Kellanved’s Reach by Ian C. Esslemont – Review

Cover- Kellanved's Reach

Published: April 2, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Path to Ascendancy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The conclusion to Ian C. Esslemont’s epic fantasy Path to Ascendancy trilogy–a prequel story set in the New York Timesbestselling Malazan Empire series–co-created by Steven Erikson.

The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas.

Kellanved could not care less about any of this petty politicking or strategy or war. Something other and altogether more mysterious has caught his attention and he – together with a reluctant and his decidedly skeptical friend Dancer – traverse continents and journey through the Realms. But this ancient mystery that has so captivated Kellanved is neither esoteric nor ephemeral. It involves the Elder races themselves, and more alarmingly, the semi-mythic Army of Dust and Bone.

Surely no one in their right mind would be so foolish as to embark on a journey from which none have returned? Well, no one except Kellanved.


I’m going to be blunt here – I was expecting more out of this book than I received. I’m a huge fan of the Malazan universe and I think the Path to Ascendancy series has been Esslemont’s strongest performance yet. I absolutely loved the first two book, but for some reason this one didn’t resonate as strongly with me.

It felt rushed and I didn’t properly care about the new POVs. Even Kellanved and Dancer’s chapters didn’t give me the satisfaction I expected. This being said, it was still a pretty good book with a cool plot. For those familiar with the Malazan world, the cover gave it away – the wily duo were out searching for the T’lan Imass and the means to control them through the First Throne. An undead army would provide the newly formed Malazan throne the means to become the conquering empire it’s seen as in the Book of the Fallen. A good chunk of this book focuses on the warring Quon Talian city states which I found mostly pretty dull, though the characters were slightly less dull.

Overall, I wasn’t crazy about this book and I wish it were longer so perhaps things wouldn’t have felt so rushed. Some of what considered to be the “main showdowns” resolved incredibly quickly and with minimal fuss. Kellanved’s Reach fell somewhat short of what I had expected after the resounding success of the previous two books.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Ninth House

So, Leigh Bardugo’s first foray into adult fantasy sounds absolutely epic. Alex Stern, high school drop-out and only survivor of a brutal multiple homicide, is given a full ride to Yale University. She is tasked with monitoring (I imagine infiltrating) Yale’s secret occult societies where the elites of the world get to know one another over creepy basement sacrifices. I am SO INTRIGUED. This will be released October, 1 2019, just in time for spooky season!

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Cover- Last Argument of Kings

Published: September 8, 2015

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The First Law #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 605 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

The final novel in the First Law Trilogy by New York Timesbestseller Joe Abercrombie. 
Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him — but it’s going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the king of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy: it’s time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. As his days with a sword are far behind him, it’s fortunate that he’s deadly with his remaining weapons: blackmail, threats, and torture.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is too painful an undertaking and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too — and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.

The king of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, than to break the First Law…


Maaaaan, what an awesome way to conclude the First Law trilogy! This book was satisfying on many levels and I’m about 100x more excited to read A Little Hatred when it comes out later this year. I have to see what the Union has turned into after a couple decades.

First of all, the character arcs concluded excellently, though obviously not in a final sort of way since there will be another series set later on featuring many familiar characters. Glokta remains a clear favorite of mine. I NEVER thought I would like his POV so much going into this series, but his internal monologue (and what he says aloud) is one of the funniest (yet dark) things I’ve ever read, provoking bouts of actual laughter.  Jezal dan Luthar, who I thought may have been a redeemed man, remains a clueless, self-centered babe in most circumstances. He has occasional bouts of rage or good sense that miraculously work out well most of the time. Ninefingers…. Well, I like him a bit more in the previous books, but he has quite a strong character arc. And Bayaz is a power-mad magi, but are we really surprised? Oh, and Collem West is possibly the most stressed out man in all the Union.

This was an excellent book with many layers of plot. Too many, really, to begin to go into. The Gurkish threaten from the south and Bethod’s northmen are still at war with the Union in the northern reaches. The Union is threatened from all sides and internal politics threatens from within, making for troubled times.

This was a fantastic book and a fantastic series as a whole. If you’re looking for some intense fantasy reading and somehow haven’t read Joe Abercrombie (or this series in particular) you should consider putting it in your TBR pile. This is a perennial favorite amongst fantasy readers and is so frequently recommended on every bookish site I visit that I decided to give the series a read. I had read the first book (a ratty, used library copy) 6 or 7 years ago and I must have been younger and less wise, because I didn’t binge read the series right then. I have now remedied that error and couldn’t be more glad.

