This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

27 May, 2010


Cover illustration: Benjamin Carré


ISBN: 978-0-230-71258-4
Pages: 451
Publisher: Tor UK
Publishing date: 5 June 2009
Paperback out: 4 June 2010

On the cover:
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra.
When the Emperor commits suicide, his elder daughter, Rika, is brought home to lead the Jamur Empire, but the sinister Chancellor plans to get rid of her and claim the throne for himself.
Meanwhile, a senior investigator in the city inquisition must solve the high-profile and savage murder of a city politician, whilst battling evils within his own life, and a handsome and serial womanizer manipulates his way into the imperial residence with a hidden agenda.
When reports are received that tens of thousands of citizens are dying in a bizarre genocide on the northern islands of the Empire, members of the elite Night Guard are sent to investigate. It seems that, in this land under a red sun, the long winter is bringing more than just snow...

   There is one thing that can annoy me to the point that it seriously hampers my enjoyment of a book: How a word is pronounced. This may have something to do with me being Norwegian, sometimes my Norwegian and English pronunciations will battle for superiority. It happened with the name Lathraea in this book. In Norwegian it would be Lath-ra-eh-ah. Fortunately Twitter exists so I could ask the author and get told that it is actually pronounced La-threy-a. -The wonders of modern technology put to good use.

   Nights of Villjamur is medieval fantasy of the type they used to make back when vampires didn't sparkle. It can seem pretty standard if you list the elements present: Princess, rogue, warrior, and conspiracy. But if you also list zombies, detective, and environmental disaster, it becomes clear that this is something that is fresh and exciting.

   One of the central storylines is that of a murder investigation. Newton uses this to show us much of the workings of the city of Villjamur. The investigation is also used to uncover several other strands of the story, and this is done in a way that feels natural and not forced. It is also done in a way that always leaves you wanting more. I found that as I progressed in the book my breaks became fewer and further apart. The pace of the story really drives you along, and the pages fly.

    Most of the story happens in the city of Villjamur, and we get glimpses of most parts of the city throughout the story. And I for one really got a good feeling of how the city functions. Both the architecture and the people of the city are well realized. I never felt that there was something left out that needed to be known about this location. That being said, there are only tantalizing glimpses of the world outside of the city. You get told there is a larger world out there, but you only gets to see parts of it. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact I think it helps the book that Newton has concentrated on showing us the city. And of course there will be sequels to the book that more than likely will show us much more.

    One thing that I really liked in this book was the way Newton handled the winter. Most people probably don't think much about that, but when you grow up in Norway with four months of snow a year you notice if it's done badly, and Newton has definitely pulled it off. The scenes with snowball-throwing made me both nostalgic and guilty about my own childhood.

   This book is definitely going onto my list of favourites. I would like to recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. It's brilliantly written, and sucks you in in the way all great books should.
   Mark Charan Newton is certainly an author to keep an eye on for the future.

Note: The sequel City of Ruin will be published in the UK 4 June 2010.

LINKS: Mark Charan Newton  Tor UK

07 May, 2010


 Cover illustration: Jackie Morris


ISBN: 978 - 0 - 00 - 733581 - 7
Pages: 570
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publishing Date: 4 March 2010

On the cover:
Return to the Rain wilds.
The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging a passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River. They are in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and are accompanied by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and a group of hunters who must search the forests for game with which to keep the ragons fed. With them are Alise, who has escaped her cold marriage to the cruel libertine Hest Finbok in order to continue her study of dragons, and Hest's amanuensis, Bingtown dandy, Sedric.
Rivalries and romances are already threatening to disrupt the band of explorers: but external forces may prove to be even more dangerous. Chalcedean merchants are keen to lay their hands on dragon blood and organs to turn them to medicine and profit. Their traitor has infiltrated the expedition and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted body parts. And then there are the Rain Wilds themselves: mysterious, unstable and ever perilous, its mighty river running with acid, its jungle impenetrable and its waterways uncharted.
Will the expedition reach their destination unscathed? Does the city of Kelsingra even exist? Only one thing is certain: the journey will leave none of the dragons nor their human companions unchanged by the experience.

