Book Reviews

Kellanved’s Reach: Path to Ascended Fantasy Wrap-up

Though I previously spoiled that this was the next in the mysterious trio of books I managed to finish while traversing the wilds of Colombia (review coming soon) I think it was fairly obvious that this would be the next book on the agenda. I NEED to start cranking these reviews out more frequently because I keep finishing books and am starting to develop a backlog. Kind of an embarrising thought, I can read a 500ish page book in less time then it will take me to write 500ish words on it. This is why I make no claims to be a writer, just a man who enjoys reading dope fantasy and failing at my dreams of being a pro athlete.

The final book of the Path of Ascendancy prequel trilogy by Ian C. Esslemont nicely ties up the loose ends that we know have to be tied up before the events of the main story line can begin. Perhaps because of this there seemed to be a lot less beating around the bush, Kellanved and Dancer get right to work on trying to acquire the throne that will let them control the T’lan Imass. There journey to do so is filled with the typical humor and near death experiences which made this trilogy so enjoyable in the first place.

The I guess plotline of this book is the typical sprawling mess that connects at the end. Kellanved is attempting to maintain his upstart empire but of course has grander aspirations of increasing his magical powers. To do this he follows a lead on an obsession he has with a flint arrowhead, correctly guessing that this will lead him to the throne of the T’lan Imass. After successfully acquiring the throne he gets his revenge on Quon Tali and takes control of the city, and is crowned emperor for his efforts. Hence forming you know, the Malazan Empire.

The more interesting story is the Greymane origin story. So Greymane is on the run with his outlawed army, managing to stay one step ahead of death and eventually they all die. Greymane is featured promienatly in all of Ian C. Esslemonts novels so it was cool to see where he came from and how of course Kellenvad had a role in it.

The highlight of this book is this scene where these two dude who have escaped a castle are trying to join the Crimson Guard, and are forced into a sparring match with the weapons master and the one dude, HOLY SHIT WHAT IS HIS NAME, is a mage who cannot be hit. So the guy just keeps trying to wack him with a stick and whiffing and everyone is giving him shit. Such a terrible description by me but such a typical Malazan scene that satisfies the primal craving to see some fighting but also has both a sense of hilarity and realism that brings the Malazan world to life.

Overall this is a worthy edition of the sprawling mass of Malazan Empire novels and if you already read the first two this review is pointless because you are going to like the third. The Malazan Empire books are easily in my top 5 favorite series of all time and since both Erickson and Esslemont seem to have unlimited work ethic I am excited to know that they will continue to crank out these books for all time. This review was not great, I am willing to admit my own shortcoming here. Read the book, read the series.

Journey around the Wheel of Time

The Dragon Reborn Audiobook Update 3: It’s the return of the Mat(ck)

One morning this fine week I woke up and realized that the summer had officially passed us by. The muggy atrocity that was this summer’s weather was a thing of the past. Aggressive sunlight burning the poor crown of my head was no more. A slight chill in the air made me regret my choice of running attire, as my nipples turned to glass cutters and got rubber raw like Bob Kraft in a Jupiter massage parlor. Cue the joke drums. While the end of summer is usually a sad time for me, as I am just a summer child, there was something I knew would brighten up the day. For I am at the part in The Dragon Reborn where our hero has returned to us. I am of course talking about Matrim Cauthon.

The meddling Aes Sedai perform the only healing that brings me bliss. They separate Mat from the dagger of Shadar Logoth. But Mat doesn’t just get healed like no bitch, he drops some fucking bars on those annoying ass clucking hens. And with that I present my next edition of great quotes.

” ‘I am a free man, Aes Sedai. I am no Aes Sedai meat.’ That is what he said.”

As your boy is getting healed, he wants to let them know what the fucking deal is. He is noones bitch. They may heal him, but they don’t own him. Such a power move to be on the brink of death and be talking shit as people are saving him Aes Sedai – -100000 Mat – 1

A visit with them, a day to see the city, perhaps a game with the dice to pad out his purse, and then he would be off for somewhere where there were no Aes Sedai.

