Review of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (Spoiler free)

I’ve been threatening/planning to reread Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy classic series of Discworld and at last apathy has been overcome. So grab hold of the giant flying turtle, do not call the passenger next to you a monkey and, please sir, stow that suitcase away in the overhead compartment (no I don’t care if it has legs).

So ignore the throbbing pain in your shins we’re mixing metaphors and hopping aboard the Discworld express as it winds it’s way down from the Sto plains to Ankh-Morpork.

Due to some temporal confusion our first stop is not ‘The Colour of Magic’ but is in fact the ‘Hogfather’. Lets do a plot synopsis..

Hogfather – The Plot

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Hogswatch i.e. Saturnalia. Right at this moment the Hogfather should be abseiling his way down chimneys delivering presents to excited children.

There is a slight snafu though the Hogfather is not anywhere to be found and in his place DEATH has taken it upon himself to deliver presents to the world’s children, one computer and a Librarian Orangutan that you definitely shouldn’t call a monkey.

DEATH‘s granddaughter Susan De’Ath finds this, understandably, slightly troublingly and sets about to investigate. Her sleuthing takes her to a collapsing castle of bones, the Unseen University and a place where the sky doesn’t meet the ground. Along the way she meets the Oh god of Hanggovers, the Veruca Gnome, Cheefulness Fairy and a maniac assassin who looks at the world as if through a cracked mirror…

Review

The first thing I want to say is if you haven’t read any other Discworld books don’t be put off by the plot synopsis or the fact that this is the 20th in the series. To enjoy this book you don’t have to have read any of Pratchett’s other works.

The second thing I want to say is that this book is funny. There are large sections of this book with the wizard’s and Bloody Stupid Johnson, DEATH , the Ankh-Morpork Beggars and assorted others that are laugh out loud funny. The book is worth picking just for the jokes alone. It is certainly funnier than almost any sitcom, romcom or standup routine.

Thirdly, this book has a great plot, a great heroine and a brilliant villain. The plot so this book is brilliantly clever playing around with ideas of faith, ritual, tradition and well ideas. These concepts really appeal to me.

The heroine Susan De’Ath is kickass clever using a poker to beat up monsters like the boogeyman and Mister Teatime (pronounced Teh-ah-tim-eh)  is one of the most chillingly creepy villains I have ever come across. All great stories need a memorable villain and Mister Teatime is probably Pratchett’s best.

Unsurprisingly, the author puts it better than I ever could so here is a couple of quotes about Mister Teatime. The first from Head of the Assassins Guild Lord Downey

“We took pity on him because he lost both parents at an early age. I think, on reflection, that we should have wondered a bit more about that.”

The second “Mister Teatime had a truly brilliant, but it was brilliant like a fractured mirror, all marvelous facets and rainbows but, ultimately, also something that was broken.”

And the third upon being told some heroes have arrived on the scene to stop him ” ‘Well?’ said Teatime. ‘Just… do away with them.’ …..

Chickenwire coughed. ‘Don’t you want to find out why they’re here, sir?

‘Good heavens, no. Why should I want to do that?”

Finally, Pratchett’s writing is sublime. Without using lots of language he is able to create a vivid picture of the world and its characters. Each scene is allows the reader to inhabit the Discworld and the characters by grounding even the most fantastical stuff in human experience.

All of the Discworld books are worth a read but Hogfather is is Magnum Opus. It truly is a holiday and literary classic. So get in the holiday season early this year with Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

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Review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar – Great Visuals, High Ambition, Weak Story (SPOILER KLAXON)

THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT ! THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS A SPOILER aLERT!

In keeping with my self-appointed quest to populate this blog with the latest and choicest cinematic morsels I bring you a review of Christopher Nolan’s  sci-fi blockbuster “Interstellar”.

IMBD Synopsis

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Review

Like practically anyone who has seen one of his movies I am a Christopher Nolan fan. Out of all the directors working in film today Nolan is the only director who is consistently making the sort of smart, challenging blockbusters with clever plots that I want to see.

