June brings tulips, lillies, roses…

Posted On 4 July 2015

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My monthly round up – what I’ve read/plan to read, any events, etc:

Books read:

  1. Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen
  2. Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith
  3. The Devil’s Only Friend by Dan Wells
  4. The Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan
  5. The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
  6. Darkhaven by AFE Smith
  7. Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan
  8. Midnight’s Silence by Teresa Frohock (review to follow)

Backlist:

  1. None this month

Unfinished series completed:

  1. None this month

Books Bought:

  1. A Darker shade of Magic by V E Schwab

Review Books:

  1. Updraft by Fran Wilde
  2. Armada by Ernest Cline
  3. The Dinosaur Lords (excerpt) by Victor Milan
  4. The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp
  5. Dawnbreaker by Jay Posey

Books Gifted: (courtesy of Wondrous Reads – with thanks)

  1. Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs
  2. The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick
  3. The Relic Guild by Edward Cox
  4. The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

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Cover Spotlight:

US or UK cover:?? (US for me with this one)

Events:

Readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart (8 weeks in) See details here.

Backlist Backburn is an end of month event organised by Lisa at Tenacious Reader. If you’ve caught up on any of your backlist then call over and link up.   I find this a good incentive to dust off some of my books!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and Bookish (every Tuesday).  This week’s topic – The Last 6 Months in review.

Tough Travel by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn  (every Thursday).

Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, (No.3 Raven’s Shadow)

Just finished reading Anthony Ryan’s concluding episode to the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, Queen of Fire, which brings to a conclusion this excellent trilogy.  If you haven’t already read Bloodsong and Tower Lord I will forewarn you that this review may contain spoilers.   Also, if you haven’t yet picked up this series I certainly recommend you to do so.

Without doubt this is an action packed and bloody finale to the story.  We pick up where the Tower Lord left off.  Queen Lyrna, not content with having cast the Volarians from Alltor is bent on revenge.  She’s gathering her troops and she’s about to take the fight to the Volarian’s doorstep, fight on her terms rather than wait for them to regroup and try their hand at invasion again.  I’m not going to delve too deeply into the plot in this review.  I can say that the book once again follows the format from The Tower Lord with multiple POVs used to take the story forward and I must say this is a very winning formula particularly as the main characters are going to once again go on separate journeys, each following a plan vital to the success of the Queen’s campaign.

So, to the characters.  This time around Vaelin makes a life threatening journey across the ice to meet a man who has lived for many hundreds of years. Along the way he will gather others who wish to join the fight against the tyranny of the Volarians.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, particularly meeting different races and experiencing the varied cultures of this world.  We come across warriors who can make wolves, hawks and bears bend to their will.  On top of this Vaelin encounters a good deal of intrigue as he tries to uncover secrets long ago hidden.  We discover a little bit more about the ancient people that once populated the world and look at the events that led to their downfall.  We also make the acquaintance of the ‘ally’ and get more of a glimpse into his plans.  I have to admit that when Vaelin was robbed of his ‘dark’ gift at the conclusion of No.2 I was a bit dismayed and in fact I think in picking this up I started reading firmly with the expectation that he would retrieve his bloodsong in fairly short order!  However, Ryan doesn’t do the obvious here, he let’s not only Vaelin, but us, suffer the disappointment of loss and it’s almost painful to watch as Vaelin comes to grips with exactly how much he really has lost.  Of course he misses his song, it’s been his constant and most reliable companion and whilst we, the readers, may feel a little bereft in it’s absence Vaelin actually starts to unravel a little bit.  It’s almost painful to read as he loses not only his gift but his confidence and even his ability until he eventually realises that his song was something additional.  It wasn’t the complete package and the skills he acquired over his years of training are his with or without the knowledge that the song brought.  You can’t help breathing a sigh of relief on his behalf at this point or in fact give a little air punch that he seems to have returned to himself again.

Then, for me, we have two characters who I felt in a way stole the show.  Frentis and Reva.  Both are set upon different routes.  Frentis to try and find a sneaky back route into the heart of the Volarian holdings.  Rushing boldly into situations, freeing slaves and drawing the steely eye of the Empress (the woman who held him captive and made him commit terrible deeds in the Tower Lord).  He may not be in her thrall but she still has the ability to torment him in his dreams.  Reva sets sail aboard a new ship, accompanied by her archers who frankly worship the ground on which she walks.  She’s not entirely happy with the course of action or the lies she has had to spin in order to raise numbers.  Unfortunately her route will be dogged by misfortune and she will once again find herself at the centre of the action.

