Tag: Book Review

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s book review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.

I re-read the Harry Potter series in 2021/2022. It had been a long time since I read the series – in the case of the earlier books, I started those as a young teenager and read the series over the course of around six years. I wanted to revisit the books to see if my experience and perception of them changed by reading them as an adult.

If you have not read any of my previous reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you can find links to those reviews here.

Now, let’s jump into today’s review of the next book in the series!

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 636

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 08 Jul 2000

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable …With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller.

 

My Thoughts

Plot

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has an interesting plot line. That’s not to say I don’t think it has its flaws, however. Installing a magical cup in the school and inviting those who think they are adept enough to take part in a dangerous tournament is one thing. Doing so around a community full of minors, well, can only go wrong somewhere. Especially when entering your name is a legally binding contract. It’s all a bit too convenient that Harry finds his name put forward.  

Despite this, it still makes for an interesting read. In particular, the tournament itself adds a lot of drama and action to the narrative. Its dramatic conclusion also adds to the book and the series as a whole. I’m not going to spoil it for you-you’ll have to read it yourself.

What I like about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is that we, break away from a narrative almost purely set in the usual school year cycle. We see wider plot development. We still have that familiarity of the school year, which comes to a conclusion with the Triwizard tournament. However, there is a lot more to this book, and plenty of it is quite sinister.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to characters that come into this world and plot line later on. I would argue that in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we start to see this take shape.

 

Narrative Style

Despite being significantly larger than its predecessors, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire still retains the easy narrative style readers can come to expect.

You know me, I’m not one to shy away from a chunky book. I really hope that the length of this book doesn’t put potential readers off. It is not complicated. Even if you are less enthused by big narratives with wider story arcs, and lots of elements that will inevitably come together at the end, there isn’t so much going on that it will confuse you. Equally, there are little bits and pieces you can pick up in hindsight that hint to what happens later on.

Personally, I think the latter part of the series is quite well balanced in that it offers a little bit more than the first few books in the series (which are for the most part, comparatively superficial). This works perfectly well for people like me who grew up reading these books. At age 11, I wouldn’t have the reading capability to be able to take on these later tomes. Even so, going back and reading these later on has made me appreciate the later books in the series even more. They are more similar to my reading taste a an adult.

 

Characters

As with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a full new complement of characters introduced in this fourth book of the series. Some of these have a direct impact on the story, whereas others set the scene (for later books) and help develop the wizarding world in which these books are set.

I am a huge fan of world-building and the depth of detail that can be explored in these kind of books that fill out the whole story. Knowing everything from relatives of the main characters, down to the sports personalities, all comes together to make an immersive reading experience.

There are also a few introductions which will help us later in the series (particularly for the next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). I think this is pulled off very well so as to not overwhelm, but it does make a difference when you read the next book. Understanding who everybody is and what their role is ahead of time is a big help! Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix is the chunkiest book in the series by far. If we’d had to go through all those introductions in that book as well, then it would be significantly larger!

 

Summary

Despite the slightly convenient plot line, I rated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire five stars. If you enjoy fantasy series with darker elements to the story, or broad, overarching story lines that run throughout a series, stick with this one until you’ve read this fourth book. It’s at this point we really start to see this woven into the storyline.

Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Top Reads of 2022!

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s post, which is all about my top reads of 2022! I read a total of 47 books throughout the year, and my average rating was actually quite high. It’s fair to say I had a great reading year!

Today’s post is all about the best of the best.

When going through the books I read in 2022, there were three very distinct books that jumped out at me as my favourites. There is also one honourable mention, and I’ll explain why this didn’t quite make the list.

If you enjoy fantasy or dark academia, then there is at least one book on my top reads list for you! I’m listing the books in chronological order, as there is very little between these books for me to rank them. They are a bit different, and I enjoyed them for these differences!

 

Top Reads

 

Empire of the Vampire

Empire of the Vampire is what I would describe as an epic Gothic fantasy, written by Jay Kristoff. If you are a fan of his other books (such as the Nevernight series), you enjoy stories that heavily feature vampires, and/or epic fantasy novels with elements of coming of age, detailed world-building, and character development, then Empire of the Vampire has something for you.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I wanted to give it a try because I have really come to enjoy Jay Kristoff’s writing style. Having listened to the audiobooks for the Nevernight series, I knew I like the way he dealt with darker topics. Personally, I’m not really one for vampire stories. There are some exceptions, this book and future series now being one of them. However, the narrative style (likened to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind) and setting of the world appealed to me.

