The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time #1) ★★★★☆

eyeoftheworld (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Eye of the World
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1154
Words: 314K

 

Synopsis:

From TarValon.net and authored by Toral Delvar (thanks ol’ chum!)

The book begins in the region of the Two Rivers, which has been virtually cut off from most of the rest of the world for over a thousand years. It is spring festival, Bel Tine. On the way from his father’s isolated farm, Rand notices a strange man watching him. The man, whose cloak doesn’t move in the wind, frightens him. He tells Tam, his father and a widower, but the man is gone when Tam looks.

They arrive in the village of Emond’s Field, where Rand meets his friends Mat, who is fond of foolish pranks, and Perrin, an apprentice blacksmith. They also reveal having seen the man. They learn of strangers in the village, Moiraine and Lan, something that is almost unheard of. There is also a gleeman, Thom and a peddler, Padan Fain. Moiraine gives each of the three a coin, a token; she claims it is for any work she might ask them to do for her. Fain tells of a false Dragon in Ghealdan, which sets the village worrying, as Ghealdan is not far from Emond’s Field, though it is all but unreachable. The Village Council orders patrols, mostly to calm the nerves of the villagers.

Rand and his father return to their house. When Trollocs attack Rand’s farm, his father Tam brings out a sword to fight them. Rand briefly speaks with Trolloc which wants Rand to wait for someone, before Rand kills it. His father takes a wound which quickly incapacitates him. In a delirious moment, Tam reveals he found Rand on a mountain, during the Aiel War. Rand takes him back to Emond’s Field where Moiraine, who has been revealed as an Aes Sedai, Heals him of the wound he took. When the people blame Moiraine for the attack, she tells them of the time in the Trolloc Wars when Manetheren was destroyed and that she is disappointed at what its blood has come to. This shames the villagers who leave her alone.

Moiraine convinces the boys that the Trollocs were after them personally as it was only their houses and farms that were directly attacked, and the man looking at them was a Myrddraal and they must leave the village. They are accompanied by Rand’s girlfriend, Egwene, who wishes to become Aes Sedai, and Thom.

Fleeing Emond’s Field, they pass through Taren Ferry, where Moiraine misdirects the following Myrddraal and sinks the boat they crossed the river on. They see a Draghkar above. They head for the town of Baerlon, which amazes them because of its perceived immense size. On the way, Rand channels for the first time, to help Egwene’s horse stay ahead of the Trollocs, though he is not aware of it at the time. In Baerlon, Rand meets Min, a young woman who claims to see strange auras around him and his companions.

Rand, Mat and Perrin start having dreams of a man clad in black, calling himself Ba’alzamon who tells them they will serve him. He breaks a rat’s back, and in the morning, all the rats in the inn are dead. The village Wisdom, Nynaeve catches up with them. Min tells Rand that this means the trouble they are in is worse. Though Nynaeve wishes to take them home she agrees to go on with them. Mat plays a trick on some Whitecloaks, including Dain Bornhald, getting Rand, who is suffering the ill effects of channeling for the first time, into trouble for laughing. They leave Baerlon at night, Moiraine using a trick of the One Power to scare the Whitecloaks who are intent on stopping them. Behind them, they see the inn they stayed in on fire. They set off on the road to Tar Valon. They are chased by Trollocs, prompting Mat to unknowingly chant the ancient battle cry of Manetheren in the Old Tongue.

To escape, they are forced to seek refuge in the abandoned and tainted city of Shadar Logoth. Despite being warned that even the Trollocs and Myrddraal fear to enter the city, the boys go exploring, where they meet a man called Mordeth, who casts no shadow. When they notice this, he swells up to many times his normal size and tries to get them. They only just escape him, but Mat manages to get a dagger with a large ruby from his treasure. They return, telling Moiraine that Mordeth did not give them anything. Trollocs and Myrddraal enter the city which worries Moiraine and Lan, as normally no Myrddraal would do so, unless under great duress, due to the disappearance of a Trolloc army there in the Trolloc Wars. In order to avoid the Trollocs and the mindless danger of Mashadar, they split up.

Perrin and Egwene end up across a river which runs near the city. Trying to head for Tar Valon, they encounter a strange man, Elyas Machera, who was once a Warder and who is accompanied by wolves. He is able to speak to wolves and claims Perrin can do so as well. The three of them meet up with some Tuatha’an, with whom they spend a few days before heading off. One of them, Aram, takes an instant dislike to Perrin. Aram’s grandmother claims that this is because he has a hard time trying to follow the Way of the Leaf. They are told of an encounter with the Aiel some years previously, in which one claimed that the Dark One wished to turn the Eye of the World to his own purpose.

After leaving the Tuatha’an, the three are chased by a pack of ravens. Before they are caught, they enter a stedding, where creatures of the Dark One are reluctant to enter. Here, they encounter a group of Whitecloaks. Fearing for their lives, Perrin kills two of them before he and Egwene are captured. The Whitecloaks are convinced they are Darkfriends, as Perrin runs with wolves and their leader believes wolves are creatures of the Dark One. Egwene is told that unless she repents, she will be killed. Perrin is told by Geofram Bornhald that as he killed Whitecloaks, he will definitely be killed. Another Whitecloak, Jaret Byar, appears to develop a personal hatred of Perrin. He offers to let them escape, but Perrin realizes he will kill them both if they do.

