Book Review: Darien: Empire of Salt by C. F. Iggulden

Name: Darien: Empire of Salt
Author:
C. F. Iggulden
Number of Pages:
352 (Hardback)
Published:
July 13th 2017 by Michael Joseph
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.
The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.
Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.
Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made – and lost – in Darien.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Darien is the first in a new fantasy series and possibly the first C. F. Iggulden book I’ve read.
Darien is a city ruled by a monarch where in truth twelve families hold the power, and keep order. It’s a world of power, and magical artefacts, and military might.
There’s a plot to kill the king and establish a new ruler in Darien, which leads to a fierce battle for the city, which made for exciting reading towards the latter part of the book, and we live it through 5 main characters, who are all pretty intriguing in their own ways. The characters really make the novel.

I liked the magic, and that people have a knack, a power, which can be different for everyone.
Elias Post, the hunter, can reach and see possible outcomes, making him a powerful and almost unstoppable force in battle, cutting through masses of soldiers whilst taking little harm himself. This of course makes him valuable.
Nancy is a young woman who never really believed in magic, because she’d seen little evidence of it in her life – because her knack means she can absorb power from around her. When she comes to realise just how strong this makes her, and the ways in which she can wield that power, she sets out for Darien with an intent of her own.
Then there’s the young boy who doesn’t speak, who becomes known as Arthur. He has an uncanny skill of being able to watch and learn. For example, the complex Mazer steps, an intricate and deadly fighting style takes years to learn, but after watching someone demonstrate the steps Arthur can execute them perfectly in a matter of moments. Tellius, teacher of the Mazer steps, sees this and takes the boy into his group, little realising just how far they will travel together.

Some of these characters cross paths accidentally, some are thrown together by chance, or with reluctance, but all are destined to witness the battle waged within the city of Darien. Some will participate against their will, only hoping to save those they care for, some will willingly lay the city to ruin if they can.

The second half of this book is fast paced and exciting, with mass destruction of the city, murder, blackmail and magic as old artefacts such as the Sallett Greens (huge warriors) and the Blue Border are deployed amongst the battling factions of the city, and I really enjoyed it.
I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series, and even though this one wraps up nicely, I’m already wondering – will we meet up with the same characters next time? And if so, what lies in store for them…
Or will the focus go elsewhere? There’s so much potential here and I can’t wait to see what happens next in the Empire of Salt.

 

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Bout of Books 20 (August 2017) Goals and Daily Progress Updates

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 19 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Talk about cutting it fine; I had no idea Bout of Books was starting next week. I’m really glad it is though, as I have some good reads lined up on my TBR pile and I can’t wait to start them. Having a read-a-thon to participate in at the same time is just an added bonus!

As always I’ll be using this blog for the majority of my updates during the read-a-thon, but you can also find me on Twitter.

Time Devoted to Reading

As much as possible.

My Goals

  • Carry on reading Darien by C. F. Iggulden, and hopefully finish it
  • Maybe even get my review posted on the blog
  • Start reading The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (because I’ve wanted to read it for some time now).
  • Keep track of my reading progress via daily blog updates
  • Visit other blogs and comment regularly

Books to Read

  • Darien by C. F. Iggulden
  • The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

Updates

Monday

It’s Bout of Books time again. I’m hoping to settle down with my book this afternoon so will update on the day’s progress tomorrow.
Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday (Monday’s Progress)

Had a great afternoon of reading Darien. Talk about a page turner! It’s all action at the moment, which made it really hard to put the book down. I’m really enjoying the first book of this new series and will definitely look out for the next one.
The only downside is I can’t imagine it will take me much longer to finish the book and I don’t really want it to end!

