In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.
So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.
Even though it's one of those typical fantasy trilogies with medieval vibes and complex worlds, I found this book to be refreshing and quite new. First, because there's not a clear idea of what will be happening in this series - there's no main thread that you can see the author developing: even though we'll be following the characters we met in book one, this book's story was pretty much finished. There were no big loose ends or mysteries - Hobb tidied it all up, leaving a few hints as what will be developed in the next installment.
The idea of an assassin is not original, sure. Nor is the fact that he's an outcast, hated by almost everyone because he's a bastard - but to me, it felt exciting. Perhaps because I've never read a book following the perspective of an assassin, or maybe because Fitz is not a man-at-arms or a ninja, but masters the art of killing discretely, of poisons, of the Skill and the Wit. This was also something that, despite not being original, was really enjoyable.
Lastly, I just want to make something crystal clear - people compare this universe to "Game of Thrones", but Hobb published it a year before Martin. If someone was inspired by the other, was that way around - and let me just tell you that the parallelism of some elements creeped me out.
Hobb really invests her time creating a solid background story for Fitz. If you're expecting things to run fast and smooth, they won't: we watch Fitz grow from 6 to 14, and there are not as many time jumps as one might think. I enjoyed this because it helped me understand Fitz's personality but at the same time, I must admit Hobb sometimes dragged on a bit. Some moments could've been cut from the book because nothing was happening, at all - it was like Fitz was a vlogger and all we did was tag along as he lived his daily life. It didn't bother me exactly, but sometimes I felt like Hobb was just trying to gain some time to think what to do next.
Despite these pointless moments, I loved the numerous challenges she created: it was not only Fitz's life, but the Kingdom problems and Verity's problems and Nosebleed's. Despite following only Fitz perspective (it's not like Game of Thrones, with different POVs, thank God), there was still a lot happening story-wise.
An interesting thing I felt was how I didn't exactly love any character - there's not one that stands out to me and makes me fangirl. They are all likable, but they're also very human, flawed people with defects who make wrong decisions.
Fitz is a good kid, yet sometimes he's slow at connecting the dots and that annoyed me tremendously - Chade's secret was pretty obvious right from the beginning and he didn't have a clue until Chade told him explicitly.
Chade was probably my favorite character, but I can't fully trust him, I don't know why. He's too involved in the crown's games to be an innocent pawn.
Burich is a tough man with a butter heart, except when it comes to do the Wit - any sign of it and he completely loses his sh*t and I'm like: dude, you probably practiced it at some point in your life for sure (and I guess he kind of admits it at the end).
Verity was an underdeveloped character I hope to see more of on the next books because I started to like him at the end. I totally understand why Hobb didn't write about him more since he was busy with the kingdom problems and away from Fitz range. It's these little things that make her such a good writer.
Galen and Royal were just disgusting characters who clearly suffered in the past and aimed for greatness. Hobb did an amazing job depicting them as hateful beings who were like that because of their upbringing - she didn't simply create hate, she explained why they were the way they were and that was extremely important because every villain has a story. Free violence is not that common, there's always a reason behind a criminal act.
Shrewd is a mysterious character about whom I still don't have an opinion. This also happened with characters like Nosebleed, Cob, etc.
Only when I closed the book did I realize the similarities between this and Game Of Thrones. I don't know if George R. R. Martin read this book as he was writing his or if it was just one of those "great minds think alike" moments, but world and plot-wise, there were a few things that stood out.
* The Red Ship Raiders forge people who lose all their sense of self and become soulless creatures who only care for food and plunder, with no concept of empathy, sympathy or human connection. In "Game Of Thrones", we have the white walkers, zombie-like creatures who have no remembrance of their past lives and who only care about "turning" everybody into their kind;
* The Wit is pretty much the same connection Jon has with Ghost, the only difference is that Fitz can make it with any animal, any number of times;
* Also, overstating, Fitz is basically Jon: a bastard who gets toyed around and finds himself in the middle of politics and schemes, who fights the forged just as Snow fights the White Walkers. I KNOW this is an exaggeration, but at the same time... it makes you wonder;
* The political concept of the Six Duchies and Westeros is pretty much the same: there's a family on the throne ruling it all, and then while on the first, the King must seek alliances to strengthen his power and fight the Red Ship Raiders, Westeros is on a "who deserves the throne better" war UNTIL they have to unite against the White Walkers.
