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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