Review: Page by Tamora Pierce ( The Protector of the Small)

If we pick a fight, then we’re just as bad as them. Combat should be used just to help people who can’t defend themselves, period.

This seems to officially be a Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce stan account these days (more on the Discworld Project next week). I picked this up directly after finishing First Test so you can imagine how much that shows I’m enjoying this series.

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over. She must master
her paralyzing vertigo, the gruelling training schedule and the dark machinations of those who would rather she fail.

But in times of danger, Kel shines.

The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate – they will do anything to halt her journey.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

For some reason and I can’t place why, this book reminds me a lot of reading Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Now this is nowhere near the level of grimdark that Farseer reaches but I think it might be that this time, the time scale of Kel and her training is sped up significantly. First book of course did cover that year of probation that Kel had to suffer through and this book covers from her second year as a Page to when she is finishing her exams to progress to a Squire.

As a result of that, we get to see Kel as she matures into a teenager. Within a world like Tortall, you wouldn’t expect to see in depth about the joys of puberty and every thing that a young girl might experience during that. But you forget, this is Tamora Pierce. This books are different. I was so relieved that there was a good detailed discussion about periods. Yep, this book has details about getting periods among other details. What a relief! I don’t think I can think of one fantasy book that details this without the value being around virginity/purity. Nope, this is your normal, inconvenience of having one when you really don’t meed one. And there is a discussion about them with Kel and her maid Lalasa which needs to be more common. Something small, I know but anything that will destigmatise basic bodily functions is fine with me.

Since there isn’t a lot of world or expansion of the world building of the previous book, this book functions mostly as both a character study and a coming of age story for Kel and her friends. We obviously get the period stuff I mentioned but just other small things that add to the other characters growth too. Her changing feelings for Neal being one and her discovery of a solid, female friendship with Lalasa as well. This is probably the part I loved the most. Lalasa is a welcome addition to the story and watching Kel teach her physically how to defend herself while reminding her that harassment is never okay and has to be challenged, well, it felt very relevant to be honest. Even more so at the moment.

As far as the story is concerned, it is as tight and concise as the first. I felt the climactic point of the plot was both obvious while also kind of being a thing that I didn’t think would happen. That Keladry succeeding threatened others that much and that they had to be so malevolent about it. The last few chapters were so gripping that I was getting worried while reading it and even if it does seem like she is always going to make it sue to the quartet existing, I still had my doubts for a second. That to me is great plot work.

I can’t move on without the mention of best boy Jump. A dog is a welcome addtion to any story, especially such a good boy like him. I really liked seeing even Lord Wyldon make a tiny fuss of him and agree he was vital to the entire castle. Thank you Tamora Pierce for not having the dog die as well. I don’t care if that spoils the book, I know others will want to know.

I haven’t picked up Squire yet just due to some mood reading and blog tours but that and Lady Knight will be up next on my TBR very soon. I will have considerable space after recent revelations. Thanks for reading this review and happy reading. Most of all know, I hope everyone is safe, practicing self care for their mental health and is doing okay.

★★★★.5/5

Review: First Test by Tamora Pierce (The Protector of the Small)

‘I’ve watched Lady Alanna fight for the crown. I saw her majesty and some of her ladies fight in the Immortals War. I know women can be warriors.’

I’m back! Apologies for my sudden absence, a combination of work and personal things coupled with the world being totally on fire at the moment have lead me to fall behind on the review here. Well I’m back with my journey to Tortall and the first book in The Protector of the Small quartet.

Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl who dares to take advantage of the new rule that allows women to train for knighthood.

But standing in Kel’s way is Lord Wyldon the training master, who is dead set against girls becoming knights. A woman should be lovely. A woman should be charming. A woman should not be deadly.

Wyldon demands Kel pass a one-year trial that no male page has ever had to endure. It’s just one more way to separate Kel from her fellow trainees. Kel must prove herself twice as good as her male peers just to be thought equal. But she is not to be underestimated.

Kel will fight to succeed, even when odds are stacked against her. Book one of a powerful and classic fantasy quartet about smashing the ceilings others place above you, by the bestselling author of the Song of the Lioness series and Tempests and Slaughter.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I loved my read of the Immortals quartet last year that returning to this world was highly enjoyable for me. I love Tamora Pierce’s writing from my first read of Wild Magic and I feel it only gets better with each series.

This book expands on the world building of Tortall from the previous 2 series but there is no issue for a reader to begin reading from here. There are details and spoilers from the Immortals quartet as well as appearances of characters from there and the world left changed after the Immortals War. It’s a nice reward for anyone who has read it but it really makes the world larger and we learn of the Yamani Islands which are based on Japan and Japanese culture. Kel having spent time there gives us some brief insight into their traditions and ways of living.

