The Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy https://theworldsofsff.com Your journey and exploration of a thousand worlds starts here... Tue, 07 Jul 2020 17:51:55 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://theworldsofsff.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/cropped-Site-Icon-v2-2-32x32.png The Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy https://theworldsofsff.com 32 32 173071770 The Book of Dragons: An Anthology https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-book-of-dragons-an-anthology/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-book-of-dragons-an-anthology/#respond Tue, 07 Jul 2020 17:51:52 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2552 Synopsis Here there be dragons . . . From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, […]]]>

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

Here there be dragons . . .

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today— Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang—and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales. – Goodreads

Review

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

Overall this is a great collection of stories. What most impressed me about the collection as a whole was the sheer variety of genres, styles, and dragon types collected here. Usually when you have a genre/theme based anthology you get at least two or three stories similar enough that they are a little hard to distinguish between after you put the book down. No two dragons are quite alike, either, across the 23 stories presented here. Last, there was not a single piece I gave 1 star to, which is a first for me in anthology reviews.

In addition to evaluating the usual factors such as idea, plot, characters, pacing, and language use, I also considered how well dragons were used in the story and how well the story stood on its own.

Note: I did not review the poetry pieces in the book. I don’t read that much poetry so my rating for each was based purely on how much I did or did not enjoy it. I also cannot speak to the illustrations in this book as, sadly, my review copy did not include them.

🐉 Matriculation by Elle Katharine White – 3 – A well written, interesting story with a pretty cool setting. Unfortunately, it reads like the prologue of a novel so there is little satisfaction in reaching the end.

🐉 Hikayat Sri Bujang, or, The Tale of the Naga Sage by Zen Cho – 3 – This story had good imagery and the plot wasn’t bad, but the main characters could have really been any creatures (including humans with powers) with little to no change in the story.

🐉 Yuli by Daniel Abraham – 4 – A really interesting use of metaphor here and the switching back and forth between real life and a game did a great job of creating the magical realism aspect of the story.

🐉 A Whisper of Blue by Ken Liu – 5 – Fascinating. The themes of memory and forgiveness combined with the world building style create a poignant, beautiful, and utterly believable of tale of modern day dragons.

🐉 Where the River turns to Concrete by Brooke Bolander – 4 – The rarer dragon use and good pacing made for a really interesting story that felt like a real myth. The only downside is that I think the switching between time periods detracted slightly from the climax of the tale. Still one of my favorites, with a strong ending.

🐉 Habitat by K. J. Parker – 3 – A unique take on dragon reproduction will keep this a memorable story. However, the slight choppiness to the writing and a mildly generic main character keep this one at 3 stars for me.

🐉 Pox by Ellen Klages – 3 – I liked the imagery and magical realism aspects of this story. However, I don’t know how well this was will do for every reader as some of the best parts of the story rely on you having already read A Wizard of Earthsea.

🐉 The Nine Curves River by R.F. Kuang – 5 – Beautiful. The use of the 2nd person felt very natural within the context of the story, which was well-paced with memorable characters. The poignant ending was what made this really stand out for me.

🐉 Lucky’s Dragon by Kelly Barnhill – 3 – This is a cute story that would make a great middle grade read. Unfortunately in short story form the 2nd half of the tale is executed and wrapped up far too quickly.

🐉 The Exile by JY Yang – 3 – The concept and the unique dragon abilities are what I liked most about this tale, and what keep it memorable. However, the personal part of the story and the main human character were both a little generic for me to give this four stars.

🐉 Except on Saturdays by Peter S. Beagle – 2 – “Stunning, ancient and/or powerful creature is, for some inexplicably reason, interested in some generic, middle aged man. Cue waxing poetic and an obligatory “made love” scene.” While the language use and pacing are both adequate (which is why I don’t give it 1 star), its easily the most generic piece in the collection.

🐉 La Vitesse by Kelly Robson – 4 – Robson does a good job with keeping you on the edge of your seat for this one, even when she’s flashing back to previous events. The action was smoothly written and easy to visualize while reading.

🐉 The Long Walk by Kate Elliott – 5 – This is the 2nd anthology this year I’ve read where Elliott has been a stand out. She has a real talent for natural world building and memorable characters in such a short amount of space.

