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Legacy of Ash Book Review

Written by: Matthew Ward

Page Count: 768

I was provided a physical ARC of Legacy of Ash by @CloakTraveling (his Twitter handle) after he read and reviewed it, so I want to begin by thanking him. I highly recommend checking out his review because it is was solidified my interest in picking this behemoth of a book up to begin with. After I began reading the physical ARC, Netgalley also provided me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve had one hell of a year so far in the fantasy genre, having read a lot of what I would call 5-star books! This is a great time to be a fan of the genre because there seems to be a great number of new voices out there right now. Matthew Ward is absolutely one of those refreshing new voices.

As I read Legacy of Ash, I found myself thinking about just how difficult this review would be to write because there was so much happening on each page. Legacy of Ash is a long book, clocking in at 768 pages. Each page is packed to the brim with detail, intrigue, excellent dialogue, and breathtaking battles.

Legacy of Ash is the definition of epic fantasy. A large cast of characters? Yep. Spiderwebs of intrigue and nasty politics? Yep. Largescale battles? Yep. Dangerous, cutthroat assassins? Of course! Dark and mysterious magic? Yep, that’s here too. A well-built world that feels like it could actually exist? Yeah, we’ve got that here as well, and it contains a breadth of history, peoples and gods who all fascinate in their own ways. The world Matthew Ward created has the feel of a fantasy world in a European setting. The battles that take place feel like actual medieval warfare with a splash of magic thrown in. Matthew Ward clearly has knowledge of medieval war and battle tactics, and this is probably what pulled me into this book the most. Well, that and the magic that becomes ever more present as the plot progresses. The battles felt very real, and the violent costs of war had me feeling the anguish of the participants. These battles take place over a large number of pages, and feel larger than life in a way I rarely have seen in novels. This trilogy needs to become a Netflix series right now! (I’d also love to see this setting in a Total War game).

If I didn’t make it clear yet, Legacy of Ash is a complex tale. There are so many different characters, all with their own motives and secrets. This, as is often the case with epic fantasy, can make parts of the book difficult to keep up with. There are 39 characters mentioned in the Dramatis Personae!! I did find myself, on more than one occasion, referring to the Dramatis Personae to make sure I was accurately remembering who certain characters were. I personally love this level of complexity in my fantasy books, but this may not be for everyone. With this large cast of characters, webs of intrigue almost immediately begin to spin as Matthew Ward plunges you into this dark, magical world.

The standout characters for me were Viktor Akadra, Roslava Orova, Calenne Trelan and Melanna Saranal. Viktor was definitely my favorite character. He is a bit of an anti-hero, which made him almost instantly likeable and easy to relate to. This surprised me because he is initially depicted as someone I didn’t think I would like at all. I won’t go into his character too much, but just know he’s pretty damn awesome. Roslava was a character I didn’t think much of initially, but she eventually became one of my favorites. The same can be said for Calenne. In fact, I didn’t like her much until about 2/3 through the book! And Melanna was very cool! She is a part of the Hadari Empire, and has aspirations of becoming Empress. Being a woman, her father does not want her to fight, but she is absolutely among the greatest warriors in this story, and man does she prove it!

So what is Legacy of Ash about? Well, a lot! The back of the book does a nice job of giving the reader a general idea of what to expect without giving too much away:

“A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families—once protectors of justice and democracy—now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives, heedless of the threat posed by invading armies.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy, to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, the three must set aside old grudges in order to save their home. But victory—if it comes at all—will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.”

This description gives you a basic foundation of what to expect, but trust me that there is so much more to the story than just this premise. This is one of those rare reads that dares to go in directions that I never saw coming. No one feels safe, nothing comes without a cost, and the plot is so well structured that you cant help but feel constantly immersed as the pages fly by. And the pages did fly! The pace of this book, for me at least, never seemed to let up. By the end of the book, I admit, I was exhausted! This is a very plot driven story, and I loved every second of it. Legacy of Ash is one of those rare trilogy books that also seems to have its own beginning, middle and end. Several story arcs were wrapped up by the end of the book, with new questions and new plots being introduced. If I have to point out one thing I’d really like to see in book 2, it is that I would maybe like to see things slow down just a little bit so we can spend a bit more time with the characters, delving deeper into their own thoughts and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, we get this in Legacy of Ash too, but with a very plot driven book this size, taking an extra moment here and there to zoom in more intimately with key characters, one on one, will only add to the realism and invest the reader that much more.

