Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett

Publishers: Random House

Pages: 639

Main Characters:

Arlen, Ahmann, Leesha, Rojer

On the blackest night of the waning of the moon, Ni’s darkest servants rise from the depths of the Earth. The daemon Queen’s partner (the most powerful daemon that has lived for centuries) is tasked to find and eliminate the two humans who killed her precious- though weak Mind Daemons. The Alagai Ka (Daemon Prince) decides to attack the two human leaders at once; dividing his forces and making them reap revenge for their fallen comrades. However, the Prince underestimates the powers Arlen and Jardir have learnt about daemon magic and how willing they are to put up a fight.

Fan art of a Mind Daemon
Being possibly the most powerful and feared women in the whole of Thesa, Inevera feels pretty comfortable on her throne. However, it was not always so. Her life as a basket weaver’s daughter was hard and dirty and even when she gained access to the Dama’tings’ palace, Inevera still had to prove herself to the older girls there. Nevertheless, with hard work and determination she managed to force her will on the other Dama girls and eventually on her future husband Jardir. With The Deliverer by her side, Inevera knows she can lead her people to victory against the daemons and Chin alike.

This book really propelled the series for me. It was the step up I’ve been looking for and had me anxious and agitated to read on and find out what was going to happen next! I loved that Brett revealed Alagai Ka and his underlings. This is because it showed who the real enemy is in the series; not just the idiotic daemons we’d been introduced to in books one and two.

Moreover, I also enjoyed reading about Inevera’s past and her rise to the leadership of the Dama’ting. I especially liked this because Brett develops our understanding of Hora Magic and how it is used to help humans fight the daemons. I thought it gave credibility to aspects of the book such as Wards and Arlen’s tattoos. Brett did this by actually teaching the reader how Wards work in his universe whereas before, I felt like the reader just had to assume that they worked. This is because there was no real explanation to what Wards were in the previous novels, other than fancy symbols that people used to protect themselves from the daemons. For me, it made the novel much more accessible and in some ways believable because you could understand why Arlen and Jardir had become so powerful. In addition, the ending to this novel is truly epic and will make you want to start reading The Skull Throne as fast as you can!

This was a great book and would suggest it to anyone who loves a great fast paced novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, I would read The Painted Man and The Desert Spear first to get your bearings in this novel. I honestly haven’t read a book like this in a while that has made me this excited to want to read  the next novel in the series- I can’t wait to pick up The Skull Throne!

For author’s official website click here.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Warriors of the Storm, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 320

Main Characters:

Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Aethelfead, 
Ragnall Iverson

Warriors of the Storm is the ninth book in Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Tales series and picks up the saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

As a fragile peace is held between the Saxons in the south of England and the Danes in the north, Uhtred feels that his life can finally gain some normality in his aging years. However, when news spreads from over the sea that the Irish tribes have expelled the Viking Lords that had once ruled there, Uhtred knows that war will soon come to England.

The Danish warlord Ragnall Iverson (who once carved out a Kingdom for himself in Ireland) comes to England to dispose of the weakened King of Jorvik and unite the Danes in the north of England; preparing them for war against the Christian Saxons. By using his cunning and cruelty, Ragnall manages to outfox Uhtred and accomplish his goals.

The Last Kingdom TV show based on these novels

However, though he is old, Uhtred is still a warrior and has a brilliant military mind and with some bluffing, quick thinking and bullying, Uhtred manages to outsmart Ragnall and bring him to battle. Nevertheless, a shield wall is a place for a young man and with the fighting more intense and desperate than ever; can Uhtred survive this epic battle?

There’s not much I can say about this novel. It was another enjoyable Uhtred tale from Bernard Cornwell with a similar plot to most of the other books in the series. You know: peace time, war time, looks like they’re gonna lose time, Uhtred turns it around at the last second time. Honestly, I’m just reading these novels out of loyalty to the author and because I have invested so much time into reading them, I actually want to see how they finish!

Example of Saxon shield wall
I’m starting to get a little deluded with historical-fiction writers making these long, drawn out series. There are so many good books out there that I want to read, but year after year I return to these types of series to read the next installment because I always hope it will be the final one in the series. That isn’t to say that these books are bad, it’s just that they are getting a little predictable and because they have been going on for so long, they are starting to make me feel a little resentful.

