Friday, 15 May 2020

Currently Reading Mini Reviews

Hi, my name is Peat and I'm a book-drunk. I'm not a bookoholic, they go to meetings. They want to repair their problems. I don't. I want to be left alone with a big pile of books. How big a pile you say? Well. Here it comes. And yes, I really am reading all of these books at the moment. I have the attention span of a something. Yes, it is a problem. Maybe I should become a bookoholic instead...

The Seventh Sword Andrew Collins

Let's start with the longest standing on the shelf. Collins' book isn't a fantasy story (or so he says), but rather his account of psychic questing across England in search of a set of swords that hold great occult significance. The quest itself is a mix of receiving/seeking psychic visions (something Collins himself has no huge skill at), then going to the sites seen and searching, and doing research in libraries into a bewildering array of subjects to try and confirm whether the visions actually had any relationship to reality. Maybe I do my local down, but I wish I went to the libraries Collins does. 

When I say bewildering, I do mean that very literally. Part of the reason I haven't finished it (having stormed through his similar work The Black Alchemist) is that it is thick with references, research and hypothesizes. Victorian occultists, the fleeing followers of Akenhaten, the persecuted Catholics of Elizabethan England, and a half dozen other subjects are all linked in a web of connection so thick and wild I struggle to keep it straight. It's a shame because there's a good story here, and an even better conspiracy theory, regardless of how true or not it is - but it is buried under the detail. I do sometimes wish Urban Fantasy veered more towards this sort of thing (its very Dan Brown) than the standard detective stories with werewolves and sexy vampires thing.

Where Loyalties Lie Rob Hayes

Next on the list is Rob Hayes' story of piratical deeds. I'm a sucker for a good nautical fantasy and I think Hayes has established a reputation as one of the best self-published authors around, so it was an obvious pick-up. However, that was a while ago, and I'm at maybe the half-way point. The reason for this is that Hayes' story is all go, all the time, with character- and world-building fitted in around the edges and with little time for the reader to process it or get a change of pace. For the right audience, this would be a ripping yarn, a never lets you go adventure. For the wrong audience, it's a series of interesting scenes that don't build into anything because they do not get a sense of narrative momentum. I'm beginning to strongly suspect I'm in the latter. I'd like to finish it to give it a fair shake, but I'm one of life's great DNFers, and this teeters close to the edge. 

Aegypt John Crowley

I already have a blog post on this one and the details haven't changed since as I haven't read it since. I haven't even seen it since; I think its beneath a pile of laundry. Judge away for I deserve it. The TL:DR summary is that Aegypt is a book that will be far more enjoyable to have read and to think about, than to actually read. I want to finish it, but not today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

Blackwing Ed McDonald

My first encounter with this book was with a reading at London's Super Relaxed Fantasy Club and I have to admit, I wasn't particularly drawn to it. Still, listening isn't reading, and I know a huge number of people who really enjoy this book, so I decided I'd give it a second go anyway. I even did so without getting a kindle sample. In retrospect, that might have been a mistake. Everybody's got their list of hurdles where books fall, and not enjoying the author's voice is my first one. I don't think I enjoy McDonald's voice. When it comes to gritty, macho works I'm even pickier than usual and need a certain matter of factness to enjoy it. I'm not getting it here. I want to persevere because of the reputation but it's the closest to DNF on the list.

Outlaws Inc Matt Potter

A journalistic expose of the world of ex-Russian military transport pilots who have since become the key players in both the world aid business, and the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and all the other things that makes an unhappy world tick. It's quite a contradiction and honestly, the weight of the revelations and descriptions on how the former USSR fell apart takes some digesting. That's why I haven't got too far through this book yet; it's not one to just read and read. 

Thorn of the Night Blossoms JC Yang

I picked this one up cheap at the start of quarantine thanks to some recs from friends. The concept of mixing wuxia with Gygaxian Fantasy intrigued me (although given the world feels a tad more Japanese inspired, either wuxia is the wrong term or I need to research east Asia better). I'm about halfway through it and find myself surprisingly neutral. I'm not sure whether I recommend it, and I'm not sure I'll know by the end. It is very busy with a big emphasis on action scenes, much like Where Loyalties Lie, but more strongly fleshed out for only following one character. I'm looking forwards to sorting out my impressions of this book almost as much as I am reading it.

The Court of Broken Knives Anna Smith Spark

This book was on my latent very longlist until I read an interview with the author in which she espoused my views on violence in books far more eloquently than I could myself. Before that point, its reputation as very grimdark (a term I have a love-hate relationship with that's more the latter) outweighed its reputation for great prose. Let me tell you; Smith Spark's prose is borderline unique. It is poetic. I want her to read an old style saga designed just for audiobooks. It's fantastic in every way except one, and that is as an aid to a reader who wants to read fast. I am a reader whose mind starts to itch if I have to read slow. I am reading this one in bits and pieces, trying to ensure I don't get frustrated by the process. We'll see how it goes. I want to love this book. I suspect it may be hard.

Three Hearts and Three Lions Poul Anderson

Aegypt was one of a number of books my mother got me for Christmas and I wanted to be able to tell her nice happy things about at least one of them, so I jumped into the shortest of them. Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of the genre's foundational texts from the ring just outside the mighty archangels of LotR and WoE and all, and like many of them has flown under the radar. So far I don't see a particularly good reason for that. It moves fast enough, it's interesting, and is full of fantasy. It might not seem particularly fresh today (it gave birth to Gygax's Paladin, and I suspect it might be why we think Dwarves speak in Scottish accents), but plenty still like it played the old way. I'm not sure it'd be their favourite book, but I think most of them would like it.

The House of Sundering Flames Aliette de Bodard

I started the next five books within a day of each other after deciding to accept the lunacy of my situation and flit between books until one grabbed me. The House of Sundering Flames was my first pick as I wanted to finish the trilogy. It has been a slow start, which I'm used to now with De Bodard's books (particularly in this series), as she moves from PoV to PoV, pausing to ratchet up the tension with each without actually setting off explosions. Despite there being an actual explosion in the book. I'm expecting it to catch around the halfway mark and be the only book I read from there on.

The Goblin Emperor Katherine Addison

Read as part of the W&W readalong, which means there's been some very recent thoughts on this. The summary version is that this is a very good book, enjoyable on all particulars, and I'm enjoying the way it's gently proceeding up the incline part of what I'm expecting to be a rollercoaster. Probably the best book I am currently reading.

Children of Earth and Sky Guy Gavriel Kay

Thinking about how over the top good A Brightness Long Ago is reminded me that I need to read everything else he has done. This was on kindle cheap, so this is what I read. It is very good - maybe nobody writes characters better - and I am enjoying my amble through the book. No rush reading is what GGK deserves. Maybe this is actually probably the best book I am currently reading.

Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon

A book as long at this list, which means I'm only a little way in. What I've read is rather well written, hints at an intriguing world, and speaks of a bloody resolution to make the well-known fresh again which is a-okay by me. I'm settling in for the long haul here, but suspect that due to the book's length, it'll be the last to be finished.

The Felix and Gortrek Omnibus Bill King

A minor complaint first. Chapterless omnibuses are nobody's friend on kindle. I'm down with chapterless fiction, but I think an e-reader works against it. Otherwise this is exactly what I expected; gritty, action-packed, way over the top. Classic Warhammer in other words.


  1. I had to scroll back up and remind myself what the theme of this post was...and I thought I read a lot of books at once, haha. You've piqued my interest on a few of these. I'll have to check out The Court of Broken Knives.

    1. The theme of this post is I'm a focus-deprived idiot!

      I don't usually do this... I think.