The Magicians’ Guild (The Black Magician Trilogy #1)

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Author: Trudi Canavan

Synopsis: This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work- until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders… and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.

What the Magicians’ Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.

My Thoughts: Lately I’ve been in the mood for some more high fantasy, and when I found this trilogy in a charity book shop it seemed the perfect opportunity. Sonea is a young girl who discovers her dormant magical powers by accident and is forced to go on the run as the Magicians’ Guild seek to claim her as one of their own. She enlists the help of faithful friend Cery and eventually becomes involved in some of the secret dealings of the Guild itself.

Initially, I found it a little difficult to get into the story because so many characters are introduced at once, especially during the Guild scenes, and I would have appreciated a few more physical descriptions to help me remember. As the story progresses this becomes less of a problem and the lack of description leaves the reader free to imagine the characters as they please. Sonea is a dwell from the slums, and like her fellow dwells she despises the Guild and all they stand for. Her discovery of dormant magical powers causes an interesting internal dilemma for her and I enjoyed the subsequent questioning of her beliefs. I particularly liked the character of the magician Rothen and his interactions with Sonea as these opposite views are brought together and both seek to gain knowledge from each other.

Invented foods and objects are a common feature of high fantasy stories but there are lots of little touches the author has made to the land of Kyralia that make it that bit more immersive. There is a glossary at the back for terms used throughout the book, along with some helpful explanations of slang used by the slums-dwellers. Invented animals also aren’t that unusual, but I can’t remember reading a fantasy where there are alternative names for existing creatures as is the case here. Mentions of eight-legged faren and scurrying ravi are subtle reminders that the world here is a different one to ours, and I found myself living in it quite happily whenever I continued to read.

With the additional knowledge the reader has of other characters’ motives, I found myself a little frustrated by some of Sonea’s decisions. The book is divided into two parts, and whilst I enjoyed reading snippets of the Guild’s increasing determination to find Sonea and her exploration of hidden passages under the city, much of the first part consists of her trying to evade capture from the Guild. However, the story kicks up a gear during part two and by the end I was eager to discover the fate of these characters and for Sonea to emerge victorious. The ending is satisfying, and also opens up interesting new avenues to be explored in the next book.

In Short: Solid high fantasy with good characters and lots of little details that make the world more immersive. Doesn’t truly pick up until part two but the ending is satisfying. An absorbing read.  8/10

Bibliomagespell Cover Gallery: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I started this series way back in January and now that book three is set to come out in September I thought I’d take a look at some of the other language editions of Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas. With some help from Google translate, here are the approximate translations:

Bulgarian: Glass Throne
Spanish: Crystal Throne
Dutch: The Glass Throne
Italian: Throne of Ice
Japanese: No idea!
Polish: Glass Throne

The enormous room emanated a feeling of incomprehensible age. Compared to the solid weight of the stone columns and ceiling, the books seemed like such fragile, temporary things. Humbled, Dannyl felt a melancholy descend upon him. He could remain for a year in this place and still make no more imprint on it than a moth wing brushing against the cold stone walls.

The Novice (The Black Magician Trilogy #2) by Trudi Canavan

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)

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Author: Lili St. Crow

Synopsis: Dru Anderson has been ‘strange’ for as long as she can remember, travelling from town to town with her father to hunt down things that go bump in the night. It’s a weird life, but a good one- until in an icy, broken-down town, a hungry zombie bursts through her kitchen door. Dru is going to have to use every inch of her wit and training. Can she stay alive long enough to fall for one- or both- of the guys hungry for her affections?

My Thoughts: I saw this on my library’s recommended reads shelf and thought I’d give it a try. It’s the first of a series of five books, all of readable lengths. The story takes a while to get going but it improves once the pace picks up and there are some really good tense bits, particularly when the zombie breaks in. I found myself sharing Dru’s anxiety, and the author is also very good at metaphors for getting an image across or setting a scene. However, some of the action scenes felt a little haphazard and I struggled to understand what was  going on without backtracking over what I’d already read.

There are few characters in the book, which means the focus remains very much on them. Dru isn’t a bad protagonist, though considering she was promoted as something of a “badass heroine” on the cover she is reluctant to fire a gun and often relies on her friends to help her through (though it’s nice that she isn’t infallible, which is a mistake some authors do make). It’s hard to say that the vampire/werewolf love triangle thing hasn’t been done to death, but the author has done a reasonable effort to differ from the Twilight clones by harkening back to more traditional definitions of vampires. I get the feeling that there will be more of a triangle in the next book, as it’s only vaguely implied in this one.

Whilst I enjoyed parts of the book and there were some amusing bits, I couldn’t help but feel that not enough was going on. Dru spends most of her time in her house (even though she knows that the person who’s after her knows where she lives) worrying about what to do and mostly relying on willing companion Graves to prod her into action. For a reasonably- short novel (300 pages), the story felt strangely padded and the final confrontation lacked any feeling of risk or progression. This felt very much like a single volume of a larger plot and not entirely a story in its own right- there was no feeling of closure at the end. I was pretty optimistic when I first picked up this book, but for me it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

In Short: Promising story that is slightly let down by too much padding and not enough plot. There are some good hair-raising moments and the use of folklore for inspiration of the vampires and werewolves is interesting, but I felt there just wasn’t enough of it to be left satisfied. 6/10

Brisingr (Inheritance Cycle #3)

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Author: Christopher Paolini

Synopsis: Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives after the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains. Now Eragon finds himself bound by promises he may not be able to keep.

