Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart is the most enjoyable book I've read this year and it is Sanderson's best stand alone book he has to date (Elantris, The Rithmatist, Warbreaker). That's right I said it. Look, don't get me wrong, I don't think it's Sanderson's best book, the most intriguing, the best magic system or most unique. Simply, it reads so smoothly, there is nothing complicated and it is non-stop action. It will probably be the first Sanderson book I'll recommend to others from here on out.

 One day "Calamity", an explosion in the sky, granted superpowers to men and women at random known as Epics. Without any warning, these Epics take over parts of the country (USA). Epics kill those who resist (or looks at them funny) and subjugates everyone else. The most powerful of them all, Steelheart, reigns supreme in Newcago.

Not bending the knee are The Reckoners. A group of  "humans" who will not abide by the atrocities that these Epics have wrought. They hide, plan and kill off the Epics that they can. See, every Epic has a weakness. Some can be killed normally yet some seem impervious to harm until you find their "kryptonite". 

The story follows David, an ordinary teenage boy who is obsessive compulsive about Epics. When David was 8, he saw the murder of his father by the Epic known as Steelheart. Steelheart is invincible. Bullets, explosions, fire...nothing! can harm him. Yet the moments before David's father died, Steelheart was grazed by a bullet that David's father had fired. He has a weakness...but what caused that weakness?

As I said, this is the most enjoyable book I've read this year. While teaching, I don't have a lot of time to read yet I read this in a few days. The story moves along at an extreme pace, there is no dull chapter and you are constantly guessing what Steelheart's weakness could be. I knew it was Sanderson, so it wouldn't be anything obvious as the man has a knack for surprise. The subtle twists of Epics having weaknesses is great. I hate Superman (the character) because he's invincible and by making Epics having weakness really balances them out.

Although the story in the book only spans a month or two, you do see David's character grow. He starts off obsessed and starts to realize there are other parts of life worth enjoying as well. Seriously...after my ramblings how could you not go out and get Steelheart?

Check out Laurentius' review as well if you are not convinced! Oh and we have two copies of Steelheart to giveaway, so you can make up your own mind! ^_^

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Thanks to Hachette NZ for providing an ARC of Steelheart to be reviewed and for giving us a copy to giveaway!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist, is a compelling piece of Young Adult fantasy that delivers the whole way through. Sanderson hits all the right notes when it comes to all the usual YA themes; coming of age, the meaning of true friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and even a didactic against bullying. As expected in a Sanderson novel, the magic system is completely unique. The basic idea is that specially gifted individuals can write complex diagrams which control chalk drawings (called “chalklings”). At times the magic system is overly complicated, but it’s original and by the end of the book it all comes together quite masterfully.

The characters are a fun bunch to read about – every one of them is unique with their distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies. Sanderson does a good job here and the characters keep you fully entertained. I especially liked the contrast between Melody, a Rithmatist student who doesn’t take her studies seriously, and Joel, who lacks Rithmatist powers. The story centers on Joel, the son of a lowly chalk-maker.

Due to some special circumstances, Joel attends one of the top schools in the country; however, what interests him are not the mundane studies, but rather the Rithmatic classes – special classes that the magically gifted attend. As a non-rithmatist, Joel is unable to pursue Rithmatic studies, except for occasionally sneaking into Rithmatic classes.

The setting is a bit Harry Potter-esque – a magic school of sorts. You’ll definitely see some of the similarities to Harry Potter as you progress through the story. Think of Joel as a sort of Harry Potter, but a Harry Potter who can’t actually perform magic and can only watch in envy as his peers do. Joel being extremely bright but not magically talented adds an interesting dynamic to the story. Sanderson uses this to create an absolutely brilliant ending. The story, setting, and magic system also reminded me a bit of The Name of The Wind – especially the part where Kvothe attends magic school and studies a rigidly structured magic with specific rules.

The world is pretty similar to our world near the turn of the century with magical elements added to it. It almost feels a bit like 20th century England with parts of Lord of the Rings added into the geography. Overall, The Rithmatist is a fantastic book that will guarantee to keep both adults and kids entertained. My only complaint is we will have to wait another year to continue the story. Review by Ben.

Notes from me (Jon!): I have to agree with Ben on every point here. I think this book is really fun to read, it has a great ending (I called it!) and never did I feel cheated. One of the strengths Sanderson has is being able to pull his readers into his world. To make the unbelievable just a little bit believable. You'll want to cheer for the good guys and boo at the bad guys. A great pick up if you haven't read it already. Sanderson has hinted that this is going to be a two part series.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Quintessence by David Walton

In this alternate reality the world is flat. Untold rumours of treasure, the ability to turn lead into gold and death into life is what drove Lord Chelsey to sail to the end of the world. As he comes back, he has barrels of diamonds and a treasure troves of gold. Yet not 24 hours after he lands that every one of his crew members are dead, including himself. His treasure? Not treasure at all but barrels of sand and even more troves of sand.

