It's February 2021: What fantasy book are you reading?

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#21
So much of the plot development is just an excuse to reveal more of the magic system. Also his characters are not compelling. Remember reading WoT or ASoIaF, reading an Elaine or Theon chapter and wishing it was Mat or Arya? There was no single pov character in Stormlight Archives that I looked forward to.
Tell us how you really feel lol!

I do agree that the world building is too quantum physics based and he’s trying too hard to build some real science into a magic system that can be all over the place.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#22
So much of the plot development is just an excuse to reveal more of the magic system. Also his characters are not compelling. Remember reading WoT or ASoIaF, reading an Elaine or Theon chapter and wishing it was Mat or Arya? There was no single pov character in Stormlight Archives that I looked forward to.
Yeah, I get what you mean. Kaladin and Dalinar had good POV chapters, but not comparable with let's say a Tyrion or Mat chapter, that's for sure. And then there are the Shallan chapters, which are just terrible in my view.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#23
Tell us how you really feel lol!

I do agree that the world building is too quantum physics based and he’s trying too hard to build some real science into a magic system that can be all over the place.
I must say that this is one of the things that I do like a lot about Sanderson; his magic systems. But indeed, books should not solely exist to showcase a magic system. A magic system should be a supporting element in a story, not the thing that props up the entire series.
 

afa

Journeyed there and back again
#24
Yeah, I get what you mean. Kaladin and Dalinar had good POV chapters, but not comparable with let's say a Tyrion or Mat chapter, that's for sure. And then there are the Shallan chapters, which are just terrible in my view.
To be fair, Shallan is getting progressively less annoying with each book. Very-annoying in the first, only-regular-annoying in the second, and kinda-okay-with-some-definite-annoying-traits in the third. I haven't read the fourth, but at this rate, Shallan might end the first five-book arc as a character you don't actively wish dies in a climactic battle!

But indeed, books should not solely exist to showcase a magic system. A magic system should be a supporting element in a story, not the thing that props up the entire series.
Yes, Sanderson does have a tendency to go deep in the weeds with his magic, but I don't think it's fair to say that his books exist just to showcase the magic system.

The Stormlight series is a big commitment too. All over 1000 pages and the last two over 1200. I think a lot of that could have been cut down.
I was disappointed with #3 and felt the first 500 pages of this last book were bad.
I think these basically point out the biggest problem with Stormlight. The books are too damn big. Yes, I know we Fantasy nerds are not exactly averse to doorstoppers, but these books are big for no justifiable reason. Just think about this comment - the first five hundred pages of the book were bad. Five hundred pages! There are several Fantasy books out there that are this long in their entirety. I'm currently reading A Little Hatred, which is (according to Amazon) 481 pages long. So basically with Rhythm of War, Sanderson wrote an entire bad book, and then joined it with a second, better book.

The length is a real problem. It's like Sanderson decided that Stormlight was going to be an E P I C S A G A, and for some reason thought that this meant he had to make them huge. It's as if, despite his experience and accolades, he has somehow not learnt that the "epic-ness" of a series has more to do with the story between the covers and not the word count. I think Sanderson might be suffering from Robert Jordan syndrome, where he is such a big name in the genre and his books sell so well, that his editors, agents and publishers have stopped objectively critiquing his work and are now indulging him and letting him write whatever he wants.

I do think this series hasn’t been the great, epic series I was hoping for though.
Yeah, I agree. I haven't read the fourth book, yet, but even based on the first three I would say I feel the same. I still like them just enough that I intend to continue the series, and I still like the whole Cosmere thing enough that I will read his future stuff, too. But The Stormlight Archive isn't a series that is going to go down as "one of the greats."
 

afa

Journeyed there and back again
#25
Done with A Little Hatred, the first book in The Age of Madness trilogy from Joe Abercrombie.

I have mentioned before how my reading has gone way down the last couple of years due to a variety of reasons. I read only one full novel in 2020, and few short novels and novellas. After being done with the Murderbot novellas a few weeks ago, I mentioned how if Abercrombie couldn't get me back to reading novels, then I had no hope.

I need not have worried, because Abercrombie is Abercrombie, which is to say one of the best damn writers in Fantasy. I finished the book in almost exactly a month. (Don't laugh, that's actually pretty good by my standards.) I'm sure there are writers with more beautiful prose, or better world-building, or who write deep, meaningful stories full of allegories and triple meanings and whatnot. But Abercrombie knows how to write a book that has great characters, an engrossing story, dark humour, great action, and is just plain fun.

