The 7th and latest volume of the Fate of the Jedi saga, Conviction, is here. This time it’s Aaron Allston at the helm and this time…it’s more of the s...moreThe 7th and latest volume of the Fate of the Jedi saga, Conviction, is here. This time it’s Aaron Allston at the helm and this time…it’s more of the same. First off let me start by saying that whoever wrote the back copy for this book should be summarily fired. I’ve never read a description that tries its hardest to spoil everything that happens in the novel and is, in many regards, patently misleading. Seriously, absolutely terrible job on that part. Furthermore, I’m sure I’ve said it before, that the publishing schedule is all sorts of bizarre for this series. When the final volume is published in April of 2012 this series will have been running for just under three years. For comparison sake Jim Butcher has been known to release a new book every 6 months, by himself. Apparently three authors writing a single series eight books long requires 3 years of writing. If I’m not mistaken I do believe that Allston has had some health issues over this time but I still found that the stop and start publishing schedule is a serious detriment to the series (books 1 to 3 were released every other month followed by a six-month break then two more books every other month then another 6 month break, from there things are a bit more irregular). While I’ve certainly enjoyed aspects of the series so far what is even more distressing is lack of much progress made in resolving any of these storylines. The broad focus on the different aspects of the series has stalled developments to a point where I suspect that this was initially multiple series that have been condensed into a single narrative. If you’ve read any of the other volumes in this series the structure and themes of this book might feel familiar.
The Jedi and Daala circle each other with their teeth bared. Luke, Ben, and Vistara are hot on the trail of Aboleth who, surprise surprise, is busy preparing another ambush(es). Amelia Solo is as precious and adorable as ever. Yes, that’s a bit pithy but it is the same combination of things we’ve seen for the last couple of novels at least. There is no further exploration as to what Aboleth is, nor is her relationship to the scattered bits of ancient technology still even mentioned. Daala is still increasingly irrational and paranoid. The quest to determine what drove Jacen Solo to the Dark Side is abandoned and Force Teleportation is still resoundingly ignored. Despite being “cured” in the previous volume there are still the rather annoying deus ex machina of the mad Jedi running around. The more I’ve listened to this series the more I find the motivations, or at leas the actions, of either side in the Jedi/Daala conflict to be a bit bizarre. If both popular and senate approval of Daala’s actions was so low there has to have been some sort of official action that could have been taken rather than a coup. The Jedi show of force seems to me to play right into Daala’s fears.
Griefing asside I did enjoy Conviction. I though Allston did a wonderful job in playing up Vistara’s growing doubts about her own beliefs and the comparison of her own upbringing to that of Ben was a nice touch. I was particularly fond of Vistara’s letters to her “fantasy dad” and it seemed to me a very teenage response to her emotional state. I also rather liked seeing the a bit of the tactical/calculating side of Luke and his minor confrontation with Abeloth this time out did offer a fair amount of the emotional closure for his character. Han, also gets a nice moment in the sun in the novel even managing to surprise his wife a bit. In the end Conviction was certainly an entertaining entry into the Fate of the Jedi series that actually offers some progress in many of the main plot points, even if it is less progress than I’d like. Marc Thompson is, as usual, top notch and the sound effects and music straight from LucasFilm once again create a wonderful immersive experience. Conviction is not an improvement over the previous volume in The Fate of Jedi Saga but it hopefully marks a turning point for some actual developments in terms of plot; especially given the fact there are only two more volumes left in the series. (less)
OK, I know I skipped the last three volumes of the Lost Fleet series. Maybe I’ll go back and post some lengthier reviews but right now I will press on...moreOK, I know I skipped the last three volumes of the Lost Fleet series. Maybe I’ll go back and post some lengthier reviews but right now I will press onwards. If you haven’t read the first Lost Fleet series be aware that there will be some spoilers for that series in this review. That there is a second series is likely, on some level a spoiler, in and of itself. So, if you’ve just started to read The Lost Fleet or if you intend to read The Lost Fleet: be warned!
So at the end Victorious, and likely as many readers suspected, “Blackjack” Geary has delivered the titular fleet home breaking the back of the Syndicate worlds over the course of his long journey home. Geary has managed to find some romance in the process dodging Alliance authority and marrying his Flag Captain, Tanya Desjani. Dreadnaught (first book in The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier) opens up bare months after this event as Admiral Geary and his new wife are called back to duty. The Alliance, and the military brass, are up to their old tricks again scrambling and squabbling to undermine Geary’s popular approval amongst the populace and amongst the Fleet. Assigned a new mission, a diplomatic mission to the alien race (now referred to as The Enigmas), he has obstacles thrown at him from superiors left and right not to mention a mountain of unforeseen dangers lurking around every corner.
Rest assured this is military science fiction pure and simple. Notions of a duty and honor, though sometimes conflicting amongst generations, play a central roll in the novel (as in previous Lost Fleet novels). Of course with a series subtitle like “Beyond the Frontier” I’m all on board for this series. The subplot of the alien pressence in the original Lost Fleet novel’s was one my favorite aspects and the internal complications of the Alliance government juxtaposed with overt manipulation by unseen intelligences (across a potentially greater context even more alien species) is fascinating. That contrast lends a certain amount of sad comedy to the fleet’s situation this time out. Bureaucrats fearing for their power and those fearing the alien threat seem to be at opposite ends of event’s in Dreadnaught. Sure, they think (rightly) that Geary is the perfect candidate to suss out the alien presence near home but at the same time they do their level best to hinder his work at all times. That last bit is perhaps the most frustrating: the threat of the Enigmas pose doesn’t serve so much as a catalyst for human unity but just as another tool in the constant struggle for more power.
Dreadnaught build’s directly on the events of the previous series. This is not a book for newcomers and there is very little hand-holding when it comes to characters and relationships. While a new reader might easily grasp what is going on it is long-time readers who will benefit most while reading this book. Several shifts in personality of some key characters over the span between the series lend an air of personal drama and I found myself almost as interested in the catalysts for these changes as I was in the copious amounts of action and military engagements that occur throughout the novel. Rest assured that Campbell isn’t really breaking new ground here but that is less of a complaint than you might think. This well-trod ground is comfortable and entertaining. It is not without surprises and the notion of humanity on the cusp of a wider multi-species cosmic community is something that is always exciting. I look forward to seeing where this series will go and am excited to see how good old Blackjack tackles the mountain of challenges that lay ahead. (less)
Anthony Huso’s debut novel The Last Page is certainly a tough one. Highly original and rife with elements of the weird it is a fantasy novel quite unl...moreAnthony Huso’s debut novel The Last Page is certainly a tough one. Highly original and rife with elements of the weird it is a fantasy novel quite unlike any I have ever read. The blurb on the book from Glen Cook mentions a link to “science fantasy” and that comparison is not too far off base. The Last Page is a novel unlike anything on the market today; an important distinction since its unique style and willingness to borrow conventions from outside the typical fantasy genre called to mind the old school fantasists featured in the pages of Weird Tales (authors like C. L. Moore and Fritz Leiber). In a genre that has become somewhat insular and self-referential The Last Page is a rare exercise in invention and originality.
