Showing posts with label high. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high. Show all posts

Sunday, June 4, 2017

[Review] Uprooted - Naomi Novik: Magic, Fairy Tales, and Evil Trees




In UPROOTED, Agnieszka gets taken by the powerful wizard the Dragon and trained to become a witch. Together they try to protect the surrounding villages from the evil forest that's trying to kill everything near it.

What intrigued me: Recommended!

Incredibly Unique

UPROOTED is arguably the most unique fantasy novel to come out within the last two years. It is advertised as based on a Polish folk tale, and I have to say, I really felt it.

It reminded me a lot of the fairy tales I grew up with, but turned dark. 
The premise is very reminiscent of CRUEL BEAUTY, but don't let that deceive you. UPROOTED is not a story about a captive girl slowly falling in love with her rude captor, but more the story of a girl realizing her power. It's a coming-of-age novel if you will, but with magic.

The characters, mainly the Dragon and Agnieszka, are extremely well-written. I instantly loved the Dragon for his cold, mean, and downright condescending personality and adored Agnieszka for being the clumsy, likeable, and brave girl who'd try her best to annoy him as much as possible.

Too Dense?

The biggest criticism I have is definitely the writing. Novik has a very peculiar, unique writing style, composed of lots of descriptions, metaphors, etc. Very much more telling than showing. It reads slowly, taking long paragraphs for something to happen, and I found myself zoning out so often that it took me a catastrophically long time to read this.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you read this in your native language this might not bother you as much, and if you like flowery writing, you might enjoy this even more. I personally don't like this and it made it very hard for me to continue, even though I really, really like the story. It's undoubtedly an incredibly unique novel that's very skillfully written and more art than writing, but certainly not for everyone.

There is no way around saying that UPROOTED definitely would have benefited from being turned into a series. Because it is a stand-alone, set in such a complicated, intricate world with so many rules and peculiarities, it is extremely densely written. This just lowered my enthusiasm for it as I was reading, because it is really hard to concentrate when you're constantly being overwhelmed with background information in form of info dumps and flashbacks.

It really feels like UPROOTED is trying to be three books in one, and the relationships just don't come across as genuine as they could have been because the book is hurrying so much. Novik's writing style really doesn't work in combination with so much dense storytelling, sometimes she rushes from scene to scene, sometimes she needs one page to tell one action. Even though I am an avid advocate for stand-alones, I have to say I wish UPROOTED was the first in a series instead.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

UPROOTED is definitely not for everyone. It's exceptionally well-written, unique book, but I suggest you pick this up in your native language and for you to be ready for lots of flowery writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend UPROOTED, but it's just one of those books that are hit or miss.


Additional Info

Published: May 19th 2015
Pages: 438
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780804179034

Synopsis:
"Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

[Review] Soundless - Richelle Mead: Ableism and Cultural Appropriation





In SOUNDLESS, Fei, who grew up in a village of Deaf people who are slowly also losing their eyesight, suddenly is able to hear when her village is in danger.
What intrigued me: I really liked her Vampire Academy series.

How to offend disabled people: the book

You have to be very, very, very, very careful when writing about disability. Especially when you're not disabled yourself. SOUNDLESS is the story of a girl that lives in a village of Deaf people and suddenly starts hearing.  Mistake 1: Don't "cure" disabilities for plot. 

I was hoping for a book that celebrates disability and portrays it as the absolutely normal thing it is - but nah. Disabled people in Mead's fantasy world are the losers of this story because they can't hear unlike special snowflake protagonist Fei who was magically cured. This book certainly would've dearly benefited from a sensitivity reader, anyone with a disability would have whipped out their pitchfork when coming across this book.

SOUNDLESS is proof that you shouldn't write about marginalized people if you have no experience whatsoever with the things they go through and aren't willing to put the research and resources in to make sure that the portrayal accurate.

Who needs world building?

