I wish I could give this a half-star, because it's really a bit better than 3, but not really a 4.
What would happen if Voldemort took over England andI wish I could give this a half-star, because it's really a bit better than 3, but not really a 4.
What would happen if Voldemort took over England and Dumbledore had to train Harry, Ron and Hermione while on the lam?
That's not exactly what this book is, but it's a good starting point.
The kingdom is in chaos. "The Legion" and its master, Lord Sparkstone, have deposed the king and are waging a vicious campaign of reprisals and suppression. Augum's home is burned to the ground, his knight-master/foster father is killed, and he's left homeless. After nearly dying in a storm, he's found by Mrs. Stone, a kind but stern old woman who takes him in. Before long he learns that she's an Arcanist, and that he has the potential to be one, too.
However, The Legion are after Mrs. Stone as well, and Augum, his new master, and two new friends have to run for their lives while trying to master enough magic to help keep themselves alive.
It was an enjoyable book, with some well cast characters. I particularly liked Mrs. Stone's dichotomy of merciless instructor and goodhearted caretaker. She takes her responsibilities to her charges very seriously, and even likes them; but she is Not Having Your Foolishness and will work you to the bone.
On the other hand, it did lean heavily on some tired tropes in certain spots, which was disappointing. The author's grasp of archaic English is also terrible, which made certain parts of the dialog and reading of old books/inscriptions cringe-worth.
All in all, though, a fun read. I'll probably end up finishing [i]The Arinthian Line[/i]....more
This is one of those books I picked up kind of at random because it was $3 on Audible's daily deal. I'm very glad I did.
The book interweaves two narraThis is one of those books I picked up kind of at random because it was $3 on Audible's daily deal. I'm very glad I did.
The book interweaves two narratives. First is that of Julia, a violinist who happens upon a handwritten copy of a waltz called "Incendio" by L. Todesco while in Rome. After she returns home and begins to work on learning the piece (never recorded as far as she can tell), bizarre things start to happen with her three year old daughter.
The other is the story of Lorenzo Todesco, an Italian Jew living in Venice before the beginning of WWII. Also a violinist. The story of his family, and that of his cellist partner Laura, forms the backdrop of "Incendio."
The book manages to weave aspects of supernatural horror, historical romance, mystery and thriller together in a very satisfying package....more
There were so many ways that this book was amazing.
The premise itself, that there is a secret magical kingship of the American West, is intriguing andThere were so many ways that this book was amazing.
The premise itself, that there is a secret magical kingship of the American West, is intriguing and fun.
Powers' writing is powerful (hah!), spare and beautiful. He had a solid handle of literary devices like foreshadowing, allusions, self references, irony, etc.
The characters were all well developed. Strange, broken, messy wonderful humans.
The inclusion of concepts from psychology, mythology and folklore was excellent. Close enough to real world "canon" to feel legitimate, but different enough to evoke a feeling of alieness. Similarities between disparate elements were played up or skewed to be closer, resulting in a world spanning magical cosmology, whose edges are all we can see.
This magical landscape is harsh and unforgiving. That in itself is not a positive or negative, but Powers keeps it consistent. There's never a feeling that the MCs are getting an easy pass for the sake of the story, or because they're The Chosen Ones or whatever.
I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the Arthurian story of the Fisher King, poker, and Tarot - all things I'm interested in in a general way. Other things, like the Mandelbrot set, mob history, Alexis Carrol's "immortal" chicken heart, and Eliot's "The Wasteland" add to the texture.
The story had a good balance of tension, mystery and moments of wonder.
I enjoyed it immensely. Bronson Pinchot did an admirable job as narrator as well....more
In the future, nations have fallen. Independent city states and confederacies dot the North American landscape, supported by the Phoenix Society, an oIn the future, nations have fallen. Independent city states and confederacies dot the North American landscape, supported by the Phoenix Society, an organization dedicated to protect the rights of individuals.
Mysterious people manipulate and marshal their forces. A drug runner has taken control of Boston, backed by armed bike gangs. In the middle of it all, Morgan Stormrider is trying hard to hang on to his ideals, and his faith in the society.
