Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Problem with Fantasy (courtesy of 'a Song of Ice and Fire')

As is remarkably obvious from the blog I am a massive fan of the series, a Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin. Unfortunately this has caused me some problems with reading other fantasy novels. Another one of my favourites is the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Since finishing a Song of Ice and Fire for the third time (and Mistoborn for many more, I can no longer remember!) I have read several different fantasy books and been disappointed, none quite live up to the grittiness, description and depth of either of the two above authors (and yes that even includes the occassionally painfully dull A Feast for Crows). Here's a run down:

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

I will admit when I picked this up I was worried, I mean this is one of the books by one of my favourite authors, the author that made me realise that as much as I enjoyed the Sword of Truth series (Terry Goodkind, I won't go into it here as that was actually the first fantasy series I read and if I re read it now I'm worried it wouldn't live up to standard) there were much much better books out there (read: Mistborn). I am pleased to say that Warbreaker did not disappoint, it had all of the character development, elaborate and original magic system, and fast paced plot that I would have expected from Sanderson, and despite it being a happy ending, actually a very happy ending by fantasy standards, that lack of realism didn't matter. I would still put Mistborn above Warbreaker, but then it would be hard to replace Vin (the main character from Mistborn) with anyone, and despite being fictional, she still holds a place for just being too damn extraordinary! Well and the ending of Mistborn (Hero of Ages) moved me to tears (this is the person that didn't cry when Dobby died.)

The Empire Trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire) by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts

This I only finished last week (as in the trilogy) and I must admit I was impressed, there were faults in the books for me, for example Kevin got on my nerves towards the end of book 2, what happened to Ayaki at the start of book 3 seemed unnecessarily cruel to both him and Mara, and despite me wanting a happy ending (rare enough) I didn't get the happy ending I wanted, though the part with Justin, Hokanu and Mara made me actually cry (the opposite + a little bit would have been my happy ending of choice.) For the first 2 books all I could think was that the books were tragic true but at the same time all of the good guys seemed to have an infinite amount of luck (which I guess was the point but still) and then the third book, up until then I'd been glued to my kindle wanting to know what was happening, but in that I kind of felt like there was a bit of rambling and not much point to what was being told. I'd recommend it though, not as tragic as some but the blend of politics, thought and fantasy does work well.

A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance Book 1) by David Dalglish

I think the first thing to say is that I won't be reading book 2. The book was good but not mind blowing, people seemed to get life ending or at least severely crippling injuries and then just get up a seek revenge/move around still. Now I'm not saying I have a problem with people dying (anyone who has read a Song of Ice and Fire will know that you just have to get used to it!) or being crippled (ditto, even if Bran bores - and annoys - the hell out of me) but it just frustrated me that everyone seemed to stay fine. Add to that the whole confusing Hearn/Aaron dual personality confusion (I couldn't actually tell the difference in places), people's seeming obssession with an evil God, Thren's one dimension personality (cruelty, death, revenge, more death, richness, war etc.) and it just didn't do it for me. At all. It wasn't so bad that I put it down, I finished the book (and found an acknowledgement to a Song of Ice and Fire at the end, like the true geek I am I did pick up on the 'winter is coming' reference) but it didn't have the depth I needed. There was tragedy but then when you've read the Red Wedding its just not tragic anymore. There are much better books go read them. Oh also, Aaron/Hearn, he's 13 throughout most of the novel, it didn't tell you that til 3/4 of the way through so I'd still been imagining him as the 8 year old from the prologue (and that's just disturbing).

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

For a first novel I was impressed, it had a good storyline which seemed original, though again there wasn't quite enough depth to it, or death for that matter, which is strange in a book whose main character, Celaena, is an assassin. Again I blame a Song of Ice and Fire for that, despite being 9 years younger, Arya Stark could be a match for Celaena! It seemed a little bit predictable too, which annoyed me slightly, but if another book came out (which it is rumoured to do), then I would probably read it.