Nynaeve, Lan and Moiraine also end up together. Moiraine makes Nynaeve accept that she can channel by pointing out that she can sense her presence, and also that Nynaeve can sense the presence of someone who she has Healed with the One Power. She also tells her of apprentice Wisdoms who have died, a common thing amongst those who try to learn to channel on their own. Nynaeve agrees to go to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai, so that she can get revenge on Moiraine. She and Lan also begin to fall in love. The three of them then catch up with and rescue Perrin and Egwene, who Moiraine can trace because of the coin she gave Perrin.

Mat, Thom and Rand escape from Shadar Logoth onto a boat owned by a man called Bayle Domon. Domon is aware of the Trollocs, but believes they are after him, as he has been followed since Saldaea. He shows them ancient objects, including one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, and an object that some men perceive as warm, possibly a male angreal. Domon takes them to Whitebridge where they leave for Caemlyn. They are caught by a Myrddraal, but Mat and Rand escape when Thom stays behind to fight. On the way to Caemlyn, Mat grows steadily more distrustful of everyone except Rand. Darkfriends assail them on the way, encouraging them to swear to the Dark One. One, a woman in silks, tries to kill them, but they escape. Rand has to talk Mat out of killing her. Rand is forced to unknowingly channel again, to escape from a Darkfriend at an inn they are trapped in. They encounter a third Darkfriend later. In Caemlyn, they head for Basel Gill’s inn as it was recommended by Thom. Gill refuses to believe Thom would have been killed. Here Rand meets and befriends Loial, an Ogier, who at first takes Rand for an Aiel, and tells him he must be ta’veren. Whilst trying to get a good view of the false Dragon Logain, who laughs as he sees Rand, Rand falls into the Palace Garden after being distracted by Elayne. She tends his injuries, while Gawyn watches and Galad fetches the palace guard, led by Tallanvor. Elayne believes Rand to be a loyal Queen’s man, as he has a ribbon on his sword that indicates this, but in reality, it is only meant to cover the Heron Mark, and was the cheaper colour. He is taken before Morgase, Bryne and Elaida, who has a Foretelling and announces that Rand stands at the center of all the suffering and destruction to come. Bryne states that the sword belongs with him. Morgase releases him though, as she has heard the accent of the region before, and though Rand does not look like those from the area, he must have grown up there. On the way out, Gawyn reveals that Rand looks like an Aiel.

The others arrive at the inn, and Moiraine temporarily Heals Mat, who had been behaving strangely because the dagger he was carrying had infected him with some of the taint from Shadar Logoth. She says if she hadn’t done so, the taint would have spread throughout the world. Moiraine learns of the plot by the Dark One to use the Eye of the World in the Blight, and they head there via the ways, which Loial knows how to navigate. They only just avoid Machin Shin. They are followed through by Padan Fain, but he stays out of view.

Once out of the ways, they stop in the town of Fal Dara in Shienar, where Padan Fain is captured and revealed to be a Darkfriend, responsible for bringing the Trollocs at Bel Tine. He had been hunting the Dragon Reborn for years. Moiraine reveals that Machin Shin caught up with him but for some reason did not consume him.

They then head off into the Blight. They are attacked by creatures which they fight off, before being pursued by a type of Shadowspawn referred to as Worms, but escape these when they meet the Green Man at the Eye of the World, which is a pool of pure saidin. Whilst there, two of the Forsaken, Aginor and Balthamel, appear. They are very much decayed, as they were close to the top when sealed. They quickly deal with everyone, except the Green Man, who kills Balthamel, though he is killed himself. Rand flees and is pursued by Aginor, who is killed.

Rand finds himself in a strange room with Ba’alzamon, who tells him that he has his mother. Discovering he can channel, Rand cuts a black cord coming out of Ba’alzamon’s back, before returning to the real world. There, he discovers the Eye of the World to be empty of saidin. Several objects are found in it. These are the Horn of Valere, a banner with a Dragon on it and one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison, broken. Loial sings at the place the Green Man fell, growing a strong tree, which he hopes will not fall to the Blight. They then return to Fal Dara, through an unusually quiet Blight.

 

My Thoughts:

First things first. I plan on using the Tar Valon Library synopses for each of these Wheel of Time books as they fully describe the plot (hence the multiple pages of them!) and I like them better than the wikipedia version. Tar Valon Library is a fansite as far as I can tell and it shows. So expect a super long synopsis every time I review a Wheel of Time book!

Second, even My Thoughts here are going to be chalk full of spoilers. It is simply unavoidable. This series is too big to talk about it in any form besides “I liked it” and not have spoilers. Of course, considering this book is almost 30 years old (it was first published in 1990), chances are you aren’t going to read it if you haven’t already! 😀

 

Characters.

