Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marrillier
I’m not disappointed with the second book in this standalone series and is very glad to find out the backstory to Grim. Overall, a satisfying read for me, with the same blend of magic, intrigue and compelling character background as book 1. I have book 3 on my to-read list.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
I think it’s a solid work (and closely follow the historical events and main characters, at least in terms of archetype) but I think because I’m a Chinese and know of the historical context a bit better than potentially other readers, I have slightly different expectations of the book which turns out to be met. The main one was that I expected the book to somehow have both Kuni and Mata as main characters and focus on the conflict between the two. This was further complicated by the fact that my sympathy seemed entirely taken up with Mata at first (perhaps that’s because I never really liked the charming rogue archetype that’s Kuni and I was reading another novel at the same where Xiang Yu, the historical inspiration behind Mata, was the main character). That got corrected some way past the opening chapters. But then towards the end I still feel like I want a more nuanced Mata (that departs from the historical archetype) to make things harder for Kuni.
The other thing is that I feel like Kuni is a bit of a ‘weak’ main character in that he is often pushed into certain key events in the story by sidecasts. Perhaps this is an artifact of the story being an epic (which does tend to make sidecasts strong, something I’m used to) but I think I don’t really enjoy keeping track of the changes in all the key characters in this story so much. Perhaps, this is again due to me knowing the actual history and so it’s like reading a book crisscrossed with spoilers for me. Still, I do enjoy some of the historical bending in this story and I think they are what keeps the story engaging for me.
I’m doing something new, which is signing up to be an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) reader for a debut novel which has already gone live at Amazon
. Here’s a picture of the front and back covers.
Below is my actual review which is already up on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m not big on stars since I don’t think they capture the entirety of opinion on a book and neither Amazon nor Goodreads have a star system that accounts for 0.5 increments that I’m used to assessing things on when dealing with a 5 point scale. So I’m just going to omit them entirely on my blog. If you really want a summary of my opinion on this book, here it is below in bold which is also the title/subject line of my review on Amazon
A complex book with fresh concepts but some issues with characterisation and pacing, an overall like
Note: I was given a free copy of this book by Between the Lines Publishing in exchange for a honest review.
Overall Impression and Distinguishing Features
This debut novel sets up a good person (Tetra as alluded to on the back cover) and a bad person (Lavalor) together as they work to achieve their goals. I think this is a relatively fresh concept in fantasy. Similarly, while the central plot involves a prophesy, this novel shows most of the key actors in this prophesy taking actions out of self interest as opposed to fulfilling some kind of preordained destiny according to the prophesy. Somewhat to my surprise, it also sprinkles in elements of alternate history (although it’s speculation on future Earth history rather than looking to our past) and soft science fiction. I’m not a fan of either but I rather like the speculative history parts of this book for throwing perspective on society systems in a non-intrusive way.
What I like:
The fresh concept of a good ‘guy’ and bad guy working ‘together’ to achieve separate goals is the main attraction of this novel to me. In addition, I appreciate good dialogue, humour and reflections of morals and values that are elements that I’ve always loved in fantasy and have enjoyed in this novel.
What I dislike:
This novel goes off to a relatively slow start, which may partly be due to the descriptive details sometimes getting a tad too much. I also have an issue of bonding with any specific character among a main cast of 5 separated via 3, sometimes 4 parallel plot streams.
Other comments and Final words:
This is a complex novel. While I think aspects to do with character interactions between Tetra and Lavalor, our main good ‘guy’ and bad guy respectively, can be improved upon (currently it feels a tad rushed), I recognise that the author has handled most of the complexity in switching between different perspective and plotlines and other aspects well. I wish the author the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him grow continually.