“Going Postal, Discworld #33” by Terry Pratchett

Going Postal (Discworld, #33; Moist von Lipwig, #1)(Author: Terry Pratchett) + (Year: 2004) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Going Postal definitely ranks among my top 3 Discworld books. That is to say, Equal Rites will ALWAYS be my favourite, as it was my first, and the one that got me into Terry Pratchett to begin with. After that, the list gets blurrier, but nevertheless, Going Postal is among best.

I saw the Going Postal movie no fewer than 3 years ago and I loved it. Which was my reason to postpone reading this book after I suffered from a severe Terry Pratchett fatigue. Now I’m back, and I’m happy to be here.

Going Postal is essentially a book about hope. Whatever else is happening in this book, it’s actually a wide frame of the story of hope.

“And this was known as the greatest of treasures, which is Hope. It was a good way of getting poorer really very quickly, and staying poor. It could be you. But it wouldn’t be.”

And then later in the book:

“Welcome to fear, said Moist to himself. It’s hope, turned inside out. You know you can’t go wrong. You’re sure it can’t go wrong…

But it might.”

Moist, as a character, is a personification of the efforts to be good. Or to be better. The struggle against the easy way out, which is to just take what you want (and not even need), as opposed to struggling and fighting for what’s worth it. I found Moist mightily gratifying to read about. He was just my type of a main character, crooked and wicked, but motivated to achieve more; aware of his flaws, morally ambiguous, willing to take a wild chance; Attempting to do the impossible, because where is the challenge, otherwise?

I liked the secondary characters a lot too. They were all cleverly constructed and very interesting. I know that many would say that this is always the case with Terry Pratchett, but I have grown to feel a gap between his books. As in, same author, same world, and yet there are ones that I loved, like Going Postal, and ones that I really, truly hated. And usually, I can set the difference with the witches (whom I adore) and everyone else, most of all the guards, who don’t interest me in the slightest. However, in Going Postal the characters are definitely not magical, but are awesome nevertheless.

I also found something else I was afraid I would never experience again: marveling at Pratchett’s cleverness. It’s just that whenever I dislike the story, I fail to pay attention to the details, and while this is a character flaw, I feel that it is more or less justified with the idea that you can’t force yourself to like something, and the more you dislike it, the more you dislike everything about it.

Going Postal has given me a new push into the Discworld, and I’m excited to read to the end of the series sometime in the not-so-distant future.

“Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes” by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes(Author: Neil Gaiman) + (Year: 1989) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Sandman could have gone very badly for me. I have been hearing about this, and even having been tempted to read it, before I got into comic books at all. Therefore, as you can guess, the hype was big and mighty, and therefore, so were the expectations.

Well, Sandman didn’t disappoint me. That is not to say that this isn’t a very dark and moody book, but it’s a very interesting spin on religion, deities, mythology and the power of those on the human life.

However, what needs to be mentioned, lest you are becoming less convinced to read the book based on my description, is that possibly the darkest and most conflicted character in Sandman, Dream, is also the one who unrelentingly believes in… hope.

For me, that is a very contrasting depiction of dream. I would normally say that dreams are positive and good, and at the same time, Dream, Morpheus, seems like a dark and brooding creature with little optimism and positivism. And yet, he is a hero after all. He takes care of the dreamers, lets no harm be done to them and fights more terrifying evils in their name.

The Sandman‘s quest in this first volume is aimed at rebuilding his kingdom after a century in captivity. During that time horrors have reigned upon earth and have been unleashed from the dream realm. It is Dream’s duty to collect them and restore the balance.

My favourite issue/chapter was that of Doctor Destiny. It seemed so out of place in such a novel, and despite that, it fit perfectly. Here I should mention that I was completely unprepared and totally surprised to see famous DC characters, such as the Justice League, John Constantine, and the Scarecrow (and, of course, mentioning Batman was inevitable). It seemed like a collision of worlds that I never expected to meet. But it somehow worked out. And the villain, Dr Dee, completely fit the description of dark and disturbing DC villains. While I thought that his form of violence, and especially his reasons for it, were not fully explained, and therefore, didn’t make total sense, at the same time, I just loved the wave of mass insanity and how Morpheus dealt with that.

Problems: I’m still not sold on the hardcore 80’s art. It’s funny where it should be normal and dramatic.

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“Fables, Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers” by Bill Willingham

Fables, Volume 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2004) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I love this series more and more, the deeper we get into the story. As I said in my review for the previous volume, at the beginning, when it was just a bunch of characters seemingly without a set purpose, I wasn’t fully convinced. Sure, it was fun and all, but I couldn’t possibly imagine how they could make as many volumes as they did if the story continued the same way.

Good news: It didn’t. Fables has slowly been evolving, volume by volume, and getting a lot more interconnected. I like the smaller story arcs, but most of all, I am really curious and excited about the major plot line, which is the Adversary.

The closer they get to that story, the bloodier and more gruesome Fables becomes. And that is a great thing! Why, you’d ask. Because the fables, and especially the fairytales, as a genre, didn’t always used to be all insta-love and happy endings, the way we have them now. On the contrary, they used to be quite horrifying, starting with Hansel and Gretel being eaten, and not by far ending with Cinderella being beaten to death by her step-mother.

And speaking of gruesome characters, I absolutely loved the witch fight in this volume. I’m fully convinced that this was, as of yet, the most bad-ass fight in Fables, and I hope they keep it up.

I won’t spoil anything about the actual stories, because unlike the previous volume, for example, in this one there are major spoilers. I found the stories with Boy Blue and Red Riding Hood very interesting. The present one, of course, was awesome. However, the one that I liked better was The Last Castle, which is the exact type of “origin” story that I would love to read more, in order to get what’s happening with the Adversary.

