‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist..’

Posted On 27 May 2015

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This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is taking us, once again, travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  The topic this week is: HEISTS/CONS

Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

I simply have to open this up with Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series which is without doubt the best example I can think of for this topic.  The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves all contain the most amazing cons you can imagine.  I love these books and Locke and Jean are the ultimate masters of deception!

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – which involves an elaborate plot by the crew to overthrow the Lord Ruler.  On top of that there’s the whole thing with the Kandra – you could kind of call their abilities a con of a certain nature?

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison – the main character, James DiGriz, is basically a con man of the future.  A criminal, master of disguise and skilled thief.

Black Heart by Holly Black – this series is known as the Curse Workers.  Cassell, the main character, has a very unusual magical ability and at the end of the series he pulls off rather a brilliant con which I won’t elaborate upon here!

Red Rising and Golden Son by Pierce Brown – the whole series is based on an elaborate deception to infiltrate the higher echelons of society.

And, the absolute master of deception

One without match

Truly a slippery character

I give you

……

‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…’

Yes

The Wizard of Oz.  Not only is he not a wizard, he sends Dorothy on a dangerous mission to steal the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick and then he flies away all alone in his hot air balloon.  You have to forgive him though – he didn’t really mean it.

Resistance is Futile by Jenny Colgan

Resistance is futile is a light fun read about a bunch of nerdy mathematicians who come together quite by accident to solve a strange sequence of numbers and try to put a name to what it’s all about.

At the start of the story we’re introduced to Connie, an expert mathematician and something of a rarity in that field who is embarking on a new job at a senior University.  Naively she thinks she’s found a job where she can make a difference and maybe make a name for herself.  Upon arrival however things aren’t exactly as they seem.  The building in which she will work is basic beyond belief, earning it the title of ‘the bunker’ and it appears that a whole host of top notch mathematicians have been pulled together – is this an interview and not really a job offer – if so Connie needs to start panicking about now as she’s rather pinned all her hopes on this new job.

As it turns out all these maths bods have been brought together in order to work on a super secret project involving a string of numbers that appear to be completely random – but are they really as random as they seem?  After being coerced into signing the Official Secret Statements the group are thrown together in rather close confines to solve this puzzle.  Unfortunately, just as things seem to be taking a turn for the better a rather disturbing murder takes place.  And that’s when all the fun and games really begin.

This was a fun read, in fact (in spite of the murder), my most recent Top Ten Tuesday was beach reads and I would say Resistance is Futile definitely falls into that category.  Light, easy to read, amusing and with a romantic theme running through the story.  Probably a little bit more romance that I had expected but in it’s favour a fairly unique romance to say the least.

The group of characters are a quirky bunch to read.  All of them super intelligent in the field of maths but with varying degrees of awkwardness when put in a social situation.  We have Connie who is, comparatively speaking fairly normal as things go, Evelyn is the other female of the group, her little foible is to make sense out of things by perfect baking and cooking.  The men of the group are made up of an American called Arthur – who I really liked, Se – who Connie had a rather embarrassing encounter with that everyone knows about and refuses to forget, and Ranjit who is so out there that it’s unreal.  Then we have Luke, oddly detached, cute, scruffy and bespectacled.  That’s the group.

The setting is modern day although during the story we do end up taking to the seas in a quite flamboyant fashion.

I don’t really want to give a great deal of the story away as that would just ruin things.  It’s not an overly complicated plot but if you fancy your sci fi all mixed up with a bit of light hearted fun and an unusual romance this could be just what you’re looking for.  I found the romance a little rushed but then given the timescales in the book there wasn’t really the opportunity for a prolongued courtship.  The writing flows easy and the author has managed to insert a few reminders of how we should treat not only each other but the planet – not in an overly preachy way.

I also must hand it to the author for not giving me the ending I expected.

Anyway, I’m going to leave it at that before I drop any clangers.  Although this was more of a romance than I expected it was a fun read and only light on the sci fi in case that isn’t really your thing.

I received a copy of Resistance is Futile courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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!

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