Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) - Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of The Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Published: Gollancz, Orion; June 2008
Genre: Fantasy 
My rating: 4/5

The Blurb says: "'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me'"


"Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man's will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself." 


If it wasn't clear from that quote, Patrick Rothfuss really has a wonderful way with words. 

It's obvious really; really quite simple. It is essentially the story of Kvothe, told by the man himself. Like I said, it's simple; but it is glorious and beautiful. The now unassuming and rather unimpressive innkeeper Kote finds his past life catching up with him; a life he tried desperately to put behind him. With the timely arrival of the great story-teller the Chronicler, Kote decides it's time to tell the story of the man he once was: Kvothe, the Kingkiller. I don't really want to say much more than that; though it may not seem like it, the blurb doesn't really give anything at all away so everything else feels like a spoiler!

The characters are well crafted and intriguing. The young Kvothe is driven and motivated, awkward and naive. Rothfuss' short interludes in the story of young Kvothe kept me intrigued - what happens to Kvothe to make him deny his life of magic and intrigue and become Kote the innkeeper? As a love interest, I was relatively impartial to Denna for the majority of the book. She is most definitely a bitch, there's no doubt about it, but as much as Kvothe tries to apologise for it and excuse it, she very much remains unapologetic and you can't fault her for that. We learn about Denna as Kvothe does and I think, by the end, I was very much rooting for them. I loved Kvothe's school friends Sim and Wil; they sort of popped in and out and weren't around enough for my liking. Bast, close friend and tutee of our central character as innkeeper Kote, is a wonderfully mysterious Fae creature; we have yet to learn how he stumbled into Kvothe's life and why he was so willing to live his life in a mask with his master.

The magic is wonderful. The majority of the magic we see is sympathy and appears to be relatively scientific. Then there's the magic that gives the book its name: The Name of the Wind. I've always, weirdly and with no real known origin, enjoyed the kind of magic that's associated with the naming of things. After a chance meeting with the alchemist Abenthy, who would become Kvothe's first teacher, Kvothe dedicates so much of his future to understanding Naming and finding out the name of the wind. After being inspired by his tutor Abenthy and the tales of the storyteller Skarpi, we follow Kvothe as he battles the streets of Tarbean and becomes one of the greatest, and youngest, students the University has ever seen.

The world Rothfuss has created is well-formed with a well thought out history. It is infinitely clear that Rothfuss has spent an immense amount of time creating Kvothe's world both geographically and historically. Of course it needed to be for the sake of the story perhaps more so than in some other fantasy stories. Kvothe travels far and wide across his world and his motivation is heavily reliant on a well established history as he hunts down the Chandrian and explores the mythic, fantastical history of his world. What is good is that the story keeps moving. Rothfuss doesn't spend heaps of time just establishing his world and its history unless it's integral to the plot. Pat Rothfuss and his character Kote are masterful story-weavers.

The only thing I will say is that it's quite a long book, and it feels like we've barely even scratched the surface of Kvothe's story. Of the things outlined in the blurb it feels like, 600+ pages down and we've failed to cover any of it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's not good, and you barely feel the length of it when you're reading, this book just had a lot of ground to cover and is very much the scene-setter. It's a really enjoyable scene-setter but not enough for 5 stars.

I would definitely recommend this to all fantasy fans. It involves a very different method of world creation than any of the fantasy I've read and Rothfuss does it beautifully. I'm going to hold off reading the second book though, at least until there's a release date for the third book. The Wise Man's Fear is 1000 pages long I don't think I'll be able to revisit it for some time like I normally do when there's a long break in the publications of installments so I think it's best to wait. All I ask is that we find out more about Bast in The Wise Man's Fear. He was my favourite.

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

Thursday, 24 December 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Weeks 10 & 11 [7th-18th Dec]

So there's no excuse, I just fully forgot to do my weekly round-up for last week and this week's, for no other reason than sheer laziness, is horrendously late.

Publishing Skills
Week 10s Publishing Skills class on Nielsen BookScan unfortunately didn't go to plan. Due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances the website could not be accessed on the university network so we didn't get to spend any time on BookScan but it was great to have Annie in again and she helped us as best she could without access to the website.
In our final Publishing Skills session we had Helen Youngs in from Inspired Selection - a recruitment consultancy for the publishing industry. She helped us understand how to best market ourselves in our CVs and cover letters; an invaluable skill for all of us.

