ANALYSIS: This is another indie debut that came out of nowhere and was brought to my attention thanks to Amazon’s fabulous algorithm for suggesting titles. I had no clue about this book but the blurb that suggested a dark story and the excerpt that I read had me ordering the book as soon as I finished it. The book safe to say was far from a disappointment.
The story begins with Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart who is a member of the Inquisition that seeks to root out demons and those who practice the dark arts in the lands in and around the holy city of Sarth. They are an organization who based on the teachings of Volmar, have dedicated their lives trying to burn heretics and forever stamp out the dark arts. Such dedication has given them the street title of “witch hunters” and it’s one that is actively discouraged as well. Thanquil is however not a typical one and is just returning from distant mission before he gets shanghaied into an even more dangerous one.
Jezzet Vel’urn is a blademaster, she’s also a person who thinks more of day-to-day survival than anything else. Her troubles stem from a past friendship gone sour and before long she has to decide whether she will “fight or fuck her way” out of the shit headed her way. Lastly there’s Betrim the Black Thorn, mercenary, rogue and all round deadly murderer. His name echoes throughout the wilds as a name to be feared. Having lost a few digits on his hands and feet have made the Black Thorn extremely cautious in trusting folk even those among his crew but come long he will have to decide whether he wants to remembered as just a vile mercenary or something more.
That’s the basic gist of all the POV characters however there are more and all of them crazier and scarier than these POV ones. If I had to pinpoint the one single strength of this book, I would say it’s the characterization. Very few authors manage to write such terrific characters in their debut, only a few such as Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Anthony Ryan come to mind but now I believe we have another addition to this list. Rob J. Hayes who writes about lowlifes and scum but writes with such wonderful application that these very characters seem fascinating gems and before long have you hooked onto their antics. This is the best part of the story, kind of reminiscent of Blake Crouch and J. A. Konrath’s serial killer thrillers wherein they explored the darker side of human depravity and power.
Similarly the author herein focuses on people who frankly would be villains in most books however gives them three dimensional personas for the readers to enjoy reading about. Betrim, Thanquil and Jezzet are the main characters and they shine brightly through their chapters but it's also the side character cast such as Henry, Bones, Swift, etc that make the story so much more intriguing. The POV characters Thanquil, Jezzet and Betrim are all psychologically broken people however the way they cope with their problems is fascinating to read. Plus amid all the savagery, their semi-honorable actions seem even brighter as compared to the muck around them. Sure enough some of them are still scum, act crazy, commit violence in a wild manner upon each other and normal folk, however many of them become so interesting that the readers will be forced to turn the pages to get to know them better as well as their sides of the story. This was what I loved so much about this debut, the terrific characterization, the unpredictable plot-line with all the action and bleakness.
There are plot twists galore as the story hardly moves in the direction that the readers would expect and in the end the author makes sure that the rules of the world are obeyed in the sense that no character is truly safe. There are quite a few deaths and so I would recommend that readers not read the blurb of the next books to not spoil their reads. The ending is very Abercrombie-like wherein situations are resolved but the characters are put through a psychological and physical grinder of sorts. All in all this is a kind of debut that you definitely don’t want to miss because as soon as you finish this book, you’ll want to start the next one and the one after that. The great news is that all three of them are released and therefore ready to be devoured.
Now moving onto the parts of the book that seem to be a bit deficient, namely the worldbuilding front. Sure enough there is enough history and geography provided to make it seem three dimensional but because the story focuses so much on characters and action, some readers who might want to know more of the surrounding world might not be satisfied. This book is without a map and so for cartophiles it’s a bit of a negative. Lastly those who don’t like dark fantasy or grey characters please, please avoid this book at all costs as you definitely will not be able to stomach it for all its brutality, gore and graphic nature. There's also quite a few situations and characters that come on to the main stage without any explanation and so I hope their status and back-stories will be explained in the succeeding volumes.
CONCLUSION: Who is Rob J. Hayes, I don’t know entirely but I’m willing to bet that before the year ends, many readers will have heard his name and also become fans of his. The Heresy Within is an Indie debut and like last year’s Blood Song is a absolute gem. If you like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or David Dalglish, make sure this is your next book. If you want a dark journey filled with action, betrayals and truly magnificent bastards of characters then The Heresy Within is the book that you should seek. DO NOT MISS IT!...more
It's really hard to believe that Shovel Ready is a debut novel, Adam Sternbergh writes in a deft manner with a prose style very similar to that of Ch It's really hard to believe that Shovel Ready is a debut novel, Adam Sternbergh writes in a deft manner with a prose style very similar to that of Charlie Huston as found in the Joe Pitt Casebooks. The story presents us with our narrator who goes by the name "Spademan". He's also a garbage man who freelances as hit-man for hire. He's got his rules but once he gets the contract, he does his best to finish off his target.
