Book Review: Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence 


I’ve put off reading this for so long, I’m beginning to regret not having read it all this while. 

Mark Lawrence has always had hype on his side, and now I know why. He writes like no one else, and I mean that quite literally. His brand of storytelling is like no other. His writing is so unique that I think I could very easily identify a piece by him, even if it was penned under another name. 

Prince of Fools chronicles the adventures of an overly carefree prince and his development into a more mature character, all in a setting that greatly resembles that of Medieval Europe, much like Paul Kearney’s Monarchies of God. 

Jalan is a typical 10th-in-line-to-the-throne prince, who lives a life of excesses, safe in the knowledge that he will never be called upon to shoulder the burden of rulership. Inadvertently, he is thrust into the epicentre of a storm that threatens to pull his entire world apart, used as a pawn in a deadly game of death, destructive, otherworldly magic…. and finds out that life is not all about food, drink and women. 

The development of Prince Jal is an interesting one, made all the better with the expert handling of the character by the author. His relationship with the Norseman Snorri is equally intriguing. 

The writing, while direct and quite straightforward, features many moments of hilarious, ironic, sarcastic and altogether literal creativity. It makes for a fine balance between seriousness and humour, as bouts of deadly seriousness are often punctured by moments of back breaking humour and sarcasm. 

The traits of characters is quite brilliant. It’s not easy to write antiheroes. I’ve read quite a number of books about antiheroes, and I can say that Mark Lawrence ranks among the very best in the subgenre of Fantasy with antiheroes. 

It’s a finely developed world. While it’s obviously a chip off Medieval Europe with slight modifications, I’m very much comfortable with it. 

The storyline is great. No POVs, direct and precise, just about enough magic, more than one antagonist, and lots of action. I expect more twists in book two, The Liar’s Key. 

Book Review: On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe 

Reading this book made me reflect on a lot of things about Nigeria: the diversity, the peoples, the hardships and the choices and sufferings of said peoples. 

The story is about the lives of four different African women, forced to trade their bodies for a better life far away from their own country, in Belgium. The sudden death of one of the women finds the other women in shock, and in the spur of the moment, they find themselves exchanging previously untold secrets and chilling, grim tales of the experiences that culminated in them becoming flesh traders in a foreign land. 

Each of the women has experiences that are both unique in their grimness and horrifying in nature. Each of these experiences closely mirrors the realities of early 21st century Nigeria. The prevailing societal vices of the day, as well as a number of the more horrifying atrocities committed by people on a daily basis, and how they affect the lives of five women is the epicentre of the story. 

The story is an expository into how lives are shaped by specific experiences. In the story, all of the four women experience sexual abuse of varying degrees. Coupled with the hardship in the country, and the pressures of religion, society and culture, the women are forced to make a choice… whether to persevere with no end in sight to their sufferings, or to trade their female dignity for European baubles. 

The story is told in the form of a flashback. The effect is an increased depth in the intensity of the experiences shared in the story, and the drawing of the attention of readers to a number of common underlying factors in each experience. 

The characters are revealed with all the attention and intricacy of a highly skilled artist: A gradual unravelling of the nature, and then the experiences that shape each character. The result is a tale that is incredibly accurate in its portrayal of lower-class Nigerian society. Each character is portrayed in all the gory glory of abuses suffered, dashed hopes, false prophecies, and all of the vices that infest human society. 

A must read! 

Book Review: Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)


Continuing from the previous book’s cliffhanger, the reins of power in Mytica are now in the possession of the darkly seductive, power-hungry Amara of the Kraeshian Empire. Lucia has gone to seek help in the sanctuary. The King of Blood manages to survive death. The love between Magnus and Cleo undergoes a trial by fire, as their desires and choices interweave with the lives of their friends, and enemies… 

Morgan Rhodes can write. He’s not just written a great story, he’s painted a most brilliant picture of human behaviour. Each character is not only well developed but equally consistent. This unique blend has created a vivid world where fairytales and the real world exist side by side. 

There’s similarities between the plot structures of Morgan Rhodes and Brian Staveley. Both authors organise their storylines to follow a particular layout. The story first starts out small, with only a small fraction of the total plot, then it begins to branch out and expand, each thread built on another. It’s like watching the rippling surface of a body of water. 

The best thing about this series is the characters. They’re just too good. They’re just as greedy, emotional, hateful, loving, murderous, resourceful and intelligent as real world humans. It’s a show of and an excellent portrayal of human character. 

