For me, The Amber Chronicles started getting really good with the third novel, Sign of the Unicorn. The Hand of Oberon was easily just as good.
The sto...moreFor me, The Amber Chronicles started getting really good with the third novel, Sign of the Unicorn. The Hand of Oberon was easily just as good.
The story to this point has been full of deception and misdirection, but that didn't become apparent until the previous book. Now, with more (but definitely not all) of the cards on the table, it's interesting to see how Corwin handles an ever degrading situation in Amber, especially when he doesn't know who he can trust.
I think one of the things that really makes this series special is Corwin. He's a great character. Unlike many fantasy protagonists, he's not inherently good. Instead, he's more pragmatic. He thinks things through and tries to be logical about his decisions. He has unique personality and intangible qualities that make him likable character.
This novel also had one hell of a surprise ending. I won't reveal the details, but I was completely shocked and it compelled me to immediately move onto the next in the series.
My only real complaint are the hellrides. After the first couple of times, the novelty wore off and they simply became tedious. I ended up just skimming them, because the details didn't really matter, just the outcome.
Overall, I really liked this novel and The Amber Chronicles are quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy series. If you haven't read this one, I recommend it, but make sure you start at the beginning of the series.(less)
I've been so impressed with Brandon Sanderson as an author recently. Not only does he write amazing, sprawling epic fantasy novels, but he also someho...moreI've been so impressed with Brandon Sanderson as an author recently. Not only does he write amazing, sprawling epic fantasy novels, but he also somehow finds time to write some very creative novellas like The Emperor's Soul and Legion.
Although The Emperor's Soul won't go down as my favorite of Sanderson's works, I did really like the concept behind it. The novel is set in a fantasy world that felt very much like imperialist China, where Forgers are able to convert regular items into glorious works of art. A Forger could take pottery that you created in art class and make it look like something that belongs in a museum.
The process is obviously magical, but Sanderson lays out the rules so clearly that it almost feels like science. A Forger must create "soul stamps" to bend an item to their wishes. Essentially, they invent a plausible history for an item and forge that history into the stamp. Once the stamp is applied, item takes on that history and reflects it.
The magic system was definitely one of the best parts of the novel, but the plot and characters were also interesting. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys inventive fantasy or interesting magic systems. I really liked it.(less)
To be honest, Blood Rites is not my favorite of the Dresden Files, but, given that, it's still very good and still worthy of 5 stars. I guess I just e...moreTo be honest, Blood Rites is not my favorite of the Dresden Files, but, given that, it's still very good and still worthy of 5 stars. I guess I just enjoy this series that much.
Considering the awesomeness of books 3-5, it was going to take a hell of a lot for Butcher to top himself again. Truthfully, Butcher gave it a good shot. As usual, there's a twisty plot, well-written action scenes, and black humor. On top of that Blood Rites was chocked full of solid character development, and not just for Harry; there are a lot of really powerful scenes involving Thomas.
I really like that Butcher's characters are not flawless and they are forced to live with the consequences of their decisions. They are also not invincible (although some are pretty close). Okay, Butcher isn't going to kill off his protagonist, but Harry never gets through a novel unscathed.
My only real complaint about Blood Rites is that part of the central plot surrounds an adult film. It did lead to some humorous moments on occasion, but it just didn't work that well for me. The characters were kind of dull and it just didn't compare to some of the other parts of the plot.
Blood Rites is the second book in the series to be produced by Penguin Audio, which means that the narration and production quality are outstanding. James Marsters makes an excellent Harry Dresden and he has done a superb job since Penguin took over.
Without question, if you enjoyed the first five books, you'll love Blood Rites as well.(less)
Atticus O'Sullivan, last of the Druids, has survived for centuries largely by avoiding conflict, but that's no longer an option as the consequences of...moreAtticus O'Sullivan, last of the Druids, has survived for centuries largely by avoiding conflict, but that's no longer an option as the consequences of past actions force him to take up arms against the Norse god of thunder, Thor.
Okay, the premise sounds a little ridiculous, but that's one of the things that I love about this series. The author, Kevin Hearne, knows how to have a good time with mythology and old magic. He's created a world where all of the old gods are still around, but are generally much less involved. But that doesn't mean that they won't still cause trouble.
Over the years, one god in particular has caused more trouble and burned more bridges than any other. That god is Thor and he's generally considered to be a major bully by the magical community.
One thing I liked about Hammered in particular was that Atticus' perfect little life starts to go sideways and he's forced to deal with it. Atticus had built up a comfortable life in Arizona, but that ended when he slew Aenghus Og. Since then, he's been confronted with one conflict after the next and it seems like the stakes are higher each time.
In the first novel, Atticus came across as a bit insensitive. I believe that was an intentional decision by the author as a 2,000 year old, immortal man is simply going to have different viewpoints than the average person today. But these conflicts are forcing him to figure out who and what he cares about and it's slowly shaping him into a better character.
But with all that said, no, these novels are not really overly serious. They are fun and easy to read, and that's what I appreciate most. Just a great blend of mythology, action, and humor. Recommended!(less)
What really impresses me about this series is how it improves little by little with each book. Through five novels, that has held true, which is no sm...moreWhat really impresses me about this series is how it improves little by little with each book. Through five novels, that has held true, which is no small accomplishment considering how good Gravel Peril and Summer Knight were.
It also seems like the stakes get a little higher in each novel, and they are definitely pretty high in Death Masks as Harry finds himself smack in the middle of a sinister plot by some major demon-types to wreak havoc on the denizens of Chicago. Harry not only requires the help of resident Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, but also two other Knights. Trust me, you're talking about some big league baddies if you need three Knights of the Cross to deal with them.
There were a lot of things that I really liked about this novel in particular. It had a great plot, twisting and turning through mysteries and misdirection. It had a great cast: some characters that we know and love and some new characters on both sides of the coin. I was particularly amused by the character of The Archive. Beyond all that, like all Dresden novels, it had great pacing, action, and a little dark humor.
One of the biggest improvements, in my mind, that Butcher made came in Grave Peril when he took a deep breath and slowed things down a bit, gave Harry some breathing room, gave him some time to reflect rather than just react, and gave the reader a chance to keep up. Those reflective moments continue in Death Masks and tend to be some of the best passages in the novel.
Oh, and what an amazing ending. I won't spoil anything, but it was delightful and definitely made me want to dig right into the next novel.
This review would not be complete if I didn't mention the significantly improved narration by James Marsters. I really liked Marsters' performance of Harry Dresden in the first four novels, but when Penguin Audio began producing the audio books (taking over from Buzzy Multimedia), they must have had a couple of suggestions. With Death Masks, Marsters now has a voice for each character, his speech is crisper, and the overall production quality is much improved. I'm definitely very happy with the change.
Overall, Death Masks was a great read. If you enjoyed the previous novels, don't stop, you've got to read this one.(less)