My bitterness aside - I signed up for the typical fantastic Mead writing with a great voice and I got it. The writing truly is exceptional. Mead's storytelling is flawlessly effortless. It's very descriptive, but I personally like this, because it adds to the calm and withdrawn atmosphere of the book. The world building may be easy to understand, but that's because it doesn't exist. Nothing in this book makes sense and we just have to deal with it. 

The signed conversations between Deaf people are a little difficult to read and get used to because there is no indication that's dialogue.

Mead put an equal amount of research into the Chinese folklore part as she put into the disability part. Exactly zilch. The only thing that's sort-of-Asian is the nature surrounding them, their names, and their clothes. Here and here are some reviews by Chinese reviewers who went into more detail on this.

Still, as much as I admire the writing, SOUNDLESS is just an epic fail overall because of how Mead handles disability and the Chinese characters, and a massive disappointment. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you have a disability or are very educated and passionate about disability issues, do yourself a favor and don't read this. It will only lead to high blood pressure. SOUNDLESS may be the most ableist book I've ever read, but let's not jinx it.



Additional Info

Published: November 10th 2015
Pages:  266
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781595147639

Synopsis:
"In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books about deaf characters?

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Friday, February 3, 2017

[Review] The Winner's Curse (The Winner's #1) - Marie Rutkoski: In Which Slavery Isn't All That Bad





In THE WINNER'S CURSE, Kestrel buys a slave and gets mixed up in a revolution.

What intrigued me: Gorgeous cover mostly, but also the hype.

So... slavery is okay, I guess?

I didn't really know what I was getting myself into when I started THE WINNER'S CURSE. I had no idea that it would be about slaves, and I had even less of an idea about the romance being between the slave owner and the slave! What can I say, I just find this incredibly distasteful and strange, especially as a minority myself, I don't want to read about the romanticization of slave trade.

THE WINNER'S CURSE is a prime example of how to not approach a sensitive topic and exactly the reason why I shy away from books written by white people about topics that influence the lives of POC. People never do their research. Rutkoski uses slave trade as a mere plot device to showcase her white savior protagonist and didn't even bother to portray the lives of slaves accurately. I'm not asking for historical accuracy here, it's high fantasy after all, but could we not act like the life as a slave is actually quite okay and they're basically just well-off servants? Could we not act like slavery doesn't involve torture, robbing people of their identities, robbing them of their homes, and treating them like actual human trash?

THE WINNER'S CURSE doesn't even once show us how horribly slaves are treated. The Valorians, the conquerors, are never actually shown beating their slaves. From a novel that's about such a topic you'd expect some graphic scenes. You'd expect something beyond just trading people like cattle. I assume Rutkoski decided not to show this because this would lead to us not rooting for the Valorians, aka Kestrel.

This is not a fictional scenario, slave trade exists to this day (!!!!). Could we not invalidate the experiences of minorities all over the world and act like it isn't all that bad and that you just have to wait for your rich white person to save you and give you the opportunity to revolt?

If at least the prose was great...

My personal feelings about the romance and the whole slavery thing aside, THE WINNER'S CURSE is not a skillfully written book. The writing is very technical, very emotionless. Lots of short sentences, lots of factual descriptions, even worse with changes in POV! I struggled with it a lot in the beginning because it's just not what I'm used to. 

The premise isn't that bad, despite Rutkoski not really bothering with world building. What made me lose all faith in the book is the fact that her protagonist Kestrel is an absolutely horrible person. She doesn't care about the slaves, she buys one herself even, and at no point tries to actually help the slaves. It's absolutely despicable to read about someone that doesn't understand slavery is bad - until she actually forms a bond with a slave. Wtf?!

I am tired, so, so, so tired. I can't believe that nobody bothers to mention this in reviews. I can't believe that nobody even seems to bother to get upset about this. 

Why is this so popular?

Rating:

☆☆

  


Overall: Do I Recommend?

I find this book incredibly offensive. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone and it's beyond me how you can close your eyes to the problematicness of it all. Privilege I guess. Thumbs down from me.


