Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Review

Let me start by saying, Piranesi is best when gone into blind. The less you know the better. It’s short so there is little time wasted if you end up not liking it, I suggest you just go and read it. It’s great.

The briefest synopsis I can give, is that we are reading the journal entries of a man who inhabits a world he refers to as the house. This is a huge building full of labyrinthine halls and classical statues. There are tides of water that flow through these halls like multiple ocean tides. That’s all I’m going to say.

Clarke builds a wonderful character and a world that is atmospheric in a beautifully haunting way. The epistolary format works well, and allows us to learn with our protagonist without it feeling cheap that he knows more than us. As the story progresses we get to slowly knit together what we know and deconstruct the mysteries of this world.

I really don’t want to say anymore about this book. Just read it and find out for yourself.

Seriously…

5 stars

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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson Review

The Rithmatist was Sanderson’s first foray into fantasy for a young adult audience. It follows Joel, a student who longs to be a Rithmatist however has no magical ability. Rithmatics is a great scientific hard magic system that Sanderson has become known for. It is a system based on chalk drawings of geometric patterns that are infused with magical essence. Joel is a chalk maker’s son who has longed to be a Rithmatist his entire life but was not endowed with the ability at the age of eight when it manifests in those who have the ability. Ever since, he has studied Rithmatics as an interested but incapable pupil, but now he gets embroiled in a plot high above his pay grade.

This is the first non-cosmere Sanderson I have read, and the world building was interesting. The way real world places are used but almost with an alternate history feel is a fun twist. The almost steampunk, clockwork elements also added a fun technological side to this fantasy world. In many ways this felt like Sanderson light to me, a single viewpoint character limited some of his usual shenanigans but did lead to it being a nice and tightly plotted story. It lacked much of his typical sprawling storylines, but had a nice streamlined plot.

Through most of this book I enjoyed following Joel, and the story pushed forward with good side characters and an understandable motive for all our characters. Where this book really picks up is the final third, the pace quickens and resolves very satisfactorily for me. It does finish with a reasonably self contained conclusion, however I am very much longing for a sequel.

All in all, this was a good enjoyable YA book that has me interested for me in this world.

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The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab Review

The invisible life of Addie Larue follows the story of it’s eponymous main character. Raised in 18th century France, Addie makes a faustian bargain and is cursed with both immortality and an inability to make a lasting impression. This mainly shows itself in the fact that nobody remembers her, as long as she is interacting with someone all is normal, if they turn away for too long however they will not remember her at all.

Let me start by saying that I wanted to love this book, the premise is really interesting and by a quarter of the way in I thought this may be a new favourite. The way Schwab sets Addie up at the beginning makes her both interesting and likeable. We have two different times in which we follow Addie, ostensibly the past and the present. This allows us to see her in the present day even as we are still unravelling her backstory, and man is there a lot to unravel. Addie is an intriguing character, I felt like as we grew to know her and understand her more I really did learn to love her. She is characterised particularly well and I feel that her curse is incredibly well realised, more well realised than nearly any other curse I have read.

Now to be honest, this is a book about Addie Larue, and her character is almost the entirety of what kept me reading this book. She hooked me early on and that was really enough for me to plough through this story pretty fast.  

Unfortunately, this book never quite reached the high expectations that the beginning had created for it. The middle part does start to meander, as other characters become bigger parts of the story the pacing struggles to accommodate them. Even when we are with Addie, her flashback chapters slow down and don’t really focus where I would have liked them too. They are heavily skewed to the earlier section of her life which definitely means we get some very barebones looks at her later life. Even with the pacing slowed right down it was still interesting enough however. 

The other characters that are introduced later on, create issues other than just the pacing. Being real, I just didn’t care much for them. They felt predictable and a little bland. The big reveal for one of these characters in the middle of the book was super obvious as well, which in itself is not a problem, except that it felt like I was meant to be surprised. Thankfully towards the end we get a lot more focus on Addie and I think Schwab sticks the landing pretty well.

One other thing that annoyed me was how the magic worked in this world. There is one particular issue with how it was implemented. For most people I don’t think it will be a problem, but being generous I would call this a plot convenience, being mean it’s a plot hole. Now I know we are talking devils and curses, this is a soft magic system and we don’t need rigorous rules however I wouldn’t mind a little consistency.

Considering all the negatives I have just expounded upon, you may be surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Addie as a character is just wonderful, and to be honest I could read her story in far greater detail. Unfortunately this is not the case for some of the other characters, where I could have dealt with a lot less detail.

Overall an interesting premise with decent execution and a main character I loved. 

4 Stars

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown Review

Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising series, so proceed with caution if you have not read Red Rising, spoilers to follow.

Following on a couple of years after the conclusion of Red Rising, Golden Son picks up with Darrow at the academy, a higher education facility. He is still in the position he earned in the finale of Red Rising and we follow him in his continued fight to free the low colours from the tyranny of the golds.

All in all, Pierce Brown does a good job of continuing to build up many of the characters we grew to love in the first book. Darrow does continue as a little bit of a Gary Stu, that doesn’t bother me at all but it might hamper your enjoyment depending on how you feel about that.

