Category Archives: Book Review

Book review by James Hockley

Book Review: Northern Lights

Book One of His Dark Materials

By Philip Pullman

Lyra is a wild child amongst a family of scholars. She has no known parents, but when her mysterious uncle comes to the university, her mischievousness saves his life. And her eyes are opened.

A deep yearning to follow her uncle and follow him north stirs, but no. She must stay where she is. That is until the fabulously cosmopolitan Mrs Coulter offers her the same opportunity. She leaves, but not before she is given a strange golden compass.

But her friend has been stolen by the Gobblers, and Mrs Coulter is involved. So she flees. She runs, and with the help of the Gyptians, a family she never knew she had, she treks north to save her friend and her uncle. But there is so much more to it than that. There is magic afoot, and she is at the centre of it all.

Another series I’ve failed to read for way too long, and another brilliant one at that. I got confused to start with and couldn’t work out where this book fitted into the . Wasn’t the first one called the ‘Golden Compass’, I asked myself? Of course, what I was missing was that the Golden Compass is the ‘US publication-name’. So in conclusion, Northern Lights is the Golden Compass. Got it?

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Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear

Book Two of Kingkiller Chronicles

By Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe has survived his first terms at the University, but not without building a bit of a reputation. Is it a good reputation? Maybe not, but it is a reputation. And with reputation comes those who want to break that reputation, and Kvothe is no exception. Perhaps it’s time to take a break? His tutors agree, and he sets foot into the wide world.

And although he has lost his most tangible link to his childhood obsession, he gains in other areas. His adventures take him far and wide, and his life is rich with adventure: hobnobbing with royalty; cavorting with faeries; and being humbled by the legendary Adem mercenaries.

But all roads lead to his past, and the heavy weight of his family’s fate still hangs around his neck. Now he has the tools to do something, so all that’s left is to find the murderers. Unfortunately, that has always been the problem. It still is.

Hurrah!  The second book in the fantastic Kingkiller Chronicles.  Book one – The Name of the Wind – is a rather hard act to follow, so does this achieve the impossible and live up to the lofty expectations that book one laid?  Yes.  Just yes.  This another multi-layered masterpiece and I’m left even hungrier for the sequel.  Come on Pat.  When’s it gonna be ready?

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Book Review: The Name of the Wind

Book One of Kingkiller Chronicles

By Patrick Rothfuss

Kote is a simple innkeeper, man who hankers after the simple things. But Kvothe is a legend. And Kvothe is Kote’s past.

Born into a travelling family, Kvothe loses everything he knows. And he loses it to a fairy-tale. But where others would lose there mind, Kvothe finds a purpose. He finds it in vengeance.

A reckless but gifted student of the University, Kvothe gains access to some of the most incredible experiences in the world. And his skills gather notoriety too. But one thing still eludes him, and while it does,  he will only push harder.

The fairly-tale is still a fairy-tale. His vengeance is denied.

This review comes off the back of a re-read in advance of ripping into the sequel: A Wise Man’s Fear.  I gave this five stars before, and my re-read has only reaffirmed this fact.  This is a fantastic book and it excels on so many different levels.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who’s a fan of the fantasy genre, and indeed anyone who isn’t.  Just read it already!

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Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Book One of the Earthsea Cycle

By Ursula Le Guin

“Ged has talent, and he knows it.  And he is keen to play to that talent.  He gathers what tutorage he can, but soon he must follow his own ambitions.  He is going to train as a wizard.

But though he has ability, he is still young.  Very young.  With great power comes great responsibility, and this is not something that is easily taught.  And so it is that when Ged is goaded into showing off his talents, he finds himself playing with powers that he doesn’t fully understand.  He puts himself in grave danger.

Cursed by his actions, Ged moves sombrely through life.  But all things come to a choice, and these are his: to keep running, or to face the consequences of his past.  It is his, and only his choice to make, but though he thinks he is alone with this challenge, he has friends in many places.  Can they help him to make the right choice?  Only Ged knows.”

Well, this was another classic.  This is a beautiful children’s tale, a lesson to us all, painted against a stunning backdrop.  It certainly feels its age, but that is no bad thing – it remains fresh but in a classic style.  This is another series I will be picking up in the future.

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Book Review: The Destroyer

Book One of the Destroyer Series

By Michael-Scott Earle

“Kaiyer has been sleeping for many hundreds of years.  But now he is awake.  Why?  Because someone believes he is the O’Baarni.  Someone believes that Kaiyer is the destroyer of the Ancients.

Because the threat of the Ancients has arisen again, and the humans look to past successes for their future gains.  But Kaiyer has only a patchy memory, and even though he has clear talent, it is not clear whether it will be enough.  And indeed, if Kaiyer is anything, he is uncontrollable.

As the memories return and as the threat draws in, Kaiyer uncovers more of what he was.  But even amongst friends there are enemies, and amongst enemies there are lost loves.  Nothing is clear except one thing: the war has only just begun.”

I really enjoyed reading this book.  This is a great opening gambit by an exciting new author.  It is a story of war and love (or actually, sex), so it has strong foundations.  And set in a rich fantasy world with evil elves, complex histories, and great characters, there is lots to enjoy.  There were some aspects I was a touch less keen on, but they didn’t detract from the core of the book.

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Book Review: Eye of the World

Book One of the Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan

“The Wheel of Time turns, and the Age that has already been comes around again.   The Dark One is restless, and his prison walls are weakening.  He has eyes on domination, and he knows the tools he needs, and how to get them.  Even as he stirs, the wisps of his influence leak out.

Unsuspecting Rand lives in a quiet corner of the world.  It has been a hard winter, but finally spring has arrived.  The celebrations will be wild, until that is, the village is attacked.  Rand was a target.

