The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

TheTroubleMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Let Them Eat Cake

Okay, that’s only four words and also maybe a strange way to start a review but tbh I think it fits perfectly with the themes in this book (nay, series) – or maybe more apt would be Cromwell’s ‘In the Name of God, go’.

This has to be one of the most appropriately named books that I can think of, at this particular moment in time at least (and funnily enough, looking back at my review of A Little Hatred I said the exact same thing about that book too – has Abercrombie been blessed by the God of Book Naming?

The Trouble With Peace is that people start to realise how dissatisfied they are with the smaller things in life that seemed less important when their lives were threatened by war.  The Trouble With Peace is that it makes heroes dissatisfied with their everyday lives, undertaking mundane tasks that are brushed aside in times of strife, longing for the sword and the blood that follows.  The Trouble With Peace is it makes people feel over confident in their own abilities, strutting around like peacocks, preening their feathers and dreaming of yet more glory (or money).  The Trouble With Peace is people forget just how bloody awful times of war really are and start to look upon such times with fondness and rose tinted glasses.  The (real) Trouble With Peace is that it’s a fleeting notion – wars happen regardless (as history shows us), bodies are hacked savagely, desperate pleas for mercy are cried out amongst the mud, blood and tears and disastrous mistakes are made.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second instalment by Joe Abercrombie.  It builds up a veritable mass of tension.  It’s thick with plots and behind door whisperings, clandestine meetings and murmurs of treason.  Of course, before you get too worried that this is all about political posturing and dastardly machinations, let me reassure you that this doesn’t lack the banter or  battle scenes that this author is renowned for and both are near the knuckle and brutal.

I’m not going to really elaborate on the plot for this one.  I will say that some books in a trilogy suffer from middle book syndrome and act purely as a platform between book 1 and 3 – this is not one of those books.

The characters we became familiar with in the first book in series are here again and this is something that Abercrombie excels at.  I might not love all these characters but I unreservedly love the way they’re written.

Savine dan Glokta is probably one of my favourites.  She is a cold blooded, manipulating so and so – I love her.  Let’s be honest, she develops a slightly more soft and fluffy side here (by which I mean she is still a manipulating so and so, but maybe a touch, a teensy tad bit, more vulnerable).  I did love the relationship that she strikes up (not going to spoil it though, my lips are sealed). It  has the feel of master and pupil to it but regardless I just liked it, it turned me into a mushy crust instead of a crusty crust.

Stour Nightfall. Let’s be honest, here’s a guy who is literally one consonant away from being sour.  This is one nasty pasty – don’t underestimate him.  Ruthless but also maybe a bit blinkered in the nonchalant way he’s drumming up enemies.

Leo dan Brock.  Here’s a character I want to shake.  He’s not a bad guy, really.  He’s downright likable but at the same time by God he’s easily manipulated.  I cannot deny that I like this character and at the same time completely despair of him. Could you be any less diplomatic!!

Rikke.  Another character that I just love to read about – okay, there are parts in this instalment where I was like ‘what?’, ‘NOOOOOOO’.  But, then again, on reflection, perhaps I needed the ‘long eye’ to see my way clear.  Her character arc is brilliant, a joy to read in fact, and probably one of those elements of the series that I should have taken notes – so I could look back and have all the ‘ah hah, I knew it!’ moments during the grand finale even if I knew nothing all along.

Orso.  Another firm favourite.  If anybody is more deserving of sympathy and understanding then I don’t know who it is.  Could he be more misunderstood?  The poor fella seems to get the brunt of everything, I swear that if he said the sea was wet he’d be lambasted and thrown into the stocks..  But, he’s becoming a lot more adept? cynical? – like anyone else I suppose, time and repetition start to make everything seem a little more commonplace and he’s started to get tired of being a small cog in a large machine.

There are obviously more characters but this isn’t a dissertation so I’ll curb my chattiness right here.

Basically, to avoid doubt, yes, I really enjoyed this.  The writing is plain good, the banter and dialogue made me want to laugh and cry, the plot is more mixed up than a bag of sand, the characters inspire love and hate, there isn’t a lot of actual fantasy elements, and in some respects it feels more like a snippet of history where the real magic revolved around basic superstition but, what can I say, this was a very fine read indeed.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Kept From Cages by Phil Williams

Kept From CagesMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Fast Paced, Action Packed Adventure

Kept from Cages is an addictive read that is difficult to put down and at just under 300 pages I almost devoured this ‘monster-style’ : aka in one huge chunk swallowed whole.

Phil Williams is the author of urban fantasy series, Under Ordshaw, in which he creates a world full of strangeness and a City with a dark underbelly containing a warren of underground tunnels fairly teeming with supernatural creatures.  Kept From Cages is set in the same world but expands the boundaries and concepts and gives us something less urban  and more akin to wilderness fantasy (that should definitely be a ‘thing’).

For information Kept from Cages is the first in a duology and can be read without having read the Under Ordshaw series so if you haven’t read that series and feel hopelessly behind you can start here.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Reece and his companions.  They’ve clearly taken part in some sort of heist-gone-wrong and are approaching a farmhouse looking for aid.  Unfortunately, this strangely silent farmhouse is the last place likely to provide help or sustenance and in fact is the catalyst for events that see the gang racing across the country, wanted criminals, accused of atrocities they didn’t commit with a small girl in tow.