Additional Info

Published: March 4th 2015
Pages: 355
Publisher: Farrar Strauss Giroux
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780374384685

Synopsis:
"Winning what you want may cost you everything you love... 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. "(Source: Goodreads)


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Sunday, January 22, 2017

[Review] Poison Study (Study #1) - Maria V. Snyder: Food Tasters and Poison





In POISON STUDY Yelena was arrested for murder and is released from the dungeon to become a food taster.


What intrigued me: I've seen this one around a lot.

Let me love you, Yelena!

The story starts right off with Yelena getting released from her dungeon, malnutritioned, almost hallucinating, and absolutely exhausted. POISON STUDY had me from the first page.

Snyder has a way of conjuring up images with words that make this novel easy to read and the fantasy world easily accessible. I often struggle with the High Fantasy genre because I don't really encounter concepts that fascinate me. Same with POISON STUDY to some extent - I didn't really care about the fictional region of Ixia that is ruled by different generals that have their own territories and force everyone to wear uniforms. 

I zoned out whenever there were intricate descriptions of uniforms. The whole world is certainly a weakness of POISON STUDY - the story about Yelena could take place in any other fictional world and be just as fantastic. I didn't find the world building particularly inventive or outstanding.

Making a murderer the food taster doesn't sound that interesting and groundbreaking of a story either, but it just is. There doesn't happen much in POISON STUDY, aside from Yelena getting attacked continuously by the soldier's of the father of the guy she killed, but yet it's ridiculously addicting. The writing is top-notch, the story feels like you are Yelena, you're experiencing everything first-hand and wandering through the castle yourself. I seldom have found myself so thrown right into a book as I read and grown attached to a protagonist.

Wonderfully refreshing concept

If you read a lot of YA and are very tired of seeing the same cliche tropes everywhere, POISON STUDY is the novel for you, because I don't think I counted a single one. No love triangles! No Mary Sue! No plot convenience! Actual danger! Consequences for messing up! It's so refreshing to read a book that makes you feel like the protagonist is in actual danger the whole time.

However, this book is very, very, very slowly paced. I did like this at first, but the more the pace slowed down, the more I disconnected from the characters. I do like to know what I'm getting myself into when I start a novel and the introduction of magic halfway in confused and annoyed me a little. POISON STUDY takes a completely different direction halfway in, causing me to lose interest completely. I was very enamored with the premise of the food taster and would have loved to just see an story about intrigues without any magic.

POISON STUDY awkwardly turns into Duel of the Magicians and this is just not what I'm personally interested in and/or signed up for. Regardless, I did enjoy this and think it's a good read!


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

POISON STUDY is a fantastically unique novel. I really needed this breath of fresh air and I can recommend this book to you, because it's just so creative and fun! If you don't mind a dash of magic, sure, go for this!



Additional Info

Published: March 1st 2007
Pages: 409
Publisher: Mira
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780778324331

Synopsis:
"Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...
 "(Source: Goodreads)

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Monday, August 29, 2016

[Review] Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) - Susan Dennard: Magic and Persecution

In TRUTHWITCH, Safi has the ability to see truth and lies through magic and is in big trouble when people realize what she can do.

What intrigued me: I've been in the mood for some witches.

Magic for the Sake of It

TRUTHWITCH immediately sucked me in through the marvellous writing. Dennard uses one of my favorite ways to start a story - jumping right into the scene and leaving the reader trying to find out what's going on. I was absolutely infatuated with the idea of these two havoc-wreaking girls who also happen to be witches, but after a few dozen pages quickly realized that there is one thing missing:

TRUTHWITCH heavily relies on it's massive foreign-yet-familiar world that's somehow reminiscent of Funke's spellbinding Inkworld trilogy. But where the Inkworld is cohesive and strucutred, TRUTHWITCH absolutely doesn't explain anything. Dennard chooses to introduce us to its world by simply mentioning words. Bloodwitches, Truthwitches, magic ropes. Everything is magic somehow but beyond the name of said magical object or person we aren't learning anything about the world. It's blatanlty obvious that this world building may be extensive but isn't well-thought out. Especially with the inciting incident: Truthwitch Safi is chased by a Bloodwitch all of a sudden. What's a Bloodwitch? Why is he immortal/invincible? What did they do? Why are they being chased??

