like how Fitz is not your typical hero. He’s not so fanatically (okay maybe a little) loyal to the crown that he would give up his own child to it. He doesn’t even really want to do any of what he is doing, but is forced into it because of Verity’s skill imprint. All he really wants to do is find Molly and his child and lead a quiet life with them. Even though I never thought Molly was right for him, and I knew that would mean no more adventures, I like Fitz enough to want that for him too.

His PTSD is also heartbreaking, and I found myself missing the berserker of the second book. I hated Regal even more for what he had done, reducing Fitz to a cowering boy instead of the powerful warrior we had come to know and love (and maybe fear a little). I was all for him following through with his original plan of assassinating Regal, but ultimately I agreed that a better mission was to go looking for Verity.

The characters in this book were mostly familiar, with Kettricken and the Fool playing big parts in the quest. Chade and Burrich make appearances, Burrich mostly in Fitz’ skill dreams, but generally they didn’t play as big parts as formerly, and I found myself sort of missing them… especially Burrich. But then we got Starling and Kettle to make up the rest of the team, and as far as secondary characters go, they were okay. Both were irritating, but I liked them well enough.

There was a lot of intrigue sprinkled through the book, like when Starling tells Fitz that the Fool is a woman and I started questioning everything I ever thought I knew. Looking back over everything, I realized it was entirely possible that the Fool could actually be a woman. In fact, was it even gendered at all? Maybe it was a hermaphrodite. And when Fitz actually tried to ask him about it, he never confirmed or denied anything conclusively, except for maybe making a reference as to how he should have shown Starling his manhood when she mentioned “green manhood”. So from that, I think I’ll just go on and believe it’s a he, until proven otherwise.

The thing that really threw me started with the opening paragraphs of chapter 31. That already spoke of betrayal and his child being given up to the king. I thought the one who betrayed him would be Molly, maybe Burrich if I stretched. But then it turns out the elfbark actually hampers the Skill and suddenly it was Chade. That spiraled off into countless other deceptions and betrayals and I was actually freaking out a little. If the betrayer was Chade, that changed everything! Eventually, I carried on reading and the true betrayal came to light, but man, that was a stressful hour…

And last but not least, Regal. Spoiled, petty, clueless Regal. Who cared more about winning and power than what it entailed. I have to take a step back from my intense dislike of him and look at the bigger picture. Sure he needs to take responsibility for his actions and his beliefs and such, but if you think about it, his mother was a horrible person and did quite a number on him. She had fed and stoked his jealousy, planting delusions of grandeur in his head and making him believe he was so much better than Chivalry and Verity and should have inherited the crown instead. She basically moulded him, and if he had been stronger of character, or if someone else like Verity or Chivalry had spent more time with him and included him more, he could have turned out different. Or maybe not. As it is, I laughed when he was killed by the ferret.

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Book Review

Book Review: Royal Assassin

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Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 26 May 2017
Date Finished: 31 May 2017
Pages: 688
Genre: Fantasy

I dove into this book immediately after finishing Assassin’s Apprentice, so right now I feel like I’m emerging slowly from a long and arduous (though not unpleasant) journey through the Chalced states. I found myself neglecting everyday chores and even turning off my phone so I wouldn’t be interrupted by friends while reading. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been so immersed in a book that I hadn’t lost interest and checked social media every 30 minutes.

Having done such a banger of a job with her world-building in the previous book, there wasn’t as much time dedicated to that in this book, and we instead dove deeper into the power struggles of the realm. It was painfully obvious who the main shit-stirrer was, and yet the drama was still real and engaging enough to keep my lower lip firmly clamped between my teeth. At times you want to rave at the gullibility and stupidity of some of the characters, because Goddamnit man it’s so obvious!! But then you need to take a step back and remember that you’ve got a unique perspective on things and make allowances for the characters and their inherent feelings.