This appealed to me for all the right reasons! I love the way in which this story is told. As in the aforementioned book, the story is told almost in the style of a confessional, through the eyes of the main character as a mature adult. Throughout this narrative, not only do we experience the development of the main character, but we also come to learn a lot about the world in which the story is set, the lore behind the vampire families, and how they grew large.

This book has everything you would expect from an epic fantasy – complex and detailed world-building, a vast array of characters with detailed backstories and relationships, and a storyline that will inevitably span a large number of chunky books!

The cherry on top of this very large cake was how well the book managed to create and retain atmosphere. It definitely maintained Gothic vibes throughout. I really enjoyed this. You may not expect this to be the kind of book to would take on holiday to read in 20+ degrees sunshine, but that is exactly what I did. Even despite the vast contrast in the fictional and actual setting, my mind lived in this book whilst reading it… and for a long time afterwards!

I can’t wait for the sequel!

 

Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is another fantasy series I started in 2022. I can only ask myself why I didn’t start it sooner! This series has been recommended to me before, especially by a close friend of mine. She knew what this was all about, and I should have listened to her and picked it up before now.

Before picking up this book in earnest, I had trialled the first chapter or two previously. However, I had done so from the e-book on my phone. I just don’t read this way at all. I don’t quite remember the circumstances in which I picked this up on my phone, but the intention wasn’t just to sample it. Why I didn’t pick it up properly thereafter is beyond me.

Anyway, I finally got there in the end. I decided to pick up a physical copy of the book, trusting Rachael’s recommendation, and knowing that I really enjoyed the sample I had tried previously. I have since gone on to purchase seven books out of sixteen, and I read four of them in 2022. I’m sure that in itself will speak volumes, but I’ll go into some more detail about the book, and why I specifically enjoyed this one, below.

Assassin’s Apprentice is also an epic fantasy. Whilst the first book isn’t too chunky in itself, it is the opening book of the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings universe. In my opinion, it is the perfect introduction to such a world – there is plenty of page count to set the scene, explore the characters, and establish the wider story arc, without intimidating the prospective reader either.

If you enjoy your fantasy with detailed plotlines and character relationships, then Assassin’s Apprentice will scratch that itch for you. There is already a lot going on in this first book. Royalty, political subterfuge and magic intertwine to set the scene in this first book. These are all elements I have enjoyed in other fantasy series and did not disappoint in this one either!

 

Babel

The last book in my top reads of 2022 list is Babel by R.F. Kuang.

Babel was my first real foray into the dark academia genre. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this book, we follow a character called Robin Swift. He is taken from China as a young boy after losing his family. He is taken in by a professor at Oxford University, where he later studies translation in the titular building.

There is a lot going on in Babel, and a lot of it I didn’t expect in the extent that the book went to. Whilst part of the dark academia genre, there are elements of fantasy in this book. It is a nod to a genre I really enjoy, but in execution and tone, it doesn’t read like a fantasy. On the contrary, it reads quite academically. It is evident that the author knows her stuff when it comes to translation. Through the narrative, we explore ideas around translation, such as maintaining fidelity, and how that is best achieved.

But more surprisingly, it is the more difficult topics for which I really enjoyed this book. Babel in particular explores colonialism, racism and classism. It is a book that makes example of how the British empire has invaded, taken, and manipulated its way into other countries resources in order to selfishly better itself. There’s a lot of debate about this in the book, but also in the wider community at the moment.

Some people find this uncomfortable to read. Personally, I don’t think you should shy away from a book/topic that makes you uncomfortable. More often than not, it should make you uncomfortable – it’s intended. If you think that any person, country, or idea is perfect and shouldn’t be challenged, then you are wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Babel is very much an example of this kind of book, and I really enjoyed taking on these ideas in a loose fantasy setting.

It was everything I expected it to be, and a bit more besides. It has made an R.F. Kuang reader out of me!