Publishing Project
We had an information meeting on the 8th to check out the interest and answer any questions people may have had. It was better attended than we had hoped and helped us to iron out a few kinks and understand what we hadn't quite made clear enough. It at least showed us that our marketing is somewhat working though and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we get our first submission soon! In our final Pub Project session we each gave presentations on how our projects were coming along and any stumbling blocks we'd hit along the way. It was really great hearing from all of the other groups and I'm super excited to see how everyone gets on.

Author Management
In our penultimate session we had a great team in from Unbound - a crowdfunded publishing company. The team contained 2 UCL Publishing alumni which was exciting; it's always good to see the successes of former students. We looked at how important it is to find new ways to publish and work with authors if the "traditional" publishing industry hopes to remain competitive in this new, digital industry.
Our final Author Management session was a space to ask any questions we had about anything we felt needed covering further. We also got a couple more ideas of what we could do for our assessment for this module: an author tool-kit.

Theories of the Book
Week 10: In this session we had special guests Prof. Alexis Weedon and Claudio Pires Franco come in and talk to us about cross-media publishing and the changing "book" in the digital age. They brought in several examples of books that had crossed media boundaries - partnering apps, QR codes that unlocked new material.
Week 11: we sort of lead this session. In the groups from our projects we lead small presentations each on a different arena of publishing. From women's presses to self-publishing; pamphleteering to zines; we got a quick yet thorough run through of many, vastly differing sectors of the publishing industry.
The assignment for this was handed in on Friday so this module is officially finished!

I think it's safe to say we're all looking forward to the coming weeks off, even if we are going to be spending a lot of it working on the assignments for Publishing Skills and Author Management.
The weekly updates will be cooling off over the Christmas holidays (because really, my life is not all that interesting that you'd want weekly updates of my down-time).
Happy Christmas from me and, as always, thanks for reading!
Naomi Joy x

Monday, 7 December 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Week 9 [30th Nov-4th Dec]

We revisited InDesign in Publishing Skills on Tuesday morning. While last time we learnt how to add content to the book, this time around we worked our way through the intricacies of cover design. Marita gave us everything necessary to work through her step-by-step guide to make a cover for a book published by her publishing house: Norvik Press. Once we'd completed that, in the spirit of Christmas, we made some Christmas themed poster designs for our favourite books this year. All in the name of education of course! I would show a picture of my design but I decided to take more of a consultant role on this one rather than create my own as I was not quite feeling the Christmas spirit just yet (yes, I know, bah, humbug!)
Next week: Nielsen BookScan revisited.

Publishing Project this week was a hub of productivity. We now have a website! is still "under construction" but it's live while we fill it up so that everyone can access all the information they need to send their awesome YA short stories to us! Check it out here! We have also made a video (of sorts) which is linked to both the vlogging part of our Publishing Skills, and our Publishing Project topic. We're preparing for our Information Meeting on 8th December where we hope to meet a few of the writers interested in entering our competition and answer any questions they might have. I can't say anything just yet but we already have some great judges lined up and more brilliant judges and prizes in the pipeline. It's all getting very exciting!

The Author Management session on Thursday morning was on literary agents. We saw the history of the literary agent and investigated the various roles of a literary agent in the publishing industry at present. We looked at contracts from another perspective: the one between an author and his/her agent. We saw the breakdown of commission from each of the different rights up for grabs; from simple things like hardback, paperback, and ebook, to subsidiary rights like radio/TV, reprints, and translatio. Special guest Matthew Hamilton gave us a great insight into the life of a literary agent from his first hand experience as long time agent at Aitken Alexander.
Next week's focus: 'New ways of working with authors, or why not DIY?' with special guest Dan Kiernan of Unbound.

In Theories of the Book on Thursday afternoon we had a session on Globalisation given by one of our lecturers Daniel Boswell (contrary to what I said last week). He got us thinking about what globalisation means and if/how it can be applied to the publishing industry. While it has resulted in greater trade across borders, it has also resulted in a homogenisation in the books that are published, particularly in the Anglo-American book industries. It also cannot be ignored the lack of translated works that are making headway in our book industry - we very much expect our books to be snatched up and translated in other countries but, for whatever reason, we do not seem to consider works written in other languages a hot enough commodity that they are worth seeking out for translation.
Next week: 'The 'Book' in the Digital Age' with Mel.

