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‘The Bartimaeus Trilogy’ was a series pushed heavily at the time ‘Harry Potter’s’ popularity exploded. It certainly isn’t a huge leap from one to the other in the sense that there is magic, mystery, loveable characters, comedy and page turning storylines. I would say though that these books are far more your typical ‘fantasy novel’ than the Harry Potter stories. Where as hardcore fantasy readers may struggle with Harry Potter, they would find that ‘The Bartimaeus Trilogy’ is far more suited to the accepted conventions… It is a story of revenge and the journey to achieving it.

That is not to say it is not original though… The Bartimaeus Trilogy gives us perhaps one of the most original characters and means of expressing that characters point of view since the genres birth. ‘Bartimaeus’ is an evil, sarcastic Djinni (basically a demon) summoned to this World from his dimension by what he considers ‘an unworthy magician’. This unworthy magician, Nathanial, has summoned Bartimaeus in order to exact revenue upon a sorcerer who has embarrassed and made a fool of him in front of his master.

Bartimaeus, who was quite enjoying his time relaxing within his own dimension, is not at all happy about this summoning. In fact he quite openly tells Nathanial that if he could he would kill him on the spot. Fortunately for Nathanial ‘Bartimaeus’ does not know his ‘real’ name. Upon becoming a trainee magician names are changed because the vast number of evil spells that can affect you require your original name. So… Bartimaeus is trapped in this world until he fulfils Nathanial’s demands; ‘still a powerful object from the sorcerer that embarrassed him’.

What makes this series ‘different’ and as thoroughly enjoyable as it is has to be the character of ‘Bartimaeus’. In addition to his constant sarcasm, wit and desire to kill the ‘hero’ always there throughout the book – he adds his own little ‘footnotes’ at the end of every other page or so. It might not sound like much, but the odd one will have you laughing out loud or at the very least grinning.

As the story progresses through to the second book things get a bit deeper and more powers, demons and problems are introduced. Nathaniel finds himself in a world that in addition to having a corrupt magical government has non-magical humans coming together in order to form a resistance against the magicians.

It’s hard to say much more without completely ruining the first books ending for you and the subsequent books after that, but what I will say is that this is more than a story about Nathaniel trying to steal a necklace. This book enters ‘epic’ territory in the sense that there is a huge conflict between humans and magicians, huge political power struggles, Nathaniel’s struggle through the ranks of being a magician, his loss of family and of course the Djinni that works for him looking to stab him in the back (literally) the moment he drops his guard.

The fact Nathaniel relies so heavily on ‘Bartimaeus’ combined with the fact that we are told by Bartimaeus himself that he is going to try his damned hardest to mess up Nathaniel’s plans is what makes this book so enjoyable.

In terms of its universal appeal – like Harry Potter, the majority of children would enjoy this book and there is enough action, adventure and darkness to entertain adults. If you are a ‘hardcore’ fantasy fan that likes epic series like The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire and so on… this probably isn’t for you. But if you are someone who enjoys a book that doesn’t take itself to seriously or a lighter read that you can literally whizz through – this is one for you.

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Firstly, let me say that ‘The Painted Man’ is a special, special book. I want to declare this book ‘The single best Novel I have ever read’. There is a series that I would rate higher as a collective than this (see my Night Angel Trilogy review), but in terms of a single novel – this is untouchable… If you enjoy modern fantasy… you will enjoy ‘The Painted Man’.

The Painted Man is set in a World where demons rule the nights. As soon as the sun sets Demons rise from ‘the core’ and begin to cause havoc. There are thousands of them that walk the planet and multiple different species. Ranging from the size of a small dog through to ones as big as a tree – all are dangerous and have a thirst for blood. If they come across buildings, animals or humans they won’t stop until they have killed or destroyed them. In fact, the only means of protection humans have are ‘wards’. Symbols that can be linked together in order to form protection around a perimeter. The majority of buildings and towns have a good amount of ‘warding’ around them that stops demons from killing the inhabitants – however because these wards tend to be in the ground or in wood or brick – they easily corrode. if not regularly serviced.

