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Dec

22

Review: Grave Peril

By pcurd

Grave Peril
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been using this book as a go-to audio book for long drives so my “read” has been spread over maybe a year. This is also my second go through so I do have memories of the later stories and how characters turn out after more development.

Butcher sidelines a main character for most of this story to allow some new ones to be introduced, and it feels like lazy writing. Later on he gets better about changing the dynamics but right now I think the story was complex enough to have allowed a better approach. Still, the characters enlarged (and introduced) are good, different (from each other and from existing), and interesting. I don’t think the dialogue that, for me, marks the series is fully developed here – one more book and Butcher’s skill begins to shine through.

Harry faces one of his many Superman moments (having his powers disabled), which is a common theme in all modern supernatural books, through this story and instead of being boring it shows his fallible, human side. Perhaps overplayed but never out of place, his ignorance of the wider magical universe is well handled – Bob remains an important source of world building and exposition without being an overwhelming info dump.

Overall, not a bad story but I fear too many ideas are jostling for time without there being any real clarity on what Butcher wants you to focus on.

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Dec

22

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By pcurd

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best Harry Potter book I think, although Half Blood Prince is a strong contender. Once I got to 80% through I couldn’t help but read the rest, the ending is so good. There are no sub plots in this book (which is why it went to two movies I guess) and there is almost no filler.

There are a few things I’d change, and some areas I’m desperate for more information about, but it’s a compelling story with a few twists to give older readers and invested fans alike something extra.

Harry is miserable in this book, for all of it. You can understand why – gone is (most of) the teenage angst from the early books, instead we have grown up problems and grown up reactions. The story peaks as the battle between good and evil meets head on – it’s classic stuff but the story doesn’t have to be complex to be enjoyable. The main thing I disliked was the cheapness of some of the deaths in the story – to give the world a grim sense of fatalism I think they should have been spread out across more of the story and even over the earlier books rather than chucking a bunch in at the end.

But the story would have no payoff if you haven’t read the earlier books, you do have to stick with Harry through most of it to really benefit – which is a shame as some of the early ones really aren’t as good.

One day I’ll get the urge to re-read them again and it will be this book, and the memories of power reading the last few chapters, that convinces me to do it.

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Dec

14

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By pcurd

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The opening chapter of this book is possibly the best J.K. Rowling has written – it’s an excellently composed scene which fills you with excitement for the upcoming story and covers all the back story you need. It’s a marvellous introduction to a great story. Sadly the next few chapters slow down, and the middle of the book isn’t as compelling. I probably binged the first third in a few hours, but the middle third took a week at least. The last third picks up again and is almost un-put-downable.

The darkness of the plot really marks this as the turning point, it’s no longer a children’s book series and becomes a young adult series. Evil is rife in Harry’s world and everything is changing. After spending so much time in these stories (6 years by this point) it’s interesting to see how different the same people and same locations can become.

I really wish the middle had been edited tighter, the entire Quidditch sub plot feels unnecessary for example, but it’s still a good story.

The final few scenes are powerful, and I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t leave themselves enough time to read the entirety in one go!

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Dec

9

Review: Sharpe’s Fortress

By pcurd

Sharpe's Fortress
Sharpe’s Fortress by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is last book of the introduction trilogy – written considerably after the first Sharpe book – and it was clearly written with the ending in mind (it of course can’t change Sharpe’s history, but only clarify it). That being said, as someone who didn’t know what would happen (I haven’t read the “later” books) it wasn’t boring or predictable. Sharpe remains an enjoyable character, and the secondary characters are still believable and well rounded. Baddies are complex, mostly (with one notable exception..), and good guys are thin on the ground.

The historical details are excellent as always and Cornwell has clearly done his homework. Whilst a triumphant period of British history, it’s never clear whether the spread of British Rule is a good thing for India or not. The complexity of the campaign is carried over into the story and the early career of the future Duke of Wellington is a secondary theme throughout rather than overwhelming. This style of explaining the past by telling a good story is a Cornwell specialty and it’s here in spades.

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