The Well Read Viking

The Well Read Viking

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

In Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs I found a fantasy book unlike any other that I had read. Instead of taking place in a world that felt like Europe in the Middle Ages it takes a different approach and throws you in a world that feels more like Russia than anything else. I am no historian, but that is what it felt like to me and I am sticking to it.

A big part of the premise of the book is trying to show you how our view of history can color all of our actions. It also discusses the effect history has on the perception of people. When we are introduced to this world we find out that the "divinities" (the local gods) have been killed off. The country that is currently in power had in the past been subjugated by the lands with divinities for their lack of a deity. Eventually a man discovered a method to kill the divinities and went to war and won. Now that they were in power they were doing their best to suppress all mentions of the divinities and to get rid of all the history that related to their power or the miracles they produced. This leads me to the magic system in the book.  

Not only was the setting unique, the magic system was also unlike any other that I had read. While the divinities were alive they created many miracles. Some of them could be as simple as a stone cup that left in the sun would fill with goat's milk every morning. They could imbue an item with power or teach others certain steps to take to have a miracle take shape for them. For example if they drew on a mirror or window with a certain symbol they could create a visual connection with another room to have a conversation with the person there.

When the divinities died most of these stopped working, but not all of them. All items and books that discussed these things were destroyed or locked away for fear that they would be dangerous, in that they would cause the newly godless people to remember what they had lost and cause them to riot.

This book is very well written. It has interesting characters, spies, political intrigue, religious fanaticism and plenty more. I will admit that the first 30-50 pages were decent, but I wasn't hooked until a little bit past that. Once I was hooked however, I couldn't put the book down. I am very interested to see what Bennett will offer us in the future and I hope that this world gets visited at least once more.

Rating 4.5 Stars

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Once again I have found myself amazed at Brandon Sanderson's ability to create magic systems. Each time he starts writing a series he manages to fully capture and develop the most random and interesting magic systems out there. I was enthralled with the intricacies involved in the magic his Mistborn series. Next he managed to take that up a notch with the Stormlight Archives, and now he somehow did it again. In his first foray into Young Adult literature he went with a magic system that involves geometry and chalk doodles. Just reading that line makes you think that it might be ridiculous, but as you get into the book you find that again he has made a magic system that makes sense in the world he has created and it meshes well and never feels out of place. I will admit that if this were not a Young Adult novel it might not have worked out as well.

This book takes place in a historically different version of the United States. Instead of it being one landmass the United States is actually a collection of autonomous islands that are loosely bound together and are called the United Isles. The thing that binds these islands together is an enemy located at the center of them all in a place called Nebrask. The enemy is a bunch of wild chalk figures called chalklings. There are people trained in the Rithmatics (the combination of geometry and chalk drawings) called rithmatists. They were called to the position in a ritual at age 8 and are taught special courses at prestigious schools.

It is at one such school that we meet the main protagonist. Joel is not from a wealthy family and he was not chosen to be a rithmatist, but he finds himself fascinated with it all the same. He finds that he understands the principles behind geometry much better that the actual rithmatic students, but sadly his work has no power. As he goes about his life he finds himself heavily involved in trying to solve an investigation involving kidnapped rithmatist students.

As the book continues the stakes continue to rise, friendships are made, lost things are discovered and new geometrical secrets are revealed. I really enjoyed this book. I finished it in an afternoon because I couldn't find the will to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes unique magic systems, young adult fantasy or "gearpunk" enthusiasts. I am quite looking forward to the next installment in this series and I do regret that it is something I have to wait for, but I guess patience is something worth developing.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jade Sky by Patrick Freivald

I received this book from LibraryThing. When I first read the description of the book I felt like I knew what type of book it was going to be. The blurb mentioned that the main character, Matt Rowley, was a commando for the International Council on Augmented Phenomena and that he hunted down superhuman monsters with his own augmented abilities. In my mind I thought that meant that this book was going to be a cross between Monster Hunter International and the Dresden Files. I love those series so I figured I would love this as well.

As I started reading I found out that it wasn't going to be anything like those series, but that this wasn't a bad thing. Patrick Freivald was giving us something new. Imagine you are in a world that has the ability to augment humans. They can make them super strong, super-fast, give them the ability to regenerate and in some cases even see a few seconds in the future. There is a catch, however. If you augment yourself too much you will end up succumbing to the whispers in your mind and "bonking out". You end up killing anything else that is near. The more you augment the louder and stronger the whispering gets. With people augmenting themselves the government decided they needed a group of their own to handle these creatures, and so ICAP was born.

In this book you follow Matt on a journey as he seeks answers to what has been done to him and whether what he has believed from the beginning is true. This book is full of furious, fast and blood drenched fighting. The story is fast paced and the main character is likable and is someone to whom you can relate (Even though he can reattach a limb that has been hacked off). The book takes you places you do not expect and dives into some esoteric religious topics. If you are looking for a fast read (the book is only 236 pages) that has a lot of action and some religion and magic thrown in then this is the book for you.

Rating 4.25/5 Stars