Fantasy - Shastrix Books


Recently reviewed

Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty

25th July 2018

I find myself with an interesting relationship with the Dresden Files. I put off reading this one, concerned that as I wasn’t feeling excited at the prospect of picking it up that I’d gone off the series. But actually once I did lift it from the shelf and get stuck in I found myself really enjoying it.

The story begins with a cry for help from a family member of a friend, which in turn drags Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard PI, into an investigation into supernatural occurrences around the city and beyond.

There are a number of things about this book that I enjoyed. It’s a proper investigation, and I am a fan of detective stories. It reveals more about the characters, their backstories, and their relationships - and develops them in new directions as well. It builds more into the world and the mythology of the series. And it’s a good adventure.

So overall I’m left feeling much more engaged with the series, and I hope I can keep that feeling forefront in my mind when I’m choosing what to read in the future and my gaze drifts to the shelves for B.

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The Way of Kings (part two)

The Way of Kings (part two)

2nd January 2018

The second half of The Way of Kings, the opening book of Brandon Sanderson’s epic series, feels very much like the second half of a book (which of course it is). This means that it's fast-paced, with a lot going on, and next to no introduction. It's like getting to the unputdownable part of a book from page one.

It continues the stories of three main characters, interwoven as their civilisation takes part in a massive war. One is the warlord, another a slave, and the third a con artist, but none of them quite fit into the roles that life has cast them in.

The book over both volumes is split into five sections, and different sections focus on different selections of the main characters. This is a tad frustrating in places because the reader is left for a considerable number of chapters to find out what’s happening to one of your favourites. But that’s hardly a terrible thing.

I absolutely adored this half of the book and am desperate to pick up the next one in the series.

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The Way of Kings (part one)

The Way of Kings (part one)

19th July 2017

After many years of waiting on my bookcase, I have finally picked up this first book in the Stormlight Archive series, by one of my favourite authors. I’ve only been putting it off while I read through pretty much the entire rest of his output, as this series is one that is ongoing and I didn’t want to feel I would have too long to wait for additional entries.

My paperback copies of The Way of Kings are split into two volumes, and as with previous novels where this has been the case, I’ve chosen only to read the first half, then take a break and read some other things before returning to part two.

I found the story a little harder than expected to get into - it feels a little more formal and grandiose than some of Sanderson’s other work, and I’m not sure if this is a deliberate style choice (likely, as he does like to plan these things) or a side effect of this being his masterpiece and him subconsciously changing the style). The reader is dropped in quite quickly to several different characters and understanding and becoming used to them takes a while.

Once in though, this is another great book. The characters are rich, deep and rewarding. Their backgrounds and personalities varied and fascinating, with hints of more to be revealed, and it doesn’t take long to fall in love with them and want to follow their stories forever.

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Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians

8th October 2016

First review - 17 October 2012

In the first of Alcatraz's adventures, the thirteen-year-old boy receives an unlikely birthday present and is thrust into a world he never knew existed, in which he has special powers with which to battle the evil librarians who vie to control the world.

The style is unique, with the first-person narrative taking a very informal tone, and constantly talking directly to the reader in an irreverent manner. Each chapter begins with what seems like an irrelevant rant, which becomes quite amusing as you learn to expect it.

The plot is quite random and in places felt a little slow, though as I was reading much of it aloud this may have affected my experience of the pace. The magic system is, as usual for Sanderson's writing, detailed and well-thought out, and this along with the sense of humour make the book.

Sanderson proves his flexibility in writing a series for children and once again I find myself wishing that today's kids' books were available when I was younger.

Second review - 8 October 2016

I had planned to re-read the first three Alcatraz stories and finally finish the fourth before book five was published this summer, but messed up the timing and didn't even get back through this, the first. Partly I suspect because my copy of the four books are in a single huge volume that I haven't fancied carrying about in my rucksack.

My memory of the story was somewhat sketchy, and didn't really come back as I was reading, and I didn't feel that the story gripped me sufficiently for it to plant itself fully in my mind again this time. Alcatraz is a young teenager who one day meets his grandfather and discovers that the world is much bigger than he thought and that he is living in a massive librarian-controlled conspiracy.

The plot is straightforward and filled with twists that seem inspired by Douglas Adams, but I don't think that's where Sanderson excels, and to me, reading as an adult, it just seems chaotic and silly. The tone of voice adopted by the narrator comes across as irritating rather than amusing, and it didn't drive me to keep reading.

That said, Sanderson's actual expertise does shine through the gaps - he's an amazing world builder and has once again created a system of magic/fantasy which is compelling and perhaps the most amusing element in the whole of the story. There are hints that the world is much deeper than we've seen so far, and that this will be developed in later stories.

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Death Masks

Death Masks

26th July 2015

Death Masks is the fifth book in the Dresden Files series, which tells the story of Chicago’s only Wizard Private Investigator. This time he’s hired by a priest visiting the city from the Vatican to help recover a stolen artefact, which leads to an intriguing and rather complicated plot which I’m not sure I completely followed.

There is the usual mix of apical action and witty banter, and a stronger emotional undercurrent than perhaps we’ve seen before in the series, as events from previous books are followed up and some plot threads are seemingly tied up. At the same time, this book introduces a number of new threads, which look like they are going to spread through the series to come.

While I enjoyed reading this, possibly the most of the books so far, I did feel that it was leaning towards the more implausible end of the urban fantasy spectrum, particularly in some of the detail around the scenario in this book. Additionally, the introduction of a range of new enemies made for a lot of new information to absorb, and I don’t think I managed to digest everything that it had to offer.