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

Uprooted(Author: Naomi Novik) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** Mild spoilers ***

I’m soooo happy that this was my first book of the year. As ironic as it is, by reading Uprooted, I went back to my own roots of YA fantasy novels and it was so refreshing and felt so good. In other words, I like diversifying the literature genres I read, but a splash of magic makes everything just… better.

I assume many of you have already heard of Uprooted, or even read it, as it was one of the most talked about fantasy books of 2015/2016, but for those who haven’t I’d like to make a short recap, as to what this book is and what it represents.

Uprooted is the story of a small valley in the kingdom of Polnya, which for centuries has been tormented by an enchanted forest full of evil and corruption. To help the villagers of the valley fight the Wood, a wizard called the Dragon lives in a tower in the valley, and every 10 years takes one girl to serve him in the tower. The girl who gets chosen for the next 10 years, a wild, messy and stubborn creature called Agnieszka, finds out that there is so much more to the corruption of the Wood, and to the mysterious and scary Dragon, himself.

If you are Polish, or know anything about Poland, you’ve already seen something familiar in the names above – Agnieszka and Polnya; as well as Rosya, Marek, Kasia and almost every other character or geographical location from this book. Uprooted is based on Polish culture and old Polish stories, as well as loosely on the common Slavic heritage, such as the stories of Baba Jaga/Yaga, with whom my own (Bulgarian) mother was scaring me when I was little. The reason for these legends and cultural elements to find their place in this book is that Naomi Novik’s mother is Polish. However, as a fellow Slav, I felt a closeness to the stories from the book, the pastoral (or not so much) pictures of quiet (or not so much) remote villages, legends of dragons and witches, and kingdoms and wars.

Another thing that I really loved about this book was the general creepiness of it. At the very beginning, when the sides and villains were not clear, it was easy to be confused by where the real evil lies. But most of all, it was the fact that it could, at any moment, corrupt any given character, like a virus which spreads and everyone knows it’s there, but can’t stop it, that made me feel anxious and almost disturbed.

While I didn’t necessarily hate any character in the book, Agnieszka was one of those that I groaned at the most. Everything about her, from the way characters, and even she herself, described her, to the capacity she had of doing amazing things – at some point, it just stopped adding up. At the beginning all the characters expressed time and again that she was not very beautiful (if the opposite), and then somewhere at the middle everyone was thought to be in love with her for her looks, and not for her talent or personality. She was the youngest to be added to the list of wizards and witches, but WHY? What made her more different and talented than the rest?

“But I had no room in my head for bees, or roses, or spying; no room for anything but magic, the raw torrent of it and his hand my only rock, except he was being tumbled right along with me.”

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As for the Dragon, I was curious and excited to read more, however, I didn’t find it fully convincing and satisfactory. Not much was said about him ultimately, and the only real stories of his past seemed to be there only to give him a past, and not because they were essential to the story. So for me, many questions remained. Most of all, why did he take only girls? Once you’ve read the book, you’d probably have an easier time understanding what I mean. But honestly…

I loved the story of the Wood, though. It was not as convoluted as another author might have made it, but in simplicity I found a comfort. It was clear but scary in how simple it was. Without going into serious spoilers, I could not explain in detail what I really liked about it, but there were some characters that I found very unsettling and at the same time, very logical on a completely human level.

Despite my questions, and especially the ending, which was more open than I hoped, I’m more than very glad that I read Uprooted, and I can completely, hands down, join the hype about it.

“Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook Love” by Bill Willingham

Fables, Volume 3: Storybook Love

(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2004) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Now that I have read this volume, I could actually change the rating I gave to the first two, in comparison.

Storybook Love is a very good collection of stories – it includes all of the characters we know and like, who, while being the power that moves the story, are not the story, and all those that we don’t like, but might very soon.

I really enjoyed having a lot of the characters that weren’t shown nearly as much in the previous volumes, or even the ones, like Prince Charming, that I dislike, but I still like to read about. If the story is good, of course.

I think the “fable” from this volume that I liked the most was Bag O’ Bones, and it’s a perfect example of what I was trying to explain above: I could really care less about Jack Horner before reading this, but after I did, I felt a humorous liking toward his character.

The story about Sleeping Beauty was interesting in terms of how the author reimagined the curse, and how he implemented it into the story.

Obviously, the Snow and Bigby‘s story line was the main arc in the volume, however, to me, that was the least interesting one. First, I really, really disliked Goldilocks in every sense of the word, and second, for some reason, while I find him endearing at times, I can’t warm up to Bigby. He’s too dark and moody and aggressive for my tastes. And when he’s not aggressive, he is usually bragging about his dad, the wind.

I really liked the story about the Barleycorn brides. I would say that the flashbacks are one of the best parts of Fables as a whole. We are all aware that the main story is the one in the present, but considering that there are many different versions of all fables, many fable characters included in Fables, a lot happening all the time, and the readers needing background information about the impending war, it’s great that Willingham is actually providing that information… in the form of fables. It would be impossible to go through all existing fables included in the story, but every little bit adds greatly to the whole, in my opinion.

The only minor issue that I have with Fables is that considering how much action there is, a lot of the characters, especially ones that I like, occasionally fall off the grid. For me, as a reader who is not following the story in a straight line, but reading other books in between, it’s sometimes hard to recall what happened to someone last I saw them, because months might pass until the next time. And while it’s good to have a variety of interesting characters, it also presents a certain degree of a challenge.

The main point is, however, that I feel like Fables is becoming better and better with each volume, so I’m excited!