The Sword of Shannara Review

The Sword of Shannara - Charles Keating, Terry Brooks

Epic

I don’t know about you, but I consider 700-page books pretty epic. This is probably the largest book I’ve read this year. It follows the journey of one Shea Ohmsford across this strange world with evil creatures lurking around every corner. It reminded me of when I read The Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit. I guess I’ll start with a recommendation that you should only read this book if you can read books like The Lord of The Rings.

 

Weird Language

Maybe it’s Brooks’s style, but I found when he mentioned a second person and called them “The other” etc. strange. It made sense, but it didn’t feel quite so natural and almost jolted me out of the story every time. I guess it’s because he wrote this in the 80’s. I haven’t read the next books so I can’t say whether he continues with the style.

 

Theme

From now on, I’m going to try work out the theme of each book. This is more an exercise for me to think slightly deeper about the book and reflect on what the book means to me. I believe the theme Brooks was trying to communicate in The Sword of Shannara is courage. Shea is a small-town boy who travels across a mysterious world, further than he has ever ventured before. That took courage for him to do. There are also other themes I see, such as trust, as the Druid doesn’t tell him everything and he must trust this man.

There are also (because this book is so long) other themes, such as never judge a book by its cover (quite a few characters have this trait), truth (could be argued that it’s the central theme of the book), and so much more.

 

Characters

I’m now starting to like books that have better characters. That means that the mannerisms are there and the little things that make a character unique. It’s a bit harder to show this in omniscient viewpoint because you’re always switching characters. I did notice some subtle differences in the characters, but mostly I got annoyed knowing everything that is happening everywhere.

 

Recommendation

Well, I thought it was a pretty good read for 700 pages. At times, it was a little slow and the paragraphs a little too long (it’s like looking at a wall of text). But overall, I believe I did enjoy the book and the story (it’s probably a bit overplayed now so the book doesn’t feel unique). I would recommend you buy this second hand because the new editions are expensive (sorry Brooks). I’ll get around the reading the next two in the original series later this year as it took me quite a few weeks to read this.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-sword-of-shannara-review

The Everything Store Review

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon - Brad Stone

Amazon

I’m not sure why this wasn’t named Amazon or something similar. It’s about Jeff Bezos and his rise (and control) of Amazon. Brad Stone made the book quite interesting to read for a typical fantasy guy like myself. However, I’m not sure he showed Bezos in the best of light.

 

Theme

Surely every book has a theme or central idea they want to convey right? Well, for this book I guess one of the ideas would be persistence. The idea that if you keep at something, eventually you’ll make your way through. Why do I think this? Because a lot of the time, Stone mentioned that Amazon was losing money. That’s right, Amazon wasn’t a profitable company for a long time. Bezos had the dream of an everything store (hence the title) and so, he persisted against investors and the stock market and came out on top.

Another theme could be that it’s hard being at the top. Bezos was portrayed as a man who would strike fear (I don’t think Stone used that word, but I will) in his employees. He wanted them to work for him, not for the perks of the business, but for the challenge. He would scream at some of his employees and would also micromanage parts of the business that he felt weren’t up to his standard. From what I understood, when you were watched by Bezos, that was generally a bad sign.

 

Writing

I found that Stone would be on one subject and one year and then go back to the past in the same paragraph. At times, it was a bit hard to follow. However, his writing was fairly conversational and even the technical parts weren’t so bad.

 

Recommendation

For all those who want to study the ruthless and forward-thinking leader (as he is so portrayed), this book would be a nice read. I believe Stone interviewed ex-employees and people close to Bezos to get the entire story as best he could. If you’re not interested in tech, Amazon, etc. then I would suggest you give this book a miss.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-everything-store-review

The Glass Magician Review

The Glass Magician - Charlie N. Holmberg

Return to the magical world

So, it’s a new month, and that means that I can rent a new book for the month (as an Amazon Prime member). Note, I don’t have the unlimited books for Amazon Prime. I looked at the selections and in Germany, you do get a crap selection (I don’t read German books). If someone at Amazon can prove me otherwise, be my guest.

 

Characters

We follow Ceony Twill again through this magical historical world. Now, she still loves her teacher, for whatever reason after being in his heart. I don’t really like this romance and would rather see it die. It seems to be Miss Twills only reason to do things and (well I’m not a 19-year-old girl) I don’t think 19-year-olds would put their entire life and career on the line for a man much older than her (maybe a 16-year-old would do that because of their first love etc. ).