As for the book, it's fantastic. Since this trilogy is set in the same world as the older books but takes place some 30 years later, we have a bunch of new POV characters, including several who are the offspring of our old favorites. There's Savine dan Glokta, the daughter of everyone's favourite "love to hate" character from the original trilogy, who appears to be every bit as clever and ruthless in business and social politics as her father was in interrogations. We have Crown Prince Orso, the son of Jezal, who willingly plays up his reputation for being a vain and shallow royal, but is actually a better person than the Jezal we first met (though he is still a fair bit vain). Rikke, daughter of the Dogman, who may have been blessed or cursed with the Long Eye. And Leo dan Brock, the son and heir of the former Lord Governor of Angland, who was never a major character in previous books, and who I mostly remembered for the fact that his wife Finree was the woman Bremer dan Gorst would secretly pine for in The Heroes. The other POV characters are Victarine dan Teufel, daughter of Sepp dan Teufel (the guy who Glokta tortures and then sends off to prison camps in the OT); Clover, a Northman with a skill for avoiding conflict; and Gunnar Broad, a former soldier who fought in Styria and has now returned, trying desperately to fit into a normal society but facing anger issues that have a tendency to make him violent faster than you can say, "PTSD."

As is usual for Abercrombie books, the characters are all fantastic. Everyone has their own voice, everyone has their own faults and strengths, everyone is a little good and a little messed up. The two key backdrops of the plot involve a festering rebellion in parts of the Union from the underprivileged who are being squeezed out in the name of progress, and yet another war involving the Northmen. All the POVs we see are directly or indirectly involved in one of the two events. It will, perhaps, not surprise you to learn that things go a little awry.

I really enjoyed the book. It's great. Abercrombie is great. The First Law world is great. I've giving it a full 5 out of 5, and will straight away move on to reading the next one, The Trouble With Peace.

P.S. While we're on the topic of great, Abercrombie's titles are great, too. Love them.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#26
That was a GREAT review afa. Thanks. When I finished with The Trouble With Peace, I didn't want to leave Abercrombie's world so I'm rereading The First Law trilogy. Seems even better the second time.
 

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#27
I liked the First Law trilogy. Didn’t like the last standalone book I read as I didn’t like any of the characters. They were all grey or bad. I need at least some characters to root for. I will give this next book series a shot.

Reading the Kings of Paradise and it’s pretty dark. I’m 43% done and I still don’t know what the overall objective is. Dala character confuses me and just adds more darkness to Ruka. I hope things start to be explained sooner than later. Losing some faith in this book atm.

Edit: this site cuts off or deletes some part of posts sometimes. It’s odd.
 
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Jakyro

Journeyed there and back again
#28
Nice review @afa ... I’ve seen many great reviews for both book 1 and 2 in this new series from Abercrombie. I’m still not sure If I should really give it a go though ... I’m not mentionning this for the first time, but ‘the first Law’ trilogy didn’t work for me. Neither the characters, nor the story grabbed me sufficiently. It‘s probably also a problem with expectations... as it’s often mentioned as one of the best fantasy series, I’d expected much more from it.

I never tried anything else from Abercrombie afterwards. Too much on my reading list I’d like to give a go. A reread of first law would probably be necessary for the stand alone books and the new trilogy. I do think I would like it more on reread as my expectations will be different from my first read

I myself am still reading ‘The Faithfull and The Fallen’. I’m 70% into book 3 ‘Ruin’. I’m really loving this series. Nice characters, good worldbuilding, great story ... good writing and easy reading. It’s nothing really exceptional, and it uses several tropes (prophecy of war, chosen one, ...) but it ‘s all very well executed. It works perfectly for me at the moment
 
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kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#29
Nice review @afa ... I’ve seen many great reviews for both book 1 and 2 in this new series from Abercrombie. I’m still not sure If I should really give it a go though ... I’m not mentionning this for the first time, but ‘the first Law’ trilogy didn’t work for me. Neither the characters, nor the story grabbed me sufficiently. It‘s probably also a problem with expectations... as it’s often mentioned as one of the best fantasy series, I’d expected much more from it.

