Ten Things About… Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I’ve taken a long time to get to this book. It feels like the whole world has read it before me – and they loved it. Which meant I got more and more worried that I wouldn’t feel the same, that it was all hype. Here are ten things about Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

1) Laini Taylor’s prose is just exquisite – both whimsical and wistful. It drew me in entirely and had me immersed in this world within a few paragraphs. I couldn’t tell you what it is about her prose exactly that makes it so very beautiful – all I know is that the descriptions delighted me.

2) It is slightly a novel of two halves. The first part, dealing with Karou and her peculiar life, was wonderful. Akiva’s arrival, however, led this book onto a more conventional path. Star-crossed lovers, involving one party who I found a little dull. This disappointed me. I also found the swiftness with which Akiva regains all his feelings a bit hard to swallow. And the idea of true love happening as the two protagonists gaze at each other is just ridiculous – Romeo and Juliet has a lot to answer for.

3) The setting is brilliant. Prague lends itself to folklore and fairytale and is the perfect location for Karou. It’s also lovely seeing somewhere that isn’t the States or London.

4) Karou is a wonderful protagonist. She’s strong and knows her own mind; she’s not angsty; she is confident and brave. I think this is the best kind of heroine – truly someone who young readers can aspire towards.

5) The chimaera are a terrific creation – imaginative, dark and dangerous. Seeing them in all their various forms, and knowing their conflict was a great part of what made this book so impressive.

6) I absolutely loved the idea of teeth and wishes, especially those three levels of wishes. It felt so unique and yet timeless as I read about it. Brimstone, as well, was fantastically intriguing and foreboding.

7) I object terribly to the cliff hanger ending – although at least the second book is out now and I can go and pick it up straight away! I can’t even think how it would have been if I’d read this book when it first came out and had a year to wait until the second… Why such a cliff hanger? Just a cynical ploy to get people to pick up the second?

8) The friendship between Karou and Zuzana is well-drawn, and gives a warm depth to the book. It’s lovely to encounter a friendship like this in a paranormal romance type YA, where usually the heroine doesn’t really have friends and relies exclusively on the chap who she falls deeply in love with. To have an authentic friendship in a novel elevates Daughter of Smoke and Bone above other novels of this ilk.

9) I felt the flashback section dealing with Madrigal was a little clumsily dropped into the story. It was only towards the end that all the pieces came together that I regained all my enjoyment for the novel.

10) Watching her while she sleeps, Akiva? Just no. Stop. It’s not romantic. It’s being a stalker.

In the end the pros definitely outweighed the cons and I would give this a hearty 8/10.

What did you think of it?

Ten Things About… A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

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All humanity is in peril – and the outcome will be decided in Shayol Ghul itself. The Wheel is turning, and the Age is coming to its end. The Last Battle will determine the fate of the world . . .

For twenty years The Wheel of Time has enthralled more than forty million readers in over thirty-two languages. A MEMORY OF LIGHT brings this majestic fantasy creation to its richly satisfying conclusion.

Working from notes and partials left by Robert Jordan when he died in 2007, and consulting with Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson has recreated the vision Jordan left behind.

I’ve been reading the Wheel of Time since I was sixteen years old. I’ve awaited every new volume with deep excitement. This last volume gave me such a bittersweet feeling, because I knew the end was coming. Here are ten things about A Memory of Light. Beware of spoilers.

1) It was ultimately disappointing. But then, how could it live up to almost two decades worth of reading and anticipating and questioning and wondering? Why was it a disappointment? For a few reasons. One of which is that it seemed so disjointed – flying around from POV to POV with nary a breather. Another is that a few subplots that have been hanging around for EVER, like Padan Fain, were dismissed in the matter of a few pages. The pacing felt off.

2) WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO BELA? It just seemed so cruel! Sure, not everyone was going to get through the battle unscathed, but an innocent horse?

3) I was deeply surprised by how much I ended up caring for characters that seemed solely of Sanderson’s creation – certainly, that had not really been on-screen during Jordan’s tenure. Androl and Pevara were one of the best partnerships of the series, as they explored what it meant to be bonded and to change history.

