Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell



Spellslinger

Book One of Spellslinger

by Sebastien de Castell

Fantasy | 416 Pages | Published by Hot Key Books in 2017


| Rating |


With powerful mages, card-throwing wanderers and an unseen enemy, Sebastien de Castell’s first foray into young adult fantasy is an undeniable success. In a world defined by magic and a person’s ability to wield it, Spellslinger takes the reader on an exciting journey which blurs the lines between those who would be friends, those who are family and those who may become enemies.

Witty and absorbing, this novel tells the tale of a boy whose steady loss of power culminates in a dangerous confrontation with his own people and, through a series of unpredictable twists and turns, exhibits an extraordinary flare for adventure from beginning to end.

There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.

MAGIC IS A CON GAME…

Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage’s duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is gone.

As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. 

Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi – a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She’s difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen’s only hope… 

At the age of sixteen, all young Jan’Tep must face their greatest trial: the mage’s trial. The outcome of which will determine those that will assume ultimate power, wielding great magic and respected from afar, and those that will become Sha’Tep, the serving underclass of Jan’Tep society.

Kellen’s magic has dwindled over the years to next to nothing. He hasn’t broken any of his mage’s bands, he can barely perform a simple spell, and to make matters worse his little sister is likely to become one of the most powerful mages of all time.

Bullied by those who think him beneath them, abandoned by those he would have considered friends, Kellen is left with only his meagre powers, a dash of cunning, and sheer dumb luck to get him through his trials.

But when a strange frontierswoman turns up to help Kellen out of his trouble, he finds his path taking an altogether unexpected turn… for better or worse, only time will tell.

De Castell has created a vivid and ruthless society whose own sense of superiority has rendered them an isolated state. The world of the Jan’Tep is a world where a person’s magical ability defines their very place in the social order. A people who consider their own culture and society as the pinnacle of refinement and power, the Jan’Tep see those beyond their borders as outsiders, whose weakness is made apparent by their lack of power.

Those within Jan’Tep society who fail to display any magical prowess are doomed to become Sha’Tep. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters; all are parted when the magic in one fails to appear in the other. Those who are lucky may take a serving position in what was once their home. Those who are not are forced to work in the mines.

As skilfully as Jan’Tep society is wrought; where the arrogance that permeates their culture, even amongst Kellen’s own family and friends, threatens to make them all appear as an unreasonable and tyrannical culture, the characterisation of the principle cast is where the novel and the overarching plot truly excels. De Castell has created a cast of true and varied characters whose humour and apparent deficiencies carry the story to its dramatic conclusion.

As both protagonist and narrator, Kellen is a witty and self-deprecating companion throughout the novel. What he lacks in magical proficiency he more than makes up for in cunning, wit and in his ability for getting the backs up of almost every person he comes across. And though he drives the other Jan’Tep mages to distraction, and perhaps even his friends half the time, he is an instantly likeable character which makes the injustice of his situation all the more potent.

His companions, Ferius Parfax, an Argosi wanderer whose proficiency in both playing cards and using them as a deadly weapon is more than a little disconcerting, and Reichis, a squirrel cat who has a penchant for thievery, violence and eating his enemies eyeballs, are arguably my two favourite characters, creating a strange and humorous sense of comradery which only becomes more interesting as the novel develops.

Spellslinger succeeds in combining this interesting cast of characters with an exciting and unpredictable plotline, whose twists and turns never fail to turn up a surprise or two. Skillfully plotted and wonderfully executed, de Castell writes in a personable, almost conversational tone which creates a distinct connection with Kellen and emphasises the injustices which permeate Jan’Tep society.

The first in the Spellslinger series is a thoroughly enjoyable read which leaves me eager to join Kellen in future adventures. Brimming with magic, humour and more than a little danger, de Castell has created another novel which never fails to leave a lasting impression.

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The Friday Face-Off: The Staircase


Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe


The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud


Welcome to the Friday Face-Off where this week we’re comparing covers that feature a staircase.

