Sons of Thestian

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Read if you like: Celtic mythology, BBC’s Merlin, Trudi Canavan

Sons of Thestian is the first in an epic high fantasy series by new author M.E. Vaughan.  The city of Harmatia is in turmoil, balanced on a knife edge as their king lies dying.  Their prince regent, Sverrin, was murdered, and young prince Jionathan is thrust forward to take the throne too early.  Meanwhile, his cruel stepmother, Queen Reine, seems desperate to snatch Jionathan’s power from him.  And each night, the monstrous Night Patrol stalks the streets, murdering civilians at their leisure.

Plagued with mystical visions of death and horror, Prince Jionathan flees the city.  Forced to follow him is his mentor, the Magi Rufus Merle, even into the dangers of the Myrithian Forest …

Sons of Thestian is a great read if you’re looking for a new high fantasy to delve into.  It’s incredibly easy to get attached to the characters, and the world feels broad, exciting, and full of intrigue.  The plot for Sons of Thestian runs almost like a television series, with every few chapters introducing a new problem, solution and climax, all while carrying one broad conspiracy plot throughout.

Red Flags:
(This book may not be for you if you avoid the following)

  • Poor Editing: unfortunately, Sons of Thestian does suffer from a lack of editing.  Spelling and grammatical mistakes are dotted throughout, as well as some other oddities that could’ve been picked up by a better beta reader.  Thankfully, a corrected second edition is in the works, so these problems should be resolved before long!
  • Unusual Plot Structure: I won’t call it a slow plot, because it isn’t slow at all.  It is unusual, though.  Rather than following a three-act structure, Sons of Thestian runs almost like a television series, with every few chapters constituting a new ‘episode’.  Personally, I enjoyed this structure, but others have found it uncomfortable.
  • Wait for the Sequel: Sons of Thestian ends on an agonising cliffhanger.  If you really loathe being left hanging, you might want to wait until the sequel is published later this year.

The Immortals

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Read if you like: beautiful language, time travel, lavish settings

The Immortals by S.E. Lister is the beautifully-written story of Rosa Hyde, a girl with the ability to travel randomly through time and space.  Her father, also a time traveller, keeps her family trapped in 1945, looping around at the end of each year to live it all over again–until the day Rosa breaks free.  She travels the world through time, from the crisp, snowy streets of Victorian London at Christmas, to the wild colours and splendour of a Venetian carnival.  Along the way, she meets fellow time travellers and learns about their incredible lives.

However, there is a price to pay for Rosa’s wonderful gift.  The more she travels, the weaker she feels, and when the winds of time whisk her away, she never knows where she’ll land.  And everywhere she goes, a strange soldier seems to follow, a deathly and silent omen, always watching.

The best part of this book in the stunning language.  S.E. Lister masters each sentence into near-poetry, and the various places Rosa visits are described in mesmerising, almost whimsical detail, so you’ll wish you could up and travel to the 1700s along with her.

Red Flags:
(This book may not be for you if you avoid the following)

  • Unhappily Ever After: no spoilers, but the ending is pretty bittersweet, and not your classic romantic happy ending.
  • Unlikeable Protagonist: Rosa’s not a hateful character at all, but her naivety may be a little irritating.
  • Slow Plot: The Immortals is by no means a dull story, but it takes its time, and may not be for you if you prefer fast-paced action stories.

Amelia Recommends: 1984

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Read if you like: dystopia, political discussion, grimdark future

George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, describes a grim future for humanity.  Society is split into upper-class party members and lower-class proles, and everyone is watched by the eerie eyes of Big Brother.

Winston Smith is already disillusioned with the world he lives in, as he writes ‘corrections’ to the newspapers, turning it from factual reports to propaganda, when the revolutionary Julia slips a love note into his hand.  The two begin an illegal affair, and between them try to uncover the truth of their dystopian society.

George Orwell can practically be credited with the invention of dystopian fiction with 1984, as well as many of the idioms we take for granted in political discussion (‘Big Brother is watching us’).  It’s worth reading if you have a serious interest in dystopia, or in understanding the politics of militant dictatorships like North Korea.

Red Flags:
(This book may not be for you if you avoid the following)

Unhappily Ever After: the end of this book is about as grim as its possible to be.

Unlikeable Protagonist: Winston has some extremely mean-spirited, even sadistic moments, (he daydreams about raping a woman early in the book).

Slow (and Preachy!) Plot: George Orwell definitely write 1984 for a purpose, and that purpose was not to tell a fun story–the plot often takes a back sweat to Orwell’s moral and political musings.  Fascinating if you’re interesting, but frustrating if you just want to know what happens next.

Predictability: thanks to the Seinfeld is Unfunny trope, it’s pretty easy to guess what’s going to happen, if you’ve read any dystopia written since 1984.