Unlike the first few books, which could be described along the lines of ‘Dresden does Vampires’, ‘Dresden does Wereworlves’, etc., this story defies such classification, and I think that’s a good thing - it shows a little maturity of the series that it can start to do its own thing, and begin to build up some of the ongoing plot threads that I hope build into something fantastic int he books I have yet to read.

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10th July 2015

I'm surprised how nervous I get about picking up a Brandon Sanderson book that's not from a series I'm already familiar with (this is, so far, a standalone). I should have learnt by now that all his books are fantastic, and by the end of them I'm always desperate to pick up another as soon as possible.

Warbreaker is no exception. A story about two princesses in a world of magic, who both visit a neighbouring country in a reversal of their previous roles. Sanderson's exploration of these two characters (and a couple of others) really makes this book, and I really enjoyed seeing them explore who they were and find their places in the world.

The world itself is another marvel of Sanderson's imagination - he's constructed yet another of his detailed magic systems and a pair of counterbalanced cultures that have real depth and layers that keep on peeling to reveal more and more. I find it hard to fathom how he has become so great at creating these places and the stories to go with them.

Once again a great read and one that I can easily imagine me returning to re-read in the future. Easily the best thing I've read for ages - to the extent that the books I picked up afterwards felt bland and lifeless by comparison.

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Shaman's Crossing

Shaman's Crossing

5th April 2015

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Robin Hobb (including some short works under her alternative name - Megan Lindholm), and so when a friend said that she'd found the Soldier Son trilogy hard going I was unconvinced. However after giving up a fair chunk of time to it I'm afraid I've had to (at least temporarily) admit defeat after only a couple of hundred pages.

The story focussed on a young boy - the second son of a newly created noble, and therefore destined to become a soldier. We follow his life through some key formative experiences and as he travels off to begin his military training. It sounds lil there's promise, and a little similar to Fitz in the author's other trilogies, but I was unable to become gripped by character or narrative and it felt bland and shallow in comparison to Hobb's other work.

Often I found that I was unable to focus on the words on the page and my mind would drift even while my eyes continued to scan the page and my hands continued to turn them, such that when it came back into focus I would have to turn back several pages to find out what was happening. Ultimately this was why I felt the need to stop reading and move on to another book - my reading time is precious (especially so for the first few months of this year) and I've decided to be quite brutal about dropping books that don't grip me sufficiently.

I will try to go back and have another go at this series later, but for now I've set it aside.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

Summer Knight
A Dance with Dragons (2: After the Feast)
Gardens of the Moon
The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince
A Dance with Dragons (1: Dreams and Dust)
Apocalypse Cow
Grave Peril
The Dirty Streets of Heaven
The Magicians' Guild
The Inheritance
The Emperor's Soul
Fool Moon
A Feast for Crows
Raising Steam
Blood of Dragons
Pulling Up Stakes (part 2)
Storm Front
A Storm of Swords (2: Blood and Gold)
The Amber Spyglass
City of Dragons
Guilty Pleasures
The Stuff of Dreams
A Storm of Swords (1: Steel and Snow)
The Subtle Knife
Dragon Haven
Pulling Up Stakes (part 1)
A Memory of Light
The Dragon Keeper
A Clash of Kings
The Woman Who Died a Lot
The Long Earth
Northern Lights
Fool's Fate
A Game of Thrones
The Golden Fool
Fool's Errand
Ship of Destiny
The Alloy of Law
The Hero of Ages
The Mad Ship
Ship of Magic
The Blade Itself
The Final Empire
Assassin's Quest
Royal Assassin
Assassin's Apprentice
Towers of Midnight
Anansi Boys
I Shall Wear Midnight
The Gathering Storm
In Your Dreams
Knife of Dreams
The Antipope
New Spring
The Portable Door
Crossroads of Twilight
Winter's Heart
The Path of Daggers
The World of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
A Crown of Swords
Unseen Academicals
Lord of Chaos
The Fires of Heaven
The Shadow Rising
The Dragon Reborn
The Great Hunt
The Eye of the World
American Gods

Unreviewed books

Carpe Jugulum
City of Golden Shadow
City Watch Trilogy
Cold Days
Equal Rites
Exile's Return
Forest Mage
Furies of Calderon
Going Postal
Good Omens
Interesting Times
Lords and Ladies
Making Money
Monstrous Regiment
Mountain of Black Glass
Moving Pictures
Night Watch
Orcs: Bodyguard of Lightning
Orcs: Legion of Thunder
Orcs: The Taking
Orcs: Warriors of the Tempest
Reaper Man
Renegade's Magic
River of Blue Fire
Sea of Silver Light
Small Favour
Small Gods
Soul Music
The Big Over Easy
The Colour of Magic
The Dragonbone Chair
The Eyre Affair
The Fifth Elephant
The Folklore of Discworld
The Fourth Bear
The Last Continent
The Last Hero
The Light Fantastic
The New Discworld Companion
The Silmarillion
The Truth
The War of the Flowers
The Way of Shadows
Thief of Time
White Night
Witches Abroad
Wyrd Sisters

Top books

  1. Towers of Midnight
  2. Fool's Errand
  3. City of Dragons
  4. The Alloy of Law
  5. Raising Steam
  6. Blood of Dragons
  7. A Dance with Dragons (1: Dreams and Dust)