Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

 

Title: Sorcery of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Published: June 4th 2019, Margaret K. Elderly Books

Status: Read July 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”

Raised in the Great Library of Summershall, foundling Elisabeth Scrivener has grown up with no other desire than to become a Warden in service to the Collegium, to wield an iron sword, and protect the kingdom from the powerful grimoires that line the shelves of the six Great Library’s of Austemeer.

“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque—but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.”

But Elisabeth’s dream is shattered when she is accused of a deadly act of sabotage that results in the death of her mentor, the Summershall Director. Ordered to stand trial in the Capital, she is escorted by Nathaniel Thorn, a young Magister with a fearsome reputation, and his demon servant, Silas. Raised to believe the worst of sorcery, and those who wield it, Elisabeth doesn’t expect to even survive the journey, but she will face a far greater danger at her destination, where the real saboteur waits.

“She saw no way out of the trap he had built for her. Escape wasn’t an option. If she attempted to run, he would know that she suspected him, and the game would come to an end. She would lose any chance she had left to expose him, however small.”

Sorcery of Thorns is an enchanting young adult fantasy novel offering adventure, suspense, humour, and romance.

I thought Rogerson did a great job of character development.

Elisabeth quickly sheds the innocence of her sheltered background, but not her idealism. She proves to be intelligent, resourceful and courageous, and is determined to end the threat to Austemeer, no matter the cost to herself.

Nathaniel is a bit of a tortured hero, with a tragic backstory. I particularly enjoyed his sense of humour.

The romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel is not too rushed, and I found it sweet.

Silas, with his impeccable manners and yellow eyes, almost steals the show.

I loved the world building, the settings are easily imagined, from the home of Nathaniel to the halls, and secret passages, of the Great Library. And what reader can resist the idea of a library where books grumble, and sigh, and sing, and whisper? A book provoked, becomes a Malefict, a terrifying monster that has the potential to maim and kill. Iron and salt are weapons that keep them bound.

“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”

I was enthralled by the Sorcery of Thorns, though near 500 pages long, I found it a quick read. Charming, exciting and entertaining, the novel is written as a stand alone, but I’d love to return to this world.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

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(a very special) Guest Review: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol. 1 by Jody Houser and Rachael Stott

 

Today I’m thrilled to host a review written by my oldest son, Makyah. He is a huge fan of all things Doctor Who so when I was offered this graphic novel for review, I accepted on his behalf.

Today’s release date also happens to be the date of his 15th birthday…I’m so proud of him!

Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol 1

Author: Writer: Jody Houser, Artist: Rachael Stott

Published: May 7th, 2019 Titan Books

++++++

 

Makyah’s Thoughts:

“You know when you’ve seen your favourite film dozens of times? What’s the one thing you can do to make it feel brand new again?” Show it to someone who hasn’t seen it before.”

That’s what this is. A reimagining, a new take on the thirteenth doctor in all her timey wimey glory.

Temporal distortions aside this new story featuring our favourite TARDIS team is ingenious in its use of new aliens that follow well defined motifs despite the brevity of the medium. The images do well to express feeling and emotion in each of the characters and I believe this adventure perfectly encapsulates the positivity and boldness of the latest season of Doctor Who.

Numerous nods to past Doctors ensure fans of the series can enjoy the unique continuity of out time travelling hero (now heroine) as he (now she) shows to us the wonders of travel through time, space and the minds of people like Jody Houser who masterfully captured each character’s dialogue and opinionated natures with her writing and credit to Rachael Stott with Giorgia Sposito and Valeria Favoccia for

their incredible artwork throughout the volume. A brilliant addon to season 11 and an example of what creativity and passion can achieve.

“What’s the point of knocking around the universe if there’s nothing new to see?

++++++

Available to Purchase via

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© Copyright Titan Books, shared with permission.

Stuff on Sundays: 2019 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

Best Novel

• The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

• Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

• Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)

• Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)

• Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Series

• The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)

• The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)

• Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)

• The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)

• Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

• The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)

• Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)

• The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)

• Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)

• The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)

• Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

See more Hugo Award Finalists

Who would you vote for?

Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

 

Title: Smoke and Iron {The Great Library #4}

Author: Rachel Caine

Published: Berkley July 2018

Status: Read July 2018

++++++

My Thoughts:

Smoke and Iron is another fabulous instalment in Rachel Caine’s The Great Library young adult fantasy series, following Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill.

“The Archivist made us into an ugly thing,… A thing that used fear to control the world. But we are not what he made us. We are more. We stand, unafraid. And together. Because we are the Great Library!”

In a world where book ownership is forbidden, the rebellion determined to free knowledge from the Archivist’s Iron grip, and save The Great Library, is about to spill in to war.

The story picks up almost immediately following the events of Ash and Quill. This instalment unfolds from the viewpoints of Jess, Morgan, Khalila, and Wolfe. While Jess (impersonating his twin brother, Brendan) endeavours to learn the Archivist’s secrets, Morgan has returned to the Obscurist’s Iron Tower seeking vulnerabilities she can exploit. Meanwhile Wolfe struggles to hold onto his sanity deep in the cells of Alexandria, and Khalila does her best to keep her friends, and their mission, safe and on track.

The plot is fast paced and tension filled. Each member of the rebel group has an important part to play in preparation for the coming Feast of Greater Burning, the stakes are higher, and the risks greater, than ever.

The final book in this series, Sword and Pen, is not expected to be published until 2020. Such a long time to wait!

++++++

Available to Purchase from

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Review: First Watch by Dale Lucas

Title: First Watch {The Fifth Ward #1}

Author: Dale Lucas

Published: Orbit, July 2017

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read April 4th-6th 2018

My Thoughts:

First Watch is not something I would generally pick up, however my fourteen year old son is an a fan of Fantasy fiction, and an ardent Dungeons and Dragons player, so I bought this for him. Like me, my son is a ‘reader’, he is part of a book club at school, and for school sport does ‘Reading by the River’ – where the only physical activity involves the 15 minute walk to, and from, the riverbank. He also likes to discuss what he reads, so I thought I’d give this a go.

First Watch is the start of Dale Lucas’s series, The Fifth Ward. It’s essentially a murder mystery set in a medieval fantasy world populated by “drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans”, amongst others.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

When Torvals’s Watch Warden partner, Freygaf is murdered, he and Rem team up to trawl the underbelly of Yenara, a largely iniquitous port city, to find his killer. The pairs’ investigation leads them through the city’s Wards, exposing all manner of vice and corruption, including a vile human trafficking ring.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

Torval is the cynical, grumpy elder, and Rem the wide eyed ingenu, resulting in moments of humour in the vein of ‘mismatched cop buddy’ stories everywhere. I liked both characters, though neither were particularly surprising, nor unique.

While the main plot involves Torval and Rem’s search for Freygaf’s killer, they are often sidetracked by their work as Watch Wardens, the complicated politics of the city, and the occasional bar brawl and street fights. I thought Lucas did a decent job of bringing all the threads together to create a cohesive story.

I found the pace a little uneven in First Watch though, partly I suspect because of Lucas’s need to establish the world and its rules. At times the exposition got in the way of the story’s rhythm, and I found myself skimming on occasion.

Unsurprisingly, my son enjoyed this more than I did. He especially liked it’s D&D flavour. I thought it was okay.

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Map of Bones {The Fire Sermon #2}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Harper Voyager March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2016 — I own a copy courtesy HarperCollins

My Thoughts:

The Map of Bones picks up from where Francesca Haig’s debut novel, The Fire Sermon, left off. Cass, Piper and Zoe are on the run following the deadly confrontation at the Silo between the Confessor and Kip, with the knowledge of the Alpha Council’s horrifying plan for the Omega’s.

Despite the dramatic ending of The Fire Sermon, the narrative in The Map of Bones is slow to start. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Haig introduces a new element to the story that finally prompts the characters to take action. From there the pace begins to pick up as Cass and her allies recognise the need to actively stand against the Council and pursue a new possibility for salvation despite the odds that are stacked again them.

I wasn’t really a fan of Cass in the first novel and I found her to be no less frustrating here. Drowning in guilt and struggling with her visions, her thoughts are often repetitive and circular. Piper and Zoe serve as good companions but I found neither character to be particularly compelling.

What I did admire was Haig’s descriptive writing and continued world building. She provides further detail about the cataclysmic events that destroyed the world and the twinning phenomenon.

Though I found The Map of Bones to be a somewhat dreary read, the story ends on a hopeful note and I am curious to learn how the trilogy will resolve in book three.

Available to purchase from

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A thought about: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

 

Title: The Natural Way of Things

Author: Charlotte Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2015

Status: Read from October 26 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue — but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

My Thoughts:

A thought provoking, provocative novel that explores a chilling near-future dystopia drawn from the realities of contemporary society for women. Beautifully written but deeply disquieting.

