While I'm not a big zombie fiction fan, I couldn't resist reading this book about WWI with a supernatural/steampunk twist. And Joseph Nassise doesn't...moreWhile I'm not a big zombie fiction fan, I couldn't resist reading this book about WWI with a supernatural/steampunk twist. And Joseph Nassise doesn't disappoint. It's high caliber action that brings to mind movies like The Dirty Dozen, but twenty plus years sooner. I don't know a lot about WWI, to be honest, but what Nassise writes seems credible. I like that he takes what is known about WWI fighting and integrates some steampunkish and supernatural elements. I think that he builds on the ever-present sense of horror that war inherently has, and that's a firm foundation for a supernatural suspense novel. I can't verify this, but the Germans seemed kind of Nazish already, especially in the blatant defiance of human rights and experimentation on humans. That part was rather disturbing.
I felt the suspense element was a huge appeal of this book. I literally didn't know what would happen and I even had to put it down a few times to get a break. Although I wanted to keep reading. I find zombies really disturbing, and the fact that the Germans are using gas to turn people into zombies is pretty darn awful. I wanted the heroes to open up a can of whip@$$ all over them.
If anything could have improved this was more dialogue and interaction with the members of Burke's team. I cared about all these guys, but I think I would have liked to know more about them. I realize that this book occurs over a short period of time, but this would have enhanced my reading experience. The main villain Richthofen was a "real you know what". He's the kind of villain you want to see get his butt handed to him. But he's a credible villain in that he's not easily defeated. He's enough to give you nightmares, actually. I don't think I'll have any, I hope. But just in case, I tried not to read this before I went to sleep. This book is so much scary as unnerving in that I can put myself in the soldiers' shoes and imagine that sense of constant fear that dealt with in the trenches. If being blown up or shot or gassed to death isn't enough. That's a chance they will be turned into zombies or see their fellow soldiers come back to try to eat them to death! Yeah, that's pretty disturbing.
Overall, this was a very good book. Great action moments. I liked the lead characters, especially Burke. The villain is nasty enough to make him a worthy antagonist. The supernatural/steampunk parts are excellent. They tie into the WWI setting very well. I think with more development of the secondary characters, this book would have been even more effective as a read. I will definitely continue this series, but when I'm in the mood for a creepy zombie novel with good action.
I listened to this book on audio, and it was definitely a distinctive read. I have to say that while I enjoyed it, it was challenging to listen to. I...moreI listened to this book on audio, and it was definitely a distinctive read. I have to say that while I enjoyed it, it was challenging to listen to. I found it hard to visualize some concepts. I honestly have no brain for mechanical concepts, so listening to descriptions of the mecha devices was difficult for me. I decided to stop analyzing and go with it. Not worry about trying to get a crystal clear image of those parts of the story, but just enjoy what I could understand. The ideas were interesting, but I was a bit clueless about what exactly made Clare what he was, and the exact interplay between his physiology and his abilities. At the end, I determined that he was heavily depending on the continual processing of information for his well-being, but he could think too much and end up in trouble. Perhaps he also has some enhanced sensory abilities which also make him susceptible to different environments.
While the magic system was very intriguing, it took me a long time to understand it or get a handle on it. I absolutely loved some parts. They were darkly beautiful. They inspired a deep sense of unease with the arcane natures of the magical acts and the beings perpetuating them, but also a sense of awe. While I have no real life interest in magic whatsoever, I do love reading about magic in this kind of fictional setting. And I thoroughly enjoyed the fact magic is so intrinsic to the fabric of Great Britain in this novel. It was very cool that the present monarch is a host for the spirit of Britannia. I haven't encountered that concept before.
