Monday, 11 October 2010

The Spook's Sacrifice (Wardstone Chronicles Book Six)

Spook's SacrificeTitle: The Spook's Sacrifice
Author: Joseph Delaney
Series: Wardstone Chronicles (Book 6)
Preceeded By: The Spook's Mistake
Succeeded By: The Spook's Nightmare


Score: 7/10
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Definite


If you haven't read any of the Wardstone Chronicles books before, go and do so now. Or after you've finished reading the review, anyway. They are one of the best children's series I know, alongside the Edge Chronicles (although somewhat different), to the point where I know many adults who read them.

This book has a different cover to the originals, which is something I'm quite disappointed about, given that I rather liked the original style. But while I like matching books, It's not vitally important, and the new covers do give more of an impression of what the story is about.

Which in this case is a blend of supernatural and fantasy genres that works really well (OK, you could say that supernatural is a sub-genre of fantasy anyway).The general premise is of a character who protects "The County" from "the Dark", and takes an apprentice, Tom Wardstone. In this sixth book, the heroes must defeat a goddess, who threatens to destroy the world.

It is a very different tone from the first books in the series, heavier and darker, as many series tend to become, but the quality of the stories hasn't changed. The characters are still brilliantly presented, particularly the Spook himself, and the story flows particularly well from the previous book, despite being an almost entirely new setting and enemy.

There is only one problem that I had with the story, and that is that the tower-climbing section of the book seemed to me to read like a computer game would progress. It's not a major problem, since it's not a huge part of the book, but the fact that I noticed it meant that the narrative wasn't keeping me as tightly focused during that section.

While some parts might be understood a bit better if you've read the previous books, there really is no limitations if you haven't (although you should!). I couldn't really remember the Spook's Mistake very well, but nevertheless found myself enyojing this book immensely, and you should allow yourself to do the same. Adult or otherwise, buy this book.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): 2 Male, 1 Female
Main Antagonist(s):  1 Female Goddess/Demon
Main Relationships: Very minor hints of Heterosexual
Genre: Fantasy / Supernatual
Amazon Synopsis:

As the Spook’s apprentice Tom’s first duty is to protect the County from the dark. But now Mam needs his help in her homeland of Greece. One of the most dangerous of the old gods, the Ordeen, is about to return there, bringing slaughter and devastation. Meanwhile, the Devil himself is still loose and if he and the Ordeen join forces, a new age of darkness will descend. Mam has summoned a powerful group to her side but among them are Tom’s old enemy, the Pendle witches, including the assassin Grimalkin, and the cunning clan leader Mab Moldheel. Can Tom go against all the Spook has taught him and ally himself to the witches? What is the secret that Mam is keeping from him? And what sacrifices must be made in the battle against the dark?

ISBN: 978-0370329321
Website: Spooks Books
Amazon Link: Spook's Sacrifice
Pages: 384
First Published: 4 Jun 2009
Publisher: Bodley Head (Random House Imprint)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Farlander (Heart of the World Book One)

Title: Farlander
Author: Col Buchanan
Series: Heart of the World (Book 1)

Succeeded By: ???


Score: 10/10
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: Definite!


Given that this is a debut novel, it is perhaps forgivable that I hadn't heard of Col Buchanan before I read this book. But I'm glad that I have now. Farlander is a fantastic novel, with an incredible storyline, and a completely unexpected twist that, well, was quite a surprise...

The story starts quickly, in media res, and while the pace varies for the situation, the book never seems rushed, and never too slow. Somehow Buchanan always manages to get it right, and always keeps the plot flow interesting.

Uniquely, in my reading experience, there was one particular scene that stood out in memory, where Buchanan wrote an explanation for the immoral behaviour of "the bad guys", and constantly questions the morality of "the good guys", although he does explain their reasons too. Despite this, there is still the classic good and evil characterisations, but here it seems a deeper, more realistic blur of morality and conscience.

As with any good author, Buchanan writes several characters well, and even characters that appear for only a page or two can appear quite rounded. But the best characters were the Rōshun. Every one of them (Including the apprentices and a not-really Rōshun called Che) were well-written and extremely enjoyable to read.

In fact, there were only two problems with the book that I encountered, and they are minor. The first is that there was one storyline, that of Bahn, the General's advisor, didn't seem to make a lot of difference to the story, although it was interesting. Given that this is just the first book in the series however, it will be interesting to see where this leads. The other problem was the use of the ō character in the word Rōshun, but that's mainly because it meant I had to figure out how to write it in notepad for this review.

In summary, this book was incredible. Buchanan has the potential to become a popular author, and I hope that the publisher, Tor Books, helps him achieve this. Farlander is now one of my favourite books, and I look forwards to the next with anticipation.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): Several Male
Main Antagonist(s): Mixed Genres
Main Relationships: None (Hints of Heterosexual)
Genre: Fantasy
Description: (from amazon)

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.
The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army.
Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Rōshun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.
When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Rōshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Rōshun orders – their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports . . . into bloodshed and death.

ISBN: 978-0230744813
Website: Author's Site
Amazon Link: Farlander
Pages: 384
First Published: 5 Mar 2010
Publisher: Tor Books