Review: A Game of Thrones (20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition)

Review: A Game of Thrones (20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition)A Game of Thrones: The 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition by George R.R. Martin
on 18/10/16
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: From my shelves
Goodreads

Published in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of George R. R. Martin's landmark series, this lavishly illustrated special edition of A Game of Thrones-with gorgeous full-page illustrations in every chapter-revitalizes the fantasy masterpiece that became a cultural phenomenon. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the centre of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a region of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavours to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

I got given A Game of Thrones a few years ago as a present, and didn’t really get into it.  I didn’t get very far before I gave up and put it down, but when I eventually came back and gave it another try I got hooked pretty quickly, and it’s become one of my favourite series.  I’ve been thinking about re-reading for a while now, since it’s been so long since I first read the books, but I’ve been putting it off because I’m worried about finishing the re-read and then still having another year or more to to wait for Winds of Winter – in which case I’ll have forgotten everything again by the time it gets here!  I knew when I first saw the Illustrated edition that I wouldn’t be able to resist it, and when I got it for Christmas I decided it was time to finally start that re-read.

The text itself of course, is the same as that of the original edition, but I found I enjoyed it at least as much if not more on second reading.  The story takes a little while to really take off, and I think knowing that it does pick up, and it is awesome, and it is absolutely worth investing the time in, made all the difference to my enjoyment – I wasn’t reading it and wishing it would hurry up, or daunted by the prospect that maybe the whole book would be slow, so I didn’t mind the pacing, and I really enjoyed getting to focus on the background set-up and details without feeling impatient.  Martin’s characters are amazing, and it’s funny how on second reading my opinions have changed: the first time around of course I loved Tyrion, Jon Snow and Daenarys, but the second time around, knowing so much more about the characters, I’m also analysing so much more some of my new favourites (like Jaime Lannister and the Hound <3).  The story is addictive, and although I don’t truly love Martin’s writing style all the time, there are some amazing quotes too.

The illustrated edition is truly beautiful, and I definitely felt like the illustrations added to the overall reading experience.  The images are stunning, and it’s impossible not to get sucked into admiring and analysing them everytime you come across one.  The book itself is pretty heavy, and I was conscious of damaging it, so in terms of practicality, it’s definitely one I’d rather read at home than carry in my bag to read on my lunch break.  The other thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that the illustrations aren’t always in the perfect placing – if you haven’t read the book before, there’s at least one illustration I can think of which comes right before a significant chapter and plot twist that would spoil things for you if you didn’t know what was coming.  Personally, I’d only pick up an expensive gift edition like this if I was very confident I’d love the story (either because I’d already read it, seen the show, or because it was a favourite author).  That, plus the fact that Game of Thrones spoilers abound, I think it’s unlikely you’d end up reading this not knowing what was coming, but it’s worth bearing in mind the possible spoilers if you are (somehow!) coming at it totally fresh.  A worthy purchase for any fan!

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Review: Shadow and Bone

Review: Shadow and BoneShadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Indigo on July 31st 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: From my shelves
Goodreads

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.

I’m not quite sure when Shadow and Bone first came onto my radar, but I’ve also associated it with A Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I think it was probably about the same time (honestly, before I’d read either of them I kept mixing the two up in my head!).  For one reason or another though, while I’d heard great things, I just never got around to reading it.  This month, it won the TBR vote so there was no more putting it off, time to see what the fuss is all about!

I think part of the reason I never picked up Shadow and Bone was that I knew the romance was going to be a big part of it: I feel like all I heard before picking this up was praise for the Darkling, praise for Mal, and lots of swooning over the romance in general.  BUT I loved the idea of a Russian-inspired fantasy, and I’m so intrigued by Leigh’s new Six of Crows duology, and although that can be read alone, I’d rather start with her original trilogy first, which is why I popped it on the TBR vote.  It took 63% of the votes and a lot of people said they loved it, so I tried to go into this with an open-mind, and I was pleasantly surprised!

I liked Alina, her feistiness and sarcasm, as well as her determination to remain herself even when put into totally new surroundings.  I also liked Genya and I loved Botkin.  I’m intrigued by the Darkling, but towards the end of the book he seemed to become somewhat flat – I’m hoping this is deliberate, and he’s going to reveal his true complexity in the second book, but it was a little disappointing.  I also wasn’t sold on his and Alina’s relationship at any point, and Alina’s opinion of him just seemed too easily swayed.  This, I think is more due to her general lack of confidence, because I felt the same way about her relationship with Mal, but it was frustrating nonetheless: I occasionally just wanted to give her a good shake!