The Last Page initially centers on Caliph Howl a young man finishing his studies at school while reluctantly awaiting the summons home to assume the unwanted kingship of Isca. Caliph, in the last year or so of his studies meets Sena a fellow student and the two students quickly form a bond. Sena is not quite what she seems; Sena is a Shradnae witch who seeks the mysterious Cisrym Ta; an ancient grimoire of unknown power. The book is locked by magic and in order to open it she needs to betray someone who loves her. Of course, Caliph’s kingdom is threatened by civil war while other unknown things move against both Sena and Caliph.
One thing I should note is that the invented language and unique characters used throughout The Last Page look completely terrible on my nook. Looking at the Nook for PC software I can see they don’t look bad there so the difficulty must be on the device itself rather than the file. It’s a minor quibble but The Last Page is liberally sprinkled with this bit of invention. Secondly, and another pitfall of reading The Last Page on an e-reader is that the glossary and pronunciation guide for these letters and words is located at the end of the novel. It is a chore and a distraction to flip to that information while reading. To be fair my first choice for reading The Last Page was print, but as happens here in the library, it has seemingly disappeared off the shelves.
Like I mentioned at the start of this review The Last Page is a difficult novel. The original elements like the invented language, and a complex cosmology require a bit of a stretch for readers more familiar with traditional fantasy. Those flexible readers who feel confident in their ability to stretch their expectation will be rewarded by an engrossing story in a strange world. While, the civil war in Isca and Caliph’s struggle to rule might be expected to take center stage I thought the novel was really something closer to a character study and was at its strongest when dealing with the witch Sena. Certainly the civil war offers an external threat and the novel spends some time dealing with Caliph’s struggles there but by and large the conflicts of the novel are relegated to the internal realms of our character’s thoughts and the dark shadows barely glimpse amidst the chaos of war.
By far my favorite parts of The Last Page were those that dragged in elements of horror. I was particularly and pleasantly horrified by Caliph’s discovery of how his nation is kept fed. Take for example Huso’s description of the “farm” and the meat it houses:
Like a cattle yard, where butchered animals were hung on hooks to drain. Only these great carcasses were alive and three times size of a butchered cow. Three heavy chains hooked onto iron rings that pierced their upper portion and suspended each living meat several feet above the floor. They were vaguely the shape of a human heart and the iron rings that suspended them pulled the tissue into painful-looking triangles…The meat had no arms or legs. It had no skin but a translucent bluish white membrane that covered the dark maroon muscle tissue and bulging blue veins underneath. Lumpy patches of yellow adipose clustered in grooves and seams where the muscles joined in useless perfection.
Cable-thick tubing ran from above, bundled together and coupled into various implanted sockets for reasons obviously associated with sustaining dubious life.
Occasionally, muscles twitched or a sudden shudder wen through the enormous cohesion of mindless flesh and sent the body swinging in the slow tight spiral allowed by the chains.
At the bottom of the meat, near the pointed but snubbed posterior, something like an anus spewed filth with peristaltic violence into a square depression in the floor. Urine dribbled or sprayed from hidden hole proximal to the defecating sphincter, help to wash soupy piles of shit and blood toward runnels in the floor.
That is disgusting and brilliant in a very twisted kind of way. It’s combination of horrific abomination with the cold calculation of necessity wavering between tempering and magnifying the horror. Huso, simultaneously throws at us a scene of gory horror and a complex social and moral issue. It’s a trick he will continue to use to great effect over the course of the novel. Of course he will also throw other horrors at readers, ones that reminded me somewhat of the Deep Ones and worshipers of Dagon from Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, while simultaneously hinting at cosmic horrors lurking unseen in the places between the world.
The Last Page is rife with these touches of horror and on Huso’s website he speaks briefly on horror:
For me, fantasy must play chameleon in exactly this way, offer beauty hidden in horror; promise loveliness then suddenly throw its head back and scream. This is something I think horror on its own struggles to do because I always suspect it. But fantasy can go both ways. The horror can dissolve suddenly and unexpectedly into bliss, which I think enhances the sense of unpredictability. It is surprise and uncertainty, especially the uncertainty of how to react, that I prize.
That “uncertainty of how to react” is emblematic of much of The Last Page and it is a curious sensation that few, if any, other fantasy novels manage to evoke. While I was a bit off-put by what I felt was a lack of focus with regards to the novel’s external conflicts Huso’s constant invention, hints of things in the shadows, and masterful portrayal of his character’s and their relationship kept me entranced for every page. It is the kind of novel that after reading it once I want to explore again just to examine the details that my initial read is sure to have missed. I excited to see what Huso comes up with next and I am excited (an excitement tinged with a sort of manic dread) to explore more of The Last Page’s strange, wondrous, world. (less)
I am perhaps a little behind the times in taking a look at Kevin Hearne’s Hounded. I remember being excited by the initial buzz the title was receivin...moreI am perhaps a little behind the times in taking a look at Kevin Hearne’s Hounded. I remember being excited by the initial buzz the title was receiving upon its release but for some reason shuffled it somewhere back into the deep recesses of my memory. Eventually I picked up the audiobook version via Audible and after several long weeks managed to finish it. This isn’t the fault of Hearne’s work merely the thousand other aural delights screaming for my attention combined with my own bizarre decision to only listen while running; truthfully a result of my utter failure to sync Audible apps across multiple portable devices). Yay, technology.
Hounded, with its urban fantasy vibe and male lead, is bound to be compared to Butcher’s Dresden Files but, in truth I’m not quite sure that comparison fits. Hounded stars ancient druid Atticus O’Sullivan who has long been hiding the magical sword Fragarach from the Celtic love god (and all around douche) Aengus Og. As the novel opens it becomes readily apparent that Aengus has once again tracked Atticus down and intends to recover the sword, no matter what. Needless to say this causes Atticus no end of trouble and Hearne deftly navigates his hero through a veritable circus of gods, demons, mythological, and mystical beings of every stripe.
