Review: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

the-final-empire

Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: October 1, 2009 (originally July 17, 2006)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 647
Goodreads || Book Depository

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage— Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

After much coercion from every single person on this planet, I finally read The Final Empire, the first book in the Mistborn series. I had high expectations going into the series and, despite the novel going in a much different direction to what I had anticipated, I wasn’t disappointed at all by it.

The Final Empire has a very interesting world and a unique magic system. Being the first book in a series, much of this novel is actually spent on the world building and setting up the magic system, Allomancy. Allomancy was really intriguing and unlike any other magic system I’ve encountered before. The magic wielders ingest different types of metals and by ‘burning’ them, they’re able to acquire certain powers from these metals. However, once the store of metals inside your body has been used up, Allomancers are not unlike normal, non-magic wielding people. As much as I love the world and magic system, it took me a while to get into it, and it wasn’t until I’d reached maybe the 150 page mark that I was really immersed in the world. However, what I really did like was that we were introduced to the magic system by Kelsier, a charismatic and trouble-making Mistborn who is able to use all metals he ingests, teaching his apprentice Vin to use her Allomantic skills that she didn’t know she had. It gave the reader a very comprehensive look into Allomancy and what Allomancers and Mistborns can do.

“You ask why I smile, Goodman Mennis? Well, the Lord Ruler thinks he has claimed laughter and joy for himself. I’m disinclined to let him do so. This is one battle that doesn’t take very much effort to fight.”

As for the plot, I loved the concept of it. I’ve had this novel pitched to me as a heist story and I don’t really agree. For me, this is definitely a story about rebellion from the lower classes who are oppressed by the nobility, and mostly by the Lord Ruler, who is immortal and rules over the entire world. Sure, the operation is run by a bunch of thieves from the underground, but I’m not sure that that makes it a heist story. I was a little bit surprised by how little action there was in the book. I was expecting it to be super action-packed and fast-paced but it’s quite a slow-paced read that was a little bit draggy at times. I did listen to a small part of the novel via audiobook though, and that probably made it even more draggy. I just felt like there were big chunks of the book that was filled with intrigue and planning but not a lot of action. I also had a problem with some of the action scenes being a bit too descriptive, especially at the beginning of the novel. Almost every move that a character made during an action scene was written out and it was a bit hard to follow (ironically). But overall, I did really like the story. I just wanted a bit more out of it.

The characters in the book were wonderful though. My favourite had to be Kelsier. How could I not love this crazy, crazy man? He was very impulsive and quirky and I loved that about him so much. He had so many brilliant ideas and was a great leader to the crew. He was also a great mentor to Vin and omg I loved him. I’m a bit annoyed about the direction that the story took him and I’ll probably be annoyed for a long time to come. Another character who I absolutely loved was Elend. He reads books at parties so it was pretty much guaranteed that I’d love him. His character was a bit flat though so I’m keen to see how he develops further. Now, on to Vin, who’s arguably the main character in the book… it took me a long time to warm to Vin. She started off as a very cautious and mistrusting person who was a bit self-deprecating and shy. But I felt like she was also simultaneously really stubborn and had an inflated sense of self-importance that really annoyed me. Thankfully, I grew to like her a little bit more as the book progressed but it took probably 400 pages for me to start liking her. Luckily there were a whole cast of side characters who I could enjoy while I struggled to overcome my issues with Vin. I really liked most of the side characters and thought they were all extremely interesting. The characters all felt relatable and I enjoyed following their journey very much.

The Final Empire wasn’t what I thought it was going to be but I highly enjoyed it anyway. The pacing of the book is a bit slow and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to motivate myself to pick up the next books. I am definitely intrigued by where the story is going to go next and will be reading them at some point.

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

the-lightning-thief

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Release date: March 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 377
Goodreads || Book Depository

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed in his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I’m probably the last person on earth to have read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t read this sooner! My only excuse is that I grew up with Harry Potter and when PJO came out, I was a little bit past reading middle-grade… and didn’t hear about the series until last year. Yes, I am pathetic, I know.

For those of you who are also a bit late to the party, The Lightning Thief is about Percy Jackson, a 12 year old boy living in New York City. He’s dyslexic and has ADHD and can’t seem to stop getting himself expelled from school. But he soon finds out that he’s not the regular kid he thought he was. He’s actually a half-blood, the son of a mortal and Poseidon, the God of the Sea. He’s dyslexic because he can only read properly in Ancient Greek and his ADHD allows him to be vigilant when he’s fighting the monsters that keep coming after him. And there are lots of monsters coming after him! For his safety, he is sent to Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for other half-bloods like Percy but his adventures only begin there.

