Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Published by: Viking on October 20, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
Thomas McNulty is a seventeen-year-old Irish immigrant in the 1850s who decides to enlist in the U.S. Army. It’s not a first-choice sort of decision, but it’s also not like he has a lot of options. His best friend, John Cole, joins up with him, and the two serve as a rock for each other as they are faced with the trials of army life and the viciousness and hardships they must endure. Their lives before the army and after the army are what some might see as unusual, but for Thomas and John, it is what it is. And neither of them would have it any other way.
This is a challenging one to get into as it is written in Thomas’s voice, which is rather affected. But once I found myself getting into the groove of the narration and the story, I found that I really enjoyed Sebastian Barry’s method of storytelling. The adventures of John and Thomas are interesting (though there are some bleak and some violent moments), and they help illustrate the ideas of love and family–the importance of those concepts and the ways in which they can triumph over even some of the most dire circumstances.
Title: The Magicians (The Magicians, Book 1)
Author: Lev Grossman
Published: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Viking Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
After arriving for a college interview to find his interviewer dead, Quentin Coldwater is about to find that’s one of the least surprising things that will happen to him that day. He is invited to and admitted to a selective and secret magical college. That’s right: magical. The training isn’t easy, and it tests them in some rather trying ways. After graduation, Quentin and his friends stumble into a world none of them thought really existed, and in the process learn things they might have preferred never to know.
I was honestly conflicted with this book. I like the setting and the concept–it’s just the type of book I like to read in that regard. But I had a really difficult time with the characters, especially Quentin. I mentioned above that the training was trying and one might think that would lead to some semblance of self-awareness. Yet, Quentin lacks it. Honestly, he’s probably the most unlikeable protagonist I’ve encountered while reading that comes to mind. And it doesn’t come across to me that he’s intended to be so unlikeable, which had me scratching my head and frowning often while reading (especially later in the book).
That said, the book is enjoyable and entertaining. And when you look past just how incredibly flawed Quentin is with few redeeming factors, there is an epic fantasy tale being told.