As far as characters, Emma really came to life for me. She's such a complex person. She's a mix of good and bad, and her manner of interacting with others can inspire winces as often as wows. I loved how vigilant and fierce she was. She took her role as a Prime sorcerer very seriously, and her vow to protect Britain. And it often cost her personally. The scene near the end brought shivers down my spine. I also loved Mikhail. He was luscious. The way the moderator spoke his parts was utterly appealing. Especially the way he spoke to Emma and called her Prima. It sounded like a verbal caress. I was surprised at the direction that the author took with Emma's relationship with Mikhail. It added to the complexity of her character. I wish I had more answers about what Mikhail is. I have to be honest that he is a big draw for me right now, although I also find Emma very appealing as a heroine, although not always laudable in the way she acted towards some characters. Clare was interesting. I enjoyed his deductive reasoning and analysis of the very strange situations he encountered after being recruited by Emma as the sole surviving unregistered mentath. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't always 'get' what he was doing and how it affected him. I hope that will change with later books. I also liked Valetinelli. I have a fondness for roguish characters who are insanely good at being lethal. That's definitely him. The moderator made his voice very fun. He spoke with a blatant Italian accent that was lyrical and appealing.
I think the major reason why I didn't give this a higher rating was that I had a hard time getting a grasp on the story to the extent that I desired. I had a lot of questions. As far as the writing having an appeal and impact on me, that was very well done. Saintcrow has a way of bringing magical and arcane elements to vibrant life that stays with me. That imagery was very well depicted. As a visual reader, I could feel and experience the powerful magics that the characters employed, although some parts were just plain weird and my brain didn't know what to make of those. I also give this book points on having such a distinctive heroine. Not always pure in her motives, but underneath, driven to do what is right. That's a hard thing to conceptualize in a novel without polarizing your audience.
I have to give this 3.5 stars because it was flawed in some ways, but in others a very good book. I will continue this series with the hopes I will be enlightened on some of the world-building particulars and to explore more of Emma, Clare, and Mikhail, and not to mention, Supernatural Victorian Great Britain.
Let me be transparent in advising readers to think twice about experiencing this book as an audiobook. I'm not sure it works that well. It could be me...moreLet me be transparent in advising readers to think twice about experiencing this book as an audiobook. I'm not sure it works that well. It could be me. I am a very visual person when it comes to higher level concepts, especially mechanistic disciplines, such as geometry, architecture, and engineering. The geometrical descriptions were hard to visualize and my mind started to wander at the beginning of each chapter when Sanderson uses the metafiction device of reading from a textbook of rithmatics. Honestly, that was the major reason I didn't rate this book highly. Secondly, I didn't care for the narrator. His voice was too bland, almost monotone or robotic. I feel that if you are going to narrate a book, you need to give it a vitality, and this book lacked that.
On the positive end, I can see why Sanderson is a lauded author, and I can certainly see why he is qualified to teach writing. I think that his craft is evident. The characterization is sound, and instead of settling for thinly veiled archetype, he endows characters with added depth. You know the ones that feel very familiar like the boy who grows up to be the hero, the spunky female sidekick, the mentor, and the dark lord? Thus he gives each one a distinctive life that works very well to make this more than just the typical coming of age fantasy novel. Additionally, the idea of this story is intriguing. A look at wizardry and coming of age school story becomes something different when the concept is built around a magical art of endowing chalk figure-drawing with life.
His view of the United States as an archipelago was interesting. He doesn't describe why it's that way. It just is. The story has a steampunk-light feel. Enough to give the vibe, but it doesn't take over or define the story. Instead, the focus is on the school and the low-level magic at work.
I liked Joel a lot as the main character. He is the kind of hero you end up rooting for. He's normal and the underdog, and you want him to buck the system. Sanderson does something pretty clever here, in that the hero doesn't get his dreams come true. Instead, he's going to have to work for what he wants. That felt more realistic, and also strayed away from the expected archetypes of fantasy where the lead is the one who has the unexpected greatest power of all time. Melody is a fun character. She won me over with her love of unicorns and pegasi. Her feelings of being a failure and feeling forced into a mold she doesn't fit resonated with me. Yeah, she felt like someone I know, maybe myself, and I could feel her youthful angst to a nearly uncomfortable level. It was such a cute touch how her abilities end up being strengths that were taken for granted. I also loved Professor Fitch. His nervousness was rather endearing, and I do have a fondness for nerdy professors.
