Tag Archives: magic

Book #145 – The Iron Trial

20578940 A couple of months ago, I discovered the magisterium website while I was bored in college one day, and started playing the games on it. It was through this that I realised that Cassandra Clare was co-authoring a new series of books with Holly Black. Now I’ve read all the Shadowhunter books so far (TMI/TID) and Holly Black is probably most famous for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which I haven’t read, but I’ve read Tithe. I didn’t really enjoy Tithe, but I guess that’s beside the point, really. In any case, I thought the Iron Trial was probably an interesting enough bet. First in a series of five books, incidentally, the rest due to be released over the next few years.

The Iron Trial – Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

I have a big issue with this book – how do you pronounce Call? It is pronounced like the first syllable of Callum, or is it pronounced like phone call? This hurt my head the whole way through the book.
If you check the goodreads reviews for this book, it’s full of people calling it a copy-cat Harry Potter, and insulting Cassandra Clare’s lack of originality.
While The Iron Trial is set in a magical school, and the main trio is two boys and a girl, there was a lot to like about this book, and a lot of originality in it. The style of magic was inventive and the story engaging, with a lot of story-building behind it.
Magisterium, from the look of the first book, is written for a younger age group than I’d normally read (straight children’s as opposed to YA), but nonetheless I quite enjoyed the book.
The ending was very much a set-up for further books, which I always find frustrating, but I’ll probably pick them up when they come out.

Three and a half stars, but goodreads only gives whole stars, so it got docked down to three.
***

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Books #97 and #101-104 The Sisterhood Series

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Full Series The Sisterhood series is one of those series of books which both my sisters and I all ready – so much so, that I’m not actually sure which books belong to whom in the series. The first four sisterhood books were a complete arc, four books, four girls, four summers, and they resolved (or so I thought) the YA series which I was so fond of (although I always felt that Lena got shafted with the same storyline four times). So I was surprised when, last year, having discovered GoodReads, I realised that there was a fifth sisterhood book. It’s set ten years after the fourth one, and it promised some drastic changes…

In any case, I’m starting at the end, when I should start at the beginning!
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

Girls in Pants
Forever in Blue
Sisterhood Everlasting – all by Ann Brashares.

The Sisterhood series follows four very different girls, who are the best of friends since birth. Lena, Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget were all born within seventeen days of each other, their mothers meeting at an aerobics class. The summer they all turned sixteen, the first they would ever spend apart, they found a pair of magic pants, which fit all four of them – from Tibby’s short stature to Lena’s classic Greek beauty, Carmen’s Latina ass to Bridget’s athletic build – not just fit them, but made them all look beautiful. Clearly a sign, the pants were what would hold the four of them together over their summer, passed between the girls like a magic bonding, a tangible sign of their sisterhood.
Over the first four sisterhood books, all of which are classed as YA fiction, we see the girls grow up, fall in love, have sex, make friends, lose friends, lose family members, gain family members, start college, find their callings, and stick closely to their September sisters.
The fourth book was published in 2007, when I was sixteen (although I was probably seventeen by the time I read it), and I considered the series done, a happy reminder of something my sisters and I shared, sitting in Sinéad’s bookcase. I enjoyed them all, although I considered Forever in Blue the weakest of the four, and would happily recommend them to anyone. I even had the first film on DVD, although I never managed to watch the second.

So I was surprised when, last year, I realised that there’s a fifth Sisterhood book. Called Sisterhood Everlasting, it’s set ten years after the fourth book, and the Septembers have grown apart. Living different lives, they’re called back together by Tibby sending them tickets to a holiday on the Greek island of Santorini, which played such a big part in their sisterhood before. But on their trip, the girls don’t realise that their lives will change forever.

Because it had been so long since I’d read the first four books, and I was home anyway, I read books 1-4 while I was home in Ireland during August. Sisterhood Everlasting, then, I had on my Kindle, and read on the plane home.

