Speak, ‘friend’, and enter….

Yes, yes, that’s not a gnomic utterance – but, I didn’t have one – so you got a translation of elvish from the entrance to the Mines of Moira – because LotRs.

Firstly – this may be only applicable at the beginning of the movie but it is a kind of introduction thing – if it was a book it would definitely be an utterance at the start of a chapter:

Today at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is taking us Tough Travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  This week’s topic is:

GNOMIC UTTERANCES

These are traditional and are set at the head of each section.  Culled from a mighty collection of wise sayings compiled by a sage some centuries before the Tour begins.  The Rule is that no Utterance has anything whatsoever to do with the section it precedes.

In other words… Those quotes that always start the chapter but rarely are connected to the plot.

I confess.  This one had me stopped in my tracks.  Well, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and Way of Kings series immediately sprang to mind and then I drew a bit of a blank.  I started flipping through some of my books and this isn’t as frequent as I thought!  So:

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I couldn’t come up with anything else – I’ve sat down and actually flipped through loads of my books – I can find lots of books with something that starts at the beginning of the book but not each chapter.  I can find a book or two with chapters that end with a few words (not every chapter but a few)  But basically I’m stumped.  I hope everyone else has done better than me!

To finish with, gnomic utterances travels:

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray is actually the second book in the Diviners Series.  I confess I was not aware of that when I first spotted this book but I really don’t think it affected my enjoyment of the story.  I think it would be good to read the first – just purely to see what the characters went through (which there is mention made of in this and it sounds quite chilling) but, genuinely, I think this works perfectly as a standalone.

Set in New York during the roaring 20s this book is a feast for the imagination.  The writing is excellent and it conjures the setting perfectly.  Libba Bray has a way with words.  She’s almost lyrical and her writing is really quite beautiful to read.

The Diviners (book No.1)  – unsurprisingly, brought to us a number of people who seem to be gifted in the ways of divination – they can maybe foresee things, maybe they can speak to the dead or perhaps they can walk inside the dreamscape of others.  Lair of Dreams continues with this storyline but takes a sinister turn making dream walking a very dangerous pastime.

At the start of the story workmen uncover an abandoned part of the city that has been long since buried.  What they don’t realise is that they’ve unleashed something in doing so.  Something evil that preys on the energy of others and ensnares them in their worst nightmares.

The setting is the glorious 20s.  Bobs and beaded dresses.  The Charleston, Follies, prohibition, speakeasies and the people’s love of celebrity.

Evie, who starred in the first book is now the Sweetheart Seer.  She works on the radio and uses her divining abilities to locate the dead for people and ask them questions on behalf of their relatives – sometimes this can be simply to locate a missing object or sometimes it can be a bit more sneaky.

The other main characters are Theta and Henry who share an apartment – not romantically inclined – just friends.  Henry is lovelorn.  He’s from an ‘old’ family and had to run away from home when his father found that he liked a particular young man and was about to bring shame to their door.  Henry is a dreamwalker and ever since he was forced to run from the family home he’s being trying to find his sweetheart Louis – through the dreamworld.

Ling is half Chinese, half Irish.  She suffered from polio and as a result can no longer walk without the aid of braces and crutches.  Ling is also a dreamwalker and she’s about to make friends with Henry.  Together they find they can do more and stay longer in this dream world and they both start to take risks, particularly Henry who seems to be losing his grip on reality and spends more and more time in this dream limbo.

Theta is a chorus girl in the follies – she’s also running away from a dark past that she tries to keep hidden.  She’s met a young man called Memphis – another diviner and healer.

And then there’s Sam and Jericho – both again with secrets of their own.

So we have the stage and the players – all that remains is the plot.

A sleeping sickness is taking over in New York.  People go to bed in the evening and come morning are impossible to awaken.  There’s no connection between the people who come down with the sickness – they seem to be perfectly random – old, young, male, female – basically everyone is equally at risk.  Of course this causes a kind of panic in the streets where racism and hatred start to breed.  Meanwhile, underneath the city a strange presence stalks.  Something that is very hungry and seeks revenge.

The story has two separate elements – there’s the story of the evil and what it wants and separately there’s a story starting to unfold about a secret Government project that seemed to be cataloguing and collecting people with special diving talents.  Both of these stories are at the point of converging as this story concludes leaving a great set up for the next story.