Rand and his friends are whipped away by a passing magician.  They seek the safety of a mystical city.  But the wisps are on their trail, and it becomes a race for their life.  The Wheel of Time still turns, and the chance is running out.  The Eye of the World is waiting.”

Well that was epic.  I’d obviously heard of the Robert Jordan classic, but for some reason I’d never got around to reading it.  Maybe it was the daunting size of the thing (because it certainly is daunting) or maybe there was no reason at all; I’m not sure.  But I got stuck in this year, and boy am I glad I did.

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Book Review: Project Perception

By Joshua Cook

“Climate Change has finally caught up, and the world is no longer a hospitable place.  But despite the obviousness of the blame, humanity continues to stand divided on the matter.  Everyone points at everyone else, and in a world of social networking, the arguments are polarising.  No one has taken responsibility.

But on a shattered Earth, this is the last thing that humanity needs – it needs to be united.  Why can people not see this?  The time for debate is over; and the time for action is here.

Harry is doing his bit for the world, being part of a secret underground project to do this very thing – to unite humanity.  But despite the valiant intentions, the means are somewhat dubious.  Then again, if you are going to successfully unite the population of Earth, it is going to require invention, isn’t it?

As Project Perception approaches its end, Harry starts to question his faith.  And as investigators move in, and with Earth rising in protest, time is of the essence.  Can Harry tread the right path?”

Overall, I liked this book a lot.  My positivity is edged with a note of disappointment (I’ll get to that later), but this is nonetheless a very satisfying read.  It’s a great core idea, if not entirely unique, and the details around the edges really add a depth to the tale.  It’s fair to say that one has to take some rather bold leaps in accepting the path of events, but they are not insurmountable – simply challenging to validate.  And the story would be nothing without its trajectory, which is ultimately a good one.

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Book Review: The Way of Shadows

Book One of the Night Angel Series

By Brent Weeks

“Kylar is an urchin; the lowest of the low.  But that doesn’t mean he can’t dream.  When his friends are threatened, he seeks a way to vengeance, and he finds it.  It comes with a name: ‘Durzo Blint’.

Something of a legend, Durzo is a ‘wet boy’.  More than an assassin, Durzo does not operate with targets and goals. He operates only with outcomes – dead ones.  He has nothing to be afraid of, and Kylar envies the man.  But Durzo is not one to take an apprentice on lightly.  He is just as likely to kill Kylar as he is to teach him.

And yet despite Kylar’s buoyed opinions, Durzo harbours a dark past.  He also has a singular goal, one that he’s not willing to share, and he will do anything to achieve it. Anything.

When their world tumbles into the clutches of an invasion, Kylar and Durzo are thrust into the heart of the chaos. Loyalties are blurred, and plots are lined with plots.  In the heat of the cauldron, anything can happen, and each man must fight for himself.  Or must he?”

What an incredible book.  This is my first venture into the world of ‘Weeks’, and I liked it.  I liked it a lot.  This has all the hallmarks of my perfect fantasy tale – lots of fast action; incredible imagery; fantastic magical imagination; a big scale; and lots of interesting perspectives – and it is all tied together very well indeed.  And we have rich characters too, just to add to the delicious recipe.  A must read, for sure.

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Book Review: Bridgebreaker

Book 2 of the Echo Worlds Series

By Joshua Cook

The threat of Earth’s magical enemy has been averted, but far from being safe, the world must remain alert.  The world needs the Bridgefinders as much as it ever did.  But there is a problem, and the Bridgefinders don’t know how to fix it.  Even the newly recruited and mercurial Cendan Key doesn’t have the answer.

Perhaps they will need to consort with others in the world with abilities, those that the Bridgefinders have shunned for generations?  Can they take this step?

Against a backdrop of an impending invasion by an even bigger danger, the need for unity exposes gaping holes in the legions of Earth.  Old wounds heal slowly – or perhaps not at all – and even within the Bridgefinders themselves, jealousy now threatens the stability.

It is up to Cendan Key, a man who only a few weeks ago reluctantly consented to believe in the mission of the Bridgefinders, to unite the world against its common enemy.  But first he must master the abilities that naturally reside within him.  Does he have the time to succeed?”

As you will have gathered, this is the second book in the Echo Worlds series of novels.  In my view, this is a much stronger leg.  The first book really sets the scene and explores a magical combative underbelly to the world we currently reside in, and throws its reluctant protagonist into this secretive world.  This second novel really takes this premise, and throws the doors wide open.  It adds much greater depth to proceedings, and I for one really enjoyed this.

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Book Review: The Departed

Book 1 of the Departed Series

By Kristy Cooper

The world wakes up to find that three hundred thousand people have simply vanished overnight.  Where did they go?  Speculation is rife, but no-one can explain it; the scientists are scratching their heads.

That is, until an evangelist reveals the answer.

Gwen’s friend is one of those to go missing, and Gwen is desperately worried for her lost companion.  Is she dead?  If not, where is she?  She is left to wallow in the unknown, until an email pings through.  From her friend.  She’s alive!  Or is she?

The world is gripped by the only logical explanation, and great divides appear as people ready themselves for what is coming.  But is it really as it’s been told?  Gwen has ideas to the contrary, but to uncover the truth, she must put herself in great danger.  But she’d do anything for her friend, wouldn’t she?”

This is a young adult story set against a pre-apocalyptic back-drop – the end is coming!  It’s a really interesting premise, and one that I think has lots of legs; hence this is the first part of a series.  The characters are classically YA without having too much about them, but there are some interesting side-characters too.  I particularly liked the dynamic between Gwen’s parents – very thoughtful.  Overall I enjoyed this, but it didn’t captivate me, though that is most likely because the genre is not mine.  If you like the younger end of the YA spectrum, then I highly recommend this book.

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