The storyline introduces the reader to a desolate & dystopian New York city after a dirty bomb exploded in Times Square, the entire NYC outlook has changed but somethings remain the same. People still want to get others killed and this where Spademan comes into the picture. One phonecall to him gets the ball rolling with no cancellations ever. His only drawback, he won't kill children.
His most recent assignment has him hunting the wayward daughter of an Evangelist and that's where the story get truly rollicking. Mixing SF with noir, the author creates a bleak world wherein life is still not sacred and with a very enigmatic narrator, Sternbergh draws the reader in ever deeper. There's a fascinating juxtaposition of the old opium dens and with the most current SF setup called the limnosphere. What it is and how it all ties into this amazing story is what you will have to find out. Rest assured, this won't be the last book you'll read from the author if the quality & talent are any indication....more
ANALYSIS: In regards to the Drifting Isle Chronicles, I first heard about it last year and was lucky enough t Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: In regards to the Drifting Isle Chronicles, I first heard about it last year and was lucky enough to talk to Joseph R. Lewis who was the main person instigating the project. He spoke about it a bit in his interview and since then I’ve been tracking it. In the last few weeks Joe contacted me and said that they were going to release three novels currently with one more to come later this year. There have been a series of guest post wherein an overview was given about the world as well as each author spoke about their own book and their favorite aspect about the shared world. Here are the guest posts:
1] The Drifting Isle Chronicles - A new way to tell new stories by Joseph R. Lewis 2] When Collaborating, Say Yes! by Meilin Miranda 3] On Machines And Talking Birds by Charlotte E. English 4] The Kaiser Affair - A fantasy thriller and travelogue to The Drifting Isle Chronicles by Robert Joseph Lewis
A couple of years ago, a few blogger friends and I had done a multi-story review. I decided to ask those fine folks again for their help and Qwill and Melissa graciously volunteered their time. So for the three DIC novels it was decided that Qwill would review Black Mercury, Melissa would take a look at The Kaiser Affair and I would focus on The Machine God. So today here’s my review of The Machine God and Melissa has also posted her thoughts about The Kaiser Affair on her blog followed by Qwill’s Black Mercury review on Thursday (18th April) on the Qwillery.
With The Machine God, Meilin had mentioned in her guest post as to how she got selected for writing about it. This book deals with a very crucial aspect of the storyline as it focuses upon Inselmond, the Drifting Isle that is located above the city of Eisenstadt. This story occurs a bit after the events of Black Mercury as the Island has already been discovered. Thus certain events lead to the inclusion of Professor Oladel Adewole, who is a Jero native and connoisseur of old, lost languages. He is also a polyglot and lover of coffee and perhaps the odd man out in academia. He looks often to his friend Karl Deviatka for support against the university chancellor who seems to dislike Adewole on sight and tries to prolong his official position. He however gets chosen because of his aptitude and soon finds out that the people of the drifting isle have a secret. A secret, which in the wrong hands might lead to an apocalypse, and that secret is what is the Machine God?
Meilin Miranda lovingly crafts this story about an outsider who is lost on personal and professional levels but strives to do the right thing always. With this story we get a third person perspective on the events of the story however it doesn’t rob us of the intimateness as often experienced via the first person narrative storylines. The main protagonist is an endearing person and the author’s characterizations marks him out splendidly. This tale while being a story about discovery of a new island is also about personal discovery in regards to several characters and that includes a wise owl that makes appearances throughout. The story slowly unveils all the issues at hand and though takes its time; the prose and world presented keep the reader fascinated for the entire time. Lastly the story unveils a rather dark turn of the world’s history and I’m hoping the founding chroniclers decide to explore it in the future as well.
Drawbacks to this tale are that it features a slower paced storyline as compared to The Kaiser Affair or Black Mercury however those story lines demand such a fast pace. With this story, it will depend on the readers to decide whether the pace matters in the enjoyment of this tale or not. Lastly some characters are mentioned and make an appearance and leave the stage very quickly, this is due to the fact that they are making cameos. Such appearances might confound certain readers and it will be good if they read this overview post by Joseph Robert Lewis to get a better sense of the story and world presented within.