What I really liked about this was (1) the writing.  Which, as I said above is really beautiful and evocative.  If the 1920s is the period for you then you’re in for a treat with this book as you practically feel like you’re in the city during that time!  Bray manages to capture the wonderful over the top desperation for fun and the quirkiness of an era that was daring to be different at the same time as injecting quite a darkly spooky ghost story for good measure and (2) the characters.  I’m always going on about good characters and this story excels for me in that respect.  We have this group of friends with all their strange inner squabbles and insecurities and yet they do manage to rally together when needed.  I confess that Ling was probably my favourite – I really liked her blunt honesty and no frills attitude and I was genuinely worried for her at certain parts of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, not really a criticism but this is quite a long book – or at least it will undoubtedly feel like it takes a good deal of time to read.  You simply cannot race through this story even if you want to, not only would that be practically criminal but also you would most certainly miss elements that are critical to the plot as there are little snippets thrown in here there and everywhere with moments of intrigue that jump from one situation to the next.

I really liked this.  Like I said above, if you want a fast paced dark story packed with horror this may not be for you.  This is more subtly crafted, it winds back and forth and gradually reveals additional layers that you never suspected were there in the first instance.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”

b2bf5-toptentuesday2

Today at the Broke and Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

‘Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X’

Now, I confess I had a little wobble with this one.  Of course I could just choose Fantasy to be my ‘x’ but that will just then quickly turn into a list of my top 10 Fantasy books – which, nothing wrong with a list of excellent fantasy books – but, I wanted to do something different.

I thought I’d have my ‘x’ be ‘great characterisation’.  Characterisation is my big ‘thing’.  I love beautiful writing, I love a great plot, I adore far reaching epic adventure and excellent world building.  But, nothing pushes my buttons like great characters.  It’s the one thing that sells me on a book – I want to feel for those characters.  Sometimes I want to feel their pain or loss, I want to feel their passion and happy moments.  I want to feel for them.   More than that, I want them to live and succeed.  If I don’t feel like that about the characters then, I might still have a good read, but it won’t be of the same calibre.  So, with that in mind:

  1. Mark Lawrence – yes, I probably bang on about his books a little bit but let’s just take a minute to discuss Jorg.  Now, I love this character and this series, it’s such a unique book, it’s fantastic writing but the central character is just excellent.  It’s not that you’re going to love him or hate him so much as he’s a total so and so who you’ll end up being on his side come what may.  Although, that being said, yes, I guess some people really don’t like him – which kind of makes him a great discussion piece.  And, on top of that he has a rich background.  Yes, he would make a great topic.  This would be an adult class though as Jorg definitely comes from the grimdark of fantasy – no nicey, nicey here.
  2. Gillian Philips – I love her Rebel Angel series, Truly it’s a great reading experience and the characters – are excellent to read about, tormented and passionate – well, who am I kidding, Seth is my favourite but even so this is a richly written series where the loss of any of the characters actually feels like a punch to the gut.
  3. Scott Lynch – Gentlemen Bastards – Jean Tannen (yes, don’t bother to judge) and Locke Lamorra.  These two are absolutely two of my favourite characters – they have a lot of history together, they’ve known each other since being boys and they have pure banter together.  They’re intelligent, funny, exciting to read about and they’re two characters that I genuinely care about – in so much as I would be very unhappy if anything unfortunate was to happen to them (Scott Lynch I’m looking at you)!
  4. Speaking of characters being bumped off – Tyrion by GRRMartin (not that he’s going to be bumped off – just, you know, George Martin!) – he is a fantastic character – against the odds.  I love this guy.  There is a world of information for discussion right here.
  5. Reva – from Anthony Ryan’s Tower Lord – she is an awesome character – and I love her!  That really is all.  Except of course I think she would be a great topic for discussion.  She has a tough upbringing.  She starts off as a very angry character and then she changes and it’s excellent to read about her progress.
  6. Rose from The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead – Rose was a great character.  We sort of grew up with her along the series and suffered her experiences, her losses and her mistakes.  This is part of her beauty – she makes mistakes, she’s human and therefore not perfect.  I like that in a character.
  7. Mercy – Mercedes Thompson from Patricia Briggs urban fantasy series.  This is a great series.  Mercy is tough, but she’s not afraid to ask for help.  And, if you read this series, she’s had some pretty harrowing experiences, but she’s stronger for it.  She’s very accepting and has a great nature.
  8. I guess whilst I’m going down this route I might as well throw in Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden.  This is a series that you grow with which I love and Harry is (so far) a great character.  I think there’s a lot to learn
  9. Kvothe – Patrick Rothfuss – I don’t even know what to say.  I don’t know whether it’s simply the character or the book or the writing – but there’s a lot available to discuss and Kvothe is certainly an interesting and complex character.
  10. Wydrin or the Copper Cat – a mercenary from Jen William’s Copper Promise – this character is a great female character to read.  She’s no push over.  As a female, reading a female character, she’s great to read and gives you an amazing feel good feeling.  I like to read about a woman with her own agency, she’s not waiting to be rescued, she’s not scared to be sexy, she’s doesn’t mind making the first move and yet she still has vulnerability.  A great character.  Yes, she should be on every syllabus.