While both the Dresden Files and the Iron Druid Chronicles both feature magical male leads it is there the similarities end. Butcher’s works are strongly grounded in the Chicago area; the city has become as much a character as the titular wizard. The Iron Druid Chronicles takes place in Tempe, Arizona; a city with a population equal to just about 5% of Dresden’s Chicago. As a result the novel has a more small town vibe, especially as Atticus bikes back and forth to his New Age bookstore. Given that Atticus is a druid the novel places less emphasis on the urban aspects and far more on the diverse natural landscape of the Arizona desert.
Hounded as a wonderful, cavalier anything goes approach to the magical. Over the course of the novel Atticus is visited by about five separate deities, deals with a coven of witches, has a team of lawyers that is one part viking werewolf and one part vampire, fights giants and demons, and somewhere manages to have the time to have a spot of whiskey with his widowed neighbor. Atticus is bonded to an Irish Wolfhound named Oberon and their companionship provides an important aspect of the story and is one of the primary avenues for humor in the novel. As Atticus himself states in the novel it’s Oberon’s innocence and constant sense of wonder that keeps the ancient druid grounded in the here and now.
Hounded is a delightfully unpredictable novel that manages to keep both characters and readers guessing what will happen next. With all of the different magical bits crammed in the novel, including occasionally different mythologies, there is still a cohesive feel to everything. Indeed the novel prevents a robust and exciting world that I’m excited to see explored further. Believing that there doesn’t seem to be anything off limits for Hearne is refreshing and discovering how he weaves the various creatures and beings into the story is exciting and never less than entertaining. If you’re tired of the dark and dreary urban fantasies of the world you should definitely give the sun (and occasionally blood) drenched world of Hounded a shot.(less)
Scandinavian mysteries seem to be popping up quite frequently these days. Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson, Helen Tursten, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir rep...moreScandinavian mysteries seem to be popping up quite frequently these days. Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson, Helen Tursten, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir represent the vanguard of this Scandinavian invasion. Coming across Sigurdardottir’s My Soul to Take here at the library I decided that I brief respite from my typical genre reading was in order. Subtitled as “a novel of Iceland” My Soul to Take is an engaging mystery with numerous twists and turns that constantly keep readers guessing.
My Soul to Take is the second novel to feature attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir (after Last Rituals). The novel opens with Thora’s client Jonas, a superstitious New Age type, calling her to ask for assistance in determining if he has any legal grounds to contest the purchase of a farm on the grounds that it is haunted. Thora, who reluctantly agrees, arrives at the farm turned hotel just in time for the murder of Jonas’ architect Birna. Birna’s death sends Thora on a whirlwind investigation to discover the killer.
Thora is a fascinating character. A divorced mother of two, and soon-to-be grandmother she is struggling to make ends meet working at a small law firm. My Soul to Take doesn’t give reader’s a positive view of her role as a mother, she sort of passes the kids off on her ex-husband for part of the novel and their reappearance later in the novel seems a tad irresponsible on her part. At the same time she is obviously a working woman trying hard to perform well in her job and be a good mother. Still I felt later in the novel, as Thora sticks her nose in more and more places it doesn’t really belong, that the presence of her children as she went on to anger potential murder suspects was rather distressing. I’d have been more comfortable if a similar level of distress were evidenced in Thora’s behavior but that wasn’t the case. You do get the feeling that her full-time work, plus motherhood, combined with financial problems have left her a very tired woman. Her agreement to help her client is predicated on her need for a weekend away at a hotel/spa. Regardless of the argument if Thora is a good or bad mother she is a tenacious and dedicated investigator who doesn’t back down. I was extremely pleased that, despite the presence of Thora’s German boyfriend Matthew during most of the novel, she was never placed in a position to really require any kind of masculine assistance. In fact I rather enjoyed that Matthew was rather nonplussed, and somewhat baffled, by Thora’s dogged pursuit of the truth.
The primary mystery of My Soul to Take, teased during the novel’s prologue, takes a lot of turns. Sigurdardottir does a great job of constantly misdirecting readers with short, interspersed point of views outside of Thora’s main narrative. Each of these little sections sends readers in a different direction and challenging what few solid facts readers had been able to glean so far. It’s a clever narrative trick that easily sets leads both false and true. My Soul to Take, from my experience, is not a mystery whose outcome readers will be able to guess by the novel’s end. While the individual pieces of the puzzle are expertly revealed over the course of the novel both readers and Thora constantly struggle to fit those pictures into a cohesive whole. The ending provides a satisfying “aha!” moment made manageable by the fact that intuitive leaps to get to the truth conclusion were never glaringly obvious.
The windswept and rocky landscape of the Icelandic shore provide a colorful and expansive backdrop for My Soul to Take. The bleak nature of the surrounding environment, and a real sense of history (including a deep seed superstitious nature amongst the local populace) do wonders in terms of setting the tone. Indeed, the landscape becomes almost a character in its own right. That superstitious element in particular lends a spooky air to the novel that while reader’s, and characters, know them for false manage to cultivate a tiny seed of doubt.
My Soul to Take is a fascinating novel that keeps its focus on the mystery. While the characters are interesting, including Thora Gudmundsdottir, they are only give enough life to let them interact with the mystery. Indeed, that mystery itself remains the primary focus of the novel and, other than curiosity (at least at the start) there seems to be very little reason for Thora’s investigation. Thora is given just enough to make her character feel realistic but with broad enough strokes that she stands in as an adequate substitute for the reader. I finished the novel without a real sense of who she was as a person. I admire that she is a strong, independent female lead but lament the fact that she isn’t quite as fleshed out enough to make her feel real. Still, My Soul to Take is worth a look for mystery fans looking to give a foreign author a try and the setting provides a nice change of pace from that of American mystery fiction.(less)
So, as you may or may be aware I was rather a large fan of Diving Into the Wreck. I have a bit of a thing for derelict space ships so it is no small s...moreSo, as you may or may be aware I was rather a large fan of Diving Into the Wreck. I have a bit of a thing for derelict space ships so it is no small surprise that a sci-fi tale about a character whose job is diving abandoned ships would appeal to me. As it turns out, generally speaking any story that in some way involves Exploration of the Unknown is one that will have my rapt attention. This is a good thing when it comes to City of Ruins which, as you might have guessed by the title, trades in the abandoned space ships for something a bit more sedentary.
