Tag Archives: fantasy

the shepherd’s crown

The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5, Witches #11) by Terry Pratchett

From Goodreads:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is not the usual Terry Pratchett story. While there are a number of asides of the usual humour there are very few laugh out loud moments. The overall atmosphere is sombre and one of impending bad news. The loss of one of the key Discworld figures as well as the understanding that this is the absolutely final TP book leaves the book and the reader with an overall feeling of sadness. As a character Tiffany finally becomes her own person, taking control of her own destiny but even her success is tinged with a level of sadness.

The quality of writing is not up to the usual standard, nor is the construction of the storyline. However, the afterword makes it clear that this was an unfinished manuscript and that TP would undoubtedly have made further changes and additions. For all of that it is a worthy read and a fitting epitaph. As the afterword states:

The Shepherd’s Crown has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between.

I’ll leave the last word to Death….

WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE […] WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT –A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT . . .

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015. Rest in Peace

storm front

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

From Goodreads:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

Magic – it can get a guy killed.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book has been around for 11 years now but I only heard about it recently. I came across the series when mentioned by Anthony on his blog Today’s Perfect Moment and so glad he did! I really, really enjoyed it.

This is a completely unique character and setting for me and despite my initial misgivings it works really well. The character of Harry Dresden is a quite cynical character and with a modern setting he’s very different from the traditional depiction of a wizard, about as far from Gandalf and Dumbledore as possible! The supporting characters are also very interesting and especially Harry’s relationship with Murphy. My favourite character by far though was Bob.

Bob typifies the disregard the author has for traditional magic, wizards and fantasy in general. The creation of the two potions was a fabulous comedic and well written scene that was one of my favourite, closely followed by Bob’s blackmail of Harry (trying not to give spoilers). This somehow reminded me of Terry Pratchett and his Witch characters.

There are a number of proper fantasy scenes that are also really well done. The best by far was Harry’s meeting with Madame Bianca but the appearances of the Toad Demon were also really well written.

The author seems to be quite prolific with 17 titles in the series so far. I hope he manages to keep the quality high as they go along as I hope to read them all.

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daughter of the empire

Daughter of the Empire (The Empire Trilogy #1) by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts

From Goodreads:

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan.  Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni.  While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir.  Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival.  But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy.  Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all–in his own impregnable stronghold.  An epic tale of adventure and intrigue.  Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

On my review of the final Liveship Traders book I said that it was one of the series of books that I read a long time ago but have always stuck with me. This is one of the others. I’d say this is definitely the third but possibly the fourth time I’ve read this brilliant series.

I’m a big fan of Feist and I’ve also enjoyed a couple of Wurts‘ books. This collaboration takes the best of both authors and combines them into a very original and fantastically complex story.

The story is completely set on the Tsurani world of Kelewan first introduced by Feist in the first Riftwar Saga Magician and runs at approximately the same timeline. The Tsurani live in a society dominated by honour and magic with families constantly in conflict in the political and deadly Game of the Council. The society and customs are clearly influenced by the eastern cultures of ancient Japan and China but with enough originality to make it feel alien.

This first book of the series builds the foundation of Mara as leader of one of the oldest families and how her life is turned upside down by the betrayal and murder of her father and brother. She is forced to turn her back on the religious life and take control of the family to prevent its total destruction by their enemies.

It is a refreshing change to see a strong female character at the heart of an old fantasy story. Feist has been criticised for his treatment of women during the Riftwar Saga but he very much overcomes that with the Empire Trilogy with obvious influences from Wurts.

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the great bazaar & brayan’s gold

The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold (Demon Cycle #1.5 & 1.6) by Peter V Brett

From Goodreads:

From the dangerous world of the Demon Cycle comes the early adventures of Arlen, Peter V. Brett’s quintessential fantasy hero. These exciting origin tales follow Arlen as he learns to navigate a world where the elemental forces of evil conjure themselves from the earth each night.