CONCLUSION: Meilin Miranda writes a fascinating story about a person’s search for the greater good. The Machine God is a story that I enjoyed thoroughly. I would recommend this story heartily for those wanting a well-nuanced storyline. The Machine God is a good way to start the Drifting Isle Chronicles and I’ll be sure to check the other titles ASAP....more
The Wolf In Winter is the eleventh volume of the Charlie Parker series & the thirteenth book to feature Parker in it. This book leads on with certThe Wolf In Winter is the eleventh volume of the Charlie Parker series & the thirteenth book to feature Parker in it. This book leads on with certain pivotal events from The Wrath Of Angels however its main plot makes it a standalone read. We begin with Parker, Louis, & Angel hot on the track of the Collector for his murder of Jackie Garner.
ANALYSIS: After last year’s fantastic debut Daughter Of The Sword, Steve Bein was very high in my lists for th Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: After last year’s fantastic debut Daughter Of The Sword, Steve Bein was very high in my lists for this year. I got a copy of Year Of The Demon early & was very intrigued to see how it would mark against its superb predecessor.
Like the previous title, the book’s blurb doesn’t reveal the entirety of the story. Similar to the last book, this book also has multiple POV characters and occurs in various time periods. The first one focuses on Mariko Oshiro and is set in the 22nd year of the Heisei era or 2010 C.E. Mariko has become somewhat famous due to the events of the last book wherein she lost a minor appendage and gained a major reputation as a badass cop. Her reputation comes with a hit on herself & the only way to avoid that is to help the same Yakuza retrieve his iron mask. In the second thread we are reintroduced to Okuma Daigoro in the 21st year of the Azuchi-Momoyama era or 1588 C.E. Daigoro is now the lord of the Okuma clan & commanders a viable area. He is soon to be wed however a dastardly turn of events finds him in opposition with Shichio, the advisor to general Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Lastly the third and last thread is set in the 148th year of the Muromachi era or 1484 C.E. and the reader is introduced to Kaida. A one-armed child who is also an “ama” or pearl diver. Fate has been cruel to Kaida in the form of her stepsisters and an indifferent father. Things change when a shipwreck occurs near the coast of her village and brings in a group of individuals that might just be her salvation if they don’t kill her first. These are the complicated threads that make up the second volume of the Fated Blades series. As with the last book, Mariko gets the lion’s share of the sections, in this case five of them. Daigoro gets three and Kaida the last two. The plot once again twists and turns through out the entire book and making the reader wonder what is finally going to happen. With this book, the author brings another part of the fascinating period of Japanese history to the fore and also introduces an iron mask in to the fray.
With this book the primary focus across all the three time periods is the iron mask and it’s affinity towards the Inazuma blades particularly Glorious Victory Unsought. This fatal attraction is what propels the story with Mariko and Daigoro as both of them have to fight people with the mask who have been under its influence. The author doesn’t quite reveal the how and why about the mask but there are some crucial clues in Kaida’s story that dwell upon the mask and the tribe that originates about it. The members of this tribe or the “Wind clan” leave their imprint in almost every time period and it will be up to the reasders to deduce what their agenda is. Another part of the story that was different from its predecessor was the struggles that each character faces. For Daigoro & Mariko, both face immense personal tribulations that would perhaps break many a person however how they strive to overcome these is what makes their threads such a rousing read.
With Kaida, the author explores a grim Cinderella-like storyline that showcases Kaida’s fortitude and makes her the most endearing among all the POV characters. Surprisingly in this book, the focus is more on the mask and less on the blades & the blades perhaps will come to the fore in the third book. Wherein the hope is also that the POV characters that survive are sure to return. The author makes sure to keep all the sections intriguing and with the constant switches, keeps the tension spread evenly throughout the story. The sequel story is much darker and also has a graphic sequence present even though the author doesn’t believe in torture. The sequence from a story perspective makes sense and doesn’t seem gratuitous in the least. As with the last book, this book takes a very cautious approach to the magical front & again while we are shown a magic-lite storyline, it is still very addictive.
The only point that I thought which deducted a bit of awesome from this book is that this book suffers from the classical “middle book” syndrome (assuming that this might be a trilogy). There are quite a few threads that aren’t sufficiently resolved and I believe are left for the third book. This caused me some consternation and might do the same for readers who expect a complete resolution to all the plot points.
CONCLUSION: Steve Bein gives out a strong sophomore effort that proves he’s not a one-book wonder. Year of The Demon is a darker story that excoriates its characters much more than was thought possible. Year Of The Demon makes sure that readers invested in the Fated Blades series will find a new corner to be intrigued by & is a good follow-up to one of my favorite debuts of all time....more
ANALYSIS: Last year after finishing off his debut trilogy in grand style, Mark Lawrence left his readers furt Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: Last year after finishing off his debut trilogy in grand style, Mark Lawrence left his readers further conflicted about his main character Jorg, the bleak world encapsulated within & how he capped off the story. This incredible review by Jared does manage to capture in strong essence why so many readers have been conflicted (as well as in awe of) about this series. Beware though it has major spoilers for the entire trilogy but it along with a majority of Jorg haters draws some conclusions that don't necessarily jive with what the author was aiming for.
In his last book Emperor Of Thorns, Mark Lawrence introduced a pair of characters called the Red Queen and the Silent Sister. Both of whom are too rich to be discarded to cameo appearances and thus we have the Red Queen’s War, the new trilogy set in the same world and time frame as the previous one. Of course this story focuses upon Jalan Kendrath & Snorri Ver Snagason, the former a prince and a distant grandson of the deadly Red Queen, and the latter a Viking slave who is far from his homeland but hasn’t lost any of his mettle in all matters related to blood. The story then unfolds in a haphazard manner as the author intended for our mismatched duo to find out why fate has put them together.
Here’s why I thought that this book was so much better than the Prince Of Thorns. Firstly the characterization, the author nails it with Jalan and Snorri, unlike Jorg who was a sociopath and very hard to sympathize with. In this case the author does a fantastic job as he presents two individuals who are vastly different but are both pleasantly relatable. The second aspect is that here as well, the author further explores the fascinating post-apocalyptic world that he has created. Plus we also get to meet (or glimpse) brother Jorg, and the rest of his brethren. This was a cool way to relive a couple of events from the first book, plus we get to meet characters like Chella, Katherine & her sister. These interactions do add depth to the events that we have read previously.
Now going to the pace side of things and this is another factor that made this book factor strongly against Mark’s debut title. In Prince Of Thorns, the pace was slightly uneven and with the story broken into two timelines, it caused a bit of discord for many a reader. This time around there’s no dual timeline, just a singular straightforward plot that will propel the reader rapidly. But while keeping the plot streamlined, the author hasn’t dropped any quality. The humor in his previous was dark and present whenever possible, with this title however the humor while similarly dark is present copiously and that strengthens this particular story.
The author has thrown in some sharp references to his previous work, the best one I thought was:
“Dropping into a thorn bush can lead to no end of grief!”
Another aspect that I loved was a possible nod to David Gemmell & two of his favorite creations “Snaga & Druss” via the character of Snorri Ver Snagason. Who says this about himself as an axeman:
“An axe for me. Swords trick you into thinking you can defend. With an axe, all you can do is attack. That’s what my father named me. Snorri, it means attack. Men think they can defend against me, but when I knock they open.”
I loved to read about Snorri & the revelations that were laid bare in the latter half of the story really made the book that much meatier. I loved how the author explored these two personas and the transformation they both undergo as the journey culminated into a horrific climax. Lastly the magic system showcased was also that much more clearer than the previous work in the same milieu and I can’t wait to read more about the Red Queen’s struggle against the Dead King.
Mark Lawrence really hits one out of the park with the opening salvo of the Red Queen’s War and for all those left with a sour taste while following Jorg’s odyssey. Prince Of Fools is sure to change your perception if you give it a read with an open mind. For me, I had no complaints with Prince Of Fools besides the tiny fact that I’ll have to wait for a year atleast to read what happens next.
CONCLUSION: Prince Of Fools is Mark Lawrence’s newest and perhaps best attempt at proving what a talented wordsmith he is. Be sure to read this one if you enjoy dark fantasy rife with superb characterization, black humour & a fast paced plot that will leave you hooked till the very end. Mark wins this round and now it's up to the rest of SFF fandom to accept his ascendancy towards fantasy pantheon’s upper echelons....more
ANALYSIS: Peter Clines has to be admired, after three titles in the Ex series, he still knows how to keep this Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: Peter Clines has to be admired, after three titles in the Ex series, he still knows how to keep this series fresh. I was a little skeptical as to how he would go ahead with this story considering the events of the last book but the blurb of the book was simply irresistible. It seemed to be taking the series in a new direction and I was curious to see where the author was taking the series and characters.