Lyrna is a complex character.  During book No.2 I really enjoyed reading her chapters.  In this story I found myself alternating a little between liking and disliking her.  She undoubtedly steps up to the mark in this book proving herself to be worthy of the title ‘Queen’, relaying orders and making difficult decisions where necessary.  She became overly confident in her own pearls of wisdom for a while and suffered and learnt an expensive lesson as a result.  However, in spite of this she had moments where you couldn’t help thinking that she was wandering into the remit of ‘tyrant’ herself.  I veered between thinking her rather brilliant in one moment to wondering about her motives and scheming the next.  I think I do her a disservice though.  She has to make difficult decisions and she does so without doubt – the difference here is that in the previous book Lyrna was a princess, in this she is a queen.

Vernier once again is given a number of chapters in which to ‘chronicle’ his stories.  I wouldn’t say that in this book these were my favourite chapters – they’re not bad, just not as compelling as the others.

In terms of plot and action – there are plenty of both.  You certainly can’ accuse Mr Ryan of being tardy in either respect.  This is a fast paced story with plenty of unrelenting tension.

I did have a couple of minor criticisms – there is so much death and destruction to read about that I eventually felt like I became numb towards it and the atrocities at play.  There was also a little of the story towards the latter chapters which felt a bit like a history lesson or info dump, not enough so to be irritating though.  And, yes, I can’t deny that there is a certain sort of bittersweet feel to the ending.  Sorry to be vague!

On the whole this has been a captivating series and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  The writing has been excellent, the characters interesting and varied and frankly I can’t fault an author who gives me characters such as Reva and Frentis who I just love reading about.  I would say that on balance I enjoyed the first two books more but, regardless of that this is an absolute must read.

I received a copy of this via the publishers through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.

‘The truth is, you’re the weak, and I am the tyranny of evil men. But I’m trying, I’m trying real hard’

Yeah – Pulp Fiction – not really anything to do with battles of independence – but I like that quote, and, it does include the word ‘tyranny’ so….

and, bringing a new meaning to the phrase ‘we come in peace:

‘ack, ack, ack’ (they fib!)

Anyway, this week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is taking us Tough Travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  A weekly post where we take a fun look at a specific trope.  Come and join in the fun!  This week’s theme:

INDEPENDENCE BATTLES

The good fight.  Casting off the chains of tyranny!  No one in fantasyland refuses the call of the good fight.  And what fight is more important in fantasyland than FREEDOM?

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – in which Paige Mahoney is captured and taken to Sheol I penal colony, Oxford, where she and other captives become slaves.  There are two elements of independence to these stories – there’s the breaking out of the penal colony which is run by a ruthless race of people, and there’s also breaking out from the rule of Scion, a ruling force which keeps the masses in strict control.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown – in which a teenage boy called Darrow tries to help his people break free from their lives as miners and almost slaves to the richer upper echelons of society known as the Golds.  I wondered if this one really counted – as it’s not really a battle in the first book – it’s more about infiltration.  But, ultimately it is about the good fight.

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire No.1) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith – in which humans have been beaten into submission by a huge scale war with vampires (who now rule the majority of the world).  Humans have become little more than cattle kept alive purely for the purpose of providing blood.  There’s a rebellion building though – you can’t keep a good human down!!

Sauron – ‘one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them’!  – need I say more????  Okay – in which lots of good folks, tiny hobbits, wizards, elves and other nice people go to war against a whole bunch of nasty orcs and other characters bent on destruction and carrying out Sauron’s desire to rule the world and keep everyone in misery and darkness.

Finally: Humans vs machines:

Sarah Connor: [narrating] Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two Terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, my son.

In review: 2015 so far…

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This week over at the Broke and the Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic for discussion is:

‘Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

This should be an interesting week checking out everyone’s ‘best of so far!  I must admit it wasn’t as easy to choose as I hoped as I’ve read such a lot of good books so far this year but these are my choices so far listed in the order in which I read them:

  1. The Just City by Jo Walton – thought provoking
  2. The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams – great characters and action
  3. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz – so unique and compelling
  4. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis – excellent and gripping story
  5. Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier – beautifully written and fairytale(esque)
  6. Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu (bit of a cheat here but I read all three in fairly short order – bit like reading Lord of the Rings all in one go – so, not really a cheat at all when you think about it!) – really original, full of action
  7. When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord – strange and yet unputdownable
  8. Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – good action, good characters, plenty of humour
  9. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence – fantastic story arc, amazing ending, great writing
  10. The Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan – action packed and wonderful characters

And – because I’ve already got my 10 – an honorary mention to:

Death House by Sarah Pinborough – unique, beautiful writing, emotional

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.8

Today is the eighth week in our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.  This week I am hosting.  A lot took part this week and there were uplifting and bittersweet moments. The questions and answers for week No.8 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 a comment – the details are here.

This week chapters 64-73 are covered below:

1.  We finally go sailing and everything seems to be going so well that we were lulled temporarily into a false sense of security!  Sailors are a superstitious bunch, throwing coins to the Lord of the Deep, for example.  What did you make of the Master of the Straits?  Any similarity to other myths or legends?