With Legacy of Ash the plot literally never stops, establishing a refreshing new fantasy setting that I love, and characters that I am happy to spend my free time with. This is a dark tale, packed with dark plots, magic and exquisitely detailed battles. If you enjoy epic fantasy you MUST check this book out. This will absolutely be listed among my top reads of the year. 5 out of 5. Fantastic.

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Before They Are Hanged Book Review

By Joe Abercrombie

Published: Orbit, Sept 8, 2015

Page Count: 514

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you read my review for The Blade Itself then you know that it was a slow burn for me. I was probably about 70% through the book before I felt completely invested in the story, and the only reason I made it that far is because the characters were so well written. I absolutely loved the book by the end though.

With Before They Are Hanged, I was hooked from page 1. Abercrombie continues to write these characters with fascinating detail and I found myself enjoying my time with each and every one of them. Our main protagonists are generally the same people we met in book 1, however, we do get a more intimate look at Ferro and West. I also found myself really enjoying the chapters from Jezel’s point of view as his character began to change for the better. He still maintains some of that dreadful pomposity, but he is much more likeable in this book because he starts to see the world for how it really is. Superior Glokta continues to be my favorite character as he wades his way through politics and war in Dagoska. I absolutely love his chapters.

Oh and the world! The worldbuilding in this novel is fantastic. Half of this story shares similarities with a ‘quest story’, while the other half is heavy on military and political tactics, and large-scale, bloody battles. There is a great deal more action in this book, which gave the overall plot a feeling of constantly progressing forward. This is something that I felt was lacking for me in The Blade Itself, so I was very happy that this was not the case with Before They Are Hanged. Don’t get me wrong, this is still very much a character driven story, but the plot has a much stronger sense of purpose than before. With all of these tools Abercrombie is able to very effectively build his world in a way that feels natural. So often in fantasy the reader is forced to read pages of exposition. This is not the case with Before They are Hanged, or at least the information dumps never feel like exposition. Abercrombie is, simply put, an incredible author as he is able to naturally weave information dumps about the history and lore in a way that makes everything feel as real as the wind outside, and the mountains I am looking at through my bedroom window as I write this review.

I do not want to go into the plot itself, or even any of the information you will learn through Abercrombie’s masterful worldbuilding skills because I think it would take away from the experience of sitting down and reading the book yourself. I loved every second of this book, and I cannot wait to read book 3. If you haven’t experienced the First Law Trilogy, you need to.

5 out of 5 on this one.

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Weekly Reading Update

3/27/2020

Well, another week down, and this one has been a bit wild! For those of you who haven’t read my bio, I live in Oregon. COVID-19 has not affected us nearly as badly as it has other portions of the nation, but things seem to be getting worse. I live in Southern Oregon specifically, which is far more rural than the northern half of the state, so COVID-19 has been slow in reaching our area, but it is here now. Today, Jackson County Public Health reported that Jackson County is now in ‘rapid community spread’, as the number of community spread cases are rising daily. On Monday, our governor placed a stay at home order for the entire state, so I can finally relate to all of you who have been quarantined for weeks. Now, I do work in what is considered “essential” business, so our business is still up and running, though we are taking a bunch of safety measures to ensure everyone on our team stays healthy. Being that I typically work in the office, I am now working from home. Annnnnnd, I’ve gotten a lot less reading done this week because of it. Still, I did get some reading done!

So, here’s my update.

