Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As the title says - happy new year to all of you out there.
We wish you all enough success to be able to afford the money to buy and time to read all those great titles coming up this next year, also a bit of luck, a tad of patience (especially with this blog of ours :D), and above all - a lot of health.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Reviewer Link Meme

John at Grasping for the Wind is compiling a master list of science fiction and fantasy book review blogs. Here’s how he explains it:

"My list of fantasy and sf book reviewers is woefully out of date. I need your help to fix that. But rather than go through the hassle of having you send me recommendations or sticking them in comments, what you can do is take the following list and stick it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. That way, I will be able to track it across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to my roll as it comes along. So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it. If you are already on the list, repost this meme at your blog so others can see it, and find new blogs from the links others put up on their blogs. Everybody wins! Be sure to send the list around to others as well. There is an easy to copy window of all the links and text at the bottom of this post to make it even simpler to do.

I would be ever so grateful if you would help me out."

You can get the HTML for the most recently updated version of the list here.


And now the list (as of this moment):
Foreign Language (other than English)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giles Kristian - Raven: Blood Eye (Book Review)

"Raven: Blood Eye" (Amazon: US, UK - preorder- )
by Giles Kristian (homepage)
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books (26.Feb 2009)

Raven: Blood Eye” arrived in my mail at the best possible time, as a courtesy of Transworld publishing. It was a freezing and pretty miserable day, so it’s no wonder that my only desire was to sit at home and read a good book - but which one? I wasn’t ready for a sprawling epic such as Gardens of the Moon, but I did long for things epic fantasy genre usually provides – adventures, clash of arms, stuff like that – I was wishing for one might call ‘fantasy lite’. "Raven: Blood Eye" , despite being essentially a historical novel, came to be a very satisfying choice and I finished it the same evening (too bad, since that brought back the ‘which one now?’ dilemma).

First three things that I’d noticed were:

-the very impressive cover art

-the fact that it is about Vikings, Norse culture and Norse mythology (which is great, since I haven’t seen a book about Vikings (at least not a fiction one) in a long time now)

-the summary of the book, which was a lot longer than it should be. I still made the mistake of reading it, and even though it gives out no names, it still can be considered a huge spoiler – it conveys the majority of the plot. Yes, that is usually the point of a summary, but I still believe that there should be some surprises left for the reader to discover by himself. Next time, I’ll make sure to skip the summary and rather give in to the joy of not knowing what’s going on.

Blood Eye”’s plot is fairy conventional: Raven is a young man who’s lost his memory and wholly accepted his new life, just to discover that he’s obviously not what he thought he was. When his village is visited by fair-headed, long-bearded Norsemen who wish to trade with Englishmen, Raven is much surprised to find out that he can speak their language, but more surprises are to follow – and not all of them will be pleasant.

Since the historical setting of ninth-century England saves a lot of trouble with world-building, Kristian had the opportunity to focus entirely on the plot, which basically means a story that compels you to read on and never gets boring. This is partly achieved with big time-leaps from one remarkable event to another, which can also be pretty confusing at times. Raven is developing mentally and physically during the voyage, and because of the time-leaps, it looks like he undergoes the changes unnaturally fast. Some of it are not just time-leaps: Raven grows fond of his new life rather too quickly, despite internal dilemma of which god to choose he was coping with at the beginning of his adventure, when him trying to be a devout Christian got interrupted by him being ordered to respect the Norse gods. Even more, he comes to believe that he is kind of trapped between the two religions, which is, seeing how real the gods feel to the people in the book, a surprisingly rational view for someone whose life turned upside down in the blink of an eye and started to fill with pagan deities.

The characters are otherwise mostly well-developed and likeable (except for the ‘bad guys’, of course, who are properly (and predictably) unlikeable), despite their unbelievably high survival rate. There is some minor confusion (e.g. how Asgot keeps changing his mind about Raven, seemingly on a whim, and how Sigurd can make himself understood to his Norsemen and to the British at the same time, despite the fact that most of the Norsemen don’t understand British language and vice versa); the final turn of events is pretty predictable as well, but all in all, “Raven: Blood Eye” is a nice enough read. It’s great to see a novel whose author is not afraid to make his characters a bloodthirsty bunch, yet at the same time manages to convince the reader to accept them, respect them and even side with them. And since Raven’s real journey is just beginning, I look forward to an even better sequel. “Raven: Blood Eye” is a promising debut and if Kristian keeps its qualities and corrects some of the mistakes, the sequel can become even more than just an enjoyable Viking novel.
- Trin -

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Robin Hobb - The Farseer Trilogy (Book Review)

"Farseer Trilogy" by Robin Hobb
Book One: "Assassin's Apprentice" (Amazon: US, UK); paperback, 464 pages; Spectra/Voyager (1996)
Book Two: "Royal Assassin" (Amazon: US, UK); paperback, 675 pages; Spectra/Voyager (1997)
Book Three: "Assassin's Quest" (Amazon: US, UK); paperback, 757 pages; Spectra/Voyager (1998)
''The Farseer Trilogy'' is not the newest thing on the fantasy fiction scene anymore. I was aware of Robin Hobb's reputation long before I've actually picked something of hers up to read, and when I finally did, it was the 2nd trilogy (''The Liveship Traders Trilogy'') I decided to start with. I was advised that it is the best of her three thematically connected trilogies, and also that it has less in common with the preceding and the following trilogy. I've now finally read ''The Farseer Trilogy'' and while the latter statement is true, I found out that I cannot really agree with the former.