This historical fantasy book is set just before Queen Mary's reign where protestants duck and hide when Mary takes the throne. To examine a human body after death is seen as sorcery and mercury is used to cure most.

We follow Stephen Parris the King's physician who is still mourning his son's death many years before. He secretly opens up corpses in order to learn, but he must do this in secret. A brave coward who will go to extreme lengths to find cures for diseases, when he hears that there is potential to find the elixir of life, quintessence, he jumps at the chance.

Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist with huge ambitions. Sinclair was the there when Chelsey died and told him secrets from the end of the world. Sinclair is reckless and throughout the story goes to new extremes time and time again, no one is too precious for his ambitions in the search for Quintessence.

While there are other characters in this story, Parris is probably the shining light. David Walton writes him as an unlikely hero, someone who just wants to better mankind and holds onto the faint hope that maybe, just maybe his son is out there somewhere. He holds no magical powers, no physical strength but you'll root for him none the less.

Quintessence by David Walton is as the cover says, wildly imaginative. There are so many different elements that comprise this book. There are philosophical, scientific and religious debates which fascinated me. It was like having a bit of sci-fi element in the book without being sci-fi. The book is written at a really fast pace and the story keep moving a long. There are strange creatures, a bit of 'magic' and characters that you can believe are real. The dialogue in this book between characters make you seem you are in there listening to the conversations.

The ending to the book was perhaps a little bit predictable but it doesn't stop this from being a great read and I chewed through this pretty quickly (even with my busy school life). Give this author a go, I'm even giving you that chance!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: The Steel Remains

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan is his first book in fantasy. Morgan is known for writing Sci-Fi but as we all know, there can be a lot of overlaps in both genres. Joe Abercrombie quotes the book as 'Bold, brutal, and making no compromises'. I would have to tend to agree with this quote. The characters are harsh, the way they speak and the way people treat each other, it makes a hard to stomach read at certain points.

The story follows several characters, but the main one is Ringil. A hero of sorts after the last war against the Lizard men, but now just another person getting by. One day, his estranged mother comes and finds him, to tell him that his cousin's husband went into debt and she got sold into slavery. He must get her back. At first he doesn't want to, this bucolic life style suits him, but every part of his body is screaming to do it.

The other "main" character is a female called Archeth who early on the book we learn is someone mysterious and is of a dangerous and powerful race. She's on the other side of the country as Ringil. She serves her Empire because her people are dead and/or have left her. Emperor Jhiral finds her useful and uses her to his advantage.

I haven't told you much have I? That's because really there isn't much to tell. This book really felt like watching the first series of 'Lost'. I had no idea what was going on, every chapter was new information but it begged more questions. Each chapter answered one question but asked three more. While doing so, it is using crass language. Everyone is swearing, high born, low born, super-natural. The f-bomb is as natural in this book as it is breathing.  Just when you think you're desensitised to it...BAM! Morgan shoves some balls down your through. Oh yes...I said that. Remember the top quote. The first word was SEX. Morgan doesn't skimp on this and he doesn't skimp on the details too. A lot of it is male on male. I'm not sure of the reason, but perhaps because it is more shocking to the reader. I mean, when was the last time you read about someones balls...oh never mind. Let's keep it PG shall we.

Morgan writes all this like it is the norm and it isn't. If his goal was to shock me, then yeah he did it. Very graphically. Yet while shocking my system, as I said before, he leaves me begging for answers. I'm drawn to him like a train wreck, I can't turn away. I'll need to read The Cold Commands. If you like sex, drugs and violence then this is the next stop. All aboard the train wreck.

"Sex, drugs and violence: Those would be the three words I would use to describe The Steel Remains" - Sleeping With Books

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Win A Memory of Light!

If you guys are long time followers of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time then you will undoubtedly know that the final book is out.

If you are waiting for the e-book/kindle version then you will have to wait until April.

Now it you aren't in a hurry or you want something free! Then it's easy. Click the following link to go into the draw to win a copy (3 if you are from New Zealand!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

So many books!

I just bought 95 books for $150nzd (approx $120usd)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Ok, so this isn't a novel. It's not even a novella.

Darth Vader and Son is a simple picture/comic book with many different scenarios of, if Darth Vader was raising a 4 year old Luke Skywalker.
Mostly this book reminds me of Farside calendars, they are silly little scenarios with puns etc. except this one is mostly with Star Wars scenarios. Not all of them hit the mark but overall it's a good cheap book with laughs and will keep many a guest that comes to your house entertained. The pictures are well drawn and the book itself is well made and sturdy (you can let kids rifle through it).
My only gripe is that I wish every scene was something to do with Star Wars rather than a generic father raising a son scenario.
So if you are looking for a nice present for someone who likes Star Wars, I think you've got your ticket here.

Here are a couple of pages from the book.