 

Available via

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A thought about: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 

Title: Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Pan Macmillan October 2015

Status: Read from October 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts:

In Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl, the central protagonist, Cath, wrote fan fiction about a fictional novel with strong similarities to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series . I have to admit I wasn’t really keen on the excerpts in the novel, but I was curious to see how Rowell turned the story into a novel. Carry On turned out to be a lot of fun, I enjoyed the characters and their adventures, and Rowell’s own twists to a very familiar story.

 

Carry On is available via

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Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: Queen of Shadows {Throne of Glass #4)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury September 2015

Status: Read from September 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in Sarah J Maas’s riveting fantasy adventure series, Throne of Glass. At just over 650 pages, this is an epic installment offering plenty of intrigue, danger, fast paced action and romance.

In Queen of Shadows, our heroine returns to Rifthold, not as the assassin Celaena Sardothien, but as Aelin Galathynius, rightful heir to the throne of Terrasen, determined to put an end to the King and his alliance with the demon Valg. Her first task is to rescue her cousin Aedion from public execution, her second to destroy Arobynn, all the while plotting to free magic, save Dorian from Valg possession and ensure the safety of the people she loves.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers for fans of this gripping series I’m just going to heap general praise on it. The plot is fast paced and action packed with plenty of exciting confrontations that left me breathless. It is also clever, Maas allows Aelin to keep secrets not just from her friends but also from the reader resulting in some startling surprises. The plot twists and turns as Aelin doggedly pursues her goal, and the final confrontation between the Queen and her enemies was nothing short of epic.

Queen of Shadows embraces both old and new allies and enemies. Aelin’s loyal circle includes Aedion and fae warrior Rowan, Chaol, despite his emotional turmoil, rebel Nesryn, and courtesan Lysandra. I really enjoyed the shifting dynamics between all of these characters as the novel progressed.

Personally the fan driven controversy regarding Aelin’s romantic choices seems extreme to me, perhaps because I’m a mature aged reader I understand more clearly why Aelin and Chaol are no longer a good fit, and though I am not completely convinced Rowan is her soul mate, I do believe he is her ideal partner for the moment.

Though not truly an enemy, Dorian, inhabited by a Valg prince, is a wild card and Aelin struggles to decide how best to deal with him. She has no such hesitation when it comes to Arobynn when his true capacity for deceit is unequivocally revealed.

Aelin also shares the narrative with Manon Blackbeak who was introduced in Heir of Fire. Manon, a ruthless witch, is in Morath readying herself and her kind for battle on the side of the King, but she unexpectedly finds herself questioning orders at the urging of her second Aestrin, a crippled slave girl, Elide, and a young broken woman with an extraordinary ability.

Queen of Shadows is an enthralling read, and I resented having to put it down even briefly to attend to the ordinary demands of existence. It is going to be a longgg wait for the next (possibly final??) book.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Read my reviews for the first three books in the series

Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Invasion of the Tearling {Queen of the Tearling #2}

Author: Erika Johansen

Published: Bantam Press July 2015

Status: Read from July 19th to 23rd, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the Publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Invasion of the Tearling is the sequel to Erika Johansen’s debut, The Queen of the Tearling.

Kelsea Glynn, now the reigning Queen of Tearling, is preparing for war with The Red Queen, having put a stop to the human tithing practiced by her country’s former rulers. As Mortmesme’s forces amass on the border, Kelsea struggles to determine a way for her vulnerable country to defend itself from the invasion while dealing with internal strife and the challenges of the kingdom.

‘Invasion’ also endeavours to explain the origins of the Tearling world, revealing the secrets of The Crossing, through crippling visions experienced by Kelsea. It’s quite an unusual story that reveals why Johansen’s world blends a feudal society and magic with reminders of modern life.

As a character, Kelsea undergoes some dramatic changes in this instalment, and not for the better. Haunted by the visions of Lily’s life, the visits of a mysterious dark spirit, and the seductive power of the emeralds, Kelsea becomes secretive and increasingly dark. I was disappointed by the inconsistencies and sometimes confused by her changing motivations.

I didn’t always find it easy to follow the narrative of The Invasion of the Tearling either. The shifts between Kelsea’s world and her visions of Lily’s were sometimes jarring, additionally there were a couple of minor story threads that seemed to dissolve into nothing, while others contributed little to the overall story. I’m also at a loss to understand Kelsea’s physical changes, which seem rather absurd.

The Invasion of the Tearling builds to a confrontation between Kelsea and The Red Queen but again ends with more questions than answers. I’m curious as to how Johansen will choose to end things in the final book of the trilogy, but I’m worried she will be unable to pull everything together in a satisfying manner.

Available to purchase from

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Amazon US

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