This stands representative for the entire experience you'll have reading this. Zero explanations. Zero structure and logic, despite a giant world that you'll want to desperately know more about.

...everything else? Top notch.

At the core, TRUTHWITCH is so very well-written involving the most fantastic friendship between the leading girls Safi and Iseult and I wish, I desperately wish the magic system made sense. I wish the world building wasn't so la-di-da and standoff-ish. I grew so attached to the characters so quickly and I absolutely love Safi's character voice, which makes it all the more difficult and tragic to say that I genuinely didn't like this at all. 

TRUTHWITCH is by no means a book that you should skip because of that; I feel like this is a deeply personal thing - I personally like my magic to be cohesive and to make sense immediateley. The dilemma with TRUTHWITCH is that everything else about this novel is very close to perfection. The characters are great, the writing is top-notch, the world feels absolutely real. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TRUTHWITCH is by no means a bad novel. I guess it comes down to personal preference; I'm a factual person that likes clear-cut descriptions and explanations. If you don't mind that and want a solid High Fantasy read that will suck you into its world, TRUTHWITCH is the right pick for you.



Additional Info

Published: August 22nd
Pages: 512
Publisher: Penhaligon
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9783764531348

Synopsis:
"In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.(Source: Goodreads)



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Thursday, July 7, 2016

[Review] Unicorn Tracks - Julia Ember: Safari, Conspiracies, and Hunting




In UNICORN TRACKS Mnemba and tourist Kara are determined to find out who is hunting down unicorns and sawing off their horns.

What intrigued me: Unicorns and lesbians. Everything I want in life.

Fresh, creative, and fun

The world building is reminiscent of South East African culture, and absolutely spot on. I really enjoyed seeing concepts and setting we don't usually get in fantasy novels and I found them to be very realistic as well. I especially noticed how uncanny Ember's unique approach is - I can't name a single stereotype that I've seen before, this is truly a 100% fresh read with a great concept. From the descriptions, to the writing, to the animals featured, this is so refreshing and new! 

The Nazwimbe savanna is full of mythological animals that tourists from other countries are seeking out for fun. They are all incorporated believably, some with their own little backstories, some without, and I really enjoyed it. I feared that the concept of unicorns would come across as little dorky and strange, but Ember makes it truly feel like an adventurous, fun story. I absolutely loved reading about manticores, phoenixes, and many other mythological creatures you don't often encounter in novels. 

Too Short & too Dense, but worth the read!

The majority of UNICORN TRACKS deals with what's happening to the unicorns, and I do think that it all got resolved way too quickly. While I do like the approach, the idea behind all of it (which is also a very realistic one), the mystery is just missing. Or simply resolved too early. I wanted to guess with the characters, but you won't do that for long because UNICORN TRACKS is written incredibly densely. 

A lot happens in these 180 pages, but in my opinion, squeezing all of it down to this low page count doesn't do the story justice. Especially the lovely f/f romance which is so sweet and tender, could have benefited from a higher page count. Even though Mnemba and Kara's interactions feel genuine and painstakingly adorable, their relationship almost feels instant-love-y because UNICORN TRACKS is so short. 

In general this is my biggest problem with the novel - the density and the low page count make it harder to read than it deserves. The story is great, the characters are great, but it deserves to be longer, have more descriptions added, and even the occasional filler. 


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

UNICORN TRACKS is an incredibly fresh story, with a seldom before seen setting that you don't want to miss. A must-read for fans of f/f and original fantasy.



Additional Info

Published: April 21st 2016
Pages: 180
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781634768788

Synopsis:
"After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.

Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge. "
(Source: Goodreads)

Can you recommend some African-inspired fantasy?

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Monday, March 14, 2016

[Review] Trick - Natalia Jaster: Wit, Poetry, and Princesses


In TRICK, Princess Briar is determined to expose the arrogant Court Jester Poet, because she thinks he has a secret.

