Nettle & Bone by T Kingfisher, #WyrdAndWonder : Book Review

W&W

Wyrd & Wonder is a month long celebration of all things fantasy check out this post for everything you need to know.  This month I will be posting predominantly about fantasy books in all its guises.

Nettle

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Fantastic, I absolutely loved it

Fairytale style stories are absolutely one of my favourite reads and I’m always on the lookout for more.  This is an author that I haven’t read before but have wanted to do so for quite some time and now, with the benefit of Nettle and Bone under my belt, I can genuinely say that I will be visiting all her previous books.  I loved this book so much.  It’s full of everything that I enjoy, it’s got elements of old fairy tales but as the same time feels unique.  It takes us on a wild ride to a far away kingdom.  There are princesses in distress, people who can talk to the dead, a dog that came back to life, amazing characters and the beginnings of a sweet romance.

As the story begins we meet Marra as she strives to complete an impossible task, we then backtrack to discover how she found herself on this quest and find ourselves in a small kingdom, far, far away, where the Queen, striving for the safety of her people, arranges a political alliance with a much larger neighbouring kingdom in the North.  The first Princess is given in marriage to the Prince but unfortunately meets with an untimely death.  Hoping to remain allied the second Princess is wedded to the Northern prince and the third Princess is sent to a convent (basically being kept in reserve in case the fate of the second Princess follows that of the first).  Marra is the third Princess in the tale and far from being unhappy at being sent to the convent she thrives in this world where she is permitted to complete regular tasks and use her intelligence to help others.  I won’t elaborate too much here other than to say that Marra becomes aware of the cruelty of her brother-in-law and strives for a way to save her sister.

To cut to the chase the characters here are a strange but lovable bunch.  Marra is a great character to read.  She’s warm and loving, intelligent and quite forward thinking.  She is determined to help her sister at any cost and although her mission is basically a recipe for disaster for all concerned she makes herself press on.  She is aided on this quest by a dust-wife and her demon-possessed chicken.  A crotchety old woman who can converse with the dead and whose pockets are filled with an odd collection of potions, string and other strange items.  I loved this character.  What a fantastic creation she is, I would definitely read more about her adventures.  We also have a Fairy Godmother who is in denial about her true magic – but I won’t say more about that here.  Agnes was the Princesses’ Fairy Godmother, granting the three ‘good health’.  She joins this eclectic crew and finds friendship where she least expected.  The two final members are both given a second chance in life.  Fenris is a disgraced warrior who is rescued from the Goblin Market and becomes loyal to Marra and determined to help.  The two have a lovely chemistry and a slow burn romance that is both naive and captivatingly charming.  Finally, the bone dog, a quirky, fun, crazy, reanimated dog skeleton that has forgotten that he ever died and likes to lick his nether regions – even though he doesn’t have nether regions! Or a tongue for that matter.

The plot is really good and the pacing just excellent.  There’s always something new and intriguing which prevents this becoming too much of a simple A to B quest style story.  I mean, fundamentally, it is a quest story and the characters do spend time going here and there but there are so many new encounters that the story feels fresh and exciting.

On top of this, although you may be thinking that a fairytale type story might lack depth, this is a wonderfully layered story.  It draws on well known tales and yet manages to give things a new twist.  The author manages to create interesting backstories for the places and also comes up with plenty of new and imaginative creations.  The Palace in the North, for example, is a fascinating place with a huge haunted catacomb full of former kings, their wives and children and a few other hideous surprises.

In terms of criticisms.  I haven’t got any, it’s that simple.  I loved this book from beginning to end and whilst, technically speaking, this is a quest with a deadly motive the characters are so warm and lovable  that the dark endeavour they pursue feels less dark than it otherwise might.

Overall, a fantastic read and one that I can’t recommend enough.  Plus that ending.  Tears and laughter.

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

My rating 5 of 5 stars

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#SPFBO Review : The Throne of Ice & Ash (The Runewar Saga #1) by JDL Rosell  

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The Throne of Ice and Ash by JDL Rosel is the final book I picked up from my fourth batch of books.   I have now completed all 15 books and will be posting an update soon.   My reviews so far are linked below and you can find feedback from my first, second and third batch of books here, here and here and further information on SPFBO here.

TOIAA

TToIaA is an excellent start to series and a book that I really enjoyed.  This is high fantasy with a Norse setting and a background that feels somewhat familiar at the same time as leaving it’s own mark.