We also join a character Delilah, who is apparently one of her best friends becomes kind of a major character in this book. She’s a glass magicia, and I guess that’s why she’s in this book at all. Delilah explains to Ceony how Glass magic works, and that’s about all she does.

 

Theme

I guess this book returns to the theme that love conquers all. This is shown with Ceony’s insistence that she needs to protect her teacher because she loves him so much (even if he pretends he doesn’t like her).

The book also follows along the lines of good vs. evil. Good is the side of the magicians who don’t use the blood magic and evil is the team that uses it.

Another theme is that society oppresses people. How is this shown? With the magical bindings that each have to choose after school. Ceony breaks this and can change to a glass magician.

(show spoiler)

 

Recommendation

My recommendation is the same as the last that you should rent this book (for free). I do like the concept in the story, but the characters and the actual story needed a bit of work. My thoughts are also that it was too short. All in all, I will probably read the last book in the series with my next month rental.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-glass-magician-review

The House of Hades Review

The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four) - Rick Riordan

Percy and Annabeth

Well, the two heroes that I like best are back (they get their storyline). They go through the depths of the evilest place in the world and happen to make a few friends while they’re at it also. The other heroes all go through their quests with their quirks and their powers beginning to show. We also learn of Nico and what is vital to him (why he does everything he does). It feels like there are too many characters in this series. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting exhausted switching between so many characters and trying to keep the stories intact.

 

Thoughts

I feel like I read this book ages ago. I’ve started writing again so my mornings for reading have gotten shorter. I read this on a plane from Munich to Edinburgh and back again. So, this book has travelled quite a bit with me. I find it nice to read on aeroplanes, it’s relaxing and gives you something to do for the shorter (1-4 hour) flights to do.

 

Themes

Now, I like to mention themes in all my new reviews. Obviously, since Percy and Annabeth survive in the worst place possible, through impossible odds, one theme I believe prevalent here is the idea of good v. evil. That there is inherently evil people in this world (monsters), and there are good people in this world (heroes). That good will overcome all obstacles. We almost see Percy turn evil at one point of the story, but Annabeth saves him from himself and talks Percy out of the act of evilness. I believe this also plays into the theme of good v. evil, but in another way, in that, there are good and bad sides to everyone. We also see this (spoiler alert) with one of the Titans, who should be an evil creation, but he turns out to be a really good guy.

I guess another theme in this book would also be courage. As with a lot of Riordan’s books in the Percy Saga, courage is something all heroes need. They need the courage to face their worst fears. They need the courage to overcome their greatest weakness. They need the courage to be a hero.

 

Recommendation

Well, I think if you have liked all the earlier books, you’ll definitely continue to like this book. There is quite a lot of character building in this book, but it still feels like I am watching too many characters in the spotlight. Riordan keeps track of the seven heroes throughout the story, but it can feel overwhelming at times.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-house-of-hades-review

The Blood of Olympus Review

The Blood of Olympus - Rick Riordan

Long time coming

So, I read this book a while ago now. I’ve been putting off doing the review for it. Not because I don’t want to, I’ve just been a little busy with life. That’s all. It took me a few weeks to even read this book in what should’ve been probably a few days. Why did it take so long? Well, I only actually read the book to and from work, and that was interrupted quite a bit by me hauling groceries (it’s a bit hard to pull out a book when you have two or three full bags of food to carry around the underground).

 

The end of a series

This is the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan. It has a clean ending, and everything works out in the end as it should. All the characters have been through their trials and quests and have come out the other end smarter and stronger. Let me just say right now; Gods are dicks. I mean, they hide away for most of the series and only come out to take the glory.

 

Characters

Throughout the series, there is a prophecy. You get to see that fulfilled quite naturally by a certain character (the hints are there throughout the entire book). The big drama at the end (you know it’s coming) is no real drama because we already know he’s set everything up to beat it. We see in this book, the start of a more unconventional (gay) relationship, which I’m happy that Riordan finally addresses in a mainstream book (rather than after-the-fact).

