Like many who own a Kindle, I have been known to download a lot of books with no interest in reading them because they are free. You know, just in casLike many who own a Kindle, I have been known to download a lot of books with no interest in reading them because they are free. You know, just in case. When searching through a forum I grabbed this one despite, or maybe because, the author was quite obviously sock-puppeting (shut up Microsoft, it is a word!) to push his self-published book. Stuck in town; and with nothing but my phone’s Kindle app handy, I fired it up and gave it a fair go. I made it half way.
The author has some basic story teller abilities. While very trite, the quality of the ideas behind this book would hold up as a simplistic, by-the-numbers young adult book. After all, this is not the first author to use the farm boy who takes on his destiny trope. There was even an early scene involving a predator leaping right into a time-status field that was pretty intriguing.
But without some serious work the book will appeal to almost nobody. A recap of the beginning is in order. Orphaned shepherd Zam meets mysterious man, who passes on A QUEST then disappears while Zam’s head is turned. He is then freed from his masters service by the master’s son, because the son had a dream and knows he should have been nicer the young shepherd. Zam heads north, with no knowledge of what his quest really is. He enters a town where he actual mentions to the first person he meets that he is on A QUEST. After one day of archery practice(because he knows nothing about archery or sword work) he decides to take on a dragon. Guess if he succeeds, I will wait.
The simplistic plot is problematic, but not the real issue. I would have continued reading if the plot was simple but decently written. But the dialog was terrible. The main character spoke to himself, out loud, in completely unbelievable ways. Example, on his way to save yet another damsel in distress he is saved from one predator by another. His first thought? “Were it not for that bird, I would be dead now, and Raine would never be rescued.” No time for a “whew,” our Gary Stu Good Boy only thinks of others.
Every single character had ESP or something like it as well. Almost no conversation between characters didn’t involve them ‘just knowing’ some important detail about the future or the past. A young girl KNOWS Zam is going to save her later, Zam paints a families lost daughter while trying to paint her mother, and old man can JUST TELL that Zam is trustworthy when first meeting him. I could keep listing examples.
Lastly, this paragraph… will be written… as every paragraph in the entire book was… that is with excess… punctuation.. and pauses for effect.
Wrote more than I meant to for a DNF, but that is because there was enough there to prove the author could have something here. As I said, with a lot of reworking the plot would make a good, easy read YA book. But as is, it was not ready for release.
If I were a more humorous writer I would make an incredibly witty joke about how excited I was to read a new DiscwoFirst posted at Fantasy Review Barn
If I were a more humorous writer I would make an incredibly witty joke about how excited I was to read a new Discworld book when I picked up 'Thraxas.' Unfortunately I don’t have anything witty lined up, so I will just move on with the review.
Martin Scott is the pen name for Martin Millar, whose works I have enjoyed for quite a while. This book is not unknown; it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2000. But at least for me, it proved to be hard to find until recently released in E-book format. I was immediately struck by two things; it was very short, and the aforementioned similarities to Discworld.
Much like Discworld the author takes a trope filled world and bends it slightly. So Thraxas is a private investigator in the city of Turai, a typical fantasy city with all the trappings; criminal guilds, magicians, even a dragon in the zoo. He is an overweight man, but well aware of it. He is also a surprising man, still fearsome in a fight and a competent PI. His major failings are being a bad gambler and a mediocre sorcerer, he can only memorize one major spell at a time (something Pratchett played with early in Discworld and abandoned). He never turns into the bumbling idiot played for amusement. His best friend and sometimes body guard is a pretty bikini chainmail wearing girl with orc, elven, and human heritage named Makri. Of course she wears the bikini chainmail because the bar she works at has a barbarian theme, she wouldn’t be caught dead in it in an actual fight(where she would prefer full body leather armor). One would expect her to be a possible love interest for our hero Thraxas, but no, she is much more interested in her studies at the university and involvement in a guild for women’s advancement.
The plot is a fairly interesting mystery tale, with Traxas taking on multiple cases in order to gain enough money to pay off a gambling debt. Along the way he runs into rogue magicians, top assassins, a princess, and lots of dope dealers. He pieces together the puzzle, has some adventures, fights a nasty dragon, and runs into an old adversary is a lot tougher than he remembers. Nothing revolutionary, the author sticks with all the fantasy basics. This doesn’t affect the book negatively at all, it actually keeps the book moving quickly, no info dumps needed.
The book is incredibly short and moves very quickly. Compared to later works like ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl’ it is downright simple. But the short story is entertaining, the humor is subtle, and I hope the next EIGHT books in the series are just as good.
4 stars. Nothing revolutionary, but highly enjoyable.
Side note: Despite the Pratchett comparisons I made, the book is even more accessible than Discworld, and the humor is more subtle. So please don't think the author was aping Pratchett, his writing style has a unique voice....more
Update 10/4/13- I received a copy of the now traditionally published version from NetGalley. At the 40% mark I realFirst posted at Fantasy Review Barn
Update 10/4/13- I received a copy of the now traditionally published version from NetGalley. At the 40% mark I realized I had no desire to reread the whole book. I checked my book marks from the old version and skipped around the new and didn't find any major differences. All the previous complaints were still there, as well as the things I liked the first time around. Therefore my review from December (seen below) still stands. (If my review includes details that have in fact been changed I will gladly change it. New cover, same book as far as I can tell. -------------------------------------------------------------------- ‘A Dance of Cloaks’ takes place in a world where it appears well over a third of the population are trained as assassins, or are rich enough to afford them. Also it would seem that every women is beautiful , though professions are limited to hot ninja assassin(breathtaking beauty a must) or prostitute. Readers of ‘A Dance of Cloaks’ can expect more redheads than seem humanly possible, rapes and threats of rapes, and a murder rate that puts other GRIMDARK authors to shame. In the first chapter alone we have an eight year old killing his older brother and a father throwing his daughter into a cold dungeon. If one wants to know the gist of the review without reading it, no, I would not recommend this book to too many people, unless said people really, really like assassins.
And it is a real shame, the book has some potential. Taking place within one large city, there is a type of class war brewing. The Trifect, an alliance of the three richest men of the land are in practice ruling the city. Standing against them are large gangs of thieves that are being united by Thren Felhorn, the most feared criminal and leader of the largest gang. There is also a king who seems to have some power, but conveniently not enough to affect the first two groups, and a religious divide in which both sides want to influence but officially stay neutral. When dealing with the scheming, counter scheming, leads and false leads, and espionage this book is downright interesting. Anytime a character seems to have the upper hand something shifts. Thren is built up as something almost invincible for a while, but even he shows flaws. His son Aaron is an interesting character, though is personality conveniently fits whatever the author wants him to be at the moment, there is some inconsistency in his actions. I also felt the book had a stronger than average conclusion, I was surprised by how non-cliched it was in comparison to much of the book.
There was just so much in this book that didn’t work. As much as the class war interested me, it didn’t pass the logic test. The criminal guilds seemed to subsist solely on their thieving, which not only supported them but made them major powers. There were some illusions to protection schemes in the mix, but no major prohibited substances that typically are the base of criminal organizations power base. Just lots of fear and killing. Not only were these ‘guilds’ stocked with vicious killers, every one of the killers was unbelievable deadly. Thrown knifes never missed, usually put right in the throat or eye. If one of these killers was a female, she was assuredly described as a beauty, with the worst offenders being the faceless, who were more ninja from a video game than half-way realistic characters.
The book took a line from the Terry Goodkind guide of bad-guys, with rape being the main threat used on female characters. An early scene in which a young heiress is about to endure her horror actually has her thinking about how she was going to change her life when she got a chance, not the attack at hand. Toward the end of the book the narrative is still focused on her mistakes leading up to being kidnapped and attacked.
My last minor issue was with a drifting POV. If as a reader I have spent a page following a character and knowing only their thoughts, it is problematic when for one paragraph I get thought bubbles from a second character, only to switch right back to the focus character. It didn’t happen often, but I always noticed it.
2.5 stars. Really not much of an outing, but the strength of the conclusion(and the fact that all three books of the trilogy were packaged together on my kindle) means I may give the second book a try sometime....more
Let’s start with a protagonist who is a cranky, elderly woman who no one much likes, Granny Weatherwax. Give hePart 6 in The Complete Discworld Reread
Let’s start with a protagonist who is a cranky, elderly woman who no one much likes, Granny Weatherwax. Give her a best friend, an overweight elderly lady with absolutely no personal inhibitions, one Nanny Ogg. Need a beautiful young lady to grab the reader’s attention? Too bad, you get shy, plain Magrat, third of the witches of Lancre. It is a fantasy novel so perhaps we need a strapping young man with a destiny? Nope, we get a lonely, miserable, court jester. Add all this together and you get one of my favorite books of all time.
