Review: Sharp Ends, Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 5 out of 5

Mr Abercrombie’s a true master — or at least that’s how some of his characters have turned out in these writings. Only one of the stories in this volume was not to my liming and that one featured Shy; incidentally, I had also read this story beforehand in a different collection. One out of thirteen is pretty good going, however, and the many features of this book in the Styrian and Northern lands make it absolutely worthwhile if the reader wants another glimpse into some characters of the main First Law series.

That said, there are also other characters in this book and indeed many from the main series make no appearance whatsoever. However, almost everyone written into this book absolutely deserves the time taken to read these stories for they provide a window into some human souls.

Review: Half a King, Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 3 out of 5

I thought I couldn’t dislike a Joe Abercrombie novel and I haven’t disproven myself of that notion although I have also not picked up the next Shattered Sea immediately. Other people have said that this is unlike Mr Abercrombie’s First Law series and that is very much the truth. The style and feel of the characters is absolutely different even if some are still written to have the caustic snarkiness that was the key to dan Glokta and others.

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Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin

Dangerous WomenDangerous Women by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to say, rating a collection is tough as it can obviously be very variable in quality. I found this here — a few of the stories were breathtaking in their intensity and beauty while others (the majority, regrettably) not nearly as interesting. For personal reasons, I found the stories which touched on the historic aspect a bit more thrilling but in general the variety was commendable. Continue reading “Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin”

Review: ‘Odd and the Frost Giants’, Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a delightful tale of old Scandinavia and a winter that people dread. Reading it right after ‘American Gods’ made me think of a bit different an Odin than this tale gives us, but this is foremost a children’s tale as well and the witty animals that entertain us belong here exactly as they are written. More than that, this really is a happy story and I don’t think much else needs to be said: read it.

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Review: ‘Dust of Dreams’, Steven Erikson

Dust of Dreams (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #9)Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story gets more complex as more miles pass under the feet of our heroic Adjunct and her soldier, her armies, her alliances. As often as not the forces that come together prove unlikely allies in the face of unexpected odds, these forces also stand together to prove that this tome is yet another link in the armour of prose that Mr Erikson has drafted in the praise of loyalty. Continue reading “Review: ‘Dust of Dreams’, Steven Erikson”

Review: Stormlord Rising

Stormlord Rising
Stormlord Rising by Glenda Larke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good stories poorly written seem to be a bit of a theme as of late. The story here, indeed, keeps on being interesting. The plot is overall a bit more innovative than the first book, which is only good. Indeed, the author also seems to have slightly given up on her tendency to feature every plot twist fifty pages ahead, settling mostly for about ten or five in this volume. One can only hope that this entirely disappears in the next book.

However, even with the above in mind, the story is weighed down by a lot of problems. The main one of these would be, for me, the number of contradictions in the world the story takes place in. The religious systems of the various factions are an example of this, but there are many others: the “‘Baster” accent is another one of the very annoying things, where an entire race (nation? faction?) is differentiated by the fact they use a single tense wrong and always say “Ye” instead of “You”. I mean… surely, the author could have thought of something more? Something imaginative perhaps?

The characters are likewise shallow and meaningless. Ryka’s ridiculous adventures strain my patience with the number of u-turns she goes through, especially with every fourth thought of hers being the same; Davim and his successor are fools, having no grasp of strategy or planning; Tarquar is ‘evil’ because he is bored (what a jolly good reason!); Terelle’s thoughts are articulated as if she was five; etc. The only person with a modicum of moral complexity is our stormlord, who is thereby also rendered incapable of acting. Overall, the only character who has managed to maintain being interesting is Iani.

I will only add here that I will read the third book, more because of I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen rather than looking forward to the book, but that’s that.

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After my recent reread of the Lord of the Rings, I also decided to watch Peter Jackson’s movies again. I didn’t get very far (yet), but I did get through the opening scene in the first movie. And that made me think of Sauron, and how he is portrayed in the movies and the books.

Surely, we see a brilliant villain in the character of Sauron. He is malevolent and devious, stopping at nothing but complete conquest. And yet, he is not entirely bad. He was once good and fell into the darkness as everyone else — no one is entirely evil in that world, or rather, no one began as evil.

The story and look into his history we get in the Silmarillion is really worth it, and I think that knowing that allows me to think a bit more critically of how Peter Jackson made him look in the movies, and I do not entirely agree with that way. The Sauron present in Lord of the Rings is only a part of the entire character, and I am not certain he is the better part (better as in more interesting).

