The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy is a modern classic and for a very good reason. It’s fun, it’s imaginative and it’s also thought-provoking. In this, the sequel to a well-read and beloved novel, Adams again takes us out into the wide universe to meet more strange creatures and odd planets. This is The Restaurant at the end of the Universe and it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.

In the first installment we meet Arthur Dent, a human who happens to have befriended a creature named Ford Prefect living on, but not actually from, Earth. It is thanks to this connection that Arthur survives the attack on Earth by the Vogons. Arthur and Ford escapes and hitchhike around the galaxy which eventually leads them to pick up a few people along the way and end up in The Restaurant at the end of the Universe. Here, after Arthur have found out that Earth was ruined to make way for a new intergalactic road but also contained the answers to the age-old question of What Is The Universe and that Arthur is one of two surviving Earthrens who now possess the answer, he and his new friends continue to travel from one place in space (and time) to another. They’re still looking for the answer, or rather, the question to the answer they already have, while trying not to get caught by Vogons or whoever want to capture the ex-president of the galaxy, who just happens to be one of Arthurs acquaintances. Despite having their hands full, Arthur and his friends still manages to sqeeze in a visit to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe.

It’s been a while since I read the first installment but I had a sudden urge to read the sequel, something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and I’m quite happy I did it. It was more fun and interesting than I remember the first book to be and it made me laugh more than once. Adams is very creative and paints an interesting world for his readers to discover. He is fun in his way of writing and it’s a lighthearted story, even though I felt there was way more hidden in the depts. More than once I stopped to contemplate some idea or other and I do feel that while it’s fun to read books that makes you laugh and where you can escape into this completely different world, it’s also interesting to look at certain parts and question them, question the world we live in and question the universe and all its secrets as well. A good book will make you feel good but a great book will make you think.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I’m glad I gave it a chance after not being too interested in it after I finished The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. I feel like this is one book that should be on everyone’s shelf, one you can take out and read when you need a pick-me-up and one that ultimately will make you forget where you are for a moment and remember that the universe is vast and that the chances and adventures are limitless.

The Heart of Betrayal

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to read books in paperback and because of that the wait for a novel can sometimes be long since not ever book is published in paperback right away. This is the case with The Remnant Chronicles, were I had to wait some time for the first installment, The Kiss of Deception, and even longer for the sequel, The Heart of Betrayal. I’m so glad to finally have it in my hands;

In the first installment, Princess Lia flees her wedding day and leaves the Prince of Dalbreck at the alter in the hope of finding her true love. Instead Lia ends up working as a tavern maid in a seaside town with two guys veering for her attention. One is an assassin sent to kill her and the other is the prince she fled from. Lia does not know this and develops feelings for one of the guys, right before choosing to return to the royal palace in the hope of setting everything right with the wedding and the allegiance with Dalbreck after realizing her duty to her kingdom. But on her way back Lia is abducted by the assassin, Kaden, who turns out to be from the enemy kingdom of Venda. Along with a handful of comrades, Kaden brings Lia with him to his home and leaves Lia’s lover, Rafe, the Prince of Dalbreck, with the only choice of going after her in the hopes that he can save her. But the only thing Rafe can do when he finally finds her is following her, along with Kaden and an army of Vendans, into hostile territory, hoping that he and Lia can manage to break out.

The sequel takes off right were the first book ended, with Lia and Rafe entering Venda. It is a land full of blood, murder and barbarians and Lia is afraid that they won’t even survive the night, especially not after her first meeting with the legendary Komizar. But after a while living in Venda and getting to know the people, Lia realizes that not everyone is a barbarian and that many are just fighting for survival. Her heart softens for this broken kingdom but she knows that she’s still living there on pardon and that both she and Rafe can be killed any day. They need to leave, but it seems impossible to break out of the kingdom. And can Lia really leave the place she’s grown fond of, the people she cares for, and Kaden?

I remember reading The Kiss of Deception the first time thinking it was amazing and then rereading it a few weeks ago ending up a little disappointed since it wasn’t quite as good as I recalled. I remember longing for The Heart of Betrayal since July last year and waiting for the day that I finally had a copy in my hand. After rereading The Kiss of Deception I was afraid that The Heart of Betrayal wouldn’t be as good as I’d hoped last year but I didn’t end up disappointed here. It’s true that many of the things that bothered me with my rereading of The Kiss of Deception still was present, like the writing. Mary E. Pearson isn’t a bad writer at all but I think the stories lacks a certain flow and I did get caught a few times with sentences I had to go back to and read again. I also lacked more detailed descriptions of the landscapes and surroundings of the characters and sometimes felt that certain parts, when Pearson told something in present, then jumped back into the past for a few sentences and then returned to the present, could’ve been clearer. Sometimes I got confused as to what was happening now and what had happened, told as a memory.

The story itself is definitely intriguing with the feisty princess Lia leading the way and with prince Rafe silently making planes beside her and the ever-interesting Kaden always looming in the shadows. Like the previous book, The Heart of Betrayal is told in alternating chapters between the three of them, all in first person, with a few chapters from Lia’s friend Pauline’s point of view as well. Most of the story is from the eyes of Lia however and we get to see her try to navigate the new world she’s in, much more savage than anything she’s left behind but also full of love, trust and bravery. Venda is not at all what she imagined it would be and neither is the scary Komizar she’s heard so much about. If anything, Lia soon realizes that her hate for Venda and its people might be very, very misplaced. Kaden, a guy she cared for and who deceived and betrayed her, also shows another side and Lia is again struck by how everything isn’t what it looks like at a first glance.