   Unsurprisingly this book follows directly on from the events of "The Dragon Keeper". It does start off with a info-dump prologue that at first glance looks like a unnecessary read if you come directly from the previous book. But the prologue not only recaps the events of  book one, Hobb has hidden some interesting new info in it, so it is an essential read.

   This book takes place wholly away from the civilization of the Rain Wilds, and follows the journey of the dragons and their keepers further into the wilds. Not only the physical wilds of the Rain Wild River, but also the wild landscape of the human psyche.
   Parts of the book looks at the dynamics of a group of individuals who are cut off from civilization. Some of what happens reminded me of "Lord of the Flies", and i would not be surprised if Hobb has drawn some of her inspiration from William Golding's novel.

   There is a bit more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", and the overall pace of events is stepped up a bit. There are still passages that are largely devoted to character building, and that is certainly still a large part of the story, but there is quite a few events happening in the physical world too.
   It quickly becomes clear that there actually was a bit more happening in book one than was told to the reader. This was mostly very natural, as it was hidden from the point of view characters at the time. One development did make me feel a bit cheated as I felt the character should have noticed earlier, or at the very least had a feeling of something going on.

    One thing that there is certainly more of here than in book one is romance. Not that it is in any way turned into a "Romantic Fantasy", but there is a bit of "action" in the book. This comes naturally with the story, and at least one of the developing relationships has been telegraphed since early in the previous book.
   Robin Hobb also manages to sneak in some surprises on the romance front, and one of them comes as such a surprise that I doubt anyone will catch on before the reveal.

    What was the most interesting part of the book for me was finding out about the relationship between humans, dragons and elderlings. This is revealed in more detail here than in any of Hobbs previous works. This relationship between three races is something that has been part of Robin Hobb's fantasy world since "The Farseer Trilogy" and to see what looks like most of the mysteries revealed is very satisfying.

    Having mentioned earlier in this review that there is more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", I feel the need to say that it is by no means an action oriented adventure. But as with the previous volume in "The Rain Wild Chronicles" I felt that the slow pace fitted the story.
    I've read several reports that these two books were first intended as one, and I have no trouble believing that. It might be possible to read this book as a standalone, but I would definitely recommend you read these to books as a split volume and begin with the first one.

    The ending of this book, and as far as I know "The Rain Wild Chronicles", was a bit of a letdown. Not because it was a badly written ending, or that it didn't finish the story. It did however leave me with a lack of closure that almost screams for a follow up. I hope it comes in the form of another trilogy from Robin Hobb, and that she's working on it now, because I want to read it as soon as possible.

LINKS: My review of "The Dragon Keeper"   Robin Hobb   Harper Voyager

04 May, 2010


Cover Illustration: Jackie Morris

ISBN: 978 - 0 - 00 - 727374 - 4
Pages: 553
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publishing date: 25 June 2009

On the cover:
17 Damaged Dragons, 13 Misfits, 1 Impossible Quest.
Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wild River: the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and noxious airs, it is a hard place for anyone to survive.
People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other abhorrences, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of the dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life's work to study all there is to know about dragons.
But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly. Some do not even have wings; others seem witless and bestial. Soon they are seen as a danger and a burden: something must be done. Far upriver, so far it is shown on no map, lies the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra - or so it is believed. Perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them.
To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable. and there are many unknown perils: none are expected to return, or even survive...

   Robin Hobb is one of my favourite fantasy authors, and in my opinion her trilogy "The Liveship Traders" is one of the best Fantasy series ever written. So obviously I was excited to hear about this book, and could not wait to get my hands on it and read it, something I did when it came out. I actually re-read it for this review.

   The Dragon Keeper's starts out with a retelling of some of the events of Hobb's "The Liveship Traders" from a different perspective. And it continues with events happening at the same time as "The Tawny Man" trilogy, and an event in that trilogy is mentioned. 
   Despite all that, this book is not a direct follow-up to any of these two trilogies, it is however a continuation of events from "The Liveship Traders". I feel it is more a independent companion volume to that trilogy, and you do not have to read the 2500 pages of "The Liveship Traders" to read this book. In fact if you're unfamiliar with Robin Hobb's work, you can safely start here.
   If you have read and like me enjoyed "The Liveship Traders" however this book is essential reading.