The chalkings were fairly unnerving and the accompanying villainous element was quite effectively sinister. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but as I listened, I was drawn into this world and it became very real. The end has a very good twist, well, I should say two piled on each other. Sanderson surely got me!
I feel bad because I am likely underrating this book. But I have to say that the choice of medium was a big factor in affecting my reading experience, so I have go with what I know for now. I will probably continue this series because it was an interesting read. I think I'll go with the print version of the next book.
Stormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The m...moreStormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The main character is a brave but troubled young woman who earns my loyalty and encourages me to stand up for what I personally believe in.
But the one thing that really won me over was the connection between Yukiko and the arashitora, who she names Buruu. I’ve been an animal person since I was a wee lassie, and the bond between humans and animals is very important in my life. To see the love and trust that grows between Yukiko and Buruu, and their devotion almost brought tears to my eyes, because I am a true sap about stuff like that. Buruu is a majestic and beautiful creature, although fiercely lethal and untamable, as a legendary creature should be. I loved that although Buruu doesn’t tame down or change in his essential nature, he grows as the bond with Yukiko develops. They teach each other things important for their journey.
The world of the Shima Isles is a dark one. The place hovers on the brink of ecological disaster, and many crimes against humanity occur daily. The Shogun is clearly mad, and his power without limitation. On top of that is the Guild, which strives to make more of their poison lotus, despite its cost to their world and the people within it, and burns people who they view as heretics, probably all of which are innocent. In this kind of world, it’s hard to have hope, which is why Yukiko begins this story as a sullen and miserable young woman. She’s lost more than she can reconcile, feels the personal sting of betrayal daily, and it’s wounded her emotionally. What a good time for Buruu to come along, although their connection is not without anguish for them both. But in this world, personal sacrifice is necessary to right the terrible wrongs occurring. In the end, they are healing and comfort and safety to each other in a dark place. Together, they will not be defeated.
Stormdancer is a very good book. While it took time for me to get into the flow of terminology and world-building, I appreciate the author’s efforts to create such an immersive, fascinating world. The Japanese cultural elements appealed highly to me. Of course, I loved the strong young heroine, among many strong capable women who fight for their world just as the men do. The action scenes brought to mind some of my favorite martial arts/fantasy movies. I admit I am a serious fan of swordplay, and this book has some beautiful and bloody evidence of this martial art, along with others. I could see this is a gorgeous anime-style film, but I hope that it is made in live action, with its all Asian cast. I would definitely pay money to see this on the big screen.
While I agree that is definitely for young adults and for older readers who enjoy young adult fiction, I like that Kristoff doesn’t curtail his writing merely to fit in the current YA trend. The violence is quite descriptive and there is some sensual content (although fade to black). The storyline is quite dark, with the ecological sabotage for power and money, the cruelty and violence against so called enemies of the state, and the disregard for the welfare and needs of the citizenry. I think there are good lessons in here, although I don’t think Kristoff ever strays into PSA territory. It’s inherent and beautifully integral to this novel. Personally, I think this book is fine for readers 14 and older. However, I would recommend a parent reading it first. This one is very close to a five star rating, but since some scenes lacked clarity, I ended up giving it 4.5/5.0 stars. Despite that, I highly recommend it to dystopian, fantasy, and Asian folklore fans. (less)
This took a long time to finish because I was listening to this at night before bed and I would often fall asleep and have to rewind it the next night...moreThis took a long time to finish because I was listening to this at night before bed and I would often fall asleep and have to rewind it the next night! I finally finished it early this morning. While I didn't like this one quite as much as the first book or the last (I had to read book 3 a few months ago for review), it was still a good read, and I was drawn into the world of our intrepid young hero. I just love Rossamünd. He's like my honorary little boy. Just a sweet kid. When he hurt, I hurt, when he was lonely and uncertain, I wanted to hug and comfort him. I was proud of him when he triumphed. He has a lot more honor, bravery, love, and heart than a lot of grown men, and he is a very humane person, which counts for a whole lot in these books. He alone makes this book series worthwhile.
I wasn't as enamored of the lifestyle of a lamplighter. Perhaps a bit too regimented for me. I believe that Rossamünd is about ten or so, but he is treated like a grownup, like an army recruit in a dangerous job that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Mind-numbingly boring, and unnecessarily dangerous. Not a good mix at all. Basically folks risking their lives on the roads to keep the highways lighted, way out in the boondocks (because that's so important), for the glory of the Emperor of the Half-Continent. The grunts are hard-working folks, and some of their superiors as well. But as always, you run into useless bureaucrats like the Master of Clerks who appear to want folks to end up dead. I couldn't figure out if he was just clueless or deliberately evil. I am leaning towards the latter since he is in cahoots with one in this book who definitely is evil.
As always, Rossamünd struggles with the moral conflicts of killing monsters or stepping aside in this war, when innocent humans' lives are at stakes. He knows quite well that not all monsters are bad and not all humans are good. He has to make the choice to fight or not near the end when things come to a head. And he chooses rightly. But for his troubles, he has to deal with enemies that are high in the government's workings. Good to know he has a powerful person or two on his side like Europe.
I have to be honest that I spent a lot of this book looking for Europe when she wasn't around. It's because I love the relationship between her and Rossamünd. I think that she is the mother that he never had, and he is her child in all but birth. But beyond that is a mutual respect and an essential aspect to their relationship that challenges them both to be better in the ways that are unique to each as an individual.
Threnody, a young girl that also joins the Lamplighter corp is much as I would have imagined Europe as a girl. Very haughty, yet unsure, her social superiority much like armor against the hurts of the world and the fact that she can't ever live up to her highborn mother's expectations. It was not surprising that she and Europe didn't get along at all. No doubt due to a sort of jealousy for Rossamünd's attention that Threnody feels, and perhaps some projection on her by Europe for the young Europe that she sees in the girl. Threnody was a bit annoying for most of the book, but at the same time, she grew on me, because I could see how she connected to Rossamünd and depended on a relationship with him to be 'normal' and perhaps feel human. And that is a bit of irony in itself.
Cornish has a way with imbuing this work with characters of distinction, even if their roles are quite small at times. I loved seeing Masters Fransitart and Cramupalin again. And I liked some of the fellow lamplighters and authoritative figures that Rossamünd engages with. The bad guys are quite unlikeable, be it evil monsters or evil beaurocrat humans. But the good thing is no one is cardboard or lackluster.
As far as world-building, this book has a complexity that makes it a more difficult listen than read. However, it was distinct, creative, and interesting. This world of monsters against humans isn't all black and white, but very much in shades of gray, which works well when you have a lead figure like Rossamünd who doesn't fit especially perfect in either world.
Although I didn't enjoy this as much as book one or book three, it was still enjoyable. More than anything, this is due to an unforgettable and utterly endearing main character. My beloved Rossamünd stands out to me. What a sweet kid he is. Equally fascinating is our Lady Europa, The Branden Rose. A woman of power and authority who has a surprisingly tender heart when it comes to Rossamünd. I love her for that.
I am sad to see this series come to an end as far as my reading pleasure. I would love to see more of Rossamünd and Europe.
This won't work for every YA or even older reader, but I like that it is a bit off the beaten track and challenging in the subject matter. I feel that the writer put a lot of energy and effort into building this world, and his characters will linger long in my mind, even though I have finished this book. A sign of a good book indeed for this reader.
Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist tog...moreJoe Golem and the Drowning City is a lovely sort of homage to HP Lovecraft and the Jewish golem folklore tradition. One wonders how they can exist together harmoniously in the same work, but Mignola and Golden do exactly that.