Number of pages I’ve read today:  100
Total number of pages I’ve read:  100

Wednesday (Tuesday’s progress)

Completed Darien yesterday. Can I have the next book already please?! I wonder if it will follow the same characters and their stories, or whether it will focus on another area and another set of people?
I even managed to complete my review and get it posted to the blog, here, and now I’m going to have a look at The Ninth Rain.
I’m pretty sure I saw a really thorough review of this book somewhere online which detailed the background of this new fantasy world I’m about to enter. I like having a bit of info before I start reading…

Number of pages I’ve read today:  52
Total number of pages I’ve read:  152

Thursday (Wednesday’s progress)

There’s always one day isn’t there? That day when you just don’t manage to get any reading done. Well, this was mine, so hopefully I’ll have more to report next time I check in.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  0
Total number of pages I’ve read:  152

Friday (Thursday’s progress)

Much better day for reading.
I’ve never read anything by Jen Williams before; she’s a new-to-me author, and The Ninth Rain is very good so far.
I can already tell that Vintage is going to be a new favourite character, so I really hope she makes it to the end of the book. What usually happens when I find a character I really like is they meet some awful demise before the book reaches it’s conclusion. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen this time.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  65
Total number of pages I’ve read:  217

Saturday (Friday’s progress)

Oh dear, not the best day for reading today, but at least I did manage a (very) few pages.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  33
Total number of pages I’ve read:  250

Sunday (Saturday’s progress)

Had another good reading session and managed 100 pages; I didn’t think I’d manage that again before the end of the read-a-thon.
I wonder if I can make or pass 500 pages this time around?! I’m quite a slow reader so I’m not sure, but I’m going to try.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  100
Total number of pages I’ve read:  350

Monday (Sunday’s progress and final thoughts)

Final Summary posted HERE.

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Name: The Dry
Author:
Jane Harper
Number of Pages:
416 (Paperback)
Published:
June 1st 2017 by Abacus
Genre: Crime

Goodreads

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?
I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.
Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I fancied a change with my latest read, so, having received many recommendations for The Dry and seen it in many top ten lists for a while now, I decided to give it a go.
What a page turner! I couldn’t seem to put this book down. It was always ‘I have time for one more chapter, don’t I?’. And if I didn’t, that didn’t always stop me carrying on reading anyway!

The Dry is set in a small town in Australia, Kiewarra, where there hasn’t been rain for two years and the land and community are suffering. Tensions are already running high before the shocking revelation that three members of the Hadler family are dead in an apparent murder/suicide.

The atmosphere, both the oppressive and relentless heat, and the claustrophobia created in a town where everybody knows everybody else, and secrets don’t always stay hidden, makes for compelling reading.
The way the town bands together, and the lengths they will go to once they believe something to be true creates a tense situation.

Into this comes Aaron Falk, a man who twenty years previously felt the force of the community as he and his father were forced to leave after his suspected involvement in the death of one of his friends. His return causes a stir; inevitably he is not welcomed by everyone, and several attempts are made to make the general feeling known.
He returns after hearing of the Hadler family’s case, as Luke Hadler was also a friend years ago.

Thankfully not everyone is so hostile, and Falk finds a friend in local police officer Raco, who is also convinced there is more to the Hadler case than has been revealed so far.

There are many twists in The Dry, and enough potential suspects to keep you guessing as to what really happened to the Hadler family throughout the book.
I liked the way the past and the present were immersed together, as there was also the old but not forgotten case of Ellie Deacon, the young girl found drowned, with whom Falk had been friends, and I kept wondering what had happened all those years ago. Through remembered scenes Falk’s youth and his friendship with Luke Hadler and Ellie Deacon comes to life.

I really enjoyed The Dry, and noticed that it is listed as Aaron Falk 1, so perhaps there will be more stories featuring this character and setting in future. If so, I’d certainly pick up another one, although the way this one ended was really good, and it definitely works as a standalone.

Book Review: The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Name: The Novice
Author:
Trudi Canavan
Number of Pages:
592 (Hardback)
Published:
October 6th 2005 by Atom
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

Sonea knew the other novices in the Magicians’ Guild all came from noble families and that, as a former slum-dweller, she could expect to be treated as an outsider, but she little realised the level of animosity she would face from her fellow students.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

 

 My Thoughts:

The Novice returns to the world of the Magicians’ Guild, where Sonea, under the guardianship of Lord Rothen, her friend and mentor from book 1, starts to attend classes in order to master her powers.
Her origins alone are enough to ensure she attracts attention. Add to this that not all novices have a guardian and that’s another reason for people to take interest in her, and it isn’t always positive interest.
Sonea becomes the target of a group of bullies led by Regin. As his relentless tormenting continued and he gathered a peer group around him, I kept marveling at the way Sonea never lost her temper to the extent that she hit him with a full blast of her powers, turning him into a rat or something.
That didn’t happen, and so she endured his attentions for the majority of the book, hounded by increasingly large groups who unleash their magic on her without fear of reprisals.
Needless to say this eventually leads to a showdown between the two of them that was worth the wait. (I do still half wish she’d just unleashed her power on him though, but understand why she didn’t).