Monday, 30 November 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Week 8 [23rd- 27th Nov]

Tuesday morning's Publishing Skills lecture was on vlogging; something most of us were really quite hesitant about. With YouTubers flooding the book charts at the minute - greeted with joy by their fans and cynicism by booksellers and publishers alike - it is becoming more and more important for publishers to make sure they're making the most of this particular form of social media. Nick Coveney (part of the team that brought Alfie Deyes The Pointless Book 1 & 2 into the world) enthusiastically attempted to win us over to the side of the YouTubers with a mix of fun facts and plenty of emojis. Personally, I'm maybe slightly less cynical about it all, but I'll still be glad for every week they're not number one in the charts!
Next week: further InDesign training with Marita Fraser

Tuesday afternoon is probably what made this week slightly stressful. Having decided that we would open our submissions on 30th November, we gave ourselves very little time to get on top of all of the marketing and social media. Tuesday afternoon's session, and the rest of the week really, became a manic stress pot as we designed a temporary logo (drawn by me, very glad to say that that has now been removed from the internet) and a full set of official profile pictures and banners to plaster our social media platforms with (designed by the awesomely talented Kara Dekko). At the time of writing submissions are now open so we're looking forward to getting our first submissions while we continue to work hard on getting our hands on the best prizes and judges to make this the best UCL Publishers' Prize yet!
If you fancy keeping up with how things are going follow us on Twitter (@UCLPubPrizeYA) or like our Facebook page here.

In Thursday morning's Author Management session we discussed Rights Management with the dynamic duo of Diane Spivey and Lynette Owen from Little, Brown and Pearson respectively. They were able to give us an insight into both the fiction and the non-fiction side of rights and permissions and the importance and methods of rights selling. This includes territorial rights as well as serial, TV & Film, and translation etc.
Next week: Literary Agents with Matthew Hamilton (from Aitken Alexander)

Theories of the Book on Thursday afternoon was, once again, a hugely interactive session. After a short information segment on the Literary Citizenship movement Sam asked us to create a literary citizen-ship full of things we could do to make us better literary citizens. Us being us, and therefore nerds, we decided to forego the standard pirate ship idea - oh no, much too simple. Instead we went for a spaceship; and not just any spaceship but the Starship Enterprise (check it out below, shoutout to Kate for the unmistakable drawing!). Noticing how tired we all were, Sam followed by giving us an abridged and punny version of her talk "Star Texts: The Next Generation" (get it?!) - about classics and canon texts and who it is who decides which texts fall into these categories.
Next week: Globalisation and the Book with our own Melanie Ramdarshan-Bold

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Weeks 6 & 7 [9th-20th Nov]

As you know, Week 6 was Reading Week. It was the week we handed in our first assignment, a case study analysing of the social media and online presence of a given publishing house for the Publishing Contexts module we had at the beginning of term. I promise, it was far more interesting to research than it sounds!

A super exciting thing happened during reading week though: we found out what we're doing for our Publishing Project. We are doing a spin off version of the well established UCL Publishers' Prize; a short story competition to all current UCL students, both part- and full-time, with the shortlist to be turned into a physical book. Our version will focus on YA fiction and we're all so excited to get started!

Week 7 [16th-20th Nov]

Tuesday morning's Publishing Skills session was on data and search skills with Dr Merlin Fox from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He told us all about metadata and ONIX and XML; essentially all the techie information that goes into what you get in a search engine or online store like Amazon. He also told us about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It sounds dull perhaps but he made it as interesting as possible. Towards the end of the session we talked about piracy and its implications for publishers and authors outside of just sales figures. I find piracy a really interesting topic and its one that doesn't really get addressed all that much with regards to the book industry so was very glad to have a discussion from Dr Fox.
Next week: Vlogging with Nick Coveney.

As I've mentioned we finally know what we're doing for our Publishing Project, so Tuesday afternoon was mostly about making sure everyone was on the same page in terms of what we hoped to achieve with the Prize and coordinating with the other half of the UCL Publishers' Prize; figuring out how interrelated we wanted to present ourselves, and what we could share between us. We're all really excited to take on this new Publishers' Prize and hope we can do it justice!