At this point Mat has been awake for a total of five minutes before he starts thinking about stacking those golden marks. He has three things on his planner: reluctantly say bye to his hometown friends, see the city, and get to gambling. The boy was born to get that bread so he wakes up thinking about the money. In the immortal words of Gudda Gudda “Okay I wake up in the morning brush my teeth and count the money.” I have no doubt this line was in direct reference to Mat.

“Not your marks,” Mat said, shoving them in his coat pocket, “mine.”

There are some chapters that I vividly remember when I read this series, the chapter where Mat whips Galad and Gawyn while sparring is one of them. It is an all time chapter and truly shows why I am a Mat stan . So Mat just gets denied by a girl I won’t mention since she passed on our hero and sees these two royal scrubs sparring with the warders. Mat gets this great idea in his head, I can beat these clowns senseless and get paid to do it. Of course since the women are watching he wants to put on a show. He talks mad shit to them, goading them until the head Warder sets up the match. The stakes are 2 silver marks from both of them to 2 silver marks from Mat. Mat goes to work on them, embarrassing the hell out of Galad and Gawyn as they fight him with practice swords against his quarterstaff. When Gawyn hands over the money, Mat lets him know who calls the shots, not your dough boyyyyyyyy it’s mine.

After rummaging a bit, he brought out two silver pennies from his pocket. One more than paid for the wine, but he slipped her another for her eyes. “My friend will be joining me.”

I think I will finish this up with the quote above. Starting to run a little long. Mat finally gets to gambling and goes on an absolute heater. Kind of the exact opposite of me and Thursday Night Football bets. Fuck you Aaron Rodgers. Mat has acquired major stacks, and sure he kills a man, when he heads in to a bar and sees the legend Thom. Sitting at a table, he shows his generosity by giving the server a biggg tip. Listen Mat is a ladies man, the dude gets it. He didn’t give her an extra silver mark because she had buxom chest (is that #metoo proof?) he complimented her eyes. Classy move, classy man. Also he bought a drink for his boy, respect.

So ends a ridiculously long blog. I know I skipped this last week but I was in Florida so I apologize for nothing. I will apologize for the last update because I started two consecutive paragraphs with ‘So’. Sloppy, I made sure to save that particular paragraph starter for the last one. Once again fuck Aaron Rodgers. Till next week…

Book Reviews

Deadhouse Landing Wrap-up: Path to Ascended Fantasy

About a month ago I mentioned that I went on a little reading spree and finished a few books that had been sitting on the virtual end table. One of those books was Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont. To set the stage a little bit, Deadhouse Landing is a novel of the Malazan Empire, which for anyone familiar the the Malazan world means its place in the grand scheme of things is very confusing. It is book 2 of The Path to Ascendancy, hence the clever ass subtitle of this blog. The Path to Ascendancy is a prequel trilogy to the events of both Esslemont’s and Erickson’s respective Malazan series’.

It is always a really weird experience when it comes to the Malazan Empire books. Erickson and Esslemont have very different story telling styles. Esslemont is much more direct. His stories are linear, his characters are obvious, he does not spend time wading in internal dialogue. Not a knock on Esslemont, it is just a writing style that is much more ordinary. Erickson is all over the place, most of his novels, especially the later ones, spend significant time wading in moral philosophy and internal dialogue. The writing can be heavy at times and several pages can go by before the character is done thinking.

Esslemont’s books are the much quicker read, and this book was no exception. Prequels are tough, the first book in the series was Dancers Lament and I have to admit I got kind of bored about halfway through it and put it down for the better part of like two years. This I read in two days, which says a lot about how much fun I had reading it. I couldn’t put this book down.

The plot boils down to Wu, later Kellenvad, and Dancers take over of Malaz Island, which later turns into the Malazan Empire as well as their struggle to enter the Deadhouse. I say prequels are tough for the obvious stuff. We already have an idea of who these characters are in our heads, so any diversion from that and I instantly get angry. The biggest thing for me is that with a prequel you already now the outcome, so it is especially important to make the journey fun. When you can’t rely on the wow factor or the big reveal you have to make the action entertaining. That is kind of what stalled me out in book one. Like we know all these characters live so the stakes are instantly lowered.

