The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence is the second instalment in the Red Queen’s War trilogy that once again follows in the footsteps of two of fantasy’s most unlikely companions in Prince Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason.  I’ve eagerly awaited this and it didn’t disappoint.

The story begins as Snorri and Jal take a somewhat less than cheerful departure from the Northern town in which they’ve been Winter bound.  Whilst Jal dreams of returning to his sun soaked home and jumping back into his former hedonistic lifestyle Snorrie has other ideas and ultimately, the two being connected by strange magic, and Snorri having a mission of sorts, it looks like Jal’s desires will meet with temporary suspension.  Joined by the one remaining member of Snorri’s clan, Tuttugu, the three set sail on a dark quest.  Snorri has designs to use the magical key that he now owns to unlock the Gates to the Underworld and recover his family.  This key is very powerful, it can open any doors, it was forged by a trickster however and it is ultimately sought by others.  Snorri’s road is certainly not going to be an easy one to travel – along the way there will be magic, necromancy, trolls and huge wolves, plus running away.

As I mentioned in my review of Prince of Fools this series has an old school feel to it in that we have a group of people on a journey encountering hardship and difficulties along the way and sprinkled with laughs and a few lighter moments.  Once again we traverse, by boat and on foot, the strange landscape of the Broken Empire stopping in at villages and climbing mountains – all the while whilst being hounded by armies and beasts.  Snorri, Jal and Tuttugu barely keep one step ahead as they undertake the first leg of their journey and try to discover where the door to the Kingdom of the Underworld s located.

So, being the second in series we’re already familiar with the world and the characters that inhabit it and similar to the first instalment Liar’s Key involves a good deal of travelling – an aspect that I thoroughly enjoy.  We set off in search of a ‘wise woman’ or Volva and in doing so pick up a new character – Kara.  Apprenticed to a Volva herself Kara is an interesting combination of strange magical ability and not quite trustworthy intentions.  She’s an interesting character to read about – she doesn’t succumb to Jal’s charms and neither does she enjoy the visitations that Jal and Snorri receive from Aslaug and Baraquel.  She’s a cunning one and one that bears watching as she may have her own personal agenda in joining this mission but it was certainly refreshing to have her along as she broke up the dynamic somewhat and livened up the interactions between the group.  We are also joined by a young boy whose father dies when becoming embroiled with the army following in Snorri and Jal’s wake.

In terms of Jal and Snorri.  Well, Jal is still his own worst critic, part of what he says of course is true – womaniser, liar and coward and yet at the same time in spite of that he frequently seems to come to the rescue – even if sometimes it seems to be in the most outlandish way possible.  He also brings a much needed injection of humour into some of the darker situations with his wriggling and cowardly behaviour.  You can’t help liking him to be honest and more to the point it’s interesting to see what he will come up with to try and get out of a tricky spot.  Snorri – I felt was different in this novel.  It may be simply because he’s under a curse of sorts and is incredibly driven or that he doesn’t have quite as much page time in this instalment but for me he lost a little of what made him enjoyable in Prince of Fools.  He’s still a great character but he simply wasn’t as imposing this time around.  It felt as though he was becoming a little darker somehow.  Not to mention you can’t help question the whole logic of what he’s trying to do – seriously, what is he thinking?  Don’t get me wrong, I still like him – but he’s definitely a little different.

What I really love about this book, and for that matter the last, is the quality of the writing and the overall vision of the story arc.  I’m not going to deny that this is quite a hefty book to read and not a book that you’re going to race through.  This book needs to be read in a way that makes you savour the story.  There’s a lot to take in, there’s a lot that happens and there are a number of flashbacks that give us a deeper look into Jal’s childhood and the early beginnings of the Red Queen and the Silent Sister and all of it deserves close attention.

This is a great second book in the series.  Lawrence takes what we already know and with his own inimitable style continues to layer extra goodness on top.  The characters adapt and develop as the tale progresses.  The worldbuilding is thoughtful and continuous.  We revisit the Broken Empire yet still manage to maintain a standalone series written in a very different style to the first series by this author.

The only problem now is the wait for the final piece of the puzzle in the Red Queen’s War which promises to be dark indeed.

I received a copy of this from the author.  The above is my own opinion.