 

Honourable mention

The First Binding

My honourable mention for this list is The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. I had the pleasure of reading this debut novel to review it in the blog tour organised by the publisher in August 2022.

There is definitely a theme to my reading and this post. Epic fantasy is a very significant genre that I read but also have high expectations for. Even so, this one has made it very close to the top of the list. Did I mention it was a debut?

Similarly to Empire of the Vampire, The First Binding is narrated by the main character after events have taken place. In this particular example, the character ends up taking on the role of a storyteller in the early days of the novel. Naturally, setting up a character in such a way raises expectations exponentially. Most authors would be setting the bar so high that they’d be setting themselves up to fail. However, R.R. Virdi does not disappoint in pulling off a flawless narrative with theatrics and compelling language to complement this already interesting narrative.

The only reason The First Binding is an honourable mention, rather than a top read, is because of the circumstances in which I read this book. I only had around two weeks to read and then review this book for the blog tour. At over 800 pages, this is quite the undertaking. As a result, I had to effectively set myself daily reading targets to get through this in time to review it. If I’d had the luxury of reading this book at my own pace, it probably would have been a top read. I almost had to force myself to read it, and that detracted ever so slightly from the experience. But I will stress, it is slight!

 

What was your favourite read of 2022? Have you read any books that made it onto my top reads list?

 

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling

Earlier this year I completed my re-read of the Harry Potter series. Now that I’ve made it through the books again, I’m making the effort to pin down my thoughts. Wher I can, I’ll consider my experience of the books compared to my initial read as a teenager. Before going into today’s review, if you would like to catch up with my reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, here are the links to do so. 

Today I am reviewing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you are unfamiliar, this is the third book in the seven-part series. This is the book in which the plot really starts to hint at the metamorphosis the series will undergo later on, whilst still short and digestible for younger readers.

The plot has a darker element to the narrative, and some of the more sinister characters start to introduce themselves properly. The early books are quite lighthearted in introducing you to the wizarding world. By the time you’re done with the series, you have explored its darkest avenues.

I grew up with these books (literally). I started the early ones in my late childhood/early teenage years and read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as an adult. This is something I have really come to enjoy in the series.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 317

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 08 Jul 1999

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays. (Who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school…

 

My Thoughts

Plot

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes on a different tone compared with the first two books of the series. With a whole school year to pack into 300+ pages, you will not be bored making your way through this one. Whilst we are familiar with the school year and structure at this point, there are new and different things happening that keep the narrative fresh.

As I mentioned above, the more sinister aspects of the narrative really worked for me. Reviewing this in hindsight from the position of having read the whole series, this is one of the pivotal books in my opinion. Whilst short and sweet, it introduces characters such as the dementors, who go on to have a more significant role later on in the series.

 

Narrative Style

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a quick read. As this book is one of the last shorter ones of the series, it is still very approachable for the everyday reader. I managed to re-read this book in just over a week. And that is a very casual pace for me! Whether you are reading this book for the very first time or like me, going back into the series again, I don’t think it will disappoint. Even though the theme of the book is a shade darker than the previous two books of the series, it doesn’t detract from its readability whatsoever.

 

Characters

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we experience the narrative through the perspective of Harry Potter himself. Along the way our friends old and new. It is in this book that we are introduced to characters who are pivotal to the story later on in the book series.

The mix of familiarity combined with a touch of new makes the pace and introductions to new characters easy to follow. If there’s one thing I like about these books is that there aren’t so many characters that you can’t keep track. As somebody who read a lot of epic fantasy, this is something I find happens a lot. That is not the case in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I really enjoyed my re-read of this book and the whole series!

Have you picked up Harry Potter for yourself? Is this something you want to read?

 

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Audiobook Review: Traitor’s Blade – Sebastien de Castell

In today’s audiobook review, I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book of the Greatcoats series, Traitor’s Blade. This is the first book I have read/listened to by Sebastien de Castell, but it’s not the first I’ve seen. If I recall correctly, I first saw Spellslinger.

However, I added Traitor’s Blade to my TBR as it’s a more typical fantasy with tropes I know and love. This was a massive hit and I’ve gone on to download the rest of the series on audio. To date, I have also listened to the second book of the series.