I never tried anything else from Abercrombie afterwards. Too much on my reading list I’d like to give a go. A reread of first law would probably be necessary for the stand alone books and the new trilogy. I do think I would like it more on reread as my expectations will be different from my first read

I myself am still reading ‘The Faithfull and The Fallen’. I’m 70% into book 3 ‘Ruin’. I’m really loving this series. Nice characters, good worldbuilding, great story ... good writing and easy reading. It’s nothing really exceptional, and it uses several tropes (prophecy of war, chosen one, ...) but it ‘s all
very well executed. It works perfectly for me at the moment
Yeah Jakyro, I didn't remember much from my first read of First Law so this reread has been fun. It's not close to as good as A Little Hatred and The Trouble with Peace. It's been fun to see Abercrombie's debut writing abilities and compare his growth since then. He doesn't waste our time fluffing up the stories, just cuts to the bone without a word wasted. I'm on the third book The Last Argument of Kings now and I'm going to reread Best Served Cold when I'm done with the First Law reread. That's my favorite of the standalones. Murcatto and Cosca are such great characters.

rudy, if you don't find Ruka compelling I can see your concern. Of course the first page is rather shocking and I almost quit right there lol. But he is so much more than an evil freak. The island kingdom story melds with the Ruka story. You're still in the world building stage and then it busts wide open. I was mesmerized by Ruka and repelled and kept thinking I was going to quit a story about such a horrible person. I'm glad I stuck with it. He's actually very complex.
 
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Darwin

Journeyed there and back again
#30
Jakyro, like kenubrion I highly recommend Best Served Cold. It is a more easily enjoyable book than The First Law. The last 50 or so pages of book 3 of The First Law turned everything on its head, but up until then I'd have given the series a 7/10 or so. The plot until then felt weak, despite the amazing characters. It's hard to make such a delayed payoff seem worth it to every reader. Best Served Cold keeps you hooked from the beginning, not relying solely on the twists at the end to impress you.

The Age of Madness may be his best work yet. I was getting worried after The Shattered Sea series.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#32
I like Ruka and can see the dark story there but the Dala story line is evil/boring.
I had to reload it and search for the word Dala. I found her and her kids. She doesn't exist in the story after this which might explain why I had no clue who she is/was. Good news right? Glad you like Ruka because this is his story.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#33
Reading the above posts moved me to decide to do a full re-read of the First Law trilogy + the 3 standalones (I agree with some of you who said here that the standalones are better than the trilogy itself). I've also just ordered Sharp Ends, which I haven't read yet. After I'm done with that I will start on the Age of Madness trilogy.

First I have to finish the Witcher though > just 2 more books to go.
 

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#34
I had to reload it and search for the word Dala. I found her and her kids. She doesn't exist in the story after this which might explain why I had no clue who she is/was. Good news right? Glad you like Ruka because this is his story.
Her story is featured for the last 100 pages or something. It feels like she is a major character at the halfway point.

Ruka spares her and then she goes on to Priestess school and convinces night watchmen to murder rich people to rivals in her school to make sure she gets in. Has an affair with Birman. I’m only at the halfway point but it feels she is a major story arc.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#35
Her story is featured for the last 100 pages or something. It feels like she is a major character at the halfway point.

Ruka spares her and then she goes on to Priestess school and convinces night watchmen to murder rich people to rivals in her school to make sure she gets in. Has an affair with Birman. I’m only at the halfway point but it feels she is a major story arc.
Yes now I recall. No worries. Hope it picks up for you.

I just reloaded book 2, Kings of Ash and she has 4 mentions about page 73 and then not again until chapter 47.
 
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afa

Journeyed there and back again
#36
That was a GREAT review afa. Thanks. When I finished with The Trouble With Peace, I didn't want to leave Abercrombie's world so I'm rereading The First Law trilogy. Seems even better the second time.
That sounds like a great idea. I think I might give it a re-read as well down the road. Maybe after finishing the new trilogy, going back and revisiting the first-gen characters would feel even more special.

I liked the First Law trilogy. Didn’t like the last standalone book I read as I didn’t like any of the characters. They were all grey or bad. I need at least some characters to root for.
Are you referring to Red Country? If so, that was my least favourite of the standalones, too. I wasn't crazy about it when I read it, though it's been several years since then. Maybe I'll like it more on a re-read? I remember I wasn't too crazy about Best Served Cold first time I read it, but loved it the second time around.

