I borrowed this book more or less on a whim. I'm so glad I did. It was phenomenal.
Hawkins weaves a universe that is much larger than the one we see ouI borrowed this book more or less on a whim. I'm so glad I did. It was phenomenal.
Hawkins weaves a universe that is much larger than the one we see outside our front doors, with a vast secret history. He doesn't spend a lot of time dumping information about it, however - we are shown the outline of things through passing mentions, and events that have no rational explanation.
This universe form the backdrop of an intense story. Twelve children, newly-made orphans, are adopted by their neighbor, old Mr. Black. But he's not who he seems, and his methods of child rearing range from the unusual to the horrific. Their home, the Library, is also not what it seems. When the story begins, Mr. Black (or Father as they now call him) has gone missing, and the twelve (now in their 30s) are locked out of the Library. They are working hard to find him, or to find a way in.
It's difficult to know what else to say about the book without spoiling aspects of it. So I'll just skip to the more general descriptions of what I liked about it.
The language is handled deftly. Each point of view character has an accompanying narrative style that identifies them, and helps to immerse you in the story. The story itself is multi-layered, but the various aspects are foreshadowed or briefly exposed well enough to keep one from feeling totally adrift.
The main characters are believable (or, in the case of the 12 librarians, at least consistent and interesting) and rich. Even the most broken of the librarians has aspects that invoke wonder and pity. Even the most interesting and sympathetic sometimes evoke horror. The American characters provoke more prosaic reactions, but are varied and realistic.
The book is, however, extremely violent, in some cases graphically. I would not suggest this to anyone who is feeling sensitive to physical, mental or sexual abuse of people, or violence to animals.
I'll definitely be watching for more Scott Hawkins books in the future....more
This book is riddled with logical inconsistencies and events that seem to happen "just because." The writing is nothing special, either. These two facThis book is riddled with logical inconsistencies and events that seem to happen "just because." The writing is nothing special, either. These two factors together made me put it down....more
If this were a complete story, it would be solidly in the 3-4 star range.
Unfortunately, despite being listed as a novella, it reads like the first epiIf this were a complete story, it would be solidly in the 3-4 star range.
Unfortunately, despite being listed as a novella, it reads like the first episode of a serial. 75% or more of the story is set-up, the first hints of the real conflict don't show up until almost the end, and nothing whatsoever is resolved.
That said, the characters are interesting, the future posited in the book is well done, and I'm interested to know what happens next....more
Aidan is floating through life, mostly ignored by the people around him. Then an old friend he doesn't even remember comes back to their school, and AAidan is floating through life, mostly ignored by the people around him. Then an old friend he doesn't even remember comes back to their school, and Aiden's life is turned upside down.
This story weaves a few threads together to form a complex and breathing tapestry. Family and disillusionment with your parents is a major theme. So are interpersonal relationships. Identity and its relationship to memory are another major point. Barzak also paints a well detailed world behind the scenes, where some people can affect the world around them through mystical powers.
The book is well written, and draws you into all these developments. Seeing Aiden learn the truth about himself, his family, his friend, and the life he has led is gripping, most of the time. I think perhaps the author spent a bit too much time rehashing similar points from Aiden's point of view, which bogs the flow down a bit here and there....more
The Thousand Names is a "flintlock fantasy" with a distinctly British Empire in Asia feel to it. The action centers around a regiment of musketeers inThe Thousand Names is a "flintlock fantasy" with a distinctly British Empire in Asia feel to it. The action centers around a regiment of musketeers in an arid region far from home. They are hold up in an ancient fort because a populist religious uprising, the Redemption, has driven them out of the country's city along with the former ruler.
They're waiting for recall home - their enemy outnumbers them 10-to-1. But when their new commander arrives, he comes with relief troops and a mission from their king to retake the capital on behalf of their ally, the Prince.
In addition to the greater plot, the book also deals closely with multiple personal subplots for many of the characters, giving the book real life.
My main worry before starting was that this would turn out to be a thinly veiled rant against or libel of Islam. Other than the setting, however, there was not much parallel. Neither the society nor religion of Khandar ends up paralleling the Mideast. In fact, what real world parallelism there is seems like a distant inspiration by Hinduism.
I thought the writing was very solid, though it did not strike me as particularly beautiful or clever. The attraction in this book was the story itself, and the depth of the main characters.
I'll definitely be continuing The Shadow Campaigns....more
As is my usual practice with Mark Lawrence books, I couldn't leave this one to just the commute. I listened to it pretty much any time I didn't need tAs is my usual practice with Mark Lawrence books, I couldn't leave this one to just the commute. I listened to it pretty much any time I didn't need to be listening to something else.
Lawrence really nailed the conclusion to the Red Queen's War. Prince Jalan continues to be amusing and witty, but the self-absorbed coward of Prince of Fools is almost gone. The Jalan that came out of these adventures is still a hedonist. Still more than a little amoral where his own comforts are concerned. And maybe even still a coward. But he recognizes what needs to be done, and has the spine to do it.
As will be familiar to anyone who has read Lawrence's other work, the story is told in two separate narratives, one present and the other past. We start with Jalan leaving Hel(l) after being pulled into it with Snorri at the end of book 2. He has hidden most of his memories of that journey away, and only duress and magical influence can force him to reluctantly relive it.
