Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Half the World

by Joe Abercrombie
484 pgs  (Shattered Sea trilogy #2)

Joe Abercrombie's The Shattered Sea trilogy is a story of death, betrayal, and one man's quest for revenge. In Half a King, Abercrombie focused on young Yarvi, the second son of the king, and one who was never intended to sit on the throne. His deformed arm made him useless in the eyes of his father and family, but when his father and older brother were both murdered, he unwillingly became king. When the same men who killed his family members shortly thereafter conspired against him, Yarvi renounces his claim on the throne and dedicates the rest of his life to obtaining revenge. It's soon evident that his sharp mind, and his deep sense of cunning will serve him far better than a sword or a battle ax ever could.

In Half the World, Yarvi, who is now the Queen's minister, is no longer the central character in Abercrombie's story. It's now Thorn, a young girl who is being trained as a warrior by the head of the Queen's army. Thorn catches the attention of Yarvi, who sees potential in her to play a role in his plans for revenge. he places her under the tutelage of a master fighter named Skifr. Skifr trains Thorn into one of the most deadly and dangerous warriors in the world.

Half the World is not as strong a book as its predecessor, but it successfully does what the middle book in a trilogy is supposed to do: it advances the story, it adds depth to the main characters, and it builds anticipation for the conclusion. While the story moved a little too slowly for me at times, Thorn is a fantastic new character and one that I'm looking forward to seeing how Yarvi utilizes in his plans.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Edge of Eternity

by Ken Follett
1098 pgs  (The Century trilogy #3)

Throughout Ken Follett's The Century trilogy the lives of five different families were followed throughout the 20th century. The families were each from different countries: the U.S., England, Germany, France, and Wales, and each book focused on subsequent generations of those families as they experienced, and many times, influenced the historical events that took place during their lifetimes.

In book one, Fall of Giants they were the events leading up to and including the First World War that Follett chronicles. In book two Winter of the World, they were the events leading up to and including the Second World War. In this concluding installment, the third generation of each family witnesses and experiences each of the major events in the last half of the century. Those events include the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, the civil rights movement, and the assassinations of JFK, his brother "Bobby" and Martin Luther King Jr.

These were the first books by Ken Follett that I read and what I was most impressed with was the expert way in which he mapped out the lives of three generations of his five families and used their lives to tell the story of arguably the most eventful and influential century to date. He seamlessly intertwines the lives of his fictitious characters with the lives of the historical figures of their time. It really was an impressive feat that I doubt many other writers could have pulled off.

Now I have more than just glowing praise for the trilogy and this final book in particular. I do have a gripe that's worth mentioning--the sex. This final book was almost 1100 pages long, and I'm guessing that about 200 of those pages detailed the sexual activities of the characters. Now I don't think I would be considered a prude when it comes to the books I read by any one's standards, but the amount of sex in this book was a little ridiculous. It got to the point when I read 50 or so pages without a sex scene that I knew one must be coming shortly.

That being said, the book, and the series as a whole, is fantastic. It's entertaining and informative. By the time I finished it, I felt like I had a deeper appreciation for the events of the century I grew up in and it made me wish I had paid a little more attention during the World History classes I took in school.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Wild Ride Through the Night

by Walter Moers
182 pgs

I've read each of Walter Moers' quirky fantasy books that take place on Zamonia, and while the last one fell pretty far short of my expectations, they've all been highly imaginative and I'm looking forward to his next one. A Wild Ride Through the Night is not part of the series, but is instead a story crafted using as its framework 21 wood engravings by French artist Gustave DorĂ©. DorĂ© was a highly successful painter, illustrator, and engraver whose subject matter often included angels, dragons, and other fantastical images.

Moers uses a 12-year-old Gustave as his main character. The book begins with Gustave captaining a ship that runs into a deadly Siamese Twins Tornado. His crew is killed and Gustave comes face to face with Death and his crazy sister Dementia. In order to escape the grasp of both of them, Gustave is given six seemingly impossible tasks that he has to perform in a single night. Among them are rescuing a damsel in distress from a dragon, facing six giants and guessing their names, encountering the Most Monstrous of Monsters, and meeting himself.

Moers includes the 21 engravings throughout the book and ties them all together with a clever and entertaining story. The story isn't as good as most of his Zamonian tales, but it's short and fun and worth the time to read.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