Bookends | 06.04.18

Veil of Spear by Bradley Beaulieu

Hello, hello, hello 🙂 hope this week’s been good to you and if you’ve enjoyed a lovely four day weekend followed by a four day working week comme moi, I hope it’s been wonderful. If you’ve had to work as normal/more than normal, you are a hero.

My reading week has been a mixed bag, I’ve had two fantastic reads and two very disappointing reads – but the fantastic included my first five star read of the year so you know, without further ado…My week started extremely well as I started and finished the third in Bradley Beaulieu’s wonderfully epic The Song of Shattered Sands series, A Veil of Spears. What can I say, this was great. I absolutely adore this series, one of the protagonists, Ceda, is one of my all time favourite female characters in fantasy. She is so strong and independent yet can be soft and vulnerable when needed. In fact, all of the characters are becoming firm favourites for me. Beaulieu writes incredible characters that are flawed yet passionate and experience such growth that they’re constantly developing and changing. I had my doubts about Emre in the first few books but his character has naturally grown into someone I can get on board with. Yet he still has his moments, none of them are perfect and that’s what makes them so great. I won’t get into plot for obvious reasons but much like the second book, A Veil of Spears picks up right after the last one, no drop in pace, no annoying reminders of what’s happened so far etc.. straight in and just as expertly crafted. I’m so happy to have found a series where all the sequels have been as strong, if not better than the last. No mid-series slumps here.

If you haven’t picked up the first book, Twelve Kings, and you’re looking for a unique fantasy set in a middle-eastern inspired setting GET IT NOW. I haven’t seen these books in social media too much but the people I know who have read them, love them too.

My next read wasn’t great. After loving Emma Newman’s Tor.Com novellas, I thought I’d try another one, this time by Marie Brennan. Cold-Forged Flame is only around 100 pages long but despite a mildly interesting plot the writing really made it drag. I was really surprised how wooden the dialogue and descriptions were considering how popular all her full novels are. I admit I have the first books in both her fantasy series on my shelves and I’m sure the writing can’t be terrible in those as they’re so well received. Here we follow a female protagonist who is summoned from an unknown somewhere by a priest and sent off on a mission to bring blood back from a cauldron hidden up a mountain on an island… She can’t remember anything about herself nor where she came from, only that she has to do what the priest has asked of her and that she can understand what somethings are (eg. a boat/pistol) despite not having any memory of ever seeing them before. So off she trots to this island and so the plot thickens (ish). Unfortunately I found it very predictable and not very engaging so I won’t continue with this series but you never know, it might be just your thing.

Luckily, my next read was really good. I devoured Natalie Haynes’ The Children of Jocasta over the Easter weekend. It was so great! And waay more emotional than I was prepared for. So here Haynes retells the ancient stories of Oedipus and Antigone but follows the ‘forgotten’ women of these stories: namely Jocasta and Isemene respectively. The story unfolds with alternative chapters following these ladies. I only had a general knowledge of the Oedipus story before reading this so I didn’t quite know how the two stories intertwined but I really enjoyed discovering the link as the chapters went on. I was really captivated by both women and their stories, not quite relating to them, (come on, we’re talking the Ancient Greek setting of Thebes here) but really invested in their lives and curious about what was going to happen. The writing is excellent, Haynes built up tension effortlessly – I knew something was coming, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why, but I just knew. I grew really attached to the characters and felt their emotions when the inevitable happened. As I said earlier, I wasn’t quite prepared for the feelings I would endure – it is quite a powerful read. I also thought her descriptions of the food and the stifling hot summers were excellent. Little things that add to a wonderful whole. I hope she writes more retellings like this as I really, really enjoyed it.

Sadly another bad story followed. A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands never promised greatness, I picked it up for a nice easy kindle read, hoping for some interesting characters and a mysterious plot. It didn’t deliver. The writing was pretty bad – the two protagonists kept ‘knocking each other’s socks off’ kissingwise… what self respecting 200 year plus vampire or 35 year old psychologist would keep saying that phrase over and over again about a kiss?? blah. And don’t get me started about the plot. The ‘villain’ of the piece was glaringly obvious from the start and the way they wriggled out of the ending was laughable. Actually laughable. I just can’t. I cannot recommend this series.

And finally I’m part of a buddy read in April for Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood with some lovely bookstagrammers. I’m just about half way through and enjoying it waaay more than I thought I would. I ummed and ahhed about trying this for ages before all the great reviews made me cave and buy it. I was wary about how important guns and gunpowder are to the plot as this is described as a ‘flintlock fantasy’. Guns aren’t my thing, I like more medieval fantasies (unless I’m reading urban fantasy, obviously 🙂 ) where people have to fight with spears, swords and arrows if they’re not magic, but as I *loved* Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn so much, I took a chance. I’m glad I did as it is great so far. The writing is gripping, fast-paced and unpredictable so it is ticking all the boxes. The characters are complex and they all feel like they have a lot more to offer yet, so I’m keen to see where they go. We follow several different characters in the aftermath of a military coup that brought down Adro’s monarchy and noble families. As the country teeters on war with neighbouring Kez, civil war and shocking betrayals threaten to ruin the well laid plans. The world building is quite narrow so far but I have a strong feeling that will expand as our characters spread out, and the religion and god/magic systems have been explored well so I have high hopes. I have a few favourite characters already and have a feeling there are some dark horses in there waiting for their time to shine. Pleasantly surprised, definitely worth the hype so far!

And that’s a wrap! Have you read any of these, what did you think? Read anything amazing lately that you’d recommend? Let me know! Happy reading x

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