Tag Archives: Male Authors

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

Night Watch, Terry PratchettNight Watch by Terry Pratchett

First Published: 2002

Pages: 364 (Hardback)
Form: Novel
Series: Discworld #29
Subseries: The City Watch #6

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck.

Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion. There’s a problem: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future.

A Discworld Tale of One City, with a chorus of street urchins, ladies of negotiable affection, rebels, secret policemen and other children of the revolution.

Truth! Justice! Freedom!
And a Hard-boiled Egg!

A reread in memory of Terry Pratchett. RIP.

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett when I was twelve. My big sister was playing Ysabell in a year 10 house play production of Mort. Neither of us were familiar with Discworld at the time, but she borrowed the book from the student director and I borrowed the book from her. And that was it. It was wonderful and clever and different from anything I had read before.

Over the next few years I attempted to complete the whole series of (then) around 25 book. With no budget for buying books, and so many to read, I borrowed them from the town library, the school library, the earlier mentioned student director (who was then dating my sister and thought he was only lending them to her), and once I had older male admirers of my own, from them as well.I can’t remember what order I ended up reading them all in, but it was whatever was available at the time, and most certainly not the ‘correct’ order. I read Carpe Jugulam before Wyrd Sisters and got confused by the change of cast, and Feet of Clay before Guards! Guards! and was distressed to find Angua not in the earlier book. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (the first two books in the series) were the final books I read in my catch up – which was probably good as they are by far the weakest. But throughout this disorganised mishmash or chronology and characters there was one subseries, and one character, who always remained my favourites. The City Watch, and Commander Samuel Vimes.

I watched the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork shrink and grow and shrink and grow as I erratically read whatever I was able to get hold of at that moment. Only when I had caught up – and my parents had caught up enough on mine and my sister’s shared love of the series to start buying them for us at Christmas – did I start to read them in order. And the first of these Christmas presents gifted to me rather than my sister, was Night Watch. I had finished it by boxing day morning.

Still, when I heard the news of Terry Pratchett’s death this Thursday, it was Guards! Guards! I sought out, and the excuse to finally read The City Watch series in the correct order. As I could not locate the book, however, I picked up Night Watch instead. And I think, even had I found the book I was initially looking for, Night Watch was the right choice. It’s one of the most poignant and most human stories in the whole series. A policeman and a murderer, sent back in time through a freak magical accident (more details on that in Thief of Time) to a time when the city watch was incompetent, the ruler of Ankh-Morpok relied on torture and secret police, and rebellion was brewing in the slums. And a young Sam Vimes needs to learn to become the man (and the policeman) he will be. Only one problem – the murderer’s first act is to kill the man who would teach him that, and potentially change the course of history forever. Its up to Commander Vimes to step into his mentor’s role, teach his younger self the morals of policing, and become the leader of a revolution he already knows is doomed.

But Vimes (wonderful Vimes!) never half-arses a job. And, as the timeline changes in subtle ways, he realises that perhaps things aren’t so doomed after all. If he does things right this time and learns from his past, maybe this time the revolution will be successful, the friends who died might live – but doing so would change his future forever; he would lose both his wife and his unborn child. And this is why Vimes is my favourite character in the whole of the Disc. It’s all exemplified in this one book. Although Vimes is grumpy and pragmatic and cynical and never fails to fight dirty, he will always always do what is right and he will follow a job through right to the end. He adores his wife, but that’s who he is, and he cannot let the people around him down by not trying his best. Its one of the more angsty, more depressing, and most beautiful Discworld books from what I regard the best period of Pratchett’s writing.

And as it deals with Commander Vimes travelling back into his own past, well prior to the events of Guards! Guards!, it serves my rereading from the beginning purpose even better than the first book of the series itself! It sets up what the characters and the city were like before Vimes’ meteoritic rise through the ranks better than any of the early books do, and I’m sure will make me appreciate just how much Vimes achieves in the rest of the series.

So 5 stars. Forever 5 stars. Funny, sad, and thoughtful. A good book for grieving a wonderful wonderful author and a brilliant person. RIP Terry Pratchett. You will be missed.

Sidenote: My copy of Guards! Guards! has now been found, the next two books are reserved from the library. This City Watch reread is totally happening! Watch this space! And I promise future reviews will try to be more about the book than this one.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott LynchThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

First Published: 2006

Pages: 537 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Gentleman Bastard #1

Rating:4/54/54/54/54/5

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Lock Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves: The Gentlemen bastards.