The cover which immediately sprang to my mind was the first book in the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud, The Screaming Staircase; which, as luck would have it, almost always features a staircase!

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud


Doubleday – UK Cover

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - UK.jpg

Cover Art by Alessandro ‘Talexi’ Taini

Disney / Hyperion Books | US Cover

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - US

Cover Art by Alan Ayers


| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - Win.jpg

I really love both these covers. They’re atmospheric, feature dramatic lighting and manage to express the tension of the illustrated scene.

The UK cover is dramatic and eye-catching, bathing the scene in an intense blue light, which casts shadows into the corners of the page. I love that the two figures in the foreground appear frozen in action as the eerie spectral figure appears at the top of the staircase, and that the typeface is clearly an integral part off the overall composition.

The US cover is simlarly dramatic but rather than using light, uses a thick green mist which clings to a staircase deep in shadow. The two figures appear primed to face battle, as an unsettling red light falls upon them and they hold aloft their weapons. Although I prefer the typeface on the UK cover, there is nothing to distract from the beautiful and bold illustration on the winning US cover.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


Next week’s theme is:

 The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing

A cover featuring something from Greek mythology

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes


| Links |

Lynn @ Books and Travelling with Lynn

S. J. Higbee @ Brainfluff

Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum

Wendall @ Bookwraiths

Steve Smith @ Books and Beyond Reviews

Wendle @ MarvelatWords

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The Friday Face-Off: Which Witch is Which?


Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.


Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


Welcome to this week’s Friday Face-Off – apologies for being on the late side! This week we’re looking at covers which feature either witches or witchcraft… and I must say that for a while I was stumped!

Published by Tor in both the UK and the US, Truthwitch is the first book in The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard. This Face-Off features two bold and watery covers which are similar enough to be recognised as counterparts, but are executed in their own unique styles. Take a look and see which one is your favourite this week!


Tor – UK Cover

Artwork by Justine Anwieler

Tor – US Cover

Artwork by Scott Grimando


| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

This week, the US  cover takes the Face-Off crown after something of a close call. Although I absolutely love the typeface used for the title on the UK cover – and which I’m certain is stunning in real life – the artwork itself does not capture my attention as well as it might. The central figure is bold in both colour and stance whilst the crashing wave succeeds in framing the composition, drawing your eye towards the centre of the artwork. However, first impressions are everything and this one certainly failed to grab me from the start, though it improves considerably upon closer inspection.

The US cover, whilst not in a style which usually appeals to me, succeeds in bringing a bit more drama and atmosphere to the artwork and just manages to tip the balance in the US’ favour. The typeface is bold and eye-catching – though not nearly as sumptuous as the UK cover – and the blend of smoky blues and turquoises, along with the close-up composition, draw the eye almost immediately. This immediate attraction (for good or ill) makes this cover, in my humblest of opinions, the more successful of the two options this week.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


Post LinksNext week’s theme is: Just Then Flew Down a Monstrous Crow

A cover which features a bird

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes


| Links |

Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek – The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski

Lynn @ Lynn’s Books  – The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett

S J Higbee @ Brainfluff – Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Nick V Reys @ The Paper Dragon – Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Cate + Karen @ MidnightBiblioBlog – The Witches by Roald Dahl

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Book Haul: April 11



The Fire Sermon3


| The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig |

Another day, another Goodreads Giveaway win! A lucky streak indeed. The Fire Sermon has an incredibly beautiful cover and, with its post-apocalyptic premise, sounds like just the type of book I’ll love! Yet another series on my TBR that I cannot wait to get around to!



| Synopsis |

The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new postapocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.

With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

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Read Along: Throne of Glass – Part Four


Throne of Glass (3)



| Part Four |

Chapters 40 – end

Welcome to the read along of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, organised by Rinn Reads.