While the book is something of a parody, or perhaps homage, of ‘Hamlet,” I will admit I had not read the play the first time I read it and felt that I missed nothing. Bad things are happening in Lancre, and a baby ends up in the care of Granny Weatherwax and her coven of three. When henchmen demand they hand the child over, Granny refuses on general principle. Sending this mysterious child of destiny off with a traveling group of thespians, the witches think their part is done. Unfortunately, the new king of Lancre (formally the Duke of Lancre, and who was defiantly NOT THERE when the old king died) sees the witches as being in the way of his plans for the kingdom.
How a book so short and easy to read can weave so many plot lines is beyond me. The fool’s courtship of Magrat is a study of sweet buy awkward love. The new king Felmont has to deal with both his conscience and his wife’s lack of one. One poor dwarf has to deal with a constant stream of inspiration. And Granny has to decide the best way to keep from using her power, lest her power take control of everything.
Pratchett is at his best when he keeps the humor subtle. This book is one of the shining examples. Felmont’s attempts to ‘get the blood of his hands’ are constantly amusing. When Nanny gets captured everyone is worried something terrible will happen, yet no one seems much concerned about Nanny herself. The fool’s courtship of Magrat, and Magrat’s complete lack of knowledge on how to handle it are some of the books best moments. There are a few easy Shakespeare references, but there is also a complete destruction of a play that is flat out hilarious.
And when it comes to characters the Witches of Lancre are some of the best around. Granny Weatherwax is my favorite character in fantasy. The hidden power in her could overwhelm, but her control on when to use it is a constant struggle that is great to watch. Nanny Ogg is often played for comic relief, but her strength often comes from people underestimating her because of that. Magrat is shy, awkward, and never taken seriously by anyone, but is always resourceful when it counts, even if nobody ever notices.
Favorite moments? Playing I-spy while interned in a dungeon, Death getting stage fright, trying figure out just where Thespia is, poor old ladies just-gathering-wood-thank-you-very-much-do-you-want-directions or not? Oh, and a poor guard deciding that he is supposed to keep witches out, not apple sellers, nobody said anything about apple sellers.
‘Wyrd Sisters’ isn’t going to change your life. There is nothing inherently deep about it, nor does it do anything truly original. But it is one of the best examples of mixing humor with a story line around, and remains one of my favorite books ever through yet another re-read.
5 stars. Best book of the Pratchett re-read yet. ...more
Though I will try to avoid it, this review may contain spoilers from the first two books of the series.
Last in the ‘Stormlords Trilogy’, this book contains no lapse in time from the second outing. Terelle is still being forced back to her homeland by her grandfather’s magic. Ryka and Kaneth are working with the Redrunner Vera to build an opposition to Revard’s army in the dunes. And Jasper has things seemingly under control, with plenty of Terelle’s paintings to keep the area supplied with water while she goes to her homeland.
Jasper has turned into a very interesting character. He has developed a hard edge that fits his experiences, without turning nasty or mean. He is comfortable in his position as perhaps the most powerful man in the land, but does exploit it. For the most part his storyline is the best part of the book. Of course he has his hand in everything, it is now his job. Terelle continues to learn both her strengths and limits, as well as deal with her very complicated relationship with Jasper (which thankfully does not involve any silly love triangles, despite the presence of another woman). The limits are especially important, as her painting was starting to be a fix-all in the second book. I found myself utterly bored with Ryka and Kaneth’s storyline, and was highly disappointed by how minor of a character Vera ended up being through this story, after a very promising start.
The strengths of this trilogy continue in this book. The ecosystems, religions, and cultural interactions are very interesting. We continue to see diverse religions, with a bonus of never learning which, if any, is the correct one. I am still in love with the relationships the people have with their Pedes, and the importance of them. While I may be a bit disappointed in how much we don’t know about ziggers, the threat they provide is very interesting.
Pacing is always important to me, and this book once again was a breeze to get through. A couple chapters with each character, with less gimmicky cliff hangers that most authors like to use, most often we leave a character at a fairly natural breaking point. Trilogies often give us third books that are either rushed or 100 pages to long in order to get all the separate plot lines wrapped. Larke managed to avoid this fairly well. Despite some brutal scenes, this trilogy was never super dark, and the ending managed to be realistic without being depressing.
The book wasn’t perfect though. I thought Taquar was a stock villain in book 2, but he is nothing compared to a character in this book. Without spoilers it can be said the character’s whole being is evil; seen in the way he treats Terelle, his wife, and his youngest child. Senya likewise has gone right over to unbelievably evil. I like depth to my characters, and they provided none. I already mentioned my dislike of Kaneth’s chapters, which did nothing for me, and for the way Vera was handled.
But perhaps my biggest issue with the book was all the little things that happened way to conveniently. Terelle reaches her homeland, and literally the first people she runs into are family members who are part of the ruling family. Water is the most important thing in the dunes, forcing a nomadic lifestyle, but suddenly there is a place where Redrunners can camp indefinitely because it doesn’t run out of water. Building a rope to get out of a tower, not exactly original, no one checks the room? Perhaps most importantly, the Alabaster people are so good at being secretive that despite trading across the whole land, it is never slipped that there is a land full of people who have water powers near this waterless setting we have spent 3 books on.
3 1/2 stars. I know, this is a lot of complaints for a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had weaknesses that rank right up with my biggest peeves, which knocked down its rating, but it still provided me with a LOT of enjoyment.
I need to collect my thoughts on the series as a whole, and will provide a review for it shortly. Once I do I will tag it to the end of this review....more
While I try to keep them at a minimum, this review may contain some spoilers to ‘Prince of Thorns.’
What a difference fifty pages makeFirst posted here
While I try to keep them at a minimum, this review may contain some spoilers to ‘Prince of Thorns.’
What a difference fifty pages makes. I had almost put the sequel to ‘Prince of Thorn’ down as a DNF, a slow start that just didn’t grab me up to a hundred pages in. I decided to give it another fifty pages, and was rewarded for my patience. But first a little background.
‘Prince of Thorns’ was a worthy debut novel, a book I called “a tight and focused sprint to the finish.” It was the story of Jorg, a true villain (not an anti-hero, an actual villain) telling his incredibly dark and nasty story. Set in a post-apocalypse Europe, it dealt with revenge and ascension in a land broken into hundreds of small kingdoms. Any recommendation of the book had to come with some warnings though. It was the poster child of GRIMDARK, with all the trappings one would expect. Being seen all through the eyes of Jorg, it included casual murder, rape without consequence, and even a small holocaust. While I keep a watch out for these things, and point them out, it was still a read that had me wishing to continue the story.
Which leads to why I had so many issues with the first third of ‘King of Thorns.’ The quick pace of the first book is gone, replaced by unexplained questing around the world. In addition, the new Jorg is given a much more human face that doesn’t really mesh with the villain from the first book. When he gives a valuable pre-apocalypse toy to a sick child I am not overcome with emotion on the grand gesture, but rather laughing at the abrupt change in character. And while magic crept into the narrative the first time around, in ‘King of Thorns’ it was a constant companion.
The book was divided four ways; present day, four years ago, a long dream/memory Jorg is keeping in a box, and a memoir from Katherine, a character from the first book. Katherine’s plotline truly added nothing, unless it is important for the third book I am disappointed by how much space it took to cumulate into nothing. The memory box started off unexplained but eventually became an effective tool, allowing Jorg to keep the reader surprised with sudden bursts of knowledge. The strength of the book came when the plotlines from the present day Jorg started meshing with the plotlines from 4 years past. Suddenly the annoying travelogue has some purpose, and the book got to moving with the same pace that made the first book so compelling.
As long as a reader can separate new anti-hero Jorg from the first books villain, new Jorg is a pleasure to read about. He is still a fairly ruthless man, but he does have some hints of compassion now, especially to longtime companions. He starts to show himself as an almost genius tactician (perhaps a bit Gary Stu, but that carries over from the first book). His long range battle plans were some of my favorite parts. While this is the story of Jorg, a few of the other characters are pretty interesting as well. The Prince of Arrow acts as the main competition to Jorg (though it is hard to call him the book’s villain). He is smart, ruthless when he needs to be, and compassionate when he can be. Jorg’s young wife also is a highlight (assuming you bought into a 14 year old Jorg in the first book, you should have no problem with her talents compared to her age).