 

Themes

One theme in this book is acceptance. As you learnt in the last book, Nico revealed he had a crush on Percy. This time around, he is accepted by everyone for who he is. He is no different to the other heroes (even though he may think so himself). I like that Riordan put this in here as I think children who don’t see themselves as their peers, may feel like outsiders. I hope that this book helps some of them see that everyone is equal in life.

Another theme common across the Percy Jackson series is the theme of approval. In this book, all the heroes (demigods) win the approval of their parents (the Gods). I guess this would be quite a common theme across a lot of teen books because a lot of children just want to be accepted and approved by their parents, and here the Gods reflect that.

 

Recommendation

In the same light as previous books, carry on reading. You’ll get your happy ending you want, and everything is tied up. If you’re considering this series and you’ve just read the Percy Jackson series, then maybe go to your library and read the first book as there are a lot more characters in this series demanding your attention. Overall, I would say I was happy with this book and the series, but my favourite would still be the original series.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-blood-of-olympus-review

The Master Magician Review

The Master Magician (The Paper Magician Book 3) -  Charlie Holmberg

Introduction

I read this book in a couple of days due to me being sick and the book being short. Again, I rented this as part of my monthly Prime subscription (I have no affiliation to Amazon). I knew what to expect from reading the last two books, but I always have some need to finish a series – even if I’m aware it won’t be my favourite (sorry Holmberg).

 

Characters

So we have the same two main characters, plus for some reason, her sister is introduced in this book. Ceony’s sister, Zina, seemed only to serve one purpose, and that was to plant an idea of a rumour inside Ceony’s head. We also have an enemy of Magician Thane, Magician Bailey. Apparently, he’s held a grudge against Thane for years and has never let go, even though he’s successful. Finally, we have the main ‘enemy’, the Excisioner, who escaped for a transfer somehow and managed to avoid authorities.

I believe that the characters in this book are one-dimensional. I can see places where Holmberg has tried to improve the characters and make them more balanced. But overall, the love story between Ceony and Emery Thane is very one-dimensional. Also, the characters that are introduced, like Zina, are added so thinly that the character could very well be removed from the story and nothing would change.

 

Themes

I like to try work out one or two topics with every review now. I think it keeps my head in place and lets me think more deeply and reflect on the stories. The first theme in the book is “forbidden love”. Well, maybe love more generally, but the relationship between Ceony and Magician Thane is frowned upon until they are no longer student and teacher. Student-teacher relationships are probably something a lot of girls and guys dream of when they’re younger. I don’t like the fact that Holmberg is practically saying that such a relationship is ok. It’s usually not.

Another theme I’d like to touch on is the topic of “what is evil?”. Now, Holmberg touches on this by having the typical “Excisioner is wrong”, all other magic is right.  She also touches on the fact that not all Excisioners are bad – such as when Ceony meets the “good” Excisioner that saved her life in the last book. Ceony still has reservations which she says out loud and the “good” Excisioner explains why he’s good.

 

Recommendation

So, I gave this book two stars because there is no half-star rating and I decided that it wasn’t an improvement from the earlier books. I would recommend you only read this book if you get it for free or you have a Prime/book subscription which would let you read it for free. The characters haven’t changed at all over the series and haven’t really “grown up” or learnt anything. The magical elements of the book are a nice change from other magician books, but not enough to redeem it.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-master-magician-review

The City of Ember Review

The City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau

Light read

As soon as I started this book, I realised that it would be a light read and that the writing is aimed at the young, young adults. Maybe even middle school? The text uses straightforward and plain English to explain a quite complicated story (if you read more into it). As a child, I think I would only read the story of an underground world and not think – hey – why is there an underground world. DuPrau lightly sprinkles the reasons for the underground city of Ember during the story, which I quite enjoyed.

 

Characters

The book follows two characters, Lina Mayfleet, and Doon Harrow. These two share parts in the story where we usually read Lina’s version of events first and follow Doon’s version second. The two intersect a lot as they work their way through a mystery that needs to be solved. I like Lina’s adventurous spirit and Doon’s curiosity. These are two traits I’d like my kids (one day) to share.

We also have a kind-of bad guy, the Mayor Cole, who doesn’t like what Lina and Doon are up to. There are scatterings of other characters that serve a purpose, like Clary, who is the kind of sage motherly advice giver for Lina and Doon’s father, the role model for Doon. I liked how even the characters were in this book. None of them took up too much of the spotlight, and none of them seemed redundant.