At the same time we follow a different storyline involving Agent Sean Tasker (who works for a secret agency, think along the lines of Men in Black supernatural style).  Tasker has been sent to a remote village in the Northern hemisphere where everyone has been mysteriously massacred.  The only clue to the killings comes from the lips of a dying man whose final words see Tasker racing across the world to the Congo in search of answers.

So, what did I love about this book. In no particular order.

The pacing – it really is fast and furious.  Strangely enough the author manages to create this crazy atmosphere of chaos with ever spiralling, life threatening events and yet at the same time use some sort of super power to miraculously slow things down at certain points to not only give the reader a breather but also to inject some ‘normality’ and time for character building.  It’s actually very effectively and impressively done.

The world building.  Again, the author doesn’t spend time giving flowery descriptions and yet he manages to capture an excellent sense of place using the minimum words possible.  We travel around quite a bit here, in fact the two alternate storylines take us to different corners of the world before coming together in a really satisfactory way.  I have to say I loved the time we spent in the Deep South – and the whole village on stilts idea was brilliant.

The plot.  It’s a little crazy.  As the story begins I almost felt a little lost.  The two completely different stories, the different agencies, spies and underlying corporate machinations and yet, I found myself gripped by the mystery of the massacred village and in fact the larger mystery at play here and without realising I’d jumped onboard and was held captive – but not against my will.  I became hooked.

The writing is really good.  It’s impressive to take something, that on the face of it feels almost a little ambitious, and yet to achieve a gripping story well told in such a deceptively easy way and in such a relatively short time frame.  There’s no wasted words, which is why this has such a snappy feel and I have to say there’s a good balance between storytelling and dialogue.

The characters.  The author manages to give us a variety of characters. We have the Cutjaw gang.  Reece and his musician companions and Zip – the young girl, with the strange powers, that they ‘rescued’ from the farmhouse.  We also have agent Tasker who teams up with a female assassin and her imaginary friend/conscience.  I can’t deny that the assassin stole the show a little for me.  I love kickass females and Williams excels at creating them (Lettie anyone?).  Anyway, you might expect that in such a short and punchy novel the characters would be a little lacklustre but this isn’t the case.  As I mentioned above the author does manage to capture a few moments where the pace slows down and we get to look a little more closely at the who/what/why of things.  I can’t deny that I would like a little more in terms of the characterisation but, at the same time I know that I’m hooked because by the conclusion I was worried about certain characters – and when you’re worried for the characters because you think they might die – then you know you’ve bought in.

In conclusion, this is a fast paced adventure with a twist in the tale that really surprised me and an ending that leaves me eager for the next instalment.

My rating 4 out of 5

I received a copy from the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

#SPFBO 6 – Cover love (9)

Artboard 1
300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.  This year I’m aiming to shine a little bit of focus on some of the books either through posting excerpts to act as teasers for potential readers or through posting some of the covers and highlighting the book that way (not just for my own books but other entries).  The invitation is open to all authors from the competition – if you’d like to post an excerpt then give me a shout in the comments.

As part of the competition there was a cover contest.  The details can be found here.

So, this week’s chosen SPFBO covers are below. I didn’t have a particular theme this week and in fact just went for three covers that are very different in style but work for me personally. Which is your favourite:

Queensof

BlackStone

Nightof

Friday Face Off : Minimalistic, lacking clutter

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

Minimalistic, lacking clutter

Yikes I struggled with this theme!  I hope everyone else found it a little easier.  Anyway, I went with the cover of a very well known fantasy series that I think fits this week’s theme well.  A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George RR Martin.  And here are a few of the covers:

The first cover is the one that I owned and is the simplistic style that I had in mind for this week’s theme.  The second to last cover has a similar simple style that I quite like but my favourite this week:

GoT9

I just love the scale of this one (it couldn’t be further away from minimalist though).

I’ll be updating the list in order to include forthcoming events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share then let me know in the comments).  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.

Next week – A very busy cover full to bursting with detail

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ or one of your favourite covers) (I’ve added some new themes – some of these are slightly different, in order to avoid too much repetition I’m trying to make the themes more of a suggestion that everyone can interpret how they like.  

201

25th September – A very busy cover full to bursting with detail

2nd October – A standout font

9th October – Mist/fog – “A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.”

16th October – Spider web – “Farewell, Aragog, king of the arachnids, whose long and faithful friendship those who knew you would never forget!

23th October – Ripped/torn – interpret it as you wish

30th October – Forest/jungle – ‘None of the Jungle People like being disturbed.’

6th November – Planets – “You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”

13th November – Bright – ‘The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades’.

20th November – Words only – “Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

27th November – Modern sci fi

4th December –  Fae – or fairy??

11th December – Lake – the mysterious lake

18th December – Highly Stylised

25th December- Freebie – or day off.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

Take a look :

Project Hail

A lone astronaut must save the earth from disaster in this incredible new science-based thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Expected Publication : May 2021

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