🐉 Cut Me Another Quill, Mister Fitz by Garth Nix – 2 – Everything about this story makes it feel like you are reading a single, random chapter in a book. It begins, slowly, by one character reminding another character of the “who, what, where, when, and why” of what the are doing, which read like a summary of a previous story or chapters. Then once the action does start, all of the “twists” are pretty obvious. Finally, the words end with the story completely unfinished.

🐉 Hoard by Seanan McGuire – 3 – This one is a unique take on the idea of dragon hoarding with a believable modern day setting. I keep it at 3 stars though, because the writing, characters, actual plot, and pacing are all simply fine.

🐉 The Last Hunt by Aliette de Bodard – 2 – de Bodard is probably my favorite new author so far this year, so I was pretty disappointed that I could not get into this tale. The combination of nonstop action and kind of confusing, vague “explanation” of why that action was happening made the story or characters difficult to become invested in.

🐉 We Continue by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky – 4.5 – This is probably the most unique of all of the stories here. It was a setting that not in a million years would I have ever thought “This – but dragons!” Having two writers to write the separate species point-of-views really helped make them distinct and accentuated the disconnect the two characters were having in a powerful way. This was a complete story that I was satisfied with at the ending, but also made me interested in reading more about the world.

🐉 Small Bird’s Plea by Todd McCaffrey – 2 – This one had some really interesting character concepts, but I felt like it was trying to do too much at once. The story doesn’t actually really explain anything and I left it with more questions than answers. Finally, I don’t think this is a good example of a dragon story, since the end is just “oh by the way here is a dragon for no real reason – could literally be any flying animal with no affect on the story.” Maybe this was supposed to be a dragon creation tale? I don’t know.

🐉 The Dragons by Theodora Goss – 3 – I know this one is technically poetry, but it read more like a story and the style added to the overall whimsical feeling of the tale. This one is probably the most feel good of all of the pieces.

🐉 Dragon Slayer by Michael Swanwick – 3 – This is the other story where I thought “okay we’re kind of pushing what is or is not a dragon story here.” I could even argue there is no dragon in this story, just a human who looks like one for a scant handful of lines. The story itself is not bad, but I honestly don’t know why this particular one was chosen for a dragon anthology, especially when Swanwick has a variety of dragon shorts to choose from.

🐉 Camouflage by Patricia A. McKillip – 3 – An interesting story (and dragon concept) that is hindered slightly by its messy, unclear ending.

🐉 We Don’t Talk About the Dragon by Sarah Gailey – 3 – An interesting concept, but the repetitive nature of the writing style chosen here, even though it serves a purpose, keeps this one from being one of the better tales.

🐉 Maybe Just Go Up There and Talk to It by Scott Lynch – 3 – I don’t normally like Lynch’s writing, but this was a pretty neat story. The modern day setting was easily believable and the ending is a good example of an open-ended short story.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-book-of-dragons-an-anthology/feed/ 0 2552
Cinderella Is Dead https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/cinderella-is-dead/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/cinderella-is-dead/#respond Tue, 07 Jul 2020 00:56:54 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2780 Synopsis It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard […]]]>

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them. – Goodreads

Review

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

One the on hand there is no argument that this is one of, if not THE, most original adaption of Cinderella you’ll ever come across.

On the other hand, the execution of these really original ideas left a lot to be desired. First was the world building. The whole of it is being told they live in a generic medieval town and then the first 20% of the book is Sophia having – in essence – the exact same conversation over and over and over again with the people around her. The plot was also (aside from one twist) so incredibly obvious that by the 75% mark I was simply frustrated that the characters still hadn’t figured out what the king was doing.

Finally, the characters. Well I appreciated Sophia’s headstrong attitude, there is little more than that to set her apart from the other characters. Most of the characters are defined, almost solely, by their response to the King’s treatment of them. The romance was also hard to buy into when Sophia is ready to die for Erin, but then completely in love with Constance two weeks later. Constance and Sophia, both “change things” response types, felt like the same person for much of the book.

