The Redemption of Althalus–David and Leigh Eddings

I first read this book about half of a lifetime ago. It was one of the first fantasy novels that I read (wait, surely that can’t be true!) Okay, it was one of the first stupidly-thick, can-be-used-to-club-seals fantasy novels that I read. It was described to me as nine hundred pages of Fetch Quests. (Gather your party, go to a place, do a thing; rinse and repeat, making sure to check in with the Quest Giving Non-Player Character often enough.) I don’t remember whether I thought that this was fair at the time, but that description has definitely influenced how I’m approaching this reading of the novel.

I’ve mentioned David Eddings previously when I reviewed the Belgarion novels: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter’s End Game.

Author stuff: David Eddings was an American fantasy writer. His Wikipedia page is here and his Amazon page is here. Along with his wife Leigh (she is getting co-author credit by now–Wikipedia and Amazon) he wrote more than twenty fantasy novels, most of which were best-sellers. Their partnership is regarded as a staple of the fantasy genre.

Athalus, burglar, armed robber, is paid to steal a book by a sinister stranger named Ghend. Althalus sets off to the House at the End of the World where the book is kept. There, in the same room as the book Ghend described, he finds a talking cat. What he can’t find when he turns around is the door by which he entered.

By the time he sets out again, Althalus can read. He’s read the book and discovered that the evil god Daeva is trying to unmake the world. The cat, whom Althalus calls Emerald, is in fact the god’s sister, and she needs Althalus to prevent Daeva returning them all to primordial chaos. Althalus will teach her what she needs to know, which is how to lie, cheat and steal — ‘Whatever works,’ Emerald reflects.

Althalus is the first and foremost of a band of colourful helpers who will batlle Daeva and his bizarre, deadly minions. The existence of the world hangs in the balance in this glorious epic fantasy.

That’s pretty much it. And damn you person who is going to remain anonymous who fifteen years ago described the book as an epic series of Fetch Quests, as I couldn’t not view it in those terms upon this reading! Althalus is presented as a likeable rogue, but he is a thief, he is an (occasional) murderer, he fraternises and cavorts, and generally leaves people worse off! Dweia (Goddess of Change, sister to Deiwos (God of Creation) and Daeva (God of Destruction), for reasons absolutely unknown sees him as the saviour of the world, and spends two-and-a-half millennia somewhat falling to break him of his unsavoury habits. From there, it’s finding his companions, who are presented well-enough, but eventually (sadly!) become caricatures who occasionally don’t quite ring true. It honestly felt like the authors had the big plot points written, and wrote the bridging parts later. There is nothing wrong with this, nothing at all! But, it doesn’t quite integrate naturally in places. The motivations sometimes just feel a bit “off”.

It’s an easy nine hundred pages, mind you. There cast of characters, both main and supporting, are well-presented (barring some minor motivation problems, as mentioned above), and the mixture of literary styles is well done. Using the mental link between the members of the group and Dweia allows the story to nudge up against the fourth-wall at times, which generally works quite well. There is a heavy emphasis on the importance of stories, and the importance of narrative, which is quite interesting.

So, should you read it? Sure. It’s not the best example of fantasy literature, but it’s light, it’s enjoyable, the characters are fun enough, the plot is uncomplicated (a very nice way of saying completely linear with almost no subplots whatsoever), and the authors generally did a good job.

It’s available in hardcover, softcover, and is probably available in your local second-hand bookshop. Well, if you’re lucky enough to still have one of those!

Amazon linky:

Enchanters’ End Game–David Eddings (Belgariad 5)

The following quote is actually from Castle of Wizardry, not Enchanters’ End Game, but it’s a nice summary of how things stand as we get to the last book of the Belgariad series.

He would meet Torak alone. Mandorallen or Barak or Hettar could not come to his aid with their superior skill at swordsmanship; Belgarath or Aunt Pol could not intercede for him with sorcery; Silk would not be able to devise some clever ruse to allow him to escape. Titanic and enraged, the Dark God would rush upon him, eager for blood.

Just in case you want some story so far, my reviews of Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, and Castle of Wizardry, and check out the Amazon page for David Eddings.

The pieces are in place: Belgarath and Belgarion are tramping across Mallorea towards a final confrontation with Torak, the Dark God, who is slowly stirring from his sleep after Belgarion’s coronation. Ce’Nedra, Belgarion’s betrothed, is fulfilling her part of the prophecy by raising the armies of the West as war draws closer. There is a quiet reservation from those informed that what will be will be, as it is all dictated by prophecy. The war kicks off, valiant deeds are done. The hero pieces are moved across the board by a variety of hands for the final confrontation. The final confrontation runs essentially to course, as could have been predicted. (I’m avoiding some of the more explicit details, as I’m sure the worst thing after wading through fifteen hundred pages is having the ending spoiled by a blog post.)

The resolution is good, I’ll leave it at that.

Amazon links!

Castle of Wizardry — David Eddings (Belgariad 4)

Already then! We have reached book 4 of the Belgariad series. See my previous posts on Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit for the Story So Far. See David Eddings’ Amazon page for some more background on the author (and use that link to purchase some books!)

Book 3, Magician’s Gambit, ended with Belgarath and Ctuchik fighting over the Orb of Aldur, and Ctuchik very foolishly trying to unmake the Orb, thereby angering the Universe, and causing himself to be unmade. (Don’t fear, if that didn’t make any sense, just know that the Universe takes the Principle of Conservation of Matter very seriously.) Garion feels that their epic quest is done, and life can get back to normal. He once again displays his complete inability to recognise the foreshadowing for the previous three books.

A long and mildly eventful journey to the Isle of Winds and the city of Riva ensues. Garion is forced to assume a leadership role, and Polgara and Belgarath are otherwise occupied and exhausted. Again, upon arrival to the ancient city and home of defenders of the west, Garion thinks that he’s done, a notion that is quickly disabused when he is crowned king over all. Yes, that’s right, all of that foreshadowing that was clear to absolutely everyone else came as a complete surprise to him. Ce’Nedra takes it quite badly, as prophecy indicates that upon her sixteenth birthday she is going to have to submit to the Rivan King and wed him. They are betrothed, but Belgarath and Belgarion (he can probably be considered to have earned his title as a sorcerer by now) recognise that the rest of the prophecy (that Torak and Belgarion will eventually duel for the fates of the world) means that it might be convenient to escape and attempt to resolve the prophecy. Ce’Nedra finally recognises her part in the prophecy, and the final pieces move into place for the resolution.

So, I recognise that I’ve been a bit uneven with my summaries of this series, and this summary was a little longer than some of the others. My opinion still stands–the series is fun, light, fairly straightforward, but quite readable.

Amazon links!

Queen of Sorcery – David Eddings (Belgariad 2)

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings, the second book of David Eddings’ Belgariad series.

For author biography and series background, see my previous post. In brief: David Eddings was an American fantasy writer. His Wikipedia page is here and his Amazon page is here. The Belgariad is the first of Eddings’ fantasy series: it follows the exploits of the sorcerers Belgarath, Belgarion, Polgara, and their family and companions.

We run into a common issue with multi-volume fantasy tales. That is, it is not a story in the traditional sense. Normally, we have an introduction, the story develops, the characters progress, and there is a denouement. Often fantasy novels span a few thousand pages, and are roughly chopped into book-sized chunks. This means that the second, third, fourth books don’t really see that beginning, middle, end structure–it’s all middle. Queen of Sorcery definitely “suffers” (whether it’s really a problem or not is a little debatable) from this “problem”.

Queen of Sorcery sees our petulant hero (he’s a teenager who is struggling with his destiny, is permanently sulking, and is fairly constantly in denial), Garion, lost and bewildered, but realising that he is a sorcerer. And then denying this fact. Honestly, a smack around the head would be a kindness (he does collect a few along the way).

We continue our journey across the lands, finding races of people who are distinguishable so easily by one over-arching personality trait. It allows got simple, cookie-cutter characters. The stereotypes aren’t too offensive: the sneaky types, the brave heroic types, the snake-people, the political types, the honest solid types, and so on.

