OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Hondus Pointe is the first novella of the Nambroc sequence, what drewFull review plus author interview over at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Hondus Pointe is the first novella of the Nambroc sequence, what drew my eye to this novella was its blurb and what held my attention throughout the story was its quick pace & grey characters.
The plot begins with Nestor deNeffo, a black elf and senior operative in the Nambroc Knives. He’s extremely efficient at his work and soon realizes that there’s more money to be made if one were to be a bit more unscrupulous and were to have no master. So that’s what he does and soon recruits a number of knife operatives who are loyal only to him and follow his profit plan. This book dwells on a wide cast of characters and the repercussions their actions start to have.
This story being a novella is on the shorter side but definitely reads quicker and packs quite a punch. Our main protagonist (or is it antagonist) is as Machiavellian as they come. Nestor deNeffo only wants to get rich no matter the cost to anyone around him. He loves the finer things in life and knowing the high price that they cost. He will do anything and everything including selling information, weapons and other stuff to anybody on the black market. While being such a duplicitous agent, he also has to be careful as to not let his fellow Nambroc colleagues know of his true nature. This premise of this novella and the characters reminded me a lot of the TV series The Shield and its main protagonist (?) Vic Mackey.
Sure Nestor deNeffo is more calculating and perhaps a shade more dangerous but both these characters share similar reasoning for their shady activities. Vic proclaims to be doing it for the betterment of his family and Nestor proclaims the same for the betterment of his own life. As the story consists of only twelve chapters, the story opens up pretty quickly and then as quickly descends into a lot of murder, back-dealings and chaos. The pace of the plot is extremely high as the reader is constantly shunted from page to page wherein the actions shifts from the octane kind to the simmering type before twisting back again. The readers will never be sure where the story is headed and how exactly it will end and that’s the biggest draw, the unpredictability.
I liked this story a lot as it seemed very much in line with stories by Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Rob J. Hayes, R. D. Henderson showcases that there are no heroes in this tale. Just various shades of grey that turn more and more towards the black as the story progresses. The novella ends also on a big note and sets up the sequel novella as most readers will want to know what happens next and what will Nestor do?
The only drawback I can think of for this story is the novella format and the world-building which seems to be eschewed for the reasons of plot and pace. Sure there are some tidbits scattered here and there but the world most stays dark as most of the action occurs below ground. I hope in the ensuing novellas the author expands on the world scene and we get to know more. But for now, I couldn’t stop myself from finishing Hondus Pointe as quickly as possible. Folks who love dark characters and plotlines, the Nambroc sequence is exactly what you have been looking for. ...more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Storm Without End is the first book in the Return Of The RiFull review plus interview with R. J. Blain over at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Storm Without End is the first book in the Return Of The Rift King series, the story begins with Kalen who seems to be wrestling with some big internal demons while trying to be as incognito as possible. He’s a bit diminutive in size and so folks often mistake him for being a child. Those who try to inflict harm upon him for believing him to be small, don’t live long enough to change their erroneous ways. He finds himself waking up without boots and at pains to recall how he got into his current state. In the place known as the Rift, there are several guardians who are alarmed at the disappearance of the Rift King and are actively working to figure what happened exactly. If this blurb sounds confusing, then it is exactly what the author intended.
The book drops the reader into the happenings without much of an explanation very similar to the Malazan books. The reader shares the confusion experienced by the main character Kalen as both are trying to figure out what exactly is happening. The Rift is a hot, dry place that separates the sox kingdoms and keep the fragile peace. However with the disappearance of the rift king, all bets are off and nobody knows what exactly is happening. This book actively uses the reader’s vertigo as the author slowly unveils the world and the geo-political rumblings within. While I admired the author’s approach in setting up the story this way, the reading experience was certainly hampered to a minor degree.
Going on to the characterizations, this being a multi-POV book, we do get to see the action unfold from other characters besides Kalen and that is helpful as the world is fleshed out better. Kalen however is the main draw as the readers will be drawn to him the most, he certainly is a big highlight of the book as he struggles to accept his power and the troubles that follow because of it. I loved watching his internal and external struggles and an extra bonus to the author for providing us with a hero who is physically handicapped but does his best even with it. Fantasy books have at large ignored physically handicapped characters and so this was an interesting change. The pace of the story is such that while the readers might feel confused at the beginning, there is enough impetus provided to keep on reading. Plus after the first third, the story picks up properly and then we are racing along all the way to the brutal climax. Another plus point is the addition of sentient horses to the plot and this was another cool feature about the book. I can't wait to read more about them and see their increasing influence across the plot.