This book was interesting in a lot of ways. The actors behind the scenes, their abilities and histories are all heavily influenced by ancient Vedic, Kabbalistic and Gnostic religious teachings. It's woven deftly through the narrative, there to be seen but not called out.
The story itself is engaging. The choice to put Stormrider, an enforcer, into a position where he must succeed with at little violence as possible amplifies the tension. The choice to show us what the actors behind the scenes are up to keeps the story rolling when the mundane details might have bogged down. The inclusion of several characters whose motivations and moral stance are murky at best was also refreshing. The romantic subplot, while never really in doubt and thus not really a source of conflict, was sweet and sincere and a nice palate cleanser.
The two major downfalls as I see them are this:
1. Past perfect. The author chose not to use the past perfect tense, which causes some confusion in a few places, and makes the text read awkwardly in others. With the entire story in the past tense, it wasn't always immediately clear when events being described were further in the past.
2. Pop culture references. This is definitely a subjective thing, but I always have a hard time believing that people in the future (2112 in this case - I see what you did there) would commonly reference 20th century culture. Maybe it would be more well known than our current familiarity with the 19th century, due to digital archiving and the like. But the number of people quoting Monty Python or Queensrych would still be very small. They'll have been replaced with other cultural touchstones by then. This caused several serious cases of eye rolling and lack of immersion. I find this to be a common problem with indie books set in the relatively near future.
All in all, it was a good read, with enjoyable characters, a tight plot, and great world building. I'll definitely be getting the series....more
Morgan has created a compelling blend of traditional cyberpunk tropes with far future, interstellar sci-fi.
Many familiar cyperpunk elements are presenMorgan has created a compelling blend of traditional cyberpunk tropes with far future, interstellar sci-fi.
Many familiar cyperpunk elements are present - criminal and/or underclass protagonists, manipulation by the wealthy and corporate, technological body modification, and VR.
At the same time, this book gives us a vision of a highly advanced terran sphere, rather than the "day after tomorrow" feeling from much of cyberpunk. Interstellar colonization, flying cars, extreme anti-aging medicine, and others.
The story premise itself is classic cyberpunk - Takeshi Kovachs, former soldier turned criminal, is given a furlough from storage (more or less jail) at the request of a wealthy patron. He's supposed to find out who killed this man's body (but not his data back ups or clones). The police have already investigated, and pronounced it suicide.
It doesn't take long for Kovachs to realize he's gotten in a lot deeper than he realized. ...more
This book is an engaging take on an alternate earth where magic and inhuman Others coexist with people. The most inimical and dangerous Others are vamThis book is an engaging take on an alternate earth where magic and inhuman Others coexist with people. The most inimical and dangerous Others are vampires.
Rae (Sunshine to her friends) is a baker at her step-dad's cafe. She's extremely good at, and has a pretty good life. But everyone needs to blow off steam every now and then. So Sunshine heads out to the lake, where no one goes due to fallout from the human/vampire wars, to get away from it all.
Unfortunately, someone does go there. She's captured by vampires and used to torment another vamp who's chained up in their hidey hole. And the trouble is just starting.
The biggest strength of this book is world-building. The Earth proposed by McKinley is rich and well thought out. The vampires are strange and inhuman, not just people with pointy teeth. The history, which we only get in bits and pieces, begs for follow up novels.
The voice of Sunshine (who narrates in first person past tense) is well developed, consistent and well textured.
There are few odd leaps of logic by the characters, and one scene in particular that seems weirdly out of place, but all in all I really liked it.
The ending will probably be frustrating for some people. There are a ton of loose ends, including for a major sub-plot and conflict from the story line....more
I've read all the Lands of Loam books, so far, except for the newest. Marling continues to evolve and improve as an author, and this book is no exceptI've read all the Lands of Loam books, so far, except for the newest. Marling continues to evolve and improve as an author, and this book is no exception.
