Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie

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Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: The First Law #2

Pages: 584

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Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run – if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem – he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters. If they didn’t hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven – but not before they are hanged.

The year is almost over and I can already say that the first two books of the First Law Trilogy are the best ones I have read in 2018. I’ve been always too scared of the Epic Fantasy genre, but in reality it has given me a lot of happy moments during my whole life (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones…). Joe has revived my interest for a kind of book I thought it wasn’t for me.

This second book is split into three different threads of action: the war in the North with West and Threetree’s gang, Glokta defending Dagoska from the Gurkish Empire and the quest of Bayaz and company. All of them are challeneged at every step and they will have to do their best in very tight situations.

Even though the three stories are not connected (at least not yet), that doesn’t make the book convoluted or hard to follow. Joe’s style helps the reader to enjoy the story and the characters without losing any step through the differente chapters of the book. Not time to breathe, though. The pace is so much faster than the one in the first book. All the presentations were done, so the author had plenty of time to feed us lots of action and epic battles. All of that without forgetting some character development for his amazing cast.

In the North we follow West and his annoying task of babysitting Prince Ladisla through the war agianst Bethod and his forces. The Prince is in command of the worst soldiers, because his duty was supposed to keep him far from the war. But between the cunning of the enemy and the glory starved idiots that follow the Prince, eveyrthing goes the south way. West is forced to drag the Prince all over the North in order to flee the enemy. At least they had the help of Threetree and his gang. During this ordeal, I didn’t want to sympathize with West after what he did to his sister; but he claims to be sorry over and over again and I guess that I believe him… That’s not enough to forigive him, but it’s a first step. West should check his anger issues or he is going to be very alone the rest of his life… Which could not be very long, because the situation in the North doesn’t look promising with Bethod and Flatheads working together… Kudos to the author for being able to add some good sesne of humor in the middle of a war!!

Glokta had it easier, but this guy is always uncovering hidden plots and corruption at every step he takes. His luck is holding, but sooner or later… His first task was uncovering who was the traitor among the Union in Dagoska. The one that tried to sell the city to the Gurkish Empire. I don’t think becoming a traitor was really necessary. With the war in the North, most of the Union forces were comitted there, so taking the city was a done deal without any hjelp from the inside. But give Glokta a mission and he will stick to it until the end!! He discovers the traitors in the city and tries his damndest to save the city. But it was hopeless, so he is ordered to abandon it before is too late. So far he seems almost lucky, but that is about to end. I foresee a third book with a lot of trouble for Glokta: the mystery of the murder of the other son of the King, the favours he owes to the bank, his soft spot for Eider will bite him in the ass sooner or later… I wonder if he will be still alive to meet Jezal again and see what his adventure has done for the cocky captain. Will his jelousy grow bigger or smaller?

And finally, the main quest: going to the end of the world to retrieve the Seed that will help Bayaz to fight Khalul. For that pupose, he recruited Logen, Ferro, Quai, Jezal and Longfoot. Everyone has their own pupose: Ferro can hold the Seed and fight, Logen can talk to spirits (the keepers of the Seed) and fight, Quai is there to take care of Bayaz, Longfoot is the navigator and Jezal… I still don’t know why the First Magi needed the Captain. It’s by far my favourite character, but his purpose in unclear. He can’t barely fight, complaints about everything and he is more of a burden than a help. Am I missing something? All in all, I’m SO glad he is in the quest. I knew this journey would change Jezal. Make him more humble and even more heroic. He is even badly wounded, which has left an ugly scar in his fomrley handsome face. All of that has made him a different person. A much better person. I loved him before, but now… I am a passionate defender of Jezal. I’m a groupie!!

Another character from that group that has gotten a lot of points on my particular ranking is Logen. I still don’t know what his Bloody-Nine persona is, but his “normal” self is amazing. Such a good guy. He may be big and dangerous looking, but his emotional intelligence is boundless. The Northman has an uncanny ability to offer everyone what they need at every moment. Friends like that are rara avis, so I hope the rest of the group appreciates what they have found. The one that has fallen several positions in the before mentioned ranking is Bayaz himself. He is on edge almost the whole journey, being very unfriendly to the rest of the company. And after that ending, I guess his sense of humor is not going to improve any time soon…

I’m going to be strong and not dive into the third book so soon. I will let this one rest and enjoy other genres for a while. The truth is I don’t want it to finish. I’m enjoying this saga so much!!

