Dark Forge by Miles Cameron Review

Dark Forge is book two in Miles Cameron’s Masters and Mages trilogy. We continue following Aranthur, a student who has slipped into a plot way over his head. Dark forge follows on immediately after the end of Cold Iron.

Interestingly Dark Forge feels very different to the first entry in this series, the context we are in is particularly different. Cold Iron is very much set in civilian areas, whereas the second book is almost entirely set in a war zone. Military concerns and warfare come to the forefront for the vast majority of the page time. Cameron writes battle in an incredibly technically proficient manner, it makes sense and the choreography is interesting. The issue I have is not with how this is written, but just the sheer amount of it. Coming from book one there is a rough gear change in tone and the type of action we are party to.

Along with the change in style and tone, we are also introduced into many new characters. In Cold Iron, the secondary characters were distinct with a real sense of their own personality and identity, this is not so much the case in Dark Forge. The new characters we are introduced to feel much muddier and they blend into one another, barring one notable exception. I found this made it harder to follow who was who and what was going on, in a way that was never present in the first book. This characterisation issue along with the continual battles led to it feeling like lots of things were just happening.

Now don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the ride, and Aranthur’s character continued to be interesting and to develop in intriguing ways, but I found the book as a whole a little lackluster. Thankfully Dark Forge ended on a strong note, and I am hopeful for where the plot is heading in Bright Steel, book three.

Overall and enjoyable read but didn’t live up to the first book for me. Optimism abounds for the finale however.

3 stars

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A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham Quick Review

Warning super quick thoughts coming.

A Betrayal in Winter is the second book of the long price quartet, it follows on fourteen years after the end of the first book. In it we are introduced to a new cast and a new city, with just a couple of characters continuing on from the first book.

For a quick setting synopsis you can check out my A Shadow in Summer Review, I will be avoiding poilers for that first book during this review. What I will say is that this series really works for me. Book two took all the things I loved from the first one and refined them just slightly. The more I see of this world the more I love it.

This is definitely not your traditional epic fantasy, but Abraham does a wonderful job creating something different in this world of his. It enables us to really understand our cast of characters, so many have such conflicted thoughts and motivations, and many have to do the least badly they can in lose-lose situations.

The same slow plotting is prevalent from book one, although it is fractionally faster moving, so if you need action packed stories this might not be for you. If, however, you want to really understand and feel for the characters you follow I have no higher recommendation than the Long Price Quartet. Seriously, read it.

This book is just fractionally better than A Shadow in Summer and that tips it into five star territory.

5 stars

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Cold Iron by Miles Cameron Review

In Cold Iron we are following Aranthur. He is a student at the academy and has shown a little magical talent. When journeying home for the holidays he breaks his journey at an inn and steps in to help when a woman is thrown from a passing coach. From here Aranthur is drawn into a fight to protect her and becomes embroiled in something so much bigger.

In many ways Cold Iron is a very classical style of fantasy. We follow Aranthur as our primary and only point of view, and very much see the world as he does. I can imagine our hero being quite divisive amongst readers, he is the typical farm boy and yet picks up many things rather quickly. My comparison for him would be Kvothe from The Name of the Wind, if you disliked Kvothe them the similarities here may be off putting, otherwise I find Aranthur an interesting enough protagonist.

Cameron’s prose is direct and enjoyable, allowing us to follow along clearly. This is particularly displayed in combat scenes. I often find combat in fantasy comes across muddled and a little confusing to follow. There is no such issue here, fights are beautifully choreographed and a delight to read.

The wider world we begin to discover along with our protagonist is interesting and feels very real. It also feels so large and he is the very smallest of cogs within it. This leads us to my one negative depending on your preferences, the story meanders a little with Aranthur being manoeuvred by other bigger players. I enjoyed just being in this world and learning about our characters, however if you need a tightly plotted story this may not be for you.

Overall this was a really good enjoyable read. I will definitely be continuing with this series.

4 stars

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Mort by Terry Pratchett Review

I’m very late to the discworld party, and this is my first ever foray into Pratchett’s much acclaimed world. This seems to be one of the most recommended starting points along with Guards! Guards!

As a starting point I found this a very enjoyable entry, I got a feel for Pratchett’s style and humour, both of which meshed well with my preferences. There is a real Monty Python-esque feel to this story which I adored.

The characterisation of both Mort and Death is brilliant. They had real distinct characters and motivations which can often lack in more comedic books. I can already understand why Death is one of discworlds most beloved characters, which will undoubtedly only become more clear as I continue on in this series.