How the author has managed to create vivid realism with mysterious, otherworldly intrigues and elements is quite beyond me. It’s a perfect blend of Grimdark, and traditional fantasy. Game of Thrones and Throne of Glass meet. Martin weds Maas. It’s the perfect literary combo. 

Sadly it’s another cliff hanger…

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo 

​One could not end 2016 any better than this… 

Imagine Now You See Me 2 on a scale twice as big, then you begin to get an inkling of the magnitude of the heist pulled off by Kaz Brekker and his unique crew in Crooked Kingdom. It’s an even bigger heist than the one they managed to pull off in Six of Crows. 

The sheer magnitude of the heist, coupled with how it plays out occupies about 2/3 of the book, meaning there’s little or no build-up. What passes for the build-up is a whirlwind of events that set the stage for the final storm! 

I greatly loved the pacing of the book. It moved along quickly from scene to scene with seamless ease. Most books aren’t written at this kind of pace. It’s not just fast, it adjusts its pace accordingly, switching speed, upping pace and then slowing down, all at exactly the right time. It’s incredible. There’s little or no buildup. No lengthy, ponderous stretch of writing that leads up to the main action. 

Another amazing thing about the book is how the author manages to pack so much action in a few hundred pages. There’s enough action and thrill in this book to fill two books, another author might have decided to extend the series by an extra book. 

The characters are fantastic. Kaz displays the full extent of his unique scheming abilities. Inej, Nina, Matthias, Wylan and Jesper are just as excellent in displaying their various talents. 

It’s a great series, with everything done just right! 

Book Review: The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

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 I think a new genre should be created for Nicholas Sparks: psychological romance. 

The story features everything and anything Sparks: characters with serious health/genetic issues/disorders, middle aged/widowed/widower characters, and a small town setting. 

It’s a bit different from the Sparks novels I’ve read in the past. Rather than focus on the relationship between the two main characters, it’s an expository on the nature of both characters: the uniqueness of the life experiences that have made each character what they are. 

The book, as does all of Sparks’ books, closely mirrors the real word. It’s not imaginary romance like other authors write. It’s more character based. It’s an insertion of love into some of the toughest psychological challenges a human can face, and then leaving the entire thing to play out on its own without any artificial theme or intrigue. The result is as unpredictable as any real world happening. 

These kinds of books are the easiest to write, in a way. At the same time, they are also the most difficult to write, because the author has to make decisions at nearly every point whether to allow the story ‘flow’ or add twists and turns. 

It’s not the most thrilling or heart pounding read out there. But it’s a must read for those of us who have let our lives and the lives of those we love be shaped by our past mistakes (which is quite a lot of people).

Book Review: Black Cross (Black Powder Wars #1) by J.P Ashman

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I’m surprised this book doesn’t have higher ratings and isn’t more popular than it is. It’s a really great book.

CHARACTERS

The author has managed to created really memorable characters here. They’re all well fleshed out. The reading of the book is mad even more thrilling by the discovery of each of the individual characters. Each has a different role to play. Each is unique, making the resulting blend truly exquisite. I also noticed an element of mystery in every POV character. It makes the whole thing even more intriguing, as the characters are complex and highly unpredictable.

I didn’t exactly fancy the author’s portrayal of the race of elves, especially their women. The grace, sternness and dignity I’ve come to associate with fictional elves is missing. In the book, they’re more or less humans with only enhanced beauty and magical powers.
While this book would be classified by most to be Grimdark, it’s extensive use of magic and creatures such as dwarves, elves, goblins and griffins among others bring it to the realm of pure epic fantasy.

PLOT

It’s a great story, elastic, really flexible, and continually expands. Those are the best stories. Despite there being quite a lot of magic, it doesn’t distract from the story. It’s a really complex story, at some point I had to slow down with my reading because I was missing too many things.
As well as being a great story, it’s also unique. It’s not typical Grimdark like Mark Lawrence or Joe Abercrombie, it’s got a blend of Tolkien as well. There’s antiheroes, heroes, and villains.

THEMES

We have the usual evil vs good theme, as characterises nearly every work of fantasy, but it’s cleverly covered with other layers. The entire thing is intriguing enough to distract from the main theme in the story which is the fight against an unknown evil. The antiheroes make you root for them! Their gritty, dark deeds blend with their odd but righteous sense of justice.
Love is a lightly treated issue, and I prefer it that way.

SETTING

Much of what happens in the book only occurs within the city of Wesson. There are no mind blowing descriptions of the continent of Brisance, or the countryside. Despite the book’s really epic scope, it’s more plot driven and doesn’t dwell too much on the setting.

It’s a really great read. I recommend it to anyone and everyone who reads this review.