It is fair to say then I was looking forward to see Nolan’s latest offering ‘Interstellar’. I deliberately avoided information, reviews and spoilers. I went into the cinema ‘cold’ and I’m glad I did so because, if ever there was a film whose enjoyment cannot survive spoilers it is ‘Interstellar’.

In writing this review though I am unsure of my feelings. Previous Nolan films like the Dark Knight and Inception left me leaving the cinema with my mind blown.

This emphatically did not happen with Interstellar. Throughout the film’s three hour run time I was intrigued but I wasn’t captivated or gripped. Whilst I saw the Dark Knight in cinema twice and have watched it and Inception many many times on DVD I don’t feel the same way about Interstellar. In fact after seeing it once I have absolutely no desire to see it again but I am glad that I saw it on the big screen.

What worked

So what did I like about Interstellar? It is brilliantly shot. The space visuals were fantastic. I really got a sense of the isolation and scale of space. Furthermore, Nolan doesn’t use CGI too much and therefore when he does use CGI it works. Compared to “Gravity”, which I didn’t see on big screen, I thought the space stuff in Interstellar was far superior.

On top of the visuals there is also the soundtrack which is fantastic and really adds to the film. The scene where Cooper docks with the space station that is wildly spinning is tense and gripping and, frankly, awesome. At least 50% of this awesomeness is due to the score. This bit of the film also has the best bit of dialogue from the film “That’s impossible. No it’s necessary”.

What didn’t work

Unfortunately, there is plenty of stuff that didn’t work. Much of the strength of Nolan films has been the excellent plots that kept you guessing. The plot for this one couldn’t keep a clever 10 year old guessing.

Right from the off it was obvious that the answer to the film going to be the ‘ghost’ in Murphy’s room. This Checkov moment could be forgiven however if it wasn’t for the blatant and explicit use of Dues Ex Machina. Or to be accurate Future Humans Ex Blackholina.

This brings us to the second problem with the plot it is both needless contrived and too simple. There’s a plan A and a plan B and the possibility that plan A is a scam and then there is the ongoing crucial research on gravity and Coopers desire to go home to his children and Brand’s desire to go to her lovers planet.

There is all this going on and yet at the same time the like the ‘ghost’ the characters explicitly say love is the answer just follow your heart. Nolan is a god enough director that this didn’t produce waves of nausea from me but I;m not going to pretend that this hokeyness is good writing.

In short the plot of the film was just poor.

Conclusion

Nolan aims for deep space in Interstellar but doesn’t make it out beyond the moon. Interstellar is deeply flawed and isn’t a classic. Its ambition is so vast though that you’ve got to kind of like it. Plus these are the kind of films that we want to see made. So go out to the cinema and give Interstellar a watch.

Review of The Night Eternal : Part 3 of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (SPOILER KLAXON)

Plot Synopsis

“It’s been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There has been a mass extermination of humans orchestrated by the Master—an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers. The future of humankind lies in the hands of a ragtag band of freedom fighters—Dr. Eph Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Vasiliy Fet, and Mr. Quinlan, the half-breed offspring of the Master who is bent on revenge.”

Review

I don’t say this lightly. I can’t remember the last time I finished a series and regretted reading it but that is how I feel about ‘The Night Eternal’. After a strong first book and a so-so second book the Strain series concludes with The Night Eternal and it’s a complete stinker.

Books, films, poems, games, stories of any type really make implicit promises to the audience that things are going to unfold in certain ways. The story sets up questions that are going to be answered or at least expectations of the type of questions asked and/or the way that are being answered.

If you start off playing Mario you expect to fight Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. If the story starts with a quest to a far off mountain to destroy a magical ring the story better be about getting to the mountain and destroying said ring. If the story starts with John McCain taking his shoes off in a skyscraper then that skyscraper better be taken over by German terrorists and the fact he is shoeless needs to figure in also. You get the point.