The most frustrating was that it seemed like Fitz was the only damn person out of everyone who seemed to realize just how dangerous Regal is, and how far he would go to get what he wants! I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’s behind the Red Ship raiders.

Most of the time I felt like climbing into the pages of the book and shaking Shrewd because he wasn’t living up to his damn name! Of course I changed my tune after finding out what’s really going on, but still… he should have abdicated and given the crown to Verity when he still had a chance.

I’m not even going to get started on Verity because I really like him but does he have to be such a damn martyr?! Also he really sucked at being a good husband, or even a nice person, to his wife. Still… I’m rooting for him! Anyone but Regal… can’t someone just accidentally stab him or something? I don’t understand how he has such a following! Then again it kinda reminds me of Trump’s presidential campaign…

Once again the characters really pulled this book through and made all the drama and court intrigue worth slogging through. The battles were exiting and as I suspected the mystery of Forging and the Red Raiders are still unresolved… except now I’m worrying that this is never going to be resolved! Which I know is unlikely but honestly at this point I feel like anything is possible.

One thing that bugs me is this stigma against the Wit. I think it would be the coolest thing ever to be able to communicate with animals, and yet everyone of the six duchies thinks it’s this horrible thing. It sounds an awfully lot like jealousy and fear to me, and how are they okay with Skilling but not this? Skilling in my opinion would be so much more dangerous! Also less cool… I REALLY like the idea of being able to bond with a wolf!

Having said that, I’m not fond of the way the Wit was used to “save” Fitz. It holds water in the overall story and fits in with the plot and whatever, but I don’t like it. Just like I didn’t like Rosemary…

**SPOILER ALERT**

 

I like Molly as a person, I really do. I think she’s strong and feisty and good. But I don’t think she’s right for Fitz and definitely won’t fit into his life. I’m glad she stood up for herself and left, because Fitz was not treating her right and in leaving she actually gained so much respect. I also have a suspicion that all her herbs didn’t help and that’s why she really had to leave, but I guess we’ll find out sooner or later if that suspicion is true. If it is it would be kind of ironic…

This line was perfect:

“I wanted us to share all our lives. You wish to keep me in a box, separate from your life. I cannot be someone you come to when you have nothing more important to do.”

Book Review

Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice

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Rating: 4 Stars
Date Started: May 18, 2017
Date Finished: May 26, 2017
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy

Sometimes, deciding if a book is 5 stars or 4 is as easy as pressing a button. But sometimes it’s more difficult. This was such a time… But ultimately I’m going to settle for 4 stars.

 

It took a while for me to get into the writing style, even though there’s nothing that really sets it apart from others. And yet, don’t you find that there’s always a bit of an adjustment period whenever you read something by someone new? So even though I can’t really say what the difference is between Robin Hobb and, say, J.K. Rowling, I know it’s there.

That’s not too say one is better than the other, or that they should even be compared. I found Robin Hobb’s writing extremely immersive and descriptive, and it was so easy to get sucked into the life of Fitz.

The pacing of the story was almost leisurely, and nothing terribly exciting happened for most of it. She seems to have focused mostly on world and character building, with the result that after a while, you feel almost familiar with everything and everyone.

Although I like Fitz a lot, he’s still a teenager in this book and acts like a typical teenager a lot of the time. Granted there’s a lot more going on and he’s actually pretty mature for his age in a lot of ways, he still irritated enough to sigh and roll my eyes at him. My favorite character is actually Burrich, even though he’s a stubborn old shit and I probably wouldn’t like him as much if I was Fitz either. And Verity definitely shone as another favorite, even though he took his sweet time to do so. Honestly I just really like all the characters… even Regal.

Ok maybe not him.

A lot of time is also spent on world building, but at the end of the day you feel like you’ve actually been to these places. It gets to a point where you even wonder if you could smell the scents of Buckkeep if you could just focus enough! Even though much of their world is still obscure and they don’t know much about the rest of the world other than their little corner of it, you know it’s all there and will all come into play soon.