Another thing that really bothers me is when new elements of magic, or people, or creatures or plot line are inserted into a prequel in order to spice things up. Then when you re-read or think about the original series it is through the lens of “this is stupid because it doesn’t have this new thing” or the story doesn’t make sense anymore with the new parameters set. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the biggest culprit of this ever. Esslemont does not do this, so another point in his favor

Wu is just such a great character. Kellenvad is really a huge behind-the-scenes guy in the Malazan Empire series that to see his origin and to get more of direct interaction with him was not only well done but wildly entertaining. There are points where shit he did or said made me actually laugh, which is saying a lot. I mean he is the clear highlight of the entire trilogy. Spoiler alert the next review is book 3.

Dassem is just the best, his whole greatest fighter in the world thing gets me every time. The best scene in this book is this pointless one-on-one fight he has with a grade A hater and he just whips him. Lifestealer for life.

This book is great. Anyone who is a fan of the series I am not telling you anything new and you probably have already read it. If you haven’t stop wasting time reading The Dark Tower and support good fantasy.

Final Notes: This was very rantish. Next one will talk more about the actual book. I don’t know how else to get people to believe in Malazan. Also these covers are dope.

Book Reviews

The Dark Defiles Wrap-up: Defiling expectations of good fantasy

Ehh not my best title. Then again I am exhausted with writing about this series. I finished this book on the way to Colombia and the time spent reading this book was worse than anything I experienced on the entire vacation. Though I did have a great vacation so I guess the bar for that wasn’t very low. Either way l have finished the series meaning fortunately this is the last blog I will ever write about it.

I want to take a look at some of the positives first, since it is much easier to just blast the shit out of this final catastrophy. There are some better parts, at one point we get introduced to this charctar Sharkmaster Wyr, who was some famous pirate guy. He is imprisioned on this ship in the harbor where he is supposed to be living out the remander of his days. Both interesting and well done. The backstory on this dude is badass. To me this like one chapter of a minor character who winds up having no real impact on the plot was the best part of the book. What this tells me is that while I’ve spent way more time than what is healthy bashing this Richard K. Morgan guy, he defienitly has the talent to be a good writer.

The problem is his story stinks. He relies on magic/sci-fi technology to kind of clean up these situations the characters get in, and it all feels meaningless in regards to the story. The characters themselves are very stereotypical. I get the vibe he goes for but to me the plot kind of falls apart because the situations the characters find themselves in are just not well done.

A big part of the book that gets a lot of praise is the fact that the main character Ringil is gay. He subverts your typical gay character in a fantasy book stereotype by being this grizly, hardened veteran who men rally to and are willing to follow into anything. This is great, and I fully support the idea of having a character like Ringil. The problem is the Ringil we get is boring and unimaginative. His being gay seems to be used to mask the fact that the character isn’t very fleshed out. And there also is a noticeable drop off of graphic sex scenes throughout the series. The first book was chock full of them, by the last book I am not ever sure if anyone has sex. Just seems like what could have been fascinating and progressive is instead a tool to boost lazy writing.

This third book has a plot that is alllllll over the place. The end of the second book they plan on going on this journey to an island to find a dead former wizard king of the humans before the Dwenda resurrect him to take over the world. Within 100 pages instead we have a completely different book. The plot ambles on, Egar Dragonbane gets killed by a . . . you guessed it, Dragon. Archeth finds herself through the challenges placed on her and becomes the next viable option for the throne. Ringil gets his revenge and when he finally meets the great bad wizard king, easily deals with him in 3 pages. We have been hearing about this guy since book one, he’s gone in 3 pages. Reminded me of the death of the Night King in GoT. Super underwhelming.

There are some cool characters and parts though. Hjel is an awesome dude, his backstory about wishing to be this great warrior and like becoming a musician was entertaining. Jhiral the actual emperor was fun. But these people played such unimportant roles that they became irrelevant. I believe if he made these characters have their own POV, maybe we would have got somewhere.

Rant over. Series over. Moving on.