I love both worlds. It's not a fight of who did it best or if one copied the other. The similarities just blew my mind and if I stood here thinking more thoroughly I bet I could find more.
Personally, the most wonderful thing about this book was without a doubt Hobb's writing. She's clever and thinks about every detail carefully - like Verity's absence from Fitz's narrative -, becoming Fitz and leaving the narrator's part: she doesn't hint to have any inside knowledge as the writer, she only shows us what Fitz new, she only saw what Fitz saw and she only told what Fitz had lived.
Another thing that I found amazing and interesting was how she told Fitz's story. This book happens in two moments: the Now, when Fitz is older and is writing his memoir as well as a kind of History of the Six Duchies (I think); and the Then, that starts when Fitz is five and is taken from his mother.
From then on, we see him grow and accompany him in his daily life. However, we don't connect with him as a child, we connect with him as the grown men he is in Now since he's telling us about his past - the way he writes, the way he lays down his thoughts and describes the cities and places he visited, the way he sees relationships and connects with people... You see it all through the tainted experience of the adult who has lived those things and had time to think about them. You never remember things as they actually happened (except if you're Fitz and you've been trained to do so) and when telling past events, it's impossible to not defile them with your current beliefs, perspectives, feelings, and knowledge.
Writer Fitz has knowledge Past Fitz doesn't, as he often reminds the reader. So we don't connect with the 14-year-old Fitz - we often forget his age, actually -, we connect with the older one, because we're reading his adult work. We connect with the wise one, the one who has lived it all and knows how those adventures end.
This is why I loved Hobb's writing so much - she knows what she's doing. Despite her (sometimes) endless descriptions that made the pace of the book excruciatingly slow and the fact that (again, sometimes) it felt like we were reading Fitz's pointless routine (the two reasons why I didn't give this book 5 stars), her work is phenomenal.
Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates ... Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?
REVIEW (5 STARS)
This is an ode to the book lovers.
The story is extremely captivating and the writing is phenomenal. Honestly, it's what made me give it five stars because I have to admit the pace is sometimes a bit slow for my taste. Diane Setterfield can write about whatever she wants with an ease I haven't seen in a while. It's like she doesn't dwell on words or with her thoughts - she writes simply, beautifully and yet not with many flourishes. She doesn't go around in circles to get to the point: she goes straight to it, saving you time.
Although sometimes I found some bits too descriptive, I don't think I ever felt too bored to continue (mind you, this is my personal taste - I don't like long descriptions of things).
My favorite moments were the ones about Vida Winter's life. I liked to know about Margaret Lea as well, about her life at the shop, her love for classic literature and her moments with Shadow, but she was an extremely heavy character for a narrator and I found this heaviness, more than once, transferred to me. She was sad, grieving still (as one should after the death of one's sister) and I felt her sadness and grief since I too have a sister and I can't even imagine the pain I would feel were I to lose her.
However, this was not the only factor that made me prefer Winter's story. Margaret often "saw" her dead sister and that killed the vibe for me E-V-E-R-Y time. Everything else in the story made sense and was "plausible", so these "paranormal" moments (maybe I'm exaggerating, but I hate creepy stuff and it doesn't take much to scare me) were a bit too much.
Even so, this was not enough to persuade me to give this book less than five stars and the plot twist at the end assured me, not only because of its unpredictability but also because it didn't give us all the answers. Usually, I hate this, but with this particular book I loved not knowing who survived the fire - every other loose end was tied except for this one, which I found beautiful. Does it really matter who died? In the end, they both needed help to survive because of their psychological problems and their inability to take care of themselves. Winter took care of her sister because she was always unsure of who she was - if she did, maybe things had gone differently. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
Setterfield mastered the ability to weave a mystery that didn't end with her story and kept on living beyond it. She thought about every detail, every piece of this chess game and before I knew it, she checkmated my king and I lost to her wonderful mind.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
REVIEW: (4 STARS)
There was not a single chapter in this book that didn't make me tear up or ugly cry.
This is a powerful book, one in which each word is thought meticulously to make the gears of your brain work.
