This Year in Reading

2017 is here. I can’t believe it. My time has been spent on a lot of things, many of which haven’t been into reading, and I’m not exactly happy to have not read as much as I wanted to this year.

But whatever.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville: The story itself is an explosion. The images scatter around you, shrapnel of surrealism, digging deep into your thoughts. Here is a world about Paris, of World War II, of Germans, of paintings, and exquisite corpses, and many other things best left unsaid. Better for them to be explored with your own eyes. This is a book full of wondrous treats.

Bloodrush by Ben Galley: The biggest asset this book has is it’s Prelude. It opens up borders, letting everything in. We learn the world isn’t so different from our own and things exist here, things from books, myths, legends, and stories told by drunk men in bars. Though, I have mixed feelings for this book. The start was really interesting. It’s fun to watch the main character, Hark, develop into a better person as the story progress. The early chapters were well-written, tight, and full of eerie dread that makes a point that there are a lot of weird stuff in this world. But the final quarter of the book felt a little unpolished, a little rushed.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan: As a former student of Brandon Sanderson, McClellan has adopted the same, shall we say, minimalist style is quite alluring. Also, the powder magic system is pretty cool.

The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie: What strikes me about this book, it’s not entirely a trilogy. It’s not even what China Mieville called an “Anti-trilogy” when he described his three Bas-Lag books. Rather, Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea felt like three different but interlinked standalone books. There are gaps in years and we brave the sea in the eyes of new characters per book. It might be worth noting that, Book 1 had only one POV. Book 2 had two. And book three, you guessed it, had three POVs!

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt: A lot of people compared this book to Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series. Maybe because it’s a dark fantasy with gunslingers? They’ve also compared it to Narnia, because the characters end up in a different world. I don’t know. All I see is a story. Much like “Bloodrush,” I felt the beginning was it’s strongest asset. A lot of emotional development in it. Also, “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree” is one of the most brilliant titles I’ve ever heard.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft: Now this is a story that deserves to have a Studio Ghibi treatment. The story is imaginative and creative in every single way. It has a simple premise, a mild-mannered teacher lost his wife on their honeymoon in the Tower of Babel, and he must seek out for her. As Senlin, the main character, explores the tower in search for his wife, we are met with strange adventures, weird cultures, a world that simply explodes with thought.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence: I have to admit I had struggled a little bit here. It was a slow read for me, as I didn’t find the main character as interesting. The rest of the characters and the world itself kept dragging me into it.

Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown: Yeah, I read the entire thing. I started late on October and finished the three books by December. I’d finish sooner, but my wife and I had a power struggle with the Kindle on who gets to finish the entire trilogy first. Suffice to say, I haven’t had that much fun in reading books in a long time. I can hardly wait for the upcoming “Iron Gold” trilogy.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: It’s a story about a girl entering an assassin’s school. That’s all you need to know about it, and its infinite amount of awesome.

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The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

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One of the few book covers of The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt

Holy shit! Did I just do another self-published book review? Damn right I did. This one’s by S.A. Hunt, and this is another Western fantasy story, with bits of horror elements thrown here and there. To save some time, is it every bit as worth it as a lot of people say it is? Damn straight it is.

I have seen people compare this book to Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” and some have pointed out that it’s a bad thing. I don’t understand why, since dark western stories and people magically walking into another world are nothing new. If anything, S.A. Hunt traps us into a world that is rich in lore and ideas that matches a woman’s skirt: Long enough to cover the subject, short enough to be interesting. (I read that in a journalism book and I was blown away by it, the original unedited quote turned out to be from Winston S. Churchill.)

The early onset parts were damn good. From the prologue’s one-shot scene, to the protagonist’s arrival from the airport, and his seemingly increasing obsession to learn more about what his father had been doing before the event’s of the prologue happened, were total page turners. This entire sequence has been called out once as an “over exposition.” I disagree with that, I felt that this entire process moved too fast. Give or take, “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree” would have been a better book if it gave us more time with the characters exploring the mysterious phenomenon they keep on experiencing. That’s not to say that this book wasn’t fun, because it’s full of it.

There were just two others things I didn’t like. First, there were times where S.A. Hunt tried a little bit too hard to be florid. I don’t mind a little poetry in writing, but you tend to run into one too many in this book, and many of them were awkward in a not-too-cool way.

The second thing I didn’t like in the book, is how the characters from characters easily accepted the idea that our heroes are from another world. I suppose that just shows how strange this alien world is, where inter-dimensional travel is something far more believable than someone who had lived their entire lives in a faraway country.

As the book progress, the more it edges into an epic fantasy with guns. We’re guided, step-by-step into this new world: We feast on one of the many cultures, see exotic sights and races that would freak out the next person on Earth. The story may start out dry at first, because of the protagonist’s strained relationship with the people around him, but just around the corner of this book, things do lighten up in a bright cheerful manner. (I am talking specifically about the “table scene,” which was hilarious.) I like to this that is a metaphor in some way, in how life is beginning to seep back into protagonist’s life.

Here’s the Amazon page of S.A. Hunt’s “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree,” in case any one out there who read this post hasn’t read the book and is interested to check it out.