What I’m Reading – When They Are Hanged, by Joe Abercrombie

Wow, I love this book! I’m only about 160 pages in, but I am absolutely in love with this book. For those of you who read my review for The Blade Itself, you know I initially struggled with it. By the end, however, Abercrombie had completely won me over. With When They Are Hanged, I’ve been hooked from page one. Hell, I’ve been hooked from word number one. I love this book. The worldbuilding is expanded upon, the characters are just as masterfully written as they were in book 1, and the plot has a clear direction and sense of purpose. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

What I Plan to Read Next – Last Argument of Kings AND Legacy of Ash

As I sink into the quarantine life, I am hoping that I get to pick up books more often than I have been able to this week. Usually, I don’t read a series back to back. I think I will make an exception with Last Argument of Kings. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to wait to find out what happens next!

Second, I plan to pick up Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward. I’ve been hearing so much about this book, and I am so damn intrigued by it. Based on reviews I’ve read, especially the review I read by @CloakTraveling (Twitter handle or @travelingcloak on IG) over at fanfiaddict.com, where they write as a contributing blogger. @CloakTraveling was kind enough to send me a copy of the book, which should arrive sometime next week! Thank you, @CloakTraveling!!! I am extremely excited for this book.

What am I going to read after all of these?

Well, these will be a bit more up in the air. I’ve got quite a few on deck, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Still, I cant help but feel like I’ll want to read Abercrombie’s, A Little Hatred. We will see!!!

What are you guys reading in these strange, and frankly terrifying days?

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House of Earth and Blood Review

Written by Sarah J. Maas

I picked this book up because I’d heard the author’s name, and the Throne of Glass. Having never picked that series up, I decided to give her writing a try with House of Earth and Blood. So, what are my thoughts?

House of Earth and Blood has been marketed as an urban, adult fantasy novel. This is book 1 in a series called Crescent City. The basic premise of the story follows Bryce, a young and troubled woman who buries her sorrows in partying, drugs, alcohol and dancing. Everything changes for her early on in the book though. Without going too far into it, someone who is close to Bryce is brutally murdered. This info is in the book synopsis so I don’t feel that I’m giving away too much or spoiling anything. Also, this is the foundation the entire story is built upon.

Following the murder that literally changed Bryce forever, she is swept into a sprawling investigation as she helps to identify the murderer and bring them to justice. She is brought into this investigation specifically by an archangel named Micah, who also happens to be quite the powerful individual in the city. Micah employees another angel, Hunt, to keep an eye on Bryce and to keep her safe.

So lets talk about the overall dynamics of the story and the world. Crescent City, where this book takes place, is a sprawling city in an urban fantasy world that mirrors our own. Only, humans are seen as lower class individuals and the world is basically ruled by angels, vampires, fae, and shifters. Shifters are probably my favorite race in this world as there are a large variety of them. Some shifters can shapeshift into wolves, others can become frogs, or fawns, etc. Kind of a cool concept that I enjoyed. Maas has also managed to create a relatively complex social hierarchy within this book. A war has been going on for centuries in a different region of the world, and it still has a direct effect on the social aspects of the city, especially if someone is human, or of human blood.

With all of this in mind, there is a lot going on in this book, and Maas has the task of bringing the reader up to speed quickly in what is, overall, a fast-paced plot. Initially, this is a ton to take in. In fact, it took me a few chapters to gather my bearings and figure out who was who, and what was going on. Once I grasped this, however, I enjoyed myself while reading this. The overall plot, while relatively predictable for me, was a fun read. This book is packed with what you would expect from a buddy-cop movie as Bryce and Hunt work together to solve the mysteries surrounding a variety of homicides, and how they may connect with a much larger plot. As was expected as well, Bryce and Hunt begin to fall in love. This brings me to what I enjoyed least about this book. The “romance”.

Now, this is purely subjective, but I am just not a huge fan of mushy romance in my books. Realistic depictions of love and sexual and emotional attraction is fine, but there were times where this felt like borderline smut. To each their own, but this completely pulled me out of what was otherwise a well written plot with realistic chemistry between the book’s two main protagonists. Which, by the way, was fantastically done in most cases. The relationship between Bryce and Hunt was entirely believable, and just great to read, though perhaps dragged a bit in the middle. Pulling the reins in on the smutty stuff would have only made their relationship that much better.

