Tag Archives: fantasy

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

So I read two of the books. Then saw the film. That may have been a mistake.

The film does bear a resemblance to the book, but it may well be easier listing what they got right than what they got wrong (Most of the first third was accurate enough). Went to see it with Ailsa, Tara and Suzanne, and Ailsa was immensely unimpressed – but she’s geeking out massively about it; it’s entertaining to watch.

The film was enjoyable, but it doesn’t follow the book plot except in the vaguest sense. They reveal things from the second and third books, and added whole new parts cut whole cloth that weren’t even in the book, as well as redeeming one of the villains.

Still, it wasn’t a bad film – it just wasn’t the book. It’s likely going to be the next Twilight in terms of films (and audience), but has several things up on Twilight. For a start, the main character is actually pretty badass and doesn’t just wilt in the presence of danger and wait for her hero to rescue her. And vampires are mean, like they should be (as well as being beautiful creatures of the night).

I would probably recommend not seeing it with a bunch of impressionable teenage girls – they may shriek at the sight of Jace being badass.

Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

Well, this is hardly going to be an objective review. There isn’t a single one of Brandon Sanderson’s books that I’ve read and not liked. All, umm… 4 of the ones I’ve read.

What he’s done this time is create yet another world out of thin air, and it’s glorious in its way. Each person has a Breath (which some people liken to a soul) which can be granted to others, or used to perform magic of a sort. The rich and powerful of the realm show this by having hundreds of Breaths, each one worth enough to feed a family for months.

Having enough Breaths makes you resistant to disease, illness, and even aging – as well as giving you the ability to read auras, see perfect tones of colour and Awaken items.

This is where we get to the magic. Awakeners can imbue items (anything from clothes to corpses) with Breath and a Command, which allows them to act on their behalf.

The book follows a pair of sisters from Idris, a remote kingdom where it is believed that a Breath is a person’s soul and hoarding them or using them to Awaken items are sins and heresies. The sisters (princesses of the realm) journey to Hallendren, rival kingdom, and home to Awakeners and the Returned – people who died and revived themselves somehow and are now considered to be gods by the Hallendren people.

There are some hints to the origins of the Returned, but nothing concrete.

It kind of all starts when the wrong sister gets sent to be the God-King’s wife. Their father, fearing war and wishing to protect his favourite daughter, sends his youngest daughter (Siri) instead to fulfil the slightly ambiguous contract he had with Hallendren. The elder daughter (Vivanna) follows, partially to rescue her sister and partially to give herself a purpose.

I found myself drawn into the world, and constantly wondering how things worked and who the key players in the book actually were. While I anticipated some of the twists, I didn’t catch them all, and that was a pleasant surprise. Enough of a surprise in fact, that while my work hours might be over, I’m still sitting at work writing this having just finished it half an hour ago.

A touch of Googling tells me that Warbreaker is a singleton book. I can understand this, and the story is finished as it stands, but I find myself terribly curious as to what happens after the book and exactly how the Manywar started. You get enough of the story through the book and I think actually telling the tale might cheapen it, but part of me still wants to know, just as part of me wants to see what happens with Vasher after the end of the book.

All in all, it’s an excellent book. It’s well written and I didn’t spot any grammar or spelling mistakes through it (which either means I was entranced by the story, or there weren’t any). No real reason for me to mention that, but I can be a bit of a grammar Dalek.

I thoroughly recommend this book, just as I recommend his Mistborn books (the original trilogy of which makes up the other three books of his I’ve read). Especially given I tore through it in three days.

The Cardinal’s Blades – Pierre Pevel

I was unsure what to make of this book when I picked it up, but I thought I’d give it a go. My first impressions were that it was a very odd writing style, and oddly informative for a work of fiction.

The Cardinal's Blades

Part of the first came from the fact that Pierre Pevel is a French author, and it had been translated into English. A lot of the rest came from the second point.

It’s set in 17th century Paris for the most part, with some forays outside the city. The setting is fantastical, with magic and an ancient race of dragons who have taken human form – as well as their draconic footsoldiers.

The Cardinal’s Blades are a elite and secret group of Cardinal Richelieu’s guard, long since disbanded. A threat to France has arisen, and they are reformed to meet it. It’s a story of intrigue, magic and swashbuckling cavaliers. It takes the spirit of The Three Musketeers and with it’s own twists makes a story laced with humour, courage, swordfighting, politicking and brash adventure.

There are several familiar figures throughout the book as well. Not just Cardinal Richelieu, but the Comte de Rochefort, Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan (as I recall) all feature in the book.

As I mentioned above, it’s oddly informative as well. As the book enters each new area, Pevel launches into a description not just of the area, but it’s history and other quirks. I learnt more about 17th century France from reading this book than from any other source. He doesn’t skimp on descriptions of the foul muck that covers the streets, the stench of the city, and all the other unpleasantness of the times. It adds to the characterisation, and the book is better for it.

All in all, it was an intriguing book, and while not my normal style, I enjoyed it. If you’re interested in a combination of The Three Musketeers and dragons, then I’d recommend giving The Cardinal’s Blades a shot.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

This was an interesting one. I’ve been playing Echo Bazaar for a long while now, and I’m always interested to know what Failbetter’s next project is. Last year, they released The Night Circus as a promotional game for the book of the same name. The game is filled with snippets from the book, and it wasn’t long before I fell in love with the magical world of Les Cirque Des Reves and the wonders of the circus.

When the book itself came out, I had to buy a copy. I didn’t get it immediately due to budget constraints, but when I did, I didn’t regret it. The book itself is gorgeous, emphasising the black and white themes of the story itself with crisp white pages edged in black, and a splash of red on the cover and the ribbon bookmark.

But enough about how I fell in love with the outside of the book.

The Night Circus tells an enchanting tale of a mysterious circus. It shows up unannounced, moving between towns without rhyme, reason or apparent schedule. Everything within the circus is black and white except for the patrons and the performers themselves. The circus is full of wonder, each tent revealing a new delight; impossible dreams made into reality.

Of course, it’s not just about the circus. A pair of long-lived rivals (one hesitates to call them magicians) have made another wager. Their new apprentices, trained in each other’s art and set against each other in a unique setting – The Night Circus. Created solely as a venue for the contest, the circus brings the two apprentices together as they begin to court each other by making new wonders in the circus for the other to admire. Rather than working against each other, they begin to work together and eventually manage to find a way to escape their fated end and secure the continuance of the circus once their contest is done.

I loved the story from the moment I started playing the game, and could barely put down the book once I had it. It was one of the most curious experiences I’ve ever had while reading: I simultaneously couldn’t wait to get to the next bit and find out what happened, but also couldn’t bear to miss something by reading too quickly.

In conclusion, I highly recommend the book, and I challenge you not to fall in love with it.