  1. What struck me this time around was just how PETTY a lot of the characters were. Some of the characters (Matt for example) really annoyed me by their actions and “how they were” but I realized that Jordan wrote him that way for a reason. But the pettiness, I don’t understand. Nynaeve was the worst example. Almost everything she did was in reaction to the Aes Sedai Moraine. They barely escape with their lives from trollocs and fades and all Nynaeve can think of is how she’s glad that Moraine is rumpled looking. Petty! While I singled out Nynaeve here, that kind of thing is across the board. I had not noticed it, or remembered it, from my previous reads but it stood out strongly this time.
  2. I wanted to kill Matt Cauthon so many times! His “pranks” are dangerous and put everyone in danger time and time again. It seemed to me that if his dad had spanked him more as a kid that he wouldn’t have been so irresponsible now. Of course, that would mean he wouldn’t have taken some of the actions he did which in turn does X, Y and Z. So I just have to put up with it. But my goodness, what a jerk.
  3. Nobody explains ANYTHING to anyone else. People spend days riding horses together or walking together and yet they can’t find time to talk? Moraine tells everybody to not take anything from the cursed city and Matt (obviously) does anyway. But she never explains WHY or what could happen. If the group had known the consequences or the symptoms, what happened to Matt might have been averted or taken care off much sooner. Another example is Perrin and his wolf-brother ability. He finds out from Elyas that he can communicate with wolves and that it probably comes with other abilities. But during the days or weeks (?) that they are travelling together does either one try to figure anything out? Of course not! Perrin pretends it isn’t happening and Elyas is just as happy to let Perrin reinvent the wheel all over again. It really frustrated me.
  4. I’ve complained before, in Another Book Review, about how a large cast of characters is usually off-putting to me. But in this book, even with 7 MAIN characters and a plethora of main side characters, I had no problems. Nada. None. Zero. Zilch. It helped that even when Jordan split them up they were still clumped together in mini-groups but I think the biggest thing is that Jordan was skilled enough to write them in such a way as to not confuse his audience. He also didn’t included Named Characters “just because”. I never mixed anyone up.
  5. The world building was pretty explicit in that Jordan told us a lot about the world by introducing a lot of Groups of People. The Aes Sedai. The Warders. The Children of Light. Darkfriends. The Forsaken. Trollocs and Fades. Ogier. The Tuathan. And more. As each group is introduced, usually with a named character to keep me vested, Jordan reveals a little more about the current world and the past. It was just fantastically done and I never felt overwhelmed, confused or annoyed. It was like I was in a gondola and Jordan was the man using the one oar to gently guide me down the river of the story. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I never worried about going down a wrong channel or hitting the rocks, etc. As much as fans rag on Jordan (and rightly so) for doing stupid things like repeatedly talking about hair pulling or snorting or whatever, the man was skilled in the art of story telling.

 

Plot.

  1. I believe this series was originally pitched as a trilogy. That is hearsay though, as I can’t find any substantive proof to back it up. However, I can believe it. A lot happens. Rand (the main MAIN character) goes from a farmboy to possibly being the Dragon Reborn (the savior or destroyer of the world, depending on what prophecies you read or how you interpret them) and along the way meets all the people he’ll eventually need. And not just to being the Dragon Reborn, but someone who battles several of the Forsaken (the generals of the Dark One), wins and then possibly kills the Dark One himself. So much happens!
  2. At the same time, there is also a lot of what Karlstar (from Librarything) called STTM, or, Slogging Through The Mud. The story is limited to the speed of horses. At least until right near the end of the book and Jordan happily keeps us at that pace.
  3. That leads into another possible issue, depending on how cynical and jaded you might be as a reader. Things Happening When Needed. Near the end of the book they suddenly find out about the Waygates, which allows them to travel great distances very quickly (not without danger mind you and something that they risk their lives doing every time). If you are cynical, you say that Jordan pulls them out of a hat. That was my first impression too. But upon reflection, things CAN’T happen until certain characters are either introduced or meet other characters. Moraine knows about the Waygates, as she is Aes Sedai, but not being an Ogier (the Waygates were a gift from the last of the male Aes Sedai to the Ogier) she wouldn’t have been able to navigate them. It isn’t until they meet Loial the Ogier that they can take advantage of the existence of the Waygates. This type of thing happens several times.
  4. This is a complex story that is made up of many strands being woven together. Considering that The Wheel of Time weaves the lives of men into the Pattern of Ages, it really isn’t a surprise that Jordan writes this way. He’s being very thematically true to the world.

 

General Thoughts.

I met Jordan at a book signing at my local bookstore back in 2005 when Knife of Dreams was released. He was a genial fellow and knew how to keep the patter going so no one got bored, almost a showman you might say. He stated then, in answer to a question, that he had envisioned the ending of the series right from the beginning. That was to reassure us that there was going to be an end, as we were all worried about it turning into something Never Ending. So imagine my surprise when I was reading this and B-A-M!!!, there is the end scene from the final book in one of the visions/dreams Rand has. It made me put my kindle down and laugh and clap my hands! So Jordan didn’t lie to us, he DID have the final scene, it just seems like he either didn’t know how to get there or he took a lot of detours to milk the cash cow. Of course, him dying the next year or so didn’t help fans feel any better at the time! Thank goodness Brandon Sanderson took over and finished it up.

I gave this 4 stars this time around instead of 5 like last time because Matt was a real jackass and Nynaeve was petty. Also the romance between Nynaeve and Lan really came out of no-where. I knew it was coming but even still, there was no indication besides a couple of glances or red cheeks. That really isn’t enough for 2 adults to have a midnight talk about marriage.

Overall, I enjoyed this but am not sure if I’m still the target audience any more.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Infinity Engine (Polity: Transformation #3)

infinityengine (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Infinity Engine
Series: Polity: Transformation #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 577
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

All the threads that Penny Royal has been weaving come together.

The Brockle confronts Penny Royal, assured that its upgraded self can handle anything. Until Penny Royal reveals just how powerful it has become and it throws the Brockle into a black hole, where the Brockle is eventually destroyed.

The Atheter gets off of its planet Masada and takes control of the Polity War Factory 101 and turns it into a Atheter space ship.

Thorvald Spear hooks up with a hot chick and has a ton of money so he’s supposedly taken care of. He also has a black diamond, which it is hinted might contain a part of the mind of Penny Royal.

Penny Royal itself transcends time and space and realizes that time is a loop of nothing but big bangs and heat deaths of the universe. The book ends with Penny Royal wondering if it can change that cycle.

 

My Thoughts:

I made the mistake of waiting almost 2 weeks to write this review. I really should have written it the day after I finished the book. I’ve already forgotten a ton of detail and honestly, the above synopsis is all I can remember of specifics.

I enjoyed my time reading this, hence the 4 stars, but something about Penny Royal has never really clicked with me. I was always more interested in the other characters, the pawn pieces as it were and with this book we don’t get quite as much about them because this is truly about Penny Royal.

While I enjoyed this, I don’t think I’ll be re-reading this particular sub-series again.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1) ★★★★★

furiesofcalderon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Furies of Calderon
Series: Codex Alera #1
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 688
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia: With Spoilers Galore!

The story takes place in the Aleran Empire, which contains “crafters”, people who can control the elements: water, air, earth, fire, wood, and metal, through a person’s bond with an element’s fury.

A young woman named Amara travels with her mentor Fidelias as part of her graduation exercise. Amara is training to become one of the Cursori, messengers and spies for the First Lord of Alera, Gaius Sextus. They infiltrate a camp of mercenaries, when Amara is tricked by a watercrafter named Odiana and betrayed by Fidelias. Odiana is the lover of Aldrick ex Gladius, the greatest swordsman since Araris Valerian, a legendary swordsman who had been in the service of the Princeps of Alera, the First Lord’s late son. Amara escapes and makes contact with First Lord Gaius using her aircraft. He instructs her to go to the city of Garrison.

The story switches to a steadholt controlled by Bernard, a man who lost his wife and children and stays with his sister Isana, and their nephew Tavi who is furyless. Tavi finds that one of his sheep has gone missing. He and Bernard track the sheep when they are attacked by a Marat warrior. The Marat and the Alerans had fought a war before Tavi was born in which the Marat killed Gaius’ son, Princeps Septimus. The Marat are a warrior people who form tribes based on bonds with different animals, for example horses. In the fight, Tavi and Bernard kill the warrior’s war bird but not before Bernard is wounded. Tavi is running for help when a furystorm hits. While seeking shelter, he finds Amara and the two find the Princeps Memorial, a cave dedicated to Princeps Septimus. Bernard makes it back to his steadholt, where Isana uses her watercrafting skills to heal him. Bernard then finds Tavi and Amara and bring them back to the steadholt. Fidelias, Odiana, and Aldrick stay at the steadholt where they discover Amara and attempt to capture her. Amara and Tavi escape with Fade, a slave of the steadholt who is mentally challenged, and together they travel through the woods before Amara splits from the other two.

Tavi and Fade are attacked by Kord, the leader of Kordholt and a slaver. During the fight, Bernard and Amara attack Kord when Fidelias, Odiana, and Aldrick attack. Aldrick kills Kord’s son Bittan and after arriving, Isana floods the river. Bernard and Amara go one way; Tavi and Fade a second, and Fidelias and Aldrick another; Isana, Odiana, Kord, and Kord’s oldest son Aric are washed to Kordholt. Tavi and Fade are captured by a Marat Headman named Doroga. Odiana and Isana, captured by Kord, are locked away and Odiana is raped. Bernard and Amara continue to Garrison where they rouse the Legionares. Fidelias and Aldrick go to the Marat leader Atsurak, who decides to invade Garrison immediately. Tavi convinces Doroga to let him undergo a trial that can stop the attack on Garrison. Tavi faces the trial with Kitai, Doroga’s daughter, and wins, saving Kitai’s life in the process, and undergoing some sort of bond with her which changes the colour of her eyes to match his, although he does not understand the meaning of this change.

