The Truth–Terry Pratchett

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I know, I know, more Discworld. I’m on a bit of a Terry Pratchett kick at the moment.

This one is a parody of what happens when journalism starts. It makes me wonder a bit about how it actually did go down when they first started doing newspapers. Regardless, a proto-journalist gets involved with some dwarves with a printing press and starts a newspaper.

The leader of the city is accused of stabbing his clerk and running away but that doesn’t sound like him and so they are out to find the truth.

Of course, everyone in the city almost immediately decides that the junk news in the Inquirer is more interesting, so it’s not as gratifying as he initially thought it would be.

There are a pair of foreign henchmen hired by the people framing the Patrician that are clear parodies of Travolta and Jackson in Pulp Fiction, which is SO FUNNY. Every time they come onto the page it’s hysterical. Their interactions with Death are also comedy gold.

Regardless, he tracks down the truth with the help of his only reporter, an informant that happens to be a talking dog, his homeless paper boys, and his vampire photographer. It’s a complicated and messy situation, and he finds that he’s part of the story and not just the reporter.

The City Watch gets a solid supporting role in this book, which is nice because the watch is always fun to see in action, but the bulk of this book is centered on William de Worde and his fledgling newspaper operation.

I always recommend the Disc World books because they are so funny and so clever.

 

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The Fifth Elephant–Terry Pratchett

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Two Discworld books in 3 weeks. I know. I’m sorry. I was in a Discworld groove.

I’ve said repeatedly that my favorite subset of the Discworld books is the witches, but my second favorite is the city watch books. This is a city watch book and it’s really good.

It builds on relationships and character information we’ve learned over the course of the several books, which is fairly imperative to fully understanding the book.

Main characters: Commander Vimes, head of the city watch of Ankh-Morpork and recently created Duke of the city due to his marriage to Lady Sybil

Carrot: raised as a dwarf, but actually the heredity king of Ankh-Morpork. He’s a fundamentally good person who just wants to be a good policeman.

Angua: Carrot’s girlfriend and fellow watch member. She’s a werewolf.

Cheery: a dwarf in the city watch, expressing the new (and scandalous) idea that dwarfs can be male and female instead of functionally unisex.

Detritus: a troll in the city watch.

The land of Uberwald–which we met in the last book–is the land of vampires, werewolves, dwarfs and other magical creatures. The dwarfs are electing a new king, and the leader of Ankh-Morpork is sending Vimes, his wife, and the three watchmen that hail from that region (Angua, Cheery, and Detritus) to the coronation.

But Angua’s gone missing. Carrot is tracking her. So Vimes takes Cheery and Detritus.

There are issues afoot. The stone the dwarfs are crowned on (the scone of stone, which is HYSTERICAL if you know anything about how the Scottish royals did things) has been stolen. The replica in a museum in Ankh-Morpork has been stolen, and a man who makes rubber casts of things has been murdered. This isn’t hard to figure out–someone is making a replica of the scone of stone. The question is 1) how did they steal the real one and 2) who’s doing this?

The vampires are far more benevolent in this book than in the last book. The werewolves are a major issue, though. They’re working to destabilize the dwarf political system and trigger a civil war so they can grab power. Bad dogs.

As always, these books are full of clever little gems. I really loved this one. It’s probably one of my favorites thus far.

 

 

The Hero of Ages–Brandon Sanderson

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This is the final book of the Mistborn trilogy (although not the final book in the series, apparently? FictFact lists several more) and it is, I think, the best of the three.

In the first book we’re introduced to a world where the God lives among them and is cruel. The common people are oppressed and the nobility have among them people with the power to ingest and use metals to activate special abilities (enhanced sight or strength, for example). We meet a group of people hoping to overthrow the Lord Ruler and create a better world.

The overthrow works, although not as planned, and a new government arises. The second book deals with the attempt to set up and modify the new government to make it equitable. It’s harder than you think to change the world.

In this book, we see the world in a state of collapse. The ash from the volcanoes is coming harder and faster, burying the plants and bringing the real risk of starvation everywhere. The mists, which had previously been harmless, now kill some of the people who are exposed to them. The mists are coming earlier in the day and dissipating later, making the window of time where anyone can farm or travel shorter.

The emperor and his wife are trying to bring the rebel cities under the banner of the empire so they can consolidate the population in a more defensible position, while also trying to defeat the koloss armies that are roaming the world. These kolass are not unlike trolls, large and violent and terrifying.

They’re also seeking out the location of hidden storage caverns the Lord Ruler put into place before his death, which contain supplies that can sustain the empire and perhaps a key to destroying the evil force that is trying to end the world.

The end was not as I expected. I really appreciated that he tied together all the strands of plot and background, strands I hadn’t even realized WERE strands, thinking them to just be characters. This was beautifully done. Definitely read the previous two books first, don’t just jump in here.

 

 

The Last Continent–Terry Pratchett

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I vastly prefer the entries in the Discworld series that focus on the witches, but I’m reading the entire series because 1) they’re generally hilarious and 2) I’m a completionist by nature.

In this book, a handful of wizards find a window to another location and wander out of it, only to find themselves stranded there with a shape changing orangutan and their housekeeper. Eventually they realize that they’re not just in a different location, they’ve traveled back in time thousands of years.

We see them trying to get off the island and get back to their own time, an endeavor that includes a meeting with an atheist deity, which…sure. Ok.

On the other side of the book we have perpetual favorite Rincewind, who is stranded on the Discworld version of Australia. A talking kangaroo keeps following him and trying to help him save the world, which they know he can do because he did it in the past. The entire thing is honestly a bit confusing, even if you’re familiar with the randomness of the Discworld books.

The best part about this book, and indeed, the best part about ALL the Discworld books, is the random zaniness of the humor. It’s absurdity at its most absurd, and mostly what Pratchett does is gently mock aspects of our own world. In this case, he’s mocking the time-travel trope and all things Australian.

This is a big series with many different sub-series that are only really tied together because they take place in the same universe. You can think of it like the Marvel universe, with different series following the various superheroes.

I am reading these in the order of publication because that’s how I started the series and that’s how I roll. But it’s far more advisable to read them in their own order, much as you would read, say, all the Spider-Man comics at once. To that end, various people have come up with different reading orders but the generally accepted version has been summarized in a chart here. Don’t do what I’m doing unless you like to take huge gaps in following the characters in each sub-series.

The Well of Ascension–Brandon Sanderson

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This is the second book in this series and I had a few concerns about it going in. In the first book, the entire plan was to overthrow the God/ruler of the world and set up a more equitable government. Of course, we all know that dramatic violent coups are fun to watch happen while setting up a system of effective government, not so much. Game of Thrones can’t even make it interesting and they have dragons to work with.

On the other hand, Sanderson did save the Wheel of Time series and for that I would read anything he wrote with at least some expectation of success.

And this book is interesting. The new king is a nice guy and is, therefore, not great at his job. He’s trying to turn kingship into a form of democracy and it’s not a combination that is working that well, and the main surviving character from the previous book is working overtime as his bodyguard to keep him alive from the many, many people who want to overthrow him and start fresh with something closer to the old regime.

Fairly early on in the book the city is under siege from multiple armies and assassins from the armies and factions inside the city are tearing up the streets at night. Everyone is trapped and grumpy.

Added to that, there are some people still working on unraveling the mysteries from the first book. The now overthrown God had started life as a regular person who fulfilled a prophecy, but when he died it became obvious he wasn’t the person who was supposed to fulfill the prophecy, which might be why he was such an unpleasant leader. And there’s some question about whether or not the prophecy actually really was fulfilled. If the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled, could finding the right person and fulfilling it make a difference in the general terribleness of the current situation?

I’m so over prophecies as a plot device, but beyond that, this was an interesting book and a solid continuation of the first book in the series.

Maskerade–Terry Pratchett

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Terry Pratchett’s books are always so funny and playful. There are several different strands of characters that recur in different books. This one is one of the ones that follows the lives of small-town witches.

They’re looking for a third witch (their previous apprentice having recently married the king) and they have an idea for who would be a good apprentice. Unfortunately, she’s moved to the big city to pursue her dream of being an opera singer.

This book follows the concept of “Phantom of the Opera” but in the wacky, alternative world that is Terry Pratchett’s head. The apprentice, Agnes, is an exceptionally talented singer, but very large (the proverbial “fat lady” of the opera) and therefore, isn’t getting much in the way of parts. Another girl who started at the same time as Agnes is lacking in all talent, but has a rich family that donated to the opera house and is also beautiful, so she’s getting a lot of attention.

There’s a phantom in the opera that moves things around and demands access to a box every performance. But lately he’s started to get in a murderous mood and people are dying.

Christine and Agnes switch rooms, which is how Agnes receives the secret nighttime singing lessons from the phantom. For the performance, they have Christine sing quietly while Agnes sings loudly behind the curtain.

Meanwhile, the phantom continues to kill people, and the witches are in town to lure Agnes back. They come into the opera house and track down the phantom and pull Agnes out of the soul-crushing world of opera and everyone lives happily ever after. As indeed, is the Terry Pratchett way.

Sword of Avalon–Diana L Paxton

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This is the last published book in the Avalon series, although it’s not the last in the series timeline, which is not in any way linear. If you want to go via the series timeline you’ll be reading completely out of publication order. This one falls somewhat near the beginning–probably the second, maybe the third, in the timeline of the series.

Basically, these books are about the British Isles in and around the time of the Arthur legend, focused on the priestesses and druids of the early pagan religion in that area.

I appreciate the female-centric viewpoint and I really appreciate the control that the women have over their lives and the control they have over their countries and homes.

But these processes are very primitive in their own way. In this book, we see the beginning of the super creepy kingship ritual that we see the priestesses of Avalon use later in the timeline. This involves the prospective king fasting and drugging himself and then killing a massive stag with his bare hands and then sleeping with a virginal priestess.

This book also shows the moment when the control of the country started shifting from queens to kings, which is a bit bittersweet for a series that is so centered on female power.

In this book, we follow the journey of the queen’s son after his family is slaughtered as the priestesses of Avalon hide him and raise him to be part warrior and part priest. Then he’s kidnapped and sold into slavery and becomes trained as a warrior in Greece before heading back home to take on the guy who killed his family.

By the end he’s ruling with his priestess-consort and it’s the beginning of something entirely new for the country and it’s that which allows for the rise of Arthur and Merlin and the Arthurian legend.

These books are fun but intense. A lot of blood and a lot of sacrifice and intense religious experiences, but they’re good for people who are interested in early Celtic history, or who have an interest in Celtic paganism, or indeed, who like to see a fantasy series that focuses on women for a change.