What intrigued me: Recommendation from friends.

Diversity in High Fantasy! Hallelujah!

TRICK won my sympathy very early on with its beautiful portrayal of sexually and ethnically diverse characters. It's very rare to find this in High Fantasy and it had me squealing with excitement. Jaster's characters feel absolutely real, from the way they talk to the way they present themselves. You won't find any generic YA stereotypes in here.

Princess Briar is a character that I very much identified with. I love how her mixed feelings for Poet are first expressed through frustration and anger. It's so refreshing not to see a heroine that's immediately melting into a puddle of goo at the sight of her love interest. I absolutely enjoyed her chapters, but I also liked Poet's. It's hard to choose here, I loved getting inside his head, to know what this insanely mysterious guy is thinking, but again, I struggled a little with the writing. 

TRICK is undoubtedly written lyrically, beautifully. Jaster is an insanely talented writer, but it's also very hard to get into the writing when you're not used to it. I'm not a fan of poetic writing personally and struggled with understanding and paying attention to Poet's lines. This isn't the book's fault, it's mostly personal preference. It truly fits Poet's character to speak like this, lyrically, poetically, but it made it hard to just let the pages fly by and get lost in the writing for me. 

Too much world building?

The thing that makes me knock off one star of my rating would be the world building then. I just didn't get it. There were too many things introduced very quickly. 
I did understand the basis of these four seasons-themed kingdoms, but I'm not a fan of this concept generally, which reminds me a lot of SNOW LIKE ASHES, and I would have wished for the novel to just leave this out because the story can definitely stand on its own if it would take place in a regular fantasy world.
With a stand-alone, too much world building is usually just ruining the experience a little for me. However, the characters just make this work and TRICK is truly a unique and magical novel that I'm sure will be even more enjoyable for high fantasy fans.  


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I think within the genre TRICK definitely stands out through the wonderfully diverse characters and the writing. If you're a fan of high fantasy, this is your pick.



Additional Info

Published: November 4th 2015
Pages: 310
Publisher: Createspace (self-published)
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781517494957

Synopsis:
"There is a rule amongst his kind: A jester doesn’t lie.

In the kingdom of Whimtany, Poet is renowned. He’s young and pretty, a lover of men and women. He performs for the court, kisses like a scoundrel, and mocks with a silver tongue.

Yet allow him this: It’s only the most cunning, most manipulative soul who can play the fool. For Poet guards a secret. One the Crown would shackle him for. One that he’ll risk everything to protect.

Alas, it will take more than clever words to deceive Princess Briar. Convinced that he’s juggling lies as well as verse, this righteous nuisance of a girl is determined to expose him.

But not all falsehoods are fiendish. Poet’s secret is delicate, binding the jester to the princess in an unlikely alliance . . . and kindling a breathless attraction, as alluring as it is forbidden."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite High Fantasy read?

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

[Review] A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1b) - George R.R. Martin


In the second part of the first novel of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire Series, Tyrion Lannister is being held captive by Catelyn Stark, Jon Snow is officially nominated a man of the Night's Watch and Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant with her husband Khal Drogo's child. While mysterious disappearances keep the men of the Night's Watch busy, Khal Drogo and Daenerys are preparing to invade the Seven Kingdoms and reclaim the iron throne for their unborn child.

I had a lot of difficulties reading this one. I'm pretty convinced that if the first novel wasn't separated into two books, I wouldn't even have thought about continuing the series in the first place. 

What people seem to like most about Martin's novels is the fact that you can never be sure which one of the protagonists will die next - I don't agree with that at all. To me it's pretty obvious that if you have eight different protagonists, not everyone is going to survive. Come on, it's set in a world inspired by the middle ages, of course people are going to die.

Also, it's hardly possible to empathize with all the characters that there are. People die like flies in this, but it's only side characters whose names I already have forgotten. Martin is trying to shock people with bloody and gory death scenes full of intestines - that would be great and all, if I actually could remember who that random knight was again and why I should be upset about his death.

