Catch-22 by Joseph Heller—Book Review

I finished Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 many months ago — I’ve kept pushing the review further and further off because this is one of the classics, it’s loved by many, disliked by some, downright hated by a chosen few. I find myself decidedly in the camp of the first, as this novel illustrated the absurdism of war through examples that will have you either grasping at your sides with laughter or blinking slowly, trying to comprehend what the hell just happened.

It is a difficult book to penetrate, at first. Heller thinks little of chronology, the structure of his chapters a mess that is at once brilliant and confounding; the opening begins in media res, with Yossarian pretending to be both sick and crazy for who-knows-which time. Unafraid to hop from one character’s circumstances to another, Heller uses an omniscient narrator to sketch out the daily life of the soldiers of the U.S. Air Army. He does so in a way that extends to far more than just these characters, encompassing the entirety of the army, of any army, even of every army. The objections to war, after all, should not be examined in a case-by-case basis.

Once you become acquainted with the military and its maddening mechanisms, Heller’s thesis statement begins to fall into place:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

Ironic, isn’t it? This circularity is the bread and butter of so much of Heller’s seminal work, and though other examples of this never failed to garner a laugh, chortle or chuckle from me, these became ever more histeric as I continued my sixteen-hour journey across a text that is increasingly pessimistic about the nature of modern society in all its paradoxic, violent and capitalistic glory.

There is something of a postmodernist precursor to this book, something that so well captures the pulse of a movement that was just beginning to arise in the sixties (Catch-22 was published in 1961) that you can’t help but applaud Heller for taking the measure of so much of the postmodernist essence:

It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.

This codifies so much of my experience with postmodernism!…And the distance from this to Angela Carter isn’t that much of a stretch, is it?

I listened to Catch-22 as narrated by Trevor White whose reading brought the characters to life and made the dialogue jump off the page. I recommend you give that particular audiobook a listen — it’s well-worth the Audible credit!

And, before I close this review off, may I say that Milo Minderbinder is one of the most brilliant characters used to satirize capitalism and the notion of free market, ever? The Mess Officer of the Air Force base that most of the book is set up at, is the beating heart of a pyramid scheme that puts all others to shame; Milo is a hell of a guy, and he’s almost as funny as he is scary.

I could write about Catch-22‘s insane cast for days, but alas, I’ve got plenty of other reviews to write. This is one I’ll be coming back to, reading and rereading, and something tells me no two reads will be the same. Just writing this review is enough to fill me with excitement over the possibility of experiencing the narrative Joseph Heller constructed with such impeccable care. If you’ve heard that this is one of the finest novels of the 20th century…well, you’ve heard right.

The Faith Machine by Tone Milazzo — Book Review (Storytellers On Tour)

The Faith Machine is one of the strangest, most bizarre books I’ve read in recent memory, and no less fun for it. With spies, psychic abilities, tons of action and betrayal, Milazzo’s novel channels Cold War thrillers mixed with almost Marvel-scale superpowers in a juggling act that was consistently entertaining throughout!

Where shall I begin? This novel follows a three-act structure, the first taking place in Africa, the second in America, and the third in North Korea; each one takes about a hundred-and-something pages of this 392-page novel, and each has enough going on to make for its own tiny novella, if the author had so chosen.

There are plenty of laughs to be had in The Faith Machine, based on all kinds of hilarious situations and exchanges between characters, as well as plenty of pop references. The novel is hilarious enough to make you forget all about the fact that this is an “ESPionage” story, unafraid to pull its punches, willing to go in some dark, disturbing places. Some of the imagery is downright shocking, and the trials some of the character

And the characters are a likable lot, all eight of the ensemble. There’s Dr. Park, the leader of the team, a Korean-American psychologist tasked wtih the enormous responsibility of keeping seven Cards (psychic spies), unstable one and all, together, as they . I won’t go over each and every one of the Cards, but I thought they made for wonderful characters. They’re bursting with personality from the very first time you come across them on the page:

A dusky young woman in an AC/DC belly shirt came running down the drive, swinging an ax after a man in a dirty T-shirt and boxers. “Jacob! I told you I didn’t wanna be on the internet!” Her unkempt brown hair bounced with her wild gait as she closed in.
Gabby stopped trying to kill Jacob whe she sawPark and Ainia. “Oh, hi, Park! What are you doin’ here?” She let the ax hit the ground.