Now the things that didn’t make the story work, firstly was the fact that majorly this book felt like a big set-up for the entire series. Some authors like Tad Williams and Kate Elliott can pull such a thing off however Storm Without End suffers because of this feature. Also there’s a lot of world details that seem confusing as those very details only are hinted towards the end.
Overall I feel that this book is a good book that perhaps needed a couple more drafts. It has some telling action sequences, a very likeable hero trapped in desperate circumstances and overall an intriguing plot. I enjoyed it in spite of its minor foibles and will be interested to see where the author takes the story in the sequel. Storm Without End is an interesting fantasy that features a physically handicapped protagonist and hints at darker and more fantastical things to come. ...more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Powers Of The Six was my first selection among the 30 boo Full review plus interview with Kristal Shaff over at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Powers Of The Six was my first selection among the 30 books that I was alloted. It was a fantasy book that mixes epic fantasy with magical powers and was very reminiscent of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson as well as the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher but with younger protagonists.
The main plot of the book begins with Nolan who is a scribe and has a sectret that he wishes to hide from everyone. It has been under wraps for the past two years and if Nolan has his way then will continue on to his deathbed. Alec Deverell is a blacksmith’s son wth a temper to boot. He tries to control it but being a fifteen year old, it’s hard for him to know the ways of the world. Both Nolan and Alec meet under trying circumstances however they both will show their mettle in ways they can’t imagine as the world of Adamah finally begins to understand what is truly happening to the powers known as the Shays.
The main plot line begins from this thread and the story focuses on the six Shays which can grant spectacular abilities to mankind. The Shays are for accuracy, empathy, healing, perception, speed, and strength. Most individuals only have one, a few have two and rarely three, there’s only one person who has mastery over all six Shays and that’s the king Alcandor. The king however is a tyrant and a truly evil one at that. The story then basically twists into a quest as Nolan and Alec along with Nolan’s cousin are forced to endure and find out why everyone’s powers are slowly going away?
The main thing I enjoyed about the book was the book’s pace and snappy plot. The story unfurls rather quickly and the readers will be zooming along our intrepid heroes as they fight off evil doers and nasty creatures. This book while seemingly YA isn’t a YA book, it deals with some pretty gruesome stuff. The king is as psychotic and sociopathic as they come, he indulges in some nasty sexual proclivities towards both sexes and most readers will hate him to their core. This book while talking and referencing rape doesn’t showcase it so there’s that. Also while the main plot concerns teenagers, they don’t behave like teenagers. These children are exposed to some dark stuff and they are shown to react accordingly. There is very little teenage angst showcased however they do behave like teenagers from time to time (as is their wont). The best example of this is Alec in the beginning chapters as he constantly tries to stay out of trouble but manages to find it all too often.
Another aspect which I enjoyed was the characterization, even though we get the story via two POV characters, the other characters Megan, Emery, the highlander, etc. don’t feel two-dimensional. The author tries her best to make everyone seem complex however doesn’t quite manage to hit the bullseye with the villains who come across as boorish and one-dimensional. Lastly the author also does her best with the Shays as we get characters who appear to have superpowers and some of the action scenes are truly fun to read.
Going on to the parts that I didn’t enjoy was the fact the world and magic system isn’t all that clearly defined. There’s a few mentions towards the last third of the story and a lot of plot set-up for the second book but overall the reader is in as much mystery along with the main characters. Then there’s the aspect of the villains, we don’t get much backstory about the king as well his general (who is Nolan’s older brother) as to why they are that way. We are told that they are arrogant and act as such but there wasn’t any clear cut motivation exposed.
Lastly I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to read a fantasy book about teenage protagonists who act mature for their ages and with very little angsty romance. This was a solid plus point for me and I was excited to see how the author setup the world with regards to the Shays and I hope we get further light shed on the magic system in the sequels....more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Straight Outta Fangton while having a funny, catchy title also has a great story. Charles T Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Straight Outta Fangton while having a funny, catchy title also has a great story. Charles T. Phipps wrote this book because he wanted to do a slightly different spin on one the most overused supernatural creatures to be found in the speculative fiction genre. He wrote about how he believes that Vampires need to be brought back to their scary days.