The way the story weaves into the events of the Broken Empire series is handled deftly, managing to expand on some of them while not retelling them.
Lawrence's turns of phrase and digressions into philosophy remain intact, and very enjoyable.
The Brass Giant is a nice blend of steampunk sci-fi, mystery and romance that kept me well entertained.
The story of Petra Wade starts on a very familiThe Brass Giant is a nice blend of steampunk sci-fi, mystery and romance that kept me well entertained.
The story of Petra Wade starts on a very familiar note to genre fans. A girl or young lady, barred from persuing her passion by a patriarchal society, disguises herself as a boy to attend/join/server/whatever. It's not a bad story, but it's been done to death.
Thankfully, this idea goes off the rails immediately. Instead, Petra ends up impressing a Guild engineer with her insight and begins working with him on a project in secret.
Along the way, the orphan Petra learns more about her family, herself, and the Guild she wants to join.
The story's strengths are manifold. The characters are drawn quite well, and this alternate Victorian England feels lived in - and a bit greasy. :D Petra's attempts to navigate the minefields of society's expectations, her dreams of being a clockwork engineer, the possibility of romance and her own past are familiar. Other topics touched upon include loyalty, true family, and justice.
Johnson has also clearly familiarized herself with the structures of clockwork, which lends her descriptions a solid veracity.
The story is written in a limited 3rd person, and the author's voice stays out of the way, allowing for deep absorption into the narrative.
The thing preventing this book from reaching 5 stars for me was the ending. It wasn't a bad ending, but I felt it was anticlimactic. After a build-up of tension and stakes, it ends up mostly draining away with little actually resolved.
All in all, though, a very entertaining book. I plan to read the sequels when they appear....more
Another in my long list of Kindle impulse buys. It took me six months to get around to it, but I'm glad I finally did.
The book centers around Dan HendAnother in my long list of Kindle impulse buys. It took me six months to get around to it, but I'm glad I finally did.
The book centers around Dan Hendricks, a freelance intelligence asset. After a long history of working for the CIA, he finds himself at the wrong end of an attempt to clean house. Before long he finds himself with no real options except a long shot.
The story runs along pretty tightly, interspersing investigation, action and personal development. Enough information about the intelligence game is described to keep it interesting, but not enough to make it drag.
This book is better written and conceived than the 3 star rating suggests. However, its pacing is a problem. The whole book reads like the first act oThis book is better written and conceived than the 3 star rating suggests. However, its pacing is a problem. The whole book reads like the first act of a book, and by the end of it it feels like the real action is only beginning.
That wouldn't be too bad (it is a trilogy after all) but the amount of story that takes place in the length of this book is far too low.
That said, the book is very finely crafted. The characters are well drawn for the most part, with only one character of any significance feeling flat. The setting is vibrant, and the Robin Hood story fits quite well in the days of Norman expansion into Wales. Absent king, grasping nobles, impoverished peasants (Welsh farmers and herdsmen in this case) and a dispossessed noble.
The various stock characters from Robin Hood make interesting appearances: * Robin Hood becomes Bran ap Brychan, heir of the cantref of Elfael * Little John becomes Iwan, the old king's champion and last survivor of Elfael's warband (so nicknamed by Friar Tuck) * Friar Tuck is Aethelfrith, a mendicant friar, nicknamed in turn by Iwan. * Marian is the daughter of the king of the neighboring cantref, and the object of Bran's affections before everything collapses
There are one or two other familiar faces, and a host of new ones. It's recognizably Robin Hood, but different enough to keep you guessing....more
The Minus Faction series is a story of a group of unusual people fighting a war of resistance against a global conspiracy.
In many ways it embraces theThe Minus Faction series is a story of a group of unusual people fighting a war of resistance against a global conspiracy.
In many ways it embraces the tropes of superheroism and comic books. We have the big, tough one. The psionic one with a broken body. The genius kid. The enigmatic leader. At one point there's even a monologuing villain.
In other ways, it steers pretty far clear of them. The costume clad vigilante is an image we never see - and the closest we see is a short scene that goes badly. There are no supervillains out to get rich quick, or acting out because they're "crazy" or "just evil." There is also no rich, well connected super team.
Instead we get something that skews a bit closer to a realistic scenario. Overlooking the various powers themselves, the Minus Faction itself is a fugitive group, badly outnumbered, doing the best they can with what they have. Their enemy is well connected, powerful, and flush with money. When evidence of superhuman people comes to light, the result is government agencies appearing to take them in hand as dangerous, useful resources.
The prose is tight, and the action is well thought out. The antagonists are fleshed out people with their own motivations and (we are at least hinted) histories. The motivations of both the protagonists and the antagonists are varied in both type and seriousness.
I'll definitely finishing up the other two released novellas and following the story with interest....more
An enjoyable read. The political, cultural and magical construction are the high point. In some ways this book felt like a prologue. It had its own stAn enjoyable read. The political, cultural and magical construction are the high point. In some ways this book felt like a prologue. It had its own story line, but the fact that there was a larger story in the works was obvious, and we got very few details of its shape....more
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