We meet Lelldorin, a very silly young man (but very skilled archer) who becomes a firm friend to Garion. Unfortunately, he is only briefly in the story. Lelldorin has a serious effect on Garion, but only so far as what not to do. His other foil is a spoilt princess, named Ce’Nedra. She has the unquestionable ego and sense of self that is stereotypically typical to princesses. It is most unfortunate that her will and command over the common people is completely worthless against Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, and their companions. These companions helpfully provide a mirror for us to consider Garion and the plot. Not that we need help seeing that he’s struggling.

There is something of a climatic scene to close the book, but the Big Picture plot doesn’t really feel like it has advanced all that far. The Orb of Aldur is still kidnapped, our heroes are still trekking across the world.

Like I says previously, it’s light fantasy, quite straightforward, and perfect for holiday reading. (At time of writing, my flight home departs in just over 18 hours.) Eddings’ books can generally be found in second-hand book shops, or in dead-tree editions in most book shops (or can easily be ordered in, most of them are still in print), or you can click on these Amazon links! Here to look at some options for the series, or a collection of the first three books of the Belgariad series:

Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings (Belgariad 1)

True fantasy. Not the high stuff with elves and dwarves, but gods and destiny and detailed lineages and magic and politics, mystery and intrigue. And characters that you want to reach through the page and shake. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that feeling towards the titular teenage petulant protagonist.

This series was recommended to me on the grounds that “it was highly enjoyable as a teenager, as that was the target audience”. A little unfair (but only a little). It’s fantasy, and that’s always been the realm of young men. (We dream of heroic deeds. It’s in our DNA. I don’t think that’s a big surprise to anyone!)

Author stuff: David Eddings was an American fantasy writer. His Wikipedia page is here and his Amazon page is here. Along with his wife Leigh (she gets co-author credit in his later works) he wrote more than twenty fantasy novels, most of which were best-sellers. He is regarded as a staple of the fantasy genre.

Pawn of Prophecy is the first novel in the five-book Belgariad series. This was the first of his novels in the first of his series. There were plenty of other Eddings books set in this universe, with his next series, The Malloreon, acting as a sequel. The books follow the exploits of Belgarath, Belgarion, Polgara, and their family and companions. I’m going to borrow from the Wikipedia page for a background summary: One of the seven gods, Aldur, creates an orb from stone and creates within it a “living soul”. One of the other gods, Torak, seizes the Orb from Aldur and tries to have it submit to his will. The Orb retaliates, burning and maiming Torak. The Orb of Aldur is later recovered by Belgarath the Sorcerer, King Cherek, and his children. Cherek’s youngest son Riva, is able to hold the Orb unharmed; wherefore all of his descendants are responsible for guarding the Orb from Torak.

So, over the course of the book (and its sequels) we are introduced to the lore of the land: gods squabbled, mysterious artifact was created, stolen, used, betrayed, given the a line of humans to protect. There are Heroes (with a capital H), destined to control and shape the effects of the world. To meddle. Belgarath, an ancient sorcerer (who of course wanders the land as a storyteller vagabond) (maybe there’s a school pumping out Gandalf figures for use in fantasy stories?) seeks to protect the Holy Macguffin (check TV tropes if you’re uncertain as what a Macguffin is), lest the god Torak awakens, and seeks to destroy the world. His daughter is also part of the job, but it a much more emotional manner.

Our protagonist is the young (time passes, but let’s take him as a teenager) Garion, whose role in this book is to be young, angry, petulant, moody, bewildered, lost, and generally kept in the dark for his own safety. This is, of course, anathema to a teenage boy. He doesn’t know who he is, he is ignorant of the Big Picture, and manages to be in mortal peril at nearly every turn. It’s exhausting just reading about it. He brings a lot of it upon himself, as is the way of teenagers.

The Important Object is stolen by an unnamed thief (who will remain unnamed, as he can hear his name when used, another standard device), and our story involves the storytelling vagabond (really the most powerful sorcerer alive), the over-protective aunt (the daughter of the sorcerer and immortal), the village blacksmith (ah, actually the village blacksmith), and two scruffy ruffians (a prince skilled in espionage, and a brother-to-another-region’s king who is magically connected with the bear-god of his people). And Garion, whose main purpose is to be overwhelmed.

The story gallops along, is perfectly fun, very light (I read half the book on a three-hour ferry crossing between the south and north islands of New Zealand), and was very clearly intended as part of a series. A lot of pieces are now on the board, and I’m sure that the next book (Queen of Sorcery) will advance the game.