Currently Reading: 3/25/19

Cover- Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

I requested this book because I liked the title and I have no regrets. I’m only 50 pages in as I type this but I can already tell I’m going to love this book! The main character Orhan just clicked with me and judging from the tone of his narration, I’m going to enjoy this.

 

 

 

Cover- Vicious

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

How have I waited so long to read this book? I’m absolutely loving it! Morally grey characters with extraordinary abilities are out for vengeance, and the origin story is on point.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine – Review

Cover- A Memory Called Empire

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Teixcalaan #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 462 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.


A Memory Called Empire is something I’ve wanted to read since I first saw the cover. I mean, the star feature is the sci-fi equivalent to the Iron Throne and I just couldn’t resist. And then the synopsis…. A murdered ambassador and deadly secrets? Say no more!

This book basically shoves you off a cliff into a convoluted alien culture which isn’t necessarily a negative. I like piecing things together as I read along and info dumps are rarely an elegant addition to any story, so in many ways this worked for me. The learning curve with this book was quite steep though and I can see that this probably won’t work for everyone.

For me the biggest thing that kept me from getting maximum enjoyment (a 5 star rating) was that it took me fully half of the book before I cared about the characters or the plot. I wasn’t tremendously invested in them and I pondered putting the book down and trying again later but I pushed onward. I’m really glad I continued because things really picked up in the latter half – THE PLOT THICKENED! I cared about what happened to the new ambassador Mahit Dzmare and her assistant/liason Three Seagrass. There was rebellion in the streets, attempted assassinations, and even illegal technological enhancements. I would say this book is in the category of slow-burners. Not everything starts off with a bang – good things can take time.

Overall, this was an intriguing and ambitious book with an exotic culture. The Teixcalaanli (how do I even pronounce this???) culture is one of poetry and power. The names were interesting – Three Seagrass, One Lightning, Six Helicopter… you kind of see where this goes. I didn’t love this book, but it was one that prodded the imagination and the city and people are subjects I would love to see in painting.

Waiting on Wednesday: Fray by Rowenna Miller

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Fray

Torn was a surprise favorite of mine last year and I’m just SO excited to get my hands on a copy of Fray! Sophie Balstrade, maker of charmed garments for the elite, was in quite a predicament as the first book wrapped up. She was forced to curse a garment made for one of the royal family and her growing involvement with the prince has put her in the spotlight. I’m so curious to see what direction this book will take and I hope Sophie and Crown Prince Theodore get a happy ever after!! The expected publication date is June 4, 2019!

Soulkeeper by David Dalglish – Review

Cover- Soulkeeper

Published: March 19, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Keepers #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 704 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In the first book of USA Today bestseller David Dalglish’s epic fantasy trilogy, a warrior priest must answer the call and protect his world from monsters, when ancient magic suddenly returns to his land.

Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, travelling through remote villages as a preacher and healer. But when a dragon awakens – the size of a mountain and leaving great chasms in its wake – the veil is torn, flooding the land with ancient magic and forgotten races. Now Devin must set aside his words of peace and accept his new role: slayer of monsters and protector of the human race.

But not all the creatures that have re-awakened mean humanity harm. And as Devin slowly befriends people of these new races, his discomfort in his role grows. But Soulkeepers must slay without mercy. And even sympathisers risk their wrath.


I took this absolute chonk of a book on vacation with me a few weeks back and read it in TWO DAYS. It’s over 700 pages and I was hooked the whole duration of the book. I was thoroughly taken with the story, the characters, and the idea of a world where magical creatures have suddenly reemerged long after they had become mere myth.

Devin Eveson is a soulkeeper, essentially a travelling preacher and healer that also sort of shoos souls from the deceased so that they may be burned rather than buried. When a sudden change washes through the world (somewhat literally in places), Devin is in a remote mountain village. His location affords him an up close and rather horrifying encounter with the newly returned magic and he swiftly travels to the town where his borther-in-law resides to see if he survived. They two then travel to the main city, where things have changed just as drastically, though perhaps not as obviously at first. Some humans have acquired powers of healing and elemental control and a dragon the size of a mountain – one that I actually imagined as a mountain sized hermit crab – has parked itself outside the city gates. A green-clad murderer is stalking the streets and turning his victims into ghastly “art” and monstrous owls hunt the streets at night. This book was quite the amalgam of supernatural entities and plot threads.