It’s like the author/publisher is using these series as a cash cow, bringing out a new book every year and not really adding any effort to develop the overall plot, which for The Saxon Tales is Uhtred regaining Bebbanburg. The most excited I’ve been in this series was a few books ago when I thought Uhtred died. This is because I thought, ‘oh, the plot is going to go somewhere totally new and different’, but it didn’t. He magically comes back to life in the next novel and the cycle continues. I just honestly think it’s ok to end something at its peak. It leaves fans with a sense of nostalgia and respect for a book, movie or TV show, which I think is always lost if that form of entertainment is constantly shoved down your throat every year!

To conclude (because I feel like I’m ranting) this was another enjoyable book in The Saxon Tales series. I think if you’re like me and have read all the books this far then you will enjoy it. However, for a new reader, don’t expect to be blown away by this book; go and read its predecessors first. In fact, if you’re totally new to Bernard Cornwell, stay away from this series for a while and go and read books like Azincourt, Harlequins or even Crackdown, they are my favourites!

For author's official website click here.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Prospect of this City: Being a Novel of The Great Fire, Eamonn Martin Griffin

Publishers: Eamonn Martin Grifffin

Pages: 298

Main Characters:

Tom, Challis, Daniel

This year (2016) is the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London. New £2 coins are going to have a really cool impression on them that marks the anniversary. Therefore, I thought I should read Eamonn Martin Griffin’s novel The Prospect of the City; Being a novel of The Great Fire first this year, as it is set during 1666 and gives an interesting twist on the fire’s origin and the people that lived through it.

New £2 Coins

The novel is based around two main characters; Tom and Challis. Challis is a mysterious rake who is hired by the Dutch Government to sabotage London. The Dutch are extremely angry after their naval defeat to the English and hope through his cunning and cruelty, Challis can gain some pay back against their enemy. An ex-soldier with an extremely religious ethos and moral code, Challis does not think twice about killing in God’s name. Upon entering London and discovering the cesspit that it is, Challis murders a prostitute to start his cleanse of the once great and virtuous city.

Living across the road from a well-known pub/whore house, Tom is contemplating his life as a baker’s apprentice. However, his fairly simple life becomes much more dangerous as he witnesses the murder of his friend Lizzie at the hands of Challis. Tom decides to take judgement into his own hands and plots to have Challis killed and gain revenge for Lizzie’s murder. However, Tom underestimates Challis’s skill with a blade and his ferocity, leading to Tom’s assassins easily being dispatched. Challis now knows he has an enemy in London and this triggers him to hasten his sabotage. Yet, when Challis gains an opportunity to wreak his own revenge on Tom, he takes it and causes a knock-on effect that quickly brings London to its knees.

The Great Fire of 1666 burned 2/3 of London

I really enjoyed this book and I think that is mostly down to Griffin’s writing style, but I think it needs to come with a warning! That is because Griffin writes this novel as if it was written in 1666 using ‘ye olde’ English. I loved this, I thought it added so much character to the novel and depth to Challis. However, at first when reading the novel and not knowing its style, the writing can seem quite long winded and confusing. Nevertheless, when I realised Griffin was writing in a 17th Century style of English, the book became more enjoyable and easier to understand. In addition, I thought the premise of the book was really interesting and put in to the context of the time, actually seemed very plausible. It always disappoints me when historical-fiction writers move around dates to accommodate their plot lines. Griffin does not do this and makes a very compelling and believable story out of the historical facts.

However, I did have some small points that I didn’t like about the book. Firstly, is its cover art. Now, I have to admit that I was sent a copy of the book by Griffin and don’t know if it’s a preview copy or the finished piece so the cover may have changed. The copy I received has a plain white background with the title written in black ink in the style of an old printing press. Now if I saw this book on a shelf I would automatically assume it was a non-fiction book about the Great Fire and would not buy it. I think Griffin needs to make the cover much more eye catching to try and draw new readers into his very good novel. Throw a few flames on the front, maybe make the cover look like it’s a burning page of a bible (which gives a hint to some aspects of the book), anything that makes it more appealing to readers  than a plain white page.

Secondly, I really wasn’t a fan of Challis’s Christian rhetoric. He seems to drone on and on about the damnation of this and the righteousness of that, which sometimes really slowed the book down. I get the impression that Griffin is trying to make a point using the bible and religious rhetoric but it goes totally over my head! Maybe that’s my fault, but as a casual reader of this book it confused me and sometimes felt like it was there just to add to the final number count.

To conclude, The Prospect of this City was a very good read and a good starting point for my 2016 reading list. It is available in ebook or as a paperback via Amazon. I’d suggest it to fans of historical fiction, or to anyone who is interested in Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.

Make sure to check out Eamonn’s website and twitter by clicking here
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