But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We’re here to talk about the first book. Let’s dive in!

 

Traitor’s Blade – Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 325

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Publication Date: 10 Feb 2014

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Traitor’s Blade

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.

But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

 

My Thoughts

Plot

If you enjoy your fantasy when it’s full of action, with plenty of fight scenes, Traitor’s Blade is the start of a series I would recommend to you! As somebody who typically enjoys fantasy with more magic than we see in Traitor’s Blade, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. Rather, I enjoyed the change of pace and emphasis within the writing.

Traitor’s Blade is the kind of book that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout. There is not a chapter that goes by without hasty retreat, violent clashes, or danger lurking around the corner. I can only liken the main characters of the story to the three musketeers in terms of companionship and the dangers, they find themselves in constantly!

Political turmoil is the driving force behind current events in Traitor’s Blade. There is plenty of backstory in the narrative to explain how Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wind up in less than favourable straits at the beginning of the narrative. I already enjoyed how much world-building there is already, but I hope to see yet more of it throughout the series. If anything, the plot is slightly more action-heavy than I would typically read, but that’s understandable. I hope a full explanation of historic events comes to pass in future books.

 

Narrative Style

I really enjoyed the narrative of this book. The writing style is really easy to read and approachable. If you enjoy your sarcasm and witty comments, then this will appeal to you. I really enjoyed the humour that shines through even in the grave situations our main characters end up in.

The narrative is told in first person from the perspective of Falcio. If I have to choose, my preference is to read in third person as it’s a neutral perspective. However, I really enjoyed this even though it was first person. The telling of this story from Falcio’s perspective gives us ample opportunity to explore his past and backstory in more detail – of which there is a lot to unpick!

 

Audio Experience

Whilst Traitor’s Blade already has a compelling narrative style, it’s really came to life in the audiobook edition. The narrator, Joe Jameson, brings each of the characters and the events to life. In particular, I think he does a great job with the sarcasm and witty remarks that form a significant portion of the dialogue between our three main Greatcoats. 

Each of the characters has their own distinct voice, and it was very easy to follow the narrative and dialogue because of this. The acting behind the events of the story really added an extra layer of enjoyment.

This was not a chore to listen to by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, this is a great companion listen to accompany you whatever you are doing. I listened to Traitor’s Blade whilst commuting, doing Pilates, or even when washing the dishes. It made everything more entertaining and is a great distraction from real life. 

 

Characters

Traitor’s Blade is told from the perspective of Falcio, the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. He was once head of this great order, however, he now finds himself with just a small band of friends. As a result of reading the story from his perspective, we get far more in the way of character development from him, and his experience in the past than Kest and Brasti. Whilst there is enough in the book to get a distinct feel of the characters and personalities, I hope to see a little bit more from them in the future.

The main characters are developed quite well, but there are a lot of peripheral characters that are honestly quite forgettable. Personally, I think the book would have benefited from focusing more on a smaller pool rather than adding in a vast array of characters that couldn’t be done justice in the page count available.

 

I enjoyed listening to Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell so much that I have already listened to the second book of the series! This was my first book by this author, and it certainly wasn’t going to be my last! I can’t wait to resume the series and see what heroic events await Falcio and the gang next.

 

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Book Review: Red Rising – Pierce Brown

In today’s post, I am really looking forward to sharing my review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown with you. Having added the book to my reading list in July 2017, I finally got around to reading this first installment in the Red Rising series back in October last year.

I’m glad I took the plunge to start this series, as this first book was absolutely fantastic. I am a huge fan of dystopia and the fantasy/science-fiction genres, so this book was a natural fit. What I didn’t expect, was how bloodydamn good it was!

 

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Genre: Dystopia / Science-fiction

Pages: 382

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Del Ray

Publication Date: 28 Jan 2014

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Red Rising

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

 

My Thoughts…

I love dystopian fiction, so it’s no surprise that Red Rising was a massive hit for me. Darrow and his people have been lied to their whole lives. They work, believing they are sacrificing themselves for a future society. However, soon in the narrative, it comes to light that civilisation began on Mars long ago, and yet the labour of the Reds has continued with them kept in the dark, and for little reward.