   The story of The Dragon Keeper is about two thing, both of which are helpfully mentioned in the full title, Dragons and the Rain Wilds.
   The Rain Wilds of Robin Hobb's world remains a rather mysterious place despite appearing in "The Liveship Traders", but here most of that veil of mystery is lifted. Many of the things that have previously only been hinted at are talked about openly here. This demystification does not make the Rain Wilds a less interesting place. To me it lends depth, character and believability to the place.
  The story of the Rain Wilds society is mostly told through the eyes of the teenager Thymara. Her deformities make her an outcast, and through her we see the darker side of the harsh life along the Rain Wild River.

   The dragons in this book in many ways mirror the inhabitants of the Rain Wilders. They are flawed creatures, and do not resemble the god-like noble beasts that dragons usually are portrayed as in fantasy. This is both refreshing and necessary to give credence to the relationship between the dragon sand their keepers. It is through this relationship that the reader, at the same time as the keepers discovers the nature of Hobb's dragons.

    Not only do the dragons of this book differ from the kind you usually find in Epic/Medieval fantasy, so does the story. You will not find any dark lord that has to be defeated, no orphaned boy has to rise to save the world and there's a distinct lack of wizards lurking in the background.
   There is a quest, but it takes backstage to the development of the characters and it only starts towards the end of the book.
    Robin Hobb's writing has never been the most action-filled fantasy. "The Farseer Trilogy", her fastest paced so far, is slow compared to most other fantasy in a secondary world setting. And this is unquestionably the slowest paced Hobb has ever been. Not to say nothing happens, it does. 
    When I had finished this book I felt satisfied with the journey Hobb had taken me on. The detailed character development was both refreshing and relaxing. It was good reading fantasy that allowed me to really get to know the characters, and if that sounds interesting you should try this out.. 
     I would also recommend this to anyone interested in dragons and their interactions with humans. And finally, this is definitely an essential read for anyone who wants to gain more insight into the world of the Farseers and the Cursed Shores.
That said the ending of the book is rather sudden, there is no great cliffhanger, and it doesn't feel like a natural ending. This should be no problem for anyone reading it now, the follow-up "Dragon Haven" is out now. And I review it here.

LINKS:  Robin Hobb   Harper Voyager


Welcome to my blog.

Some of you may know me from Twitter, but for those of you who don't here's a short bio:

My name is Ole A. Imsen. I'm 36 years old. I live in Kongsvinger, Norway.

What's this blog about?

This is a book-blog, or more precisely my book-blog.
I mostly read Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. And that will be the focus of this blog.
As stated above the blog will be mostly reviews, with some other content.

Why have I started this blog?

I've been reading a lot for the last thirty years. And I've loved books for as long as I can remember.
One of the  things I love most is getting other people into reading what I like, and a blog is the place to that in our day and age.

This have not been a spur of the moment decision for me. I first started thinking about my own blog last autumn. It's taken me that long to be sure I wanted to do this, and be sure I wanted to put in the commitment to make a blog I could be proud of.

"Mission statement."

This is my blog, containing my opinions (unless it is clearly stated otherwise). I promise you all that I will be honest when giving my opinion, and that no person , corporation or organization will influence it.
My father has worked as a journalist since before I was born, and I will strive to follow the ideals that he has worked to all these years. -With the obvious exception that a review is one persons subjective verdict and not objective fact.

Join my journey.

I'm completely new to blogging, and it's pretty obvious from the design of this blog that I don't know anything about programming.
So while I'll do my best, I do not doubt that I'll make errors, and occasionally do stupid things.
Please call me out on this. Comment on the blog, contact me on Twitter or drop me an e-mail.

Hopefully I'll get better at this as I get more experience at it. I know I'll try to.

Hope you will return later, and that I will be allowed to entertain, inform and intrigue you in the furure.
Ole A.