Top 5 Friday | Favourite Fantasy Trilogies

They say bad things come in threes, but some novels are proof that very good things can as well. Book trilogies are quite commonplace these days, especially in fantasy. It seems like a three-book arc is simply what’s needed to cover the scope of world-building and character development. Yet, this is not always the case… sometimes they can suffer from ‘Middle Book Syndrome’, which means the second book has no real story of its own and merely serves as a link between the first book and the last.

Well, here are my top 5, which I believe are solid gold the whole way through…
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BOOK REVIEW | The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (4 stars)

DragonKeeper-UKVerdict: Intriguing, well written and emotionally provocative. A great and enjoyable fantasy book.

I’ll be honest, it feels really strange to be writing a Robin Hobb book review and not being in a state of complete emotional trauma. I have long associated Hobb with tears, lengthy, horrified rants and exclamations that I will never again open myself up to such literary heartache (ha!). The Dragon Keeper by comparison was… pleasant. I thoroughly enjoyed my return to Bingtown and the Rain Wild; it welcomed me like an old home and it was like I’d never left. I have no real criticisms of the book at all. Although, at a stretch, I’d say that I only gave it 4 out of 5 stars because it lacked the emotional depth and investment to be able to traumatise me, and didn’t have a fantastic ‘grey area’ villain like Captain Kennit… but then, that is true of most books! Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW | Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (3.5 stars)

Howl's moving castleVerdict: Fun, easy and humorous read with an unfortunately vague ending.

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, which in Ingary means she’s nothing special. She’ll never go on adventures or achieve greatness but, being shy and humble to a fault, she’s resigned to her fate. Yet, when Sophie falls foul of The Witch of the Waste, her boring future is turned upside down as she’s forced to seek help from the fearsome Wizard Howl.

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BOOK REVIEW | A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (3.5 stars)

conjuring-of-lightVerdict: A neat end to a great story, definitely worth the read but lacking the magnetism of the previous two novels. 

The novel picks up where A Gathering of Shadows ended; our heroes are in a bad place and the odds are stacked high against them. Osaron, the piece of magic who would be king, the piece of magic who thinks its a god, is free, and all surviving Londons – White, Red and even Grey – could pay the ultimate price. Continue reading

Love in the time of gods: Philemon and Baucis

philemon-and-baucisWhen it came to love, the ancient Greeks and Romans had it covered. Amidst their tales of sex, entrapment and betrayal comes my favourite tale of all time… and it’s a romance. Sure, there’s mass death in it too, but oh well.

From Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a story that borders Greek and Roman myth. This isn’t your average story of boy-meets-girl and gives her an ‘I Wuv You’ bear.

This is true love.

Philemon and Baucis

Disguised as humble travellers, Zeus, King of the Gods, and Hermes, walked the earthly realm, seeking comfort and rest. They approached a thousand houses, and a thousand houses bolted their doors against them, unwilling to offer shelter.

Growing angry and despairing of the nature of humankind, the two gods approached one last dwelling. It was a humble shack, roofed with reeds and stems from the nearby marsh. It belonged to the aged Baucis and equally old Philemon, a married couple of meagre means. They had been wedded in the cottage in their younger years, and grown old together.

It was this house that received them gladly, welcoming the disguised travellers and making light of their poverty by acknowledging it, and bearing it without discontent of mind. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW | The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (3 stars)

girl-of-ink-and-starsVerdict: An enjoyable, ‘fairytale-esque’ story that is at once exotic and familiar. 

The story opens with Isa, a girl on the island of Joya who lives with her cartographer father. The island is being occupied by ‘The Governor’, who comes from Afrik, and has banned travel beyond Joya’s waters and even on other parts of the island, now named the ‘Forgotten Territories’. This latter point is a problem for Isa herself, who yearns to explore the rest of her home island. She is obsessed with its mythological history: it was once a floating island that could travel the seas by itself; it has its own heroine, Arinta, a young girl who heroically faced the fire demon Yote before he could destroy Joya entirely.

Soon, a revolt against the Governor sees Isa taking her own journey to the Forbidden Territories to rescue her best friend, echoing the mythological adventure of Arinta in ways that are both eerie and deadly.
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BOOK REVIEW | The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi [Bks 1-2] (4.5 stars)

Book 1: The Field Guide (5 stars)

book1coverVerdict: Sharp, simple and very engaging. 

I’m a bit late to the Spiderwick party, but I’m very glad I joined.

The Grace children- identical twins Jared and Simon, plus older sister Mallory – move into their crazy great-aunt’s old house. Jared in particular hates it, especially the squirrel he thinks lives in the wall. Very quickly we discover, however, that the noises at night are not being made by a squirrel…

The characters themselves are as engaging as the plot, although in the way of young children’s books, they are quite basic to begin with. Jared is an inadvertent trouble maker (and sometimes not so inadvertent) who tries hard but can’t seem to get into his family’s good books. Simon is the animal-loving sweetheart and Mallory the tough, talented older sister with  what seems like anger management issues. I’d gladly read more about them all any day of the week.

The Field Guide is a fast-paced introduction in the world of Spiderwick, and every moment holds your attention. Well-written and simply spun, it’s a short novel that all fans of fantasy will enjoy, regardless of their age. It is written for a younger audience (5-8) and, after reading it out of curiosity and loving it myself, I will be sharing it with my nieces who are in that blessed age bracket.

A happy afternoon’s entertainment.

Book 2: The Seeing Stone (4 stars)

book2coverVerdict: More action but not quite as pacy as the last one. Still a very good story.

And it all kicks off! With the revelation that the Fae-folk are as real as you and me, Jared, Simon and Mallory promptly land themselves into trouble. Thimbletack, their house Brownie, warns all three of them to relinquish the Field Guide but Jared keeps it, leading to Simon being abducted by goblins.

Although an easy read, interesting and certainly more action-packed than the first book, I found The Seeing Stone somehow hit a slower pace than The Field Guide. Particularly I felt that Jared and Mallory should have perhaps chased after Simon more speedily than they did, as it seemed quite some time between him being abducted and the two of them setting out to find him – despite the logic in the approach of their rescue! It just lacked a sense of urgency.

That said, once Mallory and Jared actually set out on their mission, what followed was a page-turning success, filled with danger, intrigue, and challenges of both mind and body. We learned more about the Fae world and the book opened up more questions with every answer they gave.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the next one (which is currently in my bag waiting for me).