Disclosure: Brian is a fellow SF author who I have met personally a few of times, but this review can be taken as honest word. I do not endorse books...moreDisclosure: Brian is a fellow SF author who I have met personally a few of times, but this review can be taken as honest word. I do not endorse books unless I really believe in them.
Recently finished Promise of Blood. McClellan introduces an innovative and exciting blend of magic and gunpowder in his Powder Mages, and gives us a fantasy unlike any other I've read. Already strong, I really feel like McClellan's writing is still growing, and I'm excited to see where the story goes from here.
I was asked to come up with quotes for the paperback. Here's what I sent his editor:
"Gunpowder and Magic. An explosive combination." Hmmm. I bet it's been used already.
Maybe something more tongue in cheek: "I am going to sponsor Brian McClellan for a set of keys to the fantasy clubhouse."
Or blander: "Promise of Blood is the best debut I've read in ages. Brian McClellan has a bold new take on fantasy."(less)
A powerful untold tale of Gerald Tarrant from Friedman's Coldfire trilogy. Serves well as an amuse bouche for new readers before diving into Friedman'...moreA powerful untold tale of Gerald Tarrant from Friedman's Coldfire trilogy. Serves well as an amuse bouche for new readers before diving into Friedman's work, or a dessert to those who loved Coldfire and want another taste.(less)
FYI: Myke Cole is a personal friend of mine, as well as a fellow professional author, but nevertheless, this review is honest word. Myke is one of the...moreFYI: Myke Cole is a personal friend of mine, as well as a fellow professional author, but nevertheless, this review is honest word. Myke is one of the few people I trust to give early criticism to my own work, and I am fortunate to have the same privilege with him. It's been wonderful watching Shadow Ops develop.
Breach Zone is a powerful conclusion to Cole's Shadow Ops trilogy. Lt. Colonel Harlequin relives a life of service and a failed romance that has brought him from being a series antagonist to the only thing standing between downtown Manhattan and an invasion of Selfer's: those who refuse to surrender their magic—and liberty—to the US Military.
The lives of all the series characters are intertwined in this tale, with all reaching powerful and satisfying turning points as the story comes to a close.
Cole's military experience comes out in vividly described (and accurate) action, while at the same time challenging many of the pre-conceived notions we have about the role of the military in the world and at home.
You may be wondering why/how I am reviewing a book that is not due to be published for several months. The answer is I couldn't wait, in more ways tha...moreYou may be wondering why/how I am reviewing a book that is not due to be published for several months. The answer is I couldn't wait, in more ways than one.
You can see my King of Thorns review here, but the tl:dr version is I loved it. Loved it so much that despite the fact I often counsel eager readers that anticipation for a book can be a special pleasure in and of itself, I set about pulling strings to get a copy of Emperor. I knew the book was written, though advance reads and Netgalleys were still some time away.
This is one of the places where being a published author living in NY can pay off. I know pretty much the whole staff at Ace/Roc, the imprint of Penguin that publishes Mark. Many of us drink together, and they often ask me to blurb new authors. But this time, my sources were no avail. The book was still in raw manuscript, without even a copyedit, and they were reluctant to release it in that form. I then tried Voyager, the UK publisher Mark and I both share. Again a fail.
So I went right to the source. I have met Mark twice, been to his home, and shared many a correspondence with him. Through a combination of cajoling, false promises of friendship, and a little emotional blackmail, I wore him down enough to secure a word document, swearing to keep it secret and safe, deleting as I read so there would be no chance it might get out before its time. Indeed, the manuscript has already been returned to the digital ether, so don't ask.
I'm not one for spoilery reviews, especially so far before publication, but that need not stop me from telling you to drop whatever else you're reading and start the Broken Empire trilogy. If you've already read the first two, the third is worth pre-ordering, or marking your calendar to buy in-store on release day. First week sales can make or break an author's career, and Mark deserves to see his star rise.