He must help rescue his cousin Roran’s beloved from King Galbatorix’s clutches. But he also owes his loyalty to the Varden, the elves and the dwarves, who are in desperate need of his talents and strength.

Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?

My Thoughts: Now that I have finally finished reading Brisingr, I can safely say that I’m 3/4 of the way through the Inheritance Cycle series. It’s taken me a while to get through this volume, and reviewing it is a little difficult since I started reading it a few months before exam season and had to stop halfway through until I had time to spare to continue.

At first glance, the sheer size of this book is a little daunting- at over 700 pages it’s definitely not a light read- but the story rarely feels padded and the pace is good. That said, Eragon’s political dealings with the Dwarves in choosing a new king seemed unnecessarily long. The switching between characters creates a feeling of a grander scale than the other two volumes and Saphira’s viewpoint in particular provides an interesting perspective, though Roran’s accounts occasionally stretch on for a little too long. Nasuada proves to be just as strong a character as she was before, and I particularly enjoyed seeing her bravery in the Trial of the Long Knives.

Despite the amount of ground the series has already covered, there are still new layers being unfolded; more mysteries arise which will hopefully be solved in book four. We learn more about the abilities of dragons and their connection with Galbatorix’s growing power, which I found particularly interesting. I’m a little disappointed that the legendary king is still yet to appear, but hopefully the next book, Inheritance, will make the waiting worth the while. The book definitely picks up towards the end as we move closer towards the final confrontation, and my favourite part is when the significance of the book’s title is revealed (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it!).

The series started off humbly enough, but it’s safe to say that since I started this blog the Inheritance Cycle series has held me more gripped than most epic fantasy series I’ve read so far. The length of Brisingr and the sheer amount of plot to remember whilst reading meant that for me it was a bit of an uphill slope, but the narrative doesn’t seem to lose focus and there are some parts which are truly rewarding to read. There’s a real feeling of events coming together for book four, and now that Eragon no longer has any excuse for training or acquiring allies, I’m hoping that we get to see him finally prove his worth as the only one able to defeat Alagaesia’s tyrant king!

In Short: A large read that’s not for the impatient reader, but with lots of enjoyable moments throughout. Plenty of questions are raised that will hopefully be resolved in the final book…  7/10

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy #1)

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Author: Veronica Roth

Synopsis:In a society divided into factions all are forced to choose where they belong. And the choice Beatrice Prior makes shocks everyone, including herself.

During extreme initiation tests, Tris must determine who her friends are and whether she can trust the man who both threatens and protects her. Because Tris has a deadly secret. One that might save those she loves… or destroy her.

My Thoughts: I must admit, part of the reason I picked this one up was the same reason I picked up Throne of Glass: it was promoted as the next Hunger Games. Aside from that, I read it with no prior knowledge of the plot. And whilst it’s true that there are similar themes such as deadly competition and undertones of political corruption and rebellion, it didn’t feel as though I was reading anything near to a copy. It’s safe to say that I enjoyed it almost as much, though.

In Tris’ world, society is divided into factions, each with a dominant characteristic. Upon initiation she is classed as Divergent and has the ability to choose a new house (though her Divergent status endangers her and must be kept a secret). Her character development from meek Abnegation to daredevil Dauntless is done well, and there are supporting characters to really care about (as well as some I loved to hate). The Twilight-esque cover of my copy made me worry a little, but there’s no love triangle here and the romance is only a part of the bigger picture. That said, the love interest didn’t really do it for me but then I’m probably biased. (Muscled men with tight t-shirts? Give me a scrawny librarian in a jumper any day!)

Needless to say, I enjoyed this book immensely. There are just so many reasons to like this book. The plot is full of little surprises- most characters have secrets to be revealed- as well as many other big ones which caught me completely off guard! The writer has a wonderful ability to make you laugh in one scene and have you holding your breath in the next as Tris proves her bravery during the harrowing Dauntless initiation tests. The writing itself isn’t especially flowery, though it is very immersive and there are some lovely descriptions of city landscapes that give you a feel for what the world here is like. Book one of the trilogy sets the scene very well, and its conclusion leads into the opening of a wider view of the Divergent universe and sets a darker tone for instalments to come.  I will definitely be reviewing book two when I can get my hands on it!

In Short: Thrilling, fast-paced writing and a kick-ass female protagonist. The characters are varied and interesting, with just enough world-building to leave plenty open for exploration later. Hunger Games with more plot twists. And tattoos. 8/10

She moaned into her pillow. “Go away, I feel like dying.”
“No fair maiden should die alone,” said Dorian, putting a hand on hers. “Shall I read to you in your final moments? What story would you like?”
Celaena snatched her hand back. “How about the story of the idiotic prince who won’t leave the assassin alone?”
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Wool (Wool Trilogy #1)

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Author: Hugh Howey

Synopsis: In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations.

