Steampunk, alternate history WWI, fighting the Kaiser’s zombies, oh, don’t forget the Bloody Dead Baron...what’s not to like? The answer is not much i...moreSteampunk, alternate history WWI, fighting the Kaiser’s zombies, oh, don’t forget the Bloody Dead Baron...what’s not to like? The answer is not much in the first volume of Joseph Nassise’s The Great Undead War.
By the Blood of Heroes is the first volume and it kicks the series off to a great start. The war in the trenches has ground to a stalemate after the Germans invented the zombie gas which reanimates the fallen soldiers and turns them into barely controllable shock troops. Scientists on both sides continue to work on inventions and experiments designed to give their side a decisive edge to win the war. An American ace gets shot down behind enemy lines. This pilot holds a little known secret which could prove devastating to the Allies if discovered, so a rescue mission deep behind enemy lines must be undertaken. Working to stop the effort is the infamous Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.
This is a very inventive and very entertaining book. Interesting characters on both sides along with dirigibles, steampunk inventions, and mad scientists all in a richly populated and detailed world. The action moves along briskly from start to finish with plenty of surprises along the way. Looking back, there are a surprising number of set pieces. From the trenches, to the battle in the air, to POW camps, to experimental research facilities, to airships and trains. The amount of detail and action crammed into this book is impressive. The only thing that felt a little rushed was the backstory between the downed pilot and the leader of the team sent to rescue him. Hopefully this can be expanded a bit more in future novels.
There is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required and maybe a thing or two that don’t bear close examination, but all-in-all this is a very well thought-out and fun adventure. There were a number of things that could have been glossed over in the hope that the reader would just accept them, but the author went to the trouble of providing a plausible explanation for most of them. That attention to detail added to my appreciation of the story. I am looking forward to the continuation of this series. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.(less)
I was fortunate to win this book in a first-reads giveaway. Very entertaining epic fantasy. The world-building and system of magic are impressive. The...moreI was fortunate to win this book in a first-reads giveaway. Very entertaining epic fantasy. The world-building and system of magic are impressive. The heroes are easy to root for and identify with.
After seeing their village destroyed by an evil mage in a land where magic is outlawed, brother and sister Nikalys and Kenders flee, leaving behind the only life they have known. As they journey towards a fate greater than either of them imagined lay in store for them, they assembly a group of allies to help them avenge what they have lost and begin to prepare for the battle that lies in front of them. Along the way they discover that much of what they thought they knew about their world is wrong and that they have a great destiny.
The siblings and their friends are well written characters that you want to watch grow. Nundle in particular is a highly entertaining individual that I'm looking forward to seeing more of. The world is expansive and lends itself to much further exploration.
The villain of the story is written a little thinly. Openly and exaggeratedly cruel, he simply doesn't have the same character depth as the heroes. Sometimes his over-the-top actions were a little too much to believe and jarred you out of the story for a bit. I have higher hopes, though, for some of the villains that were introduced in this book but that I expect will have a greater role in subsequent novels.
All in all, a very good story that is entertaining in its own right and will leave you curious as to what happens next.(less)
The Geomancer’s Compass has an interesting enough premise, namely to lift a curse from a Canadian-Chinese family using an ancient device called a Geom...moreThe Geomancer’s Compass has an interesting enough premise, namely to lift a curse from a Canadian-Chinese family using an ancient device called a Geomancer’s compass. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do much with the premise.
The protagonist, teenager Miranda is mostly unlikeable. She is smart and somewhat nerdy, but mostly an annoying germaphobe who is constantly petulant and bratty. She also has surprising gaps in her knowledge, particularly given her Chinese ancestry and very traditional family. Concepts like “feng shui” are completely unknown to her, even though they seem like something that most 16 year olds would have at least heard of. Her dyslexic cousin Brian is a much more likeable character.
The solution to the “mystery” they are supposed to solve pretty much falls into their laps, even though they seem to think that their “sleuthing” played a part into it. A few tidbits of information about the Canadian-chinese experience are dropped in and the characters complete lack of knowledge of concepts like feng shui are excuses to present a not-very-deep explanation of the concept. The geomancer’s compass itself is never really explained and remains simply an odd magical device almost tangential to the plot.
The book is a quick read. None of the characters have any real depth and are mostly defined by their various quirks and medical conditions. There are a lot better young adult novels out there than this one. Not recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an early review copy of The Black God’s War, a very interesting fantasy debut from Moses Siregar III.
The Black God’s War i...moreI was fortunate to receive an early review copy of The Black God’s War, a very interesting fantasy debut from Moses Siregar III.
The Black God’s War is an interesting take on fantasy tropes in that there is not really a clear cut “evil” to overcome or a clearcut “good” to overcome it. Both sides in the battle have their own viewpoint and it’s never clear what would constitute a victory for either side.
The writing is consistently good and the characters feel real and interesting. The system of magic is certainly different, but ultimately not very well explained. One side in the conflict, the Rezzians, calls upon the powers of the gods, who are present if not often seen, or at least seen by many, yet whether or not they choose to manifest their powers as called upon is somewhat arbitrary. The other side in the conflict, the Pawelons, rely on powerful sages. These sages use a form of concentration and mantras to manifest their powers. Several things about this system of magic are never made clear, however. Some sages study for years, but can apparently teach their powers to others with no apparent training in a matter of days or hours. It is also never explained what makes some sages more powerful than others or how those powers compare to the powers wielded by the Rezzian gods.
The plot moves steadily forward and maintains interest, but the results of the battles and the strategies employed are unreliable. The feelings and motivations of some, but not all, of the main characters seem to change almost randomly. It is hard to become invested in the outcome of the battles when there seems to be no permanence or consequence to them.
Maybe the point is that motivations for starting and continuing a war are murky and clouded by personal feelings of those in charge. Or that the outcome of battles and maybe even entire wars is irrelevant and inconsequential. As a story, though, it is ultimately unsatisfying.
The level of the writing and some of the concepts involved make this an interesting read. The holes in the plot and the arbitrariness of some of the outcomes make it less satisfying. 3 stars.(less)