I’m not gonna go too much into the story of it, because I’m not keen on spoilers. Looking back completely neutrally, as far as plot and character development go, I should probably have given it a lower rating than I did. A few of the girls seem stuck in the same ruts that they’ve been in for the last thirteen years (for the LOVE OF GOD, Lena and Kostos) and poor Carmen gets shafted once again when it comes to romance, plus Bridget seems to be the same kind of madcap girl she was when she was sixteen, prone to running away as soon as things get tough. But, that said, perhaps people don’t really change that much from when they’re teenagers to when they’re nearly thirty – I’m not nearly thirty yet, so I am no authority on the subject.

At the time, I really enjoyed Sisterhood Everlasting. Looking back now, I could certainly pick holes in it, and make criticisms, but as an experience, catching up again with the Septembers (although very shortly after the last time I had read the first four books), learning what they had been through in the ten-year interim (turns out, not much…) and going through a tumultuous time when they found their sisterhood again, I thoroughly enjoyed it (and cried buckets).
As a standalone novel, perhaps Sisterhood Everlasting wouldn’t have gained such a high rating from me, but it certainly was a lovely, poignant, and beautiful addendum to a series which I thoroughly enjoyed when I was younger, and did again when I read it last month. Overall, I would have no hesitation in recommending the Sisterhood to any of my friends, or my sisters (although they’ve obviously already read them).

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants
Four Stars
****

Forever in Blue
Three Stars
***

Sisterhood Everlasting
Four Stars
****

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Books #43, #44 and #50 – The Broken Empire Trilogy

Broken-EmpireThis, for once, is a set of books which were recommended not by Sinéad or by Dave, but by a friend of mine named Glen, who’s quite the fantasy enthusiast. Having investigated further, it appears that the Broken Empire trilogy is known as ‘grimdark’, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s just fantasy, albeit dark, bloody, and more than a little bit gory.

Prince of Thorns,
King of Thorns,
Emperor of Thorns – Mark Lawrence.

Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath is 14, and roaming the lands of the Broken Empire, determined to take the throne of his country, and as many other countries of the Empire as he can, on his path to the throne of the Emperor. Since seeing the death of his mother and brother at the hands of the men of his uncle, Count Renar, Jorg has been bent on revenge, both for the scars inflicted by the hook briar he was tossed into, and for the death of his beloved younger brother William and his mother. Life and death are nothing more than a game to him, and murder, rape, and torture are the pieces he plays with. Over the course of three books, Jorg claims lives, hearts, and women like he’s owed them – and, oddly enough, ends up being a hugely compelling character.

The Broken Empire trilogy is not for the faint-hearted – from the very first scene it’s dark and gory, and blood is spilled like water from the first page to the last. But as long as you go in expecting that, it’s hugely compelling.

The Broken Empire reads like a medieval high fantasy novel, but as you work through the trilogy it becomes clear that this is actually a post-apocalyptic version of our world, with our civilization being wiped out a thousand years before, during the day of a thousand suns. Remnants of ‘builder’ culture still survive, though, more powerful than even the magic which it seems every second person can wield, from necromancy to dreamwalking.

The books follow dual strands, Jorg four (or six) years before, and ‘now’ Jorg, so his past becomes clear as we see him walk through his present, leaving you intrigued and wondering what happened in the intervening years for him to amass even more scars.

Jorg is a despicable person – callous, rude, selfish, violent, quick to anger, arrogant, pretty much any bad thing you can think of, Jorg is it. But even still, by the end of the third book, I was rooting for him to become emperor, to take the throne of the broken empire, and to do all sorts of fantastic things. That, I think, is the skill of this trilogy. It takes an utterly repugnant person who is about as horrible as you can get, and over the course of three books, turns you around to see that perhaps you should be supporting him anyways – in a broken world, aren’t the broken the best people to understand how it works?
I thoroughly recommend the trilogy – Prince of Thorns could stand on its own, but knowing that there are more, why wouldn’t you want to read them? There are also two short stories, which I’m currently reading, which serve as little additions to the story, but aren’t important.