Isana and Odiana convince Aric to help them escape Kordholt, and they split up and head to Garrison. Tavi and the Marat head to Garrison to stop Atsurak. Bernard and Amara hold off the Marat, while realising their feelings for one another, and Isana arrives and hides. Tavi and Doroga attack and kill Atsurak, and Tavi reunites with Benard and Isana. They are attacked by Fidelias and Aldrick, who defeat Bernard and Amara with ease. Fade then attacks Aldrick, defeats him, and leaves him alive. It is hinted here that Fade is Araris Valerian. Fidelias throws Fade off the wall, attacks Tavi, and takes Aquitaine’s dagger.

Garrison survived the attack and Tavi is granted a scholarship to the Academy by the First Lord. Bernard and Amara become Count and Countess of the garrison, and Isana is given the title of Steadholder, making her the first woman ever to own a steadholt and gain citizenship through merit rather than marriage.

Fidelias and Aldrick return to Aquitaine, greeted by Invidia, Aquitaine’s wife and discover Aquitaine sleeping with Gaius’ wife Caria.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, I really wish I had thought of this “use Wikipedia” idea for my synopsis much earlier. Mainly for these Epic Fantasy books that are big bad bruisers and part of a collection that is huge. All right, I’ll try to make this the last time I mention that. Maybe that can be my New Years Resolution for 2020, don’t whine about not using Wikipedia earlier. I think I can do that! Hahahahaaa, yeaaaaaahhh.

I read my papercopy at lunch time at work and it took me from mid-October to now to finish it. That means I “should” be able to finish up the entire series next year just reading it at lunch and whenever I have conferences. Having the entire series in paperback means I can throw it into my backpack and not care about the condition it comes out in by the end. The hardcovers are on my shelf to look pretty.

With this being my third read of this book, it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the first time. The revelations about several of the characters isn’t as dramatic nor is the tension the same. Given, it has been almost 8 years since I last read this, so a lot of the detail is missing from my memory, but certain big plot points did stick in my memory.

That being said, this story doesn’t lack. It is pure awesomesauce and even as a coming of age story for Tavi, he’s not a total idiot like most young characters in books today. He makes mistakes but he also matures (hey YA authors, grow the phrack up would you!?!? stop acting like infantile pieces of poop). Then add in that other characters range from their 20’s into being Seniors and well, they keep the story from devolving into what most YA is today. Not that I’d qualify this as YA in any shape, way or form. Ok, no more raging against YA for the rest of the review, I promise.

One thing that I really hadn’t noticed before was just how quickly everything happens. As in, the time frame within the story. It is just a couple of days. For an almost 700 page book to span only a couple of days means that a LOT happens. We jump around to several viewpoints but Butcher doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of being a jackass and giving us a chapter from every side character. We follow the main actors, good and bad. While I wished at times that he had followed a particular viewpoint a bit longer, he did do an excellent job of weaving them altogether into one big tapestry.

My only qualm is that one of the main bad characters get raped by another of the badguys. The rape isn’t explicit or graphic in any way nor did I feel like it was included for shock value. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable beyond the fact that it happened. It just something to be aware of though. The rapist gets the justice he deserves at the end of the book thankfully.

Wow, this went on a lot longer than I expected when I first started writing. I’d say that me writing this much says as much about the book as anything. It is a great book and even on this third time reading I had a good time. Looking forward to the rest of the series as I get to them.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2) ★★★★★

twotowers (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Two Towers
Series: Lord of the Rings #2
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 436
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Fellowship is broken. Gandalf and Boromir are dead, Frodo and Sam have slipped off on their own to find their way into Mordor to destroy the Ring, Merry and Pippin have been captured by Orcs and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli must decide which set of hobbits to follow and support.

The first quarter of the book follows Merry and Pippin as they have their various adventures. Merry and Pippin are captured by the orcs and are on their way to Orthanc, Saruman’s stronghold. Saruman knows that a hobbit holds the One Ring, but he doesn’t know which one. The Orc band, however, is ambushed by the riders of Rohan and destroyed. One of the orcs from Sauron had taken the hobbits outside the orc camp to find for himself what Saruman wanted and this kept the hobbits alive during the attack. They proceed into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet the Ent Treebeard and help convince him and the other Ents that Saruman is a real threat and must be dealt with. Their part of the book ends with the Ents and their herds of trees marching off to Orthanc.

The second quarter of the book follows Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they try to rescue Merry and Pippin. After the breaking of the Fellowship, Aragorn is torn between following Frodo and Sam or rescuing Merry and Pippin. He chooses to rescue Merry and Pippin as he realizes that Frodo and Sam CHOSE to go off on their own. The three friends begin a tracking expedition and start running after the orcs. They find signs that the Hobbits are alive. They then run into the Riders of Rohan who destroyed the orc band. The Riders didn’t see any signs of the Hobbits but the three friends are convinced that the Hobbits are still alive. The three friends find signs that the Hobbits survived the ambush and begin tracking them into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet an old man who they take for Saruman but is revealed as Gandalf returned from the dead. Gandalf lets them know that the Hobbits are safe with the Ents and they (Gandalf and the 3 friends) must begin rousing allies against both Saruman AND Sauron. They all head over to Rohan to get Theoden ready. They find him under the influence of Wormtongue, an ally of Saruman. Gandalf drives Wormtongue out and Theoden rallies his riders. Scouts bring news that Saruman’s entire orc army has marched on Rohan and is destroying everything they find. Everyone heads to Helm’s Deep, a fortress where the Rohirrim make their last stand. Things are looking very bad for them until a whole forest of living trees and a band of riders led by Gandalf and Theoden’s nephew show up. The riders break the siege and the Forest deals with the orcs. Everyone goes to Orthanc. The Ents have destroyed Isengard (the city built around the tower of Orthanc) but Saruman has taken refuge in Orthanc. Gandalf confronts Saruman and casts him out of the Council of the Wise. Wormtongue throws a stone at them that turns out to be a Palantir, a device that allows the user to see around the world and to communicate with other Palantirs.

