zondag 26 mei 2013

Review: Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule

Funny how, when you're reviewing a book that was an absolute trainwreck, the whole of the internet is insufficient to vent. However, when you just want to gush and rave about something, words come short. This gets even more difficult when it's a book - or series in this case - that's pretty close to your heart. Thanks for that, mind! Harry Potter aside, the Sword of Truth series must have been the series that introduced me to Fantasy and all its brightness and glory. That was ten years ago. Today, I am writing this review on Wizard’s First Rule after a fifth read and it still manages to capture me completely. The fact that it is already the fifth time that I read said book, doesn’t make it easier to review it, but here we go nonetheless.

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher's forest sanctuary seeking help . . . and more. His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.

In a dark age it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the best of their hearts could betray them. Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them--for reasons Richard can't imagine and Kahlan dare not say.
In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword--to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed . . . or that their time has run out

I’ll be the first to admit, this is your standard-cliché-cookie-cutter Fantasy plot. There is the orphaned farmer’s son turned hero, the beautiful girl, the crazy wizard, the evil overlord and a nigh impossible quest. Terry Goodkind takes all these, but manages to spin a captivating and exhilarating tale out of those worn-out elements. It’s a big book, so the plot takes a slow and easy start, but things start heating up pretty fast. The trip through the border/underworld is the first of many difficult situations Richard and Kahlan find themselves in and introduces us to the first of many moments in the series where Richard and Kahlan find themselves separated from one another (*). It’s crystal-clear from the very first meeting that Richard and Kahlan are bound to become (star-crossed) lovers with the nearly-insta-love dripping from the pages. That’s perhaps one of the things I don’t really dig about this series, the romance part is overly cheesy. I’m more a fan of the action-packed lightning-throwing spellcasting plotlines. One in particular here is the Denna-story. The first time I read it, it was gut-wrenching, heart-clenching and whatnot. It still gives me shivers, but the BDSM-aspect of it is less disturbing now, compared to when I was 15 (**). Other scenes - one in particular near the ending stands out - are still as disturbing... Yes, the faint of heart should consider themselves warned. I wish I was at the time. All that stuff aside, Wizard’s First Rule offers a well-constructed story that knows how to captivate its audience and delivers a well-rounded not too cliffhangery ending.

The main detractor of the plot is, alas, the main character. Perhaps not as much in this book, but there are little hints of Richard’s annoying personality that glimmer through. I don’t know what it is, but he just rubs me the wrong way for some reason . Since it was the fifth time reading it, my perceptions of the Richard-to-be clouded my vision a little bit, but still, he was pretty self-righteous and sometimes a downright ass (***). I like Kahlan a whole lot more, even though she can get lost in her self-pity at times and her infatuation for Richard is cheesy. On the other hand, she is quite powerful and knows how to handle things on her own. Kahlan aside, I do think that this is a series that really benefits from the side characters and their interactions with the main cast. Not so much in this book – even though Denna is a little star – with the exception of Zedd, but later on in the series they are the ones to keep you entertained while are star-crossed lovers are apart for the umpteenth time. The bad guys are of the kind you can't but hate. Darken Rahl is just such a sick, twisted and evil human being that it creeps me out. The things he does the way he does is just disgusting. At times, his evilish ways were on the border of 'believable' in a way that he was almost too evil to be. I think Shota does a better job as an antagonist, for she's abiguously good/bad.
Credit where credit’s due, though. I have to give it to Terry Goodkind for creating a fascinating world filled with magic and little – or less little – creatures. The description is thorough to say the least, but it’s never long-winded and dragging (****). When it comes to the writing, Wizard’s First Rule is one of the best of the series, hands down. Fluent, action packed, well-balanced and captivating. As it should be.

You know when a book is good, when it doesn’t lose it’s polish upon reading it a second, third of even fifth time. Wizard’s First Rule is a novel that comes with a lot of nostalgia for me, so I am, for one, really happy that this is a tremendously good book that just stays good. Even though it’s falling apart from reading it a little too often.
Fancy a copy of Wizard's First Rule yourself? But it at The Book Depository and support us!

