Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer #1)

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice, is an easy-to-read fantasy adventure with political intrigue and social insecurity with a nice dose of magic.  Written in the first person as a memoir of an older Fitz looking back at his oldest memories and the beginnings of his career as an assassin.  Although Hobb could have used the older Fitz to create a larger picture of what was going on, she instead kept the perspective exclusively on what was happening in his life as part of the larger picture.

The book covers a decade in young Fitz life and shows the social isolation of a bastard who caused his father’s exile and abdication.  Young Fitz has an abundance of men to look up to throughout the 10 year period, who over the same period he either disappoints or learns to distrust.  Fitz finds himself dealing with two types of magical abilities, one treasured and one frowned up, which both shape his young life and potentially the future.  However at the end of the book, only one stage of Fitz’s journey is at an end and nothing really has been resolved save for the defeat of a court conspiracy.

Assassin’s Apprentice is not a standalone book, it is the first of a trilogy and ends with none of the threads introduced in anyway wrapped up.  But that doesn’t takeaway from the enjoyable experience it is exploring the Six Duchies with young Fitz as he begins to create a place in the world for himself.

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Henry VI, Part Two

Henry VI, Part Two by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The events leading up to the Wars of the Roses are complicated and had many historical actors playing a part. William Shakespeare had to write a dramatic play upon those events with those actors in an entertaining way, overall he succeed more than he failed. Shakespeare portrays Henry VI as a pious man, but feeble king that overshadowed by more powerful magnates. The Duke of York is an ambitious man who wants the crown, but wants to create the right situation for himself. Powerful men like Duke Humphrey, Suffolk, and Somerset are undermined by each other and others to create a cycle of misgovernment that York hopes to use. Then there is Jack Cade’s Kentish rebellion that storms London causing havoc.

The political backstabbing and conspiracies were an effective way to move the action, however the reason for the need of Somerset’s arrest wasn’t very clear compared to Humphrey’s and Suffolk’s. Overall the play enjoyable and entertaining.

A Memory of Light (WoT #14)

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14)A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Memory of Light brings an ending in The Wheel of Time for the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, and his adversary The Dark One, along with their collective allies and forces.  Throughout the 1148 pages, good and evil vie for an advantage in the lead up to and during ultimate confrontation between all involved whether during The Last Battle or the inside the Pit of Doom itself.  But one of the most striking things about the book is that there are two narrative structures in play, the first with the book itself and the other of the entire series.

The conflict between both sides in A Memory of Light literally takes place on the battlefield, which spans over a third of the continent at one point before settling in two locations.  In previous books, battles have occurred and were well written, however they pail in comparison with what occurs in A Memory of Light.  The apocalyptic Last Battle that has been mentioned since The Eye of the World occurs at the Field of Merrilor, between the forces of Light and Shadow, and within the Pit of Doom, between Rand and the Dark One itself.  The majority of it takes place within chapter 37, aptly entitled The Last Battle, take up an eye raising 248 pages and chronicling over 24 hours worth of battle action and strategy.  It is truly a worthy battle between good and evil given all the build up.

In the end A Memory of the Light and The Wheel of Time comes down to Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One, which is more a mental than physical battle.  Foreshadowed events early in the book once again play a role in the climax to help Rand in his destiny, but as the book’s climax is one and the same with the series it turns out that its events in the Two Rivers in The Eye of the World do foreshadow the resolution in the Pit of Doom.  If this series is about cycles and patterns, then Jordan succeeded in giving one to his entire series.

A Memory of Light is an apt title for the final Wheel of Time book, as from the beginning of the series things have been getting continually darker.  The book ends with a lot of the characters just dangling as their stories and lives aren’t at an end, however their connections to the appearance, rise, and destiny of the Dragon Reborn is just like the story.  Not only as a book, but as the final installment of a series as long as The Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light is excellent and leaves one satisfied once they close the cover for the last time.

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Henry VI, Part One

Henry VI, Part One by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Even though I want to stick to Shakespeare’s work chronologically, I’m doing Henry VI, Part One now because, well it’s Part One. Since this play came after Henry VI, Part Two and Part Three there is the danger that it could feel like a prequel. Unfortunately it turns out that Shakespeare has as much trouble with prequels as our contemporary writers. Shakespeare as to put characters into place for the already produced Parts Two and Three, but make the play interesting thus inserting new characters who everyone knows aren’t in the previous plays so will die most likely.

Having seen an adaptation of Henry VI, Part One (thanks 1960s BBC) as part of a series of plays before reading it, I was able to follow along with the action and speeches. However, when considering the play on it’s own the flaws in the overall product do become visible. While the heroic Talbot could be said to be primary protagonist of the piece, he is only so strong as the primary antagonist. After finishing the play, I still can’t figure out who was the antagonist, was it the French together or Joan of Arc/La Pucelle herself. In either case, neither was really effective.

I wanted to give the play 3, but I couldn’t convince myself to do so.

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve seen a film adaptation of this play (the Burton-Taylor one) as well as a televised performance of “Kiss Me Kate” in which this the play within the play. From the beginning of the play, the comedic aspect of the performance is set in the Induction, however that little “subplot” is never resolved though Shakespeare having a young page play a woman is nice use of the prohibition of women on stage at the time.

The misogyny of the play can’t be ignored obviously, however one has to remember the times the play was created even with Elizabeth as queen. The main plot and the subplot were funny and well thought out to a good finish for each. However the overall Act and Scene structure seemed a bit off as several entire Acts were devoted to only one scene while another, Act IV, was overly long. While the plots weren’t hurt, it felt like a lot of cramming in stuff that could have been spread out.

Overall, Shrew is a significant step up from Two Gentlemen.

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Once finished with Shakespeare’s first play, it’s clear that it’s a first work that when compared to later works doesn’t stand up. There are funny interludes with Speed and Launce, however they are few and far between. The boy actor playing a girl character who disguises herself as a boy, which Shakespeare famously uses first appears hear. The conflict between Valentine and Proteus appears and disappears within the same scheme within a matter of lines, which shows how much Shakespeare will progress in the future.

In the end, Two Gentlemen is a good first impression but overall it’s not satisfying