Author Management Thursday morning was on contracts, an entirely unavoidable aspect of publishing. Mal talked us through the contract from the point of view of the publisher, what they hoped to get out of a contract, what absolutely needed to be addressed in all contracts and how we really have to be careful what we say because verbal contracts definitely count. Then we heard from Sarah Baxter from the Society of Authors who talked us through how the SoA helps authors to negotiate a contract that best suits them and advises them on what to look out for.
Next week: Rights Management with Diane Spivey (Little, Brown) and Lynette Owen (Pearson).

Theories of the Book was run by Sam that afternoon with the help of Dr Alison Searle from the University of Sydney on scholarly editing. Sam let us in on her love for all things Le Morte D'Arthur and told us the riveting and suspenseful story of the race for the lost manuscript (look this up, it's an action-packed race involving motorbikes and trains). After this, Alison showed us the trials of scholarly editing by allowing us to attempt (emphasis on the word attempt) to transcribe a handwritten letter written by a really rather sassy woman from the 1800 who refused to sign the letter with her name she figured it was about time her reader recognised her handwriting!
Next week: The Literature Industry with our very own Samantha Rayner.

It was a great first week back after Reading Week, necessary as everyone (but me, it's not December yet) counts down the days to Christmas.

Thanks for reading :)
Naomi Joy x

Monday, 9 November 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Week 5 [2nd-6th Nov]

We're almost half way through already! This week was our last week before Reading Week (in which I will be doing my utmost best to get on top of all of the work we've been set in the first half of term. Though this was our last week before a fun (read: stressful) week off, our lectures did not let up.
We kicked off Tuesday morning's Publishing Skills lecture with every Publishing student's worst nightmare: finance. Fortunately our guest speaker Richard Balkwill from Copytrain did a top job of making it as understandable as possible and not horrendously confusing us for 3 hours. 

Tuesday afternoon was pitch time for our Publishing Projects. I think we were all quite pleased with the way it went and are very excited to find out which one of our pitches was successful.

Author Management on Thursday morning was on copyright and intellectual property. Once Mal and Rachel had given us an overview, Richard Mollet, lobbyist and CEO of the Publishers' Association, gave us a really interesting look at the importance and future of copyright in the digital age. Richard kept us all interested and made the subject - which had the potential to be ridiculously overwhelming and confusing to us novices - really accessible. With the rise of digital media, copyright laws and the need for revisions are becoming more and more important, so we were all very grateful to learn about it all from such a capable speaker.

Thursday afternoon was a great end to the week with a super interactive session with Mel on the evolution of authorship. Using what we'd learnt from our readings of Foucault and Barthes' works on the author, we had a mock debate with one half of the class arguing that the author is a collaborator while the other argued that the author is an original genius. I was on the side that argued that the author is an original genius and we took the stance that while an author's idea may not be entirely his own (a truly original idea is near impossible) every time he puts pen to paper - or finger to keyboard - he creates an original piece that only he could write. Unfortunately it was not the winning argument, though I would say that was more down to our sub-standard debating skills rather than an inadequate argument.

So as I've said we're at our reading week now so I won't be posting an update. Once I've done all my work I may be able to get a review up after I've (hopefully successfully) squeezed Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind in around my work.

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

Sunday, 1 November 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Week 4 [26th-30th Oct]

This week in Publishing Skills we looked at copyediting and proofreading practices. We looked at the differences between these roles, and how they have changed with the publishing industry as many publishing houses look to freelancers to fulfil these jobs rather than keep someone in-house. With the help of Wendy Toole, a freelance academic copyeditor and proofreader herself, we not only learnt about the intricacies involved in the job but also got to practice all of the weird and wonderful symbols used by proofreaders to edit and alter work; something we'll be expected to get to grips with if editorial is the route we're hoping to head down.
If you're interested in finding out more head over to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders' website: where you'll find more information and training options.
Next week: Publishing Finance with guest speaker Richard Balkwill (Proprietor at Copytrain and consultant and trainer at The Publishing Training Centre)

In our Publishing Project session this week we had our last opportunity to finalise our ideas ahead of our pitch on 3rd November; it was quite an intense three hours that involved a lot of back and forth, a lot of ideas being thrown around and a lot of repeating ourselves as we all sort of lost track of what we were working towards. In the end though, we've come up with two ideas that all seven of us are really excited to pitch next week! So by my next weekly round up I might just be able to give you a bit more than a hint about what we're looking to do for this module this year.

