From The Southland Times book reviewers.
The Alloy of Law
By Brandon Sanderson (Orion, RRP $37)
Reviewed by Alex Fensome
The prolific Brandon Sanderson seems to churn out his fantasy bestsellers like cheese comes out of Edendale.
His latest is actually something of a departure for him. For a start, it is much shorter, sharper and moves beyond traditional fantasy territory into something closer to steampunk.
Sanderson always planned to return to the world of his epic Mistborn series, a trilogy that made him into one of the better known names in his field. However, he wanted to show the development of the world he had created, moving from early-modern technology into a world of steam engines and revolvers, albeit one with his metal-based magic system still complicating things.
The Alloy of Law is the result.
The world has recovered from the cataclysm at the end of Mistborn, and is now home to a thriving city named after one of Mistborn's heroes.
Outside the city of Elendel and its vast hinterland, however, are wastelands called the Roughs, redolent of the Old West.
Waxillium Ladrian, once the scion of a prominent noble house in Elendel, exiled himself to the Roughs and became a quasi-Sheriff called a Lawkeeper.
However, the death of his wife and the advancing cares of his house have forced him to return to Elendel and become lord of the manor again.
Inevitably, he finds it much harder to stay out of trouble than he thought.
It is hard not to like Wax and his sticky-fingered sidekick Wayne, and the Alloy of Law romps along at a good pace as they investigate the kidnapping of Wax's intended and a string of thefts from the city's railways.
There are some excellent set-pieces and a nice mystery, but I wouldn't say it was groundbreaking stuff.
I regard Sanderson as a solid rather than spectacular writer and his books are diverting but not essential.
The Alloy of Law is a good yarn and readers of Mistborn will get added value as they draw connections between this book and the series.
The Song of Achilles
By Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, RRP $36.99)
Reviewed by Maree Field
The rather tragic story of Achilles and his best friend and companion, Patroclus, is told in Homer's Iliad.
The story doesn't end well – for either Achilles or Patroclus, but the close relationship is the focus of The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller.
Raised together after Patroclus' father disowns him, the two soon grow very close and a romantic relationship isn't far behind.
By the time of the Trojan War, Achilles and Patroclus are inseparable, despite the best efforts of Achilles' mother, the goddess Thetis, to separate them.
The Song of Achilles is a readable novel; with enough escapism in it for a few lazy summer days, and the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is well-told, although the focus does rather linger on the earlier years, rather than those of the Trojan War.
If doomed, classical romance is your thing, then Song of Achilles is definitely for you.
Letter from a Stranger
By Barbara Taylor Bradford (HarperCollins, RRP $35)
Reviewed by Naida Mulligan
The many (understatement I know) fans of Barbara Taylor Bradford, "queen of the genre", says the Sunday Times, will be delighted with this new novel. I'm not particularly attracted to this genre, however, so just found it a passable read, enjoyable enough.
It's about the uncovering of family secrets, redemption and, of course, romance.
Thirty-two-year-old Justine is an accomplished film-maker. When she discovers that her beloved grandmother is not dead, as stated by her mother a decade previously, Justine sets out to find her and discover the reason for her ostracism from the family.
It didn't really make sense that Gran had not tried to contact her grandchildren over the 10 years, choosing instead to believe a printout of a fake email supposedly sent by them to their mother, so some suspension of disbelief is required. I also tired of the "knowing" looks exchanged between characters, particularly in the first half of the novel. On the plus side, there was a delightful sight-seeing tour of Istanbul and some fascinating, eye-opening history lessons.
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