Golden Son excels at opening up the world, or in this case the universe. We are given a much broader view of the world Brown has created, and Darrow gets more involved in things way above his head, and his pay grade. This opening up of the world does the series a world of good, moving from the more self contained story of Red Rising.

Overall I’m not absolutely in love with this book, I felt the way Darrow’s motivations were dealt with actually became more hamfisted, as they were attempting to be expanded. However that is a small nitpick in an otherwise enjoyable sequel.

4 stars

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The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham Review

Keep an eye out for a spoiler free, ‘Why you should read the Long Price Quartet’

This review contains spoilers for books 1-3 of the Long Price Quartet.

Seriously, spoilers for the previous books, you have been warned.

The Price of Spring is the conclusion to Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet. This follows a decade and a half after the end of An Autumn War, and is dealing with the fallout of the failed binding that happened at its conclusion.

Maati is still in exile, working to bring back the Andat. In contrast Otah on the other hand is trying to fix things through political dealings. This puts them somewhat at odds.

Abraham constraints his viewpoints in the final book, and I found it an interesting decision. Excluding prologue and epilogue we are only given two viewpoint characters. In a book where the stakes have become so high I feel this decision to focus on Maati and Otah really helped ground the story, and gave us a real personal insight into each side. It really does feel like we have grown with these characters over the years and it’s hard to see the divergence in their lives.

I do believe that this series functions incredibly well as a series. By that I mean that although each book is a self contained story, each sequel manages to retroactively improve the previous books. For example, A Shadow in Summer, for me was a great story, however it has only improved as we have understood more of our characters and as we see the ripple effects of their actions. This is even more the case with the secondary characters, we may not have seen someone for a whole book, and yet when they reappear they have aged and changed but they are still the same person. I have never seen an author follow characters over such a long time with a feeling of aging that felt so real, and that caused me to empathise with them to this level.

However, in many aspects this book isn’t as strong as An Autumn War in terms of a single book. However, as a conclusion to this series I think The Price of Spring does an admirable job. It brought a year to my eyes several times and manages to bring things to an end very well. For anyone who wasn’t sold on the first few books, this conclusion won’t change anything. For all those who loved the earlier books, I feel this is a conclusion that will satisfy.

This brought an end to a series I have thoroughly enjoyed, ending it with a solid entry. This was hovering between a 4.5 or 5 star rating. However on reflection, with the way this book makes the earlier entries even better on reflection, I’m going to round up.

5 stars

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An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham Review

An Autumn War is the penultimate book in the long price quartet. With this entry Abraham had solidified my love for this series. This book was one of the hardest hitting books I have ever read, it has left me dreading the conclusion of this series for all the right reasons.

Resuming fourteen years after the conclusion of A Betrayal in Winter, we again follow a mixed cast of characters, some we have met before others that are new to us. With one of these new characters we finally get a viewpoint from the ‘enemy’. We are introduced to Balasar Gice a Galtic general, Abraham does a wonderful job humanising Gice to the point that it is hard to root against him, and in many ways I agreed with Gice and his motives.

Without diving too deeply into the plot, there are some brilliantly handled themes running through this book. Parenthood is explored from a few angles which hit particularly hard for me, responsibility and ownership of our flaws also ran throughout. These themes never felt heavy handed but seemed to flow naturally from the characters’ experience.

I think An Autumn War does a brilliant job using the character work and foreshadowing of the previous books to give us a deep connection to what’s happening. It doesn’t feel the need to heavily hammer home it’s points, it subtly allows us to infer emotion because we have grown up with many of the characters.

Also, that ending…

This is the best book of the three so far, it has left me eager to continue while also dreading what is to come. This series is definitely going to be slotting into my top ten series of all time.

5 stars.

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A Study in Brimstone by GS Denning Review

A Study in Brimstone is the first book in the Warlock Holmes series. As you may have inferred the premise is rather simple, it’s an urban fantasy Sherlock Holmes but instead of using reason, logic, and deduction, Holmes uses arcane means to solve some of the more mysterious cases plaguing London.

This first entry is a novella followed by five short stories, to be honest, it hit a real sweet spot for me. I remember vividly listening to Sherlock Holmes stories as a child, while in the car on holiday. They were audiobooks that we as a whole family could partake in and enjoy. Denning managed to give me a large hit of nostalgia while bringing a humorous and fantastical take to the stories. For fans of the Dresden files, these short stories really felt similar to the short story collections that have been released by Jim Butcher, just replacing Harry and Murphy, with Sherlock (Warlock) and Watson.

I find it hard to separate this book from my nostalgia for Sherlock and my love of the early Dresden books. For me it was just a wonderful joyous jaunt through a mystical Victorian London. Often funny and more often ridiculous this was just great fun.

If you love fun urban fantasy and you love Sherlock Holmes, I think you will like this. I have seen nobody talk about this and I find that… (excuse the pun) criminal.

4 Stars

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone Review

This will be a short review for a short book.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a Sci-fi novella following two agents from opposing agencies who travel through the braids of time in an ever expanding time war. It begins when one agent leaves a letter for their opposition and we follow as they continue to converse throughout many times and ages.

This is a beautifully written novella, and I can totally understand how it won a Hugo award. The prose is beautiful, poetic, and lyrical, and yet it never lost me or felt clunky. As a writing exercise this was incredibly well realised.

On the other hand, I felt the prose was what pulled me through much more than the characters or the plot. I felt very little for our characters because of who they were or what they did. Any emotion I felt was nearly entirely down to a character telling me how I should feel in a letter. The fact that this book still managed to make me feel for the characters, shows just how effective the prose was. Really though I would have liked to be more present as things happened rather than getting a retrospective through an epistle.

A beautiful book, but maybe not the most beautiful story if that makes any sense at all?

3.5 stars

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February 2021 Wrap-up

The stats.
Books read: 11
Series started: 5
Series finished: 2
Average star rating: 4.1

Genre Breakdown.
Fantasy: 9
Sci-Fi:1
Non-Fiction: 1

So February has been a good reading month for me, in terms of both quantity and quality. Eleven books is above my average monthly total by quite a large amount. This was helped by tackling a few shorter books, as well as the fact that most of the books I read were just really good. If a book is good I will read it faster. Reviews for all the books I read this month are available here on my blog.


The highs



So the best things I read this month were a culmination of nearly a year of reading. I finished the last two books of The Wheel of Time, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. What a journey that has been. This series has the ability to inspire, enrapture, and delight, whilst being equally capable of causing frustration, boredom and annoyance. Thankfully the latter three of those being rarer for me than the former. The Wheel of Time is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. It’s flawed in some odd ways and is definitely showing its age a little in places, but the journey we go on with our cast of characters is unrivalled by anything I have read. Sanderson did an admirable job finishing Jordan’s epic series, a series that is currently my favourite series of all time. I can’t say enough about how much I loved the concluding books to The Wheel of Time.


The lows




My lowest rated book this month was Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I know this is a favourite of many people, unfortunately it just didn’t work for me. The characters didn’t feel real to me until the very end of the book, where I finally felt something for one of our characters. The romances didn’t read realistically to me and overall it just didn’t click with me. I will say that I don’t read much young adult fiction, and the shift from adult to young adult possibly unfairly hurt my opinion here.

A more interesting disappointment this month was Dark Forge by Miles Cameron. This is book two of the Masters and Mages trilogy of which I read all three in February. Overall I enjoyed this series, it started well and ended strongly however it lost its way a little in the middle. Check my review for full thoughts, but a good finale to the series has made this feel like just a little bit of middle book syndrome.



Looking forward



There are two series I started this month that I am most excited to continue on with. Firstly let’s talk about Red Rising, I started this book as part of Allen’s Feb rising buddy read. In general I had a good time with this book, it was a 4 star read. Everything I hear about this series is that it improves dramatically, if that is the case then boy am I in for a treat. Golden Son promises a more political plot which can only be a positive step for me, all in all I am excited to keep going.

The final series I want to mention is somewhat of a hidden gem, it was on my TBR but got bumped high up due to the effusive praise given to it, once again by Allen. The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham is not your typical epic fantasy, but I have fallen in love with it. I have currently read two books of the four book series, A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter. Abraham had pulled me into his exquisite world, his characters in particular feel so real, and the politics of this society is fleshed out beautifully. I cannot recommend this series enough to fans of political and economic intrigue, especially if you don’t mind a slow burn. I will undoubtedly finish this series next month, and I will be surprised if this doesn’t crack my top ten series of all time.


Let me know your February highs and lows down below.

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All February Reviews

Towers of Midnight
Red Rising
The Hollow Crown
A Memory of Light
A Shadow in Summer
Six of Crows
Mort
Cold Iron
A Betrayal in Winter
Dark Forge
Bright Steel

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron Review

Bright Steel is the final instalment in the Masters and Mages trilogy. It continues immediately after the conclusion of Dark Forge. Having only read the prologue of Bright Steel I knew that this book would be an improvement for me. It hooked me in straight away and took us back to the setting I loved from the first book.

Throughout Bright Steel, Cameron refrained from introducing too many new characters, and did a better job at fleshing out some of the secondary characters that I struggled with in Dark Forge. Aranthur continues to be an interesting protagonist and I enjoyed how throughout the series he learned more about the world as we did. It never felt info dumpey and although we gained much more understanding in the conclusion it never felt like information had been hidden from the reader in the earlier books.

As mentioned about the earlier entries, the combat is written very well and continued to be engaging. It was made more enjoyable as it was interspersed with other slower scenes which helped accentuate the action, for me this was a big improvement over book two. Each battle had a real purpose and goal which made it feel like there were stakes and not just fighting for the sake of it.

Overall this book was on a par with Cold Iron for me, and a step up from Dark Forge. This series was one I have enjoyed without it really blowing me away.

Bright Steel itself is a good conclusion to a fun series.

4 stars

Go forth and read

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