Initially, I thought the main plot of the book would be the Red Raiders. Hint, it’s not. But even when I thought that, it was more of a background danger that aided more in the character development than actually being something that you’re constantly thinking about. I’m assuming again, but I think the Red Raiders will be the running plot of the series and probably only be resolved in the last book of the trilogy. Just a guess, and probably wrong, but it’s all I’ve got. I really want to know what’s behind the Forging!

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, although I’m probably one of the last people to read this. Even so, what turned out to be the main conflict was not as much of a surprise, even though I wasn’t expecting it to happen quite so soon. It was a satisfactory conclusion to a story arc, though I think it was also a bit anti-climatic because it had to be handled so diplomatically. I really felt like a certain someone deserved to die a slow and painful death!

I can tell this is going to be one of those series that just gets better as it goes along, and I’m thinking that all the character and world building done in this book is only laying a solid foundation to one of the most loved series I’ve heard fellow readers raving about. I’ll definitely be starting the next one as soon as I’ve finished this review!

Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: Life of Pi

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Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 3 May 2017
Date Finished: 15 May 2017
Pages: 460
Genre: Fantasy

Absolutely brilliant! The narrator did an amazing job here, and it just reaffirmed my love for audiobooks! The writing was so descriptive and immersive, and the narrator had the perfect tone and speed at all times! This was one of the times I watched the movie before reading the book, and I always loved the movie, but now I can really understand more about what the directors were trying to convey.

At first, I was a bit confused as the first part of the book deals a lot more with his childhood than the movie showed. It was very interesting though, and it definitely did add an extra layer and texture to Pi and his family.

Pi grew up in a zoo, and so I now know a lot more about zoo’s and the animals that inhabit them than I ever thought I would. It’s actually very fascinating, and if I ever go to a zoo again, I might look at it through a different perspective… though I still don’t like the idea of animals being caged and restricted like that.

I found Pi’s religious views very interesting, and I actually completely agree with him, even though he’s quite a bit more religious than me. Pi decided that he would be a hindu, muslim AND Christian, because he found something of value in each of them. They all proclaim to love God, and that’s the underlying belief throughout. And even though Pi is very devout, never once did it feel like a lecture on religion whenever the subject was broached. I loved that!

Pi was a great main character… Probably one of my favorites. Wise yet naive, brave yet terrified. I felt for him throughout the story, I mourned with him and celebrated his little wins. I know it’s fiction, but can you imagine what something like that must be like? I can’t even imagine where he found the will to go on. I’d actually like to read a true-life account of someone who went through a similar experience just to see if it’s possible to keep your spirits up and in fighting stance.

I think the ultimate question in this book is which story is the real story. Is Richard Parker real or is he a representation Pi’s inner strength that got him through the ordeal. I prefer to believe that Richard Parker was real, because if he wasn’t… if the other story is the real one… it would be infinitely worse.

Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: All the Birds in the Sky

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Rating: 2 Stars
Date Started: 18 April 2017
Date Finished: 30 April 2017
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy

I really didn’t enjoy this book. I’m not sure if it was due to the narrator, or just because it’s one of those books that just wasn’t for me, but the whole time I listened to it I kinda wanted it to physically manifest so that I could punch it. I can’t even put my finger on exactly what p’d me off so much.

The Story

I don’t know what went wrong! It should have been sooo good. Science vs Magic is the ultimate battle even in the real world. Just substitute magic with religion and bam, you got a true life drama instead of a magical realism novel. But somewhere along the line it just got so fucking boring. The whole plot relied solely on misunderstandings and miscommunications, and was so thin it was see-through.

The Characters
Lawrence and Patricia are both idiots and I couldn’t stand either of them. Lawrence was a world class douche with an ego the size of a planet, and Patricia was a martyr that wanted to take on responsibility for everyone else’s stupid decisions. Honestly I don’t even wanna think about them. The only character I actually kinda liked was Changeme, and even he/it had a disappointing conclusion.