The main story begins with Peter Stone, a poor vampire who works in a convenience store. He frequently tries to make sense of his recent status and he’s also hassled by his co-worker who wants him to turn him. Things get hairy when Peter discovers a newly-formed vampire in his store bathroom and no idea about who created the vampire. Forced to return to New Detroit to his maker, Peter tries to make sense of the new horror unfolding. But what he finds are the some of the same issues that previously caused him to leave. He however does make contact with his maker and what he learns will shock him to his core.
That’s the central plot which then spirals into many more twists and goes into full blown horror that’s tinged with dark comedy. I loved this urban fantasy because the story was so unpredictable, imagine if Blade was a broke vampire trying to do the right thing and trying to solve a murder-resurrection. Peter Stone is a fascinating narrator and as a vampire trying to retain what’s left of his humanity He’s the main draw of the story as we see the story almost entirely via his POV. His powers haven’t flowered but he still does his best to do what’s necessary.
Another aspect which I enjoyed is the setting of the New Detroit, which is a weird mix of a vampire mecca and Las Vegas. It has the decadence and the debauchery that vampires have been famous for and some more. The author presents New Detroit in fleeting glimpses and factoids that add to its mystique. Lastly the story is very much like a procedural but flipped completely on its head as the mystery being investigated is who created an undead. I liked how the author managed to make it interesting and yet made it original via the merging of vampires and procedural aspects.
There’s a duality that is enhanced within this book, Peter a vampire trying to be more like a human. This plot is a vampire story that reads like a crime procedural, the comedy and horror aspects often take turns twisting the plot further. Lastly the main antagonist is also doing something good (from a human perspective) while not being entirely of the same species. All of the characters struggle with this duality of purpose and yet strive harder to accomplish their goals.
The only thing that would have made this book a five star read was the world-building wasn’t done all the way. What I mean by this is that while the world is constantly peeked at, we are never given a full accounting. I would loved to see what the rest of the world and the country looks like with the vampire reveal. How would it affect the geo-political situations? What would happen to regions and their predictable reactions? All of this and much more was not entirely shown but just hinted at. Now I realize that this is a short first entry so the author might be planning to further uncover the world in the sequels.
Straight Outta Fangton is a wonderful mix of urban fantasy, dark comedy and scary vampires. It reads very much like a thriller and whose pace will have you flipping pages as fast as you can. Charles Phipps is an author who is revealing himself to be a master of many genres as he continues to thrill and amaze. ...more
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Cthulhu Armageddon is a book that grabbed my attention for two reasons. One it’s a dystopian, post-apocalyptic story that mixes Lovecraftian mythos with action & terrific characters. The second reason being C. T. Phipps himself, he has impressed me a lot with his previous work and so I have high hopes for this one.
The book's main character John Henry Booth is an Remnant Recon & Extermination ranger & squadron leader. He's been trained to retrieve objects, humans & other items of interest from the surrounding areas. John in his last mission went with his team in different area of the wastelands and came back a different man. He doesn't quite remember what happened but his entire team got wiped out & he has been branded a traitor. Events are in play which call for his execution but then a fortuitous turn leads Booth to finding out what might have happened & sets up the main plot.
The best way to describe this book is Mad Max meets Cthulhu and with lots of action and horror mixed in. The thing I loved about the book was the world settings, usually it's very tricky to balance a post apocalyptic dystopia but kudos to Charles Phipps for making this world believable and also providing a rich mythological feel to it.
The characterization is another plus point as I enjoyed those characters who are introduced in this series opener. This goes majorly for the side character cast which is introduced. My favorites were Katryn and Richard as they both seemed so much more than their appearances. Particularly I was plain horrified at one of the minor character’s death as that was just out of the left field. This is to the author's credit that he makes us invested in ech and everyone. The main character Booth is a bit unsavory but he has reasons to be such and there are tiny snippets of his past revised which reveal a further humane side to him. Another particular aspect of the book which I loved was the main character is black and the author doesn't make too much of it. His world is a diverse world reflecting our own and it was very heartening to see the author include the mythos but add his own touches to make it so much more diverse.
This book is mainly about secrets, secrets about Booth, secrets about the world, secrets from the past affecting the future and much more. I like how you get to know some but others remain just that; secrets. I hope that the author reveals Booth's past connection to a side character (from what is revealed, it's too rich to not be further explored) as well as lets us meet his ex-wife. The pace of the story is such that you will constantly be flipping pages to see where it all ends.
Now going to the negatives about the book, there are a few situations within the book that stretch the imagination even more that what is required. It felt more cut & dried rather than organic and within the story so that detracted from my enjoyment. Lastly Booth while being a main character isn't all that strong to drive your interest. In fact it's the secondary characters who often prop up the story as much as him. So with that in mind I'm hoping that the author can rectify this in the sequels and make the story stronger.
Overall this is a story that is similar to Steven Montano's Blood Skies series but less grim dark and has more of a human element involved. The authors spoken about where he wishes to take the story next & based on the potential shown in this story, I’m willing to go along for the ride. Cthulhu Armageddon is a good thrill ride mixing Lovecraftian horror along with grimdark dystopia and for the most part gives the readers exactly what its blurb promises....more
The Bear And The Nightingale is a book that is hard to discern what the subject matter might be exactly. The blurb details a young woman' journey, RusThe Bear And The Nightingale is a book that is hard to discern what the subject matter might be exactly. The blurb details a young woman' journey, Russian landscape and fairy tales and an encroaching darkness. It's hard to pin it down genre wise as well, is it YA or is it literary fantasy or is it historical magical realism? Maybe it's all of the above and much more. It's a debut novel that manages to say a lot similarly to what Helene Wecker's The Golem And The Jinni accomplished. I suspect in the coming months, it will be compared a lot to that book.
The story begins with Marina Ivanova, who while dying entrusts her child Vasya to the family servant Dunya. As Vasya grows up she learns about her magical heritage and finds that her abilities are atavistic in origin (her mother only had a modicum of power but she is more like her grandmother, a witch of some renown).She finds out what spirits are present throughout the lands and whose designs are harmful or not to mankind. Life for Vasya becomes complicated when her father remarries and her step-mother is scared of her abilities. To complicate matters, there is a priest who seems to be aware of Vasya and does his best to negate her influence within her father's household. Lastly there are also Vasya's siblings who love her for who she is and try their best to help her.
The story is mainly about Vasya and the travails she encounters as she begins her journey into womanhood. The story like The Golem And The Jinni uses 14th century culture and myths (in this case Russian) to give us a concrete story that seems very realistic. Also similar to Helene Wecker's debut, characterization is the biggest highlight of the book, beginning from Vasya going all the way down to the minor characters, everyone of them is three-dimensional and presented brilliantly without seeming to be caricatures. The story is also about a clash of cultures in this case the paganistic, magical lifestyle versus the new, rigid Christianity espoused by some of the characters.
The only flaw of this very good debut is that the pace of the story is a little on the slower side and some chapters take some digressions into different aspects of Russian life and culture and even different characters. This story is a bit of of a tough read but it is immensely rewarding and so for those who love to read something different. Katherine Arden's debut will be the book to satisfy you....more
Emperor's Bane is a novella set in the world of Tales Of The Empire (or TOTE as referred to by the author). Chronologically I believe it's set some t Emperor's Bane is a novella set in the world of Tales Of The Empire (or TOTE as referred to by the author). Chronologically I believe it's set some time after the events of Dark Empress but before the events of Insurgency. The story is set in third person omniscient view and the reader views it all through the mind of Tenzhin (this world's analogue for the creator of the Mongol empire).
Tenzhin Khanzada is the son of the Khan of the nine Khmar tribes. His father has begun a rather quick invasion to rid the Jin (chinese) people of their lush lands and to take them for themselves. he war rally while being successful in the start meets its brutal end at the hands of the main Jin army at the gates of Jiong-Xhu. While most of the tribes men and women are wiped out brutally. Tenzhin along with a few other chidren are spared and taken into the Jade emperor's court. Then we get to see Tenzhin's growth (mentally, martially & philosophically) from the age of seven all the way to seventeen. This however is done rather quickly as befitting a short story.
On the way Tenzhin meets and befriends three other children from the horse tribes of the west who have been similarly captured. They plan a way out of their captivity because of the Jade emperor's poor health but what truly is the case ends up surprising them.
This short novelette was a good way to be re-introduced to the eastern world of TOTE. events from Interregnum are quickly referenced and certain things are clued about Insurgency. The main storyline deals with Tenzhin as the reader is clued in to his growth from a child to a brilliant teenager.
I can only imagine what he will grow into considering whom he's based on in real life but the crucial difference being in this world, he's armed with more dangerous knowledge than the Genghis Khan at his age. The story has a quick pace to it and the reader will pulled into it sharply all the way into the surprising climax. The author doesn't pull any punches with regards to violence and brutality of this world and considering the historical aspect, it's not surprising.
A quick and good read is the best way to describe this story. For all those curious about the world and SJA Turney's writing, grab a copy (it's less than a buck) and find out why he's so underrated and yet beloved among his fans....more