Sunday, 27 March 2011

24. "To Love a Thief" by Julie Anne Long

Publisher: Warner Forever
Page count: 368 pages
Date begun: March 26th, 2011
Date finished: March 27th, 2011

Gideon Cole is very close to achieving his "master plan". He's working as a brilliant barrister and making quite a name for himself among the ton of London (most of whom have no idea that he rarely, if ever makes much money winning cases left, right and centre). He just needs a little bit of cash to put down a deposit on a grand town house, so he can propose to the incomparable Lady Constance, daughter of a Viscount, and once his uncle, who's been dying for years, finally croaks, he'll have a title and an estate to support his intended in the style to which she is accustomed. He's getting a bit worried at Lady Contance's preference for one of the handsome young Lords, though, whose got a title, tons of money and perfectly passable looks, and may steal the lady away from Gideon if he doesn't work fast.

On his way to sign the contract for the town house, Gideon ends up paying his remaining thirty pounds (which he needed for the deposit) to a furious gentleman intent on harming a female pickpocket. Gideon recognizes the young woman who tried to pick his pocket the day before, but can't stand to see a woman being hurt, so pays the man to let her go. Remembering his friend's advice that what Lady Constance really needs to start noticing how promising Gideon is as a match is a rival of her own, Gideon hatches a plan. Miss Lily Masters is clearly a very pretty young woman, and after a short time spent in her company, Gideon is assured that she's been raised well and has fairly good manners. He just needs a few weeks to turn the pickpocket into a lady of the ton, and then he will have everything he ever dreamed of.

Lily is a fiercely protective sister, she's smart, she's capable, she's kind and she's observant. She's desperately trying to make ends meet, and to begin with, she hates Gideon for forcing her to work for him, and taking her and her little sister to his uncle's country estate, where they experience luxury unlike anything they've ever seen before. Lily knows that she'll only be acting the lady until Gideon wins Lady Constance, and then she'll have to explain to her sister why they're destitute again. Yet as she gets to know him, through spending time with him and speaking to the other people in his life, his uncle, his best friend, the servants of the estate, that he is a very good man and has been driven to make something of himself, to the expense of everything else.

To Love a Thief is a take on Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, where while trying to turn a street urchin into a lady, the cultured gentleman falls in love with his charge. Julie Anne Long writes delightful characters, and there are so many great scenes in this book. I very much enjoyed it, and am absolutely going to check out more of Julie Anne Long's back catalogue.

Friday, 25 March 2011

23. "Iron Crowned" by Richelle Mead

Publisher: Bantam
Page count: 384 pages
Date begun: March 24th, 2011
Date finished: March 25th, 2011

Standard introductory spiel about this being part of a series here, it's part three, in fact. This review will therefore probably contain some spoilers for the previous two books in the series. If you're thinking of starting with book one, you want to try Storm Born.


Eugenie Markham has started coming to terms with being the daughter of the legendary faerie Storm King, and is even getting used to ruling her own faerie kingdom, the Thorn Land. She's not entirely keen with the amount of time she has to spend there, as it cuts into her day job of being a shaman who banishes ghosts, spirits, faeries that have crossed over to the human world and so forth, as that's what pays her bills in the human world. Her roommate is starting to get annoyed with her, as is her assistant, who spend more time sniping at each other over the phone when Eugenie's not there to take her calls in person. She's enjoying her relationship with Dorian, King of the Oak Land, rather a lot, but they both find it a bit wearying that warriors keep showing up pretending to have killed Eugenie.

Most of all, Eugenie want to make peace with Queen Katrice of a rival land (who is naturally pissed because of the events at the end of Thorn Queen. Dorian and Eugenie's forces are tied up in what looks to be a long, gruelling and time-consuming struggle, and every day, more innocents die. When a seeress comes to Eugenie and tells her about the legendary Iron Crown, which is so difficult to get hold of that simply winning it is enough to terrify other Faerie rulers, she sees a way in which to end the conflict without further bloodshed. But because the crown is hidden in an area suffused with iron, Dorian won't be able to go with her, and she has to take her ex-boyfriend Kiyo as help instead.