‘Summer’s lease hath all too short a date…’

b2bf5-toptentuesday2Today over at the Broke and Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic for discussion is:

‘Ten Books I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer or Ten Books I Think Make Great Beach Reads’

Well, I don’t really enjoy the beach – all that sand is just too inconvenient, but sitting on a nice balcony with a book, an umbrella and a long drink – that I can do.  I must confess that I don’t tend to think of myself as a ‘seasonal’ reader although I suppose it’s nice to sit in a comfy chair on a dark night reading something scary and likewise my definition of a summer read would be something that works out as a little more fun or maybe with the odd bit of romance thrown in – providing it wasn’t all the story was about.  And of course urban fantasy stories. In that case here goes:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – this seems to be receiving a lot of positive attention.  Rooted in the world of fairy tales – so colour me happy.
  2. Written in Red by Anne Bishop – a series that I’ve been thinking of starting for a long while.  Urban fantasy/paranormal.
  3. The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca – magical student who leads a double life.  Sounds promising.
  4. Cold Iron by Stina Leicht – this book probably doesn’t fit the above description of fun/romance or urban fantasy – but, flintlock and with pirates.  Oh yes, I’m reading this.
  5. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine – ‘gorgeous and bewitching” (Scott Westerfeld) reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan – everybody wants to read this one surely!
  6. Darkwalker by E L Tettensor – dark, Victorian(ish), paranormal mystery – perfect methinks!
  7. The Hobb’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs, paranormal romance with a Beauty and the Beast theme.
  8. Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier – not due out until November but I so want to read this book – I absolutely loved Dreamer’s Pool
  9. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – had this for a while now so will definitely be reading soon.
  10. White Hot by Ilona Andrews – again not due until October – but I wants it now!  Burn for Me was the first in the series – all I can say is that I want No.2 sooner rather than later!

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.3

Today is the third week in our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.  Week three is being hosted by the lovely Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow.  The questions and answers for week No.3 are below.  If you haven’t read this book already be aware of spoilers in the following text.  If you have read and want to jump in with your own answers then please do so.  If you want to join in with the readalong then leave me a comment – the details are here.

Chapters 19 – 26

1)  We get a lot of political intrigue to wade through this week, plus a couple of pretty big dramatic revelations, not least of which was the twist of fate for Prince Baudoin and his mother. What did you make of the trial, and what became of these two?

What really surprised me with the trial was the speed and ruthlessness.  No messing about at all.  You’re guilty, sentence: death: you have three days to choose!  Woah.  Plus father and daughter exiled too!  I confess, and this being on a reread, that I still don’t completely grasp all the political intrigue other than that where there are crowns and kingdoms political intrigue and court backstabbing seem to follow.

2)  On a rather different, much more personal note for the House of Delaunay was the drama that unfolded surrounding Alcuin (poor Guy!). What do you think might become of Alcuin now that he appears to be out of the game?

We all pretty much knew that Alcuin was unhappy with his lot and so this wasn’t a surprise.  I guess this frees him up to do more spy type work – he clearly expressed an interest in learning the sword and riding, etc, so he wants to be of further use to Delauney’s cause.  He’s a sad sort of character though isn’t he.  He makes me feel sorry for him with his strange brand of quiet sadness.

3)  As we’d suspected last week, Phedre’s refusal to use her signale gets her into some trouble with d’Essoms – but it also gets her the result that Anafiel had hoped for… Do you think she’ll be more careful from here or will this only make that addictive slope more slippery for her?

I don’t think she will be more careful because she seems to have met with success.  Therefore she’s going to be even more determined now to not use her signale.  I don’t really think that Phedre really understands at this stage that she is walking into trouble quite often.

4)  Speaking of Phedre and trouble, what do you make of the ‘relationship’ building between her and Melisande?

This is an unusual relationship – definitely not equal.  Melisande seems to play with people, in fact it almost feels like everyone she knows is being courted for a purpose.  She seems to know how she affects Phedre which is a little bit worrying because she always has the long game in mind.

I confess I read a little further this week than intended – quite by accident but also a happy accident as it means i’ve now become reacquainted with the Cassiline Brother!

The Awesome by Eva Darrows

Posted On 23 May 2015

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Just finished reading The Awesome by Eva Darrows and let me say that this is one book that certainly lives up to it’s name.  I loved this.  I just whooshed right through it like a breeze and frankly I could pick it up and read it again.  Warning: be wary of reading this book in public places as the laugh out loud moments will have you snorting and sniggering and could draw unwelcome attention!  Just saying.