Author Management this week was on commissioning; what editors are looking for and how they go about commissioning it when they find it. As many of us are still holding on to the editorial dream it was something we're all very excited about. We had two guest speakers in this week both from trade but while Hannah Main (Picador) covered the fiction side, Ingrid O'Connell (Sidgwick and Jackson) gave us a really interesting insight into the non-fiction side of trade. Ingrid's coverage was a really new take on it as it was the first time we've really had someone share their experiences in the editorial side of trade non-fiction publishing. Now, non-fiction has never really been something I've been interested in - so far I've been very fiction-focused - but Ingrid's experiences sounded so exciting and really gave me something to think about.
Next week: Intellectual Property and Copyright with guest speaker Richard Mollet (Publishers' Association)

Theories of the Book was on the history of reading/social spaces. Though was a tad less intense than last week, it was a highly interactive session with Dr Shafquat Towheed and Dr Danielle Fuller who guided us through a discussion on the differences in reading spaces and habits in the 18th century compared to now. It was a very interesting and enlightening discussion that drew on more of our not at all creepy observations (read: stalking) of readers on public transport, in pubs, cafes and various other places. 
Next week: The Evolution of Authorship

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: Walker Books, August 2015
Genre: YA, Social Issues, Sci-Fi
My rating: 5/5 

Amazon says Award-winning writer Patrick Ness's bold and irreverent novel powerfully asks what if you weren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend might just be the God of mountain lions... 

Look, some more stuff happens that evening...but nothing so important that I have to go on about it. Just remember, please, most of that stuff is in the past. It isn't the story I want to tell. At all.
You needed to know it, but for the rest of this, I'm choosing my own story.
Because if you can't do that, you might as well just give up.



Let me start by saying that the Chaos Walking series firmly positioned Patrick Ness as, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite authors; The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book I recommend in any conversation about books. The Rest of Us absolutely in no way let me down. 

This book is essentially somewhat of a satire of YA paranormal romance/sci-fi novels. Each chapter begins with a brief, maybe 100 word, update on whats going on with the indie kids” (one of whom is called Satchel, which never stops being funny). These updates tell the kind of story you'd see in a book/film like I Am Number Four or some other paranormal romance novel. The so-called indie kids are the protagonists of those sorts of stories who must figure out a way to save the day; the kids to whom the aliens show themselves, with whom they share a life-altering love, and against whom they wage a war that threatens the world. The protagonists of our story, however, are just the kids who live in the town; who see all of these things happening but have enough to deal with in their day-to-day lives without having to deal with the vampires, the aliens, and the Gods who decide to take a trip down to earth during their senior year. They are us.

I think I'd assumed that this book was for a younger audience; judging by the blurb alone it could be. But these characters are complex and beautiful and tackling some very grown up issues. The book is written in the first person (often risky, but it works here) from the perspective of Mikey; a 17 year old boy battling crippling anxiety and OCD. We meet his best friend Jared, an openly gay demigod who goes by his middle name as he tries to come to terms with everything that comes with being a gay demigod (he is the grandson of the Goddess of Cats!); his older sister Mel, a recovering anorexic; and Henna, mixed race missionaries' daughter and the object of Mikey's somewhat unrequited love (a love that, at times, verges on an ugly kind of obsession and temporarily turns Mikey into a bit of a dick). They have their baggage, both individually and together, but my goodness do they provide each other with an almost enviable support system. 

It's the kind of concept that had the potential to really not work; very few writers could have pulled it off. In its concept there is very little action in this book; it actively chooses to tell the story of the people with somewhat ordinary lives rather than the ones to whom the action happens. If you're waiting for the story to get going, it won't. That is not the point. This is not a Sci-Fi book about an alien invasion; it is a book about friendship, both its ups and its downs and all of the hiccups in between. It's about loyalty, and love, and family, and the kinds of struggles that need to be addressed more often, particularly in books both for and about young people. It all just happens to go on while some creatures from another world decide to visit Earth for some light invasion. You cannot read this book and not see yourself in one of the characters; or see you and your friends in the relationships Patrick Ness so beautifully and delicately portrays. You cannot read this book and not see the comment being made: the adults in this book brush aside the strange goings on among the young people in the town in much the same way that they tend to brush aside the pressures and struggles of young people as inconsequential. It required wit and humour and a heavy dose of sensitivity and I think Patrick Ness just about got that right.