But some people choose not to conform. These are the people who dare to hope and dream. These are the dangerous ones.

Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

My Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, partly because of its comparison with The Hunger Games and also because I heard that the author initially sold it online as a series of £1 novellas only for them to become a huge success. They’ve been out for a while and have recently been published as a trilogy of physical novels. The story is told from the perspectives of various characters though it focuses mainly on the life of Jules, a mechanic in the down-deep who becomes involved in uncovering the secrets that the mysterious and controlling IT department keep from their people.

The story wastes no time in getting started, so much so in fact that I initially found it a little difficult to keep up with the world-building of the underground silo, but I soon caught up and by the end of the first novella I was hooked. Although I didn’t empathise with all of the supporting characters, mechanics-whizz Jules has a determination and energy that really made me root for her and Mayor Jahns also plays a good role towards the beginning of the book. The action scenes often leave a character’s life hanging in the balance, and with so many viewpoints to switch between no one is truly safe from being written out.

Despite the sheer size of the book that initially had me a little dubious about finishing it, I was surprised to find just how tightly-written it is. There is zero padding; you’ll never find a character standing around doing nothing and there are constant surprises and plot developments in every single chapter. One thing I really loved about Wool was that future events were often foreshadowed, but so subtly that I wouldn’t realise until it happened. Throughout the story, the viewpoint switches between characters and points in time. I normally don’t like seeing this in books I read, but I never found myself skipping over bits and instead of unbalancing the plot it gives a greater sense of scale of proceedings as elements interlink, particularly when things start coming together during the climax.

Although it’s essentially an omnibus of several shorter stories, it’s hard to believe just how much there is in one book. So much happens from start to finish, and by the end you really feel as though you’ve gone on the journey with the characters. The author has a wonderful talent for raising questions and then keeping you guessing until the final reveal. I loved every moment I spent reading and I would recommend to anyone willing to give it a try. You won’t regret it!

In Short: Gripping storyline, adrenaline-charged action scenes and more plot turns than you can shake a roll of heat tape at. A survival story that has the reader thrown right in with the characters and wondering how on earth they’ll get out alive. Absolutely amazing. 10/10

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It’s been over three months since my last post, but now that my A-level exams are finally over I’m pleased to say that I can now get this blog up and running again! Updates will resume as normal, with a new post every weekend. In addition, the blog is getting some minor revamps and I’m going to post other things besides reviews, such as book quotes and possibly some “top ten” lists for characters and series. There is now a search page where you can find reviewed books by author’s surname as well as book of the months and top ten listings!

New Features:
● Search page to find books by author’s surname
More quotes
● More “top ten” lists
● “If You Liked This Book Then You’ll Love These” posts

The Road to High Saffron (Shades of Grey #1)

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Synopsis: Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one’s limited colour perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as colour itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted façade.

My Thoughts: Don’t worry, this book has nothing to do with the story of a similar name by E.L. James. Essentially a dystopian sci-fi novel, you can get a taste of just how weird and wonderful this book is simply by reading the blurb. Eddie Russet is a humble Red seeking to improve his social standing by marrying into the Oxblood family when he decides to investigate a man who has seemingly been murdered, and he begins to see that the society he lives in is hiding dark secrets. And what a society it is; from “chasing the frog” to laws forbidding the manufacture of spoons, Chromatacia is an intricately-painted world with lots to uncover. Any writers of sci-fi and fantasy who want an example of good world-building should absolutely pick up a copy of this.

Despite a plot line that sounds pretty serious, it’s an incredibly witty story and there were many moments that really made me smile. I particularly loved reading the National Colour Association’s strange rules at the start of each chapter. My favourite is probably “unicycles are not to be ridden backwards at excessive speed”. The characters are just as wacky as the world they live in, and I love the colour-related names and places (who wouldn’t want to visit High Saffron?). It’s hard to really do this book justice but I just couldn’t put it down. There’s something addictive about the sheer originality of it, and it reads a bit like Douglas Adams (except slightly easier to understand than what I’ve read of his stuff). By the end of it I was eager to read more… but unfortunately despite being published in 2010, Saffron’s sequel isn’t out yet.

The next book in the trilogy will be called Painting by Numbers. I did some Googling and found that Jasper Fforde is currently spreading his time between the several different book series he’s working on. Book two might not be out until 2015, but apparently he is working on a standalone novel set in the Shades of Grey universe set some 700 years before and is about the Something That Happened (a mysterious historical event mentioned throughout the book). It may be a while until we see anything new in this series, but after being totally blown away by book one, I think it’s safe to say that it’ll be well worth the wait.

In Short: A wonderfully original book with a humorously quirky dystopian world and characters to match. Could not put it down. World-building is awesome; easily the best sci-fi book I have ever read. Now where’s book two…? 10/10