While I would not say that this is a bad book, and I was able to read it fairly quickly, all of these issues combined to make this a difficult read to become invested in.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/cinderella-is-dead/feed/ 0 2780
The Daevabad Trilogy 03: The Empire of Gold https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-daevabad-trilogy-03-the-empire-of-gold/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-daevabad-trilogy-03-the-empire-of-gold/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2020 20:33:43 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2711 Synopsis Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To […]]]>

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.

Review

Thanks to NetGalley for a providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I probably liked this book least in the series, but I think for the reasons that most people are going to be very happy with the conclusion of the trilogy. I was disappointed to see this adult book series that deals with difficult topics and a bloody war conclude with a very neat & tidy Disney ending. I’m sure many readers will be thrilled that all the main characters have happy endings, but for me it came off as incredibly unrealistic. And Manizheh, who had been a nuanced villain in the previous book, just becomes a charactercher of evil in this one. I am glad this was the last book as Chakraborty’s own established (very interesting) magic rules were starting to become pretty fuzzy around the edges to conveniently keep characters around.

I also wasn’t thrilled with some of the “big reveals” in this book because they just undid previous ones. I find using a reveal that goes like this: “Remember how you thought A, but then discovered it was B? Ha! It was really C all along!” to be on the lazier side of writing. I found one of the reveals that did this to be particularly irritating as the only purpose it seemed to serve was to further the “Nahri is actually perfect” narrative.

I think this could have been a really powerful story if Chakraborty had been able to commit to more difficult decisions for her characters. However, I will say that she did do a good job of closing this chapter of Daevabad while leaving it naturally open for another series and I would not necessarily be against reading that.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-daevabad-trilogy-03-the-empire-of-gold/feed/ 0 2711
Wheel of Time 06: Lord of Chaos https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/wheel-of-time-06-lord-of-chaos/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/wheel-of-time-06-lord-of-chaos/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2020 18:04:50 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2758 Synopsis On the slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Myrddraal swords are forged, and the sky is not the sky of this world… In Salidar the White Tower in exile prepares an embassy to Caemlyn, where Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, holds the throne — and where an unexpected visitor may change the world… In Emond’s […]]]>

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

On the slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Myrddraal swords are forged, and the sky is not the sky of this world…

In Salidar the White Tower in exile prepares an embassy to Caemlyn, where Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, holds the throne — and where an unexpected visitor may change the world…

In Emond’s Field, Perrin Goldeneyes, Lord of the Two Rivers, feels the pull of ta’veren to ta’veren and prepares to march…

Morgase of Caemlyn finds a most unexpected, and quite unwelcome, ally…

And south lies Illian, where Sammael holds sway… – Goodreads

Review

Reading this book felt like watching someone put a chess game together for 40 hours – not playing a chess game, but just setting it up. For the first 500 pages, I kept having to remind myself of what actually happened that was important, and kept coming up with a pretty small list of events. The second half picks up in pace a touch, but still there is no getting around the fact that this book is 800+ pages of set up and the meat of the story can be condescend down into a handful of paragraphs.

Between the achingly slow pace, juvenile relationship drama, and the non-stop comments about how much the other gender sucks, I fully understand why many people stop at this book in the series.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/wheel-of-time-06-lord-of-chaos/feed/ 0 2758
Bloodsounder’s Arc 03: Chains of the Heretic https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/bloodsounders-arc-03-chains-of-the-heretic/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/bloodsounders-arc-03-chains-of-the-heretic/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:47:39 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2751 Bloudsounder's Arc Chains of the HereticThis is the second guest review by James from The Fantasy Hive as part of Readers Without Borders. Bloodsounder’s Arc Review   I am so glad to have finally finished this series, which is definitely one of my favourites and a proper hidden gem as well. I was lucky to see good reviews of it […]]]> Bloudsounder's Arc Chains of the Heretic

This is the second guest review by James from The Fantasy Hive as part of Readers Without Borders.

Bloodsounder’s Arc Review  

I am so glad to have finally finished this series, which is definitely one of my favourites and a proper hidden gem as well. I was lucky to see good reviews of it in my online circles, and finally got my hands on the first book two years ago. Right from the start of Scourge of the Betrayer, I knew this would be a series for me. Small-scale to the point of myopia, it is the first-person narrative of a scribe recruited to document the activities of a company of rough, tough, and deadly soldiers on a secret mission. The end of the second book expanded the scope considerably, as the soldiers returned to their empire to be caught up in political upheaval, leaving the third with a lot of heavy lifting left to do.