I enjoyed the first two books in the series, but in this one, Eugenie made some decisions that annoyed the heck out of me. She acted like an irrational, spoiled teenager, not the mature and fairly reasonable woman she's shown herself to be in the past. She does a complete turn around on decisions she made in previous books, and makes a pretty rash and stupid decision, in my book. That said decision will have wide reaching consequences in later books is inevitable.

I like Dorian, and he doesn't pretend to be anything other than he is. I think Eugenie treats him appallingly in this book and that he's far too good for her. I hope he doesn't regret his decision towards the end of the book. I'm also hoping that after Kiyo's actions towards the end of this book, he's out of the picture for good. It would of course have been wonderful if Eugenie could be a strong and capable woman who manages on her own, without the support of a man at all, but as love triangles seem to be a staple of paranormal fantasy, I doubt that's going to happen any time soon.

This book was a bit of a let down, but I know from experience that Richelle Mead's series occasionally have ups and downs, and they tend to end up being mostly enjoyable, so I'll give the next book a chance and hope she makes it all better again then.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

22. "One Day" by David Nicholls

Publisher: Vintage
Page count: 448 pages
Date begun: March 22nd, 2011
Date finished: March 23rd, 2011

One Day follows the two protagonists, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew for twenty years, starting on the day of their graduation from University in Edinburgh in 1988. The "gimmick" is that only once every year, on the 15th of July, do we get to see how they're doing.

Emma is Northern, bookish, a bit gawky and very passionate about a number of worthy causes. She graduates with top results in English lit and drama, but is uncertain of her future prospects and feels dowdy and insecure. Dexter is a former public school boy from Oxford, handsome, confident, sometimes arrogant to the point of douchiness and graduated with a middling result in anthropology. He's not really passionate about anything but his own enjoyment and maybe women, and quite ready for the wonderful things the world is sure to offer him after graduation, they'll certainly involve fame and fortune.

The couple have clearly run in the same circles at University but hook up for the first time at a party on the eve of their graduation. Emma has clearly fancied Dexter for some time, he's only really noticed her at the party. The book follows their lives for the next twenty years, during which they develop a close friendship, sometimes spending the day together, sometimes far apart. They both change a lot, get a series of jobs (some satisfying and rewarding, some decidedly not so) and various partners. At times, they are best friends, at others they are not on speaking terms. There's a fair bit of sexual tension between them, and even in periods where they're just good friends, it's clear that everyone around them always saw them as a successful romantic coupling just waiting to happen.

Due to the episodic structure of the book, I kept wanting to read just one more chapter, even when at times, I didn't really like Dexter much or care what was going on in his life. Dexter is a bit too full of himself, and while he's clearly supposed to be the sort of charming rogue you love to hate, but are mostly charmed by, in parts of the book he just seemed smug and spoiled and annoying. Emma's a great character, though, and not just because she's a smart and caring woman with confidence issues who just doesn't realize that she could be really very pretty if she wasn't so sure everyone was lying about her looks. I sometimes felt that she cut Dexter a lot more slack than she should have, and possibly told him more often that he needed to get over himself.

The book is in some ways like a literary version of When Harry Met Sally, the film is even referenced at one point in the book. It's just that in this, Emma is vastly more likable than Dexter (who in many ways reminded me a bit too much of a couple of guys I went to Uni with, and who clearly expected the world to fall in their lap because they were handsome and charming, but didn't really want to work very hard at anything), and it's sometimes a bit difficult to see why she'd put up with him for twenty years. He does have personal growth, but it takes a very long time, and even after he became a proper grown-up, I found the end of the book unsatisfying and am not entirely sure Nicholls had to choose the route he did to complete Dexter's transition into a decent human being. Still, it was a quick read, I enjoyed bits of it a lot, and since I didn't invest too much in it, I probably won't care as much if the upcoming film adaptation changes bits or gets them wrong.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

21. "Juliet, Naked" by Nick Hornby

Publisher: Penguin
Page count: 256 pages
Date begun: March 22nd, 2011
Date finished: March 22nd, 2011

Duncan is a big old-music nerd and a self-styled expert on the music career of Tucker Crowe, a singer-songwriter (think Dylan) who released one really critically acclaimed album in the 80s, and then suddenly during a tour disappeared and went into hiding. Duncan frequents internet message boards where he and other fans debate and analyze every aspect of Crowe's career in detail, speculating on what made him suddenly drop everything, and on what he may be up to now. Annie has lived with him in an increasingly more unsatisfying relationship for the past 15 years, and is realizing that she's suddenly middle-aged, living in a boring little English seaside town with a dead-end job at the town's tiny museum, and she doesn't know how to change things.

