The Magician’s Guild – Trudi Canavan

20 12 2010

The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1)The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Seeing as the story revolves around a pre-teen child who has no knowledge of her magical abilities but ends up being whisked away to a magicians guild and ends up being pretty much the top of the pile there were always going to be similarities drawn between this book and the Harry Potter series.

I really can understand how on the face of things it all seems a bit of a coincidence. Especially when in the second book of the trilogy we discover that the real enemies were believed defeated years ago but are back in secret and it will take huge sacrifice to defeat them…

Ok so I lied –  the similarities aren’t just on the surface. This really does read in parts like a mild re-write of some of the HP books.

But that didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment, not just of this book but of the trilogy as a whole. The story is different enough that you don’t feel like you should just be replacing the name Sonea with that of HP himself and for the most part is well written, if a tad simplistic.

The class issues that Canavan brings up are a little bit clumsy and play out much as expected but even so it is a nice touch and helps keeps things fresh when otherwise you could be about to swap the Magicians Guild for Hogwarts.

There are however two big problems for me that keep me from scoring this book higher and unfortunately they carry on pretty much through out the latter installments of the trilogy.

Firstly there is the characterisation which is a little bit lacking on occasion.
The principal characters are surprisingly two-dimensional and formulaic and you never really find yourself building any attachment to them or indeed giving two hoots as to whether they all die in a fire.

This is a real shame as there is plenty of potential to really build some tension between the main protagonists right from the start.

 One prime example of this is the relationship between Sonea and her friends in the slums; it is obvious that Cery, one of the thieves, has strong feelings for Sonea but rather than build this up into anything too deep or emotive Canavan has the character dismiss his own feelings and cast them aside quite casually over the space of two or three paragraphs.

The second big issue that I have with this series is that I never really get a sense of immersion into the world the story is set in.

The slums and the guild are outlined reasonably well but even they are rather thin on detail and everywhere else we venture is so sketchily outlined that you are squinting to see it.

I am not asking for Tolkien like levels of detail about every blade of grass crushed underfoot but I would like to feel some sense of connection.

If I had to give an example of a fantasy writer who manages to pull this off to perfection it would have to be Terry Pratchett; on one hand I haven’t a clue what colour the second daffodil to the left of the buttercup and indeed don’t want to know was but on the other hand I can walk the streets of Ankh Morpork in my head without having to fill in huge chunks of blank canvas.

When I read that Sam Vimes stops and buys a sausage in a bun off of C.M.O.T Dibbler I can not only see Sator Square where they are standing I can smell the sausage.

In contrast to this I can read that some Bolhouse (a pub in Sonea’s world) is about to be destroyed by marauding Sachakan magicians (the bad magicians) and I really couldn’t give two figs. I haven’t a clue about the place in question other than the mere fact that it is a kind of pub and that they better have insurance. 

I am probably coming off sounding more displeased with this series than I mean to; it really isn’t bad but I feel that it lacks depth and a bit of originality and I am hoping that Canavan’s next installments will give me a bit less Potter and a bit more sense of her world and what she wants the reader to see.

View all my reviews





Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

View all my reviews





Reeding is for faggots…

3 11 2010

I don’t really need to explain anything about this I don’t think…





Terry Pratchett joins staff of Trinity College in Dublin

3 11 2010

Fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett has been added to the academic staff of Trinity College University in Dublin.

Pratchett’s first lecture will take place on Thursday 4 November at 7 pm and has been entitled ‘The importance of being absolutely amazed about everything’.

“Professor Sir Terry Pratchett brings a new depth of creative genius to our cohort of distinguished international adjuncts in our School of English,” commented Provost John Hegarty.

“His contribution to the student experience and to the wider Trinity experience will be absolutely unique and we are delighted to have him on our staff.”

Just how awesome is this??

Imagine walking into your lecture and being greeted by arguably one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time!

See the article in full at : http://www.joe.ie/news-politics/current-affairs/terry-pratchett-joins-staff-at-trinity-college-dublin-006625-1





Retro RPGs

3 11 2010
baldurs gate

baldurs gate

I love RPGs, always have really, since the first time I ever sat round a table and played my first game of D&D through to the present day.