As a white woman, I can only try to imagine what it's like to be a victim of racism. I can imagine what it feels like to be, but is it really the same? Isn't it one of those things that one only truly understands when one goes through it? I think it is because even though I got angry at what happened in this story, even though I get angry at what happens in the world, I don't have to deal with it every day. This wasn't a battle I was born into, it's a battle I choose to fight if I want to and that surely makes a difference. I think the reason why this book is so good is because it makes you see that: the gap between Them and Us is a thing that still exists because We (and I mean EVERYONE) let it, despite being something that can change with education, a thing that can be fought and won just like so many other things everyone thought improbable became (female suffrage, gay marriage and adoption, for example).
The system is corrupt (it fails everyone) and is designed to keep the minorities in an endless cycle of deprivation - deprivation of justice, of support, of education, of a WAY OUT. It's in its best interest: the system feeds on them to work.
This story was good because it was real. And it's an amazing way to start educating: give this book to your kids to teach them about racism, corruption, and privilege. After it their lives won't stay the same. Don't think they're not ready, it's always the right time and the sooner they learn, the better.
The only reason why I didn't give this book 5 stars was because I felt the ending dragged a bit. But EVERYTHING ELSE WAS PERFECT. The writing was amazing and Angie Thomas makes everything feel really natural: the transitions, the waiting, the growing, the decisions – it always feels like it's the right time. All her characters have different voices and that's something I think I'm only now beginning to appreciate – real-life people are not the same. When you're an author and you work with more than one character, you need to make the reader understand they're different besides their appearance. It's another level of deepness, deeper than giving them an attitude or making them villains: their thought process, their mannerisms, their voice, everything has to differ and has to be manifested solely through the author's writing. That's tough but Thomas nailed it and I loved her for it. However, the thing I admired more was the fact that she exposed many problems – it's easy to stay silent, but she was brave – and she taught me things I had no idea about.
THUG LIFE is real – The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody – but it is, like Angie Thomas writes, way more than that. It's about the oppressed who suffer from lack of opportunities, not just in America but in the whole world – "the system’s still giving hate, and everybody’s still getting fucked" – and how we shouldn't be silent: people have to keep using their voices even when They try to muffle them. This is why this book is SO SO GOOD - because, behind this story, there are millions of stories just like it. This is about the real world and what's happening right now. This is not a work of fiction: this one of the most real things you'll ever read about and a good inspiration to make you want to fight back.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink ever weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything.
REVIEW (4 STARS)
"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" was a very surprising and welcome read. I've been on a reading slump for quite some time and I even tried to read my ultimate favorite book ("The Night Circus") in hopes it would help me overcome it, but it didn't work because I still remembered the story well. What also didn't help was the fact that this last semester was extremely stressful and tough.
Being mildly free again, I picked up this book. At first, I wasn't enjoying it much and I was failing to connect with Eleanor. She was an odd main character and her personality was not exactly likable, mainly, I think, because we had no clue of what her background story was - we get them now and again and we begin to put together a general picture of the events despite unraveling the full story only at the end of the book (and I mean its very last few pages).
However, as I kept reading and to understand her better, Eleanor got hold of my heart and I started liking her as if she was a dear friend. I didn’t understand well if she had autism or if her way of dealing with people and situations were solely due to her trauma, but it didn't really matter - her personality was fascinating nonetheless, mainly because she didn't care about what other people thought and she was always true to herself.
Even though she was extremely rational and a very opinionated woman, she gets into this emotional journey of self-discovery as she falls in love with "the one".
Don’t let my words fool you: this book is not a simple romance (I wouldn’t even describe this as a romance to begin with). This is more about growing up, overcoming fears and adversities, connecting with people and befriend them. It’s about a lonely woman who’s surprised by the kindness of strangers and opens herself up to the immense possibilities the world has to offer. It’s about a phoenix that turns to ashes twice only to be reborn, stronger. This is a book about suicide and how to live with great loss and yet, this is one of those stories that make you laugh out loud when you're least expecting. The simplicity that Eleanor brings to the most complex situations is fascinating and her thought process never ceased to surprise me. She might be one of the most real characters I read about. She could be a real person, not a fictional character like Hermione or Cersei Lannister. I think this is what I most appreciated, the thought of, someday, meet a person just like her. It would be an honor.
