Stephen King: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) (review)

wizard-and-glass2So after having loved the third volume in Stephen King’s amazing The Dark Tower series, I just continued straight on with the fourth book, Wizard and Class. The third book, The Waste Lands, sees the ka-tet fully formed with Eddie, Susannah and finally Jake (and Oy) as Roland’s partners on his quest to reach the tower. And it ended with a cliffhanger so I just needed to keep on reading – even though Wizard and Glass is the longest in the series with it’s 845 pages (my edition).
And it continues right where The Waste Lands left off. Our group of unlikely heroes have boarded Blaine the mono rail and are ready to try their luck at outsmarting him in a game of riddles, thus preventing him from killing himself while they’re still on board. Not an easy task since Blaine has seen it all and heard it all – he knows any and every riddle. Luckily – and necessarily because otherwise this book would not be 845 pages long – they manage to outsmart him and after having stepped out of the train, they find themselves … in Kansas, of all places.
But our group decides not to press on on their quest but instead, sit down, take it easy and listen to Roland tell the story of his youth, the story of why he is emotionally stunted and unable to love, the story of Susan.
And that’s pretty much the rest of the book. As young teenagers, Roland and his two best friends, Cuthbert and Alain, are sent away from home to keep them safe. But of course, they find themselves in even greater danger because they end up in a city strongly supporting the good man, John Farson; the man, the boys’ hometown Gilead is fighting against. The boys pretend to be send to count horses, fish nets and other things that can support in the battle against John Farson and quickly finds out that they are lied to by just about everyone in town.
Except Susan.
Roland and Susan meets accidentally one night and Roland walks her home – and that’s it. Roland is lost and in love. But Susan isn’t exactly free to fall in love and she comes with a past which may be important in the job, the boys are trying to do. So pretty soon, the young teenagers are sneaking off and making love all over and Susan is helping the boys with their attempt to prevent John Farson for getting what he wants.
But being young and in love isn’t always the best way to be when you are also trying to sneak around some very dangerous men and a whole town, in fact, so Roland’s friends are extremely worried. And for good reasons because if the men in town aren’t dangerous enough, there’s also a witch to take into account. A witch who finds herself the guardian of a pretty pink stone; a stone, which has powers – and a will! – of it’s own.
Even though it’s nice to get some backstory to Roland, I would have preferred it to be shorter, I think. I really like spending time with Eddie, Susannah, Jake, Oy and Roland and their attempt to get to the tower and in this book, we hardly get any closer. Well, we do a bit, but not much. And knowing Roland, we know that the love story will not be a happy one – and to add to this, King uses so so much foreshadowing to let us know that things will not turn out the way the young lovers want them too, that it actually gets to be a bit too much.
One think I did like was the riddle game in the beginning, played between Blaine the mono rail and our group of heroes. I’m pretty sure that King was inspired by Tolkien when writing this – the riddle game played by Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit (read an interesting post about it here), especially since both authors seem to emphasize the history of riddles and the tradition of riddle contests.
I also really liked the shout-outs to The Wizard of Oz even though I have to admit that I have neither watched nor read it. I have watched a little bit of it and I did like what I saw (and not only because Toto is a cairn terrier just like my Kayleigh (except a different color)) but I didn’t finish watching it because I hadn’t seen it from the beginning. Anyway, I liked how King incorporates elements from The Wizard of Oz into the book – and how Kansas apparently has a special connection to magical worlds!
I think if this book had been anything but a part of the Dark Tower series, I would have liked it a lot more – it just didn’t fit quite in to the series for me. Or maybe it will be a better read when one rereads the series and does know how it all ends and isn’t all eager to find out. All I know is that I didn’t feel the need to just read on in the series after finishing this book as I did after finishing the third volume. But it’s not a bad book, mind you – I realize this review makes it sound like a bad and boring book and it’s really not. It’s just not as good as The Waste Lands and that is very obvious when you read them back to back.

  • Title: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #3)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: New English Library – Hodder & Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 1997)
  • Pages: 845 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Stephen King: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) (review)