The Night Eternal doesn’t understand this. ‘The Strain’ (Book One) set the scene about the type of story that is being told. The book starts off by putting a ‘scientific’ spin on Vampires. Rather than being mythical creatures the main character is the chief scientist for the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

When he starts investigating the outbreak he is looks at the situation in a rational, clinical way. He is doing autopsies of the infected bodies and we the audience get to see how the virus is completely taking over the host and rewriting its physiology at the most fundamental level.

This is an interesting and fresh take of the vampire myth. Given the popularity of Twilight and other vampire books that are essentially about teenage girls being able to bang impossibly hunky looking guys it is particularly refreshing. These vampires are EVIL, they want to destroy humanity and they have a plan to do it.

Now it is important to be realistic with vampire stories. We are dealing with well worn tropes here. So I’m not expecting things to completely different and I wouldn’t want them to be.

These vampires cannot cross flowing water unaided and they are hurt by silver. I’m fine with this and the vulnerability to silver is nicely explained by the Silver’s well known anti-bacterial properties. The story is fitting the tropes of vampires into the idea of vampirism as a virus that exists in the modern world. This is story that I’m expecting to be told.

In ‘The Night Eternal’ this ‘scientific’ story was completely jettisoned in what is a complete mess of a book. The book decides to give us the origins of ‘The Master’ by making the story about religion. In brief ‘The Master’ is one part of an Angel that came down to Earth when God was dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah. Stuff happens it turns evil.

Then to compound matters the climax of the story is straight up Deus Ex Machina in which it turns out that Eph is a prophet. He gets a vision from God and is miraculously given the answer. It’s really unsatisfying.

Furthermore, the series has set up a whole series of character arcs that it never takes the time to develop and then gets bored of and drops halfway through.

Annoyingly/pointlessly they decided to keep Nora’s Alzheimer suffering mother around only to have her killed off screen. Even worse they set up the relationship triangle with the Master, Eph and his son Zach only to leave it to late to do anything about the issue.

Then as a final kicker the entire story has a huge plot hole. The characters spend much of the book trying to acquire a detonator for a nuclear bomb as a nuke detonated at the right place can destroy ‘The Master’. This is fine but in passing they also decide to say that the UK has survived the vampire apocalypse in tact by flooding the channel tunnel.

It’s nice that they have saved my homeland but they didn’t think this through. The UK is a nuclear power. Its weapons are based on nuclear powered Trident submarines. Wikipedia tells me the UK has around 225 Nukes. I’m not going to go into all the permutations but one way or the other the UK is going to take care of this Vampire apocalypse/ be really really helpful. This avenue is completely ignored though and it is symptomatic of how lazy this book is.

In conclusion, this is one of the most disappointing conclusions to trilogy I’ve read. Given that the authors are really good storytellers on other projects. The Night Eternal’s laziness is inexcusable.

Do I trust Damon Lindelof enough to watch The Leftovers? – Review Ep 1 & 2

Synopsis (from IMBD)

The Leftovers “revolves around mysterious disappearances, world-wide, and specifically follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the loss of more than 100 people”.

Review

When I first saw the trailer for ‘The Leftovers’ I adamant that I was not going to be watching it.  Sitting at my laptop when it came on however, it did catch my attention and in many ways this was my greatest fear. My fear was that The Leftovers would draw me like the Sirens of ancient Greek myth only to leave me marooned on the rocks of narrative disappointment.

You see I didn’t look at the premise of ‘The Leftovers’ and think that looks uninteresting or that’s stupid. As a lover of fantasy and science fiction I am fully on board with high concept premises. On seeing ‘The Leftovers’ my first thought that is an interesting idea but not for a TV series. In particular not for an American TV series

Why you ask?

Whilst the premise of The Leftovers is interesting and the show contains actors I like (Peep Show alum Paterson Joseph in particular is well cast). However, it also has a high potential to combine two tropes I hate.  Even worse it’s two tropes that can feed off each other.