The only thing I didn’t like was her obsession with the musician. That’s the only reason why I didn’t give this book five stars.
The writing is completely fabulous and seductive, the rhythm is perfect and the pace couldn’t be more adequate. Everything evolves as it should, with extraordinary timing - for example, Eleanor and Raymond's friendship develops softly and slowly, similarly to real-life friendships.
Everything except that obsession felt natural and organic. As I said, it could be a true story and Eleanor’s blossoming was the most wonderful thing of all.
Joey is a warhorse, but he wasn't always. Once, he was a farm horse and a gentle boy named Albert was his master. Then World War I came storming through and everything changed. Albert's father sells Joey to the army where the beautiful, red-bay horse is trained to charge the enemy, drag heavy artillery, and carry wounded soldiers not much older than Albert off of battlefields. Amongst the clamoring of guns and slogging through the cold mud, Joey wonders if the war will ever end. And if it does, will he ever find Albert again?
Before going into this, I had never heard of it (I didn't know it was adapted into a popular movie) and I didn't know it followed the perspective of a horse, otherwise I would've thought twice before buying it. Not that I have any issues with books told from an animal perspective (although I haven't read many), but I would've tried to know more instead of impulsively buying it.
Even though the perspective didn't bother me, the plot that was H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E as the same thing kept happening time and time again: horse meets human, human loves him, the human is forced to leave him behind / give him to someone else. This throughout 180 pages was no fun at all! It bored me to death, it didn't teach me anything about the first World War and on top of that, it wasn't accurate. For instance, I know our main character is a horse, so we have to stretch the line of what is possible, but HOW DID THE FREAKING HORSE UNDERSTAND THE GERMAN AND THE FRENCH SOLDIERS? This angered me so much and it's so common in English literature: being lazy and self-centered they end up disrespecting other cultures. If you were a tourist and you didn't speak the native language of the country you were visiting, you wouldn't understand a thing of what the people were saying and that's okay. It's part of the experience. In a book that's supposed to "celebrate" the World War, the only respectful thing to do would be to homage other languages, embracing this as an opportunity to educate people – since the book is so simple in terms of vocabulary, creating simple dialogues in German or French wouldn't be that hard. It angers me, really, how everything must be "englishified" – it's like the horse had a translating machine with him at all times.
Lastly, the pace of this book was so fast that despite making it an easy read, it made it impossible for me to get attached to the characters or feel any deep connection with the story. The author tried so hard to create drama and sad moments that none of those were believable or heartbreaking. This was a mediocre read for me.
After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long---and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.
This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele - and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior...and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors...straight to Requin's teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb - until they are closer to the spoils than ever.
But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.
I absolutely loved how Scott was able to innovate, instead of following the same model of the first book. Of course our characters are still thieves and there's still a lot of emotion and adventure, but everything else is different: the setting, the plot, the pace, the writing, the style. Every little thing proved to me that Scott is invested in this story and that he wants to do something different, new and refreshing. He could do so: pirates are thieves, but thieves don't necessarily need to be pirates. It was a nice premise and I loved how Lynch worked his way around it, giving us his best.
We meet our characters again in Tal Verrar, where they've spent the last 2 years since escaping Camorr
The years since Calo's, Galdo's and Bug's deaths (I have to pinch myself every time, I still can't believe my babies are gone) weren't easy. Their loss took a tole in our duo, more on Locke, who got depressed and started treating Jean poorly, disappointing him in many ways. However, as time goes by, Jean finds a way of shaking Locke out of his stupor and they both start planning a new coup: under fake identities, they'll try to climb up the hierarchy of the Sinspire, the most popular game parlour of the world, so they can meet Requin, its Master, and rob him.
However, right before they can finish the job they are kidnapped by the archon of Tal Verrar, Stragos, a very powerful man that knows their true identities, thanks to the Bondsmagi, and threatens the in order to achieve his interests – the archon decides to use them in order to regain is fragile control of the city. I would like to say this is where the adventures begin, but they started on page one.
Is this book better than Locke Lamora? No.
Is a good sequel? Absolutely.