Book Reviews

The Ruin of Kings Wrap-up

*No spoilers I think*

I mentioned briefly in a few other blogs that I was taking a quick respite from the Broken Earth Trilogy and A Land Fit for Zeroes because I thought it would be beneficial to read something else to kind of spice things up. I choose to tackle the heavily marketed The Ruin of Kings, which was touted as the next great fantasy series, getting wild comparisons from everything to A Song of Ice and Fire (if I have to read or hear one more person say “If you like Game of Thrones you are going to love this” I am going to stab that person/screen I am reading) to The Blade Itself. Hefty comparisons. I personally believe that making comparisons is pointless, everything has it’s own unique flavor and saying something is like another thing creates expectations that will invariably not be met.

So here’s a comparison. The Ruin of Kings is a handful. It has elements of so many very familiar aspects of fantasy. It has a magic system, mystical creatures, battle of the gods, and rebirth soul switching thing that would be right at home in the Malazan world. It has the dual storytelling style of both the child and adult versions of the main character that would make Kvothe smile. It has the slightly unbelievable pull-one-over on you charm that would make Kihrin a welcome edition to the Tannen/Lamora dynamic duo. And yet where all those books seem to find their lane and stick too it, The Ruin of Kings attempts to juggle all of this in 560ish pages.

Certainly ambitious. Does it succeed? Here is where I believe that if you had any expectations going into reading this you would say no. And that would make you dumb. What Jenn Lyons did is make a story that is just fun. I am not going to say it is the most profound thing I have ever read. It’s not the most complicated, the most philosophical, the most whatever the hell you want to call those other series, but rather it is just flat out enjoyable as hell. It is so wildly over the top, so unnecessarily convoluted, so all over the place that if you just are willing to stop trying to compare it to other things, you will find yourself going along for the ride with a smile on your face.

You have read this story before. 10 times, 100 times, everyday of your life. You dream this story, you tell yourself this story to stop yourself from cumming too quickly even though you know that never works for me I mean you. That’s how familiar you are with it.

Lets break it down:

Orphan boy with a rough upbringing finds out he actually is a part of a prominent household and struggles to fit in. But he also has magic. But he is also the center of a prophesy. But he is also a famous wizard/god reborn. But he also has to avenge the deaths of his loved ones. But he also has to save the world. Throw in a dragon or two, a god or 8, a few lovely sexual escapades, an ancient artifact. Even some light incest! This would be the type of book that you would think I would have a fucking field day tearing apart. And if I choose to analyze it maybe I would. But I can’t because while it may seem like a mess, it fucking works.

It might sound crazy but this might be up there on the most enjoyable things I have read this year. It reminds me of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight is arguably a better movie in every way, Heath Ledger delivers the performance of a lifetime (literally), the plot is masterfully put together, it is the right amount of serious and action packed. It’s captivating, engrossing, subtly and not subtly dark. And yet, I would watch The Dark Knight Rises over it every time, twice on Sundays. Does that make me a small brain? Sure. The story has a billion holes in it, the bad guy’s motivations make no sense, batman recovers from having his spine snapped with prison workouts. You can’t understand Bane at all. But it just works because it toes the line between serious and ridiculous, creating fun. By the way Bane is one of my favorite villains of all time. Might be one of my favorite people. I don’t have many (real) friends.

So in my opinion, The Ruin of Kings is worth it. If you don’t spend any time trying to figure stuff out you will love it. Also the footnotes every two seconds offering commentary and filling in knowledge gaps was clever and funny as hell. Wow this review fucking slaps mannnnnnn.

Journey around the Wheel of Time

The Great Hunt Audiobook Update 7: It seemed so logical, then

What an ominous and unclear subtitle. First off I’d like to say RIP to Ingtar. Yes he was a darkfriend and betrayed Rand, but then again he betrayed Rand so could he really have been all bad? Quite the conundrum.

A dark start to the weekend for sure. If only that archer had shot Rand right in the heart… O I lament for what could have been. What an all time great line from Ingtar. I know it’s a serious moment but I just think of your friend convincing you to do something stupid after a long night out and just being like the next day “it seemed so logical, then.”

If you stuck with the blog this long after an odd start lets get right into it. Today is the weekly update of the number one Wheel of Time audiobook review and discussion. Who rated it number one? ME of course, if I speak it into existence then one day it will be true. At least that is what every corny ass motivational speaker or self-help book author says. More importantly though, it’s friday!

