Review: A Dance with Dragons

Hello World!

The fifth volume in the greatest epic work of the modern age. 

The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In the east, Daenerys, last scion of House Targaryen, her dragons grown to terrifying maturity, rules as queen of a city built on dust and death, beset by enemies.

Now that her whereabouts are known many are seeking Daenerys and her dragons.  Among them the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, who has escaped King’s Landing with a price on his head, wrongfully condemned to death for the murder of his nephew, King Joffery.  But not before killing his hated father, Lord Tywin.

To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it.  Eddard Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but he has enemies both in the Watch and beyond the Wall, where the wildling armies are massing for an assault.

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves.  The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all… “

Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I don’t really know what to say about ‘A Dance with Dragons’ other than that it was an amazing read.  As a newish fan, I had only been anticipating the book for a year, but still the wait was worth it.  For those that don’t know ‘A Dance with Dragons’ is the fifth book in the fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  It centres around a lot of characters, spread out across the fictional world of the books, but focused mainly on a place called Westeros.  The fifth book continues the stories of the characters of the north – such as Jon Snow as he comes to terms with leading the Night’s Watch – and across the sea – such as Daenerys as she debates her honor as the Queen of Meereen.   It also follows the larger story of Westeros – the continuing war for power that involves almost everybody on some level.

 Oh, and ‘Winter is Coming’ has taken on a literal meaning, which leads to some of the most beautiful and engrossing description I have read in fantasy.   For instance ‘Under the snow lay grey ash and cinders, and here and there a blackened beam or a pile of bones adorned with scraps of skin and hair.  Icicles long as lances hung from the battlements and fringed the towers like an old man’s stiff white whiskers.  But inside the godswood, the ground remained unfrozen, and steam rose off the hot pools, as warm as baby’s breath’. (The Prince of Winterfell, p 486) Another line I loved, and noticed throughout the book was ‘The Night is dark and full of terrors’.   For me the book was very easy to read and really pulled me in from the beginning.   The quailty of the writing and development of the characters was something that I expected from the previous books, but I think it is fair to say that ‘A Dance with Dragons’ raised the standard yet again. Additionally, I enjoyed how the book changed my perception of certain characters such as Reek/Theon. I hated him before this book, but found myself skiping forward to read his chapters, and hoping against hope that somehow he would escape and survive.

In conclusion, I would say that anyone who is interested in fantasy should defo read ‘A Song of Ice of Fire’.  ‘A Dance with Dragons’ is a great read, though very long – it is 959 pages in hardback.  The only criticism that I can make is that certain POVs popped up too much with very little action happening to justify them.  However, I can see why in cases such as Daenerys, that this was neccessory for her development.   It is certainly worth the price of hardback books as it is extremely enjoyable – and as a fan of the series it offers some really big reveals that I don’t think should be missed.  Also, it sheds more light on past events, while creating more mysteries and and questions for the reader. 


I Love Music

Hi world. 
One thing that has occured to me since I started this blog is that I don’t just want it to be about books.  I love books and all, but I’m a really slow reader.  For example, I’ve been reading one book for the bones of two months now, and I’m not finished it yet.  I love reading in that way.  I like to digest a novel, and associate it with a certain point in my life.  It becomes part of my memories of a certain summer, or christmas or spring.  Obviously though, if this blog were to be only about books then I’d not have much to post or talk about.  I feel like it would be kind of cheating to review a book that I haven’t read recently as well.  So, I have decided to talk about the other things that I am passionate about as well, be it music, or animal rights, TV or whatever else comes to mind.
Today I’m going to talk about a band that I love, called the Vines.  The Vines are an Austrailian band, comprised of lead singer Craig Nicholls (who also plays guitar), guitarist Ryan Griffiths, drummer Hammish Rosser and bass player Brad Heald.    I got into their music about… four or five years ago.  As far as I know they have released five albums.    My favourite albums are the first three, called ‘Highly Evolved’, ‘Winning Days’ and ‘Vision Valley’.  

‘Highly Evolved’ came out in the early 2000s, around the same time as bands such as the Strokes were debuting as well.  The album to me always seemed very punky without really being punk.  It is an album best played LOUD.   The above is the title track, and even though it is only nintey seconds long, it shows the heavyness of the band.  However, like many other Vines albums, some of the songs are ballad like and softer.  For instance ‘Autumn Shade’:
Personally, I’ve always preferred the quieter songs such as this one.   To me, they are like little bits of gold found at the bottom of a fast stream. 
The next album, ‘Winning Days’ contains the second part to Autumn Shade – which I think is one of the Vines best songs.
‘Winning Days’ is a softer album than the first, with lovely tracks such a ‘Sun Child’ and the title track itself, which in my opinion is heartbreakingly bittersweet.  It also contains some upbeat songs such as ‘Ride’ which are really fun to listen to. 
The final album that I am going to talk about is ‘Vision Valley’.  This was the album which got me into their music.  The music is a little bit less punky, a little more classic rock and roll.  For example, ‘Don’t listen to the Radio’ is more laid back than previous singles, though still very much one of the rockier songs on the album.
My personal favourite song by them is the title track ‘Vision Valley’.  As a listener the song is calming and the lyrics are very touching and pensive. 
Anyways, that’s the review part over I guess.  I’m not very good at describing songs and sounds lol so anyone who reads this will have to forgive me.  I’m not even very good with band or track names – I prefer to know as little as possible, and have been known to refer to songs as ‘track four’ or an imagined name.   Anyone interested in the Vines should also check out the later albums naturally as well.  They are also very good.   Here’s the title track of their latest album:  Future Primative.  It sounds like this should be on a soundtrack to a movie – which is good by me because I really like soundtrack music and music that ties in with a story in general. 

Review: ‘Dead Reckoning’ by Charlaine Harris – Book Eleven of Southern Vampire Mysteries Series.

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I think ‘Dead Reckoning’ is a good addition to the Southern Vampire Mysteries Series.    As usual, this book is set in and around Bon Temps and takes place a few weeks from where the last instalment left off.    While it misses some of the action of the earlier novels, it could be suggested that this novel is meant to be a turning point in the series.  Sookie, who in the earlier books was just trying to survive  is now examining how her past choices will impact on her future.  In particular, Sookie is thinking about the future she could have – especially a family of her own.   It has to be said that, while Sookie had been thinking about these things before, this book really highlights her character growth, which can only add to the series. 
The book is similar in pace to the early books in the series, while continuing on with later storylines.  However, it can be argued that this instalment is a build up book, which some readers may find not to their taste.  Personally, I enjoyed the pace better than some of the other books, where it appeared that everything would pile up on Sookie, from several different angles and usually reach some conclusion by the end of the novel.  Don’t get me wrong, this novel does have some interesting twists and turns, and one particular story arch seems to conclude at the end of the text at least.  The book is great in suggesting that more is soon to come – Sookie grows more and more aware as the story progresses that events that concern her are happening and she knows very little about them.  My favourite scene is rather mundane – Sookie washing the delph and looking out the window to see two strange creatures speed through her back garden, but I think it highlights the above point. 
Sookie’s humour is usually my favourite parts of the books.  Her ability to laugh during the most solemn of conversations and not to take herself too seriously is what makes the books charming to me.   ‘Dead Reckoning’ is on par with many of the other books in this respect, especially early on in the book when Sookie needs a new haircut.  Overall I think that this book is a very good addition to the series.  It is an enjoyable read, and definitely made this reader want to find out when the next book will be out, which is always a good sign.     

Review: The Black Company by Glen Cook

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‘Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take they pay and do what they must.  They bury their doubts with their dead.  Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn somewhere, to embody good once more’

‘The Black Company’ is the first novel in the ‘Chronicles of the Black Company’ series.  It was written by Glen Cook and published in 1984.  It is seen by many, such as the fantasy author Steven Erikson, as a classic fantasy that changed the genre.   As a reader of fantasy I found this book quite interesting.  My knowledge of fantasy through the years is quite small, but I have heard it said that many writers followed the style of Tolkien up until the ninties.  ‘The Black Company’ is not one of those books.  The black company is a large group of sellswords, containing mainly men who are running away from the law.  However, the men in charge seem to have developed, if not morals, then at least some form of  conscience and discipline.  The text follows Croaker, the record-keeping doctor of the group as they go about their latest job which takes them to a new country.  In my opinion the country could be called ‘Fantasy-land with a twist’.  The black company have been hired by the bad guys as their foot soldiers.  The ‘big bad’ in question is the aptly title ‘Lady’ and ‘The Taken’ who have been recently released from the hell they were sent to by the White Rose many eons before, for the greater good.

As a reader I found the language quite hard to get into, but once I did I thought it was worth it.  I found myself thinking several times that usually I would want  the bad guys to die, but it this book, I really wanted them to live.  Not because they were nice or anything, but because I grew very fond of the main characters in the black company itself.  Irony is evident throughout the book, espeically when it comes to the names of the characters.  For instance names like Elmo, Mercy, One-eye, Silent and Darling.  Even though the book has a dark atmosphere and title, it could be seen as black comedy too.  Additionally,  I appreciated the shortness of the text – just over two-hundred pages, and the way violence was avoided in the text – Croaker admits to leaving out a lot of the gore or warfare.

Overall I really liked this book.  I was interested in the twists the plot took, and perhaps more importantly, I cared about many of the characters.  I think it has a refreshing outlook on the concept of corruption – people are corrupt in the text, sometimes without knowing it, or even against their will.  The good side is not as good as it thinks it is, nor are all the villains on the same level of evilness.