Few things better than ax-wielding ladies in AC/DC shirts, I always say. I appreciate how divergant the cast is — these are folks from all walks of life, and the author does an admirable job of giving them unique, nuanced voices. For the most part — occasionally, a line read across as unpolished or as the author’s unbridled commentary, but that was a very, very rare occurance indeed! Further, I would’ve liked some more time spent with the leader of the ensemble, Dr. Park, whose last stretch of development I can’t help but feel didn’t conclude so much as stop in place.

The twists and turns are a delight — so many red herrings, very well executed. I did sense the last big twist coming, but a few of the smaller ones along the way blindsided me, which is something I am all for!

I admired the prose — it nails that pulpy feel of Cold War-era spy thrillers. The style is clear, exact, always directing the reader into any given scene with precision.

I will say, I’m glad I did not read the entire blurb on Goodreads before I picked this one up, because it spoils the first third of the novel. Bit of a strange choice, that.

My score for The Faith Machine is 4/5 stars! It had some elements I wasn’t sold on, but make no mistake, this is a solid sci-fi thriller, one well-worth your time.

Catalyst by Tracy Richardson – Book Review (Ultimate Blog Tour)

DNF’d at 45%.

Catalyst is one of those rare books that I just couldn’t continue on with — I found very little that worked for me in this piece of paranormal disaster fiction.

The prose is servicable — neither complex nor beautiful, it does provide crisp, clear description of what is going on, of who is speaking to whom, and of any details that need the reader’s attention drawn. The main characters are teenagers and university students, all of whom have individual traits but all, except one, have the same ideological background and share in each other’s beliefs to such an extent that I often found myself unsure which character corresponded to which name tag. I cannot, for the life of me, picture how any of them look — which speaks to me of descriptions that lacked that extra something that makes characters memorable and easy to visualize. The dialogue was good — it wasn’t stilted, the conversations were written well and the back-and-forth was believable.

I didn’t like the protagonist — her point of view failed to suck me in, I found her inner monologue hard to believe and, frankly, obnoxious.

Now, about the environmental issue at hand here, and how it is discussed. I’ve been reading a lot of climate change/disaster fiction of late — just yesterday, I wrapped up a Disaster Studies course at uni, and I’ve realised there are two kinds of disaster fiction books. The first makes its points with eloquence and style, introduces not just one side of a given argument but both of them, and offers a weighed argument towards the dangers of climate change and humanity’s central part in causing it — one example that does admirable job at it is Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver.

The second beats you over the head with its messaging, without bothering to dig in real deep in what drives the everyday proponents of fracking in the USA. Yes, one of the characters talks non-stop about how fracking “will make America energy sufficient and get those Arab Muslims off our back” or something along those lines, but that’s surface-level reasoning; the author could’ve, should have, dug further into the other side’s argument. And hey, maybe she did — there’s over a hundred pages left of this book, but those are pages I won’t ever read. From what I did read, Catalyst leans more heavily towards this second kind of disaster fiction than towards the first.

There’s little of substance here — not the kind of substance that could make someone who does not believe in the environmental dangers of fracking to buy into them. A book like Catalyst seems to alienate precisely the people who most need to be convinced of the massive environmental dangers of fracking, and that is a shame.

Maybe you’ll like it — if you enjoy talk about the Fifth Dimension and living energy that can be created through meditation and communion with nature. Perhaps you’ll like the characters, or you won’t take the same issues I did with the environmental issues and how they were covered. For me, however, this just did not work. My score for Catalyst is 2 out of 5 stars.

Blight Marked (Ethereal Earth #3) by Josh Erikson: Book Review Excerpt

Hullo, everyone! I got a gig as Assistant Editor for the Fantasy Hive, which means that I’ll be posting plenty of fantasy reviews over on the site. I’m beyond excited to get started, so without further ado, here’s the link to the first one, my review of Josh Erikson’s Blight Marked!

Below, of course, you’ll find an excerpt of the review:

“Josh Erikson continues to astound in Blight Marked, the third outing of the Ethereal Earth series,” is how I began writing this review. Then, I realized I’d said something almost exactly the same in my review for Josh’s previous book, Fate Lashed. I hate to repeat myself – it would be nice, JOSH, if you screwed up once in a blue moon. (!) Would make my job a lot EASIER, Josh!

