Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Men at Arms

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, I'm back at Terry Pratchett, and back in the British Books Challenge 2012.

Men at Arms (first published 1993) is discworld novel number 15, and the second focused on the Night Watch. It is set about a year after Guards! Guards!, where Captain Vimes and his crew were up against a huge dragon. This time, the enemy is not even of flesh and blood.

It all starts with the crazy mind of an aristocrat (and assassin), who wants a king for Ankh-Morpork, and who, by coincidence, recognises the current heir, who happens to be... well, present at all times anyway. In order to remove the Patrician and the current Guild structure, he steals the most deadly and dangerous weapon in existence: the gonne (I believe I don't have to explain to you what it is). It was invented by Leonard of Quirm and ordered to be destroyed by the Patrician, but instead it was kept in the assassin's museum. And it has a mind of it's own...
As more and more corpses - planned and accidents alike - turn up around the city, the Night Watch has to try and come to terms with the proceedings, as well as getting used to ethnic minorities as new recruits and the loss of Captain Vimes, who is going to be married and will be retiring in the process. Lucky for them that they have Corporal Carrot, then, who has a way of owning the city and bringing people to act as good as he believes them to be, so he can quell even the strongest of upheavals.

As someone who has enjoyed many a good murder mystery, I can definitely recommend Men at Arms to fellow readers. The plot is a thrill - as well as the usual Terry Pratchett funny - and ends on quite a surprise.
For me as a Terry Pratchett reader it was also great, because there were a lot of old acquaintances, mostly from Moving Pictures: Gaspode the talking dog, Ruby (Detritus' girlfriend), and even (if only with a small role) Mr. Silverfish of the alchemists. I guess you can read and enjoy the book even if you haven't read Moving Pictures before, but it's so much more fun to see how the old faces are never forgotten.

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Review: Inheritance Cycle

Hardcover and Paperback

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started on the Inheritance trilogy (for back then it still was planned as such) shortly after the first volume, Eragon, was published, so it must have been around 2003. I enjoyed it, which is why the first three volumes are hardcovers in my personal library (normally, I wait for the paperbacks, because they're more comfortable to read, and cheaper). I guess the long wait for the fourth part made me forget about the whole series, since I was very surprised to receive it as paperback as a gift last Christmas. It was only this Summer's vacation that gave me the chance to read them all again.

Before I really bother you with my opinion of the series, let me give you a short long overview of the story (no, it is not entirely free of judgement or unnecessary comments).
It all starts with a boy called Eragon, who grew up at his aunt's and uncle's, because his mother left him shortly after his birth. Of course, this - and the mystery about his father's identity - is of great importance later. Eragon is off hunting in the mountains (which nobody but he dares enter) when a blue stone appears before him. It is accompanied by a huge explosion, which drives Eragon's prey away. He returns home with the stone, hoping to buy some meat with it instead, but nobody wants the thing.
It turns out pretty soon that it is not a stone at all, but a dragon egg - easy to recognise when a dragon suddenly hatches out of it. In Eragon's world - AlagaĆ«sia - only one dragon still exists: Shruikan, the king's dragon; suddenly discovering one outside the king's reach can only mean trouble. Still, Eragon touches the dragon hatchling and is bonded with her. He cannot bring himself to abandon or kill her, so he secretly brings her up in the woods behind his family's farm.
Of course, it cannot last. Two servants of the king - the Ra'zac -  appear in his village, asking questions, and he is forced to flee with the dragon, whom he named Saphira. His uncle is killed by the Ra'zac in the process, but luckily his cousin, Roran, is not home when it happens.
Eragon wants to kill the Ra'zac as revenge for his uncle's death, so he leaves with the old "storyteller" Brom, who helps him make a saddle for Saphira, and starts teaching him in fighting and magic while travelling. In the end, the Ra'zac kill Brom, who is replaced by Murtagh as Eragon's companion on the road.
Since he is unable to defeat the Ra'zac in his current state, he travels on to join the Varden, a group of rebels hiding from the evil king. Once there, it turns out Murtagh is the son of one of the king's followers (long dead), and later we also learn that he is Eragon's half-brother (his father was Brom, though).
What follows after all this are lots of fights, alliances with elves, dwarves and Urgals (huge, war-loving creatures), and more battles.

After the first book, the storyline is split to follow not only Eragon, but also Roran, who turns out to be a great warrior, and Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. Just to sum up a few key points:
Eragon and Roran manage to kill the Ra'zac, Nasuada manages to lead the Varden to battle against the Empire (and is all the while attractive enough to ensure Murtagh's assistance), and Roran saves his whole village and later many of the Varden besides.
In the end, Eragon - still a teenager - is the most powerful man in AlagaĆ«sia, which prompts him to leave the country with Saphira and a bunch of dragon eggs discovered between the battles. End of story.