I just thought of some more characters but I’m going to leave it there.  I told you mine now tell me yours.

Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.4

Today is week No.4 of our readalong for Kushiel’s Chosen.  This week our host is the lovely Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow.  As you would expect – spoilers lurk below – so beware.  All welcome, if you want to join the readalong or jump in with comments then please do so (here is the SCHEDULE).  This week’s questions and answers below:

1. Last week we talked a bit about who might succeed Cesare Stregazza as Doge. This week we learn that he might not be out of the game just yet, after all. What are your thoughts on his discussion and agreement with Phédre?

He’s a wily old bugger isn’t he!  I actually didn’t see that coming at all.  I actually liked his straight talking and appreciated it that somebody, in this highly political and backstabbing situation, could for once call a spade a spade.  But then I felt annoyed with him at the end with his patron’s gift because it made Phedre feel uncomfortable and given how canny he is I think he should have been aware of that – in fact he probably was aware of it which makes me even more annoyed with him because he was using Phedre, so for all his straight talk he’s just as manipulative as the rest.

2. Melisande resurfaces – and right where I did NOT expect to find her! What about you? And what do you think of her latest ambitious designs? When she and Phédre speak again after her capture, Phédre calls her mad; Melisande hints at “playing a god’s game”. Is this ambition or is it in fact madness?

To be honest I was totally gobsmacked!  She really is the archetypal evil baddie.  I was flummoxed.  How on earth does she manage to wrangle herself into these positions where she can manipulate everyone.  Excuse me as well – but was there mention of a baby amongst that first scene??  Didn’t see that coming.  You have to hand it to Carey – Melisande is a great character.  I still don’t totally understand Phedre’s strange intoxication with her mind you – in fact the way her knees turn wobbly and she gets the butterflies, pulse racing, etc, well, what occurred to me when reading the last visit, was that Phedre doesn’t have those love sick feelings about anybody else except Melisande – and they really do read like love sick feelings don’t they?  Or is that just me??

3. Things fall apart for Phédre and Joscelin after so much pent-up angst – but our Cassiline isn’t done with her yet, thank goodness! Phédre’s escape from La Dolorosa, and Joscelin’s attempted rescue, is some of the most nail-biting drama we’ve seen yet in this story. Do you think Joscelin will manage to find her, or will he play it smarter and go to Ysandre instead?

Well, I kind of hope he’ll go to Ysandre – not because I want him to abandon Phedre but just because I don’t see how he could possible trail her given her eventual escape!  Plus, he has to kind of assume that Phedre will do all in her power to return to Ysandre in which case if he does the same then they’re bound to meet.  Assuming of course that he doesn’t believe her to be dead and go off in a massive depression!!  I’m guessing that he’s already totally berating himself for her capture anyway – not to mention the deaths of Remy and Fortun – that was so sad, I can’t believe it even now.

4. New character alert! What are your initial impressions of Kazan and Glaukos? How much trouble is Phédre in this time?

I like this new element.  It’s going to be very interesting.  Pirates.  It was interesting the way the men on board were superstitious about Phedre – there always seems to be strange superstitions about women on board ships – sailors never seem to like it do they.  I suppose picking a beautiful woman out of the ocean must be a little unnerving though.  There certainly doesn’t seem to be any love lost between the Illyrians and Terre d’Ange – hardly surprising given that the Illyrians sought help and didn’t receive any in their hour of need.  I guess you would feel bitter – and it does make you wonder.  We’ve all noted that Phedre can be a little conceited sometimes haven’t we?  Kazan’s comments when Phedre asked if he could speak Caerdicci were quite telling.

Part of me wonders if, now she’s out at sea, she might be able to manipulate a situation that takes her to Hyacinthe?  I hope so.  Even though she hasn’t really made any progress on coming up with a solution to free him yet I would like to see him being brought back into the story.

This week’s reading was very tense – I couldn’t help wondering about what Phedre thought of her captivity and whether she regretted putting herself back into the middle of the intrigue.  She probably didn’t though – she seems to thrive in these situations.

The other participants are below – check out their answers too:

Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan at Dab of Darkness

#SPFBO Finalist: The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden

The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden was one of my SPFBO reads and in fact is the book I’ve put forward to the next round.  I really enjoyed this, not without some reservations, but on the whole I thought it was well written and entertaining and a good start to a series that I will definitely continue to read.

I’m going to try and be brief with the plot – to be honest with you this story is set on an epic scale and so to really do it justice here would probably take too much time and eventually turn into a short story in itself.

