Paternus: War of Gods by Dyrk Ashton Review

War of Gods is the conclusion to Dyrk Ashton’s urban fantasy trilogy, Paternus. Ashton’s world has been expanding since book one and has become an epic universe full of people and beings that we are becoming more and more acquainted with. For fans of mythology and folklore this series is a gold mine, with characters pulled from a plethora of different religions and cultures, and characterised in interesting ways.

War of Gods picks up immediately after the events of book two, although it slows the pace somewhat at the start of book three. The slower pace did make it a little tricky to keep reading during part one, however I promise that picks up dramatically as we head through part two and three. I do feel that the slower pace really helped to set up for later in the book and was probably necessary, but it did make the first half of the book drag a little.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, I don’t love the third person omniscient point of view we get, as I find it makes it harder for us to empathise with any individual character. With a cast of characters this large however I feel it’s an understandable choice. Ashton also makes clever use of this narrative device later on, which I appreciate and actually made me view it differently throughout the series on reflection.

The ending felt epic in all the right ways and to be honest I think Ashton pretty much stuck the landing in most of the important areas. The scale of this series increased exponentially throughout the books leaving you with a truly epic finale. Epic and satisfying which is something I really value in an ending.

Overall Paternus: War of Gods was a fitting ending for an enjoyable series and the best book of the three in my opinion. My rating would have been higher if not for the slow start, but still definitely worth the read.

4.5 stars

Go Forth and Read

AllBookedUp

Humble Pi by Matt Parker Review

I don’t really know how to review non-fiction, but I said that I would review every book I read this year, so here we go.

Humble Pi is a light hearted look at mathematical errors, why they happen and their consequences. Now if you aren’t into maths this might sound like the most boring book in the world, even if you are into maths it might sound boring. However, Parker manages to make these real world stories both entertaining and informative, and I had a good time with this book.

The humour in this book was great, although maybe somewhat niche to those of us with a mathematical background. Sprinkled between amusing anecdotes however, are real lessons to learn. Ranging from the limitations of Microsoft Excel all the way to how bureaucratic governmental agencies can undermine the populace’s opinion of the importance of maths. Maybe I’m stretching a little on the second of those, but that was certainly one of my takeaways.

As someone with a background in Civil Engineering, many examples in this book reinforced how integral maths is to our society, and the importance of taking it seriously when building structures and infrastructure. This was a blessedly quick read, and a lovely palette cleanser between some huge epics I am reading right now. If this sounds interesting you definitely pick it up as it is an entertaining read.

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson Review

The Gathering Storm is book twelve in the Wheel of Time and the first book released after Robert Jordan’s death. Brandon Sanderson took the reins for the series and this is the first of the three books Sanderson wrote in this series.

As you can probably guess by the fact I am at book twelve, I really enjoy this series. The previous book, Knife of Dreams, really was a return to form in my eyes, after a few weaker entries. The Gathering Storm continues in the same vein and is another strong book in this series. In fact it might be my favourite Wheel of Time book so far, it is most definitely in the top two with The Shadow Rising.

We pick up the story immediately following the events of book eleven. Some of those events we get a lot of follow up to, others are clearly being left for the next book. We get very minimal view points from Perrin, a few more from Aviendha, Nynaeve and Matt, with literally zero from Elayne. Rand is a big part of this book and I love the work put into his development. But being real, this is Egwene’s book and I couldn’t be happier about that.

The Gathering Storm has a couple of my favourite moments from the series so far, and multiple times had me audibly cheering or just laughing with excitement. This is so different from the slog of books nine and ten. This isn’t a glacially paced story with little happening, but a big event at the end to try and save it. There is always something happening and if it’s not immediately plot relevant it is at least interesting in and of itself.

I can’t say too much without spoilers, but by the end of this book I can really see the way everything is going to come together. This series is looking to build into one of the most epic climaxes in fantasy.

Absolutely loved this.

5 Stars

AllBookedUp




Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton Review

Paternus: Wrath of Gods is book two in the Paternus trilogy, a self published urban fantasy series by Dyrk Ashton. After finishing the first book, Rise of Gods, I was very interested to see where this series went, even though I didn’t absolutely love it. Having continued on, I do believe that Wrath of Gods is a big step up in quality over Rise of Gods. 

