The Beast Player / Nahoko Uehashi

Title / The Beast Player
Author / Nahoko Uehashi
Publication Date / 2018
Series or standalone / book 1 of 4
Page no. / 508
Overall Rating / 

 

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Originally written in Japanese and published in 2006, this edition is translated by Cathy Hirano. At the heart of this book is a coming of age story but there is so much more to it then that. Set in a fictional fantasy world, the story starts when a young Elin’s life is thrown into disarray when her mother is sentenced to death.

 

I have to admit that the cover drew me to this book first. I am very glad it did because this book was fantastic. From the very beginning I was hooked. Once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down and once I’d finished I just wanted more from these characters and world. Since I haven’t (and can’t) read the original Japanese editions I can’t comment on the how good the translation is, but I will say that I thought the writing was fantastic. It immerses you in this world and characters from the very beginning. At just over 500 pages this is quite a lengthy book but even in the slower moments the writing and characters mean this is a compelling read throughout. The overall pacing of this book is quite slow as it does focus more on the characters and their relationships (especially Elin’s and Leelan). There isn’t a lot of action, until towards the end of the book, so if you’re looking for a fast paced, action packed fantasy then this isn’t it, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t try out this book. I would say the first half of the book is slower then the second half. Although it does have a slower pacing and a rather meandering plot line, I personally found this to be a very compelling read.

 

One of the main strengths of this book and the characters and their arcs. When we start the book, Elin is roughly 10 years old but by the end of the book she is in her twenties. I loved that we got to see this development of the main character. Yes, there are skips in time, which I find can sometimes distance you from the character, but that is not the case with this book. She is a wonderful female protagonist and I think a lot of people will love. It was such a pleasure to see her develop from a young child to a young woman. Despite the fact we mainly follow Elin, we do get some other perspectives throughout the book. The other characters are just as well written as Elin, which is quite impressive when you think about the size of the cast. There are quite a lot of characters, but there is a character list provided if you need a little help keeping track of them all. The author did a fantastic job at developing the relationships between characters too, especially between Elin and Leelan. Another strength of this book was the lack of romance. I feel sometimes authors write in romance because they feel it has to be a part of a book, so I loved that the main character doesn’t have a love interest. It would have felt so unnecessary to the story and it was so refreshing to not have it included.

 

The world is another strength of this book. The author did a fantastic job of creating this world and slowly revealing things to the reader as the story progresses. I loved that although we focus very much on the world around Elin, we also get a wider look into the world as a whole and the cultures are all so interesting to read about. The author has a PH.D. in cultural anthropology and I think this shows in her writing. There is such depth and clarity to her world building, which makes it so enjoyable to read. The only thing I would say is that it is a shame there isn’t a map of the world included within the book.

 

Overall, I adored this book. It has gone straight onto my favourites list and I cannot say enough good things about it. From what I understand this is part of a series and there are about 4 books out in Japanese, but only one has been translated so far. I am unsure whether this translated edition is the first Japanese book or whether it’s a combination of some or all of the already released 4 books in Japanese, if that makes sense. There is another series by this author that has been translated, which I fully plan on checking out. If you are looking for a new fantasy book to read, then I highly recommend checking this one out. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Have you read this book? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

 

Best Books of 2018 So Far

Hi guys, I hope you are all well. We’re roughly half way through the year so I thought I’d share the best books I’ve read in the last six months. Since I’m writing this a few weeks before posting, I can’t tell you exactly how many books I’ve read so far but at the point of writing this I’ve read 33 book, which means I’m behind on my Goodreads reading challenge. I have eight books to share with you guys so let’s get started.
  • Under Heaven / Guy Gavriel Kay / ★★★★★ / 
  • The Beast Player / Nahoko Uehashi / ★★★★★
  • Revelations / book 4 of the Shardlake series / C. J. Sansom / ★★★★★
  • Wrath of Empire / book 2 of the God of Blood and Powder trilogy / Brian McClellan / ★★★★★
Honourable mentions: The Dragon Queen by William Andrews, Heartstone by C. J. Sansom, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay and The Wolf by Leo Carew.
I’m having a pretty good reading year so far and found a couple new all time favourite books. Hopefully the second half of the year will be good in terms of reading too. What are your favourite books you’ve read so far this year? Have you read any of the books I mentioned. I hope you are having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.
Pippa