The thing that does trigger sudden change in Annie's dreary life is an advance copy of the demos for Tucker Crowe's lauded breakup album Juliet, sent to Duncan through one of his message board mates.  Annie opens the post and listens to it before Duncan gets a chance to. They end up having extremely differing opinions on the quality of the album (called Juliet, Naked - see what they did there), and while Duncan posts a glowingly enthusiastic review of it on the internet, Annie decides to post her own. Having posted her e-mail address with the review, she is contacted shortly after by none other than the elusive Tucker Crowe himself, who is now a middle aged man living in the American country side, trying to come to grips with his own years of wasted potential and the various children he's fathered over the years turning up on his doorstep. They start an e-mail correspondence, and soon Annie knows more about the obscure Mr Crowe than his devoted fans have ever dreamed of.

Juliet, Naked is the third Hornby novel I've read, the first one being High Fidelity, which I found dreadfully dull, and finished out of stubbornness. I also read About A Boy, as I'm a fan of the movie, and found it much better, if a bit dark at times. I was a bit dubious, since in this one, Hornby once again portrays a music obsessive, but the book was for the most part very entertaining, and Duncan is clearly meant to be a bit pathetic, abrasive and unlikable. Anyone who's ever frequented an internet message board where lots of obsessive fans voice their opinions on whatever subject they're passionate about has encountered someone like Duncan. Yet Hornby also manages to make us see that he's a complex person, not just a caricature.

Obviously, I preferred the parts of the story from Annie and Tucker's point of view. Tucker has clearly not been the nicest or wisest person over the years, he's made a whole load of mistakes, and is only now starting to realize that he may have made a bit of a mess out of a lot of things in his life. Both he and Annie have a lot of regrets about their pasts, and develop a friendship through their correspondance that helps them affect necessary changes. If it hadn't been for the rather sudden ending (termed by some online reviewers as tantalisingly open-ended and bittersweet), but which I found a bit lazy and cowardly and would've criticised one of my pupils for ending a story with, I would have really enjoyed this a lot. As it is, it's probably my favourite Hornby book, but I would've liked it more if it had another 10 pages or so and wrapped up the story a bit more.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

20. "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

Publisher: Black Swan
Page count: 686 pages
Date begun: February 18th, 2011
Date finished: March 20th, 2011

I was never the most enthusiastic student of science, and gave it up as soon as it was no longer mandatory in school to study more languages and literature instead. I occasionally have to sub a science lesson, and looking at the textbooks the kids in my secondary school are studying, there's a huge amount of stuff I probably did learn in school at some point, but that I've happily forgotten. I figured it might be a good idea to try to re-learn some of it, and since I've enjoyed every Bill Bryson book I ever read (and this seems to be one of his most acclaimed books yet), I picked up A Short History of Nearly Everything a few years ago.

When I started reading it the first time, I think I got halfway through the introduction before something else distracted me and the book was left to languish on a shelf. It seemed a bit boring to me, and I just couldn't muster up the willpower to get through such a big book (which is ironic, as I will happily read an epic fantasy novel way bigger if the mood strikes me) at that point. Yet when I started it again this year, determined that my 52 books for CBRIII wasn't just going to be fantasy, romance and romantic fantasy (cause let's face it, that is the majority of what I read), I found that it was very enjoyable and not at all hard going. I'd read over 400 pages before I put it down for a little break (big mistake - there were so many other shiny books I needed to read that got in the way of me starting it up again) that turned into three weeks. I found myself not just re-learning many of the things I'd been taught at school, but learning new and fascinating and odd stuff about geology and evolution and DNA and biology and realized that the scientists of the 18-19th Century were often extremely colourful and peculiar individuals.