Recently I have been a little underwhelmed though; the current crop of RPGs for the PC, Xbox 360 etc are pretty good but they just seem to lack something.

It isn’t that they are bad games, far from it but somewhere amidst the amazing graphics, cinematic sound, famous voice actors etc  they seem to have lost some of that traditional RPG element that I love.

That is why I have gone back to playing classic RPGs that whilst nowhere near as polished as the current crop of games just seem to be a little nearer the mark.

In particular I have been playing the ever so awesome Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2, Baldur’s Gate 1 &2 and the original Fallout.

For me these 5  games encompass pretty much everything that I want in a RPG.

I love the sheer immersion that takes place when playing one of these older story driven RPGs sure I enjoy having a massive sandbox world to track around (the map in Oblivion is 16 square miles!) but nothing beats a riveting story that drives you to continue and keeps you focused.

I sometimes think that with some of the current sandbox games that it is too easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of different things you can run off and do and that the main campaigns/storylines can get overlooked.

I also miss the fully turn based combat systems like you saw in Fallout, it is reminiscent of my hours spent with pen, paper and dice and just has a charm about it that is sometimes lacking these days.

Maybe I am just getting old and turning into one of those people who goes on about how everything was better back in the day but as much as I really enjoy modern games -trust me I do- the old classics just seem to be more fun somehow.

neverwinter nights 1 &2 /baldurs gate

rattle on about how these feel more dungeon and dragonesque then the current big rpgs where you trot around by yourself for days at a time





Jamie’s 30 minute meals

20 10 2010

I rarely watch television these days but when I do I quite often find myself gravitating towards the cooking shows, sometimes the American shows like Iron Chef America or Chopped etc but more often than not I end up watching programmes with British or European cooks/chefs such as Nigella Lawson, The Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and of course Jamie Oliver.

I never use to have much time for Jamie Oliver a few years back, in my eyes he was a mockney who was playing up on a laddish image to gain popularity. I can’t have been the only one as nowadays we see a much calmer more down to Earth Jamie and what comes across more then the moped, the band and all the other extraneous garbage is that he really loves food.

It’s more than that though it comes across that not only does he care about and love food but he seems very genuine in his desire to improve the eating habits of all of us.

His new show and book fit into this ethos well; by focusing on meals that can be prepared and cooked in a short period of time he is showing people that no matter how busy your life might seem there is always time to eat properly and well.

I know he isn’t the first to go down this route and I’m sure that he won’t be the last but he does do it a lot better then some.

I was particularly taken with his recipe for a very quick, tasty and refreshing lemon pickle which he showed alongside a rogan josh and a carrot salad.

So here it is, if you want to find Jamie’s recipe for rogan josh and the carrot salad then click here

Jamie Oliver’s Lemon Pickle

• 1 lemon
• 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
• 1 level teaspoon turmeric
• ¼ of a fresh red chilli
• 1 small dried chilli

Cut the lemon into eighths, then deseed and finely slice.

Finely slice the red chilli quarter. Put a small pan on to a medium to high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan

Add the mustard seeds, turmeric and the sliced chilli. Crumble int he dried chilli.

When everything starts to sizzle, add the sliced lemon and a pinch of salt, count to ten, then take off the heat and put in a bowl to cool.

*I personally liked this with a whole chilli as opposed to just the quarter*

 





Who are CAMRA?

29 04 2010

You will probably hear me mention CAMRA a great deal in my posts, as such I should probably explain who they are and what they do.

In a nutshell CAMRA is the CAMpaign for Real Ale, they were formed back in the 70s with the aim of promoting and raising awareness for Real Ale, Real Cider and the British Pub.

They tend to promote smaller brewers and champion the less common types of beer and other traditional drinks; for example porters, milds, perry and stouts.

They publish a good beer guide each year, along with their monthly magazine which goes out to about 100k members.

CAMRA also organise and support a large number of beer festivals around the UK including the Great British Beer Festival at which there are often awards given out to beers that they deem to be particularly worthy.

If you want to find out more about them or possibly even become a member than you can visit there website here








%d bloggers like this: