Tuesday 27 May 2008

Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie

The third in the First Law trilogy is not a book you can read alone, you must read the first two to understand the action (and they're great books so what are you waiting for?). Having said that, and in the interest of not posting spoilers I'll simply say: expect surprises. Lots of them. Everyone gets betrayed and no one gets what they deserved... A brilliant book with a completely unexpected and non-traditional ending.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

This is a book I read for the first time as a teenager, but which was so good I spent years looking for it in used bookstores (it was out of print for a time).

Kate and Alicia Sutton are handmaids to the princess Elizabeth of England. When the beautiful and romantic Alicia sends a letter to Queen Mary about the unpleasant conditions of Elizabeth's house the queen blames the plain, serious Kate and has her banished to a remote castle in the north. There Kate meets a young man who's devised a harsh penance for himself for a crime he committed in ignorance. In attempting to unravel the mysteries of the Perilous Gard, the castle in which she now lives, she comes face to face with the queen of the fairies.

The book comes up with a surprisingly realistic explanation of who and what fairies are and why Christianity affected them so strongly. Christopher's acerbic comments in regards to Kate's meddling bring his character to life and make for some interesting scenes.

Pros: the clever bridging of history and mythology, a very subtle love story, poignant ending

Cons: When I first read the story I found the opening chapters boring. This hasn't been a problem since, but other young readers may be put off by them as well. Persevere, the book is definitely worth finishing.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

The Seer and the Sword

For my trip to Spain I chose two books to read on the plane. One wasn't that great so I left it behind. The second had a few flaws but it's a good start for younger readers.

The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley. King Kareed of Archeld conquers Bellandra, despite their magic sword that is supposed to make their kingdom invincible. As part of his spoils of war he brings home the son of the defeated king. The boy, Landen, is given to princess Torina as a slave. Her first act is to free him, earning his gratitude and later his love. But Kareed has put his trust in the wrong commander, and Torina's own peaceful existance is soon destroyed.

Pros: good writing, interesting characters, well developed world wherein each kingdom has their own customs and leadership style.

Cons: lots of coincidental situations to move the plot along and given the time frame of the book the characters are less well developed as they might have been otherwise. It's definitely written for teens or even younger readers, who won't mind or notice the flaws as they get pulled into the story of a princess trying to survive in exile.