While Bryson covers a huge array of scientific subjects, he still writes in his usual witty and informative way, and the book explains fairly complicated things and ideas in ways that even I, a disinterested linguist and historian can understand. I strongly recommend the book to anyone fond of well-written non-fiction, especially if you want to brush up on your general science knowledge.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

19. "River Marked" by Patricia Briggs

Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 352 pages
Date begun: March 15th, 2011
Date finished: March 18th, 2011

River Marked is the sixth book in the series about Mercy Thompson. There is no way I can avoid writing this review without spoilers for some of the previous books in the series (and a bit of a spoiler for the beginning of this one too), and so if you haven't read the books, skip the review and go start with the first one, Moon Called. They're all varying degrees of excellent, I promise. 

The last Mercy Thompson book I reviewed on this blog was Silver Borne and in it, I complained that Mercy and Adam got to spend very little time together, and that it was annoying me. It's like Patricia Briggs heard my moaning and decided to give me exactly what I wanted in this book, because Mercy and Adam spend the whole book together. Having mate bonded and got engaged, they

***SPOILER**** 
finally get married and go on their honeymoon in this book. 
 **** END SPOILER ***                              

You'd think Mercy would be able to stay out of mortal danger on a camping trip with her man, but no, on one of their first nights away, they find an boat with a traumatized guy and while trying to save him, there are creepy tentacles trying to pull Mercy under water. Soon she's having horrible nightmares of people drowning in the river, and it's obvious that there's a very sinister explanation to all the people who have gone missing in the area in the last few months. As werewolves don't do well around water (their bodies are extremely dense and they sink), there's little Adam can do to help Mercy sort out this trouble.

Some of the reviews I saw of this book complained that they missed the many supporting characters of the Mercy books in this one, as it pretty much focuses completely on Mercy and Adam, but I thought it worked fine, and with the intriguing additional information it reveals about Mercy's father, it was a nice addition to the series. It's not like the other characters aren't in the book in the beginning and at the end of the book, and I really did like to see the relationship between Mercy and Adam develop and solidify. Even though he's an alpha werewolf and very possessive and protective, Adam's not afraid to let Mercy take care of herself and he understands that in certain situations he can't really rush in and take over everything. They're a lovely couple, and I'm very happy that they got a book to themselves. I'm sure the rest of the pack, and Stephan and Jesse and Gabriel and everyone will get more to do in the next one. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

18. "Dreams of A Dark Warrior" by Kresley Cole

Publisher: Pocket
Page count: 528 pages
Date begun: March 11th, 2011
Date finished: March 12th, 2011

This is the ninth book in the Immortals After Dark series, and it will make very little sense to anyone who hasn't read quite a few other books in the series. The book references events in two of the previous novels, and if you're bothered by spoilers for this or any of the other books, you probably want to skip this review. If you're interested in picking up the series, the first book is A Hunger Like No Other.

Declan Chase works for an organization calling themselves the Order, who capture and experiment on supernatural beings in brutal and torturous ways to try to find their weaknesses and develop improved weapons for humankind. When he was 17, a gang of viscous supernatural creatures tortured and killed his family, and left him heavily scarred both physically and mentally. He was saved by an officer of the Order, and has devoted the whole of his adult life to hunting down and eradicating as many supernatural beings as he can. Declan is unaware that he is the reincarnation of a Viking berserker, who died a thousand years ago, shortly after consummating his relationship to the valkyrie Regin the Radiant.

Now he's been sent by the Order to capture her, and take her to their hidden island stronghold. He can't understand why she appears to recognize him just before he incapacitates her, and why he's inexplicably drawn to her, even knowing that she's not human. Regin is shocked to realize that the man who died in her arms a thousand years ago, and who's reincarnated three times to find her and reunite with her, only to die shortly after, is now a brutal and hateful man, completely consumed by his disgust for all creatures of the Lore, whether good or bad. The facility she's been locked up in is full of supernatural beings of all races, and as they are mostly immortal, the Order won't hesitate to vivisect them and then put them back together to find out what makes them tick. But if Regin can make Declan remember their shared past with a kiss, the curse that has taken him from her four times before, will cause his death.

