Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

throne of glass

 

Throne of Glass is the first instalment of a Young Adult trilogy about eighteen-year-old Celaena, the most notorious assassin of the Kingdom of Adarlan. Here she is pulled out of the mines where she has spent a year in slavery to compete for the title of King’s Champion. As she takes part in a series of tests she becomes aware of something sinister in the castle.

Celaena is a likeable protagonist, who comes across as typically teenaged while still fitting into the fairy tale world she lives in, and it’s easy to imagine teenaged girls identifying with her and putting themselves in her place. She is not quite believable as an assassin, however, lacking an edge that would make her different to other girls her age. Other characters don’t really come alive, seeming to exist purely for the sake of a love triangle or to complicate the plot.

Celaena lives in an intriguing world, torn apart by war, but with hints of magic. There is not much opportunity to explore it in this novel, mostly set in the confines of the castle, but it would be interesting to see if it is developed in the next two books.

The writing style is not especially polished, and I was fed up of the word “obsidian” by the end of the book, but it keeps the story moving along steadily.

While Throne of Glass doesn’t quite live up to its fascinating premise, it is still a fun, easy read for people looking for escapism and wish-fulfilment.

Review: Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman (Editor)

unnaturalcreatures

 

Unnatural Creatures  is a selection of fantasy and science fiction short stories chosen by Neil Gaiman (including one of his own), all featuring some kind of creature. The definition of creature is stretched a bit  to encompass beings that are more plant-like and even Death, but the stories hang together well, following this loose theme.

The book is aimed at teenagers, though not all the stories are written specifically for that age-group, and acts as a kind of introduction to science fiction and fantasy. There is a diverse range of older stories by well-known writers with stories by newer writers, and Gaiman writes a short paragraph before each story about the writer and/or the story. Only three of the stories have not been previously published.

Avram Davidson’s classic “Or All the Seas With Oysters” is one of the stand-out stories, in which safety pins begin to take on a sinister presence, as is Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Smile on the Face” which draws on myths of dryads to tell the story of an insecure teenager and her bullies. E. Nesbit’s “The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby” is a delightfully whimsical tale of a girl who ends up in a strange land after getting on the wrong bus and E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is an original idea beautifully written.

 

The full contents:
 

An untypeable sort of ink splodge- Gahan Wilson

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees- E. Lily Yu

The Griffin and the Minor Canon- Frank R. Stockton

Ozioma the Wicked- Nnedi Okorafor

Sunbird- Neil Gaiman

The Sage of Theare- Diana Wynne Jones

Gabriel-Ernst- Saki

The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby- E. Nesbit

Moveable Beast- Maria Dahvana Headley

The Flight of the Horse- Larry Niven

Prismatica- Samuel R. Delany

The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me- Megan Kurashige

The Compleat Werewolf- Anthony Boucher

The Smile on the Face- Nalo Hopkinson

Or All the Seas With Oysters- Avram Davidson

Come Lady Death- Peter S. Beagle

Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

amongothers

In 1979 fifteen-year-old Mor is exiled from the Welsh Valleys where she speaks to fairies to an English boarding school where magic seems out of reach. The book is made up of Mor’s diary entries, in which she writes about her difficulties in living at the school, her unusual and dysfunctional family, and her love of science fiction and the books she reads.

Among Others is a very quiet book; Mor spends most of her time reading and the magic in the book, while complex and well-defined, is often barely there- which makes it seem only more plausible. It is clear that something traumatic has happened in Mor’s recent past and she is now living with the consequences, but this isn’t the sort of book that keeps you hooked because you have to know what happens, but because you love the character and want to spend time with her and see the world through her eyes.

Some people may be put off by the numerous references to books, especially of the science fiction genre, and the ending seems abrupt, the climax building suddenly and Mor’s story not quite seeming complete, yet the writing, both beautiful and believably teenaged, carries you through.

This is a book for booklovers, showing how books make you who you are and become part of your life.

Review: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

etymologicon

Mark Forsyth explores the reasons behind “the glorious insanities of the English language” by looking at the etymology of words and phrases. Each chapter leads into the next until we are brought back to the beginning again.

This is definitely a book for the layman, it is light in tone with short chapters that might discuss several words and meanings. Serious etymologists will probably be annoyed by the lack of detail and the sketchy bibliography, but for people who are just quite interested in words this is an enjoyable and easy to read introduction to etymology.

Forsyth has a friendly, jokey style of writing which is mostly engaging but occasionally falls flat; saying the invention of the term post-natal “has allowed people to be depressed” is rather dismissive and an unnecessary dig at women in a vulnerable state.

Over all The Etymologicon will interest and entertain, bringing etymology to the masses.

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