In Emperor, we return to the character of Jorg, an amoral, violent, selfish protagonist, who nevertheless is posessed of an impressive charm and the soul of a poet. Told in the first person, Jorg's recounting of horrid events, conflicting emotions, and even the everyday pains and pleasures of life is told in a vivid prose filled with brutal honesty, profound reflection and brilliant metaphor. Every sentence is carefully crafted, a work of art and a pleasure to read.
As with King of Thorns, the story weaves through different times in Jorg's life. One might say "past" and "present", though those are in some ways meaningless terms when speaking of the life of a fictional character set in a fictional world. In the "present", Jorg continues his path toward the Empire Throne, the last hope of uniting the broken remnants of humanity to single purpose once more. Though of course, Jorg does not want the throne for such lofty reasons. In truth, he does not know what he would do with it should he win. He just hates being told he cannot have something. On his way, he struggles with the kernels of real family for the first time since his childhood, fearing that caring too deeply will make him weak, and vulnerable to his enemies.
The "past" of the story is no less compelling, providing background and context for the struggles in the "present" as Lawrence strips away the garments covering his world and letting us at last have a good long look at the underlying philosophy, magic and technology that makes it tick.
Lawrence fills the last book of his series with unexpected twists and turns, and an ending I don't think readers are at all likely to predict. I certainly didn't.
Broken Empire was an amazing series, and I eagerly anticipate Lawrence's next literary effort, whatever it may be.(less)
I had the pleasure last week of telling this lovely young author in person how much I loved her book. She was properly humble, then disappeared in a d...moreI had the pleasure last week of telling this lovely young author in person how much I loved her book. She was properly humble, then disappeared in a dazzle of flash photography before I could get her to sign my iPad. (less)
With my reading time becoming increasingly precious, only the very best authors make it to my reading pile at all, and of those, I went with Lawrence...moreWith my reading time becoming increasingly precious, only the very best authors make it to my reading pile at all, and of those, I went with Lawrence to read after finally finishing edits to The Daylight War. Lawrence's poetic prose is amazing, far and away the best of the modern fantasy authors. The prose can get a little hard to follow if you're sleepy or your brain is fried after a long day, but this is hardly a quibble.
First person narrative is arguably the most difficult POV style, and Lawrence pulls it off brilliantly, putting you in the mind of a thoroughly despicable character and somehow making you root for him to succeed. The limited scope, however, forces Lawrence to jump around in time a bit and use some plot devices to feed information to the reader at an even pace that keeps ratcheting tension. At times this can be a bit confusing, but for the most part the frustration only invests you further.
And let's face it, I can hardly point fingers at people who jump around in time to tell a story.
As with many fantasy serie,s there is more magic in book two than the first, sometimes in ways that are convenient for the protagonist, though it is largely window dressing. Almost everything that happens in the book plays second fiddle to Jorg's inner struggle as he attempts to find himself and unravel his own thoughts and desires from the influence of others. This is the REAL story, and it is a very satisfying one.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mark when I was in London last summer, and he is a great guy in real life in addition to being one of my top ten favorite authors.
We share publishers in the UK (and thanks to the Penguin Random House merger, soon the US), and you can bet I will be pulling strings to get an early review copy of the third and final book in the series.(less)
I am very fortunate to be one if Myke Cole's beta-readers, and had the privilege of reading Fortress Frontier long before its Feb. 2013 release. I can...moreI am very fortunate to be one if Myke Cole's beta-readers, and had the privilege of reading Fortress Frontier long before its Feb. 2013 release. I can say with all honesty that fans of Control Point will not be disappointed. In addition to continuing the adventures of Oscar Britton and the other characters who survived the heated climax if Control Point, in Fortress Frontier Cole introduces a new protagonist, Alan Bookbinder, an unlikely hero who nonetheless delivers a powerfully compelling story. You will find yourself staying up late turning pages as Cole's already great writing continues to grow in power.(less)
As always, Novik takes her rich loveable cast to a new continent, introducing a new culture in her dragon-oriented alternate history. The book is a li...moreAs always, Novik takes her rich loveable cast to a new continent, introducing a new culture in her dragon-oriented alternate history. The book is a little low on plot, but this is more than made up for in character. I devour these books whenever they come out and eagerly anticipate the next. It is like seeing old friends.(less)
Ahmed has created a fascinating new fantasy setting with a rich feeling of its own history, but with enough parallels to our own world to make it easy...moreAhmed has created a fascinating new fantasy setting with a rich feeling of its own history, but with enough parallels to our own world to make it easy to relate to its problems and peoples.
