Wind, war and a monkey – my recent reading

Posted: September 18, 2014 in reading
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes a book can be worth your time but not blow you away. I’ve read a few books like that recently, ones that I enjoyed enough to recommend but that didn’t inspire me to write entire blog posts. These are all worth your time, even if I’m not running round evangelising about them.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

There’s been a lot of fuss about The Name of the Wind in recent years, so I finally gave it a go. It’s a wizard coming of age story, the most notable predecessors for which are Harry Potter and Earthsea. This is definitely much more Earthsea in tone and content – a secondary world fantasy full of darkness and trouble. But it’s more late J K Rowling than Ursula Le Guin in length, clocking in at about 660 pages.

It has a slow start, odd pacing and an ending that provides no closure, which after that many pages is frustrating. On the other hand it’s very well written, the central character is engaging and his struggles with economic hardship add an unexpected and interesting element to a classic style of story. Once I got past the first fifty pages I really enjoyed it, and I want to know what happens next, but damn those first fifty pages tried my patience.

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell

I’ve been meaning to read Ack-Ack Macaque since Joshua Stanton reviewed it. It’s an adventure story about a cigar-smoking monkey fighter ace. Even without its airships and alternate history elements I’d have been in.

This isn’t the story I expected, less madly anarchic and more science fiction than I thought from the concept. It’s still fun, action packed and scattered with interesting ideas, like bullets sprayed by an onrushing Spitfire.

But the question of whether to read this book comes down to one thing – does a talking, smoking, gun-toting monkey appeal to you? If yes then you’re going to want to read it. If not then you aren’t, and shame on you, because surely everyone loves monkeys.

The Hundred Years War by Desmond Seward

I only re-read Seward’s The Hundred Years War for a piece of freelance work, but I’m glad that I did. It’s a fascinating and highly readable chronological history of the long war fought between England and France from 1337 to 1453. You get a feel for the characters of the period, fascinating figures such as Bertrand du Guesclin and the Black Prince who you might otherwise hear nothing about. And while it occasionally turns into a string of back-and-forth battles and pillaged villages, that’s a sadly accurate reflection of the whole bloody mess.

If you’re interested in picking up some political and military history and you don’t want to get bogged down in turgid academic writing then this is worth a read.

What else?

What are the rest of you reading? What would you recommend that you’ve stumbled across of late? Please feel free to share some recommendations below.

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Comments
  1. Dylan Hearn says:

    I read the Name of the Wind and enjoyed it. I enjoyed the sequel less as it felt bloated (at over 900 pages), although I did still finish it quickly so it must have something going for it.
    The last book I read was Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. He’s a writer I enjoy immensely but in this book it felt as if his heart wasn’t in it for long passages. If it hadn’t have been my interest in knowing what happened to the characters (based on an attachment developed in previous books) I may well have stopped, but by the last third he was well into his stride. It wasn’t a bad book, just not the heights he’s reached with others.

    • Dylan Hearn says:

      I forgot to mention, I have River of Stars and Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I have a few indie titles to get through on my kindle before then, though 😉

    • I really liked Red Country, but then I’m a huge fan of westerns so I was very excited to see Abercrombie mashing them in with his fantasy world.

      And that’s sounding pretty ominous for the next Rothfuss book – still, I really liked Kvothe.

      • glenatron says:

        Yes! The thing I liked about The Name Of The Wind was that Kvothe was not some confused, conflicted anti-hero, he was a proper super-awesome hero who is a genius, and does awesome things but sometimes made mistakes because he is young and inexperienced. It felt a little old fashioned ( in a good way ) to read that relative to the standard anti-heroic model of most fantasy.

        • What I particularly like is that he’s that effective yet Rothfuss still finds reasons for him to struggle, and reasons that are sometimes self-made. He doesn’t have life easy, and that makes him interesting despite how easily he could theoretically overcome any ordinary obstacle.

  2. If you liked Ack-Ack Macaque, you might look for the graphic novel Six-Gun Gorilla. It’s a cool sci-fi story, and while the titular gorilla is more of a side-character, it’ll still give you a good fix.

  3. Sue Archer says:

    I read Name of the Wind, and I think your review is spot-on about the good points and the struggles. When I first started it I thought, “What is everyone raving about?” but luckily it picked up. 🙂 I get kind of wary when critics really love a book, because it’s often a let-down because it’s been hyped so much. Or sometimes my tastes just don’t match. I was quite bored by Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and could not figure out why it was lavished with praise and awards.

    As far as recommendations, my last read was this great story collection called From a Foreign Shore…maybe you’ve heard of it. 😉

    • Ooh, that last book you mentioned sounds like one everyone should read 😉

      Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who felt that way about Name of the Wind. Honestly, if I hadn’t heard such good things about it I’d never have made it past page thirty, but I’m glad I did.

  4. […] last novel I read before this was The Name of the Wind, and it’s hard to think of a more contrasting pair of books, even though they’re both […]

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