Let me elaborate:
This book is not better than "The Lies Of Locke Lamora" because we don't have all the Gentlemen Bastards with us. It's incredibly sad seeing Locke and Jean work as a duo, especially because Locke and Jean's relationship suffered due to Locke's mourning. It's not that their not best friends anymore, but you can feel that there's something missing and when Ezri gets into the picture, their relationship gets a bit more distant. I never underestimated their bromance, but the once blazing fire dimmed into a flame. This saddens me, but I guess Lynch captured perfectly the nature of growing up and moving forward: as we get old, the love we feel for those around us changes, not necessarily in a bad way, just in a different way we didn't see coming. Their friendship is solid as a rock and it will last until one of them dies, but it's now more mature — they start picturing each others lives without the other, which is something none of them thought remotely possible.
There's also a variable that we must have in mind. This sequel is extremely different from "The Lies Of Locke Lamora" in terms of setting: besides taking place in a completely different city than Camorr, half of the book is set at sea. Lynch uses jargon and terminology that many of the readers will struggle with. It makes the reading a bit more hard, because you have to pause in order to check the meaning of some words. If piracy is not your cup of tea, I advise you not to pick this book up, except if you loved "The Lies Of Locke Lamora" so much you don't mind giving it a try.
This book was my first of the piracy genre and I absolutely loved it. I was a bit scared because English is not my first language and something so technical could ruin the experience for me, but instead it broadened my horizons
Writing a sequel is never easy because your fans' expectations weight on you. It's obvious you can't please everyone, but still, you try your best and I can see Scott's work and commitment to it, which I appreciate. He didn't just write a sequel for the sake of it.
Of course it had some things that I didn't like as much, for instance, the pace is a bit slower and sometimes it feels like Lynch is struggling to know which path to choose so he writes things that are not really needed, but overall, I enjoyed this book and I'm anxious to read the third instalment.
As I said, don't expect this to be similar to Camorr because it's a different city and a different part of the world. While Camorr had some serious venetian vibes, Tal Verrar reminded me more of a Greek island. Instead of being crime driven, this town is all about power and money. Tal Verrar is more political and orderly, and its people are apparently more peaceful and polite. However, politics is synonym for corruption and Tall Verrar is run by interest and money, other types of crime.
We also travel a lot in this book, so we don't get to know the cities as well as we did Camorr. Yet, we still get a lot of descriptive parts, something I love about Lynch's writing style and a thing he's really good at.
I would describe this volume as an adventurous travel guide, where the imagination runs free on a boat.
There are a few things I struggled with character wise. First, like I said above, the relationship between Jean and Ezri bugged me at first because she occupied Locke's space. Honestly, I think I'll always have some trouble accepting a newcomer because I don't want anyone occupying the place of the other Gentlemen Bastards nor destroying what Jean and Locke have. However, although I was not a big fan, I was still absolutely marvelled by her heroism and selflessness. She's a good character, very charismatic but at the same time I wish she had more "paper time". Sometimes Lynch focused on things that weren't so important to me, that could've been spent on character development. This was a factor that was missing from this volume, and the lack of growth made things a bit stale and repetitive.
Other thing that really twisted my nerves was how Locke always took the lead. I now he's the mastermind behind every coup, but sometimes Jean is better than he is (like at being a sailor) and could totally be THE MAN of the operation. I would love to see Jean stepping up and play the main role once in a while.
Scott Lynch's writing doesn't disappoint. Honestly, this man is a master, not only a descriptive master but also a dialogue master and a story building master. This man deserves all the awards. His ability to change voices between characters, his ability to describe the world without being too tiring, his ability to surprise us and keep us interested from beginning to end is phenomenal. Brilliant. Out of this world. Of course sometimes there were a few unchanging moments and times were I wished the pace would move a bit more faster, but the writing was still pleasant and I felt engaged with the story from beginning to end.
You can see how hard he worked to build the perfect world and how many hours of studying must have been behind this. This was my first piracy genre book, so I don't have much experience on this matter and can't really evaluate the accuracy of it, but I can tell Scott tried and to me, he succeed.
Despite his writing style being different from "The Lies of Locke Lamora", is not worse – when you're writing a sequel or a series, different plots demand different styles. I think it would bore me to death if Locke and Jean had acted the same ways and the pillars of the story remained the same as the first instalment. It just proves that Scott knows how to innovate and has imagination and the will to push this story to the next level. It's not easy writing sequels – people have expectations and you can't possibly please everyone.