This was a long book, considering its content. The majority of the story covers this investigation and the gradual progression of love these characters hold for each other. It felt overextended at times, giving the impression the same story could have been told in 500 or 600 pages. There was a good amount of worldbuilding, and exposition as a result, but not nearly as much as I expected. I feel like there is still so much to learn about the world outside Crescent City and I hope future books do cover these areas. Perhaps the page count would have been better suited to a little less romance and a little more worldbuilding.

Still, by the end of the book, I can say I liked House of Earth and Blood, and I can definitely recommend it. I can see why Sarah J Maas is such a popular author, and I do think this series will be quite popular. It kind of felt like Twilight on steroids, and I think a lot of readers out there will be down for that. I look forward to the inevitable television series, or movies that sprout up from this. Maybe this is already in motion, I don’t know, but it feels like it’d make a good television series.

In the end, House of Earth and Blood is packed full of cat-and-mouse police investigations, steamy romance, bloody action, political intrigue and a few nice plot twists. If you enjoy any of these, you’ll dig this book.

4 out of 5.

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Weekly Reading Update

March 16, 2020

The world is kind of going crazy right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. Things are getting scary out there, and my prayers go out to all who have been effected by this virus. Yes, we’ve seen pandemics before, but I don’t recall things getting quite this crazy in my lifetime. With so many businesses shutdown, along with schools and public facilities, this almost feels like the zombie apocalypse! Though, I think that would be a lot more fun than what we are actually dealing with.

If you’ve read the main page of this blog, you know I am a man of faith. I am not trying to shove my faith down your throat, or force any of my beliefs on you in any way, but I would like to begin this week’s update with a fitting Bible verse I read over the weekend:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32 (NIV)

I am a firm believer that God will guide not only our country (I’m in the USA) through this, but the world.

If there is one other positive thing I can say right now, it is that I’m getting more reading time than ever!

Books I Finished This Week

  1. Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett
  2. The Blade Itself – by Joe Abercrombie

I really enjoyed both of these books. Shorefall’s review is live on the blog, and The Blade Itself’s review should post tomorrow afternoon. This was a fun one to write because I initially didn’t care for The Blade Itself. Surprising, I know, but I found its plot to be slow as a snail at times. Anyways, check out the review because I cover what changed my mind.

Books I Started This Week

  1. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City) – by Sarah J. Maas

This is the first book I’ve read from Maas. Typically, urban fantasy like this isn’t my cup of tea, but I am finding myself enjoying this one so far. If anything, it is a nice change of pace from the type of fantasy I usually read. About 22% into this book, so I’ll probably have it read by this time, next week.

Updated Shortlist

My shortlist of books to read will likely change frequently. I love reading, but I have the attention span of a two year old child sometimes. Typically, I don’t finish a series in one bout. I’ll read a book, jump to another book or series, and then back until I finish each series. This, somehow, keeps me more invested in series that require more dedication to complete. So, here’s my updated shortlist, following the completion of House of Earth and Blood:

  • Before They Are Hanged – by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Bard’s Blade – by Brian D. Anderson
  • The Sword of Kaigen – by M.L. Wang
  • Emperor of Thorns – by Mark Lawrence
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Shorefall

Written by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall Review (Book 2 of the Founder’s Trilogy)

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Pages: 512

Netgalley provided me with an ARC of Shorefall, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley!

First of all, if you haven’t read Foundryside then stop reading this and go pick it up. It is a fantastic book that builds the foundation The Founder’s Trilogy is set upon. Also, this review may have a few minor spoilers if you haven’t read Foundryside, but I’ll do my best to avoid anything that would ruin the reading experience for you.

Shorefall picks up about 3 years after the events of Foundryside. Sancia Grado, and her companions are working together in an attempt to make Tevanne a better place. They, of course, plan to do this by taking down the corrupt houses in the city. If you enjoyed the steampunk world and the high-stakes heists of Foundryside then buckle up because Shorefull puts the pedal to the metal as soon as you open the book. What begins as a simple heist in one of the many corrupt houses quickly becomes something much, much larger. Soon Sancia and her companions find themselves at the center of something far bigger than them and their mission. The world, quite literally, could face complete and total annihilation when Crasedes Magnus, the first of the hierophants, resurrects himself, and returns to Tevanne.

Bennett raises the stakes in Shorefall, pushing the characters to their limits. He also manages to increase the scope of the world and sheds more light on its mysterious history.

Shorefall, like Foundryside, reads like a heist story with heavy steampunk elements. My favorite thing about Foundryside was the magic system. It is a complex system, which Bennett has managed to make believable somehow. Shorefall gears everything up to max with the magic system, and the results are fascinating.The problems these characters face have far higher stakes than in Foundryside, and the ideas they come up with to overcome these challenges is half the fun of reading the book.

The book reads in third person omniscient, while Foundryside was third person limited, with everything being from Sancia’s perspective. This is both Shorefall’s greatest strength, and greatest weakness. With Shorefall, we get to see things from the perspective of a few different characters. I think this writing tactic was used in order to effectively build upon some new abilities the characters learn to use through scriving (not going to reveal anything in fear of spoiling the good stuff). The result, however, was mixed for me. I really enjoyed the intimate look at the world through the eyes of Sancia in Foundryside, and I feel like her character development suffered in Shorefall because we had less time with her. Not much less time, mind you, but I could definitely feel the difference. On the other hand, we do get to learn a ton more about Gregor. In fact, I almost felt like Gregor was at the center of this story, and I really enjoyed learning his backstory. Each of the characters are interesting in their own ways, and this includes the book’s villain, who has plenty of gray areas to ponder over. I really don’t want to go too far into any of this, just in case you haven’t read Foundryside yet, but the characters are great.

Aside from my feelings on the POV changes, Shorefall was a fantastic read. I had fun the entire time, and felt even more intrigued with the magic system and world than I did with Foundryside. On top of this, the ending was…just wow.

Robert Jackson Bennett had a difficult job with Shorefall. He had to match the quality of Foundryside, and add to it in order to increase the scope of the world and the depth of the insanely awesome magic system. He absolutely succeeded at both of these, and I am definitely going to be impatiently waiting in line for book 3!

I’m not a huge fan of rating books I read with a score because I don’t think all books can be fairly compared to each other based on a number alone. Still, I do see the value in providing a score. So, 4.5 out of 5 for Shorefall. A really fun read with an excellent magic system and complex characters that captures the spirit of book 1 and adds to it. READ IT!

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Weekly Reading Update

March 10, 2020

It has been a busy week for me! My family and I recently moved, and the unpacking and general chaos of life has made it difficult to get a lot of reading in! Regardless, I wanted to provide a little update.

I am currently reading The Blade Itself, written by Joe Abercrombie, as well as Shorefall, written by Robert Jackson Bennett.

The Blade Itself

I am about 70% through The Blade Itself. This is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for some time now because it has been so massively hyped as the book that has set the new bar for grimdark fantasy. Hype can be a dangerous thing and, in this case, I think maybe I was a bit too hyped for this book. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this book overall, but I can’t help but be somewhat disappointed as well. The highlight of this book are the incredibly detailed characters. Each of the six protagonists are interesting, complex, driven by believable motivations, and simply fun to read. Where I find myself most disappointed, so far, is the plot.

This is a character driven story through and through, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am finding this book hard to complete because I just don’t know or care where it is going. Sure, a war is brewing between the north and south, and there’s an old and powerful magus who is kind of mysterious, but the overall story kind of feels like it is meandering about aimlessly as it gradually works its way to this war. The plot just feels sloooooow, which is why I find myself not really caring about what happens to these well-crafted characters characters, though I do find them all enjoyable and entertaining.

