Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2013

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks. This is replacing my Exciting New Releases feature, which may be integrated into this one.
 
 
I read ten books this month. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) by David Gaider, Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer, Every Day by David Levithan, Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore, Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas, Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence, Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn, I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica, The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett and Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons. Which meant that by the end of September, I had read 68 out of 75 books for the 2013 Reading Challenge!

 

Currently reading:

 

Reviews on the blog this month:

Book group related posts:

Other stuff on the blog:

Upcoming:

  • A couple of reviews, including Every Day by David Levithan and Aphrodite: Goddess of Love by George O’Connor.
  • My Horror October posts, every Tuesday this month! My schedule is here.
  • My account of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – this weekend I’ll be seeing/meeting David Levithan, Sarah J. Maas, Maureen Johnson, Patrick Ness and Meg Rosoff, then Mary Beard next Sunday!
Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Fantasy BotM September 2013 Thoughts

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Prince of Thorns

The September 2013 fantasy book for my sci-fi and fantasy book group Dragons & Jetpacks was Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence. The member ratings were between two and five stars, for an average group rating of 4.00 stars.

Please bear in mind that the following post will contain spoilers for Prince of Thorns.

My personal views:

  • From what others had been saying, I was expecting much more graphic violence, and a more shocking opening chapter. But after reading George R.R. Martin, this really wasn’t that bad in comparison. It felt a little ‘so-so’, and Nic agreed with me on this one.
  • I found the setting a little weird. I now know it’s a post-apocalyptic world, but the fact that Jorg and co found some technology and literally just glanced over it, after living in quasi-medieval society, seemed kind of odd.
  • It was interesting having a main character that you can’t empathise with at all. It wasn’t so much Jorg’s violent tendencies, but his age combined with them. He often talks of rape and prostitutes, at 13/14. However, it’s based on medieval society, where boys would have become men at a much younger age, so that may explain his sexual experience.
  • I didn’t like the world building very much at all. The nuclear explosion just came out of nowhere and was instantly forgotten afterwards. It felt really odd to have familiar figures spoken about and quoted, they felt pretty out of place, as well as the use of Latin.
  • The ending was pretty bad. Lawrence completely skipped over the most interesting bit, it was over too quickly. I did enjoy the jousting scene though.
  • I have no idea how to pronounce Jorg’s name! George? Yorg? Jah-org? Ich weiss nicht!
My rating: three stars.

Group views:

  • Douglas enjoyed the setting, but also expected the story to be a lot more violent.
  • Helen was originally a little apprehensive about having a main character who acted so violently. However, she enjoyed the sci-fi element of the story and began to appreciate Lawrence’s writing, although she would have enjoyed more diversity within the book.
  • It wasn’t the violence that got to Mpauli at first – it was the world-building, which he thought was sloppy – but he found that he had rather enjoyed the book by the end and is now looking forward to reading the sequels.
  • Jim has already reserved the sequels at his local library, and admitted this was not something that he would have picked up by himself!
  • Kirsty did not like how Jorg was written at all. She also got a little bored of the story and had to resort to skim-reading.
  • Mpauli explained to the group that Mark Lawrence had previously stated in an interview that in Jorg’s world, all digital information as well as most books had been wiped, and the only ones remaining were old and well-regarded texts, like Plato and Shakespeare.
  • Kyle was put off of Jorg completely as a character.
  • Jennifer really enjoyed the story, and has read the other books in the series.
  • Rob thought the book was good, but it didn’t particularly grab his attention.
  • The only characters that Abi really liked were Makin and the Nuban. She made an interesting point when she said that she thinks Jorg admires their morals, and will maybe become more like them in the next two books.
  • Nic didn’t understand the use of Corion in the plot (neither did I particularly) but said he will probably end up reading the next two books for closure!
  • Wayland enjoyed it, and admired Jorg for his cleverness.
Group rating: average of four stars.

Discussion threads:

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #1: Common Themes in Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my new feature, made to replace Why You Should Read This Book. It will be posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: common themes in fantasy fiction.

1. Royalty

In many fantasy worlds, there is a monarchical system, or the story often involves bringing back the rightful heir to the throne (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Or, as in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, there are many rival houses fighting for the throne, each with their own aims and ways of life. Or in books such as Prince of Thorns, the story is told from the point of view of a member of the royal family – but Jorg is perhaps not your typical monarch! Like King Joffrey Baratheon, many royals are not best suited to ruling the people – it often seems to me that in fantasy fiction, rulers go either way. They are either evil and hated, or wonderful and kind. And you know, sometimes they just deserve to be slapped.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Broken Empire, Graceling Realm

GO TYRION!!

2. A ‘Chosen One’

Often, our once normal seeming main character finds out that they are destined to do something. Just look at Harry Potter. It feels like a bit of an overused concept – the idea that this one person is the only one who can bring peace to the world – but it works. Peter V. Brett has a interesting spin on this with his Demon Cycle series, where the Deliverer could either be Arlen or Jardir. This sort of plotline often involves a prophecy of some kind, predicting the events that the hero(ine) has to undertake.

e.g: Harry Potter, Eleven, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

3. A ‘Dark Lord’

And with the Chosen One comes the Dark Lord! The evil foe that our Chosen One has to overcome, and many series actually just use the title ‘Dark Lord’ (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). In many books the Dark Lord seems to do little himself, and frequently uses minions or messengers (Nazgul, Dementors, Death Eaters) to do his bidding.

e.g: Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, The Echorium Sequence, Mistborn

4. An epic quest

Many times in fantasy novels, our heroes have to save the world – and they’re the only ones who can do it. Whether it’s destroying a magical object or an enemy force, it’s normally a long and arduous process with many trying events.

e.g: The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time

5. Elves and dwarves

Although fantasy novels tend to cover many different races, elves and dwarves seem to be the most common. And, as in Tolkien’s work, rivalry between the two is common. Of course, the two mythological races have been part of folk tales for many centuries – but it was Tolkien that gave elves their taller form that is frequently seen in fantasy today. In The Lord of the Rings elves are a proud and majestic race, in stark comparison to their down-trodden counterparts in the Dragon Age series, where elves are enslaved.

e.g: Anything by Tolkien, Dark Legacy of ShannaraDragon Age

You tell them, Gimli.

