Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: The Hollow March by Chris Galford

Two years ago Rurik Matir, the third son of a country landlord, was accused of rape. He was stripped of his family name and exiled. A failed attempt on his life leads him to believe that his father now wants him dead and he returns home with his company of sell swords intent on confronting him. Rurik soon finds himself caught in larger events; an aging king and his family’s infighting for the throne, a religious schism waiting to erupt and a sinister lord manipulating events from the shadows.

Galford introduces an intriguing mix of characters and their development is certainly one of his strongpoints as a writer. They are fully realized and filled with their own idiosyncrasies that keep a reader interested. The character of Voren was especially well done. It is often difficult to keep a 'despicable' character's view point interesting, they either come across as too sympathetic or too evil but the author strikes the balance perfectly.

The prose suites the time period and general story to a tee. The world building is also top rate, with a mix of cultures, political infighting and religious tension all masterfully done.

Overall Galford delivers a very strong read that ticks all the right boxes. 8.75/10.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Tigana by Guy Gaveriel Kay

Years ago the provinces on the Peninsula of the Palm were conquered by two sorcerers, Brandin King of Ygrath and Alberico an independent warlord from the empire of Barbadior who has his own ambitions for the throne. These two sorcerers reached an uneasy balance of power within the palm. There was of course resistance to the conquests during which Brandin's son was killed by forces led by the prince of the province of Tigana. In retaliation Brandin crushed the province and used his magic to make the peninsula forget the history, identity and very name of Tigana. Only the survivors can speak Tigana's name and they know that once they die Tigana's memory dies with them. A group of rebels, led by the last surviving prince of Tigana Alessan, plan to overthrow Brandin and bring Tigana back. However they are cautious as they realize that if Brandin is overthrown Alberico will simply seize the entire palm. They need a plan that will rid them of both tyrants. Meanwhile Dianoro, another survivor of Tigana, has worked her way into Brandin's harem with plans to assassinate him. However she falls in love with him and is torn between this love and that she holds for her homeland.

The world building from Kay is as always first rate. The palm is based on medieval Italy. Kay keeps things nicely balanced by giving us glimpses into the other cultures on the world without having the story bogged down by them.

The characters are interestingly complex and there is a strong focus on shades of morality. Although Brandin has done a terrible thing to Tigana, he is portrayed as an otherwise fair ruler whose actions at the time were inspired by grief. Allesan who refuses to think only of Tigana's fate but includes those of the other provinces in his plans is quite willing to use other people to further his aims even if it tears him up. The only exception to this is Alberico whose actions are always simply motivated by greed.

Overall Kay delivers a stunning combination of interesting world building and complex characters. 9.25/10.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review: Victor: My Journey by Victor Matfield with De Jongh Borchardt

Autobiography detailing Victor Matfield's rugby career from his days as a schoolboy in Pietersburg to his swansong at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

First off this book was written as the perfect time, right after the conclusion of Victor's playing career. This ensures that he is old enough to deal with touchy subjects maturely and everything is still fresh in his mind. The writing is clear and concise much like the man himself and gives an overview of his entire playing career. The approach is nicely balanced, for example he may not have got on all that well with Springbok coach Jake White but he respected him for his coaching ability.

Having already read his contemporary John Smit's book it is obvious Victor doesn't go into as much depth in certain areas and he steers well away from the effect of politics on Springbok rugby.

Overall Victor gives a clearly written and interesting look into Springbok rugby and the man himself. 8/10.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Review: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe continues relating the story of his life to the biographer Chronicler. Continuing with the events at the University Kvothe explains how his feud with Ambrose escalated to the extent that both of them need to take some time away from the University. During this time he save a nobleman's life and helps him woe his future wife, learns the art of fighting in Ademre and survives the attentions of a Fae temptress.

The different episodes in Kvonthe's life at times read like a collection of short stories with Kvothe being the common thread. This is not necessarily a bad thing as too often characters take a back seat to a plotline. However the fact that the (supposedly) main plot; Kvothe's quest for vengeance on the Chandrian barely progresses is a bit frustrating. Another issue I had was the while all of the events related should be life-changing they seem at times to have very little effect on Kvothe as a character and he doesn’t seem to take the lessons with him. It makes it read a bit like Conan short stories.

However all is not doom and gloom, Rothfuss is undoubtedly a talented writer and his prose is simply stunning throughout. Kvothe’s relationship with Denna (the real main plotline?) takes some interesting steps forward. At times it is touching at others frustrating (in a very good way) and always wonderful. In short Rothfuss nails it; relationships aren’t supposed to be straightforward.

Overall Rothfuss delivers something refreshingly different. At times it can be frustrating but it is well-written throughout. 8/10.