Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time - Book Three)

Title: The Dragon Reborn
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: Wheel of Time


Score: 9/10
How long I would stay up reading: 4:00ish
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Definite


This has to be the best book in the series so far. Although there is still a prologue, it is much more readable and integral to the plot of the book than in the second in the series (although the prologue of that book is relavant to the plot of this one). Other than that there seems to be a pattern developing here, fulfill a prophecy and defeat the dark one. For that we'll have to wait until book four for more information.

In this book, as well written as the others if not better, there is everything that a fantasy of this kind should have; magic, swordery and political strife. Although it doesn't quite get 10/10, since I was able to put it down to do other things, this is amongst the best epic fantasy books i've read. It sets a high standard for future authors to reach for, and which few have reached in the genre. I eagerly look forward to reading the next books.

Apologies for the shorter review here, but it's difficult to describe the thrill of the story in this book. Read it, and you will understand. This is one of the first times I have been unable to say much about a book, and to be frank, I hope to be in this position again in the series...

More Information
Main Protagonist(s): 3 Male, plus mixed sex secondary characters
Main Antagonist(s): Male Entity, plus mixed sex "forsaken"
Main Relationships: Heterosexual
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Preceeded by: The Great Hunt
Succeeded by: The Shadow Rising
Brief Synopsis:

The Dragon Reborn--the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him--is on the run from his destiny.
Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how--for no man has done it in three thousand years--Rand al'Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?
Winter has stopped the war-almost-yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?
Perrin Aybara is in pursuit with Moiraine Sedai, her Warder Lan, and the Loial the Ogier. Bedeviled by dreams, Perrin is grappling with another deadly problem--how is her to escape the loss of his own humanity.
Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are approaching Tar Valon, where Mat will be healed--if he lives until they arrive. But who will tell the Amyrlin their news--that the Black Ajah, long thought only a hideous rumor, is all too real? They cannot know that in Tar Valon far worse awaits...
Ahead, for all of them, in the Heart of the Stone, lies the next great test of the Dragon reborn....
(Taken from Amazon)

ISBN: 1857230655
Website: US Publisher's author page
Amazon Link: UK Site US Site
Pages: 699
Publisher: Orbit
First Published: 1992

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time - Book Two)

Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time


Score: 8/10
How long I would stay up reading: 4:00 am
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Definite


I was pleasantly surprised to find that in this second book of the series, the maps that seem to adorn most fantasy books were before the prologue. Anyone who has read my review of the first book, "The Eye of the World", will know that I found it being the other way round rather offputting. It feels like a much more natural order here. In fact, the majority of the problems I had with the previous book have simply disappeared.

The transitions between characters are smooth, and there are many more sub-plots than in the original, most of which tie together nicely in the last few chapters. There are less similarities to other famous works here, perhaps as Jordan seems to become more comfortable with his own style. Most importantly though, to me at least, the story starts a lot faster, opening with a sword fighting lesson and moving on to a raid of the town.

The prologue here seems to get in the way, since it is seemingly not very important. It refers to the whitecloak subplot, yet this is a very vague sub-plot, and rather hurridly ended. Despite being minor in compariosn to the rest of the story, it is ended quite badly, and leaves a lot of questions as to what exactly was going on.

However, as previously, it was brilliantly written and I will most definitely be following the series to it's conclusion (The last book has just been published).

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): 5 male and 4 female
Main Antagonist(s): 2 male
Main Relationships: Heterosexual undertones
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Preceeded by: The Eye of the World
Succeeded by: The Dragon Reborn
Brief Synopsis:

Every so often, a Great Hunt begins for the lost Horn of Valere, a legendary horn that when sounded will bring back the ancient heroes to do battle. Rand and his companions don't need to join in however, since the horn is safely in their possession. Or so they think. They are attacked by trollocs and darkfriends, who manage steal the horn, and cause Rand, Mat, Perrin, Hurin and Loial the ogier to travel with a host of warriors on the true great hunt. Meanwhile Egwene and Nynaeve are taken to Tor Valon to begin their training as Aes Sedai. But an Aes Sedai of the red faction betrays them, resulting in Egwene's slavery at Toman Head. With only their new friends Min and Elayne to help, How will Nyneave free Elayne, and why are the darkfriends, led by Padan Fain, taking the horn to Toman Head? Most importantly, will Rand al'Thor take up his destiny as the Dragon Reborn?