Eo, a young woman living in Red society, dreams for more. She sacrifices herself and in doing so, begins a revolution. Darrow is, under normal circumstances, quite a placid young man. However, when the society he slaves for kills his wife for daring to speak up against them, it inspires a hatred that lives up to his caste – deep and red and raging.

Reading the synopsis of this book is one thing, but I didn’t expect the narrative of this book to pan out the way it did. I really enjoyed it and it is refreshing to have a synopsis hinting as to what is going to happen, but is vague enough that it’s not obvious at the time.

I really enjoyed Darrow’s character development arc in this book. At the beginning, he is just a man who slaves away to eke out a small existence. But his life quickly turns to tragedy, and rather than lying down in the dirt, he digs deep within himself to have the courage to try and drive change. Darrow finds himself in a world he didn’t even know existed.

I also really enjoyed the combination of dystopia and science-fiction. These two genres work very well together, and for good reason. The technological advances that benefit the gold society are far beyond those we see in the modern world today. In comparison, the Reds live far worse than we do. The contrast between these two societies is stark – perhaps even exaggerated to an extent.

If you enjoy a lot of action in your novels, then red rising has plenty of that on offer. The passing of the book makes it a quick read, as there is plenty going on at any given moment.

Even so, the action doesn’t detract from the world-building and character development that also takes place in this book.

There is a great balance of both, making for a good, or rounded, introduction to a dystopian science-fiction series that I want to read more of. At the point of writing this review, I have already read the second book, Golden Son. It didn’t quite live up to the same expectations after this introduction. However, I’m going to continue with it for at least one more book to see if it picks up again.

Have you read Red Rising or any other books in the series? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Blog Tour Review: Warrior of Mercia – MJ Porter

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s blog tour review of Warrior of Mercia by M. J. Porter. This is the third book of the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles, and I have had the pleasure I’ve taken part in blog tours for the first two books of the series. If you want to catch up on those before jumping into my review of Warrior of Mercia, you can find links to Son of Mercia and Wolf of Mercia here.

Before I begin my review in earnest, I would like to say thank you to the author, Boldwood Books and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. It is the last day of the tour, and there are a number of fabulous bloggers who have contributed as well. I’ll share more details on those below.

Now, let’s find out more about the book!

 

Warrior of Mercia – M. J. Porter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 316

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 09 Nov 2022

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – Warrior of Mercia

Icel is a lone wolf no more.

Oath sworn to Wiglaf, King of Mercia and acknowledged as a member of Ealdorman Ælfstan’s warrior band, Icel continues to forge his own destiny on the path to becoming the Warrior of Mercia.

With King Ecgberht of Wessex defeated and Londonium back under Mercian control, the Wessex invasion of Mercia is over.

But the Wessex king was never Mercia’s only enemy. An unknown danger lurks in the form of merciless Viking raiders, who set their sights on infiltrating the waterways of the traitorous breakaway kingdom of the East Angles, within touching distance of Mercia’s eastern borders.

Icel must journey to the kingdom of the East Angles and unite against a common enemy to ensure Mercia’s hard-won freedom prevails.

 

Purchase Link – Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy historical fiction novels so full of action that they keep you on the edge of your seat, Warrior of Mercia is for you! With each new chapter, the detailed narrative and political landscape Icel lives in deepens.

Icel has come a long way from the first book in the series, Son of Mercia. By and large, he has kept to his roots and has far more affinity for healing people as opposed to causing harm. However, his character development throughout the series allows him to expand into a more traditional role expected in ninth-century historical fiction novels. England is divided, and invaders from the Norse lands threaten their every way of life. Icel has transitioned from a boy who quails at the idea of harming someone to a young man who will raise his seax willingly to defend his people.

That isn’t the typical plot development you would expect from these kinds of novels. However, it is for this reason that this series really works for me. It offers something different and unique. Icel’s perspective is, at least for me, unseen so far in this historical setting. Whilst comparable to the likes of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom, the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles has a tale of its own, and from a fresh pair of eyes.

