Guy Gavriel Kay, A Song for Arbonne (1992)

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Guy Gavriel Kay… a guy who helped Christopher Tolkien prepare Silmarillon for publication, and then started his own career as fantasy writer. He has his distinct style, he has his fans. I’m one of them, Ola isn’t. Just compare these two quotes from our reviews of Tigana:

A successful lawyer, a philosophy student who helped Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion edits, a reasonably well-known author of award-winning fantasy novels, Kay is a veritable jack of all trades. He prefers to set his novels in historical periods, but in imaginary settings, which allows him to create interesting parallels without the burden of fact-checking

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Guy Gavriel Kay got his genre credentials early, when as a 20-year-old student he was chosen to help Christopher Tolkien edit Silmarillion. From my point of view – and I love Silmarillion – it’s like a rookie demi-god was asked to edit Bible. How to start your own religion after that? Kay paid homage to his tolkienian roots with excellent Fionavar Tapestry (1984-1986) and moved on to create his own blend of semi-historical fantasy epics. Starting with Tigana (1990). And since I started with religious vocabulary, let me say that I consider this blog’s May 3 review of Tigana a blasphemy

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Ed McDonald, Blackwing (2017)

Blackwing

Author: Ed McDonald

Title: Blackwing

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 378

First, an admission. I read a lot of books when my mental plate’s full, as they provide a bit of comfort and take off some strain from my overworked brain – when they’re good, of course, because bad books don’t help at all 🙂 However, by the same logic, I write no reviews when I’m stressed out, because writing demands a lot more from my already  overworked brain 😛 No surprise, then, that lately there are less reviews on our blog, even though the amount of books I’ve recently read has noticeably grown.

I’ve spent the last couple of months checking out some of the books our fellow bloggers recommended, and Ed MacDonald’s Blackwing had been favorably reviewed by many. A special shout out to Aaron at Swords & Spectres for persuading me to finally try it out, because it was definitely worth it :).

Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Galharrow (it’s a mouthful, I know – try to say it out loud a few times!), a former pampered noble and an ex-Army officer who now serves as a Captain of Blackwing: a private military unit in employ of a Nameless sorcerer called Crowfoot. Galharrow as we meet him is a down-on-his-luck cutthroat – a glorified spy/bounty hunter/enforcer to a ruthless, ancient being, who had not been seen in the world for a long, long time. Yet, as the war between the Nameless sorcerers of the republic with powerful Deep Kings of the Eastern Empire still brews on, centuries in the making, Galharrow soon finds himself in the thick of the bloody action.

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Glen Weldon, Superman: The Unauthorized Biography (2013)

superman the unauthorized biography

Author: Glen Weldon

Title: Superman. The Unauthorized Biography

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

There’s one main reason for my recent incommunicado, and it’s life. Unpredictability of life has been discussed extensively elsewhere, so I’ll refrain from wallowing in self-pity and/or bragging and instead take care of the topic of this post :).

Superman. The Unauthorised Biography by Glen Weldon is a hefty book, worthy of the enviable long life of one of the most famous comic book characters (he’ll be 81 this year!). I freely admit, I have never been a rabid fan of Superman, nor even a dedicated one. Superman just seemed too super, too powerful and too idealized to engender any warmer feelings in me – especially in comparison to the morally ambiguous, brooding character of Batman.

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But Weldon’s book, impressive in its thoroughness, fanboyish love and respect for the source material, actually got me to appreciate Supe’s character and – especially – his cultural significance, predominantly for the American society.

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Terry Pratchett, The Carpet People (1971/1992)

Just a few quick words in-between longer posts. As I’ve mentioned here and there, I’ve decided to do a big, complete Discworld re-read a couple of years ago. I’ve sped it up last year, went from Mort to The Amazing Maurice… and this year I’ve already listened to the Night Watch  and The Wee Free Men to start The Monstrous Regiment only yesterday.

I love it! Even more, then the first time. And some books I read for the first time. I will sum it all up after I finish. But, it was not enough Pratchett. I’ve read his nonfics, and now I’ve also read his first novel (although in its re-written, later version), The Carpet People.