Which may be part of why it’s fully twice as long as the first book!

For me, the series stands out for a few reasons. First, the narrative is not only focused on a few characters, but documents most of their actions in some detail, rarely skipping days or hand-waving through off-page events. This works best in the first book-and-a-half, when the company was on their own, engaged in small-scale actions and subtle subterfuges. When events start to grow in scale and scope, it can make for slightly uneven pacing, and the final climax seems particularly rushed – but macroscopic events aren’t really the point of the series. In contrast to more sprawling epics, the limited scope forced by the single POV works really well for me. Yes, there are times when the excuse to bring the non-combatant narrator along to witness key events seems a little stretched – but never too far, I think.

The other key component, critical for a series of such tight focus, is the vibrant characters – and again, the central cast is quite small. The protagonist is Captain Braylar Killcoin, the company’s irascible but eloquent leader, who carries the double-headed flail, Bloodsounder, so pivotal in their fate. The series is aptly named Bloodsounder’s Arc, and concludes with the end of his story. Arki, the narrator, is important in events but, realistically, never turns into some prodigious YA hero. Keeping him in his place are the bickering officers, chiefly the foul-mouthed Mulldoos, sagacious Hewspear, down-to-earth Vendurro, and, in the third book, the man-mountain Azmorgon. Their banter and interplay is the critical ingredient making the barely edited documentary a joy rather than a slog.

There are also a few women in the mix, though this is perhaps where the series falls down a bit, because, with the exception of the captain’s memory-wizard sister, there seems to be a limit of one per book as far as the main cast goes. I liked the one in the first book, best, I think. Still, events mean that they do get the last word, even if a lot of it is off the page.

Another stand-out aspect is the action – of which there is plenty. This is thoroughly a “military fantasy”, but less one about grand strategies and tactics and more about the soldiering life and the chaos of small-scale action. Arms and armour are realistically depicted, as far as I can tell, with armour actually working as intended a lot of the time – no plate-slicing swords here. Neither are there invincible heroes who can take out scores of the enemy on their own (memory wizards aside), rather the odds always seem properly weighted and wounds matter. 

As far as things like worldbuilding and larger plots go, the series does an understated job with both. While sticking to a degree of realism, the fantastical flourishes – like memory magic and the all-important Godsveil – are imaginative and well done. There are also evocative hints at a wider world beyond the somewhat cramped map the action takes place in. However, until about the last fifth of the second book, we’ve only seen a few dusty villages and one medieval city. From there on into this third book, things become a lot more Epic in scope and content – and, at first, if I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed to lose that uniquely tight focus. However, by the conclusion – even if it was a bit rushed – it won me back wholeheartedly.

And when you finally get to see beyond the Veil, it’s definitely worth it.

Hopefully the third of my book threes will finish my readathon trilogy as well as this Chains of the Heretic rounded off Bloodsounder’s Arc.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/bloodsounders-arc-03-chains-of-the-heretic/feed/ 0 2751
Ack-Ack Macaque 03: Macaque Attack! https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/ack-ack-macaque-03-macaque-attack/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/ack-ack-macaque-03-macaque-attack/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:40:56 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2748 Macaque AttackThis is the first guest review by James from The Fantasy Hive as part of Readers Without Borders. For those who missed it, I’ve joined the #ReadersWithoutBorders charity readathon for June, all in aid of Doctors Without Borders. The readathon is the brainchild of J D Roberts at The World of SFF, and simply consists […]]]> Macaque Attack

This is the first guest review by James from The Fantasy Hive as part of Readers Without Borders.

For those who missed it, I’ve joined the #ReadersWithoutBorders charity readathon for June, all in aid of Doctors Without Borders. The readathon is the brainchild of J D Roberts at The World of SFF, and simply consists of a personal reading challenge and, for those with blogs, a blog post or two about it.  

My reading challenge was to read three books that are the third book in a series (#3book3s), and in my introductory post I highlighted four candidates – of which I’ve now finished one.

Review

Gareth L Powell is one of the UK’s best (and nicest) science fiction writers, and his current space opera trilogy, Embers of War, has received deserved praise from far and wide (see my review). His previous trilogy was an entirely different beast – in fact, a monkey.  

Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar-chomping, gun-toting, Spitfire-piloting monkey with a bad attitude and a troubled existence. First appearing in a short story, then a comic, Ack-Ack is a larger-than-life character immediately demanding more adventures – but can a cartoonish monkey sustain a sci-fi trilogy from an author looking to fill the shoes of Iain M Banks?  

The answer, wrapped up in this third volume, is a qualified yes. The universe Powell creates for the monkey to play in is a veritable dumping ground of ideas – that somehow works – and each book builds on the last to create greater challenges and explore bigger ideas. Because, make no mistake, this is proper sci-fi and not just comic-book shenanigans (though it is that, too – and it would make a great anime).   

Starting with a steam/diesel-punk-ish alternate near-future, we expand to a multiverse of parallel worlds – each with villains for the monkey and his friends to fight. There are human protagonists, too, rest assured, from the cybernetically-enhanced crusader Victoria Valois, to the rebel Prince Merovech, to K8 the hacker and even Victoria’s dead husband, preserved as a computer programme. The books deal with themes of reality/virtuality, individuality, responsibility, and, at the core, humanity – because what else could a book starring a monkey be about?  

The third book continues the blend of fun action, deep themes, and a dash of pathos – there is a world-weariness to the characters that infects the series, despite their energy and unflagging willingness to keep on fighting. They need it, too, because Powell keeps giving them truly terrifying enemies – even, I think, throwing in some from one of his other books. This originally mystified me, coming as a bit of a shock, but it all comes together in the end, just about. Ending a series is hard, but I was glad I stuck this one out, and I’m sad to see it go.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/ack-ack-macaque-03-macaque-attack/feed/ 0 2748
The Last Kingdom 04: Sword Song https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-04-sword-song/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-04-sword-song/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:31:59 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2744 Sword SongThe year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children—and a duty to King Alfred to hold the […]]]> Sword Song

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and the Saxon kingdom of Wessex in the south. Warrior by instinct and Viking by nature, Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, has land, a wife and children—and a duty to King Alfred to hold the frontier on the Thames. But a dead man has risen, and new Vikings have invaded the decayed Roman city of London with dreams of conquering Wessex… with Uhtred’s help. Suddenly forced to weigh his oath to the king against the dangerous turning tide of shifting allegiances and deadly power struggles, Uhtred—Alfred’s sharpest sword—must now make the choice that will determine England’s future.

Goodreads, Synopsis

Review

Sitting down to write this review I’m beginning to forget where one book ends, and another starts since it such a wonderful continuous story. I’m also blurring lines with the TV show. If you’ve read my previous reviews of the series, you’ll know I really like the TV show, it’s one of my favourites, but the books are richer in details and character development.  

One thing I haven’t mentioned in previous reviews is how this story is written with Uhtred acting as a narrator, looking back on his life, and offering perspective. This is one of the reasons the books are so rich, Uhtred’s reflection on events in his life are written with hindsight.  

In a time of tentative peace, Uhtred is his usual unapologetic, ruthless, merciless self, but we love him because he’s so genuine. Even being how he is there is still some element of a code, he follows his heart and doesn’t care who he offends or displeases when doing something for somebody he cares about or believes in.  

The side characters are, as usual, very strong and I love Aethelflaed, dislike her husband, just like in the show. Aethelflaed’s experience throughout this book is captivating… I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’ll leave it at that. The development of all side character though is wonderful.  

Battle scenes is very realistic and chilling at times, Cornwell has such a wonderful way of writing. Battle scenes in some books can be dull, boring, and somewhat repetitive, they are not my favourite sections to read but Corwell is a master at writing them, as I have come to expect. He also does a wonderful job of mixing up situations, placing characters in interesting situation with meaningful decisions to make. His writing is vivid, and you really get engrossed.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-04-sword-song/feed/ 0 2744
The Last Kingdom 03: Lords of the North https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-03-lords-of-the-north/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-03-lords-of-the-north/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:27:40 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2740 Lords of the NorthThe third instalment in Bernard Cornwell’s King Alfred series, following on from the outstanding previous novels The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, both of which were top ten bestsellers. The year is 878 and Wessex is free from the Vikings. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but […]]]> Lords of the North

