Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Spring TBR and here goes mine (though I highly doubt I will manage all of them in spring, it’s more like spring+summer TBR!)

The White Luck Warrior

The Great Ordeal

Ghosts of Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m planning to finish all of Aspect-Emperor before the next one (The Unholy Consult) comes out in summer. And there’s the grimdark new release from Michael R. Fletcher I will squeeze in, I normally don’t read western fantasy but Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions books were so damn awesome, I will read everything he publishes cause he writes some of the most messed up and complex grimdark characters out there.

 

The Shadow Rising

The Fires of Heaven

Lord of Chaos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m aching to get back to the Wheel of Time world after reading the first 3 books, but some exciting new releases came out and the news of Unholy Consult coming out got me to grab Aspect-Emperor books. I am really dying to read the rest of the WoT!

 

Danse Macabre

The Falcon Throne

Sword of Destiny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I’m ever the impatient one, which means sometimes I get way too hyped up about certain books and I will grab them before finishing the series I have at hand, no matter how awesome it is. I’m bad like that!

Best Served Cold

 

I have been meaning to read the standalone First Law world books by Abercrombie since The First Law trilogy felt too short and left me with a big book hangover. This is the first of the three standalone First Law world books.

What is in your TBR? Link to your post and let me know!

 

WWW Wednesday: 8 March, 2017

WWW Wednesday weekly blog meme

WWW Wednesday is hosted each week by Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?

The Judging Eye

The Last Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Wish, Witcher book #1 and The Judging Eye, Aspect-Emperor Book #1. Both are excellent so far.

What have you recently finished reading?

Red Sister

This was one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Review coming soon!

What are you planning on reading next?

The White Luck Warrior

This is the second book of Aspect-Emperor, I need to catch up by the time The Unholy Consult comes out!

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tombs of Atuan
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Earthsea Cycle
Author info: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

This is the second book of the great classic Earthsea Cycle. See my review for the first book here.

A Wizard of Earthsea was about Ged’s journey to become a sorcerer and his struggle with the evil shadow, this book tells the story of Tenar, a young girl taken away from her family at the tender age of five to be raised as the priestess of the Nameless gods.She is forced to shed her identity and they call her Arha in her new life.

It starts a story of loneliness and continues as a story of courage. Tenar is incredibly lonely despite the high position she holds, a position which is more symbolic than one of real power. She has no close friends other than the eunuch guardian, and learning the ways of the dark labyrinths where no light is allowed is a daunting task.

This is not your typical epic fantasy full of action, but a beautiful tale nonetheless. Ursula K. Le Guin’s prose is amazing and the imagery is vivid. This book explores the limits of faith, loyalty, trust and tradition. The stark contrast between the unyielding religious devotion and the doubts hacking away the faith, the religious authorities bending the faith to their agenda or lacking it altogether, the courage to question everything you have been taught and break through the dogma is brilliantly depicted.

As it is mentioned in the blurb,Ged shows up later as a secondary character, and the relationship between Tenar and Ged starting with suspicion and turnign into mutual admiration and trust is fascinating to read. Tenar’s character development is stellar.

This is a great book. I think even the people who found a Wizard of Earthsea boring will like this book. I liked it a lot, it’s different from most fantasy books I read and I loved both the worldbuilding and the philosophical aspects. Earthsea books are leaning more towards literary fiction than genre fiction, but I highly recommend this book and its prequel, A Wizard of Earthsea, to fantasy lovers out there.

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Earthsea Cycle
Author info: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

This is one of the classics of fantasy. It was written in 1967 when the only example of fantasy literature out there was LOTR. It has wizards and dragons, but it’s nothing remotely like a typical fantasy book. It’s more literary fiction than genre fiction, despite the fantasy elements in it, and also it’s quite original and nothing like any fantasy book I’ve read.

If you read this book with the typical expectations you’d have for genre fiction, you might be disappointed. Quite a few friends who read it found it boring, but I beg to differ. I have read plenty of literary fiction in my younger days and A Wizard of Earthsea has reminded me of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach -which were written years later- even though it’s quite different. I have read a review in Goodreads saying Ursula K. Le Guin has studied Taoist philosophy and A Wizard of Earthsea has heavy Taoist themes, even though I am not much familiar with Taoism, I can say I noticed the underlying East Asian philosophy in the story.

The prose is beautiful, there are no plot holes at all, and none of the typical tropes and cliches. The twists are masterful and a delight to read. Where everyone copied from Tolkien, even decades after LOTR, Le Guin wrote a completely original story when there was no example of fantasy fiction other than LOTR. That alone makes it worth a read. It’s not even 200 pages anyway, for those of us who are used to 600-700 page fantasy books, it should take a day or two day to read this book.

I didn’t find it boring at all and loved the philosophy in it. If you read it like literary fiction with fantasy themes, you will most probably love it.

