▸ fantasy

Read: Feet of Clay

Feet of Clay must be one the pun-niest Discworld novel in the series so far (that is until book 19). It’s a decent mystery novel and a great installment of the City Watch sub-series.

Discrimination, stereotyping, gender (identity), exploitation of the worker class, politics, governance, and the social contract: All this in a fantasy novel.

Most important (for my personal enjoyment of the novel), however, is that I absolutely loved the stabs at religion.

Read: The Magician King

I have said it before and I say it again: I become increasingly tired of novels with several time lines that in the text are interwoven, even though there would be a perfectly reasonable disjoined sequence of the two plots. There is no need to let the narrative jump from one timeline to the other and back again.

So in the end, The Magician King is two novels in one. Each has its own protagonist. Unfortunately, you have to read both and are constantly forced to switch between the two. Exactly the thing I learned to avoid. I do not want to read several novels in parallel.

Here, I only liked one of the two threads. The becoming of the demi-goddess was much more interesting and suspenseful than the king’s quest. Or in other words, the dark side of magic in Grossman’s novel has a much stronger appeal than the fairy tale.

Read: The Traitor Queen

The concluding novel of Trudi Canavan’s the Traitor Spy Trilogy, the Traitor Queen, is much better and more enjoyable than the predecessor The Rogue.

As expected, the ‘new girl’ has become one of the main protagonists. Even though she and the novel do not feel as vivid to me as (the protagonist of) Canavan’s first Magicians trilogy, she is well developed and the story plot moves on at a good pace.

The main reason for me liking this book better than the one before is, however, that it is much closer to my original expectations to read about wizardry, battles, maybe diplomatic issues, and covert operations.

While reading the Traitor Queen I had a few deja vu moments. Either the story plot was too transparent and I anticipated too much, or I felt too much reminded of Canavan’s very good The Magician’s Apprentice. Its plot shares much of the same geography and a major war event. Both may hint at a certain lack of or decline in originality.

Read: The Rogue

Canavan’s fantasy series “Traitor Spy” takes a strange turn with its second book, “The Rogue”.

I thought I was going to read about wizardry, battles, maybe diplomatic issues, and covert operations. What I read instead was a book with not just one but several romance plots with different levels of salaciousness and awkwardness, hit and run appearances of earlier interesting characters that now serve just as a plot device, and very little advancement of the overarching story lines that bind the series together. In the end, there was just the introduction of a new, I guess, protagonist for the third book.

Overall, the novel is rather disappointing bordering on annoying.

Read: A Memory of Light

Maybe I have just out-grown the Wheel of time series (like, I fear, Card’s Ender series) over the last years. Maybe it really just turned worse over time, or maybe it was the unfortunately forced change of authors.

While I think I still mostly enjoyed A Memory of Time, the final volume of the Wheel of Time’s conclusion, it also felt a bit like work. I am more relieved than sad that there will be no further sequel.

Of course, it is no easy task to bring a 14 volume fantasy saga to a satisfying end. It’s even harder if your are not the original authors but just some young fellow who got some notes and was commissioned to finish it. Therefore, it would be nice to know how much of this endless drag, layman philosophy, and moral cudgel has to be attributed to Jordan and how much to Sanderson.

All the protagonists felt a bit out-of-character. Or was this character development, their final maturation? There were certainly a few inconsistencies with their behavior and experiences. There are unnecessary attempts at creating suspense. This is the conclusion, no need to create new mysteries, indeed, it would have been nice to see all former mysteries not just somehow resolved but also explained to the reader.

So in the end, I am happy that is over but I am not quite satisfied with it.

Read: Men at Arms

Being simple does not mean stupid.

That is the lesson taught by Men at Arms. And I believe Pratchett teaches it most excellently. Of course, the novel is instructive for so many more reasons. Yet I think this is the most important one.

It’s good that I read all Discworld novels again (preferably on my train and plane trips). It may have taken me several years to see this important message: I just noticed that I have read the book before, in the German translation, more than a decade ago. And I did not get it back then. Let’s blame it on the translation.

Read: Beyond the Shadows

If I did not often buy all books from a series at once (if possible) I may not have bought another Weeks novel. After finishing Beyond the Shadows I am pretty sure I will not read anything by him any more in the future.

In volume three of the Night Angel trilogy the story becomes utterly predictable. And what is worse,Weeks just wants to finish. While the first half of the book is still well paced most of the potential story lines are not fleshed out in detail what, admittedly, would have required another volume, making the series a tetralogy. Weeks rushes through the conclusion of the final battle against the ultimate evil (how original, what video game was he playing?).

The whole book had just one gripping moment. The problem: Just two days after finishing the novel I cannot remember it any more…

Read: Shadow's Edge

Novel two in Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy continues where novel one stopped. Unfortunately the story’s plot becomes more predictable. After killing off one of the what the reader must have thought to be major characters right at the beginning there are (almost) no real surprises any more.

Weeks sticks to his rather rough writing style and stereotypical female figures. While this matched somehow the content of the first novel, here in the second novel the fit between content and style is considerably less well. The context changed, the protagonists are supposed to have developed past their original selves, and new characters with a different background, much more refined, are introduced. The writing style should have adapted more to these changes. Obvious plot twists do not help either. Thus my first enthusiasm is kind of dampened.

There was one silver lining though. I really liked the king’s speech before the big battle. Here was one move that I did not foresee. And more importantly, the speech felt ‘right’. In contrast to many dialogs the speech seemed real. Finally, here is (the?) one character that is really developed well. His past and his actions match. This helps a lot with his credibility and the credibility of the respective sub-plot. Let’s see what novel three will bring.

Read: The Way of Shadows

I am still reading the books I bought on my last NYC trip. Is that really a year ago already? Back then, I bought complete trilogies; more like buying by weight than by numbers.

The Way of the Shadows is the first in such a trilogy; and it is also the author’s debut, Brent Weeks first novel. For a debut novel it is quite good.

The trilogy is kind of a male version of Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy. A young boy, an orphan, is apprenticed to a magician, an assassin with magical powers. We learn about the hardships of the apprenticeship, the forming of new skills and everything culminates in a war.

While this more overarching theme is not that original the actual plot details are more promising. Weeks does not spare the unpleasant details. Nothing is sugar coated. The writing style is a little rough, though. You could say that neither content nor form is (very) polished.

I hope the dialogs, the description of the environment, geography, society, and politics, and the general structure (the perspective changes quite often) of the subsequent novels improve a bit (there seem to be some quite interesting ideas hidden). On the other hand, the plot details, the willingness to touch rather sensitive topics, and the willingness to kill off a character are just fine. In particular this last point adds to the suspense. It is not that often that a major (or even a minor) character in a fantasy novel is killed off. Weeks proves that everything may happen and the survival of a character cannot be taken for granted.

Read: Towers of Midnight

It’s the penultimate Wheel of Time book what makes this book number 13, or the second written by Sanderson after Jordan’s death.

Maybe it is the nearing end or the change in authors, the pace definitely took up. In all the different story lines quite a few things are happening. It’s not just moving around any more. This makes reading this series fun (again).

On the other hand, and here I blame the current substitute author, current stereotypes are unnecessarily bleeding through into this fantasy world. There is no reason for any male protagonist to feel like pink should be the last color for a man to wear. This is something current western (adolescent) culture may contain, and it’s a rather recent thing. It was however not something that was introduced in the earlier books, it was not part of the various Wheel of Time cultures. As small as this little detail is, I found it annoying.