Fantasy - Shastrix Books


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Terry Pratchett

3rd May 2020

Having recently watched Phantom of the Opera for the first time (thanks, Lockdown), and with plenty of time (thanks, Lockdown) on my hands, I decided that now would be an ideal time to re-read Maskerade, the Discworld novel based loosely on the musical.

Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, in search of a third witch for their coven, head to the city of Ankh Morpork, where Perdita has enrolled in the chorus at the local Opera house. The plot is essentially similar to the musical - a masked man haunts the opera house, teaching his favourites to sing, demanding a box at the opening night, and killing off people he doesn't get on with. Except there's an extra layer too...

Knowing the source material a little better certainly helped with following the plot and some of the jokes - although I'm not entirely sure I really get all the jokes - either that or there just aren't quite as many little clever moments and lines as there were in Men At Arms, the other Discworld novel that I've recently re-read.

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Men At Arms

Men At Arms

Terry Pratchett

25th April 2020

My first readthrough of the Discworld series was in strict publication order. This time round it’s a bit more chaotic, leaping in wherever the mood takes me, and this time that’s the second Watch book, Men At Arms.

We find Vimes preparing for retirement and marriage, a slew of new recruits being trained up, and a mysterious death to investigate.

It’s classic Discworld - the humour is omnipresent, the tale exploring a number of real world concepts, turning them on their head, and following the standard speculative fiction approach of providing a mirror to our world while continuing to satirise fantasy stories.

The characters are richer than I remembered, the plot more intricate, and the world is possibly the only one in literature where even the smells are colourful. I really loved revisiting this novel and am totally inspired to keep picking more of the series back off my shelf.

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The Truth

The Truth

Terry Pratchett

22nd June 2019

My first read through of the Discworld series was in strict publication order. Now that I’m revisiting them I’m just dipping in wherever I’m inspired, and this time I picked up The Truth after hearing Brandon Sanderson (another of my favourite authors) talking about it on a podcast.

The Truth is the tale of William de Worde, a young Lordling who has moved to the city after falling out with his father, who makes a living by writing letters to update other country gentry about what’s happening in town. That is, until a printing press forces its way into his life and he becomes the Disc’s first newspaper editor.

This to me is Pratchett’s peak era - the comedy and the parody are rich, deep and constant, and he continues to make references to the real world, while also providing a compelling and complete story. It’s entertaining on so many layers and draws the reader to keep on consuming.

Absolutely fantastic to revisit, and I’m glad I did.

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Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty

Jim Butcher

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)

Brandon Sanderson

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)

Brandon Sanderson

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

Brandon Sanderson

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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Other reviewed books

Death Masks
Shaman's Crossing
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
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 War of the Flowers
The Way of Shadows
Thief of Time
White Night
Witches Abroad
Wyrd Sisters

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