Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R R Martin

Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.

Illustrated by the amazing Gary Gianni who is known for his work on PRINCE VALIANT, the Wandering Star limited editions of SOLOMON KANE and BRAN MAK MORN, and of course for his stunning 2014 ICE & FIRE calendar.
Star Rating: 5 stars

I had to read this book. I've read all the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series and I am impatiently waiting for the next installment. I thought this book would tide me over but I read it way too quickly (because it's really good) and now I'm back to square one desperately wanting to read more about Westeros. So more waiting commences. It's a bit of a tease this book ;-)

This book combines three short stories about the Hedge Knight Dunk and his Squire, Egg. The events of their lives take place a century before that of the characters I know and love from the main series books. Same world, different characters. But the world is as vibrant and familiar as I remember it to be. The family houses and the infighting between those families is still there. I guess it will always be there while money and the Iron Throne are about. Each story is separate and tells the tale of Dunk and Egg's adventures around Westeros. Even with just three short stories, you see the characters grow and their relationship blossom. At the end of the book, George R R Martin hints that there will be more tales of Dunk and Egg in the future which I'm pleased about as they are fantastic characters. I borrowed the ebook from the library and it was an illustrated version. I thought the illustrations were fantastic and really added to the story. A must read for any Game of Thrones fans!

Review: Burning Chrome by William Gibson

Best-known for his seminal sf novel Neuromancer, William Gibson is actually best when writing short fiction. Tautly-written and suspenseful, Burning Chrome collects 10 of his best short stories with a preface from Bruce Sterling, now available for the first time in trade paperback. These brilliant, high-resolution stories show Gibson's characters and intensely-realized worlds at his absolute best, from the chip-enhanced couriers of "Johnny Mnemonic" to the street-tech melancholy of "Burning Chrome."
Star Rating: 3.5 stars

The introduction at the beginning of this collection of short stories talks about Gibson's desire for stories that are told from the bottom up. Stories which are about people in the streets and alleys of the cities as opposed to being told from the people at the top, speculating on how everyday people are experiencing life. I have to agree with Gibson. These kind of stories make much more interesting reading. I guess that's why he writes stories like that too. Many of the shorts in this book are about just ordinary people (if you can just have ordinary people in Gibson's worlds). They are set in near time futures, often dystopic. Low life, high tech!

The book kicks off with the story Johnny Pneumonic. I remember seeing the film with Keanu Reeves years ago but I had no idea that it was actually a short story, let alone that it had been written by Gibson. I loved this story. It is set in the Sprawl world and Molly Millions (from Neuromancer) makes an appearance.

I liked The Gernsback Continuum as it was different to Gibson's other stories. This story showed how he can write in different genres. It made more sense, less jargon and is the first non-tech story I've read of his.

Fragments of a Hologram Rose had some interesting concepts but I didn't exactly understand what happened at the end. It was however very poetic and beautiful and I think it warrants a second reading.

There were a couple collaborations in the book - The Belonging Kind was by John Shurley and William Gibson and Dogfight was by Michael Swanwich and William Gibson.

Another Sprawl based story was Hinterlands which I loved. Quite possibly one of my favourites.

Other stories included The Winter Market and Burning Chrome.

Red Star, Winter Orbit and New Rose Hotel were probably my least favourites.

I have given this book 3.5 stars. Mainly because there were a couple stories I didn't enjoy so much or understand what was happening (which is often the case with me and short stories).

I do like Gibson's writing style so I am looking forward to reading more of his work as this book and Neuromancer are the only ones I've got to so far.

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
Star Rating: 4 stars

This book is well written and a quick read despite its length. It is very descriptive. Most books, I get a good visual idea of the characters and the setting but many authors miss out the other senses, or they are just not as prominent as the visuals. We all experience things differently depending on whether we are a visual, kinesthetic or audio type of person. I know I'm a very visual person but smells also play a big part in how I remember things (perhaps that's all the years of being an aromatherapist). Anyway, this book details smells and tastes quite heavily and I thought it really added to the whole experience. At the beginning, it was mainly in relation to wine tasting but then it was in relations to places and people.

I did enjoy the book and gave it 4 stars but I think I've got to the stage now where I've read too many "good vampire" books. They are all a bit too samey for my liking. Male vampire and female of another supernatural race (witch in this case) fall in love. It's a forbidden love. There are secrets and organisations to satisfy/avoid. The vampire is always scared they are going to hurt the woman because he's so powerful. They can't have children. blah blah blah blah... They are all the same. I think I need to go back to reading some scary vampire books as they might appeal to me more.

I thought the book was a little slow in places, especially in the middle when Diana is in France - it felt like it ebbed and flowed a lot with it's pace. I liked the first part of the book the most as it was more mystery but then it became more about the romance which became a little frustrating for me. I will continue the series as I think the next book will be interesting because of its setting (plus I own the rest of the books in the series).

I did like all the witch stuff though and I guess that was supposed to be the main focus.