But no, Josh Erikson does an excellent job indeed, chronicling the continued exploits of former con artist Gabriel Delling in his boldest adventure yet. Never have the stakes been as high as in Blight Marked, with the Darkness that ends universes encroaching on our own. Gabe and his allies, armed with guns, pointy things, and a dash of magic, find themselves racing against the literal End Times in their attempt to collect the only magical items in the world that may hold the Darkness back from ending reality. Ambitious lot, Gabe and his pals!

Unfortunate, then, that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. As a result of Gabe and Heather’s activities during the climax of Fate Lashed, everyone who doesn’t know our protagonists well enough to trust them has it in mind that Gabey is up to no good. That means a whole slew of new enemies making the life of our charming leads harder. Templars, pointy-eared fae, the bloody sasquatch, Blight Marked has it all!

Read more at fantasy-hive.co.uk!

Sunday Star Wars: Darth Maul by Cullen Bunn – Graphic Novel Review

I enjoy works set out as prequels to the prequel trilogy – Master and Apprentice is one of my most favourite reads. I didn’t always like Darth Maul, but catching up on the Clone Wars series has warmed me up to ol’ Red’n’Spiky! And if I needed another reason, just look at that cover. It would make for a great effin’ movie poster in its own right. To make things better, the internal art is no less impressive from the get-go:

What’s this graphic novel about?

Darth Maul grows restless as his master bides his time and weaves his web, awaiting for the opportunity to strike. So restless, in fact, that when Darth Sidious sends him on a task to aid the Sith’s allies in the Trade Federation, the dark apprentice jumps at the mention of a Jedi Padawan caught and held for sale to the highest bidder by a criminal, Xev Xrexus, on the planet of Nar Shaddaa. Maul’s help to the Trade Federation, for the record, is offered by way of executing dozens of aliens unhappy with the illegal operations the Federation deals in. Just in case you thought he was a good Samaritan or some such nonsense.

As you plainly see, Maul is all too happy to help his friends and allies at the Federation.

His first appearance on the very particular hive of scum and villainy that is Nar Shaddaa is stylish:

The Sith definitely have a stylistic edge over the Jedi. Might that have something to do with how Palpatine got one over that little green muppet?

Of course, criminals don’t like the kind of questions Maul asks, and before long, he’s fighting a good half dozen of them. Enter a few familiar faces from Season 2 of the Clone Wars!

I never was a fan of Cad Bane but plenty of folks out there are. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal – he’s very much the kind of character that draws inspiration from the Western aspects of the Star Wars Saga – the kind of mercantile villain riding from one town to the next, caring precious little about the moral hue of his actions, long as his pockets line up. Something always bugged me where he was concerned. Aurra Sing is more my speed – she’s observant and has fine intuition.

There’s a tragedy to Maul, too. Stolen from his birth mother by Palpatine, fed the worst of his poison, taught only to hate and to destroy — there’s plenty appealing to the Zabrak warrior. As the result of the training he has received, his philosophy is very different to that of Sidious:

These panels, digging into Maul’s way of thinking and revealing aspects to him hitherto unseen are likely my most favourite element of this entire graphic novel. The parallels he draws to his Master, the differences he sees, make him an awful lot more interesting a character:

Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan captured, makes for an excellent foil to Maul. He wants her to fear him, yet she does not; he seeks vengeance for past wrongs but she has little interest in them; The conversations they have in issue four are only equaled by their excellent duel in the final issue in this volume. From her first appearance to her last moments, she encapsulates some of my favourite elements about the Jedi Order.

Also, she’s a very hot twi’lek, and y’all know I can’t say no to that.

Every page of the duel between Maul and Eldra showcases the finest in the art of Luke Ross. Listen to Duel of the Fates while you read Issue #5, I promise, you will not regret it.

I cannot heap enough praise on that last issue, in fact. It does so many things right – as does the entire volume. The consistent art, the excellent characterization, even the bounty hunters’ side adventure; these make for an excellent, self-contained story that I won’t soon forget.

And here’s one of my favourite quotes, on a panel that isn’t much to look at (one of those panels that set up location, I don’t mean that it’s drawn badly or anything of that sort):

My Master…
If he knew about my plans…
Would likely find this amusing.

Like the very best Star Wars comics in the neo-Marvel era, this easily fits to the Clone Wars animated format – it reads much like It’s solid work, and one of my favourite graphic novels in the Star Wars universe. I’m happy to give it a score of five out of five stars on Goodreads!

Join me again next week for another dose of Sunday Star Wars!

Sunday Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Vol. 04 Catastrophe Con by Simon Spurrier and Kev Walker

Some spoilers ahead.

This is the most conflicted I’ve been when it comes to poor, tortured Chelli Aphra. On one hand, some of the dialogue in the second and third issues of this volume make for a downright gag-inducing reaction. Some of the jokes are bad, owed to the kind of self-referential humour you’d get from someone who is all too-aware of the Star Wars franchise, rather than from someone who lives and breathes in the universe.

On the other hand…in the later issues, some ridiculous awesomeness transpires, courtesy of everyone’s favourite Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader!

What I expected to be little more than a cameo turned into a full-blown appearance which, as always, had lasting consequences for our favourite evil archeaologist. He’s such an enormous part of Aphra’s identity in the Star Wars universe and whether by his absence or his presence, Vader’s shadow defines Aphra’s status quo and shapes her actions.

Speaking of, Aphra’s voice remains consistent with what the ever-brilliant Kieron Gillen set out in the first edition of Darth Vader and again in the first two volumes of this run of Doctor Aphra. The moments when Aphra goes to absolute insane degrees of singular purpose just to enrich herself and satisfy her curiosity…these are when this volume and run both are at its finest.

‘Sir’ knows Aphra so well.

Despite my complaints, some of the issues click and come together exactly because of Aphra’s personality, as well as thanks to the drama some of her supporting characters (Magna, in the picture above) bring to the table. The conflict is solid and the emotional highs are quite high.

I saw one of the two final twists coming a mile away, and I really wish the author hadn’t gone with what he did — but I’ll admit to being morbidly curious as to how Aphra will get out of her latest gauntlet.

I find that I’ve gotten exhausted by evil C-3PO-alike, Triple Zero, as well as by his little astromech helper. Though that problem is somewhat addressed, I’d gladly see the once-amusing droid come to an unfortunate end in the next volume. He’s overstayed his welcome as is.

My score for this is a very tentative 3.5 out of 5 stars – I wanted to go higher, I wanted to go lower. I hope the next volume doesn’t suffer from some of the problems of this one. If you’ve stuck around for this long…Catastrophe Con still makes for an engaging Doctor Aphra story, despite some issues.

I read this through Comixology’s Unlimited Subscription – sweet!

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande – Book Review

It’s rare that you find a book on sentence construction that has so warm a tone. June Casagrande’s It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Longest of Titles is an excellent guide on writing, chock-full of common and uncommon issues that plague the amateur and the intermediate writer alike.

“A writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences,” the cover quips at you, and with good reason — why, only yesterday I wrote a sentence so sharp, my fingers are still bleeding. Casagrande offers so much in this tiny 220-page package; her half-amusing hatred of semi-colons alone makes the price of admission well worth it.

What topics can you look forward to reading about? Murderous conjuctions, unparalleled parallels, gerunds to dream nightmares of, and my favourite – short versus long sentences. Plus, appendixes full of well-explained grammar, punctuation and more. It ain’t Tolkien-level extensive but it’s English, not Elvish.

A small complaint – as someone who has studied English for a long time now, plenty of the grammar explanations were at a very basic level. If you’re a grammar noobie, though, this might offer some extra value!

Jokes aside, I learned a lot from this one. Some of the concepts introduced in the chapters, I knew at an intuitive level. Others were familiar. A few surprised me. Either way, I’m glad to have a deeper understanding than I did before, thanks to Casagrande’s approachable book. I’ll be coming back to it time and again. In fact…

I’m planning on writing a post for each chapter of the book over the coming weeks – I’ll need something to do come summer!

The World Maker Parable by Luke Tarzian – Book Review

Self-Published
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 140
Format: ebook

This is an interesting short novel, whose strengths include worldbuilding, an all-encompassing sense of mystery and intrigue, plenty of misdirection and a hell of a clincher.