Warrior of Mercia is a fast-paced read. At just 327 pages, it is very easy to pick up and makes for a quick read. The chapters are also nicely broken out so none are too long. It is a small thing but makes a difference to the reading experience. It makes it easier and more enjoyable. You have the option to pick it up and put it down relatively easily – although, you won’t want to! Even though the page count isn’t too onerous, the quality and quantity of the narrative isn’t compromised. On the contrary, the narrative is full of in-depth battle scenes and political machinations. If these are elements you enjoy in your books, just as I do, then you will be just as thrilled with the book as I am.

I am glad I opted to take part in this blog tour. I had high expectations for the book based on the prior books in the series. Needless to say, Warrior of Mercia did not disappoint! It picks up nicely from events in the previous book. Events from the previous books are nicely summarised and spotted in quite naturally to refresh us as readers. Then, the narrative throws us back in to the tumultuous setting I have come to enjoy.

I hope I have inspired you to take a look at this book based on my review. If you are still unsure, I would like to find out more, there are a number of bloggers who have also taken part in the tour. David kicked off the blog tour with a smashing review. I agree with his view that the descriptions within the book are so immersive that you could be right there with Icel in the thick of it. I also enjoyed Amy‘s review. She correctly points out how well the narrative interweaves historical fact with elements of fiction for an all-round, entertaining read! These are but a couple of examples of contributors to the tour, and I hope you can take some time to check out their posts as well! 

I hope between us we can convince you to pick up Warrior of Murcia, or even the series as a whole if that’s your cup of tea! This book could be read perfectly well as a stand-alone, but I would personally recommend the whole series!

Author Bio

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood Son of Mercia was published in February 2022.

Social Media Links

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Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/MJPorterNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mj-porter

Book Review: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

I’ve been really looking forward to sharing my thoughts on The Book Thief with you. This was a very easy five-star read, and it was far more emotional than I imagined it was going to be! I enjoyed this book so much that I went on to purchase a physical copy. If I’m not sure about books, I tend to get them on my kindle. However, books by authors that I know and love, and will read again, end up on my physical shelf. That’s also the case if I go on to love something new, as was the case with The Book Thief. If that doesn’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book then I don’t know what will!

 

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 552

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Publication Date: 14 Mar 2006

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

Goodreads – The Book Thief

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

 

My Thoughts…

I find it more common to find books about the Second World War written from an English or American perspective. It is rare that we see the effects of the war from the perspective of Germans. The Book Thief is refreshing in that aspect because it fills a gap that isn’t explored enough. It peels away any stigma that all Germans supported and contributed to the war activity. On the contrary, a lot of them objected to it and actively tried to help those of Jewish faith, who were victimised. 

I also enjoy how the book is told from the perspective of death. It is a challenging narrative to write, but it is one I have enjoyed by other authors in different contexts. An author who has been similarly bold in writing from this character perspective is Terry Pratchett, in his Discworld series. It would be remiss of me to imply that these books were similar, however. On the contrary, the tone is very different. That said, I appreciated both for different reasons. In The Book Thief, it emphasises how prevalent death is throughout such a tragic, heartbreaking narrative.

This is a book that will tug at your heartstrings. The ending is especially emotional, and whilst extremely personal to one of our main characters, Liesel, it fits with the events of the book. I shed a few tears. However, this book is not all doom and gloom. If anything, it only goes to emphasise the goodness of the human spirit in times of hardship. Liesel, who tragically loses her brother at the beginning of the narrative, and whose mother is taken away, is taken in by another family. Not only do they raise her when they have very little to offer in the first place, but they help inspire a fierce love – of reading.

Perhaps it is the quality time that learning to read gives her with her foster father. Perhaps it is because books are a ‘forbidden fruit’. Whatever her reasons, Liesel is a character that all book lovers can understand and come to love. She is a wilful, passionate child, growing up in a difficult time and turning to books and writing to escape. I think that is something we can all understand!

I don’t really want to discuss the finer points of the narrative and spoil the book for anyone. However, there is a lot that happens in this book. It is not the shortest at around 550 pages, but it is worth the investment of time. This is a book that I will be going back and reading again at some point in the future. It is one of those where you can do so and take away something new every time.

 

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, together with the rest of the series, holds a very special place in my heart. Firstly, I grew up with these books. I read them starting as a teenager through until becoming a newly minted adult and I loved these books! I enjoy how the story and complexity scales throughout the series. That worked really well with how I read them initially, and also how I ‘aged’ with them.