Trope number one – Flashbacks

It’s an American TV drama staple. Lets show why character A is acting in such a way by flashing back five years and spending half the episode in a tedious narrative cul de sac. The Leftovers which is about a mystical event that disappears two percent of the population is ripe for tedious flashbacks.

Person number one wasn’t raptured but their wife was. Que flashback to before the rapturing as the writer drags us through a flashback of an affair or abusive relationship e.t.c.

Trope number 2. Religion/the meaning of life

People have been raptured off the planet what is the metaphysical significance of this? The perfect excuse for vague dialogue which pretends to offer some philosophical insight but in reality does nothing of the sort.

The Leftovers already had some hurdles to overcome in my eyes and then I found out that Lindelof was writing the series. Whilst I have enjoyed some of his work like Prometheus you would struggle to argue that he isn’t the prime propagator of tropes 1 and 2.  This then leads into the question

Do I trust Damon Lindelof enough to watch The Leftovers?

As I said though episode one did raise enough questions to draw me in. I am interested in the guy that is shooting dogs and Christopher Eccelston’s character and the cult of silent people dressed in white.

But this of course just brings me back to Lindelof. No doubt the guy can write interesting premises but they never lead anywhere satisfying.

So what I am coming up against is an odd theoretical issue. As a reader or viewer of stories I tend to without thinking trust that the author is going to fulfill his promises. After all successful writers do this but I’ve been burnt by Lindelof before.

I’m in an odd position. I enjoyed, the first episode in particular, enough that I’m tempted to give The Leftovers. However, I’m reticent to get back onto the merry-go-round with this Lindelof. The Leftovers is on a very short leash.

Review : Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Plot Synopsis (off goodreads because once again I’m lazy)

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

 Review – My problems with Half A King

It’s a bit odd to be reviewing Half A King because, this book isn’t aimed at me it is aimed at a young adult audience. I knew this before I read Half A King of course but didn’t give it much thought. I have really enjoyed Joe Abercrombie’s books and it was off that experience that I picked up his latest story.

When it comes to reviewing the book however I find myself in a cleft stick. How much should my opinion be changed by the fact that the book is aimed towards 10-14 years olds. Even when I started writing this paragraph my thought was that I should make a hefty allowance for this. However, I have changed my mind as I write. So here it is.

It think it was JK Rowling who said that to write for children you need to have a very clear idea of what it was to be like at that age. I’m not sure that Joe Abercrombie does or at least he has underestimated children and sold himself short with Half A King.

Robin Hobb’s words in her goodreads review get to the heart of my point. Hobbs writes that Half A King had “exceptionally tight focus on the protagonist” that she liked. 

I agree with her and I have no problem with a tight POV. After all I think my Harry Potter love is probably clear from my reference to JK Rowling and Harry Potter also has a tight POV focus.

What Abercrombie does in Half A King though is to allow that tightness to restrict the world building. There are hints to the world at large. For example, Yarvi’s mother is a fiscal genius but slavery seems to play its part in her success. Whilst there is a monotheism v paganism cultural war going on that is only hinted at.

Since Yarvi’s character is so book smart and clever from his time studying to become an advisor to Kings and Queens it would have been great to see Abercrombie clash Yarvi’s “book” knowledge against reality where the hoof meets the grass. Particularly in light of the hinted upon slavery. This wouldn’t need to be done by beating the reader over the head with the point. I would have just liked to have been given a broader snapshot of the world as a whole.

Ultimately, the lack of ambition in Half A King prevents a very good readable novel from being a young adult classic. The best children/young adult books stretch their readers in a way that I don’t think Half A King ever quite manages.

Abercrombie seems to have reigned himself in when he was writing Half A King when instead, to write for young adults, he should have been letting his imagination soar.

What Half A King did well

After those critical comments I feel I must temper things somewhat by saying I did enjoy Half  A King a lot. I breezed through it in less than a couple of nights of reading and I only do this when I’m enjoying a book.

