Book Review – The Night Angel Trilogy

Recently as part of my binge reading in the past few months I started reading the Night Angel series written by Brent Weeks. The Night Angel trilogy is set in the fictional world of Midcyry and in it we follow the adventures and life of Azoth/Kylar Stern as he struggles to leave behind the difficulties of his life on the streets and become a great wetboy (something akin to an assassin). On his path to greatness he will face harsh training, legends coming to life and a war and struggle for the fate of all the continent in which he will become a key player.

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The world of this trilogy is a gritty dark world. The city of the main characters is run both a king and also by a “shadow king” a figure head that dominates all criminal activities with a tight fist. This makes for a fascinating setting in which the story takes place as Kylar struggles to be part of both world. He struggles with the luxurious, advantageous but ultimately deceitful world of nobles and also struggles with the harsh, cruel and brutal world of criminals where he comes from and of which as a wetboy he is an integral part of. This duality, this struggle, is present throughout the whole trilogy as Kylar struggles to leave behind that in which he was raised. Kylar grows in our eyes and we see him fight an inner conflict in his path to realizing who he truly is and what his role in the world is.

 In this world there is a magic that some users are able to use, however depending on which side of the world you come from, magic is taught differently. In the case of Kylar and his master Durzo, as wetboys, they use magic to primarily enhance their physical skills as well as for stealth reasons. Other are able to use magic in more traditional fantasy ways, such as fire balls. This combination of different magic skills makes for a very intriguing world where most characters are able to fight in an equal footing and in many interesting ways with high stakes.

Durzo, the master of Kylar, is perhaps the most interesting and refreshing character. A character that seems to be the stereotypical hard-ass, mysterious mentor, as the story develops you learn more about him, his motivation, his past and you understand the character. By the end of the saga Durzo has become your favourite character and every scene with him is handled beautifully.

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However whilst the characters and the settings are fascinating without a doubt the best part of this series have to do with some of the themes that this book deals with, especially those of fate, duty and the sacrifices that have to be made in the name of the greater good. The books study this issues in a profound way and allows the reader to reach their own conclusions before we get the resolution and the choices of the characters. Especially in regards to the theme of seeking the greater good the book is able to give us a great study of this theme, with difficult choices, no straight answer and a story that explores new ideas such as having a necessary evil in order to reach an ultimate greater good.

All in all the trilogy is very enjoyable and fun to read. It is a classic fantasy story with some twists on the old tropes that keeps it fresh. The pacing of the story is fast and action-packed, the battle scenes are awe inspiring and it is able to make the reader think carefully about issues in the novels. Brent Weeks hits a homerun in this series and I am looking forward to reading more from him.

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Review Armada – A Nerd Dream

Over the past week I have spent around 14 hours riding on a train. As I prepared for my last train ride I was facing 7 hours on my way home and so I decided to read a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, “Armada” by Ernest Cline. Two years ago I read his first novel “Ready Player One” and I absolutely loved it. It was book for nerds like me, full of amazing references and a very fun concept. In “Armada”, I had heard before reading the book that it was not as good as the previous one, t going into this book I was just expecting to have a good read, have some fun and enjoy all the nerdy references.

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“Armada” did not disappoint. I loved the concept as it was basically the dream of all nerds, a world facing an alien threat that can only be saved by gamers who have unknowingly been training for this event through videogames. This of course is not an original concept, it can be seeing in a similar fashion in “Ender’s Game”, but the way it is told was beautiful. I loved the fun the author has throughout the book, the exciting dialogues full of references to Star Wars, Star Trek and other movies and comics, and most of all I loved the characters.

The main character in this book is a kid about to finish high school who loves pop-culture, videogames and a character that I could relate to very much. There is a quote at the beginning of the film that I wish to share with all of you since I felt that it described my school years perfectly: “I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education.” This thought by the main character made me relate to him throughout the whole story and feel identified in his reactions to the challenges he faced. His characters, those of his friends, and other around him gave this whole story a fun vibe that I fell in love with.

