Favourite Protagonists II

While some books shine thanks to their gripping plots, others enchant readers because of their convincing and memorable characters. They don’t need to have faultless personalities, but their traits and behaviours have to be plausible and feel genuine. A great, complex protagonist is always a plus in any novel. Since I wrote my first post about my favourite protagonists, almost four years ago, I’ve discovered other believable main characters that I soon won’t forget.

 

Mary Yellan – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier created magnificent characters. The protagonist of Jamaica Inn, Mary Yellan, is just one of many. She is spirited, determined and curious. Although she is undoubtfully brave, in certain occasions she (understandably) succumbs to fear. It’s striking how she frequently muses on her behaviour towards other characters, particularly her aunt. Despite being well-intentioned, Mary is sometimes too severe with her.

 

Circe – Circe by Madeline Miller

Bullied and tormented by her siblings, Circe felt like an outcast since a young age. Madeline Miller clearly shows how the life experiences of the protagonist of this Ancient Greek myth retelling shaped her personality. After using her witchcraft powers, Circe is banished to a deserted island, becoming much more independent and less fearful. Her emotions are believable and palpable throughout. Continue reading

Book Series I’ve Recently Finished

Starting a book series can be a daunting experience, particularly when it is longer than three books and they are massive. When a series doesn’t have a clear direction, a well thought out beginning, middle and end, it can feel like the author is only still writing it because it was originally successful. It becomes a chore to read book after book just to get to the end of a story that we lost interest in mid-way through. However, some book series, in spite of our original reservations, prove to be a delightful journey to a new world or an immersive exploration of realistic characters.

I’ve recently finished four book series that were, overall, a joy to read. They are all very different from one another, despite two of them falling into the fantasy genre.

 

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb wrote five fantasy series set in the Realm of the Elderlings. The Farseer Trilogy is the first one. Set mainly in the Six Duchies, a kingdom ruled by the Farseers, it has as narrator and main character the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, Fitz, who is for the most part a convincing character and not an unflawed hero. He was both trained as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the family – the Skill. He also soon realised that he could establish a close bond with animals. Though for a while he didn’t know what that meant, he had the power of the beast blood – the Wit. This is a story that delves into court intrigue, lust for power, the difference between duty and self-indulgence, while also believably exploring various human emotions. Continue reading

‘Within the Sanctuary of Wings’ by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 stars

The tale of how Isabella became a famous naturalist around the world thanks to her discoveries about dragons comes to an end in Within the Sanctuary of Wings. As in the four previous books in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series, Marie Brennan mixed an adventure with anthropological, scientific and cultural elements, creating a fantasy world and society that occasionally resemble our own. The relationships between the characters are not as explored as in other instalments unfortunately. Isabella’s newest discovery, however, is one of the most exciting.

Isabella was nearly forty at the time of the events that she is recalling. Once, while she was in her home country, Scirland, she was approached by a man who claimed to had found the body of a dragon of an unknown breed at the Mrtyahaima mountains in the Dajin continent. Mr Thu Phim-Lat was an exile who had been a mountaineer. In exchange for more information, he wanted Isabella to help his people, the Khiam Siu, to establish an alliance with Scirland’s government against the Taisên.

Mr Thu didn’t provide any substantial proof of his claim. He only had a pair of scales and the notebook that he used to sketch what he had seen. That was enough to arouse Isabella’s curiosity, though. Her desire to go there only increased when Mr Thu revealed that he also believed that there might be another specimen in the same area. Although there was no guarantee that a dragon could actually be found there, Isabella, Suhail and Tom headed to the highest mountains in the world. Continue reading

Authors I Discovered Thanks to the Bookish Community

Blogs and YouTube channels mainly focused on books are a fantastic resource for readers, if I can say so myself. Thanks to various bloggers and youtubers, I discovered some authors whom I had never heard of before and whose books I also haven’t seen displayed in bookshops in Portugal since then.

When I started thinking about authors that I learnt about thanks to the bookish community, six names immediately sprang to mind. But this is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

Daphne du Maurier

It may be a surprise to some of you to see Daphne du Maurier’s name on this list. But, being from Portugal, she was a complete unknown to me. It was thanks to either Lauren from Lauren and the Books or Simon from SavidgeReads on YouTube that I decided to read the magnificent Rebecca. Since then, I’ve also read Jamaica Inn, The King’s General, My Cousin Rachel, The House on the Strand and The Birds and Other Stories. Her work is, generally speaking, atmospheric, full of vivid characters and sprinkled with mystery. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2020

My first book haul of 2020 consists mainly of books that I either have been wanting to read for a couple of years or that are the last instalments of certain series. There is no common theme or genre between the five of them. As I plan to read them all in the following months, you won’t have to wait long to know my opinions about them.

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

The last book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series focuses on Isabella’s most famous adventure, which is partially set in the tallest peak in the world. It will surely share some similarities with the other books in the series. I’m expecting it to continue to delve into social and scientific problems, while painting an anthropological picture of the world it’s set in.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character in this short book refuses to be subdued by married life. When it was first published in 1899, The Awakening was considered to be sordid and immoral. I’m not expecting to find it so in the 21st century. But I’m eager to discover what shocked people so much back then. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Winter

This year I decided to write the four seasons with books. Thus, at the beginning of each of the previous seasons (Spring, Summer and Autumn), I selected books from my shelves whose titles begin with the letters of the name of the season in question. The time has finally come to do the same for Winter!