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Assassin's Apprentice

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Gentleman Bastard
Author info: http://www.scottlynch.us/

I was so looking forward to reading this book since I love heist/con artist stories and I’ve been hearing talk about the Gentleman Bastard series all over the place. I got hooked in the beginning, but unfortunately my excitement turned to disappointment in short order and got worse as I read more chapters. The book has its moments but I have a lot of issues with it.

First of all, there’s far too much infodump. Long, boring infodumps are far too frequent in this book. It kills the excitement of the story in too many places. My other major issue is the secondary characters lacking substance. Most of them are two-dimensional and while some of them have great potential, we don’t get to see enough of them to really connect or care about them. Old Priest Chains and Jean are well written, but all others fall flat.

Magic is lacking big time and there isn’t much of a fantasy feel to the story. The whole place doesn’t have the magical atmosphere of Krondor in Riftwar, for example, despite the nice setting, glowing towers and bridges. I hate to say this but the whole thing read like a draft rather than a finished book. It could have been so much better.

My other major issue was the lack of emotional response from Locke. He reacts like a sociopath even when he faces horrible tragedies happening to the people he cares about. The narrative tells us Locke cares about his friends, but his actions don’t show it. There’s no emotional connection or depth anywhere to be seen. The only thing that kept me reading was Locke’s clever stunts and the curiosity what would happen next and how it would end. The story itself was engaging enough to keep me reading until the end, but like I said I had quite a few issues with it.

The plot wasn’t my cup of tea, either, since I’m not a big fan of mafia stories. Flashback parts showing Locke’s childhood were the best parts of the book, no complaints about those. Some of the scenes and dialogues are brilliant. Fight scenes are very well written.

Despite not being too impressed with this book, I will still read the second one (Red Seas under Red Skies) cause I’m a big fan of pirate and sea stories, and I was told it gets much better. Maybe I’d be more impressed with The Lies of Locke Lamora if I haven’t read Mark Lawrence, R. Scott Bakker, George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. Maybe the Renaissance Venetian setting and the Italian mafia theme didn’t do it for me. Maybe I expected different things from this book (like the thieves’ guild sort of stuff I love from Riftwar and Skyrim, more magic, etc.)

Then again millions of people loved this book and there are countless rave reviews, so you may love it if you don’t mind the issues I listed above. It makes decent light read, especially after a bunch of gritty grimdark books.

I hope Scott Lynch doesn’t see this review and hate my guts, but who is going to take me serious if I don’t write honest reviews? After all, it may be your cup of tea.

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Quest
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Farseer Trilogy
Author info: http://www.robinhobb.com/

This is the third book of Farseer Trilogy. See my reviews for the first book and the second book.

I thought Royal Assassin was brutal, but this book ended up being even more gut-wrenching. I’ll say it straight out, this book will rip out your heart and mercilessly stomp on it after it’s done twisting your guts.

In this book, Fitz leaves the Buckkeep Castle to go on a quest to find Verity and the Elderlings. After that gods-awful bastard Regal plundered and looted everything from it and ran to the inner duchies, there’s not much left to stay for anyway. There are also new characters, and some masterfully done character arcs for Nighteyes, Fool and Kettricken.

I’m a huge lover of quests and journeys in fantasy, so I enjoyed the whole big quest thing here. Some reviewers complained about it found parts of it boring, but not me. First of all, tension never lets up and there are constant threats and challenges and some rather brutal things going on. The new characters -the witty minstrel girl Starling and the grumpy old lady Kettle- are pretty darn fun to read. Starling got on my nerves a bit in the beginning, but she’s all right. Kettle’s grumpy granny antics and chastising Fitz was hilarious to read. They bring some fun and giggles in the midst of all that melancholy and the horrible events.

Nighteyes continues to kick butt and his parts were awesome as I expected. Did I say Nighteyes is the best animal character I’d ever read in genre fiction, or any fiction since Jack London books I’ve read when I was younger? Nighteyes kicks arse. Fitz and Nighteyes are such an awesome team.

A tad bit more gets revealed about the ever mysterious Fool, which I think is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever seen to date. There is the romance thread between Fitz and Molly, and I promise it’s far from cliché and predictable. One of the best romance subplots I have ever read (and I must mention I am no fan of romance plots in fantasy, unless it’s very minor and unusual sort.)

It’s really difficult to write much more without spoiling anything here, so I will not go into too much detail: Verity’s plot was killer, the emotional depth there got quite impressive, and the mysteries about the Elderlings unfolded very nicely. Robin Hobb is a true master with the plot twists but even more so with the slowly unfolding reveals. It makes such a great read. The Fool also shines even brighter in this book, promising more awesomeness in the following series. I must say I can’t wait to read those. If you like non-binary characters, The Fool turns out to be one, not exactly belonging to male or female gender. I’m a big fan of (charismatic) hermaphrodite, asexual and gender-ambiguous characters so I was quite happy to see this amazing character here. The Fool is the kind of character who gets a special place in my heart like L from Death Note.

