Audiobook Review: King of Thorns by Lawrence (DNF)

KingOfThornsByLawrenceKing of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Fantasy Book Club selection August 2013

Attempted to Read/Listen: August 2013


I tried reading, or rather listening, to this in August 2013 for the GoodReads Fantasy Book Club. We previously read Prince of Thorns as a group in October 2011 and I actually liked the first book of the series. But I had to give up listening at around twenty percent. I may come back to it at a later date, but right now I need something a lot less bleak.

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Fantasy v SF Round One Second Half Gets Weird

io9 continues whittling down the first sixty-four entries, getting decidedly weirder, digging around in the classics for mad scientists, dystopian alternate realities, monsters and magic.

Results from the first half of the voting returned only one disappointment for me, and it’s a bittersweet one. The Princess Bride edged out The Wheel of Time in the Epic Fantasy bracket.  Bit of a quibble for me as I don’t really think the former qualifies as ‘epic’ fantasy; rather, it’s more like humorous high fantasy.  The latter clearly takes epic to the next level and should not have been so easily defeated.  I’ve read both, though, and loved them both.

Update March 20, 2014: I missed the vote yesterday for the first half of round two.  Some of the results are already in and can be found here.

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Friday, March 21: Sweet Sixteen
  • Monday, March 24: Elite Eight
  • Wednesday, March 26: Final Four
  • Friday, March 28: Championship

Audiobook Review: Low Town by Polansky (4 Stars)

Low Town by Daniel Polansky

3.5-4 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2013

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.

In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its cham­pion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.

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10 Key Terms That Will Help You Appreciate Fantasy Literature

Brush up on your fantasy sub genres with this article from io9. Which one is your favorite? Which one will you try next?

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

Book Review: Before They Are Hanged by Abercrombie (4 stars)

beforehanBefore They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

4 out of 5 stars

Read in May 2009

Returning to the Circle of the World, where Auda was the hub of activity in The Blade Itself, this middle installment of the trilogy spends most of its time on the fringes of the world.

The Union deployed nearly all its military resources to retaining and regaining Angland from Bethod in the North. Field promoted Colonel West strains to breaking, first by being saddled with Prince Ladisla, who charges his troops into Bethod’s trap. West, the Prince, and a handful of others survive the massacre, but barely survive the flight back to the Union army. The Northman, including Dogman, spurned by the Union army when they offered to assist, lead the refugees roughly ahead of Bethod’s scouts to report the debacle to Field Marshall Burr.

Meanwhile, ignoring the axiom that you should never fight a war on more than one front, the Closed Council send Superior Glokta to hold Dagoska at all costs and to the last man against the Emperor and his legions (eight of them at one point) in the South. While investigating the disappearance of his predecessor, Glokta finds the assassin, an Eater, and discovers that torture is ineffective against such paranormal beings.

Bayaz and his quest for the Seed crawls across the western continent and the Old Empire. Jezal, Ferro, Ninefingers, Quai and Longfoot round of the rest of the band of not-so-merry men. Their trek traverses across the entire continent, through the ancient, dessicated capital, over treacherous mountains and finally to a forgotten remanent of the past on the shores of the western ocean. Ultimately, Bayaz is frustrated by his clever former master, Kanedias the Maker.

Abercrombie amazes me with his ability to write heart-pounding battle scenes. The chapter “Among the Stones” stands out as my favorite from this novel. But there are many opportunities for violence to choose from. While not as grand as Tolkien, his style reminds me of Robert E. Howard, only more intense.

Characters developed apace with the circumstances they survived or overcome. Jezal learned humility. Glokta committed great evil and great good. West overcame his inhibitions. Ferro fought against hope and trust. Quai disturbed me but didn’t get much focus. I suspect he will become troublesome next time.

With Prince Ladisla dead, leaving only one heir to the Union throne, the political intrigue and corruption reach new heights and twists, culminating in the murder of the remaining an heir. Now the Open Council will be put to a vote to select a new heir and you can bet the gloves will come off in the next book, Last Argument of Kings.

I feel obliged to warn parents that this novel is not for young teens or children. It contains graphic violence, graphic language and adult situations.

Book Review: The Blade Itself by Abercrombie (4 stars)

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

4 out of 5 stars

Read in March 2009

The first three hundred pages of this book were riveting. Most of the rest were entertaining and exciting but ultimately the ending disappointed somewhat – unless you like leaping off a cliff to the next book. Lucky for me, that next book is in the mail and I can soar back into the story soon.

There isn’t a character that isn’t fascinating in this story. Glokta, the tortured torturer; Logen, the wise almost pacifistic barbarian; Jezal, the arrogant noble on a collision course with reality; Major West, an upstart commoner with the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders; Bayaz, the mythical First Magi and his young and only apprentice Quai; and, a host of other supporting characters no less conflicted.

The Union is frothing with political intrigue. It has an Inquisition to ferret out treason and traitors, but no religious backing to legitimize or limit it’s power. It has the backing of the government and the Arch Lechter uses all that power to further his own ends and those of his allies on the Closed Council.

The barbarians at the gate, led by self-proclaimed king Bethod of the Northmen, has succeeded in uniting the divisive Northmen and has plans to invade the Union’s northern most member, Angland.

The old Empire is rousing from slumber under the leadership of a new, younger Emperor, and has also set it’s sites on the Union, or rather its lonely peninsular member Dagoska, far from the center of the Union in Adua.

Bayaz sends out several calls via his colleagues, summoning specific individuals to him. The purpose of this is not immediately apparent. The first one to answer the call is Logen Ninefingers, also sometimes known in the north as the Blody-Nine. Bayaz, Logen and the apprentice Quai set out south to Adua. Bayaz does not tell Logen why he called him and Logen is content to be called and joins the trek south.

Once in Adua, Bayaz, as First Magi, attempts to fill the only vacant seat on the Closed Council. It is held in reserve for the First Magi and has been for thousands of years. But no one, least of all the Arch Lecther, believes Bayaz can possible be THE Bayaz of legend. And Bayaz, of course, doesn’t do magic tricks on demand. An em-passe? Hardly. It only gets more interesting and bloody with each turn of the blade.

This story was quite a ride – lots of action, fighting, intrigue, and fascinating characters. Be forewarned that the ending is a bit abrupt and you will want the second book on hand to continue the adrenaline rush.