When I started to read this I actually thought it was going to be one of those books that is simply trying too hard to be snarky and cool – that impression lasted for about 5/10 pages maybe before I realised I was hooked and that it isn’t trying to be those things but really is all of them and more!  I found this a perfect blend of plot, great characters, snarky banter, dead things and a little bit of romance as a side order.  I just loved this I really did.  Gushing may follow.

The main characters in this story are Maggie and her mother Janice.  Janice is a monster hunter working for the Department for Paranormal Relations.  Basically she’s a bit like the paranormal police or the Women in Black.  Maggie is her apprentice and at the start of the story her training is slowing down.  The problem: Maggie is still a virgin and this means she can’t progress as a hunter as her blood will be too appealing for certain types, particularly of the fanged variety.  At the start of the story Maggie is on a mission of a different type.  Not trying to be crude but she’s basically trying to get laid and is heading to a party for that very reason.  Of course things don’t quite go according to plan and following a failed deflowering and a botched vampire encounter later Maggie and Janice’s world is going to get set on it’s head.

I won’t elaborate.  I don’t suppose the plot can be described as mentally challenging so I don’t want to give too much away – what I can say though is it feels really unique and I was never quite sure what Darrows would come up with next.

What I really liked about this story.  The characters.  I really liked them and for me that always sells the book.  Maggie is 17.  She isn’t perfect.  She doesn’t have a trim body, she has boobs and a bit of a muffin top, she’s socially awkward and isn’t some sort of cheerleader – in fact if you ignore that she’s an apprentice monster hunter she’s downright normal.  Her mum Janice is a great character and I loved the relationship between the two.  In fact I think the way the relationships in the story are written is just great. There’s the developing relationship between Maggie and her new boyfriend – which isn’t overdone or unrealistic.  There’s the mom/daughter love/cringe thing going on.  A further relationship development when it turns out Janice has her own boyfriend and then the whole guardianship of another character in the unexpected form of a young girl called Lauren – I don’t want to give too much away here.  Basically all the interaction between these just feels real and that’s what I really enjoyed about the book – on top of which it’s loaded with humour.

In spite of Maggie’s age I wouldn’t particularly call this YA. It’s just too near the knuckle to be honest.  There’s a little bit of violence, colourful cursing and a very down to earth and realistic sexual encounter.  Now, you may be sat there thinking that this seems to treat the whole issue of losing one’s virginity too casually and I did have a moment’s pause about that but in reality that’s not the case.  Yes, Maggie wants to lose her virginity but her cold blooded attempt to do so fails quite miserably and in its place a rather sweet and tentative relationship develops instead.  No instalove here but a very realistic, butterflies in the belly first boyfriend encounter that is really lovely to read.

I really enjoyed this and would have no hesitation recommending and I definitely hope to read more from Maggie and Janice.

Thanks to the publisher for approving me a copy of this through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.

Also – thanks to Tammy over at Books, Bones & Buffy who posted an article that brought this book to my attention in the first place.

I’m posting this as one of my books over at Stainless Steel Dropping’s Once Upon a Time event.

Smite me, O mighty smighter!

“I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is once again taking us Tough Travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  This week –  DEAD GODS

Fantasyland had gods, right?  And now they are dead.  Dead Gods are not forgotten though, often they are still just influential to the land as they were when living.

Beware of spoilers in the text below!

The Godless by Ben Peek – Set in a world where the Gods are dying following war with each other, their bodies now lie beneath the oceans, in the forests and under mountain ranges.

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris – in which ‘Ragnarok’ is brought about by the Gods trying to avoid fate. Told by the trickster Loki.  Few Gods will survive in this retelling of Norse mythology.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin – in which there was a war of the Gods.  The victor, Itempas,  killed one of the Gods and imprisoned the others in human form.  These enslaved Gods were given to the Arameri people who revered Itempas the most and they now rule over all the other kingdoms, sat on high in the city named Sky.  The enslaved Gods carry out their will and enforce their edicts.

Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levine – in which years ago there were two Gods. The Sun and the Moon. Sister and brother. Unfortunately their opinion differed regarding the creation of their servants and as a result they went to war. The Moon died and his servants were driven underground,

Almost dead??

The Max Gladstone books Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise – nothing is ever quite as you imagine in these two books!

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis- Aslan *sob*

Tis all for me this week – I know there are lots of niggles at the back of my mind with other books just on the tip of my tongue. No doubt I’ll be kicking myself when I see everyone’s entries this week!

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