Everything I loved in the first book is still present here, a diverse and interesting cast of characters and a wonderful use of real world mythology. Ashton expands on his world building, filling in gaps and incorporating more and more ideas into an incredibly well researched and thought through world. From book one the world was the biggest draw for me, and that has only increased with this second installment. 

As well as returning to the world I loved, Ashton has also improved on some of the complaints I had previously. The plot started to push on with a real urgency, it was more focussed and flowed with more intent. 

I enjoyed our main characters immeasurably more than in Rise of Gods, due to them being placed in more interesting situations, and to me generally feeling like more rounded people. I had found the 3rd person omniscient style created a distance from the characters in the first book, however here Ashton managed to get me much more into his characters’ heads. I felt far more attached to, and involved with everyone. 

All in all Ashton managed to retain the charm of his first entry, while improving some of the aspects I disliked. That to me makes this a successful sequel. 

Some issues are still there. It did get a little info dumpy in some sections and felt almost like reading an encyclopedia entry for the world. However, the world is so huge and clearly very well researched that those sections didn’t actually feel boring. It often felt like I was getting some cool little tidbits of lore that were pretty interesting.

I feel Ashton has really hit his stride as a writer, and there were a few scenes here that hit me in the feels. Paternus: Wrath of Gods for me was a real improvement and I’m even more invested in this series. The world is still amazing and the plot is really building into an urban fantasy epic. I am really looking forward to finishing this trilogy. 

A really solid 4 stars. 

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton – Review

Paternus is a self-published urban fantasy trilogy, all three books of which are completed. This review is focusing on book one Paternus: Rise of Gods.

This book mainly follows Fi, a seventeen year old student in Toledo. She lives with her uncle Edgar, and along with her boyfriend Zeke they get drawn into the world of semi-immortal beings known as the firstborn.

Dyrk Ashton does many wonderful things with this series. The world feels big and well realised, with many side characters that are intriguing. In the first two thirds of Paternus: Rise of Gods the chapters following Fi, our main protagonist, are sprinkled in between chapters following multiple different characters from all around the world. Some of these characters we only see once or twice, others actually get a pretty significant page count. In the final third of the book we become much more focused on Fi’s story.

I’ll warn you now, I have very mixed feelings about this book. Ashton builds an incredible world that I am already really invested in. The mythology and lore is brilliant and I love how it blends in flawlessly with our world’s real history. This is one of the better realised urban fantasy worlds I have read. The negative side of this is how it is accomplished. Ashton relies heavily on info dumps, and has many chapters from character’s points of view that feel much more important for building the world than for advancing the plot.

Another issue I have is that I felt very little for our main protagonist. I’m not exactly sure why, but I do have a few things that didn’t help. Ashton writes in the present tense which to start with I found rather off-putting, however I came to rather like it by the end. I do wonder though if that initial awkwardness hampered my attachment to our main characters. Another interesting decision was Ashton’s use of third person omniscient. This leads to us jumping from one character’s head to another very quickly and made it feel like we were viewing everything from above rather than through the eyes of any one character. Both these decisions are by no means objectively bad, and many will love the different feel it gives to much modern fantasy, however I think it did impact how I related to our main characters.

Early on I found the writing a little tedious in the sections following Fi. This was compounded by the fact that I enjoyed the side characters that populated our alternate POV’s, a lot more than I enjoyed the main plot. I found Fi to be relatively passive, and by the end it really felt like we had just got passed the inciting incident. I will say however that I enjoyed the writing of the Fi’s plot much more as it progresses towards the end of the book.

In summary, I adore the world Ashton has created and I am really excited to explore it more in the following books. However, Paternus: Rise of Gods as a book on its own felt a little lackluster, it really felt as though it was doing a large amount of heavy lifting to build the world at the expense of its narrative. The heavy lifting it was doing though is leaving me pumped for the follow-ups

I’m giving 3.5 stars, with the caveat that I really think the next two books could improve on this massively, now that the world is properly fleshed out.

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames – Review



I had high expectations before I started reading Kings of the Wyld. It had been recommended to me numerous times, and sounded like a fun ride. Many people I follow have had it in top 10 lists and so I had high hopes, which often leads to disappointment.

In Kings of the Wyld, mercenary bands are celebrities, ala rock bands of the 70’s in our world. The plot follows ‘Slowhand’ Clay Cooper and the members of Saga, his band. This band however broke up twenty years ago, they are legends old, fat, and well and truly past their prime. When Golden Gabe, Saga’s front man, comes to town to ask for Clay’s help, they decide it’s time to get the band back together for one last legendary tour.