We see a lot of familiar themes for Marling in this work. A protagonist that is out of her element, and is apparently at a severe disadvantage. Complex characters who refuse to settle down comfortably into even broad categories like "villain" or "hero." And a wild, surreal form of magic that bends reality around it without missing a beat.
The "fairy tale" feeling of this book is the highest it's been. The elaborate banquet, the exotic magical foods, and the company all evoke the same sort of feeling as stories of people who get lost under-hill. The language is well used, too. It has a flowery, tale-telling sort of quality without become purple or overwrought.
Perhaps most impressively, he manages to portray growth for almost all the characters. Despite the story taking place in a single night, it doesn't feel manufactured or rushed.
Once it got rolling I started to enjoy the story itself, but writing-wise, it's like it was written by someone besides Wendig. Or possibly by a commitOnce it got rolling I started to enjoy the story itself, but writing-wise, it's like it was written by someone besides Wendig. Or possibly by a committee. It rolls along pretty well in his quick, stream of consciousness style, then bam weird word choice/sentence structure that just ruins the whole thing. Also, bizarre addiction to colons. It kind of reads like the editing staff were trying to rein him in or something, and the result wasn't as good as it could be.
The interstitial scenes of life around the galaxy were interesting in themselves, but unfortunately served to disarm the tension and disrupt the flow of the main storyline....more
Both of the principals from the first book return, tI adored A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had high hopes when I started this book.
It exceeded them.
Both of the principals from the first book return, though their stories take very different tacks. Schwab weaves the two narratives together deftly and keeps up interest in both storylines until they converge.
As I have come to expect from this author, the relationships between the characters were messy, tumultuous, human and believable.
The only real mark against this book is that it is a transitional story in many ways. I'm already impatient for book 3....more
He was a office professional, and part time comic, until one day he woke up and someone else was livinRichard Rogers has a problem. He was never born.
He was a office professional, and part time comic, until one day he woke up and someone else was living in his house, his parents had never heard of him, and no one could see him. Time travel is such a pain.
The man who accidentally wiped out his life shows up to apologize, and offer him a job. Since the time traveler is the only person who seems to be able to see or hear him, Richard goes along. Before long he's Nobody, invisible warrior in the struggle against the super villain Rex Monday.
I have a weakness for superhero novels, and this one was no exception. It was a fun read, for the most part, and I'll be picking up the next book in the series one of these days. The super hero parts were very well crafted - over the top, physics defying powers; absurd schemes; villains that combined the terrifying and the absurd. The interpersonal relationships and characterization was quite a bit weaker, IMO, which is what really dragged down the rating.
All in all, an enjoyable book, but don't expect great literature....more
This is a really great read. The story is imaginative, unusual and complex. The action proceeds fairly quickly, and ramps up quickly to the climax.
TheThis is a really great read. The story is imaginative, unusual and complex. The action proceeds fairly quickly, and ramps up quickly to the climax.
The world feels like it started off perhaps as a thought experiment. "There are all these gods in world myth, and they all have their own versions of how things were created. What if they were all true?" We come into this world after things have taking a major turn - those same gods are dead, their competing realities have collapsed. The Continent, home of the gods' chose people, has collapsed utterly, leaving power in the hands of their former subject nations.
City of Stairs mixes mystery, politics, spy thriller and fantasy adventure extremely well. Bennett does an admirable job of keeping the confusion at just the right level - as soon as you start to feel like you've got a handle on what's really going on, Shara (and the reader) come across some new wrinkle that casts everything back into doubt.
I frequently see twists coming before they show up. I liked that City of Stairs did a deft job of foreshadowing so that I could tell the vague outlines of some of the things that were coming, but wasn't spot on the details.u
The characters were, for the most part, complex. By nature of the limited viewpoints, we don't get too deeply into the minds of most of the antagonists of the piece. They aren't one dimensional "I do it because I'm EEEEEvil" kinds of antagonists, but they do come off as a bit one note in places because we don't see much of them beyond their work against the protagonists.
The audio narration was very nice. I particularly liked the depth of character she put into the Governor, Shara, and Shara's secrety (Sigrud)....more