The final half of the book deals with Frodo and Sam and Gollum as they make their way towards Mordor. Frodo extracts a promise from Gollum to help them. Gollum leads them Mordor but they can’t get in. Gollum reveals that he knows a secret way in through a tunnel in one of the mountains. On the way there the Hobbits meet Faramir, Boromir’s younger brother. Faramir finds out the secret of the Ring but shows he’s a better man than Boromir by not even trying to take the Ring. The Hobbits continue their journey and Gollum leads them to the secret passage. There he disappears and the Hobbits must make their way through the tunnel on their own. They are ambushed by a giant spider named Shelob, who is an evil power on her own. Gollum is her vassal and plans on taking the Ring from the corpses of Frodo and Sam once she has eaten them. With the Phial of Galadriel and Sting, Sam destroys Shelob but not before she stings Frodo. Frodo enters a deathlike state and Sam is convinced he is dead. Sam takes the Ring and realizes the burden to destroy it is now his. Some orcs come along and Sam finds out that Frodo isn’t actually dead. The orcs take Frodo to their base and the book ends with Sam using the Ring to follow them so he can rescue Frodo.

 

My Thoughts:

For a 400+ page book, this felt incredibly short. Things just happen bam, bam, bam! It was great to be honest. Lean, sparse and yet fully fleshed out, the writing here wasn’t like some of the stuff we get today, ie, “world building”. Man, save me from “world building” for world building’s sake. Tolkien reveals a LOT about his world but it never becomes the point of the story and it always is secondary to the plot. It was masterfully done in my opinion.

Another thing I appreciated, that annoys me with more modern stuff, is that we stuck with one group POV for ¼, ¼ and then ½ of the book. We don’t follow a character for one chapter and then skip to another. My literary feet were firmly grounded in each POV instead of jumping and whirling and generally giving me motion sickness (I’m looking at you, John Gwynne and your horrible, terrible, no-good Valor). It was also written in such a way that I wasn’t thinking about the other characters not on page. I was fully invested in each group as I read about them.

I mentioned how short this felt. Not only that but the story itself sped by. If I hadn’t been reading carefully, so many things are mentioned by a character that aren’t fully written out, I would have missed a lot. Tolkien doesn’t pad out anything and he expects his readers to be paying attention and not need everything spoon fed to them. As a grumpy “get your YA off my lawn!” man, I appreciate that. It also lends itself towards re-reads, as you will miss some things on each read or not fully grasp the import of a sentence until you’ve read it again years later.

All of that being said, this does feel very much like the Grandfather of Fantasy. What I expect today and what I am used to (even if I am not fully behind it, like 1000 page tomes) is very different and that colors my perception of this.

Overall, this was a great read and a fantastic way to end the month.

 

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Bards of Bone Plain ★★★★½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Bards of Bone Plain
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition



Synopsis:

From the Wiki

The book is set in a culture reminiscent of the medieval era, but technologically near-modern, and in which archaeology is also an established profession. Scholar Phelan Cle of the Bardic School at Caerau chooses as his graduate thesis the subject of the perhaps mythical Bone Plain, where all poetry is said to have originated, and the tale of the wandering bard Nairn.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan’s alcoholic father, pursues his own investigations, urged on by his dedicated disciple Princess Beatrice, the king’s youngest daughter. At the standing stones near the school is unearthed a strange artifact, a disk marked with ancient runes that may prove key to the mysteries of Bone Plain. Beatrice soon discovers indications of the lost language it represents everywhere.

Alternating chapters recount the activities of the Cles and the princess and the legend of Nairn, and gradually the present and past are revealed to mirror each other and ultimately fuse.

My Own Little Bit

Turns out Jonah is Nairn and that Welkin/Keldin is simply trying to reverse the curse Nairn brought upon himself from the first competition back in history. Jonah faces Keldin thinking he is taking his son’s place but Keldin uses it to restore to Jonah his musical ability. Everybody lives happily ever after and Phelan’s best friend Zoe Wrenn becomes the next Royal Bard, only now she knows about the magic in the music.

My Thoughts:

McKillip doesn’t let me down. The mystery of language is explored in her typical lyrical way and the journey is beautiful with the way she crafts her story. As I noted in my 2011 review (linked below), she doesn’t hide quite so much in poetic form so the overall story is easier to understand. I liked that last time but this time I’m not really so sure. I think I would have liked MORE mystery, not less!