I liked how Pearson made Lia so strong and brave but at times I found her to be too much. She took to Venda fast and the people accepted her surprisingly fast as well. This has an explanation in the book but I still thought it felt a little weird. On top of that, Lia has a temper which can be fun at times but mostly was just annoying. She knows she needs to be careful and yet somethings she explodes anyway. I was struck by how often she got the people on her side and how many liked her even though she was everything the Vendans were taught to hate. The same can be said of Rafe and Kaden, who both love her, and I can’t really see why. It felt like Lia just entered a room and everyone threw themselves at her feet and loved her instantly but I, as a reader, couldn’t quite see why and certainly didn’t love her as much as most of the characters did.

When it came to the two guys I have to say that Kaden took me by surprise. I had a soft spot for Rafe throughout the first novel but my feelings changed during the second. Rafe is still a great guy and one I like very much but I can’t help but feel for Kaden. He had a tough childhood and the Komizar was the one who saved him and now he’s drawn between his friendship with the Komizar and the love he feels for Lia. She, who only have eyes for Rafe, ends up using Kaden when she deems it necessary and even though she says she cares for him he’s still left hurt again and again. Whatever happens to Kaden in the third book I hope it’s justice for everything he had to endure during this one.

I actually never feared that The Heart of Betrayal would have Second Book Syndrome and it certainly didn’t. It was filled with action and tense moments along with a very tricky love story which Pearson carefully treaded, something that allowed for the tension to grow. I was overall happy with the book, happy but not entirely satisfied, mostly because I still want to know what’s going to happen in the next one. It is painful that the paperback won’t come out until late next summer and I am yet again considering bypassing my principles and getting the hardback just because I’m not sure I can handle a whole year without knowing what’s going to happen when the book is actually already on sale. If you haven't already figured it out, I obviously find this series entertaining and certainly recommend it!

Six of Crows

It’s not a secret that I like to read books about gangs and thieves. Why, I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the thrill, the fun schemes and living life in a tight-knit group who has your back. Naturally, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows intrigued me when I first heard of it but it has taken me some time to get around to actually read it but I’m glad I finally did.

Kaz Brekker is well known for many things, not least his nickname, Dirtyhands. He takes even the toughest jobs and he always get them done, but now he’s in for a big one. After being sought out by a rich merchant Kaz agrees to assemble a crew and break a man out of prison, a man who concocted a drug which has the potential to ruin the entire world. If they manages to pull the job off they’ll never have to worry about money ever again, but it also means that they have to break into the Ice Court, which has never successfully been breach. And while Kaz is used to pull off tough jobs, this one will put a target on his back and his enemies to crowd around him.

This is a fast-paced novel set in a fictional world, mostly in Ketterdam and the neighboring country Fjerda. Bardugo spins a tale of Kaz Brekker, thief and lieutenant in a gang called the Dregs, and the little crew of five he brings with him on this mad endeavor. They all come from different places and are all diverse in both looks and upbringings. I thought it was fun that no character was the same or came from the same place. Often in books, it’s easiest if the characters all grow up in the same town or at least the same country, but this was not the case with Six of Crows. Instead, every character has their own story to tell, their own corner in the world which they came from and that most of them want to return to at some point.

The story is told in third person with alternating chapters to five of the six main characters which gives the reader a thorough view of everything that happens along the way. We also get to look back into the past of a few characters which helps to understand their motives and how they ended up trying to break into a place that is known to be unable to breach. It was fun to get to look into what happened before the book started, to take a break in everything that happens now and to see what happened then.

As I said, the characters are all different. Kaz is cold and calculating and has a deep darkness in his past that he tries to satisfy with revenge. Inej is a Suli girl who was stolen away from her parents by slavers and sold to a pleasure house where she worked until the Dregs bought her and now she works as Kaz’s Wraith, gathering information for him. Jesper came to Ketterdam to study but got caught in serious gambling debts and started working with the Dregs because of that. Nina is a Grisha who tries to stay free of slavers and Fjerdan soldiers and stays with and around the Dregs for their protection. Matthias is a former soldier for Fjerda that Nina got tossed into jail and then liberated, a man who no longer knows were his true allegiances lie.

All these characters come from different parts of the world Bardugo created; Suli, Fjerda, Ravka and so on. They all have different skin color, values, religious beliefs and some shows tendencies to be homosexual, or at least bi. It is, in other words, a book that covers pretty much everyone. It’s written in a way that’s both tense and fun, leaving the reader worried at times and laughing at others. Bardugo is quite raw when she describes certain events, something I liked, but has a knack for saying a lot with just a few gestures and looks from the characters. A big part of the story was what the characters do, not what they say and that another thing I liked.

It is a story centered around the prison break out but between that a lot of things happens. Six of Crows is full of amazing sidestories that just add to the big picture rather than making me confused. It’s packed with action and crazy schemes and plans that isn’t for the fainthearted in any way. I wondered more than once if they would actually get away with what they were planning. However, it wasn’t too much or too crazy, just the right amount of weird and nervewrecking.

However, there were some things in the beginning of the novel that I would’ve had liked to be explained a bit more. It took me a while to realize that Kaz in fact wasn’t a boss of his own gang but rather a lieutenant in someone else’s. The names of different gangs and places confused me as well, before I really got into the story. I would’ve liked it to be a bit clearer but I got around to it all after a while.

I have to say that Six of Crows reminded me more than a little of Scott Lynch’s The Gentlemen Bastard series. It was a different author and a different world with different rules but the basic was the same and I loved it. People who knows me knows that I adore The Lies of Locke Lamora and the rest of the books as well and so this seemed like a nice fit to me. If you have read something of Lynch then I think Six of Crows will be a perfect for you. And if you haven’t – what are you waiting for? Read Six of Crows, read The Lies of Locke Lamora as well and marvel at the amazing adventures that’s out there, ours for the taking.