Throne was a really fun read. Ahmed's prose style is fluid and accessible, and his villains are truly terrifying without going over the top and becoming cartoonish. Ahmed claims he wanted to bring back the feel of the Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms novels he loved when he was younger, and in this, he has succeeded.
I would have liked this book to be another hundred pages or so, with more exploration into the characters and their motivations/love interests. The ending tied up most of the loose ends neatly, but I felt the book rushed to its conclusion.
I love Bill Willingham's Fables comics, and was really looking forward to this first novel set in the Fables universe. It did not disappoint. I listen...moreI love Bill Willingham's Fables comics, and was really looking forward to this first novel set in the Fables universe. It did not disappoint. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, who was surprisingly good on Agent to the Stars. Peter & Max is a great little tale, full of funny bits, genuinely frightening moments, and a very satisfying and believable finale. Bravo.(less)
I have been one of Myke Cole's alpha readers for many years, and think this is by far his best work. Control Point has an original premise: what if ma...moreI have been one of Myke Cole's alpha readers for many years, and think this is by far his best work. Control Point has an original premise: what if magic returned to the modern world and only one person in a million could access it? Answer: They'd be drafted.
This is a stellar book, combining all the military realism of Black Hawk Down with the social commentary and awesome spectacle if the X-Men. I highly recommend it and will write a more lengthy review closer the the pub date.(less)
This was the first of the Parasol Protectorate books I read in paper; the others were all audio, where I loved the narration by Emily Gray. Reading it...moreThis was the first of the Parasol Protectorate books I read in paper; the others were all audio, where I loved the narration by Emily Gray. Reading it myself meant doing all Emily's voices in my head which proved a bit exhausting, but well worth it. The ongoing soap opera of Alexia Maccon and company in Carriger's Urban Fantasy/Steampunk 1870's London is always a delight.(less)
I kept seeing good things and/or controversy about Prince of Thorns everywhere I looked, and everyone loves controversy. I decided to take the arc alo...moreI kept seeing good things and/or controversy about Prince of Thorns everywhere I looked, and everyone loves controversy. I decided to take the arc along with me to Worldcon in Reno, with the intention or reading it by the pool (I am still not comfortable taking an expensive eReader poolside).
Boy, am I glad I did.
Prince of Thorns had me by the balls in the first chapter. I found myself stealing time to read just a page here and a page there, and whenever a rare block of time opened, I commandeered it in the name of PoT. Read the whole book in less than a week. This used to be nothing, I would read two books a week in high school and college, but these days even a standard 300pp paperback can take me weeks to finish. Too much to do. If I’m reading 50+ pages a day, that is a damn good book.
I was immediately pulled into Prince Jorg’s sociopathic little world, fascinated by the flashbacks of his past that hinted at how he became the amoral monster he was. Lawrence’s writing is a wonderful mix of vivid metaphor and tight, economical prose. There are no wasted words, each is beautifully chosen. His world, too, is a wonderful blend of medieval and post-apocalyptic fantasy. Jorg’s interactions with his teachers, foes, mercenary brothers and royal family are fabulously done.
After seeing mixed reviews and controversy, I expected PoT to be a lot more violent and disturbing than it actually was. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. I think my own books are fairly tame compared to what goes on in the really real world, and yet there are plenty of reviewers who would have you think they are one long rape scene. Fool me once, reviewers, shame on you. Fool me twice…
Don’t get me wrong. Lawrence’s Prince Jorg is one delightfully twisted little bastard. But you may find yourself having a little sympathy as you get to know him.
Blink, and you might even find yourself rooting for him to succeed.(less)