There were quite a few POVs in this book, the majority of which I greatly enjoyed. I thought some of the dialogue was a little cheesy and things felt a bit “extra” or over the top at times, which is really saying something because this is a fantasy book and that practically guarantees something a teensy bit ridiculous. There was so much going on in this book that it was a bit overwhelming, though not difficult to keep up with if that makes any sense. I was pretty invested in this book by the end and I’ll definitely be reading the next one, meaning this was good enough for the time investment to be worth it!

Overall, this was a fun book that went extra heavy on the fantastical creatures, though their sudden presence was justified well. It wasn’t a perfect read for me though it was a solid one and honestly lived up appropriately to my expectations. For me this was a perfect vacation read – not too serious and one that could easily keep me occupied without my attention wandering at all!

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

Cover- Holy Sister

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Book of the Ancestor #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The third installment in a brilliant fantasy series from the international bestselling author of Prince of Thorns.

As a young girl, Nona Grey was saved from the noose by the Abbess of Sweet Mercy. But behind the convent’s walls she learned not a life of prayer and isolation, but one of the blade and the fist. Now she will serve as the convent’s fiercest protector as the emperor moves to destroy the last bastion that stands against him.


The epic, much anticipated finale to the Book of the Ancestor trilogy is here at last and WOWEEE it was great!!! Battle nuns, armies at the city’s doorstep, and oh yeah, THE MOON IS FAILING AND THE UNFORGIVING WALLS OF ICE ARE CLOSING ON THE CORRIDOR. ICY DEATHS AWAIT ALL THOSE WHO DWELL UPON ABETH. Whatever shall they do?

That’s easy, Abbess Glass did some plotting (did she ever stop?) and Nona did some thieving, and there was deception and risk involved. So, not actually that easy or simple. It was pretty epic though, watching all that unfold like one of those perfect little tea leaf flowers submerged in hot water. So elegant. The most jarring thing was the split timelines. One immediately follows the events at the end of Grey Sister and the other is three years later. At first I didn’t really get the purpose of the split timelines, though I quickly got used to it and towards the end everything comes together. This book focuses primarily on the events unfolding in the world at large – ie. The invading armies – and not as much on life at the Abbey, including class time and such. The battles were epic and the bloodshed fierce enough to break the readers heart at times.

Mark Lawrence continued to build on the world he had begun to create in the first two books. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to read more books set on Abeth, whether merely in another country or in an era other than the one Nona’s story is set in. As it is though there is plenty of delightful mystery surrounding the past and those who first populated Abeth. That undefined era lets my imagination and speculation run wild. I liked that there were a few new locations explored in this installment. Imagining a trek across the ice of a frozen planet chilled me to the bone… or maybe that was just February on the East coast.

Overall, Holy Sister was an excellent conclusion to what has been my favorite of Mark Lawrence’s trilogies yet. Following Nona’s journey from childhood to adulthood and up through the ranks of students has been a delightful adventure with heavy doses of action and mischief. 10/10, would read again.

Waiting on Wednesday: Recursion by Blake Crouch

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Recursion

Oh buddy, this sounds just as bizarrely fascinating as Dark Matter and Wayward Pines!!! This time Blake Crouch is presenting readers with the terrifying “what if we could relive or change our memories?” and then exploring what sort of horrible things could stem from that. The early reviews seem positive which has me feeling hopeful that this will be another winning read for me. Recursion will be released June 11, 2019, just in time for the summer vacation season and it sounds like a perfect beach read.

Currently Reading: 3/11/19

Cover- The Food Explorer

The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone

What can I say? I like food and this was in the Audible 2 for 1 sale so I picked it up. I’m trying to broaden my reading selection this year and this definitely fits that criteria and sounds like one of the more interesting non-fiction biography type books I’ve come across.

 

 

 

Cover- Seven Blades in Black

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

This sounds like it will be a most epic story of revenge and magery. It will also be my first impression of Sam Sykes’s writing and I do hope it’s awesome. I’ve had my eye on his other books for years now and just haven’t had the opportunity to read them.