Pick a Set of Protagonists Please

Throughout the entire series Martin doesn't stick with his fixed eight people, but changes the POV chapters up for every book. I don't know how I'm supposed to empathize with the main cast if there is no main cast. I'm sure that everyone who has read at least one book in the series has picked their favorite and for me it's hell to go through the POVs of three or four people that I couldn't care less about when my favorite character's chapter ended on a cliffhanger.

Some of the chapters even seem absolutely unnecessary and I still don't get why Bran deserves to have his own POV, a kid who only did something relevant for the plot ONCE. And that could've been described in another person's chapter as well if I'm being honest.

Martin prioritizes very poorly, giving people that absolutely don't fuel the story line (Catelyn, Bran, Arya) their own chapters while it would've been more interesting to read about Cersei, Jamie or Joffrey. I'm obviously complaining on a very high level here.

The world of Westeros just sucks you in and you really won't want to leave once you started this. The characters got me hooked in the first place and it's just that perfect mixture of high fantasy and middle ages that just sucks you in. The books are bricks to read, but it's really not as bad as you might imagine, good things take time.


LIFE HACK: Don't Watch the TV Show

The main reason why I didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed the first is the fact that I knew about the character deaths and overall plot lines. The TV show is so true to the books that some scenes are put 1:1 on screen. It just feels like you're reading a movie script and there is absolutely no tension and fun left that keeps you wanting to continue reading. I noticed how I started to skim pages, but then I kept going back because I was too scared of missing something important.

Rating:

★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

It's a good book, but not as good as the first one. Again, I think a lot of scenes could have been cut and a lot of background information is absolutely unnecessary. The whole history of the preceding kings is utterly unimportant and just confusing to the reader. There are already enough characters as there is - we don't need to have to try to keep in mind what this one guy who betrayed the king 200 years ago was like as a person. It's impossible to keep that many facts in your head and it destroys the fun in reading. 

I highly recommend NOT watching the show. The show is so true to the books and so detailed that you will get insanely bored and start to skim pages. 


Synopsis:
"Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honor weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
"

Die Herren von Winterfell (#1a) + Das Erbe von Winterfell (#1b)
A Clash of Kings (#2):
Der Thron der Sieben Königreiche (#2a) + Die Saat des goldenen Löwen (#2b)
A Storm of Swords (#3):
Sturm der Schwerter (3a) + Die Königin der Drachen (#3b)
A Feast for Crows (#4):
Zeit der Krähen (#4a) + Die dunkle Königin (#4b)
A Dance with Dragons (#5):
Der Sohn des Greifen (#5a) + Ein Tanz mit Drachen (#5b)

Bantam Spectra Cover, 2005

Additional Info



POVs featured: Catelyn, Jon, Tyrion, Eddard, Sansa, Daenerys, Arya, Bran

Original Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Published: March 14th 2011
Pages: 544
Medium: Paperback
Publisher: Blanvalet
Cover: Blanvalet, 2011.
Genre: Adult / Fantasy / High
ISBN: 9783442267811

Buy from the Publisher's Site
 


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Thursday, May 7, 2015

[Review] The World of Ice & Fire (A Song of Ice & Fire #0.5) - George R.R. Martin


"The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones" is a prequel to the A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin and includes the history of the entire novel series, starting from the first accounts of fictional scholars up to the current stand of the series.

"The World of Ice and Fire" is advertised as an illustrated book, but it features so much text that I'm tempted to call it a fictional history book. The narrator is a fictional scholar that guides us through the story, often referencing other fictional scholastic literature. I highly recommend having read multiple books in the series before starting this. I'm only two books into the ten book series and I got spoilered.

There are family trees in the back of the book that are up to date with the latest novel. There is no warning in the beginning of the book and I falsely thought that it would only feature events that took place before the novel series.

