Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Artful - The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

First Sanderson I've ever read, a fantastic recommendation to begin here and one I highly encourage for those daunted by the mammoth size of his other books. 

'The Emperor's Soul' is a fascinating work, the novella form feels a perfect length for the story, the magic is genuinely interesting, weaving a brilliant mix of the scientific and artistic creativity with the complex state of the human life. The life in question just so happens to be the Emperor, as well as central character Shai. A brilliant protagonist too, and one I really hope Sanderson returns to in the future, she definitely merits a full novel or more novellas/short stories. 

Shai's methodical, scientific and artistic pursuit to re-create the emperor's soul is such an excellent premise and is clear evidence of Sanderson's creative prowess and the excellent structural powers he wields to present it in such an entertaining and effective way. 

There is so much potential with the premise and the powers of the Forgers in this story, and a fascinating and engaging character enough to explore her life and the world around her. I really hope there is a future for Shai on the page, but if not this is a perfect novella to showcase her character. 

Now I just need to begin reading his novels, with a vast array of meaty options to begin with. Mistborn, Stormlight Archive, Elantris or Warbreaker perhaps? 

They're all so heavy it hurts my eyes. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Making of a Murderer - Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A six foot tall psychopathic raping little pube of a thirteen year old, severely messed up with parental issues steaming out of the ears. Jorg is a beloved character in fantasy circles it seems, I went into the book knowing he was an arsehole, knowing that he is engaging and compelling and captured readers minds when Lawrence made his debut with this novel. 

I completely agree. The book is incredibly compelling, fast paced and ballsy. It's as grim and dark as grimdark can get, Jorg is the epitome of the anti-hero, and it is only with great reticence I have to refer to him as such, being more 'anti' than 'hero'. 

The writing is vivid and punchy, and is one of the leanest fantasy books I've read in a while, there's not an ounce of fat left on this book (except the Necromancer portion perhaps). Lawrence tells the story he wants to, lets us inside this psycho's mind and guides us neatly through how he came to be and the blood soaked fallout from them.

It always surprises me how much we are willing to let a character get away with simply because they are our protagonist. Nestled inside Jorg's very warped little mind we perceive his clear genius, the sharp strategic intelligence and murdering ambition at every surface that rushes through him. 

There is maybe one significant female character in this book, she is in it for a few pages. The rest are nameless farmer's daughters to be raped or prostitutes to whore around with. It left a bit of a bitter tastes as I was reading.
It looks at the Bechdel test and laughs as it goes sailing by. This is the main issue I have with the book. That and Jorg himself.

He's a disgusting character, impressive in his infamy sure, but like a grotesque vile genius he is hard to read about. But the terms I have seen attributed, that I'll root for him, care and even like him are wide of the mark for me personally. I definitely wanted to keep reading and I'm fascinated by the character, the world and his story, but if Jorg was to die I'd be more than happy. 

I remember on an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, with special guest Scott Lynch, they discussed how to write 'rogues'. A simple process being you surround them with even more despicable figures for your protagonist to fight against, chuck in some witty lines and charm and you have your roguish character, mixed with great writing like Lawrence's you are able to excuse the acts the character does and the reader feels connected to them.

Jorg definitely fits this bill, and Lawrence has clearly nailed that achievement. It is a stunning debut for a novelist. But I just don't buy him as a character, and with the introduction of the particular mages in the book, it went some way to excuse his actions in his young life, while taking great pains to make sure Jorg explains his own violent acts were rooted from his volition alone. 

Definitely won't be able to forget about this book, and I am intrigued where the story goes from here, the rather obvious goals of 'King' and 'Emperor' of Thorns notwithstanding of course...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

All the Colours of the Rainbow - A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab

There are a lot of London stories. It's easy to see why, it's an unusual place, a sprawling urban city with vast public transport systems, too many people squashed together among expensive modern buildings and ancient houses and streets.

Neil Gaiman's London Below in Neverwhere, Ben Aaronvitch's contemporary urban fantasy of deadly magic in his Peter Grant series, Paul Cornell's London Falling and now V.E.Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic.

In Schwab's world there are many London's, a young man with the power to travel between them, Kell, names them for their different shades, Grey London (our own, magic-less reality), Red London (Kell's home, a magic loved world of beauty and relative harmony), White London (a bloody, city of war hell bent on the power of magic) and Black London, a lost and destroyed world of deadly and dangerous magic.

An imaginative, colourful (sorry) and very fun novel from Schwab. Entertaining characters with a refreshingly bold and deeply loving relationship between the two young men of Kell and Prince Rhy. Not to mention the fantastically fun and believable ambitious thief Lila, seeking adventure and loves a good fight, as well as men's clothes.

It was not just the excellent premise and fun worlds Schwab has created, as the London's are perhaps not as detailed and immersive as Aaronvitch's Peter Grant series, but they are appealing, interesting and very entertaining with large scope to discover more about them in the books to come. But Schwab's work is a refreshingly modern fantasy series with her clearly very purposeful attempts at subverting the gender tropes we might expect from a fantastical adventure magic romp. Proper fun.

Very highly recommend for a great fun read, a perfect book to start the year with. And the sequel A Gathering of Shadows is out in February.