Humanity has barely survived a demonic onslaught by using magical wards that protect their cities and homes. Only a handful of mercenaries and explorers risk traveling after the sun sets. Arlen, seeking adventure and fortune, is barely protected by the warded armor upon which he has inscribed intricate defensive runes. From a journey ferrying a wagonload of dynamite to a mountain stronghold, to a dangerous mission to recover desert treasures, Arlen faces friends and enemies with a strong arm and a cunning wit.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Two short stories set between the first and second books of the series. This is the first of three novellas published on a similar theme.

The first story is of Arlen on one of his early Messenger trips as an apprentice and is completely new to the overall series. The second details the interaction between Arlen and Abban after he has become Par’Chin to the Krasians. It explains how he received the map to the ancient city of Anoch Sun. This is referred to in the main series but never explained fully.

I really enjoyed these. They give a chance to return to the Demon Cycle Universe without rehashing the story and also add in details that enrich the main story. Highly recommended for anyone that has finished the main series or even part way through.

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ship of destiny

Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders #3) by Robin Hobb

From Goodreads:

As Bingtown slides toward disaster, clan matriarch Ronica Vestrit, branded a traitor, searches for a way to bring the city’s inhabitants together against a momentous threat. Meanwhile, Althea Vestrit, unaware of what has befallen Bingtown and her family, continues her perilous quest to track down and recover her liveship, the “Vivacia, “from the ruthless pirate Kennit.
Bold though it is, Althea’s scheme may be in vain. For her beloved “Vivacia “will face the most terrible confrontation of all as the secret of the liveships is revealed. It is a truth so shattering, it may destroy the “Vivacia “and all who love her, including Althea’s nephew, whose life already hangs in the balance.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Over the years there are a small number of fantasy series that have stuck with me. This is one of them. It stands out as one of the most original and richly written stories I’ve read. The author has created a new world full of amazing characters and novel twists on old themes.

This last book brings all the Liveship strands together in a fantastic conclusion. The author’s ability to take a significant number of storylines and detailed characters, weave them together in a complicated and interconnected story without losing the reader is amazing and incredibly enjoyable. If this is one of the best series I’ve read then this is definitely one of the very best books I’ve read.

This is the final installment in the trilogy but it is a part of a much larger story. Although it’s a self contained trilogy it also doesn’t have to end here. Although this series can be read as stand alone it does have references to the Six Duchies and has impacts on the Farseer and Fitz story that continues in the next set of books. There are connections and references that enrich this story if you’ve read the original Farseer Trilogy so I’d recommend reading them first and also reading this Liveship trilogy as part of the overall story.

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a darkness at sethanon

A Darkness at Sethanon (Riftwar Saga #3) by Raymond E. Feist

From Goodreads:

A Darkness at Sethanon is the stunning climax to Raymond E. Feist’s brilliant epic fantasy trilogy, the Riftwar Saga.

Here be dragons and sorcery, swordplay, quests, pursuits, intrigues, stratagems, journeys to the darkest realms of the dead and titanic battles between the forces of good and darkest evil.

Here is the final dramatic confrontation between Arutha and Murmandamus – and the perilous quest of Pug the magician and Tomas the warrior for Macros the Black. A Darkness at Sethanon is heroic fantasy of the highest excitement and on the grandest scale, a magnificent conclusion to one of the great fantasy sagas of our time.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

A disappointing end to what I remember being a great series of books. The first two were really well written and well structured stories, this book didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do and wandered from one huge event to the next. I totally understand that it’s a fantasy story but the suspension of belief required to navigate not one but three huge battles was just too much with our major characters repeatedly putting themselves at risk and escaping at the last minute, remarkably unscathed.

I really enjoyed finding out the back story behind the elves, Valheru and especially Macros but the whole concept of the time trap and returning to the beginning of the Universe was baffling and seemed to have no significance apart from a handy way to get stuff done and move characters around. It’s like the author had a great idea he wanted to shoehorn into a story and nobody was able to talk him out of it.

Finally it’s very obvious that George R.R. Martin was a Feist fan at some stage. The immortal Black Slayers, who can only be killed by burning their hearts led by one key magical leader coming in a horde from the North, delayed by a battle at a fortress with giant walls and the use of naphtha to destroy a city. Sound familiar? There’s even dragons!