As one of the few people to have not read Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of a read along, despite having heard very mixed opinions – ranging from extreme love to extreme hate! From the 8th – 18th… ahem, 19th January… I will be reading Throne of Glass and posting my thoughts for discussion. Here’s what the schedule would look like if I could actually manage to keep to it:

8th January

Discussion of chapters 1 – 13

11th January

Discussion of chapters 14 – 27

14th January

Discussion of chapters 28 – 39

18th January

Discussion of chapters 40 – end

 There will be spoilers!


| Part Three Rating |four star


| The Story So Far |

Dark forces continue to infiltrate the castle and, as Celaena discovers more about the Wyrdmarks and their magic, she must face the darkness head on whilst simultaneously fighting for victory as the King’s champion. As both events come to a head, and her chance of victory balances on a knife’s edge, Celaena must put her trust in both her friends and her abilities – she must fight, or die.


| The Discussion |

Well this turned out to be an unexpectedly enjoyable read. There may well have been more murderers, assassins and thieves than you can shake a stick at but, at its heart, Throne of Glass remains a fun and enchanting novel which manages to retain a sense of humour throughout.  After reaching a satisfying conclusion which tied up most loose ends, I am definitely excited to move onto its sequel. I only hope that it lives up to the expectation that this novel has inspired!


| The Highlights |

The friendship between Nehemia and Celaena is one of the most wonderful parts of this novel. Female friendships often get a rough time of it in fiction and rarely come across as true to life (and that’s being kind!) but with Throne of Glass Maas has definitely scored a winner. Celaena may have had her momentary doubts about Nehemia’s character but it wasn’t without great regret… and a lot of second guessing! 

Kaltain getting her comeuppance was a rather fun moment! I highly doubt she was a particularly nice character even before Perrington had his claws into her so it all worked out rather well in the end! I’m certain she’ll return with a vengeance in the books to come… only with less of the inane drivel, I hope.

Oh so many an intriguing teaser about Celaena’s past! The hints regarding her heritage, with possible links to the fae, were a definite highlight throughout the narrative and are one of the driving forces in making me want to pick up the next book. I am in no doubt that all will be revealed in good time!

The romance didn’t irritate me! A definite win. This  book played it with a light touch and didn’t overstep the boundary into making the whole novel revolve around the love triangle (cough.. even if I was a little pro-Chaol). And the fact that Celaena chose freedom above all else at the end definitely won her my vote! 

The whole story wrapped up neatly, had a rather exciting ending and was enjoyable throughout but…

What was your favourite moment in Throne of Glass? Were you satisfied with the conclusion?


| The Low Points |

…It was just a little bit obvious. There seemed to be something a little predictable in Cain, Perrington and the King being the bad guys and Kaltain, although subjected to some man-ring-hoodoo, was intensely dislikeable anyway so I was neither surprised when she joined team supervillain, nor did I care when they let her take the fall (although I was amused!). I would have loved to be surprised at some point towards the end of the novel but it all panned out as expected (though in an exciting fashion of course)… oh well! Can’t have it all.

The fact that Celaena is considered the world’s most famous assassin still doesn’t quite hit the mark. Perhaps in the next novel we will see more of her employment skills and these credentials will be made more apparent… but for now it just feels like something she likes to tell herself. The hard edges to her character definitely didn’t remain at the end which probably contributes to her lack of assassin vibes. But never mind! I still like her!

What were the low points, if any, for you?


Stay tuned for the review!

Read Along: Throne of Glass – Part Three


Throne of Glass (3)



| Part Three |

Chapters 28 – 39

Welcome to the read along of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, organised by Rinn Reads.