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What a funny little book! I don’t know how much it’s changed from the original version – anybody here read that? – but it’s a great debut and clearly a work of a beautiful, brilliant mind.

The humour is already there, Pratchett’s satirical sense, his ability to show us an absurd fantasy world – and through this, the absurd of the one we created here on Earth. Sure, it was refined later on, but this book is nothing to be ashamed of.

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An excursion into non-fiction #2: Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)

Author: Yuval Noah HarariIMG_20181211_210646

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Edition: Vintage Books, Paperback

Pages: 498

Piotrek: Ambitious title for a 500 pages book, ain’t it? This young (born 1976) and charismatic Israeli historian – and his is a professional historian, with his DPhil thesis titled History and I : war and the relations between history and personal identity in Renaissance military memoirs, c.1450-1600. written in Oxford – aims to catch the essence of our history, as a species, in one tome. The result is certainly very successful, since 2011 published in multiple languages and its author became a public intellectual with TED Talks and countless interviews available on Youtube and elsewhere. We are here to judge if the world is right 😉

Ola: Oh well, there’s nothing like a catchy beginning, is there? 😛 But on a more serious note, Harari’s ambitions were huge, and a bit of hubris was, I guess, unavoidable – especially if you want to market a de facto historical book to a wide, mostly lay, public. Harari’s book, however, deserves its hype, for it’s written in a flowing, precise style, and delivers an abundance of catchy, well devised examples to better explain the more abstract concepts.

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Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood (1984)

Author: Robert Holdstock

Title: Mythago Wood (Ryhope Wood #1)

Edition: Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, Paperback

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I love this series! Only one shelf now, but expanding…

Pages: 302

Robert Paul Holdstock was a British s/f and fantasy writer best known for his Ryhope Woods sequence. Novels that draw inspiration from Celtic mythology and the classic tropes of fantasy to create something original and mysterious, but decidedly not hear-warming. Readers beware, magic comes at high cost here and every bit of happiness is accompanied by pain and loss.

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Ursula Le Guin, The Other Wind (2001)

One of the high points of the recent Witch Week was a discussion on Ursula Le Guin’s The Other Wind, the final Earthsea book. Inspired beyond our contribution to the comment section there, we decided to post this special two-shot review. Warning – there will be spoilers, there’s no point in avoiding that. This is a short novel, if you liked the previous ones, read it. If not, you will not like it, we promise…

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Prószyński i S-ka published one of the beautiful editions of the Earthsea, with one weak point – lack of illustrations. Saga Press (Gollancz in UK and I have this version) published the ultimate illustrated edition, with great art by Charles Vess.

Piotrek: I love Le Guin and I consider her to be one of the giants of the genre, quite close to Tolkien on my personal Olympus. I was happy to re-read the final book before the Witch Week – originally I wanted to re-read the entire cycle, but I only found time to read Wizard and this. To my astonishment I realised I’ve never read The Other Wind before! Why? It was published in 2001, Polish translation in 2003, after my last re-read of the Earthsea. Between then and now I’ve read a few of the Hainish novels, Malafrena, and some other one-shots and short stories, even her poems, but I somehow missed The Other Wind. It was a great joy to read it now, as I really find it a worthy conclusion of the cycle and a very good read in its own rights. Some of the loose ends come together, some stories end, Le Guin neatly ties up the world we revisit for the last time (in a novel format).

Ola: I’ve read The Other Wind before – but as a much younger person 😉 It defied my expectations then; not that I thought Ged’s retirement to be a punishment, as some of the readers apparently believed, according to Le Guin – but his drastic (to my 15 years younger self, at least) change of role and status – as well as the limited amount of space he took in the book – was a definite surprise. This time I see much more clearly how deftly Le Guin altered his role from the original hero to the wise man and mentor aiding a new hero on his new journey, still keeping Ged within the heroic cycle. The cyclical nature of life is, after all, one of the main themes of the novel.

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