The setting is Esmoria, which has known more than it’s fair share of conflict but is finally being ruled by one king (or at least they were until his death) – not, however, without a fair share of resentment on the parts of the other two races outlined in the story.The Bloodmarsh are the conquerors – the king-that-was had visions of a great empire living in peace, his death leaves a great void, felt even more by his people as the Prince is also missing (believed dead).  In their place serves a regent known as Bokrham.  The court is becoming a difficult place to rule though and trouble is brewing.

The other two races that we meet in this story are the Curahshar – a desert people with fierce warriors.  They are ultimately ruled by a Grand Johalid who reigns in The Heart of Sands (a sacred city that lies deep within the desert).  The Curahsar seem to be cursed by a strange plague which attacks their warriors leaving them vulnerable, weak and confused and which ultimately led to their defeat.

The Hinnjar live in the Silver Mountains.  They were conquered after a protracted siege where starvation became their biggest enemy.

That’s the make up and lie of the land in a nutshell – albeit a tiny nutshell for the purpose of this review.

Now to the characters, of which there is no shortage.  The four main pov characters are as follows:

We start off reading about Jeina.  After being caught stealing Jeina has been sent to a mining camp (where silver is sought to help fund Prince Tobin’s exploits (Tobin is Hinnjar and has dreams of retaking his throne).  Life in the camp is hard, cold and lonely.  Jeina spends the majority of her day crawling through tiny tunnels looking for the telltale signs of silver – that is until she makes a scary discovery that results in the mine being closed indefinitely.  Jeina is going to meet with an unexpected opportunity to escape – she will be followed however and by something quite unspeakably evil.

Next we meet Nicolas, an engraver’s apprentice whose livelihood is threatened by the strange seizures that he sometimes experiences and which now seem to be occurring with more frequency.  His life is about to be changed irrevocably by a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger who wishes to buy out his bond.

Xasho is a Curahshar warrior.  Accompanied by a small band of warriors and their captain Boskaheed, they’re about to try and reclaim one of their lost cities – an enterprise that frankly goes horribly wrong.  Xasho manages to escape but becomes confused along the way and comes across a strange place where he finds a pair of short swords that possess strange magic and start to control the way in which Xasho fights.  At this stage we have no idea whether this magic is good or evil but we share the visions that Xasho is now experiencing and that will eventually tell the story of these weapons and their previous owner.

Bokhram is the regent currently taking the reins over the Blood Marsh.  Court politics and internal bickering are becoming more of a problem by the day whilst the nobles fight for position.  Some of them directly claiming rights to the throne.  Bokhram is barely keeping control and not knowing just how tentative his position really is is about to make something of a dubious deal himself.

Obviously there are more characters.  We spend time with Tobin – a very unsavoury character who enlists the help of a blacksmith named Isic.  Tobin and Isic both have their own ambitions and between them they’re about to release something dark and sinister from within the mines – not just to release either – but to try and control.  We have the strange character that Nicolas’ fate has become entwined with and we have Jeina who manages to find help from a character called Fezi.

All of the four pov characters are about to set off on their own journey, a couple of them meet up during the course of this story and I suspect that they may all finally meet at some point.  In the meantime we have a great combination of battles, championship jousts, court politics, intrigue, evil creatures who have the ability to control minds, escape, and, well, more.

This is a very readable story and it’s well written.  I’m totally intrigued with where it will go next and will certainly continue the journey to see where book 2 takes me.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, whilst I think the characters were well thought out I think I would have liked a bit more spark from them as at the moment I’m not sure how I really feel about them.  For example Jeina.  She’s a contradictory type of character who goes from an almost death situation to being helped by a kind stranger to then making demands – and this is something that she does tend to do quite often.  I also felt that she lacked something somehow.  She’s just kind of buffeted along and relies quite heavily on others.  However, I also have the strange feeling that there’s more to her that we haven’t yet discovered and I wonder if, even unbeknownst to herself, she has some sort of magic that allows her to compel people to help her or bend them to her will – I guess we’ll see.  I do think the characters are well done but I think maybe some sharper dialogue or banter would have brought them more to life somehow.  That being said I do think the characters showed improvement in that respect as the story moved forward.  There is also very much a set up feel to this story – it’s not something that I mind to be honest because there’s a lot going on here (plus no shortage of plot and action) and I’m glad that the author takes the time to properly line things up.

On the whole I really enjoyed this.  I think the writing is very good.  It’s a big book and yet I never had the inclination to put it down and leave it to one side in fact I think that there is nothing wasted in the writing at all – it kept me entertained throughout and compelled me to keep reading.

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