Like Diving Into the Wreck, City of Ruins is spends much of its time on mystery and exploration. After the events of Diving Into the Wreck the focused and dedicated Boss has started up her own company in order to counter the Empire’s research into dangerous stealth technology. Boss and her employees look for stealth technology, found in the wrecks of the legendary Dignity Fleet, and carefully disseminate their findings to third parties. City of Ruins picks up with Boss reluctantly agreeing to explore the system of caves beneath an ancient city on the strong but incongruous notion that it might be home to a cache of stealth technology. Given the underground nature of the exploration there is a nice fish out of water element as Boss struggles in dealing with the particular intricacies and difficulties of gravity.
However, and perhaps most interesting, is that the novel opens in the past with a desperate crew fleeing an aggressive alien species after “communications failure.” This crew is part of the Dignity Fleet and this is the first living glimpse readers get of the legendary fleet which, as the novel later reveals, was an altruistic group of vessels who would help the just and the downtrodden before continuing on their mission. The prologue closes as the ship activates its mysterious drive and disappears from view. Needless, to say this isn’t the last we see of this enigmatic vessel as the vessel suddenly reappears amidst the ruins being explored by Boss and her team.
What was a novel of exploration quickly becomes a novel about First Contact. Sure both sides are human but they are human long separated by time and technology. The novel drags a bit during this section if only because of the waiting game played by bother parties. However the real interest comes in the ways that Boss and the Captain of the Dignity Vessel interact without interact. The Captain’s observations of Boss and the way she lovingly examines the ship and Boss’s own musings of wonder and barely restrained excitement add an interesting development to the novel. Maybe I’m reading a bit into things, there is a certain hint of romance in the air as the relationship between the enigmatic Boss the time-displaced Captain is further examined.
What I love most of City of Ruins is how carefully and stingily that Rusch deals out answers. That might sound a little strange but Rusch manages to tantalize with some answers that somehow manage to both clarify and deepen the mystery of stealth technology at the same time. It is a strange bit of narrative magic but absolutely makes City of Ruins shine. Boss’s brusk, take charge no-nonsense attitude makes her one of the more interesting female leads in science fiction today (of which there are far too few). Rusch even manages to work in a amusingly dry comedy bit regarding her name. Boss is a driven woman whose dedication to her work sets up this sort of emotional wall around her, that she chooses to call herself by her title rather than a name is a strong indication of just how much she is defined by her work. I’m hoping that we start to see characters introduced in City of Ruins begin to chip away at that stoic facade.
Rusch does her best to make City of Ruins readable for those haven’t yet read Diving in the Wreck and manages to do a passable job at that. However, I think City of Ruins does best having read Diving into the Wreck first as that background knowledge regarding Boss’s previous encounters with stealth technology gives readers a stronger connection to her as a character and a deeper understanding of those emotional walls. City of Ruins is once again some fine adventure science fiction that starts off with a similar tone to Diving into the Wreck but with a clever twist looks to take Rusch’s Diving universe in a new direction. This is another top-notch read from amazingly accomplished and woefully overlooked author. Jump on this series now folks, you won’t regret it.
When checking out The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larsen over on Amazon I found out it is part of the Akashic Urban Surreal Series. Unfortunately,...moreWhen checking out The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larsen over on Amazon I found out it is part of the Akashic Urban Surreal Series. Unfortunately, beyond that Amazon listing I can’t seem to find anything about this series beyond that it sort of exists. I mean, I guess the series title sort of explains it all but a little more information on it might be nice. Indeed, before even seeing that such a series existed I don’t think I would have classified this novel as surreal. Maybe it’s the fact that my senses are so inured from years of science fiction and fantasy that my interpretation of surreal is a bit askew. I found myself thinking of The Dewey Decimal System as slightly closer to post-apocalytpic fiction than anything else, though even that wasn’t quite right.
The Dewey Decimal System takes place in the husk of a New York City that has been all but abandoned after a flu pandemic, terrorist attacks, and the collapse of Wall Street. The titular character goes by the name of Dewey Decimal a gun-for-hire who makes his home in the New York Public Library working on the side to reorganize the collection into the proper Dewey classifications. Dewey is hired by the local Distract Attorney Rosenblatt to kill a man: Ukrainian gangster and all around bad guy Ivan Shapsko. Of course that isn’t everything. This wouldn’t be a quality hard-boiled/noir tale without a femme fatale and Larsen delivers with Iveta Shapsko; Ivan’s estranged wife. Dewey isn’t the type to follow orders blindly and the notion of just doing what he told never crosses his mind. Dewey’s quest for more information on his job leads him down an ever twisting path of violence made all the more fascinating by Dewey’s own unique psyche.
As the man relates early on in the book he is somewhat sure that his mind has been messed with government types. This causes him to doubt his own memories and he views them “more as dreams” than actual memories. In addition to his questionable background Dewey exhibits a host of other behaviors that seem to indicate that he might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of some kind. He’ll only turn in one direction during certain times of day and he has an obsessive need for cleanliness both of his clothes (he ruins several suits over the course of the novel) and his hands (he goes through what must have been at least a gallon of hand sanitizer). He also doesn’t seem to have any sort of problem with violence. He maintains the same level of cool if he is being shot at or if he is torturing and killing a thug for information. He also seems to be able to speak and read several different languages and has likely served in the military at some point. Dewey is in truth a very likeable psychopath. The sort of character that it is entertaining to read or view from a distance but who you would never really like to meet.
The plot of The Dewey Decimal System is a twisted affair that doesn’t try too hard to make much sense or indicate what is the truth. It doesn’t linger on notions of right and wrong or justice. Absent of the eccentric main character the plot wouldn’t nearly as interesting. Well, that’s a stretch it might still be interesting but absent of Dewey I might be more critical of the murky motivations of the main players. Thankfully, Dewey and his running commentary of the people and places he visits keeps things lively and the muddied nature of the plot plays wells to Dewey’s tenuous grasp on reality. Larsen shoes a deft hand with dialogue, while not quite on par with the likes of Charlie Huston (who I still think writes the best hard-boiled/noir dialogue today) he comes awfully close. I was particularly fond of DA Rosenblatt whose unique clipped sentences lend credence to the asshole nature of the character. Larsen also manages to do quite well at mimicking Ukrainian accent through text (note: this analysis is based on brief experience in my teenage years of having worked with a Ukrainian named Vladimir; he made a pretty mean pizza).
