If fools really do rush in where angels fear to tread, then Prince Jalan Kendeth is the least foolhardy man you’re ever likely to meet. If he’s rushing anywhere, then it’s out: out of money, out of luck, out of the way of those angry men wielding swords.
Prince of Fools is the first book of Mark Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War trilogy, set in the same world, and at the same time, as The Broken Empire series, which we reviewed not too long ago. But it is glimpses of familiarity we get, rather than a re-treading of old stories and characters.
Those paying close enough attention may have noticed a theme permeating many of our articles: We are all big fans of fantasy.
Whenever the small voice at the back of my mind tells me that I should read more classics novels, it is quickly silenced by the roar of dragons or the clash of swords. So I thought I would explore why this is.
Probably the greatest and most obvious point is the number of possibilities available to fantasy books. Most fiction involves ordinary people who are exposed to extraordinary circumstances. It is, for the most part, escapism. I consider fantasy to be the ultimate escapism because these circumstances are no longer limited to the realm of the possible. The scope broadens.
The stone was cold to the touch. Even in such a hurry, with the sounds of Mrs Miles’ hurrying footsteps already fading, she stopped dead when she saw them. In the midst of these massive and strange caves, her eyes found a familiar sight. Everywhere she looked, there were shapes and pictures carved into the limestone walls, some childish and jolly, others works of art, but this one held her full attention. The hairs on her arms and neck stood on end. Her fingers brushed a dozen small indentations in the stone, birds with razor sharp beaks and talons, not a flock of gulls or a murder of ravens, but a swarm of vox, something she hadn’t seen for three years.
Since my last review of men wielding swords, albeit in a slightly more familiar land, I have read three books, all of which were from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy series and, more precisely, from The City Watch sequence. Because I have a little bit of a bad habit of judging a book by its cover, I started with book six (Night Watch), before moving on to book five (The Fifth Elephant), then book seven (Thud!). I am currently reading book one (Guards! Guards!).
Though I do mildly regret starting with Night Watch, as the time travelling element would have been more enjoyable had I known the older versions of the characters, one of the beauties of the Discworld series is the ease with which you can pick it up from anywhere in the series. This is the message I hope to convey most of all in this review: do not be intimidated by the long list of books in front of you. All of the books I have read so far are more than accessible to a new reader, even if you do miss some nods and winks (and the occasional elbow nudge).
The reason I first picked up Night Watch is because I read that it was a detective fantasy novel involving a policeman travelling to his own past along with a murderer, set in the back drop of a revolution. If this doesn’t make you want to read it then I’m sorry but we can’t be friends.
After a couple of years wrestling with magical creatures, arguing with people who don’t exist, and single-handedly building an entire world, I have finished the first draft of my fantasy fiction novel The Walk of Shadows (A snippet of which you can read here). As a result, I thought I would share with you some of my editing process between now and sending it off to be read by millions, as well as some thoughts and writing tips. I should temper this by noting that I have never had a book published and these are merely my musings, along with things I have picked up from other fiction writers.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell was my second foray into the world of historical fiction, the first being Death of Kings, a book from later on in the same series because it has a cool title and I’m an idiot.
George R.R. Martin has crowned Bernard Cornwell as writing “the best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present.” This praise is well earned. His battles feel both vast and personal. There is also a sense of realism that is absent from many series, yet they are still exhilarating. It is no small feat to chronicle the growing up of a young warrior but it is very well paced and never seems slow or rushed. The political intrigue maybe a way off Game of Thrones but Uhtred’s split loyalty between the warring Danes and Saxons is plenty enough to keep you turning the page, even if you have an unnatural aversion to well written action. Continue reading
The spinning finally stopped and Jack was allowed to fall to the floor in peace. Marcus and Jenny kindly followed his lead, he assumed so he didn’t look quite so stupid. It was a kind gesture but when they also started moaning he started to feel like they were mocking him. Marcus leant to the side and threw up.
“Well,” Jack said, wobbling to his feet. “That went a lot better than expected.”
His friends both glared at him. “Better?” Jenny asked. “I suppose you were expecting our organs to actually spew from our mouths?”
“I was thinking it was more likely that we would be ripped to shreds and our atoms dispersed throughout the multiverse.”
“Seems like the type of thing you would mention before we agreed to come with you,” Marcus said.
“We were in a bit of a hurry.”
“Yet we had time to watch all three Back to the Future movies?” Jenny said.
“Crucial research. If you want to end up making out with your dad then so be it but if I’m going to travel back in time then I want to be prepared.”
The success of the Harry Potter series can be attributed to many different things. In my opinion the biggest factor was the complete and varied universe the JK Rowling created within our own world. But, to me, the most magical world ever imagined would mean next to nothing without interesting characters to fill it. One of the reasons that Harry Potter was, and is, so important to me was those characters.
I’d like to start my character study of Severus Snape by giving Rowling one of the best compliments I can give: I don’t like Severus Snape. Just to be clear, I don’t like him as a person. The character is brilliant. The reason I consider this such a huge compliment is that many other people love him as a person. You will recognise that this is true about pretty much every real person who has ever lived. The fact that readers can look at the same words on a page and take away different things about a character tells of a fantastically talented author. Even after reading many other ‘more adult’ series, I still consider the Harry Potter series to have the largest number of distinct, real characters – characters who would pass the “they would never say that” fan fiction test.
By Andy Wright
First off, I feel it should be noted that all of the reviews we have written so far have been ones of glowing praise. The simple reason for this is that we have chosen to start the reviews with our favourite books, both of our recent reads and of all time. On top of this it is much more enjoyable for us to write about books we love. That being said, here is another novel that I adore.
I did a rare thing recently: I reread a book. I know, I know, it’s crazy. Here I sit, with thousands of great stories, magical worlds and fascinating characters a few clicks away and yet I pick up a book I have already read. But hopefully you will curtail your angry tirade when I tell you that the book was the ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’; the story of a master thief and his gang, who are the most gentlemanly of bastards.
By Andy Wright
Do you feel the need to question your very humanity? Do you want to spend three books cheering on a near-psychopathic rapist and murderer? You should, because The Broken Empire is a damn fine series.
I must admit that I had to fight through the early chapters of Prince of Thorns. I like a good anti-hero as much as the next bloke, but I initially found nothing redeeming in Jorg Ancrath: he was a merciless and reprehensible tyrant. In short he was pure evil and I simply didn’t like him. I’m not quite sure when this began to change, perhaps as I got to know where he came from and what made him the person he is today. I say person because he is only thirteen when we join the action, the youngest roving murderer this side of Westeros.