Children of Blood and Bone / Tomi Adeyemi

Title / Children of Blood and Bone
Author / Tomi Adeyemi
Publication Date / 2018
Genre / YA fantasy
Series or standalone / book 1 – Legacy of Orïsha trilogy
Page no. / 531
Overall Rating / ★★
Goodreads synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

 

So I’d been debating about whether to pick this book up for a while. There’s been quite a lot of hype surrounding this book but after hearing a lot of good things about it I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately this one didn’t work for me. Firstly, I think it’s fantastic this is an African-inspired fantasy, because that’s not something that I’ve seen a lot of in the fantasy genre. I enjoyed the setting and mythology of this book, although at times it felt quite shallow. Although I love that it introduces the reader to Nigerian mythology and culture, I can’t help but feel that it was pared down for the masses. I’m not criticising this, however I would loved to have more depth to this world. There is minimal world building in this book but it had so much potential. To me world building is an important part of a fantasy book and unfortunately it’s lacking in this book. There are so many details missing that could have given the reader a better understanding of the world and characters. Speaking of the characters, I was not a fan of the protagonist, Zélie. She consistently makes bad decisions and likes to lament the fact that no one understands her. Cue eye rolling. Amari and Tzain had potential but were underdeveloped in my opinion, and all I’m going to say about Inan is that he bugged me all the way through the book. Generally the characters and their relationships lacked depth.

 

OK, onto the main issue I had with this book – the romance. From the moment the love interest is introduced, you just knew how it was going to play out and it bugged me all the way through. To me the romance felt very forced and manufactured. There wasn’t any connection between them and I just couldn’t get behind it. They literally hate each-others guts and then within like 5 minutes of meeting they love each other. I’m sorry but no. This was a huge instance of insta-love. I don’t mind the whole enemy to lovers idea when it’s done right but this romance had no time to develop naturally. At one point Zélie is tortured and the first thing she does after being rescued is have dream sex with the love interest. Seriously? Get your priorities straight. Basically I really disliked the romance and it detracted from the story. The other main issue I had was the writing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the short sentences and I found the writing to be so repetitive. Not only did this mean that I struggled to get into the flow of the writing, but it also meant that it dragged for me. I read a lot of long books so 531 pages shouldn’t be an issue but due to the writing this book felt longer to me. I thought about DNFing it multiple times. The pacing is uneven throughout, which also means the book drags a bit. Some parts are so slow and then it suddenly switches to about ten different things happening at once, which can be quite confusing. The plot had potential but I found it to be predictable and I wasn’t the biggest fan of how it progressed.

 

Overall I wasn’t a fan of this book. To me it felt like quite a generic YA fantasy book, although I think it is great that this is an African inspired fantasy book. Now I am definitely in the minority here. There are a ton of good reviews on Goodreads and I think if you are a big YA fantasy reader then you will enjoy this, but it didn’t work for me. Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Charmcaster / Sebastien de Castell

Title / Charmcaster
Author / Sebastien de Castell
Publication Date / 2018
Genre / Fantasy
Series or standalone / book 3 of the Spellslinger series
Page no. / 400
Star Rating / ★★★★

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Goodreads synopsis: Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster . . .

 

*I received a digital copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
This was a fantastic instalment to this 6 book fantasy series. I have done a review of the first two books if you want to my thoughts on them too. Having really enjoyed the first two books, I fully expected to love this instalment and it didn’t disappoint. It was great to be back with these characters and in this world. This book was fantastic from the very start and I loved the progression of the story. Charmcaster is just as fast paced and entertaining as the previous two books. I find this series kind of addictive and once I’ve started reading I don’t want to put the book down. The plot is compelling throughout and the author does a great job at maintaining the flow of the story. Although the pacing is good in this series overall, I found that the first two books start off quite slow but I didn’t have that issue with this book. From the very beginning, the pacing was good and it was maintained throughout the 400 pages. I loved that we got to see more of the world and the author does a fantastic job at building on what we already know of it. As in the previous books, the magic system is wonderfully written and so unique. It is definitely one of the main strengths of this series. I love that the protagonist isn’t the most powerful person but has to rely on his wits to keep himself alive too. Speaking of the protagonist, I love the characters in this series and their development in this instalment was great. The way the relationships develop in this book was such a pleasure to read and I love the banter between them, especially between Kellen and Reichis. Both the old and new characters are so well written and I loved learning a little about Ferius’s past. If you can’t tell I think this was a fantastic instalment to this very entertaining series.