As the story starts (after a rather tantalising Prologue) we are immediately introduced to Bjorn.  The third son of the jarl of Oahharrow.  Bjorn is more inclined to be sat with a book than swinging a sword and is ill suited to the role that he will soon find himself in. Bjorn’s sister Aelthena also rails against the path that she will eventually be expected to follow, a path ordinaed by those who have long since departed and yet continue to dictate the way her people behave (apparently a woman’s place is before the hearth’).  Both of their unwanted paths are about to be shattered following an attack on Oakharrow that leaves the people reeling.

As a result of this shocking attack the two siblings part ways.  Bjorn, leading a small band of men, travels into the mountains seeking answers and (on Bjorn’s part) vengeance.  Aelthena remains behind and steps into the role of leader that she has sought for so long.

What did I really enjoy about TToIaA?  It’s very easy to read, it’s a book that, without doubt, grows in strength and confidence as the pages turn and the two central characters go through such trials and tribulations, experience things that challenges everything they know and basically make mistakes that lead to a real sense of change in both.

Strangely enough, as the story set out, and apart from (wrongly) thinking I knew which direction it would ultimately go in, I seriously expected to enjoy Aelthena’s role the most.  I love the idea of this young woman desperately trying to forge her own path in life and ultimately finding it’s actually much harder than she ever imagined.  Apart from anything else, even during the throes of disaster people will scheme and that’s the beauty of this particular storyline – it takes us back to Oakharrow where we witness the treachery and backstabbing first hand.  Obviously, not only does this give us sight of both scenes but it gives something of a welcome relief to the fighting and grimness of Bjorn’s storyline.  However, and this is the point I was trying to get to in a very long winded fashion, was that I actually found myself favouring Bjorn’s storyline.  Not just because of the action, the travels, the strife and the fighting, but, well, one, I was so puzzled about where this was going, but two, I found his story arc equally fascinating.  Both siblings are joined in their stories by a companion.  Frey is a guardian, or bodyguard for Aelthena and Yonik is a priest who accompanies Bjorn. Both of these characters play important supporting roles although Yonik is probably the most fascinating of the two and I would love to know more about him.

Bjorn, is his own worst enemy.  He constantly berates himself for being a coward, I can’t deny that I wanted to slap him on occasion because, bear with me, if a big angry bear was charging towards me – I’d want to run.  Come on already, this is not cowardice, it’s natural (probably foolish as well I realise – running from an animal – but still, natural instinct).  Standing in the path of that bear is not really bravery – it’s foolishness.  I joke of course (I mean, obviously I wouldn’t run, nope, not me).  But, yes, Bjorn is not your typical Viking warrior.  He doesn’t want to die in battle.  He’s as far from the viking stereotype as you can possible get to in some respects.  He also has hidden abilities but I won’t elaborate on that at this point.

The worldbuilding is also really good. I loved that this takes inspiration from the familiar at the same time as giving it a twist.  The setting is easy to imagine, the history of the clan is really well delivered and there are other aspects that feel well explored but are original.

In terms of criticisms.  Okay, I thought the action took a little while to get established.  Personally, I don’t mind a some set up but this was a little slow to get really started and that leads to my next slight issue which is the plot feels a little thin, in a way I’d say this has a set up feel but at the same time I don’t feel overly negative about that as it is intriguing. More that I would mention that by the time this book concludes, and although it does have the next path clearly laid out, I would still say I don’t really yet have a handle on what’s going on here – is that a bad thing? No, not really, but I really do feel still a little in the dark.  And, of course, this ending, although it has a sense of completeness in terms of a natural break off point – does still leave threads unexplored.

On the whole, I had a good time with this one and would certainly pick up the next in series to see where the author goes next.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.

My SPFBO reviews to date:

  1. Deathborn by CE Page
  2. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes
  3. Stranded by Rosalind Tate
  4. One of Us by ML Roberts
  5. Berserker by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris
  6. Stone Magus by Stephanie C Marks
  7. Book of Secrets by Claudia Blood
  8. Dragonbirth by Raina Nightingale
  9. Carrion by Alyson Tait
  10. Iarraindorn by Phil Dickens
  11. Rising Shadows (The Pillar of Creation, #1) by Phillip Blackwater
  12. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
  13. Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  14. Out of the Dust by Joe Coates