Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin

The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’

I am a die hard Le Guin fan for over a year now. Starting my experience of reading her works with ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, I very quickly fell in love and this is now one of my favourite books of all time. I have only read Le Guin’s science fiction and this is my first read of her fantasy epic Earthsea.

‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ begins the story of both Earthsea and Ged who is the greatest sorcerer of Earthsea. Known as Sparrowhawk during his youth, we meet Ged as he grows from boy, to made apprentice to wizard. Along the way we watch him as he learns to confront his own mistakes and learns truly what balance means as bot ha made and a young man.

I LOVED this so much. I read it on my commute mostly and honestly was annoyed when I had to get off the bus and actually go to work (RUDE). I was aware going into this, despite my love of Le Guin’s writing that this was a classic fantasy with a male lead and my have all the tropes that I am sick of. Nope. Not. At. ALL.

For a start, I can picture Earthsea as a place so perfectly in my head. It’s always a huge indicator of my enjoyment of a world built by an author when I can see, smell and hear the world within the first few pages. This is the same distinct feeling I get from some of my favourites like Discworld, Hogwarts and Tortall. I get the distinct impression that this world as a structure mattered so much more to Le Guin as she began writing first. And apparently, this is correct as she began by drawing the map before she wrote the book.

Something else that never gets talked about definitely due to white washung within the publishing industry is that Ged, Sparrowhawk, the main protagonist, is not white. Neither is most of the wide cast of characters we encounter on his journey across Earthsea. This is another thing Le Guin spoke about at length and what prevented her from allowing illustrated versions of the books happening.

Ged is honestly one of my new favourite characters in fantasy. He is incredibly developed throughout this book. He learns so much and he still makes huge mistakes. He is flawed but in the end is a very kind and caring soul with a strong moral compass. He values those around him very dearly while also growing with the knowledge that people are at the end of the day entitled to be both good and bad at the same time.

I found there were so many notable quotes in this book aswell. There is a whole discussion between Ged and his mentor, Ogion, that I quote at the start of my review. The discussion that there is light and dark in all of us. There is this strong lesson that we are incredibly flawed beings (whether magically gifted or not) and we need to embrace that side of ourselves and we will in turn become more powerful. Ged is not like other fantasy protagonists in that he had to work to become this legendary wizard, he had to take journeys, perilous pilgrimages and risks to get where he is. He also has to learn to embrace that side of himself to learn these things.

The plot is not one we have not seen before, magical wizard travelling alone and taking on tasks. It’s even the basic plot of The Witcher TV series (which I did love). Yet, in the hands of Le Guin and her ability to craft such warm, tender stories with rich expansive worlds, it’s a story of vulnerability. It’s a story of learning to reclaim the power within with rich diverse characters that is more relevant today than ever. It is actually a story for teens so it is technically one of the YA books that came before the eruption of the YA genre if that interests you.

I’ll be very quickly continuing this series out of both a need to know what happens to Ged as well as my intention to read the rest of the Le Guin books I own (it’s a lot okay?). I would honestly recommend this to anyone who loves classic fantasy or wants to ease their way into Le Guin’s bibliography. Do tell me if you have read this, if not then please do! Happy reading all!

★★★★★/5

Review: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

‘That is a truth I feel deep in my bones. Bones that plead for me to turn around, that I don’t belong here,that this place has no love for a child of Dinetah. But I do my best to ignore the cold dread that warns me to turn back.’

Good evening fellow readers. I feel this is a very interesting way to bookend the reading year. The first book I read in 2019 was Trail of Lightning and the last book I have now read in 2019 is the sequel., Storm of Locusts. And honestly, this is one of the best series I have read this year.

Four weeks after the deadly incident at Black Mesa, Maggie is trying to gather the scattered strands of her life while learning how to move on. But things are far from over as the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, goes missing with Kai, a mission with the Thirsty Boys goes horribly wrong and a cult leader has emerged known only as the White Locust. Maggie will be led outside the walls of Dinetah and beyond in order to keep what small family she has left and possibly save the world from ending again.