I wanted to re-read these books as an adult. Mainly, I wanted to see if my experience of the books differed now that I was reading them from a more mature perspective. For the most part, I can’t say that they did; I enjoyed them just as much as I did back then!

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 251

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 02 Jul 1998

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins – someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects… Harry Potter himself!

 

My Thoughts…

After the magic and drama of his first year at Hogwarts, you would think that going home for the summer would be a break for Harry. However, his aunt and uncle, and their son, treat him so awfully that he cannot wait to go back. Thankfully for us, it doesn’t take too long in the narrative and we get to dive into the magic and nostalgia of going to school very quickly.

This year is a little bit different, as they are no longer the newbies. However, the events that take place at the school or even stranger than the last. Students (and Mr Filch’s cat, Mrs Norris) are found petrified in school corridors. Tension rises and speculation begins on what is happening to them. Harry himself falls under suspicion. But, as we can only expect from these books, Harry ends up getting to the bottom of the matter. Not only that, but he finds himself in danger once again.

As with the first book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a very quick read. I enjoyed the pacing of the book. It is full of action to keep the narrative moving along, but at the same time, we still get to see world-building and character development. I prefer the books towards the end of the series because I enjoy depth and complexity in my fantasy books. However, the fact that this book doesn’t necessarily fit into this category didn’t matter at all. The fact is, I knew going into it that these early books set a lot of foundation for the later books.

Whilst we don’t necessarily realise that at the time, significant events in this book or the introduction to a wider storyline come into play later on. When I think about where these events begin, it is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that immediately comes to mind. 

Whilst there is a lot of controversy around J. K. Rowling, I would recommend these books to anyone wanting to start out with reading fantasy, or anyone wanting to read a series without too much mental commitment. These books are really easy to digest. They are the kind of books that you could always get more out of with the next re-read. Equally, you can take them as you read them first time. They have a lot to give, and it is a series that I will go back and read again and again throughout my lifetime, I am sure! I know one of my friends re-reads these books regularly!

Have you read the Harry Potter series? Have you not read them? Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

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Book Review: Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s book review with you all for Fire and Blood. It is well documented that I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, and with the current airing of the prequel show, House of the Dragon, I wanted to share my thoughts on the book that inspired the series!

If you are unfamiliar with the book, Fire and Blood is the first of a two-part history of the Targaryen family line. The book begins with Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest of Westeros, and from there, history only gets, well… bloodier.

 

Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

Genre: Epic fantasy

Pages: 706

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 20 Nov 2018

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Fire and Blood

From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones – one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series – comes a definitive history of Westeros’s past as told by Archmaester Gyldayn.

Unravelling events that led to A Song of Ice and Fire, Fire and Blood is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Revealing long-buried secrets and untold lasting enmity, it sets the scene for the heart-stopping series conclusion, The Winds of Winter.

300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, long before the schism that set the houses of Westeros at each other’s throats, one house ruled supreme and indomitable. House Targaryen, the house of the last remaining dragonlords.

After surviving the Doom of Valyria the Targaryen’s established themselves on Dragonstone. This volume traces their legendary lineage from Aegon the Conqueror to the bloody Dance of Dragons; a civil war that pitted Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra in a bitter conflict for the throne of their father, nearly wiping out the Targaryen dynasty forever.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate guide to Westeros’s past. Featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley this is an essential volume for any Game of Thrones fan’s library. For the first time the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

 

My Thoughts…

If you are watching House of the Dragon and wonder how it compares to Fire and Blood, you may be interested to learn that the events of the TV show don’t start until approximately 340 pages into the book. Those events are the passing over of Rhaenys as heir in favour of Viserys I (because God forbid a woman sits on the Iron Throne!). It was touched upon very briefly in the first few minutes of the TV show, and from there the rest unfolds.

Naturally, that means there is a good deal of history that the prequel show doesn’t even touch upon. Granted, I can see why that is the case. A significant portion of the book prior to these events covers the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen. By all accounts, Jaehaerys was a well-suited ruler and lived to a ripe old age. If you are unfamiliar, that’s about as rare as hen’s teeth in the Targaryen bloodline! Whilst good Kings are good for the realm, they don’t make the most interesting of stories!

My copy of this book is the illustrated hardback edition, illustrated by Doug Wheatley. The pictures are interspersed throughout the narrative and really bring the characters to life. Some of my favourite illustrations in the book are of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya, the portrait of Maegor the Cruel, as well as a number of the action scenes and dragon fights within.

I would be lying to you if I said that this first instalment of the Targaryen histories wasn’t dense. There are a lot of characters in this book. As a result, I benefited from taking a break and splitting reading the book into two. It gave me the opportunity to digest what I had read so far. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I absolutely did! George R.R. Martin went to a great deal of trouble to incorporate the histories of both Westeros and Essos throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am glad that it made it into its own book(s), as the depth of detail deserves its moment in the limelight.

As I thoroughly enjoyed this first book so much, I cannot wait for the second half of this history. If it is anything like the first then there will be plenty of tension, drama, and conflict to look forward to. As we can only expect from George R.R. Martin, I am sure it will not be a short book either. There is nothing superficial about the world or characters he creates. For fans of epic fantasy like me, that leaves us a lot to dive into. These are the sorts of books to find some new detail in with every re-read.

If I had one wish about Fire and Blood, it is that it went further back in history. The book begins with the conquest of Aegon the Conqueror, which happens approximately 100 years after an event referred to in this book and the main series as the ‘Doom of Valyria’. Personally, I would like to finally understand what this mysterious event is. We don’t know what happened, other than Valyria is destroyed as a result. It is written into the lore of the world as to why we don’t know about what happened, but it’s an itch I would love to scratch one day. Surely he can come up with a loophole to finally leak the story somehow?!

Have you read Fire and Blood? Are you a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series? I would love it if you let me know and we could have a chat in the comments!

 

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Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

In today’s book review post, I am featuring my review for the first non-fiction book I read this year – A Diary of a Young Girl. I have been making more of an effort to read non-fiction of late, and so I felt it fitting that I also feature this on my blog. It reflects my current reading, and this book naturally led to some very strong emotions.

A Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Genre: Non-fiction/classic

Pages: 283

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Publication Date: 1947

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

 

My Thoughts…

Having read so much historical fiction, particularly around World War II as I’m interested in the subject, I’m surprised I hadn’t read this book before now. Most of the narratives are about the overarching movements on the war, but it’s personal stories that really make it hit home. But this isn’t fiction. Anne Frank was a real young lady, who went into hiding because a regime did not like her faith. All the devastation that took place is disgusting.

Up until the family go into hiding, Anne lives a reasonably normal life. She has a school and classmates… A family who love her. All the things a child should have. Fear and doubt are not things that a child her age should know, but they come soon enough. There is a stark difference between the schoolgirl gifted a diary for her birthday, and the young woman confined into the Annex.

Throughout her diary we watch Anne struggle to come to terms with her new life, her relationships and living in a small space with very few provisions. Through the various chapters, we experience Anne’s day-to-day struggles, angst and moods, as well as her extended periods of melancholy. Anne becomes a teenager in The Annex; she has to battle with herself to come into her own, deal with her hormones and the like with no help or privacy.

The knowledge that this is a real girl’s diary makes the content all the more stark. That I concluded this read on the day Russia invaded Ukraine brought this to the forefront of my mind once again.

It is an educational read that helps those of us who have never known such hardship to really understand the atrocities experienced by the Franks, amongst others, had to live through. But, it also has a glimmer of hope – as it highlights those who risked themselves to hide and protect Jews. It is a pity it was in vain for too many people.

I don’t know what I expected, but the abrupt ending of the diary left me at a loss. Naturally, Anne had no inkling of their discovery and so there was no lead-up to that in her narrative. To mentally conclude the book, I researched what happened to the family after the events in her diary, and I was saddened by the reality. It is sad that anyone should go through this, but the truth is, so many lives ended in similar, or worse ways.

The Diary of a Young Girl wasn’t light reading by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is important. It gives insight into the horrors that oppressed Jews had to live in, and only through wearing their shoes can we understand how they lived, suffered and fought for their lives.

Have you read The Diary of a Young Girl? What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media.

 

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