But first, lend me your ear. It’s okay, come ‘ere, come a wee bit closer. I’ve a secret to tell you — the only reason I wanted to read this book was the design. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s really good design, though – and it extends past the gorgeous cover. The two PoV characters each receive page-wide character pieces, at once minimalistic and very stylized. Wonderful work, truly.

The World Maker Parable is a game of misdirection. How things are is never certain, always in flux, ever in doubt. The characters of Rhona and Varésh are as unreliable a pair of narrators as you’re likely to find on short notice, and both of them are haunted hounded by past mistakes. There’s enough there to make you connect with them early on, both Rhona and Varésh have something to

The language is a draw…most of the time. This is highly stylized prose, both in speech and in description, and it is well-written. Often, it strikes deep. Sometimes, however, it feels a tad clichéd, a little too familiar. And once or twice, you can even hold the author suspect of trying too hard:

With utopia comes darkness. Every candle lit is another shadow cast. Perfection is a lie. Law requires chaos. It is a vicious circle; one I fear we have realized far too late.

“A little too thick on the universal truths there,” I thought as I read this particular paragraph. Despite that, I enjoyed this one. It was a quick, pleasant read that took me a little over an hour, and it was an hour filled with plenty of surprises, each of them more delightfully dark than the previous ones.

The World Maker Parable is a story of guilt and lost love, and the depths of depravity duty might lead you to. I think, if it were another thirty pages shorter, it would’ve been even stronger. It’s not that it isn’t – but the punch it packs by the closing pair of chapters could’ve been even stronger.

Some of the novel, I disliked. The accents to names and words — especially those I saw as unnecessary or as making little sense — really bothered me. That’s very When it comes down to it, I often find myself disliking the use of fictional words, and those found in the Parable weren’t used in a way that made me overcome this dislike. I also caught a number of typos, annoying little mistakes that they are, early on in the novel.

My score for The World Maker Parable is a 4 out 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

This review was part of the World Maker Parable blog tour! Thanks to Timy and Justine for organising this, and for offering me a copy of the book for the review.

Sunday Star Wars: Kanan First Blood – Comic Book Review

Somehow I managed to miss out on talking about the final issue of the previous volume, The Last Padawan, reviewed last week here. All the more power to me, as it was very open-ended – I’m lucky to be able to read both volumes practically in bulk, I’d have chewed my leg off if I had to wait for months at an end for the resolution of the Rebels side-plot at play.

First Blood reads like two of my favourite types of Star Wars stories – a typical Clone Wars TV series adventure wrapped up in a shorter, Kanan-centric Rebels episode script. The Clone Wars portion of this one is a direct prequel to the events of The Last Padawan, and sees the young Caleb strike a connection with Jedi Master DEPA BILLABA after her recovery from severe injuries at the robotic hands of GENERAL GREVIOUS*.

If this Clone Wars-era story were animated, it would most likely be a two-parter, the first one taking place on the Jedi Temple at Coruscant, the second seeing Caleb and Billaba battle against Separatist forces in the Outer Rim. The culmination here is a battle between Billaba and Grevious happening at the same time as Caleb faces off a Kabe Warrior, one of a race of grey-skinned humanoids encountered over one of Asajj Ventress’ arcs in the Clone Wars series. The Kobe warriors are proficient in the martial arts, and this one makes for an acceptable secondary antagonist.

Looks a bit like a some kind of a fallen Jedi, I thought upon seeing him first.

I continued enjoying every panel that showed Master Billaba – she’s at once vulnerable and resolute, and her connection with Caleb was fun to explore. Caleb himself – the young padawan boy, as opposed to Kanan, wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as in The Last Padawan, but that’s understandable. He goes through such a fascinating transformation

As for the Rebels sections, I enjoyed those well enough – seeing Kanan come to terms with what he went through over that first volume made for several excellent character moments, and I never say no to time spent with that delightful group of rebellious kiddos that is the Rebels cast.

What more is there to say? If you enjoy Star Wars, if you like Rebels and Clone Wars, this is a fun story with characters you already love. If you don’t…this isn’t going to win you over in any way. My score is a hint lower than the previous volume’s, at 3.75/5 stars.

*I don’t know why I suddenly began to mimic the opening crawl of a Star Wars movie but by Jim I like it!