There’s great deal more going on in this book too, and that made it really enjoyable.
There’s the mysterious High Lord, Akkarin, and the issue of whether or not he is using black magic, and if so, why? Only a select few know of this, and they are tasked with keeping the secret while deciding how best to approach the issue without forcing Akkarin into a confrontation which he would undoubtedly win.
I find Akkarin quite intriguing, and I think there’s more to all this, which will hopefully be revealed in later books.
He also becomes more of a central figure during this book as he takes over Sonea’s guardianship, forcing her into his company more often, staying at his residence and taking meals with him, much to her dislike and distrust.
Elsewhere, a series of strange murders have been committed, and suspicion falls on Akkarin from some quarters.

Then there’s Lord Dannyl, who has been appointed as Second Ambassador to Elyne and leaves the Guild to undertake this new role. Well, that’s the official story anyway. Administrator Lorlen has actually sent Dannyl to retrace the route taken by Akkarin ten years previously, when he went in search of information about ancient magic, because they’re trying to find out exactly what Akkarin is up to. Dannyl doesn’t actually know the reasons behind his mission, but undertakes the search willingly anyway. Great libraries, old tombs and many discoveries await Dannyl and his assistant Tayend.

Oh, and Rothen’s son Dorrien arrives to visit and becomes a good friend (possibly more?) to Sonea, and helps her to learn some valuable skills. He’s a great new character, and I hope he makes a return.
In terms of old characters, we don’t see much at all of Sonea’s friend Cery in this tale. He visits her briefly, but doesn’t feature beyond that, so maybe he’ll return in book 3 as well.

I flew through The Novice, and enjoyed it more than The Magicians’ Guild, which I thought took a while to get going. I’m looking forward to starting The High Lord, in which I hope it will be revealed there’s more to Akkarin than simply a black magician. And after a fairly spectacular end to The Novice I’m looking forward to see just how powerful Sonea really is, and the path she will choose to take in using these powers.

Book Review: Fever by Deon Meyer

Name: Fever
Author:
Deon Meyer
Number of Pages:
532 (Hardback)
Published:
15th June 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Thriller

Goodreads

Nico Storm and his father Willem drive a truck filled with essential supplies through a desolate land. They are among the few in South Africa – and the world, as far as they know – to have survived a devastating virus which has swept through the country. Their world turned upside down, Nico realises that his superb marksmanship and cool head mean he is destined to be his father’s protector, even though he is still only a boy.
But Willem Storm, though not a fighter, is both a thinker and a leader, a wise and compassionate man with a vision for a new community that survivors will rebuild from the ruins. And so Amanzi is founded, drawing Storm’s ‘homeless and tempest-tost’ – starting with Melinda Swanevelder, who they rescued from brutal thugs, Hennie Flaai, with his vital Cessna plane, Beryl Fortuin with her ragtag group of orphans and Domingo, the man with the tattooed hand. And then there is Sofia Bergman, the most beautiful girl that Nico has ever seen, who changes everything. So the community grows – and with each step forward, as resources increase, so do the challenges they must face – not just from the attacks of biker brigands, but also from within…
Nico will find experience hardship and heartbreak and have his loyalty tested to its limits as he undergoes an extraordinary rite of passage in this new world. Looking back as he writes in memoirs later in life, he recounts the events that led to the greatest rupture of all – the murder of his father.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Fever is a tale of survival in a world destroyed by disease. A vast proportion of the population has died out, leaving survivors to either band together or destroy each other in their bid to forge an existence in this new world.