Entertaining is a good word for this one. There is a scene, somewhat late in the book, involving nobles fighting in an arena. The crowd of onlookers cheers and jeers because they are entertained, but none of them actually give a damn about the outcome of the matches. They just enjoy being entertained. That’s exactly how I feel when I read The Blade Itself. Sounds more harsh than I intend it to, but it is how I currently feel about it. Update incoming once I complete it. Progress score (subject to change by end of the book!) – 3.5/5.

Shorefall

First of all, if you haven’t read Foundryside then you need to. Shorefall picks up approximately 2-3 years after Foundryside, and it wastes no time in getting things moving. I should let you know that I received Shorefall from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Of course, this wouldn’t influence my review at all, and I would have purchased this book regardless because Foundryside was fantastic.

Shorefall is somewhat the opposite of The Blade Itself. The characters are all very well crafted, yes, but the plot is what drives this one. And it is blisteringly fast-paced. The story follows Sancia and her companions, with the focus falling primarily on Sancia and Gregor up to this point in the book. I am about 25% in right now, and am really enjoying this one. Robert Jackson Bennett has crafted probably the most interesting “magic” system I’ve ever read. I’d rather not go into the system itself because learning the system as you read the book is half the fun. I just love how complex the system is and how Bennett manages to explain it in a way that makes it feel entirely believable and real. The story still has that steampunk/heist feel, which was one of my favorite things about Foundryside, and Sancia is still awesome! My favorite thing about this Shorefall, however, is the heavier focus on Gregor. Yes, he was one of the main characters in Foundryside, but Shorefall takes a slightly more intimate look at Gregor and what makes him tick. He’s a fantastic character that I hope to learn more of as this book continues. More to come when I finish reading it! If I had to put a progress score on this, probably a 4.5/5 so far.

This wraps up the update for the week! I am hoping to have The Blade Itself read by midweek next week, and Shorefall will likely be done shortly after. I am going to try to do regular updates like this as I learn how to run a blog. This really isn’t my thing, but I am actually enjoying it quite a bit so far!

Anyways, hope everyone is having a great week! Stay posted for these two reviews! Oh, and I think my next read will be House of Earth and Blood. Anyone have thoughts on this one? Seems to be getting good reviews, and I’ve never read the author so it should be fun.

-Jared

The Blade Itself

Written by Joe Abercrombie

Pages: 515

Published March 8th 2007 by Gollancz (first published May 4th 2006)

The Blade Itself was an interesting read for me. It was both simultaneously one of the most difficult books for me to finish, and one of the most difficult books for me to put down. This doesn’t make any damn sense, I know. Nevertheless, this is how I felt almost every time I picked it up. Let me explain.

I first heard about this book back in 2007 as it seemed to quickly pick up steam in the grimdark fantasy genre. Here it is, 2020, and I’m finally getting to it. I think it can go without saying that The Blade Itself, and the First Law Trilogy as a whole, are very well received amongst fans of fantasy writing. I read several reviews before taking the plunge into this series, noting that most reviews gushed on the characterization. The entire trilogy has pretty much received universal acclaim. So, I was quite hyped for this one, and was very excited to finally get to dive in and see what all the fuss was about.

Let’s begin with the strongest feature of The Blade Itself; the characters! Damn, Abercrombie can write the hell out of a character. The Blade Itself follows several different characters. I’d say the three main protagonists of this tale are Logen Ninefingers, Sand dan Glokta, and Jezal dan Luthar. There are several other important characters as well, however. Ferro Maljinn, Collem West, The Dogman, and the mysterious magi Bayaz, just to name a few. Each of these characters is written with a great amount of detail, and they are written in such a way that the book, while absolutely dark and violent, feels quite humorous.