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence – Book Review

Release Date: 21 April 2020
Published by: ACE
Genre: Fucked if I know. Fantasy, sci-fi elements.
Pages: 369
Format: Hardback
Review Copy:  Courtesy of the author.

The Girl and the Stars is a spectacular opening act to what promises to be one of the finest trilogies of this new decade*.

So many of my fellow bloggers have spoken to the quality of Mark Lawrence’s writing, a fact I have only the barest hint of experience with, in the form of Prince of Thorns, Mark’s debut. I had high expectations but… It’s no stretch to say that they were overcome, with remarkable ease, by this latest release.

I hesitate to call The Girl and the Stars a fantasy novel – chock-full with sci-fi elements, it reminds me of the writing of Zelazny and Gene Wolfe more than anything else in how seamlessly it falls under the cap of speculative fiction; the world is, though its characters might not realize it, a post-apocalyptic one. That’s the speculative fiction trifecta right there! Don’t draw any conclusions yet, though – Lawrence might make use of many different genre conventions but in doing so, he makes of them a homogenous mass. Otherworldly is a term often used for fantasy novels, rarely so apt as it is for The Girl and the Stars.

It is a triumph of the imagination, and a wonder. The characters are relatable and deeply human, even those you’d least expect to be. Helming the series is lead character Yaz, a young woman of the Ichta tribe torn away from her family and the life on the ice she has always known:

She lived a life in the jaws of the wind, her eyes trained to find meaning within a hundred shades of white and grey. She lived as a singular mote of warmth upon a vast and lifeless wilderness.

Yaz is forced into the subterranean darkness** of a hole in which the broken children of the tribes – those too different to survive the cold of the ice – are thrown. Lawrence does an excellent job creating a world in the throes of ice, a cruel surface that holds an ever-present danger…only to throw Yaz into a world beyond the one she could’ve imagined, and one she is unprepared for. How could anyone be prepared? The world below the ice is alien – warmer, holding buried secrets and ancient threats. But also the promise of a life different to the one Yaz has spent her whole life living.

I adore the abilities Yaz and those other survivors in the hole have, what Yaz thinks of as magic but is hinted to be something different at one time or another. Mark does a wonderful job introducing how each gift works, and then exploits all of them in unexpected ways at just the right moment. The results are nothing less than a series of thrills.

I admire the way the author shapes a culture like that of the Ichta early on: “Even in their tents they wore mittens anytime that fine tasks were not required. It was easy to forget that people even had fingers.” Look at the way he makes of these people something unique. Through describing so small a thing, he’s already differentiated the Ichta in a memorable way, and has introduced a motif that has an effect on Yaz throughout – skin contact. The prose is brilliant at this throughout – introducing small details and not just calling back to them but using them to the best effect imaginable, creating the illusion in the reader that every detail has some hidden meaning.

Lawrence does an excellent job in exploring several themes throughout the 370-page count of this novel. The questioning of the nature of compromise is present throughout – does survival in the harshness excuse the sacrifice of those who are born different or broken? That’s a question Yaz is drawn to time and again. She is also drawn towards the need to know herself, in a way that mirrors the obsession one of the most fascinating antagonists in the novel, Theus. Something else that haunts the pages is the mention of “fire and glory,” or “Greatness, torment and fire.” Look out for that one.

As for the ending…I have three words for it***: Such sweet torment. Questions linger, a score of them at least. It’s going to be a long wait until the next one – lucky for me, I have plenty of Mark Lawrence’s books to catch up on in the meanwhile. My score for this masterpiece is 6/5, 11/10! 

P.S. If you, like me, enjoy listening to music while reading books, a couple of soundtracks work wonders as background – Austin Wintory’s soundtracks for Banner Saga 2 & 3, and Piotr Musiał’s Frostpunk score.

*If Mr. Lawrence disappoints us down the line, I say we lynch him! Or, if that’s not your thing, write a strongly worded letter.

** This is incidentally the second excellent fantasy book telling the story of a young woman surviving underground through what seems at times sheer force of will I’ve read this year, the first being Rob J. Hayes’ Along the Razor’s Edge.

*** I have a lot more than three words, but the book hasn’t yet been released. I would, in fact, like to scream bloody murder – maybe in a couple of weeks? A deep dive? Do I hear an amen?!