With this fourth volume, we begin in a world wherein George Bailey (St. George/The Mighty Dragon) is a simple janitor and not the superhero we know him to be. He has no inkling of his other life wherein we have met him and many others in a world overrun by zombies or Ex-humans as they are known. This world however has no such apocalypse happening to it, but there's a girl who call herself Madelyn Sorenson and sort of remembers a different world.
Madelyn frequently reminds George that this is not the world they are supposed to be in and this might be an alternate reality, which they need to get out of. Soon George finds out that there are others like Stealth, Zzzap, Freedom and Danielle (Cerebrus) who are also trapped in with him. What happens next and what is actually happening is the meat of the plot and the way they discover it is the icing on the cake for the readers. The author plants several nods to various famous SF works and several episodes from some epic SF shows in this one, and the story unfolds like a classical mystery, which adds to heightened tension throughout the story.
The basic story follows in the same “then” and “now” patterns of the previous books. However this book focuses almost exclusively on George Bailey. While there are other characters who get screen time from time to time. George gets about 90-95% of the POV time and this basically streamlines the story. Another plus point of this story is that we get a lot of major revelations about Stealth and her background. Namely that we get to know her real name, find out about her father and with this move, I believe the author connects his Ex-Series to his Junkie Quatrain short stories (though more information will have to come from the author as to how it all ties in). I happened to really enjoy this link-up and I believe it will be of special interest to regular readers of Peter’s work.
The plot pace and the twists are top-notch and keep the reader completely hooked onto the story. The author has to be commended for keeping this series fresh by taking the series in directions that are very unpredictable. Beginning with the second book, the author explored the military aspect of the world, the third book focussed on magic, religion and the afterlife and this one is even more intriguing from a plot perspective. Plus the story climax along with all the revelations definitely help in blowing the reader’s minds and kudos to the author for thinking up this slick story.
How good/effective the final revelations are, will depend on each reader for gauging them. For me the revelation of the main villain was a bit anti-climatic, as the explanation given, seemed a bit out of the rabbit's hat. What I mean, is that the author seemingly wanted to explain the plot and provide a neat conclusion that would tie everything properly. While the story is complete, the explanation about the main antagonist proved to be very flimsy IMHO. In that regard I didn't quite enjoy the final revelation but because this entire story was so tightly plotted, it was too good, for it to be entirely spoiled for me. I thought that besides this small foible, this book was technically the best in the series in terms of story, pace and plot twists. I'm also hoping that the author plans to conclude this series in a sensible manner and not extend it with too much.
CONCLUSION: All in all, this was an excellent continuation of a series that I’ve come to enjoy so much. Ex-Purgatory is a solid story that will entertain and keep the reader guessing as to what is truly happening. I perhaps didn’t quite enjoy a particular aspect of the story but this was entirely personal and might not be shared by other readers. So keep that in mind and enjoy Ex-Purgatory. I'm already looking forward to Ex-Isle and the surprises it brings....more
ANALYSIS: Matthew Reilly is one of my favorite thriller writers; he's what one would refer to as brain candy. Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: Matthew Reilly is one of my favorite thriller writers; he's what one would refer to as brain candy. His books are filled with adorable, heroic characters, over-the-top & drawn-out action sequences and lastly memorable plots. His Shane Schofield series established his name and signature writing style. His second book "Temple" was a variant in his writing style that it featured a dual storyline and the second plotline was placed in the latter half of the sixteenth century. This was the only instance of Matthew Reilly ever writing a historical thriller until now that is.
With The Tournament, the author heads back to the sixteenth century however instead of the new world (in Temple), the story is set in continental Europe and the city of Istanbul. The protagonist for this remarkable story is none other Queen Elizabeth I however she is just a teenager and is guided by her remarkable tutor Roger Ascham. The story is told entirely from Elizabeth's POV except for the prologue and epilogue. The beauty of the plot is that it focuses on a chess tournament which is to be held in the city of Istanbul and is organized by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent. What starts out to be a simple chess tournament soon gets mired in conspiracy and murder as a catholic priest is found murdered brutally and Roger Ascham along with Bess (as Elizabeth is referred to) get embroiled in it. Following sixteen famed players and with quintessential Matthew Reilly plot twists, The Tournament is a book that will delight most of his fans and might win him some new ones as well.