Eames managed to make me laugh on more occasions than any book has a right to, and that with me missing most of his seventies rock references that were so lovingly worked in.

By about halfway through Kings of the Wyld I was having a good time. It was an enjoyable, light hearted fantasy romp. It didn’t take itself too seriously and was doing a good job at introducing us to interesting characters. I knew how this was going though, it was going to be like one of those film comedies that pass the time and are enjoyable enough, but ultimately are just fine.

Now please don’t read fine there as bad. It was fine. Enjoyable. Had given me a few chuckles and a nice time. It just lacked a little substance. Or so I thought.

As I passed the halfway point however, I started to enjoy this book more and more. With about 100 pages left I suddenly realised that I really cared. I cared about these characters, I cared about their mission, and I cared about Clay getting home safe. I suddenly understood the first half of this book. It hadn’t just been getting the chuckles in and having a fun romp, it had been laying character groundwork and setting up relationships that I felt invested in. With very little time these characters had become my guys, Saga felt like my band as much as Clay’s or Gabe’s.

There is one particular moment just as the story is climaxing where Gabe makes a rollicking speech. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, don’t worry. What I will say though, is that it made me want to be there, to be on the edge of glory with Saga, and to earn it with them. That’s not a feeling I can honestly say many books have made me feel.

So, while this is in many ways a comedy, I want you to know this is not just a comedy. It’s not even just a brilliant comedy. It is much, much more. Kings of the Wyld is a brilliant fantasy tale in every regard. I cannot recommend it enough to any fantasy lover, it will make you laugh and it will make you cry, unless you are an extremely manly man like me. *cough*

Currently it is 10th January, and I know this sounds silly to say, but I think this will probably be one of the best books I read this year. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a perfect book, but it’s close enough to make it impossible for a ten point rating scale to differentiate.

5 Stars.

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

A Time of Courage by John Gwynne – Review

As you may know, I have made a promise to myself to write a short review for every book I read this year. I’m starting that off in a very odd place, reviewing the final book of a trilogy that follows a four book series. I have not reviewed any of the previous six books but I will not let that deter me here. 

A time of courage is (for now at least) John Gwynne’s final book set in the Banished Lands. This is a setting that I have grown to love through these books. It’s not the most different setting and in many ways not the most interesting. It does however serve wonderfully as a world where we get to explore different characters and their slightly different cultural perspectives and quirks.

Of blood and bone, follows three main characters, who start in a multitude of places across the Banished Lands. By book three their stories have began to intertwine, and Gwynne does a good job at interweaving the different plots allowing different storylines to take priority as needed. 

If you have never read John Gwynne before you may be shocked by the breakneck pace of this book. Many of his previous books have moved at a fair clip, but a time of courage may just have the fastest pacing of them all. The pace is relentless right up until the climax, after which we get a few chapters to relax and reflect, and man did I need that.

I would argue writing combat is possibly Gwynne’s greatest strength, it is brutal to read and utterly enthralling. Most importantly for me, he manages to use action scenes to introduce and reinforce characterisation in an incredibly natural way. It may then be confusing, if I said that those combat scenes are probably what would make this series most divisive to an audience. Quality is no issue in the action scenes, however there is a hell of a lot of them. A time of courage has more than maybe any other book in the series, and I struggle to think of almost any slower reflective moments except right at the end. For me the quality of Gwynne’s writing makes this a non-issue, but I can see it being a big turn off for some people. 

As always, the climax of this book was absolutely on point and left me fist pumping at critical moments. I don’t quite think it reaches the heights of Wrath (the conclusion to Gwynne’s first series), but it is still an incredibly satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that is absolutely non-stop. 

If I had to give any other negatives to this series, it would be that the plot is not exactly breaking new ground . I do not think that was the aim however, the world and character work is executed to a level where I didn’t need a twisty surprise plot to pull me through the story. If however you are looking to be in awe at the work of a masterful plotter you may be disappointed here. 

In conclusion, this series has been a joy to read, as are all of John Gwynne’s books. I would give A Time of Courage a solid 4.5 stars.

Truth and Courage.

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

Favourite Series (2020)

Welcome to my top 5 series list. 