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third instalment in Bernard Cornwell’s King Alfred series, following on from the outstanding previous novels The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman, both of which were top ten bestsellers. The year is 878 and Wessex is free from the Vikings. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred’s lack of generosity and repelled by the king’s insistent piety. He flees Wessex, going back north to seek revenge for the killing of his foster father and to rescue his stepsister, captured in the same raid. He needs to find his old enemy, Kjartan, a renegade Danish lord who lurks in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm. Uhtred arrives in the north to discover rebellion, chaos and fear. His only ally is Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and his best hope is his sword, with which he has made a formidable reputation as a warrior. He will need the assistance of other warriors if he is to attack Dunholm and he finds Guthred, a slave who believes he is a king. He takes him across the Pennines to where a desperate alliance of fanatical Christians and beleaguered Danes form a new army to confront the terrible Viking lords who rule Northumbria. ‘The Lords of the North’ is a powerful story of betrayal, romance and struggle, set in an England of turmoil, upheaval and glory. Uhtred, a Northumbrian raised as a Viking, a man without lands, a warrior without a country, has become a splendid heroic figure.

Goodreads, Synopsis

Review

Lords of the North is the third book in the series and is where season 2 of the show kicks off. For those familiar with the show there is more similarity between the show and this book than with the previous two books. Again, the book is more detailed, and the characters are as Cornwell intended them and not change to fit the narrative of the show.  

The story begins after the Danes have been defeated (a battle considerably different in the book than the show) and with Uhtred frustrated by Alfred’s lack of generosity and acknowledgement for his achievements. Uhtred goes north, towards both Bebbanburg and Kjartan, who is in Dunholm. He travels with Hild and they have a different type of relationship than in the TV show, which changes the dynamic.  

Along his journey, Uhtred knows he will need an army, and after he rescues Guthred, who is then proclaimed king in the region… Uhtred has access to an army, though betrayal and broken promises are again rife. An aspect very different in the show compared to the book is the strength of the ‘Lords of the North’ and the dynamic. In the show Uhtred’s uncle is portrayed as weak and at the behest of the Danes, however, in the book he is painted a somebody of strength with Bennanburg being impenetrable. Furthermore, Ivar’s son, Ivar Ivarsson, is a lord of strength in the region, alongside Kjartan who completes the trinity of powerful lords. This adds another layer of intrigue that the show doesn’t have.  

Without giving away events that happen in the book, again the role of various characters is different, as are the reasons for some actions, such as Alfred’s reason to rescue Uhtred at a certain point.  

This is another fine instalment and highly recommended. In my review of book 2 I mentioned I may decide not to read all 12 books because the TV show is only up to book 8, and I’ve decided I will only read to book 8. The reason being that the books have far more detail, therefore, if I watch future seasons of the show having already read the books, I think the shows will be a let-down. Therefore, I plan to watch the future shows before reading beyond book 8.

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/the-last-kingdom-03-lords-of-the-north/feed/ 0 2740
Skysworn (Cradle #4) by Will Wight https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/skysworn-cradle-4-by-will-wight/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/skysworn-cradle-4-by-will-wight/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 11:12:12 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2737 SkyswornThis is a guest review by David from FanFiAddict as part of Readers Without Borders. With his duel fast approaching, Lindon is locked away in prison. As a Blackflame, he is too dangerous to remain free. The Skysworn, protectors of the Empire, have imprisoned him to keep him under control until the day of his […]]]> Skysworn

This is a guest review by David from FanFiAddict as part of Readers Without Borders.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

With his duel fast approaching, Lindon is locked away in prison.

As a Blackflame, he is too dangerous to remain free. The Skysworn, protectors of the Empire, have imprisoned him to keep him under control until the day of his promised fight arrives.

When it does, he will face Jai Long.

But a new danger approaches the Empire, closer every day. Only the Skysworn stand between the people of the land and total annihilation.

And Lindon may be forced to join them.

Goodreads, synopsis

Review

“Eithan looked from his enemy’s weapon to his own. “Longhook, is it? You can call me Tiny Scissors.”

