I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the “Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles,” although there are many things about it that I confess I h...moreHot Elf Sex!
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the “Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles,” although there are many things about it that I confess I have issues with. However, the book gave me a lot to think about, and it is capably and effectively written so it’s definitely a series to explore.
Some readers might be put off somewhat by the adult content of this novel. Adult content is not the type of thing that is going to bother me, but I didn’t find the examples that appeared in “Light” to be all that graphic. I was 10 percent of the way through the book before I got to the first sex scene, which was really little more than a moment of standard lovemaking.
However, that scene did put me in a contemplative mood for several reasons. The protagonist of “Light” is a “kept” elf maiden named Dii who also has a talent for magic. The word “kept” is a polite way to say that she’s basically a sex slave to a rich family that doesn’t seem to have much of a problem passing her around amongst themselves or to other people to whom they owe a favor. Amazingly, the sex bondage theme is dealt with pretty lightly, which gives this book a kind of harmlessly voyeuristic quality. I suppose if Dii had been left psychologically and emotionally traumatized by her imprisonment and repeated rape, it would make the scene where she decides to “take a lover of her own choosing” less delightful. As it’s written, Dii has no desire to return to her previous life, but she doesn’t appear to harbor much resentment. Maybe this can be chalked up to the fact that Dii is an elf maiden—not human—and maybe they’re just into that (don’t judge people, c’mon!).
Don’t get me wrong, I like Dii, although she also seems a bit powerful for a woman who was kept as a sex slave. Again, this isn’t bad, I think it’s just a result of “sanitizing” the themes of this book and keeping it as a piece of escapist entertainment. Toni Morrison, for example, would have dealt with this theme differently, and I have no doubt that the final result would have been significantly less fun than “The Light Beyond the Storm” (in fact, I think Morrison’s version would have been unreadable, so Butcher is already ahead on points in my book).
Let me discuss a scene that will give you a better idea of Dii’s personality. Dii is offered a bag of coins from a recent lover. Dii, of course, didn’t have sex with the guy for money, and she considers giving the money back. However, in the end, she decides to keep the coin because, you know, she really is kind of desperate. Now, I had a hard time believing that Dii could afford herself that inner dialogue. I don’t know if writing it that way was an attempt by the author to justify Dii to less mature readers who would have been uncomfortable with her just taking the cash from the start. As far as I’m concerned, somebody who had been through the things Dii had, would DESERVE all the cash she could get her hands on. I also think that she would think she deserved it herself (and the disconnect between what she thinks and what society as a whole thinks—and what potential readers think—would create all kinds of potentially interesting situations for social commentary). Sidestepping this seemed like a bit of a wasted opportunity to me.
Still, Butcher’s choices weave an interesting tapestry. I’m left a little confused as to whether my own interpretations of this novel are a critique of Butcher, society as a whole, men’s vs women’s issues, or my own screwed up perception of things. Any book that get your head spinning in such a delightful way is worth a look in my opinion. I’ll be curious to hear the responses to this review from other readers and, hopefully, the writer as well.
But you can’t respond unless you read it...so get on that people!(less)
"The Sacred Band" is a classic work of heroic fantasy. This novel takes place deep within the establis...moreSword and Sandal Fantasy, Robert E. Howard Style
"The Sacred Band" is a classic work of heroic fantasy. This novel takes place deep within the established rules of Janet Morris's Thieves World, and I like that it doesn't waste any time on throwaway passages designed to "catch up" those readers who are new to the realm. This is a sink or swim type novel, and the reader as well as the characters involved are not the least bit coddled. The result is that you start to acquire a sense of achievement as you piece together all the clues, as if you have earned the right to enjoy this world and become a member of its legions of fans.
The first Thieves World novel is "Beyond Sanctuary," and I believe I might tackle that one now that I've had a taste of Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons. Janet and Chris Morris create a great classic ambiance in "The Sacred Band." I found myself imagining a setting that looked much like Dante's version of Hell decorated and populated with people and artifacts out of Greek Mythology.
The action is instant and non-stop, and the characters are not "squeaky clean" by any stretch of the imagination. For example, early on in the book Tempus takes a troop of new recruits into a brothel and decides to just wait and see "how things play out" when he begins hearing terrifying screams from the room of one of his charges. When the prostitute in question turns up dead a few days later, Tempus embarks on an investigation that is more about maintaining his own autonomy over his group than correcting any wrong. I like the fact that Janet and Chris Morris have the courage to make strong statements on wartime morality, rather than try to push modern society's sometimes hypocritical views of right and wrong into a setting that simply cannot support it (Thieves World deals with individuals who have bigger issues than whether or not the phone store has run out of the 4G portable you've been dreaming about for six months--yes, there was a time when people had REAL issues to deal with people).
The Morris's make some interesting stylistic choices in their writing. Quite a bit of the novel is written in the present tense. At first I found the switches from past to present tense a bit jarring, but after a while I began to enjoy the emphasis on immediacy that the present tense passages provided. The tense shifts help put you in the proper frame of mind to correctly comprehend the more traditionally written text. This is a novel that's happening here and now, and there is a certain sensory overload that the writing creates when you allow yourself to fall into step with it.
Overall, "The Sacred Band" evokes the brutality and lyricism of Robert E. Howard combined with the old school "sword and sandal" movies we all grew up watching. For those of you who aren't quite up for the challenge of swimming in the deep end, you might want to check out "Beyond Sanctuary." For the rest of you, buckle up and prepare to enjoy the ride!(less)
Michelle Davidson Argyle's “Monarch” is a spy thriller with an emphasis on human emotions. The main characte...moreTom Clancy with Less Tech and More Romance
Michelle Davidson Argyle's “Monarch” is a spy thriller with an emphasis on human emotions. The main character, Nick, is a Jack Ryan type spy (of all the Jack Ryan films I think Alec Baldwin would be closest to Argyle's protagonist, not Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck). Nick is the kind of spy who is more familiar with pushing papers than toting weapons, but he's well-versed enough in combat to be able to handle himself should the need arise. Good thing too, because the need arises plenty throughout the course of “Monarch.”
The novel begins with Nick contemplating the body of an assassin he's just killed. He notes that the blood stain beneath the body pools out in the shape of a butterfly's wings. This, along with the title, are the first indications that butterflies are to be important and repeating symbols throughout the novel.
What do the butterflies mean? Well, their thematic importance was to build a kind of ominous sense of impending dread. Much of the action in “Monarch” takes place at a small bed and breakfast run by a woman named Lilian who Nick has a past with. Lilian is concerned about the fate of the Monarch butterflies that are one of the main reasons tourists come to visit her establishment. The association of butterflies and extinction/death becomes underscored when wings “that resemble that of a butterfly” start showing up in a repeating tattoo.
I enjoyed the pace and the action of this novel. There are several characters that are interesting and fully developed, and they're all dealing with various traumas of greater and lesser complexity. The spy plot lines and the dysfunctional family plot lines intertwine and collide in an explosive conclusion. I would have liked to spend a bit more time with some of the marginal characters, but then again, sometimes you find characters interesting because of the mystery.
There's plenty of mystery, action, and romance in “Monarch” to keep every reader entertained.(less)
I just finished reading “Legends Reborn (The Light of Epertase Book One)” on my new Kindle and my three word response to this book i...moreOld School Fantasy
I just finished reading “Legends Reborn (The Light of Epertase Book One)” on my new Kindle and my three word response to this book is simple: Old School Fantasy. Douglas Brown gives us a straight action story with clear-cut villains and noble heroes. It's a little bit “Conan the Barbarian” a little bit “Game of Thrones” and there's even a touch of “The Road Warrior” for those of you who are looking for a wrinkle in your fantasy.
The hero is an honorable warrior named Rasi who is pushed nearly to the brink of insanity by the horrors that befall him. On some of the youtube interviews I've seen with Brown, he seems almost gleeful about the amount of torment to which he subjects his hero.
Rasi is a pretty straight-laced hero and for those of you who are looking for a highly moral protagonist, this is the book for you. As an example, Rasi is the type of character who feels guilty about stealing a horse, even when he's in desperate pursuit of an abducted princess (who he also happens to be romantically involved with).
Early in the book, Rasi is bonded with several self-aware tentacles (he refers to them as “straps”) that make him resemble Dr. Octopus. I was actually left curious as to what these tentacles are and if there are any more of them in Epertase, but I guess I'll have to wait for those answers in the second volume of Light of Epertase since Rasi is kept too busy to contemplate it in book one.
“Legends Reborn” follows Rasi's fall from revered hero to disfigured outlaw, while an invasion from a hostile, technological society allows him a shot at redemption. I also enjoyed the world building of Epertase, especially the “Lowlands” society that is based on a kind of “Brave New World” mind control.
The pace is set firmly at breakneck speed throughout the novel, so much though that at times I would have liked Brown to slow things down and give a few more details. However, I came to appreciate the “cushion” distance the author gives us from the action, since some of the events are so traumatic that they wouldn't be at all enjoyable if seen from a front row seat. Perhaps you could compare the narrative style to something like “The Call of the Wild,” although “Legends Reborn” is a bit more complex.
“Legends Reborn” is a tough novel from a new author that knows classic, barbarian style fantasy. You'll be intrigued by what's included and left yearning for more!(less)
I've just finished reading this book with an old college professor. I made him read "Dirk" after he made me read "The Man Who Was Thursday." The funny...moreI've just finished reading this book with an old college professor. I made him read "Dirk" after he made me read "The Man Who Was Thursday." The funny thing is that "Thursday" is clearly one of those "accepted" texts that college professors feel comfortable about reading. "Dirk" on the other hand, is the kind of thing you read because it's entertaining...but it's secretly about twice as profound as all that canonized garbage.
"Dirk" follows the conventions of the detective story, but only so that it can joyfully break them when you're least expecting it. About the first half of this book seems completely baffling...but starting from about chapter 20, this book turns completely sublime and from that point on it's one of the best books out there.
"Dirk" is a largely overlooked work by Douglas Adams who is more famous for his "Hitchhiker's" series. "Hitchhiker's" is more of a steady line of jokes (although the later books get a little more profound), but "Dirk" is a departure in that plot becomes VERY important to Adams (although he doesn't like to admit it).
He really plays some mean slight of hand author tricks that only somebody who's already written a cult classic can even think of getting away with. For example, there's a conversation early in the book in which a character states two questions and then states the answers to the questions are yes, no, and maybe. However, it's written so you don't really notice that he only states two questions instead of three. When I read it, I was baffled that the editors could overlook such an easy mistake. But then later in the book, another character notices this oversight...but he just says it in passing (and the explanation gets made in passing as well), so you really have to be on your toes.
Oddly, this book almost reminded me of the 11th hour by Graeme Base (which is also an odd mystery). The ending to "Dirk" is hilarious, and you have to be familiar with "Kubla Khan" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Coleridge to make any sense of it (and even then it doesn't make a lot of sense.
If you're of the literary persuasion, you'll find a lot to enjoy in this book. I used to carry a copy of this around with me wherever I went just because I think it's delightfully weird.(less)