Book Review: Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #2)

Where Loyalties Lie is swashbuckling fantasy in the style of Sebastien De Castell featuring scum-hero pirates, uncouth women and men and plenty of whores, rum and bad ale. 
The writing style is the most striking thing about the book. It is written in a smooth, flowing, even carefree manner that allows for a lot of irregularities and freestyling. While it a fun style of writing, the best part is the concision. There are no dull moments of lengthy descriptions of places and dressing; those are replaced with witty, sarcastic, humorous and altogether more exciting bits. 
The story is one of mixed loyalties. When a lone, influential pirate embark on the nigh impossible mission of uniting all of the other bloodthirsty pirates in the Seven Isles against a bigger threat, the matter becomes less a question of survival and more a question of loyalty. When you put up naturally disloyal humans up against a threat they cannot ignore, the result will be to unite against all odds or die. But whether this unity is true unity remains yet to be seen, as mistrust, bad blood and former sins rise up from the ashes of the past to threaten the burgeoning alliance…
The plot is not complex. Instead, the volatile nature of the characters makes it very hard to predict. It makes for a suspense filled read. 
A fine new read from a brave author.


Book Review: Shadowblack (Spellslinger #2) by Sebastien de Castell 

…some of the most unlikely group of protagonists you’ll find in the genre. 

De Castell keeps finding new ways to craft good stories. 
The protagonists have their first great adventure, one that will test the limits of their beliefs and strength of character. A 16 year old outcast, a fully matured woman world-wanderer along with a violent, witty, brave but small predator turned business partner set about fighting the forces of evil- from abroad as well as from within. This book has some of the most unlikely group of protagonists you’ll find in the genre. 
The best part of the book is the way in which the author explores other avenues. He does not exactly follow the traditional path of regular Fantasy, deciding instead to focus on the results of choices, the consequences of human actions, and reasons for human behaviour; all the while on a yacht cruise of beautifully crafted writing. 

Book Review- Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen #2)

…so deep is his detailing of the world that you can’t help but get lost in the sheer vastness and awesomeness.

After about four months of half-reading this book, I’m finally done! 
Deadhouse Gates takes you to another part of the Malazan Empire, to a new set of characters, and an entirely new plot line. It’s almost as difficult to understand as Gardens of the Moon. It starts off seemingly with one major plot thread that dissolves into multiple threads somewhere in the second third of the book. All of the plotlines are incredibly complex, involving a great number of characters, twists, climaxes and other mostly confusing elements. The entire thing seems to be a well jumbled mass of totally unrelated events, seemingly, that are only resolved in the final few pages of the book. 
Events in the book are not necessarily presented in a gradually progressing manner. The writing is such that we do not follow the events per say, but rather the characters. So many things seem to be happening at the same time, which could be rather confusing.
The characters are some of the best in the fantasy genre. They have an awful amount of depth and unpredictability.
The author takes world building to another level with this series. It probably helps that he’s an archaeologist, so deep is his detailing of the world that you can’t help but get lost in the sheer vastness and awesomeness. 
Deadhouse Gates is complex, confusing even but equally thrilling, brilliant… Infact, spectacular.

Book Review: Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #1) by Brian McClellan

…struggle for power between good, gray and evil characters

A super, super read! 
In Sins of Empire, Brian Mclellan brings his unique magic system to the fore. His brilliant blend of sorcerous Privileged magic, bone and blood magic, and almost-telepathic destructive Powder Mage magic is just stunning. Magic systems simply do not get better than this. This is full blown all-action magic, simply brilliant. 
I must credit the author here for the writing. The language and the expressions is vivid and precise, lending the perfect amount of realism to the literary imaginative of the books. That is, the writing is such that it makes for easy, vivid and stunningly real picturing of events in one’s head. 
Events leading up to the climax are just as engrossing as the climax itself. That the author managed to create such unforgettable characters in just a few pages is a testament to the beauty of this book. 
While the author uses typical fantasy themes, there’s a couple of new elements, elements usually found in such genres as Thriller/Suspense and Detective stories. In fact, the story is a strong blend of themes from fantasy and normal modern fiction. The exploits of Gregious Tampo, the Ice Baron and Michel Bravis bring to mind some of the more fast paced Thriller reads. 
The world building is quite good, for a book that doesn’t focus so much on setting. In a nutshell, the book depicts a struggle for power between good, gray and evil characters, set in a world similar to 17th and 18th century Europe, and featuring more than one unique set of magic systems, with enough action to rival a Bond film, and unforgettable characters.

Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

The evils, intricacies, ironies and grim facts of the system are in stark contrast with the matter-of-factly manner in which it is delivered.

One would be forgiven for thinking this book was written by a full time author. It was only after reading that I checked and discovered the author was a comedian. Well, that should explain the humour aplenty in the book… 
Born a Crime tells the story of a mixed boy growing up under South African Apartheid. Although littered with plenty of funny quips and rib cracking statements, Born a Crime does not fail to give a vivid overview of the racial system that so dominated the entire South African system. 
The book is written from the POV of the author, who is the subject of the book. The writing is not static, neither is it progressive like normal prose. The prose jumps from different events and scenes, following a trend of linked themes, rather than chronicling events in a linear manner. 
The story is an apartheid eye opener. The evils, intricacies, ironies and grim facts of the system are in stark contrast with the matter-of-factly manner in which it is delivered. The end result is a hilariously chilling expose into the unbelievably tough upbringing of a young boy of mixed heritage in South Africa. 
As I commence my post-read mullings, I cannot help but wonder how it would have been for me, growing up in such circumstances. The ironic thing is that many Africans can draw parallels with Trevor Noah’s upbringing, even if only in the slightest of ways. One begins to realise that the African experience is quite similar even in places as distant from the other as Nigeria and South Africa. 
Highly recommended!

Book Review: A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14) by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan 

…readers can rest easy in the knowledge that the Wheel of Time still turns, and the Ages still come and pass, bringing memories that do not fail to fascinate and inspire with every read. 

It’s official! Wheel of Time is bae!! 
This is not going to be a review of only A Memory of Light, but rather a review of the series as a whole. Finishing the series feels so much like the end of a long, long journey. In truth, it’s been a long journey: spanning almost a whole year of reading (with the initial reading and subsequent rereading of the series), one paperback, many ebooks, a couple of audiobooks, hundreds of thousands of stone faced Aiel, a hundred or so other nations, peoples and cultures, memorable villains and protagonists, and about two years worth of plot progress. It really has been a long, long ride. 

The series is more than epic. The sheer scope of the the entire thing is staggering, mind blowing. It’s hard to imagine one man putting together something as vast as this. Kudos to the author! WoT should be a constant challenge to other fantasy writers. Despite its brilliance, it would be totally unfair to judge other epic fantasy series using WoT as a yardstick. Here, I’d simply say “other series have done well, but WoT surpasses them all”. Does this mean WoT is officially my best ever fantasy series? The answer is a resounding YES!

There are so many elements that make this series so different from others. One is the relative youth of the major players. Rand, Mat, Perrin, Elayne, Egwene, Galad, Gawyn, and Nynaeve all seem to be between the ages of 18 and 26 at the start of the series, with an average of about 22 years between them. The development of the characters is done in such a manner that it belies their youth. The characters actually develop very quickly; the length of the books, and volume of action and events give the illusion of a slow and steady development. 

Second, there a whole lot of cultural diversity. The different peoples have different clothing styles, modes of speech, variants of humour, as well as unique trends. Domani women are known to be skilled at the arts of seduction, the Tairens have a distinct way of speaking obvious even in the writing of the author, Cairhienin are short and skilled at political maneuvering, the Aiel have a strange, violent sense of humour… the list goes on. The best part is that you come to understand and appreciate these cultural differences like you come to appreciate various cultural elements in the real world, such as the Chinese general respect for old people, and American individualism. The details of each culture are not glossed over, but rather described in detail, until it is seen in every aspect of the respective subjects. 

A third feature of the series is the fact that although the author does not specifically outline it, all of the protagonists are flawed. Many readers make the mistake of assuming that WoT protagonists are too perfect, too skilled. My reread of the series has proven the opposite. Gawyn is plagued by a need to constantly prove himself to others, and is also untrusting. These two qualities prove to be his undoing in the long run. Galad, despite being an excellent duelist is exposed in his style of leadership. As a person preferring to lead from a distance by example, he fails to impact the bulk of those around him. Galad’s honourable and seemingly perfect nature are ironically the main factors behind his staunch pragmatic stance on nearly everything, a stance that gets him in trouble many times while also creating problems for those around him. Perrin’s weakness stems from an inability to accept who he has become. Egwene is proud, and overconfident. Nynaeve and Rand are similar, compassionate, yet volatile. The examples go on and on. 

A major theme throughout the book is a struggle of wills between three groups of extremely stong women. Generally, the book has some of the strongest female characters in the literary genre. Even the ones with less bite and grit are far more clever than most of the male characters. It makes for a fascinating and fresh read. 

Just as well, there is the concept of dual personality. A lot of the characters, especially the main antagonists sport multiple personalities. In addition, there is the concept of fate and destiny, two of the most recurring themes in the series.

There is also a distinction in the way oaths are viewed in the series. As one of the few cultural universals in the books, oaths are incredibly binding, seen as near sacred, and taken with utmost seriousness. Many of the subplots deal with oaths and their effects on characters. 

Another major theme is the unique fighting system that employs the use of Sword-Forms. As a unique way of describing battle scenes, it paints quite vivid as well as distinct mental pictures. Apple Blossoms in the Wind, Wind Blows over the Wall and Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose might seem odd ways to describe moves in sword fights, but they definitely paint a brilliant picture once one gets used to them.

The world of WoT is a dream world. It lures unsuspecting readers in and doesn’t let go, until they fall in love and wish they could just exist there forever. Personally, I would give up a huge chunk of my life just to live the world of WoT. 

Unfortunately, AMoL did not end how I’d like, although the battle scenes were brilliant, and the Last Battle was just how I imagined it would be from when it became obvious there would be a Last Battle. Unfortunately, the main author is dead, so there is no hope of a sequel series. But then, readers can rest easy in the knowledge that the Wheel of Time still turns, and the Ages still come and pass, bringing memories that do not fail to fascinate and inspire with every read. 

Good news! A TV Adaptation is on the way. I just hope they don’t botch it.

Book Review: Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson 

Words of Radiance, impossible as it seems, has managed to surpass the dizzying heights of Way of Kings

… a conglomeration of exquisite world-building, unpredictable characters and sweet, sweet magic. 

Words of Radiance, impossible as it seems, has managed to surpass the dizzying heights of Way of Kings. The characters are better developed, and the magic system is gradually melding with the plot. 

The build-up is just as lengthy as in Way of Kings, but the climax is far more intense. There are numerous plot twists, not at the middle, but at the very end of the book. 

The plot deals with a great number of themes: betrayals, hate, morality, and honor. The plot is incredibly complex, relying heavily on the multiple blurred protagonists and villains and a lot of myth and lore. 

The characters, despite their awesomeness, are greatly flawed. This is not a good vs evil book. The actions of the supposed protagonists lie somewhere between perceived good, and outright selfishness. This means the characters aren’t particularly G.R.R Martin-grey. They’re judged based on their perceptions of their own deeds. It makes for a seemingly character-driven plot line. 

The best part of the book is the magic. Quite simply, this is the best book of magic I’ve ever read. I can say confidently that the magic system of Stormlight Archive is the best I’ve ever seen in Fantasy Fiction. And it’s only going to get better!