One thing that irritated me a bit was that Fitz didn’t get any moment of peace for part of the journey cause of Regal’s henchmen, it got just too stressful and made me paranoid, expecting Regal’s cronies storming into the scene for quite some time. Also, Regal doing all kinds of awful stuff and no one doing a damn thing to stop him got on my nerves. He seemed to be a stupid douchebag in the beginning, he never gave me the impression of a clever villain, but in Royal Assassin and Assassin’s quest he looks like he suddenly got a huge boost of IQ. No one taking any serious action to stop him (other than Fitz) and the dudes with the means to do something being too chicken about it for the fear of committing treason bothered me a lot. But that doesn’t make a dent in the value of the book and the amount of fun I had reading this story. All in all it’s one of the best series I’ve read so far and as I said, I can’t wait to read the rest of the books set in this amazing world.

Verdict: If you don’t read this series, you are missing a HUGE deal. This should be in the mandatory reading list for everyone who call themselves a fantasy fan!

Guest Post by Brandon Draga: Why YA?

– “Why YA? Why Not?”

*Grabs a cup of coffee*
*Sits down*
*Sips*
Hi everyone, my name’s Brandon, and I write Young Adult Fantasy.
Hoo, okay, that felt good to get off my chest.
I guess you could say it started innocently enough, with my sister urging me to write something en vogue, something with a young female protagonist set in a dystopian society. Naturally, my inclination was to figure out how to do this in a fantasy setting.

Also, to make sure that I wasn’t writing a YA novel.
Denial was a huge part of a number of the creative decisions I made with The Summerlark Elf. I made Enna twenty years old solely so she wouldn’t be a teenager. I left out any trace of a romance subplot, never mind even broaching the idea of a love triangle. I kept the female protagonist and the dystopian setting though (sort of).

After the book was released, I was steadfast in my belief that it was decidedly not a YA book. I made sure to tell everyone who asked that it was meant for an adult audience, though I made sure to add the caveat that it could be read and enjoyed by someone as young as twelve.
Definitely not YA, though. Not at all, thank you kindly.
“But why not?” my girlfriend and cover artist asked on more than one occasion. “What’s wrong with YA?”
“I want to be taken seriously as a fantasy author.” I would reply, with a surprising lack of irony. “I want my books to appeal to a wide range of people!”

And they have, I’m proud to say. I’ve spoken to teens for their library book club, received fan mail from people well into their senior years (of life, not school), been read by the most hardcore genre fans and people who have never read a fantasy book in their life. But then, the same can be said of a lot of people who write books billed as YA, especially genre YA.
J.K. Rowling?
Suzanne Collins?
Veronica Roth?

Hell, look at people like Terry Brooks, David Eddings, or Raymond Feist. You cannot tell me that, had their respective series’ been released today, they would not be pushed as YA titles. Let’s take it further and admit that most post-Tolkien fantasy up until the mid-90s or so fits the most basic tenant of Young Adult fiction, in that the protagonist is a young adult.

Which, if the media is correct (I know), is anyone between 18 and 25. Not unlike Enna Summerlark.

So, that being said, what was my issue, and what changed my mind?
I think we can chalk a lot of it up to me, frankly, being an elitist jerk, and assuming that most fantasy readers are the same.
You see, a funny thing happened when I released The Summerlark Elf. For the first time since I started reading fantasy way back in the before times, I was interacting with other fantasy readers, readers who put my credentials to shame. Readers who, by and large, were perfectly happy to read a YA book, provided it was good. Not just that, but the more people read the book, the more they would tell me it felt like a YA book, and not derisively.

Moreover, something else happened this past year. For a tenure of about eight months, my books were being published by the ultimately ill-fated Realmwalker Publishing Group, and damned if they weren’t selling better that I had hoped. A large part of that, upon careful examination, was the fact that RPG had opted to start billing Summerlark, and its follow-up The Missing Thane’s War as Young Adult Fantasy! Apparently, the best way to broaden my readership was ultimately to narrow my work’s genre classification – who knew?!

It took me longer than I care to admit, but it doesn’t matter who I think my writing is supposed to appeal to, but rather who it does appeal to. Calling my books Young Adult doesn’t change the story in any real way; I’m still writing the books I want to write. And really, YA is a ridiculously large market with a really ridiculously large fan base. If my books sell as Young Adult books, then who am I to say no?
Still not crazy about love triangles, though.
I’m looking at you, Wil Ohmsford…

Author Bio

Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history at York University from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of Olhean, the setting for his “Four Kingdoms Saga” novel series, compared by critics to the works of Terry Brooks, Michael J. Sullivan, and R.A. Salvatore. Brandon has also proven that SF/F can be made accessible at any age, writing the lauded picture book “Dragon in the Doghouse”. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.

You can learn more about Brandon’s work on his web site: http://www.brandondraga.com/