waste-lands‘Feed your need to read.’ (p. 156)
After the gathering of Susannah and Eddie in The Gathering of the Three, Roland’s ka-tet is to all appearances finished and the three set off for the Dark Tower. Roland teaches them the ways of the gunslinger to prepare them for whatever lies ahead – but also because he is slowly going mad. His mind is constantly arguing with itself about the boy Jake who travelled with Roland in The Gunslinger and was killed. Roland saved Jake from being killed in our world, thus preventing Jake from going to Roland’s world and dying there. This creates a paradox and now Roland has two sets of memories. Did Jake exist or not, did he die or not. These two strands of memories are pulling Roland apart in such a devastating way that he freely hands over his gun and knife, knowing that he might hurt Eddie and Susannah if he looses it completely – and still caries weapons.
But a ka-tet is nothing if not bound together by destiny and the members may be linked in more ways than they first thought. Eddie starts having weird dreams, dreams about a haunted house he remembers from his childhood. And in the corner of his eye, there’s a boy there. A boy watching him and his brother. A boy who is new.
In this novel, we get more glimpses and hints about what has happened to Roland’s world. It has changed, grown bigger and is at the same time slowly dying. And the dark tower is a part of this. The tower has guardians: huge, creepy half animal half robot creatures. We get the pleasure of meeting the giant bear Shardik. It is definitely a force to be reckoned with, as the trio finds out. As soon as I read the name Shardik, I knew it was a nod to Richard Adams and King plays it very cool, letting Eddie say: ‘I know that name, but I can’t place it. /…/ The thing is … /…/ I associate it with rabbits.’ Later in the book he does come out and names Adams as well as Watership Down but I loved the sly humor in this scene.
The bear guards the road to the tower. Everything is draw to the tower so the path is easy to follow when it has been found. Unfortunately this path leads them to the city of Lud, a city torn apart by war. But there they must go to continue their journey towards the tower.
King also manages to take a well-known children’s story and turn it into something scary and nasty. The story is about a train which only want to choo-choo along and enjoy the sky and the wind but which is pushed aside by a newer faster train but finally the old train gets it’s redemption and is allowed to carry children around an amusement park. My kids have that book – or a version of it anyhow – and now I’m scared to go find it and read it and most of all, I’m scared to look at the pictures. Because this train … this train is a serious freak!
For me, this was the best book so far in the The Dark Tower series. It was just pure pleasure to read it and I didn’t want to put it down. As always, King is a master story teller. There might be issues with his world building and with the connections between our world and Roland’s world – but who cares! It’s solid enough to make you pause and think over things and how the worlds are related but not so solid that you feel like you have to try to find small mistakes that can make the world building crumble.
My favorite (new) character in this novel is the dog-like creature Oy, a billy-bumbler. He is a clever, clever animal, dedicated and faithful, and even able to count and pronounce some syllables/words. He is indispensable in this novel and I’m just sad that he wandered into a King novel because the odds of him getting out of this alive, are not good. Not good at all.
In fact, now we know a tiny bit more about what we’re up against, I would be surprised if all our main characters will make it through to the tower.
So many times I’ve seen books marketed as ‘Harry Potter for adults’ etc (which is a bit weird since many adults, myself included, read Harry Potter). But if you’re looking for fantasy for an adult audience, this is it. King never shies back from anything. Here’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Yes, the sex is with a demon. Yes, the drugs are only in Eddie’s reminiscing and yes, the rock’n’roll is not easily recognizable at first – but that’s what gives it edge and makes it stand out.

dark tower ral

I began reading this series as part of the epic read-along of The Dark Tower hosted by The Stephen King Challenge blog – and I have written earlier that I was fallen behind – now I’m not sure quite how far along the read-along has come – or if it’s even going on any more but I’m still trotting along, slow but kind of steady…

  • Title: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: New English Library – Hodder & Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 1991)
  • Pages: 584 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

Related Posts:

Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) (review – audiobook)

All-Spell-Breaks-Loose-final-cover-186x300I have reached the end of this series! And there was much rejoicing! Now, don’t get me wrong. It has been an allright experience but it hasn’t been more than that and the books feel very similar. Except for specific plot details, I feel like I should just quote my review of the fifth book in the series, Con & Conjure, because I’m not sure how much new I have to say about the series as a whole or the narration of the audio books.

So things have never looked more grim for Raine Benares, the spunky seeker. After having been bonded to the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, since early in the first book in this series, things have been cumulatively going from bad to worse but now, things are really bad. Sarad Nukpana, psychopath par excellence, has finally succeeded in getting the Saghred and after a goblin attack on Mid, Raine, her boyfriend Mychael, her former umi’atso-bound friend Tam and others decides to head to the Goblin capital of Regor to get the Saghred back from Nukpana and put the renegade prince Chigaru Mal’Salin back on the throne as well as reunite him with his girlfriend who Nukpana intends to marry. But to get there, they have to rely on Raine’s arch enemy Sylvanus Carnades since he’s a mirror mage and the only one who can get them to Regor and back safely.

Only issue – or not really only – but one of the big issues is that Raine has lost her magic. The Saghred has shut her down. She tries to hide this and it is actually rather helpful for sneaking around in Regor, but of course she can’t hide it for long and that of course creates a whole new host of problems.

The trip to Regor gives Shearin the chance to let us meet more of Tam’s family as well as Nukpana’s mother, Tam’s former teacher Kesyn Badru and more. Several of these are quite interesting although not quite as interesting as cousin Mago or Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta, who’s probably my favorite character in the series – him or Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security.

I missed Vegard a bit in this book. The big guardian is left behind on Mid to be stand-in for Mychael and make sure that the student population is not killed by the goblins – together with Raine’s pirate family. It makes sense to the story line, but I still missed Vegard’s attempt at keeping Raine safe – including sitting on her – and her flamboyant cousin Phaelan.