This was one of the bunch of sequels I was determined to read by the end of 2019 and I am so glad I got to it. This is possibly the best sequel I read all year if not one of the best sequels I have ever read. Roanhorse again displays a unique approach to the Urban Fantasy genre and brings Native culture to the forefront once again.

Without spoiling the first book in the series, Trail of Lightning, this world is already established very well especially for the sprawling journey we take across it. This book expands the world further adding to the world that lives outside Dinetah. Life beyond the wall is just as unpredictable and dangerous, if not more violent than the world of Dinetah.

We see the return of many characters, one of my favourites being the return of the Gods that now freely roam the earth. We do meet those that were present in Trail of Lightning along with some newer, trickier Gods. One particular scene involving one of my favourite tropes, a game between a mortal and a God where the human has to win a game to succeed against the God.

Urban fantasy is not a genre best known for character development but Roanhorse honestly writes the best developed characters I have seen in the past decade. Maggie undergoes such a wonderful change,both processing her feelings as a result of the previous books finale while also trying to learn and grow among her friends. The introduction of Ben, Hastiin’s niece, and her sudden presence in Maggie’s life allows for some very touching moments and a strong emphasis on growth and family in the book.

Ben is a wonderful addition to the story. There is no shortage of strong women in the story for Maggie to bounce off, especially in her more hostile moments. Ben is a young woman that is on top of being openly queer, trying to find her own place within this lawless world. Like Maggie, Ben has clan powers that gift her with being a supernatural tracker but also like Maggie, the clan powers are received as a result of a traumatic experience. There is such a strong mentor/mentee development while also learning the lesson that being hard in a world like Dinetah can sometimes kill you faster.

Honestly this plot never releases you from it’s grasp. Just like the first one the book delivers a high octane plot with a seamless set of characters within a mythology we never really get tot see in SFF. The exposure to Native American culture is something I am very grateful for and actively want to seek out after reading this. Roanhorse has crafted a ruthless world that has been handed back to the Gods and people who lived in it first and in the end, were the only ones who were ready for it.

There are very little details available at the moment for the next sequel in the series but you can be guaranteed that when it is confirmed and released it will move straight to the top of my TBR. I can’t recommend this series enough especially for fans of Buffy. Have you read this series yet? Do tell me if you have. Happy reading!

★★★★★/

The Testaments- Margaret Atwood Review

‘All things come to she who waits. Time wounds all heels. Patience is a virtue. Vengeance is mine.’

Good evening all and welcome back to my world of books! Understandably, I have been busy over the festive period and I am currently changing jobs which is very exciting. But in the middle of it all, I did find time to read my most anticipated sequel of 2019.

After Offred, and the discovery of her tale, there were still women in Gilead. These women continued to survive and struggle within this world. Here is the most dangerous thing to come out of Gilead, it is the accounts of 3 women and how some saw it rise, how some kept it alive, and how they all watched it fall.

I did mention in an earlier blog post that this was one of the sequels I had to get to before the year ended (I’m currently reading another) and I’m glad I picked it up when I did. Atwood has long been a writer I admire and enjoy reading but her writing is certainly the kind you need to be in a humor to seek out. I also find with her work, especially one that is a fairly bleak setting from a previous story, you do have to suspend all hope at the door. This also historically the first ever joint winner of the Man Booker Prize, the other winner being ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo (the first black woman to win the award). This book is also on my current TBR.

Gilead has already been laid out and outlined in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, both novel and TV show, so we already have a certain idea of what to expect in this book. We actually get further expansion of the world, the size of it and the experience of living within the world. We get to see a type of mundane, whatever that is, in Gilead this time.

This story, like many of Atwood’s previous works, is powered by the characters. We get the perspective of 3 characters as previously mentioned. I am going to refuse to tell you the names of some of them since I think it will kill the experience a little of reading this and it’s technically a spoiler. We get the POV of an Aunt and 2 witness testimonies from younger characters, one who has grown up in Gilead and one that is outside of Gilead.

I know this is pretty vague compared to how I usually review but I really think this will help anyone’s reading experience. Something that I really enjoyed about this book is how it answers questions that I think everyone had after ‘The Handmaids Tale’. The answering of them don’t affect the plot or the pacing in any way which I think really is a bonus for any sequel. There is no time to linger on this fact and process anything, this world is dangerous and we need to move.