The Illustrations are Beautiful, But Not Fitting

The illustrations are stunning to look at, but not very accurate if you've read the books. I assume the drawings were made in Photoshop because they all look very airbrushed. The faces of all women look very similar and there is little to no variety in terms of facial features. One of the things I love about the series is that there is a lot of diversity. In this book the women are all equally beautiful by modern standards and no diversity in skin color aside from super pale and black.
I like that they didn't decide to just feature images of the actors from the TV show. Sadly, the illustrations of the characters that are alive in the books absolutely do not match the descriptions and are pictured way older and reminiscent of the TV show. I assume that the book is marketed towards viewers of the show rather than readers of the books.

However, the detail in every drawing is amazing and I love that they decided to put pictures on almost every page, because the text is like a brick wall. Don't let yourself get deceived by the fact that this is only 352 pages - the book is HUGE (23 x 30 cm) and the text is printed in a very small font.

Reads Like A History Book

If you've not read that far in the series you're probably going to have problems reading the entire thing. It's very comprehensive and detailed, and I'm convinced that a lot of it could have been edited out. The topics covered in this novel start from the earliest accounts of scholars, and by the time you've reached the part about the first king of Westeros, 60 pages have already passed. 60 pages doesn't seem like much, but if you put this in relation to the massive height of the book and the fact that it's printed in extremely small font, it certainly doesn't feel like 60.

I liked to get to know more of Martin's world, but I read the book in the hopes of understanding more of the things that are actually essential to the novel series. I was hoping for this to be some kind of encyclopedia where I could look up unfamiliar concepts and people. Instead this is a history on its own and written like an actual history book.

However, I know already that I'll be getting a lot use out of this when I reach the parts in the series that are very difficult to understand and require a lot background knowledge. As someone who's "only" at book two, I wasn't really interested in the history of the First Men and couldn't wait to get to the part about familiar characters.

I don't recommend reading this in one go, but using this as a guide while you're reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It's an excellent companion novel to the series and very helpful whenever you encounter unfamiliar names or just need to refresh your memory.

Rating:

★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

It's hard to get through the first hundred pages, I have to admit that. There is so much text that isn't even broken up by highlighting and headlines, so it's pretty hard to read. I think the formatting definitely could have been improved to make it more readable. The advertisements are on spot - this is truly a comprehensive guide to George R.R. Martin's world, featuring a lot of things that I'm sure won't even make it into future novels. 

Still, this is a beautiful illustrated book and I can only recommend it as an investment if you plan on reading the entire series. I've noticed that the novel series is very complicated already (and I'm only at book two!) and having this at hand could prove to be exactly what I need to understand the story. Also, there's a nice glossary at the end where I'll be able to look up all family relations and unfamiliar things, so thumbs up for this!


Synopsis:
"If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin’s masterwork—the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time—warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice and Fire.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator. Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers.

It is a chronicle which stretches from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes; from the Coming of the First Men to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror; from Aegon’s establishment of the Iron Throne to Robert’s Rebellion and the fall of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, which has set into motion the “present-day” struggles of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens. The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire is indeed proof that the pen is mightier than a storm of swords."

The Series

The World of Ice & Fire (#0.5)
A Game of Thrones (#1):
Die Herren von Winterfell (#1a) + Das Erbe von Winterfell (#1b)
A Clash of Kings (#2):
Der Thron der Sieben Königreiche (#2a) + Die Saat des goldenen Löwen (#2b)
A Storm of Swords (#3):
Sturm der Schwerter (3a) + Die Königin der Drachen (#3b)
A Feast for Crows (#4):
Zeit der Krähen (#4a) + Die dunkle Königin (#4b)
A Dance with Dragons (#5):
Der Sohn des Greifen (#5a) + Ein Tanz mit Drachen (#5b)

Additional Info


Bantam Cover, 2014


Original Title: The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin, Co-Authors: Linda Antonsson, Elio M. García Jr
Published: March 16th 2015
Pages: 352
Medium: Hardcover
Publisher: Penhaligon
Cover: Penhaligon 2015.
Genre: Adult / Fantasy / High
ISBN: 9783764531362
Buy from the publisher's site

Recommended For Fans of:
A Game of Thrones

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

[Review] A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1a) - George R.R. Martin

In the first part of the first novel of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, several families are fighting for the so-called Iron Throne to become the ruler of Westeros.

