AWESOME Authors I Discovered in 2017 *and* Am Looking Forward to Reading More From

Technically this was a Top Ten Tuesday topic… buuut it’s not this week’s, so this is a fail 😉 Ah well, pish posh, who cares about rules when it comes to sharing great books? I certainly don’t. And I really wanted to do this topic, because there’s nothing I like more than talking about AWESOMENESS (aside from griping about suckfests… moving on…). Besides, it was this or talk about *nothing* for Nothing Day (yes that’s a thing to, happy Nothing Day everybody!)

Anyhoo enough rambling- gonna try to not repeat myself too much from my best of 2017 post, although it can’t be entirely avoided 😉 Here’s some amazing authors I discovered in 2017:

solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn– I’m beginning to sound a lot like a broken record when it comes to the Gulag, but that’s not the only book I read by Solzhenitsyn last year. I started off my journey into the Siberian wastes with One Day in the Life of Ivan Densovitch and that motivated me to continue reading. Speaking of Siberia…

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Ruta Sepetys– WOW what a writer. Of the two books I read by her last year, I preferred Salt to the Sea to Between Shades of Grey, but either way her stories pulled me in and were impossible to forget. There’s no question that I want to read more by this author.

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Agatha Christie– two things happened on my blog last year relating to Christie: 1) I announced that I had zero intention of reading her work and… 2) I actually read her work. I have since seen the error of my ways and plan to read more soon 😉

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S. K. Tremayne– gosh Tremayne reminded me reignited my zest for thrillers… I have to read MORE!

alan partridge

“Alan Partridge”– I read two books by “Alan Partridge” last year- I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a book so much. It’s easy for me to say, considering that there are hilarious (yet totally mundane) asides on getting a car into gear in these books, that Steve Coogan could literally put out *anything* for this character and I’ll read it.

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Robin Hobb– it took me long enough but I finally read Assassin’s Apprentice last year! And as some of you may know, I was so blown away it that I ended up going a little crazy, reading both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies in one go… Yeah, it’s no wonder I got a bit Hobbed out by the end of my massive binge. Still, though my appetite may have been dampened temporarily, I want to *jump right back up on that horse* and continue reading in 2018!

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Mark Lawrence– I read a very respectable 4 books by Lawrence last year and they were all fantastic fantasies- now I want MORE… Lucky for me Grey Sister is out this year 😉

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Ed McDonald– Blackwing was certainly one of the best debuts I’ve ever read- WOWEE- you can make a safe bet that I want to read the next one!

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Katherine Arden– what list about 2017 would be complete without Arden? You all know by now how much I loved Bear and the Nightingale (if not, hi nice to meet you, I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I loved this book). So naturally I’ll be reading and reviewing Girl in the Tower soon- watch this space.

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Eowyn Ivey– gorgeously atmospheric and beautifully written- I adored how this was a fairytale retelling woven together with a historical setting. I will definitely have an eye out for her other books!

Phew- managed to only repeat 3 from my top ten! Have you read any of these? What’s the best author you discovered in 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Hobb-knobbing with the Tawny Man

Well hello again! Told you I wouldn’t be long with this series review. In case you’re not caught up, I recently read Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy for the first time and I became so hooked on Hobb that I just had to jump into this series. As with the previous series, I decided to do them in bulk.

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No spoilers for the previous series and you’ll be forewarned if I plan to get into the nitty gritty of something.

Fool’s Errand

fool's errandWithout a shadow of a doubt, this had one of the finest opening lines I’ve ever read:

“He came one late, wet spring, and brought the wide world back to my doorstep”

That alone drew me in. The steady start, the slow introduction and reintroduction of characters, was thoroughly absorbing. There was no doubt in my mind that the writing, which I so admired in the previous books, was even better here:

“Sometimes skill-hunger ate at me as a canker eats sound flesh”

From the captivating opening paragraph, all the way to the last line, Hobb painted such vivid pictures in my imagination, that I couldn’t help but admire the this book.

I did like the development of the subplot from the first series, focusing on people’s prejudices towards people with the wit and their consequent superstitions. I certainly appreciated this, as while it was detrimental to the plot in Farseer, it never felt like it was explored as much as it could have been.

BUT I did have some problems quite quickly with the plot- especially because there was *a lot* of recapping. I’m honestly never a fan of recaps, though I get why they’re there (considering most of the time there can be long waits between books) but I do feel like they should be kept to a minimum and that they can be unnecessary. This book in particular took a great deal of time to grind out of first gear. In fact, it was v e r y  s l o w in the middle.

Because of this, I thought I’d read this too soon after the last series- HOWEVER it ended up winning me over heart and soul. First of all, things picked up to a gallop once Prince Dutiful was introduced, thanks largely to him not living upto his name. And secondly because of that showstopping, rip your heart out of your chest ending. To say it was emotional would be a total understatement. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say too much, but it was stunningly sad and beautifully written.

While I didn’t love this book as much as the first series, it was still a great read and I appreciated the direction it took. Looking back, that ending marked the transition from the Farseer Trilogy and the death of the(more petulant, childish) old Fitz. In with the new I say! And since I’m a sucker for anything that can yank on the old heartstrings, I ended up falling for this book:

4/5 bananas

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Golden Fool

golden foolNot losing momentum from the last book, Golden Fool began with Fitz recounting his devastating loss. Since this was playing on my mind, it was definitely the best place to start.

However, sadly the pace did not keep up continue at that hard-hitting speed. Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the plot in this one, because there was no obvious quest until page 275, which had already been mentioned on the blurb, and this wasn’t fulfilled until the next book anyway. Because of that there was far less urgency here, the story kept stalling and everything ambled along rather reluctantly. Misleading blurbs and slow plots are bad enough, but this was made all the more infuriating considering that what we were promised was DRAGONS.

…!!!!!!….

Yeah…. Never do that to me. I’m bound to get mad. I was able to cool it a little, considering that I knew we’d get that… eventually. Plus, it was pretty amazing to read the dragonlore here. I particularly loved the idea that dragon carvers were inspired by real dragons BRILLIANT. This did add tremendously to the rich world building. (There was also the brief mention of liveships- which whetted my appetite for Hobb’s other series)

I will admit that I liked the subplot about the suspicion of people with the wit- it just wasn’t enough to carry the book for me considering the fact that this subject has been present in *all* the books so far. It also wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been. Frankly, it served too much as filler in this one, especially as all the other Elderling books have had self-contained plots.

Still, one thing I did love in this book was how it showcased the progression of Fitz’s life. As a character he has developed in so many unexpected ways and I really feel like I’ve got to know him by now. More than ever, I appreciate how the story is told from his perspective and how he’s often not the all-out hero, but more of a helper (or catalyst *wink wink nudge nudge*) and helps others sacrifice themselves a little.

What I loved even more was his relationship with Dutiful. He too is an intriguing character and it’s fun to read about the, so to speak, next generation. I also loved the introduction of Nettle and how she was introduced. The only one who didn’t hold my attention was Hap, who I thought might be more interesting than I found him to be.

Ultimately, this was good in parts, but I’d put this firmly in the middle book syndrome category I’m afraid.

3½/5 bananas

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Fool’s Fate

fool's fateOkay, I’ll admit it, there were a few points in this book when I started to think I might be Hobbed out. 1) I found it very very long- which isn’t so different from the others, but man I was really beginning to feel it. 2) I started to mull things over that I mightn’t have worried about in other books (for instance, why is the Skill no longer associated with just the Farseers? Did I miss something about who you were and were not able to influence? Are the rules changing…?) Honestly, in most books this sort of thing doesn’t trouble me too much and now I’m done it’s more a point of interest than anything else, which is why I began to think I might have overdone it with too much of this series at once.

There were other things that I felt like I missed or that I wasn’t entirely clear on (like highlight for spoiler: the Fool’s resurrection), though luckily some of these things were cleared up pretty quickly. For instance, this threw up a lot of questions about Outislanders for me… but fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for answers. With the introduction of the Pale Woman we got the solution to many mysteries and were given the sense that they had all been playing a much larger game than they ever knew.

Now, a central part to this book is the Fool and I know I’ve not talked much about him before now. To be honest, the most interesting thing about the Fool for me is how difficult he is to pin down, which is why I reckon it’s worth preserving as much mystique as possible and leave that part up to individual readers to mull over. All I’ll say is that I like watching his relationship with Fitz develop (though some aspects I’m still puzzling over…)

There were a lot of other cool aspects to this book, especially the intriguing opening and as-per-usual fantastic writing:

“The Fool’s Tongue juggled the word like pins”

(I feel like I need to show it off from time to time)

Plus we did finally get the dragons we were promised in the previous book- and one of my now all-time favourite quotes about dragons as a bonus:

“Dragons at a distance are amazing and noble creatures of legend. My closer experience of them makes me suspect they’d burp nobly after consuming me”

In terms of character, the most interesting development for me is (weirdly enough) Chade. I have enjoyed him in the past, but I’m beginning to think he’s growing more ambitious and getting some proper villainy traits (who knows- this could be pure speculation at this point…) I do want to carry on reading to see where he’ll end up at least.

And just to round this off with some *spoilery* chat, I was a bit peeved with Molly (what’s new?). I mean, I can let her and Burrich off the hook (sort of- at least it was confirmed in Golden Fool that he a little too conveniently thought Fitz was dead for reelz) but her reaction to finding out he’d been alive all this time perfectly explains why I’ve never liked her. It went something like: “oh you’re alive, oh well it’s all your fault, oh and I did nothing wrong marrying your adopted father”- ugh! I don’t get why, even after everything’s explained to her, she can’t see that he sacrificed his own happiness for the sake of everyone else (not least cos it would ruin her life if he’d showed up to tell her he was alive when she was already with Burrich).

Okay rant and spoilers over.  With all that out my system, I can say this was a very satisfying ending and feels like an excellent place to pause (for now).

4/5 bananas

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To sum up: I admit to finding these books long winded at times, but the payoffs always worth it!

So have you read this series? Are you planning to? Let me know in the comments!

Setting my Sights on the Farseer Trilogy

Well this is a seriously stunning series! I have to say right off the bat that if you like fantasy even a smidgen then *this is the trilogy for you*! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to Hobb… Actually I can a little- I mean, she’s got a huge body of work and it’s pretty intimidating. But I was able to line up the whole first series to read recently… so that’s what I did. And let’s just say I was transported to fantasy heaven.

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Rather than swamping you with loads of little reviews, I decided to tackle the whole Farseer trilogy at once- so buckle in, this is gonna be quite the trip!

Please note spoilers will be marked, but the further you get down the page, where I discuss the later books, the more likely you are to encounter them.

Assassin’s Apprentice

assassins apprenticeI will say that this started out a little slow for me. I did like the introduction of all the characters, but it took me until the magic got introduced, at about 10%, for me to get fully invested- which would be fine, but in a 500 pages book, that’s a little longer than I would like.

Speaking of the characters, that’s what this book is all about. I *loved* how realistic, how complex and how vivid they all were. This isn’t one of those books where characters come second to the plot- no, they were the ones that breathed life into this trilogy. At the epicentre of these books is Fitz- who, as the Prince’s oft-mistreated bastard, is sympathetic from the start and often on the outside looking in. Thrust into the heart of all the political intrigue, he pulls us by the heartstrings into his world, and becomes the unlikely-yet-likeable force that drives the action and makes it impossible to resist falling in love with Hobb’s work.

Because there was also a great cast of side characters. From villains to heroes, they all felt alive to me. I don’t think I could juggle as many people in my review as starred in this book- which is testament to how terrific Hobb was at balancing them in her work! One of the highlights for me was actually Patience- who added a nice touch of comic relief whilst also being amazingly compassionate. The Fool was certainly a draw for me- though I hardly got anything pinned down on him in this early book. I also quickly admired Verity, but my first impressions were actually quite spoilery, so if you’ve read the whole series, highlight the next bit: I actually wrote in my notes that he was an interesting character but I didn’t see him surviving- LOL got a bit ahead of the game there 😉  I did appreciate Burrich- but he could be a bit of a foil to Fitz, which I thought was an interesting exploration of the parent role. As for the others: Chade was Shady, Shrewd was Shrewd and Regal was anything but.

Overall the writing was very absorbing. I especially appreciated the little snippets at the beginning of each chapter which added to the world building. However, while the descriptions were on the most part beautiful, there were points when the writing became burdensome and slow.

By the end, though, I was well and truly invested in the plot and didn’t care. Cos *man* that was a good ending, with revelation after revelation, events coming thick and fast, and culminating in some *fist pumping* moments. By the end of book 1, there was no doubt that I was going to be hooked on Hobb for life and that I may have just found a new favourite author. So it can be no surprise my rating for book one was:

4½/5 bananas

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Royal Assassin

royal assassinSo this book really built on some of the subplots from the first and I was mostly happy about that. For instance, the role of Fitz’ Beast magic took more of a centre stage, with the introduction of the wolf cub Nighteyes. And prepare for some gush, because I love-love-loved him! It can’t be a surprise that I adore non-human characters in books, given my blog name, and Nighteyes pretty much stole the show for me. I mean who wouldn’t love a ginger cake eating wolf? There were so many great details to him to make him pounce off the page and Hobb got his wolfish voice *just right*, with hilarious lines like asking Fitz to scratch him with “your so clever hands”. Honestly, for him alone, I would have wanted to give this book a squidgy hug!