As one of the few people to have not read Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of a read along, despite having heard very mixed opinions – ranging from extreme love to extreme hate! From the 8th – 18th January I will be reading Throne of Glass and posting my thoughts for discussion. Here’s what the schedule would look like if I could actually manage to keep to it:

8th January

Discussion of chapters 1 – 13

11th January

Discussion of chapters 14 – 27

14th January

Discussion of chapters 28 – 39

18th January

Discussion of chapters 40 – end

Feel free to join in with the read along at any point and all discussion points are welcome (but no spoilers!!)… which reminds me:

 There will be spoilers for chapters 28-39!


| Part Three Rating |four star


| The Story So Far |

As the threat against the castle continues to grow and the life of yet another contestant is prematurely snuffed out, and suspicion is cast on both reputable and disreputable characters alike, Celaena must remain on her guard whilst competing for victory in the ongoing trial. But all is not dark in the castle of Rifthold; as her friendships continue to grow, and with two men vying for her favour, Celaena is intent upon enjoying the Yulemas festivities – whilst remaining vigilant in case of threat, of course – and this time no one is going to stop her.


| The Discussion |

Throne of Glass continues to entertain and surprise with its intriguing storyline and compelling characters. This is definitely a book where, if you can accept it for what it is and don’t question the narrative too much, you’ll likely be swept away by a storyline laced with magic and the dance of blades. Celaena continues to grow on me as a character and adds some quite endearing moments to her repertoire in this section of the novel. However there is a growing disparity between Celaena the intelligent and feisty young woman and Celaena the cold assassin. Whether we will see the two sides of her personality truly merge remains to be seen… but overall, a very enjoyable third part to this tale!


| The Highlights |

Events surrounding the mysterious threat within the castle continue to progress and, with the murder of another contestant and the trail of enigmatic Wyrdmarks and with the very real prospect that Nehemia could be involved, this novel has the potential of becoming very exciting. Somehow I can’t quite believe that Nehemia is responsible for the attacks. Her concerns obviously lie elsewhere and, whilst her behaviour might seem suspicious, whatever threat she poses will likely be concentrated on the hateful King of Adarlan and not on a contest of soldiers, prisoners and assassins.This section of the novel contains quite a number of humorous and endearing moments which can’t help but make you warm to Celaena. Her tantrum whilst playing billiards was particularly amusing and, as she continues to befriend the other characters, she continues to engage the reader with her sense of humour as the new side to her personality becomes ever more apparent.

Chaol’s reaction to Celaena’s time of the month was likewise a very humorous moment. It has such an element of truth about it, and is used so well as a light-hearted diversion, that it can’t help but make you laugh. Like Celaena, Chaol continues to reveal more dimensions to his personality, has a very honest and stark voice and is remains one of my favourite characters.

When Celaena is confronted with a whole bag of sweets, she proceeds to devour the majority before breakfast, staining her teeth red in the process. This is an entertaining and sweet (sorry) moment which yet again highlights the duality in her personality. In fact, despite her obvious skill when competing in the tests, we’re seeing something less of the assassin, and almost nothing of the cutthroat killer. Which moves us on to the low points…

Did you have any favourite moments or highlights during this stage in the novel??


| The Low Points |

I like Celaena the assassin. I don’t want her to lose that cold side that has made her what she is today. I don’t want her to lose that foundation of suspicion and distrust which must have permeated every moment in her life before her release from Endovier. The funny and endearing moments are enjoyable but there needs to be a little more cohesion in her two quite disparate sides.

Poor, poor Chaol. He just has to watch from the sidelines as Dorian sweeps Celaena off her feet. Dorian, whilst essentially likeable, seems to be missing something which would truly make me like him – or perhaps trust him. Perhaps he comes across as a little fickle, or flighty, or something… or maybe I just prefer Chaol. 

During this section, the contest plays second fiddle to Celaena’s personal life. Though enjoyable in their own right, I would definitely prefer the contest, along with the murders and levels of suspicion between contestants to take centre stage.

“Celaena realized with a jolt that perhaps the Champions’ killer and Elena’s mysterious evil force might be one and the same.”  

Really? Only just? This is possibly the moment that irritated me most throughout the entirety of the novel so far. Maas has consistently portrayed Celaena as highly intelligent and quick off the mark, yet this somewhat ridiculous moment of dawning realisation came entirely too late. I’m almost certain most readers would have assumed this from the moment Elena popped out of the ether. Perhaps Celaena is too familiar with death and destruction to put the two together…

At this stage in the novel, what were the low points of the story for you?