The Dewey Decimal System is a taught new entry into the hard-boiled/noir genre with post-apocalyptic overtones that might appeal to science fiction fans. Larsen’s vision of a nearly empty New York City is comforting its familiarity and chilling in its alienness. Dewey Decimal is a refreshingly original character whose skewed perspective makes for an entertaining if occasionally disturbing read. If you’re looking for something new and interesting to read and don’t mind a little chaos and violence then The Dewey Decimal System is definitely worth a look. I for one certainly hope we’ll be seeing more Dewey Decimal in the years to come. (less)
Stephen Gould is perhaps best known for his novel Jumper originally released in 1992 and later adapted into a film in 2008. I found the film enjoyable...moreStephen Gould is perhaps best known for his novel Jumper originally released in 1992 and later adapted into a film in 2008. I found the film enjoyable if somewhat forgettable and regrettable only in that it managed to line the pockets of Hayden Christensen. Burried in a box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor I found Gould's most recent novel, 7th Sigma, and immediately cued in on the idea giant metal eating bugs.
In 7th Sigma a plague of metal devouring bugs of mysterious origin overran the American southwest some 50 years ago. The government cordoned off the region with a bug-repelling barrier and the area, now known as the Territory, has become something a no-man's land populated by the stubborn, the hardened, and often the unwanted. Our story, or stories depending on how you look at it, center around the irascible rapscallion known as Kimble. Kimble, a young teen, has been surviving on his own in the Territory ever since his drunk of father passed away using his wits and martial arts skills to say on the up and up. Life still isn't easy and he quickly latches onto Ruth Munroe, a pioneer type setting out set up a new Aikido dojo.
The novel does little to hide that is a reworking of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. This is a fact that I can only point out as I have no real first hand experience with Kipling's work. Reader's more familiar with Kim might be able to point out similarities or notice the parallels far better than myself. Regardless, one of the more fascinating aspects of the novel is its setting. While the book is decidedly set in the near-future, the inability to use metal (since the bugs are attracted to it) and the hardscrabble nature of the Territory lend the novel a frontier feel. It is the Wild West as seen through the lens of modern society with just about any and every throwback to frontier living you can think of from covered wagons to the town drunk. It lends the novel a familiar feeling enhanced by the science fiction element of the mysterious bugs.
On the one hand the bugs are a pervasive force of the novel while on the other they serve quite often as background dressing. Gould manages to keep the bugs central to the story while at the same time never quite addressing their presence directly. He is fairly straight forward in hinting that there is more to them than meets the eye. The novel is split into vignettes of a sort and at least once during each section of the novel Gould manages to highlight one oddity of bug behavior. These oddities take a very distinct path that plays out in an entertaining if somewhat predictable fashion. I was occasionally frustrated that some action takes place off-screen, indeed the main event (Kimble's first mission for Captain Benthem) serves as an important clue as to Kimble's character but is only discussed in dialog. I would have really liked to have seen the action of this early adventure relayed more directly.
Gould populates this Territory with a cast of likeable characters with Kimble at the forefront. He is an extraordinarily capable young man with a headstrong attitude and a tendency to act before thinking. Occasionally his skills strain credulity and there were moments when I felt things went a bit too smoothly for him. Kimble has a strong supporting cast of characters from the capable and wise Ruth, the fatherly Captain Bentham, and curious Thayet. None, save perhaps Ruth, are revealed in quite as much detail as Kimble and the relationship between Kimble and Ruth is one of the novel's strongest points.
7th Sigma is not the most thought provoking of novels but it is one of the most fun. Its young lead character gives it a YA vibe but Tor is not really marketing it as such. Truth be told save for some instance of harsh language, and at least one situation that deals with the mistreatment of women, 7th Sigma is completely YA friendly. While it doesn't precisely end on a cliffhanger Gould leaves enough open at the end to leave readers anxious for more. (less)
I had initially started reading The Drawing of the Three but jumped over to the audiobook version when I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a...moreI had initially started reading The Drawing of the Three but jumped over to the audiobook version when I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a subscription over at Audible.com. The Drawing of the Three continues Roland’s quest toward the Dark Tower picking up more or less immediately after the events of The Gunslinger. As a historical note I should say that when I initially started reading the Dark Tower series I actually started with The Drawing of the Three (as it was what was on my parent’s bookshelf) and read it and The Waste Lands before ever going back and reading The Gunslinger. It marks one of the few, perhaps the only instance, where I read a series out of its proper order.
There is, to my ear at least, a marked stylistic difference between The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three. The second novel takes a slightly more straightforward approach than The Gunslinger dropping some of the more florid touches. In truth it could just be Roland’s more direct involvement with the modern world has influenced my thoughts on the matter. Of course that isn’t to say that the prose I loved so much in The Gunslinger is gone completely but given the introduction of characters and ideas foreign to Roland’s world it is no surprise that there is a shift in style.
That intrusion of the modern world into the world of Roland occurs through a series of freestanding doors Roland encounters on the beach. The drawing of the title refers first to the tarot reading performed by the Man in Black at the end of The Gunslinger which itself referred to the individuals who Roland must pull into his quest for the Dark Tower. Each of the doors is marked by the name of the tarot card drawn by the Man in Black. In just two books King has set up a fairly complex interrelationship within the series and has started seriously playing with the “other worlds” cryptically referred by Jake at the conclusion of the first volume.
The second volume really starts to draw connections to more of King’s works; most specifically the character of Randall Flagg. For those who don’t know Flagg is the antagonist in both The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon (the two leads of which are also mentioned here). The throw away mention of Flagg here does not even hint at the role he will play in the series nor the cold dread that the initials RF engenders in some of King’s most stringent readers. The world-hopping here and the links to King’s other works are the first real steps King takes in creating a cohesive world for his fiction; at least within the framework of a larger epic. The length of the novel, especially compared to The Gunslinger, and the slight tonal shift in a strange way divide the series a little. There is a air of the mythic to The Gunslinger. It is a novel that works extraordinarily well on its own and the avenue’s of the imagination its conclusion leaves open and available for readers are actually quite impressive and rather satisfying. That King decided, felt obligated, and was allowed by his publishers to continue the work is no small thing but it left this volume, and several of the following, with a somewhat frustrating sense of incompletelness. While The Gunslinger was a novel rooted in a tale of what once was and what might me The Drawing of the Three is a novel that speaks in a more definite tone that leaves you wondering rather than imagining where the story might go. There is a certain amount of loss there that by shining a light into the shadows of Roland’s future and past that King has taken something from us. It is a small thing, but something that definitely struck me while listening to this book though not on my initial read. I suppose it is a catch-22 that effects all quality imaginative fiction familiar to everyone who wondered what those numbers meant, what was in the hatch, or just what the Dharma Initiave was really all about. The answers are never as tantalizing as the mystery is enchanting.