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This book is by no means a great book, but if you go to read it with an open mind, expecting to be entertained, to laugh and to be invested in the story you will enjoy it immensely. After all as part of this nerd world, it is incredibly easy to relate to the characters, and their fun vibrant dialogues. The story also has moments full of heart that are great to read and that give an important depth to the story.

Overall, in “Armada”, Ernest Cline delivers a fun, epic, nerdy story that is an easy read and by no means boring. Reading this book on the train ride was great and it helped make the long trip easier. “Armada” gave thought to many of my nerdy dreams and is a book that has somehow encouraged me to continue dreaming of a world where my nerd skills are actually useful. I for one, can’t wait to see the film that is being prepared for this book.

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Five Fantasy Books you NEED to Read

Tomorrow is World Book Day and over here in Barcelona it is also Sant Jordi, and thus tomorrow I amongst many other will take to the streets in search of new books to read, new worlds to discover and new places in which to loose myself for a couple of hours or days. If you are reading this blog you might know that my favourite genre is without a doubt fantasy for a myriad of reasons that I explained in a previous post. As such, in honour of World Book Day, I have decided to write a post in which I recommend 5 fantasy books to pick up tomorrow or basically any day.

  1. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is in my opinion the best book in the world of Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion is composed of many short stories that compromise the story of Middle-Earth from its creation to the start of the Fourth Age, although the events that happen in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are only briefly mentioned.  It is a beautiful book that grows the universe and provides us a more rich background to the world we fell in love with. If you have read Lord of the Rings you will have noticed that the characters mention many mythical figures, heroes from time past and in this book we learn about them.

This book is full of action, poems, beautiful prose, romance and the epicness we have come to associate with Middle Earth. This book gives us the story of the struggle of the elves against Morgoth (Sauron’s boss) and the tragedy that comes through their own folly, as well as the rise of Men. If you choose to pick this book you will be enthralled especially by chapter 19 which tells the story of Beren and Luthien.

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  1. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time is perhaps one of the most epic sagas, both in length and story wise, ever told. Compromising of 14 long books plus a prologue this saga told by Robert Jordan takes us to a magical place facing oblivion where unlikely heroes from a farming village raise to fight against the growing darkness. The Eye of the World is the first book of this saga, setting up almost all of the characters which you will grow to love during all of the saga. Robert Jordan gives us a great fantastic world that contains many of the tropes in fantasy and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It also adds a new flavour to fantasy as we see a world in which men using magic are pursued and female magic users are the real power behind the world.

If you have the chance pick up this book, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed and that you will soon find yourself buying all the books of this excellent saga, a saga that still to this day fascinates me.

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  1. The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson

Recently I wrote a review on this excellent book by Brandon Sanderson. The Final Empire is a great point of entry into his Cosmere presenting a world with a fascinating magic system (that still ranks among my favourites) and great relatable characters full of depth. Sanderson is without a doubt one of the most famous authors in fantasy right now and is an incredibly prolific author. If someone is looking to read a book from him I always recommend to start with the Final Empire as it is a book with a captivating story and a very fast pace. Vin will always be one of my favourite characters and hopefully those of you who have not read the book take the plunge and get to know her.

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  1. The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie has quietly and quickly become one of the best fantasy authors and his first book shows you why he has gained that distinction. In The Blade Itself, the first of a trilogy called The First Law, we are presented a gritty, dark world that escapes all the tropes of fantasy. It is a very curious book as we get the typical setting for a fantasy book, the typical character archetypes, however as soon as you start reading the book you realize that nothing is what it seems and that all of the characters are darker and more complex.

A book in a somewhat similar fashion to those of George R.R. Martin but that also stand on its own it is an excellent book for those seeking something different to the traditional fantasy stories.

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  1. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

This book was a complete but pleasant surprise when I discovered it. Scott Lynch is perhaps not as renowned as an author as those mentioned previously but in this book he is able to craft a delightful and fun story, with some great an unexpected stories. The first of a series called Gentleman Bastard, the series of rogue, especially the protagonist Locke Lamora, are fascinating. The wit of the book will have you laughing but also heavily invested in the story of this rogues who are trying their best to survive in a world that is bigger and stranger than they thought.