I enjoy the Immortals After Dark series, and while there are similarities in the books, and they reference a lot of characters throughout the series, it's always interesting to see the pairings that Kresley Cole come up with. Several times, her two lovers are very different and frequently start out antagonistic towards each other, only to end up true mates. Declan Chase is possibly the most "villainous" of all her heroes so far - a man who has captured, tortured and killed hundreds and possibly thousands of creatures from the Lore, not all of them evil vampires or demons. He injects Regin with a painful poison while questioning her, and has no problem having people she considers friends or allies sent to hell dimensions or vivisected, then sown back together. As his family was brutally slaughtered, and he himself barely survived, then he was adopted by a military order and brainwashed further, it's understandable that he's so fiercely opposed to all things supernatural, and Cole doesn't excuse his actions. He's probably the most tortured of the heroes so far.

Regin's faithful berserker has been referenced in quite a few of the other books in the series, and it was very cool to finally see how their relationship started, and find out about the other incarnations of her Viking warlord, Aidan the Fierce. As a supporting character in previous books, it was never really emphasized just how much living for over a thousand years, reuniting with her lover every few hundred years or so, only to have him die from her again straight after, would suck for her. While she seems flippant and carefree, in effect being widowed four times in the space of a millennia would be pretty gruelling. Then to realize that in his most recent incarnation, the man is more of a monster than many of those he has devoted his life to hunting, can't be an easy thing.

They don't have an easy way to a happy ending, but it's a very entertaining one to read about. There are some pretty cool supporting characters, and I continue to be intrigued by Lothaire, the evil vampire and Enemy of Old, who Cole keeps throwing teasing hints about, and who's a fascinating antihero just waiting to happen. The big battle between the good and evil factions of the Lore is clearly coming closer, and I can't wait to see who the next lucky couple in her books will be.

17. "A Lot Like Love" by Julie James

Publisher: Berkley
Page count: 304 pages
Date begun: March 9th, 2011
Date finished: March 10th, 2011

Nick McCall has just finished a six month undercover operation for the FBI where he helped take down twenty-seven dirty cops. He's looking forward to a well earned vacation and going to his mother's 60th birthday party in New York. Before he has time to leave, his boss asks him to help out for a few days on an operation involving a major Chicago mob boss. Agent Huxley is going on his first undercover mission at an exclusive charity event on Valentine's Day. The FBI need to plant bugs in the office of restaurant and night club owner Xander Eckhart, believing that his various venues are being used to launder money for the mob.

Jordan Rhodes is the daughter of a computer software billionaire, but few people realize that he's extremely keen for his children to make their own way in the world. So Jordan has worked hard to establish her own career, and runs a successful wine shop, bought with her own money. When the FBI show up on her doorstep, her first thought is that something has happened to her twin brother, Kyle, who's in prison after hacking into and shutting down Twitter for 48 hours. He's had several fights in jail, and she worries about him constantly. When agents McCall and Huxley explain that they need her help getting into Eckhart's party, she's initially reluctant to help, but if it could mean early release for her brother, she's willing to consider it. She and Nick don't exactly hit it off, and she's relieved when she finds out that Huxley is supposed to act as her date for the Valentine's Day party.

However, when Huxley comes down with stomach flu, McCall has to be her date instead. At the party, it also becomes very clear that Eckhart may have a romantic interest in Jordan as well, so Nick will have to pose as her boyfriend until the FBI gather enough evidence to arrest him. As the two can barely be in the same room without bickering, their acting skills will be put to the test.