This list is for series I have read up until the end of 2020 and is made of my very favourite series. I have cheated slightly as you will see as we go through, the main cheating I have done is putting anything from the same connected universe as one series. This is to try and make the list a little more exciting, as otherwise it would only contain three different authors, and let’s be honest that’s a little boring.

First an honourable mention. I started reading The Wheel of Time in 2020 and I can absolutely see it being in this list in the future. Currently however, I have only read eleven of the fourteen books in the main series and I want to hold off adding it to this list until I have completed the series. All the series on this list I have either completed, or completed up to where it is currently published.

Without any further ado, my 5 favourite series as of December 31st 2020.


5. The Poppy War Trilogy by RF Kuang

RF Kuang completed her debut series in 2020 with The Burning God, the final book of the Poppy War trilogy. This series is an Asian inspired grim-dark fantasy following Rin, a southern war orphan who tests into an elite military school in the north of the country. The start of the first book follow’s Rin’s journey through the academy until war hits the country, and war is what carries us through the rest of this series.

You may have seen this series earn my “biggest surprise” of the year on my previous post. I don’t think of myself as a grim-dark reader, yet this series resonated with me hard.

Beware, this series is grim-dark. I mean it. Seriously. 

I would not have described large portions of this series as enjoyable, it was however very impactful for me. Kuang uses this series to mirror many events from the second Sino-Japanese war and those events hit hard. I can’t remember having such a visceral reaction to a book before. Multiple times in each book I was sickened and angered by the horror of war and the choices forced upon our characters.

This series is almost entirely single POV, with incredibly minimal viewpoints from secondary characters. Without going back to check I think there were two short chapters in the entire series not from RIn’s viewpoint. This focus on Rin really puts us in her shoes, we see her struggles and understand decisions no matter how much we may agree or disagree with them.

This series is not for the faint of heart, it hurts to read at times and it highlights the darkness in human nature and the vileness of war. The way the world is at the moment I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this series at the moment. If however, you are feeling the need to plumb the depths of human depravity this series will give you plenty to think upon.

Would recommend it to people who love grim-dark and people who love historical parallels in their fantasy.

Avoid if grim-dark isn’t for you, if you want some classic good versus evil, or if 2020 has been too much for you and you need some popcorn fantasy.


4. Lightbringer by Brent Weeks

This five book series has become an unfashionable pick in recent years, but I still love it despite all its flaws. Lightbringer is a flintlock era fantasy series with a hard magic system based on colours and being able to draft the colours you see into a substance called Luxin. 

The series has a large multi-POV cast and has one of the twistiest plots around. Crazy reveals abound throughout all five books, and characters develop in ways that are understandable, epic, and satisfying. This series boasts some of the better realised characters in any series I have read. The books are never dull and are often action packed.

For me, books two and three are the strongest entries, yet I thoroughly enjoyed each of these books on their own merit. Book two, The Blinding Knife, really built upon the first book and drew me into Weeks’ world, it was at this point that I knew the series would be one I love. 

The finale to this series, The Burning White, has certainly split the opinions of reviewers and consumers alike. Many people really hated it and I have seen people go as far as to say that it has soured them from ever reading anything else from Weeks. I can understand the criticism it received and I do have it as the weakest book of the five, however I felt it still served as a good end to the series even if it wasn’t what people generally wanted. There are a few odd choices with how plot threads were wrapped up (or in some cases weren’t), but I would still highly recommend this series to people who want a good time with a plot that keeps you guessing, and characters who are both highly likeable and interesting.

Would recommend it to people who like Sanderson, it has his style of hard magic system and a plot that you won’t always see coming even though it is perfectly foreshadowed.

Avoid if the destination is more important than the journey for you.


3. The Dresden Files By Jim Butcher

This is the series that got me back into reading fantasy, as such it will always have a special place in my heart. In this urban fantasy series we follow Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard for hire as he solves mysteries that would otherwise be beyond the skills of local law enforcement.

This Series currently has seventeen books in it. Yes I said seventeen. With at least five more planned before it comes to an end. The early books have a noir aesthetic and styling that adds interest to what are otherwise enjoyable if not outstanding novels. As the series progresses it loses some of its noir tendencies, but the world opens up into a world that is well realised in a way that I haven’t seen matched in any other urban fantasy.