First thing I've noticed (and liked) is that Hobb focused on a single POV. That is the main reason why I could say I prefer ''The Farseer Trilogy'' to ''The Liveship Traders Trilogy'' – Fitz is a delightful character who, despite his often whining, never really annoyed me as much as, for example, Malta Vestrit in Liveship Traders did. A lone POV also means a smoothly flowing storyline – there are no annoying cliff-hangers that tempt you to skip the next few pages (I know some people enjoy cliff-hangers, but I don’t like them at all!), neither you prefer one POV to another (which can easily happen when there's plenty of them). On the other hand, a lone POV can easily get you bored and offers much less variety of opinions and, well, points of view.

Fitz's problems are that he's rather prone to wild underestimations of himself, whining and acting recklessly (killing your enemy's aides in the middle of the hall, which is, at the same time, packed with people, is a no-go, even if you are not an assassin, bred for discretion and so on). He also conjures up some profoundly illogical ideas, and I've never seen an assassin so trustful and so disdainful of taking at least a basic degree of security measures. However, he's only human after all, and a very troubled one on top of that, so these mistakes of his can be forgiven.

'Wit' and 'Skill' are two concepts that both play an essential role in this trilogy, being two crucial elements of Hobb's world-building and the closest thing to magic that can be found in the books. 'Skill' is a way of mind-reading or better, information-sharing, which runs in the royal family of Farseers and is used mostly to aid the ruling monarch, as a way of communication between him and his spies, generals, messengers and other Skilled individuals. 'Wit', on the other hand, is rumoured to be a remnant of the people who originally inhabited Six Duchies territory – it’s an ability to bond with animals, sharing thoughts, feelings and senses with the beast you bond to, and is in Six Duchies widely regarded as barbaric and abominable. Both Wit and Skill are well explained in the books, making a fairly fresh and innovative take on the matter of magic in comparison to other books where exceptional and unusual abilities are rarely explained and often seem to originate from nowhere.

"The Farseer Trilogy" books otherwise follow the usual pattern of trilogies. "Assassin’s Apprentice", the first book, introduces Fitz, his childhood and his first experiences with Wit and Skill, not to mention that it opens more than a few questions which are, of course, mostly left unanswered right up to the end of the trilogy. It also sets the scene for things to come and introduces some important elements such as Fitz’s first love and his relations with other people inside Buckkeep. The second book, "Royal Assassin", answers no questions but complicates things some more; it is also more action-packed than the first one. We witness battles against Red Ship Raiders (and, later on, the threat from Fitz’s other enemies) as well as Fitz’s internal struggles; the style flows smoothly between inner emotions and exterior action. The plot is intriguing, but at the same time woven through with some very predictable elements, for example, Rosemary’s role in the course of events. Hobb makes up for that with some quite unexpected twists and turns, but there are also some pieces of information that seem to be left forgotten – for example, Fitz’s weapon of choice is supposed to be an axe, but he only uses it once or twice (Hobb remembers that axe in "The Tawny Man Trilogy", though).

The majority of questions (including an explanation for the Forging) that are introduced in the opening volume are answered in the third book, "Assassin’s Quest". There are two exceptions, though: how come that Starling never wrote a song about Fitz? And why we had to wait so long for the chipmunk to complete his task? (The first of these is actually answered in "The Tawny Man Trilogy", as I later found out, but there is still no answer to the latter one.) Fitz also has a very uncanny (and unlikely) ability to survive in just about every situation, not to mention his sudden mastery of Skill, but this is not really as bothersome as the boring walk through the woods and snow we encounter in the second half of "Assassin’s Quest". I think that was the only part of the three lengthy books that felt a lot long-winded, but luckily, that little misstep lead to a very fulfilling ending that met my expectations and concluded the trilogy nicely.

All in all, "The Farseer Trilogy" is a beautifully written and intriguing read. I’d recommend it as one of the must-reads for epic fantasy fans and fantasy readers in general. Don’t expect an all-time classic, though - it’s a great book and mostly a joy to read, but because of the flaws mentioned above, falls a bit short of masterpiece.

- -
- Trin -


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