Particularly, great was the depth to the characters. Everyone has real flaws and real positives. Whether they are a hero or a villian. There were no Mary Sue’s here which is more than can be said for other books.

Despite, being the protagonist Yarvi’s can be a ruthless unsentimental b***ard and the book does shy away from this. Such touches have always been Abercrombie’s biggest strength as a storyteller and their presence keeps the grimdark feel of his earlier works going strong even with the lack of r-rated material.

Conclusion

If you’re an Abercrombie fan looking for a fix or a someone who enjoys “young adult” fiction then give Half A King a go. It’s very good. With a bit more ambition though it could have been great.

 

Review : The Way Of Shadows by Brent Weeks

***SPOILER KLAXON***

Plot Synopsis (from amazon because I’m lazy)

The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets.

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art. And he is the city’s most accomplished artist, his talents required from alleyway to courtly boudoir.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned the hard way to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.

Review

Brent Week’s The Way of Shadows had been on my list of things to read for a while. Weeks is one of those “new” writers that you hear about lots if you are reading popular fiction/fantasy and so I began to read “The Way Of Shadows” with if not high expectations then expectations of nonetheless.

After finishing the book I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but I would say I’m nonplussed. The Way Of Shadows is highly generic boilerplate stuff. Readings some reviews on goodreads the sentiments seem to be that people either love it or hate it. I however am firmly down the middle. It is not great and it isn’t awful. 

Essentially, The Way of Shadows mixes the well trodden coming of age story (think Enders Game or Harry Potter) with the kind of grimdark nasty  gritty fantasy that Joe Abercrombie has popularised. After reading The Way of Shadows I’m not sure the two are a good mix (although I may change my mind once I’ve read Joe Abercrombie’s “Half a King”).

The book starts off really strongly. The bad guy character, Rat, is rapist and a sadist. In other words a throughally reprehensible individual. When Azoth “kills” Rat you don’t feel any sympathy for Rat. Even better whilst doing this it establishes some key facets of Azoth’s and Durzo Blinth’s personalities. Azoth loves Doll Girl and is essentially a good guy even if he is apprenticed to an assassin and Durzo Blinth is tortured by demons.

This promising start is wasted however. Weeks seems to want to place Azoth on a downward path because of the work he is doing as a “wetboy” however there is no real change in Azoth’s character. He becomes more skilled at being an assassin. He pines after Doll Girl from afar but throughout it all he remains essentially a heroic figure. Azoth doesn’t have many character flaws except caring too much despite Blint telling him love is a noose. If I’m being harsh Azoth isn’t far from being a Marty Stu.

Now Azoth’s characterization may not be especially daring but you can’t say that it is not a winning formula. The heroes journey is a well trodden path and by having the book told from Azoth’s POV the reader is allowed to learn about the world as Azoth does.

There are two problems with this. Firstly, the exposition of the world is rather clunky. Plot twists don’t surprise because, you had all the relevant information and didn’t see it coming rather they leap out from nowhere and the relevant information is filled in very quickly right afterwards. This is not satisfying.  

More than this though the grimdark stuff i.e. swearing, talk about castration doesn’t fit in nicely with the nicey nice heroes coming of age story. It goes back to what I said earlier about needing to see the characters shaped by the world they are living in.

Initially Weeks does this with Azoth. Azoth is living on the streets and is desperate. As a result Azoth strives and succeeds in becoming Blint’s apprentice. After this beginning though Azoth in particular is just too nice and one dimensional. I never got the sense that his fear of Blint or fear of the streets was driving him become an assassin. I never got the sense that Azoth was staring into the abyss. When this subject is talked about with Doll Girl all Azoth essentially does is say I’m a good guy and this is accepted.

The Way of Shadows felt very much like someone’s first novel. The book is too generic in some places and then not generic enough in other places. Furthermore, if you are going to set your novel in a crapsack world filled with suffering then I need to feel that the main character has been effected by this suffering. This never happened with Azoth and as such The Way of Shadows never really did it for me.