Had a great chance to knock out a lot of the audiobook this week, and I think by this time next week we will be taking a journey through the third book. By the time I finish listening to this entire series I will have ran 10 marathons, and written 500 blogs. Pretty crazy.

So one of my favorite parts of the entire series, partly because I actually remember it, was the duel between Turak and Rand. I don’t think I am alone in this, Reddit always seems to have one person chiming it about how much they love this. But you know what no one seems to talk about, just how great it would have been if Rand didn’t cheat and Turak ran him the fuck through with his sword.

I have to say every time I picture this fight I always find the idea that Turak has these like crazy long old lady nails hilarious. Like how the hell is he supposed to swing a sword around with these neon claws. Unfortunately this was our best chance to off the protagonist and Turak dropped the ball. This mush-mouth, cat lady nail having, old Irish golf pant wearing, skinny bitch couldn’t get the job done. Heron marked blade my ass. I think I would have rather seen that god damn kid Mat tricked into thinking there were ghost hound things running around take a chance at Rand over this clown. What an all time choke artist.

Lets talk about the hero of the series and his bravery in blowing the Horn of Valere. It was awesome. The fact that Arthur Hawkwing wastes time talking to Rand instead of the peoples champ is an all time snub. Him and his Snape nose can go roll in broken glass naked.

And that about wraps up this week in audiobook love. I have a special treat coming tomorrow. You guessed it, it is another blog. Real special. Lets get it.

Journey around the Wheel of Time

Eye of the World Audiobook Wrap-up

As the first stop on the journey around The Wheel of Time series has come to it’s conclusion, I thought it would be worth the time to review the audiobook as a whole. As I mentioned in the beginning of this, I had zero prior experience with audiobooks. This desire to start one stemmed from me getting bored as fuck with all the other stuff I was listening too while running, as well as being convinced by Amazon’s Audible marketing campaign. That last part is kind of embarrassing to say, but whatever just being honest. The audiobook has accompanied my marathon training, and since the New York City Marathon is like 17 weeks away, I think that I am going to continue to fly through the series. 

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan is the first book in a 12 part series known as the Wheel of Time, widely considered a classic series in the fantasy genre. If you are a fan of Tolkein, epic fantasy, or high fantasy this is an excellent series. While there are some adult aspects, this is a series that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Having originally read the series about 5 years ago, my first impression of it was the length was a little excessive, though the payoff is worth it. It is longggggg as hell and because of this, the series has a tendency to meander and get bogged down in a lot of not entertaining chapters. I actually remember getting pretty bored with it at points and not enjoying it as much as some of the other stuff I had read at that point, but after listening to the audiobook I am not sure that this was an entirely fair opinion.

I think it is important to point out that I did listen to this, and as an audiobook it was a lot more interesting. When the book kind of slowed down I was able to just zone out a little and focus on the running. It was easy to follow along with the story while running, but I also remember the general gist of the plot. I would highly recommend listening to an audiobook of some fantasy series you keep promising yourself you are going to re-read knowing full well you are never going to get around to it. Gave me an entirely different perspective of the book

The Eye of the World as a singular story at its core is your run-of-the-mill chosen one tale. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you want something that differs from the norm, this might not be for you. If you look at the characters, creatures and plot, the first book especially is eerily similar to LOTR. Their are Orcs, Ents, chosen one and accompanying friends from his village, an ambiguous evil power, and magic (trolocs, Ogier, Rand and friends, Balzamon and the one power). The differences are what make this a special book.

With a more modern writing style and less focus on the way the trees hit the wind, this book is fantastic. The scope of the world is enormous, it feels like every chapter we are introduced to a new element of magic, abilities and creatures. The plot itself is solid, three villagers are chosen by The Pattern  which is some weird universal power that seeks to balance out the world, to fight the dark one who seeks to finally take over the world. Rand is an absolute loser and as a main character he is annoying as shit, but his storyline is cool enough to make up for it.

The book has the inevitable ending where the good guys win, but because this thing is 12 books long, it sets the scene nicely for the next book. I can’t wait to dive into the Great Hunt. Wow this was almost like a real review. Props to me for being able to write something mature. Fuck Rand. Had to throw in something immature.