New York City is a very different place from the one we know and love in this book. Some sort of ecological disaster turned half of the city into what is essentially a Venetian-like, water-logged environment. Downtown flooded, and those who lived there are cut off from the denizens of Uptown and forced to fend for themselves. Like humans are apt and known to do, they adapt to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, living on the top floors of the taller buildings, constructing bridges and mazeways between buildings and using watercrafts to navigate the flooded streets.
This novel is initially about two of its citizenry: An elderly magician named Felix Orlov, who can communicate with the dead, and his unofficially adopted daughter, fourteen-year-old, redheaded, former street kid, Molly McHugh. Their somewhat harmonious lifestyle is brutally interrupted when strange, inhuman creatures abduct Felix, failing to capture Molly when she is saved by a big, rough-looking man named Joe. Joe is special, more than they realize initially. His colleague is the ancient British gentleman, Simon Church, a man who has adapted his failing organs with mechanical parts (added a steampunk-like flair to the story). He also uses a mix of science, machinery, and magic to monitor the supernatural barometer of the city. He happens to detect a very large spike in activity the day that Felix is kidnapped, and Molly teams up with them both to find out what happened to Felix and to save him and save the world in the process.
This is a rather solemn tale. Joe's past is very tortured, and along with Simon's regrets about the past, and Felix's special legacy, the storyline is fairly dark. Molly is a spunky and energetic young woman, who's seen more bad things than a person of her age should. She has trouble trusting, with good reason. We feel her pain as she is helpless against forces that pull the man who is as close to a father to her as any man could be away from her by events beyond their control.
In addition to the somber tone, the Lovecraft-type storyline adds a cosmic horror to the story. While I am personally a bit alienated by Lovecraft's concept of an ancient, extra-dimensional cosmos and its denizens (which are indifferent to our moral concepts and even our right to exist as humanity), Mignola and Golden add an emotional context that makes this typical idea more relatable and almost heartfelt.
One of the downsides to this book is the villain truly never feels invincible or formidable. He comes off more as a petulant child who is playing with matches (dabbling with magics and science far beyond his ken), than a disturbing force for evil. He felt like a paper tiger, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I need a villain who is truly formidable--one that I question if the hero will be able to prevail against. His creations were disgusting, and while repulsive and off-putting, they don't add much in a positive way to the creepy tone of the book.
Despite being somewhat disappointed with the villain, I was drawn to Joe's character, his painful struggle, his search for identity, and the integration of past and future. I also liked Molly. She feels like 'me' in the sense that she is the everyday person put in bizarre and non-ordinary circumstances. I think a good weird fiction tale needs that kind of protagonist.
Mignola just does it for me, with his stories and his creations. His collaborations with Golden have been unilaterally successful so far, and I add this one to the list. I hope to see more of Joe Golem and Molly McHugh, and more of the Drowning City. Recommended to weird fiction readers, and avowed fans of classic horror motifs and loving homages.(less)
This was a fun, quick read. A collection of short stories with steampunk themes in various incarnations. A good dose of sweet romance as well. Recomme...moreThis was a fun, quick read. A collection of short stories with steampunk themes in various incarnations. A good dose of sweet romance as well. Recommended if you can find it for an affordable price for your ereader (only about 100 pages).
I loved this book. It was so rich and intricate, a whole new world. I adore Rossamund. I just wanted to hug him the whole book. I loved his relationsh...moreI loved this book. It was so rich and intricate, a whole new world. I adore Rossamund. I just wanted to hug him the whole book. I loved his relationship with Europe, how she called him "little man", and was tough on him at times, but you could tell how much she loved him. I loved the deft manner in which Cornish examines the ethics of the man versus monster conflict, which intimately involves both Rossamund and Europe.
This is a book not to be missed by fantasy lovers. Highly recommended, but start with Foundling.