At this point, everyone has either watched the show, read the books or at least heard about it. The novels have a reputation of being very big books, very complicated, and having a ton of characters that you probably won't be able to tell apart until you've finished the whole thing.
The German publishing company Blanvalet made a very smart move by separating each original novel into two parts. I'm very thankful for that because I can not imagine to read a 1000+ page long novel as enthusiastically as I read this one.

The Most Realistic and Life-Like Characters I Have Ever Seen

Martin is definitely a master at character building. Sometimes, with mediocre novels I notice how I drift away and tend to even imagine the author telling the story. Martin's characters are probably the most life-like and realistic fictional people I have ever read about. Every single one of them has their own quirks and ambitions and it's just remarkable how there are so many well-built characters in this that you can't even keep up with all the names.

The main storytellers are the members of the Stark family: father Eddard "Ned" Stark, the right hand of the king Robert Baratheon, his wife Catelyn Tully Stark, and their five children plus Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow. Then we have some members of the rivaling families, queen Cersei Lannister and her brother Tyrion; Daenerys Targaryen, the daughter of the last king and so many, many more. Had I not watched the TV show beforehand I think I would have missed a lot of little hints to the reader.

It's impossible to give a quick overview about the story without turning this into a 20 page essay. I'm just going to say that you WILL definitely get hooked on this because it's just so interesting. It's like a TV soap set in the middle ages, but with a lot more sex, gore and mythical creatures. I rarely read high fantasy and I'm very picky about fantasy novels in general. If you're not into high fantasy or looking for a great starter novel, this is it. You don't have to be a fantasy or historical novel fan to be into this. It's truly addicting to find out who's going to become the new king and I can easily see myself get hooked on this entire series.

Too Many POVs and Too Much Information in General

The main flaw of the series is that there are several people telling the story from their point of view. There are multiple plot lines set in different cities or even states. Of course they're all interconnected in some way, but I still think it's too much. the second you have more than five different protagonists, it gets messy. We have six POVs from the Stark family alone, plus Tyrion, plus Daenerys and that's just too much! I picked a favorite after about hundred pages and now I'm dreading the chapters that I have to read until I get back to my favorite character.

I guess the main reason why the books are so big is that there is a lot of unncessary info that could have been cut out. Not every POV is essential to the story - I'm convinced that the novels wouldn't suffer quality-wise if there were only four protagonists.


Rating:

★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

I definitely didn't expect to like this as much as I did. High Fantasy isn't a genre I necessarily go for when choosing something new to read. Therefore I'm even more surprised to find myself absolutely loving the series and wanting to continue. I'd recommend this to people hesitant about fantasy literature like me. You can impossibly stop after the first novel, I just need more! It's true what they say, the series does feel like one gigantic book. Therefore the ending isn't really satisfying, I need more!
Give it a try, I'm sure you'll love it!


Synopsis:
"Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
"

Die Herren von Winterfell (#1a) + Das Erbe von Winterfell (#1b)
A Clash of Kings (#2):
Der Thron der Sieben Königreiche (#2a) + Die Saat des goldenen Löwen (#2b)
A Storm of Swords (#3):
Sturm der Schwerter (3a) + Die Königin der Drachen (#3b)
A Feast for Crows (#4):
Zeit der Krähen (#4a) + Die dunkle Königin (#4b)
A Dance with Dragons (#5):
Der Sohn des Greifen (#5a) + Ein Tanz mit Drachen (#5b)

Bantam Spectra Cover, 2005

Additional Info


POVs featured: Bran, Catelyn, Daenerys, Eddard, Jon, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa

Original Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Published: December 14th 2010
Pages: 576
Medium: Paperback
Publisher: Blanvalet
Cover: Blanvalet, 2010.
Genre: Adult / Fantasy / High
ISBN: 9783442267743

Buy from the Publisher's Site
 


Have You Read Any of the GoT Novels Or Do You Prefer the TV Show?


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