When I had the idea for this sort of series, I didn’t expect that it would be so difficult to find on my shelves books with titles beginning with certain letters. In order not to pick Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier again, I had to cheat slightly this time, as I’ve done in past seasons for other reasons.

 

Winter by Ali Smith

Told from the perspectives of Sophia and Art, her son, this book, which is part of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, delves into how dissimilar world views can cause rifts between family members. Art was supposed to take his former partner, Charlotte, to spend Christmas at his mother’s house. As she left him, he decided to pay a young woman to go with him. Although the plot is not outstanding, the characters are compelling. Continue reading

Book Series – What I’m Reading

Reading book series is a great way to become fully immersed in a fictional world. I’m currently sinking my teeth into five book series and, until I finish at least one of them, I don’t plan to start a new one. Whenever I complete a book series, the plan is to replace it with another one of those on my wish list. I’m only mentioning on this post the series that I’m not caught up on (reason why the list below doesn’t feature A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin) and that I want to finish.

 

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

This is the first trilogy in a larger fantasy series set in the Realm of the Elderlings. So far, I’ve only read the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, which is set in the Six Duchies, a land ruled by the Farseers. Fitz, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is trained as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the Farseer family – the Skill. Not only is this book full of court intrigue, it also delves into various human emotions.

After finishing this trilogy, I’ll certainly read the other series set in the same world. Although I considered the possibility of reading all the series featuring Fitz first and only afterwards picking up the remaining ones, I’m now more inclined to read them in order of publication. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – June 2019

June has come and gone, so it’s time to share with you my monthly favourites! This instalment features a book, a TV miniseries, a film and a song, and I promise to be much more concise than in previous months.

I haven’t read many books in June, but they were all enjoyable. The one that stood out the most was In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan. It’s the fourth book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series and focuses on how Isabella became a dragon naturalist at the Scirlind army. Her work took her to Akhia to try to breed dragons. The entire series mixes anthropological, scientific and social components. Although it’s fantasy, it is written as a memoir, and the most intimate moments between the characters are marvellous.

I started a few TV shows this month, but I stopped watching the majority of them after just a couple of episodes. The most gripping one, which I completed in a few days, was Chernobyl. It’s a miniseries about the nuclear disaster that happened in Ukraine in 1986. The first episode is terrifying! I wish I hadn’t watched it before going to bed. I later discovered that the writers took some liberties with the scientific aspects of what happened, but it was still a good TV drama. Continue reading

‘In the Labyrinth of Drakes’ by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 stars

The adventurous Isabella may be a woman in a fantasy setting, but the challenges she had to face to be accepted as a dragon naturalist mirror those from the real world. In the fourth instalment of The Memoirs of Lady Trent, In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Marie Brennan continues to explore various current themes, such as women’s rights, social classes and the ethics behind scientific methods. As those who have read A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents and Voyage of the Basilisk already know, this series has evident anthropological, scientific and social components.

Thomas Wilker, an old-time colleague of Isabella’s who participated in all her exploits, was offered a place as a dragon naturalist at the Scirling Royal Army. Seeing that he would only accept the position if Isabella joined him, she became their employee as well. It wasn’t easy for the army to accept a woman in their midst, however. Their mission was to go to Akhia to discover how to breed dragons. Their bones are light but immensely strong. Although they decay really fast after a dragon’s death, there is a method for preserving them. In order for the army to have a steady supply of bones, dragons had to be bred. Killing the ones in existence wasn’t a viable solution, as that would only lead to their extinction.

In Akhia, a couple of reunions awaited Isabella. The first one was with her brother Andrew, who was in the army and asked to be sent there to see her. She was delighted to be able to spend some time with him again, since he was one of the few relatives that she truly loved. She also encountered an old friend, which resulted in renewed gossip that almost created further complications for her work. Isabella, fortunately, didn’t always behave in a way that was deemed socially acceptable for a woman. Continue reading

Book Haul – April 2019

I hadn’t planned to buy any books this month, but the desire to take part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week in May had me looking for new ones to add to my already overflowing small shelves. Could have I just bought one book? Yes! Did I? Of course not! This is a somewhat diverse haul, featuring a couple of different genres – classics, fantasy and literary fiction.

 

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier is one of the authors that I want to read at least one book by every year. I read Jamaica Inn in January and wasn’t planning to read any other of her books in the following months. But then I discovered that Ali is dedicating a week (13 to 19 May) to du Maurier and decided to join in. For that purpose, I chose The House on the Strand. The main character, Dick Young, drinks a potion provided to him by a chemical researcher that allows him to time travel. He ends up in fourteenth-century Cornwall where he witnesses murder and adultery.

 

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the latest years, I’ve been reading the fantasy book series The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth instalment and reveals how Lady Trent gained her position in the Scirling Royal Army. All the other books were a mix of adventure with feminism and anthropological elements. I expect the same from this one. Continue reading