 

Themes

My first guess at a theme would be selfishness. Lina mentions this quite a few times, how selfish she was when she thought of only herself while she did or bought things. To be honest, I don’t like how blunt she was, but as a children’s story, I think it gets the point across. We also find out that other people in Ember are quite selfish. I don’t really want to ruin it, but if you put together the kind-of bad guy and this sentence, then you can work it out.

My second theme that I’d like to discuss is the idea of life. What is life? Why do we live? In Ember, children are assigned jobs and told they have to stay with these jobs for life. There is a heart to Ember, which keeps the lights glowing and the people safe. In this book, DuPrau discusses or gives a brief entry into life and life sources. If our sun were to stop today, would we still live like we’re living? What would we do? Luckily, in Ember, they have an answer to their problems.

The third theme (because I’m already reading the second book), is the issue of war. DuPrau uses this theme sparingly in this book, but I’d just like to mention it because it’s quite relevant to today’s world. As an adult, you now question, why did they build Ember (that’s answered in book two)? What went wrong in the world?

 

Recommendation

So, I gave this four stars, but just because I see it for children. There is a lot a child can learn from this book, even if their mind just plays with the amazing city underground.  It’s an easy read and quite fun at times. I have seen the movie, and the movie doesn’t give the book justice. So, yes, you can buy an ebook or a used paperback of this book.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/the-city-of-ember-review

Risen Review

Risen: First Book of the Nameless Chronicle - M. T. Miller

I was confused

Let me just start off that I was quite confused for the first two chapters. I didn’t know what was going or why and I felt like the main character, Nameless, in that everything was new to me. Maybe the book was supposed to be disorienting to start with because the character Nameless was disorientated. I’m not sure. I guess I’m writing this review regarding an older audience (so children should not read this book). I’m also trying to put it in the perspective of horror/fantasy/sci-fi readers. I found some of the most adult content didn’t add to the story and was just put into there for the shock. I don’t want to discuss it in this review, but when you read up to it, you’ll understand what I mean.

 

Characters

We have only two main characters in this book, Nameless and Horace. We have a pile of other characters, but I’ll get to them later. So, first I’ll concentrate on Nameless. He is a man, human I guess, who has been returned from the dead, probably by some magic. We aren’t told how or why. For some reason, he is determined to figure out why people are trying to kill him. He’s portrayed as a good man who kills and has the skill to execute people with ease. To me, personally, I found he had no depth as the main character.

The next character is Horace, who Nameless found. Horace is an old homeless man with stumps for his hands. At the start of the book, he’s selfish, but that soon changes as he and Nameless bond. He’s a character who has a little bit of wit and likes to talk. I found Horace had more depth than Nameless.

We have some other characters scattered through the book. These include; the skull faces (who are after Nameless with a vengeance), a nun of a new/old religion (which isn’t explained too much), and a village (or family) of cannibals. There are a lot of stereotypes in this book, which is ok, but again I don’t know if they helped the story.

 

Themes

With all the killing in the book, how can there be a theme you ask? Well, the first theme has to do with the setting and the characters. We know that it is a post-apocalyptic world because the cities are run down, and there are few and far people between. So, the theme is human society failing. What would happen if people just went berserk? Well, Miller paints a grim picture with racism bundling people together and far-right groups taking control of such a dangerous world. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in this world. We also see (near the end), that the divide between the wealthy and the have-nots has grown so substantially that the rich probably live in their world.

Another theme is compassion. Nameless shows this when he meets Horace on the streets. He doesn’t treat Horace like the others do. He sees a man needing help and he has the means to help him. This spark of compassion creates a friendship where honesty is healthy. With this compassion, we also see others help Nameless when their lives may be at stake.

 

Recommendation

Baring in mind that this genre is not for everyone, I gave the book an okay score. I do think elements (like the stereotypes and shocks) did subtract from the book. Risen was a quick and fun read, so if you happen to find it discounted or free, or if you can get it on some unlimited, you should try it out (adults only). But, if you don’t like horror/fantasy together, then please don’t pick up this book. There is a lot of description of killing and fights; that may entertain those who need to get rid of their frustrations.

 

Note about review

I downloaded this book for free from Amazon (there was a promotion in September). However, the author did request a review from me. This has not had any effect on my overall score or review.

Source: http://www.amaitken.com/book-review/risen-review