The majority of humans have frozen. They have accepted that the extent of their life is simply to spend 12 hours working their ass off and building protection in order to survive past the next 12 hours. If they make it… they repeat the cycle, day after day.

The Book is set across a number of years and follows the lives of Arlen, Lessa and Rojer. Each has been greatly affected by the Corelings in their own way and each has found a way to ‘rise above’ the general trend of farming for 12 hours and sleeping for 12 hours. Arlen, who I would call the main character is from a village that is frequently attacked by demons. During one of these attacks he finds the courage to fight back against one and although he has little success, he realises that they are not invincible. Arlen’s mother is attacked at the same time and he watches his father do literally nothing to help her. He realises that his dads cowardliness is what has made the world what is is today and decides he is not going to be anything like him. Instead he trains as a messenger… travelling between villages to deliver messages and organise trade. It is a profession that is taken by very, very few individuals. Often a messenger will travel for weeks without reaching a village and that means that they are stuck in the wilderness with literally hundreds of demons. They use wards as the village and city dwellers do, but it is still very dangerous because they are much weaker. Arlen uses his travels to learn more about the demons and promises that one day he shall find a way to fight back.

We follow Arlen from youth through to early adulthood and at the same time follow Leesha and Rojer as I mentioned earlier. Leesha is just 13 at the beginning of the book and lives with her mother who is highly abusive towards her. In addition to her mother treating her like a slave and trying to decide who she marries – she is having an affair with a local blacksmith right under her farther’s nose. To make things worse - rumours about Lessha are spread around saying that she has slept with a young man – something that is seen as ‘slutty’ before marriage. Her only escape is the tuition of her village Herb Gather ‘Bruna’. Bruna is ‘an old hag’ and is very strict in her ways. The whole village is scared of Bruna due to her vast knowledge, willingness to beat you will a stick and the fact that they all  rely on her for their medicine. They therefore have no choice but to leave Leesha alone when she is working under her.

Finally we have Rojer. Rojer is an interesting character. He is almost the opposite of ‘Arlen’. He enters the book as a baby… His mother is killed in the same scene and he is rescued by ‘a Jongleur’. The Jongleur is basically a jester that travels with a messenger. Although they are known for their fun displays and tricks – The Jongleur that rescues Rojer never quite recovers mentally from the demon attack. He ends up drinking a lot and sleeping around to such an extent that him and Rojer are not only broke, but seen as losers by their guild. The Jongleur has long since lost his ability to attract a crowd and Rojer has a deformed hand from the demon attack. Tricks like Jugling, flipping and so on are impossible. Rojer’s abilities are that he can play a fiddle better than anyone has ever played. When he begins to play it is said that the villagers are entranced and stunned by the beautiful sounds he can create… During the book we find his fiddle playing has an effect on the Corelings. Whilst travelling he meets Leesha and he begins to develop feelings for her.

——-

One thing that might strike you about what I have said so far is ‘nothing is all that original’. Basically the storyline is ‘Demons come out at night, humans must hide from them. One human is sick of that and decides to fight against it.’ It is a story that has been  told in a number of different ways over the years – however the way in which Peter V. Brett does it is simply ground-breaking. In terms of readability – If the average fantasy book pulls you in like the flow of a river, then The Painted Man drags you down a water-fall.

The characters are so likeable and so complex that you can’t help but ‘need’ to know what happens next. Arlen’s character has been done so much wrong, as have Leesha and Rojer and we genuinely want him to do something. We share his thoughts of anger and hatred towards not only the Corelings, but his race that has sat back and done nothing whilst the demons took over. We share his believes that humans could fight back and we read this book at a relentless pace to find out if he achieves it or it the human race is too far gone. It is that age old question of ‘Can one man change the world?’ I guess.

Eventually of course there is a point in the book where the story-lines overlap and the characters come together. At this point things speed up even more and the book ends although completing the story to some extent – leaving so many open questions that you are dying to pick up the next book.

