I’ve been slacking on my book reviews, and I want to say right now that it isn’t because I haven’t been reading. It’s because I’ve been reading things I don’t think are worth reviewing. And I’ve been busy. And the dog ate my…blog work. However, I have found a few really good books in the last month that I’d love to share with you. I think there’s something for everyone!
Readers in the UK are the lucky ones with this series, because I believe the whole trilogy is out there. The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie, was one of the best reviewed debuts last year, behind Name of the Wind and Acacia (Both of which I have reviewed and loved.) I agree that this is a quality, fantastic book. It reminded me of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, by Fritz Leiber, if you’ve read those stories. The Blade Itself is an adventure story with original characters and a great gritty atmosphere that is so popular in fantasy at the moment. There are all the requisite cliches, foolish nobility, evil conquerer in the wings, but they are twisted just slightly to make things feel fresh and interesting. The zen Barbarian, the nebulously moral torturer, these characters made me so eager to follow them that I almost finished the book in one sitting. The author has a great way of making the language inobtrusive, so that you are immersed in the story rather than distracted by “fancy prose.” Interestingly, the author is a film editor, and I see that in the visual way he sets out his story. The fight scenes are particularly well written, and I found myself reading a few of them over again, just to get in one the action.
Things I didn’t like about this book: The lack of a map. It drove me batty. Now, I don’t believe you HAVE to have a map in a fantasy book, but if you’re going to refer to geography all the time, and have your characters scattered across the world and jump back and forth between them, then PLEASE give me a visual reference! Maybe it’s my spacial awareness that’s lacking, but I still don’t understand where things are in relation to each other after finishing the book, except for the nebulous bad people in “the North.” I also thought that one of the main characters, I won’t say which one, was very well drawn and interesting until about halfway through, and then I felt like he became a little whiney and cliched. It seemed to defy the story arc that was set up, and I’m eager to have the character more fully fleshed out in the next books, which I hear pay off the quality of the first one, and then some! The second one, Before They Are Hanged is due out here in March, and I will be at the store waiting!
Next is Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin. I bought this book on recommendation of a fantasy blog I can’t remember. I stuck it in my Amazon cart without really looking closely. When I opened the package and saw this cover…holy hell. It’s Teri Polo with a broadsword. Meet the Parents I guess didn’t do that well for her, LOL.
I don’t want to be mean because I love this book SO MUCH. But the cover…my boyfriend kept teasing me when I was reading it, and I kept threatening to put it under his pillow so it would make his “man parts” would shrivel up during the night.
But bottom line: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I can’t even tell you guys how much I love this book. I would turn the page thinking, “Man, I want to write a book like this!” The characters are fun, there’s a sense of humor throughout that makes everything feel like a romp with friends. There’s some really scrumptious love interest stuff going on, a good mystery, fun world building…this book had everything I wanted, and I stayed up until 3 am to finish. It has the plotting of all these popular urban fantasy series, but with a lightness and humor that doesn’t feel forced or artificial (despite the cover.) If you like the Sookie Stackhouse series, this is definitely a book for you, and if you’re a Buffy fan (maybe a few out there? ) you will like this as well. The cover blurb says “Enjoyable” and I wholeheartedly agree, except double it. The joy of reading was definitely sparked in me by this book. Hell, I’d love to play an adventure game based on it! This is a girl-power fantasy for everyone to read!
Lastly, I have a mystery, GASP! I know, crazy change, but in fact, mystery books were my first love. I read all the Perry Masons and Ellery Queens after I plowed through the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys at age 8 or so. Every so often, I’ll find a mystery series I love, mostly of the historical sub-genre, and I’ll eat them up like candy. This is one of those books. Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn, is set in the Victorian era, and follows a very privileged woman who becomes a widow. Of course I don’t want to give anything away, but murder is suspected, and it follows her journey of discovery, both plot-wise and character-wise. This doesn’t read like a typical mystery, it’s more of a tale of self-discovery, spurred by the death of her husband. I loved the characters, and the depth with which the author explores the main character’s past as she tries to find herself without a man in her life. There’s a possible romance, a vividly painted era that feels perfectly real, and I really enjoyed the deliberate pacing that, when the actual mystery plot kicked in full force, took me by surprise and kept me glued for the last 100 pages. There are very modern elements mixed in with the Victorian sensibilities, and I would recommend this to mystery or historical fans alike.