 

Overall I really enjoyed this sequel and can’t wait to see how sees progress in the rest of the series. If you enjoy fantasy books, especially ones that are fast paced and filled with humour, then I highly recommend checking this series out. If you’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series then you will enjoy this instalment too. I know this is quite a short review but hopefully it means my review is concise. Have you read this book? Or do you plan to start this series? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

May Wrap Up

Hi guys, I hope you are all well. It’s the end of the month so it’s time to talk about all the books I’ve read. One of the books I read this month went straight onto my favourite list. I read a total of 8 books in May, which I am pretty happy with. Let’s get started.

 

Children of Blood and Bone / Legacy of Orïsha trilogy / Tomi Adeyemi / ★★
I had heard a lot of good things about this book but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I’m planning to write a full review on this one, so expect that sometime in June or July. For now I’ll just say that I didn’t connect with the characters, disliked the romance and I wasn’t invested in the story. If you are a big fan of YA fantasy then I think you’ll enjoy this but it didn’t work for me personally.

 

 

Gather the Daughters / Jennie Melamed / ★★★
This one is quite a hard one to review and rate. Overall I thought this was a good book and it got me thinking but there were a few issues I had with it. This book is pretty dark and unsettling as it follows four young girls living in a secluded cult-like society. One of my main issues in the book is the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything but it was felt very unsatisfactory to me. In some ways I wondered at the point of this book. Yes it does get you to think about these things but it doesn’t come up with any solution and there’s no resolution at the end. The characters were quite well written, if a little flat and the writing was good.

 

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Caligula / Simon Turney / ★★★.5
*I received a digital copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Based around the life of the third Roman emperor, Caligula, this was a fascinating read. I know next to nothing about this period of history so it’s a good thing that this book doesn’t require any prior knowledge. Although it is quite a slow read, I found it to be engaging throughout and never felt that it dragged. The politics and intrigue are so well done. I liked that fact that this is told from one of the sisters of Caligula – it provides an interesting perspective. The book was well written and I found it easy to get into the flow of the story. Overall I enjoyed this historical fiction very much and would recommend it, especially if you are interested in the time period.

 

The Moonstone / Wilkie Collins / ★★★★
This book is generally recognised as the first detective novel. I have to admit that I struggled initially to get into this book, but after a while I settled into the flow of the story. I didn’t find it to be the most compelling story, although I did enjoy seeing how it all unfolded. It dragged a little in certain places which made it quite a slow read for me. Overall I enjoyed this one but I would say I liked The Woman in White a little more.

 

Neverwhere / Neil Gaiman / ★★★★
I have heard so many good things about this author so I thought it was about time I tried one of his books. I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to start with so I picked this one up on a bit of a whim. It was a entertaining and enjoyable read with a great cast of characters and a good story. I loved the villains, Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar – they were really quite creepy. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I definitely plan on checking out more books by this author.

 

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Charmcaster / book 3 in the Spellslinger series / Sebastien de Castell / ★★★★
Since I’ve got a full review of this one coming next month, I’m going to be brief here. Basically I loved it. I thought this was a great instalment to this series and I cannot wait it see how things progress in the next books. Highly recommend.

 

Heartstone / book 5 of the Shardlake series / C. J. Sansom / ★★★★
This was another fantastic instalment to this series. Once again the plot was compelling, the writing is great and I loved being back with these characters. I really enjoy these books and I was so excited to see that there is a new book in this series being released later this year. If you enjoy historical fiction mixed with mysteries then I highly recommend checking this series out. I’m looking forward to continuing with the next book in the series.

 

 

The Beast Player /  Nahoko Uehashi / Translator: Cathy Hirano / ★★★★★
I loved this book. Seriously, it is so good. I have a full review of this coming, so I’ll keep this short. Originally written in Japanese, this is a fantastic fantasy book. The writing is great, there’s a wonderful cast of characters and the plot is compelling. I cannot say enough good things about this book. I highly recommend checking it out.

 

I am currently reading Wrath of the Empire by Brian McClellan, which is the second book in the Gods of Powder and Blood trilogy. I’m a couple hundred pages in so far and loving it. In terms of my June TBR I haven’t really set myself one. I’m just going to read what I feel like at the time. I do have a holiday coming up so I will be posting a TBR for that. Have you read any of these books? What was your favourite book in May? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

It’s Monday… What are you reading?

Hi guys, I hope you are all well. Today I’m going to talk about the books I am currently reading and maybe some I want to pick up next. We’re roughly half way through the month and I’ve managed to read 4 books already, one of which is a new favourite book. I’ve just started two books so I can’t really comment on them yet but I wanted to share it with you guys anyway.

 

So the two books I am reading are Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Heartstone by C. J. Sansom, which is the fifth book in the Shardlake series. As I said I’ve only just started them so I haven’t read more then a hundred pages for either.
I’ve heard so many good things about Neil Gaiman so I thought it was about time I tried one of his books. I didn’t really know where to start with his works but this one sounded fun so I decided to try it out. This edition also has illustrations which is cool. Next up I’m continuing on with the Shardlake series. I think the last book in the series was my favourite so far so I’m excited to see what happens next. I fully expect to love this book as much as I’ve loved the first four books in the series. I’ve also discovered there is a new book coming out in this series sometime this year which is exciting. I hope to finish both of these books by the end of the month. Some other books I’d like to get to soon include Circe by Madeleine Miller and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
That’s all I have for today’s post. Of course I’ll let you know my thoughts on all these books once I’ve read them. What are you guys currently reading? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? I’d love to know. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Ininiate Brother duology / Sean Russell

Title / The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds
Author / Sean Russell
Publication Date / 1991 and 1992
Series or standalone / Duology
Page no. / 784 (bind-up)
Overall Rating / 
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Goodreads synopsis of book 1: Plague and warfare has swept across the Orient, ravaging the ancient kingdom of Wa, devastating the royal line, and leaving a new dynasty on the throne–a new Emperor, Akantsu, filled with fear of all who might seek to wriest the Empire from his grasp. Among those out of favor with the new liege is the Order of the Botahist Monks, whose mystical powers have enabled them to hold positions as Spiritual Adviseres to the Imperial court for nearly ten centuries. But Emperor Akantsu fears none so greatly as he does Lord Shonto, the brilliant leader of the most important of the Old Families, whose infludence could rally the Great Houses against the throne and whose adopted daughter, the beautiful and talented Lady Nishima, is the last surviving member of the old royal family. Sent to be military Governor of a northern border province long threatened by barbarian invaders, Lord Shonto knows he is being lured to his death. But Akantsu has underestimated his foe, for not only is Lord Shonto the greatest military genius of the age, but he has with him a Spiritual Adviser from the Botahist Order–a young man gifted with extraordinary martial skills and magical abilities, Initiate Brother Shuyun. And even Lord Shonto does not realize the true potential of this young monk. Only time will reveal that Shuyun’s magical powers have not seen their equal in nearly a thousand years–not since the Perfect Master himself walked the paths of the Empire…

 

This is a fantastic fantasy duology set in an East Asian inspired world with well written characters and compelling plot. I didn’t know much about this book when I picked it up but I’m very glad I did. I ended up loving this book. Firstly I think the world is so well written. From the very beginning I was immersed in the world and I loved the way the author slowly revealed more of it throughout the duology. There are some fantastic descriptions of the landscape within these two books. If you enjoy good world building in fantasy then you will not be disappointed. The cultures of this world are all really interesting and I enjoyed learning more about this aspect of the world. There is so much detail put into these books but it never felt overwhelming and I never felt bogged down. It is all relevant and interesting. One of the main things I loved about this world is the intrigue and politics. I really enjoy fantasy books that incorporate politics and Russell does it so well.

 

This is very much a character driven story, which I personally really enjoy. There are so many wonderfully written characters in this book. All of them are complex and flawed with fantastic development through the two books. I will admit it was a little tricky at first to keep track of everyone but after a couple of chapters I was invested in the characters and story. Due to this being a character driven story the pacing is quite slow. Although there is action in this book, it is not a fast paced fantasy book so don’t expect that. The focus is on the development of the characters and the politics of the world. Despite this slower pacing I found the plot to be compelling throughout. I was hooked from very early on and once I’d started I didn’t want to put it down. Although I will say that the set up of the first book is especially slow, so bear with it as it does pick up. There are some great plot twists too. Russell did a fantastic job at creating intricate lines of plot that all come together at the end of the book. Finally I thought the writing was great. This was my first book by this author and I found it so easy to get into the flow of his writing style.

 

If you enjoy character driven fantasy with a slower pace and/or enjoy fantasy with politics then I highly recommend checking it out. I loved it and want to recommend it to everyone. If you’ve read and enjoyed Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay then I think you’d enjoy this book too. I’m definitely planning on checking out some of this authors other books too. Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa