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I don’t like Terry Pratchett. There, I’ve said it. I find his books unfunny, smart-arsed and contrived. Reading one of his books is like being poked in the ribs by a five year old wanting to point out to you how clever he is. I know I am in the minority: the man sells books by the millions and the Sky TV adaptations of his work are heralded before the event and repeated ad infinitum afterwards. But his type of writing just isn’t for me which is why I began reading February The Fifth by Derek Haines with more than a little trepidation.

February The Fifth is about a young man, February Gregorian, who is the third in line to the throne of Gloth, an empire somewhere (and sometime) in the universe. When his father and two elder brothers are reported dead in mysterious circumstances, Feb has to grow up and shape up quickly as the future of Gloth and Gregorian rule is in his – so far – incapable hands.

Tradition has it that each member of the Gregorian Royal family takes the name of a month of the year, from the Gregorian calendar. At this point in the book I was almost going to stop reading and give it up as yet another contrived fantasy story.

And I would have been wrong. Very, very wrong.

While I still say that this genre of book isn’t really my favourite, Derek’s attention to plotting and characterisation soon had me hooked and I truly wanted to know what happened to Feb and his sisters, April, May & June. The friends that Feb made along the way were fun characters, even if the names like String and Snurd did irritate me. I liked Derek’s ideas about the ships Feb et al used to get around their universe and for long stretches it read like a comedy Sci Fi story – and a very good one at that.

If I were to give it a star rating, I’d find it really quite difficult. The genre makes me want to say 2* but the story itself probably deserves 4*.

On the whole I’d say I’d heartily recommend February The Fifth if you enjoy Terry Pratchett & Douglas Adams.
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