I loved this part of the journey and I admit that the part with the Master of the Straits made my jaw drop.  This is a reread for me but I had forgotten that part completely.  The Master of the Straits is a bit scary and he certainly knows how to drum up a storm.  He puts me in mind of Poseidon to be honest, controlling the waves like that.  It was strange the way he was calmed by music – music to calm the raging beast eh? I suppose the God of the Straits doesn’t get to see much so he presumably welcomes anything new!  I do wonder though why the MofS is so adamant about people not crossing his waters?

2. Hyacinthe plays a much larger role in this instalment and has come into his own, plus given a new title – ‘Waking Dreamer’.  His travels so far have been very bitter sweet and you really do feel for him.  Bearing that in mind what did you make of the strange dream that Breidaia had where she saw Hyachinthe on an island – this was skimmed over a little but did it give you pause for thought.  Do you have any ideas of what’s in store for our Waking Dreamer?

I can remember some of what happens next to be honest so I won’t elaborate too much on that.  You kind of feel for Hyachinthe, he doesn’t seem to have a smooth run of it.  In the last few chapters he was briefly accepted by his people only then to be rejected again and to leave them.  In this instalment he finally meets a woman, with a similar gift – and look what happens!  Phedre is supposed to be the one with the unlucky name, with bad luck following her around – I begin to wonder what Hyachinthe’s name must mean then!  His strange ability with the Dromonde is certainly coming into it’s own isn’t it?  It’s interesting that Breidaia had a vision for him – it made me wonder whether he can actually have visions that relate to himself?  I also thought it was interesting to learn that his mother taught him the Dromonde because she had a vision of him and realised he would need it!

3. You have to hand it to Ysandre for choosing Phedre as Ambassador.  It seems her strange talents come in very useful indeed.  What did you make of her tactics and powers of persuasion? 

It’s intriguing that a large portion of this section seems to rely on Phedre’s sexual prowess – whether that is to gain the access beyond a border or persuade twin rulers to go to war for a cause that isn’t really theirs.  I liked that she sung them out of trouble when the Master of the Straits appeared and it certainly gives meaning to the phrase about all knowledge being power.  If she hadn’t taken the time to learn the Skaldi women’s songs who knows what would have happened.  I also thought it was amusing watching the twins bicker over her!  Although it did kind of stop me momentarily in that – well, what would’ve happened if she hadn’t wanted either of them??

4. We finally meet Drustan he at first seems like an unlikely match for Ysandre and yet they both seem to have a shared vision.  Can they make it work do you think?  They have so many differences even if they do succeed in battle?

I like to think that they will make it work – of course they have a massive confrontation to overcome first.  It was interesting to see Drustan’s feelings, even though he tried to hide them, about Ysandre.  He also seems to have a romantic vision in that respect much like she does herself.  It must be so strange to be the subjects of a prophecy – or to think you are!  It’s almost as though it makes the two of them even more romantically inclined or opens up their eyes to the possibility of something that they may not have otherwise ever thought of.

5. Can we discuss the Dalriada and the Cruithne – do they put you in mind of any particular races?  What do you make of them??  

Both are great additions to the book.  I’m thinking that the Dalriada and Cruithne are based on the Irish and Scottish – or at least that’s what I’m taking from this and that the language is Gaelic or that it’s similar to.  I love their recklessness and passion, they seem to fight with a wild abandon.  Just before the fighting where Drustan was riding up and down talking to everyone, great leadership and motivation.  I was  also intrigued by the Dalraida going into battle on chariots.

6. I’m puzzled about Joscelin – he’s always so severe on himself, particularly after the battle and Moiread’s death.  I wonder why he blames himself so much – and I also wonder how he’s coping with watching Phedre’s actions – in particular her closeness to Hyacinthe.

In these chapters it felt like Joscelin had been relegated to a lesser role for a spell and we were having more of a focus on Hyachinthe.  I was surprised by how severe he was on himself at Moiread’s death, of course it was really bad but she was out there fighting, I don’t think anybody was really expecting him to protect everybody, some people will defend themselves after all.  I do feel kind of sorry for him watching Phedre, she’s being herself after all, but it must be difficult to watch!

7. Finally, we’re working ourselves up for the grand finale – do you have any predictions as to how this will all pan out?

I sort of threw this in as a teaser because I’ve already read this – what we do know is that there is going to be lots of action and suspense!

I love that Phedre had to knight the crew and they’ve become known as Phedre’s Boys.

 Other participants:

Allie at Tethyan Books
Lauren at Violin in a Void
Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Igret at Igret’s Corner
Michael at Nashville Book Worm
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Emma at EmmaMaree.com
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
Kelly at Orange Pekoe Reviews
James at James T. Witherspoon
Susan at Dab of Darkness
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