Stay tuned for the next instalment of this Read Along on 18th January 

Read Along: Throne of Glass – Part Two


Throne of Glass (3)



| Part Two |

Chapters 14 – 27

Welcome to the read along of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, organised by Rinn Reads.

As one of the few people to have not read Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of a read along, despite having heard very mixed opinions – ranging from extreme love to extreme hate! From the 8th – 18th January I will be reading Throne of Glass and posting my thoughts for discussion. Here’s what the schedule looks like:

8th January

Discussion of chapters 1 – 13

11th January

Discussion of chapters 14 – 27

14th January

Discussion of chapters 28 – 39

18th January

Discussion of chapters 40 – end

Feel free to join in with the read along at any point and all discussion points are welcome (but no spoilers!!)… which reminds me:

 There will be spoilers for chapters 14-27!


| Part Two Rating |four star


| The Story So Far |

Celaena continues her training as she and the other contestants embark upon the First Test of the Champions. Whilst frustrated at her inability to show her true talents and subjected to the taunts and ridicule of the other contestants, there are far more sinister events taking place in the castle of Rifthold. In a series of grizzly murders, the champions are seemingly being picked off one by one. Celaena, in her curiosity to discover more of the castle, finds far more than she bargained for as she flees terrors in the night, converses with Fae Queens and realises that the Kingdom of Adarlan is not so devoid of magic as it might first appear.


| The Discussion |

During my Part One discussion I took a broad spectrum of the story and characters we encounter. In this post, I will be looking at how both these aspects have developed over the second part of the read along, and look at some of the highlights and low points so far. It has to be said though, I really am enjoying this book! So much so that I think I’m going to find it more difficult creating a list of low points. Perhaps that section should just be called ‘nit-picking’…

During the second part of the novel, the storyline developed in a much more intriguing and mysterious way than I at first expected. The introduction of magical elements to the narrative bring a sense of weight and history to the world along with a sinister undercurrent which is likely to play a key role in the rest of the novel to come. Celaena’s ‘dream’ encounter with the Fae Queen at the mysterious carved tomb on Samhuinn also added another magical element to the storyline, leading us to believe Celaena was brought to the castle by, perhaps, divine design to solve the gruesome and possibly magically linked murders. The ante has most definitely been upped in this section, and a captivating framework has been created for the second half to come.


| The Highlights |

As a lover of crime and detective fiction I couldn’t help but have a giddy moment when poor ol’ eyeballs got his comeuppance. This is an excellent twist to the tale and, though I was expecting some (quite literal) backstabbing between contestants, I wasn’t expecting ghastly supernatural murders at all! Definitely an exciting turn of events. Which leads me onto my next point…

I absolutely love a good dose of the supernatural and the fact that we’re now feeling the presence of the magic one thought destroyed in the storyline. I love fantasy fiction whether its heavily laden with magic systems or not, but this mysterious magic – the Wyrdmarks smeared in blood on the walls and carved into the stones of the castle – have most definitely piqued my interest! I’m looking forward to how this side of the narrative unravels and, more importantly, whether or how it connects to Celaena’s past. And talking of Celaena’s past…

Celaena’s heartfelt number on the piano and her subsequent conversation with Dorian was a very interesting moment, especially when glimmers of Celaena’s past shine through. I love that we experienced a more emotional side to her character but, most importantly, one in which she didn’t change entirely. If I’m given a mean and snarky character to love; I sure as hell don’t want them to change so completely over the course of a novel that they’re unrecognisable by the end of it. Fingers crossed for this feisty lady.

And what’s a feisty lady to do when confined to a castle? Why! Explore it of course! When I say I love worldbuilding I mean it, right down to the last crumbling stone. So discovering more about the castle of Rifthold and exploring its secret passages was a definite highlight, one which was almost reminiscent of The Secret Garden – a book which inspired a lifelong love of hidden architecture! Celaena’s decision not to escape also felt right. At this stage she has nothing to go back to, someone who obviously betrayed her in the outside world, and the potential for legitimate freedom within her grasp. Good choice!

But then her two fancy men both come to visit her chambers late at night… and encounter one another instead! Clearly these two are both falling for Celaena and, whilst I don’t dislike Dorian by any means, Chaol is a much more intriguing character. So far I’m not hating the ‘romance’ level of this novel… it slots in quite comfortably for now so I’m willing to call it a highlight!

The tests! The daring rescue! Nox! Ol’ Grey eyes! Finally Celaena has a friend and one stupid bastard with a knife decides to try and kill him. Rude! However, Celaena not only gets to show off what one can do with a rope, a gargoyle and some sticky-backed plastic but she also manages to rescue a blossoming friendship in the process! A win, win I’d say… except for the losing part of course.

Did you have any favourite moments or highlights during this stage in the novel??


| The Low Points |

First things first: Not inviting Celaena to the party! Rude! Sure she might discreetly drown you in the punch, or poison your canapés but if you’re going to invite a bunch of murders and rapists anyway… !

Last things last: Kaltain Rompier. Firm dislike.

At this stage in the novel, what were the low points of the story for you?


Stay tuned for the next instalment of this Read Along on 14th January 

Read Along: Throne of Glass – Part One


Throne of Glass (3)



| Part One |

Chapters 1 – 13

Welcome to the first discussion post for the read along of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, organised by Rinn Reads.

As one of the few people to have not read Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of a read along, despite having heard very mixed opinions – ranging from extreme love to extreme hate! From the 8th – 18th January I will be reading Throne of Glass and posting my thoughts for discussion. The schedule has moved a day as alas! I couldn’t find the time to post yesterday! Here’s what the schedule looks like:

8th January

Discussion of chapters 1 – 13

11th January

Discussion of chapters 14 – 27

14th January

Discussion of chapters 28 – 39

18th January

Discussion of chapters 40 – end

Feel free to join in with the read along at any point and all discussion points are welcome (but no spoilers!!)… which reminds me:

 There will be spoilers for chapters 1-13!


| Part One Rating |four star


| The Story So Far |

Celaena Sardothien, otherwise known as Adarlan’s Assassin, has been toiling for over a year in the Endovier Salt Mines after being taken prisoner by the King of Adarlan. When the Crown Prince and the Captain of the Guard unexpectedly arrive at the mines with a strange proposition, Celaena is whisked off to fight for her freedom in a competition of Champions. Win the competition and she will be granted her freedom. Lose and it could mean death.

Celaena is taken to the castle at Rifthold where, under an assumed name and identity, she meets the infuriating Kaltain Rompier and the engimatic Princess Nehemia of Eyllwe. After a brief introduction to the other Champions, she begins both her training for the contest and her navigation through courtly politics (where unfortunately murder is frowned upon). Will she become Champion of Champions? Will she kill Kaltain Rompier with a plant pot? We’ll just have to wait to find out!


| The Discussion |

Every time I embark on a new young adult novel or series I always have an immediate feeling of dread – Am I wasting my time? Will the characters be vapid and irritating? Will there be more romance than I can handle?! For the most part, this feeling is completely irrational as this could occur in any novel and I don’t actually read a lot of young adult fiction. However, just the barest suspicion can be enough to put me off completely… one can’t count on irrationality!

I’ll admit that when I first saw the Throne of Glass series I didn’t think it would be one for me. The varied opinions of fellow bloggers were often contradictory which, for the most part, seemed to be down to Celaena’s personality but, as ever, I wasn’t happy to stay out of the loop, so when I saw that Rinn was organising a read along I thought – why the hell not!

