Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Books 21 & 22 of 2015: Lastnight by Stephen Leather & The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

Last week's two books had a bit of a connection to them, this week not so much.

The first of my two books that I'm review today is another of the Stephen Leather Jack Nightingale books, this one is the fifth in the series, Lastnight. It picks up where Nightshade left off, this time seeing Chalmers coming to Jack Nightingale for some help getting to the bottom of a series of murders which have hit the Goth community. Along the way he stumbles across a mysterious cult which believes in child sacrifice.

I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this book as much as most of the others. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it was about it that I didn't like. I just didn't get quite the same vibe from it as the other books.

I suspect that a large part of my problem with it was the fact that this book didn't really give any explanation of what happened after the events of the last book. I was expecting some sort of repercussions from Jack killing the evil entity; he drove daggers through the eyes of something that looked like a small girl, I was expecting some more emotion from him regarding it. It just seemed that everything had been forgotten and the story moved on.

As I mentioned in my review of Cursed, I couldn't really imagine Chalmers coming to Jack for help so I guess that was a large sticking point in the story for me as well. Given the sort of relationship that Jack and Chalmers have, I just didn't buy Chalmers going to Jack about anything other than suspecting him for a crime. I also wasn't keen on how involved Jack has become with killing people, he seems like a different person from who he was at the beginning of the series; part of that is Jack reacting to the events around him, but I don't think it explains it all.

All the same, I did like seeing a character called Caitlin, even if she was evil (no comments please). And I am curious about what will happen next in the series. Part of me thinks that the series should maybe have come to its natural end around the third or fourth book, but that's not going to stop me from reading the next one San Francisco Night which I've just recently borrowed from my colleague (and will get to if I even reach the end of The Lord of the Rings).

I wanted something completely different to read after Lastnight so I went for one of the little books released for Penguin's 80th anniversary. They released 80 little books, each priced at 80p, and I got a collection of eleven of them (which I've added to since then). The book in question was The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue, the third book in the series. It is an Icelandic saga of an unknown author which dates from the 13th century. This edition was translated by Katrina C. Attwood.

This was a lovely little read. These little classics books are the perfect size for popping into a bag when you're out and about. They've got less than 60 pages each so they're very portable; practically pocket-sized!

I can't say that I've read many old sagas, but I've wanted to for ages. That was my main reason for picking this book when I bought my first batch of the Little Black Classics. This felt like a good introduction because it was short but a complete story. You could almost read it in one sitting; perfect for relaxing with in a bath.

I could definitely imagine this being an oral tale. It was quite conversational in places, like when it told you outright that people wouldn't be in the saga again. I'd love to hear it told by a proper storyteller, or perhaps in some sort of play performance.

I'm definitely going to be looking out for more sagas from this series.

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Let me know what you think. :-)