In the end though despite all the criticism I’ve heaped on it I would give The Way Of Shadows three out of five stars. There is good stuff in there but it is hard to find. Plus magic ninja assassin are inherently cool.   When he wrote this Weeks hadn’t yet found his voice. When/if I read another Weeks book I will be interested to see how his talents have developed.

 

 

 

Review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher (SPOILER KLAXON!!!)

skingameOn May 27th the entertainment event of the year (until England win the World Cup [side note I’m not delusional I know England have about as much chance of winning the World Cup as Harry Dresden does of inviting Nicodemus to his daughter’s next birthday party]) touched down onto planet Earth. I am of course referring to the latest Harry Dresden adventure thriller “Skin Game”.

In case you haven’t read it yet or are unaware of the Dresden series then things are briefly as follows. Harry Dresden is a powerful wizard/ private detective who is sucked into an increasingly dangerous, high stakes world. Skin Game is book 15 in the series. Whilst I recommend the series I would not recommend starting with Skin Game. To avoid confusion you would at least need to go back to book four or five.

The plot of “Skin Game” revolves around one very reluctant Winter Knight Harry Dresden being forced to into a heist under the leadership of the noose wearing, independent shadow having, coin collecting Nicodemus Archleone. The location of the target. The bowels of the ancient Greek underworld. The target who the Hades knows what.

It’s a great set up for a novel and Skin Game certainly deserves its place in the Pantheon of the always exciting Dresden Files. To flesh this out a bit I will briefly explain the snake-like manner in which I consumed Skin Game.

Skin Game hit my Kindle at one minute past midnight on the 27th and I had finished it by around 3pm the next day. I took my time in getting the review up however, because I felt I needed to continue my reread of the earlier Dresden Files and then read Skin Game again in order to offer an opinion that moved behind it’s great.

You see as much as I enjoyed Skin Game I feel it’s parts don’t quite hang together structurally. Butcher doesn’t quite pull off the perfect heist. For starters it is painfully obvious that Harry has set the trap up in the opening hours of the novel. As such Butcher never managed to convince me that Harry was in real danger in the way he has in the past. Although to give Butcher his due I didn’t work out what Harry’s ace in the hole was.

The problem then is that the heist idea and the emotional character stuff don’t suit each other. I thought the way that the crew broke into Baron Marcone’s vault was a bit too simple. Instead of using the equivalent of a frontal charge to break in it would have been better if they had been forced to creep in via stealthy means. This could have really ratcheted up the tension and played off the very justifiable lack of trust that the heist crew have with each other. However, this set up would have made doing the necessary character stuff near impossible narratively speaking.

The heist plot then wasn’t as tight and taut as it could have been. To prove my point here is a spoilerific list of some of the important stuff that occurred in Skin Game (in no particular order. Oh SPOILER WARNING).

A new Knight of the Cross was found, a holy sword was broken and then lightsaberised, Harry became a proper dad, Karrin and Harry admitted their love, the “parasite” turned out to be a spirit of intellect conceived by Harry and the shadow Lash (which meant Harry was pregnant), Harry took a holy sword back into his safekeeping, Harry picked up four incredibly power holy weapons/artifacts, worryingly Nicomedius got the Holy Grail, the corruption of elements of the church was all but confirmed, it was revealed that Harry is able to hold conversations with the prisoners in Demonreach and Mouse is learning stuff in school.

I think it is fair to say that Skin Game moved important pieces to where they need to be for the series conclusion. Whether it was wise to do this whilst running a complex heist plot is open to question and for me the answer is that it was not the best choice.

Plus I’m now very worried for the safety and happiness of all of Harry’s friends. I know things have been rough for the last few books but everything seems to be coming together too early for a happy ending.