So the Saghred is of course hugely important in this whole series. And I have some issues with that. This rock seems to have a consciousness – at least it bears a serious grudge against Raine. I’m not sure that the idea of consciousness in objects really works in this world and parts of the plot hinges on that. I know it’s minor issue if you’re just able to suspend disbelief, however, it did mean that the final showdown didn’t quite work for me, even though it was otherwise very well executed.

This novel marks the end of the story arch that has been developed through all six books in the series. This doesn’t mean that this series is necessarily over. Lisa Shearin does leave room to take the characters up again and write some new adventures for Raine and Mychael on Mid so for people really enjoying this series, there’s hope. I’m not sure I will read another Raine Benares novel but I might read another Lisa Shearin novel. I think there’s a lot of potential in her writing.

  • Title: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 20112
  • Pages: 303 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere (review)

What would you do if you came walking down a street and saw a young woman lying hurt on the sidewalk? Would you stop to help her and carry her to your home if she asked you not to call an ambulance? If you said yes to this question, I’m sorry to say that your answer is wrong! Really really wrong! At least if you have a life and maybe a family you care about.

Because that is exactly what Richard Mayhew does. He finds a hurt woman, he takes her to his home to help her – and because of this random act of kindness, he’s thrown into a life and an existence he had no idea existed even though it was right beneath his feet.

The girl he helped, was Door. Door comes from the London Below and if you associate too much with people and places from London Below, your existence in London Above disappears. People stop seeing you, you loose your job and your apartment – you’re simply forgotten. And that’s what happens to Richard. He helps Door escape from the very nasty Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar and he takes a message from her to the Marquis de Carabas – and that’s it. Suddenly, he’s shunned in London Above and he has no choice but to go to London Below – like all the other things and people who have fallen through the cracks.

Once Richard is below, he’s dragged into Door’s life. And she does not lead a peaceful one. Instead she’s on the run from the people who slaughtered her entire family and trying to figure out why they did so. Various characters help and hinder this quest and it’s all good fun and gives the reader a lovely, entertaining time. And the rats, of course. And pigeons.

Besides a fascinating story that I really enjoyed, what I loved most about Neverwhere was the way, Gaiman uses London. Place names of various parts of London suddenly get a new – and often sinister – meaning when you know London Below. Names and phrases like Mind the Gap, Shepherd’s Bush and Knightsbridge are some of the things that get the Gaiman treatment. And of course the floating markets – people from London Below just meet up in places and have their markets and then pack it all down again and move on to a new location. One such location is Harrod’s and the description of this is just marvelous. London Above – and Below – will never be the same. It all reminds me of an Escher painting.

And I just love Gaiman’s writing. Here are a couple of quotes to showcase it: ‘To say that Richard was not very good at heights would be accurate, but would fail to give the whole picture. It would be like describing the planet Jupiter as bigger than a duck. True, as far as it went; but it could go further.’ (p. 43) and ‘He never had believed in angels. He was damned if he was going to start now. Still, it is much easier not to believe in something when it is not actually looking directly at you, and saying your name.’ (p. 154).

One of my favorite authors is Terry Pratchett. And another author who is rather new to me and who I’m really starting to like, is China Miéville. This book by Neil Gaiman reminds me of both these authors. There’s a lot of similarities between Neverwhere and Miéville’s UnLunDun and The City & The City. Both Neverwhere and UnLunDun takes place in London but in a different London than we know. And just as people don’t see the people from London Below in Neverwhere, people don’t see the other city and it’s inhabitants in The City & The City. There’s something so interesting to me about these co-existing cities and how they exemplify how we live our lives, not seeing what we’re not supposed to see and if you see something that other’s don’t, you’re automatically labelled insane. It could be really interesting to read all these three novels together to really compare them and dig into their themes and similarities – and their unique aspects as well.

The similarities with Terry Pratchett is clearly seen in the humor. There are sentences here where it could almost have been Pratchett writing. No wonder that Pratchett and Gaiman wrote a book together – but big wonder that I didn’t particularly like it … I think I need to reread Good Omens at one point.

One other thing that fascinates me about this book is, that it originally was a tv series and then Gaiman adapted it into a novel. Right now, so many books are made into movies – Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi, Les Misérables, The Hobbit, Midnight’s Children – but it’s rarely the other way around, I think. I really want to watch this series (and all those movies…!). But I wonder – I prefer reading the book before the movie … but if the book is based on the tv series, should you read the book first or watch the series???

Anyway, I digress. What I really wanted to say with this review is, that Neil Gaiman is living up to my expectations and that he has taken a big step closer to be added to my small list of favorite authors and that I loved reading this book.

  • Title: Neverwhere
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Publisher: BBC Books
  • Year: 1996
  • Pages: 287 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

If you liked this novel, you might also like Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, anything by Terry Pratchett or The City & The City and Un Lun Dun by China Miéville.