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2018 – Book Gallery

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The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie

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Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: The First Law #1

Pages: 517

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Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

I enjoy reading Epic Fantasy, but lately I was hitting really slow paced and boring books in that genre. I was recommended to take a look at The First Law saga. The promise was really good characters. If there si something I love about a book is special characters that I will remember for a long time. Joe Abercrombie delivers a bunch of them that has made the reading of the first book a truly great experience.

This book is basically a big character presentation. We have Logen, the warrior from the North with too many enemies and few friends. Jezal, the arrogant swordman who wants as much as possible with as much little effort as possible. Glokta, the cripple who wants to show that he is still very capable of great things. Ferro, the “dagger-happy” woman from a dangerous land. And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, a great magic user with a quest in mind: gathering all the others to embark for a dangerous mission.

Even though the book is in the thicker side, there is not much story development. It’s just the first stones for a good looking foundation. We have several side stories, being the main ones Glokta’s investigations and Jezal’s Contest for best swordman of the Union. Both of them very enjoyable and fun to read. When those threads end, the story is all about getting them together to meet each other. Beyond that, the rest are just glances to the political situation of the Union’s neighbours: the war against Bethod in the North, the brewing trouble with Gurkhul, the unstable situation in the Old Empire… I bet those stories will get a much more relevant role in the next books.

This book is not meant to hook you up with the story. The story is also good, don’t get me wrong; but the main asset of this first part are the characters. I have loved their company most of the time. Maybe the weakest link in that aspect is Ferro, but she doesn’t have as many chapters as the rest of them. Logen has made my blood very cold. He seemed such a good-hearted guy… but in the end… when he becomes the Bloody-Nine for a brief moment… I’m still digesting it!! Glokta is grumpy, but it’s obvious he is a good guy. At first I wanted to see him fail his tasks, but little by little has grown on me and now I’m worried about his new assignment.

My favourite is Jezal. Since the first moment I met him, I knew he was my kind of character! Arrogant, too sure of himself; but more often than not he is proven a fool. Gladly for him, his luck knows no bounds, which makes his ego a really fat creature. I love his biased look at everything that happens to him. I’m going to enjoy so much when he is thrown from the high horse he is riding… Of all the members of Bayaz’s crew, Jezal’s part is the most unclear. Why do they need him? His only skill is just fencing and we know he is not the best at it… Too bad no one has told Jezal about it!! Some of my favourite scenes with him are: the self-worship in front of the mirror, his ego burst during the final match of the Contest when Bayaz was buffing him, his kind of cute declaration of love and everytime he throws a tantrum behaving like a spoiled kid.

We don’t have many details about Bayaz’s quest. I guess that is going to be the main course of the next book. It looks interesting with such strange band of heroes. The worst part of my devotion towards them is that, if some of them die, I’m not going to recover any time soon.

So, yeah, I love the book! I can’t wait to read the next one, so I will try to grab it before the end of the year. That date is approaching fast, so I don’t know if I will make it.

 

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2018 – Book Gallery

Fire Bound – Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love

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Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love
Series: Belador #1.5
Pages: 95

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A dangerous creature is on the loose. Evalle, Tzader and Quinn take a VIPER team just outside of Atlanta for a sting operation that takes a deadly turn. Killing the half-human creature would be easy, but national security is on the line until the team can discover who created the monster, and whether more like it are waiting in the wings to be unleashed on the human world. The op goes bad with Beladors in the middle of it, and nothing turns out as expected, least of all for Evalle.

This is a short story that you can get for free in many places. One of them is the official page of Sherrilyn Kenyon. I want to stop starting sagas and then forget about them, so one of my really late New Year resolutions is going to be keep reading at least the book series I have started this year. And reconnect with some of the ones I forgot about a lot time ago (soooo many!!). I have even created a Goodreads shelf for them in order to keep them in mind.

The story of this book takes place several months before the first one. Some VIPER agents (Evalle included) have to investigate the weird killings of several expensive cows. They find that the culprit is a bizarre creature that someone has engineered. They must investigate the issue and neutralize the crazy guy experimenting with monsters.

Taking into account this is a pretty short book, I don’t have much to say. It’s pure action, which is what I was looking for. There is not character development. The contrary would be weird, because this story takes place before the first book. Fortunately, there is enough asskicking to forget and forgive that there is no kind of depth storytelling in the bunch of pages of Fire Bound.

OK. Maybe I have lied a little bit. We get to know the origin story of Evalle’s pet, so that’s kind of great and unexpected. He is such a cute gargoyle thingy!! I wonder if what we have learned about it (him? her?) will have an impact in future books… Wait and read, I suppose. Will I stay true to my word and read Alterant this year? I hope so!!

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2018 – Book Gallery

A Line in the Sand – K. A. Stewart

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Author: K. A. Stewart
Series: Jesse James Dawson #5
Pages: 306

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Jesse James Dawson is a husband and father who never intended to be the guardian of 275 extra souls, or to find himself in the middle of a demon war. When that war comes right to his front door, endangering his family, he is forced to seek aid from the last people he ever wanted to ask: the Catholic church and the priest sent to protect him, Cameron.

The Order of St. Silvius is made up of warrior-priests, operating out of its home base in Vatican City. The holy order has been facing off with demons for centuries. In a city as ancient and steeped in magic as Rome is, a few centuries is plenty of time to hide a few secrets, and what Jesse and Cameron don’t know could get them killed.

First of all, I LOVE this saga!! I swear I love it!! Even though I bought the book two years ago and haven’t read until today, I LOVE the saga!! I just have a lot of selfcontrol… OK. OK. I’m busted. I truly love this saga, but I forgot about the fifth book until I saw it in my shelf… still wrapped with the plastic used by the delivery company. Shame on me!!

I have always been a slow reader by choice, but lately I’m even slower due to the duties of life. This book of Jesse James has lasted about two days… that’s how much I LOVE this saga!! Yes, I will always use capital letters. My love is big!! Also, the book is kind of short; but still this time record is a big deal for me. Anyway, I guess you haven’t entered here to read about myself, so… Let’s review a book, shall we?

Jesse James Dawson is a demon hunter that not long ago became the vessel of 275 souls. As in every fantasy book, souls are pretty powerful and a wet dream for any baddie out there. So, his life is in constant danger due to them. He even lives with two bodyguards that keep him safe at all time. But the good Jesse knows that he can’t continue like that. He has a wfie and children… Demons breaking and entering at all time is not really the best scenario to rise a family.

So, the quest begins to get rid of the souls!! The companions: Sveta, the deadly champion; Cameron, the warlock priest and Ivan, the sick mentor. All of them travel to Rome to meet the leader of Cam’s Order (warrior monks or something like that). Jesse hopes that Order could help him to release the souls so nobody can claim their power. Obviously, nothing is as simple as that and soon the whole team is running for their lives. The whole team + a local nun that could totally be a superhero based in Italy. Is there something the lady couldn’t do? She is even funny!! K. A. Stewart is SO good creating characters!! Every time I finish a book of this saga I think about a half dozen characters that could have their own books. Fingers crossed for future spin-offs!!

Even though I LOVE Jesse, my all-time favourite is Axel. It’s not because he is a blond bad boy, not at all (OK, OK… a little bit of that). The main reason is because he is a mystery. He is a demon, but more than evil we could say he is mischievous (think about Loki). Yes, he has his own agenda; but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for Jesse and company. I honestly think he is a good guy and the author has given me a lot of points to support that in this book. I won’t spoiler them, but let’s say I wasn’t expecting that revelation about Axel.

As always, the book is packed with action and crazy funny jokes. Yes, I get Jesse’s sense of humor. And I LOVE (I promise, I won’t do this again) all his T-shirts!! Where does he get so many silly ones? I have never seen anything like that in any shop of my town!! This book has made me laugh hard more often than not.

The end is heartbreakening… I wasn’t expecting that :(. I hope everything gets better, but doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. The sixth book hasn’t been published yet. I don’t even know if K. A. Stewart has finished it. We will have to wait and I promise I won’t forget reading the next one.

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Next: Foget Me Not by Brooke Blaine

Blood Trinity – Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love

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Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love
Series: Belador #1
Pages: 519

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All her life, Evalle has been straddling the line between human and demon. Curious about her origins, but content to live in the shadows, she finds that anonymity threatened by escalating conflicts between species. Accused of a savage murder, she’s forced center stage in what seems like the beginning of an Atlanta apocalypse. Before long though, her personal problems will submerge as she learns startling facts about a hoard of supernatural terrorists.

This book has been in one of my shelfs for several years, but finally I have picked it. One more series I start… I’m a series starter. Not so much a finisher. But I’m still young, so…

Urban Fantasy is by far my favourite genre, even though I read romance more. That’s because in Spain, the former is not very popular. I always have to explain what Urban Fantasy is to my friends and family. As you can imagine, few books of that genre are found in bookshops over here. Urban Fantasy by Sherrilyn Kenyon is a plus. She is one of my favourite writers, no matter what she writes.

The fist book of the Belador saga is just a huge display of the fictional world both authors have imagined. There are character introductions in every chapter and, by the end of the book, the cast size is quite impressive. It’s the kind of character display I’m used to finding in Paranormal Romance, where authors present the characters that will star in the upcoming books. But in the Belador series it seems we are not changing the main character any time soon. So, yeah, the character treatment is unexpected for the Urban Fanatasy genre. The description of the male ones is SO typical of Romance books. Something I can totally understand taking into account both authors are also romance writers.

Enough rambling! Did I like the book? No doubt about that. The main character is Evalle, a Belador (some kind of celtic warrior) that keeps demon at bay. But she is a special branch of Belador called Alterant. They are very rare. The main difference is that they can shift into very dangerous beasts. If an Alterant becomes a monster, it’s captured and locked forever. That’s why Evalle works harder than most and keeps most of her work mates far away. She has huge trusting issues for several reasons: her Alterant condition, tough childhood… She only has two Belador friends: Tzader and Quinn (a couple of über sexy hunks, of course).

This books opens a lot of plot lines and barely close any: the search of the Ngak Stone before it claims a new host, the impending trial before the Tribunal to decide her fate, the mysterious Isak’s inquisition, the getting to know Storm, the blind woman and the Kujoo… And I bet I’m forgetting something. It’s a bit too much and many of those end in a “To be continued” that, for some reason, has been more hurtful than other cliffhangers I have encountered so far. On the other hand, so much in the plate has made this book very fast paced, which is always a nice plus for Urban Fantasy. It’s a genre where you expect a lot of ass-kicking. This one delivers.

The mythology Dianna and Sherrilyn have created is very rich, as I always expect in a Kenyon book. It can feel a bit cramped for the untrained reader, but it’s always good to know that the following books will have a crazy Universe to plant their roots. The crazier the Universe, the better an Urban Fantasy book will be. That’s my opinion, at least.

There is also a bit of romance involved. Evalle hasn’t got a couple in her whole life, but suddenly she finds two candidates: Storm and Isak. Both tall, handsome and ripped (one more trait taken from Romance books). Isak is a human mercenary that hates supernatural beings, especially Alterants (go figure…) and Storm is a cursed werepanther. Which one I think is a better suitor for her? That’s a tough one. Isak looks like he is going to be a lot of trouble once he finds out what Evalle is; but he is still a mystery. So far, Isak has been pretty nice. Storm is actually the worst of the book, in my opinion. He is just the classic shifter from Paranormal Romance books. You know, the ones whose animal part is the one that fells in love due to a weird mystical mating… I can’t barely believe love stories when they start that way. So yeah, Storm is currently better positioned to win Evalle’s heart, but my candidate to support is going to be Isak. At least for the moment.

The main course of the book is the Ngak Stone and the Kujoo warriors. The last ones are the Belador nemesis. They want to use a very powerful artifact (the Ngak Stone) to get rid of every Belador there is. As you can imagine, there are several clashes between both factions that make the story fluid easily. There is also a nice story among a reformed Kujoo warrior and the new host for the Ngak Stone. That part is actually my favourite. Very sweet.

If you don’t mind your Urban Fantasy with a side of romance (very light romance, I swear!!), this book is very enjoyable. It doesn’t let the reader to take a breath, which conceals some of the flaws of the narration (the timeline is a mess!).

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Next: Off Base by Annabeth Albert