Kel is only 11 in this first book but already she is pretty fearless. During the constant harassment from the male Pages, her training mater and the general struggle of becoming a Knight, she doesn’t give an inch and refuses to compromise. From the start of the book she is clearly a character that is more aligned with Alanna than Daine where she is more physical and commonly sports black eyes and bruises from various fights. I think out of all the characters Pierce has written, Kel is one I relate to the hardest. I’ve so often been in the situation (as many people have) that I’ve had to work harder just to get what I want and it’s refreshing she is not a ‘chosen one’ either.

We met some other great characters along the way. Besides the reappearance of Daine, Numair and other big names, there is the introduction of Lord Wyldon and Kel’s main ally, Nealan of Queenscove. Clearly Wyldon is as biased as he is tough but I thought by the end of the book, he certainly took on a more relatable light and changed a lot. I like seeing characters change their attitudes and just grow out of them. It needs to be normalised a lot more in fantasy books. Neal is hilarious and a great friend to Kel but there is clearly some set up here for later books I feel with his character so I’ll talk about that as I read on.

This is a nice quick read with a smooth cohesive plot that really works as both a primer for the world and a refresher for returning reader. I am giving it such a high rating for mostly enjoyment purposes but do still think this is a very solid first book for a series. Also, Kel saves kittens. She was a fave right there and then.

Thank you for bearing with me fellow readers. Rest assured I have a lot of stuff coming up these next couple of weeks including my review of the second book in this series, Page. So keep an eye out for that and do tell me, are you a fan? Have you read this series? Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Believe it. That was the way. Never stop believing. Fool the eye, fool the brain.

Welcome back to the Discworld Project. Prepare yourself for the new marvel of the Disc! Lights! Imps! Red carpets and banged grains. Today fellow readers, in the town of Holy Wood, film has come to the Disc.

The alchemists of the Discworld have discovered the magic of the silver screen. But what is the dark secret of Holy Wood hill?

It’s up to Victor Tugelbend (‘Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Can handle a sword a little’) and Theda Withel (‘I come from a little town you’ve probably never heard of’) to find out…

This was a surprising turn for the series that resulted in a fun story while also being very enjoyable. This is book 10 in the series publishing continuity and continues to add more characters to the world but is definitely better at connecting the ones we have already met.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this was the weird unusual thread of the story. It follows the usual Discworld formula in places, being based in Ankh Morpork and the introduction of some new characters being pulled into some ridiculous amount of mayhem usually linked to something magical or otherworldly. This one, felt a little the story was far more solid and that the world is better established in this book. I still can’t be quite sure if that is due to the fact that I am invested in the series now but something felt unusual.

In case you didn’t guess from the synopsis and my witty intro (ha), this sees the introduction of film to the Discworld and the disasters that would come from that. Something I really loved was that the way the alchemists develop how to make ‘clicks’ is a direct call back to The Colour of Magic. I know this is something small but I have often wondered about technology in Discworld and seeing it again is fun. The equivalent of popcorn is named appropriately too.

I think as well this is the first book where I felt the wealth of characters was explored really well. We don’t just get to see the witches, or just get to see the wizards. Holy Wood being what it is draws Trolls, talking dogs and would be wizards like our main character Victor. There is also the eventual return of a race of characters we have seen before towards the end, and of course the always welcome return of Death, the Librarian and a hilarious plot involving the wizards at the university.

I do think that Victor was a little weak, especially alongside Ginger and Throat. Seeing Throat reappear in a more vital role in the plot was brilliant and felt true to his constantly changing nature, but I still felt Victor was left a little underdeveloped compared to other main characters I’ve met so far. Gaspode the Wonder Dog is a true standout though.

I did still really enjoy this, I flew through it which is always great for immersion with a story like this and it is always a great experience reading any Pratchett book. The next book will be Reaper Man so that is one I am looking forward to. Happy reading folks!

★★★★/5

Review:The Wolf of Oren Yaro by K.S Villoso

But I was starting to realize, with a sinking feeling that the wold did not turn on loyalty alone.

Fantasy is a genre that loves a story about a Queen. Queens that fight, queens that are masters of manipulations using their husbands to get what they want and Queens of startling beauty that wars are fought over. Today, we are going to talk about the Bitch Queen.

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come. But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair. Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she’s on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.

I don’t think I have devoured a dense fantasy book this fast in a while. I honestly tore through this incredible story in two days and enjoyed it immensely. Taking place in a Asian/Eastern inspired world with questionable characters mixed with elements of grimdark fantasy throughout I just couldn’t put the book out of my hands.