And so far, so good! Let’s take a look and see why.


| The Cast |

Celaena Sardothien

Oh Celaena, I’ve heard some bad things about you – your overwhelming arrogance in particular – but I actually really like you! Yes, this is a woman with more than a little bit of an ego but she also comes across as funny, observant and charming. And I love a character who can worry about whether someone thinks she’s pretty whilst thinking about slitting their throat. I’ve already warmed to her so much more than I did Feyre in A Court of Thorns and Roses – clearly blood thirsty assassins are more my bag. However, I am only a short way into the novel so whether Celaena will irritate me in later chapters remains to be seen!

Dorian Havilliard

Enter Dorian. A charming and be-caped prince who is both devilishly handsome and sharp of mind… not to mention all the ladies he has overheating in their corsets. Whilst Dorian appears to have some wit and a good dollop of charm, I have a tendency to severely dislike literary males whose mere presence is enough to see all rational and intelligent females lose their heads. Some steaming under the bonnet is however acceptable. Play on – judgement not yet passed.

Chaol Westfall

Gruff and a bit rough around the edges, Chaol is a man who isn’t afraid to drag Adarlan’s Assassin around by her hair if necessary. We’ve had the barest hints of his inner workings at this stage but he’s already a character I’m disposed to like. It looks likely that he will become an integral part of Celaena’s storyline. Oh, and he’s pretty nifty with a sword too.

Kaltain Rompier

This woman is an excellently irritating sort of character who may seem a teensy bit one dimensional at this stage. However, her encounters with Celaena are amusing and she may (and probably will) have more of a role still to play in the storyline. And you never know – the plant pot might not miss next time!

Nehemia

We’ve only just encountered the Princess of Eyllwe but there already seems to be a lot hiding beneath her serene exterior. Much of the devastating rule of the King of Adarlan is conveyed through her talk with Celaena, and we see the true extent of the destruction his armies wreak in order to rid the world of magic. In doing so, we also get to learn a little more about power extents and boundaries, along with the various cultural differences between lands. Nehemia is definitely an intriguing character who no doubt will play an important role. For good or ill? Who can say! (Not looking at those of you who have read it!)

The Champions

At this point we know very little about the other champions brought along for the contest beyond one of them having an appetite for eyeballs and there being one big bastard who looks set to either be a worthy opponent or the first with a knife in his back. Celaena’s repeated references to the grey eyed fellow perhaps mark him out as something special – or perhaps even terrible. I’m definitely looking forward to the progression of the contest.

The King of Adarlan

Bitter and resentful, the King of Adarlan has sewn the seed of hatred throughout his kingdom and its continually expanding borders. His armies burn books, museums and galleries as they scour the land intent on the destruction of magic. Basically he’s a bit of a bastard. Whether Celaena would ever be granted freedom by him even if she does win remains to be seen – but I very much doubt that he’s a man of his word.

At this stage in the novel, what were your feelings towards the characters? Did you like or dislike anyone in particular?


| The World |

Descriptively, this world is very intriguing. Maas has a lovely writing style which flows easily and engages you with beautiful, succinct descriptions. However it does throw up some questions as to the stage of civilisation that the world is at. But hey! It’s fantasy – you can do whatever the hell you want!

The Mines are an interesting location and the brief part of the novel which takes place here shows a harsh and unforgiving environment – though one can expect no less from a prison, I suppose. Celaena’s thoughts tend to stray back to this environment which helps to build a clearer picture, and I’m intrigued to learn more about its other residents.

Rifthold is a vibrant and rich location. The castle is described in wonderful detail, from the garish glass castle superimposed on the sturdy stone of the old to the disturbing clock tower with its menacing gargoyles leering down on those below. It’s definitely a fantastic stage to set a contest of Champions on!

What do you make of the world so far? Do you get any impressions or does anything conflict with your reading enjoyment?


| The Story |

Ohh, I really am enjoying this novel! If it continues in this vein, I have no doubts that I’ll be very satisfied by the end of it.