Top Ten Favorite Fantasy Authors

So this week, we each get to decide on what genre we want to highlight ten favorite authors from. One of my favorite genres is fantasy. But even though that is so, I find it hard to

As usual, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. And did I mention this is the fifth week in a row I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday. And there are a lot of us, check out The Broke and the Bookish blog to see the links to the other participant’s blogs.

  1. Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman: Weiss & Hickman introduced me to fantasy as an adult. Their DragonLance books are a great series of light fantasy with some great characters. This group of heroes – Tanis, Goldmoon, Riversong, Raistlin, CameronTas, Flint, Tika, Laurana – are wonderful and I love them. Chronicles
  2. Adrian Tchaikovsky: Tchaikovsky has taken a very normal fantasy theme – the unlikely heroes banding together against the big bad – and turned it into something new and exciting by creating insect kinden. Basically, various groups of people resemble various types of insects.
  3. Phil Pullman: I loved His Dark Materials. I thought it was both exciting and intelligent – and I so badly wanted my own dæmon!
  4. J.K. Rowling: Well, of course you can’t make a list of fantasy authors without mentioning Rowling and the Harry Potter series.
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings – need I say more?
  6. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was one of my favorite books as a young teenager and I also liked the Dirk Gentry books. I really want to reread Hitchhiker!
  7. Jasper Fforde: Literary fantasy – in the sense, that this fantasy involves literature. Thursday Next is a literary detective solving literary issues – that sometimes do involve traveling in books.
  8. Susanna Clarke: I wish Clarke would write more books. I loved Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I haven’t read The Ladies of Grace Adieu yet because I’m not that much into short stories but I will read it and I really hope she will publish another novel real soon.
  9. Neil Gaiman: Even though I so so so need to read more of Neil Gaiman’s works but I love The Graveyard Book, the Sandman and Death series. I plan on reading American Gods and Neverwhere very soon.

Making this list has made me realize, that I have to read more fantasy. I feel so behind – there is so much fantasy I want to read, on top of the list authors like George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss and Robin Hobb.

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5) (review – audiobook)

It’s actually really hard to write reviews of this series since they all just seem to blur together. Yes, I know I start listening to the next one as soon as I finish one but they are all so similar that it’s difficult to separate them.

This of course is the Raine Benares series. It consists of six books, taking place over a rather short amount of time. In the first book, Raine helps a friend steal a necklace with a stone. She puts it on – and is instantly bonded with the rock which turns out to be the Saghred, a soul stealing nasty thing that can destroy whole kingdoms and normally, turns it’s wearer, it’s bond-servant, insane. However, Raine is able to wear the rock without getting insane and the rest of the series is spend with Raine trying to get rid of the stone and find a way to destroy it as well as trying to avoid the psychopath Sarad Nukpana who wants both her and the rock. Luckily, Raine has help from not only her friends but also from new friends like Paladin Mychael Ellisor and archmagus Justinius Justinius Valerian.

As per usual, this one starts off with a bang. The conflict between the goblins and elves is slowly escalating and when the Goblin prince Chigaru Mal’Salin arrives to Mid, things gets moving. The prince is wanted dead by almost everyone so before he even sets food on Mid, several assassins try to kill him. Luckily, Raine is there to save him – even though not all the goblins see it that way.

While the elves – or at least some of them, led by Sylvanus Carnades – is trying to get their hands on Raine, having a specially prepared cell ready for her with magic-reducing manacles in the cellars of the elven embassy, the Goblin king and Sarad Nukpana is preparing to attack the elves – and just being nasty as usual.

It seems to me that the new characters being introduced in these last books in the series, are rather more interesting than some of the ones who have been in all the books. In this one, we’re introduced to Raine’s cousin Mago, a banker, who’s of course still in the family business of sneaking, stealing and other sorts of criminal activity. He’s the prince’s banker and is of course in an excellent position to help Raine. Also, we have Raine’s ex-boyfriend and former fiancé who is a most skilled assassin who’s of course after the prince. And maybe others? Someone at least is taking shots at Mychael.

So when you listen to a whole series, it’s hard to come up with something new to say about the narrator for each book. However, when you have listened to a whole series and the narrator suddenly starts saying something in a different way, it does distract from the listening experience. For some reason, in this book Eileen Stevens has started saying ‘the Saghred’ in a different way.The Saghred is mentioned a lot and every time, she says the word in this new way, I start wondering why she has changed it and it takes me out of the listening experience and ruins the flow of the story for me.

Other than that, this is just like the other books in the series. Plenty of action, very fast pace, some things are repeated over and over etc. If you’ve come this far in the series, you know exactly what you get. It’s decent light fantasy. It’s quite entertaining when you read it/listen to it but nothing more. I do admit that at a few points in this one, I really didn’t want to put it down but just to keep on listening but normally, I don’t think about it when not listening to it. I’m actually looking forward to finishing this series so I can try out other audiobooks and see if my lack of enthusiasm is because of the book or the medium I experience them through.