This was an excellent continuation to the Cradle series. Narrator Travis Baldree was once again masterful in voicing each and every character and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

Lindon got some character development! In part because there isn’t as much focus on Lindon’s power advancement in this one, Will Wight was able to give Lindon’s character some more focus and add to his personality. We were able to see more of how Lindon cares about those around him. Before this book, as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Lindon was pretty one-sided as a character. He was focused on his training and power progression and that was pretty much his whole personality. In this one we get a few glimpses into more of who Lindon is outside of being a Sacred Artist and that was really nice to see.

As usual, the side characters stole the spotlight from Lindon. Eithan was spectacular. At times funny, mysterious, and intimidating, Eithan is my favorite character in this series so far. Then there is Yerin, Lindon’s best friend. We get to see more of her past and therefore get more character development from her than in any other book. We are also able to see more of Orthos and the mentor role that he has with Lindon. This was a book that was much more focused on character development than the last three and it really improved the series as a whole.

“He is looking to stand out by provoking one of the Empire’s villains in front of everyone,” the turtle said, not bothering to keep his voice down. Everyone heard. “He is not confident enough in his results to let them speak for him, so he has to distinguish himself in another way. He is the weakest sort of scavenger, crawling along the bottom and looking for scraps. Crush him.”

Book 3, Blackflame did a lot to advance the world building of this series. However, Skysworn managed to not only expand the world even more than Blackflame did, but also increased the stakes as we are able to see more of the threat against the entire world of Cradle. Events transpire that threaten the very existence of the clans that populate this world. The tension and epic-ness this created were both boons to a series that felt somewhat small in scope previously.

“If I have to choose between disappointing you or my disciple…well, I’m sorry, but I don’t like you very much.”

The action was, as always, incredibly well written. The unique and creative usage of the Sacred Arts magic system for each book makes every battle unpredictable and so much fun to imagine. We are learning the magic systems as our protagonists are learning about it and that makes it all the more enjoyable. I said recently that as far as entertainment value goes, the Sacred Arts ranks right up there with Mistborn’s Allomancy in my eyes and I stand by that. There is just so much to learn and so many ways this magic system can be used to make the story even better than it already is.

I continue to highly recommend this series. Although, Blackflame was my favorite of the series so far, Skysworn was right up there with it. Will Wight continues to make improvements as he goes along and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do with the rest of the series!

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/skysworn-cradle-4-by-will-wight/feed/ 0 2737
Why You Should Read the Cradle Series by Will Wight https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/why-you-should-read-the-cradle-series-by-will-wight/ https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/why-you-should-read-the-cradle-series-by-will-wight/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 10:58:54 +0000 https://theworldsofsff.com/?p=2734 Cradle Series Fan ArtFeatured image is fan art by Vchristart This is a guest post by David from FanFiAddict as part of Readers WIthout Borders. “When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.” I have fallen 3 reviews behind on this series because of reading it so fast (7 books in 22 days). […]]]> Cradle Series Fan Art

Featured image is fan art by Vchristart

This is a guest post by David from FanFiAddict as part of Readers WIthout Borders.

“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

I have fallen 3 reviews behind on this series because of reading it so fast (7 books in 22 days). I finished the last published book in this planned 12 book series today and I have a strong need to talk about this series that has become my favorite self published series of all time!

I have probably about 15- 20 series that I have read in my life that have just completely gripped me. Series that stole away any desire to read anything else and I couldn’t stop thinking about until I turned the last page. The Cradle series is one of them. A series that destroyed my TBR for this month so thoroughly that I havent picked up a book in my planned TBR since I started book 2. Why you ask? Well here. we. go!

“He is not confident enough in his results to let them speak for him, so he has to distinguish himself in another way. He is the weakest sort of scavenger, crawling along the bottom and looking for scraps. Crush him.”

Magic System

I’ve been told by a fellow book blogger that the Cradle magic system is inspired quite a bit by Shonen style manga and in particular, Naruto. If you are a fan of that type of Manga, you will probably love this series. However, I came into this series blind about those things. I had never watched or read Naruto or any other Shonen manga. Perhaps because of my lack of knowledge beforehand, I not only enjoyed the magic of the Sacred Arts, but it blew me away. At first, I was a bit skeptical. Everyone seemed to have some level of Sacred Arts ability. How could that hold my interest? How could magic that is so common in this world hold enough mystery, intrigue, and wonder to keep me interested? I had nothing to worry about.

If you are a lover of complex, methodical magic systems with differing branches of study and ways to implement the magic then this series is for you. In the 7 books that are published up until this point we are able to see the earned power progression of our main characters. We get to learn alongside them as they are mentored, challenged, and thrive as they dig deeper and let nothing stop them from reaching further than ever before. The two main characters’ single minded intensity and determination to grow stronger and stronger reminded me a lot of Goku and Vegeta from the Dragonball anime series (haven’t read the manga). It is fascinating to grow in understanding of the Sacred Arts as they do while still looking up to see how far they will eventually go.

“He drew himself up as though proud to be asked the question. “Young lady, I am the greatest janitor in all existence. I am the son of a janitor, last in a long line of janitors that stretch all the way back to the Sage of Brooms…and beyond!”

Characters

Speaking of the characters, there has been some comments that this series struggles a bit with character development, specifically with Lindon who is the main character. Though I must admit I would love to see more character development from Lindon to make him a more well rounded character, the other characters that are mainstays in this series pick up a lot of the slack. Eithan is a masterful character and my favorite in the series. When we first start out with him he is a very mysterious character and although we learn more about him here and there throughout the series there are still so many questions I want answered. Eithan also brings a sense of humor to the story that is so fun and sorely needed as the two main characters are quite serious most of the time.

That leads me to talking about Yerin. Yerin is a complex, female sacred artist who is determined above all else to prove herself. She is very compelling as we are able to delve into her past, see emotional moments, and grow with her throughout the series. There have also been a few other additions to the series including Little Blue, Dross, Mercy, and Northstrider that have me really intrigued and invested in their fates. All in all, the characters in this series are excellent and easy to get attached to.

Worldbuilding

The first two books in this series are quite foundational. They are somewhat slower paced (slower compared to the rest of the books anyway) as we learn about the world and our characters. However, as the books progress we start to learn more about the world as a whole. We learn about the different clans throughout the world and although they have similar views on pride and honor, they are all very unique and well done. Each clan has its own way of practicing the Sacred Arts and different traditions and values outside of the magic system that is central to their world. We also learn of the threat that is being faced by the most powerful beings in the Cradle universe. We get snippets of what is being done to combat that threat and how it will affect the lives of the characters that are followed throughout the series.

An Underdog Story

I am a sucker for the underdog trope in fantasy. Give me a character that has seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome and I will eat that right up. From the first few pages of book 1 we are able to see that Lindon is viewed as less than in his clan. He is viewed as basically worthless by most of his clan because he is born without a specific affinity for the Sacred Arts. Everyone’s value in this society is largely based on how powerful of a Sacred Artist each person is so someone who does not have this affinity is viewed as shameful, weak, and a useless waste of resources. Although Lindon has his flaws he is determined to overcome them and throughout the series we are able to see to what lengths he is willing to go to achieve his goals. Lindon is also a very likable character in my opinion so it is really easy to cheer for him as he battles his way through this harsh and unforgiving world. He never grows bitter towards those who have bullied him and made him feel like dirt. Rather, he uses those hardships as fuel for the fire to keep him going and be the best he can possibly be.

Addicitive

This series is incredibly fast paced at times and very addictive. As I stated above I finished all 7 published books in a little over 3 weeks and that is really fast for me. The action sequences are intense and get more and more riveting as the characters’ power increases and we are able to see more abilities and techniques of the Sacred Arts. The stakes are also continuing to be raised throughout the series as we learn about the global and imminent threat that is coming. This series is the very definition of a page turner that will leave you gasping for breath and at the same time wanting more. An adrenaline filled thrill ride of a series!

The last thing I want to say is READ. THIS. SERIES. I read it on audiobook and I can say that Travis Baldree does a phenomenal job of bringing the world to life and giving each individual character a unique voice. I love it so much and I cannot wait until the next book, Wintersteel, comes out. I have included links for the first book, Unsouled, below. The whole series’ kindle ebooks are also on Kindle Unlimited!

]]>
https://theworldsofsff.com/2020/why-you-should-read-the-cradle-series-by-will-wight/feed/ 0 2734