6. Dragons

Tough old beasts, dragons. Sometimes they’re not too bad. But other times… you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Smaug. I really see them as the ‘ultimate’ fantasy beast, there’s something about them that is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. They often appear majestic, the fantasy equivalent of the lion. Often king of the mountain, rather than of the jungle though… 

e.g: The Hobbit, Dragonriders of Pern, A Wizard of Earthsea, Eragon, The Neverending StoryA Song of Ice and Fire

7. A question of loyalty

With our Chosen One and his epic quest, comes the trusty companions. But sometimes they’re not so trustworthy. Whilst it is not always the fault of the character – for example, Boromir turning against Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/beginning of The Two Towers because of the influence of the Ring – there are many sudden betrayals and shocking twists when it comes to friendships.

e.g: The Lord of the RingsPercy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Demon Cycle

8. Knights

Brave knights in shining armour, swooping down to save the damsel in distress… yeah, not always a feature in fantasy. Often you’ll find that the knights aren’t quite as brave or honourable as they should be. A Song of Ice and Fire is full of Sers, and many of them are not at all deserving of such a title – but it’s the kind of place where you don’t rise up the food chain by being nice. Plus there are many fantasy novels based around Arthurian legend, which of course feature knights, and play upon the familiar figures in their own way.

e.g: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Mists of Avalon, The Pendragon Legacy

9. Assassins & thieves

I always find something fascinating with this particular type of person. In video games I tend to play the sneaky assassin type classes (my newest Skyrim character is a heartless assassin and a thief). There has to be someone for the knights to protect the common people from! But then there are stories like Graceling where the main character does not want to do these things, but has no other choice.

e.g: Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Assassin’s Apprentice, The Princess Bride

10. Magic

And of course – magic! A very, very common theme in fantasy, it works in so many different ways. In Harry Potter, it’s a case of waving your wand and saying the right words. In The Name of the Wind, magic, or ‘sympathy’, requires some sort of sacrifice. Magic in The Demon Cycle series is dark and involves demon remains – whereas the Abhorsen trilogy covers necromancy. And sometimes magic just doesn’t feel like the right word for the kinds of skills characters have; it feels too juvenile.

e.g: Harry Potter, The Name of the Wind, The Demon Cycle, The Black Magician trilogy, Abhorsen trilogy 

If you want to join in with this week’s Fantasy Friday, feel free to leave your link in the comments!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #28

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) and Dragon Age: The Calling (Dragon Age #2) by David Gaider – so I recently finally played Dragon Age: Origins after owning it since it was released, and I LOVED it! I’ve been fangirling over the series (and Alistair) with Paola from A Novel Idea, and she said she enjoyed the books. I haven’t been impressed with Bioware’s previous books (Mass Effect ones) but… when I love a series I kind of soak up everything to do with. Even if it’s bad. But I’m hoping I’ll enjoy these ones! Now I’m onto Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, and then Dragon Age II (and a long wait for Inquisition…).
  • Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence – this is the Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. I bought it before the result was chosen though, because it was half price on Amazon and I’ve wanted to read it for a while.
  • All Our Yesterdays (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill – so I kept seeing this book everywhere, with such good reviews. I got approved for it on Netgalley but when I went to download it, it had been archived… so I bought it instead! And it was worth every penny.
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – I own Throne of Glass but haven’t read it yet… and even so, I bought the second book. It’s another series I’ve heard such good things about – and my friends Charlene and Paola got to meet Sarah recently! I’m hoping I’ll get to meet her in October, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss – the sequel to the aaaaaaamazing The Name of the Wind (I’ve done features on the book here and here), I want to read this as soon as possible!

 

From the library

  • Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer – so I picked this up forgetting the order of the books, and I haven’t read Cinder yet – but I’ve ordered it from the library to read first! Marissa is taking part in my Sci-Fi Month event, as Nara from Looking for the Panacea is interviewing her.
  • Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons – I’ve wanted to read this one for a while, and spotted it in the library – not my usual one, but one a little further from home that I should visit more often!
  • Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld – this is another one that I’ve seen around the blogosphere quite a bit. It’s an alternate history, which sounds pretty interesting as I haven’t read too many of those.
  • Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire #3) by Jaine Fenn – I’m interviewing Jaine for Sci-Fi Month, and read one of her books, Downside Girls (review here) at the beginning of the year. I thought it would be good to check out some more of her work!

 

That’s everything from last week! I bought more brand new books that I have in a long time – what did you get this week?

Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month September 2013

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Prince of Thorns
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Ender's Game

September’s Books of the Month are Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (fantasy) and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (sci-fi), chosen by our members through a poll.

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the third week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the final week of the month is used for voting.