Just as I thought it’d be safe to turn the heating off, a horrible cold blast has hit the UK and apparently we’re due to suffer -4 temperatures over the next week or so. I’m swiftly going off winter…
I’ve had a very fun reading week and I flew through 5 of them.
I mentioned last week that I started A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet and I finished it super quickly. It is such an easy read and definitely falls in the ‘romantasy’ genre. Luckily I had picked up the second book in time to move straight onto it and I finished that in a day. Sorry, not sorry. This series is so addictive. I’d label it as a romance in a fantastical setting, with a whole load of ancient Greek gods/imagery/mythology which was great fun. I was pleased to see that Bouchet’s writing has developed and improved in the second instalment Breath of Fire, the Greek gods were more involved which thankfully meant there were less ‘oh it’s so hot, now I know what Icarus must have felt‘ (totally paraphrased, but you get the gist) moments as the mythology is more integral to the story now we know Cat’s history. Any throwaway comments like the Icarus one were weaved in more naturally so it didn’t make me laugh out loud each time. Lots of steamy scenes and lots of action, a great series if you’re looking for an easy romance in a mythological world.
Sticking with the romance theme I also read The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. Unfortunately this was my least favourite Heyer novel. The premise is that a wealthy man offers for the pretty sister of the family but she’s in love with a poor soldier and feels pressured to say yes to the noble for her family’s benefit. Enter Horry, the younger, uglier sister who has a stammer and thick eyebrows (i know, so problematic…), oh and is 17, in order to let her sister be happy, she goes to the wealthy suitor and offers herself instead. He’s 35. I found Horry very difficult to warm to, she was very silly and annoying and her behaviour is infuriating. Heyer’s great writing was still present, there were some great lines in there that made me super happy, but overall, I couldn’t cope with the protagonist. Sad. If you want to read Heyer, start with Devil’s Cub. It’s far more fun.
In contrast, I also finished Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky and it is now one of my favourite books of the year, if not of the past few years. I’ve heard it described as ‘female Sharpe’ so if you like Bernard Cornwell, you might like this! This was my first Tchaikovsky and is not my usual fantasy pick. I like my fantasy feudal. Technology (including any sort of gun/grenade/canon) is normally a huge turn off for me when I’m looking to escape reality. Guns of the Dawn, obviously, contains guns. Lots and lots of guns – it is primarily a story about humanity and warfare. I am so glad I took a risk and read it as it is about so much more than that too. I would like to preface all this with saying that this is definitely fantasy lite. Yes there are warlocks who can conjure fire and the countries are imaginary, but the magic does not have a huge role in the story at all.
I found the prose engaging, addictive and intelligent. There are no ‘filler’ characters and the plot builds and flows well. The battle writing is particularly fantastic. I think Tchaikovsky deals very well with the effect war can have on different people and explores it masterfully with all the characters, not just Emily. I found all the characters very interesting, they all had very different personalities and history that shows how/why they became what they did. I also loved how Tchaikovsky flipped and explored gender tropes throughout the story and I think Northway is a very good example of a non-alpha male protector/antagonist. It was all very refreshing.
I am planning on writing a full review of this soon as I enjoyed it so much. I can’t stop thinking about the story and the characters which is always a good sign. I want to say it packs an emotional punch but there’s no scene I can particularly pinpoint that proves that, the feelings just build up as we follow Emily and co’s experiences of war. You can check out my Goodreads review here.
And finally, I picked up my first Merecedes Lackey story and although I know it’s probably not the best place to start in her Valdemar series, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. I effortlessly fell into this world and so far, I like what i read.
The world building is intricate and we’re introduced to several different peoples in this world but at no point is it ‘info-dumpy’ nor are there large portions of the story intended to catch us up with the greater Valdemar series. The characters are interesting and well rounded and the plot was engaging. However, the writing is a bit simplistic for me, especially for epic fantasy, and I felt like I was reading a book that’s suitable for children. I found this to contrast a bit with the plot as there are darker themes running throughout this novel that are distinctly adult. I was also surprised when Darkwind described Elspeth as being 10 years older than his lover who is 17. From Elspeth’s behaviour and thoughts I pictured her around 18-20 and thought Darkwind to be around 21. Now i’m totally confused about how old everyone is. This may not be important to you but I liked to understand character ages in order to decided whether their behaviour and attitude in relation to others is realistic. I get very frustrated when I don’t know the exact ages. But that’s a personal issue that may not bother you.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book, I itched to keep reading it. While not much happened in this novel it definitely sets the trilogy up well and places the characters where they need to be while also giving the reader the key knowledge needed to enjoy the series as a stand-alone. I found the ending a bit neat and it was a little unbelievable that the group of characters trusted each other straight away and were keen to battle together so quickly. Hopefully those relationships will develop more believably in the second.
But, any book with bondbirds, gryphons, companion-horses-but-actually-guardian-spirits and sentient swords (amongst other magical creatures!) get my vote as worth reading. So far a standard quest fantasy that i really enjoyed despite it’s obvious flaws! An easy fantasy read if you’re looking to take a break from some of the more intense fantasies out there.
Phew. That was a long Bookends, sorry! I clearly had a lot of thoughts. In the coming week I plan to finish Lackey’s Mage Winds series & maybe carry on with Senlin Ascends. Have you found any new favourites this year? Got any exciting reads coming up? Let me know, let’s chat 🙂
Have a good weekend & happy reading!