I thought The Lightning Thief was so much fun! It was action-packed and adventurous and reminded me of why I loved reading as a pre-teen so much! This first instalment was filled with action in every chapter and was incredibly well-paced. There wasn’t a page that wasn’t exciting to read and I constantly just wanted to know what happened next. The book is composed of many little adventures that Percy and his friends have as they journey towards a bigger evil force. I almost felt like I was in a computer game where the hero was battling monsters along the way before confronting the boss at the end. It was a lot of fun to read and I enjoyed following Percy on his adventures. I do have to say though that I caught on to who the villain/friend-who-would-betray-him was quite early on in book, possibly because I’m an adult reading a middle-grade book. It wasn’t that surprising to me when it was revealed, but it was still fun to read.

The aspect that I enjoyed most was the Greek mythology. I’ve always had a fascination with mythology (and pretty much anything historical). However, even though I love trivia, Greek mythology isn’t something that I’ve extensively looked into. Sure, I know enough about the Greek gods and heroes to get by, but I’d love to know more about the myths and The Lightning Thief gave me the perfect opportunity to find out more. I really appreciated the amount of information we were given in this novel. It never felt info-dumpy but there was still enough in there for me to understand the myths and legends. It also inspired me to go out and do my own research to extend my knowledge, and I think the best books should do that. I didn’t mind that there were so many mythological creatures and gods mentioned in this book because ti gave me the opportunity to learn more about all of them and how they’re related.

I also really enjoyed how Rick Riordan really brought these mythological creatures to life and gave them their own personality! Ares, the God of War is portrayed as a tough biker in a leather jacket, who goes to abandoned theme parks with his lover, Aphrodite. He was probably the character who cracked me up the most. I also really liked how Poseidon was portrayed and what a chill guy he comes across as. Another aspect that I found hilarious but interesting was the fact that the offspring of each god are housed in cabins together at Camp Half-Blood, and that they’re all half-siblings?! It was super interesting that they all had similar appearances and personalities, and that the rivalry that existed between the cabins mimicked the rivalry between their parents.

I loved Percy’s character so much in this novel! He was so sassy and his voice was so funny to read from. I can see him being relatable to so many kids. His relationship with Grover had me from the very beginning and I just loved reading about the two of them  together. Grover was another character that absolutely cracked me up! I love that he’s obsessed with food and eats even the packaging. He comes across as a little bit useless, but he definitely provides a lot of comic relief.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic start to the series and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the series. I can’t wait to learn more about the different gods and mythological monsters.

Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

the-ask-and-the-answer

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 553 (Includes bonus short story)
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Ask and the Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Therefore, there will be spoilers in this review. Check out my thoughts on Book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, if you haven’t started the trilogy.

 

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER SYNOPSIS

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

Tense, shocking and deeply moving, The Ask and the Answer is a heart-wrenching exploration of free will and resistance under the most extreme pressure.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

After the heart-stopping cliffhanger at the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd and Viola find themselves separated, with no knowledge of where the other is or if they’re even still alive. They find themselves working for opposite sides of a war that is brewing in New Prentisstown, and they must try to stay true to themselves and do what is right even when faced with enormous pressures to conform.

What I loved most about this book was the social commentary that it provided. While The Knife of Never Letting Go examined self-discovery and identity, The Ask and the Answer looks at the bigger picture and explores free-will in an oppressive environment, terrorism and war, power and resistance, among other themes. I enjoyed the focus on the grey areas, on the fact that life isn’t black and white and that there is no right or wrong. What the book makes us realise is that things that are seemingly wrong are not always wrong and things that we do ostensibly for the greater good are not always right. Throughout the book we see our characters vacillate between this blurred spectrum of right and wrong, and their internal struggle to determine what’s best for the world and what’s best for themselves.

For me, the pace of this book was much slower than The Knife of Never Letting Go. Even though it was still a quick read for me, I felt like there were times when nothing was happening. The first 150 pages had almost not action and I wasn’t really excited by it until we got past the 25% mark. However, the rest of the book was exciting and I enjoyed seeing the conflict and the struggle for power. The book ends with a powerful climax and another unbearable cliffhanger. You should probably have Monsters of Men on hand so that you can continue straight away. I took a lot of willpower for me to stop and write this review 😀

We still get the same almost stream of consciousness writing style in this book but it was less noticeable for me than it was in The Knife of Never Letting Go. In this second instalment, we also get to read from Viola’s perspective and it was interesting to see the differences in writing style and voice between the two perspectives. I probably still enjoyed reading from Todd’s perspective a little bit more because I love his voice and how well the writing flows. But I still really enjoyed being able to see from Viola’s point of view. The shifts in perspective were smooth and didn’t feel jarring. I am in love with Patrick Ness’s writing!