* While there is some anxiety – for she is his guide in a foreign country and all – do treasure this unique moment of separation without the, at times insufferable, accompanying angst.
** No scars for life though, rest assured.
*** Also, he should stop cutting his arm with his own sword, for it is (a) not arousing/impressive/alpha-malish in the least and (b) it’s going to get infected at some point sure. Also, I bet Kahlan doesn’t like all that scar tissue building up. His big arms sure ain't all muscle!
**** Perhaps with the exception of Kahlan's hair. Yes, Richard, I get it. It's, like, suuuperlong and beautiful and you never ever want to see it cut. I got that the first time you mentioned it, let alone the twentieth - which was only two chapters further. #ExaggeratingButYouGetMyPoint.

vrijdag 24 mei 2013

#FridayReads: May 24th, 2013

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.
Last weekend, I didn't quite manage to finish Silverthorn, but I did during the week. The book I chose next is one that will take me through the whole of next week and perhaps even longer, cause it is a beast. I'm talking about A Feast For Crows (or: Een Feestmaal Voor Kraaien, in Dutch, since I'm reading the translation) by George R.R. Martin.
I thought the previous book, A Storm Of Swords, was absolutely brilliant. This series, and the third book to be precise, is one that really makes you feel 'all the feels'. The sad and anxiety-related ones had the upper hand, though. I'm really hoping this one is as great a read as SoS was and being 112 pages in already, I'm not disappointed so far.
It's saddening that my precious Daenerys isn't around for this book, but so many awesome new perspectives have been added. Loved the insight in the previously not much present Martel-camp and of course Cersei. Oh Cersei... You might be the HBIC (*), but you're a piece of work girl. It's great to see the contrast between the image of herself which she projected in the previous novels, and the inner turmoil that's presented here. Last night her chapter ended on a high note, so I'm curious to watch the events unfold. Also, nice to have the Martel-insight, but I'm craving for some Tyrel. Bring along Margaery as a POV George! Who wouldn't want that, right?
While on the subject. Today, I got linked to the tumblr of Moshi-Kun, a Tokyo-based graphic designer from France. He restyled some characters from the series as if they lived in the 90's. Definitely check out his work. Here's his 90's image of Daenerys. Just one word: Ferrets! Dragons of ferrets, she's the one true queen.
* HBIC: Head bitch in charge. This acronym must have been created with Cersei in mind, clearly.

woensdag 22 mei 2013

Between The Pages: How to pick a new read

Earlier this week, Jeremy from Inklingstime posted his view on how to choose the next book you're going to read. Because this is quite a fun thing to discuss, I'd like to add my two cents to this topic.
First, I'd like to say that Jeremy's Book Competition is tremendously fun. Not only to watch him battling his books with a genuine joy, but also participating and commenting on the various battles (*) is a good way to pass the time. Also, trying to slip some of my books into the competition (**) raises the stakes and makes it even more exciting. Will my books prevail or suffer the first losses?
So, do I do the same? Alas, no. [Insert your booing here]. While J. has quite the overview of his collection, I can't see 2/3 of mine because my books are stacked like hell. With a 1000+ TBR, I can host my very own Grand Slam, qualifiers included, so no, a full-on competition is out of my reach. Instead, I tend to be pretty boring when it comes to choosing a new book to read. I've previously mentioned that I am currently invested in a sh*tload of series and add to that a lot of trilogies or whatever I started but never finished, and you can imagine it's quite hard to keep track of all those bigger storylines and characters. In order to reduce that huge stack of series, I decided to alternate the books I read between three or so major Epic and the same amount of Urban Fantasy series. That way, I have sufficient variety in my reading and do I get to finish those ever-lasting series.
Another way of choosing my books, is through the monthly themed bookchallenge hosted by my reading club. Every month, a theme is chosen and you have to read a book that fits the theme in order to succeed in the challenge. Apart from the challenge, there is the monthly book discussion, in which I tend to partake, which is another way of choosing my books.

However! However. Because of those monthly challenges and discussions - which are almost never ever standalone books - I have a lot of unfinished business in terms of those previously mentioned trilogies, duologies, otherologies and with the Big 8 (***), these tend to get snowed under.
So, next time I pick a stack of books (****), I'll randomly select one or two other lucky ones to join the Big 8. I'd like to be as creative as J. and come up with my very own selection procedure, but I find the well-known bookjar quite satisfying and it suits my means well. The titles I've put into the jar are the next installments of the neglected ~logies and some standalones/others which I planned to read for I don't know how long. When a book is drawn, the next installment joins the others in the jar in the hopes of becoming My Next Top Read.
I've been debating on whether to do the same for the longer series. So whenever I finish one of the Big 8-series, just random draw another big one, but I think this is rather a nay than a yay. I'd rather not let any long-term commitment be a random choice...

