William
William

William

William is from Sussex, UK.

He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.

God of Vengeance (The Rise of Sigurd) by Giles Kristian - Book Review 05, Feb

"It is wiser to stand in front of the bear than to turn his back to him.”

 

After reading Giles Kristian’s Raven trilogy and then Lancelot and Camelot, I was certain that this would be a 5-star read. I was not disappointed.

 

God of Vengeance is book one of The Rise of Sigurd, Giles Kristian’s prequel trilogy to Raven.  This is the beginning of an epic Viking saga tale about Sigurd, who begins as a young man. A fantastic story that was great to listen to on Audiobook, narrated by the fantastic Philip Stevens.

 

Sigurd is the younger son of Jarl Harold, an inexperienced warrior who yearns to prove himself to both his father and brothers. But, unbeknown to him, he will receive more opportunities to become a warrior than even he would like. This is a tale of a pursuit of vengeance, where Sigurd with a small band of allies fights to survive, with the goal to one day get revenge on King Gorm, the Oathbreaker, who betrayed and killed Sigurd’s father and brothers.

 

“As with all the stories, there's always smoke before the fire kindles.”

 

As always, Giles Kristian’s prose shines through in the narration by Philip Stevens. I would say that the pacing of this story was perfect, with the fantastic blend of characterisation, action and intrigue for my tastes. This is somehow made even better by the fantastic reading by Philip Stevens, who has a voice that completely immerses you into Kristian’s gritty, authentic, dangerous world.

 

One of the strongest aspects of God of Vengeance is the characters. From Sigurd himself, to the bloodthirsty priest Asgot, to the steadfast Olaf and the frenzied Black Floki. In this, Kristian again forms a band of warriors, each with their own distinguishable characteristics that makes them all unique. He forms the tone and atmosphere of such a band brilliantly, showing the tensions between each other but equally the camaraderie they forge through the blood of their enemies.

 

Part of what creates such an immersive experience is how Giles Kristian makes sure to omit modern sayings, and instead adopts seemingly authentic Norse figures of speech. Combined with the historical detail, this immersed me into the beginning of this tale of the rise of Sigurd.

 

“Even the old hounds can bite.”

 

Overall, God of Vengeance is a great first instalment in The Rise of Sigurd trilogy. The plot, prose, narration and everything else blend together to craft a fantastic experience. Whilst The Rise of Sigurd is a prequel to the Raven series, you can begin with this.

 

 

5/5 STARS

 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - Book review 29, Jan

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

 

The Song of Achilles was a unique, thoroughly enjoyable take on the story of Troy and in particular, that of Achilles. I have always loved Greek Mythology, the tales of Greece, of both fantasy and history. The Song of Achilles combines both, presenting a gritty realistic world, and then introduces a great dose of magic and mythology.

 

The story is told solely from the perspective of Patroclus, a noble who is raised by the father of Achilles. It is here he meets the legend we know today as a young teenager.

 

Madeline Miller, in a similar book to her other novel, Circe, masterfully crafts her world, slowly and carefully dripping information to the reader in a bearable manner that still pushes plot forward. There was not a single moment that I noticed was just exposition, and this was not in detriment to the story, as I found myself to have a complete visualisation of the world Patroclus was living in. The prose is not particularly incredible, and I would say not as fluid as in Circe, as Miller has obviously perfected her style, but it is simple and effective.

 

“Odysseus inclines his head. "True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another." He spread his broad hands. "We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?" He smiles. "Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.”

 

It would have been easy to rely too much on the dramatic irony that we as the reader know much of the story, or to spend less time on characterisation as many readers would be familiar with the heroic figures, But Madeline Miller took those great elements and the familiarity of the topic, and added her own spin to keep the story equally as interesting as if it was completely new.

 

“There are no bargains between lion and men”

 

Perhaps one of my only criticisms would be that what is preventing this being an all-out 5-star read for me was that the beginning third was just a bit too slow. I felt that there was a bit of space where characterisation and plot had been cemented enough to advance the pace, but it continued to plateau, until the second phase began. This is not to say it was not enjoyable. It is just that I thought the rest of the story was brilliant, and the beginning in comparison was a bit weaker.

 

I listened to Song of Achilles on Audiobook, narrated by David Thorpe. It was a good experience, and definitely a story you can listen to without being confused. I thought that the performance by David Thorpe was solid, and enjoyable, being above the norm, but not perhaps brilliant in my opinion. He is very good at slowly building tension and narrating moments of calm, whereas I felt at times a but more passion or urgency would have improved the experience during some of the action scenes.

 

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” 

 

Overall, The Song of Achilles was a great experience. It was about Greek Mythology, which I love, specifically about Troy, from the Iliad, arguably one of the greatest stories of all time, and was formed into a well-crafted story with fantastic characters by Madeline Miller. The story was given an interesting new spin that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

 

4.25/5 STARS

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - Book Review 25, Jan

‘Adults follow paths. Children explore’

 

I listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane on Audible, narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. A story about childhood struggles, growing up, coming to terms with the world, and of course, magic. It was beautiful and sometimes brutal. It is Neil Gaiman's melancholic tone that emanated from his every word wonderfully brought the pages to life in what a found to be a great read.

 

This is a short novel, which revolves around a nameless central narrator, who returns to the house they grew up in as an adult. On walking along long forgotten paths, memories start to flood back, and he reminisces and contemplates times he thought long forgotten. This is a retrospective tale that sensitively shows memories that are vague, but realistically highlights traumatic moments in visceral detail in a way that really ties you to the story and central character.

 

“Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

 

As always, Neil Gaiman’s prose can only be praised. He has somehow unlocked a mythic quality to his writing that just exudes the very tone and sense he seems to be striving for. That mix of childhood naivety with the regrets of adulthood are conveyed perfectly, and this was made even better somehow through his own narration. As I have already said, Neil Gaiman narrated The Ocean at the End of the Lane as if the world really did weigh on his shoulders, as it seems to do so with the narrator. Having listened to him reading other books, I know that he adapted his tone for this purpose, and that makes it even more impressive.

 

It is set in Sussex, with a young boy who tackles struggling relationships with parents, and is suddenly faced by the realisation that they are not the flawless idols he previously believed. This throws his entire life out of balance, and is where much of the fantastical element of the story comes in. What is brilliant is that this could easily be argued to be Neil Gaiman presenting the defence mechanism of a child to cope with shocking events, or maybe there are monsters and magical creatures who step in to help and withdraw then they are no longer needed.

 

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

 

What prevents this being proclaimed as a 5-star read is perhaps that I would have liked to have a closer relationship with our central characters, as well perhaps know more about what the narrator did with much of his life when this story of his childhood concluded. Whilst this was not have changed the story, I think they would have just added that bit more depth that would gave moved this story into one of my favourites.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an easy, beautifully written story that beautifully tells the story of the loss of childhood innocence. If you enjoy audiobooks, I would strongly recommend that you go find the version of this narrated by Neil Gaiman. 

 

 4.25/5 STARS