A Lot Like Love is a sequel of sorts to James' last novel, which also featured an undercover FBI agent. It's a fun read, but not quite as satisfying as last year's Something About You, mainly because Jordan and Nick didn't spend as much time together actually getting to know each other. They go very quickly from being annoyed with each other and slightly antagonistic to suddenly being very much in love. As they are interesting characters, it would've been nice to see the relationship develop a bit more, and have more scenes of them bantering and getting to know each other properly. I also felt that the supporting characters in this one were less fleshed out and interesting than those in her last book. It was by no means bad, but didn't quite live up to my expectations. Her next novel is apparently about Jordan's brother Kyle, a computer geek who looks like Lost's Josh Holloway. I'm very intrigued by the prospect, and will absolutely be checking it out.

16. "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 1008 pages
Date begun: March 4th, 2011
Date finished: March 9th, 2011

The Wise Man's Fear is the extremely highly anticipated sequel to The Name of the Wind. It's also more than 300 pages longer than the last one, and could double as a defensive weapon. It's bulk made me very glad that I have an e-reader, as carting it back and forth to work would have given me a serious back ache.

The second day of Kvothe's story begins with him at the University, still pretty much dirt poor, constantly scrabbling to earn enough money to pay next term's tuitions and pay off his debts. He still pines for the lovely Denna, the mysterious young woman who's only in town occasionally, and who tends to introduce herself to men with a new name every time. His conflict with the rich baron's son he earned the enmity of in the previous book keeps escalating, and he is forced to take a term off until matters cool off a bit. He goes in search of a rich patron, but has to fudge both his young age (nearly seventeen) and his Edema Ruh heritage, as the Ruh are generally not seen as upstanding citizens of note. While on his journey, he saves the rich nobleman whose patronage he's hoping for from slow poisoning, helps him woo a suitable young lady, and hunts down a band of bandits who've been stealing the noble's taxes and revenues. He spends an undefined amount of time in the Faerie realm with the Felurian, a faerie queen of legendary beauty and he learns to fight from the Adem mercenaries, possibly the best warriors in the world. He discovers more about Denna, but grows no closer to telling her of his affection for her.

In the framing story, it becomes clear that while Kvothe was both an extremely skilled bard, arcanist and fighter when he was younger, he no longer seems to be able to do the things he is legendarily known for. Bast cautions the Chronicler about asking questions about his singing and magic, as these topics will only depress Kvothe. We see more of Kvothe's role in the little community where he lives, and how skillfully he has donned the disguise of lowly innkeeper. None of the villagers would dream that the man who serves them ale is the Kvothe of legend.

I spent longer reading the book than I would have liked, but I have work that unfortunately takes precedence over reading a lot of the time. With only a few exceptions, I didn't think the book was too long at all (which can frequently happen with epic fantasy), although I felt the story dragged a little bit during Kvothe's stay with the Felurian, and some of his fighting training got a bit repetitive. Watching Kvothe mature a bit was good though, and seeing more of the world Rothfuss has created was excellent. Kvothe's time at the University is fun, but it's clear that his legend is not just built on his academic prowess.

Rothfuss has said in interviews and in numerous book signings that the series is going to be finished with the next book. I'm left to wonder how he's going to be able to tell the rest of Kvothe's backstory and resolve the things hinted at in the framing story in just one book. However, he's delivered everything he's promised so far, and in less time than it's taken George Martin to finish his fifth book (six years and counting, George, not good!), so I will continue trusting him.

15. "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 662 pages
Date begun: February 21st, 2011
Date finished: March 3rd, 2011

The Name of the Wind is an epic fantasy, the first part of a trilogy. Yet it's also mainly the story of one man. It begins with a framing device, where a quiet redheaded man named Kote works as an innkeeper in a little country town, but it quickly becomes obvious that there's more to the man than it first appears. He knows about a lot of things, and is not surprised when nasty spider-like demon creatures are seen not far from town. While out killing these beasties, Kote rescues a traveller, who coincidentally came to the town looking for him. Well, for a legendary man called Kvothe. The traveller is a man called the Chronicler, he prides himself on finding the truth behind legends. He wants Kvothe's whole story, with no exaggerations or embellishments. Kote/Kvothe will only do this if the Chronicler stays for three whole days (longer than he normally needs for a life's story). The Name of the Wind is the first day of the story.