Still, considering how strongly I felt about all the characters in this series, I was pretty meh about Molly. Don’t get me wrong, the romance here was sweet and it allowed for some gorgeous descriptions, but I wasn’t totally feeling it. To be honest, I didn’t find this relationship as important to me as his relationship with Nighteyes for instance- which was not great, cos, you know, as cool as their bond is, I should care more about the protagonist’s feelings for his love interest.

But, speaking of writing, this was an exquisite piece of work. I mean all you can say to this is *wow*:

“My body jangled like badly-tuned harp strings”

I wrote down so many incredible quotes from this because, like I said, *wow*. Every touch built on the world and the characters. I couldn’t help but admire the Queen’s poem for instance, or Fitz getting compared to a wolf, or the tradition of hanging a Pocked Man marionette before a tragedy tradition in puppet shows. The precision of the world building was an absolute delight.

Plot-wise, this began where book 1 left off and it was nice, dramatic starting point. However, once they got on the road and returned to Buckkeep, I did personally find it slowed down a little. Don’t get me wrong, I do like scheming and machinations- and this had that by the fortress load- but I couldn’t help but feel like things took a breather in the middle of the book. HOWEVER, that was just the calm before the storm because WOWEE this has transformative, bold ending. Honestly, that lifted this book several notches for me and completely blew me away.

4½/5 bananas

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Assassin’s Quest

assassin's questWell, if I thought Royal Assassin began and ended well, it was nothing compared to this book. *Spoilers abound* from here on out– but I honestly cannot keep things to myself at this point. As readers, we were taken on Fitz’s savage journey back to being human and truly got to experience his wolfish side. If the writing was well done before, this was bloody marvellous- take a peak:

“You’d pick at this quarrel like a scab until you got it bleeding and fresh”

The plot was a total rollercoaster- speeding exhilaratingly fast and then breaking to a halt. Because of this, I did find the ride a little jarring at times- for instance, there was a detour in the middle where Fitz attempted to kill Regal, where it sped up, but then immediately slowed again with another journey. There was a lot more meandering about in this book, which was a shame, because this slowed it down for me- but I guess I’ve also come to expect that from books that can double up as a weapon. In the end, though, it was like trekking up a mountain- there were some difficult peaks, some moments of concentration, but in the end the breathless beauty of the view from the summit made it all worth it.

What I liked most was the way this story was told. While told from Fitz’s perspective, he is not, I would argue, the most instrumental character in the book. In fact, we are given a vision of Verity’s heroism through Fitz’s eyes, who sacrifices everything for the good of all. This coupled with Fitz’s own sacrifices gives us a multi-faceted view of sacrifice. Here Hobb embraces, transforms and goes beyond typical fantasy tropes, for we are given a symbolically flawless hero, through the would-be king, whilst also preserving the need for a flawed, human protagonist. With extraordinary deftness, Hobb explores the costs of magic, consequently showing the responsibilities of power, in a complex and striking way.

As you can tell from this, I thought that as a character study this was exceptional. However, I did have a few nitpicky issues. I may get in trouble for this, but I honestly didn’t connect to a lot of the side characters in this one. There were a lot of new people crowded into the book, like the minstrels, and although they were all prancing about for my attention, I just couldn’t bring myself to care for them. Annnd if that didn’t annoy you, I’m sorry to say I also hated Molly a little by the end of this book. At the risk of being a Fitz-fangirl, I think she often misunderstood him, didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt and I don’t think she had any justification for shacking up with his (practically) adoptive father in the end. Like I said, I was never that invested in Fitz’s relationship with her, but man, that’s harsh. The conclusion to that story arc was a bit gross to me and the elements of miscommunication (like Burrich not telling her he’d come back from the dead once already) left me a tad unsatisfied. Honestly, it felt like there was a bit of a cliffhanger in his personal life… it’s no wonder I immediately went on to read the next series!

4½/5 bananas

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Ultimately- I couldn’t resist *immediately* launching into Hobb’s second series on Fitz. So I hope you liked those reviews… cos I’m gonna bring out the next one soonish…

That’s all for now! Have you read this series? Are you planning on picking it up? Let me know in the comments!