City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: Review

I have to admit I really didnt know what to expect from this book. Its plot focuses on a lot of themes that are neatly interwoven and have some really mind blowing consequences.

I have never read anything else by Mr Bennet although after reading this Im really wanting to read American Elsewhere.

But I digress.

City Of Stairs focuses on the city of Bulikov (The City of Stairs) and Buliokov is situated in the Continent. It used to be a great power in the world, and ruled over Saypur, that was until the ‘Night of The Red Sands ‘when the Kaj ( a military leader) killed one of the continent’s six Divine Gods, thus putting Saypur in the overall position of power and ruling  over the continent and Bulikov with an iron fist. Fast forward to 1719 and the murder of Efrem Pangyui. Ashara Thivani is sent as a diplomat by the Saypur ministry to investigate the mysterious death of her mentor and friend, with her secretary Sigrud, a Dreyling ,who, lets just say, can certainly handle himself when push comes to shove. And I really dont mean with pen and paper. Through her investigation of Pangyui’s death, the City of Stairs holds many secrets, and not just to its own people.

If anyone were to ask me “Can you a suggest a good book that has fantastic world building?” I would hand them a copy of this. As Robert Jackson Bennet has painstakingly built something rather special here. The world that surrounds Shara’s investigation, has something of a European feel to it, this, I feel is in both in name and some of the ways that Bennet describes the architecture of Bulikov. To me, Bulikov is a character in this novel and its own search for its identity is quite poignant. Within this world magic, technology and political machinations are all at play, the former being very forbidden in the city but it these hidden things always have a way to burst through. As for the political goings on, in parts it reminded me of the perpetual troubles in Israel and Palestine, and that, to me didnt come across in a high handed way.

The pacing throughout is magnificent as there is so much going on, and it really is a beautifully written. The fight scenes are not done in a gratuitous way but in order to move the story forward at the lovely pace. I got half way and said to my wife, “I really dont want to finish this book … But I must find out what happens!”

This really is an exciting novel, and anything is possible, and I really do mean anything. At points I came up with my own conclusions as to what some of its points actually meant, only to discover that I really was barking up the wrong stair. I say this for many books that I review, but I really and especially do not want to spoil some of its twists and reveals, needless to say that Robert Jackson Bennett has created something that really works splendidly when all added together.

SIgrud, you are an absolute gem of a character.

(Also, I came across this earlier which I thought was beautiful and for me affirms as to what Bennett’s world looks like in my mind http://robertjacksonbennett.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/CityOfBulikov.htm)

City of Stairs is available now from Jo Fletcher books (Quercus,) so forget my ramblings and go grab yourself a copy.

The author is also on twitter @robertjbennett and to find out more about the author check out his site http://robertjacksonbennett.wordpress.com/city-of-stairs/

city-of-stairs_jk

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The Slow Regard Of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss: Review

I recently read the first two books in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle and loved both of them, so when I heard that Rothfuss was releasing a novella concerning one of my favourite characters I was sold.
This is Auri’s story, and this book gives the reader an insight to the inner workings of her world whilst still keeping a lot of the mystery about her. The story takes place in her home of the Underthing which is underneath the University it is as mysterious as our character with its labyrinthian corridors which lead into rooms and staircases, pools and doorways to goodness knows where. Each of these places in the Underthing has a name, and like most things in Auri’s world has a true purpose along with its true name.
I find the way Auri does things enthralling. Auri seems to be not all there but then again looking at the world through Auri’s eyes is a much nicer way to view everything, although there does seem to be part of her life that is tinged with a very deep sadness, this however, doesnt seem to show itself a lot of the time. Auri has a fragility to her but also a great strength within her soul.

In truth this is really an odd sort of story but I mean that in a good way. The main focus is on Auri and there is not a speck of dialogue to be found but it really doesnt need it. What I loved about this novella is that although it shone a light on Auri’s life it didnt ruin the mystery about her. She still remains very much an enigma and one thing this story does very well is add more mystery to her. when I was reading this I likened Auri to a sort of invisible caretaker under the University making everything just so, so that everything above is working in order. Then with this thought still in my mind I came to the conclusion that Auri may just not be an invisible caretaker, but almost an integral part of Rothfuss’ world of Temerant, making sure everything is happy and is in its rightful place, making sure that world is turning and the balance is being kept from the confines of the Underthing.

I really loved this story and It made me fall in love with Auri even more. The story is accompanied by illustrations by Nathan Taylor and they really are wonderful.

At the beginning of the book there is a disclaimer of sorts by the author which starts by saying “You might not want to buy this book.” then it goes on to explain that this is has nothing to do with Kvothe’s storyline etc. At the end of the book Rothfuss has explained how The Slow Regard Of Silent Things came to be, and at first I thought that both of these things were a little unnecessary. Then something about these two things reminded me of how I am when it comes to creating things such as a piece of writing or a piece of music. So, I’ll write something or record something then more often than not I show it to my wife as she is the most honest person I know, but before I show the writing/music to her I will explain to her my thought process behind making it, and then say things that almost defend its purpose or reasons before she has even heard/read it. The foreword and afterword by Rothfuss has an honesty to them. I think sometimes we all think that writers can craft these amazing stories as easy as breathing and already know how brilliant they are going to be even with the blank page before them but we know that that is not the case at all, and it is obvious that Rothfuss was unsure about The Slow Regard Of Silent Things, but he need not be as it really is a very special book and It is one I am going to revisit again and again.
One thing I have almost forgot to mention is that the cover for the Uk version (Gollancz/Orion) is absolutely wonderful and truly captures Auri’s free spirit and beautiful soul. TSROSTpic