The story begins with two such survivors – Willem Storm and his young son Nico.
Willem has a vision of a community rebuilt from the ruins, and finds a place to realise his dream, while Nico, still only a teenager, comes to realise that his childhood is over as he becomes his father’s protector.
And so, from an idea, Amanzi, a new community is created.
From small beginnings something with great potential is realised, but there are challenges along the way – the quest for food, and fuel, and threats from wild animals and rival humans who would take all that those at Amanzi have worked so hard to create.

I’ve read a few post-apocalyptic novels recently, I really enjoy them, and while some feature a supernatural/zombie/monster type element, here we’re entirely focused on a human-based story.
This is a character-driven novel and what a great cast of characters. The community is captured really well in the Amanzi History Project, chapters within the main narrative told as Willem Storm talks to the residents of the new community to record their memories and their lives before and after the fever.
Fever is vast, and there is so much I could talk about, but I’ll stick to a few of my favourite characters.

Nico Storm, the boy who realises in brutal circumstances and with anger that his father cannot protect him and that he must protect himself and his father too.
Nico’s shock and rage served as the encouragement for him to change, to move away from being like his father and more like Domingo.

Domingo. Possibly my favourite. Domingo rides into town on a motorbike, is mysterious, doesn’t give much away, doesn’t say that much, and knows exactly how to fight and protect the new, growing community. He doesn’t shy away from battle, and encourages others to see the need for drastic measures, such as attack rather than just defence.
Nico observes early on you can tell he’s a man you want on your side, that he’s dangerous. He’s certainly charismatic and his legend grows with each skirmish. A man of few enough words, who can easily hold sway with the few that he does say, influencing a vote with a simple threat to leave if it doesn’t go a certain way. It’s enough.
Domingo is intriguing.

There’s Hennie Fly, so-called because he pilots a plane and owns the small Cessna aircraft which plays a vital part in getting word of Amanzi out into the world. He and Nico go on a perilous adventure in the quest to adapt and survive in this changed world.
Then there’s the wonderfully named Cairistine ‘Birdy’ Canary, an engineer.
And Okkie, a young boy who becomes Nico’s adopted brother.
There are those who whole-heartedly support Willem Storm and his dream, and those who would question his ideas, which creates tension within the community.

The end was worth waiting for – totally unexpected. I had some ideas and happily they were completely wrong. I love a good surprise or two. Fever is a tale of survival in a changed world, and well worth a read.

Booking Ahead: August 2017

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead.
I have a few picks for my August reads, and hope they’re good ones because isn’t it almost time for the next Bout of Books? I’d love to get a lot of reading done during the readathon. Hopefully I’ll manage to read some or all of these…

New Books

Fever by Deon Meyer – I’ve already read part of this and am enjoying it so far. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where a fever has killed off a lot of the population and focuses on a group of survivors trying to establish a new community.

Books from the Backlist

The Novice by Trudi Canavan – I enjoyed The Magicians’ Guild and have decided to carry on with the rest of the series, so I’ll probably pick this up. The only thing slightly putting me off is that it’s another massive book and I’ve read so many of those lately that I fancy something a little smaller for a change.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – Am reading this as part of my series re-read, and it certainly fit’s the bill for a smaller book as well, so that’s good.

If I manage to read all the above then I won’t be short of new potential reads because my TBR pile is totally out of control at the moment. All my library requests seems to have arrived at once (isn’t that always the way!).


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
Are you looking forward to the next Bout of Books?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Monthly Summary: July 2017

Welcome to another Monthly Summary on Pages and Tea.

How has your reading month been? Things around here have been fairly steady, and I’m starting to get close to my (tiny) Goodreads target of finishing 20 books. I think that might happen next month, and of course there’s Bout of Books to encourage me to find more time to read as well, so that should be good. But I’m getting ahead of myself now, so let me tell you all about this month in books…

Book Reviews

The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Feed by Mira Grant

Featured Posts

Booking Ahead

July 2017

Book Tags

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag

The Bookish Book Lover Tag

Other New Posts

#HarryPotter20 Series Re-Read

On Reading… Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Reading Review

Reading Resolutions 2017

July Progress

Beat the Backlist Challenge Progress