Image from (c) www.dailyrecord.co.uk (January 16th 2013)
* Booooo- and Yaaaaay-sounds obviously included.
** Watch out for a post along these lines around a month from now #BuildingTension.
*** These are: Sword of Truth, Song of Ice and Fire, Emaneska, Deverry, Riftwar, Hollows, Dresden Files & Anita Blake.
**** The books I want to read mostly aren't directly available, so I have to deconstruct a whole wall of books to get to the ones I want. Even though I quite like doing that - along with cramming new books in the sparse open spaces I have left -, it's not something I want to do every week. I just pick a stack of five to get me through the month or longer and whevener that stack is finished, I pick a new one.

maandag 20 mei 2013

Serial Reading: A summary

One of the perks of reading Fantasy, is that the genre seemingly consists of nothing but series, trilogies, duologies, ... Well, anything but standalone novels. While this is not entirely true, one might get a different impression whilst browsing the shelves of the local bookstore. This has its drawbacks, though. The wait, for one (*), but also the neverending aspect of some series and the almost unavoidable lesser books in the series that tends to go with those long-term endeavors. I, however, love getting enmeshed in a good series. Getting to know the characters, befriending them and living with them for a large amount of time whilst exploring their world, physical as well as emotional, is what draws me to series rather than single novels.
The one thing I'm not particularly good at, though, is finishing them in timely fashion. Now, I don't like to read a whole series start to finish without anything else in between, but other books tend to come in between quite often here... And when those other books are part of a serie as well, you can imagine how the series I'm currently reading are piling up like there's no tomorrow.

To keep track of all things serial, I decided to regularly (**) update my progress and thoughts on them through the Serial Reading label. There might or might not be separate full lenght reviews on those books, but Serial Reading is solely to ponder a bit about the series in general, diary style, if you wish.

What follows is a short summary on all the series I'm currently reading. If there are more elaborate posts on a specific series available, the series title is clickable in the summary. Between brackets, you can follow my progress (***) in the series.
  • George R.R. Martin, A Song Of Ice And Fire. (3/5)
  • Terry Goodkind, The Sword Of Truth. (2/11)
  • Katharine Kerr, Deverry. (10/15)
  • Ben Galley, The Emaneska Series. (1/4)
  • Raymond E. Feist, The Riftwar Series. (2/30)
  • David Eddings, The Belgariad. (2/5)
  • Kim Harrison, The Hollows. (7/11)
  • Jim Butcher, The Dresden Files. (6/13)
  • Laurell K. Hamilton, Anita Blake. (6/21)
  • Angie Sage, Septimus Heap. (2/6)

These are the series I'm reading on a regular basis. To have a bit of a change - as if I don't already have enough of thath, juggling all these - I do drop in one of these, once in a while.

  • Terry Pratchett, Discworld Series. (5/36)
  • Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum Series. (8/18)
And to spice things up even more, I throw in some other trilogies or duologies. Because these aren't really long-term commitments, they're not mentioned here.

* This does not hold any relevance for me, where most series are concerned. I am so much behind on everything and/or own all the books before starting the first book in the series, that I don't have to wait.
** Or at least my definition of regularly.
*** It's depressive, I know...

zaterdag 18 mei 2013

#FridayReads: May 17th, 2013

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.
As you might have figured out by now, #FridayReads (or perhaps #SaturdayReads, so it seems) isn't a weekly thing here at The Paper Dragon. The reason for this is, I just don't want to bore you with posting the same book every week. I mostly read two books at the same time (*); one when I'm on the train and the other one at home, before I go to sleep. In doing so, the trainbook just sleeps the weekend away in my bag and the bedbook experiences slow progress because of my sleepy head. So you can see how my weekend don't see different books all that often.
However, I did manage to finally finish the second book in Terry Goodkind's Sword Of Truth series, Stone Of Tears, which made me really happy (**). You can expect a little something on this in Serial Reading.

The book I now picked up, is the second/third (***) Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga, Silverthorn. The story picks up a little after where Magician left us and centers around the Princes rather than Pug and Tomas. Even though I like Pug and Tomas a great deal, I appreciate the shift in focus. The Princes Lyam and Arutha were always more of a side-character rather than taking the spotlight, so it's only right to let them shine. Especially Arutha, really liking his character. Seems like we're heading for a great adventure with him! Fans of Jimmy The Hand won't be disappointed either, and I count myself member of that group, for his time on the page must have surpassed .
I'm already 1/3 into this and quite enjoying this. Perhaps I'll finish it this weekend, perhaps not, we'll see.

* Well, not really at the exact same time. Would be cool though.
** You would be two if you planned to power through it - since it was a reread, the fifth one - in a week, of two max, but it turned out to be a month and then some.
*** I'm not really sure on this one. I guess it's the third since Magician is split into two, even though I have one big monstrous volume - as it was originally intended. Hurts my head to think about it too much...