June Wrap-up

June is over, half the year is already behind us, and honestly? I don’t know where the time went. I feel like it has stopped somewhere around the middle of March.

I managed to read six books in June, which makes this my “worst” month since the beginning of the year. Most of the stuff I read was pretty long, though, so I guess it makes sense.

The first book I finished this month was Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson. It’s the eighth installment in his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which I’ve been reading for a very long time now, and I think at this point I’m used to Erikson’s novel structure. He usually spends a huge part of his books just moving from a group of characters to the other in different places, until towards the end everything comes together in a spectacular way.

This book was no exception to this model, and without spoiling anything – this being a sequel and everything – it was quite epic.

You might like this if you like: Honestly, I have yet to read something that reaches the scope and complexity of the Malazan world. If you love a rich fantasy, extensive worldbuilding (like, a couple continents or so), following a host of different characters, and a story that focuses more on big scale events than character or plot, then this might be for you.

After such a big commitment, I needed something a bit lighter and easier to read. The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle. Apparently this was a month for sequels.

In this book we follow Tenar, who is taken as a child to become the new Ahra, the priestess to the Nameless Ones who guard the catacombs of Atuan. Only she knows how to navigate the dark labyrinth and its rooms and dangers, but outside of the tombs she has to step carefully around the priestesses of the other temples.

When a young wizard manages to enter the tombs and gets lost in the tunnels, Tenar has to make a choice: help him to get out, thus putting to question everything she believes in, or lure him in the depths of the labyrinth and offer him to the Nameless Ones, as custom dictates.

The strongest part of this book, in my opinion, is the atmosphere. Le Guin is able to conjure the cold, oppressing feeling of the dark tunnels of the labyrinth so strongly that I found myself holding my breath together with Tenar as she was counting the twists and turns of the tunnels.

The plot is fairly linear, mostly following Tenar as she grows up with the priestesses, becomes confident in her own power, and as her confidence shatters when the arrival of the wizard forces her to question all of her beliefs.

You might like this if you like: I haven’t really read many books where the main setting is catacombs, but I feel like you might enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasy books if you liked anything by Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve read both Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air by her and I feel like there’s a similarity in the way they weave their stories. They manage to paint rich worlds without weighing them down with lenghty expositions. The stories are enjoyable and easy to read; and if you’re looking for deeper messages, you have but to scrape the surface to find them.

Next, I caved in and finally read The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson.

A thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler rose to power and settled in the city of Luthadel. He rules over a bunch of nobles and oppressess the rest of the population, thanks to his incredible powers and the help of his terrifying Inquisitors. For centuries, pockets of rebellion have been trying to get rid of him, but it looks like nothing can kill him.

Kelsier is the only prisoner ever to escape the Pits. After losing everything, he’s ready to do whatever is in his power to bring down the people responsible. Even if that means causing the explosion of a rebellion that has been brewing without success for centuries.

Vin is only trying to survive. Her brother abandoned her with a crew of thieves and thugs. The only thing keeping her safe is what she calls her Luck, something that allows her to push the emotions of people around her in the direction she desires to avoid confrontations or, worse, unwanted attention. She doesn’t know how much her life is going to change when her path meets Kelsier’s.

The magic system really shines in this book. It’s based on metal consumption and “burning”; every metal gives the user a different ability. Mistings are only able to make use of one of the metals, but some rare individuals, called Mistborn, have control of all of them. It was extremely interesting seeing how the author plays with the limits of this system, and how he finds clever ways to apply it in a lot of different situations.

That said, I didn’t really connect to the characters, and nothing in the plot managed to surprise me. I called the two major plot twists when I was a little over 50% done with the book. I still really enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Plenty of people found it exeptional, though, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I will continue with the series to see where it goes, but I’m in no real rush to do so.

You might like this if you like: I feel like this would be a good starting point for someone who is looking to move from YA fantasy to Adult. The writing style is extremely easy to follow, with an almost cinematic take, and one of the main protagonists is 16 years old at the beginning of the story. It starts as an action packed heist, but at heart it’s the story of a young person learning to control their powers in order to save the world from an evil ruler.

Elantris, again by Brandon Sanderson, was my next read. I had heard mixed things about this book, and after trying The Final Empire and falling on the “unpopular opinion” side, I was curious to see where I would stand on this one.

Once, Elantris was a rich city inhabited by living gods. People touched by the Shaod were beautiful, able to wield magic, and the city prospered under their government. Until, ten years ago, something happened and the magic withered. Now the Shaod is a curse, those touched by it transformed into living corpses and sealed off behind the walls of Elantris, now a rotting city turned prison.

Raoden is the prince of Arelon, living in the shadows of Elantris. When he wakes up cursed with the Shaod only a few days before his wedding, his life is destroyed. He’s thrown into Elantris and soon learns the rules of his inhabitants: join one of the gangs, or hide as best as you can; your hunger never goes away; and be careful how you move, because once you hurt yourself, the pain will never fade.

Sarene, princess of Teod, is travelling to Arelon to meet her betrothed. She doesn’t expect to be a widow before she’s even married. Searching for an answer to her husband’s sudden death, she uncovers a rebellion just waiting for the right moment to usurp the king, and has to decide which side to join for the sake of Arelon’s people.

Hraten, a high priest of Fjordell, has come to Arelon with a mission from his god. He has three months to convert the population, or they will die. He didn’t know he would be opposed by the princess at every step, and as the time passes, he needs a plan to convert everyone in order to save their lives. A plan that might include Elantris, and its inhabitants…

I did enjoy Elantris more than The Final Empire. I still found the characters to be a bit stereotypical, but the plot was more interesting, in particular Hraten’s story. I also enjoyed discovering more and more about Elantris and what really happened to the city and its magic.

You might like this if you like: Political intrigues, searching for lost knowledge, a religious system that borders on a cult, a headstrong princess.

Unbelievably, I managed to get to the end of yet another Malazan book. I know, I still don’t believe it myself.

Dust of Dreams is the ninth novel in the series, and as for the previous one, I will not go into any details because spoilers. I will say only this: this novel and the next one were supposed to be a single book. Like, a 3000 pages book. Yikes.

I have only one complaint about it: there are a few characters that we left back in previous novels and have yet to make another appearance. I happen to love some of those characters, and I’ve been reading whole books hoping I would see them again. They weren’t in this book, and I’ll be really, really, really upset if they don’t come back before the end.

The last book I managed to read in June was Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Again, after Malazan, I needed something lighter.

Benevolence, princess of Montagne, has no idea that her life is going to change. When her uncle -the king – and her mother are killed, and her father disappeares, she is swept into the castle by queen regent Sophia as the only heir to the throne.

Dancing, handwriting, embroidery, and a million other subject fill Ben’s days, and she does her best to spit her teachers and the queen. Especially when she discovers a magic room atop her tower, and starts learning magic and sneaking in the kitchen through secret passages to eat to her heart’s content.

But the country is on the brink of war with their neighbour Drachensbett, and she needs to grow up quickly if she wants to save her people from its grasp.

I listened to the audiobook for this one – which, by the way, is narrated by the author, so bonus points I guess – and really enjoyed it. Light and funny, even if the ending is probably a bit rushed. But as a break from a very dense book? Perfect.

You might like this if you like: I feel like this would be perfect if you liked Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, or Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, or you’re simply looking for something that feels like a fairytale.

So this is it! These are all the books I read in the month of June. All in all it was a fairly good month. I enjoyed everything I read, even though nothing was really amazing, and I finally dipped my toes in Branderson’s work.

How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?

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