Nice review @afa ... I’ve seen many great reviews for both book 1 and 2 in this new series from Abercrombie. I’m still not sure If I should really give it a go though ... I’m not mentionning this for the first time, but ‘the first Law’ trilogy didn’t work for me. Neither the characters, nor the story grabbed me sufficiently. It‘s probably also a problem with expectations... as it’s often mentioned as one of the best fantasy series, I’d expected much more from it.
Expectations might have worked against it, I guess. In my case, while I had heard good things about the series, I hadn't heard a ton. I'm surprised, though, that you say you didn't like the characters, either. There are some aspects of the trilogy where his writing wasn't the best, but the characters have always been his strength.

I never tried anything else from Abercrombie afterwards. Too much on my reading list I’d like to give a go. A reread of first law would probably be necessary for the stand alone books and the new trilogy.
I would say familiarity with The First Law would be necessary more for The Age of Madness than the standalones. That sounds a little strange, perhaps, since the standalones take place closer to the time of the original trilogy. But the way Abercrombie wrote them is that they mostly focus on new characters (who either didn't exist in the trilogy or were secondary) that don't have much to do with the original POVs (with a couple of exceptions). Even if you don't remember everything that happened in the trilogy, the fact that you've read it is enough for you to enjoy them.

The new trilogy, however, has a new set of characters that are related to some of the older ones, and it also takes place in the nearby areas, etc. In fact, it wouldn't be a spoiler for me to mention that several of the older characters make an appearance here (as secondary characters, of course). So knowing what happened in the original trilogy, and who everyone is, definitely helps.

Also, for what it's worth, Abercrombie's writing has been getting better all the time. His standalones are better written than the trilogy, and the new books are even better.

I'm on the third book The Last Argument of Kings now and I'm going to reread Best Served Cold when I'm done with the First Law reread. That's my favorite of the standalones. Murcatto and Cosca are such great characters.
I'm partial to The Heroes but Best Served Cold is pretty close.

The Age of Madness may be his best work yet. I was getting worried after The Shattered Sea series.
I never finished The Shattered Sea. Read the first and thought it was decent, then listened to the second on audiobook and hated it. Part of it, frankly, was the narrator's choices and not necessarily Abercrombie's fault. Still, I never bothered to pick up the third one.

I've also just ordered Sharp Ends, which I haven't read yet.
I actually wouldn't mind re-reading this in the near future. It's pretty great. There are multiple stories in there about the exploits of Javre and Shev, two characters who don't exist in any of the novels but are awesome here.
 

afa

Journeyed there and back again
#38
The book I was referring to was “Best Served Cold” by Joe Abercrombie. I call it the Breaking Bad of fantasy books. Bleak and dark.
Yeah, I get why you felt that way. As I mentioned above, I didn't like it the first time around, either. Like you, I thought it was quite bleak, almost depressing, specially since I read it almost immediately after reading the trilogy. Not that the trilogy was exactly light, but somehow BSC seemed even darker. But it was a lot better on re-read. In any case, you should at least read The Heroes (the next standalone). It's great. Very tight and fast-paced, the whole novel takes place over a period of three days. It's my favourite book of Abercrombie's, and on the shortlist of my favourite books, period.
 

Cyphon

Journeyed there and back again
#39
Nice review @afa ... I’ve seen many great reviews for both book 1 and 2 in this new series from Abercrombie. I’m still not sure If I should really give it a go though ... I’m not mentionning this for the first time, but ‘the first Law’ trilogy didn’t work for me. Neither the characters, nor the story grabbed me sufficiently. It‘s probably also a problem with expectations... as it’s often mentioned as one of the best fantasy series, I’d expected much more from it.
Glad I am not the only one who can't seem to find the appeal. I read the original trilogy and found the plot boring at best and the characters while objectively well written, weren't any ones I was really itching to keep reading. Just never found one I loved. I am 82% sure I listened to some or all of his Shattered Sea trilogy and didn't care for that either. Needless to say he has earned his way into the full on "hard pass" for me which is unfortunate given the current talk and buzz around his newer books.

As far as my current reading goes I just finished book 6 of Will Wights Cradle series. I know in some previous reviews I compared it to Naruto in style and it certainly maintains those similarities, but I think my feelings for it lean more toward the feeling I got watching Dragon Ball Z. Nothing in the plot was ever going to really shock you but sometimes it is just fun knowing at some point Goku is going to power up and stomp some villains. That is kind of what you get here. I am enjoying it.