Northern Lights – Not gathering dust on my shelves

With The Book of Dust announced (fairly) recently for release in October, I was reminded of the trilogy I never finished, and was driven back to its pages to rediscover what I missed the last time. Northern Lights was read to me when I was younger – why it was only book one and not the rest of His Dark Materials, I do not know – but I decided it was high time that I revisited the tale, and go the whole hog this time. Now you may have seen the film adaptation The Golden Compass (Weitz:2007), but whatever your opinions of that, stick with me here, because the book has plenty more to offer.

Before starting Northern Lights, I remembered most of the main beats of the story from being familiar with the film version. As a 10-year-old, I had no quarrel with The Golden Compass. Now though, revisiting Pullman’s world as it was originally intended, it’s much easier to see the glaring holes left by the filmmakers.

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The Black Magician Trilogy – A slow burner, but a delight

Trudi Canavan’s fantasy trilogy has been sat on my bookshelves for longer than I care to admit (I’m talking years here). After snatching them up at a secondhand bookshop for an absolute bargain, they always seemed to be at the bottom of my reading list. So a few weeks ago I finally picked them up to read, and it baffles me that it took me so long.

We are brought into the trilogy with the first volume The Magicians’ Guild, which tells the story of our heroine Sonea, a slum girl who is discovered to have unprecedented magical abilities. She treads a fine line between the Thieves (who essentially run the slums) and the Guild, who are tracking her down every step of the way. All magicians must be admitted to the Guild for training, and though Sonea doesn’t know it, for safety. But when the Magicians’ Guild are a bunch of jumped up posh-kids, who have never done anything for the people of slums except drive them out during the annual Purge, joining their ranks doesn’t exactly seem like the most appealing option. While the Guild frantically search for her, Sonea’s fate rests on her powers: how quickly they will develop, how strong they will get, and how long before she loses control.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Poetic and poignant

Today, I finished the latest book on my shelf: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. And maybe you haven’t heard of it, but I needed to write something about it. Anything. Because hell does this book deserve it.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Ari and Dante are a pair of teenage boys, living in El Paso. They are opposing forces. Ari loses himself to thoughts of his imprisoned brother, while Dante loses himself to poetry. Ari isn’t the best at communicating, while Dante is skilled with words. Ari is filled with insecurity where Dante is filled with self-confidence. But during the summer that they meet, their lives are intertwined on a journey of growth and friendship. A journey of discovering the truths of the world.

And doesn’t that sound like the most terrifying journey of all to a teenager?

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More Than This – The essence of adolescence

After finishing A Song of Ice and Fire, this was a step in a very different direction – with a totally different audience, style of story, and narrative voice. But I rarely have room for anything but praise when it comes to Patrick Ness, and this book was no exception. (Seriously, look him up. Even if not for the books, he is a refreshingly welcome voice on Twitter).

More Than This is about a boy called Seth who, in the first few pages, drowns. He dies. Then he wakes up. Where is he? What does this mean? Why has he woken up? Why has he woken up here?  Questions upon questions, and Seth is alone to discover if there is perhaps more to this life than he ever believed.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Well here’s where I say that Patrick Ness has done it again: an original, arresting, heartbreaking, uplifting tale, that will stay with me for a long time.

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A Song of Ice and Fire – Colossal, complex, consuming

So it seems I have finally closed the book on George R.R. Martin’s wondrous world of Westeros (and Essos as well, but that didn’t fit with the alliteration). What a journey it’s been these last 18 months, travelling the length and breadth of the Seven Kingdoms, and more, with the likes of Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow. All over now.

I’ve hit that lull that happens when a series is over, and I’ve been reading it so long that it feels almost wrong to have another book in my hands. (Of course, as you would expect, all of my highest recommendations come with this series … but you’d have to be a pretty dedicated reader/fantasy fan/TV show fan to make the commitment I think; they’re not necessarily an easy read, and there’s a lot to keep track of). But I just wanted to share something of my thoughts, while finishing them feels like such a milestone.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

These books are so intense and rich it’s staggering. George R.R. Martin thrusts his reader right into the middle of his world unapologetically, and they’re instantly immersed. One of the things that I find so amazing is the depth of the world itself. It is colossal. From the Wall to King’s Landing to Dorne, and across the Narrow Sea to Qarth and Meereen and Braavos … it’s all so vast and yet so detailed. Martin’s creative abilities are unbelievable. And that’s without even mentioning his characters, who are some of the most real characters, I think it’s safe to say, I have ever come across. And the thing that makes them so, is the ambiguity within them. Let me explain.

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Dissension: The Work-in-Progress Act of Penance – The Patreon campaign

The eagle eyed among you may have recognised the style of the title from a post I wrote a few months ago, and that would be because I’m talking about the same books. (If you didn’t recognise it and are feeling left out, or you need to jog your memory, my previous post is here for you to peruse at your pleasure). And if you’re too lazy to do that – which would be a crying shame because that’s a good post, if I do say so myself – then you can have a little catch up…

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Attrition: The First Act of Penance is the first novel in a trilogy of fantasy fiction penned by the talented S.G. Night, and self-published by him at the age of 18. It’s a fantastic book and comes with all my highest recommendations of course. There’s a synopsis and more of a review in that post I mentioned earlier if you think it sounds like your cup of tea.

Well, now S.G. Night finds himself writing his Second Act of Penance, a student and self-published author, as yet unrepresented by a commercial publishing house … however, that could well be set to change, should the winds blow in his favour. Anyway, this now brings me to the point of my writing this post (finally, right?) which is this: Night has set up a Patreon campaign for Dissension: The Second Act of Penance.

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Attrition: The First Act of Penance – The new fantasy superpower

There’s a new player in fantasy fiction, and it’s going straight into the big leagues.

Of course, that’s my personal opinion, but as a lover of fantasy I can highly recommend S.G. Night’s Attrition as a shining example of fantasy at its best. I’ll give you a basic run-down, shall I?

The story takes place in the world of Io, which has been suffering under the oppression of the Demonic Dominion for over a century. The demons exiled the elves, all but enslaved the humans, and almost completely wiped out the Majiski battle-mages…almost. Racath Thanjel is one of those Majiski, now living in the shadows as an assassin, and fighting against the demons, but the assassins’ leader seems to be keeping more secrets than the demons themselves. Racath is plunged into the fight and forced to choose his destiny. Can he become the saviour Io needs, or are the demons to great a force to overcome?

**SPOILER FREE POST**

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