I would definitely recommend this as a starting point if you’ve never read any discworld before. We get little glimpses into Ankh-Morpork and a feel for that city, as well as insights into unseen university and the wizards. These little glimpses have actually made me more excited to pick up the city watch and wizards sub-series.

Overall this was a very fast and enjoyable read, the humour was great and included some interesting insights as well.

I will definitely be continuing this series.

4 stars

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AllBookedUp

A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham Review

A Shadow in Summer is a beautiful book. I don’t mean the physical book looks beautiful, and I don’t mean that it has particularly beautiful prose. However, the concept and execution of this story is beautiful.

The first book of the Long Price Quartet, iA Shadow in Summer is set in an Asian inspired group of cities that were part of a now defunct empire. The city we are based in is a political player on the world stage, based on one thing. Cotton. I know the cotton trade sounds like a wonderful thing for a book to focus on, super interesting right? RiGhT?!?! Well honestly, yes.

The magic of this world allows complex concepts to be spoken into being, by poets. The concepts they capture become a humanoid and sentient form, intrinsically linked to the poet, called Andat. Removing-the-part-that-continues, AKA seedless is used to increase the speed and efficiency of cotton harvesting and processing. Again sounds super interesting right…

Well Abraham does a wonderful job in this book of addressing concepts and themes not always dealt with in fantasy. We have probably all heard the idea of the pen being mightier than the sword, but in this series we get to deliberate on where money and economics fits into that equation. Does being an economic powerhouse protect as effectively as having a military presence? If so, how can this be leveraged as a political tool?

Many other issues are touched on here aswell, trust, justice, loyalty, slavery, human worth and so much more. What I love is that Abraham isn’t here to preach to us, he allows so much of this discussion to occur naturally and much of it is cleverly woven in and left the subtext.

I have seen people compare this book to a Shakespearean tragedy and I find that an apt comparison. There is so much to think on, and I felt conflicted dealing with so many of the characters we see here. I think this is the kind of book you could study. You could go deep on its themes and perspectives and I know I will be thinking about this book for a while.

For those wanting a fast paced, exciting swashbuckling adventure, give this one a miss. For anyone wanting something to get under your skin, and keep you up at night contemplating, you need to read this book.

I am so excited to continue this series after a brilliant first instalment.

4.5 Stars

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AllBookedUp

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Review

Six of crows is a young adult fantasy, it’s central plot is that of a heist and the building of a ragtag crew to get it done. This book isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think I am it’s target audience.

I found the pacing early on to be very slow and struggled to connect with the characters. Often we are told that a character is amazing or a badass but we don’t see much to corroborate this. Our introduction to Kaz is one of the few times where we actually see one of the characters be as competent as we are told that they are.

I found the romance angle we got on some of the relationships a little weak, and somewhat unrealistic. It was angst ridden and just not for me.

I will say that the slow pacing improved in the second half of the book. Once we got into the heist proper it was more engaging. My only issue with the heist was that we were told so often how impossible it will be, yet it never holds up its end of the bargain. It’s never as challenging as the author implies it’s going to be. There was a lot of telling with little showing.

The ending was interesting, although I found it insightful that one of the big emotional beats at the end relied on us caring about a tertiary character who we barely know. We didn’t have enough time with them to care. Thankfully this isn’t the main beat but it does show an issue with this book. A big cast with not enough time with each character, many of the characters we do get enough time with a lot of it is spent flashing back to scenes that just slowed down the plot.

Overall it did end well, and I can see why it would hook you in for the sequel.

Generally, I do feel that there is lots to like in this book, however I don’t feel that it is written for me. If you are into YA fantasy and like the angsty romance angles this may well be for you.

However for me this is somewhere between a dislike and meh.

2.5 stars

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A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson Review

How do you end a fourteen book series? How do you end a series that you didn’t start? How do you end a series that so many people have grown up with? Well, A Memory of Light does all of those things to an impressive degree.

Sanderson and the Wheel of Time team have done a wonderful job of drawing this series to a conclusion. It isn’t perfect, some plot lines could have been done with a little more time devoted to them, and a couple, I felt, had some underserved survivals. However, looking at the sheer number of threads opened up in the previous thirteen books, so many get closed in enjoyable and satisfying ways I have few complaints. 

Having read Sanderson’s Cosmere works, I had little doubt he would stick the landing here, but I still worried. There was so much these final three books needed to do, and especially this final book. It did most of them solidly, and a few absolutely outstandingly. 

I cannot express how glad I am to have gone on this journey. Jordan’s world has felt real to me, and in this year of self-isolation these characters have felt as real to me as a lot of my real friends. I need a little more time for everything to sink in, but I have no doubt that this is in my top three series of all time, and it may well be number one. 