The first person perspective of these books really lend themselves to the fast nature of the stories, while still giving us wonderful insights through Harry’s inner monologue and general wise-assery. Harry Dresden is possibly my favourite character in the fantasy genre and with each book this series steps up the epic level, so by book twelve you felt there was really nowhere left for it to go. If you thought that you would have been wrong.

From it’s noir detective roots the Dresden FIles slowly builds a sprawling world and develops into a true fantasy epic, something that (at least for me), is unheard of in an urban fantasy setting. Many of the antagonists throughout the series are incredibly easy to hate, however some find their way into a grey middle ground. As a reader I want to hate them, yet they somehow seem a necessary evil, a character that is needed if Harry is somehow going to keep Chicago safe. For those characters you are likely to build some form of grudging respect, it makes it much harder to truly hate them.

I have overwhelmingly positive thoughts on The Dresden FIles and look forward to how Butcher is going to keep developing and eventually draw this series to a conclusion.

Would recommend it to people who like single-POV books, urban fantasy, characters who don’t know when they are beat, and to people who listen to audiobooks. (Did I mention that James Marsters does an incredible job with these audiobooks.)

Avoid if you are sensitive to some male-gazeyness (particularly prevalent in the early books).


2. The Banished Lands Saga by John Gwynne

Here is the first of my cheats. The number two spot actually encompasses two series set in the same universe. The Faithful and the Fallen is a four book series, following Corban and company as a war for banished lands unfolds before them. If you saw my last post you will have seen me gush about this series. It is a Celtic inspired fantasy world with characters that you will grow to love, and Gwynne uses that to rip your heart out. Multiple times.

The Faithful and the Fallen is trope laden. Think of a fantasy trope. No seriously think of one. I’ll wait… got one? Yeah that’s in the Faithful and the Fallen. Gwynne uses these tropes so well though that it just works, it’s written well and moves at a rapid pace. There is also a some amount of subversion of the standard tropes, this generally comes later in the series though. Combat is frequent, but written in a way that is always engaging, and motivations and stakes are always clear. 

I don’t have much more to say about The Faithful and the Fallen, except you should read it.

The second series set in the Banished Lands is “Of Blood and Bone”. This is a follow up trilogy to The Faithful and the Fallen, set about 130 years after the events of the first series. Of Blood and Bone follows three main protagonists who live in lands changed by the first series. Allegiances are different, organisations and nations have changed, yet the wonderful writing and gripping pace is just the same. I don’t want to give you too much setting in case you haven’t read the first series, but I will say that it feels familiar, yet still different enough as to not just be a rehash of what we have already read. This trilogy is a bit leaner than The Faithful and the Fallen, each book being significantly shorter yet still packed with all the good stuff.

Of Blood and Bone is a solid follow, and could be fighting for a place in this list on it’s own merit.

Would recommend it to anyone who loves David Gemmel, people who want a fast paced action orientated read, and anyone looking for a relatively low magic setting.

Avoid if combat in fantasy books just isn’t your thing.


1. The Cosmere by Brandon Sanderson

Here we are, my favourite fantasy series. This isn’t a series I hear you cry. 

Ok. 

Let me explain.

I know this is multiple series and standalones in a connected universe, but I don’t want Sanderson to dominate this list so I am grouping them all together. With the latest release in The Stormlight Archive, Rhythm of War, the cosmere as a whole began to really come together with some amazing cross-series reveals for those who read closely. 

For those of you who somehow don’t know, the cosmere is the interconnected universe that the majority of Sanderson’s adult fantasy takes place in, the two big hitters in it so far are Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive. I won’t go into too much detail for the premise of these series because if you are a fantasy fan you have probably heard about them before. What I will say is that these are two of my top three series of all time and therefore it felt pretty fair to combine them at the top of this list. 

The Stormlight Archive were the first books I read by Sanderson, I binged up to the end of Oathbringer over the course of a few weeks and I adored it. It was only at that point that I realised there was an overarching universe that the series took place in. Knowing I would be waiting for the next book in the series it made sense to pick up another series by the same author. 

Mistborn was where I headed next and the original trilogy absolutely blew me away. The Final Empire was an amazing kick off to a series and almost works as a standalone. I found The Well of Ascension a little slow but oh man did the end make up for that. Book three, The Hero of Ages, is where Sanderson made me a real fan though. It showed me that he could really end a story, the foreshadowing all the way from the start of book one was incredible, and the finale had all the wonderfully satisfying payoff I want in a series. The end wasn’t predictable and yet made perfect sense and having read it seems like the only way it could have happened. 

Plotting is probably the ultimate strength of Sanderson, everything is so exquisitely planned and fits together like a perfect puzzle. Alongside this, the man is a master worldbuilder, both Roshar (Stormlight) and Scadrial (Mistborn) are wonderfully realised worlds, with beautifully cinematic geology and amazingly complex societies. There is something so incredibly immersive about these worlds, and the character’s only serve to draw you in further.

The second era of Mistborn and the cosmere standalones continue to further the universe as a whole, they build wonderful new worlds and add layers upon layers to the magic systems and to the cultures throughout the cosmere.

Now don’t get me wrong, Sanderson is not a perfect author. Many people have legitimate issues with his prose and cannot get on with his style. Obviously personal preference is a thing, but for me the utilitarian and sometimes boring style of Sandersons prose, is vastly outweighed by his incredible plotting and hugely immersive worlds. There is no book I can point to that I am more excited for than Stormlight five, and I trust Sanderson to finish the first arc of The Stormlight Archive with a bang.

Would recommend it to people who love absurdly massive worlds, great world building, and plots that culminate in satisfying ways.

Avoid if a bland and often boring style of prose is off putting for you.

Thanks for reading. I am hoping 2021 can shake up this list and give me more series that I adore.

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp

My 2020 in books


2020 was…

Ok, so with that said it was actually a good year, for my reading anyway. Firstly, let me give you the stats before some highlights. 

My 2020 according to goodreads:

Books read: 49

Pages read: 31,560

Avg. Length: 644 pages

Avg. Rating: 4.2 stars 

This might be embarrassing to admit, but 47 out of my 49 reads were fantasy books. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no shame for my love of fantasy. However, 96% of my yearly reading being fantasy is not exactly a typical year for me. With 2020 being… well 2020, I slipped very easily into comfort reading fantasy books, and in all honesty I have no regrets. Now onto my end of year awards, each of these is purely based on my personal enjoyment and only includes books I read for the first time last year.


Favourite Stand alone book

Winner: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

This was one of the most difficult categories for me to decide this year. I read three outstanding standalone novels this year and it really was splitting hairs to give the crown to one of them. In the end Tigana edged out another of Guy Gavriel Kay’s brilliant stand alones, The Lions of Al-Rassan. I think this may have been slightly clouded by the order I read them in. Tigana was high on my TBR and I read it the month before I began reading Lions, as the first work I had read by Kay it may always stand as my favourite work by the Canadian. 

Tigana follows a group of rebels from a nation that has been erased from the minds of the populace. They are fighting against the regime of the Sorcerer ruler who worked to remove all memories of their beloved Tigana from the world. It is beautiful, poignant and tragic.

I immediately fell in love with Tigana and Kay’s prose, which was a big surprise to me. Normally I enjoy direct, concise and functional prose, yet Kay drew me in with magical descriptions, wonderfully crafted sentences and themes that struck me right in the feels. If you find wonderful prose a must, then Kay is the author for you. I didn’t find the character work particularly strong, yet his exploration of themes, particularly of memory, patriotism and identity were so wonderfully realised I cannot fault it.


Surprise of the Year

Winner: The Poppy War Trilogy by RF Kuang

This is an Asian inspired grim dark fantasy, with a magic system based on consuming opioids. We follow a teenage war orphan Rin as she tries to make something of herself, in a nation that seems to be in a perpetual state of war.

I had heard so many wonderful things about this series that I had to read it, however I was worried it wouldn’t be for me. I haven’t read much grim dark fantasy in my life and I was prepared to not get on with it. Boy was I wrong to worry. This series is incredible, it explores horrific themes and only gets more harrowing when you realise the disturbingly close parallels to the second sino-japanese war. This trilogy is not for the faint of heart and trigger warnings abound. I binged the first two books of this series and felt cheated that I had to wait three months for the final installment. (I know three whole months, woe is me.)

This series is most definitely not for everyone, but if you want a realistically brutal look at warfare and it’s atrocities, and a tragically painful descent for the characters we are following, you need to read this series.


Biggest Disappointment

Winner: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files is the series that got me back into fantasy. I have reread the first fifteen books more times than is reasonable. I will forever love the series and Jim Butcher for bringing me back to reading and fantasy with this world and its characters. Now you might see why Peace Talks was one of my most anticipated releases last year, especially considering the previous installment in the series was released in 2014 (it had been a long wait for us Dresden fans).

Butcher announced early in 2020 Peace Talks had grown too large for his publisher and he had reworked it into two books that were to be released within months of each other, Peace Talks and then Battle Ground. 

When Peace Talks released I burned through it in two days and it was fine. Please don’t read that as bad, it was fine, but my hopes and expectations for the eventual resumption of this series were not met. This book was on a level with the early entries in the Dresden Files, perfectly serviceable, but it felt like an unfinished story. All became clear a couple of months later when Battle Ground released. 

These books really should have been one book (and that is how I am thinking about them now), and combining them as a singular entry in the series I would rank this as a solid middle of the pack Dresden story. However, Peace Talks as it was released, on its own, left me wanting more and not in a good way. 


My biggest project

Winner: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

At the beginning of the year I felt I had a rather large gap in my fantasy reading history, I had never even started the Wheel of Time. As a huge Brandon Sanderson fan I knew this series has been a massive influence on him, and actually helped propel him to authorial stardom when he was asked to finish the series after Robert Jordan’s untimely death. This series has been a cultural touchstone for the fantasy genre for decades, and it was beyond time that I gave it proper go. Between March and the end of the year I read through the first eleven books of the Wheel of Time (not including New Spring), that took me to The Knife of Dreams, the final book published before Jordan’s death. 

This series is slow and plodding, it is inconsistent in quality and pacing, and characters have infuriating ticks that get described in exactly the same way over and over again. And yet I absolutely adore it, despite its many flaws. The world Jordan built is magnificent and feels as real to me as any world I have ever read, the characters feel like real people who progress and change, and there are epic moments that explode into being at the climax of many of the books (I’m looking at you, Lord of Chaos).

As you may know, there are a few books in this series commonly referred to as the slog. For many readers these books can be a chore as the pace slows dramatically and it is often here that people give up on the series. Depending on who you ask, the slog varies and can be defined as broadly as books 7-10, others say it doesn’t exist at all. For what it’s worth the only book I felt like I had to really drag myself through was book 10 Crossroads of Twilight. The pace had slowed to a crawl and it did feel a little like a chore. 

A Knife of Dreams (book 11), however starts with a bang and carries that moment through the entire book. It has left me desperate to continue in 2021 and I am very interested to see how Brandon Sanderson did continuing this epic story, and how he matched his style prose to that I have become accustomed to in the first eleven books.

Overall I am super glad to have started this series and am sure I will finish it in the first quarter of 2021. 

My top 3 books of the series so far would be: The Shadow Rising, Lord of Chaos and The Knife of Dreams. 


Favourite Series 

Winner: The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne

The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne was my absolute favourite reading experience of 2020. This four book  series starts with Malice which was John Gwynne’s debut novel, but oh my, it does not read like a debut novel. The first half of Malice is definitely a little slow, but with good reason. Time is taken to build the world (The banished Lands), to introduce us to characters and let us build a real attachment to them. This makes it hurt all the more later in the series, when Gwynne makes your favourite characters suffer, and he will make them suffer. 

This series is a violent love letter to classic fantasy (read David Gemmel), and it doesn’t pull its punches. I have never read an author who writes so many combat scenes, and yet I never found myself bored or skimming through to the resolution. Every fight mattered and gave us an insight into our most beloved and most hated characters.

To emphasise just how good this series is, it contains both my favourite character in Fantasy (The Old Wolf) and my most hated character in Fantasy, and both of them are secondary characters. How does an author even manage to make me care that much about secondary characters who we don’t spend much time with? It boggles my mind. 

I’m trying really hard not to spoil anything for this series, but the one thing you need to know is, GO AND READ IT. 

Malice, Valour, Ruin and Wrath all got a 5 star rating from me, and not only is this the best series I read in 2020, but it is also currently my favourite completed work of all time. Need I say more.


So there you go, some of the highlights and a lowlight from my year. 

Thanks for reading my 2020 in books.

My aim in 2021 is to write a short review for every book I read, so stay tuned for those. Also expect my top 10 Fantasy Series updated for 2020 coming soon. 

Go forth and read.

AllBookedUp