The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

This is a fantasy novel – the first in an as yet unfinished trilogy – which was highly (and repeatedly) recommended to me. It’s the life story of Kvothe, who starts off as part of a travelling troupe, becomes a street urchin, and then a somewhat unlikely and down at heel student. The book begins with Kvothe in the role of an innkeeper who, eventually, starts telling his whole story to a travelling scribe. Therefore, we get the first person perspective driving the main narrative, with the occasional intercession as the focus switches back to various scenes with Kvothe taking a break from his story to deal with several issues, like customers, and wandering mercenaries.

The following are worth noting:

  • The world around Kvothe is vast, but more hinted at than completely described
  • The magical system is lovingly rendered, and adds real weight to the sense of awe
  • The characterization is good
  • The storytelling is mostly good, too, though there were a few patches that I thought were over written
  • This is no Tolkien ripoff, nor juvenile fantasy; it’s solid, believable, and gripping

Despite all of the above, while it is a good book, it did not hit me the same way my first contact with Joe Abercrombie or K. J. Parker did. So, while I am happy to say that I enjoyed it, for me it does not quite reach the top rank. It’s absolutely worth reading though, and I do recommend it.

 

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A night with Andreas

Last week’s session saw Azriel, Rosalynn, Sheer, and me have a night of two games by Andreas Seyfarth. Both are classics, of some age, but still endure.

First up was the meaty challenge that is Puerto Rico. To give you an idea of how seriously some people play this, the Puerto Rico sessions at the World Boardgame Championships used to record the players’ moves. Frightening. I don’t think any of us are likely to be in the finals of that event for a while. Anyway, off we jolly well went, and had an engrossing game that ended – surprisingly – in two ways.

The first, and biggest, surprise was that I won. The second surprise was that Sheer later confessed he hated the game. I should have taken the hint when he asked for several rules explanations, though he had played it many times. He really must hate it to have so emptied his excellent gamer’s brain of the Puerto Rico basics. I promise, Sheer, we won’t play that one again! Rosalynn and Azriel had decent scores, but just couldn’t get enough points to claim the win.

Second was Andreas very cut down card game version of Puerto Rico, San Juan. Funnily enough, Sheer likes this game, and he did pretty well. Unfortunately for him, Rosalynn did better, and claimed a memorable win. It was memorable for me, because I so badly played the opening rounds that I was doomed to finish last from then, and knew it. But I smiled sweetly as we played and played and played until we got to the end. Azriel’s got a good handle on the game, but he just lost out to Sheer for the second place. I was so far back, I should have finished fifth…

Despite the San Jaun disaster, I had a great night with Andreas’ games. Thanks to Sheer for playing Puerto Rico, and to everyone for coming along.

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Die of Shame – Mark Billingham

This is a crime novel which features a therapist (Tony De Silva) and the attendees of his Monday night session. These people – all on the road to recovery from one sort of addiction or another – share their feelings and their secrets, guided by De Silva like some form of shepherd with a wayward flock. One of them is murdered, and so far as the police are concerned, it’s obvious that another member of the group must be the killer. But who?

I found this a little underwhelming. First, the police investigation is almost on the periphery. Instead, up front and center stage are the group members. Second, there are pages of dialogue and description covering several therapy sessions. It’s realistic, believable, and also numbing. It went on for too long, and I lost any empathy for the characters. That lasted until the mystery was solved, but by then it was time for the book to end.

SPOILER ALERT!

There’s a bit of a recovery in the closing pages when the author introduces one of his regular police characters, and not so subtly leaves the reader wanting more.

Overall, I was disappointed. It’s well written, clearly been fully researched, and seems grounded in reality. But it largely bored the socks off me, and so I can only say it was OK.

 

 

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