What I liked about this book was that the author unabashedly sticks to his storytelling style and keeps the plot moving forward with an extremely rapid pace. The book has a multitude of famous characters and one doesn't need to be a European history expert to enjoy their interactions. Elizabeth as a character is rather subdued and often focuses on her mentor Roger Ascham who is presented with a strong Sherlockian vibe. He is a man of knowledge and rational behavior, often focusing on the details and science to formulate his answers and thoughts. He often steals the scenes as a worthy historical predecessor to Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary virtuoso. The author creates many situations that perhaps are his way of explaining how they molded Elizabeth's character and thought process thereby making her into the formidable monarch she eventually became.
The book’s main draw begins with the chess tournament when the famed sixteen players face-off against each other. To offset the tournament's excitement, there’s also the murder mystery, which is set among the court of the sultan. The author keeps the tension twisting with both story threads and the plot twists keep on coming ending in a solid climax that resolves both plot threads. While the story unfolds quite brutally, this book deals with some adult themes in regards to sexuality, sexual abuse and morality. I enjoyed this aspect of the story as previously the author has taken a PG-13 view with his stories. Lastly the author has also gives a major clue for a potential sequel story than can either be done in a short or longer form.
While this book was a runaway story with some clever twists to it, there are some points that might not make it an intellectual equal of "The Name Of The Rose". The author often injects modern twentieth and twenty-first century sensibilities into the characters and their views. While it was enjoyable to read the various fallacies about the Catholic Church and the Ottoman Empire. It's hardly believable that these characters would be able to formulate them. The author has indicated certain historical facts to substantiate his extrapolations and it will be up to the readers to decide how believable it all is. This point though doesn't detract anything from the story but is a sore point for all sticklers of historical accuracy especially when it comes to historical fiction dealing with famous real-life personalities. There’s also one character that seems to be set up for a horrendous fall and basically is included to make a point about why Elizabeth remained a virgin (allegedly). It will be up to the readers to see how this twist pans out. For me it was rather unsavory to say the least.
Overall I would say that this book is a typical Matthew Reilly thriller albeit set in the sixteenth century and in Constantinople (nee Istanbul) a city wherein the author hasn't set any of his previous stories. It also features various famous historical characters and it was quite fun to read their interactions as well as see their predilections. This book works wonderfully if read as a fun thriller with some interesting factoids about chess and historical characters/organizations. It is not a true account of history and therefore doesn't seek to adhere to standards of historical accuracy.
CONCLUSION: The Tournament is a fun book that is an excellent mix of historical thriller and murder mystery. While this book will certainly excite Matthew Reilly’s fans, for seasoned thriller and historical fiction readers, this book might fall flat entirely. This book should be taken for what it is, a fun thriller written by Matthew Reilly in his inimitable style. It entertains and makes the time fly....more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Penitent Damned is a prequel short story that was featured for free on io9 and af Review originally over at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Penitent Damned is a prequel short story that was featured for free on io9 and after reading it, I would very much recommend it to readers as well with the caveat that they might enjoy it better after reading The Thousand Names.
The story is set in Vordan and basically is a heist story. The story focuses on Duke Mallus Kengire Orlanko, Royal Minister of Information and leader of the Vordanai secret police, the all-seeing, all-knowing Concordat, Andreas the Concordat assassin and Alex the thief. Alex and her mentor master Metzing have been given a job that is almost impossible to turn down. Andreas warns the duke of an impending heist and so the trap is set. It remains to be seen which side will triumph as both sides have secrets of their own and surprises to spring as well.
I read this short after I had read the book and I’m glad for that as certain things the book illuminates become very easy to understand after reading the climax of The Thousand Names. While I believe most readers will enjoy this story anyway, I think those who read The Thousand Names will be able to discern a few more facts from it and especially the last line gives out a very crucial part that possibly reveals an important clue in regards to an important plot point. Plus the story also shines a sharp light on the Vordanai magic system and that is revealed quite late in the main book. The story does have a nice twist in its climax and as far as short stories go, is quite an excellent one.
Overall The Penitent Damned is a story that I would heartily recommend to all fantasy lovers. If you haven’t discovered Django Wexler yet, then this is an excellent, free way to get started. Though my recommendation would be to read it after the author’s long form debut as that way you will enjoy it even more!...more
ANALYSIS: There are some books that draw you in with their blurb descriptions about their protagonists such Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic.
