Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I absolutely loved the Studio Ghibli version of Howl’s Moving Castle, but I wanted to read the original by Diana Wynne Jones and see which things were different and which were the same. The r/fantasy bingo gave me the excuse I needed to buy it.

Plot:

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, and therefore knows that she is destined to be unsuccessful; everyone in the town of Market Chipping knows that the eldest fails horribly when leaving home to seek their fate. While her younger sisters Lettie and Martha leave home, she works in the hat shop of her late father and stepmother. But then the Witch of the Waste curses Sophie for reasons unknown to her, and turns her into an old lady. To break the curse, Sophie must deal with the heartless wizard Howl who lives in a moving castle, a fire demon and their magical antics.

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Review: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first book in the Song of the Shattered Sands series by Bradley P. Beaulieu.

Plot:

Çeda lives with her best friend Emre in the slums of great Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, a hub of commerce and ruled by twelve immortal Kings. She loves Sharakhai and its people, but she had no love for the Kings and their harsh ways. She’s lost much by their hands, and every night of the Beht Zha’ir, when no one ventures outside and the chosen ones wait and pray to be taken by the deadly asirim, their hands are stained with more blood of Sharakhani. But the Kings are well protected by their Silver Spears and the elite warrior Maidens, and any hope to overthrow them is futile. After Çeda goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, she experiences something that sets her on a path of discovery, and revenge.  Sharakhai holds many secrets, and Çeda means to learns them all and use them to her advantage, for there is much afoot in the city.

Opinion:

Beaulieu is amazing at making you feel the city of Sharakhai. I could feel the heat, the press of bodies at the market, I could hear the gutter wrens running around laughing and picking pockets, the roar of the crowd in the fighting pits and I could see the horror of the asirim and the actions of the Moonless Host. The setting is absolutely riveting.

All characters felt like real people, with their own motivations, talents and flaws. Çeda is my kind of girl: headstrong, a woman of action, knowledgeable about her part of the city, curious, and driven. Sure, she’s driven to avenge the loss she suffered when she was little, but she has a plan, and sticks to it. She still has much to learn, of course, and she makes many mistakes. But she learns from them, and that’s what I like about her. She overreaches sometimes, and can be overconfident on occasion, but she’s still, what, nineteen? It’s understandable, even though it can be frustrating.

Her friendship with Emre was believable, and I’d like to know more about Emre, and his motivations. I don’t necessarily buy what he told Macide, leader of the Moonless Host, to join them, but he is siding with them while he knows Çeda doesn’t approve of their crude and often bloody methods. Why would he want to belong to them, is what I’m wondering.

Ramahd’s story of loss is a harrowing one, and sketches an even more terrible image of the Moonless Host. He’s on his own path of revenge, and I see his path colliding with Çeda’s many times in the future. I must admit I like him, and am severely creeped out by his sister-in-law Meryam, but I’m excited to see what happens next with them.

The only thing that frustrated me while reading this book was that no one seems to clearly communicate! Everyone’s keeping secrets from everyone, and then they feel bad for not telling the other. I believe Ramahd and Çeda have been the clearest towards each other about their goals. I hope people actually start talking to each other more, and work together.

Rating:

8.5/10

Review: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

The Hanging Tree is the sixth novel in the PC Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I thought it was the last in the series, but luckily I was wrong.

Plot:

Peter is back in London and finds himself assigned to a case of accidental overdose. There doesn’t seem to be anything ‘Folly’ related about the case, until it becomes clear one of the witnesses is the daughter of Lady Ty. Goddess of River Tyburn. Sister of his girlfriend Beverly Brook. And she’s going to cash in that favour he owes her for saving his life when he was buried alive.
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Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes is book number four in Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Peter Grant series. This book differs from the previous three in structure; Peter is working on several cases at once, and they’re not all related. In fact, there’s only two that are truly related to the magical parts of London.

Plot:

PC Peter Grant is called in when the cops find blood they can’t account for at a traffic accident. Their prime suspect is one Robert Weil, one of the apprentices of the original Faceless Man. There’s blood, but where’s the body? A man jumps in front of a train, but the circumstances are odd. Jaget Kumar shows Peter the footage, and they agree there was magical interference. Meanwhile, a stolen book on magic turns up, but hasn’t been reported stolen. It used to belong to Erik Stomberg, a German architect who happened to design one of the most infamous landmarks in London people have been trying to demolish for years. A grandfather injures himself during his granddaughter’s birthday party, while trying to create a werelight. Very few of these cases seem to be related, yet Peter can’t help but feel the Faceless Man has come back into play.

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Review: The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The High King is the last book in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. I’ve also ordered The Foundling and other tales of Prydain; a book of short stories that complements the series.

Plot:

Even though Arawn Death-lord of Annuvin has suffered great defeats, this time the entirety of Prydain will feel his wrath. The Sons of Don must come together and put aside their quarrels to unite against the forces of Annuvin. Taran and his companions too will join the fray, but do they have any hope of winning free of Arawn and his foul grasp on Prydain?

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