It cannot go unsaid that this is a gorgeous book. I'd had every intention of waiting for it to come out in paperback before I saw it in Waterstones with its yellow spayed edges and artsy cover design and I couldn't risk the paperback copy not being as stunning. It also includes a print version of the cover exclusive to Waterstones which is pretty cool. I absolutely encourage you, if you're going to read this book (which you definitely should) please, please, please don't get the ebook version. I know it's cheaper and less cumbersome but I promise that you will not regret buying a hard copy. It is a book lover's dream!

As you can probably tell, I would absolutely, most definitely recommend this book to everyone of any age. Honestly the only bad thing I could say about it is that he maybe skims over Mel's anorexia a bit too often - it feels like a bigger comment should've been made on it. But our narrator Mikey sets out that this isn't the story he wishes to dwell on so can I really be annoyed? I'm going to go with no. I'm sure there are people who'd disagree but I believe this book deserves my first 5/5!

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) - Joe Abercrombie

Title: Half A King
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Harper Voyager, paperback January 2015
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: 4/5

The blurb says: Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.

But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself - all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi's path may end as it began - in twists, traps and tragedy..."


The crippled prince Yarvi has forever been the outcast. The youngest son of King Uthrik of Gettland, Yarvi has known he will never be the king his father was; he is, after all, half a man. At the death of his father and brother, Yarvi is forced to turn his back on the life as a minister he had hoped to lead and claim a throne he had never wished to sit upon. To gain some respect from a people who want him no more than he wants to lead them Yarvi swears an oath that will prove to be far harder to keep than anyone could have expected. The young prince finds himself betrayed at every turn. With a handful of loyal allies, Yarvi finds himself fighting for a life he never wanted, all in the name of an oath.

Joe Abercrombie did well for himself (and I suppose Harper Voyager had a lot to do with it) with puff from George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) on the front, and Robin Hobb (Fool's Assassin, the Farseer trilogy), Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind), and Derek Landy (Skullduggery Pleasant) on the back. But while this is his first outing into YA fiction, Abercrombie has already established himself as a 'grimdark' fantasy writer with his First Law trilogy.

Despite the fact that it took me an almost embarrassingly long time to read this book, I really enjoyed it. It's dark, but with well-timed light notes (coming from Rulf and Jaud, in particular). The characters all fit well with the world created around them; a familiar world - there are, to me, many similarities to the Viking world - but suitably 'other'. Abercrombie doesn't spend too much time describing the world and the history of it; it is all very much incorporated into the story and inferred by his characters. The religion, like many in fantasy, is polytheistic, a Tall God for the Sea, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, War, and Peace and four-hundred small gods for everything in between. And, of course, a god of Death, who guards and guides the dead through the Last Door. The fight-scenes cannot go without a mention because, not only were they well-written they actually really intrigued me. WARNING: They are graphic! I found myself pulling all sorts of faces at my book on my morning commute. At one point I'm sure I gagged slightly on the train. But they are graphic in a way that brings to mind the likes of 300 or the Spartacus TV show (although I gave up on the latter quite swiftly because my eyes began to hurt from all of the rolling they were doing) - they are written in a very graphic novel film adaptation kind of style; you can almost imagine the blood sprays and the well-timed slow motion as you read. That may have just been me, though.

The characters are well-formed and follow easily; they never do anything that seems out of character. You get to watch Yarvi really grow during the course of the book after facing setback after setback and betrayal after betrayal. You first meet Nothing you're almost waiting to discover what it is he can do that made everyone on the ship fear him so. Then when you do about half way through the book you think he's surprised you as much as he can. But Abercrombie is not at all finished with Nothing yet (that twist! 5/5 for that twist!). The Golden Queen Laithlin is a queen to rival Cersei Lannister; my only criticism is that we really didn't see enough of her! I can only hope she features more in the next book: Half the World.

From the extract at the back of Half a King the second book in the Shattered Sea series, Half the World doesn't directly pick up from where this one left off. Which is exciting as it introduces new characters but is probably for the best seeing as I have at least 5 other books lined up to be read before I can revisit this series.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book. Abercrombie's decision to try his hand at YA was definitely a good one, and it was tremendously well-executed. Please don't be put off by the fact that this is YA; if you're new to fantasy it is the perfect introduction and if you're looking for something a bit smaller to carry around on the train than Abercrombie's 700+ page adult tomes without leaving the complex world that is fantasy fiction look no further. That said, his adult books have definitely been added to my wish list; they may just have to be in ebook form for ease of transport.

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x