This was impossible to put down and I flew through it when I was able to read it over the Christmas period. Atwood has managed to write a sequel that is just as compelling as the previous work it follows. My mildest criticism is that I did find it hard to emotionally connect with the characters. Any of them. Whenever I have read her other books, I have always worried about a certain character (whether a handmaid or a cat) off the page when I put the book down. Offred especially is a character I have often thought of. I didn’t find this with The Testaments and it felt a little bit like I missed out a little.

Overall though this did not disappoint. This book was exactly what I was in the mood for and there is nothing more satisfying than that. I also recently rediscovered my love for literary fiction so this was a good read too to get back into this for the new year.

Do you read Margaret Atwood’s books? Have you read this? Tell me all in the comments. Thank as always for stopping by and Happy New Year everyone!

★★★★/5

Sourcery- Terry Pratchett Review

‘ Rincewind rather enjoyed times like this. They convinced him that he wasn’t mad because, if he was mad, that left no word at all to describe some of the people he met.’

Welcome back to my holiday on The Disc! I am very sorry for the lack of updates to the Discworld Project. It has been busy down here on the Hub and boy is it good to be back at the Unseen University with the smell of the Ankh. Oh wait, is that smell you?

This is the seventh book in the publication order of the Discworld novels. This is the third novel following the failed wizard, Rincewind and the happenings at the Unseen University. The unthinkable has happened. A wizard, an eighth son of an eighth son, has had another son. His eighth son. He cannot be a wizard. He is a Sourcerer. And he is coming to the university. Do I want to be left alone? Yes. Do I want a sentient trunk that follows me on many legs and eats crisps?Definitely.

The wit as always within Pratchett’s writing is consistently satirical without being pompous. As often quoted by Neil Gaiman when asked about Practhett, the opposite of funny isn’t serious. It’s just something not being funny. While Discworld relies heavily on humor for its tone and consistence it never fails to be intimate and heartwarming. I honestly needed to read this book at this very moment in time to help make my current situation more bearable.

I listened to this on audio and it was narrated than none other than Baldrick himself, Tony Robinson of Time Team and Blackadder fame. I have often said that the only voice I hear for Rincewind is that of Eric Idle but now it will always be Robinson. Not only does he voice Rincewind to perfection he manages the cast of characters with a fantastic flourish and each is distinct from the other.

In this adventure we meet our recurring and welcome characters such as Death, Luggage and the Librarian. We also get to meet some even more memorable characters such as Conina the Hairdresser, daughter of the famous Cohen, Nijel the eventual barbarian and so much more. I loved listening to each voice they were given by Robinson. Each characters was literally in my head, walking around and trying to drag me on their adventure.

I only have one small critique in with this particular story. The pot jumped from one particular point I was highly enjoying to the climactic drama very quickly. I do feel that is going to be a feature of all the Rincewind books but this one it didn’t work as well as it did in say, ‘The Light Fantastic’, which never stopped once to breathe because something was happening and we had to go there. I feel because this one starts in a more mundane situation that the jump takes a way a small bit from Pratchett’s usually decent pacing.

However in saying all that I deeply enjoyed this book. I have been putting off coming back to the Disc for too long, this was a necessary change and I chose the audio because I was so busy which worked out even better since the audio for this particular story is totally flawless.

Thank you as always for reading, do tell me if you have read this book in the series and what flavour crisps you think the Luggage would prefer.

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: You Can Change the World! by Margaret Rooke

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the RandomThingsTour blog tour for You Can Change the World! by Margaret Rooke with illustrations by Kara McHale.

‘So sometimes you can lose and you can win. And whatever happens, you’ll still know more than you did before.’

Joint Gold Winner of the Moonbeam Multicultural Non-Fiction Award 2019
This inspirational book tells the stories of more than 50 of today’s teenagers who’ve dared to change the world they live in. It’s been written to show other teens they can do the same. Bestselling author Margaret Rooke asks
teens about their experiences of being volunteers, social entrepreneurs and campaigners, online and beyond.
They explain how they have survived in a world often obsessed by celebrity, social media and appearance, by refusing to conform to other’s expectations.
If you want to achieve against the odds and create genuine impact, this book may be the encouragement you need. The interviews cover race, sexuality, violence, grief, neurodiversity, bullying and other issues central to life
today.

This is a bit of a different blog tour for me once again, like my last. This is my first time reading a non fiction book for a very long time and my first time reviewing one. So I’ve decided I won’t be giving this one a star rating.

This is the book I wish that I had when I was a teenager. There are so many wonderful, alarming and empowering tales in this book that it feels like a wake up call that all adults need. There are very real things that teenagers struggle with on a daily basis that we all forget about very quickly once we grow up and get jobs.

The account of Trisha Prabhu and her determination to take a stand against cyber bullying really stuck with me. By using a program coded to prevent someone posting harmful content, Prabhu has made a huge difference. ReThink, the program in question, prompts a window to pop up if the person posting is going to say something nasty and asks them to reconsider, step back and think. This is very powerful tool that has been rolled out to over 5 million people and has led to TED talks, meeting Barack Obama and other wonderful opportunities.

Every single achievement within these pages have been conquered by teenagers. It’s easy to forget how powerful teenagers truly are. A teenage girl invented science fiction don’t forget. One of these teenagers in Margaret Rooke’s book has changed how a major supermarket chain farms eggs. Another is tackling the stigma against periods and is trying to prove that a bodily function is not shameful. Teenagers will save this planet.

I can’t take away from how Rooke has assembled these true accounts into something that feels vital and very relevant. The arrangement of accounts coupled with McHale’s expert illustrations make the text feel accessible without being too simplistic for the subject matter. I think this is the perfect book this Christmas for any teenagers in your life but also for any adults. I think we all need to know what is happening in the lives of teenagers all over the world, and how we can help because this is their world.

I can’t take away from how Rooke has assembled these true accounts into something that feels vital and very relevant. The arrangement of accounts coupled with McHale’s expert illustrations make the text feel accessible without being too simplistic for the subject matter. I think this is the perfect book this Christmas for any teenagers in your life but also for any adults. I think we all need to know what is happening in the lives of teenagers all over the world, and how we can help because this is their world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret is an author and writer with a special interest in listening to people’s memories and getting them down on paper. Her latest book Creative, Successful, Dyslexic includes interviews with Darcey Bussell, David Bailey, Lord Richard Rogers, Zoe Wanamaker and others about their childhoods and beyond. She interviewed countless interesting personalities during her many years of magazine writing and believes everyone has a story to tell. Margaret is especially keen to preserve people’s memories for their children and grandchildren to value and enjoy

Thank you very much to both Anne and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for sneding me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions& Disturbances by Neil Gaiman- Review

Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.’

This will be my first review of a short story collection here on the blog and it makes me happy that it is a Neil Gaiman collection. My first Neil Gaiman book bought with my own money was Smoke and Mirrors and with the announcement of the ultimate collection of Neil Gaiman short stories being published in the next year I felt it was time to read the others again.

Trigger Warning collects a series of tales that include a previously unpublished American Gods novella, Black Dog, a story of a cave that rewards gold at a price, a Doctor Who story following the Doctor and Amy Pond and a tale of 2 colliding fairy tales with a Queen saving a princess. The title itself, discussed by Gaiman in the opening, describes the use of trigger warning sin modern internet usage and how we should or should not have them on books and stories.

So this is going to be a bit of a smaller, more rambling review due to the fact it is a short story collection and it is my first time reviewing one properly. So obviously with collections and anthologies you are going to get stories you liked and those you did not. This book overall I must say had a quite a varied selection of tales that were all mostly enjoyable, bordering the strange gap between horror and fantasy.

One such tale I really enjoyed was ‘Orange’ which from my first read of the book that I never finished in 2016 was one that I remembered very vividly. The story follows a girl making a report of her sister who was very fond of fake tan and the ridiculous level it escalated to. As someone who grew up with a sister who wears fake tan while I utterly HATE the stuff, I found it very entertaining.

