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Monday, 27 October 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #41 - The Ambassador's Mission, Trudi Canavan

I have to admit, the death of a certain character (SPOILER ALERT: High Lord Akkarin) at the end of the Black Magician trilogy is one fictional death I have yet to get over. So it was bittersweet when I picked up this book, the beginning of a new trilogy in the world of the Black Magician trilogy.

Set twenty years after the Ichani invasion of Kyralia, Dannyl, one of my favourite characters from the Black Magician Trilogy, is trying to write a history of magic and intends to go to Sachaka - a land rife with Black Magicians - to continue his work. Lorkin, the son of Sonea and the late High Lord Akkarin, volunteers to go with him, partly because of a genuine interest in history and partly to escape the Guild to which he's been confined for so long. Sonea, now entitled the Black Magician, is reluctant to let him go, because she fears for his life - Akkarin had been a slave in Sachaka long ago and the Ichani, who invaded Imardin (and who are now dead) still have relatives there who will want to see Lorkin pay for the sins of his parents.

Nevertheless, he goes, and Sonea turns her mind to other problems. There is someone in the city called the Thief Hunter who is killing off thieves left, right and centre. Her hospices are becoming overrun by people addicted to a substance called roet. Cery, her childhood friend, investigates the Thief Hunter after his family are killed and Sonea helps in whatever way she can, though because of her knowledge of Black Magic, her freedom is limited.

While a very interesting story, which I'm sure will get more engaging in the next two books, I didn't find this book as much of a page-turner as the Black Magician trilogy. Perhaps that was because there was a lot more risk, chase, and discovery to make in the Black Magician trilogy, in terms of Sonea discovering her powers and becoming the first slum-dweller to make it into the Guild, traditionally reserved for the higher classes. Still, it was an intriguing plot and nice to greet some old favourite characters again. It will be interesting to see where the next book, The Rogue, takes us.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #40 - The Gospel of Loki, Joanne Harris

Yet another one of Joanne Harris' books I found and loved.

If you pick up this book and are expecting Marvel, don't. Much of mythology has its roots in oral tradition, meaning stories passed on over the years naturally evolve and are told in different ways. Marvel took what they wanted and ran with it. Joanne Harris did her research and did the same (I assume, anyway; I don't know Norse mythology at all).

It's not often that the guys painted as villains get their say, so I'm glad Harris chose Loki for her subject. Much of the beginning is scene setting - how the world was created, according to the Allfather Odin, and so on - which was interesting and necessary for scene setting and acclimatising the reader to the world of the Norse gods - but it's when I got past this bit that the story really hooked me. I mentally 'ooh-d' and 'ahhh-d' at regular intervals, and was mainly just really impressed at Loki and how he a) managed to orchestrate very tricky and clever traps for the gods to fall into and b) how he managed to get himself disentangled from whatever situation (mostly) in which he found himself ensnared.

The writing flowed along easily and the story was well-paced - I would compare it to floating in the river Dream often referred to in the story, although it's not the best analogy as Dream is a frightening place to be, by all accounts. I could have sat for hours at a time losing myself in Loki's mishaps and his triumphs, and would be so happy if there was another Loki-based story. I was wondering where Harris' other two books set against the backdrop of Norse mythology - Runemarks and Runelight, both really good stories - fitted into this, though perhaps the timing is unrelated.

Anyway, I would highly recommend the book and I'm so glad I got to read it at last.