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is out now via Gollancz http://www.orionbooks.co.uk to find out more about the author visit his website at http://www.patrickrothfuss.com

Your Servants And Your People (The Walkin Trilogy book 2) by David Towsey: Review

YSAYPjpg I have a lot of love for David’s debut (Your Brothers Blood) and If you have not read that then you simply must.
The basic thing to remember when reading YBB and Your Servants and Your People, is that you take everything you knew and thought you knew about Zombies and throw it out the window.
The re-imagining of the Zombie genre is something that has arisen a lot (no pun intended) some are brilliant and others fall flat on their undead behinds i.e the recent zomromcom anyone? But David Towseys creation of a Zombie-Western is truly sublime and its creation breathes new life to what can sometimes be a very tired sub-genre.

So, in Your Servants and Your People we see the Mcdermott family seven years after the events that took place in Your Brothers Blood. Thomas Mcdermott is obviously still dead and a’Walkin and himself and his family (wife Sarah and daughter Mary) are desperately trying to find and start a new life away from the troubles and prejudices from most places in Towsey’s world that dont really like a’Walkins. Thomas wants to start a farm and has set his heart on a piece of land near Fort Wilson and along the way meets a small group of soldiers who travel the rest of the way with the Mcdermott family. Strangely, it reminded me of an old episode of the old Western series Gunsmoke, except for the whole a’walkin thing.
Mr Towsey has created something very wonderful with Your Servants and Your People in the sense that although the whole tone of the book has this elegiac quality to it I personally never found it overly depressing, it instead moves with a lot of beauty and an insight to both sides of life.
About halfway through the book I wasnt sure where it was going, and I dont mean that in a bad way, I was literally on the edge of my reading spot, worrying about the futures of the characters.
Your Servants and Your People also introduces some new characters being that of the blue coat soldiers and their time at Fort Wilson. All I am going to say is Fort Wilson is not a place one would want to go and has that foreboding feeling of say the house from Amytiville Horror and like the town of Barkley in the first book, it becomes a character that in my mind plays a much bigger part in the story than what Barkley did. Towsey has offered up another helping of lovely undead goodness in his second of the Walkin Trilogy and I shall leave you with this- The third book is going to be all kinds of awesome!

Your Servants and Your People is available now via Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com) the author can be found on twitter @D_Towsey

Willful Child by Steven Erikson: Review

Right … Where on earth do I start with this.
Ok, here goes.
Despite being warned not to start here with regards to Steven Erikson’s body of work, I liken myself to one of those characters who are told not to push a red button and then end up pushing it to see what happens. This book for me was the red button I shouldnt have pushed. But, my friends, I did.
But thats on me. Sometimes you have to make errors to learn from them.

I went into this book with a completely open mind. This homage/spoof to Star Trek and other SciFi films/tv shows, should have ticked all the boxes for me. It really didnt, and then some.

The book is supposed to represent the many adventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child, but to be honest half the time I was really confused as to what was going on within the story, although I use the term “story” loosely. It was messy and all over the place. One second there is killer kittens and then something involving a large chicken, amongst other things. I get this is to represent the tv series in some ways. Each week Kirk would get himself in all sorts of trouble and it would all be ok as he would be back with his faithful crew next week. I felt it really didnt work in Wilfull Child.

I cant really talk about the characters (except for one, which I will get to) as I felt that all the characters were rather vapid and I really didnt care about any of them. They seemed to always try and challenge the chain of command because of a megalomaniac for a captain. Then we come on to the captain himself.
Wow, where do I even start with the likes of Captain Hadrian Alan Sawback?
Well, for starters he is a bloody idiot who constantly objectifies his subordinates of the opposite sex. Now, Im all for humour and spoof and I would like to consider myself not easily offended. But I really found this book so derogatory and offensive toward women, it actually stressed me out reading it, and I have never felt like that before. Ever.
But really the jokes about assualt/rape were really just vile. Even the overall constant jokes of Captian Sawback being somewhat a sex addict was tiresome from the beginning.
I reached the end and I said to my wife, “I have to put this in another room, as I really dont want to look at it anymore.” After this I felt really drained and actually quite crap in myself, I think that this was because I pushed myself to finish this book even though I would have rather done something else and perhaps it because I was mentally searching for that would redeem this one. Please dont think Im saying, “Read this and it will mess you up.” because Im not saying that Im just trying to relay how it made me feel.
I may sound like Im running this book into the ground and that ostensibly is the truth to a certain degree, but I, myself could find nothing that I liked in it whatsoever. So Im sorry for being frightfully negative. I suppose that summed up this book was just not for me. Im going to leave it at that because I really hate being negative but I also dislike being dishonest. So Im sorry if my view differs from others but Wilfull Child is not a book I could recommend, to do so would be against my truth.

Wilfull Child is out on the 6th November via Bantam Books UK and the 4th of Nov Tor/Forge US/Can