Of Peter Jackson’s Sauron: I’ll start by pointing out that nowhere can we actually read that Sauron’s was as tall as they made him be. Indeed, there’s plenty to allow us to think that his human form looked as any man or elf would (at least in the earlier part of the Second Age before the Fall of Númenor). There is no reason to believe that his later malevolent form was any taller than that, and it seems to be just an easy way that Mr Jackson has followed : oh, he is the villain, let’s give him black armour and make him twice as tall as anyone else.

The black armour itself I do not object to: it is hardly likely that Gorthaur the Cruel would have worn anything else. The mace? Maybe. I am slightly uncertain about the weapon, although Melkor used a mace and it is not unlikely to have his apprentice follow in the very same footsteps.

Of Sauron himself, I quite enjoy him as a character. As I mentioned before, he appears now and then in Silmarillion and he is more instrumental there. He is also present in the Akallabêth, and we can see the more deceptive manipulative self of his in that record of the Second Age. I find that the Sauron we are confronted with in the Third Age, though being his own master, is the least interesting of these. This last one is solely bent on strength and power, and has seemingly lost the plotting side.

The Sauron of the First Age (that I would define and separate from the others by calling him Gorthaur) was an interesting creature. I like him best, and that solely comes from his encounter with Finrod Felagund where they fight each other. Indeed, the deceptiveness of this character makes him quite fun to read about. This same deceptiveness also works for him in the court of the kings of Númenor making that era quite interesting. It is somewhat of a loss that we lack that interesting side in the Third Age.

As a short aside, I quite like imagining what the force of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden must have looked like for Sauron to submit without trying to resist. That host must have been without equal at that time (or Sauron must have been so clever to know that submission would give him greater power — which is also very possible).

However, Sauron the Great is also of some interest in his multiple roles as the Necromancer and the Eye. The manipulations that he plays upon Saruman and others are no smaller than the ones in previous eras although we learn of these through other characters.

So, when we look at Sauron in his evil black armour and twice the length of man, let’s remember that he used to be graceful and elegant, and that his cruelty was of a different kind in a bygone era. And, yet, even he was not entirely evil for in the beginning it would have been difficult to distinguish what later became Sauron from what later became Gandalf.

‘The Rains of Castamere’, A Game of Thrones

Speaking of television these days, I am sure that A Game of Thrones is in the mind of many a people. It is quite a good show, and it has managed to captivate an audience that numbers in the tens of millions (based on HBO viewing in the States, I would assume that there’s at least as many outside the States).

This Sunday we got to a pivotal point in the series — at least, I would look at it as a pivotal point. I am afraid I will have to avoid mentioning what exactly happens in case anyone reads this before seeing that episode or reading that section in the books, but I would like to emphasize that I was quite happy in how the producers managed to portray the events.

Generally, there is a far higher level of compromise in filming a TV series if it is based on a book. Right now, there were only a few changes that I had to disagree with. Namely, having the Blackfish and Talisa both at the Twins: it will be interesting to see if the Blackfish pops up in the next episode for that will be the determining factor in how much the series will start diverging (at least, that is how I see it).

Otherwise, ‘The Rains of Castamere’ is an excellent song. The songwriters for the show and The National have done a really good job of building an enjoyable tune that captures the emotions present. The scene in one of the previous episodes where Cersei quotes the poem/song to Margaery is a decent example of this. ‘The Rains of Castamere’ is what the Lannisters are right now, and it does a good job of telling the story of how little they like being defied.

What I was most impressed by was the reaction to this last episode. I really enjoyed it, I think it was well done aside from the points mentioned above. I am not entirely happy with Bran’s storyline although he saw more action here than in the previous season combined. Daenerys’ time wasn’t too bad either — I could actually stand her scenes in this episode. Plus, lots of good combat skills displayed by her sturdy warriors.

However, I think that people were somewhat surprised by the events in this episode, and that is what prompted them to yell out in fury. But, I would keep in mind that these are George RR Martin’s characters and this is his story. His word is the word of god for A Song of Ice and Fire. And, yet, he did nothing that drastic here. Old men are notoriously grumpy and this is what we see in this episode. The characters had to continue like they did here for this is who they were: their personalities allowed for nothing else.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by Roslin Frey. It does look that the people in charge of the show took their time in screening even the most minor of the characters.

Overall, I think we’ve had a good lead-in to the season finale which will no doubt (hopefully, at least) feature the next wedding (Joffrey & Margaery) as well as many other things. I hope they’ve put as much effort in as they did here.

The one question I do wonder about is whether we’ll have an epilogue next episode…

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