What really makes the audiobook version The Drawing of the Three a treat is the narration of Frank Muller. Muller, who sadly passed in 2008, was one of the first narrator’s recruited by Recorded Books when it was founded in 1979. A classically trained and veteran stage actor Muller lends a certain amount of gravitas to the reading that few manage to bring to the table. His dialects are impeccable from Eddie’s Brooklyn accent, to Odetta’s southern lilt, to Detta’s “gutter patois” there is a never a moment where you doubt it is the character speaking rather than the actor. This is a prime example of a narrator who is a master of his craft, simply amazing work. In 2001 Muller was in a motorcycle accident and as a result suffered serious head trauma and was unable to work from that point on. As such Muller’s work can only be heard on this volume, The Waste Lands, and Wizard and Glass. If you are a fan of the series, think you might be a fan of the series, or just really love audiobooks I can’t really recommend giving The Drawing of the Three a listen (or try any of Muller’s other performances).
The Drawing of the Three is one my earliest experiences with Stephen King’s fiction and my first experience with the Dark Tower series. For me it will always mark the beginning of something special. It is a novel that despite its age holds up quite well. Roland’s land is a timeless one and his visits to a New York of various past decades serves as no real barrier for enjoyment. It isn’t a perfect novel by any means but that blend of nostalgia and its place at the beginning of one of the most creatively ambitious and fascinating series I’ve ever read makes a book that will always have a place on my shelf. (less)
Claude Lalumiere's The Door to Lost Pages is a short novella of interwoven stories patched together to form a fascinating and enthralling pastiche tha...moreClaude Lalumiere's The Door to Lost Pages is a short novella of interwoven stories patched together to form a fascinating and enthralling pastiche that orbits in and around a bookshop known as Lost Pages. It offers brief snippets of the worlds and mythologies housed in the mysterious bookshop and gives readers a tiny taste of the lives and souls of the people who have encountered its book lined, dog filled interior. The novella doesn't really offer a standard plot structure, though there is an overarching story to a certain extant, instead examining how the lives of everyday people are affected in startling ways by the smallest things.
I should say to start that if you are a fan of books, if you've ever willing explored the dusty corners of bookshops and libraries for no other reason than the shear joy of it, you should stop reading this and go grab a copy of The Door to Lost Pages. Likewise, if you have ever been enchanted by the interwoven mythologies with a fictional world, particularly if you've enjoyed Mythos tales so often linked by the arcane text of a certain mad arab, you should go grab a copy of The Door to Lost Pages. If, as a child, you have ever been transported by a book to somewhere else, either as an escape from something or just as an exercise of imagination, you should go grab a copy of The Door to Lost Pages.
For me the story that enchanted me the most, that resonated most deeply, was that of young Lucas. As Lucas himself says, “Looking at me now, you'd think I'd dropped form my mother's womb right onto a messy pile old, lurid paperbacks and arcane leatherbound tomes. Except in the fourth grade there was an incomplete set of an old battered encyclopedia on told of an old filing cabinet in the back of the classroom” an encyclopedia that “...hinted not only at alternate parts of the world but an altogether different way of apprehending reality.” While there is a more fantastical meaning to that in Lalumiere's novella it is also a fairly accurate description to how I feel about my earliest encounters with the written word. In Lalumiere's world books are magic, literally, and he cleverly uses children to convey that pure and unadulterated response to what is written between their pages.
If the books in The Door to Lost Pages are magic and Lost Pages is the place that collects them. It is the repository of things the world has chosen to forget (or ignore) and it exists in a nebulous state across time and worlds. Those things that it collects aren't just books, they are people too. Aydee, neglected and all but ignored by her drug addicted parents, and Lucas, a bit fey and intelligent drawn to the shadowed corners of the world, are both children who don't quite fit in the world we know. These two characters who form the foundation of the novella are in many ways themselves lost pages (in the library world the people that shelve books are sometimes called pages, a fact I found amusing and appropriate while reading this book) collected by the book store. Several times throughout the novel either Lucas or Aydee will serve as a means through which a new story is told becoming the means through which the knowledge they steward is shared with the world.
The Door to Lost Pages is 224 page love letter to books and stories. It's a book about being lost and all the varied meanings that simple word can espouse. It's about the fear of being lost in an uncaring world and about the wonder of being lost in a sea of knowledge. It is a meaty collection, despite its diminutive size, of lush imagery and stories that are by turns touching and unsettling. If you're looking for something to read that falls a bit off the beaten path you should definitely take a walk through The Door to Lost Pages.
Note: I sorry about that last line, I couldn't resist, I have self control issues. By way of apology I'll leave you with the opening lyrics to Audioslave's “Like a Stone” which The Door to Lost Pages called to mind:
“On a cold, wet afternoon in a room full of emptiness by a freeway I confess I was lost in the pages of a book full of death reading how we'll die alone and if we're good we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go.” (less)
James Enge’s The Wolf Age is the third novel to feature the hero Morlock Ambrosius. I read the first, Blood of Ambrose, back in April of 2009 though I...moreJames Enge’s The Wolf Age is the third novel to feature the hero Morlock Ambrosius. I read the first, Blood of Ambrose, back in April of 2009 though I skipped the second outing This Crooked Way. I read Blood of Ambrose long before I had heard of Black Gate Magazine, the periodical which has been the home to Morlock on multiple occasions, and I suppose I have (consciously or otherwise) set out to make sure I follow authors read in the pages of Black Gate in longer forms whenever possible. The Wolf Agepays tribute to the sword and sorcery stories of old without ever feeling stale.
Where in The Blood of Ambrose readers joined Morlock as he journeyed back amidst civilization The Wolf Age sees Moorlock on sort of self-imposed exile as his presence tends to draw the attention of his father Merlin. While traversing the wilderness Morlock discovers a raiding party from the werewolf city Wuruyaaria and though Morlock intercedes on behalf of the villagers under attack he finds himself captured and imprisoned. At the same time Morlock is being employed, without his knowledge, by forces far more powerful than he suspects; forces who see the destruction of Wuruyaaria and its mysterious founder as an absolute necessity.
