Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here the world is all the world may be

A powerful blend of historical fiction and fantasy, Kay delivers a great story about loss and honour. This story is about Shen Tai who, after spending two years in mourning over the death of his father burying the bones and being haunted by their ghosts, is sent an unexpected gift of 250 Sardian horses, otherwise known as ‘heavenly horses’. This instantly puts him in a position of power and Tai must decide what to do with this gift.

Set during a fantasised version of the Tang dynasty in eighth century China, Kay is able to create a majestic atmosphere.

I really enjoyed the role that poetry plays in the world. Poetry is really important and Tai meets, and then travels with a famous poet and they share poems amongst themselves often. I really enjoyed the romantic elements of this book, and that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever said in a book review before.


Book format: Kindle ebook
Length: 567 pages
Reading difficulty: Medium
POV: Mainly follows Tai and his sister Li-Mei but it does jump to other viewpoints
Person: Third
Chronology: Linear


Kay’s writing is magnificent! He can carry emotions well and as such, the impactful elements of this story really stand out. The poems featured within were really good, for the most part.

This book is infinitely quotable; here are some of my favourite bits:

There was a new hole in the world where sorrow could enter

a red violence was approaching from the east

Vengeance could give birth to horrors not to be spoken aloud

Branching paths. The turning of days and seasons and years. Life offered you love sometimes, sorrow often. If you were very fortunate, true friendship

Bitter wind blows battle smoke
Wild geese and cranes fly.
Later, moon’s disk in the water.
Plum blossoms mirrored in the river,
Until they fall.

It is difficult to feel that your life means anything under this sky

Red song of war arrows, red sun

The demons could triumph, take any man’s soul, carry it off as a prize to their own red kingdom


The story follows Tai mostly, who is a very honourable character and very interesting. Kay was able to make me feel is struggle and care about what happens to him throughout.

To me, this book should’ve focused more on Li-Mei, Tai’s sister, and Meshag. Their ‘relationship’ was tremendously interesting and I wanted to see more of this. I thought it was very unique.

Notable issues

A few of the side characters do blend into one another at various points. There wasn’t much unique about a lot of the minor characters which led to me having to stop and check that I had the correct person in my mind.

Kay does go a bit overboard with commas, but this is more of a style point. It’s also a bit long in the tooth sometimes but it’s a well thought out story.

Final thought

If you’re looking for dragons and wild fight scenes, look elsewhere. This story, and Kay’s other works are what I like to term ‘Grown up’ historical fantasy. It’s subtle and it blends historical elements with great characters along with an emotional story.

If you are looking for a book that makes you “feel something”, I’d highly recommend this, or Tigana, which is one of my favourite books of all time.

Review - Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Review - Small Favor by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hell’s bells, this series just keeps on getting better and better!!

During a blizzard in Chicago, yellow page advertising wizard Harry Dresden is summoned by the queen of Winter, Mab, who calls in a favour she is owed. The Denarians are back and they are the main foes in this story. The book also features Gruffs (as in the brothers Gruff, referred to by Harry as “were-goats”), the Archive, Marcone and the Knights of the cross.

This book is one of the deeper books in the series. It asks some questions about right and wrong. I was welling up when Harry starts shouting at God in the church.


Book format: Audiobook narrated by James Marsters
Length: 13hrs 46mins
Difficulty: Easy
POV characters: One – Harry Dresden
Person: First
Chronology: Linear

Butcher’s writing makes the book easy to digest and the fact that it’s told through Harry’s point of view makes it really easy to follow.


Butcher has created a bunch of characters that I’ve grown very fond of. They have all developed through the course of the series and I love the fact that there isn’t a reset at the end of these books. The characters and the world is always different which gives each book a sense of purpose and they all add to the larger storyline.

Dresden’s abilities are really growing and he always learns something new. In book one, his magic is still being worked on but they are almost epic here at book ten. Dresden has to be one of the coolest, and yet most human characters out there.


The writing does its job, it takes you through the action, explains the magic and the world very clearly and transports you from A to B. Its very humorous, there are tonnes of laugh out loud moments that fans of the series have come to expect.

Likeith thou jelly within thy donut?

Sanity invited shame over for tea and biscuits

You rush a miracle worker, you get lousy miracles

We’re ostriches and the whole world is sand

Final thought

I’d say this series is a great place for anyone who’s looking to start reading. It’s simply the coolest, most fun, kick ass, character driven series there is. Butcher does a great job of explaining and recapping things so you don’t really need to read it in order, but I’d recommend you pick it up from the start.

This is one of my favourite series ever and the audiobooks are just fantastic. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Blog tour - Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Blog tour - Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl
Faithless blog tour

Fans of Nordic Noir will love this.

This is book seven in the Oslo Detective series. Since the series was written in Dahl’s native Norwegian, the whole series hasn’t been translated into English as yet. Thankfully, this book also works as a standalone so there is no need to read the rest of the series before this one.

The story is centred around Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frolich. To me, the plot was rather unique and put one of the main characters in a very interesting situation to the point where it tested Frolich’s morals. I also thought the relationship between the two, and the rest of the team was humorous and similar things are what I imagine actually takes place in real life.

I’m still not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but the police didn’t appear to be all that effective. If you’re looking for a team of supercops, look elsewhere. I think it’s a good commentary on the expectations of police forces everywhere who have too many cases on at once and lots of other stuff to balance.


Dahl’s writing is crisp and allows the story to move forward at pace.