McKillip has moved her writing from a straight Medieval to a late 1800th Century, with automobiles and the like while still having bards and bardic schools. The magic is a given though, while most people in the story have forgotten that magic even exists.

With this move forward in time McKillip also brings forward some more modern ideas and those are what will keep this from being a 5star read for me. Several times she has unmarried couples sleeping together and that being completely normal. It was more striking to me because of its absence in her other works.

I’ve only got a couple more McKillip books to read through before this cycle of re-reads is over and honestly, I can tell I’m going to miss her stuff. I simply love her writing!

And finally, I’m including the full art spread for the cover by Kinuko Craft. They’re just so beautiful.


★★★★½


Bards of Bone Plain (2011 Review)

Bleak House ★★★★★

bleak house (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Bleak House
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1047
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Shamelessly Stolen from Wikipedia

Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Honoria live on his estate at Chesney Wold. Unknown to Sir Leicester, before she married, Lady Dedlock had a lover, Captain Hawdon, and had a daughter by him. Lady Dedlock believes her daughter is dead.

The daughter, Esther, is in fact alive and being raised by Miss Barbary, Lady Dedlock’s sister. Esther does not know Miss Barbary is her aunt. After Miss Barbary dies, John Jarndyce becomes Esther’s guardian and assigns the Chancery lawyer “Conversation” Kenge to take charge of her future. After attending school for six years, Esther moves in with him at Bleak House.

Jarndyce simultaneously assumes custody of two other wards, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare (who are both his and one another’s distant cousins). They are beneficiaries in one of the wills at issue in Jarndyce and Jarndyce; their guardian is a beneficiary under another will, and the two wills conflict. Richard and Ada soon fall in love, but though Mr Jarndyce does not oppose the match, he stipulates that Richard must first choose a profession. Richard first tries a career in medicine, and Esther meets Allan Woodcourt, a physician, at the house of Richard’s tutor. When Richard mentions the prospect of gaining from the resolution of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Jarndyce beseeches him never to put faith in what he calls “the family curse”.

Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock is also a beneficiary under one of the wills. Early in the book, while listening to the reading of an affidavit by the family solicitor, Mr Tulkinghorn, she recognises the handwriting on the copy. The sight affects her so much she almost faints, which Tulkinghorn notices and investigates. He traces the copyist, a pauper known only as “Nemo”, in London. Nemo has recently died, and the only person to identify him is a street-sweeper, a poor homeless boy named Jo, who lives in a particularly grim and poverty-stricken part of the city known as Tom-All-Alone’s (“Nemo” is Latin for “nobody”).

Lady Dedlock is also investigating, disguised as her maid, Mademoiselle Hortense. Lady Dedlock pays Jo to take her to Nemo’s grave. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is concerned Lady Dedlock’s secret could threaten the interests of Sir Leicester and watches her constantly, even enlisting her maid to spy on her. He also enlists Inspector Bucket to run Jo out of town, to eliminate any loose ends that might connect Nemo to the Dedlocks.

Esther sees Lady Dedlock at church and talks with her later at Chesney Wold – though neither woman recognises their connection. Later, Lady Dedlock does discover that Esther is her child. However, Esther has become sick (possibly with smallpox, since it severely disfigures her) after nursing the homeless boy Jo. Lady Dedlock waits until Esther has recovered before telling her the truth. Though Esther and Lady Dedlock are happy to be reunited, Lady Dedlock tells Esther they must never acknowledge their connection again.

Upon her recovery, Esther finds that Richard, having failed at several professions, has disobeyed his guardian and is trying to push Jarndyce and Jarndyce to conclusion in his and Ada’s favour. In the process, Richard loses all his money and declines in health. He and Ada have secretly married, and Ada is pregnant. Esther has her own romance when Mr Woodcourt returns to England, having survived a shipwreck, and continues to seek her company despite her disfigurement. Unfortunately, Esther has already agreed to marry her guardian, John Jarndyce.

Hortense and Tulkinghorn discover the truth about Lady Dedlock’s past. After a confrontation with Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock flees her home, leaving a note apologising for her conduct. Tulkinghorn dismisses Hortense, who is no longer of any use to him. Feeling abandoned and betrayed, Hortense kills Tulkinghorn and seeks to frame Lady Dedlock for his murder. Sir Leicester, discovering his lawyer’s death and his wife’s flight, suffers a catastrophic stroke, but he manages to communicate that he forgives his wife and wants her to return.

Inspector Bucket, who has previously investigated several matters related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce, accepts Sir Leicester’s commission to find Lady Dedlock. At first he suspects Lady Dedlock of the murder but is able to clear her of suspicion after discovering Hortense’s guilt, and he requests Esther’s help to find her. Lady Dedlock has no way to know of her husband’s forgiveness or that she has been cleared of suspicion, and she wanders the country in cold weather before dying at the cemetery of her former lover, Captain Hawdon (Nemo). Esther and Bucket find her there.