Past the first quarter or so the pacing of the book was a real plus. Like the first book, it turned into a sprint in a good way, with a few exceptions. Language and imagery were both strong. An early scene involving a young Jorg’s dog was as brutal and hard to read as I have seen in dark fiction. While the traveling slowed down the first section, Lawrence did a great job at bringing it all together near the end. And for the most part, reference to “the builders” were clever, such as learning that an old parking garage is one of the fortresses Jorg visits.
A few other squabbles, what knowledge survived the unnamed tragedy that set the world back to feudal times is often too convenient. Knowledge of steel folding and gunpowder is gone, but Mayan sports are remembered? A character who says “watch me!” repeatedly seems to be a cheap trick to give him a memorable quirk.
I think the strengths of this book far outweigh my squabbles. In many ways it is stronger than the first. Jorg himself is certainly better rounded, my only problem was the abrupt shift of character. I can and will forgive the slow pace of the first part, it certainly lead to an interesting conclusion. I can’t overlook how incredibly inconsequential Katherine’s chapters were, especially as they got more and more space toward the end. I hope the payoff from them comes in the last book, which is certainly going to be on my to-read list.
3 ½ stars. This book really started to draw me in, and by the mid-point I was hooked....more
A dying wizard passes his staff on to a small child. The child has power much beyond his age, and quickly gains the eFrom the Compete Discworld Reread
A dying wizard passes his staff on to a small child. The child has power much beyond his age, and quickly gains the ears of the most powerful wizards of Unseen University. Problems arise and the fabric of reality is threatened, where things from the dungeon dimensions await entry. I just reviewed this book when it was called ‘Equal Rites’, only this time it was titled ‘Sorcery.’ Perhaps that is unfair, there is plenty about ‘Sorcery’ that stands out on its own, but Pratchett clearly borrowed a lot of ideas from his first few books and recycled a lot of them here.
In ‘Sorcery’ we learn why wizards are supposed to stay chaste. Coin is the eighth son of a wizard, which makes him a sorcerer. While a wizard can use magic, a sorcerer IS magic, and really has no limit. Guided, or controlled, by his dead father who escaped death by transferring his essence to Coin’s staff, the young sorcerer takes over the Unseen Univeristy and shows the wizards how they can rule the world. Rincewind, everyone’s favorite inept wizard, sees early signs of trouble and does what he does best, starts running. Along with luggage his flight leads him to the world’s richest man, a dangerous hairdresser, and a man learning to be a fierce barbarian from a book. Of course eventually he has to help save the world, but that seems to be Rincewind’s cross to bear.
There is nothing inherently bad in this book, but it certainly isn’t one of Pratchett’s best. The entire storyline is logical and well crafted, characters act as a reader would come to expect them to, and there is always a good amount of wit and laughs. Coin is an intriguing character; he genuinely seems lost in his powers, a young boy who wants to both please his father and do something right. Rincewind is still amusing, and his luggage doubly so, especially when they fall for the same girl(long story). It is also interesting to see a hat used in place of the more typical magical weaponry.
My largest gripe is just how much of this book covers ground that has already been covered. Creatures from the dungeon dimensions trying to get in are understandable; they are a constant threat to Discworld throughout the series, the closest the series has to a recurring villain. But reusing the semi-possessed staff seems lazy. The unconventional barbarian was used in ‘The Light Fantastic,’ and here it is brought back twice. Even the ending is very reminiscent to Equal Rites, only with different characters. My only other gripe is that very few characters ended up mattering to the story, Coin and Rincewind do everything of importance.
3 stars. Still entertaining, but not the strongest of the series by any means.
(view spoiler)[Not really much to add to this book. I can see why it didn’t stick with me, it was too reminiscent of the other books. All the Rincewind books start to follow the same trappings, which I would guess is why I seldom see them listed as peoples’ favorites.
Rincewind did end this one trapped in the dungeon Dimensions, but at least luggage went in after him. I am not sure there were any major recurring characters that show in this book, if there were I didn’t catch them.
All in all, I am glad this one is out of the way, and one of my favorites is next on the list. (hide spoiler)] ...more
Though I will try to avoid it, this review may contain minor spoilers from ‘The Half-Made World.’
‘The Half-Made World’ was one of theFirst posted here
Though I will try to avoid it, this review may contain minor spoilers from ‘The Half-Made World.’
‘The Half-Made World’ was one of the best books I read last year. Almost impossible to put in a category, it mixed the fantasy and western genres almost perfectly, with a touch of steampunk. Gilman did so many things right in that novel, but ended it almost abruptly, leaving fans like me desperately hoping for a sequel. Obviously we got one, but perhaps not the one we hoped for. Rather than follow the main characters from ‘Half-Made World’, Liv and Creedmoor, the ‘Rise of Ransom City’ is the story of one man, the Professor Harry Ransom. Do we get a resolution from ‘Half-Made World’? Kind of, but perhaps not the one readers were looking for. It didn’t end up mattering to me though, as ‘The Rise of Ransom City’ is another great book, and fans should not be disappointed.
‘The Half-Made World’ was about a pseudo American West that was still fuzzy around the edges, almost as if an artist was drawing it from the inside out. It followed Liv out west as she searched for a man who held the secret of a great weapon in his head(though an injury left him without memory of anything at all). The weapon was thought to be able to finally take down the two supernatural entities that are warring over the new lands. One is The Line, intelligent train engines who run an almost hive mind society, the ultimate of an industrial dystopia(hasn't this term been around long enough for a spellchecker to recognize it?). The Second is The Gun, larger than life outlaw figures under a pseudo-control of individual daemons. The book ended without the characters ever really finding out if the weapon was workable or not.
While it’s predecessor followed three main characters, ‘The Rise of Ransom City’ is an edited memoir written by Harry Ransom himself. This is a man who several times changed the history of the land, at least according to himself. The ‘creator’ of the Ransom Process, his memoirs show his rise and fall while he tries to bring his process to the world. Along the way he runs into Liv and Creedmoor(an agent of The Gun in the first outing), tying the book nicely to HMW without actually following the same characters. The voice of Harry Ransom is a treat. A completely unreliable narrator, he also isn’t much of a writer. Often times details are given out of order, he talks about things he is sure he has pointed out before, and has to backtrack to give details. Gilman had to have had a blast writing this, I can picture him giggling madly as he tosses in a double negative, because it would be completely natural for his character. Because the entire story is coming from Ransom, some scenes have sketchier details than others, and some are nothing more than assumptions that Ransom makes. Though he tries to point out when he is only guessing at conversations, it gives the reader knowledge that nothing he says can ever be taken purely at face value. Readers will also never know what kind of details they are going to get. Some very important events will be glossed over quickly, some minor characters will get pages written about them. This would have driven me crazy if written from the third person, but feels natural coming from a memoir.
Ransom’s story is quite an interesting one. From his early childhood that influences his feelings on The Line, to his traveling days, to his ascension to one of the best known men in the West, his life is never boring. Like all larger than life figures, sometimes he is in the middle of important events, even in control of them. Other times he is a bit player in them who gets too much credit(or blame). And sometimes, he is nowhere near the events he has attributed to him. It all feels very authentic, as many larger than life personalities of the Old West were a product of dime novels more than their actual deeds.
Plotting is harder to rate in this one. Much of it reads as a travel memoir, as Ransom describes places and people he meets along the way(even two horses get part of a chapter). Ransom and his assistant Mr. Caver try to sell this new process(and I am being intentionally vague about what the process is, because the author keeps it that way). Eventually a major event comes along, in which Ransom learns a little more about what his Process is capable of, but even that doesn’t escalate the tension. Instead the pacing stays slow and steady. I don’t want to imply that nothing happens, because there are some exciting confrontations with various enemies from The Line and The Gun. But Ransom’s writing style is such that they are sometimes highlighted and sometimes dealt with briefly. I personally felt the pace of the plot fit the writing style perfectly, but if someone hears ‘western’ and goes looking for a shoot-em-up, they will be disappointed.
Being the story of Ransom, who was a great character, there is less to say about secondary characters in this one. His assistant Mr Carver is present for much of the book, but never really picks up a personality (other than strong and silent). Liv and Creedmoor show up from the first book, and while events in this one give some closure to the first outing, nothing really new is learned about them. Rival/Possible love interest Adela could be interesting, but we learn what Ransom knows about her is as unreliable as what we learn about him. It all worked for me though, showing that to Ransom, his story is the one that needs to be told.
The story ends in many ways like the first, with most of the plot lines tied up, but with one major thread left completely open. And like the first, it is open in a way that could show up in a future book, or could leave the reader forever unaware of how things really end.
Another great book from Gilman, and I do hope for another book in this world. Personally the best part was Ransom's voice, and I liked it so much I could overlook the slower pacing.
Third, and currently last, in the series, Master of the House of Darts once again follows Acatl as he investigates threats to the empFirst posted here
Third, and currently last, in the series, Master of the House of Darts once again follows Acatl as he investigates threats to the empire, and the mortal world itself. A quick recap for those unfamiliar with the series. Acatl is the High Priest for the Dead, who in his duties of ushering the dead to his master also does his best to keep people from messing with the boundaries that protect the world. Magic is real, gods are accessible (on their own terms of coarse), and blood fuels many things. Told in the first person, the book follows Acatl in his investigations.
Building off events of the second book, we learn that the coronation war for the new Reverend Speaker Tizoc-tzin was a disaster, not bringing in near enough captives for sacrifice. The Reverend Speaker is a weak, paranoid man, yet his coronation necessary to keep the boundaries safe. Thus matters are made worse during the celebration, when one of the captives falls to a illness. Tizoc-tzin sees it as a slight at best, a plot at worst, and Acatl is called in to investigate. He once again face hostile witnesses, political infighting, and magical enemies. Worst of all, some of the blame for the sickness may fall in his own lap.
Personally, I found this to be the best book of a very good series. The same positives from the first two books are still present, a very easy to read writing style(easy to read but not simple or dumbed down), a quick pace, and some incredible world building, incredible accessibility despite the lesser know pantheon and names. Even though the second book dealt with a possible end to the world, Master of the House of Darts took a similar fate and did it better. Perhaps this was because in many ways it felt more like a fantasy book than a mystery book, which lends itself better to the "save the world" type story. The magic felt more organic here, it was never used as a crutch, or perhaps it was just better explained. There was a bit less traveling this time around, which also led to a tighter story. The ending involved several confrontations that were tense and believable, including some between people who are supposed to be allies
Perhaps it is because I am more familiar with the characters three books in, but I felt several were seen at their best in this book. Acatl continues to build on his improvements from the second book, and is now more secure with his place than ever. Which is good, because as usual he is surrounded by people who are only friends if it helps their own cause. Nezahaul-tzin is back from the second book, still infuriating Acatl, but still helping in small ways. I have grown to enjoy any chapters with Acamapichtli, one time enemy of Acatl, whose master of political manners are in direct contrast to Acatl, who finds the politicizing to be the worst part of his job. Mihmatini, Acatl's sister, has a larger presence in this book, and makes the most of it. She is one of the most resourceful characters in the book.
The book is at its' weakest when it is following conventions of the mystery genre. Constant dead ends in the investigation have started to get repetitive after three books. The "cryptic message" trope is also overused. Is there any reason that not one person cooperates fully with Acatl? Especially those innocent of wrong doing? But as this book is more focused on the weakening of the boundaries, this is a minor squabble at most.
There was also one plot point that seemed to rely on knowledge that I am not privy too. It was brought up that Acatl's order was forced to expel many of the female followers, making it currently an all male priesthood. I know there were several short stories published before the novels, and wonder if the details are are in one of them.
"Obviously we shouldn't get married, if only for the sake of the children." Ysabell to Mort, after a friendly rouPart 4 of The Compete Discworld Reread
"Obviously we shouldn't get married, if only for the sake of the children." Ysabell to Mort, after a friendly round of insults.
Mort is a bit of a dreamer, which isn't the best thing for a farmer's son to be. Knowing that something different is needed for his son, good ol' dad takes Mort to town and tries to line up an apprenticeship up for him. While most of the professions go after the other boys in town, it turns out that Death has an opening. The actual Death, he who escorts souls after death, wears the black robe, and TALKS LIKE THIS.
At the start of the internship Mort learns several things. One is Death doesn't have to be present at every death, only a few to keep the world running right. A second is that he uses a live horse, because the skeleton of a horse is impractical. But the strangest of all is that Death lives with an elderly butler and has a daughter named Ysabell.
After the intro the story basically splits into two major story lines. The main line is Mort, who is given complete control of Death's duties after a while, and mucks it up almost immediately by interfering with what was supposed to happen, then mucks it up a bit more by trying to stop the world from correcting his mistake. The secondary line follows Death himself, as he uses his new free time to try to understand humanity a little better, usually played for laughs as we watch the reaper man go fishing, get drunk, and get a job.
As most of the "Death finding himself" subplot is played strait for laughs, this is understandable the funniest book in the series so far. Despite that Pratchett once again weaves a very smart and quick paced plot in Mort's main storyline. The world is trying to correct itself, Mort is growing more comfortable in his job as Death, and Ysabell proves to be more than a silly girl. Oh, and there is a wizard and a princess that figure into the story as well.
Tropes attacked by Pratchett this time around are almost any about the personification of Death, the importance of love at first site, and the meekness of butlers.
If a reader started the series with Equal Rites they may find themselves disappointed by the lack of depth this book has comparably. Specifically Deaths side journey could be seen as some as nothing but humorous filler, as it adds little to the overall plot. Readers who have started at the beginning may note that Death has changed dramatically from his first appearance without much explanation. A forgiving reader would say there could be a time difference, but the Death who killed in anger during 'The Color of Magic' doesn't really jive with a Death who adopts a young girl and cares for her.
But for fans this book joins 'Equal Rites' as an early highlight. While not as strong as that outing, I am giving it the same score based on the strength of the laughs.
*Possible Spoilers Below*
(view spoiler)[ Ok, so this was one of the books I really wondered about when I started this re-read. I originally didn't enjoy it, and as far as I know this is the first time I have reread it. Looking back, I am not sure why I had a problem with it. I had a memory of Ysabell being annoying, but she wasn't. She was trapped in her circumstances but quite resourceful and a much better character than I remember. As stated above, it was surely the funniest book of the series so far, with Pratchett's famous footnotes really making a larger appearance for the first time(before only one or two showed per book). The interactions between Mort and Ysabell were great, and were almost eclipsed by the interactions between the princess and the wizard.
Both the Princess Kelirehenna and Ysabell were strong characters. When Ysabell reveals that she has the knowledge Mort needs, she is asked if she can help. She lets them know that in this case, no, they can help her. When the Princess learns she is at the center of a flaw in the world, she is the one who looks for solutions to the problem.
Pratchett obviously loved the themes he started her, as this is the first of several books involving Death doing some soul searching. As well, this is the first book in which gods being powered by belief is shown, which will of course be very important in small gods.
Rincewind makes a small appearance, as does the Librarian(and I was wrong about Rincewind always being in mortal danger at the end of books, he is safe at the end of this one as well). The rest of the university staff still hasn't been sorted out yet though, in 'Mort' the bursar is one of the most rational wizards.
I am racking my brain to figure out why I disliked this book the first time around, but finding nothing. Great book, and Pratchett is really starting to bring Discworld to life here. (hide spoiler)]...more
'The Inexplicables' is the forth full length entry in the 'Clockwork Century' series, an alternate American history. In this alternatFirst posted here
'The Inexplicables' is the forth full length entry in the 'Clockwork Century' series, an alternate American history. In this alternate world the Civil War has been going for twenty years, with Texas on their own and the south freeing their own slaves to continue the war. In the first book of the series, 'Boneshaker', we learn that a gassy blight was released in Seattle, leading to the requisite steampunk zombies. A wall was set up to keep the blight in, but a lucrative side business has sprung from those who have learned to refine the gas into a highly addictive drug known as 'sap'.
Priest has taken a unique approach to this series, making the world itself the most consistent aspect between books, rather than follow one character or overall story arc. Each book has had a separate main character and taken place in different parts of the country. Each book could probably be read as a stand alone, though several story arcs are slowly coming together in the forth outing. Characters from each of the previous books are present in 'The Inexplicables', with the lead this time being a minor character from 'Boneshaker'. This book also goes back to where the series began, Seattle.