The Wolf Age is awesome. In a place and time where vampire are all the rage in just about every genre under the sun it is a refreshing change of pace to see someone dust off werewolves. Enge weaves a fantastic tale of action, adventure, sword, and fang easily crafting a story full of equal parts wonder and excitement. Limited time is spent on exposition with brief interludes as we occasionally view things through the eyes of the Strange Gods, personified abstractions of basic human drives and emotions. These brief views allow us to take a step back and view things from a broader perspective while still maintaining an air of mystery and wonder. Tender morsels of hints were dropped regarded the pasts of these Strange Gods. Tantalizing little bits of information that I would love to see Enge explore in other novels but serve well to whet the appetite and keep you reading here.
Morlock is a fascinating creation. Willful to the point of being nearly a force of nature himself there were points of this story where his sense of justice as he sees it reminded of recent characterizations of a certain Time Lord. He isn’t without flaws of course and the kind act of a friend in The Wolf Age helps uncover one of those facts leading to moments both tragic and comic. Morlock is what modern terminology would dub a functional alcoholic. Not a laughing matter and the person he is sober and the person he is drunk are similar in one sense and completely different in another. Alcohol magnifies aspects of Morlock’s personality seemingly without inhibiting his ability to perform. Watching a drunk Morlock take flight to assault an attacking airship is part horrifying and partly hilarious.
Ghosts-in-the-eyes, the werewolf who founded Wuryaaria, is an absolutely fantastic creation. I don’t want to spoil things but Enge crafted a fantastic counterpoint to Morlock in the werewolf maker. While the inscrutable werewolf maker is mentioned early in the novel he remains, appropriately, something of a ghost throughout the entirety of the novel. A slightly tangible but still nebulous presence over the course of the book Ghosts-in-eyes plays a satisfying and completely surprising twist towards the novel’s end.
Werewolves, airships, flying wings, mad wizards, swords, action and more The Wolf Age by James Enge is a fine novel that scratches old school sword and sorcery itch without ever feeling stale. It had a more focused feel than Blood of Ambrose and the near solitary focus on Morlock worked quite well. The Wolf Age also takes a subtle narrative approach as a story being told someone; an effect evoked in the novel’s first line, “Listen Iacomes. This is what I see.” and not referenced again until the novel’s conclusion. I greatly look forward to more stories of Morlock the Maker and hope more people hungry for adventure and wonder will take a look at the stellar work of James Enge. (less)
Daniel Abraham is the author of the Long Price Quartet (of which I have one volume left to read) one of the most underrated, under-promoted, and just...moreDaniel Abraham is the author of the Long Price Quartet (of which I have one volume left to read) one of the most underrated, under-promoted, and just plain under-read series to have seen publication. Thankfully Abraham is back at it again, this time for the folks over at Orbit, a new book in a new series. The Dragon’s Path marks the first opening of The Dagger and Coin series a somewhat more traditional epic fantasy when compared to Abraham’s previous work.
The Dragon’s Path follows four main characters Marcus, Cithrin, Dawson, and Geder. Marcus, a war-hero turned merchant guard struggles with the memories of his past while attempted to forge a future. Cithrin, an orphaned girl raised by a bank seeks to define herself through action. Geder, a nobleman’s son raised far from the seat of political action suddenly finds himself thrust into the midst of his nation’s politics while Dawson is an old guard nobleman struggling against the rising younger nobles. Each of these characters are on a journey of self-discovery and the novel spends a lot of time carefully exploring who each of these characters really is. Of course, those explorations have ramifications far beyond our character’s personal spheres.
I tried to be as spoiler free as possible, be warned!
That search for identity is what really drives The Dragon’s Path forward. Sure, this is epic fantasy and while some the character’s are responsible for some world-changing events by and large the novel’s focus remains centered on the characters. This is particularly apparent in Geder’s storyline. Abraham quickly introduces Geder as a sympathetic character opening with a description of a book in the young nobleman’s possession: “The dialect was ancient and obscure. The leather binding wasn’t original. Its pages were almost brown with age, and the ink was faint. He loved it.” This quickly establishes Geder as an individual wholly unsuited to the war he is currently participating. Mocked for his intellectual pursuits as well as his girth it becomes rather easy for readers to feel sorry for the Geder. It is a brilliant ploy because it adds an extra layer of revulsion and horror to Geder’s actions later in the novel transforming him into, in my opinion at least, a rather tragic figure.
Of course Geder’s transformation isn’t entirely his own making. In another brilliant move the impetus for this shift in Geder’s disposition comes at the behest of another character’s affirmation of identity. Dawson Kalliam, the Baron of Osterling Fells is an older nobleman, a savy politician, aghast at the impropriety of the current younger generation of nobility. Dawson is maneuvering against this younger political faction that is undermining the “honorable” ideals that the nobility should espouse. Again we see a clash of identity: Dawson’s view of what his caste should be doing versus something newer. Dawnson’s strong belief in who he is has a sort of ripple effect galvanizing others of like mind and forcing the hand those who don’t and the resulting wave is what sweeps of Geder and places him in the position it does. Of course, Geder’s own actions have ripples in Dawson’s world and it is the resulting conflict that reshapes both their world’s. Much like Geder, Dawson’s initial characterization is sympathetic a sort of honorable old guard struggling against the impetuous youth. But again Abraham slowly reveals that Dawson’s unbending honor is as much a vice as a virtual and his view of the proper order of things is one derived from a position of power.
I could probably go on further analyzing the ways in which Geder and Dawson’s storylines play off of one another but they are only one half of the story. The other two perspectives in the novel, that of Marcus and Cithrin, are not as immediately involved in the political makeup of the world. Instead both of their perspectives operate on an entirely more personal level. While Marcus doesn’t quite struggle with identity, the death of his family in a previous war has left him adrift and purposeless floating along from job to job while avoiding connections to ruling parties. Cithrin on the other hand struggles with her identity a great deal and, in a clever bit of symmetry the loss of her family through fire (exactly how Marcus’s family died) is what allows both the character’s to find purpose through the presence of the other.