The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they’ve ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of those fantasy books that, if you’re into fantasy, it’s impossible to avoid people telling you how brilliant it is. And, as is almost invariably the case, it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s a fast-paced, fun read with lots of great characters, a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, some interesting world building, and some surprising twists and turns, so it’s definitely not bad. I certainly won’t be giving people who recommend it as ‘the best fantasy in recent years’ the side eye in the same way I do Joe Abercrombie fans (that trilogy should have been one book, tops!). In fact, they may well be right. It’s a good novel, very good in places but, for me, those places fell mostly in the later half of the book and it didn’t quite come together enough for me to love it.

The book is set in the fantasy canal-city of Camorr and opens with Locke Lamore (the self styled conman the ‘Thorn of Camorr’) and his band of merry men starting a scheme to con a local nobleman out of all his money. These are not the most moral or idealistic or protagonists. But they have a strong bond that lots of readers loved and I found almost instantly tiresome. There’s a lot of banter and teasing, boasting, and laughter in the first half that, for me, felt like watching a group of incredibly self-aggrandising men that I don’t know making in-jokes about how great they are to each other. And my pervading thought was mostly ‘yes, you’re ‘Gentlemen Bastards’, well done, I got that, you’re the best, but where are the women?’ ‘Why are there no women?’.

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Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer, Ben AaronovitchFoxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

First Published: 2014

Pages: 394 (Waterstone’s Hardback with bonus short story)
Form: Novel
Series: Rivers of London/Peter Grant #5

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire PC Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It’s purely routine, Nightingale thinks he’ll be done in less than a day.

But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realise that dark secrets underlay the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon he’s in a vicious race against time in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear…

 

I’ve made no secret about my total love for the Rivers of London series (apart from the second book – that one’s crap). They’re one of my go to’s for comfort reading: quick, entertaining, easy to read, and a little bit different former standard modern fantasy. For a start, the protagonist, Peter Grant, actually acts like a real police officer! He doesn’t pull the maverick cop act (much) but co-operates with other officers and departments, does his paperwork, follows procedure (as much as you can do when dealing with the supernatural) and generally acts in a way you expect a real person who doesn’t want be fired to act.

And Foxglove Summer really is Peter Grant’s book – taken out of London and away from his cast of supporting characters, Foxglove Summer gives Peter the chance to shine on his own for the first time. Regulars like Nightingale, Lesley, and Beverly do make their appearances, but generally it comes from the other end of the phone and, I was surprised to find, I didn’t miss them at all. I didn’t even miss the London setting, which has always been one of the highlights of all previous novels. Quietly, and without me really noticing it, Peter has grown up enough to carry a book – and a police case – on his own, and it was great to read him doing just that, and doing it pretty dang competently. Continue reading

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Fairest, Vol. 2: The Hidden Kingdom, Bill Willingham, Lauren Beukes & various artists

Fairest, Hidden KingdomsFairest: The Hidden Kingdom

Form: Comic Book (Trade Paperback)
Series: Fairest, Volume 1 (Issues 8-14) – Spinoff from Fables

Writers: Bill WillinghamLauren Beukes
Artists:
 Inaki Miranda, Barry Kitson
Colourists: Eva de la Cruz, Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Todd Klien
Cover Art: Adam Hughes

Rating:3.5/53.5/53.5/53.5/53.5/5

Once upon a time, before the FABLES saga began, a war was brewing in the East. At the centre of this conflict stood a single woman – and a whole lot of hair.

Rapunzel’s romantic history is as long and full as her legendary golden locks. Some of its strands, however, are more tangled than others – including the prince she bedded, the witch she infuriated, the children who were stolen from her, and the faraway realm to which she fled to get away from it all.

In that Hidden Kingdom, home to the Fables of Japan, Rapunzel found new love in the arms of a beautiful seductress with a soul of foxfire – and a new enemy in the person of a brutal warlord.

Now, centuries later, the ghosts of her past have returned to haunt her, and Rapunzel must travel to the Land of the Rising Sun to discover the truth about her long-lost children – as well as the fate of those others, loved and hated, that she left behind.

I enjoyed the story of The Hidden Kingdom a lot more than I did the previous volume, Wide Awake, but it still gets three stars from me because I’ve become a much harder marker since then. It avoided a lot of the things I complained about in Wide AwakeHidden Kingdoms is written by a woman (Bill Willingham is credited as ‘consultant’) and Rapunzel is very much the lead of this book, she has her own agency, and her presentation isn’t filtered to us (much) through the eyes of a male character. She does things for herself and the story can be (and probably should have been) told without the male love interest. But I just couldn’t get into it enough for it to rank in the four stars.

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Gone, Michael Grant

Gone, Michael GrantGone by Michael Grant

First Published: 2009

Pages: 560 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Gone #1

Rating:3/53/53/53/53/5

299 Hours 54 Minutes

Suddenly it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

A small town in southern California: In the blink of an eye everyone over the age of 15 disappears. Cut off from the outside world, those that are left are trapped, and there’s no help on the way. Chaos rules the streets.

Now a new world order is rising and, even scarier, some survivors have power – mutant power that no one has ever seen before . . .

Catching up on some reviews that, for various reasons, I never got round to writing in 2013.

How to rate this book… Gone turned into one of my favourite finds of last year, I pretty much devoured the first five books in the series back-to-back and am eagerly waiting for the paperback release of the final installment. I would happily rate the series as a whole in the 4 to 4.5 star bracket. But it’s one of those series that is somehow more than the sum of its parts and, each individual book falls more within the 3-3.5 range for me. With book one starting a bit bumpy and taking me a little while to get into. So I’m going to try to ignore hindsight and rate as my first reaction on finishing the book was – 3 stars (I liked it but nothing special).

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Fables, Vol. 19: Snow White, Bill Willingham and various artists

Fables- Snow WhiteFables: Snow White

Form: Comic Book (Trade Paperback)
Series: Fables, Volume 19 (issues 124-129 & backup stories for 114-123)

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists:
 Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus, Andrew Pepoy
Colourists: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klien
Cover Art: Mark Buckingham, Joao Raus

Rating3/53/53/53/53/5

Warning: This is volume 19 of an ongoing series  – it’s going to be impossible for me to avoid spoilers for previous volumes.

DEUS EX MATRIMONY

Once she was the beloved of Prince Charming, the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Then she married Bigby Wolf, the implacable offspring of the North Wind. But before she knew either one of those famous Fables, Snow White was betrothed to another,

Now this dark prince has returned, bearing unstoppable magic and seeking Snow’s lovely white hand in (re)marriage. Her current husband? He’ll have to go. Their children? No room for them in this happy family either.

It’s hardly the fairy-tale ending Snow and Bigby envisioned – which is why Snow, whose radiant exterior belies the depth of her icy resolve, will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. But will Snow fall? Or will someone else be buried beneath the coming storm?

With Snow White, the acclaimed creative team of Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha is joined by guest artist Shawn McManus to unearth long-buried secrets and usher in a shocking new era for the entire Fables cast!

News broke last year that Fables would be ending for good with issue 150. As a massive Fables fan I actually couldn’t have been more pleased because, since issue 75 when the first main plot thread was resolved, the series has rather lost its direction. New threats have been brought in, new villains, but none with the same impact. New plots and ideas and characters have been cycled through at such a pace that I find myself losing track and longing for more of the original main characters to step back into the spotlight. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but I no longer instantly want to rush out and buy the trade paperbacks the moment they come out, I sit about not even realising it’s out then go ‘oh yeah…I should probably catch up on Fables‘ when I do chance to see a new volume in my comic store.  A planned endpoint is really what the series needs.

But onto this particular volume! Although I’ve rated it 3 stars I actually like it more than the last one. It’s a much welcome return to the core cast and the two characters who really sold me on the series right back at the beginning: Snow White and Bigby Wolf.

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Last Argument of Kings, Joe Abercrombie

 

Last Argument of Kings, Joe AbercrombieLast Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

First Published: 2008

Pages: 670 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The First Law #3

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him, but it’s going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It’s past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. And his days with a sword are far behind him, it’s a good thing blackmail, threats, and torture never go out of fashion.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful an process and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too–and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.

While the king of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. Yet no-one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, than to break the First Law…

And with the final book in the First Law trilogy (there are follow up standalone books set in the same world but this book completes the original trilogy), I remain more unconvinced than ever by Joe Abercrombie’s reputation as a master of fantasy. Sure, he subverts the cliche heroic fantasy tropes and stock characters to turn them on their head – but barely anyone writes that sort of heroic fantasy anymore anyway. And he still falls into that worst of fantasy author habits: writing way more than he he needs to, spinning a simple story into a whole trilogy. None of his books need to be as large as they are. The ending, while I admit it could have been a genuinely great end to standalone or a first novel in a series, feels anticlimactic after three books and roughly 1,700 pages. Especially when so little of relevance really happened in either book one or two. Really, the whole series would have been massively improved by hacking out all the filler, maybe reducing the number of POV characters, and condensing it all into two books instead (one would probably be pushing it).

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