At the beginning of the book Rector is about to be kicked out of the orphanage he has been raised in. With zero work prospects and a nasty sap habit, Rector decides to go through the wall that keeps the blight in old Seattle, knowing a former acquaintance made it through in the past, but thinking him dead. From there he runs into rotters, takes a job from the crime lord who rules, and helps search for something unknown to the residences, something inexplicable.
I did enjoy the book. It was an incredibly quick read, quickly paced and fun. Rector is a nice character, someone who is turning his life around more from the help of others than any sort of will power. Yes, it is whiny and annoying at times, but in a city where everyone looks out for each other he is given time to work through his issues. Rector's friend Zeke has some great tender moments, and the return of the Princess gave the book its most compelling character. The discovery of what the new monsters living in the city are will intrigue some, and make others groan, but I liked it.
Though I enjoyed the book, it was unfortunately the worst in the series so far. While the smaller scale plot lines(no fight for the survival of the world in this series) worked well in the first three books, in 'The Inexplicables' almost nothing of note happened. Rector's mission was too easy and too short. Rector seemed to give up his drug habit easier than I could drop caffeine. The reasoning for Rector thinking he sees a certain character as a ghost is never explained, nor why he stopped seeing said ghost. The big 'battle' was laughable easy for the protagonist, and there was never really a feeling of danger for any character through the whole book. If I was to sum up the overall plot of this book it would be as such; Rector goes around Seattle meeting characters from the first three books. Name drops seemed to be the entire purpose of a full third of the book.
So for fans of the series, there is enough here to keep you interested and hoping the next in the series gets back to the same quality as the second and third books. But I don't foresee this book being listed as many peoples favorite in the series.
Pros: The world these characters live in still has me enthralled and wanting more. So very good relationships develop between a few characters. Some of the separate plot lines from previous books are starting to converge.
Cons: Very little suspense or movement of the story. Not a lot of focus.
Men are wizards and women are witches, and that is the way it is. But when a dying wizard tries to pass his magPart 3 of the Complete Discworld Reread
Men are wizards and women are witches, and that is the way it is. But when a dying wizard tries to pass his magical staff on to a newborn boy, someone should have checked with the midwife on the baby's gender. Now Granny Weatherwax has a problem. She can teach young Esk all about witchcraft, but the raw magic flowing from her is going to need training in wizardry. Sure the rules say only a man can be a wizard, but for Granny, rules are for everyone else to obey.
While the first two books were more about the world than the characters, this outing is much more focused. This is a book about Granny and Esk, the fact it is on Discworld is a side note only. Because of this we learn more about Granny, and what makes her tick, in this book than we learned about Rincewind in two outings. And learning about Granny is well worth it. She is strong, intelligent, and stubborn as ten mules. The contrast in her between the times she has to play to expectations of being a witch(faking fortune reading for example), and when she shows her full power(a shape-shifting wizards duel) are a real highlight.
Esk is a good character as well, though not as strongly fleshed out. While she may be a little too smart for an eight year old, the magic running through her body makes that forgivable. While insanely talented, she makes some very real mistakes. And even though she may act twice her age, the times she shows an eight year old's emotion makes her even more real.
The plot is simple enough, Granny's training of Esk, a short but memorable travel to the big city, and a ending at the university. There is also a possible end of the world plot line. If someone is looking for a detailed and complex plot they best move onward. Though well crafted, there is not much depth.
However if a person is drawn to great characters, this is the best novel of the series yet, and could easily be a starting point if someone wants to skip the more parody oriented 'Color of Magic' and 'Light Fantastic.'
*Possible Spoilers Below*
(view spoiler)[ Granny-fricken-Weatherwax. Easily my favorite character of the series, and she has a strong start here. Already we see her stare work on anyone she puts it against, her strength(and care) in burrowing, and headology. And for all her care not to use magic, we see her use more magic in this book than we will in later outings.
Esk is interesting enough, but pales in comparison to Tiffany in later books. In some ways this feels like an early attempt to write an Aching book. Esk is stubborn, extremely talented, and acts a little older than she should be able to. I know she is brought back in 'I Shall Wear Midnight', but really she was brought back in the first Aching book, just under a different name.
A few things I noticed: The librarian has embraced his orangutang shape, creatures from the dungeon dimensions are so very common in early books, the wizard Simon wasn't that different from Coin in 'Sorcery', the town of Bad Ass is introduced(but name not explained), what happened to Archchancellor Cutangle(who was a good character)?, at this point the thieves and assassins are under one large guild of allied trades, and finally, Granny's interest of Bees is already present.
This book makes me interested to reread both Sorcery and Wee Free Men, to see just how similar areas of the too books really are, or if my memory is playing tricks on me. (hide spoiler)]...more
With truly horrible covers and very little publicity, the first three books of Aaron's series flew completely under my radar for a loFirst posted here
With truly horrible covers and very little publicity, the first three books of Aaron's series flew completely under my radar for a long time. It wasn't until they were put together in an omnibus, The Legend of Eli Monpress, that I discovered this very fun series. Eli Monpress is the greatest thief in the world, and his ultimate goal is to get enough notoriety to have the largest bounty ever placed on his head. He is doing so in a world were every thing has a spirit, with some people having the ability to persuade or control them for their purposes. After a fairly cartoonist first book, the quality in book two went up, followed by a third book that took the story down a much more serious path.
Which leads to The Spirit War, forth book in the series. While the series isn't turning into a dark tale and has kept some whimsy, this book defiantly keeps the more serious tone, with stakes that are higher than ever. The heist plot lines are gone, and while Eli and his crew still have the skills needed to be great thieves, those skills are now needed to save the world.
While Eli is still present, this time the story is more focused on Josef, the swordsman of the group, who is called back home to take his place as Prince of an island nation, surprising his friends in the process. Of course Nico(the third member of the group) and Eli have no choice but to follow along, where they soon find themselves helping prepare for war against the Immortal Empress, ruler of half the world.
This is not a complex book, reading more like an adventure tale. The joy in it come from the three main characters slowly learning a new piece of each others past, enormous clashes between spirits, and the different way's the groups less lawful skills come in handy in each situation. As a continuation of the series I can't recommend this book enough to people who are yearning for fantasy that is fun and less grim than the average series. The ending was the best of the series, even if it ends with a cliff-hanger. With an epic confrontation brewing, the ending would have seemed too simple if Aaron hadn't done so well in showing what a sacrifice was needed to make it happen.
Some small things hold the book back. Intrigue is not a strong point, and the first third of the book suffers from trying to include it. All the politics and betrayals were way too easy to spot, i knew who was going to cause problems almost from the character introduction. And as unique as the "everything has a spirit" angle is, it is often conveniently forgotten to advance the plot.
Pros: Tries to be fun, good banter between characters, a strong ending.
Cons: The spirit angle has constrained the author in some ways, and the politics truly are cliched.
The Great A'Tuin(who is of course a giant turtle on which the world rests) appears to be flying right into a giPart 2 of the Complete Discworld Reread
The Great A'Tuin(who is of course a giant turtle on which the world rests) appears to be flying right into a giant red star(and certain doom), and nobody knows why. A book of eight spells left during the worlds creation may be needed, but one of the spells is lodged in the head of Rincewind, the most inept wizard in the land, who may be falling off the face of the earth.
A direct sequel to the The Color of Magic, this book continues to follow Rincewind and Twoflower around the disc. But while the first book was a loose set of stories held together by the characters, The Light Fantastic acts like a more traditional novel with a single major story line the isn't resolved until the end. Unfortunately for Rincewind that resolution may be the end of the world.
Pratchett really shows he can craft a detailed story around his humor. The greatest strength of the book is that even plot points played for humor at first can have a lasting impact on the story. The pacing is quick and the book is still quite short, but bloat is kept out in unique ways. For instance when Rincewind decides it is time to go home it is done in a couple of pages, but in a way that fits the story rather than rushes it(which I am finding very hard to describe without spoilers). The final showdown is well crafted. The reason for the flight to the red star is completely surprising and a great moment.
The humor has really evolved from the first book. The Color of Magic relied on the easy joke. It would take a trope, then exaggerate it to the point of absurdity. In The Light Fantastic the humor is more intelligent, more subtle, and twists tropes rather than just exaggerate them. A highlight involves a discussion of the practicability of the outfits fantasy artist tend to paint on female warriors, but allowing that disappointed readers can picture her henchmen in leather if necessary.