The Dragon’s Path isn’t a fast novel. Events build slowly and Abraham works carefully at concealing what is unfolding and for all the novel’s “epic” qualities it is a grounded affair. This isn’t a novel about big battles (though it has one) or magic (though it has a little) but a novel about change on a grand scale. I was somewhat disappointed that the threat revealed in the novel’s prologue does not play a larger role in the event but it is really a small drop of disappointment in a much larger ocean of general pleasure. Abraham seems an author who enjoys the slow build, focusing on characters over action. While the world of The Dragon’s Path does not feel as original as the Long Price Quartet I found that Abraham’s unique style and intricate plotting lent the novel an air of originality. The focus on characters did leave the world-building a little lacking but I look forward to exploring this complex world further in future volumes of the Dagger and Coin. (less)
I’m on a bit of a horror kick again and was looking for something dark to read. After scouring the web, checking out Laird Barron’s Imago Sequence and...moreI’m on a bit of a horror kick again and was looking for something dark to read. After scouring the web, checking out Laird Barron’s Imago Sequence and Other Stories from the library, and being disappointed that we had no collections of Clarke Ashton Smith or Arthur Machen I settled, I can’t quite remember why, on Brian James Freeman’s The Painted Darkness. The Painted Darkness is a horror novella detailing a painter’s struggle with his own past; a past he can only barely remember. Before its release in December, Freeman offered up the novella as a free download. The Painted Darkness is now available in both ebook and printed form (both the Kindle and nook versions are selling for $2.99) and the novella is up for this year’s Stoker Award for Long Fiction.
The novella alternates between the slow reveal of a repressed childhood memory and the present day where Henry struggles with the repercussions of that memory. In that first tantalizing bit of forgotten childhood Henry’s father urges him to “paint against the darkness” and it is this phrase that becomes Henry’s mantra throughout his life and throughout the novella. There is a weightiness to that statement that is difficult to ignore and Henry’s single-minded adherence to that has, just recently driven his wife and young son away. What we are left with is a psychologically disturbed artist obsessed with his work trapped in a house with a creaky old boiler (in the basement) located in the middle of nowhere while a winter storm rages outside. That’s about as close to a perfect set up for some horrific nastiness as you can get.
Freeman’s slow build of tension and oppressive atmosphere has a very old school sort of feel. As each new tidbit of Henry’s childhood memory is revealed the weight of it seems to grow urging present-day Henry to greater and greater urgency, or at least lending his actions greater feel of urgency. The Painted Darkness is at its been when it is imbuing the mundane with a sense of quiet menace, or subtly injecting bits of the strange and uncanny into the mix. With a careful use of tone Freeman changes an abandoned tree house into an abattoir of dark secrets and transforms an ancient boiler into tentacled monstrosity.
The Painted Darkness works extraordinarily well at face value and doesn’t lose anything if one wishes to scrutinize it on deeper levels. Like many a great piece of horror fiction The Painted Darkness is at its heart a meditation on the incredible capacity of the human imagination. Like the novella’s mantra indicates creativity can be used to “paint against the darkness” and the healing power of creativity and creation is something well explored in countless other works. However, The Painted Darkness twists that notion in a very dark, and a very satisfying away. Explaining in detail would delve a bit too far into spoiler territory for my comfort but Freeman drops hints over the novel as to where things are going and even when the “truth” is revealed there is ample room for divergent interpretation.
With the domination of monsters in the horror world, the growing compilation of zombie, vampire and werewolf stories, it is always a treat to discover a horror tale that manages to do its own thing. If there one thing that makes or break a scary story that thing is atmosphere. Freeman exhibits a masterful command of atmosphere in The Painted Darkness. Managing to evoke the stifling isolation of Henry’s house and tainting the nostalgia of childhood with the terror of the unknown. If you’re looking for a quality tale to dim the brightness of these spring days (or to go along with April’s seemingly ceaseless rain here in the East) than you should look no further than The Painted Darkness. (less)
I don’t know what it is about the scoundrel archetype that is so consistently appealing. For my part I blame Han Solo for his part in forever ensconci...moreI don’t know what it is about the scoundrel archetype that is so consistently appealing. For my part I blame Han Solo for his part in forever ensconcing the noble scoundrel in the annals of my own youth. I’m sure there were others, your Robin Hoods and what have you, but for me the lovable scoundrel archetype has always been defined by Han Solo. Rachel Aaron’s Eli Moonpress, who debuted in last October’s, the Spirit Thief is of a similar ilk as that space pirate. Cavalier, inscrutable, and consistently full of surprises Aaron has crafted a welcome new addition to the world of loveable scoundrels.
Like many a thief’s tale The Spirit Thief opens with our disreputable hero in prison. Of course, like all talented thieves in fiction he is there because he wants to be there. The novel open’s slowly introducing a number of characters before carefully welding each of these disparate strains into a single whole that makes for one fine adventure. It seems that Eli is wanted not just by a coalition of various kingdoms but also by the Spiritualists, what passes for mages in this world. Eli isn’t just any thief, he is also a spiritualist, and his roguish ways are giving spiritualists a bad name; or at least that’s the party line. Partnered up with Eli is the swordsman Josef, who wields a magical iron sword known as the Heart of War and the mysterious and waifish Niko; whose body houses a demon. Hot on the trail of Eli is the Spirtualist Miranda who rides a giant talking dog-like creature.
Aaron has crafted a fascinating world in the Spirit Thief. A world where everything thing from a patch of moss to an ancient prison door has a spirit, a soul at its core. Spiritualists form agreements with these spirits trading a portion of their own spirit energy for the services of a particular spirit. It is a simple and fascinating little system. It requires only a tiny little of explanation and pays off with some flashy effects and some interesting relationships without bogging the reader down with exposition. Of course Eli is a bit different and his manner of dealing with spirits; one that operates on far more equal terms. This difference in how magic-users deal with spirits plays an important role in the main conflict of the story. A conflict that, as it turns out, has very little to do with Eli (despite his participation in events). Where the spiritualists broker agreements like lawyers Eli is something of a charmer and a sweet-talker while the villain of the piece takes what he wants without asking. The tensions between these different dynamics make for a fascinating addition to the action.
The Spirit Thief isn’t heavy reading. It is a bright, quick read that is never dull and offers up something new interesting or downright amusing in each scene. Aaron has crafted a number of distinct and complex characters. Eli’s motivations and goals are suspect, it seems he is playing for something more than what he says, and his past seems to be stalking him one hand and helping him out on the other. Josef plays the straight man to Eli’s more cavalier personality and his role bearing the Heart of War serves as a great little side-story to the main conflict. Meanwhile there is some real heart and depth to Aaron’s portrayal of the relationship between Niko and Josef that I wish was explored more. The audiobook is read by Luke Daniels who does a fantastic job at lending a distinct feel to each of the characters; his performance shines brightest when doing character work and his and Aaron’s style are an excellent match. If you’re look for a light fantasy adventure read I recommend giving The Spirit Thief is well worth a look in either print or audio. (less)