4) Some of the deaths were so anticlimactic. I mean, a character looks around and Siuan is dead. One of the most major characters of the series, who has gone through such progression, and her death is conducted off-screen. It meant that I didn’t feel the grief that I should have done.

5) Some of those who stayed alive should have died. Lan, for example. This was a guy who had so many “final” charges it became a little ridiculous. In a fabulous echo of Rand’s battle with Ishmael in The Great Hunt, he accepted the sword of a Forsaken in order to kill him. And then didn’t die. This noble warrior should have fallen. It would have hurt – my god, there would have been tears – but it would have been such a fitting end to his long and powerful life.

6) Sanderson’s writing is pedestrian at best. There were moments that SHOULD have been immense, stunning, terrible. But they ended up falling flat because the writing didn’t lift them at all. The writing felt dry, as though it was going through an ‘and then, and then’ way of wrapping up the series. It didn’t feel as though Sanderson was immersed as thoroughly as he should have been in the lives of these characters. And how could he? He hasn’t been writing them for long enough. He didn’t create them in the first place. Why would he have the same interest in making sure their stories are told in the best way possible?

7) The whole Demandred/Shara thing actually made me angry. Properly angry. We’ve spent books and books trying to work out which of the kingdoms he is manipulating. And then we’re told he’s been buried down in Shara – a place that has been mentioned about five times over the course of the last thirteen books. I like putting together puzzles and trying to come up with the right answer, but this was just way too obscure for my tastes. Plus, he emerges with an army of channelers, yet the side of the Light couldn’t manage to get together the thousands of channelers that they apparently had access to – Wise Ones, Windfinders, Aes Sedai etc. It felt like there were about one hundred Aes Sedai with Egwene, which wasn’t right.

8) The ending. Man, that ending. Now I was NOT a fan of the gimmicky epilogue that J K Rowling stuck on the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, but I think that THIS ending was as much at fault. This time for being way too unfinished and leaving me feeling very unsatisfied. I’ve seen people say that it was the best possible way for the books to end – with Rand leaving to go wander the world. Umm, what about his coming children? What about the women who say they will be his wives? He’s just going to drop everything and have an adventure? And why couldn’t Tam know that he is actually alive? So many unanswered questions – and not in a good way.

9) A lot of this novel felt very much like filler. Oh, there’s another battle. Oh, look, more people dying in droves. And there is another fight using the One Power. We should mention Logain again – what can he do? Wander around being ineffectual? Okay, sounds good! Where were the meaningful scenes that had been coming and had been promised for so long?

10) CAPS LOCK DOES NOT MAKE FOR A GOOD READING EXPERIENCE. Plus, the Dark One already has the most silly of villanous names – now we’re going to give him the silliest ways for villains to talk? WELL, ALRIGHT THEN.

A very disappointed 3/10.

Ten Things About… Your Blogger

A quick introduction, methinks…

Right! Ten Things About me!

1) I read a little bit of *everything*. I’ll try any genre once. I confess to having quite enjoyed Twilight. I also liked War and Peace.

2) I like kittens. For breakfast. Kidding.

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3) I live on Diet Coke.

4) If a movie isn’t either animated or has explosions, I’ll take *forever* to watch it.

5) I am a compulsive list-maker – hence the format of this blog!

6) I craft – knitting mostly – and might do a few blog posts about that as well (although not quite sure how it fits into the ‘narrative entertainment’ rule of my blog yet. I’ll make it up).

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7) I am a sucker for pretty book covers, and have purchased hundreds of books on cover alone.

8) I prefer not to make waves, but have strong opinions on chocolate and cabbage (the former is manna, the latter is devil’s food).

9) I have been a Twitter & blog lurker for…..well, forever, but have decided to finally take the plunge. Be gentle.

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10) I make promises I don’t keep. Like “I promise I’ll update this blog daily” and “I promise never to read trashy fiction again”. Both of those are unlikely to be kept.

So, that’s me! Tell me something about you?