The characters in The Ask and the Answer were fantastic. I enjoyed being able to see Todd and Viola develop further in this book, and develop separately. I probably enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go a little bit more than The Ask and the Answer purely because we don’t get to see as much of Todd and Viola together (I SHIP) but I also thoroughly appreciated being able to see them grow separately, with different influences. Needless to say, the scenes where they were together were my favourite in this second book. Another thing that I admire about Patrick Ness is his ability to make me loathe a character in one book and love them in the next. There were characters that I was expecting to hate forever and ever but they ended up being big surprises and I went all teary-eyed at some parts. All of the characters are extremely complex and make me continue to question their motives. Also, for those of you who were upset about Manchee in the first book, there’s another animal friend in this novel that might help cure your heartache. But Manchee will never be replaced! NEVER!

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful sequel! Even though it was a bit slower and didn’t have as much action as the first book, it never felt like a filler book. I enjoyed it as much as The Knife of Never Letting Go and I’m excited (and a little bit scared) to jump into Monsters of Men right now.

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

the-knife-of-never-letting-go

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 512
Goodreads || Book Depository

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Then, just one month away from the birthday that will make Todd Hewitt a man, he unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Breathtakingly exciting and emotionally charged, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a compelling original story of fear, flight and the terrifying path of self-discovery.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Holy moly. I’m going to keep this review short so that I can jump straight into Book 2: The Ask and the Answer, because this book ends on the most unbearable cliffhanger. The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and I need to preface this review by saying that if you plan on reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, you should have the other two books on hand! Warning: I just finished reading this novel so this review probably won’t make too much sense.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a sci-fi, dystopian novel, set in New World, where everybody can hear everybody else’s thoughts, or their Noise. In this world, animals and living things also have Noise. 12 year old Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown with his two guardians and his dog, Manchee. There are no women in Prentisstown and Todd is the only boy left in his small town. One day, Todd stumbles finds a spot of complete silence and discovers that things in Prentisstown, and on New World, aren’t as he’s been told. His new discovery leads him to have to pack up his belongings and run away from Prentisstown.

It’s probably best to go into the book not knowing anything because it’s a thrilling and suspenseful story about survival and self-discovery. We follow Todd as he escapes from Prentisstown and makes his way around the New World. Along the way, he is hunted by an army from Prentisstown and a crazy preacher who seems to be out to get him. I enjoyed the suspense in this novel quite a bit. We were left in the dark from the very beginning and things are only revealed to us as they are revealed to Todd. I didn’t find myself speculating very much, simply because everything was complex and unpredictable and I was happy to just go along for the ride. There were some scenes that were quite violent and gruesome, and the suspenseful tone of the book made these even more bloodcurdling and horrific. This plot was definitely a rollercoaster ride for me. It gave me multiple heart attacks and ripped my heart out. There were lots of feels and a bit of crying.

The uniqueness of the writing style hits you straight away. The book is written in first person narration, in an almost stream of consciousness manner. It’s something that might take a while to get used to but the style of it definitely enhanced the story for me. I felt completely immersed in the world and Todd’s story, and the writing flowed beautifully because of its stream of consciousness nature.  I found myself just flying through the book because of how well the writing flowed and how everything had its place. I thoroughly enjoyed Todd’s voice and thought it suited his character very well. There are intentional grammatical and spelling issues to showcase Todd’s background and his lack of education that might irk some readers but I didn’t have any issues with it, even though I’m a big grammar Nazi.

I really liked the characters in this book a lot. Todd was a protagonist that I didn’t always love, but his actions and his thoughts were realistic, and it was easy for me to forgive his bad decisions and shortcomings. He’s definitely an isolated boy who wants to belong but doesn’t conform to society’s expectations. I was amazed by the strength in his character. It’s hard to remember that he’s just a child because he’s doing all these incredible things to survive. I appreciated that we got to witness his inner turmoil and his efforts to maintain his innocence when the rest of the world is trying so hard to break him. I loved the development and growth in his character and thought it was the most noteworthy aspect of the book. His mental strength and willpower amazed me. However, my favourite aspect of this book was the beautiful relationship between Todd and his talking dog, Manchee. Manchee was by far my favourite character and I had a lot of Manchee feels. Cue tears.

I thought the villains in this book were also exceptional. They were so evil and terrifying that I was actually scared by how insane and crazy they were. It was also incredibly horrifying how persistent these villains were in their pursuit. One guy literally has half his face bitten off (there’s a hole in his cheek and he’s missing a nose) and he’s still alive and chasing after Todd. It was scary and horrific, but also perfectly executed and I need to start The Ask and the Answer now.

Goodbye!

Review: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

after-dark

Publisher: VINTAGE
Release date: 2004
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0099506246
Pages: 201
Goodreads || Book Depository

The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home.

Later, Mari is interrupted again by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, and she needs Mari’s help.

Meanwhile Mari’s beautiful sister Eri sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘too perfect, too pure’ to be normal; she has lain asleep for two months. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television’s plug has been pulled out.

Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

About 6-7 years ago, I started collecting Murakami’s books, fully intending to read them. I ended up buying 5 of them but I only read Norwegian Wood, leaving the other 4 to collect dust on my shelf. Recently, I’ve had an urge to read Murakami again so I decided to start with After Dark, which is probably the shortest of all of his novels. I should mention that most of his books now have different covers, but I wanted to show the cover that I own.

In some ways, I’m glad that I left these books until now because I don’t think my teenage self would have understood or appreciated them as much as I probably will now. Murakami’s novels all have hidden themes and messages, and even reading After Dark now as an adult, I don’t think I understood everything the author wanted to convey. I didn’t want to read too deeply into it though, because that would have ruined the reading experience for me.

If you’re unsure about whether to pick up a Murakami book or not, I’d suggest reflecting on how you like to read. If you’re the type of reader who likes to fly through books and think back on them once you’ve finished the book, I don’t think Murakami is for you. His writing requires you to think critically as you read and reflect on it as you go. Murakami is also great at setting the mood of the book, and they’re best appreciated when you stop every few sentences to absorb everything that is happening.

Let’s jump into what I thought about After Dark. This book is set within a 7 hour period – from 11:56pm to 6:52am. It follows a couple of characters on their ‘adventures’ during the night. Not a lot actually happens in the book and sometimes the pace is quite slow. The writing was beautiful and complex, but easy to follow. The narration in this book is very interesting. It’s written from almost a third person omniscient point of view, but in the role of an imaginary video camera. It’s also written in a way that really involves the reader in what is happening.

Our point of view, as an imaginary camera, picks up and lingers over things like this in the room. We are invisible, anonymous intruders. We look. We listen. We note odours. But we are not physically present in the place and we leave behind no traces. We follow the same rules, so to speak, as orthodox time travellers. We observe but we do not intervene.

I thought the themes in this book were very interesting. Through this story about people’s activities in the middle of the night, Murakami poses questions about humanity and the darkness that lives in humans. I thought it was great how well Murakami was able to create such a complex story using such a simple plot. In the story, we watch people grow and literally emerge from the darkness into the light. But implicit in that, is the idea that eventually the darkness will return. I just thought that the story that the author put together embodied the themes brilliantly. In the book, there are also underlying themes of solitude and isolation, which seem to be themes that are in a lot of Murakami’s other works.

There were definitely some things that I didn’t understand in the book, or thought were unresolved. There was this mysterious, dream-like aspect to the story that I didn’t understand, and maybe I would benefit from a second reading. I did enjoy the rest of the story and the characters but I don’t think I had a complete grasp of everything the author wanted to convey.

While I did like this book, Norwegian Wood was a much better book in my opinion. It was more resolved and better developed. Having said that, I think After Dark would be a great introduction to Murakami. I’ve heard that if you enjoy After Dark, you’ll most likely enjoy his longer novels too.

Review: The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

1420102485782Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
ISBN13: 9781743317938
Pages: 384
Goodreads || Book Depository

Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not…

Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash, a few thugs, a very friendly hot-dog stand operator, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which — remarkably — he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

This book was great. I actually enjoyed it more than my rating indicates. It was humorous and written in such a lighthearted tone that you can just ignore the atrocious and gruesome things that happen in the book. I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book and staying immersed in it. There were parts that were funny and captivating but I would lose interest at other parts. I think this is a book that you have to be in the mood for – and maybe I just wasn’t completely in the mood for it. I could benefit from a second reading, and this is a book that I definitely will pick up and re-read again.

This book is written from two different timelines. We follow Allan on his adventures through Sweden as a centenarian, with the police and the press hot on his heels. Throughout the book, we also get to learn about Allan’s past as he ends up in one country after another. Eventually the timelines converge and Allan’s whole story is tied together at the end.

At first I wasn’t sure about the dual timelines. I would have preferred just to read about Allan’s new thrilling life as a centenarian. It was interesting to learn about his past, but it also felt at times like a boring history lesson. There also isn’t much dialogue in the book, which made some things feel a little dry. I started to enjoy it a little bit more when I got past the halfway mark. I also learnt a lot about world history and communism along the way, which was boring at first but I came to enjoy. My problem with it initially was that there was no clear link between Allan’s present and his past, which led me to wonder why we were getting so much information about his past. But I liked that the story comes full circle at the end of the book.

I liked the characters a lot in this book. I liked Allan’s carefreeness and his humour. All of the characters in this book were so individualistic and I appreciated the work that was put into making each character unique. I also liked the amount of historical research that had to have been done by the author. I ended up doing a little bit of research as I was reading and a lot of what happened in the story was historically accurate. This made me really appreciate how Jonas Jonasson was able to incorporate Allan into things that had happened in world history.

The ending made me really glad that I stuck with the book until the very end. It was a great ending to the story and ties everything together so well.