ANALYSIS: There are some books that draw you in with their blurb descriptions about their protagonists such as Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazzell, etc and then completely hook you in with the content matter. The Intern’s Handbook seemed to be another such book and I couldn’t wait to read it and see how it would pan out.
The story begins as a series of chapters in a handbook that details the life of John Lago, one of the best assassins that Human Resources Inc. has to offer. He’s on the verge of becoming twenty-five years old and that means that he can no longer do what he does best. That seems ironical but the way HR Inc has become so proficient at their work, is because they send out people who are below the age of twenty five as interns and who are trained to be deadly killers. John Lago was inducted into HR Inc when he was twelve years old, he along with a group of twenty-six other like-minded individuals made up the batch. Only three remain and all of them are superbly efficient. John is given one last mission and after that he can decide whether to retire or not.
His last assignment is to infiltrate New York’s most prestigious law firm; Bendini, Lambert & Locke. However the biggest drawback of the assignment is that there’s no target yet. Sure there’s someone to be terminated however he will have to ingratiate himself with all the senior members, keep his intern status and find out who the target is. Not an easy job but one John is prepared for. His biggest problem however comes in the form of Alice, who starts as part of his assignment but ends up complicating his life. This final assignment will be prove to be his nadir as he unlearns all that he gleaned so far and he still has to find out whom he has to kill, to finish it.
The Intern's Handbook is Shane Kuhn's debut and a super fun story. John’s handbook for recent recruits is a handbook as well as his biography. I couldn’t stop reading once the story began and along with the twists, the story is told with a very dark comedic tone that helps massively. Here are a few examples of the author’s humor:
“The shortest distance between truth and bullshit is six feet straight down.”
“Hip-hop, you have f***** the King’s English for life, good on you.”
“He calls himself a ‘big picture guy’, this is a Business 3.0 way of saying he doesn’t give a shit about anything but the bottom line.”
“44% of my kills came from my superior coffee-making ability. It’s simple, puts you in direct contact with the target and it can be a vector for a variety of weapons.”
Also similar to Columbus’ list of rules for survival in Zombieland, John has a set of rules that are interspersed between the chapters and which further help elucidate why he’s considered to be one of the best. The pace of the story is of the rapid kind as the twists pile on; it becomes even harder to put this down. Trust me you don’t want to start this book in the evening as that way you’ll end up reading late in the night till the story ends. Do what I did, reserve time for it and then read and chuckle along as the tale unfolds.
The main protagonist is the big draw of the story as we get a hitman who while young in age, has developed a cynical attitude that seems more proper in one who would be in the 40-plus age range. John’s observations and his rules make the book stand out completely and kudos to the author for his top-drawer characterization. While we don’t get to much about the side character cast, they aren’t the two-dimensional ones and add to the character dynamic in many more ways. And to top it all, the climax of the story is quite an unpredictable one, which goes on to add to the charm of the book. Plus after reading the very last page, readers will definitely be clamoring for a sequel.
With such stories, there are always points that go against it, for me the only point that didn't seem to gel was the fact that towards the latter third of the story, John Lago battles the antagonists who don't quite use all the weapons (both literally & figuratively) in their arsenal. Perhaps the author will shine a further light on this aspect in the sequels but for now, this point seemed a bit weak. In the end this was a dark, quirky assassin story that pays homages to several films and silver screen characters and takes a rather funny route towards its unpredictable climax.
CONCLUSION: The Intern’s Handbook is a rip-roaring tale of an intern cum assassin, who plans to retire young but as often as it does with best-laid plans, his journey never goes where he plans it to be. This tale is quite apt for fans of the Dexter series, The Spellman Files & the John Wayne Cleaver trilogy. Make sure you don’t miss The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn, as far as debuts go, this one hits the bullseye. ...more
This book was a surprise, it came with its own hype as Emma Watson is supposedly signed on to play the main character in the film adaptation.
The stor This book was a surprise, it came with its own hype as Emma Watson is supposedly signed on to play the main character in the film adaptation.
The story is about Kelsea who is a nineteen year old girl who is the successor to the Raliegh line. She however faces colossal odds as she only has her queens guard to back her against her uncle who is the regent. She faces even more horrible enemies and situations as she returns to claim her throne & find out all about her parents.