  • Title: Con & Conjure
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 323 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished

So yeah, I like series. I mostly read fantasy series and I love diving into a completely different world and explore it through multiple books. It all began with the DragonLance shared world series. I fell in love with both the world and fantasy while reading Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss’ books.

As usual, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. And did I mention this is the fifth week in a row I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday. And there are a lot of us, check out The Broke and the Bookish blog to see the links to the other participant’s blogs.

So most of these series are fantasy series – but there are other series I enjoy as well. Here’s my top 10 – with a bonus at the end.

  1. Adrian Tchaikovsky: Shadows of the Apt. A wonderful refreshing fantasy series set in a world with insect kinden. The praying mantis are assassins, the beetles are hardworking people, the mosquitos are vampires etc. It’s the usual story – band of unlikely heroes goes against the big bad. But the insect kinden makes all the difference and makes it interesting. I’ve read the first four in this series of ten and enjoyed them all.
  2. Robert Jordan: Wheel of Time. Sighs. Every fantasy reader knows this series. And I think everyone agrees that it’s way longer than it had to be. I’ve read the first four and they are not great. They are okay but I have my issues with them – especially because Jordan repeats himself. Every time a character appears, he looks at his character description and says ‘oh yes, the girl with the braids’ or whatever and then he writes that. Every single time. I can’t really say why I keep reading them but I do. I plan on finishing the series – as far as I can tell the last books in the series, the ones not written by Jordan, actually get better…
  3. Diana Gabaldon: Outlander. A woman accidentally stumbles upon an opening to the past in Scotland, goes back and has great adventures and falls in love. I’ve read the first two and really need to get more of these. I sort of tend to forget how great this series is but it is actually really good and I enjoy reading them.
  4. Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Just the name of this series is amazing. I’ve read the first of the trilogy and it was a very very good book. I want to read it again and then read the rest of the trilogy in succession. Luckily, I own all three.
  5. Lev Grossman: The Magicians. Harry Potter, Narnia… This is kind of a mix-up between the two. I liked the first and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. I have the second one, the third has not yet been published.
  6. Anne Rice: The Vampire Chronicles. So everyone knows Lestat and Interview with the Vampire. And that’s what I know too. I’ve read that one and seen the movie. And then I didn’t get any further. I have The Vampire Lestat and I also have Pandora and Vittorio, the Vampire of the New Tales of the Vampires series. I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire and I want to read further into the series and see what I think.
  7. Jean M. Auel: Earth’s Children. I loved these books. The first one, The Clan of the Cavebear, was so good. And the next two installments in the series were really great too. But the fourth one … The Plains of Passage was just so bad. It just went on and on and on – walking across the plains, detailing the plants, various tribes, sex scenes … But it was clearly just meant to get Ayla and Jondalar from A to B – and it was boring. Still, both Jean M. Auel and I took a break after that and I have the two last books in the series waiting on my shelves and I plan to read them later this year, actually. Hopefully, they will be as good as the first three books!
  8. Gail Carriger: The Parasol Protectorate. I really like this series. It’s steampunk, it’s vampires and werewolves and it’s a a fun, light and very enjoyable read. I only need to read the last one in the series, Timeless. Luckily, Gail Carriger has more books coming out, also set in this world.
  9. Jasper Fforde: Thursday Next. I read the first of these, The Eyre Affair, and I loved it. It was an amazing romp through Jane Eyre and it was so, so good. However, one of the things that made it so good was that I had already read Jane Eyre. So I decided that I wouldn’t read more of this series before I had read more of the classics, Fforde uses in his plots. And that’s what I’m sort of working on. I do look forward to reading the rest of this series!
  10. Various authors: DragonLance. This is series of books based in a shared world. This means that a lot of different authors write these novels and editors are then making sure that chronology and everything else is correct. Or at least supposed to. This shared world concept unfortunately means that not all these novels are of the same quality. I don’t think I’m ever going to read the entire series but I am going to go back and read the main novels and my other favorites from the series again.

And as a bonus, some series I haven’t started but which I’m definitely going to read.

  1. Patrick Rothfuss: The Kingkiller Chronicle. I own the two of these which has been published so far and I expect so much from them. And they look gorgeous!
  2. George R.R. Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve seen a few of the tv series episodes and I think that at the right moment, I will just love these. I don’t own any of them yet but I will!
  3. Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy. My best friend Henrik told me years ago that he thought I would love this if I could stomach it. I think these will be so good – if I don’t ruin them by tears…!
  4. Deborah Harkness: All Souls Trilogy. I own the first of these and I think it’s going to be a really great read although I have read both good and bad reviews of it.

Lisa Shearin: Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) (review – audiobook)

This book starts a few weeks after the last one left out. Because of the demon queen’s attempt to rescue her husband, some souls escaped from the Saghred, this mighty rock our main protagonist Raine Benares is stuck with. Of course, her arch enemy and serious sadistic black mage Sarad Nukpana is one of the souls who escaped from the Saghred and of course, Raine has to try and  find him. Preferably before he finds her. Only trouble is – maybe Nukpana is even more dangerous than expected. Maybe he has found a creepy ritual that will enable him to bring him back to life or else he’s just being even more evil and creepy than usual. In either case, his idea of gifts – as in the sucked dried, leathery smelling husks of dead elven generals – really needs improving.

