I'm angry at Shayne Silvers over Obsidian Son, book one of The Temple Chronicles. I'm angry because I spent last night reading this book when I shouldI'm angry at Shayne Silvers over Obsidian Son, book one of The Temple Chronicles. I'm angry because I spent last night reading this book when I should have been working. I have too much of my own writing to do to go down this rabbit hole. Fear not, though, fair readers! The second draft of Vigil is 50% done, and I should have it finished by this weekend. That book will still be out on time in mid December. Still, I greatly enjoyed Obsidian Son.
First of all, Nate Temple is a great character. Unlike so many of the men in current Urban Fantasy, he's not whiny or emo. I do have to admit that at the very beginning of the book I worried that he would turn into a hipster douche. And he does, in fact, carry shades of that. But only shades, and Silvers takes the character to a far greater depth. But it's not just Temple himself. The supporting cast really breathes life into the story. Gunnar the werewolf and Indie the "Regular" stood out to me, in particular.
One thing I find particularly fascinating is the way in which Silvers incorporates several themes that I also hit upon in War Demons, while still writing a book that's vastly different than what I wrote. It's always fun to see similar subjects approached in new ways, and I really enjoyed Silvers' touch on the topic.
The plot didn't carry many surprises, but that never bothered me. At every turn I enjoyed the ride well enough that I didn't mind a predictable destination. And one particular plot twist that I half-expected from the first quarter of the book never happened - thankfully. I might have taken off a full star if it had gone down that way. Sometimes the paths an author doesn't take matter as much as the ones he does.
This is easily a five out of five star book. If you love urban fantasy - especially the kind with solid, masculine leads, Obsidian Son book is for you. Personally, I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series....more
As I prepared to publish and market my latest novel, War Demons, I set out in search of other, similar novels. Cursed City by William Massa quickly roAs I prepared to publish and market my latest novel, War Demons, I set out in search of other, similar novels. Cursed City by William Massa quickly rose quickly to the top of my list. It turns out that male leads represent an endangered species in urban fantasy novels. Many of the books sold in the genre should actually sit in the paranormal romance category. I hold nothing against that, but War Demons doesn’t fit with that crowd at all.
Neither does Cursed City. Book one of Massa’s Shadow Detective series, this book packed in the fun. It’s pulp as hell, and I mean that in the best possible way. Mike Raven, the hero, provides a welcome breath of masculinity in an estrogen dominated genre. Furthermore, he lives up to the primary duty of a protagonist: he’s interesting.
The writing is simple and straightforward. At first, that worried me. But a few chapters in it became clear that the simple writing is intentional, in the tradition of the old school pulp writers. This kind of deliberate simple writing is actually a challenge to accomplish, and it makes the book very accessible. And if I hadn’t already overcome that objection, the twists in the final act more than compensated.
A quick, thrilling read, this book started in the middle of the action and only paused for a few breaths along the way. I give it four stars out of five, and I look forward to finishing the rest of the series. I highly recommend it to fans of male led urban fantasy. It’s available right now on Amazon for only $0.99, or you can pick it up for free on Kindle Unlimited like I did....more
Last Friday, an unexpected gift appeared in my e-mail inbox: Brian Niemeier's new novella, Hymn of the Pearl. Full disclosure: in case you didn't guesLast Friday, an unexpected gift appeared in my e-mail inbox: Brian Niemeier's new novella, Hymn of the Pearl. Full disclosure: in case you didn't guess from the previous sentence, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. As a longtime friend, this flew straight to the top of my reading list.
Unlike most of Brian's previous work, this one is short. It's also a quick, easy read. Given my current schedule, I liked that. Other readers might find it disappointing. Then again, at $2.99 its price reflects that.
Brian's use of fate as the mechanic for a magical system utterly fascinated me. Given how much fantasy work is out there that I haven't read, this may not be truly original. But it was new to me, and I really enjoyed it. It drew me in and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. The author, however, clearly understood the system and had it all mapped out. That made it function well in practice.
Even more, the interplay between the two competing "classes" of wizards made for some interesting thought. It carried the weight of an honest religious argument, but without the baggage of real world religions to bog it down.
The author also skillfully weaves personal character struggles with sweeping political entanglements, and the threat of an actual war hangs over everything.
This book kept me fascinated from the beginning. If you're a fan of Brian's earlier works, you'll definitely enjoy it. If you haven't read his others, Hymn of the Pearl is a great place to start. Highly recommended. 5 out of 5 stars....more
A few weeks ago, when I included A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day in my Dragon Award nomination list, I promised to have a review out. Events on the groundA few weeks ago, when I included A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day in my Dragon Award nomination list, I promised to have a review out. Events on the ground caused things to shift around, but today I can finally share that review with you.
Before delving into the book review itself, I should point out a few things. First of all, this is not quite a complete book. The author released it in its current form, promising to follow up with a finalized version when it's actually done. It's an interesting experiment in the digital world, and I'm curious to see how that works out for him in the long run. Second, unlike many books that I review, I did not receive a free copy from the author. I paid full price for my copy.
This series is, to me, one of the most interesting things happening in the current science fiction and fantasy landscape. Book one kind of blew my mind. Book two continues in that tradition.
The author has stated that he intended this series as a deliberate shot across the bow at George R.R. Martin for a) his inability to finish his epic master series and b) the fact that Martin has clearly lost the plot in later books. As a reader, my belief is not only that Mr. Day has succeeded, but that he's also created a substantially better series than Mr. Martin's.