I have a couple of friends who’s opinions I respect and we usually have similar reading tastes who loved this book, so if you were interested in reading it don’t let this review stop you. As I said, I might have felt different if I had read it instead of listened to the audio… but honestly I don’t think so. I just didn’t like this book and that’s okay… but you might.

Book Review

Book Review: In Calabria

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars
Date Started: 30 March
Date Finished: 31 March
Pages: 176
Genre:  Fantasy

Buy your copy now: In Calabria

I must confess that this is my fist book about a unicorn, unless you’re counting that one time in Harry Potter when Voldemort drank a unicorn’s blood to stay… well, whatever it was you’d call what he was doing…

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I’ve heard about this particular author and his most well known book, The Last Unicorn, and I actually have it on my shelf… but I never seem to get around to reading it. I’m sure you know how that goes…

When I received a copy of this from Netgalley, I couldn’t really put it on my shelf and forget about it though, so I started reading it promptly. I went into it not knowing what to expect at all though. I mean I couldn’t quite imagine for myself where a book about unicorns would go… There’s surprisingly few books about the subject out there!

In Calabria (which is the town where this story is set) introduces us to a grumpy old farmer that purposely keeps himself isolated for initially vague reasons. Enter the unicorn and you’ve got a fantastical story with some deep life lessons in surprisingly colorful language. I don’t know why, but for some reason I associate unicorns with purity and children, and reading about a unicorn in the same sentence as the sentiment “God’s burning asshole” was rather jarring.

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Bianchi is the crotchety “old” farmer, and while he vehemently discourages familiarity from all angles, once the unicorns and Giovanna enters the scene, we start seeing the real him that he’s buried deep inside. The problem is he’s so convinced that he’s unlikable and grumpy, that he can’t see past his own image of himself to explore the rest of himself. Which of course is where Giovanna comes in…

This book has everything from romance and unicorns to the mafia, and honestly, I would have rated it much higher had it not been for the fact that it was written almost abstractly. The characters were well developed and the story was enjoyable, but it just didn’t pull you in and make you live in the moment. Never for one second did I forget that this was just a story I was reading. There was no emotional pull, and for me that’s one of the most important aspects of a story.

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I’d still like to read The Last Unicorn, but unfortunately In Calabria left me rather underwhelmed, and I’m wondering if perhaps unicorn fiction is just not my bag of tea?

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Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: American Gods

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this so much! What a brilliant fantasy adventure! The pacing of the story is very leisurely, not rushing to info-dump or over explain anything. Most of the time I had no idea WTF was going on, but that didn’t matter at all, because I was enjoying the journey of finding out so much!

I also loved the little side stories about coming to America. They were short but super impactful, and it explained a lot of the story without coming right out and rubbing it in your face. It was rich in history and explained about how Gods from all over came to be in America, a concept which I love!

I’m extremely relieved that it was consistently good all through! So many times I’m reading a book that starts out really, really good and then it just falls flat. Or the plot climax is ridiculous and doesn’t make sense. Not the case with American Gods. The plot made complete sense in the context of the story, and the action was exciting throughout. The characters carried the story along almost effortlessly, and they were all likable… even the “bad guys”. I can’t wait to read more about Mr. Nancy in Anansi Boys

The narrator also did a great job of cultivating an atmosphere of action, and he did a really good job… However, I was not in a million years expecting a Neil Gaiman to have very explicit sex scenes! When it happened, the narrator got really into it with heavy breathing and almost moaning with ecstasy, which left me feeling extremely uncomfortable and like I just listened to an old guy masturbate!

There was also a lot more swearing than I expected, which brought home the fact that you shouldn’t build up an image of someone (an author specifically in this case), after only a few interactions. I’ve only ever read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline, and unfairly assumed that Mr. Gaiman was a mild mannered, above board, cutesy writer. Not the case! This book was rough and gritty and completely fantastic. I’m sure it’ll stay with me for a long, long time…

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