For fantasy, it plays a lot of the tropes, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The characters are very much hero builds, but again that’s a standard fantasy arrangement.

Eddings’ books can generally be found in second-hand book shops, or in dead-tree editions in most book shops (or can easily be ordered in, most of them are still in print), or you can click on these Amazon links! Here to look at some options for the series, or a collection of the first three books of the Belgariad series:

Buying through Amazon, you support this writer (ie. me), and it costs you nothing extra. In fact, if you ever plan on buying something through Amazon, let me know, and I’ll get an Associate link for you :)

Magician — Raymond E. Feist (Riftwar cycle #1)

This review has been a long time coming. It’s a long book, and I wanted to do the review justice. (Honestly, that means that I probably should have written it shortly after finishing the book, not two months later. Oh well.)

I’m going to crib the intro stuff from Wikipedia: Magician is a fantasy novel by Raymond E. Feist. It is the first book of the Riftwar Saga and was originally published in 1982. In 1992, it was republished with much of the edited revisions restored (something like 92,000 additional words.) It is the first of many books by Feist set in the world of Midkemia, which was the setting for this book and most of the subsequent Riftwar books. Magician was separated into two volumes for the United States market and published as Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master. I read the UK (and Australian) edition which is a single volume (we’re not nearly as scared of long books as Americans ;))

Raymond E. Feist is an American author who primarily writes fantasy fiction. He is best known for the Riftwar Cycle. His Wikipedia page is here, his Amazon page is here. He was signing books at Supernova Sydney this year. If the line hadn’t been about one hundred metres long, I might have gotten something signed. Oh well.

Plot summary: Oh dear, this is going to be difficult. Above, where I said that the books is long? That’s not the half of it. It spans a huge amount of time too. Decades. The brief blurb is as follows: Pug, an orphan boy is apprenticed to a master magician. Suddenly the Kingdom is aswarm with alien invaders, destroying the peace of the kingdom. Pug and his friend Tomas are swept up into the conflict, with Pug’s destiny leading him through a rift to a new world.

Yup. That’s technically a summary. It lacks some details and nuances though. We’re introduced to Pug and Tomas, and the town of Crydee, and for a little while, it’s a standard coming-of-age story–there’s a brave rescue, an unobtainable princess, some magic, disappointment from Pug when he’s not chosen as an apprentice to the guards as he desires. It’s all very comfortable, and familiar, and I was very much looking forward to seeing how things develop with Pug’s apprenticeship to a magician, but then! War! Invasion! Rifts through to another world! Lots and lots, and dear gods, lots of characters. There is so much potential for this rich world to be explored, but we’re given such fleeting and tantalising glimpses that I was sulking at the book because I wanted more! I wanted more of the dwarves, more of the elves, more history of the worlds. (I realise that I’m sailing awfully close to Tolkien-esque levels of detail-orientated obsessiveness, believe me, I have no intention of getting there. I find the main series of Tolkien readable, but the surrounding paraphernalia is unreadable to me. (Yes, I know, I think I’m going to have to hand in my nerd card now, but honestly, I found the genealogy and endless histories far too dry and tedious.) I imagine that subsequent books revisit a lot of this, or, at least, I hope that they do!) Over the years, the Midkemians are losing the war with the alien Tsurani. Each year, the Tsurani eek out more and more territory. After a failed attempt to close the rift between worlds, Pug is captured and taken as a slave back to the alien world of Kelewan. Years pass, and he progresses from an ineffectual magician to obtaining the title of Great One. An attempt to sue for peace between the Tsurani and Midkemians is the focus for much of the second half of the book (that is technically true, but there is oh so much more!) We end on a fragile peace.

So, with that rather muddled plot summary done, I must answer the question: is it good? Yes. Oh my words, yes! It’s long, but there is so much detail, so much action, so much pure story that I cannot give any other conclusion than a very resounding positive recommendation. (Note, it’s fantasy. That should be clear–magic, elves, dwarves, alien races, etc, but just in case…. And, I’m not kidding about the decades. It is a little frustrating to be settling into the story to have the narrative yanked out from under your feet (metaphorically speaking), and finding yourself several years and a few dimensions away!)