Kvothe's life story is told in first person, and goes all the way back to his childhood, when he was part of a travelling troupe of actors and performers, the Edema Ruh. The Ruh are clearly a gypsy-like people,  and the most skilled performers in the land. His father is the leader of the troupe, his mother is a noblewoman's daughter who left her home to travel with them. Kvothe is clearly a child prodigy, he picks up lute playing nearly instantly, he can memorize whole plays fairly quickly, he learns science and sympathy (a type of physics-inspired magic) from an arcanist (University-educated magic user) who travels with him. What he wants to learn most of all, though, is how to call the name of the wind so the wind does his bidding. Abenthy, the arcanist, explains that he would need to go to the University for this, and that it's not an easy feat. Learning something's true name is not for everyone.

Kvothe's idyllic childhood is shattered once his family and the entire troupe are brutally slaughtered by a  group of demons, known collectively as the Chandrian. Always believed to be merely creatures of legend and fairy tale, the Chandrian turns out to be very much real, and not at all happy that Kvothe's father researched and wrote a song about them, which he performed a little part of only a week earlier. Anyone who heard the song has to die, and Kvothe is extremely lucky that something calls them away before he too is killed. Orphaned and traumatised, Kvothe becomes a lonely street urchin in a nearby city. He stays there until he's fifteen, when an event reawakens his memories of the events that killed his parents. He decides to go to the University, to acquire the knowledge he needs to find the Chandrian again and avenge his family.

At fifteen, Kvothe is really too young to attend, but he is clever and resourceful and not only aces his entrance exam, so to speak, but invents financial aid while doing so. At the University he makes a number of friends, but also powerful enemies, he learns sympathy and artificing (a type of magical engineering) and he falls in love. Even though it is clearly a dangerous and nearly impossible task, he is driven to find the truth about the beings that killed his family.

Kvothe's life story is intercut with interludes at the Waystone Inn, where an older Kvothe is now posing as a harmless and kindly innkeeper. As well as the recent spider demon attack, it's clear that there are all sorts of dangers waiting in the wings, there is a war on, and it's implied that Kvothe may be the reason for the conflict. Kvothe is believed to be dead, and feels it's probably better that way. His young assistant/apprentice, a fairy creature named Bast, clearly disagrees, and will do pretty much anything to get his beloved master out of his funk. The main narrative shows the young, extremely arrogant and brilliant Kvothe, the framing device the older, weary, experienced Kvothe "a man who is waiting to die".

I love this book, and I the way Rothfuss uses his language. When I first read the book, I was upset when I got to the end, because there was no more. I find myself wanting to read passages out loud, because the language is so lyrical and beautiful. In an internet discussion on the book, I saw Kvothe described as possibly the only character who could be described as Too Smart To Live, he's so clever that he frequently trips himself up. A brilliant and clever character like Kvothe could be extremely annoying to read about, but while he picks up things like lute playing and foreign languages very quickly indeed, he's also a teenager, and a hothead, and frequently rushes into things before thinking, as a result making things much harder for himself. If you don't like the character of Kvothe, you're not going to like this book. If you're looking for epic fantasy with a cast of hundreds, and complicated political machinations or a battle between good an evil, this is not your book. But if you want an entertaining read, and a good story and the exploration of how one man can become a myth, then you may want to check this out.

If you listen to internet hype, Patrick Rothfuss is the next George R.R. Martin, or Robert Jordan (he's way better!) or even Tolkien. I'm frankly hoping that he gets his writing done a bit faster than Martin. The second book in the trilogy is on its way to me in the post now, and I reread this in anticipation (and because there was no way I could remember all the things that happened). My next review will be on The Wise Man's Fear. 

14: "What I Did For a Duke" by Julie Anne Long

Publisher: Avon
Page count: 384 pages
Date begun: February 26th, 2011
Date finished: February 26th, 2011

When Alexander Moncrieffe, the infamous Duke of Falconbridge (it's rumoured that he poisoned his first wife), finds Ian Eversea in bed with his fiancee, he wows revenge, and plans to seduce, then abandon Ian's innocent younger sister Genevieve, breaking her heart. However, Genevieve has already had her heart broken, by her best friend Harry Osborne, who confides in her that he intends to propose to her cousin (also their good friend) at some point during her father's upcoming house party. Quiet and reserved Genevieve has loved Harry for the past three years and feels like her world is falling apart, but the only one who appears to notice that anything at all is amiss with her, is the Duke.