4 Stars. In almost every way this outing is an improvement over its predecessor.
*Possible Spoilers Below*
(view spoiler)[ While the second in the series, in many ways this feels like the first Discworld novel, and certainly more typical of the rest of the series. When reading CoM i had forgotten just how silly some of it was, and I saw why many have problems recommending it. In TLF Pratchett crafted a much stronger story, and really started showing his strengths.
The land and people of Discworld are starting to show their unique personalities in this book, rather than being typical fantasy tropes. Death loses his malevolence and starts acting like the Discworld Death that is so well loved. Rincewind goes from pure coward to reluctant hero who happens to be a coward. Cohen the Barbarian is introduced, and is the same character that we see in later books. We start to see some names that will crop up later, such as a gnome with a name of Squires and a wizard named Weatherwax, Pratchett likes to recycle names.
As mentioned in the review the humor here is much more typical of what is to come in his better books. TLF doesn't have too many groaners, nor some of the pop culture in Discworld jokes that bogged down several titles. For me Pratchett is at his best in stories like these, a tight plot where humor is in the background, rather than some later books where he tries to be a humorist first and the plot hits a slog of bad puns.
Notable Firsts: Cohan the Barbarian, Ysabell, the name Mort(though it seems to refer to Death himself at this point). This is also the book where Rincewind receives luggage. And I may be proven wrong, but I believe it is the only book of the series where Rincewind is actually home, rather than in another dimension, falling of the world, etc. Something to watch out for I guess. (hide spoiler)]...more
The land of Ile-Rien is under attack by the seemingly invincible Gardier, who use their black airships to destroy, then seemingly disFirst posted here
The land of Ile-Rien is under attack by the seemingly invincible Gardier, who use their black airships to destroy, then seemingly disappear. The Gardier also somehow have the ability to block all the magic the Ile-Rien have for protection, and they also have a magic of their own that destroyed mechanized weapons.
Invincible army, one person holds an object of power, a person may wonder why I even cracked the cover of what seems like a very trite read. I admit at times in the book I wondered the same thing. There is some interesting stuff in this book, and in many ways it pushes beyond the cliches, but I can't say it ever grabbed me.
What worked well in this book? It had some unusual hooks. The main character, Tremaine, is looking for a way to keep herself in danger, a death wish without the desire for people to know it. This keeps her early motivations mysterious(though this plot line is almost completely discarded by the mid point). Both the Ele-Rien and the Gardier are living a technological era where magic is in use everyday, not hidden from the common eye. And there is an early culture clash when it is found the the Gardier hold a staging area in a land with a more "primitive" culture.
For all that almost nothing worked for me. There just wasn't the focus needed to make any thing work, none of the good ideas were really expanded on. Tremaine has a death wish, but it is gone halfway through the book, then explained away at the end. Not transitioned out, just explained away. The interesting first contact plot line is ruined for me by the ease of communication and by just how little difference there really is in the cultures, despite the characters seeming to think otherwise. And the neat mix of technology and magic comes to nothing, as magic rules throughout the entire book. The Gardier are given no depth, they are a faceless evil. The "primitives" are shallow, following the typical book wherein they need to have all their traditions proven to be wrong by a more knowing culture.
The book could not seem to decide what it wanted to be. At times high fantasy, escape story, war story, epic quest, and even a sad attempt at subversive espionage activities. Perhaps if the focus had been on a couple of these items it would have worked better, but none were expanded on enough to catch my interested, making the whole read fairly disjointed.
Lastly, and this is neither good nor bad, this book is definitely the first in a series. There is very little resolution in this book, it is obviously a setup for the future.
And for perhaps the strangest nit-pick I have every had, every male character of note in the book had a name that started with either A, I, or G(mostly G). Gardier, Giliead, Gerard, and Gervas. I am not sure if anyone else reads the way I do, but this caused me to backtrack and figure out which character is which several times.
2 stars. I can see it being of interest for fans who want something different, but for me it tried too many things, and did very few of them very well. ...more
"What is your name?"... "My name is inconsequential." "That's a pretty name." The Color of Magic- Terry Pratchett
Part one of a complete reread of Pratchett's Diskworld series. As such the style will be a little different from other reviews. The "review" portion will be shorter. Following the short review will be my thoughts of the book from a rereading standpoint, on how it holds up to expectations, the evolution of the series, and other musings.
The Color of Magic is the first book of Diskworld, a humor/parody series of fantasy books. This book is set up in four parts, which act almost as four short stories all featuring Rincewind, the worlds most inept wizard. Each section is a direct parody of specific fantasy tropes; the city of assassins and thieves, the barbarian adventure book, and a direct parody of the Pern series, and gods playing games with mortals. Rincewind is stuck "protecting" a man named Twoflower (much against his nature, and abilities), the worlds first tourist, who wants to visit all the fantastic places he has heard of in his boring desk job.
Some may hear the book is a parody and cringe, as many works of parody these days take the easy joke and milk it for cash(I am thinking of a whole line of movies here). If that discribs your thoughts, do not worry. Pratchett shows some skill in making a very interesting story on its own, that happens to gently mock some tropes(not beat you over the head with them, with the exception of some of the Pern references). While fantasy has moved in unique directions, it is interesting how many of the tropes Pratchett is working with are still in play. Because of this the book has aged well, and the humor holds up.
If you like both fantasy and comedy, The Color of Magic is still a very fun, very short read. It should be noted that it ends on a cliff hanger(the only book of the series that does), and The Light Fantastic is required if you want to know the end of the story.
To start with, I was reading Pratchett before i read fantasy in any volume, so I had no idea how much of this first book was a direct parody. It almost reads like Rincewind travels through The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. I see why so many fans tell people not to start with this book if reading the series. It lacks the things that make Diskworld, well, Diskworld. The silly asides are noticeably absent. The depth of characters is no here yet, almost everyone is a caricature. It is too short to be any more than a novelty parody, and while some work well, some were to obvious(putting a ! in the middle of a dragon writers name, for instance).
Huge chunks of lore will change from this book going on the series. Death is almost sadistic, not the business-like entity we grow to love. Wizardry changes dramatically, in The Color of Magic spells are one time use. In later books almost any location can show up in another book, the world is tied together pretty tightly. But almost none of the locations in TCoM are ever seen again.
Pratchett does a great job in later books with his female characters, I would rate Granny among the top characters in fantasy lit. So it is a bit surprising that here he sticks with stock females from fantasy tropes. Four females are present. One is a goddess, two wear very little clothing, and all three mortals are out to do harm to the hero.
This book also starts the tradition of Rincewind being off the world, in another dimension, or just believed dead that continues through all the Rincewind books.
All said, I still enjoyed this read, but it certainly lacks the strengths of later novels. (hide spoiler)] ...more
This is a reread of a favorite, but the first time I have reviewed it.
Describing this book is hard. The underlying plot is a warFirst posted on Blog
This is a reread of a favorite, but the first time I have reviewed it.
Describing this book is hard. The underlying plot is a war of ascendency in an ancient clan of werewolves, set in modern Great Britain. It is not a comedy, but often funny, and completely absurd. Most of the book involves the politicking between two brothers involved in gaining the votes for a new Thane, but the moving parts involved include alcoholic werewolves, fashion obsessed fire elementals, a guild of werewolf hunters, and two college students who get caught up in all of it.
As I am a fan I am going to start the review with reasons a person may not like it, before I move on to all the reasons it is one of my favorites. To start with, my copy has 235 chapters, at 560 pages, do the math. Rapid fire doesn't begin to cover it, not only are chapters short, but the author can use three paragraphs to focus on three characters in three different cities. While the book isn't "silly," many aspects of it are completely absurd. While the pieces fit, Millar isn't Tolkien, and building the back story isn't his focus(at one time why her cloths are gone in werewolf form and back in human form, the title character replies "I don't know"). Lastly, part of the rapid fire pace results in points being hammered repeatedly. You will know that Kalix is lonely, college boy Danial is shy, and various characters are very beautiful, and you will be reminded of the fact often.
But if you can handle the unique style, then you may find a surprisingly great book. While revolving around the title character, Kalix, the cast of characters is huge for the book size. The rapid fire switching of viewpoints keeps the book from every becoming bloated, each chapter advances one(or more) of the many side stories that will eventually bring the main plot together. The shear number of plot lines Millar is pushing is huge, but the most amazing part is as a reader, I never felt lost. I knew what each character was doing, who they were sided with, and I never had to back up to past pages to remind myself of anything. Even more impressive, despite several rereads I have still not found a side plot that wasn't in some way resolved, and almost every named character mentioned in some ways advanced the main plot-line.