I don’t understand why Amazon doesn’t let me link to their Kindle editions. Annoying. There are about a hundred versions, variation, and publications for Magician. I’m going to link to a few of them: (first, the separate novels in paperbook, US style)
Magician: Apprentice
Magician: Master (Riftwar Saga, Book 2)
I can’t get the Amazon Associates thing to work with the Kindle edition, so you can buy it from that link, but I don’t get the fraction of a fraction of a cent for you doing so. Huh.

The Last Dragonslayer — Jasper Fforde

This post was sitting in my Drafts since, oh, I honestly don’t remember. I’m going to finish it off and push it out. It may lack some length and quality…

There are some authors who hold a special place in a reader’s life. For me, the stalwarts of comic fantasy are there; authors such as Douglas Adams, and Terry Pratchett. (Though I have felt that Pratchett’s last few books didn’t have the same spark as his other work. An issue that Adams will sadly never have.)

Anyhow. My point is that I have some favourite authors. Jasper Fforde is one of those authors. I don’t buy the dead-tree versions of books anymore. A combination of reasons: the cost is higher, I don’t need to keep a hard-copy, and something about the environment. I will generally try to buy the paper copies of Fforde’s books.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I’m going to recycle some Brief author notes: Jasper Fforde is a living British author, quite prolific (twelve full-length novels in as many years, with at least another four in various planning stages), who writes alternate history, comic fantasy, surrealist humour fiction. He is currently working on books in four series: the Thursday Next novels, the Nursery Crime Division novels, the Shades of Grey novels, and the Dragonslayer trilogy. And yes, I’ve read all of them.

(Meta note: this is as far as I got with my draft. Maybe this is going to be a little harder than I expected to push out…)

So, we’re once again in the realms of things fantastic. The world has magic, but it’s mundane, boring, dwindling, and so tied up in red-tape that most of the time it’s not worth the effort. Jennifer Strange is nominally in charge of the wizards, seers and sorcerers of the Kazam Magical Agency. When the death of the last dragon is predicted, she is revealed by ancient prophecy to be the last Dragonslayer, and must do her duty. However, when the dragon itself wishes to be slain, things seem a little strange.

(More meta notes: honestly, the plot is a little straightforward, but if I was going to try to explain it properly, I’d have the mention Tiger Prawns, a foundling sent to Jennifer, from the Blessed Ladies of the Lobster, and why he must face nine years of indentured servitude. I’d have to explain about Quarkbeasts, and why they shouldn’t eat galvanised steel. About the history of magic, and why magicians generally are devious. About thinly veiled social criticism about avarice, greed, power, democracy, the role of the media in the forming of opinions, and just how quickly people can become accustomed to the bizarre. Oh wait, it looks like I’ve accidentally provided a strange summary regardless.)

The book is fun. It’s a bit of a departure from Fforde’s other work: it is far less literary-based than the Thursday Next novels (see reviews here and here (more to come, I’m sure)). Tt inhabits a different world from the Colours novels (one, happily, quite less dire and dystopian), and is more approachable to young readers than the Nursery Crime books.)

(More oddness: my spellchecker suggested that I replace ‘dystopian’ with ‘utopian’. That’s, uh, strange.)

This is possibly the most scattered review I’ve done. The story is good, the world is well-rendered, and it’s not overly heavy in either prose or themes. Good fun.

Shilling myself

Purchasing through these links earns me fractions of cents.


Kindle: again, Amazon won’t let me link to the Kindle version. Use the Paperback version above, and change formats.

Thursday Next 5: First Among Sequels — Jasper Fforde

Arghh, I have updated in ages. So, in the spirit of actually writing something down, and hopefully getting the feel for things, I’m going to dash off a quick (ha!) post today, and try to find some momentum.

I’ve talked about Jasper Fforde previously. He’s an author of alternate history, comic fantasy, surrealist humour fiction, and is incredibly talented. One of my favourite authors.