So Raine has to find a way to find Nukpana who is working on becoming corporeal again – with the help of his uncle, a very dark and cruel nachtmagus, a man who toys with the dead and their souls for fun. Nukpana’s plan is to suck the life, soul and memories out of enough people to make himself corporeal again – and with each kiss of death, he becomes even more powerful. And more difficult to stop.

A couple of new characters really stepped up to the plate this time around and greatly enhanced the reading experience. Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security – as well as the cutest little thing with dimples. She knows Tam from his time at Goblin court and they pretty much rubbed each other the wrong way. So much in fact, that Imala stabbed him at one point. However, she’s back and she’s great! I hope she will be a huge part in the remaining two books – and since the inevitable war between elves and goblins seem to be getting closer and closer, I think she will be a huge part in the attempt to avoid this war.

However, my favorite new character in this book is Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta. He is this seemingly creepy man who works with raising the dead – or so it seems. In reality, he is an extremely clever man who knows his business, has deep respect for the work he does – and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in, which creates one of the best scenes in the book when he actually makes Silvanus the little man in a discussion. Priceless!

I also enjoyed that Mychael got out from his desk and really became part of the action this time around. We get to see Mychael in action, actually in ways we hadn’t expected of our knight in shining armor. Parts of his past is revealed and it’s not exactly the past we expected either. All these things mean that Mychael becomes a more well-rounded character – who even knows his way around a bordello… and isn’t afraid to go under-cover.

Also, we actually finally get the love triangle between Raine, Mychael and Tam resolved. Raine made the choice I had expected – although resulting in a rather bad sex scene that I could have lived without (and I’m a bit sad that it wasn’t better since I wrote in my review of the third book in the series that I genuinely enjoyed it when Lisa Shearin played the sexual innuendo game – maybe it just got too explicit and left no room for the humor that so far has been the best part of every sexually loaded situation). However, the bond between Raine, Mychael and Tam is also changed in this book – no longer a threesome. The way of fixing this was clever and rather unexpected – and this part of the plot gave me a bit of a surprise that I enjoyed and it created some great tensions and gut wrenching moments for Raine (as well as a excellent fundament for the further books in the series).

The issues I have with this book, are the same as I’ve had with every book in the series. There are a lot of recaps of what has happened before and it really gets too repetitive. Also, Raine still keeps mentioning that she’s a Benares and therefore, no good – although one should think that after all what she, her cousin and uncle has been doing to help the Guardians, it should no longer matter to her that some high elves might not like her name – especially since she doesn’t like them. So enough already. The Benares family has proven itself – no reason to keep pretending to believe yourself a lowlife. Also – what’s up with the teeth? Everyone smiling has to bare their teeth or fangs – and I think it has been mentioned in every book that a goblin’s fangs are not just for decorative use. Again – enough! Raine’s way of handling things, her sarcastic thoughts and replies to every situation, sometimes feel very off. Not every situation demands a snarky reply!

When listening to these books, I often get a sense of something not being right. Something happens and I think ‘wait a minute – how can that happen?’ It seems to me that this world and it’s magic as well as the various creatures living in it, are not quite consistent. That small changes are made to both the characters and the laws of magic as it suits the plot. Some of the mages also seem extremely powerful – and there seem to be no drawback to using magic. You can just go on and on, throwing out one powerful spell after another and you don’t get drained. You do when you heal people – but not when using spells. I would have liked to see a more developed magical system (that’s one thing I love about the DragonLance series for instance – that mages constantly have to commit spells to memory to be able to use them).

Also, it does feel like Raine, Mychael and Tam – with the support of Archmagus Justinius – should be making progress with at least some of their enemies, specifically the high elf Silvanus who has been after Raine from when she arrived on Mid. We all know that he’s power hungry, we know he wants to rid himself of both Raine, Tam and Mychael and we know that Justinius knows this as well. With Silvanus’ abilities to lock people up as he sees fit, shouldn’t the other side be able to do something about him too? Like maybe just lock him up for slandering, lying and being deceitful? With the combined resources of Raine, Mychael, Tam and Justinius, they ought to have had time to spend 5 minutes tossing about ideas about how to get rid of him – and then just do it. It’s not believable that these very capable people can’t fix at least him. I get that he may be needed for the plot – but if it isn’t believable that he stays free and in power, Shearin has to find another way to move her plot forward.

We did get rid of one of the main bads – and even though that was solved off-camera, so to speak, it was a nice way to end that part of the plot and it made sense. The plot in this book was moved forward and we’re left with a plan for how to proceed.

I haven’t got anything new to say about the narration.Eileen Stevens does her job well, her voice is the voice of Raine to me, and she adds little touches here and there that adds to the listening experience. I still think some of her male voices sound a bit too alike but overall, it works well.