Characters were great. While not every character was likable, all were entertaining. Most books have one PoV that readers dread seeing. Perhaps the fact that I never had to spend more than a page at a time with a character had something to do with it, but I truly enjoyed learning what was happening to every major player. The fashion obsessed fire elemental(who looks like a super model and acts like a child) was a particular high light. Moonglow, one of the college students, has a sweetness and kind heart that is infectious. I defy someone to not have sympathy for the other college student, Danial.
The book had the right amount of humor. It is a serious story (bands called Yum Yum Suguary Snacks aside), but i was chuckling throughout. It also has the right amount of violence. Despite a war being fought, there is not lingering on the ins and outs of battles or even particular fights. The set up and aftermath is more important than details of who did what to who.
Lastly, despite leaving enough open for a potential sequel(which eventually came), the book reached a true conclusion. Some may think the final showdown ended abruptly, but there was almost nothing about it that wasn't foreshadowed subtlety throughout the rest the book.
Pros: Well crafted, and the handling of plot-lines is among the best I have seen. Humorous and believable despite the absurdity of some situations.
Cons: Some dialog rings false. Every single character is a true beauty, male and female. Really? Not one unattractive werewolf?
Harbinger of the Storm is the second book in the Obsidian and Blood series, and is an very good continuation of the series. For those unfamiliar, theHarbinger of the Storm is the second book in the Obsidian and Blood series, and is an very good continuation of the series. For those unfamiliar, the series is a historical fantasy set in the Aztec Empire, an empire where magic is everywhere and common, and where the gods have an active part in life. It is also a series of murder mystery, but with magic. Like the first book, the story is told in first person from the point of view of Acatl, the High Priest of the Dead. Where the first book was at its core a murder mystery, the second book ups the stakes to the fate of the world itself.
Like the first book this novel is surprisingly accessible. My knowledge of Aztec mythology is minimal, yet I never lost track of the deities or their corresponding priests. The author is very good at dropping just enough information to keep you from getting lost, without ever slowing the story down with it. Pacing is important to me, and this is another strength. Acatl starts off investigating a grisly murder, and quickly gets involved in something much larger. Escalating amounts of danger, more and more politics, and a showdown with a couple gods follow.
While I enjoyed this novel a lot, I struggled with the magic system a bit more this time around. In a land where gods play an active part it is hard to criticize the pure amount of magic that affected the characters, but at times it overwhelmed everything else. Example, while the world was coming down in the form of star daemons, Acatl and others conveniently find a loophole in a ceremony to replace a necessary Priestess who can slow the damage.
The world is just as brutal as before, with sacrifice being a necessary part of life. Some gods required certain animals, some human, and almost all spells require some kind of blood immediately at hand(Acatl is described cutting his earlobe numerous times). There is no modern morality spin on this, the gods require blood and it is never second guessed.
I enjoyed Acatl's voice a lot more this time around, the brooding inferiority complex is mostly gone. I was hoping for more grown from his apprentice, Teomitl, who remained a brash, impulsive young noble. I was also surprised by the complete disappearance of women characters. The first book had a couple of strong women who did all they could to influence events, despite the patriarchal society. In Harbinger I counted three females, none who had a any real influence on the story.
Pros: As easy to read as dime store paperback murder mystery, but a lot more intelligent. A very interesting main character, and a nice blend of building on the story, while keeping it contained in one book.
Cons: The magic got overwhelming, and Acatl made is discoveries at just the right time a bit too much this time around.
This book has been on my radar for quite a while, and I have no idea where I first saw it. I have no history of reading self published works, but theThis book has been on my radar for quite a while, and I have no idea where I first saw it. I have no history of reading self published works, but the premise of this one intrigued me enough take the plunge. In this case the author has found a new fan.
Book one in a series(though fairly self-contained), this is a fairly unique take on vampires. Told in first person, the main character Jordan is a personal assistant to the worlds biggest pop-star, Jesse Cannon. Her life, and several others, is thrown into chaos when her boss learns in a very abrupt fashion that he is one of five men who make up the Vessel. Details are fuzzy, but the Vessel is the worlds defense against Hollows(vampire like creatures that in essence are pure death). The five strangers who make the vessel converge around the tour bus of Jesse, followed by hollows and a secret society. From there the book has some pretty standard series set up tropes, coming into power, learning the back story, and meeting bigger and badder villains.
The books biggest strength is the conversational style of the narrator. She is easy to read, sometimes witty, and a lot of fun She is an easy character to like(although the same can be said about most the authors characters). I was also impressed on how much back story was inserted without feeling like info dumps interrupted the flow. I know a lot about the realities of this world, especially for such a short book. Also, despite following some tropes to set up the series, the story line never feels trite.
There are some issues. The most glaring is some awkward switching between first and third person, when the entire book is supposedly narrated by Jordan. As Jordan is a mere mortal among demigods, she should not have a lot of the knowledge she passes along(such as the order of minor actions that take place when she is not around, and more importantly, what people are thinking). There were a few editing problems, the most glaring being a section in which some piece of dialog is missing, because two characters jump to a conclusion that the conversation doesn't even suggest. That said, the author obviously had an army of proof-readers, as I was expecting more errors of this type in a self-published work, so color me impressed.
Pros: A very enjoyable narrator(when not jumping between first and third person), and fairly unique story, and quite a bit of wit.
Cons: The switching narrator thing was the most jolting. At times it felt the author didn't know if she was going for a humorous book with a serious plot, or a completely serious plot where the humor disappeared for stretches.
3.5 stars, and I will be on the list for the next one.
This review may contain spoilers from The Last Stormlord
Not long ago I discovered by chance 'The Last Stormlord,' and it may have beFirst posted here.
This review may contain spoilers from The Last Stormlord
Not long ago I discovered by chance 'The Last Stormlord,' and it may have been my favorite new read of the year. A well handled "adult" story, it was brutal without ever seeming overly grim. It had a strong cast of characters and a lot intrigue. In some way's it read like a fantasy version of 'Dune," but with enough originality to stand completely on its own. It dealt with a land where water is king, and those with the magic to move it are near godly.
I couldn't wait to get into 'Stormlord Rising,' the second book of the trilogy. The first outing ended with our two main protagonist safe, but tied to enemies through different circumstances. Shale, now called Jasper, is stuck with Taquar(his former kidnapper) as it takes both of them to move water. Terelle is being forced by her Grandfather to go back to his homeland through the power of his water paintings. And everyone is under threat from Davim, leader of the Reduners, who wants to go back to random rains rather than stormlord controlled water.
Larke is still incredibly easy to read, I often lost track of time and read longer than I intended. And a couple of story lines really stood out. Captured rainlord Ryka's struggles are very real. She is going through hell, struggling with her emotions, and at times feeling a bit of Stockholm, but never really loses track of herself. Her captor Ravard is obviously of two minds in how he treats Ryka, exercising complete control but still wanted her affection.
Another great thread came from what I though was going to be a trite long lost identity plot line. Within 200 pages I knew that i had figured out someones old identity, and thought it was a weak attempt on the authors part. But while I had correctly identified the switch, Larke skilfully built up the reveal, and rather than feeling trite it was instead one of the smartest pieces of the story. A real nice surprise for those of us who try to out guess the authors sometimes.
While not an action story, fans of battle will not be disappointed in this outing. The big battle near the end of the book avoids the clash of swords and details of troop movements, and instead relies on the chaos and feelings of the participants. Plus the use of ziggers is a very unique style of weaponry, a single use nasty bug(though I find myself wondering things like where they come from, and what people did against them before they were domesticated as they are painted as almost unstoppable)
While I enjoyed this book, it did not live up to the first one for me. The main reason is Tyrelle. While as a character I enjoyed her, her power from waterpainting is starting to be a magic wand for all problems. It is a smart skill, and very unique in my readings, but right not the only limitation on it seems to be Tyrelle's conscience. This seems more problematic when we learn that it is a fairly common skill in her families homeland.
And it may not bother everyone, but I was personally turned off by the "messiah" like character from this book. It is what made 'Dune' a slog for me, and it had the same affect here. The series already has a worship of the Stormlord, adding another savior for the Reduners didn't add much.
One last complaint, this was very obviously a "middle book." There was no resolution of Kaneth's storyline, nor was there any movement on the rebel reduner Vara. Jasper and Tyrelle still have some details that need to be attended to, but at least their stories progressed and hit a logical end. And while there are some hints that something is under the dunes, we still have no hints at what.
Finally, a warning. If a reader wants to avoid rape in their fantasy, stop at book one. While I found it realistic and handled appropriately (i.e. never sensualized, nor used for shock value, and the characters struggles with the aftermath are shown), it is present throughout. Several characters are dealing with the aftermath of assaults.
Despite my complaints, I still loved most the book and flew through it. Our protagonists' relationship was fun, as were the solutions they found by combining their powers. While Taquar was something of a caricature of a villain, his wife is wonderful in her scenes. Ziggers are just way too cool, and I love the world Larke has created.
3 Stars, and I am still very much looking forward to the third book, for I am very invested in this story. ...more
Red Country is a standalone within an already established fantasy universe. It MAY be possible to read without having read The First Law, Best ServedRed Country is a standalone within an already established fantasy universe. It MAY be possible to read without having read The First Law, Best Served Cold, and The Heroes, but there would be huge chunks of back story missing.
Abercrombie is my favorite of the new group of "gritty" fantasy authors, and has improved in each book. To enjoy his writing a reader will need to have a dark sense of humor, tolerance of a high body count, and be OK with the knowledge bad things happen to not just good people, but all people in this world. If this interests you, start reading The Blade Itself, then when you have caught up come back to this review.
While the First Law trilogy was a complete deconstruction of fantasy cliches, Red Country is a blend of Western trope deconstruction(as in the Wild West, Louis L'amour, and the movie Unforgiven) and a fantasy world slowly moving into the start of an industrial age. The basics of most westerns involve an early murder, abduction, or robbery, then a posse goes out to round up the bad guys, and justice is served! This is the blueprint the book follows, while twisting every piece of it. The posse includes as many bad guys as good, the 'savages' are people doing what they can to hold onto what they have, and women do more than stand around waiting for the cowboys to do everything. And if you know this author, you know the definition of justice being served may not be the same for every character.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the subtle way that each chapter had a theme of sorts. Examples include a chapter that jumps between POV's quickly, showing several minor characters thinking about what reasons they believe themselves to be the best man in the company, or a chapter in which several characters have something uniquely high stake on the line.
The book is humorous at times, fairly quick paced, and does a TON of fan service in bringing back old characters. While the plot is well contained, in a lot of ways it is obviously a wrap up of series-long story lines in preparation for the next trilogy.
This author's earlier works have been criticized for the way women or portrayed(or in the case of First Law, not portrayed at all). I am the wrong person to discuss this in detail, but will point out that Abercrombie seems to be trying to improve on this. Including the main character there are multiple females who advance the plot, all with different lives, motivations, and various amount of ability to change their destination within a still patriarchal society.
Pros: Quick pacing, humor, a well done blend of genres(despite the lack of guns it really does feel like a western), more of what the authors fans already like. Cons: A strange betrayal plot in the early going doesn't pass the logic test, some characters did very little to advance the plot. The dark world view will certainly not be for every reader.
4 stars, a very enjoyable continuation of the series.
A quick paced debut novel with a lot of strengths. The story is highly entertaining, a lot of detail has been put into the local world. People in thisA quick paced debut novel with a lot of strengths. The story is highly entertaining, a lot of detail has been put into the local world. People in this world live in regular fear of night, but have enough of a safety net in place that most continue to live normal lives.
Early on Brett has some great characters being built. Arlen conveys a nice mix of the child he still his and the young adult he is becoming, avoiding ever being a caricature. Leesha's chapters are well plotted early on as well. She has typical teen problems(though her overbearing mother IS a bad caricature), but also starts growing in her role as a healer through hard work, not luck and birthright. The third main character, Rojer, is unfortunately never really more than a background character, despite getting his own chapters.
Some problems. Arlen's great discovery came too easy, and what he did with it was one of the greatest "duh" moments in lit, this reviewer thought of it very early on in reading, the thought that no one else in the world has is silly. Likewise Rojer's discovery being brand new to everyone also defies reason.
The author keeps the book gritty, but avoids GRIMDARK for 3/4's of the novel, then decides to get stupid. Late rape that adds nothing to the story or any characters development. Leesha's mother is also a problematic character. Despite the aged mentor telling Leesha differently, the narritive has no problem slut-shaming the mother throughout, never giving a hint that she is deeper than what the community sees.
3.5 stars for being a quick and easy read full of fun. Loss of a star for the issues starting in the second half of the book. Blog ...more
A reader who picks this up should know what they are getting. Grimdark, lots of bad things happen to good people, action on every page. Those people wA reader who picks this up should know what they are getting. Grimdark, lots of bad things happen to good people, action on every page. Those people will not be dissapointed.
A nice structure, basically a chapter is a short adventure story, loosely held together by the writings of Felix. Due to this the pacing is brisk and a reader should never get bored, until said reader realizes they are reading essentially the same story each time.
Character development? A small attempt to grow the two characters, but really one is a berserk dwarf and the other is a just brave enough warrior. Women? Mostly one per chapter, with the first two shown now dead, and one driven to evil by an almost rape.
Some neat story lines, along with some wry humor(temporary amnesia is cliche, but played well enough here).
Best guess? If a reader is tempted to pick this up, they know what they want and will enjoy it. But it is not the book to convert people to the Warhammer Universe.
A great read can show up unexpectedly. Browsing shelves of a used book store this review took a chance on a book by an author he had never heard of. 1A great read can show up unexpectedly. Browsing shelves of a used book store this review took a chance on a book by an author he had never heard of. 1/3 in, a new love is discovered.
Something of a Dune vibe, water is king and everything revolves around it. The only water available is the undrinkable sea, moved and purified to the cities on the loam by Stormlords. At the time of the book, the world is down to one man with this power, and his time is running short.
Though never gratuitous with the violence, the author can be brutal at times. A high death count and lack of hope is seen throughout the narrative. Traditional trappings are avoided though, the young girl raised to be a prostitute takes a different path than expected, people with revenge on their mind actually refrain from going on a rampage, etc.
The main character, Shale, grows with the story. Terelle seems to lose "screen time" as the story progresses, but has a great story growing that is hopefully expanded on in the second book. The various secondary characters are a strength, with completely different motives, they are not repetitive nor cliche.
Really impressive, 4.5 stars. A new favorite, and here is hoping the series continues to excite.
Pros: Great world building, strong support characters, entertaining story.
Cons: Some lag in the middle, the politics of the land are not as well done as other areas of the book, some questions on why food is never in short supply when water is.
Entertaining. Fluffy. Better humor from Sanderson, though some attempts fall flat. Neat mixture of his old magic system and its affect on a society onEntertaining. Fluffy. Better humor from Sanderson, though some attempts fall flat. Neat mixture of his old magic system and its affect on a society on the move. The strength of the novel comes from people mixing tech and magic, trying to gain a constant advantage. Reading the trilogy is almost a must, the magic wouldn't make since otherwise, though this also means less info-dumps than other Sanderson works.
The world has moved on into a too-close approximation of the the US West. Steam punk is usually an alt-history, making identical tech a little less problematic. That this new world is nearly identical(railroads, revolvers, and the like) doesn't pass the logic test.
Still, the two lawmen who make the lead are a neat pair, with some good interactions. Their ability to survive any situation is more believable due to the magic system. The growth of the main female is also nice, though she is always second fiddle. A very unconventional "love interest" has a unique ending, which was a nice turn.
A short length and quick pace make up for some flaws.
Surprisingly accessible, despite dealing with a lesser known pantheon of gods. A first person murder mystery that morphs into a fuller story. The mainSurprisingly accessible, despite dealing with a lesser known pantheon of gods. A first person murder mystery that morphs into a fuller story. The main character broods a bit too much on his past, but is likable, and has realistic interactions, both with mortals and gods(Gods are real, and part of the world here). The supporting characters are fleshed out, with their own stories in the background.
Politics are interesting, as is the use of religion. The author makes zero attempt to cover up the brutality of the religion, nor is there any attempt to put a western morality spin on it, sacrifice is part of the world, period.
Few complaints. Use of a modern idiom stuck out(but only once), and a semi-let down when it came to the reasoning behind the main characters brooding.
Quick paced, fun, well researched(or faked well), and completely unique. Recommended, and here is hoping the next two books in the series are just as enjoyable. ...more