Sad as I was to leave Jorg, I think the trilogy wraps up his story well. But I’m certainly not ready to leave the Broken Empire entirely, so I’m delighted to see that Lawrence is writing a new series, The Red Queen’s War, also set in the Broken Empire – book one of that, Prince of Fools, was published last week – it’s jumped right onto my to-read list.

All three books get the same rating:
Four stars
****

 

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Book #57 – Newt’s Emerald

18802092Have I mentioned any time recently that Garth Nix is my favourite author? Not in a few months, apparently. Well, he is. Has been for a long time. So when I realised he had released a new book (albeit in digital format only), I had to get hold of it.

And so!

Newt’s Emerald – Garth Nix

This book is totally, completely, a million miles away from anything Nix has ever released before. It’s a Regency Romance – historical fiction set in the early 19th Century with a focus on the love story. While it does have the addition of magic, it’s a million miles away from the rest of Nix’s books which are high fantasy, space operas, and certainly not romances, even if they do have romantic subplots.

Newt’s Emerald, in any case, tells the tale of the Lady Truthful Newington, who is in London in search of a precious family heirloom which was stolen from her home. Unfortunately, it being the Regency era, women are not permitted to be out alone, and certainly not in search of an emerald, which may lead to all sorts of impropriety, thus the only solution is for Truthful to disguise herself as a man and embark upon as many adventures as she can possibly cram into 200 pages.

This book was a complete departure from Nix’s previous style, as I have mentioned before, but it was certainly a very enjoyable read. Much lighter and frothier than most of his other books, with a certain amount of farce, mistaken identity, deliberate confusion, the stringent social mores of the time and a healthy dose of ballgowns, dancing, and the inexorable falling in love with your gallant supporting male character, I read this book in two days and enjoyed every word of it. It’s not as good as Nix’s other works, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable.

Four Stars
****

 

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Book #54: Stardust

stardust-400x400-imadzshgmbn8hhhmStardust, by Neil Gaiman, is a book which registered on my radar years ago, but that I never actually got around to reading. I knew Sinéad had read it, although she borrowed it from a boyfriend at the time, so I never got to read it after her. In fact, I suspect she may have broken up with him before she finished it, so that must have been an awkward return of the book.

In any case! A few weeks ago, the Guardian ran a promotion where if you bought their Saturday edition, Stardust came free with it. So I wandered out on the Saturday, and called into not one, but TWO Sainsbury’s in search of Stardust. But I did find it. So that was something anyways.

Stardust tells the story of a young man, Tristram, who sets out in search of a star, to bring back to his ‘true love’. Unfortunately, the star turns out to be very different to his expectations, not least because it fell in Faerie, a land of mysterious and magical happenings.

It’s not a long book, barely 200 pages, and I read it very quickly – I think I had it finished within a day or two.
I enjoyed the read, and would rate it quite highly – I was a little doubtful, because Sinéad had said that it was one of very few books where she enjoyed the movie adaptation more, but she said that this was due to the ending, and I do agree that the ending felt a little flat – it ended not so much with a bang as with a whimper.
Even still, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and would give it four stars.
****

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Books #18-23 & #25 Chronicles of Chrestomanci

Near the start of the year (as indicated by the lower numbers)  I took it into my head to reread the Chronicles of Chrestomanci. I say re-read, but I actually realised as I worked my way through them that I actually never read the last two books of the series.

Image taken from Stories from the Web Blog

Image taken from Stories from the Web Blog


In any case – the books themselves –
Charmed Life
The Magicians of Caprona
Witch Week
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Mixed Magics
Conrad’s Fate
The Pinhoe Egg

^ Is the order I read them in, and is Wynne Jones’ recommended reading order(I think). In any case, since there are seven of them, I don’t think there’s any point in laying out the story of each book separately. Also worth noting is that Mixed Magics is actually a collection of short stories, not all of which are set in the Chrestomanci Multiverse.

The multiverse, in this particular canon, is made up of ‘series’ – collections of worlds which split off at times of geographical change – series five is a watery world, for example. Within the series [there are nine] then, historical events might cause two worlds to split (an example used being Guy Fawkes blowing up the Houses of Parliament) and continue their respective ways on the result of the coin toss.

Within these worlds, a very rare type of person is a nine-lifed enchanter – this is where events conspired to ensure that a particular person’s counterparts in each of the other eight series were not born. This particularly powerful type of enchanter is known as the Chrestomanci, and is tasked with keeping track of all magic use across the nine series.

In any case, now that I’ve established that, over the course of the seven books, we visit many series, many worlds, and see no fewer than three different Chrestomancis (or future Chrestomancis). The whole series is filled with magic, fun, confusion, unicorns, gryphons, cantankerous brooms, embroidered dressing gowns, refusal to accept one’s destiny, love stories, bullying, fancy suits, and generally all kinds of sartorial splendour.

As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed these books, and have enjoyed them no less as an adult. Coming back to find that I had never actually read Conrad’s Fate or the Pinhoe Egg before was a delight, to be able to expand my experience of the Chrestomanci worlds and spend more time seeing Chrestomanci growing from a child into the flamboyant and incredibly entertaining character we see in the first book, Charmed Life. Also interesting is the fact that all the books are written in different styles – Witch Week, for example, is a school story. Conrad’s Fate is in a stately home. The Magicians of Caprona is set in an Italian town ruled by dynastic families (much like fair Verona – the rhyming names possibly not just a coincidence!) and yet all retain the same flavour of magic and adventure. Also there’s nearly always a sassy and incredibly clever cat (Throgmorten, I adore you). I really enjoyed these books, then and now, and would highly recommend them.

(Um, in case you hadn’t noticed, I really like Diana Wynne Jones)

Five stars!

***** 

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Coquillette

Since it’s my last few days here (awwwh, more about that some other time) I’m trying to finish up the food I have in my apartment so I don’t waste anything by chucking it out when I’m leaving.
Certain things I know I’m gonna have to get rid of – I’m never going to eat 400g of salt in the space of 5 days, and the comté cheese which has been sitting in my fridge for three weeks now looking sad since I remembered that I actually don’t like comté will sadly not be realising its full potential (especially since I have a sneaking suspicion it’s out of date at this point).

However, if there was one thing I didn’t think I’d have spare when I was leaving, it was pasta.
When I arrived first, I bought a normal-sized bag of pasta, 500g, and it lasted me a week. I did the same for the next two weeks and then realised it would be smarter if I copped on a bit and bought bigger bags of pasta. So I bought kilo bags for a few weeks, which lasted twice as long.

Then when Dave arrived, we finished off the pasta, so I wandered out and bought some more. Again, a kilo bag, but this time, instead of fusilli, which was what I normally went for, I bought coquillette, because I liked the look of it, and had a craving for some mac and cheese.
It’s not quite macaroni, but it’s similar. In any case, the pack I bought was really small coquillettes. Teeny tiny baby pastas. But it was like, 88c or something, so I was happy out.Like this, but smaller. Smaller!

Fast forward a few weeks, I’ve been home, come back, slogged my way through most of my exams and then I’m looking around my apartment at what food I have left. And I look at this bag of pasta.
Bearing in mind that I’d eat pasta around three times a week, I bought the pasta six weeks ago and Dave was with me one of those weeks so I was cooking for two –
how is it possible that the bag is still half full?

I’ve had pasta for the last three nights in a row and the amount of pasta left in the bag hasn’t decreased by any measurable amount!
It’s clearly some sort of magic pasta which I will never be able to finish.

I have only three evenings left, and there’s clearly more than three servings of pasta left, so I fear I have been defeated by its dastardly ways. I just don’t understand how it’s lasted so long, though. It’s not like I don’t eat a lot of pasta. I eat a perfectly normal amount of pasta! But this one, the bag just refuses to empty!
I’m bemused!

This post was brought to you by virtue of the fact that Sinéad refuses to skype me, so I can’t show her my magic pasta, and I had to tell SOMEONE.

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