I was pretty engrossed in the story from the beginning, and it only took me a few days to read.  I loved seeing the Russian inspiration, which helps to give Shadow and Bone a unique feel amongst so many YA fantasy romances.  I also liked the inclusion of some of the darker elements, though it’s hard to comment on those without spoilers! The writing is smooth and let me get absorbed into the story quickly, and overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Shadow and Bone.  While the romance was a big part, I enjoyed the story and the world too, which helped it feel like fantasy with a romance, rather than romance with fantasy as an afterthought which I’d feared.  I still felt like Shadow and Bone was light-fantasy, rather than true fantasy, and while I liked it I didn’t love it.  I enjoyed it enough that I’ve already ordered myself a copy of Siege and Storm,  and I’m hoping for some more depth in later books, which could bump the series from one I liked to one I loved, but at the moment it won’t be taking a place on my favourites shelf.

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Review: The Broken World

Review: The Broken WorldThe Broken World (Ballad of Sir Benfro, #4) by James Oswald
Published by Penguin on September 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 572
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

The book, sir. The Llyfr Draconius.
You'll find what you need in there, if you know how to look.

The war across the Twin Kingdoms rages on.
Queen Beulah has killed one sister and ordered the assassination of another. The Inquisitor Melyn journeys though the north-lands of Llanwennog in a merciless bid to overthrow King Ballah. Now in possession of Brynceri's ring, his power seems indestructible. Nothing can stop the invasion.
Captured by the travelling circus, Sir Benfro cannot shake their control, more powerful than Magog's malign influence. Errol Ramsbottom, left for dead, follows the trail of his friend's captors - only Benfro holds the key to Errol's beloved Martha's whereabouts. But both sides are set on a path of destruction - dragon against dragon, king against queen, man against man.
As the ancient spell that split Gwlad begins to unravel, it may be easier for Benfro and Errol to travel to Gog's world now. But what will happen when the barriers between the two worlds fail entirely? As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious?

A friend of mine adores this series, so I’ve been working my way through them on her recommendation, and while I’ve been enjoying the series so far, I haven’t been hooked on it.  I was a little nervous going into The Broken World (book 4) because of that, and I have to admit it took me quite a while to get into. Once I was engrossed though, I found it more addictive than the previous books – it took me 2 weeks to read the first 48%, and then less than a week to read the remaining 52%.

There are a lot of plot threads to follow in The Broken World, and a fair few different characters to focus on – we’re still following Errol and Benfro, of course, but we also get to see a lot more of Melyn, the series’ villain, Beulah, the reigning Queen, and a few other characters both old and new.  I love Melyn as a villain (and for once, I don’t mean in a ‘he’s just so damaged and I want to give him a hug’ kind of way), and I enjoyed getting some more insight into Beulah too, although she’s definitely softening which I’m not 100% sure about!

I love multiple character POVs, because even when you’re not hooked on one character’s current plot, there’s still someone else you simply can’t wait to get back to, so it helped keep me hooked and is probably why I found this more addictive than the previous volumes.  On the other hand, with so many plot threads going on, various clues building up to help answer some long unanswered questions, and a lot of world-building depth, this can all add up to make it occasionally difficult to keep everything straight in your head.  I enjoyed this book perhaps more than any of the earlier ones in the series though, and I’m looking forward to reading the fifth and final book this year.

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Review: The Lost Hero

Review: The Lost HeroThe Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1) by Rick Riordan
Published by Puffin Books on October 6th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 551
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

The Number one, bestselling title in this new spin-off series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
OLD ENEMIES AWAKEN AS CAMP HALF-BLOOD'S NEW ARRIVALS PREPARE FOR WAR When Jason, Piper and Leo crash land at Camp Half-Blood, they have no idea what to expect. Apparently this is the only safe place for children of the Greek Gods - despite the monsters roaming the woods and demigods practising archery with flaming arrows and explosives. But rumours of a terrible curse - and a missing hero - are flying around camp. It seems Jason, Piper and Leo are the chosen ones to embark on a terrifying new quest, which they must complete by the winter solstice. In just four days time. Can the trio succeed on this deadly mission - and what must they sacrifice in order to survive?

When I read it…

I read this between August 14th and August 17th.