I have to once again tell you that this book is something special. Peter V. Brett has done something that very few authors today can do. He has taken the ‘fantasy template’ of a farmboy goes out to save the world and avenge a family members death – and succeeded in creating unique characters with a thought provoking and fast paced story… What’s more is that this is only the first book and judging how this one ends I can quite confidently say that the books that follow will not be anywhere near as ‘conventional’ in terms of the story. Now that the characters have met and certain events have unfolded, things in ‘The Desert Spear’ his second book is sure to be an even more intriguing ride.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan
« on: December 09, 2010, 10:50:34 AM »
It was Trudi Canvan that got me into fantasy around 6 years ago. Previously I was more of an action/crime fan – but Trudi Canavan converted me with her ‘Black Magician Trilogy’. The books introduced me to characters that I connected with on levels I had not done so in other books and the story telling was so action packed, so emotional and just generally exciting that I couldn’t put them down. When I finished them I literally felt lost and sad that I had come to the end of something so great…

The Magician’s Apprentice is Trudi-Canavan’s first ‘stand-alone’ novel set in Kyralia (the same world as the trilogy I mentioned above). I was excited about this one because although it is set in the past, it is still Kyralia – the world Trudi Canavan taught me to love.

The story focuses on ‘Tessia’, an average girl that lives in a small-out of the way village with her father, the village healer. Tessia serves somewhat as her father’s apprentice – all be it unofficially due to women being seen more useful as ‘wives’ and have an inferior status.

The book begins shortly after the war against the Sachakan. Although things have now calmed down enough that an official from ‘Sachakan’ can travel throughout Kyralia and visit a number of cities that they were not so long ago fighting against – hostile feelings remain. In addition, the Sachakan still practice Black Magic and still consider themselves superior to the Kyralians. The Sachakan official is visiting the Kyralian ‘Lord Dakon’ when we first meet him. Lord Dakon is basically in charge of looking after a small geographical area that is relatively close to the boarders of Sachakan.

If Sachakan were ever to decide to go to was with Kyralia again, it is likely his villages would be some of the first to perish. He therefore reluctantly treats his ‘guest’ well and offers his hospitality. Whilst there however, the Sachakan beats one of his own slaves have to death. Lord Dakon asks Tessia’s father to help revive the slave and it is whilst Tessia is checking on the slaves progress that the story really gets going. Tessia is approached by the Sachakan who tries to force himself upon her. Seen as an inferior race and being a woman – The Sachakan expects Tessia to simply take his approach and accept it. Tessia is scared to death and has no options to escape. The feelings dwell up inside her and the explosion of fear inside her body manifest themselves in forceful magic – so much so it basically incinerates a room and sends the Sachakan running.

Having always considered herself to grow up as her fathers apprentice – things have now changed. As in the previous books – the majority of Kyralians that experience ‘magical powers’ become magicians… These books being so early on in the timeline though there is not yet schools or anything like that – magicians have roles in society. Tessia is taken on as ‘Lord Dakons’ apprentice and as a result has a lot of responsibility and also having relatively poor roots – a lot of negativity towards her. She has to compete with Lord Dakons other apprentice, her mothers dis-pleasure and her fathers reluctance to allow her to help with his work. Tessia is not too keen on magic and infact wishes to continue with healing – it is only as she begins to learn that perhaps the two can work together (healing and magic) that she starts to take interest.

Lord Dakon is alerted that a number of the Sachakan Magician’s that have been outcast from the main land are looking to break into Kyralia and take land from them. Having lost power and status in their main land, they see Kyralia as an easy target and think taking the country on their own is possible. Lord Dakon needs to recruit as many other Lords as possible, whilst at the same time training Tessia. Tessia is of course entering a war with literally weeks of training and it is her journey through this war that we follow.

————

Now, a lot of reviews have complained that the book is too much like Book 1 of ‘Black Magicans Trilogy’. And honestly, they are probably right. I actually read those books about 6 years ago now, so to be honest it didn’t affect me too much – but if you read this straight after the original series, perhaps you would be left scratching your head wondering if they had been written on the same template…

HOWEVER, although the general poor girl gets thrust into a powerful faction theme is there – it is there right away and the actual building of the storyline is very different than the trilogy. The story is more about the development of Tessia’s powers and how she bends them to learn ‘healing magic’. We follow Tessia with the desire to find out how on Earth an already battered Kyralia would survive an attack from such a powerful force of enemies and what kind of role Tessia could have.

Those who have read Trudi Canavan’s works before will be impressed with how her style has developed. The characters are all as real and as loveable as ever. Trudi’s characters tend to be of the ‘whiter than white’ variety. They are good people that do good things and we really care about them and want them to succeed. Something else she does well is ‘battle scenes’. Very few authors can write a battle scene of such complexity and beauty as Trudi Canavan does. She lays out a battle and describes the magical strikes in such a life-like fashion that you can truly get invovled with them and you feel the tension there.

Also, there is that typical ‘romance’ throughout the book that we find with most of Canavans writing. I think at heart Trudi is a very light heated woman who quite likes her beautiful women hidden behind a lack of status type story lines. I think she enjoys taking these women that are hidden from power and transforming them into desirable women with great respect and this is a prime example of how it should be done.

The problems I had with the book however are fairly obvious ones… Firstly, the theme running so closely to the original trilogy means it has to lose some points. Although it didn’t overly bother me – I know some people on other blogs said they felt as if they were cheated here. Secondly, the ending killed the book for me. At the end of the book we basically find out that this book has been a set up for the next trilogy – that is not a spoiler – it is fairly obvious from early on in the book if you know the title of the next series. Anyway, what this means is the book has had to finish answering a number of questions without leaving any cliff-hangers (although a few questions). That is fine with me, but what absolutely destroyed my love of this book was the epilogue. I had just invested a week into these characters and this story… I then get told in three pages; “After this story – he/she died, he/she died, he/she was put in prison, he/she had this happen to her… The End.”

I was left with a real anti-climax… The book finished how I expected it… great. Why do I need to know what happened to these people? Why not leave it open to interpretation? Why not save it for another book in the future? I can’t comprehend the reasoning for that other than the set up for the next trilogy, but then again, why not just bring up those points in the next trilogy? I was sat thinking ‘oh…’ at the end and I want to be feeling ‘wow’ and thinking ‘what happened next’. If in fact makes me wonder if it was meant to be a trilogy and was then ended early as maybe she felt it was running too close to the originals… I really don’t know?

All that being said the book is very good and it does make me want to read the new series ‘Traitor Spy’ set in the same world. I just wish the ending wasn’t so rushed… As a result I have to dock some score and say – Please Trudi, make it up to me in the next series – I want to give you a 4 or a 5!

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
« on: December 09, 2010, 10:50:03 AM »
It takes a special kind of author to write three books and have them sold consecutively on a monthly basis… Typically a fantasy trilogy will take between three and four years from the first through until the last book is released. This allows time for readers to finish a book, have a bit of a change and then re-visit a world about a year later…

When Brent Weeks wrote the Night Angel Trilogy his publishers weren’t prepared to make us wait a year for each book. This ‘one month’ wait between each book was almost unheard of and although it was a bold move… it paid off… why? Simple… people read the books within 30 days and wanted to have the next one in their hands instantly… It was in Brent Weeks’s own words “A huge gamble by the publisher’, but it was one that paid off.”

The first book in the series ‘The Way of the Shadows’ came out in 2008… It is a bold book that to some extent glorifies the work of assassins, justifies the work of prostitutes and paints thieves in at very least a grey fashion. There is rape, there is murder, there is pure evil and treachery – in fact it is a very, very dark series. Our main character is ‘Azoth’, an orphan who has been born into a world completely corrupt and controlled by an organised crime band known as the Sa’kagé. Azoth has survived by finding his way into a low levelled ‘guild’. These guilds are full of young children who basically work together in order to steal food, mug wealthier folk and dabble in minor profit making crime. The older children in the guild literally make the younger children’s lives hell. They demand payment, beat them, steal their food and even force themselves upon the weaker ones…

It paints a terrifying picture and as you can imagine… Azoth is willing to do anything in order to get out. He finds it whilst wading through the disgusting and dangerous gap underneath an Inn’s floorboards to retrieve a few coins that may have fallen beneath the floorboards. Although those within the Inn are unaware of Azoth’s presence – Azoth can see above through cracks in the floor. Whilst hiding underneath a man within the Inn is attacked – he subsequently massacres his attackers with very little effort (even though Azoth thinks he appears drunk) and calmly walks from the bar. Azoth realises that this was Durzo Blint – World Renowned Assassin (Known as a ‘Wetboy’).