If you are looking for a book filled of wit and adventure this swashbuckling rogue story is definitely the one you need to read.

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If you have read or want to read any of this books do let me know! I hope you enjoy this 5 great books that I have personally enjoyed and hoped you too are entertained and fascinated by this fantastical worlds.

Review – Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

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As posted in a previous blog post fantasy books are my favourite genre to read about. I love reading those kinds of books and visiting new worlds where I can immerse myself and completely forget about everything for a couple of hours. In the past few years Brandon Sanderson has quickly become one of my favourite, if not my favourite, authors and I always eagerly await his new books. My introduction to Sanderson came through the Wheel of Time where he wrote the last 3 books and after reading that I decided to read some of his work and the first one I picked was “The Final Empire” the first of the Mistborn trilogy. Today I will give my impressions on that trilogy as it is a book I remember with great fondness.

Mistborn is set in the fictional world of Scandrial where. One thousand years before the story begins, the ruler of the Final Empire, the Lord Ruler, gained access to a divine power at what is called the “Well of Ascension” where he is rumoured to have defeated the unknown danger called the “Deepness”. With this power, he remade the world and everything in it into its state at the beginning of the first book. In this world there are people who are able to consume metals or use them to gain powerful abilities. In the Mistborn series we follow the adventures of Vin, a street urchin with powerful magic potential as she joins a band of rebels seeking to the Empire that has been running the world for one thousand years.

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Mistborn is an incredible series that captures you basically from the first chapter of the first book. I loved the characters, the setting, the magic… it is a captivating book that is very easy to read. Sanderson is an author that writes books normally with a frenetic pace, and it is very much welcomed. Vin the titular character was for me at the time a refreshing character, I had rarely read such a strong relatable female protagonist on fantasy books and she forever will be one of my favourite characters. This book opened my eyes to the Cosmere and I have been ever since then enthralled by it and devouring all the books.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the book was that alongside the evolution of the characters Sanderson was providing us a political revolution in that world, democracy was being considered and the weak were rising against an oppressive state. As a political scientist reading that in fantasy was a breath of fresh air, whilst I do enjoy the old story about someone rising to become a king I have always yearned for a story where they do not follow this trope and where the power goes to the people, all of that in a fantasy setting with magic. This books gave me that (granted not fully but still…) and much more.

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The Mistborn series has quickly become one of my favourites fantasy books and it will always hold a special place in my heart since it let lead me to Brandon Sanderson and his Cosmere, a universe where magic makes sense and has limitations, a universe where heroes are true heroes that provide us with role models, a universe with rich worlds full of histories and traditions and most importantly a universe where I can travel alongside the characters and forget about my trouble for many hours.

The pace of the series is really good and the sequels it has spun have maintained a great level whilst at the same time expanding on the previous books. I hope those who read this post take the chance to read the Mistborn series, I guarantee that it will not disappoint you. Meanwhile I will be at my place dreaming of being an Allomancer, flying through buildings using my powers and hoping that one day I get to spend more time with Vin.

Galadriel – A Feminist Queen

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Today is International Women’s Day and I have decided that it would be appropriate to talk about one of the most awesome characters in all of high fantasy, a character that fascinated me as a kid and still continues to do to this day; Galadriel. Since the age of 11 when I first saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, I was immediately drawn to Galadriel who was beautifully played by the elegant Cate Blanchett. She was this mysterious, powerful elf who somehow was able to resist against Sauron. I would later start reading more about her and after reading The Silmarillion I realized that she had become one of my favourite’s characters of all time.

Galadriel, and prepare for me to go full on nerd here, is a royal Elf of both Noldor and Teleri descent. She was the grandchild of King Ingwë of the Vanyar and for some time she lived under the light of the Trees of Valinor before becoming one of the leaders of the Noldor during the rebellion and joining them in their flight to Valinor. Though she was an eager participant and leader in the rebellion, even stated by Tolkien as being the “only female to stand tall in those days” during the wars against Morgoth she would stop associating herself with the sons of Fëanor, marry Celeborn and eventually after the fall of Morgoth become the leader of the land of Lothlorien. During the Third Age she would be chosen to wear the Nenya ring and would join the struggle against Sauron. With the death of Gil-Galad she would become as Tolkien described “the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth” and would aid the Fellowship on their quest to Mordor. Before departing to Valinor as a reward for not giving into temptation with the One Ring, she would destroy Dol Goldur. At the end she would take to the Grey Havens and would be the only one of the leaders of the Noldorin exiles to return at a grand age of 7,000. (nerd moment over)

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This is of course a very quick summary of Galadriel, but the fairest of all the elven woman, had a great impact on me as a child. I was fascinated, as Frodo and Gimli were, by this wise and powerful woman. She was capable of seeing the future and to resist Sauron but most importantly was able to resist the call from the One Ring. That scene in the book and in the movie remains forever in my heart and I always recall it fondly. At age eleven I had not been exposed to many strong women in literature, sadly, and seeing this majestic queen who was respected by all and was incredibly powerful was very impactful.

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I was drawn to her as a character and the more I learned of her the more I thought she was a great character. Representing women in books is essential, as we grow up, if we are able to read characters like this on books it will go a long way towards helping feminism. We need to normalize women in power and as strong, wise leaders. I have been thankfully raised in a house where feminism is taught to us, however to those who have not, characters like Galadriel help a lot.

Next time you watch those great movies or read the astonishing books I invite you to take a second and bask in how glorious Galadriel is.

Do we need Fantasy?

In the upcoming days I will start to post writings about one of my greatest passions in this world, fantasy books. This posts will be up there amongst those of comics and star wars as my favourite and the ones I feel very comfortable talking about since I do have a vast knowledge. Fantasy, even more so than comics or science fiction, has always been my favourite genre and the one I have always been able to escape to more than the others. Fantasy is part of what makes us humans, almost all of us pass our time sometimes thinking about what we could do, imagining things etc… fantasy is the expression of that taken to the extreme.

Let us not kid ourselves, a lot of fantasy is not good. For some time us readers could not find good fantasy books, all of the books that were being written followed the same patter and were not innovating. “The Lord of the Rings”, the genre that created and made popular high fantasy (and my favourite books alongside “The Silmarillion”) were being copied by other authors who were not pushing the envelope further. We would only get small flashes of brilliance, such as “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin, amidst a sea of really bad books. However right now we find ourselves as what can only be described as the golden age of fantasy. Authors like George R.R Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie or Patrick Rothfuss are giving us new and exciting stories. Stories that are well written, worlds that are huge and wonderful, adventures that captivate you and books that are giving us new ways to escape.

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Fantasy is important for one simple reason; it allows us to escape from everyday life. The greatest fantasy books are able to transport us to worlds where our heroes fight evil, allowing us to escape the monotony of our lives or give us a break when we are having tough times. Whenever I read fantasy, if it is good, I am able to go into that world and be captured by it. A good fantasy book will not only captivate you because of the story, but when the world is properly written you will dream about it. I grew up imagining myself walking around Middle Earth, visiting Minas Tirith, reading at Rivendell or walking beneath the shadows of the mallorn trees in Lothlorien. As I grew up I have been dreaming about the shores of Westeros, walking around Two Rivers or Andor or exploring the Shattered Plains. The greatest thing about fantasy is that age is not an issue, the worlds I read when I was younger I now see with a different perspective and they have even become richer.

Fantasy is generally frowned upon by many writers or book readers, proclaiming it is a genre for children and that it is not complex. However those who claim this demonstrate their ignorance. In fantasy books we see difficult moral conundrums, we see a reflection of the world we live in, we learn and develop alongside the characters and I can proudly say that reading fantasy stories, reading about those heroes fighting evil in desperate times have honestly made me a better person.

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Fantasy is my passion, fantasy still to this date captivates me and I honestly believe that it is a great genre that we all need, especially now in this tough times. So I recommend you all sit back, make yourself comfortable and pick up The Lord of the Rings or A Wheel of Time series and loose yourselves in those worlds for a little bit before facing your problems, it. will. do. wonders.