First Among Sequels was the first of the Thursday Next books that I read. I picked it up from a counter display at the library, liked the cover, and my fate was sealed. It is the fifth book in the series, and did a reasonably good job of introducing the first-time reader to the world in which the story is set. Or world, more accurately. Thursday Next is now middle-aged, happily married, with three children (only two of whom actually exist), and with the disbandment of the SpecOps groups, has taken a job fitting carpets. This is however just a cover for her illicit SpecOps work as a Literary Detective. Which is, in turn, a cover for her work as a Jurisfiction agent–she is one of the very few people who are able to make the jump from our world to Bookworld; the world of the written page. She is tasked with training two recruits–Thursday5, a fictional copy of herself from the 5th Thursday Next book, the Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco (astute readers will at this point pause, and go back and check the “works by the same author page”. Doing so will find a list of six Thursday Next books, with the fifth one crossed out), and Thursday1-4, the Thursday Next from the first four Thursday Next books. Thursday5 is a tie-dyed hemp-wearing yoga-performing pacifist who is utterly failing to perform her duties as a Jurisfiction trainee. Thursday1-4 is a gun-toting violent sex-driven maniac, who cannot take instruction, and feels that she is destined for greater things. The real Thursday Next feels that neither truly represent who she really is.

It is at this point, having not read the first four books, that I did not know that they weren’t the violent sex-driven crime thrillers that First Among Sequels continually made them out to be. It is all tied up neatly by the end of the novel, but it is very meta in the meantime. In fact, one of Fforde’s best characteristics is his ability to twist history, whether real or not, in very subtle ways. I found myself looking up poets and their poetry, the plots of books and the history of authors, to get some of the jokes. They can be quite sly.

The book is good. You should read it.

Can you buy this book?

There is a Kindle version, but Amazon are not letting me link to it. Bizarre. Click the paperback link below, and choose the Kindle version. I still get the fraction of a cent as a referral, I think.

The paperback version:

Children of the Night (Mercedes Lackey)

Following straight on from my review of the first Mercedes Lackey book I read comes Children of the Night, apparently the second book in the Diana Tregarde series.

Mercedes Lackey has a personal website, a wikipedia page, and an Amazon page. She is a prolific author of mainly fantasy novels. (Though she has ventured into Sci-fi as well.)

Children of the Night confused me a little, as it was part of the same file as Invasion (The Secret World Chronicles Book 1), which ended on a terrible cliff-hanger, so I figured that the second half of the file was the second book in the series. (These books and files were part of the Humble Bundle eBook bundle, so I should be allowed a little leniency for my confusion.) Given the number of characters in Invasion, the introduction of a new narrator in Di Tregarde didn’t set off alarm bells. The presence of magic and being set during the Nixon administration did, however.

Having not read the first in the series, I was initially a little lost regarding the main character, Di Tregarde. She is introduced as a powerful magic practitioner, wary of intrusions into her space. Slowly, she is revealed to be a Guardian, a witch of extreme power, who is duty-bound is assist the helpless. She is currently making ends meet working in a magical supplies store whilst her career as a writer struggles along. Our other protagonist is a musician by the name of Dave, who has the misfortune to be transformed into a psychic vampire who feeds off the emotions of others. Despite his transformed state, he maintains his morality and sense of ethics to some extent, and has a rather cliched battle against his own transformed self, and the other psychic vampires that attempt to drag him down. A ridiculously handsome genuine vampire by the name of Andre enters the mix, and completes the obligatory love triangle between Di and Dave. (The obvious comparison to Twilight shall not be made. Perhaps I’ve not read enough romantic paranormal fiction, as the dark-and-mysterious good vampire is still a novelty to me.)

The rise of the psychic vampires must be thwarted, a task that Di, Dave, and Andre handle admirably over the climactic chapters of the novel. Romance blossoms. In a quite linear tale, dots are connected.

Reading back over what I’ve written, I sound quite down on this book, which is actually a little unfair. It’s generic sure, but is it any good? Well, yes and no. I found that it was light and non-taxing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a story. There are definitely times in one’s reading life where such things are required. I don’t feel that my time was wasted, but I don’t feel the need to put it on my To-Be-Read-Again list. The story and the world were set up sufficiently well that if the first or third books of the series happened to cross my path, I’d most likely have a go at them.

Obligatory Amazon Links

The Di Tregarde trilogy is available in a collection: .

Or you can pick up the first book Burning Water, the second book Children of the Night, and the third book Jinx High from Amazon in paperback formats. (No Kindle versions appear to be available, sadly.)