After all he has witnessed and the lacklustre future he knows he will have unless he does ‘something’ – Azoth asks Durzo Blint to take him on as his apprentice. Durzo Blint tells him that he is a ‘sole’ individual and doesn’t do partners, apprentices, relationships or anything else – his single focus is his job and that’s why he is the best. With no other options Azoth won’t take no for an answer and Durzo Blint tells him that if he really wants to do this he has to first prove himself by killing his guild master and then walk away from his old life, his old friends and begin making himself useful. He doesn’t want a burden, he wants someone who will be able to do the less important or less-well paid jobs for him.

Azoth of course agrees and is thrust into the life of a WetBoy… Working for the Sa’kagé and getting deeper and deeper into their world. Azoth becomes ‘Kyler Stern’, but soon finds that life living in the shadow of the greatest Wetboy in existence brings about its own problems… the law want him dead, other assassins want him dead and Durzo Blint’s enemies for which there are many… want him dead. As well as constantly having to watch out for enemies, he also has to question his own reasoning for becoming a Wetboy… does he have the right to murder people? Can he cope with the constant push for perfection that Durzo commands, has he condemned his old guild friends by leaving them behind?

————

Although the story is absolutely amazing in terms of pace, twists, action and just about everything else – it is the characters that make the story. In addition to Durzo and Azoth, by the second book we have other characters that include a newly appointed king who is highly opposed, we have Vi who is a female assassin intent on killing Azoth, we have ‘Dollgirl’ who was Azoth’s fixation whilst he was in the guild, a seer named Dorian, a King who intends to take over the world… and all of these characters have their own stories and their own viewpoints… One minute we are hating them, the next we are supporting them. Through all the dark themes within this book there is a story here about love and friendship as well as the power and importance of relationships of all kinds as well. Upon reading this book you will begin questioning your own thoughts on good and bad… your ‘grey-area’ will certainly widen and you will certainly be left loving ‘villains’ and ‘despising’ heroes.

As the book progresses from the first that could be seen as ‘a standalone novel’ almost, the second begins entering ‘epic’ territory. We find out that Kyler and Durzo are part of something far bigger than we imagined during the first half of the first novel. At the start of the first novel Kyler has to make a choice… does he give up or does he fight. The Godking is ready to take over the world and Kyler needs to make a decision… does he let him or does he use the skills he has learnt to fight against him? Does he risk commit to the life of an assassin or now he has made a bit of money does he give up that way of life? Is he falling too deep into the lust for blood?

Questions, Twists, Turns, this book will keep you guessing throughout and has more than its fair share of loveable characters and even absolutely stomach turning characters… one thing is for sure… the characters you read about in this book will never be forgotten. You feel you are actually with these characters, trying for yourself to justify their actions, asking yourself what you would do and it makes for a once in a lifetime ride of suspense, action and storytelling.

Do not miss this series… It will raise your bar on fantasy literature.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: The Black Prism
« on: December 09, 2010, 05:55:18 AM »
Quote
Nope, but it sounds good.
The idea about using light and the colors in it is fascinating to me.

Certainly check it out - the magic system is brilliant.

Did you read Night Angel Trilogy?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / The Black Prism
« on: November 30, 2010, 04:48:04 PM »
I put a review of the 'Black Prism' up on the site yesterday, Brent Week's new book.

http://fantasy-faction.com/2010/black-prism-by-brent-weeks

I really enjoyed it but thought that it was a little bit slower than his previous series 'Night Angel Trilogy'. Anyone else read it?

What's the third rule out of two?(4)

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