Other stories see the return of characters we would know from Gaiman’s other work and figures of popular culture, such as the previously mentioned Doctor, Sherlock Holmes and Shadow Moon. It was so good to read another story set after American Gods and following Shadow. I do love finding out what he is up to. However the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Case of Death and Honey’ I thought was a bit too long for a Holmes story and it wasn’t really all that interesting come the ending either.

Despite the longer tales feeling like they padded the book slightly, I still enjoyed them most of all particularly The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. Published as a standalone illustrated work, I hadn’t actually read it until this book but it is definitely a stand out tale of vengeance and pain in the Scottish Highlands. I also want Peter Dinklage to play the lead.

As always I warn people, I am a massive Neil Gaiman fan and I will always be biased towards his work but as much as a I enjoyed this volume of short stories I do think it is one of the weaker collections he has released. It is still a great collection of tales but I have preferred others more.

If this review rambles a lot, I do apologise a since I have never reviewed s short story collection before but will be doing far more of in the future. Did you read this?What’s your favourite tale? Do tell me so we can fan-girl over them.

★★★★/5

Something Wicked this Way Comes- Ray Bradbury Review

‘Because, sometimes good has weapons and evil none. Sometimes tricks fail. Sometimes people can’t be picked off, led to dead falls. No divide and conquer tonight.’

This is a long overdue read for me. I’ve been dying to get back to my reading of the works of Ray Bradbury. I’ve been slowly getting into his work and I was highly impressed with this particular book. This was also the first book in a while that I just randomly picked up and read on the basis it was interesting. I also was on a long bus journey.

On an October night, the week before Halloween, the carnival arrives. Welcome to Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show! A place of outlandish people, rides and a charismatic ring master who seems to know the darkest desire of anyones heart. For in the town of Green Town, there are two boys who answer the call to the carnival. For Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, the carnival will show them many wonders and what the price is for the wishes within their hearts.

Now I thought Stephen King was the master of small town dramas, adolescent stories and the idea of the evil that killed the neighborhood. It is very clear where he learned this from. This book is wonderfully crafted and truly does manage to explore the horrors of adulthood while examining the wants of every young teen to be older and able to do as they wish.

We don’t generally see much of Green Town. We generally spend a good chunk of the book running through the town trying to keep up with Jim and Will as they run in every and any direction. The world within the carnival is hard not to be emmersed in, between the sound of calliope music, the churn and clunk of the carousel, the smell of sweat as people perform for so many. And under it all, like any circus or carnival, there is a sense of unease that something about this is not quite right.

There is such an anxiety woven into each character and is presented in a way that you can’t not feel it with the characters. Will is worried that he will lose Jim, somehow along the way as he grows up. Jim is scared and desperate to explore the activities and fancies experienced by adults alone, dying to rush towards his inevitable manhood. Will’s father Charles, his pining for his own youth and for Will’s approval. This all coupled with the villanous Mr Dark, the Illustrated Man lurking around every corner leaves for some very genuinely uneasy moments .

There is a constant sense of both dread and melancholy around this town when the carnival first shows up and it really doesn’t let up until the final pages. There is an underlying feeling that something is about to go very wrong and noone but us the readers know and we cannot warn the 2 boys.

The structure of the plot is very much balanced between both sides, the ‘good’ side of the town (Will and his father), the ‘bad’ who have arrived in town (Mr. Dark mainly) and there is to a certain point an unknowing to who will triumph in the end since anything could tip the scales (Jim and his temptation to go to the carnival, the lightning rod salesman etc). That to me was probably one of the best hooks within the plot to keep the reader engaged.

Bradbury’s writing is breathtaking in places and this comes as no shock to me. The way he can conduct a mood like he does relies totally on his descriptive writing. There are many sentences that have stuck with me but this one really has;

“So in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do, depending on the season and the need.”

I don’t have much else to say about this outside of what has already been said but just that I am so glad I finally read this. It definitely lives up to the hype and is well worth reading since it is not too long and isn’t one of Bradbury’s more fantastical works so its a good place to start.

★★★★★/5