The series share much in common. The books are long. The story is epic in scope - very epic - spanning a huge fictional world. The world feels lived in, with a great deal of history, and included many diverse cultures. Massive battles and dirty politics are the order of the day.
But the Arts of Dark and Light series has two things dreadfully lost in A Song of Ice and Fire: hope and humanity.
When Martin killed Ned Stark at the end of his first book, it produced a shocking effect. It roped me in - and many others like me. But at the current point of A Song of Ice and Fire, there's nobody left to really root for. All of the honorable characters are long dead. Even the semi-honorable characters have now met their demise. Only the disgusting remain. Westeros has become a bleak and desolate place. The current state of the story leaves us wondering if it can be saved - but that's normal storytelling. It also leaves us wondering if it should be saved, and that's where it's losing me.
Mr. Day, on the other hand, has kept a ray of humanity in his characters even as they face a world of darkness around them. Some characters succomb to the evil. But others do not, and we still have champions worth rooting for.
One interesting thing about this series is the way Mr. Day has developed a world based so heavily on the Roman era. This is an unusal setting for contemporary fantasy writers, and that helps it stand out. More interesting, however, is the way he weaves religion into the story. Unlike most fantasy worlds that present a "psuedo" Catholic church - ie, Catholic in all of its trappings but none of its actual theology - Mr. Day presents what basically is the Catholic church. The beliefs are more or less complete.
To me, this provides a level of verisimilitude that other fantasy worlds can't compete with. Most authors seem to assume that the trappings of the Catholic church are inherent in organized religion in general. They're not. They're distinctly Christian in character, which is why you basically only see them in the real world in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Mr. Day recognizes that these features didn't evolve in a vacuum. In his world, they belong. And one can't help but think, given the story's hints, that the church will come back to play a major role.
This book doesn't feel like an incomplete book. You won't miss what's not there. However, if you get it now, you'll also get the updates when they come. I, for one, look forward to that.
I do have three specific complaints about the book, however.
First, I really wish we'd seen more of the church again in this installment. I'm hoping for more of that in the update.
Second, the author (who has a natural gift for languages himself, and speaks several) has clearly developed rather involved languages for his elves, dwarves, and orcs. Unfortunately, he uses them just a bit too much in this installment. This makes some sections of the book hard to follow. I'm a long time fantasy fan and used to unfamiliar fantasy words. But I also don't have Mr. Day's natural gift for language - and this extensive use of them draws me out of the story as I struggle to understand what's actually going on.
Third, and finally, this installment focuses a bit too much for my taste on a particular female elf. Her storyline is interesting, but the author spends time on it that I would rather have spent reading about the other characters. This isn't as bad as it might sound, though. Had her chapters been broken up a bit more, it would've been fine. I hope that the updated, final version of the book will address this.
Even with these flaws, this is still a five star book. If you're into epic fantasy, I can't recommend Arts of Dark and Light highly enough. Give it a shot....more
When I made my Dragon Award nominations last week I promised a forthcoming book review for A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys. Here that revWhen I made my Dragon Award nominations last week I promised a forthcoming book review for A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys. Here that review is. As I've noted recently, I have not had the chance to read much fiction this year. I'm trying to catch up on that, and I've finally made some progress. I have several reviews forthcoming over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.
Full disclosure: Dan and I "attended" the same online writing class from Larry Correia, and we've participated in the same closed Facebook group that resulted from that class. He's also provided an excellent blurb for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. With that said, these are my honest opinions on the book.
Let me also say this at the outset: this is a zombie book, and I'm not a particularly huge zombie fan. I like them OK. Sometimes. I'm definitely not big into the zombie craze that seems to have hit over the last decade or so. I love Shaun of the Dead. I kinda sorta enjoyed the "28 Days" movies. I've watched exactly one episode of The Walking Dead. It didn't do anything for me.
I don't particularly have anything against zombies. I just generally find them boring.
Also, I strongly dislike "science" zombies. I could write an entire post about this topic, but it largely boils down to the fact that most zombie writers aren't scientists and they get it all wrong.
This book is about science zombies.
With all of that said, I didn't like this book. I loved it. Dan had a steep hill to climb. He charged up it like a platoon of Marines, killed the defenders at the top, planted his flag, and did a little dance. I recommended this book for the Dragon Award in horror, and for good reason.
Dan has a humorous writing style that caught me from the beginning. The actual story, however, took just a little bit to warm up. But once it did, I didn't want to put the book down. I really enjoyed all of the characters, and reading about their struggles trying to cope with the new world around them. In particular, I enjoyed Pete the amputee sniper and Larry, the protagonist's father-in-law. And I enjoyed the way he wrote the children, which are difficult to get correct as a writer.
Another nice thing for a zombie book: this isn't actually an action story. There is action in it, and it's great. But it's actually more of a drama - a really good drama.
I may, however, have sweated just a tad from my eyeballs when the Marines showed up to save the day playing Guns N' Roses. But we'll never speak of that again.
Last, but not least, Dan provides an explanation for the science zombies that I can actually get behind. As I noted before, most zombie writers aren't scientists. Well, Dan isn't, either... but he's an IT guy. And I'll just say that that does give him the right background to understand what he's talking about here - at least enough to get me over the suspension of disbelief. Well done, Mr. Humphreys.
This is a first novel, and it does show a bit of roughness from that. But the strengths of the story easily outweigh that. It's an easy five out of five stars, and I'm very much looking forward to reading both the forthcoming sequel and his current new release, Fade. If you like Zombies, check this one out. Hell, even if you don't like zombies, check this one out. It's that good. ...more