I especially loved chapters from the point-of-view of Sand dan Glokta. Glokta is an inquisitor, and basically interrogates and tortures criminals and traitors to The Union. Glokta is a rough individual. He is smart, witty and skilled at manipulating others. He is also absolutely cutthroat and downright sick in the head at times. But as you learn more about Glokta, you begin to sympathize with him, and understand why he is the way he is. This is a result of just damn good writing.

Logen Ninefingers is likely to be considered the main protagonist of the story as a whole, at least up to this point. He is a Northman, and is depicted as a barbaric man who is trying to calm himself of his murderous ways as he ages.

Jezal dan Luthar is a nobleman, and a skilled swordsman. He is a pompous ass at times, but I think he means well.

We follow these three characters for most of the book, with the others I mentioned being thrown into the mix every now and then as the plot chugs forward.

Now for the plot, oh the plot. Here’s where we get into that portion of the book that made this hard for me to finish at times. The Blade Itself is very character driven, rather than plot driven. Now these characters Abercrombie has crafted are arguably second to none in their depth and complexity, but I felt that the plot often moved forward at a snail’s pace because of it. Likely, this was Abercrombie’s intention. In fact, I’d wager that it was his intention now that I’ve completed the book. I have read other reviews noting the same pacing issues, calling the book a slow burn, so I know there are others how there who agree with me on this, but as I sit here writing this (at work, don’t tell anyone 😊) I cant help but feel that the problem was not necessarily the pacing of the book, but my expectations of what the book should be. I expected a good amount of adrenaline pumping action and a fast-paced plot! There is adrenaline pumping action in The Blade Itself, but there is far less than I would have ever expected based on the minimal knowledge I had of this book prior to picking it up. Instead, I found that this book really took its time, slowly setting us down within this brutal world Abercrombie has crafted. The entire book kind of felt like one giant prologue.

The issue for me was not the lack of action, but the lack of progression. Initially, I couldn’t tell where the plot was going simply because it felt like it wasn’t moving at all. The only thing that held me was Abercrombie’s incredible writing. I found myself, for much of the book, enjoying all of the characters, but not necessarily caring about any of them. In one of my reading updates I compared reading The Blade Itself to a scene in the book when Jezal is fighting in the arena. The onlookers are absolutely rooting for him, but at the end of the day they don’t necessarily care about what happens to Jezal or the other guy. They enjoy being entertained. This is exactly how I felt for much of this book.

Little by little though, something changed. The deeper I traveled into this book and just let it take me away, the more I realized just how masterful the whole damned thing was. I found myself setting my stupid expectations aside, and then I absolutely fell in love with this book. And it all comes down to the characters. Especially you, Glokta.

This might be the harshest 5-star review Abercrombie has ever received for The Blade Itself, and I don’t mean for it to sound harsh. The point I want to reflect on is what unrealistic or inaccurate expectations of a book can do to the reading experience.  The plot felt slow because I was failing to look at the big picture. Once I let Abercrombie take the reins I was swept away into this incredible world of violence, war, and magic. The characters feel so incredibly real, and they are the reason to keep turning the page. Wonderful book, Joe.

5 out of 5.

Master of Sorrows Book Review!

Alright, so here is my first book review on this blog! I’m very new to this whole blog thing. Maybe with later reviews I will figure out how to make these posts looks more flashy ;).

I received Master of Sorrows from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Master of Sorrows is fast-paced, complex fantasy at its best.

This book has been marketed as a story about a hero who is destined to become the dark lord. What I experienced was something far deeper, more complex and more rewarding to the reader than just that simple premise.

Master of Sorrows is the beginning of what is planned to be a tetralogy, with the possibility of more books after that. We are introduced, early on, to Ainnevogg (or Annev for short), and his mentor, Sodar. The basic foundation the story is set on is that Annev was saved by Sodar when he was a baby, and kept “safe” in the village of Chaenbalu. We get to know Annev when he is a teenager, attending the local academy in hopes of becoming an Avatar. Avatars act as agents for the academy, sent out into the world to retrieve magical artifacts, which are then locked away in the Vault of Damnation because magic is believed to be evil. Initially, we follow Annev through his trials at the academy, but things quickly take a turn when he is provided a rather disturbing mission from one of the academy’s Ancients (basically the guys in charge). I wont go any further into the plot for fear of spoiling things for you, but suffice it to say this book is one hell of a ride!