Although she is young, Alex discovers very quickly that Genevieve is no silly child, and that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. She is clearly fiercely intelligent and has quite a temper, but keeps it well controlled and appears meek and kind and well meaning to everyone around her. Like him, she is a keen observer of those around her, and quickly notices that her brother Ian goes pale and jittery every time he's in the same room as the Duke. She deduces that the two have a history, and Alex' plans to seduce her are made a lot more difficult when she figures out how he intended to use her for revenge. Instead, when he ferrets out the truth of her heartbreak, he proposes to help her make Lord Osborne jealous, as against all his expectations, he enjoys spending time with her, and Ian gets nervous every time he sees them together.

While Alex and Genevieve have an age difference of nearly twenty years, they were great as a couple, and obviously challenged and complimented each other. Alex is a great hero, as he is an experienced and intelligent man, and he clearly enjoys the wicked reputation and the fear he instills in people. Yet he is also obviously lonely, and longs for someone he can spend his life with. Genevieve is innocent in some ways, and quite worldly in others. She has a very strong sense of duty, and suppresses her own wishes and emotions for the good of her family and friends. Yet when being good and kind leads only to heartbreak, she is forced to reevaluate her life, and what she wants for her future. Lord Osborne is very handsome and nice, but he's not really very interesting, whilst the Duke has experience, intelligence and complexity. Every scene between the couple is enjoyable, and the tension towards the end had me actually shouting out loud at the book. I wanted to reach in and shake both characters vigorously, and the end was all the more satisfying because of it. I will absolutely be adding Julie Anne Long to my ever increasing TBR list.

13. "Pale Demon" by Kim Harrison

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Page count: 448 pages
Date begun: February 23rd, 2011
Date finished: February 26th, 2011

This is book 9 in an ongoing series, and as such, will contain spoilers for previous books in the series. If you're bothered by such things, please skip ahead to the next review. I would also not recommend anyone to start by reading this book. If you're interested in picking up the series (it really is very entertaining) you'll want to start with Dead Witch Walking. 


Rachel Morgan has to get to San Francisco to clear her name and get her shunning rescinded at the annual Witches' convention. It quickly becomes clear that the ruling council doesn't want her to get there, however, and she's unable to get on the plane as scheduled. Her sometime nemesis, the ruthless business man Trent Calamack has a proposition for her. He needs to be on the other side of the country in three days' time, and he has to drive to get there. He wants Rachel to act as his bodyguard. So it's road trip time for Rachel, Trent and her partners Ivy and Jenks.

Their road trip is not exactly uneventful. There are assassins after Trent, clearly intent on stopping him from reaching the end of his mystical elf quest. He's extremely reluctant to let Rachel know any of the details, but seems to be bonding with Jenks quite a bit along the way. After an attack from a daywalking demon (a being who shouldn't be able to exist), they are forced to bring along Vivian, a member of the Witches' council, who is pretty obviously trying to get incriminating evidence on Rachel for their trial. When they finally get to San Francisco, Rachel's trial doesn't exactly go smoothly either. It looks like Trent may be her only hope of a normal life in the future.

I had high expectations for this book, as previously in the Hollows series, books 3 and 6 were the best yet. Since this is book 9, I was hoping it would be equally awesome, but it didn't quite deliver. It was by no means bad, and like in books 3 and 6, there were big revelations and changes to the status quo, with tantalising hints of where the series is heading in the future. It revealed more about Rachel's mysterious abilities, and Trent played a much bigger part than he normally does. We find out quite a lot more about him, and as he is a very entertaining character, I liked the new depth this book gave him. It revealed more about the demons in Harrison's paranormal universe, and Rachel's demon mentor Al keeps becoming more and more interesting, and also more relatable with each book. With the exception of one book which was quite dull, this series has never failed to entertain me, and I can't wait to see where Harrison takes her characters next.