ANALYSIS: Some series have such a hold on you that you *have* to read every bit that the author writes Full review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: Some series have such a hold on you that you *have* to read every bit that the author writes about them. A few examples of such series for me are A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews, the Drenai series by David Gemmell and lastly The Demon Squad series by Tim Marquitz. With Demon Squad we were introduced to lovable rogue Frank Trigg who would leer at your girlfriend while regaling you with salacious banter. He’s the kind of character that usually gets an early gruesome death courtesy of the protagonist in most fantasy stories. In Tim Marquitz’s universe, we get to see how the world seems to be from such a person’s point of view.
Since I met Frank in Armageddon Bound, I’ve counted myself as a Frankophile and have eagerly devoured each and every story (both long and short) that featured him or was set in the world featuring him. Last time around in Beyond The Veil, certain events and a huge amount of unveiled secrets have left Frank and the reader with a lot to ponder. However with this prequel standalone novella, Tim gives us a chance to view Frank in his good old days when he was the Anti-Christ in training. Cue Frank in hell and having a good time or as much as a good time as can be expected in Lucifer’s domain.
When the story opens, Baalth is training Frank for a fight that he has no control over and after the umpteenth disappointing finish, gets tasked by his uncle to go to Earth to resolve a situation. Frank’s initial joy turns a bit sour when finds himself in London, circa 1888 and is forced to resolve the Jack the Ripper murders. He finds that Hell isn’t the only party interested in unmasking Jack as his cousin Scarlett is sent as the angelic counterpart to his investigations. Backed into a corner, Frank will have to rein his perverted thoughts and focus on finding who is behind the infamous letter which begins by saying “From hell…”
As is the case with previous books, From Hell while focusing on a dark subject, takes a rather dark comedic path as Frank narrates the story. We get his usual banter on the state of things, uncle Lucifer, Scarlett and her vivacious ways and lastly how he stumbles from the fire into the frying pan. Readers acquainted with the previous books will find a delicious mix of the same but with a tiny difference, Frank isn’t the hardened wiseass we have met in the previous Demon Squad books and that’s because he still has his powers with Lucifer’s backing. While that might save him from bigger hurdles, watching him trip over smaller stuff is still hilarious. With this novella, the author explores the demon squad universe in a different time period and I enjoyed this past romp of Frank a lot.
Beginning with the humor, as usual we get a nice stream of thoughts and one-liners that would keep you in splits but also we get a tightly paced plot that moves towards a conclusion rather strongly. There aren’t too many plot twists in this story but the main one if you don’t guess it, will liven up your read. I enjoyed Tim’s take on the Ripper’s identity and his reasoning for the stoppage of the murders. Lastly there’s even a small thread left open for Frank’s further adventures out in the old west that frankly sounds like a bunch of fun.
Drawbacks to this novella are simply that if you didn’t like the previous books then this novella might not change your stance. Also if you are easily offended by salacious humor then I would pray you never venture into the demon squad universe. Besides the afore-mentioned reasons I couldn’t find any other thing to nitpick about this story.
CONCLUSION: Frank returns in a prequel story and it is a gory yet fun one. You will want to read this novella if you have been on the fence for trying out a new, unknown series. From Hell is a great introduction to the Frank and his world. Be prepared though it’s unlike any other urban fantasy that you have read so far. Frank Trigg isn’t a Harry Dresden or Atticus Sullivan clone, he’s his own man and the rest of the world needs to find that out....more
Before I start this review, I would like to list why I was excited to read this book: 1] I had read the first three books more than a decade ago when I Before I start this review, I would like to list why I was excited to read this book: 1] I had read the first three books more than a decade ago when I first came across them and the 2nd one (Blindsided) made me a fan of the series as well as the author.
2] Clyde Phillips for those who don't know him is a writer/producer for shows like Dexter, Suddenly Susan and a others. His involvement with Dexter coincided with some of the series best seasons and coincidentally his exit led to some weaker ones (5th and 6th).
Unthinkable stars Jane Candiotti and her husband Kenny Marks, both of whom are members of SFPD. After the events of the past 2 books which have lead to some drastic personal and professional changes in Jane's life, this book shows us the vibrant aftermath and it is soon shattered when a fatal restaurant shooting occurs. With a personal connection to one of the murdered victims. Jane and Kenny strive to solve this case but things are never black and white as they come to witness.
Clyde Phillips is simply a masterful plotter and with this book, he again shows how twisted his plots can be. With a streamlined plot and plot twists that will trip readers, Unthinkable is a fine return by one of the most under-rated thriller writers. Be sure to grab this book and the previous ones if you love Jeffrey Deaver, Owen Laukkanen, James Patterson (earlier thrillers) or Harlan Coben!...more