The characters stood out to me most of all and really left me unsure of who I could trust in the book. Taliyien (or Tali) is a ruthless woman who is willing to get her hands dirty and will have your head off for the sheer insubordinate of you looking at her wrong. The only other queen of her like I have come across is that of Cersei Lannister but that is even a weak comparison. Tali is far stronger, way more compelling and will really keep any reader guessing as to her true feelings or intentions with anyone around her. That being said she does have some very emotional moments that are very tender and really flesh her out further than most monarchs we are used to seeing in fantasy stories.

There are many other memorable characters, particularly Khine and Agos. I’m not sure why Ago is more memorable than any one else but I really enjoyed his total dedication to Tali while Agos being totally as bloodthirsty and battle ready as she is. I really liked that part of his personality and how there was this one guy always rooting for her at least. Khine is just too good for this world and I mean THIS world in the book.

One part that I did struggle with here in the book was the world building. I felt it lacked a little in places since this world is massive and there are so many different tribes with varied histories. Also every tribe has a unique interaction with each other depending on that history. We did get some fascinating information on both the Oren-Yaro as well as the Ikessar. Since I am reviewing this a s a digital NetGalley copy I am not totally sure if there was a map in the final copy but I think that would have helped me a bit more too.

Besides Tali and her wonderfully woven characters I honestly couldn’t fault the pacing or the structure of this story. There are flashbacks scattered throughout the book which can be done to death but the author has managed to put them into the story in a way that doesn’t break your immersion at all. If anything they add to the plot and the ongoing complexity of Tali as our POV. Also for a story like this to be in first person and manage to keep secrets from the reader is a huge feat.

Definitely would recommend this for fans of either Robin Hobb or a Song of Ice and Fire. Also a great book that would work as an entry point to grimdark since this isn’t distinctly part of the genre but would definitely feature some key elements of the plots typically associated with it. There is a lot of blood basically and I loved it. The next book in the series can’t come sooner!

Thank you to NetGalley, Nazia and Orbit Books for an EArc of this book in exchange for review! The Wold of Oren Yaro is out now.

★★★★/5

Neverwhere-Neil Gaiman Review

‘ I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.’

Good evening and apologies for my absence! I have been work busy, a bit exhausted and had an impromptu weekend away which was well needed. This book, is shockingly, the only Neil Gaiman book I have never read. And I dragged reading this book out for an entire week.

Richard Mayhew’s life takes an unexpected turn after a small act of kindness. After saving the life of an injured young woman named Door, Richard is suddenly confronted with the fact that the London he knew is not the only London. There is a London with rat speakers, angels, vicious assasins and train stations that never existed. When Richard is left with very little choice to go to this London Below, he is left with one option. Survive.

The alternate London trope in fantasy is a favourite (a post on this someday) and noone does it better than Neil Gaiman. Neverwhere is the original alternate London story. London Below is a place that belongs to various baronies and duchies and is littered with people, streets, trains and other things that have just been forgotten. It is very interesting that the people of London Above don’t see or remember anyone of London Below. This initially being how Richard ends up in London Below. The relationship between those above and below is so close to the approach people have towards the homeless that I even began to question my own attitude towards this too. Very relevant today I think.

Gaiman can write characters that will both walk with you, comfort you and put you in great danger after you leave the book on the shelf. Richard Mayhew has some very similar traits to Shadow Moon but he does use his voice a lot more and speaks his mind quite often. His development and character arc is very much that of an unlikely hero but there are some questions about him that are never answered that really work in the novels favour.

Door is very interesting but I did much prefer Hunter and of course, the Marquis de Carabas. Hunter is a woman that is known, feared and respected by many of London Below and her past especially that associated with Serpentine is hinted at heavily. I’m hoping it is addressed in the eventual sequel. The Marquis is a man who is two steps ahead at all times an wears a very wonderful coat. An unlikely semi anti hero figure who deals in favours he is fun as he is captivating.

I can’t not mention Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. They. Scare. Me. Neil Gaiman always manages to brew a character that freaks me out long after I have put the book down. Before it was the Other Mother, Mr World and Tiger. Now I can add this murderous pair.

This book is following a journey. The journey of Door trying to find out who murdered her family while also being that of Richard as he see’s the true nature of London Below. The plot is a constant walk with many stops along the way. Many places are literal translations of the locations within London Above that will delight and frighten many. How many times will you look at Black Friars now and wonder where the friars are?

There was no surprise that I loved this book and that I am always slightly biased toward Gaiman’s work. But I am not lying when I say this book is such a good starting point for reading his books and a great gateway into fantasy. Again, it is getting a sequel which Gaiman doesn’t do so if you do love it stay tuned.

★★★★★/5