These criticisms/worries aside I really enjoyed Skin Game. The emotional character payoffs were done brilliantly. The Karim duel against Nicky in particular was exceptional. There were also some great one liners like Harry saying “come with me if you want to live” and Hades revealing that Socrates punishment/fate is that people question him in the Underworld (I kind of feel he deserves it but then so did the ancient Athenians).

Overall, then Skin Game was good to very good but it didn’t scale new heights for the series in the way that I felt it had the potential to do. Still the best book of the year though.

Review of Black Sun Rising by Celia Friedman (Book One of the Coldfire Trilogy)

Image‘Black Sun Rising’ is stuffed full with great ideas and fascinating set pieces. Unfortunately though, the book as a whole seems less than the sum of its parts.

The best bit of this book is the central premise/world building which is (and I don’t use this word lightly) awesome.  Humanity set out to colonize the new world of Erna but this world reacted in a way nobody could imagine. It shaped itself to humanity’s fears giving life to the creatures of our darkest nightmares. Essentially the metaphysical is made terrifyingly real.

To survive on Erna humanity was forced to destroy its advanced technology and fight back against world in which life was constantly adapting to kill humans. One human ‘the prophet’ led humanity in the battle to impose mastery on the world but as triumph near he fell into darkness and evil.

It is at his fall into darkness that the cold open begins and right from the off this book had my attention. I’m not going to spoil it but it was a bold beginning. Let’s just say the prophet crosses the moral rubicon in an ‘extreme’ way in the pursuit of immortality. It was the sort of scene that you would typically find in a Joe Abercrombie novel and I’m all in favour of that.

If anything though this opening reveals the weakness of the novel. I wanted the same level of ruthless brutality had be kept up throughout. At times the novel did move towards this but for long stretches it fell into the sort of fantasy travelog writing that is so difficult to do well.

Added to this is the feeling that the character development is a bit rushed. Relationships blossom a bit too quickly so the payoffs don’t match the supposed stakes. In particular Damien’s love for Ciani would have been more believable had he paid a professional cost for the initial relationship and the subsequent adventure.

It’s hinted early on that the elements of the Church do not like him because uses healing magic and they certainly don’t like Ciani who uses any and all magic. If he had been forced to turn his back on the church to save Ciani this would have added extra emotional depth to his story. In particular, it would have added an extra layer of complexity to his relationship with ‘The Hunter’ and an extra facet to Damien’s rather straight laced personality.

Reading those previous paragraphs back  I feel that I have come across as harder on the book than I would have perhaps wanted. I enjoyed this book much more than the tone of this review might suggest. However, I stand by my views because I really loved the central premise and characters of the story. The ingredients were there for something really special but the souffle didn’t quite rise as it should have. I’d give this 3.5 out of 5. I’m eager to see where the next two books of the series go.

Welcome (some entirely non-essential instructions about reading this blog)

The writer. I'll let you decide whether I'm Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

The writer. I’ll let you decide whether I’m Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

You know writing an interesting welcome page isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do so why don’t you just imagine that this blog is filled with all the things that you find most interesting on the internet (excluding boobs).

Provided that the things you find most interesting are reviews of films, books and the occasional post about sports then this is the place you. If you aren’t interested in any of those things though you should read this blog anyway because, it will make you richer, more intelligent and more attractive*.

If the above doesn’t convince you to read you may wish to consult a doctor about your sanity. If you have done this and the doctor has affirmed you are sane though but are in need of some more specifics about what is actually going to be posted then here it is.

You can expect a steadyish diet of blockbuster movie reviews (these may or may not be mostly superhero related don’t blame me blame Hollywood), the goodreads widget should give you some clue about what books I am going to be reviewing. And finally I am going to be posting up a reread of the Discworld series and a rewatch of the Farscape series in the near future i.e. when I get over my mild Mario Kart 8 addiction or more likely smash my controller in frustration at being beaten by seven year old kids again. Damn you red shell!

This is going to hurt!

This is going to hurt!

*Some parts of the above text may be lies. Not the kind of lies that send you to hell, but lies nonetheless.