Feist went on to write many more great stories based on Kelewan and Midkemia and I definitely won’t be stopping here.

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the core

The Core (Demon Cycle #5) by Peter V. Brett

From Goodreads:

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A truly epic end to this series. It is a jam-packed story that took a long time to read. There’s an amazing amount of detail that takes focus and concentration to keep a track of. It’s definitely not one for a skim read.

For a change from many season finales this is actually an end. There are additional novellas that run around this main series and there is a new cycle in development but this book brings all the main storylines to a very satisfying close.

In line with the first four books there are a lot of influences visible in this story. The climactic battle between Arlen, Jardir, Renna and the Demon Queen is like a cross between “Alien” and Stephen King’s “It” while Hasik’s Eunuch Tribe and imprisonment of Abban feels like something from “Apocalypse Now”.

The multitude of characters and storylines are what makes this book so long and, at times, difficult to follow. Brett seems determined to bring back virtually every character and tie off their story. It does give a satisfying feeling of conclusion though.

The only storyline I had an issue with was the capture and imprisonment of Alagai Ka. I found this whole interaction very drawn out and forced. His involvement in the story felt forced and unnecessary. I can’t help but feeling that it would have been better to kill him off and absorb his memories and knowledge the way it was hinted with Renna and then surprisingly abandoned.

Overall this was a great series of books. I give it four stars across all five books and would definitely recommend it. I’ll definitely be taking a look at the other books written around the main series and look forward to reading the new cycle when it’s released.

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enemy of god

Enemy of God (Warlord Chronicles #2) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

The balance of King Arthur’s unified kingdom is threatened by Merlin’s quest for the last of Britain’s 13 Treasures; by the conflict between the ancient religion and the new Christianity; and by Britain’s war with the Saxons. A master storyteller continues his retelling of the Arthurian legend.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The first book introduced us to a new version of Arthur and the Arthurian story but this second installment takes it to anther level.

Derfel is still our guide. He’s a grown man now, Arthur’s trusted friend and key to the success of Arthur’s plans. He’s in love with the beautiful princess but it’s not a fairytale story for them. We also see him in his later years as he continues to write the story for the young Queen Igraine and there are tantalising hints of what happens to him through the years to bring him into Sansum’s care.

The story is obviously based around the Arthurian legends but this is a much darker tale than the traditional stories of gallantry, romance and chivalrous knights and so much better for it. The author takes the traditional characters and layers then with ambition, violence and even downright evil on occasion. It’s probably much closer to the truth!

This isn’t a particularly long book but it’s packed full of detail from the storyline to character development that it seems long – in a really good way though. When it finished I just wanted it to keep going, thankfully there’s a third instalment still to come!

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i shall wear midnight

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett

From Goodreads:

It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laugh-out-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Terry Pratchett was an absolute genius. He had the most wonderful talent at taking everyday themes and making them both funny and sad and above all thought-provoking. I have enjoyed every single one of his books and think life really is incredibly cruel that he was afflicted with such a horrible disease and passed away way before his time.

TP’s other strength was his characters. My favourites have always been the Witches, City Guard and Trolls and this story has two of the three with appearances from all the main figures. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have always dominated the Witches stories but this story puts Tiffany well and truly at their level.

This book is listed as Young Adult (YA) but it takes on some very heavyweight subjects. Straight out of the blocks it’s domestic violence and closely followed by the main theme of racism/xenophobia. It was published just over 10 years ago but in the modern world of Brexit and Trump politics it’s sadly more relevant than ever.

Two quotes for me stand out from this book:

It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.

Terry Pratchett. Author’s Note

Poison goes where poison’s welcome.

Mrs Proust. Chapter 7

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the mandalorian

Season 2 resumes exactly where Season 1 left off.

E9 is a fabulous return with all the elements of a great story. Our armoured hero is still on his quest to return Baby Yoda to his kind and in search of information runs across an isolated settlement with a protective Marshal and a big problem that needs a hero.

A blend of Spaghetti Western and old fashioned Knight v Dragon storytelling with a Star Wars background. What more could you ask for?