“Sofia Wizards” by Martin Kolev

Софийски магьосници(Author: Martin Kolev) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Bulgaria)


Review:

After a whirlwind of a year and after moving away from Bulgaria, I ended up nearly finishing 2017 with a Bulgarian book. And what a book it was.

While I was eager to start Sofia Wizards (I got the translation from the author’s Facebook page. Alternatively, I would think Wizards of Sofia would sound better), I didn’t have very big expectations. The friend I borrowed the book from told me that it’s basically Bulgarian Harry Potter, which was more or less scary, because no book would live up to that name.

It turned out that while they had many similarities, including a first chapter almost identical to the main points of the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book was not a rip-off. That is not to say that it didn’t borrow many ideas, like the hidden streets (similar to Diagon Alley), or the magical pubs, etc., but it was not done in a blatant way.

Kolev actually brought a lot of little things to the book that I quite enjoyed, such as the quest games in which you actually physically get sucked in, or the schools of magic which are separated by abilities, rather than personality traits and preferences (nature magic, mirror magic, fire magic).

Something that I really loved about the book was the alternative look on Sofia. Having made the decision to leave Bulgaria, I didn’t think I would miss it very much. But while reading Sofia Wizards, I did remember fondly the streets and places mentioned, as well as imagine this other Sofia that I would have liked to be a part of, if it existed.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the next installments in the series (as I saw the author mentioned on his Facebook page that there will be others).

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“The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish(Author: Andrzej Sapkowski) + (Year: 1993) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Poland)


Review:

I’ve been hearing about this series for years, but it somehow never seemed like the right time to start reading it. I might or might not have mentioned recently relocating to Poland, but I did, and it somehow seemed like it was about time I also read Poland’s most famous fantasy series. Also, I was craving playing a game like Witcher, so I wanted to get into the mood before doing so.

This book had many pros and many cons for me. Most importantly:

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  1. The folklore. I loved the fact that the book included more original and unusual characters. The folklore in Europe and especially the Slavic countries is quite interesting and colorful, and for the most part, unpopular in Western media. I enjoyed the strange and obscure monsters Sapkowski used in the book.
  2. The setting. I really liked how the book basically showed this older version of the Slavic world/old Poland. The villages, the Slavic mentality, the originality of it all. I’ve been reading Western literature for the majority of my grown up life and it was very refreshing to see a more or less authentic look into my world as it once used to be. Instead of shiny kings and queens and knights, the world of the Witcher was all small villages and grimy old castles. Fun!

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  1. The first book was an anthology. Me no likey. It would have been much better if it had a continuous story instead of these short stories about different monsters the Witcher fought. Because that leads to…
  2. Repetitiveness. In a story like this, having similar events inevitably leads to having the same short story again and again with slight modifications in the personality of the victim and the monster.

From what I managed to find out, there will be a continuous story somewhere in the future of the series, so I guess I will be looking forward to that, at least, because I don’t want to give up on the Witcher yet.

 

“Fables, Vol. 4” by Bill Willingham

Fables (The Deluxe Edition, #4)(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I feel like there was a bit of bad period for Fables around Vol. 2-3, but then it started picking up pace here and I’m really happy with the current progression. I see a development both in the characters that we already have as people, a narrative progression towards the Adversary, and an increase of fable characters, which I highly appreciate.

My favourite part of this deluxe edition, however, were the 1001 Nights of Snowfall. I thought that that was just fantastic, because I love backstories and they make characters feel more realistic to me. Most of all, I was interested by the stories of Flycatcher and Snow White. I seem to have either missed it, or it still hasn’t been explained, but I had no idea why Snow felt the way she did about the seven dwarfs. As I am aware that Disney Snow White and fable Snow White are very different characters, I wasn’t sure how these two stories would fit into the same world, or whether they would fit at all, but I expect something more grotesque to be revealed soon.

In all honesty, I am already reading the next volume, so I already know that the story is getting even more juicy, and I’m definitely hyped right now.

“Saga, Vol. 7” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 7(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I definitely liked this volume more than the previous one. Aside from the story being a lot more thought-through and less transitional than the one in the previous volume, it was also a lot more serious and mature.

In fact, I think this is one of the most serious volumes of Saga in general. Despite Prince Robot’s ding dong close ups and everything…

Two things made this volume more grown up for me:

  1. The refugee crisis. It was reflected 1:1 as what we see in our day-to-day reality. The native population of Phang was how the author wanted us to see the real refugees as well. There was the element of religion, the element of outside intrusion, and also that of the innocence/fanaticism of the locals.
  2. This quote:

“You know that old cliche about the millions of deaths being a statistic… while the loss of just one life is a tragedy?

If that’s true, what is it when you lose something that never even had a chance to be born?

I’ve had lots of relationships in my lifetime, platonic or otherwise, but the ones I think about most are those that never quite made it to term.

I guess I’m just haunted by all that potential energy.

One moment the universe presents you with this amazing opportunity for new possibilities…

…and then…

I also saw in this volume that the stories of the characters are finally moving forward, all of them, from Hazel’s family, to The Will. I’m looking forward to the new volumes.

“Saga, Vol. 6” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 6(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I spent a really long time waiting for this. I started reading the issues from the volume months ago, but only ever read all of it just now, and something was missing from the experience.

Whether it was the long period of waiting, or the quality of the volume itself, I wasn’t as satisfied as I usually am when I am reading Saga.

The stories have started feeling somewhat flimsier and less corporeal. The characters don’t seem to evolve much, and despite the big time jumps, nothing much is actually happening. For example, what I noticed in this volume is that when the story kind of froze for Hazel, everyone else also didn’t manage to do anything much. By the story “freezing” what I mean is that they had a rather uneventful period of time, or say, a period which was not necessarily important to the main plot. So as Hazel’s story didn’t evolve into any plot-changing events, neither did anyone else’s. It seems like they were all just waiting for the volume to pick up so that they can continue living. It’s something that happens in all series, of course, but for all intents and purposes, it somehow affected Saga badly for me.

I have one more volume to catch up with, so I hope things will balance themselves once again.