Blood of Requiem (Song of Dragons Book 1) by Daniel Arenson

This is the book I am currently reading (according to my Kindle I am 80% of the way through). It doesn't have much of the depth, tragedy or character building as either a Song of Ice and Fire or Mistborn but what cannot be denied is the beauty of the writing, it is so elegant and the style is almost like a poem or song (Song is the right word for the trilogy!) and I find myself wanting to consume the rest of it just for that. The characters are sometimes one dimensional but you do sometimes get a sense of that, and almost as if the younger characters are growing into who they will be. I'll read them all, just because they are so beautifully written, but this book certainly wouldn't go on my list of favourite books, though at a push Agnus Dei may make it onto my top heroine's list (mostly aSoIaF dominated that one!).

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Book: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

I tried this book because it was said to be a bit like The Hunger Games, which as this blog knows, I really enjoyed as a series and the thoughts behind the books really haunted me even months after reading, and I've read the books twice too. I must apologise to Mr. Westerfield but I just didn't really get his book. Well I did, its the classic rise against the dystopian government book, that much I get. But the idea that everyone is made pretty and compliant, I just don't get it, I'm sorry I don't. To me there seems to be no obvious way in which the society is holding itself up, and maybe thats my main issue with this book, no one is struggling to make ends meet, in fact no one even seems to spend any money, they literally just get anything that they want, even when they're in their 'uglies' phase. Now I get the idea behind the surgery going too far in society, personally I think in some cases it already has, but as a way of controlling people? Nope I'm sorry Mr Westerfield your book just doesn't do it for me, I don't get the world, there are absolutely no parameters on it, its not just America like in A Handmaid's Tale, or marked out as just America in The Hunger Games, though it would seem that the rest of the world isn't right there too, neither is it the whole world like in 1984, its just completely undefined, and you can't really talk about undefined dystopias, it just doesn't work.

Plus the characterisation, it seems to be somewhat lacking, even the protagnaist who you are with for 425 pages barely actually seems to evolve, her love is ridicolously sudden, as is David's for that matter and the way she acts, to me, is just so one dimentional, there's no rebellious love (Winston/Julia in 1984, Nick/Offred in A Handmaid's Tale), no teenage angst about love - she is 16 after all (Katniss/Gale/Peeta in the Hunger Games).

Now I'm not saying the book is all bad, it has a passable storyline, continuously it makes sense and the way that the 'rusties' aka humanity as we know it, got destroyed is pretty believable, but for me there is something lacking and this book definately does not live up to the other dystopian novels or series that I have read.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Film: The Hunger Games

Yes that's right I have finally watched the Hunger Games and all I can say is wow. I am impressed. Now I'm not saying it's how I imagined it cause it isn't, I have a rather active imagination when I'm reading and a film#'s interpretation of characters and events can't overcome how I see them. But that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate a film. Particulairely one that is sticking so closely to the book. I mean down to (non spoiler details unless you know what I'm talking about) deafness and Peeta's head shake. I say this and then District 11 starts to revolt half a book too early. Hmmmm. But still I'm impressed I must say. And as many people as complain about it I always imagined Cinna to be African American. Ah the idea that Haymitch caused the rule change. I don't like it, I think it was done for drama I think.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Book: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Yes I have now read my first ever Dickens book, and yes I do realise that this has taken me nearly 20 years to read one of England's classic writers. What's always put me off is the idea that Dicken's books can be quite long winded and very descriptive with alot of non relevant information in them. I'm not too sure where I've got this misconception from but it was there, and thankfully  I was proved very very wrong. Dicken's characters are so well written, as is the narrative, that with a few exceptions Oliver Twist just makes you want to carry on reading and find out what happens to Oliver and to the host of other characters too.

It was sort of strange reading Oliver Twist when I have grown up watching the musical Oliver! And have even played a role in it during House Drama at my school, so I knew roughly what was happening. Other than the fact that there are a few character cuts between the book and the musical (Monks, Rose and Mrs Maylie and related characters in particular) the story is more or less the same, or the events in the musical DO all happen in the book. Part of me felt like I already knew many of the characters, though I think everyone would be familiar with the character of Fagin, I just see him portrayed as the man in the film version of the musical when I was reading the book, as well as the Artful Dodger, and even though it was irrelevant as Dickens describes him so anyway, the Dodger in my head had a long blue coat and a black top hat. Interestingly when reading the book I imagined Nancy (and so Bet too) as younger than they are portrayed in the film. and Bill Sykes in my imagination is so shady and evil that he never really took form in my head.

All in all I think that Oliver Twist is a good read, and I suspect that at some point when I have quite a bit of time on my hands I'll put my DS back on and look at the other Dickens novels (or maybe I'll branch out to a Bronte or Dumas book...)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Book: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Oh my God. If you put me in a land of fiction then it takes a lot to make me cry or even tear up (for example not a thing when Dobby died in HP) but the last third of Mockingjay almost had me actually crying, not at the particularly violent bits but how Katniss and Peeta where not good with each other, it was actually heart wrenching. And when Katniss was thinking about Prim at the end, that bit got me to.

I suppose you could say that its a happy ending, but at the same time it really isn't, bitter sweet is the term I suppose, there's not many people left at the end that were there in the beginning and the one's that are left are shown in a totally different light (i.e. Gale, though I wasn't his biggest fan in the first place, contraversial I know) and Peeta for that matter, though that wasn't exactly his fault. Though the ending, especially by dystopian standards is extremely happy (see previous reviews on 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale).

There was far more character development in this book and it really paid off on Collins' writing style, and as I said above you not only see characters in a different way but in a shocking way for some of them, even Katniss and I was inside her brain! I was particularly shocked by her vote in the end, I thought she would be against that. But the thing about Katniss was that it was clear she really loved Peeta, she really cared about getting him back to her, and whether she realised it or not that was in a romantic way as well as a you're-my-friend way,

Again I seem to have read this book, like The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, in a ridicolously short amount of time, especially considering I spent several hours plotting with my housemates on how to get our back door key back from our neighbours (we were successful) and I think, though part of that is to do with the books being very short compared to what I am used to and far less complex (i.e. Game of Thrones) but also because they are riveting, you are always wondering what will happen next, and whether or not Katniss will realise she loves Peeta, and whether they get to share their love and have a happy rest of life (something I won't tell!). Collins has created rich characters who just want to make you keep reading on!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Book: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I realise that only yesterday I was posting about The Hunger Games and whether or not to read Catching Fire however I read it yesterday, all of it. And it is so much better than The Hunger Games, mainly because the characters are all far more developped.

Still frustrating how Katniss seems to refuse to admit that she really loves Peeta, I mean we now know that Gale kissed her and that the only two kisses that have made her want more (want more quite literally now) were with Peeta, and then there's her reaction at the end of the novel that just drives home that she is in fact totally in love with Peeta (don't forget the baby ;) )

The other characters, particularly the other tributes, Finnack and Johanna, also have more depth to them than say Rue and Thresh in the previous novel and its easier to see how they can be liked/disliked.

In Catching Fire the emotions and interactions between the characters just seem more real and the story gets more complex, more like what I am used to when reading fantasy or dystopian novels. Now to get on with Mockingjay!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So I basically decided that I was going to read The Hunger Games because I've seen a lot of advertising and posts about it (particularly on tumblr) so I decided to read it even though it is a teenage book rather than an adult book. Well it arrived yesterday and I finished it yesterday. I was debating whether or not to read the sequel Catching Fire but then I realised that if a book has managed to capture my attention so much that I read it in under 12 hours then I should read the sequel.

So what Collins did well: she managed to right a long ish, captivating book centred around very few characters and make it interesting, add to that that you barely see many of the characters, it is in short ingenious, and having the readers see things from the point of view of Katniss is again a good move! That way we never know more than she does and the focus is on the awful thing that is happening to her.

Saying that the subject matter, well it's a little disturbing to be honest, children killing each other for entertainment? It seems cruel, though this is where it becomes clear that the book is aimed at younger people cause it isn't really that graphic in its descriptions of death.

The one thing that infuriated me actually further demonstrates Collins' talent as it was the fact that Katniss herself doesn't realise that she loves Peeta really and it wasn't just an act, it frustrated me to no end, however more credit goes to Collins as she just didn't go for the easy option of having Katniss deeply in love and everything all rosy at the end.

Ultimately this is a nice easy read, though there is very little of the complexity of the fantasy books I'm used to, but it really works and as a less challenging read this is brilliant, well worth a go!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My Top Ten Fantasy Fiction Characters

1. Sansa Stark - from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire I realise that little Sansa isn't really a normal top of the list for fantasy characters however her strength is undeniable and the way she handles different situations just shows that she is actually one of the strongest characters in the series, and you need to remember she's only 11 at the start! I can't wait for her to outsmart Littlefinger to be honest! To read about Sansa start with Game of Thrones.

2. Vin Venture - from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy as soon as I read about Vin I have loved her, this girl is fiesty and the story of her development as a young person, particular as a young woman myself, is very believable and her dilemas. Plus her story doesn't quite play out perfectly, which of course adds a real sense of realism. To read about Vin start with The Final Empire.

3. Auraya Dyer - from Trudi Canavan's The Age of the Five, I think I like Auraya cause I see alot of me in her, in as far as she looks kind of like me I think, and her name sounds a bit like how my little brother says it, other than that its because she is a very strong character, she goes out for what she wants and gets it and refuses to do things that are against her priciples! If you want to read about her start with Preistess of the White.

4. Arianne Martell - from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire another strange one I admit from aSoIaF but like Sansa I like Arianne because she's smart, she's strong and she's fiesty! She seems to be one of the only women in aSoIaF who actually seems to fully accept her sexuality and do something about that. I'm expecting a lot more out of her! To read about Arianne...you have a lot of reading to do start at Game of Thrones and keep going til A Feast For Crows and you'll meet her there!

5. Sonea - from Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician Triology - though she makes some mistakes (much older man = probably not right even then) she really sticks up for what she believes in and stands up for those she loves. To read about Sonea start with The Magician's Guild

6. Daenerys Targaryen -  from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire finally a less strange choice! I used to love Dany lots and she would have been in the top 5 apart from her little rest you-know-where, I just started to get frustrated with her, and some of the choices she's made, bit strange! Come on Dany get interesting again. To read about Daenerys start with Game of Thrones.

7. Jaime Lannister -  from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire ask anyone who's read up to a Dance with Dragons and they will understand why Jaime is here, he deserves to be, he is a fnatastic character and his inner turmoils just add so much more to him! And honestly I do not want him anywhere near Cersei...she is evil! Also I can hear you thinking finally a man! To read about Jaime start with Game of Thrones.

8. Elend Venture - from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy who can't love Elend, he is adorable, there are actually no real words to express his amazingness and just how completely lovable he is! To read about Elend start with The Final Empire.

9. Kahlan Amnell - from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth Series now I know most fantasy readers don't really like Goodkind's series Kahlan will always have a place in my heart (though she's slipping off the scale) as she's from the first fantasy series I read. Most of the time she is a powerful, resourceful and strong woman who doesn't need her husband, but others she seems to think she can't survive without him which ruins her slightly. To read about Kahlan start with Wizard's First Rule.

10. Jon Snow -  from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire damn it lets be predictable, though this is partly because Kit Harrington has now given me the imagination that Jon is hot! Though he is very troubled and seems to not take things as lightly as he should sometimes! Which is annoying! To read about Jon start with Game of Thrones.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Book: A Song of Ice and Fire Reread [George R.R. Martin]

Ok so I have know read all 5 books of the Song of Ice and Fire twice and now I'm about to start again (yes again) but this time I'm going to take notes and then I'll publish them according to character throughout each book! I'll look for any memorable quotes and hidden details I've not noticed before!