Progress in Jarndyce and Jarndyce seems to take a turn for the better when a later will is found, which revokes all previous wills and leaves the bulk of the estate to Richard and Ada. Meanwhile, John Jarndyce cancels his engagement to Esther, who becomes engaged to Mr Woodcourt. They go to Chancery to find Richard. On their arrival, they learn that the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is finally over, but the costs of litigation have entirely consumed the estate. Richard collapses, and Mr Woodcourt diagnoses him as being in the last stages of tuberculosis. Richard apologises to John Jarndyce and dies. John Jarndyce takes in Ada and her child, a boy whom she names Richard. Esther and Woodcourt marry and live in a Yorkshire house which Jarndyce gives to them. The couple later raise two daughters.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, I started out trying to synopsize this myself and gave up after 3 paragraphs. As you can see by the wiki synopsis, there is a ton of stuff going on and I simply didn’t feel like re-inventing the wheel. I have this feeling I’ll be doing more of that kind of thing for big, complicated books from now on. Besides, beyond me, who really reads those synopses anyway? And even I don’t read them except when I want to refresh my memory of what a book is about. I feel ashamed though, deep inside. Like I’m a school boy cheating on his test or something, hahahahahahaha! Yeah, ok, not really.

This was my 3rd time reading this and I have to say, it does nothing but get better with each reading. There are a wide range of characters, both in age and temperament that I suspect I’ll be able to enjoy at the various seasons of my life. From Richard and Ada as young lovers, to Esther who is guided by duty and rewarded with Love, to George the military man who just wants to do the right thing, to Lady Deadlock who appears cold and haughty even while her heart is breaking, to John Jarndyce, the Guardian and supporter of so many. And that is just to name a few. Dickens brings these people alive and makes them wonderful to read about. And the villains of the story range from the cruel and grasping to the inept and almost bumbling. I LIKED reading about them all.

This was a long book. Previously I’ve read it divided into 2 volumes (as that is what I own) but the ebook I read was one single volume. While it took me most of the month to work my way through this, I didn’t feel like I wished I was reading something else or that I was wasting my time. Reading Dickens is never a waste of my time. I realize that everyone isn’t going to share my particular love of Dickens but I sure wish everyone did. I tend to look at reading Dickens as an investment in myself. I enjoy the story, I enjoy the characters, I enjoy the themes (for the most part except when he gets a bit preachy about some social issue which has no relevance today) and I enjoy the writing style. Honestly, what more can I ask for from an author?

I don’t have any deep insights to offer and I’m not going to write a bunch of bull to sound like some Literati, but if you’ve never tried Dickens, for your own sake, please do. If he’s not for you, he’s not for you, but if he is, my goodness, you’re in for a world of wonder!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

War Factory (Polity: Transformation #2) ★★★★☆

d256c6276aa7e43ce7408d202cdf0f95This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: War Factory
Series: Polity: Transformation #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 472
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There are viewpoints from: Captain Blight and Crew, who Penny Royal the Black AI hitches rides with; Sverl the Prador who is turning into a human, prador and AI, Thorvald Spear who started out hunting down Penny Royal and now carries out its wishes; Cvorn the Prador who is trying to re-start the war between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom; Oberon the King of the Prador who seems to be a Spatterjay virus infected Prador who is trying to change his subjects so they can survive long term; and finally The Brockle, a forensic AI who pretty much tortures people and other AI who have committed crimes until the Polity gets what they want from the criminals, the Brockle considers Penny Royal to be the biggest criminal in the Polity to date.

Penny Royal seems to be trying to figure something out but nobody is sure exactly what that is. In the process it is fixing many of its past mistakes, most of which are included in the list of POV’s above.

The End Point is Room 101, a War Factory (hence the name of the book) from the war and the journey is getting everyone there at the proper time.

 

My Thoughts:

It has only been 3 years since I last read this but really, aside from from a couple of overall things, it was like reading a brand new book. It probably doesn’t help that the synopsis is so vague because of how many viewpoints there are that are interweaving for the whole book.

Speaking of viewpoints, Asher handled them like a champ. Unlike that rat custard Gwynne, I never got annoyed reading them during this book. When a view point would change, I never felt like I was leaving something undone and wanted to stay. Asher wove his story adroitly and expertly and I for one appreciated that.

The only real downside was that Asher once again delves into crustacean sex, like he did in one of his spatterjay books. I don’t know why he finds giant crabs doing it exciting, but he sure does. Doesn’t matter if it is used as a device to kill Cvorn later on, but having Cvorn cut off a younger crabs genitals, stitch them on himself and then use them to have sex for again for the first time in decades is just not something I really want to read about. However, it is unique. So if you are looking for a unique reading experience, you’ll get that here!

I did like how Asher delves into what is murder. Being an atheist, he approaches it from the complete cessation of existence. So a society that can recreate an entity if they’ve recorded themselves onto crystal has to decide what is murder. Asher, like many technologists of today, simply assumes that the brain and every biological part, CAN be recorded and that we are nothing but a collection of data. It doesn’t bother me because this is a universe in which AI exist. Throw in some dragons and the probability factor doesn’t actually change, if you know what I mean.

Half of the action was spaceship oriented, which isn’t my thing, but thankfully the other half was all groundpounder action. Now THAT is my thing.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)