ISBN(-10): 1-85723-027-2
Website: Publisher's Author Page
Amazon Link: UK Site US Site
Pages: ~ 680
First Published: 1991
Publisher: Orbit Books

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Wizard's Son

Title: The Wizard's Son
Author: Kathryn L. Ramage


Score: 7/10
How long I would stay up reading: Midnight
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Very Probable, if there was one.


The first thing that captured my attention with this particular book was the smell. It was interesting, different from the standard smell of a book. I attribute this to the differences between large presses and the small press that produced the book. However, it intrigued me, and as soon as I had finished the book I was reading upon it's arrival, I began reading in earnest.

The story is fairly unique in the genre of Fantasy, neither being an Epic adventure such as the Lord of the Rings nor exactly a story of learning such as Harry Potter, despite having elements of apprenticship and learning within it. It is a coming-of-age tale, with a well written non-linear structure that allows Orlan, the wizard's son, to move from childhood to adulthood without the narrative being required to jump between interesting points. The setting of the story, primarily the wizard's home and a nearby city, are described sufficiently well, but certain characters have the potential to be much more developed, particularly ones that are introduced near the end. This is especially true of one of the main character's love interests, whose loss results in a major decision for Orlan. The reader is not as in love with this character as we should be, and so it is harder for us to understandt that decision.

The story, despite being well written, doesn't seem to have any one particular story-arc, except the emotions and feelings of the main character. This is what sets it apart from other fantasy works, and although the idea could seem unappealing to some readers, it is a book that is well worth reading. Although it doesn't have a great physical struggle between good and evil, it discusses the issue in great depth, through the different types of magic and the tumultuous opinions of Orlan, in a way that few authors can do. In addition to this it looks at the themes of self-restraint and human nature, both difficult topics that are incredibly well approached.

While not the most addictive book that I've read, it was a highly interesting and enjoyable read, and I look forwards to reading more of the author's work.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): One Male
Main Antagonist(s): None
Main Relationships: Heterosexual, (But not a major theme)
Genre: Fantasy (alternate earth)
Brief Synopsis:
When Orlan's mother dies in the first three pages of the book, Lord Redmantyl (Title, not name) reveals himself to be his father, and places a spell to make him forget the pain of his mother's death. Orlan is tested for magical ability, and when he is old enough, begins to train as an a apprentice. For an apprentice to become a full wizard they must spend five years of abstinence from red meat, alcohol and sex. A year prior to his period of sober celibacy Orlan is sent to the local town, where he meets a group of boys that show him the attraction to drink and eventually women, weakening his self-control. In addition he finds the spell that his father placed on him to make him forget, and attempts to remove it. His final day in the town estranges him from his father, causing him to run away and begin a new life. But eventually, he must accept his place as his father's son.

ISBN(13): 978-0578032931
Publisher: The Wapshott Press
Website: Publisher's Book Page
Amazon Link: UK Site US Site
Pages: 286
First Published: 2009

The Eye of The World (Wheel of Time - Book One )

Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time


Score: 7/10
How long I would stay up reading: ~ 3 am
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Definite


The best place to start with reviews is normally the beginning. In this case however, that might not be true. The book is slow to pick up, and a couple of times I found myself drifting off in the initial chapter, or more accurately, the prologue. Then I was confused by the fact that the maps came after the prologue. Of course, I have a version that is now 14 years old, so these might have been re-arranged in the latest editions. If not, you are now prepared to deal with this potential break-down inducing irregularity.

After this we move to the main character's perspective, the first chapters of which involve him walking from farm to village and back again, introducing the other main characters quite well, if mundanely. After this it picks up, and there is never a dull moment. The main characters transition smoothly from children and guides to more equal companions (although not quite) in an almost traditional rite-of-passage style, the plot of which is highly original. The characters are exceedingly well written and developed, even when leaving an air of mystery around Lan and Moraine, the guides of the group. The descriptions of settings and lore of the world is not quite to the same standard of the characters, but is orated beautifully, and surpasses many other fantasy authors in simple quality.

There a few sub-plots in this first book, and fewer loose ends. This at first seems desireable, but not having read the second book yet it seems unlikely that the series will be initially as closely linked as it could be. However, I could be wrong, as there could be sub-plots that I failed to pick up on, that wil ldevelop later on, or perhaps the sheer style quality of the writing will thread through the series to connect them.

To critique the author, who unfortunately lost his life to cancer in 2007, he often uses similar phrases or decriptions regularly, particularly in the thoughts of the main character. This could be seen as life-like, but it can be irksome at times. In addition there are a few elements that seemed to coincide very closely to other epic fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings (in particular) and The Belgariad. These are not often though, and become less frequent as the story unfolds. The only other criticism I can make is the names used in the book. Names such as Artur Paendrag are quite clearly taken from legend (King Arthur Pendragon in this particular case), but awkwardly corrupted, while many others are not memorable. Moraine, for example, I had to look up to write this review, despite having read the whole thing in the last 48 hours.

So yes, there are some flaws in this, the first book of the series, but they are far overshadowed by the flowing narrative, the rich detail and characters that almost become friends. The biggest fault is the slow beginning, but bearing in mind that the slow moving chapters take up sixty pages out of eight hundred (out of a 12 book series), this is a rather quick start to the overall story. I loved this book, and although I would dearly love to ignore the book I'd promised to review and move straight on to the second, I am a man of honour, and book 2 (The Great Hunt) will have to wait.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): Group of 5 males and 3 females
Main Antagonist(s): Male entity
Main Relationships: Heterosexual Undertones
Genre: Fantasy
Succeeded by: The Great Hunt
Brief Synopsis:

When Rand's Village is attacked by trollocs, supposedly after him and two other boys (Mat and Perrin) he is forced to leave alongside Moraine, the Aes Sedai who told him this, and her Warder Lan. They are joined by a Gleeman, Thom, who wants to get away from the village, and a village girl, Egwene, who wants to see the world. Later the village's Wisdom, Nynaeve, catches up to them as they enter their first city. As Moraine tries to take them to the city of the Aes Sedai, Tar Valon, they are seperated, each discovering information that, when reunited, makes them realise that the whole world is in great danger. In their effort to save it they must endure The Ways of the Ogier, The perilous Bleak, and eventually the mystical Eye of the World.

ISBN: 1-85723-076-0
Website: Publisher's Author Page
Amazon Link: UK Site, US Site
Pages: ~ 800
First Published: 1990
Publisher: Orbit Books


So, there it. The first review. Hope it was helpful, and hope you come back to see more reviews soon. Keep Reading.

Adam Bourke

Sunday, 4 April 2010

NEWS: When a Site is Born...

Welcome to the rather originally and imaginatively named Fantasy and Sci-Fi Review Blog. This Blog was designed for the sole purpose, as the name suggests, of reviewing Fantasy and Science Fiction Books. And maybe the odd film now and again (but we'll not talk about that).

A question I'm sure some of you are thinking about maybe considering, is what makes this stand out from the other multitudes of book review sites out there, and why does the internet need another one?

Well right now the main difference is that this site has considerably less reviews. But since this is the first entry, that should change rather quickly. Now the most important difference is that this site is the first step in a much larger project to create a searchable books database for fantasy and science fiction books. Of course, such a project requires data to be input, and I thought that as I wrote reviews for as many books as possible, I might as well put them online in a blog. Because of this, the reviews on this blog will contain more information about the books themselves.

For example, I tend to prefer fantasy books with a female lead character, so information like main character gender will be included after the review, alongside length, types of relationship, and anything else that may be requested by readers.

So I hope this blog is helpful, once reviews are posted, and i wish you all good Fantasy Reading :-)