One of the most interesting things about Master of Sorrows was the culture within Chaenbalu and the academy itself. This village is virtually closed off to the rest of the world. The people who live there are quite prejudice against anyone who is deformed, disabled, and anyone who can use magic. Those who are deformed or disabled, and those who can use magic are seen as children of Keos. Keos is an evil god, so being considered his child isn’t exactly a good thing.

Annev was born with one arm. This, coupled with what we know of the “dark lord” prophesy create very interesting circumstances as the story progresses, especially given the prejudices the village holds against those like Annev. He is able to hide his deformity with the help of the priest, Sodar, but there is always that concern he will be discovered.

You can’t have epic fantasy without excellent world building. It is obvious early on that Justin T Call has poured a ton of time, heart and passion into his fantasy world. As I read through the pages of Master of Sorrows I felt transported into this world, which is brimming with fascinating history, old magics, strange monsters, complex characters, and seemingly silent gods. This book is the epic fantasy enthusiast’s dream! What is equally impressive is how Call builds his world within this book. It is not uncommon to find a good amount of exposition in fantasy novels, especially during early volumes, in order to build the world for the reader. With Master of Sorrows, I felt the worldbuilding was masterfully weaved into the plot from page 1. In doing this, Call was able to build this world for us while simultaneously moving the plot forward. And wow does the plot move!

This is the fastest paced fantasy novel I have ever read. Chapters are short enough to give you the “just one more chapter” bug, but long enough to provide the detail necessary in an epic fantasy novel. The writing is clear, concise and provides fantastic imagery of what Justin wants us to see, leaving just enough room to allow our imaginations to do the rest. I have read a few reviews that describe Master of Sorrows as a slow burn, and I just don’t see it that way. I was absolutely hooked from page 1, and found myself, quite literally, unable to put the book down. None of this would have been possible without the excellent worldbuilding and interesting, complex characters. Each character has their own personality and their own motivations. Perhaps, what I liked best was the fact that pretty much every character was gray in their moral nature. Justin brings us into the troubled mind of Annev with each new page, and I found it fascinating and absolutely enthralling. This book was just so great!! So great that the digital Netgalley copy wasn’t enough, and I had to go out and buy the hardcover. Did you see that cover art?!!!

I have had a great year of reading so far (Book of the Ancestor trilogy and Ninth House just to name a couple), but Master of Sorrows may take the throne as my book of the year. It is early still, but this book just clicked perfectly with me. Justin T Call is a fantastic writer. The book is written in a way that it is easy to pick up, much in the way Brandon Sanderson’s books are. Actually, if I had to compare Justin to a well-established author, it would be Brandon Sanderson. The depth of the characters and the world absolutely rival Sanderson’s works. I think Justin T Call is going to be a headliner, and I am so glad I was able to jump in on the ground floor. I cant wait for book 2, and I cant wait to see what this fantastic author does with the rest of his career, which I expect will be long and fruitful. I highly recommend Master of Sorrows. This is a book that will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.

Shortlist of books to read/review

I’m new to this whole blogging thing, but I’m going to try to keep up and post as regularly as possible. Here’s the shortlist of upcoming books I intend to read and review:

  • Master of Sorrows – Written by Justin T. Call (82% read)
  • Shorefall – Written by Robert Jackson Bennett (ARC copy provided by Netgalley. I plan to start reading this as soon as I finish Master of Sorrows)
  • House of Earth and Blood – Written by Sarah J. Maas
  • The Sword of Kaigen – Written by M.L. Wang
  • The Blade Itself – Written by Joe Abercrombie

I expect to post my first review to this blog on 03/07/2020. With the exception of Shorefall, I may read these in a different order. It’ll depend on my mood :).

If you have any suggestions on books I should give a shot, leave a comment!