What I’d heard before I read it:

About this particular book, not much – while I’ve heard great things about Rick Riordan in general, I’ve actually not heard too much about the Heroes of Olympus series, and about all I’d heard about this book was that it took my sister (who I’m borrowing it from) a while to get into and she was saddened by the lack of Nico…

What worked for me:

  • The opening: I loved that Jason had no memories, because it instantly drew me into the story. I not only wanted to know everything that he’d forgotten, but also how everyone would cope with his lack of memories.
  • The slightly older feel & the longer length: The Lost Hero definitely felt more like a young adult read than the Percy Jackson series, and I think the longer length probably helped a little with that too. I really loved having slightly older characters to follow as occasionally the young ages in Percy Jackson made the characters feel a bit too distant and therefore harder to relate to.
  • Leo & Piper: I really liked both Leo and Piper. Leo was witty and funny and instantly likeable so I warmed to him pretty much straight away. It took a while longer for me to warm to Piper, but I loved how she took no crap from anyone and how her confidence grew throughout the book.
  • Returning to Camp Half-blood: Of course returning to Camp Half-Blood was always bound to be fun, and I really enjoyed that we got to see it through fresh eyes all over again too.
  • The multiple points of view: I’m a BIG fan of multiple POV stories, so I loved that we got to see more than one perspective throughout The Lost Hero.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Jason: I didn’t hate Jason, but I didn’t love him either. He’s a bit too perfect (apart from his lack of memories)
  • The pacing: It took me three days to reach 49% – and then one day to read the other 51%.  It wasn’t a huge deal, but I felt like it took a little while to get really going.

I enjoyed The Lost Hero – possibly more than Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – and I thought it was a pretty good start to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel!

Other reviews of The Lost Hero: The Illiterate Reader | Novel Reaction | Blog of a Bookaholic

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Review: A Court of Mist & Fury

Review: A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns & Roses #2
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens Books on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 624
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Feyre is immortal.
After rescuing her lover Tamlin from a wicked Faerie Queen, she returns to the Spring Court possessing the powers of the High Fae. But Feyre cannot forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people - nor the bargain she made with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.
As Feyre is drawn ever deeper into Rhysand's dark web of politics and passion, war is looming and an evil far greater than any queen threatens to destroy everything Feyre has fought for. She must confront her past, embrace her gifts and decide her fate.
She must surrender her heart to heal a world torn in two.

When I read it…

I read this between May 21st and June 2nd.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Lots and lots of positive things!

What worked for me:

  • Rhysand: Rhysand is… troubled. He’s outwardly hard, inwardly damaged and weighed down by everyone’s negative expectations of him. In other words, he’s everything I love in a character!  On top of that, he’s also strangely charming despite his sarcasm, and definitely seductive.
  • The supporting characters: A LOT of my love for this book was because of the supporting characters.  I loved Mor, Azriel, Cassien, Amren, Nessa & Elain, each in their own way. I loved the relationships between Rhys and his friends, as well as Nessa & Elain’s sisterly bond.
  • The emotional rollercoaster: A Court of Mist & Fury invoked a LOT of feelings.  There were amazing highs, laugh out loud funny moments, and a lot of moments when I wanted more than anything to join Rhys’ gang of friends.  There were soul-crushing moments that made me cry and moments I wanted to hug Feyre and shield her from the world.  I was absolutely drawn into Feyre’s world and strongly invested in the characters which made A Court of Mist & Fury an emotional rollercoaster,
  • The steamy romance: Try not to judge me friends, but I have to admit the romance and the steaminess were definitely something I enjoyed!

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Tamlin/Lucien: I found Tamlin and Lucien frustrating throughout the whole of A Court of Mist & Fury – I didn’t like their attitudes or their actions, and I never quite felt like their changes were believable.  I felt like both Tamlin & Lucien betrayed their characters in this installment, and that did grate a little.
  • The beginning: It took me a while to get really into A Court of Mist & Fury, and for some of that beginning I really couldn’t decide how I was feeling about everything.  Feyre is hurt, and different, and it makes complete sense that the story doesn’t instantly pick up with the same kind of pace – Feyre simply wouldn’t be able to handle it.  But somehow I found myself swinging back and forth between finding it believable and realistic, and finding it frustrating and slow.

The romance was one of the things I wasn’t 100% sold on in A Court of Thorns & Roses, and I’m pleased to say that A Court of Mist & Fury definitely changed my feelings.  My newfound love for the romance, combined with some truly awesome characters and relationships – both romantic and non-romantic – that I felt strongly about meant I enjoyed A Court of Mist & Fury even more than the first book.  Having said that, I mentioned in my review of A Court of Thorns & Roses that I wasn’t quite sold on the villains or their motivation, and sadly that remained true for A Court of Mist & Fury, so for me, it just didn’t quite hit the 5 star mark.

Other reviews of A Court of Mist & Fury: Lunar Rainbows | Happy Indulgence | Dani Reviews Things

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