In the main, Don Bartlett does a good job of translating the book into English. There are a few strange sentences here or there but it’s hard to tell if these were translation mistakes or style choices that Dahl made. I felt this worked in the book’s favour as it creates a unique reading experience. There is an overuse of popular sayings within however.

Notable issues

For me, there is a huge thing missing from this book and that’s Norway. Writers like Jo Nesbo, Val McDermid, Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin are able to transport you to a different place (albeit McDermid and Rankin usually transport me to places one or two miles away from where I live) and capture the essence of that place through the description of the surroundings or interactions with local people. They are able to make location a character in its own right. Dahl doesn’t achieve much of this here. You get the names of places which are, obviously, in Norwegian but the atmosphere of the setting didn’t come through the pages for me.

Also, there wasn’t much in the way of description in terms of what the characters looked like. A fairly minor point as it’s something I usually prefer, I hate when authors describe the looks of their characters in minute detail but I think we need something to go on.

I’ve no idea why the book is called Faithless either.

Final thought

If you like Nesbo or any Nordic / Crime Noir stories, then this series should float your boat. As I mentioned, the full series isn’t translated yet but that shouldn’t stop you from diving right in.

I thought the ending was fantastic. It has made me want to check out the next book. A very enjoyable and unique read.

Blog tour

This is my first ever blog tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I look forward to seeing what other bloggers on the tour thought of this. Be sure to check out @OrendaBooks and follow @annecater and the #faithless tag to see more throughout the month of April.

Review - Kokoro by Keith Yatsuhashi

Review - Kokoro by Keith Yatsuhashi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was much better than the first book in the series, but it still had some problems.

The story takes place on another world similar to Earth, called Higo and centres around two almighty weapons called mah-zhins (think huge iron-man type thing). One member of the royal family has been able to wake up one of the mah-zhins and has used it for a while to dominate the world. Another is doing his best to wake the other mah-zhin up to even the score, so there’s a bit of an arms race going on.

In my review for the first book, Kojiri, I mentioned that it felt a bit like power rangers, this one felt more like transformers for me with all the flying robot type things. It takes a lot of inspiration from Manga and as such, it’s a bit mad in places.

These books are loosely based on Japanese mythology, which I thought was really cool, although I’d have liked to see an explanation of this in an author’s note.

The books main theme, I thought, was about belonging and family. The story behind the royal family who take centre stage in this book is very intriguing and nicely done.

Notable issues

To me, this book had a one star beginning and a four star ending. There is a good section at the start of this book that I would have simply chopped out and just started on the world of Higo. The beginning doesn’t really add a lot to the story and the necessary elements could have been dropped in throughout the book.

As in the previous book, the author doesn’t spend much time explaining the world, how it works and what its rules are. As a result, it feels like the writer moves the rules around to suit the story at parts.

It has a very bad case of Dean Koontz character syndrome. This is where the world is created, then the plot is thought out and drafted and then the characters are created so that they are convenient to the plot. This creates very unrealistic reactions from characters at points.

Final thought

If clearer exposition was added and more in-depth characters included it could have been something truly epic. It’s got all the ‘cool stuff’ you could ever want, it just needed more to back up the ‘cool stuff’.

Still, it was much better than first book and if you like Japanese myths and / or Manga, then this series might be for you.

Review - Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi

Review - Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What more can you ask for with a book with magic god-like figures, each with a super cool guardian in the shape of a dragon, or thunderbird? How about tell me why I should care? There is very little that is relatable in this book. We only have one 'human' in this book. The rest are all gods or dragons, or whatever.

There is not enough time spent building the world and its rules for the reader to understand. You're just thrown into the action and I still had questions about the rules of the world at the end.

One thing that irked me, was that the Kami (god like person) aren't allowed to kill a guardian because of the 'rules'. This leads to cool scenes were a dragon, or something appears where the Kami's only choice is to run.

Very clearly inspired by Anime, this just felt like an episode of Power Rangers with very little to relate to.

Also, it's jampacked full with YA cliches.
“But you are different. More different than you realize. Different doesn’t have to be bad, Keiko. Sometimes it just means ‘special’ or ‘unique’."
“But why me? I’m nobody."
As much as she wanted Yui’s friendship, she didn’t like the thought of her father sharing so much with another woman, certainly not one so young and beautiful.

There's also a part where one of the Kami stops during a war to have a freekin' bath!!
“Seirin, we can’t afford the delay–” “Nonsense. The stench of war clings to each of you, and Yui’s clothes and skin are stained with dragon blood. A hot bath is exactly what you need to recenter yourselves.” In truth, Seirin chafed at the delay too, but they needed the rest –all of them. Too many had died already; she wouldn’t lose any more to fatigue.

There were also a lot of mistakes, missing words and just downright confusing parts:
A moment earlier he’d glimpsed a small change in a section ninety degrees above his castle’s courtyard, a trace of smooth surface in the otherwise rippling fabric. 90 degrees above?

More water covered the surface, for one thing, and even if the liquid looked duller than he remembered, incredibly, most felt more flammable. Water is not flammable.

These two confusing sentences appear of the same page...

If she couldn’t summon her power, she was as good as dead. No...if her power isn't summoned, she will die. Not 'as good as'.

Final thought

I apologise, this review was a bit more ranty than I prefer, but I couldn't help it. There were good things about this book. The last 100 pages of this book were fairly decent and I liked the whole 'who is the real enemy' thing. It felt like a good commentary on today's world. For me, it just needed more human elements for me to care about what happens in this story.