Look out for, “Why should you read The Wheel of Time?”coming when I have the ability to articulate my love of this series more clearly. 

If you like epic fantasy, I have only one thing to say to you. Read this series.

5 stars. 

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones Review

The Hollow Crown is a Non-Fiction book that chronicles the war of the roses, and the rise of the Tudors. Jones gives an account of the 1420s through 1520s in a manner that is easy to engage with, following some of the most tumultuous events in the history of the English crown.

If, like me, you have a decent knowledge of Tudor history but with little context on the history of the years before, this book does a wonderful job of filling those gaps. In the past I would have claimed some events covered here as “stranger than fiction”. However, Mr Martin with his hit success A song of Ice and fire, uses the war of the roses as a large inspiration. Thus proving maybe the events were just about as strange as fiction.

For those better versed in this era than me, Jones encourages us to look at it from a different perspective than historians classically have. He shows how the Tudors’ use of propaganda led to centuries of historians having a romantic version of the end of the Plantagenet line. The idea that it was as simple as two warring houses, and the romantic notion that Henry Tudor brought these houses together, is simplistic. Although the story the Tudors themselves certainly propagated.

I find Jones’ writing style very accessible and enjoyable, and will be looking to pick up more books by him in the future.

Go Forth and Read

AllBookedUp

Red Rising by Pierce Brown Review

Red rising is a dystopian sci-fi book, following Mars based Darrow, a lowly red, as he fights for a rebellion against his society’s class system that is led by the golds.

Brown did a wonderful job getting me emotionally invested in Darrow’s story from early on. I empathised with him even with minimal time spent before the inciting incident. The world we get thrown into felt very real to me, and Darrow has very understandable motives. His characterisation was a real strong point in this book, and as a first person narrator I found it enjoyable to be along for the ride with him.

This book was fast paced and pulled me through the story really well, there were only one or two moments where it lulled and I felt it was slightly easier to set it down. All in all though it was a fast read.

Characterisation of the secondary characters didn’t seem quite as realistic to me, compared to Darrow. I would describe it as a mixed bag, some were great others feel a little flat or under explored.

My main complaint however is how the promise Brown gives us in part one, doesn’t really match the payoff we get through the climax of the book. The initial setup had me super excited for a style of plot that kind of took a left turn into something else. Where we ended up was by no means bad, but I didn’t have the excitement for it that the plot I was hoping for would have given me. Towards the end this does start to get back on track and left my with some excitement as to where we will be heading in future books in this series.

Minor complaint aside, I really enjoyed this opening to the series. I will definitely be continuing and have high hopes for where this series will take me.

This was a solid first entry.

4 stars

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AllBookedUp

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson Review

Be aware for possible spoilers up until The Gathering Storm.


What can I say about book thirteen of a series? Well I can say this. I thought it was great. Sanderson really hits his stride in his second entry into the Wheel of Time.

Storylines began converging in a way that really started to build excitement for the end of this series. A thread for Mat that we have been waiting a while for, came crashing into the forefront of the story and was beautifully handled.

Nynaeve continues to grow into one of my favourite characters in this series. If you had told me that would be the case around book five I would have laughed at you. Her growth has really been amazingly well handled, developing into a brilliantly complex yet really relatable character.

I have got the impression that Perrin’s arc in this book is disliked by much of the fan base, I however thought it was serviceable and well managed if not amazingly inspired. Be aware that I don’t think I ever hated Perrin to the same extent as some of the fan base, so I am willing to give more leeway than others. If you have been hating Perrin I doubt this book will change your mind.

For Elayne I could basically repeat the paragraph above, just replacing her name for Perrin’s. If you hate her, you still will.

Some of our other characters take a bit of a backseat as we set up for the finale. Egwene is much more in the background after her breakout book, The Gathering Storm. We do get some nice development of her relationships however. Rand is also often absent, however he and Egwene do both get moments to show just how awesome they can be.

In many respects, Towers of Midnight really felt like getting everything in order for A Memory of Light. To be honest it did that really well, and I feel the need to jump into the finale as soon as I possibly can.

I would rate this as a solidly good Wheel of Time book, not on the level of TSR or TGS but slotting nicely with FoH, LoC and KoD in the second tier. Rating wise it is wavering between 4.5 – 5 Stars, I’m giving it a bump for the hype of reaching the finale in a series I love. If you made it through the slog this is more reward for you.

5 stars

Go Forth and Read

AllBookedUp