Now, if you haven’t already read/listened to this book, you might want to stop reading now. There’s going to be a bit of spoilers, I think. One thing I don’t quite get is why can’t they just cut open the Saghred and release the souls and diminish it’s power that way? The bloody rock is the cause of all Raine’s problems and with Nukpana now having a bit of link to it as well – or at least Saghred-enhanced powers like Raine – I see no reason to not just cut up the stone, release the souls – and just make sure there’s Reapers around to eat them. Wouldn’t it make it easier for everyone if the stone was dried out – or am I missing something here? Also, I thought the way the umi’atso bond issue was solved was excellent – however, I can’t stop wondering if the Saghred who created the bond in the first place, can’t just do so again…

If you’ve made it this far, I will end by saying, that overall, I do enjoy these books. They are light and fun fantasy romps which suffers a bit from a not completely developed world and a at times too high-paced plot. However, they are enjoyable and at times hard to put down and works great as light entertainment.

  • Title: Bewitched & Betrayed
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2010
  • Pages:  366 pages
  • Time:  13 hours  25 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3  stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: The Trouble With Demons (Raine Benares #3) (review – audiobook)

True to form, this third volume in the Raine Benares series starts with a bang. Or rather – The Isle of Mit gets invaded by demons coming in through a Hellgate and of course, Raine is right in the middle of it. Luckily, Raine is able to save the day yet again, with a little help from Tam. Since the Saghred has made sure that Raine and Tam are bonded together to try and make Tam feed it when Raine steadily refuses, Raine is now able to use some of Tam’s magic and power and boost her Saghred enhanced skills even more.

So why are all these demons doing on Mid? Turns out, one of the souls trapped in the Saghred is the demon king and of course, the demon queen wants him back. With a Hellgate raised somewhere on Mid, demons come pouring out. Rudra, the Saghred’s former bond servant, is also on the loose, enjoying himself immensely, trying to wreck as much havoc as possible while getting back in control of the Saghred.

A bad situation gets even worse when Raine finds out that not only can the Saghred be opened and souls released from it, the demon queen wants her to find the dagger forged to do this. A dagger that can be found by a virgin. On a college island. Where students soon discover that to get laid is actually a way of protecting yourself. Of course, Raine succeeds – and of course we all know who the virgin is.

So besides demons being on the loose all over Mid, not much has changed. Raine is still caught between Tam and Mychael, she is still being pursued by Nukpana and in this book, by Rudra especially. She still has lots of spunky replies to everything, no matter what situation she finds herself in and she still rushes headfirst into trouble, without stopping to think. While this is light, action-packed fantasy, it would be nice if once in a while, she did take a breather, listened to advice and acted accordingly. That said, these books take place over a very short amount of time and so, she of course isn’t given much time to ponder her actions – or her love life. But since I think Lisa Shearin has a lot of humor in her writing when the action slows down, I would like to see more of that. Towards the end of this novel, there’s some very amusing scenes between Mychael and Raine and since Shearin has set this three-way between Tam, Mychael and Raine up, there’s plenty of room for sexual innuendo – like the finding of a virgin to help her find a dagger or Mychael having to heal by being naked in bed with Rane… I actually find Shearin at her best when she writes these scenes with lots of humor and lots of sexual tension.

I did like that we got to see more of Justinius, the archmagus. He’s one cool old bugger – with a lot of power! I also think some of the other lesser characters – like the leader of the demon department – are rather entertaining. And, of course, Vegard. Big burly Vegard. The poor Guardian who has gotten the job of keeping Raine safe. Definitely not an easy gig. I like Vegard! He’s a big, dangerous, puppy dog!

My main issue with this book is the same as I had with the second volume. It gets too repetitive. Again, yes, we know you’re a Benares, yes, we know that the Benares are a family of thieves and pirates, and yes we know that Mychael is law abiding and that causes trouble and no decent persons will look your way – yes, yes, yes. We get it. You’ve been saying it for three books now. And why is that everyone smiling shows their fangs or teeth all the time? It makes sense in some cases that the goblins want to show their fangs to show their weapons, but everyone does it over and over. Stop mentioning it!

I’m hoping the 4th book in this series will flesh out Tam and Mychael more – so far, they are still just pure good and pure (reformed) evil and each other’s opposites and it would make the love triangle more interesting if you actually knew enough about these two to be able to root for one of them. I’m also hoping that Shearin will realize that if readers are reading the 4th book in a series, it’s their own fault if they haven’t read the first three and they should go do so – she doesn’t have to retell everything that has happened in the series once more! We got it. Let’s move on! And finally – no more showing of teeth and fangs, no more ‘I’m a Benares’ crap. And then we’ll have us a good book!