Hints of magic and a connection to Celaena’s past occur throughout this part  of the novel and I fully expect them to become integral to the storyline as we read on. From Celaena’s removal from the mines to her instalment at the castle we get to learn a lot about her past, though many facts still remain a mystery. At this stage the novel is definitely concentrating on establishing its characters and conveying a believable world, along with building a good framework for the story to come. I particularly enjoyed the training practice between Celaena and Chaol, and her amusing sinister thoughts were a definite highlight throughout.

Celaena is definitely a complex character who has a wonderfully conflicted personality. The lack of care and emotion she displays when thinking about killing others should make her come across as cold but the hints of a different side to her background – her care for those imprisoned and enslaved in the mines, the destuction of books, knowledge and cultures by Adarlan’s army – definitely brings a bit of colour to her character and show two completely different aspects to her personality.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next – this novel already has me hooked! (And I did find it very hard to not read ahead before writing this post!). Despite my preconceived doubts, I’m so glad I picked up a copy! Thanks to those who recommend it!

What did you think about the story so far? Are you enjoying it? Does it capture your attention and imagination?


Stay tuned for the next instalment of this Read Along on 11th January 

Review: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough



13 Minutes

by Sarah Pinborough

Young Adult | Thriller | 320 Pages | To be published by Gollancz on 18th February 2016


| Rating |


This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review

Between the gorgeous cover art, an intriguing synopsis and a very witty author (whom, thanks to Lynn’s Books, I unearthed at the Gollancz Book Festival), I just had to request 13 minutes and find out what all the fuss was about. And Sarah Pinborough does not disappoint. 13 Minutes is an intense psychological crime thriller which twists and turns and continues to surprise until the very end. This a novel full of teenage angst, decaying friendships and melodrama, which examines the inconsistency of youth on a backdrop of lies, revenge and murder. 13 Minutes is a carefully crafted thriller which is utterly absorbing and makes you think twice about the teenagers in your life…

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

13 MINUTES by Sarah Pinborough is a gripping psychological thriller about people, fears, manuiplation and the power of the truth. A stunning read, it questions our relationships – and what we really know about the people closest to us . . .

13 Minutes follows the story of Natasha ‘Tasha’ Howland, a popular, beautiful and brilliant teenage girl who is found close to death after being pulled out of a freezing river by a dog walker. With no memory of the events leading up to her attack, everyone is a suspect – from the man who found her to her high school entourage. As suspicions are heightened and all evidence starts to point in a certain direction, will the police intervene before it’s too late? Or will Tasha and her old friend Becca take matters into their own hands to uncover the killer’s identity?

13 Minute is part thriller, part teenage drama; a Mean Girls and psychological thriller mash up, full of broken friendships, angst and betrayals which tie into the unfolding crime drama. The chapters are split into the diary entries of Tasha and a third person perspective of Becca, a girl whom she dumped as a friend when she no longer had the image to fit in with Tasha’s ‘barbie’ retinue. When events conspire to bring them together again, their entirely polarised lives and friendship groups come together in a clash of blonde hair, Vogue cigarettes and eyeliner.

Tasha and Becca’s characters are extemely well depicted and are instantly believable, if not always likeable, and through them the cast of barbies and nobodies which weave their way through the narrative. The success of this novel relies heavily on its skilled characterisation which provides a true reflection of real life. There is a danger in novels such as this in creating a cast of stereotypes but any girl who has experienced high school will see something of the reality in the teenage dramas which crowd the corridors… if not with quite the same dangerous consequences.

Sarah Pinborough writes effortlessly in an almost conversational tone to craft an excellently thrilling tale, which kept me guessing until the very end. I don’t often read novels centred around teenage dramas – it isn’t something I would instantly pick up in a bookshop – but once I let myself go, I soon became immersed in this world of bitching and backstabbing, and mayhem and murder, which left me genuinely surprised at its conclusion.

13 Minutes exceeded all my expectations, and its almost continuous surprises had me gripped from start to finish. If you’re craving a Young Adult thriller then look no further, this is a truly absorbing read. With The Death House already awaiting my attention, Sarah Pinborough is certainly an author I am determined to read more of.

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