As this is an audiobook, I want to comment on the narrator. While Eileen Stevens has become the voice of Raine to me, and her way of reading is overall quite good, I do think there are a few issues with her making voices. To me, some of the male characters sound too much the same and sometimes, that’s a bit confusing. It’s not a huge thing, it’s just a small complaint. Overall, Eileen Stevens does a good enough job for me to enjoy listening to it.

All in all, this book didn’t progress the series’ story arch that much. There simply wasn’t time to investigate how to get rid of the Saghred and in the end, Raine is almost worse off than she was in the beginning. With that said, this book really sets up the next book(s) nicely, maybe hinting at what Raine needs to get rid of the Saghred but also setting the scene for even worse trouble than has been the cause so far. This feels like a typical middle book and hopefully, Shearin can cash in on the ideas she hints at.

  • Title: The Trouble With Demons
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2009
  • Pages: 370 pages
  • Time: 13 hours 41 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2) (review – audiobook)

So no rest for the wicked. This book has barely begun before the action starts. And not just some nice and easy action, no this is full-blown all-out action. Raine Benares, our main protagonist, has arrived to the Island of Mid to get help to deal with the Saghred but also to be protected from the Goblins, she made so very angry in the first book in the series. Since she has bonded with the Saghred, the most powerful artifact, she can’t just give it up but need magical help for that so of course she turns to the Conclave and it’s Guardians to get the help she need. But she hasn’t been long on the island before an assassination attempt is made on the Paladin Mychael Eiliosior and the Archmagus Justinius Valerian, Raine saves the day – but in doing so, she shows the world what she is now capable of, after being in contact with the Saghred. And that was exactly what the notorious elven assassin, leader of the Nightshades, was counting on. He manages to escape – taking with him a young blonde woman.

But this young woman is not the only one who is kidnapped. Young spellsingers start disappearing. Luckily, Raine is able to connect with them by using her seeker powers, enhanced by the Saghred (which reminds me – whatever happened to Quentin, the thief who officially stole the Saghred? We haven’t heard of him since early in the first book.). Trouble is, no one really believes her except Paladin Mychael Eiliesor and some of his men. She has powerful adversaries on the Council of Twelve. the council in control of sorcerers and sorcery. And of course, they’re not the only ones interested in Raine – and the Saghred. She attracts trouble wherever she is – and on top of the Elven assassinators, the Elven ambassador, the Goblin lawyers and (at least some of) the Council of Twelve, well, there’s of course the main villain from the first book, Nukpana who even though he is caught in the Saghred is able to talk to her – and manifest himself in front of her, enjoying himself rather too much when he does so while she’s taking a bath. And if that’s not enough trouble, there’s also the Saghred’s best friend…

I’m listening to these as audiobooks and I enjoy them a lot. They’re perfect for this medium. But the worst thing with listening to fantasy novels as audiobooks is, that you have no idea how to spell anything. All the names of people and places and things are of course spelled in certain ways – and since I don’t read the actual pages of the book, I have no idea how to do this. So to be able to write this review, I’ve had to google a lot to find the correct ways of spelling…

I also got a bit confused at one point. Shearin has pointed out over and over that to avoid being affected by spellsingers, you have to have some kind of shield to protect you. Either your own person shield or, if a spellsinger performs at a restaurant or a bar, the stage is shielded so the audience doesn’t get affected. The music rooms where the student spellsingers practice are also shielded – and when a vent isn’t covered probably, Piaras almost put the entire citadel to sleep, including the Saghred. Everyone who didn’t put up shields, were affected. But suddenly, Piaras can intend it for some present and not necessarily target all who hear it – how? And even in a battle situation, can’t people put up personal shields? Is this a consistency issue or did I miss something? Is he just that talented?

One thing that is a bit annoying in these book, is the repetitiveness. I can’t count the number of times Raine talks about her family and their bad reputation. She does so over and over and over again – both in the first and in this second volume. Yes, yes, yes, we know the Benares family are pirates, robbers and kidnappers – we know.  Yes, we get that that means they don’t like paying for things and they like their weapons. Now let’s move on with the story. Also, Shearin has a tendency to repeat herself by using the exact same phrases to describe the same thing. When you describe something in a very particular way, don’t repeat it.

I also think Raine lacks a bit of introspection – at least when it comes to the men in her life. She’s pretty much ready to be swept off her feet whenever Tam or Mychael offer. She is yet to have any thoughts about preferring the one to the other – she just seem to prefer the one who’s there. And while that is a valid choice, of course, and all this might just be me being prudish, I would like her to choose one. I don’t know if I prefer Mychael or Tam – but actually, we don’t know much about either one, except one is goblin, one is human, both are extremely good-looking, one is a bad boy, the other is one of the really good guys… All pretty standard for such books.

Still, in conclusion – despite the minor grievances listed above, I really have fun listening to these books. Even though the banter between Raine and her friends can be a bit too much, especially in battle situations, it’s still entertaining banter and if you enjoy light fantasy with non-stop action, humor and very fast pacing, these books are definitely recommendable.

  • Title: Armed & Magic (Raine Benares #2)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 293 pages
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts: